Quinto Centenario

Quinto Centenario
   On 12 October 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on a Caribbean island on his first transatlantic voyage. His landfall is generally recognized as the European discovery of America. The five hundredth anniversary of this event was known throughout the Spanish speaking world as the Quinto Centenario (Quincentenary). This anniversary was regarded as so important that detailed planning of commemorative events began as early as 1973, when Spain was represented at an international forum in Trujillo, Mexico, attended by delegates from various Latin American countries. In 1984, as a result of a series of subsequent meetings, participating countries, including Canada, Israel, Japan, Portugal and the United States in addition to Spain and the Latin American countries, each established a National Commission for the Quincentenary, representatives of which met annually to co-ordinate their activities as the International Commission for the Quincentenary. In Spain's case, the national organization was the Sociedad Estatal V Centenario (State Body for the Quincentenary), headed by Luis Yáñez.
   In the early planning stages, the emphasis was quite clearly on the idea of "celebration" and "discovery", but as this terminology was unacceptable to a number of Latin American governments and indigenous groups, because of the triumphalist connotations of Spain's imperial past, the International Commission for the Quincentenary officially adopted the terms "commemoration" and "encounter" in 1987. Despite this more conciliatory language, the Latin American Episcopal Conference and various human rights groups were consistently critical of preparations for the Quincentenary and in Spain a protest movement calling itself the Comisión contra la Celebración del V Centenario (Commission against the Celebration of the Quincentenary) was established.
   Under the aegis of the various commissions, research projects were established, films, television programmes, books and magazines were subsidized, conferences, exhibitions and other cultural events were organized and two satellites were launched to enable Spanish television and radio to be broadcast to Latin America. In addition to these, three major events took place in Spain to mark the Quinto Centenario. Madrid was European City of Culture, Expo-92 was held in Seville, and Barcelona played host to the games of the XXV Summer Olympiad. In each of these the note of celebration was clear, in contrast to the agreed international tone of commemoration. Spain's official logo for the Quincentenary was also criticized as imperialistic because it was topped by the symbol of the Spanish Crown.
   The year 1992 was the five hundredth anniversary of three further events of less international significance than Columbus" voyage which were important to the development of Spain's national culture. January 1492 saw the fall of Granada, marking the conclusion of the process of Reconquista (Reconquest), by which the Moors were expelled from the Iberian peninsula; March saw the expulsion of the Jews from Spain; in August, Antonio de Nebrija published his Gramática sobre la lengua castellana (Grammar of the Castilian Language), the first grammar of a modern European language. Many cultural events and publications marking these anniversaries were sponsored by the Sociedad Estatal V Centenario.
   See also: arts funding
   CHRIS DIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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