Fragments for a history of Galapagos section


Fragments for a history of Galapagos



The history of the Galapagos Islands is a succession of events that include myths, adventures, discoveries, dramas, tragedies and a good dose of mystery. As a territory that has fed the international imagination at least since the 18th century, its history has been subjected to numerous manipulations, and has ended up becoming, in practice, a fictional story, with its heroes and villains.

This story has denied prominence to numerous characters whose participation has been crucial in the development of Galapagos. By putting the spotlight on famous travelers, explorers, and researchers, the voice was taken out of settlers and workers, for example. This section aims to build a comprehensive and plural history of the archipelago from numerous fragments, both large and small. A story free of myths, which collects the vicissitudes and chores of all the human groups that have set foot on the archipelago.

Associated sections: Activities and projects | Oral history; Biographies; Contents & pieces | Story; Feminine presence in the islands; The traces of the islands' memory


Fragments for a history of Galapagos 001
Pirates, whalers, settlers and scientists
The human occupation of the Galapagos is a sum of stories that starts in Inca legends and continues, today, adding pieces. It includes the passage of Spanish conquerors, English pirates, American whalers, Ecuadorian and European settlers, researchers and scientists, and many more. Their actions shape the island's history: a motley kaleidoscope of challenges, losses, tragedies and victories, reconstructed from those fragments of memory that survived time.  

Fragments for a history of Galapagos 002
The discovery
One of the most important events in the history of Galapagos is precisely the one that began its human occupation: its "discovery". The fortuitous meeting of Spanish bishop Tomás de Berlanga with the archipelago, which occurred in 1535 and was recorded in a letter sent by the priest to the monarch Carlos I from Portoviejo, present-day Ecuador, was the beginning of a long series of visits, landings and colonizations. One that still continues.  

Fragments for a history of Galapagos 003
Inkan legends
Although the Galapagos Islands were officially discovered in 1535 by the Spaniard Tomás de Berlanga, then Bishop of Panama, they could have been known much earlier. Or, at least, that is what certain Inkan traditions collected by the early Hispanic chroniclers indicated. Those legendary narratives survived the test of time and inspired some research. And even some expeditions.  

Fragments for a history of Galapagos 004
The conquistador who came fleeing
After the discovery of the islands by the Spanish bishop Tomás de Berlanga in 1535, the Galapagos vanished from the historical record. But only for a few years. They reappeared in 1546, with the adventure of Diego de Rivadeneira, a Spanish conquistador who, fleeing by boat from his adversaries during the bloody War of the Conquerors of Peru, ended up being swept by the currents to the Encantadas. His was a little-known story of colonial vicissitudes.  


Text & picture: (
Publication date: 1 December 2021
Last update: 1 October 2023