Skip to main content
Shopping cart: items Cart

The Indies of the Setting Sun

How Early Modern Spain Mapped the Far East as the Transpacific West

The Indies of the Setting Sun

How Early Modern Spain Mapped the Far East as the Transpacific West

Padrón reveals the evolution of Spain’s imagining of the New World as a space in continuity with Asia.

Narratives of Europe’s westward expansion often tell of how the Americas came to be known as a distinct landmass, separate from Asia and uniquely positioned as new ground ripe for transatlantic colonialism. But this geographic vision of the Americas was not shared by all Europeans. While some imperialists imagined North and Central America as undiscovered land, the Spanish pushed to define the New World as part of a larger and eminently flexible geography that they called las Indias, and that by right, belonged to the Crown of Castile and León. Las Indias included all of the New World as well as East and Southeast Asia, although Spain’s understanding of the relationship between the two areas changed as the realities of the Pacific Rim came into sharper focus. At first, the Spanish insisted that North and Central America were an extension of the continent of Asia. Eventually, they came to understand East and Southeast Asia as a transpacific extension of their empire in America called las Indias del poniente, or the Indies of the Setting Sun.

The Indies of the Setting Sun charts the Spanish vision of a transpacific imperial expanse, beginning with Balboa’s discovery of the South Sea and ending almost a hundred years later with Spain’s final push for control of the Pacific. Padrón traces a series of attempts—both cartographic and discursive—to map the space from Mexico to Malacca, revealing the geopolitical imaginations at play in the quest for control of the New World and Asia.

352 pages | 35 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Asian Studies: East Asia

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography

History: Discoveries and Exploration

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Reviews

"Columbus thought that Cuba was an appendage of Asia, and, though it may surprise readers, it would be more than a century before more accurate accounts of the Pacific Ocean and the distinctions between the landforms of Asia and North America emerged. Padrón relays this story with comprehensive knowledge and a skillful interpretation of cartographic and narrative sources, which often rationalized Spanish imperial aims to show that the Spanish Empire had Asian components thanks to the world-encompassing meridian line that divided Spanish and Portuguese zones for exploitation. . . . This highly recommended book clarifies the history of seemingly naïve but at times politically useful sets of flawed assumptions."

CHOICE

"The Indies of the Setting Sun is an original and thoughtful study of the ‘invention’ and subsequent reinventions of the Pacific Ocean as part of the Spanish empire. Padrón brings to this project the same lucid, elegant prose and methodology that characterized his earlier monograph, and again he provides an argument supported by a careful study of sources employing the best historical approaches, closely contextualized reading, and an expansive definition of cartography. This is a much needed intervention, highlighting the importance of Spanish Asia in the history of Spanish imperial expansion."

María M. Portuondo, author of The Spanish Disquiet: The Biblical Natural Philosophy of Benito Arias Montano

"The Indies of the Setting Sun examines the way that Spanish knowledge about the South Sea—now known as the Pacific Ocean—was developed. Challenging the historical idea that Magellan's circumnavigation had established Europeans' understanding of the Americas as divided from Asia by the vast Pacific, Padrón reveals an 'alternative European cartography' that persisted across the sixteenth century. In this odd parallel universe, America was merely the forecourt to Asia, and the South Sea was a small basin within the larger Indies, then Spain's overseas empire. This is the first book I've ever read that colors the larger 'Indies' so vividly."

Barbara Mundy, author of The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City

"The author’s aim. . . is ambitious but the reader will not be disappointed. Padrón, in fact, leads his audience on a real journey through time, dismantling many commonplaces and prejudices about the modern perception of the way the world has been thought of and represented on maps at the dawn of modernity. The author breaks the patterns in the way we think about historical cartography between rigid categories of ‘right and wrong’, ‘precise and approximate’. Instead, Padrón highlights a complex historical process in which different cultural and political theories competed with each other in a dialectic that shaped our way of understanding geography. . . . Ricardo Padrón’s book: The Indies of the Setting Sun should be welcomed as a useful and much needed book. . . . I believe that today, in an era of redefinition of the balance between global powers with enormous interests in the Pacific area, this book is of great usefulness and relevance."

Rutter Project

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Introduction

1          The Map behind the Curtain
2          South Sea Dreams
3          Pacific Nightmares
4          Shipwrecked Ambitions
5          Pacific Conquests
6          The Location of China
7          The Kingdom of the Setting Sun
8          The Anxieties of a Paper Empire

Conclusion
 
Acknowledgments
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press