Ever since the start of the World Cup, I’ve been waiting for a showdown between Spain and Portugal. But my two-and-a-half weeks of impatience doesn’t even compare to how long the Portuguese have waited for this: It is a chance at revenge 516 years in the making.
It was this month in 1494 that Portugal and Spain decided to update their global colonial claims with the Treaty of Tordesillas, which in principle divided the world between the two Iberian nations. I know, heady stuff, but it’s not like it wasn’t somewhat justified at the time. Columbus had just reached the New World under Spain’s flag, and Prince Henry the Navigator–arguably one of European history’s most famous princes*–had established a strong exploratory culture in Portugal earlier in the century. Amerigo Vespucci, like Columbus an Italian, sailed for the Portuguese and was the first to discover that this South America continent was pretty big, at least from north to south. Continue reading »