Wednesday, July 6

The legend of San Borondón, a ninth Canary Island that ‘appears’ between the clouds

For hundreds of years there have been popular references to the island of San Borondón. Explorers and adventurers claim to have seen it and it is even represented on some maps from the Middle Ages. It also has a very important hole in the Canarian collective imagination. Poems, songs, stories and fables are about the legendary island, which, according to the locals, appears and disappears. For sample, a button. The Canarian journalist and poet Luis Álvarez Cruz wrote: “San Borondón … Oh, fantastic myth of mist, intact and fleeting land, divine and dazzling! I love you, strange island that arises among foam and among foam you sink and erase instantly “. Here is the most lyrical version of the island of San Borondón. Historiographically, however, it is not a legend either. It is an islet that some chronicles place in the Canary archipelago and that was taken into account – and this does give it a certain historiographical relevance – in the Treaty of Alcáçovas, which Spain and Portugal signed to divide up the territories of the Atlantic that still I was about to sail. However, what is known about that island of San Borondón and what is it that keeps the legend alive after so long?

The subject is not trivial. Marcos Martínez Hernández, classical philologist and professor of Greek Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and author of several books on Canarian history and mythology, writes in Mythical islands in relation to the Canary Islands: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that perhaps” Samborondonismo “is one of the most defining features of Canarian culture since the 16th century”. The quote gives clues about how linked the Canarian people feel to the legend and even downplays the fact that such an island has ever physically existed, taking into account that, at least, its existence in Canarian folklore makes it something real.

But what are the empirical bases on which the story stands? There is evidence of more than a dozen medieval maps in which the island of San Borondón appears, the first of all being the Hereford Planisphere, dated in the 13th century. In this case it is a very general map, but, as Juan Tous Milá points out in The plan of the fortunate islands of the Reyno de Canarias and the island of San BorondónThere are many more specific ones, such as the ‘Map of the Isles Canarie’, which speaks of San Borondón as a group of islands to the west of the Canaries and not as a single one. It has been agreed that the island would be located between El Hierro and La Palma, and numerous expeditions of researchers have tried to find it over the centuries. They have done so driven by rumors and by the testimonies of some sailors who claimed to have encountered it. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, various groups of adventurers tried to find it and even today some people claim to have seen it, although its appearance is usually attributed to an accumulation of clouds whose shape may recall an island.

Who was San Borondón?

Saint Borondón or Saint Brandán ‘the Navigator’ was an Irish monk who dedicated his life to the evangelization of peoples in the 6th century. According to legend, upon hearing wonderful stories about the supposed island, he jumped into the sea to find it. The journey lasted seven years. Apparently, when he got to the island once and for all, he found a kind of whale island. “One of the most famous episodes of the Irish saint’s navigations”, Martínez Hernández points out in his work, “has to do with the arrival on a supposed island that was actually a huge fish, a kind of whale.” Always in the terrain of myth, that would be a good explanation for the appearances and disappearances suffered by the islet. In any case, San Borondón is not the only name that the island has received and receives. La Encubierta, La Non Trubada, Encantada, Perdida, Aprositus or Inaccessible are some of the names that have also been given to the territory.

Still to this day, not many years pass between a video fan posting a video on social networks in which a supposed island of San Borondón appears or a curious person claims to have seen it, a process that contributes, beyond any doubt, to keep alive the myth.

For hundreds of years there have been popular references to the island of San Borondón. Explorers and adventurers claim to have seen it and it is even represented on some maps from the Middle Ages. It also has a very important hole in the Canarian collective imagination. Poems, songs, stories and fables are about the legendary island, which, according to the locals, appears and disappears. For sample, a button. The Canarian journalist and poet Luis Álvarez Cruz wrote: “San Borondón … Oh, fantastic myth of mist, intact and fleeting land, divine and dazzling! I love you, strange island that arises among foam and among foam you sink and erase instantly “. Here is the most lyrical version of the island of San Borondón. Historiographically, however, it is not a legend either. It is an islet that some chronicles place in the Canary archipelago and that was taken into account – and this does give it a certain historiographical relevance – in the Treaty of Alcáçovas, which Spain and Portugal signed to divide up the territories of the Atlantic that still I was about to sail. However, what is known about that island of San Borondón and what is it that keeps the legend alive after so long?

The subject is not trivial. Marcos Martínez Hernández, classical philologist and professor of Greek Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and author of several books on Canarian history and mythology, writes in Mythical islands in relation to the Canary Islands: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that perhaps” Samborondonismo “is one of the most defining features of Canarian culture since the 16th century”. The quote gives clues about how linked the Canarian people feel to the legend and even downplays the fact that such an island has ever physically existed, taking into account that, at least, its existence in Canarian folklore makes it something real.

But what are the empirical bases on which the story stands? There is evidence of more than a dozen medieval maps in which the island of San Borondón appears, the first of all being the Hereford Planisphere, dated in the 13th century. In this case it is a very general map, but, as Juan Tous Milá points out in The plan of the fortunate islands of the Reyno de Canarias and the island of San BorondónThere are many more specific ones, such as the ‘Map of the Isles Canarie’, which speaks of San Borondón as a group of islands to the west of the Canaries and not as a single one. It has been agreed that the island would be located between El Hierro and La Palma, and numerous expeditions of researchers have tried to find it over the centuries. They have done so driven by rumors and by the testimonies of some sailors who claimed to have encountered it. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, various groups of adventurers tried to find it and even today some people claim to have seen it, although its appearance is usually attributed to an accumulation of clouds whose shape may recall an island.

Who was San Borondón?

Saint Borondón or Saint Brandán ‘the Navigator’ was an Irish monk who dedicated his life to the evangelization of peoples in the 6th century. According to legend, upon hearing wonderful stories about the supposed island, he jumped into the sea to find it. The journey lasted seven years. Apparently, when he got to the island once and for all, he found a kind of whale island. “One of the most famous episodes of the Irish saint’s navigations”, Martínez Hernández points out in his work, “has to do with the arrival on a supposed island that was actually a huge fish, a kind of whale.” Always in the terrain of myth, that would be a good explanation for the appearances and disappearances suffered by the islet. In any case, San Borondón is not the only name that the island has received and receives. La Encubierta, La Non Trubada, Encantada, Perdida, Aprositus or Inaccessible are some of the names that have also been given to the territory.

Still to this day, not many years pass between a video fan posting a video on social networks in which a supposed island of San Borondón appears or a curious person claims to have seen it, a process that contributes, beyond any doubt, to keep alive the myth.



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