1524: Spanish boy invites cartographers to chart his backside

In 1494, Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, effectively dividing the rest of the uncolonised world between them. But the treaty only covered the Atlantic hemisphere, so by the 1510s, Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonists were again clashing, this time in Indonesia and the Philippines.

In 1524, both powers convened more treaty negotiations to divide the other side of the world. These meetings, held in the border towns of Badajoz and Elvas, were attended by some of the most notable diplomats, cartographers, astronomers and mathematicians of the age.

Leading the delegation from Lisbon was Diego Lopes de Sequeira, a prominent military leader and a former governor of Portuguese Goa. According to a contemporary report, Lopes and his advisors took a break from the negotiations and went walking along the banks of the Quadiana river. On the Spanish side of the river they saw:

“…a boy who stood keeping his mother’s clothes which she had washed… [The boy] demanded of them whether they were those men who were partitioning the world [on behalf of] the emperor. And as they answered ‘Yea’, he took up his shirt and showed them his bare arse, saying: ‘Come and draw your line through the middle [of this].’ This saying was afterward in every man’s mouth and laughed at in the town of Badajoz.”

The negotiations ended with the Treaty of Zaragoza which, in general terms, handed Portugal colonial rights over the Asian mainland, while Spain was given access to islands in the Pacific.

Source: Richard Eden, The Decades of the Newe Worlde, London, 1555. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.