Elcano Day in the Basque Country Date in the current year: September 6, 2024

Elcano Day in the Basque Country Elcano Day is observed in the Basque Country (an autonomous region of Spain) on September 6. It was created to honor the Basque navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, who completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

Juan Sebastián Elcano (spelled Elkano in the Basque language) was born circa 1486 in Getaria, a coastal town in the Basque Country. His family is believed to have been involved in maritime trade, but it is unclear whether his parents were noble or commoners, wealthy or poor because historical sources are contradictory in this regard. There is also little information about Elcano’s early life.

In contrast, Elcano’s participation in the Magellan expedition, also referred to as the Magellan–Elcano expedition, is pretty well-documented. He left his home town of Getaria and traveled to Seville to join the expedition in late 1518, seeking a royal pardon for his previous misdeeds. Magellan’s fleet initially consisted of five ships: Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria and Santiago. Elcano embarked from Spain as a crew member of the Concepción.

In September 1519, Elcano participated in a failed mutiny against Magellan led by Juan de Cartagena, captain of the San Antonio. Magellan decided not to punish the mutineers by death, and Elcano earned his pardon after five months of hard labor in chains.

The Santiago was wrecked in a storm in May 1520 and the San Antonio deserted several months later. The three remaining ships entered the Pacific Ocean from the newly discovered Straight of Magellan and reached Guam on March 6, 1521, and then the Philippines ten days later. It is there that Magellan was killed in a battle with the locals on April 27, 1521.

The battle was followed by a conflict between the surviving members of the expedition who could not decide on the new leader. On May 2, João Lopes de Carvalho became the new commander of the fleet and ordered to burn the Concepción because there weren’t enough crew members left for three ships. In September 1521, Martin Menders replaced Carvalho as the commander of the fleet. He made Elcano captain of the Victoria.

By the end of the expedition, the Trinidad had fallen into disrepair. As a result, the Victoria under Elcano’s command was the only ship of Magellan’s expedition to make it back to Spain. Elcano and a handful of other survivors arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522, completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

The Basque Government established Elcano Day in 2022 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the day when Elcano arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, completing the circumnavigation. The holiday was added to the holiday calendar of the autonomous community because December 25 (Christmas) fell on a Sunday that year. In such a case, some autonomous communities simply move the public holiday to the following Monday, but the Basque Government usually chooses to establish another public holiday with a symbolic meaning.

So Elcano Day isn’t an annual public holiday, but even when September 6 is not an official non-working holiday in the Basque Country, various cultural and educational events are held to commemorate Elcano’s circumnavigation and his historic role.

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Elcano Day in the Basque Country, holidays in the Basque County, observances in Spain, Juan Sebastián Elcano, Magellan expedition