The King and Queen of Spain received in Madrid’s El Pardo Palace the 223 members of the 27th Ruta Quetzal BBVA expedition. They were accompanied by Francisco González, Chairman and CEO of BBVA and José Manuel García-Margallo, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. Also present at the reception was Miguel de la Quadra-Salcedo, director of the Ruta Quetzal BBVA; Leopoldo González-Echenique, President of RTVE; and Carlos Espinós, CEO of Hispasat. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received the group in Bogota shortly before they left for Madrid.
Francisco González highlighted that BBVA supports programs such as Ruta Quetzal “because we are convinced that education and young people are the basis for development in societies, and at BBVA we are committed to you.” The Ruta Quetzal BBVA offers a magnificent opportunity “for young people to grow with new experiences and learn to face new challenges that until now you could not have even imagined,” he added.
The BBVA Chairman also stressed that the Ruta Quetzal BBVA is “a unique experience for nurturing basic values such as solidarity, cooperation, respect for other cultures, effort in work and the spirit of self-improvement.”
This 27th edition of Ruta Quetzal BBVA was dedicated to La Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reyno de Granada (the Royal Botanical Expedition to the New Kingdom of Granada). It brought together 223 adventurers from 51 countries through Colombia to follow the tracks of the most significant sites visited by the expedition led by José Celestino Mutis (1732-1808). In Bogota the youngsters were received by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, shortly before crossing the Atlantic to continue their journey through Spain: Madrid, Rota, Malaga, Cadiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Seville and then back to Madrid.
José Celestino Mutis led the Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reyno de Granada between 1783 and 1816. A man of the Enlightenment linked to the Encyclopedists in France, Mutis‘ work helped make progress in the field of mining and in the knowledge of the flora and fauna of Colombia, as well as astronomy.
The young people began their journey in Cali and then visited the Eje Cafetero (The Coffee region), stopping in places such as the valley of Cocora, Salento and Armenia. The adventure then took them to Ibagué, Colombia’s musical capital, and Tolima, before discovering the Mutis Route: the heritage of San Sebastián de Mariquita, the Andaquíes cinnamon tree forest, Ambalema, Beltrán, Guaduas and Honda, an important river port, and the center for the coffee trade along the Magdalena River.
On the Caribbean coast, the group saw Aracataca, birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, and in Santa Marta they visited the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, an estate in which Simón Bolívar lived out his last days.
Finally, they discovered San Basilio de Palenque and the beauty of Cartagena de Indias, before moving on to Bogota, where they visited its historic center and sites such as the Gold Museum. From the Colombian capital they flew back to Spain to continue with the second part of the expedition.
The route in Spain
After traveling in Colombia, the expedition has just arrived in Spain to get to know famous sites such as the Royal Palace, the Prado Museum and the Royal Botanical Gardens, where much of the legacy of José Celestino Mutis is stored.
After the reception with King Juan and Queen Sofía, the youngsters will try to make the most of their stay in Madrid before leaving for Rota, from where they will sail on the Spanish Navy’s ship Galicia to Malaga. There they will make a procession with a copy of the brigantine Galvestown, which played an important role in the independence of the United States, captained by Bernardo de Gálvez. They will then arrive in Cartagena, a city where they will get to know some of the treasure found by Odyssey Marine Exploration in the frigate “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes” and visit the recently opened Repsol refinery.
Ruta Quetzal BBVA 2012 will then move on to Cadiz and San Fernando to get to know the city that created the personality and the thirst for knowledge of José Celestino Mutis, at what was a time of great intellectual turbulence. In Cadiz they will study the historical atmosphere in which the Spanish Constitution of 2012, nicknamed “La Pepa” was created, and whose bicentennial is being commemorated this year. Some of the leading figures of the American constitution had an influence on the origins Constitution, and this had a great impact on both sides of the Atlantic.
Finally, the group will sail to Sanlucar de Barrameda, where they will visit the Medina Sidonia Archive. From there they will board the La Luna de Sevilla river boat and sail up the Guadalquivir River to the Torre de Oro, commemorating the journey of Elcano, when he brought cloves from the Island of Tidore in the Moluccas at the final stage of the first circumnavigation of the globe. The young members of the expedition will move on in procession to the chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Antigua in Seville Cathedral, as the great navigator did on his return, together with the eighteen surviving sailors with candles in their hands.
From Seville, they will move on to Madrid, the city where the Ruta Quetzal BBVA 2012 will conclude with diplomas being granted in an academic event organized by the Complutense University of Madrid.