There is a direct connection between Christopher Columbus and this mermaid sculpture on the north coast of Spain – the Sirena Magdalena.
Now famously, Christopher Columbus reported that he saw mermaids, twice. Bartolomé de Las Casas read and summarized Columbus’ log before it was lost to history. His summary for the log entries on January 9, 1493 reads:
On the previous day, when the Admiral had gone to the Rio del Oro, he said he saw three mermaids, that came very high up out of the sea; but they were not so beautiful as they are depicted for only after a fashion had human form in their faces. He said that he had seen some on other occasion in Guinea, on the coast of Malagueta.Bartolomé de Las Casas
The Marigalante Mermaid Figurehead
These reported mermaid sightings probably inspired Vital Alsar Ramirez when he built 3 ships as replicas of the 3 vessels used by Christopher Columbus to sail to the new world in 1492. He commissioned the Sirena Magdalena mermaid sculpture to be the figurehead for one of these 3 ships, the Marigalante. The Marigalante was a replica of Columbus’ flagship Santa Maria. The replica was named Marigalante because research indicates that the crew of the Santa Maria referred to the ship as “Marigalante” (the brave Maria). The Santa Maria sank in late 1492 in Haiti, and Columbus replaced her as his flagship on his second voyage in late 1493 with a new flagship named Marigalante.
Vital Ramirez built the 3 replica ships in Mexico in the 1980s, and then sailed them to Spain. This voyage was a symbolic 500-year anniversary return of the 3 ships from Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas.
The 3 ships are now permanently on display on the Magdalena Peninsula in the Bay of Santander on the north coast of Spain. Located proudly in front of the 3 ships is the Sirena Magdalena. Both the peninsula and the mermaid derive their names from a small chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene, which was the only thing on the peninsula in the nineteenth century.
(Original figurehead of the Marigalante, built in Alvarado near Veracruz, Mexico in the years 1980 – 1987, in memory of the ship named Santa Maria, led by Christopher Columbus and owned by Juan de la Cosa (cartographer of the first world map, in the year 1500, to include America), which sank in Haiti on the 25th of December 1492. The Marigalante returned to Santoña, Cantabria, 500 years later in honor of this outstanding voyage.)
Please see the Sirena Magdalena page for more photos and information on this fabulous sculpture.