Written by Marco Ramerini
Anywhere on the coasts of Asia, America and Africa you can find a fort, a church, a geographical name or a family name, reminiscent of Portugal. These are the remains of the first European country that explored the world in search of spices and souls. Afonso de Albuquerque’s dream was an infusion of Portuguese blood into each of the colonies. As the Dutch Governor Antonio van Diemen said in 1642: “Most Portuguese in Asia look upon this region as their fatherland and don’t think anymore of Portugal”.
In the XVth century a small nation as Portugal began to explore the Atlantic Ocean since 1415 (conquest of Ceuta, Morocco). The Portuguese cruised along the African coast in search of a sea route to India; and in 1487 Bartolomeu Dias circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope. After ten years (1497-1499) Vasco de Gama arrived in India (18 May 1498) and opened a new trading route between Europe and Asia. This small nation was the ruler of the Indian Ocean for about 150 years and the Portuguese language was for more than 250 years the trading language (lingua franca) of the Asian coasts.
At the beginning of the 17th century another small nation, the United Provinces of the Netherlands took the place of Portugal. The United Provinces with the West and the East India companies, i.e. the GWC/WIC (Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie) and the VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). They dominated the scene for nearly 150 years, until the coming of the English sea power. Amsterdam was the commercial and financial capital of all Europe and the Netherlands were the leading trading nation.