ISABELLA'S LEGACY: MY DISCOVERY OF SPAIN
TRAVEL (Compass, 2011)
In 1492 what had only months before seemed an unlikely event, actually took place in Seville. Through the cobbled streets, Christopher Columbus on his triumphant return after his first
voyage to the 'Indies,' paraded seven exotic-looking Indians who were accompanied by equally
strange-looking green and yellow parrots. Imagine the confusion in the minds of these Indians as
they walked through the city and the curiosity this spectacle had aroused among the people of
Seville for at this time, Europeans knew little about the people of Africa and Asia, except through
what they had read from the travel literature of the 15th century. We should remember however
that these 'Indians' were not from India, the place which Columbus had set out to discover and
mistakenly believed he had reached.
Fast forward almost five centuries to 1990 when I (the Grandson of an indentured labourer
from India who had travelled to the West Indies to work on the sugar plantations) walked the
streets of Seville on my way to deliver a Lecture at the University of Seville entitled:
'Towards 1992: Discoveryc and Minorities in Europe.f I was born in Trinidad which was
'discovered' by Columbus on his third voyage to the New World, but I could not speak Spanish.
Why?Therein lies a tale of the connection between language and Empire. Spanish Trinidad gave
way to British Trinidad and so I migrated to the 'Mother Country,' as Britain was known. But as
I became more knowledgeable about Queen Isabella, Columbus, Las Casas, Seville and Granada,
I realised I was only partially educated for Britain and Spain were both important.
My first visit the year before my Lecture, had set in train, a growing desire to see and learn more
about Spain. Thereafter, the idea of writing Isabella's Legacy emerged, took hold and propelled me
to travel through Andalusia and later to Catalunya..
Isabella's Legacy is a unique book, a rare interweaving of travel, memoir, history,
cultures and identities; a journey of surprises - stunning impressions, a meditation on world
history and significantly on contemporary Europe. Above all, it is a narrative not only of
my discovery of Spain which, in turn, has led to self-discovery, but also a book which will
hopefully enlighten and enchant the reader.
Isabella's Legacy will be followed by the publication of Ron Ramdin's extraordinary autobiography
Ron Ramdin, historian, biographer and novelist, and now travel writer, offers this candid,
intimate and honest portrait of his travels in Spain. Following in the wake of Christopher
Columbus, it is a voyage of discovery, a painstaking and insightful search for cultural roots that
raises questions about cultural belonging and the effects of colonisation. It is also a tale of how
personal friendships, chance meetings and casual acquaintances help the writer to explore and
appreciate the land he so desired to know. Although the direct object of Ramdin's musings is
modern Spain (mainly Andalusia), his Trinidadian origins provide the anchor point and the
historical pointers that help him to navigate large geographical expanses and over five hundred
years of history. If Columbus failed to discover India, Isabella's Legacy shows how a Caribbean
West Indian was able to make his travels to Spain into a personal adventure that would help to
shed light on the Columbus inheritance.
Dr. David Walton
Departamento de Filologia Inglesa,
Facultad de Letras,
Universidad de Murcia,