RLCS, Revista Latina de Comunicacion Social



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DOI, Digital Objetc Identifier 10.4185/RLCS-2019-1354en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS, 74-2019 | Audio-visual explanation of the author |

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How to cite this article in bibliograhies / References

D Varona Aramburu, M Pérez-Escolar, G Sánchez Muñoz (2019): “Framing theory and proto-journalism: A study of the attributes associated with the character of Magellan in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 734 to 747.
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-2019-1354-37en


Framing theory and proto-journalism: A study of the attributes associated with the character of Magellan in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo

David Varona Aramburu [CV] [o ORCID] [ gGS], profesor adjunto del departamento de Comunicación de la Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Sevilla, España – dvarona@uloyola.es

Marta Pérez-Escolar [CV] [ oORCID] [ gGS], profesor ayudante doctor en el departamento de Comunicación de la Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Sevilla, España – martaperez@uloyola.es

Gema Sánchez Muñoz [CV] [o ORCID] [ gGS], estudiante de Doctorado en el departamento de Comunicación Audiovisual y Publicidad de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Gsanchez01@ucm.es

[ES] Introducción: La presente investigación se centra en analizar las principales cualidades y atributos que los diarios de Pigafetta y de Francisco Albo utilizan para describir la figura de Magallanes durante la vuelta al mundo. Metodología: Se ha recurrido a la metodología cualitativa de análisis de framing de las noticias publicadas en los diarios de Pigafetta y de Francisco Albo. Desde una aproximación inductiva, se han identificado un total de tres tipos de encuadres: funciones, héroe/antihéroe y el viaje. Resultados: En el caso del diario de Pigafetta, el encuadre más utilizado para describir la figura de Magallanes fue el del «héroe». En el diario de Francisco Albo, se utilizó más el «viaje». Discusión y conclusiones: El hecho de utilizar o descartar una serie de atributos en cada encuadre genera que la opinión pública se forje una opinión u otra sobre Magallanes: el diario de Pigafetta diviniza la figura de Magallanes, mientras que el diario de Francisco Albo ignora parcialmente la presencia de este navegante portugués y relega su labor a un segundo plano.

[EN] Introduction: This research is focused on analyzing the main features and attributes of Magallanes during the circumnavigation of the globe according to Pigafetta’s and Francisco Albo diaries. Methods: The study has develop a framing analysis as a qualitative methodology in order to examine the information that Pigafetta and Francisco Albo published on their diaries. Results: The main results shows that the frame «hero» has been the most used by Pigafetta. On the other hand, the frame «travel» was the most used by Francisco Albo. Discussion and conclusions: Frames and attributes influence on how public opinion understand and appreciate the figure of Magallanes: Pigafetta’s diary deified the profile of Magallanes, but Francisco Albo’s diary tends to miss out any detail about the figure of this Portuguese navigator and puts his achievements into the background.

[ES] Protoperiodismo; teoría del framing; Magallanes; atributos; Pigafetta; Francisco Albo
[EN] Proto-journalism; framing theory; Magallanes; attributes; Pigafetta; Francisco Albo

[ES] 1. Introducción: contexto histórico. 2. Método: la teoría del framing y el protoperiodismo. 3. Los diarios, análisis a la luz del framing. 3.1 El diario de Pigaffeta. 3.2 El Derrotero de Albo. 4.  Discusión y conclusiones. 5. Bibliografía.
[EN] 1. Introduction: historic context. 2. Method: framing theory and protojournalism. 3. The logbooks: analysis at the light of framing. 3.1. Pigafetta’s logbook. 3.2. Albo’s Derrotero. 4. Results and conclusions. 5. References.

Translation by AJE, American Journal Experts

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1. Introduction: Historical context

 “The real conquest began with the journeys of Magellan, who taught us what the world was like, and of Hernán Cortés, who began to traverse it” (Soler, 2015). However, what would have happened if Cortés had not taught us this? What vision of the world would we have without the written testimonies of the first journey around the world?

Columbus’ first trip to America and Magellan’s achievement proposing the transoceanic route are separated by 27 years. During this period, the idea of reaching the Indies went from being a fundamental objective to becoming nearly relegated given that, with the reality that new lands had been discovered that were not on known maps, efforts and resources—especially financial ones—became focused on successive journeys that gradually opened up the New World for the West.

These were tumultuous times in which the struggle for European hegemony exacted extraordinary costs for heads of state. At the same time, internal conflicts in each kingdom increased their military, public order, and administrative needs. In the case of Spain, Charles V had to contend with, among other matters, the disorder caused by the Revolt of the Comuneros, confronted by the crown and the king’s Flemish court, and the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, during which royalty feared that uprisings by local guilds would weaken its power. Meanwhile, in Europe, Charles’ Hapsburg succession required the vote of the prince-electors, and he was not alone in the race, for the most important throne on the old continent was also sought by the King of France, Francis I (Armillas, 2007).

These confrontations and disputes entailed needs in terms of men, arms, fleets, transfers and movements of troops, and bribes. The journeys to the newly discovered lands were essential for obtaining the necessary patrimony that would allow Charles V to gain the title of Holy Roman Emperor and the idea of Universitas Christiana to palliate the Protestant threats to the Catholic Church from within the continent and halt the Ottoman troops of the Turkish infidels approaching from the east. Thus, the idea of the world held by a few became linked to the idea of profiting from others (Soler, 2015)

Ferdinand Magellan, a veteran of expeditions to the Spice Islands who had “rounded the Cape four times, two from the West and two from the East” (Zweig, 1945), set sail with five ships and 270 men in that climate of political and social instability. However, the circumstances were favourable for the Spanish court to assume responsibility for Magellan’s expedition following the refusal by his own king, Manuel I of Portugal. The confrontation between the Portuguese monarch and the sailor led to the loss of his nationality and all of his orders of chivalry (Zweig, 1945). However, as stated by Soler (2015), it was common practice for soldiers and sailors to serve a crown that was not their own. Together with the requirements imposed by Charles’ heavy crown, this strategy favoured the relationship between the Spanish monarch and the Portuguese sailor such that, although for different reasons, it was most advantageous for both to collaborate. Reaching the Indies through new, unexplored routes would save on the tax expenditures required by the usual itinerary, in addition to bringing new riches. Spices, which were as valuable as gold, elicited greed among traders, governors, and adventurers (Varona & Herrero-Diz, 2018). Therefore, it is not surprising that the Spanish crown would finance such an expensive expedition, although one with a substantial expected return on investment.

The fleet departed from Seville on 10 August 1519. Difficulties and hardships took their toll on the expedition, the trip ending with 18 survivors, Magellan not among them. However, two crucial figures on the trip would provide lasting testimony for humanity. These were the chroniclers Antonio Pigafetta, who recorded the details of the journey in his Report on the First Voyage Around the World, and Francisco Albo, the pilot who departed on the Trinidad and returned on the Victoria, having recorded all of the data on geographic coordinates, climatological data, and the characteristics and riches of the lands discovered in his Log Book of the Voyage of Fernando de Magallanes in Search of the Strait, from the Cape of St. Augustin.

The main hypothesis formulated in this study argues that coverage of Pigafetta’s publication and the diary by Francisco Albo about Magellan and his maritime epic diverge in both the focus they use to narrate the events and the level of detail in their information.

Therefore, the issue here is to determine how Magellan is presented to the public through these narratives related to the chronicle of the Indies and accounts with medieval roots. These are texts that occasionally mix the real with the invented with clear intentions. Just as Margueritte Cattan (2017) reflects on the metamorphosis of the myth of Magellan from its creation until the point when it exceeds and replaces the man himself, we can apply this vision to the discovery itself so that we might distinguish the mythic deeds from the historic facts.

In some ways, this is very primitive evidence of agenda setting theory: even the most rudimentary media expressions sought to influence public opinion by determining the attributes and characteristics they assigned to an issue. Because if we approach a historical event based on contemporary texts versus the event itself, we must consider what is the truth and how it has been adapted—Columbus, on his first journey, maintained the idea that he had seen the ships of Kublai Khan and signs of Chinese civilization. For their part, Vasco da Gama and Gaspar da Gama made the description of their journey more to please the ears and desires of King Manuel I than to honour the truth (Soler, 2015).

Based on this premise, the main objective of this study is to analyse the qualities and attributes used to describe Magellan in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo. The purpose of this approach is to understand the divergence in information between the news published by Francisco Albo in 1522, which contains precise and meticulous details that situate the journey precisely in space and time, but which is more concise and with scant narrative, and the account by Pigafetta in 1536, which is much more descriptive, ethnological, and epic and is focused on Magellan the man—“He was obsessed with him, he was like a father,” according to Varona and Herrero-Diz (2018).
As this study considers both diaries to be informational manifestations of the phenomenon of proto-journalism, it was deemed appropriate to use the qualitative methodology of frame analysis to examine the frames used in each account and to reflect on how these frames condition readers’ perceptions (Entman, 1993).

In this way, the justification and feasibility of this study is supported by its “advantage” (Del Río & Velázquez, 2005); that is, this research seeks to contribute new perspectives that describe in detail proto-journalism in the era of Magellan. For this purpose, this article adopts a descriptive character, as, following the proposal of Del Río & Velázquez (2005), it seeks to define and outline in detail the behaviour of a specific phenomenon: the establishment of the agenda-setting in the pioneering publications of proto-journalism.

Emilio Castelar (1988), in the epilogue to History of the Discovery of America, refers to the importance of the texts that Christopher Columbus took as references for carrying out his journey. Whether by oral or written transmission, the sailor based the fact of a spherical Earth on pre-Christian narratives such as classical literature, Oriental literature—the text of the hajjis who departed from Córdoba and “set sail on the Sea of Darkness” (Castelar, 1988) until they returned after a long time filled with riches—and even the Bible, from which he understood that many of the Jewish sacred texts demonstrated the intention of bringing God “to the West” (Castelar, 1988). The biography attributed to his son, History of the Admiral, describes how Columbus’ writings make reference to texts by Aristotle, Seneca, Pliny, and Ptolemy (Rumeu,1971).

Similarly, the discoverer left a fruitful written legacy of his trips demonstrated in diaries, epistles, notes, books, and endless documentation that would serve as the pioneering testimony of a new narrative genre so important that it would eventually become sponsored by the crown under posts such as “Chief chronicler and cosmographer of the states and kingdoms of the Indies, islands, and mainland of the Ocean Sea” in 1571 (Domingo, 2007).

Therefore, we can state that the transatlantic journeys that give rise to a plethora of chroniclers—“chroniclers and chronicler-historians and general historians”—would form a true historiography of the Indies (Domingo, 2007).

However, we must first distinguish between the narrators of the expeditions, differentiating them into two groups: those who based their tales on sources, that is, on others who experienced the events, such as Pedro Mártir de Anglería and Francisco López de Gómara or Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, and a second group who set sail to the Indies to detail, from a first-person perspective, the experiences, discoveries, and situations that occurred during the expedition. These include Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, the Dominican Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, the Jesuit anthropologist José de Acosta, and Pigafetta, whom Magellan named the official chronicler of the journey.

2. Method: Framing theory and proto-journalism

To achieve the objectives proposed in this study, it was deemed appropriate to use the qualitative methodology of frame analysis of the accounts published in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo regarding Magellan and his role in the expedition. Given the conditions of the era, the information collected in these diaries could not be published until years after the event. The diary of Francisco Albo came to light in 1522, once Francisco Albo returned from the Magellan-Elcano expedition. In contrast, Pigafetta’s diary was officially published in 1536 under the title Report on the First Voyage Around the World.

The framing studies by Erving Goffman (1974) have achieved significant prominence in the field of communication. “After an irregular, limited, and very diversified development, these studies have finally acquired a recognized scientific space of their own” (López Rabadán, 2010: 237). At present, frame analyses have become popularized and consolidated in the scientific arena as a result of the steady and forceful progress of studies of reference (Gandy & Grant, 2001; D’Angelo, 2002; Tewksbury & Scheufele, 2007; Matthes & Kohting, 2008; Vicente & López, 2009; Brüggemann & D’Angelo, 2018; Busby, Flynn & Druckman, 2018). However, these framing studies remain scattered, and the consolidation of a shared episteme is required to grant greater theoretical and empirical coherence to these media analyses (D’Angelo, 2002; Tewksbury & Scheufele, 2007; López Rabadán, 2010).

The purpose of the qualitative analysis proposed in this study to identify the frames of journalistic discourse in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo based on an inductive approach. The analysis of news frames using an inductive approach focuses on examining accounts “from an open point of view and [attempting] to reveal the set of possible frames, without having a certain predetermined number of them beforehand. That is, the frames emerge from the analysis and are not marked by the researcher from the outset” (Igartua & Humanes, 2004: 257).

Entman (1993: 52) argues that framing should be understood as the act of selecting “some aspects of a perceived reality and [making] them more salient in a communicating text in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described.” In this way, as stated by Takeshita (1997), framing is similar to the second level of agenda setting—the substantive and affective dimension—because “the media highlight or hide attributes of the questions with the subsequent impact on the public agenda and also the idea of gatekeeping. This view of framing conceives of the ‘definition of reality’ as a matter of selection” (Sádaba, 2001: 165).

In this sense, after studying the semantic organization (Miller & Riechert, 2001) of the words associated with Magellan, a total of three types of frames are identified:

Frame 1.- Functions: alludes to the responsibilities Magellan takes on during the journey and describes in detail the consequences derived from his actions.

Frame 2.- Hero/antihero: alludes to the attributes that divinize or demonize the character of Magellan.

Frame 3.- The journey: alludes to the personal experiences of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo during their journey.

Once this frame analysis is established, we also seek to determine whether propaganda mechanisms exist in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo. The mechanisms of persuasion that are sought in the narrative are divided into the following:

• Technique of simplification or establishment of a single enemy: propaganda tends towards simplicity. It aims to specify and summarize with the goal of transmitting a single idea, a slogan or single symbol or simplifying a complex adversary into a single enemy.

• Technique of exaggeration or distortion: focuses on highlighting any favourable information, uses quotes out of context and turns any unfavourable anecdotal event into a serious threat.

• Technique of orchestration: good propaganda focuses on repetition and incessant persistence of main themes. Such ideas are presented tirelessly from different perspectives—as simple repetition would bore the audience—but the approach always insists on the same central topic.

• Technique of transfusion: propaganda does not arise out of nowhere, nor does it attempt to impose any idea at any time; in general, propaganda always operates based on a pre-existing background, whether a national mythology or a set of traditional hatreds and prejudices. It is about disseminating arguments that can take root in primitive attitudes.

• Technique of unanimity and contagion: focuses on convincing the masses that the idea is shared by “everyone,” creating a false illusion of unanimity. Another technique of contagion is bringing together various adversaries into a single individual, as a single individualized category.

• Manichaeism: presenting the enemy as a negative, weak, and even perverse force with regard to social wellbeing, while the ideas that are defended in the propaganda are necessary, good and must predominate to strengthen the community.

3. Analysis of the diaries in light of framing

After submitting the diaries of both authors to a framing theory analysis, the main results obtained reveal a significant difference in the focuses between the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo in reference to the character of Magellan during the journey across the Pacific.

On the one hand, Pigafetta’s diary extols the character of Magellan and mythologises the positive experience of his journey. From the perspective of framing theory, the following results are highlighted:

3.1 Pigafetta’s diary

Frame 1.- Functions: In his text, Pigafetta uses various attributes to describe Magellan and his responsibilities as commander of the expedition. Magellan is characterized as an authority figure who makes a series of decisions and imposes certain norms with the purpose of guaranteeing social harmony on the ship. The most notable expressions in this frame are “said captain commanded that his regulations both for the signals and the watches should be well observed,” “said captain general willed that the vessel in which he himself was should go before the other vessels,” “the captain commanded that all the men of the fleet should confess before going on any further, in which he himself showed the way to the others […] he did not choose that anyone should bring any married woman or others to the ships.”

However, Magellan’s character is also related to the role of dutiful leader who knows how to negotiate with merchants and seeks the good of his crew: “here we held excellent negotiations,” “the following day, the captain general desired to land […] in order to be more secure and to get water and have some rest,” “the captain general had him come onto his ship with several of his chiefs, at which they were pleased,” “the good bargains obtained by the Europeans would have been materially less and the trade spoiled forever had it not been for Magellan’s watchfulness, for so eager are the men at the sight of the gold, that they would have given almost anything for it.”

Frame 2.- Hero/antihero: Pigafetta uses attributes that highlight the heroic character of Magellan. The most obvious expressions of this divinization are “a Portuguese gentleman, comendador of the [Order of] Santo Jacobo de la Spada, [who] had many times traversed the Ocean Sea in various directions, whence he had acquired great praise,” “this man, as skilful as brave, knew that it was necessary to sail through a hidden strait.” Pigafetta also indirectly defines Magellan as a brave and intrepid navigator, “having resolved to make so long a voyage through the Ocean Sea, where furious winds and great storms are always reigning.” Faced with this inhospitable scenario, Magellan is presented as the hero who “had also resolved to open a path that no navigator had known until then.”

Meanwhile, like all heroes, Magellan also met with enemies during his voyage. According to Pigafetta, these adversaries were the Spanish commanders of another four ships—which were under Magellan’s authority—because they were Spaniards and Magellan was Portuguese. These enemies rebelled during the voyage: “as soon as we had entered the port, the captains of the other four ships plotted treason in order that they might kill the captain general.” When the plot was discovered, it was decided that the mutineers should be executed; however, Magellan demonstrated himself to be a merciful and compassionate hero “who did not wish to have [the fourth mutineer] killed,” so the mutineer was “banished with a priest in that land of Patagonia.”

It should be noted that, in this specific context, the attribute of the hero is not only linked to frames regarding Magellan’s personality but also associated with religious ideology: the hero is not only a valiant idol but also acts as a devout Christian, a tireless believer who seeks to disseminate and bring Christianity to the populations that remained ostracized, as they were understood to be living in sin because they worshipped false deities: “we erected a cross on the top of the highest summit there, as a sign in that land that it belonged to the king of Spagnia, and we called that summit Monte de Christo,” “before going away, the captain chose that all should confess and receive the body of our Lord like good Christians,” “the captain general went ashore every day to hear mass, to which there came many of the new Christians, to whom he explained various points of our religion,” “the captain […] told him that, if he wished to be a good Christian, as he had said the day before, that he must burn all the idols of his country and instead of them, place a cross,” “the captain… gave great thanks to God.”

Ultimately, as in the plots of epic novels, the character of Magellan, as the hero of the journey, is exalted upon his death: “an Indian succeeded in thrusting a cane lance into the captain’s face. He then, being irritated, pierced the Indian’s breast with his lance and left it in his body,” “they deprived of life our mirror, light, comfort, and true guide. Whilst the Indians were thus overpowering him, several times he turned 'round towards us to see if we were all in safety,” “had it not been for that unfortunate captain, not a single one of us would have been saved in the boats,” “the glory of Magellan will survive him,” “among the other virtues which he possessed, he was more constant than ever any one else in the greatest of adversity,” “he endured hunger better than all the others,” “most versed in nautical charts, he knew better than any other the true art of navigation, of which it is a certain proof that he knew by his genius, and his intrepidity, without any one having given him the example, how to attempt the circuit of the globe.”

The death of the hero is always a misfortune that occurs during a heroic act by the hero during a struggle; from a literary perspective, such a death also represents an inflection point in the tale. Pigafetta continues to narrate the journey—in which he also describes the survivors’ return to Seville—but he establishes a significant pause in the content because, although the journey continues for the rest of the crew, they are no longer accompanied by the captain, and that fuels the feeling of failure: “following our defeat, we arrived at an island called Butuan.”

Frame 3.- The journey: the attributes related to the journey highlight Pigafetta’s captivating experience as an observer on the ship. These adulatory focuses are primarily presented at the beginning of Pigafetta’s publication with expressions such as “the great and wonderful things which God has permitted me to see,” “under most happy auspices,” “the great and marvellous things of the Ocean Sea,” “daring project,” and “each of us wept for the joy which we felt.”

However, Pigafetta subsequently introduced some less pleasant attributes and focuses into his narrative to emphasize the risk entailed by having embarked on such a pioneering journey: “he warned us at the same time not to navigate except by daylight, on account of the shoals and reefs which exist in these areas,” “we found people at a freshwater river called Canibali, who eat human flesh [...] A Spanish captain, called Johan de Solis and sixty men, who were going to discover lands like us, were formerly eaten at that river by those cannibals because of too great confidence,” “in this place we endured a great storm,” “[the strait] is surrounded by very great and high mountains covered with snow… it was not possible to anchor with the anchors, because no bottom was found,” “we remained three months and twenty days without taking in provisions or other refreshments,” “we drank water that was yellow and stinking,” “above all the other misfortunes the following was the worst. The gums of both the lower and upper teeth of some of our men swelled, so that they could not eat under any circumstances and therefore died,” “the 25th of March […] I fell into the sea without anyone seeing me.”

However, this apocalyptic view appears in a subtle way in the tale, as Pigafetta sought to highlight the benefits of the trip, the new discoveries they witnessed, and the new experiences they had on each island they visited: “there is a particular one of the islands of the Great Canaria, where one cannot find a single drop of water which gushes up,” “during the calm there came large fishes near the ships which they called sharks,” “I saw many kinds of birds, among them one that had no anus, and another which when the female wishes to lay its eggs, it does so on the back of the male and there they are hatched. The latter bird has no feet, and always lives in the sea,” “I also saw many flying fish,” “those people became very familiar with us.”

3.2 Albo’s path

On the other hand, the pilot Francisco Albo’s analysis is another text written by a survivor of Magellan’s expedition that has been preserved. As a vision of the trip, it presents notable differences from Pigafetta’s tale. Albo was a pilot who began the journey on the Trinidad, the head ship commanded by Magellan, and he finished it—logically—aboard Elcano’s Victoria. His text is not a narration of the trip in the style of the Italian chronicler, but rather, it is more of a log book, a navigation diary. However, among the records regarding the position of the ship and the different vicissitudes of the journey, Albo provides facts that have to do with the behaviour of the explorers, their activities and attitudes, and, of course, Magellan’s actions.

In some ways, Albo also writes his own chronicle. Buried among the technical commentaries, he provides news—or proto-news—about what happened and what he witnessed. Applying the techniques of framing, we can analyse the frame of the functions Albo attributes to Magellan. However, once again, unlike Pigafetta, these instances are few, and one must know how to understand them in the context of a pilot who comments on what his captain is doing and does not often dare to criticize his actions or record polemic events.

Frame 1.- Functions. Regarding Magellan’s functions, there are several references to his inclination to trade with people in the lands they visit on the expedition. For example, upon reaching Brazil, Albo states that, “In this bay there are good people and plenty of them, and they go naked, and barter with fish hoods, looking-glasses, and little bells for victuals.” This is one of a few references he makes to trading techniques, which highlights their importance to the expedition and, hence, to their captain.

Albo also emphasises Magellan’s functions as a conqueror. For example, on 16 March of 1521, after encountering an island called Mazaba, he notes, “there we placed a cross upon a mountain.” He thus presents the character of Magellan as an agent of the dissemination of Christianity, which we find at other points: upon reaching Subu, Albo notes, “the king and the queen, with many people, became Christians of their own free will”—another triumph for Christianity that he attributes to Magellan and his enterprise.

Some days later, Albo again notes Magellan’s dual character of conqueror and trader: “[we went] until the town of Saocao, and there we made peace, and they were Moors, and we went to another town, which is of Cafres, and there we bought much rice, and so we provisioned ourselves very well.” It is very interesting how Albo stresses that “there we made peace,” giving Magellan the character of a discoverer and a man of peace who brings the Spanish empire and the Christian faith to new territories. He repeats this on other occasions: “[we] entered between Mare and Tedori, at which we anchored, and there we were very well received, and made very good arrangements for peace. We made a house on shore for trading with the people, and so we remained many days, until we had taken in cargo.”

Frame 2.- Hero/antihero. There are interesting examples of Albo’s perception of Magellan as a leader and a hero. We find one in January of 1520, when he recounts what occurred during the exploration of what is now known as the Río de la Plata and for some time was known as the Río de Solís. Magellan was convinced that this was the passage to the Southern Sea but was confronted with the reality that, far from being a passage, the stretch of water was, in effect, a river. Albo explains that, while one of the ships was exploring the Río de la Plata, “during this time, two other of our ships went in a southerly direction to see if there was a roadstead for staying at, and those went in the space of two days, and the captain general went thither, and they found land to the S.S.W., 20 leagues distance from us, and they were four days in coming.”

Albo subtly mentions Magellan’s lies as an explorer: he sent a ship to traverse what he was sure was a passage; however, at the same time, he sent others toward the south. That is, Albo suggests that Magellan does not trust his own knowledge, the same knowledge he had used to convince the court of Carlos V to finance the expedition and that was at that moment shown to be erroneous. Albo, through his neutral technical notes, clearly accuses Magellan of having lied.

The mutiny at Puerto San Julián occurred a short time later, in which many of the captains rose up against Magellan, who was able to stifle the rebellion. In that episode, Magellan executed some of the leaders of the mutiny and, according to some sources, attempted an even more cruel punishment. Surprisingly, Albo did not record anything in his “log book.” It is worth asking why he believed these events were not worthy of being recounted. It is possible that he was trying to defend Magellan, who was his captain general. It is possible that, being enlisted on Magellan’s own ship, he remained loyal, and that made him suspicious in the eyes of the other Spanish commanders. The answer to this question may never be known; however, what is certain is that Albo dedicates space and time in his text to describing the Bay of San Julián and the people they met there while saying nothing of the mutiny or its resolution.

In October of 1520, Albo does elaborate upon the discovery of what they called the Strait of Todos los Santos, now known as the Strait of Magellan in honour of the leader of the expedition. Even in Albo’s technical and very aseptic prose, he demonstrates certain emotion in noting how “issuing from this strait the coast turns to the north, and on the left hand we saw a cape with an island, and we gave them the name of Cape Fermoso and Cape Deseado.” This is the crowning moment of Magellan’s life and confirmation that, despite the error at Río de la Plata, he was right: there was a passageway to the Southern Sea.  

However, we again find silence regarding the death of Magellan at the Island of Matan. Once again, it is impossible to know Albo’s motive for ignoring such an important event; however, it may have to do with protecting the figure of the hero. Magellan makes very serious errors that cost him his life, and it is possible that Albo did not wish to highlight the unsuccessful behaviour of the captain general.

Frame 3. The journey. While for the other frames, we must read between the lines of Albo’s text, for this one, the opposite is true when we analyse his vision of the trip: examples abound. As an experienced pilot, Albo mainly records messages aimed at other navigators sailing the waters he explores. Many of the entries are warnings and allow us to understand the difficulties and risks faced by Magellan’s ships. These are made clear when Albo states, for example, at Patagonia, “we were alongside of some shoals, which the Victoria bumped several times,” or, “in Brazil and St. Thomas, there are many rivers and ports, and going along the coast 13 leagues, there are many shoals.” He makes similar comments when traversing what would become the Strait of Magellan: “within which there are many shoals” and “shallows less than three leagues from the entrance of the straits”. When they explore the Philippines, Albo states, “in this course, and along Poluan, there are many shoals.”

Throughout the account, news is interpolated regarding the hardships faced by the sailors. These references abound, especially in the pages corresponding to the year 1522, when the expedition was already very exhausted. In May, Albo states, “we set sail, and we went along the coast to find some port for anchoring and taking refreshments for the people who were most suffering, which we did not find.” Later, when they escape from Cabo Verde, he notes, “[we] went away with twenty-two men, sick and sound,” which illustrates the already lamentable state of the crew. At this point, he also mentions the dangers they face in trying to free themselves from persecution by the Portuguese: “and a boat came up and told us to give ourselves up, and that they would send us with a ship which was coming from the Indies, and that they would put some of their people in our ship.”

At other times, Albo notes that the route is easy: “at 4 leagues into the sea, we found bottom at 25 fathoms, free from shoals,” “the Island of Gada, which is uninhabited, and there we provided ourselves with water and wood. The island is very free from shoals.” As is shown in this quote, he also mentions places to fill up on water and provision the ships. He indicates this at the Santa Cruz River: “there we caught much fish, and we took in water and wood,” at the Island of Mare, “there [we] took in wood to burn,” and at Palawan, “to get provisions of rice, for there is much of it on that island, and they had many ships from other parts.”

Albo also makes reference to the riches they find and where they find it. Of course he notes where they find the valuable spices they are seeking: “the islands of the Malucos are these: Terrenate, Tidori, Mare, Motil, Maquian, Bachian, and Gilolo, these are all those which contain cloves and nutmeg,” “Borney [Borneo] is a large island, and there is also on it cinnamon, mirabolams, and camphor.” However, he also writes of other riches, such as gold, during the exploration of the Philippines: “they showed us three islands in the W.S.W. direction, and they say there is much gold there,” and “which is called Baibai, and they say that there is in it much gold.”

Along with this news, Albo also mentions other, equally relevant, facts such as the presence and direction of the currents, names of places—many of them named for the first time by Westerners—and details regarding matters such as the ships used in the places they visit: “they had mat sails of a triangular shape, and they went both ways.”

4.  Discussion and conclusions

Our study proposed to analyse the frames and attributes used in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Alba to describe the character of Magellan and, in this way, to understand the informational divergence that exists between the information set forth by Francisco Albo and Pigafetta’s descriptive text.

In this regard, we find that the fact of using or disregarding a series of attributes in each frame causes public opinion to reach a certain idea about Magellan: depending on the diary an individual reads, a positive or negative mental image of Magellan will be created.

In Pigafetta’s diary, the most used frame is that of the “hero,” which coincides with what is stated by authors such as Cattán (2018: 550), who argues that historical figures who are “heroized” often also become the protagonists of their own myth (Raglan, 1936; Campbell, 1949), as occurs with manuscripts such as those of Barros Arana (1830), where the figure of Magellan is also idealized. Our analysis demonstrates how Pigafetta creates this heroic image by using two mechanisms of persuasion: the techniques of “simplification or a single enemy” and “exaggeration or distortion.”

On the one hand, by employing the technique of “simplification or a single enemy,” Pigafetta uses certain attributes related to the adverse conditions Magellan had to face—bad weather, mutinies, Spanish commanders as the main adversaries—as a strategy to transmit the single idea that, despite all the misfortune, Magellan was the hero of the journey and a commendable commander in chief. Thus, in our analysis, based on framing theory, we have shown how a series of expressions and attributes are used—such as the “Portuguese gentleman,” “comendador of the [Order of] Santo Jacobo de la Spada,” “[who] had many times traversed the Ocean Sea,” or “this man, as skilful as brave, knew that it was necessary to sail through a hidden strait”—to extol Magellan’s behaviour and present him as the author of the expedition’s achievements, despite the trials and difficulties he had to face.

On the other hand, the results demonstrate that Pigafetta also applies the technique of “exaggeration or distortion,” as, in the narration of the diary, he intentionally seeks to highlight any trait, characteristic, or attitude as a positive fact and, meanwhile, transforms negative facts into miniscule setbacks that serve to illustrate Magellan’s heroic character and ability to overcome challenges. For example, when it was discovered that some members of the crew had hatched a plot against their captain, it was decided that the mutineers should be executed; however, Magellan showed himself to be a merciful and compassionate hero “who did not wish to have [the fourth mutineer] killed” and hence he was “banished […] in that land of Patagonia.”

In the case of Francisco Albo, while the nature of the text is different, the results suggest that the frame most used was that of the “journey,” with attributes such as “in Brazil and St. Thomas there are many rivers and ports, and going along the coast 13 leagues there are many shoals,” or “we set sail, and we went along the coast to find some port for anchoring and taking refreshments for the people who were most suffering, which we did not find.” In the pilot Albo’s log book, the importance is placed on the expedition itself, the places that are found, and the routes or courses by which they are reached. This involves deliberately silencing Magellan, who comes to have a truly secondary role in Albo’s diary. In fact, the divergence in the way of telling what happened is so great that we could not agree more with Flores (2013: 5) when he compares the texts by Pigafetta and Albo and states, “one gets the impression that we are dealing with two different expeditions.” Pigafetta demonstrates his emotional involvement during the recounting of his journey with expressions such as “the great and wonderful things which God has permitted me to see,” under most happy auspices,” “the great and marvellous things of the Ocean Sea,” “daring project,” and “each of us wept for the joy which we felt.” Meanwhile, Albo appears more aseptic and indifferent, as demonstrated in the frames used to narrate the journey: “in Brazil and St. Thomas there are many rivers and ports, and going along the coast 13 leagues there are many shoals” or “and a boat came up and told us to give ourselves up, and that they would send us with a ship which was coming from the Indies, and that they would put some of their people in our ship.”

It is possible that Albo did not wish to write anything that would compromise him before Magellan because, as is clear in his interrogation upon returning from the trip, he knew in detail what had occurred during the most complex moments of the expedition, such as the mutiny at Puerto San Julián and Magellan’s death. The technique of “simplification” appears, in this case, dedicated to the captain general, whose actions are critiqued at some moments, ignored at others, and highlighted in only a few cases. In a deliberate way, Albo avoided placing much importance on what the head of the expedition did during the journey. This perspective coincides with that proposed by Cattan (2018: 551), who states that some of the chroniclers who recount the journey are against Magellan.

In any case, and by way of conclusion, it should be noted that the texts by Pigafetta and Albo allow us to explore the notion of news in a time in which discoveries never ceased to amaze Europe. Still far from the journalism that began to take shape in the 18th century, these men and the chroniclers of the Indies reported in their own way; however, they reported because—and here we are in accordance with Bravo (2015: 102)—they have a clear informative purpose, and hence, it makes sense to speak of proto-journalism. Additionally, they carry out this informative activity through the use of narrative techniques and informative resources that would later be used by journalists in recent times. We thus concur with Puerta (2011: 58) and Ruiz (2015: 621) in stating that in these primitive chronicles lie the seeds of the journalistic genre that is news reporting. These seeds are visible and have prospered in the fertile terrain of an already modern society desirous of knowing more about its true nature and the contours of its world—although with an awareness that the perception of that world varies according to the frames that the reporters use, according to framing theory, to portray reality.

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Paper relacionado:

AI Ardèvol Abreu (2015): Framing o teoría del encuadre en comunicac


How to cite this article in bibliographies / References

D Varona Aramburu, M Pérez-Escolar, G Sánchez Muñoz (2019): “Framing theory and proto-journalism: A study of the attributes associated with the character of Magellan in the diaries of Pigafetta and Francisco Albo”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 74, pp. 734 to 747.
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-2019-1354-37en

Paper received on 30 September. Acepted on 26 March.
Published on 3 April.