María de Lajara

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María de Lajara or Laxara, but more rightly María de La Jara, was a 17th-century Spanish lady, known for her tragic fate aboard the Manila Galleon and for her name having been attributed to a Pacific Ocean island.

María de Lajara's doom was published in 1699 by Gemelli Careri, in his work Giro del Mondo (Around the World), who wrote (in James Burney's translation): "Donna Maria de Lajara, a young Spanish woman, who in returning from Manila [to New Spain], not having patience to endure longer the inconveniencies of the passages, threw herself into the sea".

Maria de Lajara was very probably a descendent or relative of Juan de La Jara, Maestre de Campo (High rank army officer), who in 1596, after the death of Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, led the initially failed Spanish conquest of the island of Mindanao; if so, she was in all likelihood born in Philippines.

The island[edit]

Since the late 17th century up to the early 19th one, Pacific Ocean charts registered an island named Dona Maria de Lajara, or de Laxara, or even Maria Laxar around 27 degrees North latitude and 140 West from Greenwich longitude (that is East-northeast from Hawaii). As Gemelli wrote, such an island was supposedly near the place were María de Lajara hurled herself into the sea.

However no island actually exists in that area and therefore it is presently catalogued as a phantom island. Anyway, given that in early times latitudes were rather accurate, other possibility is that Dona Maria de Lajara island could originally be one of the Bonin Islands, around 27 degrees North and 140 East from Greenwich; and shortly later mistakenly moved to 140 West.

References[edit]

  • Gemelli Careri, Voyage Round the World (London, 1704)
  • James Burney, Chronological History of the Voyages and Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean (London, 1803–1817).
  • Stommel, Henry (1984). Lost Islands: The Story of Islands That Have Vanished from Nautical Charts. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 0-7748-0210-3. , p 67
  • Schurz, William Lytle. The Manila Galleon. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1939.
  • Universidade de Coimbra, Ephemerides astronómicas calculadas para o meridiano do Observatorio da Universidade de Coimbra (Coimbra, 1804), p 182