SAN DIEGO – The president of the San Diego Maritime Museum, Ray Ashley, said Sunday that he was “flattered” to receive Spain’s Order of Isabella the Catholic for heading up the construction of a working replica of the galleon San Salvador.
“It’s a great honor,” Ashley told EFE about the recognition, a civil award presented by the Spanish government to honor those persons who benefit or enhance Spain’s relations of cooperation and friendship with the international community.
Ashley received the award from Spain’s consul in Los Angeles, Javier Vallaure, at a ceremony held on Saturday at the museum with the galleon in the background, a project undertaken to emphasize the common history of Spain and California.
“This will be a tool for education, this galleon is going to sail all along California’s western coast, it’s going to go to children and ... explain the history that unites us,” Spain’s honorary consul in San Diego, Maria Angeles Olson, told EFE.
The original Spanish vessel, built some 500 years ago, was the first European ship to arrive on the west coast of what is now the United States under the command of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was seeking new trade routes from Mexico to Europe and Asia.
Although the project to build the replica was conceived more than 20 years ago, the museum began work in 2011 with the help of hundreds of maritime experts, architects and volunteers, until the vessel was ready to be launched last summer.
The working replica of the ship cost $6 million and made its first official ocean voyage along the San Diego coast last September, although some details still remain to be finalized, museum representatives said.
Once it is officially operational, the San Salvador will sail among a dozen ports in California to spread the word of its history and the cultural, economic and political elements of that epoch.