The “rescue” of the exotic

What is the exotic but what is unknown to us, and, therefore, extravagant, exuberant and often threatening?

The story of the kidnapping of native children of the “Tierra del Fuego” by the captain of Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, is a disastrous testimony of the voices of incomprehension in regard to the exotic. In this story, the unknown was perceived as imperfect and, as such, needed to

be saved, although it had never asked for salvation.


(1520) The Portuguese Captain Ferdinand Magellan, the first  to voyage  around the world commanding a fleet of five vessels, sails  along the archipelago and on seeing the fire set by the inhabitants of the place, names it  Tierra del Fuego.

(1826) England, that had the control of the seas at the time, decides to undertake a survey of the area and sends two ships to map the place, the HMS Adventure and the HMS Beagle.

(1828) Under the command of Captain Stokes, the ship “His Majesty the Beagle” sails for two months along Patagonia and  Tierra del  Fuego studying this coast. 

(October,1828) The Beagle comes to be commanded by the 23 years old youngster, Captain FitzRoy.

(January 28th, 1830) One of FitzRoy’s whalers is robbed by local tribes. So, he decides to kidnap women and children and keep them as hostages. 

(October 14th, 1830) FitzRoy returns to England bringing on board four natives from Tierra del Fuego. On the way back, one of these natives dies of smallpox.  

(1831) The natives arrive in England, go to school, learn the language, meet the king and receive gifts to take back to their homeland.

(The last months of 1831) FitzRoy is granted the right to return to “Tierra del Fuego” and take the “civilized” natives back. At this point, Darwin joins the crew.

(December, 27th, 1831) It marks the beginning of the most relevant of Darwin’s journeys.

(January,  1833) The ship arrives at Tierra del Fuego and, for some days, the crew do try to build a new home for the natives that had returned, leaving soon after settling them. 

(February,  1834) The ship sails by Tierra del Fuego once more and  its crew  face  their “once-civilized”, now thin, distressed, and again “savage” abductees.