It was a fair that had a twin, Barcelona, during the same year, and has more legacies left in the city of Seville from the expo than most other world's fairs, including the Plaza de Espana and other iconic buildings left from the Ibero-American. It had a unique style and history abounded on the site and nearby. The main entrance was across the street from the tobacco factory made famous by "Carmen." How cool is that? The expo boosted the city with new hotels, a canal to the Atlantic for tourist boats, and included a replica of the Santa Maria. It was meant to celebrate the relationship between Spain and the former colonial nations in the Americas while twinning with their northern sister city Barcelona in a total event titled L'Exposicion General d' Espana.
The idea to the fair started in 1905 and was supposed to occur in 1914, but World War I had other ideas. The site would be the gardens donated by the Duchess of Montpensier. It would take twenty years to plan and build, with the intevening war costing most of the time, and once the idea was floated again in 1924, the decision was to host the expo as a way to reboot Spanish international influence. Spain, at this time, was considered a backwards country, its heydey far past in Spanish Armada and pre-1900 colonial days. The international participation was confined to the former Spanish colonial influence, which limited its potential. Most of the nations involved were agrarian by nature. Fine arts and culture had a special place. Despite post-fair reviews on the negative side, when news reports of the opening of the fair came out, they focused on praise for the beauty of the fair buildings.
Above photo. Postcard of the Ibero-American, 1929. Courtesy Pinterest. Bottom: Fair sculpture, Source of the Discoveries, 1929. Courtesy Pinterest.
Most historians do not consider the Ibero-American a well run or successful fair. Terms liked ill-fated and modest seem to crop up in their description and the Barcelona fair, with a reported 5.8 million visitors, got more attention. The Seville expo ran a deficit which the city of Seville and Spanish government would have to meet. And while we certainly acknowledge those sentiments, it seems to us that its legacy of structures and institutions that prosper around the former site, make it much less ill-fated in retrospect. Yes, only one million and one half million visitors came. That's not a lot for an enterprise that large. However, in the years since 1929, the Plaza de Espana itself likely surpasses that total in one year.
"Old Spain and the New at Two Fairs" - New York Times, March 31, 1929. Article stated that the Barcelona and Seville fairs were planned to complement, not compete with each other. Seville limited to Spain and Portugal plus colonies of America they colonized, plus United States, dealing chiefly with the governments official aspects. Barcelona is concerned with commerce and industry, extending welcome to all nations. Due to death of Queen Mother, Seville opening postponed to May 7, Barcelona May 15. Seville name, "Ibero-American Exposition" includes all countries with roots in Iberian peninsula, nations taking part, except for Brazil and United States were children of Spain. (Brazil of Portuguese heritage, thus also Iberian). Many new hotels being built. 22 countries participating at Seville. There were three divisions at the Seville expo; art, history, and commerce with emphasis on the first two.
Prior to BIE Sanction
International Participants Nations and Colonies
Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Columbia, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Brazil, United States, Bolivia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spanish Morocco, and Guinea, plus other colonial countries. Private exhibits from Great Britain were also included.
Nations with their own buildings included Spain, Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Chile, United States, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela.
Other participants included all regions of Spain and the provinces of Andalusia.
Note: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether certain nations actually participated in a significant way. Take the above as a guide, not gospel.
Expo commissioned John Philip Sousa to write "La Flor de Seville," but he did not perform there. The Army Band did perform.
United States pavilion consisted of three buildings and included a theater. After the exposition, the main building of the United States pavilion was to be used as a residence and consulate for the American ambassador.
United States Department of State wins award, grand prize and diploma of honor. Other awards given at the Ibero American to RCA, General Motors, Armstrong Cork, General Electric, Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company, Inc. in the Department of Commerce exhibit.
The Salon del Descubrimento de America exhibit had exhibits on Columbus, Hernan Cortes, and dioramas on history.
Maria Luisa Park still has pavilions of several nations standing, many now private mansions. The Plaza de Expana, which had been the Pavilion of Andalusia, remains one of the most iconic areas of Seville with many museums in the post-fair buildings as well as use by Hispano-American University. The area is well kept. The Royal Pavilion, former Renaissance or Belle Arts Pavilion, is now an archeology museum and the Arts Pavilion a Popular Arts-Costumes Museum. Argentina Pavilion and Guatemala Pavilion houses a flamenco school. The Peru Pavilion, now the House of Sciences, and United States Pavilion remain. The U.S. Pavilion is now home to an art foundation, no longer a consulate. Portugal (now their consulate), Uruguay, and Chile (School of Art), located near the University are still there as well. More to see from the Ibero American is the Hotel Alfonso, built for the king and his family plus their guests, and the Pavilion of Seville with its circular Casino de la Exposicion and the Teatro Lope de Vega.
Those in Charge
Planner of the expo and director was Jose Cruz Conde. Chief architect Vicente Traver. Spanish architect Anibal Gonzalez designed the large, famous buildings around the Plaza de Espana. United States Commissioner was the former Wisconsin Governor Fred R. Zimmerman.
Sources: New York Times; London Times; "Exposicion Internacional de Barcelona 1929" by Ludger Derenthal and Andrea Lesjak; Fair News; World's Fair Magazine; Wikipedia Commons; andalucia.com.
Photo column top: Poster from the Ibero-American Exposition, Seville, 1929. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Middle: Plaza de Expana Seville. Courtesy Pixabay.
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