Throughout history Spain has been a country that has constantly worked towards expanding education and knowledge. This was most evident during the centuries in which Spanish territories extended throughout the world: from the arrival of Columbus in American territory in 1492 and the first round the world expedition during the first quarter of the 16th century; until the last lands were lost in 1898.
In the multiple journeys to America and Asia, Spain brought its culture language and institutions to the shores of wherever its ships landed. And, in the name of the Crown, the first universities on these continents were founded. It is estimated that at least thirty centres of higher education were created during these years.
Among them is the oldest university established in the New World, that of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Santo Domingo. It was created in 1538 and recognized by Pope Paul III through a papal bull, although it was not made official by the Spanish Crown until two decades later. It disappeared in 1823 when Haitian troops entered the country.
From a historical point of view, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, located in Lima (Peru) also stands out. It was officially created and recognized in 1551 thanks to the work of the academic Fray Tomás de San Martín, under the name of Real y Pontificia Universidad de la Ciudad de los Reyes de Lima. Today it is still running and is renowned for being the oldest center of higher education on the continent recognized through a Royal Decree.
These institutions were followed by many others, such as the Real y Pontificia Universidad de México, which has been an official institution since 1551 (although it was not inaugurated until 1553). Other institutions include the Universidad Mayor, Real y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, the third oldest university in Hispanic America which is still running and was founded in Sucre (Bolivia) in 1621.
Without forgetting the important work that was carried out by the Spanish missions in regard to disseminating the culture throughout different, geographical areas such as the modern day United States and Paraguay.
The arrival in the Philippines
Although empires such as China had already established educational centres in Asia that could be considered universities, Spain was responsible for formally establishing one of the oldest institutions that is still functioning as a university today: the University of San Tomas in Manila (Philippines). It was founded in 1605 by the Spanish Dominican Miguel de Benavides, the third archbishop of the Philippine capital. When he died, he donated his library and other possessions in order to help make it a reputable centre of higher education.
Throughout its history it has suffered the vicissitudes brought about by conflict, such as the Philippine independence in 1898 and the Japanese occupation during the Second World War and the efforts to blur the Hispanic and European legacy. It has also survived the harshness of Mother Nature, so much so that the building that is now its main building, inaugurated in 1927, was the first in the country to be protected from earthquakes.
Cases like these are clear examples of how Spanish culture has influenced the history of many nations and their towns throughout the world. Especially through the Spanish language which is widely used throughout America and the many dialects that are distributed throughout the Philippine archipelago, the area of Asia that was part of our community and in other enclaves such as Equatorial Guinea.