20 April 1992: The opening of the 1992 Universal Exposition of Seville

An aerial photograph of the 1992 Seville Expo.
An aerial photograph of the 1992 Seville Expo. / SUR
  • The Universal Exposition of Seville was opened to the public by representatives of the Spanish royal family

In April 1992, the Universal Exposition of Seville, located on Cartuja island, across the Guadalquivir river from the city centre, was opened to the public by representatives of the Spanish royal family. King Juan Carlos was accompanied by Queen Sofía, Prince Felipe and the Infantas Elena and Cristina.

1992 was a particularly significant year for the city as it marked 500 years since the first voyage of Christopher Columbus from Seville in search of trade routes with India and China. What he found instead was the New World, today known as Latin America, much of which would remain under Spanish control for four hundred years. The Expo's motto was 'The Era of Discoveries'.

The Expo itself was an incredibly ambitious project which represented 112 countries and was attended by nearly 42 million visitors. The Cartuja island site was chosen to represent the New World, and the site was so large and varied that visitors had to spend several days there in order to see most of the exhibitions. It was praised for its architecture, which included many impressive bridges and gates, as well as innovative and unusual methods of travel around the site, which ranged from buses and ferry boats to cable cars and monorails.

The Expo was marketed as a city of the future, designed to show the success of a new Spain that had flourished in the 17 years since the end of Franco's dictatorship. The event's director, Manuel Olivencia, prevented the United States from having the largest pavilion, stating in 1989, &ldquoWe as hosts intend to have the largest.&rdquo

Spain's pavilion was the most popular. It was a modernist cube on the edge of the artificial Lake of Spain. It featured a gallery with works by Miró, Dalí, Caravaggio and others, as well as a cinema dome which took visitors on a virtual tour of Spain. The Japanese pavilion was also particularly impressive. It was then the world's largest wooden structure where guests could walk through multiple levels showing life-size photographs of Japanese people at work, a video showing Japan at the time of Columbus, and several sections of a Japanese castle.

The Moroccan pavilion was one of the most beautiful of the Expo. It was built in the style of a three-storey traditional mansion, and included an impressive fountain in the centre, as well as al fresco dining and an atrium with an open roof. It is one of the few buildings that visitors can still view today.

The US pavilion took a broad view of travel, ranging from Columbus' discovery of the Americas to the Space Race. The organisers even built a 'Plaza de las Américas'.

After the end of the Expo, many of the structures were dismantled. The site is now divided between the Cartuja 93 science and technology park and the Isla Mágica theme park. It has become a popular destination for urban explorers.