Fabio Ala Ponzone (1770-1817) was born in Cremona (Lombardy, Italy) to a family of the ancient Lombard nobility (his last name, in fact, took the form "Ali Ponzoni"). The family chaplain - the former Jesuit Ramón Ximénez de Cernabe - oversaw his early studies. On May 5, 1787 he was admitted to the Academy of the Guardiamarina of Cádiz - by special Royal permission, since he had not yet reached the age of 18. The Ala Ponzone family was distantly related to that of Malaspina (through Giovanni Sforza d'Aragon, viceroy of Sicily), and this explains why Alexandro, as soon as he returned to Cádiz after his circumnavigation aboard the frigate Astrea, decided to include the young officer in his Expedition. Although Fabio took part in the whole enterprise, the Commander cannot have been very satisfied with his behavior, since towards the middle of the voyage he transferred him to the Atrevida, under the command of José Bustamante. After the arrest of Malaspina, Fabio was posted to the Cádiz detachment and almost immediately embarked on the frigate Juno, heading for the GJanuary 3, 2006he Antilles. On the orders of Ciriaco Cevallos he worked on cartographic surveys of the Gulf of Mexico. Having completed this task, he was sent to Veracruz – he drew the hydrographic chart of that port – and commanded, one after the other, the Sea Cadets, the gunnery detachment, the corps of engineers and the Port Police. He spent his spare time in the compilation of a Diccionario Geográfìco de América, a part of which is today preserved, unpublished, in the files of the Centro "Alessandro Malaspina" in Mulazzo. In 1815 he received permission to return to Europe, took a leave from the Royal Navy and returned in Italy, where he died suddenly two years later… while assisting a lady into a carriage!
For more information, see:
D. MANFREDI, "Un nobile cremonese nella Spedizione Malaspina: il cav. Fabio dei conti Ala e marchesi Ponzone," Rivista Araldica, LXXXV, fase. 831, April-June 1987, pp. 86-96.
D. MANFREDI, "Inventari dei fondi 'Ala Ponzone' e 'Ramón Ximénez' conservati nell'Archivio del Centro 'Alessandro Malaspina' della Spezia," Giornale Storico della Lunigiana, Nuova Serie, XL-1989 (1993), pp. 135-160.
D. MANFREDI, "Noticias sobre unos inéditos geográficos del ofìcial de la Real Armada Fabio Ala Ponzone (1770-18)," Latinoamérica. Territorios y países en el umbral del siglo XXI, Tarragona, 1993, pp. 235-238.
D. MANFREDI, "Fabio Ala Ponzone, oficial de la Expedición Malaspina, en la costa noroeste de América," Derroteros de la Mar del Sur, Lima, IlI (1995), pp. 83-96.
D. MANFREDI, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone. Lettere dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1877-1803), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, 488 pp.
Updated: December 20, 2005