Monday, October 5, 2009

Columbus Day - Oct. 12
For decades, American history books and school teaching told us that Christopher Columbus discovered America. What those books and teachings did not give credit to was the fact that Native Americans were already here first and truly discovered America. It also gave little mention to the fact that Nordic explorers had travelled down the eastern cost of Canada thousands of years earlier.

Today, we celebrate Columbus day for what it accurately is. Columbus did discover the existence of the New World for Europeans who until then, believed the world was flat and ended somewhere in the Atlantic. And, the focus is more upon discovery of the "New World", and less upon Columbus himself. Columbus day is sometimes referred to as "Discoverer's Day".

Christopher Columbus may be wrongly given credit for discovering the New World, but was he really the first person to step foot in this new land. What about the Native Americas? What about Leif Ericson? Or what about Americus Vespucius?

Approximately 20,000 years ago the first Native Americans came over a land bridge between Asia and North America. This bridge was over 1,000 miles wide. In 1492 about one million American Indians lived in the United States and Canada and about 20 million million Indians lived in South America.

In 1000 A. D. sailors from Norway called Vikings traveled from Iceland to Greenland. They were lead by Eric the Red. Eric the Red founded a colony on Greenland. Later his son, Leif Ericson, lead a group to Newfoundland in Canada. Unfortunately no maps were made of these travels. However in 1965 a Viking map dated 1440 was found. The Viking map showed parts of northeastern Canada.

About the same time Columbus was making his third voyage another explorer sailed for North America. His name was Americus Vespucius. Vespucius made maps of his travels. A German school teacher who was writing a new geography book found these maps. The school teacher called the New World America in honor of Vespucius.

What's reported about Christopher Columbus:
In Spanish he is called Cristobal Colon, in Portuguese Cristovio Colombo and in Italian Cristoforo Colombo. Italian mariner and navigator Christopher Columbus was widely believed to be the first European to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and successfully land on the American continent. Born between August and October 1451, in Genoa, Italy, Columbus was the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool-worker and small-scale merchant, and his wife, Susanna Fontanarossa; he had two younger brothers, Bartholomew and Diego. He received little formal education and was a largely self-taught man, later learning to read Latin and write Castilian.

Columbus began working at sea early on, and made his first considerable voyage, to the Aegean island of Chios, in 1475. A year later, he survived a shipwreck off Cape St. Vincent and swam ashore, after which he moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where his brother Bartholomew, an expert chart maker, was living. Both brothers worked as chartmakers, but Columbus already nurtured dreams of making his fortune at sea. In 1477, he sailed to England and Ireland, and possibly Iceland, with the Portuguese marine, and he was engaged as a sugar buyer in the Portuguese islands off Africa (the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira) by a Genoese mercantile firm. He met pilots and navigators who believed in the existence of islands farther west. It was at this time that he made his last visit to his native city, but he always remained a Genoese, never becoming a naturalized citizen of any other country.

Returning to Lisbon, he married the well-born Dona Filipa Perestrello e Moniz in 1479. Their son, Diego, was born in 1480. Felipa died in 1485, and Columbus later began a relationship with Beatriz Enr?­quez de Harana of Cordoba, with whom he had a second son, Ferdinand. (Columbus and Beatriz never married, but he provided for her in his will and legitimatized Ferdinand, in accordance with Castilian law.)

By the time he was 31 or 32, Columbus had become a master mariner in the Portuguese merchant service. It is thought by some that he was greatly influenced by his brother, Bartholomew, who may have accompanied Bartholomew Diaz on his voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, and by Martin Alonso Pinzon, the pilot who commanded the Pinta on the first voyage. Columbus was but one among many who believed one could reach land by sailing west.

By the mid-1480s, Columbus had become focused on his plans of discovery, chief among them the desire to discover a westward route to Asia. In 1484, he had asked King John II of Portugal to back his voyage west, but had been refused. The next year, he went to Spain with his young son, Diego, to seek the aid of Queen Isabella of Castile and her husband, King Ferdinand of Aragon. Though the Spanish monarchs at first rejected Columbus, they gave him a small annuity to live on, and he remained hopeful of convincing them. In January of 1492, after being twice rebuffed, Columbus obtained the support of Ferdinand and Isabella. The favorable response came directly after the fall of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, which led Spanish Christians to believe they were close to eliminating the spread of Islam in southern Europe and beyond. Christian missionary zeal, as well as the desire to increase Spanish prominence in Europe over that of Portugal and the desire for gold and conquest, were the primary driving forces behind Columbus' historic voyage.

Columbus would make four voyages to the West Indies, but by the end of his final voyage, Columbus' health had deteriorated; he was suffering from arthritis as well as the aftereffects of a bout with malaria. With a small portion of the gold brought from Hispaniola, Columbus was able to live relatively comfortably in Seville for the last year of his life. He was emotionally diminished, however, and felt that the Spanish monarchs had failed to live up to their side of the agreement and provide him with New World property and gold, especially after Isabella's death. Columbus followed the court of King Ferdinand from Segovia to Salamanca to Vallodid seeking redress, but was rejected. He died in Vallodid on May 20, 1506. His remains were later moved to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, where they were laid with those of his son Diego. They were returned to Spain in 1899 and interred in Seville Cathedral.