It goes without saying that human history counts numerous conquerors and brave travelers who have made thousands of discoveries, enriching our knowledge about some remote corners of the planet. However, there’s one famous man whose name is perpetuated in the world legacy, remembered by lots of generations, and inscribed in all history books around the globe - Christopher Columbus. And today is the best day to recall the renowned traveler and his great contribution to the world’s history. Let’s get it started!
Thorny path to the dream
The famous Spanish explorer of Italian origin, Christopher Columbus, is the first traveler who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailed out to the Caribbean Sea and initiated the study of Central and South America. According to most biographers, Christopher Columbus was born in the autumn of 1451 in Genoa. At the age of 20, he already began to go out to the Mediterranean Sea as a sailor.
Having the hunger for discoveries and great deeds, Columbus moved to Portugal in 1476 and joined a group of merchants, participating in the voyages to the North Atlantic.
In 1484 the valiant adventurer worked up his courage and made an attempt to interest the Portuguese king in his plan for an expedition to Asia through the west for the purpose of finding a shorter way to India (which was a major hub for exchanging goods of that time). Unfortunately, the project failed to receive approval, and Columbus moved to Spain.
The only way for him to fulfill his dream was to get the support of the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. And this only happened after 7 entire years, mostly due to the support of the queen, by the way, who actually invested her own jewelry and other belongings to fund Columbus’s voyage.
Interestingly, he was assigned to the noble rank, being promised the titles of admiral, viceroy, and governor-general of all the islands or continents, if he would find any new lands in Spain’s name, of course.
What are the merits of Columbus?
The Spanish crown provided the sailor with three caravels: “Santa Maria”, “Nina”, and “Pinta” that were very small even for those times so crossing the ocean on them seemed as an incredibly brave idea. In addition, the ship crew was assembled from prisoners as no one else agreed to participate voluntarily in such a dangerous voyage.
All his life Columbus was quite sure that he was sailing to the east coast of Asia, although in fact, he was about 15 thousand kilometers (9320 miles) away from India! Can you imagine how wrong his initial calculations of the overall travel distance that they’ll cover was?
Before October 12, 1492, when the land near the present day Bahamas appeared on the horizon, 70 days of sailing had passed. However, the outlines of the coast were not the mainland, but a small island in the Caribbean Sea, which later became known as San Salvador and was the first Spanish colony ever to be established on the South American continent.
Moreover, because Columbus was more than positive that they've come to Eastern Asia somewhere near India, he called the natives who inhabited the lands of that time “Indians”.
All in all, Christopher Columbus undertook four voyages across the Atlantic, thinking that he was approaching the shores of India. During this time, he visited many islands of the Caribbean, including Haiti, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, and Jamaica. Only during the third voyage, he reached the mainland shores of Central America, thus proving that there is a continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the South Sea.
A national holiday in honor of Columbus
Despite all the controversies, Columbus was the one who paved the way to the New World and deserves a day dedicated to his merits. Although most American countries celebrate Columbus Day on October 12th, which is pretty justified, the United States have chosen the second Monday of October to commemorate the famous discoverer. Now let’s find out when Columbus day was established.
First public celebrations of this holiday took place in the United States in 1792, held back to back with the 300th anniversary of the America discovery, and a monument to the Spanish navigator was installed in Baltimore.
A century later, the US President Benjamin Harrison encouraged Americans to make Columbus day a solemn event for the country. In 1937 the day was declared an official public holiday throughout the country and set on October 12, until in 1971 the US Congress decided to celebrate Columbus Day every second Monday of October.
Nowadays, Americans celebrate the anniversary, attending church services and other events like parades and large ceremonies.
Apart from America, Christopher Columbus left his mark in the history of such countries as Italy, Spain and Portugal, which now keep the memory about the traveler embodied in monuments and museums.
For those planning an upcoming tour to Northern Italy, there is a chance to visit the birthplace of Columbus, beautiful Genoa, and see the streets where the future discoverer of America grew up.
However, if you consider the possibility to dedicate the whole trip to touring the lands of the world’s renowned explorers, starting from Spanish Seville right to the Portuguese Madeira Island, you may set off on our “Age of Columbus Discoveries” tour to see where it all began and maybe feel like one of those travelers who inspired future generations to explore our planet yourself!
Dramatic destiny of the world’s hero
Unfortunately, life played wicked games on Columbus and the great pioneer of the New World obtained no glory or wealth during the living. Columbus brought tobacco, sugar cane, crops such as corn, bird feathers, and wicker hammocks to Europe as well as entire new territories in honor of Spain from his expeditions but not a grain of Indian pepper for which everything was actually started.
Although Columbus had more voyages to the South American continent with conquistadors, the situation was aggravated by the fact that in 1498 a representative of competing Portugal, Vasco da Gama, reached actual India via the Atlantic route and brought back so many spices that the voyage paid off many times. The patience of the Spanish government ran out and they refused to give Columbus the promised titles or money.
One year after the death of Columbus, his companion, Amerigo Vespucci, announced the fact that America was not alleged Asia, but some new land so his name was given to the entire continent! Quite unfair, isn’t it?
As for Columbus himself, his name is immortalized in only one Latin American country, Colombia, known for its mafia; in the USA there’s the federal district of Columbia; and there’s the city of Colón in Panama.
To sum up, it’s fair to mention that the essential contribution of Columbus into the development of the civilization has changed the course of history significantly. Though Columbus was unable to estimate his discoveries correctly, he led Europeans to a new continent, which is definitely something that deserves to be remembered.