We observe Columbus Day in recognition of his outstanding navigational feat and the discovery of America. With his belief that the world was round, and that by sailing west he could get to the east and India, Columbus created bold and investigational exploration for his era.
Christopher Columbus was born, according to the best information available, in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. His father was a middle class wool weaver and merchant, Domenico Colombo, and his mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. According to claims by Columbus himself, he went to sea at age 10. Before he married Filipa Moniz, a daughter of the Porto Santo governor, Columbus had made several sea voyages. In 1481, Columbus and Filipa had a son named Diego.
Columbus had a hard time getting heads of state in Europe to believe his theory that if he sailed west he could land at the spice-rich islands of the East Indies. Little did he know that the way had other lands rather than being an uninterrupted sea.
Finally, in 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain agreed to outfit Columbus with three ships. Queen Isabella was less enthusiastic. However, if the adventurer did discover new lands and claim them for Spain, he would be given an annuity of 12,000 Spanish maravedis ($840), and he would receive one-eighth of any commercial venture brought on from new lands. He was also named "Admiral of the Ocean Sea (the Atlantic Ocean)".
It took him from August 3, 1492 to October 12, 1492 to arrive at the Bahamian Island of San Salvador (so named later). He observed in his journal: "I could conquer the whole of them (the natives) with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased." On the first journey, he also landed at Cuba and explored that island. He took several Indians (so named by him because he thought he had arrived in the East Indies) back with him to Spain, but only about seven of them survived the sea journey.
His subsequent voyages and his appointment as governor or chief viceroy of some of the islands met with disappointment. Columbus was physically and mentally exhausted. His body was in much pain from advanced arthritis. Blamed with many atrocities, Columbus was arrested and taken back to Spain. He lingered in jail for over six weeks before King Ferdinand finally released him. He died at about age 55, and following his release from jail had become fairly wealthy on the percentage he received in gold from Hispanolia.
The story of Columbus is fascinating. Having a day to celebrate his contributions to American history is significant.
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Oct. 11, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.