In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. This childhood rhyme taught to me by my mother nearly 16 years ago to remember the year Christopher Columbus discovered America. This rhyme along with the names of his three ships: The Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria served me well all through grade school, high school, and part of college when studying this valiant explorer. I say part of college, because now here in 2012 I have learned new truths about Christopher Columbus and his expeditions.
Christopher Columbus, a masterful seaman, portrayed as honorable and dedicated to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand was in reality an egotistical, self promoting, calculating, crafty, and brutal sailor. Columbus made four major voyages, each more exposing than the last. Christopher Columbus was born 1451 in Genoa, Italy to Domenico and Susanna Colombo. His mother and father were both from a long lineage of weavers, so it is assumed that Christopher and his siblings would also become weavers. Christopher attended school for the children of weavers operated by the professional weaver’s guild.
School was rigorous and lasted 13 hours per day. When not at school, Christopher would work at his father’s shop carding wool. This is an extremely monotonous procedure. At the age of 14 Christopher left school and the family business to attain fame and wealth, his two primary objectives in life. Columbus apprenticed himself to a merchant on a trading ship, and at the young age of 19 sailed on his first long voyage to the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. This is where Columbus learned to navigate. Drive and determination characterized Columbus’ life.
Money, fame and fortune were his motivating forces through each phase, hurdle, and voyage. Columbus was living in Lisbon. Full of passion and a quest for knowledge and exploration, Columbus immersed himself in all the city had to offer. Many of the sharpest minds of the time gathered in Lisbon; scientists, astronomers, and mathematicians. A bit overwhelmed by the quantity of life, but he never gave up. He dug in even deeper. There was not a sailor, scientist, geographer, or mathematician in Lisbon that didn’t believe that the world was round. Columbus bought into this philosophy and it fueled his thoughts and desires even more.
Columbus could acquire the knowledge, but it was quickly becoming apparent that without capital and pedigree his dreams would remain just that…. dreams. Columbus, described as a stubborn silent type, unless he wanted something, and then look out; he becomes persuasive, expressive, charming and animated. Clearly the case when he showed interest in Felipa. Felipa is a local girl he meets at church. She comes from a family with some claim to nobility which has contacts with the court and enjoys a certain influence in Portuguese society. Felipa’s father was also a man of the sea, an explorer. Columbus’ plan is falling into place.
He has gained the knowledge to sail, he has devised a route and he has married up from his birth position in life. He can use all of these attributes to now go out and “market” his dream. Determination, drive, and calculation intensifies as he sets his eyes on the prize; the belief that a distant land with abounding limitless supplies and gold is out there waiting to be discovered. Felipa dies leaving Columbus alone to raise their six year old son, Diego. How can he continue to pursue his dream of exploration with a small child and he has just learned that the Portuguese King has denied Columbus’ initial proposal for exploration.
There is not a stammer in his step and Columbus is plotting and planning his next course of action, Spain. Columbus decides to leave Portugal and its denial behind him. He chooses Spain for many reasons: he has family in the port city of XXXX, his two brothers in law, friends he made while in Lisbon, and a Franciscan Monastery that owned the land his father’s home was built on. The monastery also provides a perfect place for a child to be raised in the absence of parents. Columbus has relatives, friends, and Franciscans all in a small area a few miles wide around an ocean port.
How convenient or calculated? Definitely calculated, he stayed with brothers in law while making contacts with Friars where he arranges care for Diego. He has a secondary use for the Monastery; a springboard from which to present his plan to the Spanish throne. Columbus’ ideas spawned much excitement with the Franciscans who coincidentally had a century earlier begun a school of cosmographical teaching. He also appealed to them on a spiritual level. Columbus believed a part of his mission or goal when discovering these new lands was to save the souls of the people living there.
Columbus’ exploration included divine predestination. In May of 1486 Columbus is received at the Royal Residence of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. He knew his audience here just as he did with the Franciscans and what emotion he should appeal too. While speaking to the King and Queen, it was Queen Isabella who became more intrigued. Isabella was more “appreciative of the power of imagination. She felt an intellectual solidarity with Columbus. ”(74) Granzotto. Columbus also knew that Isabella was sensitive to re conquering Jerusalem and so he used this “hot button” to real her in.
She believed in Columbus so much so that she funded his first few years out of her personal account. Her belief catapulted Columbus toward his dream and destiny. Seven years in discussions and finally approval and funding. Columbus, his three ships and 90 men leave Spain August XX 1492. Twenty nine days into the voyage Columbus logs only miles he wants men to think they have traveled, not actual miles. He fears men might be losing faith and getting discouraged. In a meeting Columbus and crew decide that if they do not see land fall within 5 days, they agreed to turn back and pray that they make it safely back to Spain.
With one day left in the agreement, land ho! All worry gone and replaced with sheer exhilaration. On October 12, 1492 Columbus comes ashore in the midst of the Bahamas; 8000 miles off course. He is however convinced and never waivers that he has arrived at the doorstep to Asia. Greeted on shore by friendly, fit, and skilled Indians, they trade trinkets as Columbus scans there adornment for any signs of gold. Not seeing any signs of gold Columbus quietly realizes the Indians value as slaves and plans to take a few as hostages when he returns to Spain.
From October to December, Columbus Island hops always in search of the Great Khan and the mother load of gold. Other than the loss of the Santa Maria when she ran aground, the initial voyage was relatively bloodshed free. Over the course of this first exploration, Columbus often found that his convictions were greater than the reality. Not willing to admit error or defeat, Columbus was always ready to sacrifice the well being of all for his exalted unattainable goal; the liberation of Jerusalem or the discovery of the Grand Khan’s empire.
The greater his dreams, the more inhuman he became’ (22) Bergreen. The mere mention of gold often sent Columbus on a chase the equivalent of an addict seeking a fix. It distracted him from all else. March 15, 1493 Columbus entered Spanish waters aboard the Nina. The Pinta was only a few hours away, but Columbus did not want to wait and have to share his moment with anyone else. He had the ships guns fire a salute as they entered. Celebrations and feasts were the affair of many evenings in Palos in honor of the new heroes that had returned from the Indies.
Columbus’ glory was to be celebrated in Barcelona, at the royal court. Originally Columbus wanted to sail in to Barcelona, but the arrival of the Pinta and her Captain Pinzon, his peer and nemesis, spurred Columbus to move quicker. He was so suspicious of Pinzon, jealous for no reason. These two men had just shared an adventure like no other, but Columbus could not bear to share the spotlight or glory. It wasn’t until much later that Columbus even learned that upon Pinzon’s arrival he went straight home, went to bed and died five days later.
Columbus oblivious to all this has gone to Seville to wait for the royal messenger to arrive from Barcelona with permission to appear before the king and queen. Columbus entered the city on Palm Sunday, with great honors. ” (189) Granzotto. The expedition had been a great success. Columbus offered his journal as evidence, “bolstered by the testimonies of others who accompanied him in hope of claiming the riches and titles and glory to which he believed he was entitled, even divinely ordained, to have carefully embellished and edited to meet Ferdinand and Isabella’s expectations and his contractual obligations to them. (119)Bergreen. On May 20, 1493 Isabella and Ferdinand appointed Columbus captain general of a second voyage. They anointed him Viceroy and Admiral of the Ocean Sea and the Indies. The urgency with which the second voyage was planned gave Columbus the approval and notoriety he hungers for. If Spain had not jumped at the chance, Portugal certainly would have. Columbus is living his dream. Works Cited 1. Baker, Daniel. Explorers & Discoveries. New York: UXL Publishing, 1995.
Print 2. Berne, Emma Carlson. Christopher Columbus: The Voyage that Changed the World. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2008. Print 3. Bergreen, Laurence. Columbus: The Four Voyages. New York: Viking Press, 2011. Print 4. Christopher, Peter and Dyson, John. Columbus: For Gold God and Glory. New York: Simon and Schuster/Madison Press, 1991. Print 5. Granzotto, Gianni. Christopher Columbus: The Dream and the Obsession. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1985. Print