Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, master navigator, a spirited sailor, colonizer and citizen of the Republic of Genoa, who got born in 1451 in Valladolid, Spain. Columbus undertook four transatlantic voyages in 1492–93, 1493–96, 1498–1500, and 1502–04 that opened the way for European exploration, exploitation, and colonization of the North and South America. The arrival of Christopher Columbus in America introduced Europe to the New World and also brought a lot of wealth and power to European powers especially Spain. It got referred to the “New World” since the Europeans considered America a land that brought new opportunity (Morganelli, 2005). However, to the native communities that lived in America such as Taino and the Carib, the arrival of Columbus together with the Europeans brought new hardships. Columbus, who survived during his first voyage in the Atlantic Ocean in 1476, had a dream to sail west across the Atlantic to Asia so as to identify an easy trading route for spices, gold, and silk. Before Columbus accidentally stumbled upon America that he believed was Asia, the map of the world existed without the Americas.
Christopher Columbus got born in 1451 in Genoa, a port town to a Christian household. He was the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a Genoese wool worker as well as merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa, a wool weaver’s daughter who was Colombo’s wife. As a child, he had little schooling hence did not know how to read or write until later when he traveled to Portugal. Columbus began his career as a seaman in the Portuguese merchant marine after quitting the wool trade. In his first voyage at 25 years of age in 1476, Columbus survived a shipwreck off Cape Saint Vincent at the southwestern point of Portugal. The ship called Bechalla got attacked and burned by ships that wanted to steal their cargo. After the event, his brother, Bartholomew and he got based in Lisbon were they got employed as chart makers. In 1477, Columbus sailed to Ireland and Iceland with the merchant marine. In 1478, Columbus acting as an agent for the Genoese firm of Centurioni was buying sugar in Madeira. In 1479, Columbus got married to Felipa Perestrello e Moniz, who was from an impoverished noble Portuguese family. Columbus was trading along the Guinea and Gold coasts of tropical West Africa between 1482 and 1485. He also made at least one voyage to the Portuguese fortress of Sao Jorge da Mina from which he acquired knowledge of the Portuguese navigation and the Atlantic wind systems.
Columbus believed that the route around Africa to Asia was long and challenging, and a way across the Atlantic would be shorter (Randall, 2009). In 1484, Columbus proposed his idea for a three-ship voyage of discovery across Atlantic to King John II of Portugal; however the king denied him the sponsorship. Columbus also presented his idea in Genoa and Venice, where it also got rejected. In 1486, Columbus then sailed to the nation of Spain to appeal the Spanish monarchy of Queen Isabella of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon. The two kingdoms that wanted to acquire other territories to expand their kingdoms got involved in a fierce war to drive the Moors from Spain. In 1492, they drove Moor out of Spain and in the same year accepted to sponsor Columbus’ voyage. Ferdinand and Isabella promised Columbus that he would be the ruler of any lands he discovered on the route and would get allowed to keep ten percent of the wealth in the lands.
First Voyage (1492–93)
In August 1492, Columbus left Spain on the first voyage across the Atlantic in the Santa Maria, together with the Pinta and Nina. 36 days later, Columbus and the Voayge arrived at an Island today the Bahamas, which they claimed for Spain. The natives in that land were friendly and traded with the sailors exchanging goods such as glass beads, cotton balls, spears, and parrots. Columbus and the sailors continued with the journey and later visited the Cuba and La Isla Hispaniola islands. The natives La Isla Hispaniola wore jewelry made of gold that they told the sailors using sign language it was from Cibao, a region of the island. Sanat Maria and the Nina left the harbor for Cibao. However, Santa Maria hit a reef and sank. The sailors built a fort in the area and named it “Villa de la Navida” meaning a “Christmas town.” Columbus left 39 men at the fort and sailed back to Spain where he presented gold molded into masks and ornaments, parrots, pineapple, spices and slaves to the King and Queen who were very pleased and named him the “Admiral of the sea”.
Second Voyage (1493–96)
In 1493, Columbus went back on the second voyage in the company of 1200 men in a fleet of 17 ships. The ships carried colonists who included soldiers and farmers as well as supplies to make new colonies in the lands discovered. When they arrived at Hispaniola, the sailors discovered that the fort in ruins. It had got destroyed, and all the 39 men massacred. Columbus established forced labor policy over the Taino natives who were required to reconstruct Navidad settlement and also explore for gold. When Columbus was on his way back to Spain, he left his brothers Bartholomew and Diego to rule over the settlement.
Third Voyage (1498–1500)
In 1498, Columbus left for the third voyage in six ships. It was during this voyage that Columbus and the sailors explored the Orinoco River that is the present-day Venezuela. On returning to Hispaniola, Columbus found that most of the colonists and settlers had begun to rebel him for misleading them by his claims for riches in the New World as well as mismanagement of his brothers’ leadership. Columbus got arrested by Spanish Crown, stripped of his authority as the governor of the Indies and taken back to Spain to face the royal court.
Fourth Voyage (1502–04)
The charges against Columbus later got dropped, and in 1502, he convinced the King that one more voyage would bring the promised riches and got allowed to go on the fourth voyage. Columbus was searching the Strait of Malacca in the Indian Ocean. In June, the sailors landed at Carbet on the island of Martinique. Columbus and his crew got denied shelter at Hispaniola by the new governor. Columbus learned from Panama of the Ngobe of gold and a strait to another ocean. He also established a garrison at the mouth of the Belen River. The sailors got stranded on the island of Cuba after a storm wrecked their ship.
Later Life and Death
Columbus struggled to regain his lost ties and in May 1505 regained some of the riches but did not get his titles. Columbus died May 20, 1506.
Morganelli, A. (2005): Christopher Columbus: Sailing to a New World: Crabtree Publishing Company
Randall, J. (2009): Christopher Columbus: Navigated by God: Xulon Press