“Tomorrow morning before we depart, I intend to land and see what can be found in the neighbourhood” – Christopher Columbus
The high spirited explorer and discoverer, Christopher Columbus had landed on the American soil on October 12, 1492. The celebrations to honour his achievements on this day have been recorded as early as 1792, but the United States declared Columbus Day as a federal holiday on the second Monday of October since 1971. This year the official holiday (Second Monday of October 2020) coincides with the original date. Christopher Columbus was undoubtedly an ambitious and successful voyager, but his name has always been attached with several controversies. Let us update ourselves with interesting facts about this day and the associated personality in the following article.
What we will explore
- Who was Christopher Columbus?
- Details about his landing to the American Mainland
- Controversies to his name
- Briefing Up
Who was Christopher Columbus?
An Italian by descent, Christopher Columbus was a navigator and explorer who is credited with four successful expeditions across the Atlantic Ocean. His voyages were sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. As per the contract with them, Columbus was made the general of the land he discovered and was entitled to ten percent of all the riches he brought back from that land. He became powerful and wealthy after each of his expeditions. The list of his voyages is as follows
- The Bahamas Island, America in 1492
- Lesser Antilles in 1493
- Trinidad and the Northern Coast of South America in 1498
- Eastern Coast of Central America in 1502
The era of his expeditions gave birth to the concept of exploration, conquest and colonization. Despite several controversies, several landmarks and institutions are acknowledged by his name, including the nation of Columbia.
Details about his landing to the American Mainland
- Christopher Columbus with an intention of exploring Asia, set out for the voyage in August 1492.
- Tempted by the riches about which he had heard about China, India and the islands in the Atlantic Ocean, he had laid down his route to these nations to get hold of gold and spices.
- The voyage was sponsored by the Spanish Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
- He landed on the Island of Bahamas on October 12, 1492. By setting foot there he became the first European to explore America after the Vikings who in the 10th Century had established their colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland.
- Unaware of the fact that he had landed on American soil, he assumed Cuba as the Chinese mainland.
- In December 1492, he discovered Hispaniola and assumed it to be Japan. With his group of 39 men, he established Spain’s first colony in America.
- He returned to Spain in March 1493, with gold, spices and slaves whom he addressed as ‘Indians’.
- It was during his third journey that Columbus realized that he had stumbled over an unknown continent, America mistaking it for Asia.
- He died in 1506.
Controversies to his Name
Was Christopher Columbus – an explorer, an invader? The question has given rise to several debates.
- Though, it was tough at that time to sail across the ocean to land upon an unknown continent, he was not the one who discovered America. The country was inhabited by millions of people.
- According to an article at biography.com, Columbus was not the first European land in America, instead, Leif Eriksson was believed to be the first European to set foot on the American mainland 500 years before Columbus did.
- It is a myth that Columbus proved that the Earth was round. Most of the educated Europeans of his time knew that the Earth was not flat but round, an idea which was long before established by the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC. Although his endeavour to navigate the world was splendid.
- He was not a selfless explorer or discoverer but as per several sources, an invader who was entitled to riches after each expedition.
- The biggest controversy to his name was that he enslaved indigenous people, made them labor mercilessly and tortured them if they didn’t meet his expectations. He was the one who brought the culture of slavery and colonization.
- He is held responsible for the decimation of the Taino population of the Bahamas who were exposed to brutal treatment and infectious diseases which were a result of his expedition.
How is Columbus Day celebrated in the United States?
- Columbus day history: The day was first celebrated in the year 1792 by the Italian and the Catholic communities in the United States, commemorating Columbus’s achievements.
- President Roosevelt announced October 12 as a national holiday in response to the intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal Organization in 1937.
- Many immigrants who saw Columbus as a greedy invader and not a reckless explorer protested against the celebrations to honor him. Since then the day has more popularly been known as the ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’.
- Originally Christopher Columbus day was celebrated on October 12 but now the second Monday of October is recognised as Columbus Day.
Although the deeds and achievements have been amidst debates, he definitely made a bridge between the Old and the New World through his expeditions. Cultures and ideas between both the hemispheres were exchanged. He had once quoted
“Following the light of the Sun, we left the Old World”