Christopher Columbus


Christopher Columbus also known in Italian as Cristoforo Colombo and in Spanish as Critobal Colon was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451 and died sometime in 1506. Considerably one of the greatest and most mentioned figure in American history. Why? One can simply say because his voyages mark the beginning of continuous European efforts to explore and colonize the “Americas”. Although most of Columbus’ life to this day is unknown historians do know one that is for sure; his voyages were major turning points in history.


Columbus spent most of his “Early Years” at his father’s trade of weaving and later became a sailor on the Mediterranean. During 1476 Columbus had been shipwrecked near the Portuguese coast. Columbus had then made his way to Lisbon where his younger brother, Bartholomew, an expert chart maker, lived. Historians say that Columbus had been inspired by his brother to become an expert chart maker and mariner in the Portuguese merchant service. It was in Lisbon where historians believe that Columbus had married his wife Donna Filipa Perestrello e Moiz in 1479. By the time Columbus was 31 or 32 he had become a master mariner in the Portuguese merchant service. With his experience as a mariner Columbus believed that one could reach Asia faster by sailing west. With this in mind Columbus then traveled seeking support for his plan. Columbus for eight had been denied for support by John II of Portugal and then at the court of Ferdinad and Isabella of Spain. But finally after eight years the Spanish monarchs, having conquered Granada, decided to risk the enterprise and lend the required supplies to Columbus to sail west. It was then where Columbus set sail for his first expedition in 1492 with three small ships, the Santa Maria, commanded by Columbus himself, the Pinta commanded by Martin Pinzon, and the Nina commanded by Vicente Yanez Pinzon.


On October the 12th he landed on a small island, San Salvador, in the Bahamas group. He took possession of it for Spain. He then discovered other islands in the neighborhood. Later on, on October the 27th he sighted Cuba and on December the 5th he reached Hispaniola. But on Christmas Eve tragedy struck when the Santa Maria was wrecked on the north coast of Hispaniola. With this occurring Columbus sailed back to Spain on the Nina to seek help.


Later on in October 1493 Columbus sailed again to mark his second expedition. Only this time 17 ships accompanied him, with 1,500 colonists aboard. His landfall this time was in the Lesser Antilles. During his second expedition Columbus’ discoveries included the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. Like his first expedition this one was cut off short because his attempts to enforce strict discipline led some to seize vessels and return to Spain to complain of his administration, therefore Columbus returned to Spain in 1496 to defend himself against the accusations of his men.


On his third expedition, in 1498, Columbus was forced to transport convicts as colonists, because of the bad reports on conditions in Hispaniola and because of the novelty of the New World was wearing off. He sailed still farther south and made his landfall on Trinidad. He sailed across the mouth of the Orinoco River and realized that he saw a continent but without further exploration he hurried back to Hispaniola to administer his colony. In 1500 an independent governor arrived, sent by Isabella and Ferdinand as the result of reports on the wretched conditions in the colony, and he sent Columbus back to Spain in chains. Columbus was immediately released, but his favor was on the wane; other navigators, including Amerigo Vespucci had been in the New World and established much of the coastline of North East South America.


During 1502 Columbus had gathered four ships for a fourth and final expedition. His plan for his fourth expedition was to sail past the islands and far enough west hoping to find lands answering to the description of Asia or Japan. He struck the coast of Honduras in Central America and coasted southward along an inhospitable shore, suffering terrible hardships, until he reached the Gulf of Darien. Attempting to return to Hispaniola, he was stranded on Jamaica. After his rescue, he was forced to abandon