I find myself more interested in this holiday now that I live in Spain since Columbus sailed on his 2nd and 4th voyages of discovery from the same port I see out my window every day, across the Bay of Cadiz , and since I have visited his tomb a number of times in the Cathedral of Sevilla. Reminders of Columbus are everywhere here. There is a replica of one of his ships, the Nina, on display in a traffic circle not far from our home, and fyi, it is a ridiculously tiny ship for such a journey.
Christopher Columbus, or don Cristobol Colon (in Spanish), was born in Italy in 1451, the eldest of 4 sons and a daughter born to his parents, Domenico and Susanna. In 1479 after having traveled the seas as a pirate, surviving the sinking of a ship he was on by swimming to Portugal to safety, and working as a cartographer in Lisbon, he married a noblewoman, Felipa Perestrello Moniz, whose deceased father had been an explorer as well. Felipa gave Columbus her father’s charts of the winds and currents of the Portuguese territories in the Atlantic, which, I would imagine for a map guy, was pretty cool. In 1480, Felipa gave birth to their only child, a son, Diego Colon.
For years, Columbus petitioned the governments of Portugal, France, England, and Spain to provide him with funding and ships to try to find a trade route to the Indies but each time, his requests were refused. In 1485, Felipa died of “consumption” (tuberculosis), and Columbus moved to Cadiz, Spain where he opened up a shop supplying maps and charts. He met and married Dona Beatriz Enriquez, and together they had a son, Fernando, born in 1488.
The Queen thought this was a pretty good idea, so she convinced the King that they should act as patrons for Columbus and get him money and ships on the double so he could get out there and start rounding up Christians for Spain. And, they did. Columbus was given 3 ships—the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta, and a crew of 120 men. In August of 1492, he and his crew left the port of Palos, Spain, on his ship, the Santa Maria, with the two other ships and their crews.
By about mid-September, the journey was starting to get long and the crew was starting to become disgruntled, so Columbus started keeping two separate log books (one accurate, one not) to deceive the crew as to how much ground they were actually making each day. He felt they would be upset if they knew how long it was really taking, so he fudged the books.
Finally on October 12th, land was spotted by one of the Pinta’s crew and they made landfall in the Bahamas. The discoverers named the island San Salvador, and Columbus was certain he had found the passage to India and China. On October 28th, the fleet reached Cuba, and on Dec. 5th, the Santa Maria sunk off the coast of Jamaica, but not before Columbus had established the first Spanish settlement in the New World. Columbus returned to Spain and later died in 1507 at the age of 56.