Monday, October 7, 2013

Columbus vs the United States of Henry

We 'celebrate' Columbus day on October 11 this year, a day supposed to honor the man who 'discovered America.' 


Consider more sensible days to be celebrated this month:

 Oct   1   World Vegetarian Day
          3   Techies Day
          5    Do Something Nice Day
          9    Moldy Cheese Day

        12    Moment of Frustration Day
        13   Skeptics Day
        21   Count Your Buttons Day
        24   Bologna Day
        27   Tell a Story Day
        31    Increase Your Psychic Powers Day
                                               Wait, what?

Because, really, we're not so sure that Columbus is someone to celebrate.

First, if we want to be completely accurate, it is believed that Native Americans were in the Americas about 14,000 years before Columbus was even born. It appears that Polynesian people traveled to South America before the Vikings arrived in what is now North America.

Second, if we're only discussing who traveled to  this side of the Atlantic first, we know that the Vikings, led by Leif Ericsson, probably established a town in the country of Newfoundland (appropriately named) in about the year 992, which was 500 years before Columbus arrived in the Bahamas. There are those who think explorers from Ireland may have crossed the Atlantic many years before 1492 as well.

Columbus wanted to try to navigate a better route to Asia. He first approached Portugal for funding, but Portugal rejected the idea. He then asked Italy, first in Genoa and later in Venice, and Italy also turned him down. Finally, he asked Spain, who also said no at first; they were at war and couldn't be distracted, but once the war was over, they began talks with Columbus again and eventually said they would fund his trip.

Columbus' date of birth was 10-31-1451. On his first trip, he arrived on 12-24-1492. We're not sure how the date of  'Columbus Day' was decided upon.

His ships were called the Pinta, which was a sailor's term for, shall we say, a disreputable woman; the Santa Clara, which was nicknamed the "Nina," and the La Gallega, nicknamed "Santa Maria." Columbus was on board the largest ship, Santa Maria. They set sail in August of 1492.

                     Leaving by rowboat to the big ship en route to Asia...or so he thought..

Third, when Columbus arrived in what is now called The Bahamas, he remarked on meeting native people there who were exceedingly friendly. He had allowed a younger sailor to take the helm, and the young one crashed the ship into a coral reef. These friendly natives came out to the wreck and helped get Columbus, his men, and their supplies to the island safely. At any rate, this reference clearly shows that there were people living there all along--he 'discovered' this area only according to him.

He called the native people "Indians" because he thought he had landed in India. Keep in mind that while he and many others were aware the world was round, a number of scientists at the time still thought it was flat.

He claimed the land he had found for Spain. We imagine the natives living there did not comprehend that claim (someone can come into your home and claim it as yours?). Columbus was so impressed with the kindness of the native people he figured they would make good slaves. He forced them to work for him, and if they fought it, he would see they were brutally tortured and killed. Within 2 years of his arrival, half of these indigenous people were eliminated. Within 50 years, all of them were gone.

Columbus traveled to the area several times. On his first trip, he explored what is now the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Every time, he thought he was in Asia when he arrived.

             He never set foot in what is now known as the United States of America.

Side Note: America is named for Amerigo Vespucci, who was a navigator and who did, indeed, land in the United States. Amerigo's first name was placed on a map of the newly discovered area by a mapmaker.  It was suggested the entire land mass of South, Central, and North America be given the name. It was felt appropriate because Vespucci realized it was actually not Asia or India; he referred to it as "the New World." There is also some thought that it was given the name 'America' because when 'Amerigo' was translated to the Latin 'America', it would be another continent that started and ended with an "A" like Asia, Africa, and Australia. 

The name Amerigo is thought to be a form of "Enrico," or "Henry."  Better 'America' than the United States of Henry. Just our opinion.

Columbus returned to the same area in 1493. Still assuming he was going to Asia, that time he brought 17 ships and 1500 men with him. The third time he ventured to the area he explored Venezuela. The last time he traveled to the area was in 1502, and by that time, the native people, or what was left of them, were so angry they would not give him and his men the food they needed to survive. He returned home and died in 1506 at the age of 55.

Most of Columbus' income came from slave trading (buying and selling the native people, then doing the same with Africans when he needed more). Columbus himself kept extensive diaries that told of his exploits.

Columbus and his crews brought these things to the western hemisphere:
Sugar Cane

As well as
Whooping Cough

Thanks, Chris.

                    ...and we totally believe you. Bahamas is not the same as Virginia Beach.

To learn more about Christopher Columbus, check out:

I'm getting ready for National Count Your Buttons Day. How about you?


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