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(Do Genoa?, 1451 - Valladolid, 1506) Discoverer of America. The origin of this Navigator, probably Italian, is shrouded in mystery by work of himself and his first biographer, his son Hernando Colón. It seems that Cristóbal Colón began as a craftsman and modest dealer and that took contact with the sea through the navigation of cabotage for commercial purposes.
The discovery of America (detail
a picture of John Vanderlyn)
In 1476-wrecked the Genoese fleet which was traveling, to being attacked by French privateers near Cape San Vicente (Portugal); Since then, Colon was established in Lisbon as a commercial agent of the House Centurione, which made trips to Madeira, Guinea, England and even Iceland (1477).
Then turned to make maps and acquire a self-taught: he learned classical languages, which enabled him to read the ancient geographical treatises (thus having knowledge of the idea of the sphericity of the Earth, defended by Aristotle), and began to make contact with the great geographers of the period (such as the Florentine Toscanelli).
A bold and wrong idea
And the idea that the Earth was spherical came to Cristóbal Colón and that the East coast of Asia could be achieved easily sailing West: a series of miscalculations had made him underestimate the terrestrial perimeter and led him to assume, therefore, that Japan was 2,400 nautical miles from the Canary Islands distance that, it is actually, which separates the West Indies of the Canary Islands.
On the other hand, some Portuguese sailors versed in Atlantic navigation told him probably the existence of islands that they made to scale in transoceanic navigation; (e) it is even possible that, as they ensure less contrasting theories, he had news of the existence of lands to explore the other side of the ocean, from Portuguese or Nordic marine (or papers of his own father-in-law, colonizer of Madeira).
With all this, Colon conceived the bold and ambitious company opening a naval route to Asia from the West, based on the successful hypothesis that the Earth was round, and the double mistake of assuming it smaller than it is and ignore the existence of the American continent, that stood in the projected path.
The economic interest of the project was certainly at that time, since the European trade with the far East, based on the import of spices and luxury goods, was extremely lucrative; such trade was carried out by land through Middle East, controlled by the Arabs; the Portuguese had spent years trying to open a sea route to the India along the African coast, company that was Vasco Da Gama in 1498.
The discovery of America
Columbus offered his project to King Juan II of Portugal, who submitted it to the consideration of a Committee of experts. Although he finished to accept the proposal, the Portuguese monarch put as condition that does not depart from the Canary, where the journey to succeed, the Crown of Castile could claim the lands conquered by the Treaty of Alcaçovas. Columbus found too risky splitting of Madeira (only relied on calculations which had plotted from the Canary Islands) and tried his luck in Spain with the Duke of Medina Sidonia and the Catholic monarchs, who rejected their proposal as unworkable and by the excessive pretensions of Colon.
Finally, Queen Isabel la Católica approved the Colon through the mediation of the Treasurer of the King, Luis de Santángel, as a result of the taking of Granada, which put an end to the Christian Reconquest of the Peninsula against Islam (1492). The Queen granted the Capitulations of Santa Fe, that gave Columbus a series of privileges as a counterpart to his risky business, and funded a fleet of three caravels (the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa María), which Columbus departed from Palos on August 3, 1492.
The discovery of America (detail
a picture of John Vanderlyn)
Columbus sailed to Canary Islands and then to the West, reaching the island of Guanahani (San Salvador, Bahamas) on October 12, 1492. For the first time (if it is the gesta without consequences for the Vikings) a group of Europeans stepped on American soil, although neither Columbus nor its crew were aware of this. In that trip he also discovered Cuba and Hispaniola (Santo Domingo), and even built a first Spanish settlement with the wreck of the Santa María (the strong Christmas) there. Persuaded that he had reached the Asian coasts, he returned to Spain with the two remaining ships in 1493.
Colon made three more trips to continue the exploration of those lands: in the second (1493-96) played Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico and founded the city of La Isabela; but he had to return to Spain to face charges arising from discontent over its governance Hispaniola. On the third voyage (1498-1500) discovered Trinidad and touched land at the mouth of the Orinoco; but the revolt of the Spanish settlers forced his dismissal as Governor and his sending a prisoner to Spain.
After being judged and rehabilitated, is renewed all the privileges (except the colonial power) and he undertook a fourth voyage (1502) with prohibition of approaching Hispaniola; He toured the Central American coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. That same year he returned to Spain and spent the rest of his life trying to get real mercedes for himself and his descendants, as King Fernando el Católico was trying to trim the privileges granted to the proportions that was taking the discovery and the inconvenience of leaving an upstart as the only Lord of the Indies.
Columbus had discovered America fortuitously as a result of his intuition and his force of will. Although he failed in his original idea of opening a new trade route between Europe and Asia, opened something more important: a "new world" that would be explored in the following years, by sailors, missionaries and soldiers from Spain and Portugal, incorporating a vast territory to Western civilization and profoundly changing the political and economic conditions of the old continent.
Américo Vespucio name comes from the sound that was baptized to the new world; It is not surprising that a popular etymology (false because Colon is a hispanicization of his Italian surname) do derive from the name of the discoverer terms nothing prestigious, such as colonialism or colonize: the discovery was, indeed, the starting gun of the European colonization of the Americas, company in which heroism and barbarity, the Evangelistic purpose and exploitation or extermination of the indigenous gathered , the imperial ideal and the thirst for gold and power.
Pioneers of this process, which would occupy throughout the 16th century and which soon would be other European powers, were called conquistadors, as Hernán Cortés (Mexico), Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro (Peru) or Pedro de Valdivia (Chile), among others many. Even though the Vikings had reached North America about 500 years before (Leif Ericson expedition), had left permanent establishments or had done to circulate the news of the discovery, being, therefore, no consequences until times of Colon.