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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Columbus Day

Our nation just celebrated another Columbus Day. This marked the 231st time the holiday has been celebrated in the United States since the inaugural celebration on October 12, 1792, the 300th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World.

The national holiday and a recent Jeopardy clue…

“Of Spain’s colonial possessions in the Americas, this 3,400-square-mile one in the Antilles never gained independence but did change hands.”

Answer: “Puerto Rico, an island in the Greater Antilles, was colonized by Spain in 1493, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus.”

…got me thinking about Christopher Columbus who is considered the most famous explorer of the Age of Discovery. Here are a few facts about Columbus, some you may know and others you may not.

  • Christopher Columbus was not his real name. The name he was given when he was born in Genoa was Cristoforo Colombo.

  • Columbus began a career as a seafarer at the age of fourteen and later supported himself by selling maps and charts.

  • Half of his voyages ended in disaster. On Christmas Eve during Columbus’ famed 1492 voyage, he allowed an experienced boy to steer the Santa Maria. Later that night the ship crashed onto a reef near Hispaniola, causing him to leave 39 men behind at a settlement named La Navidad on the northeast coast of Haiti. Only the Nina and Pinta would return to Spain.

  • Columbus was supposed to return to Spain loaded with spices and other valuable goods and knowledge of an important new trade route. Instead, he returned empty-handed and without the best of the three ships entrusted to him.

  • On Columbus’ fourth voyage, his ship rotted out from under him, and he spent a year with his men marooned on Jamaica.

  • Queen Isabella was hesitant to fund Columbus’ voyage. It took her six years to agree. Columbus, having given up, was four miles out of town when the Queen’s courier caught up with him and shared the news.

  • Once he received the money and the ships, Columbus still had a hard time trying to find a crew. Many people still believed that the earth was flat and that at some point a ship would hit a waterfall and fall off the side of the earth.

  • Columbus’ first voyage with the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria began on August 3, 1492. On October 12,1492, a sailor on the Pinta shouted “Tierra!” or “Land!”. Columbus and his crew were actually seeing the island of San Salvador, 375 miles off of the coast of Florida.

  • Even though he made three return trips west, Columbus never actually stepped foot on the mainland of North America.

  • Columbus died in Spain in 1506, and his remains were kept there for a while before being sent to Santo Domingo, DR in 1537. There they remained until 1795, when they were sent to Havana. In 1898, they supposedly went back to Spain. In1877, however, a box full of bones bearing his name was found in Santo Domingo. Since then, two cities – Seville, Spain and Santo Domingo – claim to have his remains. In each city, the bones in question are housed in elaborate mausoleums.

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