CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA

Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451. He was admiral of Castile and discoverer of the New World.

His navigation project was based on the belief that the earth was round and that the East Indies, known as the Spice Islands, could be reached by sailing the Atlantic Ocean in a westerly direction.

Columbus moved to Portugal, the great hub of maritime trade. In 1479, he married Felipa Moniz who, born into the Portuguese upper class, opened the doors for him to put his navigation project before King John II of Portugal.

After not hearing back from the Portuguese crown, Columbus moved to the kingdom of Castile, to Palos de la Frontera, in the province of Huelva.

There he made contact with the friars of the monastery of La Rábida, who took an interest in his project and put in a good word with Friar Hernando de Talavera, confessor to Queen Isabella of Castile. A meeting was arranged with her so he could pitch his navigation project.

In 1492, after the conquest of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, the Catholic Monarchs, with financial support from Luis de Santángel, backed the project and signed the Capitulations of Santa Fe, setting out the terms of royal support for Columbus’ voyage to the New World. 

With the help of the Pinzón brothers, Columbus assembled a crew and set sail on the first of their voyages on 3 August 1492.

On their first expedition, they set sail from the port of Palos de la Frontera with three caravels: the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María. 

After three months of non-stop sailing, they made landfall on what are now the Bahamas Islands on 12 October 1492. 

On this voyage Columbus explored a number of Caribbean islands and established a settlement on the island he called La Isla Español (Hispaniola), the modern-day island of Santo Domingo.

Columbus set sail from the port of Cadiz to the Caribbean on his second voyage, where he discovered the Lesser Antilles, reaching as far as Havana and Jamaica. 

However, disparities between Columbus and the Crown came to the fore on this expedition.

The Catholic Monarchs sought to carry out a cultural colonisation, preaching the Catholic faith, whereas Columbus preferred to take over the territories in a military manner for commercial purposes. 

He set sail on his third voyage from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, discovered the island of Trinidad and the mouth of the Orinoco River, on what is today the coast of Venezuela, reaching the American continent for the first time. 

 

This was the first time he had reached the American continent. Christopher Columbus ruled the West Indies in service of the Crown of Castile until he and his brothers were accused of going against the Queen’s orders by not treating the Indians as subjects of her kingdom.  

As a result, they were captured by Francisco de Bobadilla and sent back to Castile under the orders of the Catholic Monarchs, who also considered the Capitulations of Santa Fe to have expired.

In 1502, the Crown gave Columbus permission to set off on a fourth voyage to explore the coasts of modern-day Central America: Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. In 1503, after running into significant navigational problems, the surviving ships could barely reach Jamaica.

Already gravely ill, Columbus returned to Spain and died in Valladolid in 1506, unaware that he had discovered a new continent. 

His discovery set in motion a regular sailing route between Castile and the New World. 

 

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