As a child, I loved studying about the explorers. There was something cool about these swashbuckling guys. They set off and traveled the high seas in hopes of finding new lands, spices, and resources.
There was Magellan, Ponce De Leon, Henry Hudson, Christopher Columbus and many more.
They had guts. They wanted glory. They were cowboys before there were cowboys. They were astronauts before there were astronauts.
Yet, I remember little of what I learned about them in elementary school.
With today being the celebration of Christopher Columbus’ birth and therefore granting a day off to many of us, I figured I owed it to Chris to learn a little more about him.
Now like all school children, I was taught that there were three boats – Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. I learned that he was of Italian descent. However, it was King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain who sent him off. I learned that this all occurred in 1492. I was told that he discovered America, and he was a great man.
It all sounded perfectly fine to me.
Well, according to the brief Google search I did, Columbus was not quite as successful as I was taught.
Firstly, Columbus died believing he had discovered a path to Asia. In other words, he never recognized he had “discovered the new world.”
Second, Columbus, who actually sailed on the Santa Maria never made it to America. Thirty six days into his trip, he landed in the Bahamas. He later visited Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. No, it was not a carnival cruise with 5 meals a day and dancing on the Lido Deck.
Third, at one point, the Santa Maria was wrecked (maybe it was due to drunken sailors as allegedly they learned about beer from the natives). Some of Columbus’ men with the help of some islanders salvaged the lumber and built a settlement (Christmas Town). Thirty-nine of Columbus’ men stayed behind and occupied the settlement.
Fourth, Columbus sailed to the area on three subsequent expeditions. On his second trip, he forced slavery on the natives after he found all those who had stayed behind had been massacred. Columbus’ brothers Bartholomew and Diego stayed behind to govern a new settlement. When Columbus returned again, there was a near mutiny on the settlement as Columbus had led those left behind to believe they would find gold. Columbus was arrested but charges were dropped. His last trip to the island was a failure and relations with the local islanders were very poor.
Finally, Columbus devised a plan to “punish” the islanders by taking away the moon. Yes, Columbus had the idea before Gru despite a lack of minions and Dr. Nefario. Anyway, it was actually a lunar eclipse but it alarmed the natives who re-established trade with the Spaniards. A rescue party arrived, and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain.
As you can see, Columbus was not quite the all American hero that I was taught in elementary school. In other words, this swashbuckler had both his good and bad points.
Either way, we can thank him for long weekend every October (by the way, his birthday was October 31st). He is also the impetus for a number of parades including one here in the NYC area which honors Italian Americans’ contributions to New York City.
So, happy birthday Christopher Columbus. Sorry you never made it to America.
Info is courtesy of: http://www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209?page=1
I didn’t know all of these facts, but as I started learning them I remember feeling very disillusioned that all I had been taught was a big fat lie!!!
I’ll take the holiday, though!
Yeah, he wasn’t even close to as perfect as we were taught. However, he had some good points including getting us a long weekend.
I remember being fascinated by explorers, too, although I’ve forgotten much more than I’ve remembered.
It seems there are very few who we revere who are without some major flaws, and apparently Columbus had some of his own – wow! Thanks for sharing.
I forgot alot as well, but I am pretty sure that this is not what they were teaching us.
I didn’t quite realize what a not so great man he was before but my twitter feed has been basically teaching me that all day. I wonder if they will ever stop celebrating CC because of all of those reasons.
I would miss the long weekend. However, he was clearly a flawed man.
Love your initiative. And it turned out to be a nice post. I think the general lesson could be: our historical heroes are all flawed. But, I think that history is always written by the victors. As for New York, a lot of its history was rewritten when the English took over from the Dutch after they had won a war on the North Sea and New Amsterdam was part of the loser’s price the Dutch had to pay.
The fun in that, is that if you have a holiday like this, and dive into it, you can find some wonderful stories. As you did.
Thanks so much for your comments.
I think you are right on when you note that many of our historical heroes are flawed – like everyone else.
Are you a New Yorker? My family and I live in North Jersey.
hmmmm…. never knew this about him …. this is not what I learned about him! oh!
we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving the same day as CC day! 😉 so, I would keep the day off too! 😉
How was your holiday?
it was nice 🙂 relaxing, we had my family over for a few hours; it was good to be around them! 🙂 & a lot of food with a delicious strawberry cake made by my mom
What you’ve talked about here is so important in terms of understanding the full picture that perhaps isn’t part of the story that is told as much as it should be. Great post!
Yes, we are often not given the full story as children.
Turns out your Columbus Day was our Thanksgiving Day. Hope you had a great day off.
I very much enjoyed my day off. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
I did have a nice Thanksgiving, thank you.
Great. I am looking forward to ours over here in a few weeks.