History of Christopher Columbus

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He was actually Italian, born in 1451 to a wool merchant in Genoa and first went to sea in his youth. He sailed to Iceland and Guinea for business, and later spent some time as a privateer. It was in 1484, the year after Martin Luther was born in Germany, that Christopher Columbus presented to King John of Portugal the idea of an “Enterprise of the Indies” (no relation to Star Trek‘s starship) where he would sail west to the East Indies, thinking it shorter than the eastern spice trade route. After unsuccessful appeals to the kings of Portugal, England, and France he eventually moved to Spain whereupon his fourth request, he secured the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. You know them as the parents of Queen Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England, and grandparents of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor who presided over the trial of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms.

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Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain with three ships on August 3 and arrived not in the East Indies, but in the Bahamas on October 12 of 1492, where he named the locals “Indians.” He sailed on to the islands of Cuba and Haiti thinking he’d reached the islands of the East Indies. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus was not alone among 15th century Europeans in thinking that the world was round, but he did vastly underestimate the circumference of the Earth.


He returned with captives and gold to a hero’s welcome in Spain, which subsequently enjoyed its Golden Age of exploration. Columbus made three more voyages to the New World including the Caribbean and South America, but never saw the North American continent.


Other European explorers, within decades following Columbus, landed in North America including Juan Ponce de Leon (Florida), Alonso Alvarez de Pineda (Texas), and Giovanni da Verrazanno (New York). It was Colombus, who never got closer than Bermuda, whose name was used for the newly independent United States in the late 1700s. Other examples include the Columbia River, Columbia University, and the District of Columbia.

The Holiday

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Though it remains a federal holiday and in some cases, but not all, a state holiday, over the last 25 years about a dozen cities have voted to observe the day locally as Indigenous Peoples Day. Some cities declare it an official city holiday, others do not. In California, Native American Day is observed on the fourth Friday in September. California’s Burbank recently voted for this new name, joining Berkeley, San Fernando and, most recently, Los Angeles as the only cities in the state that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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