"Spanish of Italian origin" browser, Christopher Colombusis famous for having "discovered" the New World in 1492 while he was looking for the route to India. Yet it is him that historians still struggle to uncover. He is a character with a confused and contradictory past, surrounded by mysteries, in particular because of his discretion on his youth and his origins. The exceptional nature of the find tends to eclipse its flaws and other inglorious facts. Is he really the explorer we think we know?
Christopher Columbus, of confused origins
There are as many hypotheses as there are countries (Italy, Portugal, Spain, Corsica, Greece) or regions wanting to claim the glory and birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The doubt about its origin persists, reservations are made in encyclopedic textbooks to present a biography as rigorous and neutral as possible. According to the Petit Mourre dictionary, 2004 edition: “Christopher Columbus is the son of a weaver established in Gene State, he may not have been Italian because he always wrote in Spanish. "
Officially, he was born in Genoa in 1451 to the Colombo family. He would be the son of Domenico Colomb weaver and Suzana Fontanarossa. He has two brothers, Bartolomeo and Giacomo. Little is known about his youth. He is passionate about navigation and science. Reading the Book of the Wonders of the World, written by the English knight and traveler Jean de Mandeville, would have influenced his project. Intending to the Navy, he embarked in 1476, in a convoy bound for Lisbon and England. Attacked by the French, he took refuge in Laos and found his brother in Portugal. He met Filipa Perestrelo Moniz, whom he married in 1479. Following this union, he ended up obtaining the Navigation charts from his father-in-law Bartolomeu Perestrel who had already traveled to Madeira.
Because Christopher Columbus has always been silent about his origins, some historians believe it was a cover-up strategy so as not to hamper his rise. According to the work of historian Claude Mossé, entitled "The Impostures of History", a chapter devoted to our character highlights several elements converging towards the thesis of a Jewish and Catalan filiation. In the first place, The Navigator would have delayed the departure of the expedition from August 2 to 3, 1492 because, according to the author, the number 2 is considered harmful by the Jews. The explorer would have raised the anchor the day before the exclusion by the Spanish rulers of Jews who had not converted to Christianity. He also kept a logbook written in Catalan, proof of his commoner origins. He mentions the Bible as well as “the destruction of the second house” which can be compared to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Moreover, Christophe's real name tends to prove that it is a Catalan because, according to Claude Mossé: “The first tickets paid to the sailor by the Kings of Spain and dated 1488 were established in the name from Colom to Seville. " He adds that "Many Catalan Jewish families were called Colom."
The voyages of Christopher Columbus ...
Columbus thinks the earth is smaller than you think and that the earth is round. His plan is to find the route to India to reach Asia by crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He submits his project to King John II of Portugal who refuses it. It was Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile who decided to finance the expedition. Columbus then received funding and a promise of title: that of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Governor of the Americas.
Four trips were made. For the first, he left on August 3, 1492 from the Canary Islands with three caravels: Santa María, Pinta and La Niña. On October 12, 1492, the navigator reached the island of Guananini in the Bahamas, which he named San Salvador. On October 28, the expedition reached Cuba and it was on the island of Hispaniola, the future Haiti that he discovered gold and built a small fort there, where he left 39 men. Building on the success of the first voyage, he returned to the Americas with more sailors and ships, i.e. 17 ships and 1,500 sailors. He discovered the population of the Lesser Antilles and Jamaica and founded the first European colony in what is now the Dominican Republic, that of Isabela. On his third and fourth voyage, he continued his exploration by sailing near the island of Trinidad and the Isthmus of Panama. He thus got to know the natives and allowed Europeans to learn about other cultures, but at what cost?
... and their hidden sides
What we remember most about Columbus is the famous discovery of the Americas, yet there are horrors behind his travels. For three years, the explorer organized the plunder and the tribute of the natives. Using the excuse of human anthropophagia, he enslaved the inhabitants of the Caribbean, especially in the sugar cane plantations.
He created the "repartimiento" in order to distribute the natives between the Spaniards and the colonies and which then became an "encomienda". This is a system, first practiced in Santo Domingo, by which a conqueror can use an Indian to make him work in exchange for evangelization. These methods have led to numerous epidemics and given way to high mortality. Queen Isabella learned of Columbus' behavior and his slave trade. She sent Hispaniola Francisco de Bobadilla, a future colonial administrator, to arrest Columbus for "mismanagement" and unproductiveness. He thus loses his title of viceroy of the Indies.
Christopher Columbus the discoverer of the Americas?
The term "discovery" is representative of the European view of the world at that time. We can also say that it is the inhabitants who for their part discovered the Spanish culture, but above all, the continent before the Spaniards! Peoples already existed. Life did not suddenly appear. It is important to note that these American Indians, originally from Asia, crossed the Strait of Behring when Würm glaciation around 25,000 BC, well before Columbus. In addition, it would even appear that Africans were present 3,000 years before Europeans. Granite colossi depicting black Africans have been found within the Olmec civilization.
Among browsers, Christopher Colombus was not the first to notice this continent. Other explorers before him traveled to the Americas. It's about by Erik the Red, a Norwegian explorer who sailed west around 980 and his son Leif Eriksson who landed in Newfoundland, Canada.
In addition, the original purpose of the expedition was to discover of a road to India. So it was by chance that he landed in the Americas. Until his death he was convinced that he had found the Indies and therefore the Indians and not that he had discovered a new continent. He died in complete ignorance of the cause. For him, of course, he did not discover the Americas. Ironically, it was another Italian navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his name to the new continent.
Christopher Columbus returns from his travels exhausted, sick with gout. He tries to have his rights to the discovered lands recognized, in vain. The Catholic kings did not want to restore his titles to him. Dispossessed of its privileges, the navigator will shut down in Valladolid May 20, 1506. He was the first navigator to introduce Europeans to indigenous cultures through colonization and its stories. He paved the way for the discovery of different customs of tribes such as the Arawacks, Chibchas and Caribbean.
However, given the history of this continent, which does not really begin as early as 1492, we can say that he was not the first man to discover America. This discovery is very controversial because some researchers see him as a faithless antihero and an impostor, cf. "Christopher Columbus, the impossible hero » by Daniel Fabre. It is true that this image of a great explorer should be put into perspective because of the establishment of slavery and the massacres, resulting from the greed of the Spaniards.
Bibliography on Christopher Columbus
- From Denis Crouzet: Christophe Colomb: Herald of the Apocalypse. Editions Payot, 2006.
- From Jules Verne, Christophe Colomb, 1450-1506, Biography. Librio, 2003.
- The Discovery of America, by Marianne Mahn-Lot. Champs History, 2014.
- 1492, the conquest of paradise, by Ridley Scott.