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Christopher Columbus

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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was a trader and explorer. He was also an Genoese navigator. He was born in Genoa, Italy on the year 1451. He died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid. He wrote that he went to sea at the age of 14. He piloted four voyages to the Bahamas believing he had reached the Indies.

Personal life

Columbus was married to Felipa Moniz Perestrelo, in 1477. She was from a a semi-noble family which are maritime connections. She died in Diego, in 1479 or 1480 while giving birth to her son. During 1485, while in Córdoba, he met Beatriz Enríquez de Trasierra, and they lived together for a while. They had one child named Fernando. Columbus friends during his travels were Dukes and other noblemen as well as powerful Italian merchants. These friendships would prove useful during his frequent hardships and bouts of bad luck.


Columbus is often wrongly considered the first European person to have discovered the Americas when he landed in the Bahamas in 1492. There are many things that are wrong with that concept. One of these is that though the Caribbean is often considered part of North America, it is not on the American mainland. Another is that America was discovered by the Viking Leif Erikson around 1000 AD. Still others doubt the idea of "discovery" of America at all, as Native Americans had been living there for thousands of years before Columbus.

While he did not actually discover the Americas, he discovered the Bahamas, close to the Americas. He was once called the first European to find out because people already lived at the Americas, though it is known now that the Vikings did this earlier. Columbus landed on a small island in the Bahamas. The natives called it Guanahani; Columbus renamed it San Salvador (Holy Savior). Columbus stayed on the island for two days. He met with members of the Taino tribe who were living on the island. Not knowing where he was, and always assuming that he had reached Asia, the "Indies," he called them Indians.[1]

In August of 1492, Columbus left Spain in the ship called Santa Maria with the ships Pinta and Niña along side.[2] Niña means girl in Spanish and so the smallest ship was nicknamed that. Its real name was Santa Clara. The biggest ship, the Santa Maria, was less than 23m long. Columbus sailed the Atlantic Ocean because he was hoping to find a shorter, safer way to China and India. He wanted to bring back spices and gold for the King and Queen of Spain: Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. He knew that the world was round but he did not know how large it was. He had heard that Marco Polo had found a sea to the east of China and he believed that it must be the same as sea to the west of Europe. He did not really know about the Pacific Ocean and The Americas, and that the Atlantic Ocean did not go all the way to China.

When he found some islands at the end of his voyage, he thought he had reached the East Indies when in fact he had landed on an island in the Bahamas. That is why he named the people living there "Indians". In all, he made four voyages to America. Colombia is also named after him.

Main motivational factors[3]

There are many motivations that led Columbus to journey on voyages from the Old World to the New World. But that there are mainly three motivations. One motivating factor was that Columbus was convinced that there is a shorter and an easier route to Asia. Additionally, he wanted to prove people wrong for calling his idea of finding China by following a shorter route absurd. Second motivation was finding gold. He was heavily influenced by gold. In the letter that Columbus sent to the Spain Monarchs, he stated “Gold is most excellent; gold is treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world" This means that the person who possessed gold can do anything he desires to do in this world. Many historians believe that being a powerful individual was Columbus’s personal agenda.

Columbus arrival in the Caribbean

When Columbus first arrived in the West Indies, he encountered the Taino people.  The Tainos lived in villages and grew corn, yams, and cotton, which they wove into cloth.  There were friendly and open toward the Spanish. Columbus noted that they were “generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but he who had seen it.” Columbus captured there land for Spain and brung back several Tainos with him as prisoners to the King of Spain. Columbus’s encounter was repeated by a wave of Spanish conquistadors, or conquerors, who soon arrived in the Americas.  They first settled on the islands of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Cuba , and Puerto Rico.  Throughout the region, the conquistadors seized the Native Americans’ gold ornaments and then made them pan for more gold.  At the same time, the Spanish forced the Native Americans to convert to Christianity.

Other facts about Christopher Columbus

There is disagreement on where Columbus came from. Many people think that he was born in Genoa. Experts have studied clues to Columbus' birthplace, but no final answer has been found. Columbus Day is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.[4] The World's Columbian Exposition, which happened in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois, was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus visiting the Americas.[5]

Later life

Columbus was arrested in Hispañola, now called Santo Domingo, on August 23, 1500. He was sent to Spain in chains in October 1500. He was released on December 12, 1500 and taken to court.


  1. "Christopher Columbus." Explorers & Discoverers of the World. Gale, 1993. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.
  2. Columbus Day. The History Channel Website. Retrieved Jan 28, 2013.
  3. .
  5. "Bird's-Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893". 1893. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
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