Christopher Columbus

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Touted as the founder of America, Christopher Columbus has been heralded in the US and Spain for over five hundred years. As children, we were taught that Columbus was a dreamer. He had far-fetched ideas about the world being round, instead of flat as it was once thought to be. And when someone finally gave him the opportunity to prove his theory, he discovered America and named its inhabitants “Indians”. Just as shocking as finding out that the Tooth Fairy is one of your parents, this version of Columbus couldn’t be further from the truth. The real truth about Columbus is far different and less magical than what we have come to accept as the truth.

Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish, Cristoforo Columbo in Italian) was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy. The eldest of five children, Christopher was the son of a wool weaver, Domenico Columbo, who was also involved in local politics.

As a boy and young man, Columbus helped his father in the family business of wool processing and selling. As he was closest to his younger brother, Bartolomeo, the two spent much of their time together. They studied cartography together, sold books, and planned for a trip to the west, eventually they traveled to the New World together. Although it was common for a son to follow his father’s footsteps, it was not uncommon to pursue a career in the seas.

At fourteen years of age, Columbus began as an apprentice and served as a messenger, ship’s boy, and a common sailor. In 1474, Columbus was hired as an ordinary sailor on a Mediterranean ship headed for the Aegean Sea. This was his first long voyage. The great irony is that this trip brought him the closest he would ever get to Asia.

In 1476, Columbus was given his first oppor...

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...ed to the Indies on two occasions and wrote back to Europe with stories of the New World. In 1507, when a group of geographers were working on a new atlas, the word “America” was written across the newly discovered lands. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late to correct it.

The biggest irony though is that neither Columbus nor Vespucci ever saw or set foot on North America and yet we call Columbus the founder. So each Columbus Day, when we credit the Admiral with discovery of our home, we continue to shape the truth into legend.

Over time we have changed the story significantly and over future time, it will surely develop. Although Columbus never received the titles or honor he desired, perhaps we do a good deed and make up for this loss by celebrating and crediting him with a discovery he never made. This is the truth of Christopher Columbus.
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