Today is Columbus Day, a national holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. 

Christopher (Cristioffa or Cristofo) was born in Genoa, sometime between August and October, 1451. the eldest child of Domenico Colombo (weaver and small business owner) and Susanna Fontanarossa. 

Educated in Italy, courtesy of the Wool Merchant’s Guild, Columbus had an affinity with the oceans from an early age, claiming (via his writings) that he first went to sea when he was ten years old. Columbus was certainly an accomplished sailor by the time he reached his teens and in 1477, Columbus moved from Italy to Portugal, where he made his initial attempt at gaining royal patronage. In 1492, after various other failed attempts at securing sovereign or state sponsorship, Columbus was granted rights and titles by the Aragonese monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Accordingly, on August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail on the Atlantic Ocean with three ships (the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Niña).  

On October 12, 1492, he landed in the Bahamas and made stops at other Caribbean islands before returning to Spain.

Long-acclaimed as the man who discovered the New World, Columbus’s legacy certainly paved the way for further exploration, colonisation and in turn the darker side of discovery: the exploitation of natural and human resources. 

Images: Sebastiano del Piombo, Portrait of Man (said to be Christopher Columbus), 1519, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia Commons. 

References: Christopher Columbus, Select Letters of Christopher Columbus: With Other Original Documents. Edited by Richard Henry Major, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 

Edward Everett Hale, The Life of Christopher Columbus from His Own Letters and Journals, Fairfield: First World Library, 2006. 

Washington Irving, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, New York: G & G & H Carvill, 1829. 

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