Biography of Cristóbal Colón (1451-1506)

Christopher Columbus.

Italian Navigator, born in Genoa to 1451 and died in Valladolid between 20 and may 21, 1506, which was in the service of the Catholic monarchs and the "discoverer" of the American continent. (See Catholic monarchs).

The first years of the life of Cristóbal Colón until his arrival in Spain are confusing, which has given rise to numerous speculations around the place of his birth and family background. It contributed to surround his person and passed vagueness and mystery, possibly to hide his humble origin, because he claimed to descend from illustrious lineage. His own son, Hernando, in the biography that made his father, presented as a member of the noble Italian family of marine, which included several admirals, and alumnus of the University of Pavia. However, the data recorded in the minutes of his testament, awarded in Valladolid 19 may 1506, claim the Genoese origin of Columbus. Also the testimonies provided by the Columbian Racolta (1892-1896), published on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the discovery of America, designated the Genoese origin of the Colombo.

Cristóbal Colón was son of Domenico Colombo, master Weaver of wool, cheese and innkeeper, and Susana Fontanarossa, daughter of a Weaver of the Genoese region. He was the eldest of five brothers, Juan Pellegrino, Bartolomé, Diego and Bianchinetta. Apparently, agreed to limited instruction he owned in a school supported by the guilds of craftsmen and, above all, thanks to talks with sailors and merchants in the streets of the Genoese port. It is believed that to 1468 he began to navigate, alternating their activities of Weaver with commercial travel of cabotage by Genoa near coasts. To 1474, he participated in a commercial expedition to the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea, then controlled by the Genoese. In the middle of 1476 embarked on one of the five merchant ships in a fleet that was headed for England who was attacked on 13 August of that year, about of the Cape San Vicente, by the French Corsair Guillaume Casenove, the ship sailed where Colon sank, so had to swim to the coast of Portugal.

Lisbon was at that time a focus of discoverer expeditions - exploration along the African coast was already advanced - and, quite possibly, Columbus found protection among the colony of Genoese engaged in trade. He managed to prosper as a merchant marine and since the end of 1476 mid-1479 made trips to England, Iceland and Madeira, becoming an expert Navigator of the Atlantic. In 1479 he married on the island of Porto Santo, next to Madeira, Felipa Moniz Perestrello, whose father, Bartolomé, had been raised from the famous infante Henry the Navigator, promotor of the discoveries. Colon then received his father-in-law the captaincy of Porto Santo and papers, charts and navigation instruments that stimulate him in the study of cosmography and astronomy. The marine and his wife lived a while in Porto Santo, where was born their son Diego, and then settled in Madeira.

Between 1480 and 1483 Colon made several business trips to Lisbon, the Azores, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and the African Guinea coast. During this period his own reflections and information that was receiving the connoisseurs of the Atlantic navigation enabled him to conceive an idea that would be constant guideline of his later career.

Columbus believed firmly that sailing directly West couldn't get to the East, the lands that Marco Polo had described in the account of his travels, Cathay (China) and Cipango (Japan), rich in spices and other goods. Access to the lands of the spices was practically closed to trade from the Turks, with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, had cut the possibilities of expansion and commercial link in the Mediterranean. Columbus knew the correspondence between the Canon of Lisbon, Fernando Martins, and the Florentine cosmographer Paolo Toscanelli, who believed that the maritime distance between the Western ends of Europe and Eastern Asia was not large and could navigate easily.

Columbus himself had correspondence between 1480 and 1482 with Toscanelli, who insisted on the possibility and desirability of attempting this navigation. Both supported the idea of the sphericity of the Earth. Ptolemy had assigned 180º and 360º which form the sphere to the continental extension between Portugal and China, or the end of Asia, traveling (such as Marco Polo) from West to East. Toscanelli increased them to 230, with which Portugal, sailing across the Atlantic to the West, some only 130th in the sphere of the eastern coasts of Asia. Colón, on the other hand, believed that he had to ask these hypotheses two corrections; as opined, the 230 º that spoke Toscanelli did not include the lands of the far East quoted by Marco Polo, extending more than about 28 ° and, in addition, it considered that if sailing towards the West began from the Canary Islands, Azores or Cape Verde, sailing distance is shortened even more.

Once prepared its draft, Columbus presented to the King of Portugal, Juan II, asking for their support for such an undertaking. It was the year 1484. The King rejected it following the opinion of the Committee responsible for studying it, composed by the Bishop of Ceuta, Diego Ortiz de Villegas, mathematician and cosmographer, Josef Vizinho, doctor of the King and cosmographer, and the maestro Rodrigo das Pedras Negras, who had perfected the astrolabe. Disappointed, Colon, who had been widowed, in 1485 decided to go to Spain with his son Diego, and there go to La Rabida, Huelva, Franciscan monastery so the monks had you to how much supieren about the existence of islands west of the Canary Islands, among them, the fabulous Antilia and the island of the seven cities, which are believed were near Cipango (Japan).

There, Columbus met a Spanish pilot of puerto de Palos - which always been mentioned as the "unknown driver", although it is known today was Pedro Vasquez of the border - which held several discussions which confirmed the ideas of Columbus; already the aforementioned pilot he told her as he had participated to 1452 in an expedition organized by Enrique the Navigator Prince, which had left from the Azores and then reached the Sargasso Sea on the West. Although they had not hit Earth by the force of currents that diverted them to the North, the presence of terrestrial birds and other signals had confirmed them the proximity of this.

With the support of the friars Antonio of Marchena and Juan Pérez, Columbus left his son in the monastery and went to Córdoba and Seville, where resided temporarily the Catholic monarchs, in order to meet with them. Hosted by mayor Alonso de Quintanilla counter and the cardinal Pedro Mendoza, Colon managed in January 1486 expose the Kings his plan in Alcalá de Henares, where he had been transferred to the Court. The Queen was favorably impressed and during the rest of the year and the first months of 1487, the project was submitted to the study of a Board chaired by the theologian fray Hernando de Talavera.

In the meantime, Columbus met in Cordoba Beatriz Enríquez de Arana, who would have in August 1488 to his son Hernando, historian and future biographer of Admiral. In 1487 the Kings received it in Malaga, informing it of the negative decision the cosmographers, which was considered wrong its calculations and measures. However, it received financial assistance from the Court. Colon reacted quickly. On the one hand, continued widening the circle of their protectors in the Court, with the help of Talavera, fray Diego de Deza, and interested by the courtiers Luis de Santángel and Beatriz de Bobadilla, intimate friend of the Queen. On the other hand, he went back to Portugal and, although Juan II sent him a safe-conduct to return it when I would like to, there is no record that made this trip. The lack of interest in Portuguese is explainable. Step by Bartolomé Díaz of the Cape of good hope in 1488 definitely opened the route to the India to the East; the route of the West was not a priority for the Portuguese monarch.

In August 1489 Queen Elizabethreceived Columbus in Jaén and offered him to reconsider his project when Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Peninsula will be taken. Although the Dukes of Medina Sidonia and Medinaceli offered help, late 1491 Colon was determined to leave Castilla, tired of waiting. Nevertheless, friends of La Rábida fray Juan Pérez, prior of the convent, and Garcí Hernández, physician and cosmographer of sticks, managed to dissuade him and succeeded, after another court management, more money and an order to make Colon or come to Santa Fe, where the Kings were. With the end of the war of Granada on January 2, 1492 (see the entry relating to the expulsion of the Jews) opened new perspectives.

The Columbian project was submitted to a meeting that included the cardinal Mendoza, fray Juan Pérez, Luis Santángel, Treasurer of the King Fernando, and the papal legacy Alejandro Geraldini, who were somewhat reluctant to the exorbitant demands of the Navigator: the Admiralty of all the Islands and Lands firm that discovers, title inherited by his successors; the Viceroyalty and governance of these lands, leaving authority presentation to the rulers of three candidates for all charges that would designate; tenth of the products obtained and an octave part in many ships Pope for new discoveries and enjoyment in equal proportion in profits. The negotiations become difficult, but at the intercession of Santangel, who managed to convince the Queen, the capitulations of Santa Fe were signed between Columbus and the Crown. It was on 17 April 1492. (See voyages and discovery of America).

The total cost of the expedition of discovery has been estimated between one and two billion maravedíes. Funding was provided by the Queen, Santangel and several bankers and traders Genoese and Florentine, which lent five hundred thousand Maravedis Columbus. On May 22, 1492 reached puerto de Palos with a Royal mandate ordering that the municipality should contribute two Navy ships. However, it was necessary to lease a third. The order stated that the ships should be ready in ten days, but ten weeks were required to conclude the preparations. Thanks to the efforts and prestige of the Pinzón brothers, Francisco, Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez, was able to complete the crew, consisting of little more than one hundred men, among sailors and auxiliaries.

On August 3, 1492 they departed from the port of Palos three ships, the Santa María in command of Colon, la Pinta commanded by Martín Alonso Pinzón and girls, directed by Vicente Yánez Pinzón. Kings Columbus delivered letters to the Grand Khan of Tartary, and the crew was as an interpreter a convert Jew, Luis Torres, who knew the languages of East. Nine days later, the fleet arrived in the Canary Islands and September 6 departed again heading West.

The wind was favorable and the sea was calm, but soon began to reign the concern among the crew. In the first days of October, flocks of birds, is sighted which helped to calm tempers, as it seemed to announce the proximity of land. In the early hours of October 12 Juan Rodríguez Bermejo (called by tradition Rodrigo de Triana), PT Lookout, saw shine a sandy beach on the horizon, and launched the cry of "Earth!". They had come to one of the islands of the Bahamas, called Guanahani by the Indians, that Columbus baptized with the name of San Salvador.

Convinced that he had reached one of the countless islands of East Asia, Columbus set course towards the Southwest, discovering new Islands, along your route and called the men with whom he came into contact "Indians", as natives of the India. In successive weeks, Columbus discovered the islands of Santa María de la Concepción, Fernandina and Isabela. To find an island to which the Indians called Cobba or Cuba, believed that it was already on the ground, on the shores of Cathay (China), but realizing that it was also an island called her Juana. During the following weeks the three caravels toured the northeast coast of Cuba, where he came into contact with other indigenous groups and obtained gold. Colon departed from the Cuban coast on December 5 and Santo Domingo reached the island Hispaniola, current.

Path followed by Cristóbal Colón on its first trip.

On December 25, 1492, the Santa María ran aground on a sand bank and with his remains was built the first Spanish settlement in America, strong Christmas. On January 4, 1493 departed the girl heading for Spain, leaving a garrison of thirty-eight men under the command of Diego de Arana in the Fort. Two days later was joined by the pint. Storms spread both boats in mid-February and, finally, on 4 March, the girl, sent by Columbus, managed to get at the mouth of the Tagus. After meeting with the Portuguese King, Columbus followed sticks road, where he landed six days later. Almost at the same time came, very ill, Martín Alonso Pinzón, whom the storms had thrown into Bayonne, on the northern coast of Spain, where he died on 20 March.

Called to the Court, which was in Barcelona, Colón triumphantly crossed the Peninsula. The Catholic monarchs received him solemnly at the end of April, and was awarded all the honours stipulated. The preparation of a new expedition with a mission to colonize and evangelize the natives was immediately undertaken. Meanwhile, Isabel and Fernando were efforts before the Pope Alejandro VI asking to confirm them the possession of the new land. The Pope then drafted the famous Alexandrian bulls (May and September 1493), which established a line from pole to pole, 100 leagues West of the Cape Verde Islands, leaving what was discovered to the East of this line for Portugal and Castilla which remain to the West.

Outside papal arbitration, the kingdoms of Castile and Portugal understand later signed, June 7, 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas, which left established areas of jurisdiction of both kingdoms in the Atlantic, being under Portuguese rule the lands located up to 370 leagues West of the Cape Verde Islands, and under Spanish domain everything that was discovered from that line.

On September 25, 1493 he left from the port of Cadiz second expedition of Columbus, composed by a fleet of 17 ships and about thousand five hundred men, among nobles, craftsmen, sailors, farmers and religious. Members of the expedition were Diego Colón, brother of the Admiral, Juan de la Cosa, Álvarez Chanca, author of a relationship of the trip, and Alonso de Ojeda. Sailing more to the South than on the first trip, they arrived on November 3 to an island in the Lesser Antilles called Dominica. During the following days discovered new Islands: María Galante, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Santa María la Redonda, Santa María de la Antigua, San Martín and Santa Cruz, among others. On 16 November they discovered the island called Borinquen by Indians, baptizing it as San Juan Bautista (the current Puerto Rico).

When they arrived on 22 November to Hispaniola, found the strong Navidaddestruido and wiped out the garrison. They then abandoned the place and founded a new colony, Isabela, first European city in the new world to the northeast of Haiti. Then Columbus sent twelve ships to Spain under the command of Antonio Torres, with letters that explained the events to the Kings and requested new ammunition. Meanwhile, he sent to Alonso de Ojeda to explore the interior of the island, where rescued Golden. After cutting some dissensions with energy, Columbus left la Isabela and turned to the interior, where he founded the Fort of Saint Thomas in March 1494. This Fort was assaulted by aborigines, whose Chief Canoabo or Caonaboa (Lord of the House of gold) had previously directed the destruction of La Navidad and then would be killed in the hands of the Spaniards.

Chaotic conditions in which Columbus found Isabela after his return, on 29 March, forced you to take tough actions that pitted him with some of his men. Finally, Colon resumed April 24, 1494 in search of Cipango navigation. As he toured the southern coast of Cuba, it drifted to the South and discovered Jamaica, which he named Santiago. Continued then the exploration of the Cuban coast, penetrating into a maze of islets called "Garden of the Queen" in a beginning took the thousand Islands archipelago described by Marco Polo, but he then came to the conviction that had arrived in the Mainland. On his return to Isabela found great difficulties, since the Spaniards were at war with an Alliance of four chieftains. Columbus and his brother Bartolomé defeated Indians in la Vega and imposed on them a tribute which has been considered as the starting point of the divisions. (See distribution).

After suffering a serious illness Columbus decided to return to Spain. He previously made to erect seven fortresses and entrusted to his brother Bartholomew, who was left as Governor, the Foundation of a city. She sailed 10 March 1496, reaching Cádiz on April 11. One of the vessels used, the India, had been built in Hispaniola. It was the first made in America who arrived in Spain. A few months later Bartholomew fulfilled the mandate of his brother and the 5 August 1496 he founded the city of Santo Domingo, which soon became the most important of the new world.

In the autumn of 1496, Columbus was received in Burgos for the Kings, who confirmed their privileges; However, Fernando and Isabel began to question his promises because they wanted to use his expertise as a Navigator and Explorer, but remarked the need to remove him from the Spanish Government. Despite the misgivings of the monarchs, in April 1497 began to prepare another expedition. With support of the Crown, Columbus was able to equip six ships, which were to embark soldiers, sailors, farmers, artisans and workers of various trades, among whose responsibilities were the introduce crops such as sugar cane and establish divisions of land among the inhabitants.

30 may 1498 he left third Columbian journey from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, with more than two hundred men. They wanted to know the location of the discovered Islands and the exact position on the demarcation line established by the Treaty of Tordesillas with Portugal. The fleet made scale in Madeira and La Gomera, where is catered and divided the expedition: three ships were directly to Hispaniola and Colón, with three other ships, followed a more southern course. The Admiral arrived in the archipelago of Cape Verde, from where it departed on July 4 in a westerly direction. The 31st of the same month discovered the island of Trinidad; along the southern part of the island he saw a large river delta, the Orinoco, and the coast of what they believed an island, Venezuela. 2 August 1498 he entered the Gulf of Paria, discovering the South American continent. The natives received them very amicably; rivers and lush vegetation was so deeply impressed by Columbus imagined to be close to the earthly paradise. On 13 August he crossed the Strait from the mouth of Dragon trees and toured the northern part of Paria and continued along the coast towards the West, discovering the islands of Margarita, Coche and Cubagua.

On 15 August she took course to the North and went to Hispaniola. On his return he found the population divided by the revolt of Francisco Roldán, who had been appointed mayor of Isabela, and the poor prospects of finding riches. Colon then agreed with the rebels and set out to obtain benefits from the sale of slaves, so he sent to Spain 300. Aware of the situation of the Spanish kings, they decided to send Francisco de Bobadilla, comendador of the order of Calatrava, to take charge of the governorate, and administer justice, who arrived on the island from August 23, 1500. Columbus and his brothers were imprisoned and sent to Spain, where they arrived in November 25, 1500. The Kings received the Admiral in Granada and restored him in their prerogatives but not in its Government. Despite these developments, Colon was authorized in October 1501 to prepare another expedition.

On May 9, 1502, with a fleet of four ships, departed from Cádiz heading to the Canary Islands, from where it sailed to the new world the 25th of that month. Its purpose was to find a passage to the West of the West Indies which will take you to the far East. On 15 June she was facing the West Indian island of Martinique; from there jump to San Juan of Puerto Rico, and by attempting to pass to Hispaniola, receives the refusal of the new Governor, Nicolás de Ovando. On August 14, 1502 reached Tierra Firme, in the territory of what is now Honduras. Crossing the Central American Isthmus to the South, bordering Nicaragua and Costa Rica, came to Veraguas, Panamanian coasts, where tried in vain to found a city, Belen River, in January 1503. After continually facing storms and hurricanes, the Admiral lost two boats and with the other two, very damaged, came to Jamaica from June 23, 1503. There, ill with arthritis, he remained a year waiting for the help that had urged Governor Nicolás de Ovando, who received it in the Spanish 28 June 1504, but not the Government returned him.

The following September 13 Colon it left for Spain and 7 November 1504 landed in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Never again would sail. November 26, 1504 dies Queen Elizabeth in Medina del Campo. Colon, weak and very ill, side facing the Court ready to defend its political and economic privileges. He was received by King regente Fernando, who was not willing to comply with the capitulations of Santa Fe, because he didn't deliver as immense territories a person who judged lacking skills of Government and practicality. Their last two years of life Columbus would devote them to try to recover their privileges on the lands he had discovered. Their hopes was encrypted in the Princes Juana and Felipe the beautiful, who would occupy the throne of Castile, who wrote, but before they can get an interview died in Valladolid, 20 or may 21, 1506 (is not known with certainty what was the exact day of his death), convinced even that he had reached the Indies. His body was buried at the Carthusian monastery of the caves, in Seville. Subsequently, in 1541, he was transferred to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, at the behest of the virreina María de Toledo, widow of Diego Colón. In 1795, when Santo Domingo became the domain of France, the Spanish authorities led the remains of Columbus to the Cathedral of Havana. Finally, when Cuba was occupied by the Americans in 1898 the Spanish Government ordered that his remains moved to Seville, where they were deposited in the Cathedral.

However, until the summer of 2006, there is no incontrovertible evidence that the remains of Admiral and discoverer reposaran actually there or in any of the other places mentioned. In 2006 the team of scientists responsible for answering this difficult question said that the remains preserved in the Cathedral of Seville belonged to the discoverer of America. However they not discarded the possibility that had remains elsewhere since there was only a small part of the body in Seville.

Monument to Columbus in Barcelona


Literary work

The literary work of Cristóbal Colón includes letters, fragments of various writings and, especially, his newspaper, which has reached us, thanks to the diligence of Bartolomé de Las Casas transcribe it. This work, which is notable for being the first relationship of the new American land in the eyes of the European discoverers, offers especially the surprise before the discovery and freshness of a Virgin look in which are mixed admiration and wonder. EPIC character, the religiosity and the latent political-economic background are left Screener in pages full of innocence and, at the same time, creepily by what the reader knows that they will mean in successive years. The critical current known as Colonial literature has made this text a founder of American literature document and to considerable critical attention has been.

Scientific Columbus attractions

Basically focuses on two issues, the nature of the geographic knowledge which led him to conclude that it was possible a Western road towards the Indies, and their contributions to navigation.

The decision of Colon look this way was based on a really underrated distance estimation of ocean that was crossing. The main source of information about the smallness of the sea was the Imago Mundi, Pierre D'Ailly, who repeatedly said that Spain was next to the India, separated only by a narrow sea. D'Ailly noted that a passage in the book of Ezra claimed that six parts of the globe were habitable and only the seventh was covered with water, testimony that Colon saw obviously as meaningful. Colón was also influenced by the Florentine Paolo Toscanelli who, in a famous letter to a Portuguese correspondent, said that the province of Mangi was about 5,000 nautical miles west of Lisbon and Cipango was even closer. Columbus had seen a copy of this letter not long after 1481, when he resided in Portugal. A terrestrial sphere built in 1492 by the German cartographer Martín Behaim followed with accuracy estimate of Toscanelli, but Colon fell still more those figures to decrease one quarter the amount accepted for a degree of longitude.

Columbus believed to have confirmed some medieval estimates of the diameter of the Earth with his remarks. In a marginal note (No. 490) to its copy of the Imago Mundi, wrote the following: "Note that, often, sailing from Lisbon to the South of Guinea, I have watched carefully the way the captains and sailors; I have immediately taken the height of the Sun with the quadrant and other instruments in several ways, and I found that she agreed with Alfragan data, namely, that each grade level they correspond 56 2/3 miles; for this reason must be given faith to those calculations; It can therefore say that the circuit of the Earth under the equinoctial circle is 20,400 miles. So how had established the master, doctor and astrologer José Vicinho and several others who were sent expressly for this by the King Kings of Portugal". Other side notes repeat the figure of 56,66 miles for the degree.

Columbus was known by his contemporaries as a great Navigator. It did not determine the latitudes on the high seas, but that sailing by esteem, that is, appreciating its opinion the distance covered in 24 hours and registering the course according to the nautical compass. It used the marine quadrant and Plumb to observe the height of the polar star, but only as a check of the esteem. To register the latitude, it did not use formulas, but a table of corresponding to the days of Solstice latitudes. They were the hours that lasted the day, as they were determined by the vial and then read the latitude. Columbus was the first to record in writing the variation of the magnetic needle, although modern specialists tend to conclude that Portuguese pilots should know this phenomenon before. On the other hand, managed to determine the longitude by observing a lunar eclipse. Its numerous astronomical observations led him to the strange conclusion that the Earth was round, but of pear-shaped, with a lump of a nipple type.

Colon was an acute observer of the currents and ocean winds and, as a result, inaugurated the great routes of navigation of the North Atlantic. On his return trip, based on observations of Portuguese sailors and on their own from a trip to Iceland, he sailed Northeast heading up to the latitude of the Azores, before heading out to the East, because I knew that there are prevailing winds from the West.

Colon had a first-hand knowledge of cartography, the trade practised by his brother Bartholomew in Lisbon; in his first trip journal stated: "I have purpose of hazer new browse letter, in which I situaré across the sea and lands of the ocean sea in their own places, debaxo his wind". In fact, in the lawsuits of 1514, a witness realized that all Scouts of Tierra Firme after Colon "yvan by quel said Admiral of that fact avia navigation charts and did, because everything it discovered used to hazer letters". It should be noted that, while the letters of Columbus had always scales of distances, they lacked grid of latitude and longitude, because he was still thinking in terms of "climates" Ptolemaic. Colón, as many other authors of the time of the discoveries, made frequent references to Ptolemy and persisted in trying to make new discoveries with the Ptolemaic system.



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