Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12th, it is observed on the second Monday in October in the Americas to pay tribute to Christopher Columbus. (Columbus Day is often referred to as “Discoverers’ Day” or “Pioneers’ Day“.) They celebrate all explorers and the idea of exploring and discovering.) Columbus is credited with discovering the “New World”, what we know as the North America. We know today that he rather re-discovered this area and was the first to publicize his findings. The Vikings had already established settlements in North America when Columbus sailed by.
There are varied views on Columbus’s character and mixed emotions on whether this day should be celebrated. Columbus is known as one of the greatest mariners in history. He is considered a visionary, a great explorer, an entrepreneur, a poor administrator, and destroyer of native cultures.
Columbus is generally thought of as an Italian born in Genoese in 1451, the son of a wool merchant and weaver. However, some believe he was born in Corsica and some even think he had Viking blood. There are many debates over his faith, many believe Columbus was a converted Jew.
Columbus’s ambition to find a westward route to Asia kept him motivated to find financial supporters for his explorations. When he moved to Spain he found support of the Catholic monarchs, Isabel and Fernando. There is a long-standing myth that the Queen pawned her jewels to sponsor the voyage, this did not happen though as there were enough funds in the treasury.
On August 3, 1492 Columbus departed Palos, Spain with three ships under his command, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The crew was composed of about 90 men, mostly seasoned sailors and a few criminals who sailed in return for amnesty. This is his famous voyage in which he is credited with discovering the New World. Columbus never actually set foot on North American soil, in fact it is believed he never even saw North America. His first landing was on Watling Island in the Bahamas. He also stopped at Cuba and Hispaniola. He was made an admiral and governor over all these lands.
On December 25, 1492 the Santa Maria was shipwrecked. The crew who stayed behind at La Navidad, a fortress on the northern coast of present-day Haiti, lost their lives to the indigenous peoples before Columbus could return. The Niña and the Pinta suffered heavy damage during a fierce hurricane on the return trip to Spain.
During his voyages he used the Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola for hard labor and brought many of Taino Indians back to Spain where they were sold into slavery.
After his third voyage in 1500, Columbus returned to Spain in chains because of the disgraceful conditions in Hispaniola. Upon his return the chains were removed and the Queen and King acknowledged a misunderstanding.
Late in life Columbus suffered from gout and failing eyesight. On May 20, 1506, at the age of 55, Columbus died. He died a fairly wealthy man even though he had has lost his political power and royal privileges. As with his birthplace his resting-place is also a mystery.
It is thought he was originally buried in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic but there are several records showing the transfer of his remains to several different locations. The predominant theory is that he is now buried in the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.