"In a museum in Havana there are two skulls of Christopher Columbus, one when he was a boy and one when he was a man"
Columbus Day is my new favorite holiday. First off, whatever negative implications his voyages may now be clearly seen to have had five hundred and nineteen years later including the small pox pandemic and subjugation of the native populations, it was inevitable that men would cross the ocean and that the continents would meet with similar results. One has to stand baffled at the shear audacity of Columbus, standing on the shore of the new world and proclaiming all these lands for Queen Isabella of Spain, his two remaining ships bobbing frailly off shore. It seemed like a reasonable idea to Columbus that he should leave seventeen of his men to organise this strange island before heading back to Spain for some reinforcements. What was this planning session like? He had to believe he could find his way back to Europe, which had never been done, and then find his way back to that exact spot to relieve his boys. I think its safe to say Columbus's frame of reference was different from a twenty-first century man who searches for a Starbucks with his trusty GPS. At nineteen he worked as a pirate attacking Moorish ships for his living. Six years later his ship was sunk and Columbus saved himself by swimming to shore. Columbus rethought the pirate lifestyle and learned the cartographers trade from his brother and married a noblewomen, Felipa Perestrello Moniz, whose Dad had explored and charted ocean and wind currents in the Atlantic Ocean. The old man died that same year and Christopher inherited the priceless charts. Thirteen years later, with the help of his second wife, the Age of Discovery was born. True Renaissance geniuses the likes of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Guttenberg, and Martin Luther held sway against the harsh realities and hysteria of the Black plague and Spanish Inquisition brutalising Europe in the 15Th century. These factors framed the insane period of European history the self-educated and quirky Columbus conducted business in.
Today I celebrate Columbus's intrepid voyages, keeping in mind my 21st century sensibility, for his achievement as America's first illegal immigrant.
"These people are very unskilled in arms... with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished. "