“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the blue sea.”
That poem helps people remember the year, 1492, that Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to America.
Some people believe we should have a holiday called Columbus Day, and some people think we shouldn’t honor Columbus, but the real people who lived here when he landed. They want to have a holiday called Independence Day.
(If you quickly say the words “in the refrigerator; in us”, it is the same as the country.)
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in the year 1451. We do not know the exact month or day.
It was often taught, even in schools, that Columbus wanted to prove the roundness of the earth, and that’s why he sailed the ocean.
That is not true. Educated people in Europe back in the 1400s did not believe the earth was flat. They did not think that if you sail too far, your boat will fall off the edge. They knew, and Columbus knew, that the earth is round.
Countries in Europe; such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, and England; he wanted to buy things from Asia, such as spices, dyes, fruits, silk, and other foreign goods. But getting there and back is a long, difficult, and often dangerous journey, mostly over land. If the Earth was round, couldn’t you get to Asia by sailing west across the ocean? Columbus felt this was possible.
What he didn’t know was how far you had to sail to get there? And what is the danger? A ship may run out of food and water before it arrives. There may be strong storms that cannot survive. There may be sea creatures that will damage the ship.
The only way to find out, Columbus believed, was to go. He said, “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose the shore.”
He knew how to navigate the sea using the sun and stars.
Although he was a very skilled sailor – he learned to sail when he was 14, and now he is 41 – no one wanted to give Columbus the money for ships, crew, and food. King John II of Portugal was one of those who told him no. Later, he convinced Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain to give him money for the voyage.
He got three ships for his journey. There are two small and fast ships called caravels. They were named Pinta and Niña. The third ship was larger and was called the Santa Maria.
He had a hard time hiring a crew. Many sailors thought it was a dangerous, one-way trip, and were afraid to go. But at last he had enough of the crew, with water and food. He sailed on August 3, 1492.
The voyage was long and difficult. There were times when the crew wanted to turn back. There was a time when everyone got scurvy because they didn’t have enough fruits and vegetables to eat. But Columbus didn’t give up. And finally on October 12, after two months at sea, they found land.
They thought they had reached an island in the East Indies in Asia. Maybe near India or Malaysia or Indonesia. Where they were, was on an island in the Bahamas off the coast of what is now Florida.
On October 29, they arrived in what is now Cuba. And on December 6, the island of Hispaniola, where they built a fort.
Because Columbus thought it might be close to India, he called the people who lived on those islands, Indians.
Columbus sailed back to Spain, taking with him birds, trees, cloth, and gold. He also took some local people.
Ferdinand and Isabella were very happy with this find, they gave Columbus 17 ships and 1,300 people for the second voyage. And thus began the search and conquest of the New World.
Columbus died on May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, Spain.
Many people think Columbus deserves credit for his bravery and daring and his discovery of unknown land.
Others think that the glory should be taken, not by the conquerors from Europe, but by the natives who were dispossessed of their lands and lived off them.
Since 1971, the second Monday in October has been a public holiday known as Columbus Day.
On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that Columbus Day will continue to be a federal holiday, but in addition, October 11 will be recognized as Indigenous People’ Day.
• Columbus made four voyages to the New World and back.
• His real name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo, but we know him in English as his name.
• About 500 years before Columbus discovered the New World, a Norse explorer named Leif Erikson arrived in what is now Canada. But his discovery did not result in many Europeans coming here as Columbus did.
• When Columbus died, he still believed he had reached the east coast of Asia, not a new land.
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