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Christopher Columbus, born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy, was an explorer who explored islands south of North America, present-day Cuba, the Bahamas, and part of Central America. Columbus became a sailor at the age of 14 and was determined to become an explorer. He married Felipa Perestrello Moniz in 1479 and had one child, Diego. Felipa died in either 1494 or 1495. Columbus wished to go to Japan to obtain silks and spices by traveling west, avoiding the common route around Africa. First, he went to King John of Portugal, but his proposal was rejected.
Subsequently, he went to Spain, a bitter rival of Portugal. Wealthy aristocrats offered to provide him with ships, but they had to receive permission from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Spain did not initially approve because the prevailing belief was that the world was flat and sailing west would prove fatal. Nonetheless, Queen Isabella provided him with a small salary. During this time, he sent his sons to solicit support from England and France, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Eventually, in 1492, after Spain’s victory over Granada, Columbus finally received permission to commence a relatively inexpensive expedition.
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On Columbus’s first voyage, he had three ships, the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta, along with a crew of about 90 men. After reaching an island in the Bahamas, which he named San Salvador, he encountered natives whom he mistakenly identified as Indians, believing he had reached India. Columbus wasted no time in enslaving the natives. On October 18, they landed in Cuba, convinced they were near mainland Asia, but the Santa Maria was subsequently wrecked. As a result, they built a makeshift camp. When ready to return to Spain, the Nina and the Pinta got separated. The Nina landed in Portugal and narrowly avoided arrest for illegal trading on the African route. Despite Columbus’s concern that Pinzone might reach the monarchs before he did, his fears were unfounded. Although Pinzone did actually arrive first, the monarchs said they would wait for Columbus, and Pinzone suddenly died before he could relay his story.
For his second voyage, Columbus was given command of 17 ships and a crew of between 1,200 to 1,500 men, including colonists and private investors, who were set to settle on newfound islands. Friars accompanied the expedition to convert the natives to Christianity. Upon arriving in only 21 days, Columbus’s crew began to suffer from tropical fever, so he decided to return to Spain, leaving men behind to search for gold in Hispaniola. He appointed his brothers as governors of Hispaniola, where they forced men over the age of 14 to pan for gold. Columbus eventually returned to Spain with only 12 of the original 17 ships.
For his third voyage, Columbus departed with six ships. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had entrusted him with determining whether Asia’s mainland lay south or southwest of their territories. Soon after, the fleet ran into a windless region and was stranded in intense heat for eight days. Once they were able to navigate away from there, they encountered a vast flow of freshwater, hinting that it wasn’t an island. Upon Columbus
So, Columbus negotiated and showed force. Complaints reached the Spanish court about Columbus, so they sent a commissioner to investigate. He was shocked to see that Spaniards were in chains, so he released them, arrested Columbus, and sent him back to Spain in chains. The monarchs forgave Columbus and, under certain conditions, he was allowed to keep his titles, but he was no longer the governor of Hispaniola. They sent Ovando to be the new governor.
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