Columbus & the Americas

I learned early that Christopher Columbus first “discovered” the Americas or the New World by sailing across the Atlantic in 1492.  I later came to view any celebration of Columbus Day in October as an insult to the indigenous peoples who Columbus and other European colonizers subsequently exploited, enslaved and/or destroyed.

October 12th was celebrated today in Mexico as “Día de la Raza” or Day of the Race ( which has quite a varied history throughout the Americas.  It inspired me to do some additional reading about the Columbus history:

Viajes de colon en.svg

The four voyages of Columbus
Date 1492, 1493, 1498, 1502
Location The Americas


I didn’t remember that Columbus actually made four sailing trips to the New World over 11 years (1492-1502), and that his only landings were in the Caribbean Islands, Central & South America.  He never made it to anywhere in North America, including Mexico.  I also didn’t realize that he was later imprisoned for all of the havoc he imposed on natives, struggled to repay his investors, and died at 59.

Despite all the colonial carnage that followed, it’s still impressive to me that Columbus was able to envision, finance and complete his first cross-Atlantic sailing adventure into the total unknown.  Many Europeans in 1492 still believed the earth to be flat.

It’s not unlike our current challenge of exploring outer space or even dealing with climate change on earth.  I just hope that we’ve learned something from history about the need to respect other races, cultures and perspectives if we really want to survive as a species.

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