Columbus Day Explained - A Brief History into the Discovery of America in 1492 by the Italian Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, of Italy, is the discoverer of America in the year 1492. Early in the morning of October 12, 1492, a sailor on board the Pinta sighted land, beginning a new era of European exploration and expansion. The next day, the ninety crew members of Columbus’ three-ship fleet ventured onto the Bahamian island that he named San Salvador (now Watling Island, and then called Guanahaní by the natives), ending a voyage begun nearly ten weeks earlier in Palos, Spain. 

 The first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the United States took place on October 12, 1792. Organized by the Society of St. Tammany, also known as the Columbian Order, it commemorated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ landing. 
The 400th anniversary of the event inspired the first official Columbus Day holiday in the United States. President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation in 1892, “recommending to the people the observance in all their localities of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America…” and describing Columbus as “the pioneer of progress and enlightenment.” Since then, school programs, plays, and community festivities have been organized across the country in celebration of Columbus Day. 
 In the decades that followed, the Knights of Columbus, an international Roman Catholic fraternal benefit society, lobbied state legislatures to declare October 12 a legal holiday. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated Columbus Day (then celebrated October 12) a national holiday in 1934.  Since 1971, when Columbus Day was designated the second Monday in October, it has been celebrated as a federal holiday. In many locations across the country Americans hold parades to commemorate the day. US President Trump issued a statement affirming Columbus Day in 2020. 
 "Christopher Columbus had a mystic belief that God intended him to sail the Atlantic Ocean in order to spread Christianity. He said his prayers several times daily. Columbus wrote what he called a Book of Prophecies, which is a compilation of passages Columbus selected from the Bible which he believed were pertinent to his mission of discovery. Columbus's own writings prove that he believed that God revealed His plan for the world in the Bible, the infallible Word of God. Columbus believed that he was obeying the mission God staked out for his life when he set sail west across the Atlantic Ocean." 

In the year  1451, a son had just been born to the Colombos of Genoa, Italy. The boy, who was the eldest of five children, was Baptized with the name of Christobal [Christopher]. Although his father was a successful weaver------Christopher set to sea at the age of 22, taking part in several expeditions, some to the East Indies. His education had not been thorough and he was almost illiterate going by today's standards; however, he was bright and taught himself to read and write, especially Spanish, along with Latin, because maps and geography were in Latin.  It is thought that because Genoa is a port city that the young Columbus would have had some experience on the ships in the harbor.

Columbus went to Spain to offer his services to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He took his young son with him. About five miles from Palos was a friary called La Rabída which had a school for young boys. Columbus left Diego there with the friars, one of whom was Father Juan Perez, who became a friend of the navigator and recommended him to the Queen. Some of her advisors were against the employment of Captain Columbus for his endeavor. Eager, she offered to sell her jewels to finance the ships and supplies but Louis was able to retrieve the $14,000 needed from the coffers, a small price to pay for the new world.

Columbus made more than one voyage to the American continent. The first one had three wooden vessels, the Santa María, the Pinta, and Niña. The first was manned by a crew of 39 while the other two had 26 and 22 seamen.  The tiny fleet sailed from Palos [Cape de Palos today] on August 3, 1492, just before Columbus birthday, which is thought to have been between August 25 and the end of October.

The date Columbus selected for departure was August 2, 1492 was the fiesta of Our Lady of Angels, patroness of the Franciscan monastery of La Rabída whose friars had supported Columbus and called for the realization of his dream from the beginning; and protector of the people of Palos, from which his ships would depart, when they were in danger at sea (as Pope Eugenius IV had proclaimed 55 years before). 

The 1st island that Columbus found was named after our Savior, San Salvador, was sighted at two in the morning. Before noon Columbus had disembarked at Fernandez Bay and claimed the land for Spain. He still thought he was near the East Indies or Japan. There were men who came to greet them in all felicity, the Arawak, whom he named Indians because of his mistaken notion. And this is how the Amerinds became to be known as Indians and the islands he found, the West Indies. the little fleet remained there for until late in the month when it entered Cuba on October 28. 

Queen Isabella was delighted to hear about the new world he had found. Most thought that he would retire after his discovery.  This pleased Isabella who was known for her pious faith and zeal for the Church. So in 1493, he set sail once again but with a larger fleet. 

The cadre of seventeen ships carrying colonists, priests, officials, gentlemen of the court, and horses, left Cadiz on September 25, 1493 and reached the new world in just three weeks. His flagship was still named after Our Lady, this time bearing the title Mariagalante, the name he gave to an island in the West Indies.

Columbus established the first colony of Santo Domingo and became the governor of the island.

When Columbus finally returned from his five months' voyage, he was prostrated by a severe fever; after recovering from that, he was crippled for weeks with arthritis.


"Unable to control the Spaniards on the island, Columbus blamed the Indians for his troubles and the very small production of gold. In January 1495 he seized over a thousand Indians to make them slaves. There can be no excuse for this, but it is very important to remember that it was contrary to Spanish law and vigorously countermanded by Queen Isabella as soon as she found out about it. She declared firmly that no one had authorized her Admiral to treat 'her subjects' in this manner, released the Indian captives who had been brought to Spain, and made clear her unalterable opposition to enslavement of the Indians. She then sent a former member of her household named Juan Aguado to investigate what Columbus was doing as governor of Hispaniola and report back to her.

The Death of Columbus

Christopher Columbus died on May 20, 1506 in obscurity and near poverty in Valladolid, Spain in a rooming house. Later his remains were moved to the Dominican Republic. It is thought that arthritis was the main contributor to his death. His family never received any monies still owed to him by the Spanish Crown.

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