AFRICANGLOBE – In October every second week on Monday, Columbus Day is celebrated in western culture in general and in the America’s specifically. This is an American tradition and school children of all ages are taught about his so-called discovery of his New-World. Annual parades are given around the country, and every year dignitaries participate in these festivities.
Unfortunately, most people celebrate his holiday without knowing the truth about Columbus’s purpose for taking such risky voyages, and his horrendous behavior against the indigenous population, together with brutality against his own men.
At the other end of the spectrum, Columbus’s impact has been most devastating on the indigenous people together with African communities everywhere. For a better understanding, three historical events before Columbus’s four voyages are presented, along with the reasons for these voyages.
Three Historical Events :
The first event occurred when the African Berbers/Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula (present-day Portugal and Spain). Back then the conquered territory was identified as Andalusia and at that time was most of Spain, Portugal, parts of France, Italy and Gibraltar. Their conquest began in 711 and lasted up to the fall of Granada on January 2, 1492.
The second event is the conquest of Ceuta an Islamic city in North Africa by the Portuguese in 1415. Notably, that was over three decades before the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In the meantime, Portuguese mariners sailed beyond Cape Bojador, Morocco, for the first time in the 1430s.
By 1445, a trading post was established on the small island of Arguim off the shores of present-day Mauritania. As Portuguese ships continued to explore coastlines and rivers over the following decades, they established trade with the preexisting industries. Portuguese traders procured not only various west African commodities such as ivory, peppers, textiles, wax, grain, copper, as well as captive African slaves for exporting. At this time, these slaves were only used as servants in Europe.
In addition to building trading posts, Portugal established colonies on previous uninhabited islands off the African shores that would later serve as collection points for captive slaves, and commodities to be shipped to Europe, and eventually sent to the colonies in the Americas. After several generations, Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, opening up European access to the east Indies.
By the close of the fifteenth century, Portuguese merchants could circumvent commercial, political, and military strongholds in both north Africa and in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, they were successful in using maritime routes to bypass trans-Saharan overland trade routes controlled by Islamic Ottoman Turks.
The third event occurred in 1453, when the Islamic Ottoman Turks successfully captured Christian Constantinople (present-day Istanbul)—formerly western Europe’s main source for spices, silks, paper, porcelain, glass, and other luxury goods produced in India, China, Japan, and the spice islands (present-day Indonesia) collectively these areas were known as the east Indies, and the silk road trade route was shutdown by the Ottoman Turks conquest.
The Fall of Granada in 1492:
Obviously, the passages to the east Indies were denied to the Christian west by the Ottoman Turks who controlled the main overland routes to the Orient. Desert robbers, along with the heat and sand storms, as well as other unforeseen hazards eventually made the trip too dangerous and expensive.
Portugal’s alternate route, by sea, was now in demand. Christopher Columbus spent the better part of his adult life embracing a different navigational solution other than Portugal’s already established maritime route. The core of his idea was sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean to the east Indies would be shorter, and quicker. Moreover, knowing modern geography makes his idea a guaranteed failure. In hindsight if his idea was correct, a world of opportunity would open up not only for him but other fortune hunters. Of course, this did not happen.
By the late 13th century, the Spanish Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon had reconquer most of the Islamic Berber/Moors controlled territory. In 1479, the two kingdoms were united as a result of the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The last Islamic kingdom, Granada, was lost in 1492. For Christian Spain, this conquest was the most important event in their history. After nearly eight centuries of fighting, the Christian Iberians finally defeated the African Islamic Berbers/Moors. On the second of January, 1492, King Ferdinand together with Queen Isabella rode into Granada victoriously. Columbus was present at that joyful event.
The Spanish monarchy agreed to sponsor his voyage but with stringent modifications. He angrily refused their offer and went to France for financial support. A short time afterward, the king and queen had second thoughts and decided to meet Columbus’s demands. Eventually, their courier caught up with him just before he reached France.
Upon his return, he was promised huge amounts of gold plus given the title captain of the ocean seas, along with absolute power as administrator for the future to be colonized New World. Columbus promised to bring back gold, spices, and silks, to spread Christianity, and at the same time charter a quicker route to the east Indies. Consequently, he was outfitted with three ships, the Nina, La Pinta and the Santa Maria.
Columbus’s Four Voyages:
This set the stage for his four voyages. All of them had some sort of disaster. Which begin with his maiden voyage in 1492 that was disaster number one. While exploring an uncharted island he name Hispaniola (present-day Dominican and Haitian Republics), on Christmas Day he wrecked his flag ship the Santa María; together with the help of the indigenous Taino people using wreckage from the ship and anything else they could find to built small fortress named La Navidad (Christmas in English). He left 39 men at the fortress, and proceeded to Spain to request funding for another voyage.
Unknowing to Columbus, the left-behind Spaniards began enslaving the Taino women for domestic work, which, after several months, led to armed conflict with the Taino’s, who destroyed the temporary settlement, killing them. Upon returning to Spain on the La Niña with a little gold, parrots, spices, and Taino captives that Columbus displayed for the Spanish Monarchy convinced them of the need for a rapid second voyage. He received a great deal of fanfare. Columbus was cheered and followed everywhere he went. After all he was ” admiral of the ocean sea ” and governor-general of the new lands he discovered.[/sociallocker]