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Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) (W2:D2) (search bold words at to know more)

Have you heard of Christopher Columbus before? Why is he so important? From what you have learned, was he a cruel man, who imprisoned the natives, or a great man who cared about them? Whatever you heard is probably only partially true. Allow me to shine some light on the matter, and let you decide what you think.

Before his voyage – Born in Italy, he grew up working at his father’s wool shop. To find independence, he enlisted as a sailor, later joining the Italian Navy and becoming an experienced seaman. The Venetian Navy controlled the Spice Trade in the Mediterranean Sea, while the Portuguese controlled the travel around the southern tip of Africa. Spain controlled neither, but after the war with the Moors (African Muslims, who conquered part of what was to become Spain), in Europe, they found themselves with extra ships and soldiers, and needed to find use for them.

During this time, the idea of the earth being spherical, instead of flat, began to gain popularity. The Catholic church, and their scientists and astronomers, were the first to promote this theory. Some scientists began to promote the theory that the easiest way to India and Asia would be by sailing West into the Atlantic unknown. Though this was only believed by a few, Columbus’s friend and priest, Fra Fernan Martins, shared this idea with him. Columbus wanted to test the theory, but needed funding, a ship, and a crew. In 1484, he reached out to Portugal and was rejected, then to Genoa and Venice, and was rejected. He even reached out to the English, and was again rejected. Those that did not believe this theory were numerous, and continued to spread the word that Columbus and those he worked with were wrong. He was very persistent, and in 1492, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, joint rulers of what was to become Spain, decided to support his venture with their excess ships and soldiers.

First Voyage - Columbus guided the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and hired a full crew and all the provisions they believed necessary, then sailed West. Their calculated distance would be short 8,000 nautical miles and with two continents in their way, but what they found would change the world. His crew included the Niño Brothers - well trained sailors - whose father came from Africa. His sons were raised master sailors, and with the help of friends, joined Columbus’s voyage.

As Columbus continued to sail through these uncharted waters, the men became restless and almost mutinous, but on October 12, 1492, they spotted land. When they reached the sandy shores, they honestly believed they had reached Asia. They planted a cross and dubbed the area San Salvador. They met with the Taino, whom Columbus called “Indios.” Because of their hospitality and openness, he wrote in his journal that “a better race there cannot be.” Columbus’s first observation was that they seemed not to have the tools to protect themselves and had to fight in other ways. Due to their intellect and strong builds, Columbus believed the Taino people would be excellent help, and so enlisted - and paid - a few of them to join their efforts. That winter, with the help of some of the Taino, they built their fort. They also worked to convert them to Christianity. He saw them as equals, and advocated for them having equal rights with the Spaniards.

Sailing around the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, the Santa Maria ran aground. Columbus decided it was time to return to Spain, and restock supplies. He left a few dozen men in their settlement, with guidance to continue building their settlement, and sailed back to Spain. He brought with him goods from the new world, which began the Columbian Exchange, and natives as dignitaries, or Ambassadors, to present to the queen. When they arrived, he received a hero’s welcome and was rewarded with more money, supplies, and help for his next journey. He was called Admiral, and was made Governor over the new land he had found.

Throughout his many voyages, his most notable creation was the first global trading system, called the Columbian Exchange, where they traded plants, spices, and crops from around the new world, with the European and African markets. This was the driving factor that changed the future of America forever.

But, when he returned to the new world, what he found would boil, and chill, a normal man or woman’s blood, all at the same time. The horrors that he would find would cause a chain reaction in the new world…

Activity #1: Columbian Penny Trading Game – First, you need a penny. Go to a relative or a friend and ask them what they would give you for a penny. Then take that item and ask a neighbor or other friend what they would trade you for that new item? You can also trade one item for two, or two for one. You can then trade those items separately as well. What can you acquire after nine trades? Mark down what you would have paid for that item. Remember that you do not need to accept the trade they offer; ask for the biggest and best.

1. Starting with a penny…

2. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

3. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

4. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

5. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

6. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

7. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

8. Traded it for ___________. Your value: $__________

NOTE: Just wait for tomorrow's release of Columbus' second, third, and final voyages all while being imprisoned by the Queen and King of what would become Spain and then released, while his accuser was imprisoned for false accusations and mistreatment of the indigenous people. A lot that you thought of Columbus was actually wrong. Now hear the truth.


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