Things you didn’t know about the discovery of America

Spanish culture, Spanish traditions | October 8, 2012 | No comments

The 12th of October it is the celebration of the “Hispanic World Day”. As the readers sure know, it is quite a controversial celebration. “Is it a celebration of brotherhood between cultures that share a common root, or the celebration of a spoliation that lasted until the independence of the American countries in the XIX century?” Today, it is a ticklish subject to the point that what was called the “Day of the race” is now denominated in some countries the “Day of the Indigenous Resistance”. What’s clear is that the whole thing started when that Genovese sailor (or Catalan, or Portuguese, depending on the source we resort to) set foot on a Caribbean island thinking that he had arrived to India. Or at least that’s what we were taught at school. Nevertheless, there are some details of the historic event that haven’t been told. We will now go through a few… you get to judge the discoveries.

Christopher Columbus

We have been told that Christopher Columbus was a person ahead of his time and that was convinced of the fact that the earth was round, and that he used this theory to convince the Catholic Monarchs of the possibility of arriving to India sailing West. Nevertheless, it is not entirely true: at the time, the fact that the Earth was round was already known, and the real discussion concerned the distance from Asia to Europe in a westerly direction.

Some sources state that that Columbus didn’t bring any friars or priests with him on board, what has been an argument for “alternative historians” that linked the sailor with esoteric beliefs and even with masonry. But let’s think about it for a second: it was a commercial expedition, and not an evangelism trip. When the admiral made his second travel, after confirming that he had arrived to an unknown land, he surely brought with him the representatives of the Catholic Church.

It was a tough travel for the sailors (a long voyage, with mutiny attempts, lack of provisions…). Anyone can now say that it was worth it to make history, but if we are honest we believe that if they were offered this opportunity again, many sailors would have said no to the trip: some never returned to Spain (Columbus left them at a fort which, after a dispute, was razed by the Caribs), and those who returned weren’t paid by the crown… until 1513!

On his return, Columbus didn’t arrive to Spain, but to Lisbon, where he had an interview with the king of Portugal on March 6, 1493. The news of the discovery of America didn’t arrive to the Catholic Monarchs up until three days later. This detail makes some people think that Columbus was actually a spy of the Portuguese Court, but we have to consider that sailing on sailboats and at the mercy of the winds of an unknown sea during months, it was a hard enough task for the sailors to arrive to any point of the Iberian Peninsula. The admiral finally arrived to Barcelona on the 21st of April to tell the Monarchs all the details of his adventure.


We will lastly mention something about the famous map that became popular some time ago and which stated that America was discovered by the Vikings, the “Vinland map”. We are not going to argue whether the Nordics were the first to arrive to the new continent, but we must say that the famous chart is false: even though the parchment is actually old, it was discovered that the ink used for the drawing was fabricated around 1920, at the most.

You already know some unknown details about the discovery. Why have we told them to you? For a simple reason: when you meet your friends for a drink on the Hispanic World Day, you will be able to add an interesting fact that draws the attention away from the controversy on the conquer of America, the gold, the spoliation and the fights.

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