Columbus and the New World: The Tale of America's Discovery

by Megan
June 26, 2023
In the annals of exploration, few events are as significant or as contentious as Christopher Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. Marked by a fervent pursuit of fortune and fame, this journey culminated in what is widely known as the 'discovery' of America. Yet, to comprehend the true impact of this event, we need to navigate the waves of history, myth, and controversy that surround it.

The Man and the Mission:

Born in Genoa, Italy, Christopher Columbus was an experienced mariner before he conceived the ambitious plan of reaching the East Indies by sailing westward. This daring proposition was not initially welcomed, but King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain eventually agreed to finance his expedition. Equipped with three ships — the Santa Maria, the Niña, and the Pinta — Columbus and his crew embarked on their landmark journey on August 3, 1492.

The Discovery:

On October 12, 1492, after more than two months at sea, land was sighted. It was an island in the present-day Bahamas, and Columbus named it San Salvador. Believing he had reached the outskirts of the East Indies, Columbus referred to the native people he encountered as 'Indians,' a term that has persisted despite its inaccuracy. He continued to explore and map several Caribbean islands, including present-day Cuba and Hispaniola, throughout his voyage.

Impact and Controversy:

Columbus's 'discovery' of America marked the beginning of widespread European exploration and eventual conquest of the Americas, dramatically altering the course of history. However, it's essential to note that Columbus did not 'discover' America in the strict sense - civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, not to mention numerous Indigenous tribes, had been thriving there for centuries before his arrival.

The term 'discovery' in this context is Eurocentric, assuming that the New World only came into existence when Europeans became aware of it. Furthermore, the ensuing years following Columbus's voyage were marked by the widespread devastation of indigenous populations due to diseases brought by the Europeans and brutal colonization tactics.

The Legacy of Columbus:

The legacy of Columbus is thus complex and disputed. His voyages opened the way for the widespread European exploration and eventual domination of the Americas, altering the world socially, culturally, and politically. However, they also marked the beginning of a devastating period for the indigenous civilizations already existing there.

Columbus's 'discovery' of America reminds us that history is often a tapestry woven from many perspectives. It is crucial to view this event through a broad lens, recognizing its world-changing significance while also acknowledging its profound and tragic costs.