What if you learned that what you’ve been taught about Christopher Columbus is a lie? That what you’ve been told, and what your children are being told about him, is politically driven hogwash, designed to denigrate the very idea of the founding of the Americas?
In honor of Columbus Day, here is some history that some of you may have never heard.
Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, by most accounts Columbus was always a seaman. Like many of his time, he was determined to find a westward route to Asia to participate in its legendary gold and spice trade. It is said that Columbus met with kings and queens throughout Europe in order to finance his voyage, but it was not until his third meeting with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain that he obtained the necessary backing to begin his journey.
Ten weeks after setting sail in August 1492, Columbus landed in what we know as the Bahamas, and spent months exploring the Caribbean and Hispaniola. He did not, in fact, “discover America” if by “America” one means the current-day USA. He was a westward-sailing seafarer attempting to reach Asia, who happened to find something else.
However, his journey did open the door to other explorers – John Cabot, Giovanni da Verrazzano, Juan Ponce de León and Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda – who contributed to the knowledge of the existence of what now is the United States.
During this period, the Inquisition, which had been underway in different parts of Europe since the 13th century, had reached Spain (and continued there through the latter half of the 1700s). People deemed heretics were burned at the stake by the thousands, under the edict of Ferdinand and Isabella, if they refused conversion to Catholicism.
In 1492, things became even worse for Jews in Spain. While Muslims and Jews were targeted during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were expelled from Spain en mass the day before Columbus set sail: “In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies,” Columbus wrote in his diary.
Thus may begin the part of the narrative of Columbus’ life that perhaps you’ve never heard.
While Ferdinand and Isabella bequeathed Columbus the authority to explore westward in the name of Spain, history is replete with the idea that it was two Jews, Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez, who actually financed the trip. De Santangel and Sanchez were thought to be part of a movement of Jews called Marranos – those who pretended to convert to Catholicism in order to escape torture and death. Scholars now also believe Columbus himself was a Marrano, as reported by CNN in May 2012.
The Huffington Post caught wind of the story that same month and surprisingly followed up with its own article about the topic. Rather than portraying Columbus as an illegal invader conqueror – which lately is the favorite narrative of the left –the Huff Post article takes care to point out that perhaps Columbus was actually trying to help Jews escape persecution in Spain.
I love the image of some elitist progressive sitting there sipping his latte, reading that article, while the realization that he’s been supporting causes that trash Columbus means he’s actually been against a hero who saved countless Jews from torture and death washes over him.
So the next time anyone asks if you support changing the name of “Columbus Day” to “Indiginous Peoples Day,” you can inquire back, “In the United States, should we celebrate the discovery of the Bahamas by Columbus on Oct. 12 with Bahamian food, festivals and history lessons?” and “Should we ignore the possibility that Columbus was actually a hero to the Jewish people of his day?”
At the very least, this part of history needs to be taught so people can make up their own minds, rather than being indoctrinated by the slanted political narrative that has gone on for too long.
Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, publicity chairwoman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee, and occasional guest host on WGAN 560AM. Her column appears every other week.