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How Did Christopher Columbus' Voyages Change Spain

05 Feb 2019

It would be hard to find anyone, of any age, that doesn't know the name Christopher Columbus. It might be less difficult to find someone who knows the details of his voyages to the "New World", and what they meant for Spain at the time and in years to come.

To understand what started it all, we have to go back.

Doing the impossible

There's a saying in Slovakia that says "Don't say something is impossible because someone will come along who doesn't know it's impossible and will do it." That saying comes to my mind when researching Columbus. Christopher Columbus didn't set out to discover a new continent. He was a man with a vision, some wrong calculations, and exceptionally thick skull. He believed that Asia is just some three thousand miles to the west, not knowing that he was missing an entire half of the world on his mind map. Believing that voyaging to Asia and taking a bite off the spice trade would make him rich and powerful, he set on a mission of finding a benefactor, as he himself was not willing to invest in his dream.

Finding a benefactor

He was rejected several times - he had no luck in Portugal, Italy, England, nor France, and it was looking grim in Spain for him too until a lucky star smiled at him. Spain at the time had a very powerful royal presence after Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II married and united their two kingdoms, Castile and Aragon. This was the royal couple that, after a few hiccups, granted Columbus what he was asking for - ships, equipment, a promise that all new territories he will acquire for the Spanish crown, and food and lodgings anywhere in their territory for free. By extension, this provided Columbus with men and resources for his long trip.

Bay and Beach

Named after him

Columbus found the Bahamas in 1493, and from there he conquered most of today's Latin America. The reason only Colombia and not the whole of America was named after him is that he wholeheartedly and until death believed that these new territories were on the Asian east coast. That is why he named the indigenous peoples Indians, and why it was only when Amerigo Vespucci a few years after him proposed the idea of the New World to be a completely new continent that the name America was coined.

Columbus' impact 

What followed after Columbus's first voyage... isn't fit for this article. Let's just say good and bad came out of it and I will focus on the good that Spain's colonialism achieved for Spain and the rest of Europe.

Most importantly, America was a land of opportunities. Opportunities for Europeans living under feudal rule to escape somewhere where these structures were looser, and where people could be whatever they wanted. They could escape religious prosecution, as seen in British pilgrims, they could be adventurers, farmers, hunters, and generally tend to their own livelihood and happiness without the crown looming over them.

Secondly, America was a land with almost endless resources. These resources were imported majorly to Spain - new foods (like tomatoes), silver, gold, and "workforce" hugely contributed to the wealth Spain acquired in this period. This skyrocketed the Spanish empire to be the richest and most powerful in all of Europe.

It is crazy to think that a mistake lead to the world changing completely. The impact America has today, the impact its resources and sheer existence had on the rest of the world, all stemming from a man who thought he was finding a shortcut to Asia.

Columbus and Sevilla

Sevilla might not seem like a particularly important city when talking about Columbus, but you'd be surprised how big a part Sevilla played in the discovery of the New World. If you'd like to see Columbus's resting place, The Seville Cathedral, it is a stop on our daily tour, together with many, many more beautiful landmarks and sights.

La Giralda de Sevilla