(…’cause it’s no longer politically correct…don’t y’know)

Poor Columbus! He seems to have become persona non-grata these days, almost as much as he was back in his day when he was trying to get someone to accept his theory, and back his plan to prove it.

After almost twenty years of rejection from various royal and other patrons, to underwrite his proposal to seek out an alternative route to the spice islands of the fabulous faraway Indies (and thus make an end-run around those pesky Moslem trading interests who were otherwise blocking direct connections to them), he finally managed, barely, to get Queen Isabella of Castille to take a flyer, and back his enterprise.

Actually, Queen Isabella seems to have been a very canny investor. Backing this down-at-the-heels Italian merchant navigator was a very low-risk investment. That is, hocking a few of her personal jewels to underwrite his venture would hardly put a dent in her jewelry box if he failed; but, if he was right, and succeeded Spain, could reap fantastic profits from that. Better yet, allowing him few percentage points from such profits, and the grandiose title of – Admiral of the Ocean Seas – would be a small price to pay, for such a return.

Such were the probable motivations of those worthy monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella of the united kingdom of Castille and Leon (keep in mind they were at the climax of their long hard campaign of -reconqista – to drive out the last of the Moorish hold-outs from all Iberia, back to North Africa where they had come from.

Even so, in the context of all of that, her backing could hardly be called generous, only allowing Columbus to get three rather small and beat up ships, manned by motley crews culled from the local jails and the dregs of the booze-halls of Cadiz’s waterfront. To be blunt about it, Columbus was setting off for the wild blue yonder of the Atlantic’s far western reaches, with only the vaguest mathematical knowledge that the world was round, not a clue if there might be something between his point of departure and those fabulous Indies, and barely enough supplies of food and water to cover his estimated time it might take to reach his supposed destination. We could say he was making a blind leap of faith. A true believer that there was something…out there…and that he could get to it …from here.

Since most folks had already written him off as some kind of nut-job, before he had even weighed his anchors, the odds-takers of the time probably raked in a bundle from all the side-bets placed about the outcome of his cockamamie venture…and as the saying goes…the rest of the story became history.

He did succeed…sorta. That is, he did reach land in those far western reaches of the Atlantic, but it wasn’t the spice islands of the fabulous Indies. What he found was a New World…previously unknown…and at the time was much applauded for it…even though he hadn’t brought back much in the way of gold or spices. Even so, it did open up a new source of extreme wealth and power for Spain, allowing it to become the super-power of its day. As for Columbus, while he did get his grand title, he never really benefitted from it all, and died more or less as a broke and forgotten has-been.
Worse yet, others who followed him, such as Amerigo Vespucci, Verazano, Cartier, got most of the credit for mapping and detailing what this New World was all about.

Nevertheless, Columbus was acclaimed as the discoverer of it all, and, for a long time after 1492 was celebrated for that discovery. Here in America, Columbus became an icon of the pilgrim’s immigrant spirit, and after the creation of the United States of America, a special day was set up to honor his accoplishment…as a national holiday…with bands, parades, and other grand ceremonials and festivities.

But the times they do change, and the era of political correctness has diminished his former claim to fame and historical worthiness. Today, he’s now reviled and blamed for all the terrible crimes and misdemeanors which were perpetrated by those that followed him…Cortes, Ponce de Leon, Coronado, Pissaro, the slave traders, the despoiling of the Native peoples of the New World, etc. etc…all because the poor guy was the one who opened the doors to the New World for the rest of humanity to rush in and swarm all over it.

So, while Columbus Day is still a national holiday and all that, it ain’t your grandpa’s Columbus Day anymore…’cause it’s no longer politically correct…don’t y’known.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.