Why Do Italians Claim Christopher Columbus?
Today is Columbus Day which always brings up the same question for me, why do Italians lay claim to Christopher Columbus? There are many issues you can take up when talking about the explorer including the negative impact he had on the natives (which lead to genocide), the fact that he wasn't the "first" because of those natives, or that fact that he wasn't even the first European to the New World. However, the issue I would like to address is the claim Italians in the U.S. lay on Columbus.
Every year towns across the country hold parades and festivals to celebrate the explorer. At the center of all of this are local Italian American clubs. Insert my confusion and mild annoyance. We have looked at history and said it doesn't matter. In actuality, Italy had very little to do with Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World.
Over 525 years after Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the tale of Columbus is getting a major edit. Earlier this year, Forbes.com published an article about the idea that Columbus was not Italian at all. Rather, modern historians believe Columbus was actually Portuguese.
Regardless if Columbus was Italian or not, this does not change my frustration. Let's just say that Christopher Columbus was Italian, this does not mean credit should be given in that direction.
Christopher Columbus attempted to gain the support from multiple nations before he set sail. He was denied by Portugal twice. He traveled to Genoa, the widely accepted birthplace of Columbus, and was denied. He was also denied in Venice and England. Finally, he went to Spain to gain the support of Ferdinand II and Isabella I. At first Ferdinand II and Isabella I were not completely sold on the idea, however they kept Columbus on retainer. Finally, in the summer of 1492 the explorer's wishes were granted and Columbus set sail west trying to find a new route to Asia.
He set sail under the Spanish flag, using Spanish ships, using Spanish money, and claiming land for Spain. Are we noticing a pattern here? Spain. Spanish. Do you notice which country is missing here? Italy, or any other country that is not Spain. Regardless, Italians have laid their claim on Columbus, celebrating him after they denied him. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon...
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