Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Memories - Christopher Columbus

This morning in the gym locker room, I asked a 1st grade teacher who teaches at a private school if she was teaching anything about Christopher Columbus today.

She carefully said, “Noooooo, he’s so controversial these days we just don’t say anything about him really.”

I was a wee bit surprised, and more than a little disappointed, so I changed the subject to a safe topic like the upcoming presidential election. ;0)

I value Christopher Columbus' contributions to the Americas and the world.  I believe it's important to examine history in the context of its cultural and historical background instead of strictly through a modern lens. 

Here are a few interesting things from Columbus' life:

Christopher Columbus could be described as plucky. According to an old story, Columbus entered a tavern one day and came upon several men who were scoffing and belittling his achievements, saying, “Anyone could have done what you did.” Columbus picked up an egg and asked the men to make it stand upright on the table. Several attempted the task, but no one succeeded excusing themselves by saying, “It’s impossible!” Columbus took the egg, tapped it lightly on one end which slightly broke the shell, and sat the egg on end. He looked at the men and said, “Even something that is impossible is easy to do - once someone shows you how.”

Columbus left Spain with his fleet of three ships on August 3rd and sighted land on October 12th. His flagship, the Santa Maria, had 52 men aboard while the Nina and Pinta each held 18 men.

The food that was served on the voyage was cooked in an open firebox. The box had sand on the floor and a back to screen the wood fires from the winds. Most of the food was boiled and served in a large communal wooden bowl. The men ate with knives and fingers.  Their diet of protein consisted of poorly cooked meat with bones, barreled sardines and anchovies, legumes, dry salt cod, and pickled meats.  On calm sea days the crewmen fished and ate their fresh catch. They drank wine and water and also ate cheese, honey, raisins, rice, almonds, garlic, and hardtack. 

Columbus returned from that famous voyage and made three more. After his last voyage in 1498, his health declined. He suffered from arthritis and the aftereffects from a bout of malaria and died in 1506.

Columbus wrote in his journal: “From my first youth onward, I was a seaman and have so continued until this day . . . Wherever on the earth a ship has been, I have been. The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring. He gave me in abundance, of astrology as much as was needed, and of geometry and astronomy likewise. Further, He gave me joy and cunning in drawing maps and thereon cities, mountains, rivers, islands, and harbours, each one in its place. I have seen and truly I have studied all books—cosmographies, histories, chronicles, and philosophies, and other arts, for which our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1930, pp.19-20)

Columbus was plucky . . . and humble.  He believed God opened the way and the Holy Ghost showed him how to do it.  “Even something that is impossible is easy to do - once someone shows you how,"

Happy Columbus Day.

(* Source: “Christopher Columbus....His Gastronomic Persona” by Lucio Sorre,’ Abeka fourth grade history book, and

1 comment:

Charity said...

We don't celebrate this in Alaska. There is no talk of Columbus. Our state officials and Governor have declared Columbus day "Indigenous Peoples day." It's unfortunate.