After he had failed to gain the Portuguese support for his voyage, Columbus moved to Spain. Little is known about his life in Spain except that he had an affair with Beatriz Enriquez de Arana who bore him a son, Ferdinand and that he persisted asking Isabella I of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon to sponsor his voyage for seven years before they finally gave him three ships - Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria by which he departed westwards from the Canary Islands on September 6, The crew on the Pinta spotted land after 29 days of sailing on October 7, Three days later, Columbus and his crew landed on Guanahani which he renamed San Salvador and called the indigenous Arawak found on the island as the Indians because he was convinced that he had reached Asia.
He decided to return to Spain after he lost Santa Maria off the coast of Cuba on January 4, , but did not reach Spain until March due to the bad weather. Columbus was hailed as a hero by the Spanish after he had shown the items from Hispaniola including a turkey, pineapple, tobacco plant and several natives who were either kidnapped or went on board voluntarily.
He was given 17 ships and about 1, men for his second voyage which began on September 15, , only six months after his return. He discovered the Leeward Islands and Porto Rico on his way to Hispaniola to check the men he had left behind.
However, he found the settlement at La Navidad destroyed and all his men killed for mistreating the indigenous population. Columbus then established another settlement, La Isabela about 62 miles kilometers east of La Navidad which was, however, short-lived as well. He left Hispaniola in April , discovered Jamaica one month later and explored the south coast of Cuba before returning to Hispaniola where he found the colonists discontent. This forced him to return to Spain to defend his actions and leave his brother Bartolomeo in charge in Hispaniola.
In or , Bartolomeo Columbus founded a new settlement - Santo Domingo that became the capital of Hispaniola and later the capital of the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, he managed to win the Castilian court for his third voyage between and which, however, turned out to be a disaster. The colonists in Hispaniola, angered on Columbus and his failed promises of wealth, rebelled and forced the Spanish court to intervene.
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Francisco de Bobadilla who was sent to Hispaniola as a royal commissioner had Columbus arrested and sent back to Spain together with his brothers Bartolomeo and Diego in November Christopher Columbus and his brothers were accused of misgovernment and thrown in jail. All three Columbus brothers were released from jail by the Spanish court after six weeks but Christopher was stripped of governorship of Hispaniola.
The Catholic Monarchs, however, gave him support for his fourth and last voyage to the New World between and During his last trip to the Americas, he made landfall in Central America and discovered Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Columbia but he failed to find considerable amounts of gold and other treasures he had hoped to discover.
He estimated the earth to be a sphere and the distance between the Canary Islands and Japan to be about 2, miles.
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Many of Columbus' contemporary nautical experts disagreed. They adhered to the now known to be accurate second-century B. Despite their disagreement with Columbus on matters of distance, they concurred that a westward voyage from Europe would be an uninterrupted water route.
Columbus proposed a three-ship voyage of discovery across the Atlantic first to the Portuguese king, then to Genoa and finally to Venice. He was rejected each time. Their focus was on a war with the Muslims, and their nautical experts were skeptical, so they initially rejected Columbus. The idea, however, must have intrigued the monarchs, for they kept Columbus on a retainer. Columbus continued to lobby the royal court, and soon the Spanish army captured the last Muslim stronghold in Granada in January of Shortly thereafter, the monarchs agreed to finance his expedition.
On October 12, , after 36 days of sailing westward across the Atlantic, Columbus and several crewmen set foot on an island in the present-day Bahamas, claiming it for Spain. There his crew encountered a timid but friendly group of natives who were open to trade with the sailors, exchanging glass beads, cotton balls, parrots and spears. The Europeans also noticed bits of gold the natives wore for adornment. Columbus and his men continued their journey, visiting the islands of Cuba which he thought was mainland China and Hispaniola now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which Columbus thought might be Japan and meeting with the leaders of the native population.
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During this time, the Santa Maria was wrecked on a reef off the coast of Hispaniola. With the help of some islanders, Columbus' men salvaged what they could and built the settlement Villa de la Navidad "Christmas Town" with lumber from the ship. Thirty-nine men stayed behind to occupy the settlement. Convinced his exploration had reached Asia, he set sail for home with the two remaining ships. Returning to Spain in , Columbus gave a glowing, somewhat exaggerated report and was warmly received by the royal court.
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In , Columbus took to the seas on his second expedition and explored more islands in the Caribbean Ocean. Upon arrival at Hispaniola, Columbus and his crew discovered the Navidad settlement had been destroyed with all the sailors massacred.
Spurning the wishes of the local queen, who found slavery offensive, Columbus established a forced labor policy over the native population to rebuild the settlement and explore for gold, believing it would prove to be profitable. His efforts produced small amounts of gold and great hatred among the native population.
Christopher Columbus Leaving Palos, Spain, Aboard the Santa Maria on His 1st Voyage
Before returning to Spain, Columbus left his brothers Bartholomew and Diego to govern the settlement on Hispaniola and sailed briefly around the larger Caribbean islands further convincing himself he had discovered the outer islands of China. It wasn't until his third voyage that Columbus actually reached the mainland, exploring the Orinoco River in present-day Venezuela. Unfortunately, conditions at the Hispaniola settlement had deteriorated to the point of near-mutiny, with settlers claiming they had been misled by Columbus' claims of riches and complaining about the poor management of his brothers.
The Spanish Crown sent a royal official who arrested Columbus and stripped him of his authority. He returned to Spain in chains to face the royal court. The charges were later dropped, but Columbus lost his titles as governor of the Indies and, for a time, much of the riches made during his voyages.
After convincing King Ferdinand that one more voyage would bring the abundant riches promised, Columbus went on what would be his last voyage in , traveling along the eastern coast of Central America in an unsuccessful search for a route to the Indian Ocean. A storm wrecked one of his ships, stranding the captain and his sailors on the island of Cuba.
During this time, local islanders, tired of the Spaniards' poor treatment and obsession with gold, refused to give them food. In a spark of inspiration, Columbus consulted an almanac and devised a plan to "punish" the islanders by taking away the moon.
On February 29, , a lunar eclipse alarmed the natives enough to re-establish trade with the Spaniards. A rescue party finally arrived, sent by the royal governor of Hispaniola in July, and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain in November of In the two remaining years of his life following his last voyage to the Americas, Columbus struggled to recover his lost titles. Although he did regain some of his riches in May of , his titles were never returned.
Columbus probably died of severe arthritis following an infection on May 20, , still believing he had discovered a shorter route to Asia. Columbus has been credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization - as well as blamed for the destruction of the native peoples of the islands he explored. Ultimately, he failed to find that what he set out for: a new route to Asia and the riches it promised.