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How Christopher Columbus, of all people, became a national symbol

Christopher Columbus’s story illustrates the blurred borders between myth and history

by William Francis Keegan, The Conversation. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Christopher Columbus was a narcissist.

He believed he was personally chosen by God for a mission that no one else could achieve. After 1493, he signed his name “xpo ferens” — “the Christbearer.” His stated goal was to accumulate enough wealth to recapture Jerusalem. His arrogance led to his downfall, that of millions of Native Americans — and eventually fostered his resurrection as the most enduring icon of the Americas.

Columbus in chains

In 1496, Columbus was the governor of a colony based at Santo Domingo, in what is now the modern Dominican Republic — a job he hated. He could not convince the other “colonists,” especially those with noble titles, to follow his leadership.

They were not colonists in the traditional sense of the word. They had gone to the Indies to get rich quick. Because Columbus was unable to temper their lust, the Crown viewed him as an incompetent administrator. The colony was largely a social and economic failure. The wealth that Columbus promised the Spanish monarchs failed to materialize, and he made continuous requests for additional financial support, which the monarchs reluctantly provided.

By 1500, conditions in Hispaniola were so dire that the Crown sent Francisco de Bobadilla to investigate. Bobadilla’s first sight, at the mouth of the Ozama River, was four Spanish “mutineers” hanging from gallows. Under authority from the king, Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his brothers for malfeasance and sent them to Spain in chains. Columbus waited seven months for an audience at the court. He refused to have his chains removed until the meeting, and even asked in his will to be buried with the chains.

Although the Spanish rulers wanted Columbus to disappear, he was allowed one final voyage from 1502 to 1504. He died in 1506, and went virtually unmentioned by historians until he was resurrected as a symbol of the United States.

Read the full story on salon.com

Oct 11, 2017

Category: DR Living |

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Last updated December 17, 2017 at 1:23 AM
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