Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, hoping to find a route to India (in order to trade for spices). He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504.
However, in four separate voyages to the Caribbean from 1492 to 1504, he remained convinced that he had found the lands that Marco Polo reached in his overland travels to China at the end of the 13th century. To Columbus, it was only a matter of time before a passage was found through the Caribbean islands to the fabled cities of Asia.
Christopher Columbus Invention of Land
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on a small island he called San Salvador. Columbus believed he had reached the Indies or the southwest of the island of India that includes Indonesia and Malaysia. Columbus died believing he had reached the east by sailing west, but instead he had discovered a “new world.”
Christopher Columbus Discoveries
While many people know that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Caribbean, what most folks don’t know is that the Caribbean Islands had a storied history well before Columbus’ arrival.
In fact, the first people to live on the Caribbean Islands in about 5000 B.C. were tribes of people called the Arawaks and Caribs. While life was initially peaceful, by the time Columbus arrived, the Arawaks and Caribs had been at war for many years.
Once word of a “new world” reached Europe, the British, French and Dutch joined the Spaniards in the Caribbean. The newcomers brought with them diseases like measles and smallpox.
The Europeans had been exposed to the diseases, so their bodies developed protection similar to a vaccine. The native people of the Caribbean had no immunity from the European diseases, so outbreaks of measles and smallpox decimated their population.
Christopher Columbus Facts
A war broke out, and by the end of three years, most of the natives were dead. The new guard built capital in Santo Domingo, complete with protective forts. Columbus ended up making a total of four trips to the Caribbean, and while he never found the gold and spices that he so desired to find, a whole new world had been discovered.
In the years after Columbus discovered the Caribbean, thousands of Spanish settlers arrived, eager to claim and work their own land. British and French seafarers soon followed, each of them laying claim to specific Caribbean Islands. Today, those influences can still be felt in the food, culture, language, and currency of specific islands.