Christopher Columbus and the uncertainty of his birth place

Cristóvão Colombo, Cristobal Colón, Cristoforo Colombo. Portugal, Spain and Italy, they all claim to be the country where the sailor, to whom is given America discovery, was from. For Americans he's simply Christofer Columbus, the hero (or villain) that sailed his ships, leaded by the Santa Maria, towards the discovery of their New World.

Most of the information we can find on the internet refers to a Genovese Columbus, son of a family of weavers and cheesemongers, who lived in Italy until the age of 18. The lack of support of the Italian kings is pointed out as being the main reason that made him head to the Iberian Peninsula. But this story goes much further...

Antonio Gramsci, Italian politician and philosopher from the 19th century, says that the birth place of Columbus in one point of Europe instead of another is what matters the least, the sailor himself always affirmed not to have any bonds with Italy. From the 15th century up until the French Revolution, the essence of the Italian genius lays on its European dimension. According Gramsci's practical point of view, it's definitely easier to take this situation as being European, as it concerns all Europe after all. Or southern Europe, for those who find this European dimension fair. When we think about this, we shouldn't forget which roles both Portugal and Spain had, we shouldn't forget that we were sharing almost the same language, the same aims on the Discoveries, the same religion, and the same world. Remember Tordesilhas treaty? Yes, in some point in world's history, there was a line that divided the globe (or what was known about it back then) into two halfs. So, even though I'm not an expert in these matters, I cannot consider some arguments and statements I've been reading. For instance, the way the name of the sailor is written Statue of Colombo in Cuba, Portugaldoesn't prove his nationality. If in some documents it's written Cristobal Colón and in others the form Cristoban or Cristóvão is used doesn't mean we're talking about different personalities, as well as it doesn't say anything clear about his nationality.

But we cannot overlook the theory that Columbus was Portuguese. And the controversy is old. It's been almost a century since Portuguese historian, Patrocinio Ribeiro, wrote a book where he claimed that the adventurer was born in Portugal. More precisely in Cuba, in the Alentejo region of Portugal, where we can see a statue of him (on the left). One of the arguments behind this theory is obviously linked to the alleged fact that Columbus named the island south of Florida after his birth place. Quite simple isn't it? This theory, as others that you might know about, was recently underlined by a Portuguese author that wrote a fictional novel where he points out this alleged fact.

I am proud of the History of my country, I've studied the adventures of these sailors over and over at school, Portugal had colonies in every continent and thanks to that, the Portuguese language and culture is spread all over the world. If it's true that we were the first getting inside a boat and heading towards the unknown world, then the Spanish, the French, the British, the Germans, the Italians, the Dutch took the same path and found, populated and strengthen their colonies, with the same purposes, with the same nobleness. We all naturally study the same topics with the same enthusiasm. So, let's see Christopher Columbus as a southern European adventurer...who happened to discover the New Continent. Both Portuguese and Spanish language are spoken there, in a large scale. Both cultures have a huge dimension in central and southern America. If I'm allowed, I'll just keep on waiting for the results of the one thousand researches on this topic still going on at the moment.

One thing is for sure: the wife of the great explorer Columbus, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, was Portuguese born in Porto Santo in the Madeira Archipelago. At least, the majority of the historians says so...

OdP's Team