5 Columbus Day Facts You May Not Know

We all know that Columbus wasn’t really the first person to discover America. But, why does he get the credit? Was Christopher Columbus the hero history paints him as?


Columbus Thought He Found the Western Route to China

Everyone knows that Columbus believed he could sail west, through the Atlantic Ocean to reach Asia. However, many people don’t know that Columbus thought he had found the Far East. Upon landing on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, Columbus remained convinced he had found the outer islands of China, as stated in the website Biography. It wasn’t until his third voyage from Spain that Columbus found the Central American coastline and realized he had yet to find the route he desired.

Columbus Arrested by Spanish Court

Though Columbus was cleared of all charges, he was arrested by a Spanish official at the settlement on the Island of Hispaniola when settlers made claims of mismanagement. Columbus had left his brothers in charge as he continued to explore the area around the island. The settlers felt they had been misled about the island riches. Columbus was returned to Spain in chains and had to face the Spanish court before the charges were cleared.

Columbus Tricked Natives

On his final journey to the west, Columbus was stranded on the island of Cuba. The islanders became fed up with Columbus and his crew and refused to give them food. Vowing he would punish them, Columbus consulted an almanac and told the native people he would “take away the moon”. Soon after, there was a lunar eclipse, during which the moon was hidden from view. The natives were alarmed enough to resume trade with the Spanish sailors. 

We Owe Columbus Day to Italian Americans

The USA Federal Holidays website maintains that Columbus Day was first celebrated in New York City by Italian Americans in 1866, in honor of the explorer who was of Italian birth. The celebration quickly spread to other Italian-American areas of the U.S. By 1937, Columbus Day was declared a national holiday.

Does Columbus Deserve the Recognition?

While history has made it clear that Columbus was not the first person to discover America, there remains some controversy that he may not deserve a holiday in his honor. The truth is, Christopher Columbus ushered in a new era of exploration and conquest in the west. Along with his ships and crew came goods that soon took hold in the new world. Likewise, European diseases, like small pox, arrived with Columbus and had a major impact on the native populations. While others discovered the Americas before Columbus, his voyages changed the course of history forever.

Christopher Columbus is an exciting historical figure that is worth a second look. This Columbus Day, take a few moments to brush up on the man who changed the future of the world.  For more interesting Columbus Day facts, read the Biography website.    

About the Author
Barb Hacker is a mom to three boys and a freelance writer.