CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS ||| Ch.VIII. A TOWN IS CHOSENCategory: Christopher Columbus
A TOWN IS CHOSEN
For the citizens of Palos Columbus had always been a grim man whose eyes were full of disappointment and sorrow. But now, in May of 1492, a fresh and eager Columbus, full of energy and joy, came to the town from the royal court.
He felt young again. He had orders from the king and queen. The orders gave him the power to organize a fleet of three ships to sail west “towards certain regions of the Ocean Sea” and appointed him Admiral of the expedition. They ordered the citizens of Palos and all its officials to co-operate with Columbus and supply him in ten days with everything he needed: ships, men and provisions.
There were a number of reasons why the port of Palos was chosen as the starting point for this great voyage. The first reason was, of course, that Palos was a coastal town with a long tradition of good seamanship. Almost every man in town knew something about building ships and sailing. There had been generations of captains, shipowners and sailors.
Palos was a little town, however, and there were many like it along the coasts of Spain. A question might be asked: why did the Spanish rulers not choose one of their biggest ports, Seville or Cadiz, as the starting place for such an important expedition as this?
The fact is that at this time these big ports were handling all the traffic they could bear. Eight thousand Jewish families were forced to flee from Spain during the summer of 1492. The roads leading into Cadiz and Seville were full of refugees who had lost their homes, their property and friends. The ships that left the harbours were filled to the gunwales. The moans of the exiled were heard everywhere.
That was the second reason why Columbus’s great expedition was to sail from the little seaport of Palos.
The third reason for the choice of Palos was that the town was in disgrace. We do not know exactly what its offence was, but perhaps Palos had engaged in illegal trade with the African coast. Always eager to gain a few maravedis, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand punished the town, ordering it to furnish two ships for the expedition with its own money.
The people of Palos were very displeased when they heard about this. However they could do nothing. They had to obey.
“But if Columbus thinks, we’re going to supply all he requires in ten days, he is mistaken!” they growled.
The officials of Palos listened to Columbus politely and agreed with everything he had to say. But instead of taking ten days to furnish the expedition, as ordered, they took ten weeks!
This delay, however, was a lucky thing for Columbus. If he had sailed when he wanted to, he would have met seasonal storms in the Atlantic at that time of the year.
At last the great day arrived. Columbus was ready to sail with the “Nina”, the “Pinta” and the “Santa Maria”.