Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Identity of Columbus (Part II)

In 1898 Celso Garcia de la Riega, a native of Pontevedra, Galicia, presented some manuscripts from the XV and XVI centuries before the members of the Geographic society of Madrid. The documents cited several seamen from Pontevedra whose last name was "de Colon." As a result of this discovery Garcia de la Riega published a book titled, Colon espanol, or Columbus, the Spaniard. Garcia de la Riega died two months after the book was published and, soon thereafter, Serrano Sanz alleged that the documents had been altered, or manipulated. It was not until 1964 that Professor Rodriguez Solano declared, "after an exhaustive investigation," (Colon era de Pontevedra) that the documents presented by Garcia de la Riega were free of falsification. (Ibid)

Likewise, Carlos Brant, who was born in Venezuela in 1875, had a similar theory. Brant wrote more than thirty books, and devoted time to study the life of Columbus while he lived in exile in Spain, Italy, Belgium, and the US, the result of the Gomez dictatorship. At the age of 49, Brant wrote, misterioso almirante, or, Mysterious Admiral, a book that dared to affirm that "Colon" was not the Admiral's real name. (Carlos Brant y el misterioso almirante que nos descubrio) Brant's observations in this respect can be supported by the observations of Las Casas, cited in Tzevetan Todorov's, The Conquest of America. The following citation seems to indicate that Bartolome de las Casas took this matter for granted, since the custom of changing one's name was commonplace in some circles. According to Rosina Serrano Diaz, D'Olwer, and others, the Franciscan practice of changing one's name persisted until recent years. Other mendicant orders of different religions still practice this rite. According to Serrano Diaz, "it was a general custom [for Franciscans] to change their names upon entering the order." Motolinia's case is a good example within this context. Serrano Diaz asserts a new first name should be taken, different from the one given at birth. In addition, as a last name, the practice was to take, as a last name, the name of a place belonging to friar's original birthplace. The advantage of that custom is "knowing with certainty, at the very least, the geographical location of a document." (Serrano Diaz, Sobre Tres Documentos de Aragoneses en Venezuela) Perhaps this procedure could be viewed as a precursor of today's zip-code system.

Bartolome de las Casas, a member of the Dominican order (a fact that should be kept in mind as we proceed) states that "the persons designated to serve (often a euphemism for members of the clergy) should receive names and surnames corresponding to the task entrusted to them." (Todorov, The Conquest of America)

In the Conquest of America, Todorov attempts to sort out the mystery surrounding Columbus's name, no doubt an important matter, to the Admiral who "seems to pay attention only to names, which in some respects are closely related to natural indices." (Ibid) Todorov also notes, the high degree of concern the Admiral attached to his name, since "he changes his orthography several times during his life."

"...But this illustrious man, renouncing the name established by custom, chose to be called Colon, restoring the ancient form less for this reason than it would seem because he was moved by the divine will which had elected him to achieve what his surname and given name signified. Divine providence habitually intends that the persons designated to serve should receive the given names and surnames corresponding to the task entrusted to them, as we see in many a place in the Scriptures; and the philosopher says in the chapter IV of his metaphysics, 'Names should accord with the qualities and uses of things.' This is why he was called Cristobal, which is to say Christum Ferens which means the bearer of Christ, and it was this that he often signed his name for in truth he was first to open the gates of the Ocean sea, in order to bear our Savior Jesus Christ over the waves to those remote lands and those realms hitherto unknown....His surname was Colon which means repopulator, a name befitting the man whose enterprise brought about the discovery of these people. These infinite numbers of souls who, thanks to the preaching of the Gospel...have proceeded and will every day proceed to populate the glorious city of Heaven.''

(Bartolome de las Casas, (Historia I and II), Todorov, The Conquest of America)

On the 11th of June, 1496, upon his return to Spain, at the end of his second voyage, Columbus disembarked in Cadiz, with the intention of propping up his image. He was wearing a Franciscan "sayal," or habit. The fact that Columbus viewed himself as a "savior" is evident in his own writings, including his Book of Prophecies, a compilation of Biblical texts that, according to some, indicate that Columbus felt he had been "chosen" to accomplish a historic mission. (Historiadores de Indias)

Brant also disagreed about Columbus's alleged place of birth, noting that Magallanes, Americo Vespucci, and other foreigners had to become naturalized Spanish citizens to obtain the title of Major Pilot, a requirement that Columbus was not asked to provide for himself while, at the same time, he was granted the titles of Viceroy and Major Admiral of the Sea Ocean, titles that were alleged to have been bequeathed to him before the actual "discovery." (Carlos Brant y el misterioso almirante que nos descubrio.)

The thesis of a Galician Columbus has been supported by a good number of Galician authors, historians and linguists, including the highly esteemed Countess Emilia Pardo Bazan. In 1961, Jose Mosqueira published, La cuna Gallega de Cristobal Colon. (The Galician Crib of Christopher Columbus.) In addition to citing the documents of Garcia de la Riega, Mosqueira, who was convinced of Columbus's Galician origin, came up with some startling conclusions, aided only by the use common sense and simple arithmetic:

1) The Genoese were the best cartographers and oceanographers during Columbus's era. (Supported by Menzies, 1421) Therefore, it would be absurd, or counterproductive to hide his true name, which, in any case would have been Colombo.

2) According to his biographers, Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451, and stayed with his parents until 1474. However, in an entry in his Diary (in Santo Domingo) Columbus states that he has "navigated for 23 years, without leaving the sea for any amount of time that is worth counting." If he entered Spain from Portugal, in 1484, and did not go out to sea until 1492, then those 23 years 'without leaving any amount of time that is worth counting" must be subtracted from 1484 to know the date when he began to navigate: 1461. He would have been ten years old. Therefore he could not have been in Genoa at his father's weaving establishment until 1474. Mosqueira determines from these calculations that either Columbus lied, or that two different people were involved. In addition, Mosqueira also feels Columbus was not telling the truth when he wrote, in his will (Mayorazgo), that he was born in Genoa. Some believe that the Mayorazgo might be a false document. If so, then those who support the Genoese thesis are left without the only document in which Columbus allegedly wrote that he was born in Genoa. ("Yo nacido en Genoa....")

3) The Admiral declared in 1505 that he lived in Portugal for fourteen years. If the Genoese Columbus first entered Portugal "clutching an oar," after the Cape St. Vincent shipwreck, leaving that country to enter Spain for the first time, how many years correspond to his stay in Portugal? Only eight. In that case, the Genoese could not be the Galician Columbus that entered Portugal in 1470.

[If Mosqueira is alluding to Pedro Madruga, the Galician man some believe was Christopher Columbus, the exact date for Madruga's entry into Portugal, according to Carlos Barros, author of Mitos de la histografia galleguista, might even be, at least, a year earlier. Barros states that Pedro Alvarez de Soutomaior, aka, Pedro Madruga, brought back troops from Portugal to squelch the Irmandino rebellion in 1469. His purpose was to achieve the unification of Castile and Portugal, viewed by some as a preferred alternative for Galicia for a variety of social and geographic reasons.

4) Why did Columbus fail to give a single one of his caravels a Genoese or Savonese name? Two of them were baptized "La Gallega," or "Gallego." The first, in his inital voyage, the second, shipwrecked in Santo Domingo in 1495, during the second voyage, the third one abandoned in Panama in April 1503.

[In The Conquest of America, Todorov points out (see above) that Columbus attaches a great deal of importance to names in general, and their associations: "Columbus is profoundly concerned with the choice of names for the virgin world before his eyes and in his own case, these names must be motivated. At the beginning we observe a kind of diagram. The chronological order of baptisms corresponds to the order of importance of the objects associated with these names..." (Todorov, The Conquest of Armerica) Wouldn't the same logic apply to such important objects as his own flagships?

5) Mosqueira wonders why Columbus did not follow Pinzon's example, that is arriving at the port of Bayona (Baiona, Pontevedra, Galicia), choosing instead to arrive to the port of Lisbon, known to have difficult access during winters because of its "bar". Mosqueira is not convinced that a tempest separated them. Instead, he feels that Columbus wished to avoid recognition by the citizens of Baiona, who, if Alfonso Philippot it correct in his thesis, would be reluctant to give him a triumphant welcome for reasons that will become increasingly obvious.

Alfonso Philippot Abeledo, who believes the remains of the Admiral are buried in Santo Domingo, is also a dedicated , knowledgeable, and qualified researcher that supports the Galician thesis. He was a Captain of the Merchant Marine, and author of a well documented book in the subject that is more than 600 pages in length. An outline of his thesis is available in the Internet.

Philippot's outline begins with a an old story that was told to all Galician children of this author's generation, either at home, or elsewhere. The story began with Porto Santo, not in Madeira, but in the Parish of San Salvador de Poio, in Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain. As Philippot accurately states, a "cruceiro" or cross monument, the ancient totem of aldeas, or small villages, in Galicia stood at the above location, facing a house known as Casa da Cruz, or the house where Columbus was born. An inscription at the bottom of the monument read, "Juan Colon, 1490." That inscription has been "filed" down, "according to Philippot. However, photographs taken by a known archaeologist in 1917, confirms the contents of the inscription. It must be noted that even well into the nineteen seventies, this area of Spain retained much of its rural flavor, and architectural changes of any sort were the exception, rather than the rule.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that before televisions and amusement parks were created, the Cruceiro de Poio, and "the house where Colon was born" was a place of pilgrimage. A visit to the cross monument usually included conversations and polemics about local history, and geneaology. Philippot has dedicated a good portion of his life documenting the thesis of a Galician Columbus. He has come to the conclusion that the man called Pedro Madruga, a Galician folk hero of the XV century, and Columbus, are one and the same. To arrive at this conclusion he supports his thesis with data in the fields of linguistics, history, navigation, geography and anthropology. He also presents documents from the local government of the region, including records of court cases, births, deaths, marriage certificates, and so forth. It is no doubt, for this reason that his thesis about Columbus's identity has been called, "the best documented one of all." His conclusions have yet to be refuted by a single historian.

Juan Colon, the man whose name once appeared on the inscription mentioned above, is the first great-grandchild of Bartolome (!), the first Genoese that settled in Spain and Galicia around 1,380 A.D. and the grandfather of Cristobal's mother. It is for this reason that the Genoese ancestry of Columbus is not denied in Philippot's thesis of a Columbus born in Galicia. Philippot points out that the first, male Colon settlers were active in the commercial maritime guild of the area and that their ships were built in the Moureira neighborhood where he also states that the Santa Maria, La Gallega was built. The Santa Maria is, in fact, Pontevedra's patron saint. This observation should be taken into account, once again, in the context of Columbus's preoccupation with names and naming things, as cited by las Casas, Todorov, and others. Certainly, a psychological profile of the Admiral would be much easier to reconstruct knowing whether or not, Pedro Madruga and Columbus are one and the same.

Philippot's reconstruction of Columbus's ancestry is as follows. In 1440, Fernan Yanez (sp. "Eanes," in Galician, also the paternal last name of the Pinzon brothers, Martin Alonso, and Vicente) de Soutomaior, Count of Carminas died in 1440 in Valladolid, Spain. His only legitimate son, Alvar Paez de Soutomaior, was already dead. As a result, his heir became Pedro Alvarez de Soutomaior, known later as Pedro Madruga. Pedro Alvarez de Soutomaior was the "natural son" of Fernan Eanes de Soutomaior and Constanca Colon, the granddaughter of the first Genoese who emigrated to Galicia, mentioned above. Constanca was already married (according to a 1435 document) with Juan Goncalves.

Because the laws at that time gave "natural" fathers the right to select the education of their children, and the the right "to grant them last names"(Tesis sobre colon gallego) the child born to Fernan and Constanca became Pedro Alvarez de Soutomaior, in memory of his grandfather. The name Cristobal Colon, given to him initially by his mother, (who also lived in Porto Santo, Pontevedra) was discarded. In Trinidad, a cape was named Cabo Casa da Crus, by Columbus.

As a child, Pedro Madruga received his education with the Dominican order where he was taught Latin, a language known by Columbus. Pedro Madruga's interest in navigation began at an early age. He travelled to Portugal to learn cosmography and navigation, and worked as a navigator for 23 years, the same number of years Columbus cites in his Diary.

It is known that Columbus had a son Diego, (who later married into the Duke of Alba's family), the product of his marriage with Felipa Muniz, and another son, Fernando, the product of an affair with Beatriz Enriquez. In a letter written to Diego (1504) Columbus made a reference to Diego's "ten siblings." Pedro Madruga had nine children with Teresa Tavora, Columbus one with Beatriz Enriquez. Nine plus one equals ten.

The Wikipedia describes Pedro Madruga as a "tireless and bellicose man of bastard origin that, against all odds rose to the highest echelons of the Soutomaior lineage." (Pedro Madruga) Hundreds of studies have been written about his life. His most bitter enemy was Alfonso II of Fonseca. However, Pedro Madruga was a staunch defender of the right of succession of Juana La Beltraneja, the contender to Isabel the Catholic for the Spanish crown. The description of Pedro Madruga's character provided below, written by Galician chronicler Vasco de Aponte, bears a striking resemblance to Columbus's personality:

"[Pedro] was very crafty, very subtle, very wise, and very knowledgeable in affairs of war, he was very sincere, and treated those close to him very well, and he was very cruel with his enemies, he ate much food that belonged to others, he was one of the most diligent workers in all of Spain, neither rain, nor snow, nor freezing weather, nor all the tempests in the world could stop him from doing his work, nor would he care to sleep outside in winter. Lack of linens did not stop him from sleeping on top of a table." (de Aponte, Pedro Madruga, Wikipedia)

The year 1468 marked the beginning of the second Irmandina Rebellion, near Tui, where Pedro Madruga was educated by members of the Dominican order. It was an event provoked when the Galician peasants rebelled against the ill treatment they received at the hands of the nobles, or "feudales." As a result, many Galician nobles found refuge in Portugal, after the loss of their lands. Pedro Madruga, along with other Galician nobles led a force against the insurgents. The forces of Madruga were the first ones to use firearms (arcabuzes) against their enemies in Spain. The insurgents were defeated, and the confiscated lands and estates were returned to the nobles.

The composers of a recent opera about the life of Pedro Madruga state that, "After the death of Enrique IV Madruga led a group of Galician noblemen that included the Portuguese King Alfonso V in a war that confronted the sister and the daughter of the deceased, Isabel the Catholic, and Juana la Beltraneja for the crown of Spain." (El compositor Rogelio Groba finaliza su quinta opera inspirada en la figura del noble gallego "Pedro Madruga.") La Beltraneja was accused of being the "natural" child of Beltran, the King's favorite, ergo, the name, Beltran ,attached to the suffix, " eja," implying, "worthlessness." Although no proof of such allegations was ever produced, Isabel crowned herself three days after the death of Henry IV, even though Juana La Beltraneja was recognized as the legitimate heiress to the throne by the Courts of Castile. Isabel triumphed in the end. La Beltraneja died in a convent.

An analysis of the events cited above clearly shows that Pedro Madruga could have easily been in Portugal at the same time Columbus proposed his voyage of King John II of Portugal. Furthermore, Pedro Madruga disappeared on the 11th of April of 1486. (Vidas Paralelas) His death, which allegedly occurred in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, has been described as "shrowded in doubt and mystery." According to Carlos Barros (University of Santiago de Compostela), at that time Madruga engaged the efforts of the Duke of Alba to mediate in the "shameful fight in which Madruga was involved with his son for the ownership of the fort and estate of the Soutomaior family. Likewise, it must be noted that on the first of May, 1486, less than a month after Madruga's mysterious disappearence, Columbus proposed his voyage to the Catholic Kings of Spain.

Not much is known about the whereabouts of Pedro Madruga, or Columbus after 1487. On December of 1487, Columbus wrote a letter to John II from Seville, asking permission to return to Portugal. (Vidas Paralelas) Roughly around this time Zvi Dor-Ner and other chroniclers and historians place Columbus in Andalucia, where he visited the Franciscan convent in La Rabida, and where he met with Fray Antonio de Marchena. According to Dor-Ner, and others, the Duke of Medinaceli, wanted Columbus to "take the scheme to the man he thought was the likeliest sponsor in Andalucia, Don Enrique de Guzman, Duke of Medina Sidonia, the wealthiest man in Christian Spain and one of the highest ranking grandees in the Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella." Though the current Duchess of Medina Sidonia has stated that her ancestor never met Columbus, Dor-Ner states that the Duke "was intrigued by Columbus's plan. and that the Duke "...was himself a man with no small interest in maritime affairs, owning a shipyard near Palos, and having financed trading voyages across the coast of Africa in defiance of the 1480 Treaty of Alcacovas, which reserved that sphere of influence for the Portuguese." Dor-Ner asserts that "Medina Sidonia felt it prudent to clear his involvement with the king and the queen."(Zvi-Dor-Ner, Columbus and the Age of Discovery) Other historians contend that the port of Palos was owned by Medina Sidona at one time. When the Catholic Kings found it advisable to own shares in a port that was entirely, or partially, owned by the crown, it is believed they approached Medina Sidonia who refused to sell his shares of Palos. Another share-holder is said to have sold their shares to the Catholic Kings.

In a letter to the Archbishop of Toledo, dated the 9th of March, ostensibly written very soon after the return of Columbus, from his first trip, the Duque of Medinaceli states that Columbus was "detained" in "his house" [The Duke's house] for a period of two years. According to the letter, during those two years, Luis de la Cerda, Duke of Medinaceli, tried to "direct" Columbus in the service of Queen Isabel, Madruga's prior nemesis. The letter also states that Columbus intended to present his voyage plans to France.

"...pues yo no lo quise tentar y lo aderezaba para su servicio..."


"...and I did not wish to tempt him and was directing him to Her Majesty's service..."

The verb "aderezar" in the context above means, "to direct." However, before signing off, the Duke uses stronger language. He begs the archbishop to appeal to Queen Isabel to allow him certain concessions to which he feels entitled, after having Columbus "detained" in "his house" for a period of two years while he "directed him," (or more than likely), "straighted him out." The verb "enderezar" as used by Medinaceli at the end of his letter, has 11 meanings. The first one is, to straighten out "something crooked." Other meanings are, "to right," "to put in order," "to correct." Only the sixth, and tenth meanings of "enderezar" mean"to direct." (The Langenscheidt New College Spanish Dictionary) If the Duke meant "direct" [Columbus] in the midst of claiming what is rightfully owed to him by virtue of having Columbus "detained," for two years in his house, while he "directed" him, or or "advised" him, he could have just written "aderezado" (a much "gentler sounding" word than, "enderezado") once again:

"...Suplico a vuestra Senoria me quisiera ayudar en ello, e ge lo suplique de mi parte, pues a mi cabsa y por yo detenerle en mi casa dos anos y haberle enderezado a su servicio, se ha hallado gran cosa como esta."

"....I beg his Lordship will be predisposed to help me and implore on my behalf since I had him detained in my house for two years and 'straightened him out' to the service of Her Highness..." If Pedro Madruga and Columbus are one and the same, the Duke of Medinaceli should be credited for accomplishing such a major transformation in record time.

In conclusion, the events described above show a man whose initial name, Cristobal Colon, was given to him by his mother, in Galicia, where she gave birth to him. That man was the "illegitimate" child of a Galician noble, Fernan Eanes of Soutomaior, Count of Caminas (ergo the assumption of Las Casas, about Colon's noble roots), and a woman born in Galicia, but of Genoese descent, named Constanca Colon. After Cristobal Colon, of Poio, Pontevedra, was given a new name, Pedro Alvarez de Soutomaior, and increased access to power, he began to be known as Pedro Madruga. Galician historians assert Pedro Alvarez, (b. Cristobal Colon)de Soutomaior earned his name because his intense type of dilligence which would be classified today as an extreme version of "workaholism," if not downright compulsive addiction. It is also told that he was named, "Madruga" (early riser) because he had roosters that served him as alarm clocks. Madruga was adamant about not wasting a single moment of his life.

The lives of Madruga and Columbus are fraught with coincidences and paradoxes. Both were born around the same time, had the same number of acknowledged children, and shared many other interesting life parallels through 1487, the year of Madruga's "disappearance." Unfortunately, Madruga, (b. Cristobal Colon, Pontevedra, Galicia) was on the wrong side of the power struggle for the Spanish throne that eventually took the power away from La Beltraneja, the rightful heir to the Crown. Thus, if Madruga, (b. Cristobal Colon), and Columbus are one and the same, as the above evidence seems to suggest, that entity was put in contact with important people, merchants, nobles, and members of the clergy (in very high places), that provided him with enough support, and credibility to organize his trip, and to make a proposal to the Catholic Kings, on his behalf. Cristobal Colon had both political and personal reasons to suppress knowledge of his origins, and ongoing, complex reasons to promote his "new," ( but in reality, "old") name, Cristobal Colon , "Bearer" of Christ to colonies. Colon, from, Colono, means "A Colonist."


A)Todorov, Tzevetan. The Conquest of America. New York. Harper. 1992.
B)Dor-Ner, Zvi. Columbus and the Age of Discovery. New York. Morrow. 1991
C) Menzies, Gavin. 1421. The Year China Discovered America. New York. Harper. 2004
D) Marga. Colon era de Pontevedra. El Segundo Viaje Colombino. Commentary of Work. Monserrat Leon Guerrero
D)Barros, Carlos. Mitos de la histografia galleguista. Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.
E) Rosina, Serrano Diaz. Sobre Tres Documentos de Aragoneses en Venezuela. Universidad de Zaragoza.
F) El gran viaje de Cristobal Colon.
G) El compositor Rogelio Groba finaliza su quinta opera inspirada en la figura del noble gallego Pedro Madruga.
H) Pedro Madruga. Wikipedia
I ) Tesis sobre colon gallego y de Pontevedra. Cristobal Colon Nacio en Galicia.
J ) de la Cerda, Luis, duque de Medinaceli. Carta del Duque de Medinaceli sobre el alojamiento que dio a Cristobal Colon. Biblioteca Virtual Cervantes
k) Historiadores de Indias.

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