Monday, October 8, 2007

Christopher Columbus Was a Cuban


Christopher Columbus was Cuban. That is, he was born in Cuba. Not the island he discovered and called "the most beautiful that human eyes have ever gazed upon," but in the rustic Portuguese town of Cuba, in Alentejo Province, which erected a statue to its putative favorite son on the 500th anniversary of his birth last year (practically the only place that noticed). The town of Cuba also claims that the Great Navigator bestowed the name of his hometown on the greatest of his discoveries. There is that small matter about Cuba's aboriginal name having been Cubanacan and that Columbus himself noted in his Journal a variant (not Cuba); but, of course, this could have been either a coincidence or it may have been preordained that the discoverer of one Cuba was born in another Cuba.

Unlike Homer's, Columbus' birthplace has been a matter of contention since before his death. Now a Spanish geneticist, Dr. José A. Lorente, of the University of Granada, may hold the key to this centuries-old mystery. In 2004, Dr. Lorente succeeded in extracting Columbus' DNA from a cache of bones at the Cathedral in Seville. The bones were transported there from the Cathedral of Havana at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. The bones had originally been brought to Cuba from Santo Domingo at the time of the Haitian slave revolt. Of course, Cubans contend that the Spaniards repatriated the wrong bones in 1898 and that Columbus' real remains remained in Havana's Cathedral. And Dominicans, for their part, contend that the wrong bones were taken to Cuba from the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, where Columbus died in 1506. In both cases, it is assumed that Columbus' bones were mistaken for those of his son Diego. For purposes of DNA testing, it doesn't really matter whether the bones are the father's or the son's (supposing that Diego was really Columbus' son).

At the moment it appears that the claims of Portugal and Catalonia are being pressed with the most energy. In the 19th century, it was France which contended for a French Columbus. José Martí even wrote an article in which he evaluated their claims. France no longer seems interested in Columbus, who is no longer widely-regarded as a secular saint, agent of civilization or even a real discoverer. The present idea of a discoverer is someone who looks but does not touch (e.g. the explorers of the North and South Poles). It might be argued on Columbus' behalf that everybody knew that the North and South poles existed long before Norwegians and Britons ventured there, whereas nobody knew about the New World until Columbus stumbled there. His having stumbled there by chance, incidentally, does not make him any less of a discoverer because all great discoveries have been pretty much accidental or incidental. Nor is it fair to describe the Discovery as a "meeting of cultures" since the indigenous peoples didn't meet Columbus halfway in the Atlantic. If Columbus had not discovered America, the Arawak wouldn't have discovered Europe.

The Portuguese, Spain's eternal rivals, contend that Columbus is the illegitimate son of Prince Carlos de Viana, onetime heir to the Catalonian throne, with a woman whose last name was Colom. The claimant to the throne of Portugal, the Duke de Braganza, a descendent of Prince Carlos de Viena, has donated his own DNA to be matched to Columbus' as have 225 Portuguese Coloms.

Genoa, and, by extension, Italy (which did not exist at Columbus' birth or for 400 years afterwards), has not loosened its traditional claims to him and DNA has been collected from 100 Genoan Colombos and putative cousins of Cristoforo. There is no question that a Cristoforo Columbo was born in Genoa about the time of Columbus' birth. The archives there document his birth and early life. The problem is that there is nothing to connect him to the historical Columbus.

Columbus himself is responsible for this ambiguity because he purposefully concealed his origins all his life even from his own son. This has led many to presume that whatever his real nationality, Columbus was a Jew, specifically, a cryptic Jews, or marrano. The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the very year that Columbus sailed from there on a mission of discovery commissioned by the Catholic monarchs. Even a remote Jewish ancestor would have "corrupted his blood" and barred him from receiving the dukedom and other honors that Isabel and Fernando bestowed on him. Columbus had many enemies at court (who would one day transport him from the New World in irons). If there was anything to conceal about his heritage, it was clearly in his interest to conceal it.

This controversy may all prove a moot point because the Genoan Colombos and the Portuguese Coloms are closely-related: in fact Columbus could be the son of a Genoan who moved to Catalonia, or a Catalonian who moved to Genoa. This itself would be a moot point, too, if it were true, as many historians contend, that "Columbus" was an adopted name. And, indeed, if you are serious about concealing your origins, you have to obscure not only your birthplace but your real name.

It seems to us that Peter Dickson, a retired C.I.A. analyst, may have "solved" this seemingly unsolvable puzzle. In a self-published book, Dickson claims that Columbus was part Spanish, part Italian, part French and part Jewish — a product of the New World, as it were, born in The Old.

And, of course, he was born in Cuba [Portugal].

4 comments:

Fantomas said...

rough times @ RCAB

without my toes 0

Vana said...

Manuel:

You always WOW me, how do you know these things? you must do an extreme amount of reading, thank you for bringing it to us, I always learn something from you, interesting read, now we can call Columbus Cuban!

Colon-o-Novo said...

"The Portuguese, Spain's eternal rivals, contend that Columbus is the illegitimate son of Prince Carlos de Viana, onetime heir to the Catalonian throne, with a woman whose last name was Colom. The claimant to the throne of Portugal, the Duke de Braganza, a descendent of Prince Carlos de Viena, has donated his own DNA to be matched to Columbus' as have 225 Portuguese Coloms."


I think you are mixing up your royal families.
The Duke of Braganza is not a descendant of Carlos of Viana nor is there a Catolonia in Portugal.
Nor has Peter Dickson discovered anything in the way of proof fir his "fantasy mutt".

Manuel Rosa - Columbus Historian (www.colombo.bz)

Anonymous said...

To Manuel Rosa :
Hi, are you aware of the genetic result of his Highness, the Duke of Braganza ?
I never read any result concerning the Braganza Dynasty or perhaps in private circles ?
Secondly, I agree with Peter Dickson on the fact that the genetic investigation around Colombus is fuzzy with a possible lack of ambition. A good way to keep safe all the different revendications and propositions concerning Colon.
Thomas Colomb