October 12: Cancer of the Caribbean


Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist


Photo credits to Seth Knoop

October 12, 1492. The Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, lands in the Bahamas, believing he had reached the Asian continent. Hailing from the prosperous merchant state of Genoa, located in Northwestern Italy, Columbus sought to find a new route to Asia. Due to the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks on the 29 May 1453 , European merchants could no longer safely travel east in the hopes of acquiring the exotic goods of the East. Grossly underestimating the size of the Earth, Columbus traveled from European royal court to court, offering his loyalty to any monarch willing to become his patron. Christopher Columbus’ goals seemed doomed, until he reached the court of the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. Although rejected twice, the Spanish monarchs eventually conceded, allowing the Genoese explorer to take three ships on his voyage. Upon arrival in the Caribbean, Columbus believed he had reached Asia, with islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola being mistakened for China and Japan. Columbus’ expeditions proved disastrous for the native inhabitants, whom he called indians, though. Without immunity to “Old World” diseases and much European exploitation and warfare, the majority of Caribbean natives perished. Despite the horrific death toll incurred upon the Caribbean, Columbus ultimately sowed the seeds of the modern age.