By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day: A Seismic Geopolitical Event

the tomb of Christopher Columbus in the cathed...Image via Wikipedia
 Tomb of Columbus, Cathedral of Seville, Spain

Today, October 12th is the 519th anniversary of the landfall of Christopher Columbus on one of the Bahamas Islands in 1492. In the Hispanic world, the day is known by a name that sounds odd to English-speakers: "The Day of the Race" or "Día de la Raza." In Hispanic culture, "the race" or "raza" refers to the European Spanish entry into the Western Hemisphere, which literally spawned a new "race" and, more importantly, a new culture through extensive and profound contact and intermixture with the native and other peoples involved in this new adventure. (I prefer to view the term "raza" as primarily a cultural term signifying the rise of a Hispanic culture well beyond Europe.) The day was celebrated today in Spain with a military parade reviewed by the king who forms part of the same monarchy that funded Columbus so many centuries ago (see link).

Some interesting historical tidbits are appropriate today. According to the 1993 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Columbus was born "probably [to] a Spanish-Jewish couple living in the Italian port city of Genoa" (Micropaedia). Interestingly, the same encyclopedia states that Columbus never wrote in any form of Italian but always wrote in Spanish (Macropaedia; yet, a later version of the same entry seems to say that there are some annotations by Columbus in Italian in some of his books). Having become a subject of the Spanish crown, Columbus was made Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy of the Indies. His 20th direct descendant, Cristóbal Colón, still bears the titles of nobility granted to the original Christopher Columbus by the Spanish crown (see link) and is himself a Spanish naval officer. Of some biblical interest is the fact that Columbus claimed to have "discovered America by prophecy rather than by astronomy" (Britannica Macropaedia, 15th ed., noting Columbus' reliance on Isaiah 11:10-12).

Yet, what is of continuing high historical significance is that the discovery of the Western Hemisphere and its subsequent Christian evangelization--both Catholic and Protestant--amounted to a seismic geopolitical outflanking of Islam's expansion and reach. With the recapture of the last Muslim kingdom in Spain in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand in the very same year launched a risky adventure that would literally create an overwhelmingly Christian hemisphere whose influence has continued to transform history since that time, leaving the Islamic world to languish within the limits of the old world-- a breathtaking confluence of events. All of which makes me take Columbus' reliance on Isaiah perhaps a bit more seriously.

Update: You can see information at the link on the papal bull issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI (a Spanish Borja or Borgia) dividing the New World just discovered by Columbus between Spain and Portugal. Ironically, under this papal bull, the only illegal immigrants in North America are those not arriving here under the auspices of Spain! The link is the link to the website of the Vatican "Secret" Archives. To find this particular bull, click one of the highlighted document images found at the above link. If you look carefully, you can see the name "Colon" in the document image--"Colon" is the Spanish form of the Latin "Columbus." That is the document image to click to get further background on this papal bull.

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