I’ve always been a massive fan of history, especially U.S. history, so it was a god-send when recently I was turned on to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In the book, Zinn tells the tale of how our country came to be not through the normal lens of your average classroom history book, but really delving into topics often left off those textbook pages. The first portion of the read, naturally, recounts the tale of how Christopher Columbus found the Bahamas…err America…the West Indies…Asia…okay, really just the Bahamas, sorry to spoil Santa Claus for you.
On the morning of October 12th, a young sailor by the name of Rodrigo, saw the morning moon casting it’s light upon the white Bahamian sands. This was exciting for two very important reasons. Obviously and mainly, the voyage finally came upon what they thought was Asia…or the West Indies…something out west. Columbus had proved to his doubters that the world was indeed round, and that you could in fact sail West to arrive East. The other reason that this was so important, was because the first man to sight land was to receive a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis, which were a silvery-gold coin used by 16th century Spaniards, for the rest of his life.
So Rodrigo, assumedly, was extremely excited. Not only was he going to return to Spain a hero, be known as the first man to spot land on this then-unknown continent and be recounted in history books for all eternity, but he was also financially set for life! Now you may be asking yourself, “How come I’ve never heard of this Rodrigo fellow?” Well, as the story goes, Christopher Columbus stepped forth and claimed that he had “saw a light” the night before “but it was so indistinct that he did not dare to affirm it was land” and was granted the 10,000 per year pension.
It wasn’t enough that Columbus would already be known as one of the finest explorers and navigators in all of history. Or that he was now a man of mythic proportions for discovering the New World. Or even that he exuded ultimate dominance over his own species based on the color of his skin and technology of his weapons against the indigenous people of the Caribbean, eventually opening the doorways for a mass genocide of numerous South American tribes. No, Columbus also had to have the credit of being the first man to see land.
With an ego that large, it’s not very surprising to hear. But one can’t help to think of poor Rodrigo. This man was set for life. Just riding the gravy train (ship) all the way back to Spain where he would most likely get completely shit-buckled on rum and try to sleep with every woman from Madrid to Libson. I can imagine 10,000 maravedis was quite a bit of coin back in those times, so that alone would probably last awhile. The fact that it was a yearly pension makes me wince that much more for ol’ Roddy. Accounts will tell you that following Columbus’ screw-job, Rodrigo de Triana moved to Africa and converted from Christianity to Islam. Where is your God now, indeed…
So when that Monday in October rolls around this year and the bank can’t cash your check while the guy next to you withdraws a few grand, your co-worker takes your idea and gets that promotion, or your best friend takes all the credit for that hilarious joke, awesome nickname, or witty pun, you can find solace in the fact that you are now experiencing the true meaning of Columbus Day.Follow @dudecouch