Columbus’ Explorations of America

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History is full of myths. The historical opposition between myths and facts stirs our imagination, leading us into the wonderful time of discoveries and explorations. Christopher Columbus remains one of the most mystic and confusing figures in history. He made invaluable contributions to the development of historical and geographic research, and over centuries, his name has been associated with the exploration of the Americas and the discovery of what we now call the United States.

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History suggests that the age of exploration would not have even started if not for Christopher Columbus’ early discoveries. In reality, however, the historical consequences of Columbus’ explorations are more than controversial. Columbus’ explorations remain a mixed blessing that set the future course of international history and geography while shaking up  the eternal balance between indigenous Indian people and their land they had inhabited for centuries.

What is now referred to as America?

In order to objectively evaluate the significance of Columbus’ voyage to America, researchers and professionals must have a full understanding of what we mean by the word America.” It should be noted that numerous nationalities and peoples inhabited the Western Hemisphere for unknown periods before Columbus’ arrival. Researchers believe that these people did not maintain any contact with other world regions and may have been unaware of the existence of Africa, Europe, or even Asia (Heat-Moon 33). These territories witnessed the rise and fall of well-developed civilizations, among which the Inca and Aztec took a special place. Ancient civilizations never displayed any desire to form a single geographical entity; only with time were five distinct geographical territories – North America, the Andean region, the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and Middle America – united under a common name: “America” (Allen 102).

Christopher Columbus’s Explorations: Either a Blessing or a Curse?

When Columbus was trying to convince the Spanish Queen to sponsor and support his desire to travel, he may not have had any idea of what was waiting for him ahead. The need for his voyage was justified by the Queen’s striving to find and conquer new lands, although Columbus initially pursued different goals and was more interested in finding a new route to China. According to Axtell (81), there are many theories concerning Christopher Columbus and the origin of the idea that because the world was round, a person could set sail from one side and journey back around to the other.” However, these theories are nothing more than myths. By the beginning of the 15th century, everyone knew that Earth was round, although scientists lacked information about its real size (Axtell 84). In this 21st century, these ideas gradually lose their relevance under growing controversy surrounding Columbus’ discoveries. The Age of Exploration has turned into an age of critical discoveries with America being one of its most important ones. Simultaneously, Columbus’ discoveries generated unbearable civil tension between Spanish newcomers who desired new colonies and indigenous Indian populations inhabiting American territories.

Columbus left Spain on August 3, 1492 (Paine 1045). The details of his journey are well-documented. According to Paine (1045), The fundamental difference between Columbus’ voyage in 1492 and those of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama is that the Portuguese explorers had knowledge that the areas they were traveling to existed.” Unlike the Portuguese explorers, Columbus stumbled upon a new land and struggled to communicate with its inhabitants. When he first set foot on San Salvador, Columbus intended to claim the territory for Spain despite the desires of those who already lived there. This reflects the true purpose of Columbus’ voyage – not just geographical discovery but also conquest for Spain. However, his actions went against natural law which suggests that whoever discovers new land can claim it as their own if it is uninhabited by others. Despite this fact, Columbus refused to acknowledge San Salvador’s belonging to its native population (Allen 56).

Unfortunately, Columbus’ arrival marked a turning point in history for Native American people as their values clashed with European bureaucratic traditions and Spanish rule (Vizenor 29).

Columbus vividly described the Taino tribes and was the first to call them “Indians”. He also renamed many of the American islands and objects. However, most of those names were later forgiven or replaced by Amerigo Vespucci. Columbus’ contribution to the development of American exploration becomes even more contradictory when viewed through European traditions and customs that were imposed on Native Americans. His first impressions about America are reflected in his diary: “I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them [natives] as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can easily be made Christians” (Heat-Moon 80). Unfortunately, Columbus initially distorted the historical balance between two different nations by positioning himself as a representative of a superior country looking for cheap labor force and golden natural resources.

Despite the invaluable historical information left in his diary, Columbus’ exploration of America could hardly be justified by purely scientific needs. On the contrary, he sought to combine glory for the new discovery with expanding Spanish possessions worldwide. His second voyage in 1493 was driven by the Queen’s desire to expand Hispaniola’s colonies and convert indigenous people to Christianity (Paine 1047). This trip was no less meaningful than the previous one; Columbus aimed to prove that people needed to expand their knowledge of geography. However, his plans were broken as soon as he reached Hispaniola and saw that native populations had destroyed the Spanish colony. Columbus’ initial desire turned into a feeling of revenge and a desire to prove his physical and moral superiority over indigenous peoples (Allen 85).

Although Columbus wrote that Indians were free to mix with Spanish newcomers and welcomed travelers openly, they later regretted their openness after turning into slaves who maintained peace and stability in new colonial environments (Heat-Moon 93). In this context, Columbus’ exploration was limited to searching for gold and establishing new social relations with national populations.

The records left after his journey do not provide an objective insight into what happened in newly discovered lands. Vizenor suggests that Columbus had gathered enough evidence to suggest future exploration could yield healthy profits in gold and salvageable souls” (31). These ideas are reinforced by details found in Columbus’ diary: “I have been very attentive…to find out if there is any gold here…I have seen a few natives who wear a little piece of gold hanging from a hole made in their nose” (Axtell 112).

From a historical viewpoint, these records provide invaluable information about appearance and traditions of indigenous populations; but they simultaneously prove limited character of Columbus’ exploratory needs/intentions. He became less interested in geography while more concerned about presence or absence of gold in American lands.

The goal of Columbus’ third voyage was to bring supplies to the new Spanish settlements and explore the southern territories of America. During this voyage, Columbus explored Canary Islands, Porto Santo, and Madeira (Allen 39). However, by the end of 1499, Columbus found himself in the center of growing national turmoil as native inhabitants refused to follow his orders. Despite marking the first human visit to South America during this journey, Columbus was intentionally taken back to Spain in 1500 due to political and military tension between Spanish troops and native populations.

Columbus opened up a pathway to the new world but at a great cost. The journey was marked with death and suffering for Native American populations who were made extremely vulnerable by exploration. From a historical perspective, it is clear that Columbus distorted the eternal balance between Native Americans and other parts of the world.


Columbus’ exploration of America was a mixed blessing. While he laid the foundation for a new age of exploration, dozens of Native Americans suffered the consequences of Spanish invasion. We owe Columbus for discovering Southern American Trinidad. His voyages opened the gateway to the development of new geographical theory, where the American continent took a special place and needed further exploration.

However, Columbus’ exploration was more like a contest where the search for gold prevailed over natural scientific curiosity to understand Native American traditions and culture. This remains a controversial historical phenomenon that helped map the entire Atlantic coast but led to growing tension between Indians and Spanish travelers.

In the eyes of many people, these travelers lost their “exploratory reputation” as they turned into violent invaders threatening stability and integrity on the American continent.

Works Cited.

Allen, J.L. (1997). North American Exploration. University of Nebraska Press.

Axtell, J. Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America. Oxford University Press.


Heat-Moon, W.L. (2002). Columbus in the Americas. Wiley.

Paine, R. Columbus and Anthropology: The Unknown.” Journal of the Royal Society

Anthropological Institute, Volume 1 (1995): Pages 1044-1049

Vizenor, G. wrote an article titled “Christopher Columbus: Lost Havens in the Ruins of Representation” for American publication.

Indian Quarterly, Volume 16 (1992), pages 29-32.

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Columbus’ Explorations of America. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from

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