Borja Cardelús: The Secret of Columbus


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On any given day in the 1480s. A ship, battered after a long journey, arrives at one of the ports of Madeira island, of Portuguese sovereignty. The crew members have died, and the only survivor arrives in a state of agony, being picked up by a man who welcomes him into his home.

He dies shortly after, but before he has time to relate to his savior the circumstances of his strange journey. He was a sailor for one of the many Andalusian fishing boats that went into the Atlantic in search of fishing grounds, when sustained trade winds pushed the ship out to sea through that terrifying and feared ocean, supposedly inhabited by sea monsters and ravaged by infernal storms and inextinguishable calms.

The persistent wind had blown them to unknown lands, populated by people with exotic features. When they came into contact with them, they contracted syphilis, and they hurried back home, but they could only get as far as Madeira.

But before dying, the sailor had time to narrate to his host the details and keys of those lands, which he wrote down with great care. That last survivor of such a strange incident was called Alonso Sanchez, a native of Huelva, and the one who picked him up and heard his adventure was called Christopher Columbus.

The certainty of the so-called “anonymous sailor” is found in the wording of the Capitulations itself

It is explained then Columbus’s strange conviction about your project. Columbus knew that there were other lands beyond the ocean. He scientifically embraced his plan and managed to transmit his certainty to the monks of La Rabida, and with their help he cultivated the other adhesions, until culminating in the famous Capitulations for the Discovery.

The existence of the pre-discoverer is taken for granted, because the facts support it. Thus, the ease with which Columbus moves through the Antilles from a certain moment; the existence on the islands of some natives with white features, perhaps the fruit of former sailors; and above all the security with which Columbus faces the return route, the return journey, heading towards the northeast in search of the contralisios, setting the route that would be definitive on the return trips from America.

But above all, the certainty of the so-called “anonymous sailor” is found in the drafting of the Capitulations itself. For in it the Kings grant titles to Columbus over the lands “that he has discovered.” What have you discovered? In this sentence, the secret of Columbus is hidden, and the strange turn of the kings is explained, who urgently summon Columbus when they had already dispatched him for his excessive pretensions (“leave at good time”), and he was leaving Spain to offer your project to France. Was it possible that Juan Pérez, monk of La Rábida and confessor of the Queen, broke the secret that Columbus had confided to him in confession? Such a sin would be justified: At the end of the day, a company of as great importance as the evangelization of the New World.

* Borja Cardelús is the author of the work ‘América Hispánica’ and every Sunday he will sign a “flash” of Hispanidad on ABC Historia.

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