Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Genoan Monk Mentioned America" or "Italians Knew About America 150 Years Before Columbus" Debunked

It is sad how many people share “news” links based on the headline, without taking the time to read the article. Many times the article contradicts the headline because it is just clickbait, or as in this case, a reflection of the ignorance of the publisher. This year (2021) we have several headlines circulating the news claiming that “Italians knew about America long before Columbus...” NY Post

Another headline was “Ancient Documents Suggest Italian Sailors Knew of America 150 Years Before Christopher Columbus.” SciTechDaily

Or that “The First Mention of America” was made in 1340. (Taylor & Francis Online). Taylor & Francis Online

The headlines above are a reference to an unfinished unpublished book by a Genoan monk named Galvaneus Flamma (14th century) where Markland (Marckalada) is mentioned. Markland is supposed to be somewhere in North America. This document was “recently” found (2015) by a professor of Medieval history named Paolo Chiesa.

Here are the reasons why the headlines are ALL incorrect: America is NOT mentioned by the monk in 1340, nor by anyone else before him, because Amerigo Vespucci (where the name “America” comes from) was a contemporary of Columbus and not of Galvaneus. 

If by America what they mean is Markland, then the headline is incorrect since Markland is not the “old” name for America. The name of Markland was not new either since it was mentioned in several sagas, like the “Saga of Erik the Red” (written in the 13th century).

If what they mean by “America” is the knowledge that there is a continent in between Europe and Asia, then the headline is incorrect again, since Galvaneus did not make such a claim. 

All this is evidence that people don’t understand Columbus’ discoveries, so let me explain. But first, let’s take a look at the claims made by Galvaneus, the Genoan monk. 

I’m writing the following under the premise and assumption that there is no forgery on this Genoan document. The reason for mentioning this is because many elaborate hoaxes have been used in the past (and in recent years), trying to discredit Columbus. I wrote an entire chapter on this subject in my third book “Christopher Columbus and the Christian Church” titled, “Hoaxes, Forgeries and Crimes.”

One of the articles above, written by Taylor and Francis Online, contains excerpts from Galvaneus’ account known as “Cronica universalis.”  The account doesn’t contradict Columbus at all, but confirms what we already knew about the subject. For example, the Cronica mentions Marco Polo, whom Columbus was inspired after. Marco Polo’s accounts are about the Indies, or Asia, the east side of the world. Then the Cronica talks about the west side of the globe, when it mentions Yslandia (Iceland) and Grolandia (Greenland). The Cronica does not mention anything of another continent in between Asia and Europe. Though it mentions “Marckalada” [Markland], which it’s believed to be in North America today, the article acknowledges “the news about” it was vague, nothing “for sure.” In fact, the ancient cosmographers did not know that there was a continent in between Asia and Europe. Maps ended with Iceland and Greenland which they called “Tile” or “Thule.” Cartographers added imaginary islands on maps in this area because, as stated and confirmed by Galvaneus, “no sailor was ever able to know anything for sure about this land or about its features.”

Columbus himself had visited Tile (Iceland) 15 years before his discoveries. He wrote, “In the month of February, 1477, I sailed one hundred leagues beyond the island of Tile [Iceland]...” Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Chapter 4, p. 11.

The only “new” thing here is that Markland is mentioned in the Cronica. But even that is not new either, since the article acknowledges Markland was mentioned by the aforementioned Icelandic sagas. What the article finds “exceptional” is that Markland is mentioned here, outside a Nordic saga.

Though I discussed it many times before (in books, blogs and videos), I’m forced to repeat myself here to explain the difference between Columbus and the “Vikings,” or Norsemen (the explorers of the Nordic sagas):

The Norsemen were not trying to reach the Indies, or Asia, as Columbus intended. When one looks at a world map, one will see that on the north side of the globe there are many lands in between Europe and America. That includes England, Ireland, Iceland and Greenland. People believed that after Thule (Iceland/ Greenland) there was nothing but water. All the Norsemen did was what everyone else had done before them: Sail from land to land. Land that is close to each other. They sailed from the continent to England, to Ireland, to Iceland, till one day one of them, Erik the Red, found Greenland, which is next to Iceland. They lived there, which was where the maps ended. Later, as some of them were returning to Greenland, the waves took them further to the lands next door, which are part of North America. Source: The Saga of Eirik the Red, pp. 23-24.

They never thought they were on the Indies or in a continent in between. According to scholar Paolo Emilio Taviani, “Greenland and lands beyond were for them simply other lands of Europe.” Source: The Grand Design by Taviani, p. 90.

As for Columbus, he intended to pass Thule until he reached the Indies (Asia). But unlike the Norsemen, he left from the center/ south side of the globe, where there are no close lands to make stops, as one can do on the north. He literally sailed into the unknown. The sea route was known as “the Sea of Darkness.” His sailors initially rigged twice one of the ships; they wept when they could not see the land anymore; they complained every day; they threatened Columbus’ life a few times, but in the end they reached land because he was right. 

If sailors knew that America was close, why did they give Columbus a hard time? 

We all know that Spain helped Columbus with his enterprise. But most people don’t know he had lived in Portugal and made his first request to fund his enterprise there. Portugal denied his request and ridiculed him. Columbus moved to Spain where he was ridiculed again. Some people think he also requested Genoa for assistance, but they also said “no” to him. Columbus sent his brother Bartholomew to lobby for him in England. After waiting for seven years for a response, Spain denied Columbus as well, so he made his way to France when the Queen of Spain had a change of heart and sent for him to return. 

The point here is that if people knew about “America,” why then did Columbus have a hard time getting support and received so much ridicule instead? Why did Portugal deny him help when Portugal was the leading force of discovery during Columbus’ residence there? Why did England not respond to his brother right away? If “Italian sailors knew about America” before Columbus, why did Genoa not help him? If people knew about America, why then did the Spanish council mock Columbus and tell him there was no land (or people) where he wanted to go?

Someone might say that “perhaps Columbus knew about America because of the Genoan monk and his Cronica.” That would be a conspiracy theory and not history. Besides, Galvaneus’ Cronica was unfinished and unpublished. Again, that is assuming the Cronica is not a hoax. As for the Nordic sagas, Columbus never mentioned them, nor did he need them since they never claimed the Norsemen were trying to reach the Indies, nor that they did, or that they found a “new” continent. Columbus’ ideas were based on the great cosmographers of the past, including Ptolemy, Pliny, Marinus, Aristotle, Strabo, Pierre d’Ailly, Capitolinus, etc. They all either believed that the Earth was smaller than it is, and/ or that Indies were not far from Spain or Europe. There was also a contemporary cosmographer named Toscanelli who had written to Columbus saying the same. Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Chapters 6-8. 

The “professionals” who made fun of Columbus seem not to be aware of this kind of information. They also have their share of myths and unproven hypotheses. It was Columbus who took the risk against all odds. Once he proved that it was safe to sail west, other explorers followed and finished the maps he started. This eventually led to the realization that Columbus’ discoveries were bigger than anyone thought; and here we are today.

Before someone makes the usual snarky comment that “Columbus discovered an insignificant island in the Caribbean:” He actually explored most, if not all, of the Caribbean, and he later reached and explored the continent in Central and South America. North America was reached due to him, when England heard of his success. In addition, one of his men (Juan Ponce de Leon) explored Florida in North America.

I would suggest the readers to read Columbus’ primary sources to see and understand more of what people believed about cosmography at the time. “The Life of the Admiral” by Ferdinand Columbus is a good start. My books go into great depth on this subject as well. 

As we can see, real history is more complex than people may think today. Many people are not reading history,  but guessing “history,” making conclusions based on modern-day perceptions. 

In summary, there is no document claiming or proving that people knew that “America” existed before Columbus. That is fake news. It is just clickbait rooted in misunderstanding, error, and sensationalism.

#GenoanMonk #GalvaneusFlamma #Markland #AmericaBeforeColumbus

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Book Review on the Bobadilla's Report


If you haven’t read any of my blogs, you should read this one, since it’s about the book of the so-called "lost document" from the 16th century that historians found claiming Columbus was a "tyrant" toward the Spanish colonists. This news went viral and it is the “source” used by many mainstream historical, biographical and educational websites to support that claim. The book is titled La Caída de Cristóbal Colón: El juicio de Bobadilla ("The fall of Christopher Columbus: The Judgement of Bobadilla") by Consuelo Varela. The book is divided into two parts. The first one, the author gives some context on the circumstances where the document was written, and the author tells us what’s in it. The second part of the book is the transcription (made by Isabel Aguirre) of the actual report. 

The original report, or document, was written by Francisco de Bobadilla, whom the King and Queen of Spain had sent to Hispaniola to investigate complaints that Spanish colonists were making against Columbus and his brothers during the third voyage. The report is a copy of the original, and it’s 25 "folios" or pages long. The first page is missing. 

Twenty-two "witnesses" answered the questions by Bobadilla, which were divided into three questions: 

1. Did Columbus plan to attack the investigator (Bobadilla) when he arrived, with an army of Spaniard colonists and natives?  

2. Did Columbus and his brothers stop the evangelization of the natives? 

3. Was Columbus and his brothers unjust toward the colonists?

There is a second part to the report at the end, which is ten pages long, and it’s a summary of the last question.

Though it’s fascinating to read a historical document, this one is no different than if someone found a historical document authored by those who hated and aimed to smear Jesus Christ. We know the story, and we know the accusations are false, but it would be an interesting read. So, it is with Columbus: We know the story, we know the accusations are false, we know Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his brothers without due process and sent them in chains to Spain. We also know the King and the Queen of Spain cleared Columbus and his brothers of the charges because they did not believe the accusations. Instead, they sent another investigator to investigate Bobadilla, who then was justly removed from the governorship’s office. As for the "witnesses," who were engaged in rebellion, they were sentenced for mutiny. Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Ch. 86.

I can’t believe that the author, being a historian who had read the very same Spanish primary sources that I have read, believes the report. Even though she acknowledges that the accusations by the colonists were fueled by malice, hate, and envy. She even admitted that Bobadilla was excessive in his behavior and that most of the colonists were cheats and hoodlums. 

Now, let’s take a quick look at the three questions on the Bobadilla report: 

Question 1. Did Columbus plan to attack Bobadilla when he arrived in Hispaniola? 

Answer: There is no primary source that says such a thing. In fact, Columbus and his brothers acted very civil with Bobadilla. (Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Ch. 86, pp. 222-223). But assuming this was true, it should not be surprising that Columbus would prepare a preemptive attack or a defense against a political coup. Prior to this episode, Columbus suffered several political coups and coup attempts from different people. The last agitator was Alonso de Hojeda, who made a stop at Hispaniola to harass Columbus telling him the queen was "at the point of death." Source: Select Letters of Christopher Columbus, p. 156.

The innuendo here was that Columbus’ only supporter in the court was about to die, thus he would be without any political protection of his titles and privileges. According to the Bobadilla report, Columbus’ Spanish servants compared Bobadilla to Hojeda. However, Columbus learned that the queen indeed had sent Bobadilla to meet with him. Columbus wrote, "When I heard this, I thought he [Bobadilla] must be like Hojeda, or one of the other rebels; but I held my peace, when I learned for certain, from the friars, that he had been sent by their Highness…" Select Letters, p. 161.

Whether this first claim was true or not (that Columbus planned an attack), we know Columbus received Bobadilla peacefully.

Question 2: Did Columbus stop the evangelization of the natives in Hispaniola? 

Answer: Anyone who has read Columbus’ letters or read from those who knew him, will see that he was a very devoted Christian. He is the reason why Christianity is here in the New World. It was one of his main goals for his journeys, therefore this claim is ridiculous. Also, the "witnesses'' contradicted themselves when they said Columbus required one to have a license to evangelize the natives. In other words, he was not stopping the spread of the gospel. What happened was that, according to the Bobadilla report, the natives wanted to "become Christians" in order to receive the gifts that Columbus often gave away to them. All that Columbus wanted was to make sure that the natives really understood what Christianity really meant.

Question 3: Were Columbus and his brothers unjust and cruel toward the colonists?

Answer: This is where we get that Columbus and his brothers were indiscriminately punishing colonists by cutting off their "ears and noses, parading women naked through the streets and selling them into slavery." That one "man caught stealing corn had his nose and ears cut off, was placed in shackles and was then auctioned off as a slave. A woman who dared to suggest that Columbus was of lowly birth was punished by his brother Bartolomé… was stripped naked and paraded around the colony on the back of a mule… Bartolomé ordered that her tongue be cut out… Christopher congratulated him for defending the family."

According to the Guardian (where the citations above comes from, quoting from Consuelo Varela’s book), "... the Spanish monarchs... became worried by growing rumours of Columbus’ barbarity and avarice." The irony is that neither Consuelo, nor the Guardian, said anything of the Spanish Inquisition. Was that barbaric too? Or is this a case of selective moral outrage?

One of the tactics that Columbus detractors often use is to remove him from the historical context he lived in. During this era some crimes were indeed punished with torture, cutting ears, noses, floggings, hangings. By the way, the natives used the same, similar, or worse punishments for their criminals. The question here is not if Columbus punished people, but if the people he punished were innocent or guilty of crimes. The claim from the colonists on the report was that Columbus was punishing them for "cosas livianas" or "little things." Was it? The answer is no.

This group of colonists were mutineers and rebels who disobeyed Columbus’ orders to respect their native neighbors, who were his allies. They harassed, assaulted, murdered and raped natives just because they could. The queen herself had ordered Columbus to severely punish any person or persons who would mistreat them. Source: Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus by Morison, p. 204. 

All Columbus did was to follow instructions. He punished them according to the laws of the time. According to the primary sources, some of them were flogged, others were hung for mutiny and high crimes. Source: Historia General de las Indias by Gómara, Cap. XX, p. 56. Historia General by Herrera, D. I, Lib. IV, Cap. VIII, p. 110.

No primary source says anything of women’s tongue being cut off by Columbus’ brother. This must be one of the charges Columbus referred to in a letter to a friend (Juana de las Torres) as "never invented in hell," meaning, not even hell would invent such accusations. Source: Select Letters, p. 163. 

The mutineers were just trying to minimize their own actions on the report by pleading a lesser crime, like stealing corn just because they were hungry, and so forth. If you have any doubts, this kind of abusive behavior intensified after Columbus was out of office, where many colonists commit all sorts of atrocities, marking a dark chapter in history. Just read A Brief History of the Destruction of the Indies by Fray Bartolome de las Casas and you will see. I would suggest as well reading my books Christopher Columbus The Hero and Christopher Columbus and the Christian Church since some people have and keep misusing Las Casas’ quotes for propaganda purposes.

In the meantime, I’m planning to write a book (2021?) on the Bobadilla report, with all the details that I can’t use here due to space; otherwise this post would be too long. Details like the specific names of the “witnesses,” their specific claims, contradictions, unintended admissions, since the more they talked, the more they incriminated themselves with non "cosas livianas." 
To conclude, the people who were cruel here, were the mutineer colonists and not Columbus or his brothers. Columbus and his brothers were just protecting their Taino allies and punishing those who mistreated them. The Bobadilla report is full of half-truths, innuendos, double-talking, slanders, lies, etc. As for Consuelo’s book, I will give it a three-star rating just because the transcription of the document carries great historical interest. 

#ConsueloVarela #IsabelAguirre #LaCaidaDeCristobalColon #BookReview #Debunking #FranciscoDeBobadilla


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Debunking Vox's Arguments Against Columbus

You can read "9 reasons Christopher Columbus was a murderer, tyrant, and scoundrel" right here:

Though it’s becoming tiresome, I felt the need to debunk Vox’s claims, even though some are the same arguments revisionists often use. Like the first point (Columbus kidnapped a Carib woman and gave her to a crew member to rape), which I won’t address here because I already wrote about it in another article which you can read here:

Vox uses the claims from non-primary sources, or they use selected quotes from primary sources, but quoted by non-primary sources. This is no different than an atheist activist misquoting the Bible to Christians to prove there is no God. As usual, one of their “sources” is Howard Zinn, but this time they upgraded to include people like Laurence Bergreen, Benjamin Keen, and websites like the Oatmeal and Jacobin. Still, none of them are primary sources.

Vox’ second point (On Hispaniola, a member of Columbus's crew publicly cut off an Indian's ears to shock others into submission) is totally distorted. First of all, the “attack by more than 2,000 Indians” is vague. Second, though Columbus sentenced three natives to death, he ended up not killing them, but instead, he gave them a pardon. Funny how that was omitted. Also, the reason why Ojeda cut the ear of one of them was not because he, or the other two, refused to help them “fording a stream,” but because they stole some items, refused to return them, and their chief refused to punish them. Instead, the chief kept the stolen items to himself. Primary source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, ch. 53.

Cutting ears was the way theft was punished back then in different cultures. In the case of these Tainos, they punished theft, even petty theft, by impaling the thief. Another detail omitted by Vox. Primary source: Historia General by Oviedo, Lib. V, Cap. III, p. 139.

Point number 3 (Columbus kidnapped and enslaved more than a thousand people on Hispaniola) is false and convoluted. Columbus did not kidnap natives to enslave them. Enslaving people for no reason (as Vox is implying) was unlawful. Columbus made a treaty with a chief (Guacanagari) in Hispaniola to protect him from his enemies, including the Caribs. The Caribs were cannibals who were terrorizing the Caribbean, enslaving, killing, and sometimes wiping out entire islands of its inhabitants. Primary source: The Life of the Admiral, Chapter 24 through the end of the book.

These, and the enemies of his ally chief, were the only ones he was allowed to enslaved, and the slavery was temporary and suspended when Columbus was out of office. Not to mention that slavery was common and universal during this era and the natives were no exception to the rule.

Point number 4, goes together with the aforementioned. The payment of gold was a tribute, and paying tribute during this era was common as well. The “token” they were to wear was not a “symbol of shame” either, but rather their receipt that proved they paid the tribute. Fray Las Casas, who was the defender of the natives' rights, said the punishment for not paying the tribute was a “moderate” one. If the punishment was death, he would have not called it “moderate.” Primary source: Historia de las Indias by Las Casas, Tomo II, Libro I, Capítulo CV, p. 102.

Point number 5 (About 50,000 Indians committed mass suicide rather than comply with the Spanish) is false. Some of the enemies of chief Guacanagari, Columbus’ ally, destroyed the fields of Hispaniola so they could kill the Spaniards with starvation. As primary source, Peter Martyr says, this was “foolish” because though it killed many Spaniards, it also killed many natives. Martyr is the primary source. Not Bergreen. Primary source: De Orbe Novo by Martyr, p. 108.

Vox’s point number 6 is titled: 56 years after Columbus's first voyage, only 500 out of 300,000 Indians remained on Hispaniola. That is ridiculous. Notice how Vox magically increased the number of death, from 50,000 (in point 5 above) to 100,000. In addition, Columbus was out of office in Hispaniola in 1500 and he died 14 years after his discovery in 1492. The part that is true, is that some Spaniards abused many natives behind the backs of their Majesties in Spain AFTER Columbus was out of office. As long as Columbus lived, he was able to punish those who would abuse the natives in any way, as ordered by the queen herself. This goes together with Vox’s next point, number 7: Columbus was also horrible to the Spanish under his rule.

That accusation was made up by Columbus’ political enemies in order to remove him from office. Charges like Columbus torturing the Spaniards or punishing them for no reason were false. No one believed the charges. Not the king, or the queen. In fact, Columbus was never tried on any of these charges and his accusers were arrested for mutiny. Fray Las Casas even said that if the accusations were true (that Columbus was mistreating the Spaniards) they deserved those punishments since they were the ones mistreating the natives instead. Not the other way around. Primary source: Historia de las Indias by Las Casas, Tomo II, Libro I, Capítulo CLXXXIII, pp. 513-514. 

Not only that, but Vox's reference (from Bergreen’s book) is incorrect. Bergreen’s quote is not from pages 315-316, but pages 284-285.


Point number 8 (Settlers under Columbus sold 9- and 10-year-old girls into sexual slavery) is debunked here:

Point number 9 (Indian slaves were beheaded when their Spanish captors couldn't be bothered to untie them) is one of the many false accusations revisionists attribute to Columbus when the act was done by someone else, and/ or Columbus was out of office or was already dead. 

Vox quotes from Benjamin Keen, a historian from the 20th century, on how the Spanish chained the natives by the neck. But even Bergreen (page 214) acknowledged (as he quotes from Fray Las Casas) that the natives were not that innocent since they were slaveholders (long before European contact) who branded their slaves or broke their teeth as a mark of ownership. Columbus himself witnessed the natives carrying their naked slaves with ropes around their necks. Vox is silent about it. Primary source: De Orbe Novo by Peter Martyr, The Third Decade, Book IV, p. 317.

All this without mentioning how some Indigenous peoples, like the Aztecs, mutilated, tortured, dismembered, killed, and ate their slaves for human sacrifices to their gods.

Though Vox “upgraded” to use (mostly) Bergreen as a “source” for this article, they keep doing what revisionists always do: That is, to accuse Columbus of things he never committed, sometimes in places and timelines of history he did not live, or distorting the facts, or omitting important details and historical context with the intention to create false narratives. 

If you want to learn the real story of Columbus, I will suggest to read primary sources instead and skip the modern-day revisions. “The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand” is a good start.

#Vox #DebunkingVox #Columbus