|The Casa de Colón museum in Vegueta, Gran Canaria|
While his crew grudgingly mended the Pinta, Columbus spent his time in the rather splendid governor's house in Vegueta. Almost unchanged since the 15th Century this gorgeous example of Canarian architecture is now a free museum crammed with maps, paintings, models ships and a full scale replica of Columbus' cabin.
Have a good look at the ornate stone doors and windowsills, made by South American stonemasons. They carved maize cobs, jaguars and pineapples into the stone before most people in Europe knew what they were.
Local Tip: Don't get too close to the macaws in the museum patio; they are a bit jaded and inclined to nip. They've eaten the warning sign!
Between Gran Canaria And America
After Gran Canaria Columbus sailed west but stopped again for supplies; maybe even he was a bit scared of tackling the Atlantic. He skipped Tenerife, where the guanches were still holding out against the Spanish, and resupplied at La Gomera.
In fact, Columbus stopped in La Gomera as often as possible on his four journeys west. This had a lot to do with the beautiful Countess Beatriz de Bobadilla y Ossorio.
Exiled by Queen Isabella because King Ferdinand kept looking at her in court, she governed La Gomera after the guanches rebelled and killed her husband in 1488. She may have been easy on the eye but, even by the standards of the time, she was a vicious woman: Most of island's guanches were killed or sold into slavery after their sticks and stones rebellion inevitably failed.
Columbus As Hero
Was Columbus the heroic explorer who set sail despite everyone believing that he would fall off the edge of the flat world? Not at all! It was common knowledge at the time that the Earth was round and everyone knew that you could get to China and India by going west. They also assumed that the journey was too long for the ships of the time. They were right!
What Columbus did was get his figures wrong and underestimate the size of the world. He believed that he could make it to China and come back laden with spices and gold. After touring the courts of Europe with his get rich scheme he ended up in Spain, where the Spanish court was desperate for cash. Having bet the house on expelling the Moors they were desperate enough to gamble on Columbus' flawed maths. The wager paid off epically but not in the way anyone expected.
Columbus was basically a brave and stubborn man who got lost in the right direction. He only discovered America because it was in his way.
Columbus may have been an excellent sailor but he was a hopeless administrator. As governor of Spain's new colonies he kept sailing off to find a passage to China. Eventually he was shipped back to Spain in chains. Columbus was pardoned but never got his hands on much of the gold that flowed from the continent he discovered. He died chasing the Spanish court around the country demanding money and recognition.
But Where Is He Now?
Columbus was buried in Valladolid but his remains were moved to Seville and then to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Then they headed to Cuba and eventually back to Seville. Only they may still be in Santo Domingo. His bones have probably seen more of the world than Columbus did when he was alive.
Columbus The Tourist
Columbus stopped at Maspalomas in 1502 on his fourth and final voyage. After a day taking on water and firewood he sailed away, never to return. The long, straight road from Campo Internacional down to the Maspalomas lighthouse is called the Avenida de Colón in his honour. We wonder what he would make of Maspalomas now!
Where his bones are now hardly matters! Columbus lives on in legend and the Casa de Colón is the perfect place to appreciate the scale of his ambition and achievement. Just keep well back from the parrots!