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We all know the old saying, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." It's one of history's most memorable dates featuring one of its most important figures, Christopher Columbus. We all know how he convinced the king and queen of Spain to fund his expedition, of his "radical" idea of a global sphere, and of his wonderful discovery of America. But let's ask a critical question of this fellow from Genoa. Why was he sailing? Why do we remember him instead of the others that came before him? It's easy to say money from the East Indies, but what made him sail west instead of east? To answer that, we have to wind the clock back 29 years to 1453.
During the Middle Ages, the Byzantine city of Constantinople controlled the spice trade from east to west. In the year 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans then went on to conquer Alexandria, effectively cutting off all Europe from the East Indies and their spices. This left many in Europe in want of the basic spices that they had come to enjoy. Medieval beef was no good without pepper to cover up the rotten odor. In the years between 1453 and 1492, the Portuguese found a way around Africa to get to India. This was great for the Portuguese who could monopolise the spice trade, but the rest of Europe wanted competition. It is for this reason that Columbus planned to under-cut the Portuguese and find his own way to the Indies.
So off he went in his three ships: La Nina, La Pinta, y La Santa Maria. Picture for a moment, if you will, the fate of the billions of souls to come that rested on those three small ships striking their way across the Atlantic Ocean. How amazing it is that history can be changed by so few men. I won't ask you to imagine what the world would be like if 1492 didn't happen, but try to appreciate that it did happen and that is why we are here now in America. Columbus might not have technically "discovered" America, but he was the first one to tell everybody that he did. That is why we remember Columbus instead of the others that came before him.