History of Christopher Columbus's Third Voyage to the Americas

About the history of Christopher Columbus's third voyage to the Americas in 1498.



By now the beautiful widow at Gomera was out of the picture. After surviving the doldrums and a tidal wave, Columbus's ships reached Trinidad, where the crew tried to land. To soothe the natives, they played music and danced, but the Indians misinterpreted this sign of European goodwill and let fly with arrows. During this voyage, Columbus became the first Renaissance European to set foot on the American mainland when he went ashore at the Paria Peninsula, in what was to become Venezuela. At first he considered it another island, then feeling the full force of the Orinoco, a mighty freshwater river, he was inspired to write, "I believe that this is a very great continent, until today unknown." Later, however, he reconsidered; it was, he said, actually an extension of China, perhaps paradise, situated on that part of the world that protrudes like a woman's nipple to be closer to heaven. In 1500 crafty and unscrupulous Francisco de Bobadilla, sent by the crown to Santo Domingo, the new capital of Hispaniola, to check up on things, shipped Columbus home in chains. When the ship's captain wanted to free him, Columbus refused; only the king could give the order, he remarked with stiff-necked pride.

1499 Rascally De Ojeda sighted an Indian village built on stilts over water on the northeastern coast of South America and, according to some, named it Venezuela ("Little Venice").

1499--1500 Vicente Yanez Pinzon (1460?--1524?), the Nina's captain, explored South America and many have reached Brazil and the Amazon. He took 36 painted natives and a monkey back to Spain.

1500 Portuguese nobleman Pedro Alvares Cabral (1460?--1526?), with a crew of 1,200 on 13 ships, reached the southern part of Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. The sailors danced with the Tupi Indians to a tune played by the ship's bagpiper and were so entranced by a native girl who "was so charming that many women of our land, seeing such attractions, would be ashamed that theirs were not like hers" that they didn't notice that the Tupis were cannibals.

1501--1504 Amerigo Vespucci (1454--1512), son of a moneyed, upper-class Florentine family, sailed, in one of several voyages, with Goncalo Coelho under the flag of Portugal. The expedition may have reached a point near the southern boundary of Brazil. Vespucci became far more famous than Coelho, probably because he wrote such colorful descriptions of what he saw--for example, the women of Brazil, he noted, "being very lustful," applied poison to their mates' genitals to make them swell. Up to this point, the Vespuccis' main claim to fame had been a cousin, Simonetta, who modeled for Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus.

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