The watershed of 1492 — The Columbian Exchange


In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

The above is what I understand to be the full version of the ditty people recite to remember when Columbus made his famous voyage. Today is the day set aside to celebrate the voyage of Christopher Columbus, and his contribution to the world.

Back in the early days of the United States, Christopher Columbus was regarded as a hero. America was given the moniker “Columbia”, and Washington, District of Columbia was name in honor of George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

Today some associate Christopher Columbus with the designation “destroyer of worlds.” His coming was no great feat, but a destruction of the natives of the Western Hemisphere.

It seems there is seldom a place for middle ground in today’s culture wars. For me, I will continue to see him as a positive vanguard of Western Civilization on this shore, the first, though not the most important.

And, side-note, what of the title of the post? Well, I ran across that. One writer noticed that the “Columbian Exchange” may be his greatest contribution. Prior to 1492 the Eastern and Western hemispheres were basically disconnected, no exchanges. After 1492 the two continents started a continuous exchange of flora and fauna. For the first time in our recorded history there was one world  And has been ever since.


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