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Pan American Day

Christopher Columbus – Pan American Day

October 12th is the day in which the Americas observe Columbus Day, otherwise known as the Day of the Americas or Pan American Day.

Belize celebrates this day with a national and bank holiday. This holiday commemorates the voyage taken by the Italian, Christopher Columbus about 500 years ago on behalf of Spain. Columbus made four voyages to the “New World”- in 1492 to San Salvador Island, Cuba and Haiti; in 1493-96 to Guadaloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Puerto Rico and Jamaica; in 1498 to Trinidad and the mainland of South America and in 1502-04 to Honduras and Nicaragua. The discovery of the “New World” allowed European countries like Portugal, Spain, France and Britain to have empires around the world. These nations expanded their political control, their economic systems and their cultural influences in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas and eventually world-leading countries such as Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The discovery of these worlds created a great clash of cultures in history, as people of various European and African nations came in contact and conflict with indigenous tribes and nations. These conflicts occurred in what was conceived to be the great continents of opportunity.

As far as Belize is concerned, Pan American Day celebrates the great migration of Mestizos and Indians (Hispanics) from Yucatan, Mexico into Belize in the mid 1800’s. The people were fleeing an area torn with war and looking for a peaceful land where they could live in harmony. They came to settle and raised communities in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. They populated the northern areas of Belize but gradually extended their influences countrywide. Their primary input has been the Roman Catholic Religion, the Spanish language, the sugar industry and food.

Pan American Day is not only for the Mestizo and Indian citizens of Belize. Each of us has been influenced by the influx of Hispanics from Yucatan and from Columbus’ great discovery. Belize’s unique culture was born.

The Santa María was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Her master and owner was Juan de la Cosa.

The Santa María was a small carrack, or “nao”, about 70 feet long, used as the flagship for the expedition. She carried 40 men. The ‘Santa María was constructed from pine and oak which was from the Białowieża Forest.

The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the caravel-type ships Santa Clara, remembered as the Niña (“The Girl” – a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño) and Pinta (“The Painted” – this might be a reference to excessive makeup). All these ships were second-hand (if not third or more) and were never meant for exploration.

The Santa María was originally named La Gallega (“The Galician”), probably because she was built in Galicia. It seems the ship was known to her sailors as Marigalante, Spanish for “Gallant Mary”. Bartolomé de Las Casas never used La Gallega, Marigalante or Santa María in his writings, preferring to use la Capitana or La Nao.

The Santa María had a single deck and three masts. She was the slowest of Columbus’ vessels but performed well in the Atlantic crossing. She ran aground off the present-day site of Môle Saint-Nicolas, Haiti on December 25, 1492, and was lost. Timbers from the ship were later used to build Môle Saint-Nicolas, which was originally called La Navidad (Christmas) because the wreck occurred on Christmas Day.

The Niña (the Spanish word for “girl”) was one of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage towards the Indies in 1492. The real name of the Niña was Santa Clara. The name Niña was probably a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño. She was a caravel-type vessel.

The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the caravel Pinta and the Carrack-type Santa María. The Niña was by far Columbus’ favorite. She was originally lateen sail rigged caravela latina, but she was re-rigged as caravela redonda at Azores with square sails for better ocean performance. There is no authentic documentation on the specifics of the Niña’s design. Often said to have had three masts, there is some evidence she may have had four masts.

On Columbus’ first expedition, the Niña carried 24 men, captained by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón. They left Palos de la Frontera on August 3, 1492, stopping at the Canary Islands on August 12, 1492, and continued westward. Landfall was made in the Bahamas at dawn on October 12, 1492. After running the Santa Maria aground, Columbus returned on the Niña in early 1493, arriving in Palos de la Frontera on March 15. On the first voyage to America the crew of the Niña slept on the deck, but adopted the use of hammocks after seeing Native Americans sleeping in hammocks.

The Niña joined a grand fleet of 17 ships for the second voyage to Hispaniola, becoming the flagship for an exploration of Cuba. She was the only ship to survive the 1495 hurricane, returning quickly to Spain in 1496.

The Niña was then chartered for an unauthorized voyage to Rome. She was captured by a pirate corsair when leaving the port of Cagliari and brought to Cape Pula, Sardinia. The Captain, Alonso Medel, escaped with a few men. He stole a boat, rowed back to Niña, and made sail, returning to Cadiz.
In 1498 she returned to Hispaniola as advance guard of Columbus’ Third Voyage. She was lying in wait at Santo Domingo in 1500. In 1501 she made a trading voyage to the Pearl Coast and there is no further log of her.

The Niña logged at least 25,000 nautical miles (46,000 km) under Columbus’ command.

La Pinta (the “Painted”) was the fastest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. The New World was first sighted by Rodrigo de Triana on the Pinta on October 12, 1492.

Pinta was a caravel-type vessel. By tradition Spanish ships were named after saints and usually given nicknames. Thus, Pinta, like Niña, was not the ship’s actual name. The actual name of the Pinta is unknown.

Pinta was square rigged and was smaller than the Santa María, weighing approximately 60 tons with a length of 20 meters and a width of 7 meters. The crew size was 26 men. Captain of the Pinta was Martín Alonzo Pinzón.

The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the Niña and the Santa María. There are no known contemporary likenesses of Columbus’ ships. Replicas of each of all three ships exist, the best-known of which is the “sailing museum” Niña, built in 1992, which has toured the world continuously since then.

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