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Hot Topics: National Hispanic Heritage Month: Cristobal Colón

Last update: September 10, 2012

Cristóbal Colón: (a.k.a. Christopher Columbus) was born Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, Italy in 1451. His name was changed to Colón when he became a Spanish citizen. Colón's parents moved from the small village of Mocónesi to the city of Genoa in order to improve their situation. Colón attended an elementary school in Pavia Street where he learned to read, write, and do arithmetic. Part of his education included learning how to read and write Latin. (Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia, pgs. 162-164)

Colón's father, Domenico Colombo, a weaver, trained all of his sons in his trade in the hope they would some day become an international merchant, the highest-status occupation at that time. Part of this training included an emphasis in mathematics. Mathematics was essential in order to become a skilled navigator. Colón developed remarkable mathematical skills and handled navigational calculations with great facility. Colón's "miscalculations of the earth's circumference were due to incorrect geographical assumptions, not computational errors" (Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia, pg.164). Another part of his education included accounting. Accounting would allow him to become a proficient businessman. It was Colombo's hope that his son would pursue a career as an import/export merchant.

Domenico Colombo was involved in a number of business ventures including wine making and the import/export business. This was the influence that Colón grew up in Genoa. The bustling maritime life of the city influenced the young man way before he ever went to sea. Genoa's reputation as a thriving merchant city was beyond compare. Colón and his brothers would spend "hours watching the dock workers load and unload cargoes, observing the repair and refitting of merchant vessels at the arsenal, and tracing the emergent forms of new ships as they were built in the city shipyards" (Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia, pg.167-168).

Source: Bedini, Silvio A. The Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. 2 volumes.

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