13 de febrero de 2009


Before the death of Columbus, Spain had taken firm possession of Cuba, Porto Rico, and St. Domingo, and she stood ready to seize any of the adjoining islands or lands so soon as gold, pearls, or aught else of value should be found there. Cruises of discovery were made in every direction, first, indeed, in Central and South America. In 1506 de Solis sailed along the eastern coast of Yucatan. In 1513 the governor of a colony on the Isthmus of Darien, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, from the top of a lofty mountain on the isthmus, saw what is now called the Pacific Ocean. He designated it the South Sea, a name which it habitually bore till far into the eighteenth century. From this time the exploration and settlement of the western coast, both up and down, went on with Little interruption, but this history, somewhat foreign to our theme, we cannot detail.

The same year, 1513, Ponce de Leon, an old Spanish soldier in the wars with the Moors, a companion of Columbus in his second voyage, and till now governor of Porto Rico, began exploration to the northward. Leaving Porto Rico with three ships, he landed on the coast of an unknown country, where he thought to find not only infinite gold but also the much-talked-about fountain of perpetual youth. His landing occurred on Easter Sunday, or Pascua Florida, March 27, 1513, and so he named the country Florida. The place was a few miles north of the present town of
St. Augustine. Exploring the coast around the southern extremity of the peninsula, he sailed among a group of islands, which he designated the Tortugas. Returning to Porto Rico, he was appointed governor of the new country. He made a second voyage, was attacked by the natives and mortally wounded, and returned to Cuba to die.

See also: 1498


As we have seen, Spain by no means deserves the entire credit of bringing the western continent to men's knowledge. Columbus himself was an Italian. So was Marco Polo, his inspirer, and also Toscanelli, his instructor, by whose chart he sailed his ever-memorable voyage. To Portugal as well Columbus was much indebted, despite his rebuff there.
Portugal then led the world in the art of navigation and in enthusiasm for discovery. Nor, probably, would Columbus have asked her aid in vain, had she not previously committed herself to the enterprise of reaching India eastward, a purpose brilliantly fulfilled when, in 1498, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed to Calicut, on the coast of Malabar. Already before this Spain and Portugal were rivals in the search for new lands, and Pope Alexander VI. had had to be appealed to, to fix their fields. By his bull of May 3, 4, 1493, he ordained as the separating line the meridian passing through a point one hundred leagues west of the Azores, where Columbus had observed the needle of his compass to point without deflection toward the north star. Portugal objecting to this boundary as excluding her from the longitude of the newly found Indies, by the treaty of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, the two powers, with the Pope's assent, moved the line two hundred and seventy leagues still farther west. At this time neither party dreamed of the complications destined subsequently to arise in reference to the position of this meridian on the other side of the globe.
The meridian of the Tordesillas convention had been supposed still to give Spain all the American discoveries likely to be made, it being ascertained only later that by it Portugal had obtained a considerable part of the South American mainland Brazil, we know, was, till in 1822 it became independent, a Portuguese dependency. Spain, however, retained both groups of the Antilles with the entire main about the Gulf of Mexico, and became the earliest great principality in the western world.

See also: 1500-1507