Almost everyone knows that Columbus arrived in America on October 12, 1492, but fewer people know the dates when the caravels departed: it was the 3 of August of the same year, and they left from right here, the Palos harbour.
But do not think that the role of Palos de la Frontera is limited to being the starting point of the event, is not: in this town, they also developed, prepared and cooked almost all of the arrangements that were to lead to that incredible journey for those times. And it was also the scenario in which, a few years earlier, a dejected Christopher Columbus was on the verge of giving it all up.
It was around 1485 when the seaman was quite cross with the King Juan II of Portugal, also called the Tyrant. Without going into detail about his nickname, it turns out that the monarch had just said no to his project, but not before taking note of everything Christopher had told him and then send other sailors in those directions.
The disappointed Columbus ended up looking for support in the Monastery of La Rábida, and there he found two monks who listened to him and even convinced him that a bad experience with a cheater king was not enough reason to abandon such a promising business. Those two monks were Juan Perez and Antonio de Marchena, two educated men who put a lot of attention to what the sailor had to tell them.
And so, in the cells of the Mudejar Monastery, meaningful conversations were held those days for the turn of history that was approaching. Columbus explained to the monks the details of his plan, and they provided him with contacts in the Court and also with Martin Alonso Pinzon, a skilful sailor who had means and influence in the area. Things were looking good for Christopher, and finally, on August 3, 1492, the caravels Pinta, Niña and Santa Maria sailed to the heart of the so-called Sea of Darkness, without GPS, or maps, or any idea of what was waiting for them in an ocean that nobody had crossed yet. It is frightening just to imagine it…
The Santa Maria ship was shipwrecked in American lands, but the other two returned home on March 15, 1493, arriving in Palos separately due to a major storm that accompanied them on the return trip.
Before you get too impressed by the history of the place, do not forget to go the Caravel Dock, a museum dedicated to the Columbian odyssey which is just a stone’s throw away and where you can see the magnificent replicas of the ships that those fearless men used to cross what was believed to be impassable. Yes, yes: they were that small!