Primary Sources: Columbus' LetterAnnouncing his Discovery, 1493By Christopher Columbus, adapted by Newsela staff on 03.27.17Word Count 1,049TOP: "Landing of Columbus (12 October 1492)," a painting by John Vanderlyn. MAP: The route of Columbus' ﬁrst voyage.Modern place names are in black, and Columbus' place names are in blue. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.Editor's Note: This letter was written by Christopher Columbus to Luis de Santangel, theﬁnance minister of King Ferdinand II of Spain. Santangel was in charge of the money in thetreasury of King Ferdinand and was the person who convinced King Ferdinand and QueenIsabella to pay for Columbus' trip in 1492. The letter is the ﬁrst known documentannouncing the results of the ﬁrst voyage of Columbus that set out in 1492 and reachedthe Americas. The letter was written on Feb. 15, 1493, aboard the ship Niña, on the returntrip back to Europe. Columbus arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on March 4, 1493. The letter wasprobably translated from Italian into Spanish in Lisbon and then sent to Santangel at theSpanish court of King Ferdinand.The letter helped to spread the news of Columbus' voyage throughout Europe. In the letter,Columbus claims to have discovered and taken control of a series of islands in the IndianOcean in Asia, but he was wrong; he had landed on the Caribbean islands of theAmericas. He described the islands, particularly Hispaniola (Haiti and the DominicanThis article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com.1
Republic today) and Juana (Cuba today), exaggerating their size and wealth in gold andsuggesting that mainland China was close nearby. He felt the native people that he called"Indians" were peaceful and willing to convert to Catholicism."I Saw No Towns Or Cities On The Sea Coast"Because my undertakings have attained success, I know that it will be pleasing to you toread of everything done and discovered in this voyage. On the 33rd day after I departedfrom Cadiz, Spain, I came to the Indian sea, where I found many islands inhabited by moremen than I could count. I loudly claimed these islands for our most fortunate king, withﬂags ﬂying and no one objecting. To the ﬁrst of these, called Guanahani by the Indians, Igave the name of the blessed Savior, for it was He who helped me reach this as well as theother islands. I also called each one of the others by a new name, as I ordered one islandto be called Santa Maria of the Conception, another Fernandina, another Isabella, anotherJuana [Cuba today] and so on with the rest. I proceeded along the coast of Juana towardsthe west. I found it so large that I believed it to be not an island, but the country of Cathay[China today]. I saw no towns or cities on the sea coast. There were some villages andsmall farms and the people ran off as soon as we approached. Juana is surrounded bymany very safe and wide harbors, like no others that I have ever seen. Many great, freshand healthy rivers ﬂow through it and also many very high mountains are there. All theseislands are very beautiful and full of a great variety of trees stretching up to the stars; theleaves of which I believe are never shed, for I saw them as green and ﬂourishing as theyare usually in Spain in the month of May. Some of them were blossoming, some werebearing fruit, some were in other conditions; each one was thriving in its own way. Thenightingale and other birds were singing in the month of November, when I was exploringthem. On the island of Juana there are seven or eight kinds of palm trees, which far excelours in height and beauty, just as all the other trees, herbs and fruits do. There are alsoexcellent pine trees, vast plains and meadows, a variety of birds, a variety of honey and avariety of metals, but not iron."There Is No Iron And They Are Also Without Weapons"In the one which was called Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican Republic today], thereare great and beautiful mountains, vast ﬁelds, groves and plains suitable for planting andcultivating, where houses can be built. The convenience of the harbors in this island andthe remarkable number of rivers contributing to the healthfulness of man exceed belief.The trees, pastures and fruits of this island differ greatly from those of Juana. ThisHispaniola, moreover, abounds in different kinds of spices, in gold and in metals. As I saidabove, there is no iron and they are also without weapons, which indeed are unknown.They have simple ways, are trustworthy and quick to offer us anything they possess. Theyeven invite us to ask for things. They show greater love for all others than for themselves;they give valuable things for triﬂes, being satisﬁed even with a very small return, or withnothing. However, I did not allow things of no value to be given to them, such as pieces ofThis article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com.2
plates, dishes and glass; although if they were able to obtain these, it seemed to them likegetting the most beautiful jewels in the world. In all these islands there is no difference inthe appearance of the people, nor in their ways and language, but all understand eachother, a fact that is very important for the end which I suppose to be earnestly desired byour most important king; that is, their conversion to the holy religion of Christ, to which intruth, as far as I can see, they are very ready to do. In all these islands, as I haveunderstood, each man is content with only one wife, except the princes or kings, who arepermitted to have 20. The women appear to work more than the men, but I was not able toﬁnd out surely whether they have individual property, for I saw that one man had the dutyof distributing to the others, especially refreshments, food and things of that kind. Trulygreat and wonderful is the holy Christian religion that of our sovereigns, which is greaterthan what we have been able to do here because divine will has rewarded our humanefforts. For God does listen to his servants who love his commandments, even inimpossibilities, as has happened to us on the present occasion, who have attained thatwhich hitherto mortal men have never reached. These things that have been done are thusbrieﬂy related. Farewell.Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Fleet.This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com.3
Quiz123Which of the following sentences from Columbus' letter BEST develops a central idea?(A)On the 33rd day after I departed from Cadiz, Spain, I came to the Indiansea, where I found many islands inhabited by more men than I could count.(B)In the one which was called Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican Republictoday], there are great and beautiful mountains, vast ﬁelds, groves andplains suitable for planting and cultivating, where houses can be built.(C)As I said above, there is no iron and they are also without weapons, whichindeed are unknown.(D)Truly great and wonderful is the holy Christian religion that of our sovereigns,which is greater than what we have been able to do here because divine willhas rewarded our human efforts.Which answer choice provides an accurate and objective summary of the article?(A)Columbus' letter describes his encounters with the natives he discovered.He explains how he successfully established a peaceful relationship with theIndians.(B)Columbus' letter details his success as an explorer. He exaggerates thefeatures of the islands he discovered and the natives he encountered.(C)Columbus' letter describes how he claimed the islands in the Indian Sea forthe king. He explains how he effectively named the islands and interactedwith the Indians.(D)Columbus' letter announces his discovery of islands he believed to be in theIndian Ocean. He describes features that make them suitable for futurecolonization.In the section "I Saw No Towns Or Cities On The Sea Coast," what is Columbus' purpose inspeaking about the lack of settlements and plentiful harbors along the coast?(A)to prove that the area had not been discovered before(B)to show how some of the islands were not suitable for settlement(C)to convince his audience of the islands potential as a settlement(D)to show how vast and largely unexplored the islands wereThis article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com.4
4What is the purpose of Columbus' favorable description of the Indians and their "love for allothers"?(A)to show that the Indians are peaceful and will not resist being converted toChristianity(B)to show how the Europeans can learn from the Indians and their treatment ofone another(C)to prove that Indians have already adopted Christianity into their way of life(D)to prove that the Indians do not value material possessions and will work forfreeThis article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com.5
Isabella to pay for Columbus' trip in 1492. The letter is the ﬁrst known document announcing the results of the ﬁrst voyage of Columbus that set out in 1492 and reached the Americas. The letter was written on Feb. 15, 1493, aboard the ship Niña, on the return trip back to Europe. Columbus arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on March 4, 1493. The .