It appears that Christopher Columbus aka Cristóbal Colón in Spanish was a Catalan. I am easy enough with that except of course the Catalan people are already very full of themselves so the news that the great explore is one of their own threatens to swell their collective large head even further.
I have to hold my hand up and admit that I thought Cristóbal hailed from Genoa in Italy and had just discovered the Americas on behalf of the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella - which just goes to show how little I know - or rather those who taught me.
The placing of Colón as a Catalan rests with research carried out by Estelle Irizarry who is the professor emeritus of Spanish literature at the University of Georgetown in Washington. Her findings come as the result of looking at the DNI of Colón’s writings.
This establishes him as a Catalan who was from the territory of the old kingdom of Aragón that was ruled by Ferdinand. It appears he learnt Catalan before he tackled Spanish, which was his second language, but it is stated that he expressed himself in an incorrect manner in both tongues. I am warming to him already.
His Spanish is said to have been a form that appeared on the scene around 100 years before his first voyages at the time when there were terrible massacres of the Jews, the Spanish Jews, and the language was called Ladino. Having studied Colón’s writings Irizarry is of the opinion he was writing in Catalan Ladino and hence he was a Catalan Jew.
If that is the case the fact that his background has been a mystery is probably no accident but rather an up till now a very successful plot to hide his Jewish heritage at an extremely sensitive time. What gave Colón away says Irizarry is the use of a slash symbol that he employed to indicate pauses in sentences. That symbol, known as a virgule, did not appear in texts of that era written in Castilian nor in writings from any other country, but only in records and letters from the Catalan-speaking areas of the Iberian Peninsula - present-day Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.
So unlike many Spanish writers of that time, including the acclaimed Cervantes – whose books had periods and comas added in the 19 th century, Colón was a punctuator. That fact places him as a Catalan and Jewish – full stop.