Columbus thought he landed in Asia but where did he actually land?

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Christopher Columbus went to his grave believing that he had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in India, perhaps the most famous misperception in all of history. This is the reason why Native Americans are often referred to as Indians, as "Indians" became a catch-all term in many European languages for native populations. Columbus wished to develop a sea route to India in order to engage in the lucrative spice trade without needing to sail all the way around Africa or travel across the deserts of the Middle East.

In reality, however, Columbus landed on the outlying islands of the Caribbean in the span of four separate journeys. We actually do not know which specific island he reached first: it was likely one of the smaller islands of the Bahamas, like Samana Cay or Cat Island. He then sailed through the Caribbean and established a settlement in Hispaniola, the island that today is Haiti and the Dominican Republic. On his next journey, he landed much farther south, first reaching the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles and then sailing north to Hispaniola and Cuba. His third journey had him arrive at the island of Trinidad, near the coast of modern-day Venezuela in South America. Columbus's fourth and final journey took him to the island of Martinique, and from there to the larger Caribbean islands and the mainland of Mexico.

While Columbus did not land in India, his discovery was just as lucrative as the spice trade. For the next three hundred years, Spain would have control over almost all of Central and South America, growing tremendously wealthy from gold and silver mines, cash crops like sugar, and resources like timber.

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When Christopher Columbus reached the New World on October 12, 1492, he thought he had reached Asia and found a western trade route to China and India. However, later explorers (such as Amerigo Vespucci) realized Columbus had not actually reached Asia. Instead, Columbus, the Admiral of the Ocean, had discovered a new continent: North America. In fact, Columbus had become the first known European to sail to the Bahamas.

Because early maps of the New World were inaccurate, historians disagree about where exactly Columbus landed. We know the natives called the island on which he landed Guanahani, and that Columbus named it San Salvador (Holy Savior). Historians think the island on which Columbus landed was most likely San Salvador Island, Plana Cays, or Samana Cay.


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