An Italian entrepreneur backed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (prototypical venture capitalists), Christopher Columbus went looking for spice and India, but found the Bahamas. He saw Cuba’s coastline and hoped it was China, and believed the Dominican Republic might be Japan. He went all the way home with gold, spice—and captives, human chattel—still thinking he’d been to Asia. It took a few more booty-gathering trips, each a couple of weeks long, before he realized he’d run into a new continent. Today the King and Queen would be looking to back the next Google or Space X. And Columbus would find himself in meetings with investors explaining that his exploration business should pivot to a colonization strategy.
Many people and places resist the celebration of a man who subjugated indigenous populations and governed (he became governor of Hispaniola) ruthlessly. Some cities, states and many Latin American countries mark the anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” with celebrations of native peoples or their contemporary diversity. Yet the idea of the explorer—of which Columbus is probably the most famous, if flawed, example—remains a powerful one. It’s hard to imagine a society that doesn’t celebrate discovery, or an individual who doesn’t strive for it. Even if it’s an accident.
Link: Mary Black sings Columbus