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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus (c. 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was a navigator, colonizer, and explorer from Genoa, Italy,[1][2][3][4]  whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. With his four voyages of exploration and several attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of Hispaniola, all funded by Isabella I of Castile, he initiated the process of Spanish colonization which foreshadowed general European colonization  of the "New World".

Although not the first to reach the Americas from Europe—he was preceded by at least one other group, the Norse, led by Leif Ericson, who built a temporary settlement 500 years earlier at L'Anse aux Meadows[5]— Columbus initiated widespread contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans.

The term "pre-Columbian" is usually used to refer to the peoples and cultures of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and his European successors.

The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicisation of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. The original name in 15th century Genoese language was Christoffa[6] Corombo[7] (pronounced [kriˈʃtɔffa kuˈɹuŋbu][dubious – discuss][8]). The name is rendered in modern Italian as Cristoforo Colombo, in Portuguese as Cristóvão Colombo (formerly Christovam Colom), in Catalan as Cristòfor Colom, and in Spanish as Cristóbal Colón.

Columbus's initial 1492 voyage came at a critical time of growing national imperialism and economic competition between developing nation states seeking wealth from the establishment of trade routes and colonies. In this sociopolitical climate, Columbus's far-fetched scheme won the attention of Isabella I of Castile. Severely underestimating the circumference of the Earth, he estimated that a westward route from Iberia to the Indies would be shorter than the overland trade route through Arabia. If true, this would allow Spain entry into the lucrative spice trade — heretofore commanded by the Arabs and Italians. Following his plotted course, he instead landed within the Bahamas Archipelago at a locale he named San Salvador. Mistaking the lands he encountered for the East Indies, he referred to the inhabitants as "indios".[9][10] There is a linguistic urban legend that he actually named them "una gente in Dios", (a people in God), and that in 1492 India was called Hindustan, but he never used the phrase "una gente in Dios" and India had been called India for centuries and the name 'Hindustan' did not become common until some time after Columbus.[11]

The anniversary of Columbus's 1492 landing in the Americas is usually observed as Columbus Day on 12 October in Spain and throughout the Americas, except Canada. In the United States it is observed annually on the second Monday in October.