Christopher Columbus in Madeira

By the end of the fifteenth century ,75 years after the discovery ,Madeira had become an agro industrial hub of sugar production.

In 1493 at the peak of production there were 80 mills operating in Funchal and Machico, the main areas of sugar plantations, generating  an yearly output of over 2200 tons of sugar.

The flourishing trade ,which was the main driver of Madeira economy, attracted a substantial number of expatriates working for foreign companies dealing with the exportation of sugar to Northern Europe and Mediterranean markets.

In time the thriving sugar cane plantation and industry would start to decline, after the discovery of St Thomas Islands and Brazil ,where specific labour environment made those markets much more competitive.

It was however due to the sugar exportation that the Genovese trader Christopher Columbus came to Madeira and eventually settled to live for about ten years , between 1476 and 1485.

The Portuguese “Caravela” ,a vessel with  an innovative design capable of sailing against the wind

The relevance of Columbus connection with Madeira would not be restricted to his trading activities ,but more importantly for the reason of his marriage with Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, the daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo ,a noble knight of the  court Infante Dom Henrique .

Colombo fell in love with Filipa Perestrelo when he saw her during a religious service at the convent where she was lodging, and the romance developed until they got married in the church of Porto Santo in 1479.

The father of Filipa Perestrelo had already died ,but the influence of his cultural legacy had decisive effect in the destiny of Christopher Colombo and his future achievements.

Bartlomeu Perestrelo who had been the first Donatory Governor of the Island of Porto Santo was an experienced seafarer, having  participated in the early Portugueses discoveries.

What  Bartolomeu Perestrelo  had left behind was precious and vast archive of documentation and  pieces of equipment ,encapsulating the Portuguese’s nautical accomplishments, from extensive cartography  , to chronicles, captains logs , charts and sailing instruments ,derived from the invention of astronomical navigation.

These  proficient pioneering innovations of the Portuguese seafarers of the fifteenth century navigation gave Columbus, who a traditional Mediterranean sailor, the capacity  of mastering systems of open oceans voyages, based on the stars to determine altitudes and latitudes.

This vast maritime scientific knowledge was later validated with  the participation in various sailing expeditions with  Bartolomeu Dias and other navigators the other Atlantic islands and along the coast of Africa .

During these voyages Columbus become familiar with the Portuguese “Caravela” ,a vessel with  an innovative and ingenious  design capable of ,” tacking “,sailing against the wind.

In essence of all biographers agree that the experience that Columbus lived in Madeira in the early years of his life ,he was only 25 years old when he came to the archipelago  for the first time ,changed his destiny and the future of and dimension of the World,  when he discovered the gates of the Americas in 1492.

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