North America 1492: Arrival of Columbus
In 1492 the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, succumbing to Europe’s growing thirst for exploration, agreed to support the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus in his bid to reach Asia by sailing westwards across the Atlantic. Columbus’ calculations proved to be wrong and in October he unexpectedly arrived in the Americas—continents almost wholly unknown to Europe at the time. Although his discovery was far from the first, Columbus’ voyage would ultimately transform the world by opening up the Americas for conquest and exploitation.
13 Apr 1486–2 Sep 1502 Reign of Ahuitzotl▲
In 1486 Ahuitzotl (“Water Thorny”, the name of a mythical otter creature) succeeded his elder brother Tizoc to become ruler of the Aztec Empire. He rapidly expanded the empire, doubling it in size with conquests stretching to the Pacific coast and Guatemala. He also supervised a major rebuilding of Tenochtitlan before his death in 1502.
Jan–17 Apr 1492 Capitulations of Santa Fe▲
In the 1480s the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus lobbied King John II of Portugal to support an expedition across the Atlantic Ocean, which Columbus believed would provide a faster route to the lucrative markets of Asia as he underestimated the circumference of the Earth by almost 15,000 km. When the Portuguese rejected his scheme, he turned to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile—who jointly ruled Spain—and, in January 1492, shortly after the Spanish reconquest of Granada, obtained their consent. The terms were clarified in April, when the two monarchs agreed to grant Columbus the title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and a tenth part of all riches obtained from his voyage.
3 Aug–12 Oct 1492 Columbus’ voyage of discovery▲
At 8 a.m. on 3 August 1492 Christopher Columbus led an expedition of three ships—the Pinta, Niña, and Santa María—from Palos de la Frontera in the Spanish kingdom of Castile into the Atlantic Ocean in a bid to find a sea route to Asia. Following a stopover in the Canary Islands, the flotilla headed westwards into unexplored ocean on 6 September, until sailor Rodrigo de Triana finally sighted land at 2 a.m. on 12 October. Landing later that day, Columbus named the island San Salvador, although the indigenous Lucayan Taino called it Guanahani. It is uncertain exactly which island Columbus landed on, but Watlings Island (renamed San Salvador in 1925) in the Bahamas is the favorite candidate.