Dr. Jose Antonio Lorente shows a skull attributed to Christopher Columbus from a set of skeletal remains from Guadalajara, at the Granada School of Medicine.Fermin rodriguez

One of the greatest historical enigmas of all time can be solved next October thanks to the most advanced genetic technology. Where was Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America, born? An investigation undertaken by the University of GranadaColumbus DNA, his true origin―, It will require the collaboration of laboratories in Granada, Florence, Rome, Texas and Mexico, it will determine his place of birth after genetic analysis of the navigator’s bones, in addition to comparing them with those of his possible parents and descendants. The certainties of the history books are at stake. Its promoters explain it this way: “We are in the most decisive stage, the one that has required the longest waiting time until we have an advanced genetic analysis technology that guarantees the greatest chances of success.”

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Columbus died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, with the question of his true origin open. José Antonio Lorente, professor of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Granada, together with the physical anthropologist Juan Carlos Álvarez Merino and the historian Marcial Castro, who headed an interdisciplinary team, exhumed in 2003 the remains of the admiral and his son Hernando from the sepulcher where they were deposited in the cathedral of Seville. As the discoverer’s tomb was considered an Asset of Cultural Interest, the negotiations were very complex. They finally extracted part of the bones and transferred them, together with those of Diego Colón, the sailor’s brother, who were at the La Cartuja-Pickman factory in Seville, to the University of Granada. There they were kept in an armored room. In the course of that investigation, the relationship between the three bodies (the two brothers, Cristóbal and Diego, and the son of the first, Hernando) was confirmed. The Dominican Republic maintains that the navigator rests in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, in a box found in 1877 where the inscription “Christopher Columbus” is read.

The dispute between Spain and the Caribbean country over the remains has its origin in the fact that the bodies of the discoverer and his son were transferred from the peninsula in 1523 to the island of Hispaniola (territory today shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti). where the sailor wanted to be buried. The bodies were deposited in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, until in 1793 Spain ceded the Caribbean island to France. The coffins were then transported to the Cathedral of Havana, where they remained until the independence of Cuba in 1898. From there, with all the honors, they were sent back to Spain and placed in the Cathedral of Seville, where the admiral rests in an impressive grave the work of Arturo Mélida. The promoters of the project are trying, through the Government of Spain, that the Dominican Executive also give up the bones it conserves for analysis.

Tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Seville.
Tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Seville.

It is expected that the mortal remains, kept since 2003 in the armored box of the University of Granada, will leave this Thursday to be analyzed by the university itself and different laboratories in Europe – including some Italians, to avoid suspicions, if it is finally determined that the discoverer was not Genoese – and America. The results of the investigation will be made public in October in a documentary directed by Regis Francisco López, produced by RTVE and Story Productions, the same ones that unveiled last year the European-Berber origin of the Canarian Guanches.

There are theories that Columbus falsified his ancestry, being a converted Jew

The hypothesis most accepted by historians places the birthplace of Columbus in Genoa (Italy) in 1451, as the son of Giovanni Colón or Colombo and Giovanna Fontanarrosa, a family of weavers. Various historical documents, such as the testament of his son Hernando Colón, ratify it. Doubts persist, however, since he never wrote a line in Italian and in his writings he used Valencian, Majorcan, Galician or Portuguese idioms. In fact, there are numerous theories that argue that the admiral concealed or falsified his origin as a converted Jew or due to inheritance legal problems. Renowned historians establish their origin from countries as diverse as Spain, Portugal, Croatia or Poland.

On this occasion, according to the experts from the University of Granada in their note, “it is the most ambitious scientific investigation on the origin of Columbus, which compiles the work developed by the different theses that have emerged so far and that have possible genetic information to contrast. Valencia, Portugal, Galicia, Navarra or Mallorca will be some of the possibilities studied ”.

Meeting of experts at the Faculty of Medicine of Granada on the occasion of the study of the DNA of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.
Meeting of experts at the Faculty of Medicine of Granada on the occasion of the study of the DNA of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.Fermín Rodríguez

International Congress

This Wednesday a world meeting of authors who support the various theories began in Granada and who have delivered to Professor Lorente the material collected so far, which includes documentary sources, historical files and even genetic remains. Francesc Albardaner i Llorens, a member of the Catalan Society for Historical Studies, defends the Valencian cradle of the navigator. He considers that he was born into a family of Jewish converts. His father, according to the historian, was an emigrant who came to Valencia from Liguria (Italy) and who married a Valencian woman. For this reason, he maintains, “due to being the son of a mixed marriage, he could both present himself as a Genoese nation, as a natural subject of the Crown of Aragon.”

The experts shuffle, among others, a Valencian, Galician, Italian, Majorcan or Navarrese origin of the navigator

Fernando Branco, a professor at the University of Lisbon, believes that the discoverer was Portuguese. His real name, says this honorary member of the Portuguese Academy of History, was Pedro Ataíde and he was a privateer who fled to Castile in 1485. For their part, the historians José and Antonio Mattos e Silva assert that he was the bastard son of the princess Portuguese Leonor de Aviz. A third Portuguese hypothesis defends it researcher Carlos Evaristo, which states that, in reality, he was the son of the Duke of Beja y Visey and Isabel Gonçalves, a woman of Jewish descent. Christopher Columbus, adjusting to this version, would be called Salvador Fernandes Zarco and was born in Cuba, in the Portuguese Alentejo. As an adult, he became a captain and spied on Castile on behalf of King John II of Portugal. The author describes him as a kind of “agent 007” from the neighboring country.

The doctor Jose Mari Ercilla On the other hand, it states that the discoverer was born in Navarra, in the town of Ainza, and that he carried the HLA-B27 antigen, characteristic of the agotes, a discriminated minority that lived between Spain and France. Remember that only in Navarra and America there are populations called Ainza. “This name has not existed in any other part of the world other than in America after the discovery of Columbus. A place name that only someone born there could know because the Coloms, according to the Navarrese royal census, inhabited this town with only five houses ”.

'First landing of Christopher Columbus in America' (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from the Prado Museum collection.
‘First landing of Christopher Columbus in America’ (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from the Prado Museum collection.

The hypothesis of Gabriel Verd Martorell, president of the Cristóbal Colón Cultural Association, is that he was the natural son of the prince of Viana, brother of Fernando el Católico, and of the Mallorcan Margalida Colom. He came to the world in Felanitx (Mallorca) in 1460. And that the navigator gave the name of Margarita to an island that he discovered in 1498 off the Venezuelan coast in memory of his mother.

Eduardo Esteban Meruéndano, President of the Cristóbal Colón Galego Association ‘Celso García de la Riega’, defends the Galician origin of the navigator. For its part, Alfonso C. Sanz Núñez, associate professor in the Department of Regional Geographic Analysis at the Faculty of Geography of the Complutense University, assures that Columbus came to the world in Espinosa de Henares (Guadalajara) on June 18, 1435 and is buried in Cogulludo (Guadalajara). He was the grandson of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, admiral of Castile, the king’s senior officer in the navy, and the son of Aldonza de Mendoza, Duchess of Arjona. When she died, he left her 13,000 maravedíes as an inheritance, but her uncle, the Marquis of Santillana, stole them. The Catholic Monarchs, given his lineage, made him Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Of course, a sea of ​​doubts.

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