When Christopher Columbus first set out to discover the New World, he could not have imagined that he would see some of the world’s most beautiful sights that would undoubtedly take his breath away.
As gathered from his chronicles, the exotic beauty of a particular island in the Caribbean Sea left him absolutely spell-bound. In his essay about the discovery of this land, he passionately describes the splendor of its lush greenery and landscape; a land of exotic flowers and trees with wide and clear rivers.
The term ‘discovery’ is a very apt term to use, to explain that it was Christopher Columbus who put Cuba on the world map. This is more so, because before Columbus reached there, this island was already inhabited by a race known as the Ciboney. Their line of ancestry has been traced to Central and South America. These people were perhaps the first human inhabitants of Cuba and had settled there for several thousand years. The people of the Ciboney tribe were not particularly skilled at agriculture, but were primarily fishermen, hunters and gatherers.
After the Ciboney, another group of people who migrated to Cuba were the Arawak Indians. It is recorded that there were between 50,000 to 90,000 Arawak Indians there by the time of Columbus’ discovery. It has been historically traced that they had probably migrated to Cuba from the Orinoco basin in Venezuela. Another area of migration was from the Guianas in South America.
The Arawak Indian inhabitants were primarily boat-builders and agriculturists. There were also many who were skilled in pottery and the creation of wooden artifacts. The people who were skilled at agriculture were called the ‘Taino’.
In fact, Cuba gets its name from the Taino word – cubanacán, which means a central place.
History records that Columbus discovered Cuba before the dawn of the 28th of October 1492. He first thought that he had entered Asia’s mainland, and was convinced that the name ‘Cuba’, which was what the aborigines called it, was the Indian name for Japan.
He then claimed the land for Spain and called it ‘Juana’. It is said Columbus named the island after the infant Don Juan, child of the Spanish monarchs Fernando V and Isabel I, who were also his benefactors. There were other names that Columbus successively gave to this land. But in the end, it was the original name ‘Cuba’ that finally stayed with the country.
By the 5th of December 1492, Christopher Columbus had explored the northeast coast of Cuba. He also covered the northern coast of Hispaniola. It was there that one of his renowned ships, the Santa Maria, had to be abandoned. One of the island’s natives, Cacique Guacanagari, permitted him to leave a few of his sailors behind. Owing to this, Christopher Columbus founded the La Navidad settlement with 39 of his men.