Today is Columbus Day, which marks what is arguably the first landing of a European in the “New World.” On October 12, 1492, an ambitious seaman sailed into the West Indies, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The West Indies is a region of more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays in the Caribbean Sea. When Columbus landed there, he mistakenly believed that he had reached the Indies, his intended destination. (The Indies was a term once used to refer to South and Southeast Asia. The name is derived from the Indus River. India’s naming follows a similar path.)
Columbus was born into a family of wool weavers in 1451 in Genoa, which is now a part of modern Italy. He was named Christoffa Corombo. (The Italian version of the name is Cristoforo Colombo.) The name that the explorer is called in the English language history books, Christopher Columbus, is the Anglicization of the Latin Christophous Columbus.
When he settled in Spain, he called himself Cristóbal Colón.