You may have learned in school that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria and proved for the first time in history that the earth wasn’t flat. Actually, he didn’t — discover America or prove that the earth wasn’t flat, and there is some question as to the names of his ships.
His four trips from Spain across the Atlantic — in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502 — did, however, change human history forever, ushering in what is known as the Columbian Exchange — the historic exchange of plants, animals, disease, culture, technology and people between the Old and New Worlds. The Old World, for example, got chocolate (and many other things), and the New World got wheat, along with bubonic plague, chicken pox, cholera, malaria, measles, typhoid, etc., which decimated the populations of indigenous people Columbus found living on the islands he “discovered.”
So how did we got a U.S. federal holiday in his name?
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