10 October 2011 — Christopher Columbus and Rotary

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Christopher Columbus set sail on his first voyage to the Western Hemisphere in 1492. Rotary was founded by Paul Harris in 1905. So how is the explorer connected to Rotary? He isn’t. But for a little fun, and another look at the worldwide scope of Rotary, and to recognize the observation of Columbus Day in the United States on 10 October…here is a Rotary voyage through the life and journeys of the explorer (who was not, forgive us, particularly good for the people who already lived in the region he “discovered”).

Born in Genova (Genoa), Italy, in 1451.  Unfortunately the website for the Rotary Club of Genoa, chartered 31 January 1925 and the fifth Club ever in Italy, does not work.  So here instead is the Rotary Club of Genova Sud Ovest –check them out!

He found himself in LIsboa (Lisbon), Portugal, in 1476.  The Rotary Club of Lisboa was the first Club in Portugal, chartered 23 January 1926.

He got married and moved to the Island of Porto, Portugal.  No Club in Porto has a working website.  However, here’s a reference to one Club, in Rotarian Magazine, May 1978.

Columbus moved to Spain in 1485, settling in Palos, which has no Rotary Club but is very near Huelva.  The website for the Rotary Club of Huelva doesn’t work, but here is Rotary in Spain.

He left from Porto on his First Voyage in 1492, stopping first for some repairs on Gomera (Canary Islands).  There are several Rotary Clubs on various Canary Islands but none has a working website, which is probably why Columbus stayed only briefly for repairs.  Nothing interesting to do.  But since we must have a link, we can report that there is one Club in the entire world with “Canary” in the name: the Rotary Club of Canary Wharf, in London, England.  The website isn’t doing well, but at least it opens…

On 12 October 1492 Columbus made first landfall, somewhere in The Bahamas.  Apparently the exact first landing spot is in academic dispute, but here is the first Club in The Bahamas, Rotary Club of Nassau, chartered 19 January 1962.

Next stop was Cuba, arriving 29 October 1492.  Rotary is no longer in Cuba.  The first Club, RC Havana, was chartered 1 June 1916.  Here is a fascinating history of Rotary in Cuba from the Rotary Global History Fellowship.

From there, on to the Island of Hispaniola, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where he arrived on 24 December 1492, using the remains of the Santa Maria (which hit a reef and went all Titanic on them) to build a settlement called La Navidad.  It was destroyed a year later, but there’s a town there now called Cap Haitien, and they have a Rotary Club…which has no website…but has a Facebook page!

On 16 January 1492, he set sail from Samana Bay, now Dominican Republic…Samana, Dominican Republic has two Rotary Clubs but neither has a website…and arrived on 15 February 1493 on the Santa Maria in the Azores.  The Rotary Club of Angra do Heroismo-Cidade Patrimònio Mundial has no website, but here’s a story about a recent Official Visit of the District Governor.

By early March he was back in Lisbon, and a couple of weeks later home in Porto.

Columbus made three more voyages, visiting spots around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America.  He was seriously bad for the natives who lived there at the time, and didn’t end up with all that much gold to haul back across the Atlantic, either.

He died in Spain 20 May 1506, but eventually was buried in Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic, which he had helped found.  Here’s a history of Rotary in the Dominican Republic…and the Rotary Club of Santo Domingo, chartered 27 February 1943, which has no website.

Currently there are three Rotary Clubs in Columbus, Georgia; two in Columbus, Indiana; one in Columbus, Mississippi, one in Columbus County, North Carolina; two in Columbus, Nebraska; eight in Columbus, Ohio; one in Columbus, Texas; and one in Columbus, Wisconsin.  Meanwhile, there are more than twenty Clubs in various Central and South American cities named Colon, which of course was the sailor’s real name.

And one Club is named for the explorer: the Rotary Club of Cristobal-Colon, chartered 1 March 1921 in Colon, Panama, the northern terminus of the Panama Canal.  It has no website, so we end our program this week with a video:


(You will surely figure this out, even in Spanish, but this is the Administration Building of the Panama Canal.)



Language of the Week: Italian

4 responses to 10 October 2011 — Christopher Columbus and Rotary

  1. I enjoyed the connections between the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus and locations of International Rotary Clubs. I was then drawn to read the article about the History of Rotary in Cuba and found it to be extremely informative. I have lived in a world where Cuba is feared and Fidel Castro held strong control and power. It’s a shame that Cuba’s current reputation rests mainly on events of the last half of the 20th century.

  2. I popped in for a visit–very creative, and a great way to learn about Rotary Clubs in the “new” world! Good Job!

    It’s a shame that so many club websites don’t work–let that be a lesson–to get new members, keep those sites up and running!

  3. Very interesting. Thanks for posting this. BTW, is this “reply” section different from leaving a comment in the “Groups” area? A bit confusing…

  4. Grazie, Mel! I learned more about the journeys of Columbus from this than I learned in school. I, too, enjoyed the History of Rotary in Cuba. It certainly shed a different light on the country.

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