CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AND THE ARCHIVES OF IBIZA

            The real name of the man who discovered the New World was Colom and not Colón (the Spanish form of Columbus), the form in which his name appears in the “Santa Fe Capitulations” of April 1492. Written evidence of this is provided by the historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478-1557) in his work Historia General y Natural de las Indias, Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano, a work which was first published by the Royal Academy of Spanish History in 1851. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, who throughout his whole Historia uses the spelling Colom to refer to the explorer, his brothers, his children and indeed to all the members of his family, tells us of his relations with the man who agreed on terms for the sponsorship of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella during the siege of Granada. He also relates that he saw him on his return to Barcelona after his first voyage and that he was a page at the royal court at the same time as Diego Colom, the Admiral’s eldest son. Doubtless, Oviedo must have had powerful reasons for spelling the explorer’s family name Colom, which could only stem from a first-hand knowledge of the explorer and personal dealings both with him and with other members of the family. Oviedo had no need to learn of events at second hand – he says so himself. On the contrary, he personally witnessed all the key events before and after the discovery.

            In addition to this, in Bibliografía Colombina (Royal Academy of History, Madrid, 1892, page 4) we come across the following annotation, back of page 89, June 16th 1488: “I paid Cristobal Colom the sum of three thousand maravedis by order of Their Majesties”. The annotation can be found in the accounts of the treasurer of Seville, Francisco González. In Bibliografía Colombina it also states that the above annotation appears in the Simancas Archives, General Accounts, 1st period, number 43, Colección de documentos ineditos de Indias, volume XIX, pages 456-457.

            Therefore, since the surname Colom originates from the lands which make up the Catalan-Aragonese Confederation, the old kingdom of Aragon, it would be logical to conclude that the family of the discoverer of America came from one of its territories: Catalonia, Valencia or the Balearic Islands. However, for more than 500 hundred years, various theories have arisen which declare the explorer to be a native of Genoa, Savona, Milan, Corsica, Galicia, Portugal, Castile, Greece and even Norway. The honour of being the birthplace of Cristóbal Colom is also disputed by various parts of the Principality of Catalonia, Majorca and Ibiza. And so the illustrious explorer is the most fought over man in history. However, he could only have been born in one place.

            The greatest problem presented by all the theories which hold up a Cristoforo Colombo, Colon or Colonne as candidates for the title of discoverer is that they seem to purposely ignore the fact that the discoverer’s real surname was Colom. And we are told this by Oviedo and the official documents of the period, as we have seen above.

            Those who would falsify history also overlook another fact: Cristóbal Colom’s mother tongue was neither Tuscan (source of modern Italian), nor Genoan nor Portuguese nor Castilian. This was firmly established, in a scientific manner, by the great Spanish philologist Ramón Menéndez Pidal (La Lengua de Cristóbal Colón, Buenos Aires, Espasa- Calpe, 1944).

            At the same time, various historians have commented on the fact that some Catalan words and expressions are to be found in the explorer’s writings, but they go no further than that, as they do not explore in any more depth. I studied these texts for many years in an attempt to discover the truth and I believe that I have been able to prove that Colom’s mother tongue was Catalan (Cristóbal Colón, Catalanoparlante, Ibiza, Maditerrànea-Eivissa, 1994).

            Now, the fact that the explorer’s mother tongue was Catalan does not solve the problem as to whether he was native to or had his roots in the Principality of Catalonia, in Majorca or in Ibiza. In actual fact, my extensive research has served to confirm a well-founded suspicion that Cristobal Colom was Catalan by birth, a key discovery in the eyes of my friends and fellow researchers all of whom are members of the Centre d’Estudis Colombins d’Omnium Cultural (Centre of Columbian Studies) in Barcelona. And I am naturally delighted to have succeeded in solving the Columbian enigma and to be in a position to present my proof to the world.

            However, there is one overriding fact in the life of Cristobal Colom which locates him categorically in a specific geographic region: the placenames that he used during his four voyages to denominate the points of geographical relevance, which show that the coasts of Ibiza and Formentera were familiar to the discoverer of America and recalled by him with affection. This is dealt with in another unpublished study (De Ibiza y Formentera al Caribe –Cristobal Colon y la toponimia, Ibiza, 2000), in which I have analyzed up to 197 names, with the following results. After eliminating any names obviously chosen casually and those places named after the Virgin Mary or any of the saints, the overwhelming majority of remaining names can be found in the Pityuses and coincide with names which are especially typical of our coasts. Colom took with him many placenames from the Western Mediterranean to the Caribbean, in particular names from Ibiza and Formenterea, but, curiously enough- to the despair of the defenders of an Italian Columhus - none from Genoa or Liguria.

            Cristóbal Colón, Duke of Veragua, in a letter dated May 23rd 2000, referred to my work as follows: “It is a magnificent piece of work. I totally endorse the theory that you have put forward, as it is not limited to only the place names which might be connected to the islands of Ibiza and Formentera, but with a much broader scope which I applaud. You have carried out a study of all those which you found, whatever the reason for using that name. Many researchers will owe you a debt of gratitude”. And he adds: “They will also remember you when they find in your work a coherent explanation for those terms of Catalan or Balearic origin, such as cheranero, which are so unusual and unintelligible to those of us who only speak Castilian Spanish”. The word cheranero used by Colom during his first voyage, is said by some historians to mean Quersoneso (related to the name used for Malacca in ancient times) or by some others carenero (careening) but which is in fact a Castilianisation of the Catalan word serener/xerener, which is the same as socaire (lee).

           

THE SURNAME COLOM IN CATALONIA AND THE BALEARIC ISLANDS

            The truth is that Catalan researchers, bent on showing that Cristobal Colom and his brothers Diego and Bartolome come from the Principality of Catalonia, have uncovered in historical archives and notarial registers of Barcelona and some other Catalan towns, turned up several families with the name Colom, among these come which produced individuals of considerable importance in the political, religious and social life of the Principality (see Colom i el Món català, Centre d’Estudis Colombins, Rafael Dalmau, Editor, Barcelona, 1993). In Majorca, which also boasts some excellent historical archives and notarial registers, numerous families with the name Colom have also been found, but, as also occurred in the Principality of Catalonia, the Columbian researchers also failed to discover a family which might have produced three Colom brothers, who were officially known by the name Colón in Castile-Leon after 1492.

            In regard to Ibiza (see Nito Verdera, La verdad de un nacimiento- Colón ibicenco, Kaydeda, Madrid, 1988, pages 202,203, 204, 232-234), in our historical archives we can find references to a Bernat Colom, one of three island jurors, who in 1340 travelled to Perpignan for an audience with king Jaume III. There was also a certain Joan Colom who in 1379 had the local monopoly of the movement of captives and slaves, to and from the island. We can also find documented in the archives of the cathedral of Ibiza a Francesc Colom, who in 1385, in his capacity as Proctor to the Universitat (the island’s governing council) carried out several negotiations in Barcelona with king Pere IV.

            The Colom families of Ibiza, judging from their political, social and economic position, must have been a branch of the Coloms who owned property in the Jewish quarter of Barcelona (R. Carreras Valls, Los catalanes Juan Cabot y Cristobal Colom, Barcelona, 1931, page 109), and the fact is that the only information which the explorer and discoverer of America gives us about his origins is that he is of Catalan nationality and of Jewish ancestry (see Nito Verdera, Cristobal Colon, originario de Ibiza y criptojudío, Cosell Insular d’Eivissa I Formentera, Wivissa, 1999).

           

DOCUMENTAL DEFICIENCY IN THE IBIZA ARCHIVES

            The Peruvian historian Luis Ulloa (see El pre-descubrimiento hispano-catalan de America en 1477/Xristo-Ferens Colom, Fernando el Catolico y la Cataluña española, Paris, 1928, pages 251 and 252) says that “When, following the strict regard for truth demanded by the Catalan thesis, and under all the moral guarantees which I would be the first to insist on, we have examined and verified all the sources of Columbian bibliography, a task beyond the powers of a single person and which requires the work of many; when we have completed an exhaustive and painstaking investigation of the archives of Catalonia, and also those of the former Catalan provinces, Aragon and Navarre as well as certain provinces of France (Provence and Vearn), paying special attention to any notarial registers; when we have been able to identify all the Catalan Coloms of the fifteenth century, just as all the Colombos of Genoa have been identified; then, we are sure , despite malicious intent and the damage wrought by time, that the number of documents pertaining to the person of the authentic discoverer of present-day America will be able to reconstruct with precision the genealogy and biography of the great seafarer”.

            However, it so happens that in Ibiza a thorough search of the archives cannot be carried out because, one knows not how, a large number of documents have simply vanished. Doctor Bartolome Escandell Bonet (Ibiza y Formentera en la Corona de Aragón [siglos XIII-XVIII], Palma de Mallorca, 1994, pp. 81 y 82,279 y 280), referring to the Archive of judicial records of Ibiza, points out that “Ibizan notarial records and registers available (articles of marriage, wills, mercantile partnership papers, inheritance, partitions, inventaries, that is all kinds of legal contracts and deeds) go back no further than the seventeenth century”. Indeed, in the notarial offices of A. Rodero García, situated in Gaspar Puig Street, Ibiza, where we can find the archive of judicial records, I have been able to see for myself that there are 77 files dating from the seventeenth century and that the earliest is dated 1609. So, to my immense regret, I am unable to track down any Ibizan Coloms documented in the fourteenth century. And we know about the existence of public notaries as far back as the thirteenth century, names quoted by Doctor Escandell Bonet: Bn.de Costa, Petrum de Vinateri, Guillermum de Villasolato, Pons Darchs, Bernardo de Verneto, Raimundo Ollarii de Pallatiolo, Raimundo de San Justo and Ramón Rabassa.

The historian and archivist of the cathedral of Ibiza, Don Juan Marí Cardona (see Pergamins I index Vell de Tarragona, Ibiza, 1997), (Parchments and Old Index of Tarragona) provides us with the names of many other Ibizan public notaries: Berengarii Orvay (1309), Guillermi Alberti (1333 and 1334), Berengarii Cardona (1342), Petri Peregrini (1336), Arnaldo de Torrentibus (1337), Simonis de Plandolito (1341, Raymundo de Avinyo (1392), Johannis Pascasii (1410), Johannis de Montesolo (1489), Gregori Serra (1491), Johannis Llado (1506) and so on.

Joan Marí Cardona (see Els Llibres dels Entreveniments, [records of Local Events], Ibiza, 1981, page 392) also mentions 22 public notaries working in Ibiza between 1530 and 1532. Another public notary to be documented during the fifteenth century is Bernat Massaler (see Llibre de Determinacions del Consell (1456-57), Antonio Ferrer Abárzuza, Ibiza, 1995 (Book of Council Resolutions).

Doctor Bartolomé Escandell, referring to the Archive of Judicial records, says “…for many centuries the notaries worked in a private capacity as solicitors, and so their documents were to a great extent their own private property, which explains how, normally remaining in private hands, they came to get lost or, in the best of cases, those which have been kept do not date back as far as we would like”. In fact, nobody knows where any Ibiza registers might be nor when they disappeared. Considering the fact that similar registers have been kept both in Catalonia and Majorca, this circumstance must be admitted to be rather unusual. The historian and archivist Joan Marí Cardona also admits to being surprised at the absence of registers for the thirteenth , fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, so much so that he became interested in the subject and examined the archives of Tarragona, Barcelona and Majorca, so far with no success. We are talking about a large number of notaries and registers covering three centuries, so perhaps we should ask ourselves whether this must be due to a deliberate action or to someone with malicious intentions who might wish a good part of our history to disappear forever.

IBIZA CATHEDRAL ARCHIVES

            According to Doctor Bartolomé Escandell (see Ibiza and Formentera en la Corona de Aragón, siglos XIII-XVIII, tomo I) the main series of documents come from the so-called Quinque Libros (Five Books) (1520-1800) or church registers; the series of Llibres d’Entreveniments, (Records of Local Events) (1528-1785) which form a register of events –appearances, attendances or meetings- of the members of the parish, and in whose pages all the most important or noteworthy events of island life were recorded; the first surviving Chapter Minute Books, as well as registers of income and patrimony only date back to 1600. As for the documents relating to the Vicar-General’s Court, those dating from 1699 onwards being still in existence, these consist of civil and criminal legal proceedings, matrimonial disputes, payments and disputes over church livings, royal decrees, charitable works, etc.

            Fortunately, in the Cabrevaciones de propiedad (property registers) of Archbishop Iñigo de Tarragona (1396-1398) on September 15th 1398, we find a description of a property belonging to a certain Lluís Martí, “which once belonged to Francesc Colom, now deceased”. This probably refers to the very same Francesc Colom who in 1385, in his capacity as proctor, went to see king Pere IV in Barcelona.

            Lastly, in the section belonging to the Holy Office there are some reports from the island “Familiares” (officers of the Court of Inquisition), although these relate to the years 1600-1800. So it is also extremely difficult to track the Jewish community and the Colom family in the Ibiza Cathedral Archives.

IBIZA MUNICIPAL ARCHIVES

            We agree with Doctor Escandell Bonet, who says that the Ibiza Municipal archives safeguard all the documents belonging to the old Universitat (a Catalan insular self-governing body), established in 1299 by king Jaume II. The funds which correspond to this organism are “los libros de Juraría, del Consell Secret y del Consell General”. In practice, the Universitat was the only administrative body of the island and therefore, managed all aspects of public life. There still remain today the books of Secret Council and General Council Resolutions (1456-1597): 22 books, some of which only survive in part; Libros de Juraría (Registers of Council Officials)(1600-1723); Regiduría (the Aldersman’s Office)(1724-1809); Pòlisses (Legal Documents and Contracts); (1554-1774); Llibres d’Impostos (tax ledgers)(1577-1784); Depositary (the Depositary)(1566-1790), which are books of accounts; Clavari (1373-1785), the keeper of the keys whose function was to buy and administer provisions; Manuals dels Oficials (Oficials’ Handbooks) (1610-1782), devoted to purchases,debts and to those receiving payments of duties and tithes; Sindic (the Public Receiver)(1620-1789), who was in charge of the payment of debts; Moneder (the coiner) (1487-1563), the official responsible for the storage and management of the lots of copper coins minted on the island by royal concession; Obrer (Work)(1483-1784), whose job was to obtain payment of various forms of taxes and also to pay for inn lodging for soldiers stationed on the island; Escrivà de la Sal (the salt actuary)(1469-1685), the clerk who kept count of the ships transporting salt, of the workmen who loaded them, and the amount of salt loaded aboard. From the seventeenth century onward, ship captains from the island were appointed.

            There are many more books in the Municipal Archives, but they date from 1600 or late seventeenth century. As was the case with the notarial registers, it is extremely suspicious that there is such a dearth of documents pertaining to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, whereby we have been deprived of too many years of our history.

            So therefore, if we are to identify the Coloms of Ibiza, it is necessary to carry out a detailed research into facts and circumstances which would relate the family with the Pityuses, such as that already made into the language used by the discoverer and where we find the Ibizan dialect words bil.la (strip of cloth,rag, tatter) and barlovent (the side of the vessel from which the wind is coming) and the toponyms used during his four voyages. There are other studies under way and I hope one day to finish the crossword puzzle or complete mosaic as it was expressed by Simon Wiesenthal, the famous hunter of nazis and Columbian researcher in his Vienna office. In any case, while we are presented with so many utopic C.Colombos, Colons and Colonnes, it is the explorer Christòbal Colom, of Catalan origin and from Ibiza, who wins the battle by elimination. 

 

 

nitoverdera@arrakis.es