Columbus Letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez, 1493


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Columbus Letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez, 1493

Christopher Columbus wrote a letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez who was among his patrons and had assisted him to finance his exploration trip (Wadsworth, 2016). Columbus wrote the letter in March of the year 1493 upon his arrival from his return journey from Cathay, which would later be named as America. The author was not administrative personnel but a missionary explorer as well as an economic scout in search of treasures. By his description of the nature of the inhabitants of the regions he visited as being timid indicates that he was an educated individual. In fact, a scout and explorer who is in charge of a voyage have to be educated enough so that he is capable of determining the routes and recording the encounters in his diaries.

Lord Raphael Sanchez was the intended recipient of the letter. In his letter, he used a more formal language that was in Spanish where it was later sent to Italy for translation to Latin. Lord Raphael Sanchez could not be able to read in Latin, and therefore this prompted Christopher Columbus to make extra efforts for the conversion of the letter. The main reason behind writing the letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez was due to the debt owned for financing his journey, his success to subdue the native people that he found on the islands as well the thrilling environmental nature of the region. The area was full of rich indigenous culture with the people know neither possessing weapons. The matter amazed Columbus and saw this as an opportunity to show allegiance to Lord Raphael Sanchez through taking control of the area and converting the people to Christianity, paying loyalty to the king and the people of Spain. The other reason for writing the letter was because Lord Raphael Sanchez was among the patrons of Christopher Columbus voyages and thus he was required to report all his discoveries to Lord Raphael Sanchez.

The storyline behind Columbus’ letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez is the detailed accounts of what he witnessed during his journey to America. He tells of how the people in the regions are fearful and timid and how they become friendly after realizing that there was no harm to them. He continues to tell how he exchanged items with rifles and to sometimes nothing in return claiming that the people were so generous. The generosity of the people in the region amazed Columbus making feel ashamed for trading useless items with the most precious items in the region such as gold. In an attempt to convince Lord Raphael Sanchez, Columbus says that the people had a potential to obey the king and serve him without questioning and even love the king’s people (Wadsworth, 2016). Columbus also tells Lord Raphael Sanchez that he could organize that they could obtain more men as slaves from the region to work as soldiers and provide other labor in the home country. Columbus further continues to claim that with Lord Raphael Sanchez’s assistance he would ask his men to search for medicine and other valuables such as gold in as many contents as possible.

The document was written due to the necessity to acknowledge Lord Raphael Sanchez’s effort to finance the voyage as well as being the patron of the voyage and therefore as a fact, a subject is expected to show allegiance to his master. It is in this quest that Christopher Columbus wrote the letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez immediately after his return from the voyage. Lord Raphael Sanchez had interests in the exploration journey, and therefore it was a necessity for them to be notified of the success of the crew as the patron. Columbus had to report whatever he saw and anything that was of value to the kingdom including all the treasures that he found in the regions of the visit. All these made him write the letter immediately after his return. Columbus was so much excited about his success of subduing the indigenous people and also their willingness to work with him devoting whatever they had to the crew as they were seen as gods to whom the people referred to as the people who fell from the sky. Columbus’ letter is more of research than just a mere trip as he was assigned the duty of searching the valuables and reporting back to the patron (James, 2016).

Columbus letter to Lord Sanchez can be termed as more of a political and economic document though to some extent it might be seen as a private letter. The reason as to why it can be regarded as a political letter is due to Columbus claim that the area and its people could pay allegiance to the king. Also, there were economic motives along with political motives. The reason to why it can be referred to as economic letter is the claim that if he had more support from the government, he could bring along more treasures such as medicine, gold and men to work as soldiers and provide the necessary labor in the land. Furthermore, the letter says that the people could easily be converted to Christianity a religion which proves the letter to be more of a spiritual encounter for missionaries in the attempt to convert more people to Christianity (Young, 1983). On the other hand, the letter may be deemed to be private; this is because Lord Raphael Sanchez was a patron to the crew and among the personnel behind the financing of the voyage and thus a unique finding could be directly addressed to him. The inclusion of Lord Raphael Sanchez’s names may, therefore, proof the letter to be more private.

In the letter, Columbus made no assumptions to Lord Sanchez. He wrote the letter in Spanish and sent it to Italy for its translation to Latin. He knew Lord Raphael Sanchez could not read Spanish and a translator would be needed. Taking into consideration that it was a private letter, he was prompted to translate the letter in advance before it reached to his patron. Yes, I can believe the document as it is the original document written in Spanish making me think and believe that Columbus was the original writer of the letter. Also, his direct address to Lord Raphael Sanchez and as well the letter is written in the first person singular meaning that whatever was written was the personal encounter to which he narrated to the recipient in the form of a letter.

The letter postulates that the people from Columbus region were opportunists who took advantage of the weaker people making them their subjects forcing them to adopt their culture and making them slaves to the extent of making them worshipped (Hickman, 2016). The people were used to slavery as Columbus took several individuals with him along his return journey were on some made it through as they were subjected to torture threatening their lives. It is also evident that the Spanish people were Christian and therefore were in the urge to make colonies and convert the inhabitants to Christianity. The issue of economic exploitation is not new in his homeland, as he tells Lord Sanchez that if he had the support, he would bring all the treasures such as gold and medicine along with the slaves to work as soldiers.

Columbus’ letter is an important document in history as it indicates the pioneers of colonization and economic exploitation in the world (Phillips & Phillips, 1993). Though it might not be of much relevance in today’s political activities, it can be used as a reminder of the indigenous cultures of the early people. It is through such documents that we come to realize how the world was viewed during the past days in history by inhabitants of the areas.

The letter is important to me as it contains Columbus own views on the indigenous people of the new world to which he explored. It is through this letter that I understand the kind of relationships to which the explorers had with the indigenous people and how they traded. It is to my surprise that the explorers took advantage of the indigenous people’s fear to exploit them both socially and economically. The letter is also of vital importance to historians and navigators as the explorers were the pioneers of navigation.


Hickman, J. (2016). Black Prometheus: Race and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery. Oxford University Press.

James, M. (2016). The Great Explorers. New Word City.

Phillips, W. D., & Phillips, C. R. (1993). The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge University Press.

Wadsworth, J. E. (Ed.). (2016). Columbus and his first voyage: a history in documents. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Young, J. D. (1983). Confucianism and Christianity: The first encounter (Vol. 1). Hong Kong University Press.

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