History : Mar-Apr 2018
74 MARCH/APRIL 2018 proclaimed herself queen of Castile and de- manded obedience from the main cities of the kingdom. Weeks later Joanna also proclaimed herself queen. She forged an alliance with Portu- gal by agreeing to marry her uncle (and Isabella’s former suitor), King Afonso V. Isabella would spend the first four years of her reign fighting a bloody civil war against Jo- anna and Portugal for the Castilian throne. It was during this conflict that her marriage to Ferdinand began to change. When they were en- gaged, Isabella held the political power, but war would place the couple on more even ground. With a common goal to unite them, they needed to trust in the other’s loyalty and skills as each traveled separately to build armies and forge al- liances. Over time the marriage strengthened and grew into one of mutual respect. This partnership served them well, and by 1479 the two had defeated Joanna and Afonso. Isabel- la’s grip on the throne of Castile was now secure. The victorious queen gave her niece a choice: be pledged to marry Isabella’s one-year-old CASTILIAN VISIONS TO THE NEW WORLD Isabella knew otherwise; she understood that faster trade routes through the Atlantic could give Spain an edge over other powers and generate more wealth. She decided in 1492 to partly fi- nance Columbus’s voyage. It was not a major outlay, just enough to sail three ships— the Santa María, the Pinta (“painted one”), and the Niña (“girl”)—and support a crew of about 90 men. The return on her modest investment was, of course, colossal. It is unknown if, when Colum- bus returned, Ferdinand had to eat his words, but Isabella had made certain his people would not gain glory. She had decreed that Columbus’s crew should come mainly from Castile. Not one of the European sailors who first saw the New World on Oc- tober 12, 1492, hailed from Ferdinand’s lands in Aragon. F rom their first encounter with Christopher Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand held different opinions on his desire to sail west to reach Asia. Each one reflected the starkly different ways they saw the world. To Fer- dinand, a son of eastern Spain, Aragon grew prosperous from commerce in the Mediterranean. He had little inter- est in Columbus’s project and did not hide his skepticism.