America’s First Letter was Sent to a Valencian

The first setter ever sent from America was a long time being delivered. The truth is, it was carried most of the way, across the Atlantic Ocean by the sender; Christopher Columbus (or ‘Colón’ as they like to call him here), and the destination was Valencia.

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Columbus must have needed a good postal system because he had a terrible sense of direction and a wildly inaccurate way of naming things. Native Americans used to have perfectly adequate names for themselves before they were named Indians by Columbus and, well yes, the West Indies are west of India, but then so is everything else if you keep sailing long enough; which was Columbus’s point from the beginning of course.

The letter was addressed to Luis de Santángel, a baptized Jew and finance minister to King Fernando, the man who convinced Queen Isabel to believe in Columbus’ voyage in 1492, and who came up with most of the money so that the Catholic Monarchs could take the credit.

The letter was quickly reproduced by publishers all over Europe and became the main source of information (although fairly exaggerated information) about the New World.

The Catholic Monarch’s got the credit, the riches and the means to create the Spanish Empire over the following centuries. They also had all kinds of things named after them.

Santangel’s family on the other hand was persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition for its trouble. One cousin was executed and King Fernando finally had to write a royal decree to protect Luis from further persecution.

A small bust in Valencia’s Alameda is about all that reminds us that this Valencia Jew was largely responsible for Spain’s glory.

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Actually he also has a school and a street in Valencia, but then Fernando has a whole Avenue and loads of other stuff!

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