THE bones of a 15th century cleric from Galicia have been exhumed in a bid to prove that Christopher Columbus was not Italian but in fact Spanish.
It is widely believed that he was the son of a weaver born in the Italian port of Genoa in 1451, but over the centuries he has been claimed as a native son of Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France, Scotland and even Poland.
Alternative theories about Columbus’ birthplace include Valencia, Espinosa de Henares, Galicia and Mallorca, as well as Portugal’s Alentejo region.
And to muddy the waters further, an academic study focused on his language and grammar and concluded that Columbus was in fact a Catalan speaking man from the Kingdom of Aragon, an inland region of north-eastern Spain at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Others claimed the true origins of the man who discovered the Americas were hidden because he was Jewish or secretly working as a double agent for the Portuguese royal family.
Now the proponents of a Galician origin for the explorer have assembled a team of archaeologists and forensic anthropologists to open the tomb of Johan Marinho de Soutomaior, a nobleman and archdeacon who, according to the Galician Columbus camp, may have been the navigator’s cousin.
It is located in San Martin de Sobran church in the town of Vilagarcia de Arousa. DNA will be extracted and then compared with samples from the remains of Columbus, his son Fernando and his brother Diego, which were analysed last year by researchers at the University of Granada.
The university also hosted a meeting of proponents of alternative theories about Columbus’ birthplace.
“I hope we will come to the conclusion that unites us in our common objective, which is to demonstrate that Columbus was a Spanish nobleman and not a Genoese sailor,” said Alfonso Sanz, an amateur history researcher and author, who holds the theory that Columbus was born in Espinosa de Henares in central Spain.
Columbus died in Valladolid in Spain in 1506, but wished to be buried on the island of Hispaniola that is today shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
His remains were taken there in 1542, then moved to Cuba in 1795 and then to Sevilla in 1898.