Sugar, spice, Columbus is nice

Columbus Day rightfully celebrates a man who changed the world

Sam Hoops, Staff Writer

Imagine a life without the everyday basics such as wheat bread, coffee, and sugar. Twenty-two percent of the United States identifies as Catholic. A majority of our clothing is made from cotton. Without Christopher Columbus, none of those things we take for granted would be in the Americas.

People always say, “it’s the thought that counts.” When you look at Columbus and his actions, that’s important to keep in mind.

Columbus initially sailed to find a new trade route to Asia, which he didn’t succeed in. However, he did find new trades, which was his underlying goal. He returned to Europe with potatoes and tomatoes, evolving into the trademark foods of Ireland and Italy, respectively.

Many people today only want to remember Columbus by either the diseases and death he and his crew brought with them to the Americas or the enslavement he forced the natives into, but Columbus connected two completely different parts of the world through his exploration.

Europeans had already explored and “modernized” almost every other part of the world at that point. They knew about Australia before they knew about the Americas.

With the entire world connected, trade of the goods from the Americas that previously didn’t exist to Europeans blossomed.

When Columbus first brought cacao beans back to Europe, no one was interested. The natives in the New World used it as currency, but the Europeans already had a set currency. It wasn’t until Spanish royals were given prepared chocolate by a Dominican representative that they realized cacao beans had more than one use.

The production and consumption of chocolate snowballed from there on to where it is today, with many of the highest quality chocolate producers being located in Europe, such as Switzerland, France, and Belgium.

Other cultures have greatly benefited from the Columbian Exchange, including India and Vietnam. Curry is widely used in Indian dishes, but without Columbus bringing curry plants back from Central America, there’s no way of knowing if Indians would have adopted it into their culture through other means. Vietnamese Pho food also incorporates peppers as the base of many dishes, peppers that Columbus took with him when he returned to Europe.

“There really was no spicy food in the world before the Columbian Exchange,” Northwestern University economics professor Nancy Qian said in an interview with online newspaper Agriculture Week.

The unity of the two completely different worlds changed both of them forever. 

“What happened after Columbus was nothing less than the forming of a single new world from the collision of two old worlds — three, if one counts Africa as separate from Eurasia,” science journalist Charles Mann said.

While Columbus did do some questionable things when he got to the Americas, the good effects clearly outweigh the bad. Christopher Columbus changed the world for the better, and Columbus Day is a great way to remember him.