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On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere.

He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean.In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea.Two were run through with swords and bled to death.Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain.He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships.

At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted.

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. Columbus wrote: As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed.