Sunday, October 11, 2015

Columbus Day story: how he brought me to Spain

Departure of Columbus from Palos, Spain, 1492, Emanuel Leutze. Photo: Wikipedia, public domain.
The painting's owner was seeking to have the image placed on the $1 bill.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- For me it started in March of 1987 when a bunch of public officials from Columbus, Ohio (named for the explorer) headed off to Europe on one of those trips that newspapers always attack as wasteful junkets. 

First stop, Genoa, Italy, 1987.
I got to go along, and the trip turned out to be a life-changer. I was 35 and had been working at The (Columbus) Dispatch for 10 years. At that time I was leading a team of five reporters working on investigative and long-term projects. I enjoyed my work, but there was this other thing that I had always wanted to do -- live and work abroad.

I got the assignment to go to Europe partly because I had a passport (a strange story in itself) and could be ready to leave in just a few days. 

The purpose of the traveling party of about 20 was to organize the city's participation in the worldwide recognition five years hence of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to America. (He made landfall in the Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492, a date commemorated today in the U.S., Spain, and Latin America with three-day weekends, parades, and demonstrations against racism and colonialism.)

It was going to be a big deal, the quincentennial of 1992. The delegation included state and local elected officials, as well as Ohio State University administrators and professors of history, Italian, and Spanish, who also acted as translators.