Luis de Santangel biography-history. Don Luis de Santangel had a lot to do with Christopher Columbus leaving for America. Let’s see why. Born in 1439 and possibly died in 1498. Luis de Santangel, a character who wanders on the margins of history, played a vital role in the exploration and eventual discovery of the Americas. Born into a converted Jewish family in Valencia, Spain, in the 15th century, his life unfolded at a time when Jewish life on the Iberian Peninsula was at a critical crossroads.
In the context of the Reconquista and the consolidation of royal power by the Catholic Monarchs, Jewish converts, also known as “conversos” or “new Christians”, were under intense scrutiny and pressure. Despite the difficulties, the Santangel family managed to consolidate a position of prestige and power. They were lenders and financiers, serving in several important roles in the court of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.
Luis de Santangel biography-history
Origin and family. Luis de Santangel, a descendant of the respected Jewish-Aragonese Chinillo family, was a third-generation Christian. His direct ancestor, Rabbi Azarias Ginisllo, had been a prominent figure in his community. Luis’s father settled in Valencia, where he prospered as a merchant and laid the foundations for a family fortune that Luis would later consolidate. Luis de Santangel became a successful businessman, managing tax collection for the Aragonese crown, a role that not only gave him a privileged position in society but also considerably increased his family’s wealth.
During his youth, Luis was sent to Naples to study under his eponymous uncle, a renowned jurist in the service of Alfonso V. This period of his life undoubtedly exposed him to a range of ideas and influences that would later inform its global perspective and its role in the events that transformed the world.
After his academic training in Naples, Luis returned to Spain and established his own family. He married Juana de la Caballería, a woman who, like him, was a descendant of converted Jews. This marriage surely strengthened his social position and deepened his connection with the convert community.
In the time of Columbus
Between the years 1471 and 1477, Luis de Santangel served in the tax office of Valencia. His job was to collect the tax on fabrics from Lombardy that entered Spain. This position not only provided him with practical exposure to tax administration, but also allowed him to establish valuable relationships in business and political circles, relationships that would later serve him well in his career and in his instrumental role in financing the trip of Christopher Columbus.
During this period of his life, Luis de Santangel was appointed to occupy the position of notary of ration, a significant position in the royal treasury, without abandoning his various occupations as banker, merchant and tax collector. The role of a ration clerk went beyond being a simple fund manager; He was responsible for guaranteeing the financial liquidity of the court, seeking sources of financing to cover expenses, and carrying out meticulous records of the salaries of palace employees. In essence, he was the main person in charge of the court’s finances.
In 1491, Santangel further expanded his financial experience by assuming a position as treasurer in the Brotherhood of Seville, a powerful organization that performed judicial, police, and fiscal functions. This position, without a doubt, allowed Santangel to acquire a greater understanding of tax administration in different contexts and consolidate his influence in the financial circles of the time.
A crucial event in Santangel’s life occurred in 1492 when he became friends with the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus. This personal and professional bond, perhaps forged out of a shared interest in opportunities for exploration and expansion, would be instrumental in the eventual financing of Columbus’ historic voyage, an episode that would change the course of history.
Discovery of America
Luis de Santangel, as royal treasurer, played an important role at court. Possessing a broad vision and a strategic mind, he was instrumental in promoting Christopher Columbus’ exploration plans. The latter had been repeatedly rejected in his proposal to explore a new route to Asia across the Atlantic Ocean, both by the Portuguese monarchs and by the geography and navigation experts of the Spanish court.
It was Santangel who realized the opportunity that Colón’s company represented. In 1492, he persuaded the kings to finance Columbus’s voyage, even offering to support part of the cost from his own estate. It was a considerable risk, but Santangel demonstrated his faith in both Columbus’s vision and the possibilities it offered for the expansion of the dominions of the Catholic Monarchs.
Luis de Santángel demonstrated a keen business vision by foreseeing the lucrative return that a maritime venture such as the one proposed by Christopher Columbus could provide the Crown. At a crucial moment, when a discouraged Columbus was about to take his project to the king of France, Santangel intervened, saving the expedition that would change the course of history.
It is reported that Santángel pleaded so insistently with Queen Isabel that she finally offered a loan to cover the expenses of the trip. A total of 1,140,000 maravedíes were provided by Santangel, an amount that was reimbursed to him the following year. This bold move did not go unnoticed by the Catholic Monarchs. In gratitude, Santangel received a donation of 500 florins and was appointed advisor, a position that further consolidated his position and influence at court.
The funding that Santangel helped secure allowed Columbus to undertake his famous voyage to the New World, forever changing the course of human history. However, despite his crucial role in this event, history has tended to overlook Santangel, overshadowed by the shadow of Columbus.
Luis de Santangel’s legacy is doubly significant if his Jewish origin is taken into account. In the same year that Columbus left on his voyage, the Catholic Monarchs issued the edict of Granada, which ordered the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Although Santangel and his family had converted to Christianity, his Jewish ancestry was always an important part of his identity and, to some extent, an obstacle in his life at court.
Ultimately, Luis de Santángel’s life and achievements demonstrate a tenacity and vision that had a lasting impact on global history. His role in financing Christopher Columbus’ voyage, as well as his place in the history of the Jews in medieval Spain, deserve to be remembered and studied with due appreciation. Her figure, like that of many others on the margins of history, reminds us that the course of history is often decided not only by kings and queens, but also by those who act behind the scenes, putting their faith in an uncertain future…..
In the archive of the general treasury of Aragon the document of the Santángel loan is preserved that says: «In the month of April 1492, while the Catholic Monarchs were in the Villa de Santa Fe, they capitulated with Don Christopher Columbus for the first voyage of the Indies, and his secretary Juan de Coloma treated him for the Kings, and for the expenses of the Navy Luis de Santángel, notary of rations of Aragon, lent 17,000 florins. A statue of Santangel appears at the foot of the monument erected to Christopher Columbus in Barcelona.
Sources consulted: Luis de Santangel
Svet Yákob, Cristóbal Colón. Centuries and men, fifth centenary of the discovery of America: meeting of cultures and continents, Progreso Moscow Editorial, 1972.
European American Illustrated Universal Encyclopedia. Espasa Calpe S.A. Madrid 1979.
Other external source: Wikipedia