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<   No. 4307   2020-07-28   >

Comic #4307

1 Mate: Baracoa, captain!
2 Ponsonby: Some years ago I was fishing off this coast when a storm struck and sank my vessel, leaving a treacherous corner of wood in the bay.
3 Ponsonby: The Spanish rescued me, but threw me into gaol for illegal fishing and creating a navigational hazard, rather than repatriate me.
4 Mate: They incarcerated you? In Cuba?
4 Ponsonby: Yes, in the wrecked angler prison.

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The name of Cuba is believed by most historians to come from the native Taíno language, although it's not clear exactly which Taíno word it comes from or what it means. Two plausible sounding options cited by Wikipedia are "where fertile land is abundant" (cubao), or "great place" (coabana).

There is a competing theory that begins with the proposition that Christopher Columbus was not actually Genoese as the standard historical consensus would have one believe, but that he was in fact Portuguese. The Portuguese author José Mascarenhas Barreto published his book The Portuguese Columbus: Secret Agent of King John II in 1988. In this book, Barreto claims that Columbus was not Italian at all, but in fact a Portuguese spy who came up with a complex plot to distract the Spanish Crown away from the newly opened and fabulously profitable trade routes around Africa and to the East Indies that Portugal was establishing.

Columbus's brilliant plan (according to Barreto) was to sell the King and Queen of Spain on the patently ridiculous idea of exploring westwards across the Atlantic Ocean for a shortcut route to the East Indies. The Spanish fell for this incredibly clever deception and funded an expedition, thus drawing money away from setting up their own trade around Africa. Columbus then figured if they were paying him, he may as well go.

He ended up running into the West Indies, and realised he could milk the situation to make even more money and keep the pesky Spanish away from those Portuguese trade routes for good. Not only that, he decided to name the island of Cuba after his home town in Portugal, which—according to Barreto—just happens to be the tiny town of Cuba, in central southern Portugal! There appears to be no other reason for associating Columbus with the town of Cuba, although Barreto cites his own personal research into the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbalah as having led him to this conclusion.

While this story may quite reasonably seem to be a load of bollocks, it has found enough resonance with Portuguese keen to claim a link to history that the town of Cuba now sports a statue of their "hometown hero", Christopher Columbus.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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