By Karl McDonald, LSU AgLeadership Class XV member
1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue… We know that one by heart. In America, we have a very colorful history and for the most part it is pretty easy to remember. That could be because it really only spans about 500 years, well, 400 if you really look at the details (Jamestown settled in the early 1600s). No matter where you are in the US, you have a healthy lesson on our patriotic history, young as it may be. Small as it may be, it is emphasized in all we do and are. World history on the other hand… well, we all took a lesson or two on it and your teacher may have dictated more of your interest or involvement. American pride still prevails and we can connect that history to what we know with little effort.
Now, most of us in the south continue our deep appreciation and learning history on Sunday mornings. The massive history we touch at least once a week is another easy one to wrap our heads around. However, its focal point lands in the 2000 year ago range and has a fairly small geography. The good book tells us of a rich history, documented and sequenced through civilizations growing to power and loosing that power to the next dominate military force. We know of Jerusalem, Asia, exile and wanderings, the reach of the Roman empire and the many journeys Paul made through the Mediterranean region. It is engrained. And yes, we did take world history. Each of our connections to it was shaped by the influence and passion our respective teachers had on us for the subject.
For most of us, I would say, the vast history of the world remains relatively disconnected to the 400 year history of our nation. So it begs the question… Why? Where does our story fit in the fabric of the story the world has woven? Well, here… in Spain of course!
As you well know, Class XV of the LSU Agricultural Leadership program has been traveling through Spain. We recently found ourselves in the ancient capital city of Cordoba. Buried in the rolling terrain of the olive orchards and endless wheat fields, the thread of our American history entered the tapestry. After many failed attempts in Portugal, Columbus found himself beating down the door of the King and Queen of Spain, here in Cordoba. After all, any money would do! He was a navy man and had a passion beyond belief for discovery. He just needed a healthy sponsor to bridge the gap to opportunity. He found it in the Queen, Queen Isabella. The King had little interest at the time due to wars and defending the territory from the next great power. Somewhere in those battles, trade routes had been cut off and expansion was almost impossible. Needless to say, the Queen was likely eating bland meals and the perfume she had grown attached to had long run out. Columbus pitched a proposition that could fill those empty cupboards AND achieve what the king was sinking limited resources to gain. At that moment, the “known” world became a little bigger and this link bonds the chain of world history to our nation.
As we entered Cordoba from the south we could see the modern marks of a city surrounded by a fortified wall that could tell some stories. This wall was part of the Alcazar, build in 1328 A.D., which anyone would correctly identify it as the castle. This is the main residence for the king and queen of Spain. Just outside the walls is an ancient Roman bridge with a city gate on the far side, built in the 1st century B.C.; certainly a key stronghold for anyone entering the city to consider. More central to the city is the Mosque–Cathedral of Cordoba, built around 600 A.D. and certainly a sight to behold. The columns of a Roman temple stand supporting nothing, today. They were part of a great Imperial Temple when built around 40 A.D. As we walked the streets of Cordoba, world history came to life as the focal points of ancient world powers stood out with great pride and beauty among modern engineering and architecture.
No, Paul did not write a letter to Spain (that we know of). No major world dominance was won because it took Spain. No critical resource made Spain the one destination the world flocked to gain great riches. But it is the untold introduction to every American history lesson. Every mark the world left in Cordoba had some influence on a culture, a people, a queen and a man we all know as Christopher Columbus. It is here that our own short American history is linked to the story of the world.