If you’ve ever wanted to step aboard a ship like the ones used by Christopher Columbus, this is your chance.
Replica ships of the Niña and Pinta docked in Louisville Tuesday evening. The ships, owned by the Columbus Foundation, were built in 1992 to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ oceanic voyage. The two replicas have traveled more than half a million miles since then, and have anchored at locations around the world.
Julio Perez joined the project as a deck hand this April after taking a tour of the ships. Perez is from Cuba, and since he’s joined the boat crew he found out two of Columbus’ crew members shared his same last name.
“I didn’t know about Christopher Columbus. From my country, they just give you the history that belongs to our country,” Perez said. “So it’s more like expanding my knowledge about everything.”
With funding from the Spanish monarchy, Columbus sailed west in search of the Indies, assuming the earth wasn’t flat as many believed at the time. Instead of landing in India, he landed on an island in the Caribbean, and later explored parts of what are now Cuba and Haiti. He called the indigenous populations “Indians,” claimed the land for Spain and colonized it.
That legacy of colonization includes mass enslavement and killing of Native Americans. Niña Captain Stephen Sanger said the ship’s modern-day crews confront that history when touring, adding they’ve met protests when docking in areas with large Native American populations.
Sanger said the Columbus Foundation workers don’t avoid talking about that reality, but try to focus on the ships’ craftsmanship and importance to history.
“You can’t change what happened. It’s history. So we don’t shy away from it. We don’t lie about anything,” Sanger said. “We understand that he, Columbus, used these ships, the caravel, to go and colonize. Our mission is a lot more focused on the caravel and the ship itself.”
The ships will be docked in Louisville until Tuesday, August 28 and are open for tours daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.