TORREVIEJA’S Harbour Master, Oscar Villar Serrano was the guest speaker, at the March’s meeting of the U3A, or University of the Third Age,.
Oscar has been Torrevieja’s harbour master since 2001, previously spending 25-years in the Spanish Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander, as a submariner.
He holds a Masters and a Doctorate in Merchant Shipping and Nautical Science, and has written numerous books including his chosen subject for the day, “Columbus – The Best Kept Secret” (Cristóbal Colón: El Secreto Mejor Guardado).
As Torrevieja Harbour Master, Oscar is responsible for 5,000 leisure boats in Torrevieja, Guardamar, Cabo Roig, Campoamor and Torre de la Horadada, and all of the Salt Boats, another subject, which he will no doubt be asked to return and talk about in the future.
Speaking in English, he had a lot to fit into his 45 minutes and provided a teaser for the 150 strong audience, to want to find out more about the man who sailed the ocean in 1492.
Oscar’s book and research is about the conflict between the Catholic Church of the day and the fact that Columbus was Jewish, a fact that the church have tried their best to hide for centuries. Oscar said “The Catholic Church withdrew its own proposal to canonize Christopher Columbus because he was Jewish.
His excellent PowerPoint presentation, ably translated into English by the Director of the Foreign Resident’s Office, Graham Knight, went on to highlight different areas of Columbus’s life and the fact that he always maintained a certain anonymity about his personality, “because he was Jewish, this enabled him to get the support of the Jews on his first trip to America with the promise to ‘offer them the promised land.’
Oscar said “the mystery that surrounds Columbus is because he had to hide his religion because, to finance his trip, he sought the support of a Catholic queen!”
It all makes for a nice story, but half a millennium later, what really is the driving force behind Oscar’s book?
Small world that it is, there is strong evidence that part of the trip was financed from Torrevieja’s Salt!
As for the financing of the first voyage, Oscar explained that part of the money they gave to Columbus came from the public domain lease of Torrevieja’s Salt!”
Oscar recounted that Columbus was surrounded by important Spanish Jews as Abraham and Jefuda Cresques, creators of the Catalan Atlas, the Italian scientist Paolo del Pozzo Toscaneli, the Florentine explorer Nicolo di Conti and cartographer and brother of conqueror, Bartholomew Columbus.
“Christopher Columbus: the best kept secret” is not a novel, but “a work that mixes history with scientific knowledge and which provide new findings,” said Oscar.
Unfortunately the book is not available in English, and hands did not shoot up when he asked about looking for a translator however, the possibility of an English language version remains very much in the mind of the Harbour Master.
The U3A, meet at the CMO Building (the big building with lots of glass) on the road behind the Carrefour Super Store, Torrevieja, usually on the last Monday of the month. www.torreviejau3a.org
By Keith Nicol