Manuel Rosa works for the Information Technology support help desk at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and has spent 18 years researching Christopher Columbus and his voyage to America. With today the 517th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival on the continent, The Chronicle’s Jessica Chang spoke with Rosa about his findings and what he has discovered that suggests the centuries-old accounts taught in schools about Columbus’ story are untrue. Rosa is currently translating his book, “O Mistério Colombo Revelado” (The Mystery of Columbus Revealed), which is currently only available in Portuguese, into Spanish and looking for a publisher in the United States.

The Chronicle: What prompted your interest in Columbus?

Manuel Rosa: I used to work in publishing back in the ’80s and ’90s. In 1991, everyone was putting out books on Columbus due to the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the world, and I was contracted to work on a translation of a Portuguese book to English, and that book was the first time I learned that Columbus had actually been married in Portugal and had lived in Portugal. So that’s where my interest began, because having been born in Portugal and studying in Portugal [until] the fifth grade, no one had ever taught me that Columbus had actually married there and lived there, so it seems strange that in Portugal they didn’t teach us much about the man who had discovered the world. It was almost like an intentional censorship of his Portuguese life.

TC: Why have you dedicated 18 years to studying him?

MR: There’s so much misinformation over the last 500 years. It took me about 11 years just to get to the point where I could show proof that the history [schools have] taught us was wrong, and so once I got to that point, I had to search for what was the correct version of the events. Today, we can show that the history was wrongly passed down and the events were nothing like what we’ve been told they were, and that the person who discovered America was not some poor guy from Italy. So where we are now is we need to figure out exactly who he was. I’ve spent the last five years or so trying to narrow that down, and I’ve come up with a very likely prospect of who he was, and I hope to be able to prove that through some DNA tests in the near future.

TC: What do you say to people who don’t support your findings as real proof that Columbus was not who everyone believes him to be?

MR: Show me where I am wrong. Usually, the information that they base themselves on is the stuff that I have proven as false.

TC: What new findings are you looking into or excited to uncover the truth about?

MR: Right now, the investigation is focusing on the identity of the person.... I continue investigating and trying to narrow down who Columbus might have been. My number one suspect right now is that Columbus was the son of the king of Poland who was in self-exile in Portugal, and I show that in my book how all those pieces fit in, and then obviously DNA would prove or deny that, but I’ve been looking at every piece of the history.

He was really like the James Bond of his time. He was working for the foreign government, and he did everything he could to not give away his secret mission and to succeed in it. His mission was to convince Spain that he had reached India across the Atlantic Ocean, and so all the lies have been interpreted by historians as being ignorance, that he didn’t know he was not in India. He didn’t know how to sail, he didn’t know where he was, he didn’t know anything about anything, and this is where I show that it’s incorrect.

TC: Do you believe that there should still be a holiday celebrating Columbus?

MR: Yes, I think that the guy deserves to be remembered for what he did, not because he discovered a new world or because he was an important guy in Portugal, but because what he did is a turning point in the history of the world. I know he was not the first person to discover America.... I think it’s worth commemorating because it changed the history of the world.

TC: Why do you think this is important for the general public to know about?

MR: I think it’s important, because I think you should know the truth of the events. It’s the same reason why it’s important that we investigate [former Vice President] Dick Cheney’s role in the last administration. The public deserves to know the truth, and whether that truth is pretty or ugly, in the case of Columbus, which I show is pretty ugly, I think that we deserve to know the truth, because it kind of makes you ask questions when things don’t make sense.