Is Christopher Columbus a hero worth celebrating or a villain not worth celebrating?

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Though Christopher Columbus has generally been regarded as a hero who discovered the New World (from the European perspective), some historians such as Howard Zinn have painted a more villainous picture of Columbus (see the link below). Using evidence from Columbus's writings, Zinn characterized Columbus as a rapacious villain rather than a conquering hero.

For example, when Columbus first arrived on the Bahamas, his first thought was to find gold. Zinn cites the following excerpt from Columbus's own writings:

"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts."

Columbus was intent on using the Arawaks, the Native Americans he encountered, to find gold. When he could not find gold, he and his crew turned to enslaving the Native Americans.

Zinn believes that far from being a hero who brought civilization and Christianity to the New World, Columbus perpetrated a form of genocide on the locals he encountered. Zinn and other historians have questioned the idea that conquest of a local people amounts to progress. Instead of being regarded as a hero worthy of celebration, Columbus can be regarded as a genocidal villain who began the wholesale extermination of many Native American tribes in the New World.

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