I respectfully take issue with the post above. If one considers the historical record, one can hardly conceive of Columbus as anything but a villain. The post correctly notes that his "discovery" of the Americas was perhaps inevitable; so he deserves no particular credit for that. Additionally, the Americas were not considered a wonderful new land of opportunity by Europeans for some years after Columbus; in fact most voyages after Columbus were attempts to find a Northwest Passage around the Americas to Asia. Only the Spanish were interested in the Americas, and their only interest was gold.
From the moment he landed, Columbus' treatment of the Taino Indians whom he met was both atrocious and inexcusable. On his first meeting, he commented in his log:
They would make fine servants....With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Hardly the words of a hero. The Indians he carried back to Europe (a story every school child has heard) were actually kidnapped and carried away in chains. Upon returning for his second voyage, he released greyhounds and mastiffs on the Indians because of a skirmish with the men he had left behind. The dogs ripped the flesh from the limbs of the Indians. Later, he rounded up fifteen hundred Indians, chose five hundred of the "best" specimens, and forced them onboard ship to be sold in Europe as slaves. Over two hundred died en route. This was an attempt on his part to satisfy the investors to whom he had promised riches. When slavery was not a viable option, he forced the Indians to search for gold Every Indian over age fourteen was given a quota. If he/she did not meet the quota, his hands were cut off and he was allowed to bleed to death. Such being the case, he hardly qualifies as a "hero."