He was a bit of a b@stard in a number of ways, though. He did have every intention of enslaving the natives on his estates in the Caribbean, under the explicit charter of Queen Isabella. He did, in the end, regard the more violent of them as savages - which they were.
But most of the multicultis intermingle Columbus's voyages with the Conquista, of which they weren't really a part. What Cortes and Pizarro sailed into was quite another matter from the island peoples Columbus knew.
What changed their motivation was the presence of gold in incredible quantity in the hands of an empire that was brutally repressive and homicidal and whose fall was not only helped by disease but by the active opposition of other peoples who were sick and tired of having their lands expropriated and their hearts torn out with obsidian knives. It is highly questionable if the non-Aztec natives were conspicuously worse off under the Spaniards than they were under the Aztecs. New age Azatlan enthusiasts tend to idealize the Aztec conquista or ignore it altogether, but it was solidly in place and the pyramids of heads rotting in the sun long before the Spaniards ever made shore.
But none of this was Columbus's doing. As D'Souza points out, he was no more responsible for the epidemics than the natives were for the subsequent epidemic of syphilis in Europe, which disease Columbus's boys brought back with them. It happened. Let it go.
I saw a re-creation of the Santa Maria at a Tall Ship festival one time. It was a little cockleshell wooden thing I wouldn't sail in a bathtub, and this guy got on one and headed off into open ocean. That's what we ought to celebrate. I wouldn't have the guts to do it.
Excellent article, thanks for posting it.
Actually, King Ferdinand took a pass. Ferdinand believed, and correctly so, that Columbus' estimate on how far the Orient was westward from Spain was ridiculously underestimated.
Isabel then sponsored the venture in the name of her own Kingdom of Castile and Leon.
Pure blind luck then trumped navigational common sense.
As a result, the right of colonization of the New World and commerce with the new colonies was initially restricted to the subjects of Castile and Leon. Even after Isabella's death, when Ferdinand was no longer joint King of Castile and Leon but was the Regent for his daughter Juana, Ferdinand respected Castile and Leon's New World monopoly to the exclusion of Aragon.
Thus the motto associated with the coat of arms granted to Columbus:
"A Castilla y a Leon, Nuevo Mundo dio Colon." (To Castile and Leon, Columbus gave a New World.)