The following is taken from an article in Crisis Magazine (2019) by Christopher Ortega on Christopher Columbus and our National Holiday in his name.
Columbus was a man of deep faith. Few of his detractors know, for instance, that he was a Third Order Franciscan. As a pious Catholic, he didn’t own slaves, assault women, or commit any of the vile crimes attributed to him. On the contrary, Bartolome de las Casas (a contemporary of Columbus) wrote that “his person and venerable mien revealed a person of great state and authority and worthy of all reverence; he was sober and moderate in his food, drink, garments, and shoes… In matters of Christian religion, no doubt he was a Catholic and of great devotion.”
There’s no denying that the Spanish perpetrated great evils against the indigenous population of the Americas. But this only occurred after Columbus. He himself admonished the Crown to send no Spaniard to the New World “if he is not truly Christian, inasmuch as the planning and execution this undertaking has no other purpose but the increase and glory of the Christian religion.” Moreover, he described our native ancestors as “the best people in the world, and especially because I have great hope in Our Lord that Your Highnesses will make them Christians.”
For Hispanics and Italians—lest we forget, he was born in Genoa—Columbus is a part of our ethnic, cultural, and racial heritage. For the vast majority of Hispanics, ours is a complex identity handed down to us by our indigenous, European, and African forebears. If we erase Columbus and the Spanish from our history, we’ll never be able to fully understand and appreciate who we are and where we came from.
We all know the Spanish unwittingly brought new diseases to the Americas, against which the natives had no immunity. Yet how many will recall that they also brought schools and hospitals? Indeed, most of their contributions were decidedly positive: some of the well-known barbarities encountered in pre-Columbian America include infanticide, cannibalism, and human sacrifice (in four days in 1487 the Aztecs sacrificed 80,000 people to the pagan gods/demons in modern-day Mexico City!). Columbus was the herald of a Christian civilization that sought to end such cruel practices; that civilization is itself integral to our Hispanic heritage.
Columbus brought the Faith to our indigenous ancestors. Had he not attempted his historic venture, it’s doubtful that Central and South America would be predominantly Catholic: a seafaring Protestant nation could just as easily have “discovered” the New World and changed the course of history. Instead, it was settled by men whose first objective was to ‘found a seminary’ for the propagation of the Faith. Consequently, almost 40 percent of the world’s Catholic population today is Latin American.
Just some facts to consider when anti-Columbus individuals attempt to cancel him and his accomplishments.