As with any historical holiday, it behooves us to re-familiarize ourselves with the history behind the day. If you want to read the case for just how ruthless and exploitative Columbus and his men were towards the natives, Howard Zinn is your man. I’d like to focus instead on how very Christian and specifically Catholic this expedition was, with a few choice excerpts:
IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Whereas, Most Christian, High, Excellent, and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of Spain and of the Islands of the Sea, our Sovereigns, this present year 1492, after your Highnesses had terminated the war with the Moors reigning in Europe, the same having been brought to an end in the great city of Granada, where on the second day of January, this present year, I saw the royal banners of your Highnesses planted by force of arms upon the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of that city, and saw the Moorish king come out at the gate of the city and kiss the hands of your Highnesses, and of the Prince my Sovereign; and in the present month, in consequence of the information which I had given your Highnesses respecting the countries of India and of a Prince, called Great Can, which in our language signifies King of Kings, how, at many times he, and his predecessors had sent to Rome soliciting instructors who might teach him our holy faith, and the holy Father had never granted his request, whereby great numbers of people were lost, believing in idolatry and doctrines of perdition. Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone.
It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion.
It worked. To this day, the descendants of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people and their Spanish conquerors (of whom I am one) are routinely baptized and raised as Catholics, as I was. Christopher Columbus was wrong about a good many things, both factually and morally, but he absolutely nailed one prediction, that the Catholic faith itself would spread throughout the Caribbean and beyond. European inventions such as god, guns, germs, and steel are all endemic now.