Presentism: uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.
Probably something people should remember when looking back at past historical figures. Certainly when viewed from our current moral system Christopher Columbus was a pretty damn terrible person. But could he have really been anything else in order to begin the European settlement of the new world? The answer is really, no he couldn’t have been.
Islam was at its peak and culturally had no issue with slavery, piracy, and looting and the Christian Mediterranean nations responded in kind. The galleys the Ottomans used to control the Med for centuries were powered by slave oars. At the battle of Lepanto in 1571, 12,000 Christian Galley slaves were freed from the Ottoman Turks for example. France and Spain used galley slaves up into the early 1720s.
The Reconquista of Spain had been underway for a long time. 1492 was notable because that’s when the Moors were driven from Grenada. The Spanish Inquisition was started in 1481.
Prior to his voyage Columbus spent his time between the Portuguese exploited Africas and Inquisition/Reconquista Era Spain. Spain was his fourth choice, Portugal was his first when
looking for backers, and if you think what he did in the New World was terrible, check out what happened to West Africa.
So given the era, it would have been utterly shocking if Christopher Columbus was a couple centuries ahead of his time, as a paragon of modern human morality and unilaterally decided to shift the paradigm away from what wasn’t just common, it was the generally accepted method of doing things.
So whether you think he’s worth a holiday or not, the dude earned some respect. He put together a trans-Atlantic voyage that took around 10 years to arrange. Then he crossed into the complete unknown while holding together a crew on the brink of mutiny and scurvy. He couldn’t find a port, because it wasn’t India he found, so he founded a settlement. The guy had no idea where he was but he thought his navigation could get him back there. (it was and he did). He convinced Spain it was worth the massive expenses. He single-handedly established the route from the Old-World to the Caribbean, itself a huge achievement. And once he arrived, Europeans never left. Because of him, our world is what it is today, placing him into a very very small group of people who radically changed the course of history.