The Quincentennial of Columbus's Discovery of the Americas has come and gone. Some people celebrated, others protested. The Discovery has been called either “The greatest event since the creation of the world, save the incarnation and death of Him who created it” (Francisco Lopez de Gomera writing in 1552), or the greatest disaster in world history. Columbus is either a saint (who was actually proposed for canonization), or he is a sinner responsible for genocide. Can one even say that Christopher Columbus discovered America when there were already millions of people living in these lands? Did he discover America when he thought he had found a new route to Asia? The debates are interminable and the issues have become so politicized that an informed and informative discussion has been all but impossible; one steps warily into the fray. Yet, despite the voluminous literature by and about Columbus, Americans outside the rarefied circle of Columbus scholars still know little about the man and his mission. In this paper I discuss some of the little known religious beliefs that underpinned the “Enterprise of the Indies,” for I think they have the potential to change fundamentally our assessment of Columbus and relocate some of the responsibility for the consequences of the encounter.
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