Columbus: Hero or Villain?

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and then it gets a little murky.
We all grew up with the idyllic story of Christopher Columbus discovering America to the benefit of all involved, and then the (some years later) Pilgrims and Indians sat down for a peaceful and happy thanksgiving meal and then this great nation broke apart from the tyrannical crown to become the greatest nation ever.
If only it was so simple. Christine Gibson sheds some historical evidence on Columbus’ story in “Christopher Columbus, Hero and Villain” on Here's a snippet of the dark side of the story:
“By most accounts a rigid, paranoid man…he gave each native older than 14 a quota of gold to find per day [on a return trip to the Carribean]. Those who failed had their hands cut off; those who resisted were killed. Many fled and were hunted down or starved. The Spanish hadn’t brought any women, and rape was common, as were forced marriages." When he left, “he kidnapped some 500 natives to serve as slaves in the Old World, and half of them died en route….”
After his death, Columbus’ son wrote a biography to restore his reputation. “This set in motion the seesaw Columbus’s reputation would ride for the next five centuries, particularly in America. The recent shift in his stature is nothing new; he has been constantly reinvented since the birth of the United States to mirror our evolving national identity.” Full article
What do you think? Is Columbus a hero, a villain or just a good enough excuse for a day off? Take the poll to the right.