The traditional view of these 15th century explorers is that they were brave sailors who braved the risks and difficulties of oceanic travel and who “discovered” new lands in distant places. In truth, they were horribly brutal, homicidal tyrants who actually were responsible for more atrocities than the worst modern-day examples of dictators and perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
The human carnage committed by Columbus and his armies and by those of Cortes in the century following their arrival in the Americas dwarfs even those committed by the Nazis during World War Two. The sheer numbers of people they enslaved, brutalized, and murdered amounts to many times the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. In fact, if one combines the number of native people murdered (and very cruelly, senselessly, and unnecessarily brutally) by Columbus and Cortes and their contemporaries. Columbus accounted for the deaths of at least 8 million native people on Hispaniola alone; in Central Mexico, almost all of 25 million people were killed or died as a result of the European “explorers” within the span of one human lifetime since their arrival; in the Andes, approximately the same numbers were killed as the number of Jews murdered by Hitlers armies.
What makes these atrocities even more incredible is the fact that they were accomplished largely by hand, one victim at a time, and without the benefit of modern mechanical assistance. It is a testament to the capacity for cruelty of some of the men we still regard as “heroes” that they were apparently unaffected by their actions. That alone is fascinating when one considers that the origin of the Nazi gas chambers was as a result of the “inefficiency” of killing thousands of people at a time by machine gun and the negative affect on the “morale” of the troops responsible for killing so many people by their own hand. By all accounts, the European explorers whose names still mark our calendar would have made Hitler very proud and spared him the need for building any.