Continuing his route towards the west, the Admiral arrived several days later in the neighbourhood of a very lofty mountain, where, because of the fertility of the soil, there were many inhabitants. The natives assembled in crowds, and brought bread, cotton, rabbits, and birds on board the ships. They inquired with great curiosity of the interpreter, if this new race of men was descended from heaven. Their king, and a number of wise men who accompanied him, made known by signs that this land was not an island. Landing on another neighbouring island, which almost touched Cuba, the Spaniards were unable to discover a single inhabitant; everybody, men and women, had fled on their approach. They found there four dogs which could not bark and were of hideous aspect. The people eat them just as we do kids. Geese, ducks, and herons abound in that island. Between these islands and the continent there were such strong currents that the Admiral had great difficulty in tacking, and the water was so shallow that the keels of the ships sometimes scraped the sand. For a space of forty miles the water of these currents was white, and so thick that one would have sworn the sea was sprinkled with flour. Having finally regained the open, the Admiral discovered, eighty miles farther on, another very lofty mountain. He landed to replenish his supply of water and wood. In the midst of the thick palm and pine groves two springs of sweet water were found. While the men were busy cutting wood and filling their barrels, one of our archers went off in the woods to hunt. He there suddenly encountered a native, so well dressed in a white tunic, that at the first glance he believed he saw before him one of the Friars of Santa Maria de la Merced, whom the Admiral had brought with him. This native was soon followed by two others, likewise coming out of the forest, and then by a troop of about thirty men, all of them clothed. Our archer turned and ran shouting, as quickly as he could, towards the ships. These people dressed in tunics shouted after him, and tried by all means of persuasion in their power to calm his fears. But he did not stop in his flight. Upon hearing this news, the Admiral, delighted finally to discover a civilised nation, at once landed a troop of armed men, ordering them to advance, if necessary, as far as forty miles into the country, until they should find those people dressed in tunics, or at least some other inhabitants. The Spaniards marched through the forest and emerged on an extensive plain overgrown with brush, amidst which there was no vestige of a path. They sought to cut a pathway through the undergrowth, but wandered about so hopelessly that they hardly advanced a mile. This underbrush was indeed as high as our grain when ripe. Worn out and fatigued, they returned without having discovered a trail. The next day the Admiral sent out a new troop of twenty-five men, urging them to use the greatest diligence to discover the inhabitants of that country. They, however, having come upon the tracks of some large animals, amongst which they thought they recognised those of lions, were terrified and retraced their steps. In the course of their march, they had found a forest overgrown with wild vines, which hung suspended from the loftiest trees, and also many other spice-producing trees. They brought back to Spain heavy and juicy bunches of grapes. As for the other fruits they collected, it was impossible to bring them to Spain, because there were no means of preserving them on board the ships; hence they rotted, and when they were spoiled they threw them into the sea. The men said that they had seen flocks of cranes twice as large as ours in the forest.
[Note 17: None of the natives of the islands wore white tunics, nor indeed any but the most scanty covering. It has been surmised that the soldier who made this report may indistinctly and from a distance have descried a flock of tall white cranes, otherwise he was either the victim of an hallucination or an inventor of strange tales to astonish his fellows. Humboldt (Histoire de la Geographie du nouveau Continent) quotes an instance of the colonists of Angostora once mistaking a flock of cranes for a band of soldiers.]
[Note 18: There were no lions nor large beasts of prey in the island; it has been suggested that these tracks may have been footprints of an alligator.]
Pursuing his course, the Admiral sailed towards other mountains; he observed upon the shore two huts, in which only one man was found, who, when he was brought on board the ships, shook his head and hands, indicating by signs that the country about these mountains was very populous. All along this coast the Admiral encountered numerous canoes which came to meet him, and on one side and the other friendly signals were exchanged. The man Diego, who, from the beginning of the voyage understood the language of the islanders, did not understand that of this newcomer. It was known, indeed, that the languages vary in the different provinces of Cuba. The natives gave it to be understood that a powerful sovereign, who wore clothes, lived in the interior of the country. The whole of the coast was inundated by waters, the beach being muddy and strewn with trees like in our swamps. When they landed to replenish their supply of water, they found some shells with pearls in them. Columbus nevertheless continued on his way, for he sought at that time, in obedience to the royal instructions, to explore the greatest possible extent of sea. As they proceeded on their course, lighted fires were observed on all the hilltops of the coast country, as far as to another mountain eighty miles distant. There was not a single lookout upon the rocks from which smoke did not rise.
[Note 19: Pezuela gives interesting information concerning the tribal languages of Cuba. Diccionario Geografico, Estadistico, Historico de la isla de Cuba.]
It was doubtful whether these fires had been lighted by the natives for domestic purposes or whether it was their custom in time of war thus to signal to warn their neighbours to provide for their safety and unite their forces to repel our attacks.
What is more probable is that they assembled to inspect our ships, as though they were something prodigious, concerning which they knew not what course to adopt. The coast-line began to recede in a southerly direction, and the sea continued to be encumbered with islands. Some of the ships, which had been scraped by the reefs, had sprung; ropes, sails, and other tackle were rotted, and provisions were spoiled by the humidity. The Admiral was, consequently, obliged to retrace his course. The extreme point of this country reached by him, and which he believed to be a continent, he named Evangelista.
[Note 20: Two or three days more would have sufficed to demonstrate the insular character of Cuba, and would doubtless have made Columbus the discoverer of Yucatan.]
During the return voyage, Columbus passed among many other islands more distant from the continent, and reached a sea where he found such numbers of huge turtles that they obstructed the advance of his fleet. He likewise crossed currents of whitish water, similar to those he had already seen. Fearing to sail amongst these islands he returned, and coasted along the one he believed to be a continent.
[Note 21: The milky colour was produced by quantities of chalky sand, churned up from the bottom by the currents.]
As he had never maltreated the natives, the inhabitants, both men and women, gladly brought him gifts, displaying no fear. Their presents consisted of parrots, bread, water, rabbits, and most of all, of doves much larger than ours, according to the Admiral's account. As he noticed that these birds gave forth an aromatic odour when they were eaten, he had the stomach of one of them opened, and found it filled with flowers. Evidently that is what gave such a superior taste to these doves; for it is credible that the flesh of animals assimilates the qualities of their food.
While assisting at Mass one day, Columbus beheld a man eighty years old, who seemed respectable though he wore no clothes, coming towards him, accompanied by a number of his people. During the rest of the ceremony this man looked on full of admiration; he was all eyes and ears. Then he presented the Admiral with a basket he was carrying, which was filled with native fruits, and finally sitting beside him, made the following speech which was interpreted by Diego Columbus, who, being from a neighbouring country, understood his language:
"It is reported to us that you have visited all these countries, which were formerly unknown to you, and have inspired the inhabitants with great fear. Now I tell and warn you, since you should know this, that the soul, when it quits the body, follows one of two courses; the first is dark and dreadful, and is reserved for the enemies and the tyrants of the human race; joyous and delectable is the second, which is reserved for those who during their lives have promoted the peace and tranquillity of others. If, therefore, you are a mortal, and believe that each one will meet the fate he deserves, you will harm no one."
Thanks to his native interpreter, the Admiral understood this speech and many others of the same tenor, and was astonished to discover such sound judgment in a man who went naked. He answered: "I have knowledge of what you have said concerning the two courses and the two destinies of our souls when they leave our bodies; but I had thought until now that these mysteries were unknown to you and to your countrymen, because you live in a state of nature." He then informed the old man that he had been sent thither by the King and Queen of Spain to take possession of those countries hitherto unknown to the outside world, and that, moreover, he would make war upon the cannibals and all the natives guilty of crimes, punishing them according to their deserts. As for the innocent, he would protect and honour them because of their virtues. Therefore, neither he nor any one whose intentions were pure need be afraid; rather, if he or any other honourable man had been injured in his interests by his neighbours he had only to say so.
These words of the Admiral afforded such pleasure to the old man that he announced that, although weakened by age, he would gladly go with Columbus, and he would have done so if his wife and sons had not prevented him. What occasioned him great surprise was to learn that a man like Columbus recognised the authority of a sovereign; but his astonishment still further increased when the interpreter explained to him how powerful were the kings and how wealthy, and all about the Spanish nation, the manner of fighting, and how great were the cities and how strong the fortresses. In great dejection the man, together with his wife and sons, threw themselves at the feet of Columbus, with their eyes full of tears, repeatedly asking if the country which produced such men and in such numbers was not indeed heaven.
It is proven that amongst them the land belongs to everybody, just as does the sun or the water. They know no difference between meum and tuum, that source of all evils. It requires so little to satisfy them, that in that vast region there is always more land to cultivate than is needed. It is indeed a golden age, neither ditches, nor hedges, nor walls to enclose their domains; they live in gardens open to all, without laws and without judges; their conduct is naturally equitable, and whoever injures his neighbour is considered a criminal and an outlaw. They cultivate maize, yucca, and ages, as we have already related is the practice in Hispaniola.
On his return from Cuba to Hispaniola, the Admiral again came in sight of Jamaica, and this time he skirted its southern coast from west to east. Upon reaching the eastern extremity of this island, he beheld in the north and on his left high mountains, which he believed to be the southern coast of Hispaniola which he had not before visited. On the calends of September he reached the port he had named San Nicholas, and there repaired his ships, intending to again ravage the cannibal islands and burn the canoes of the natives. He was determined that these rapacious wolves should no longer injure the sheep, their neighbours; but his project could not be realised because of his bad health. Long watches had weakened him; borne on shore half dead by the sailors of Port Isabella, and surrounded by his two brothers and his friends, he finally recovered his former health, but he could not renew his attack on the cannibal islands, because of the disturbances which had broken out amongst the Spaniards he had left in Hispaniola. Concerning these I shall later explain. Fare you well.
TO CARDINAL LUDOVICO D'ARAGON, NEPHEW OF OUR KING
When Columbus returned from the land which he believed to be the Indian continent, he learned that the Friar Boyl and Pedro Margarita, the nobleman who formerly enjoyed the King's friendship, as well as several others to whom he had confided the government of Hispaniola, had departed for Spain animated by evil intentions. In order that he might justify himself before the sovereigns, in case they should have been prejudiced by the reports of his enemies, and also for the purpose of recruiting colonists to replace those who had left, and to replenish the failing foodstuffs, such as wheat, wine, oil, and other provisions which form the ordinary food of Spaniards, who do not easily accustom themselves to that of the natives, he decided to betake himself to the Court, which at that time was resident at Burgos, a celebrated town of Old Castile. But I must relate briefly what he did before his departure.
[Note 1: The character of Padre Boyl has been somewhat rehabilitated by Padre Fita, S.J. (Memoires du Congr. Amer. de Madrid, 1881), but he can hardly be deemed comparable as a missionary to the zealous, self-sacrificing friars who followed with such perfect evangelic spirit a few years later. He was at perpetual enmity with both the Admiral and his brother.]
[Note 2: Pedro de Margarita had been appointed by Columbus military commander in the island; his conduct was marked by ingratitude towards the Admiral.]
The caciques of the island had always been contented with little, for they lived a peaceful and tranquil life. When they saw the Spaniards establishing themselves upon their native soil, they were considerably troubled, and desired above all things either to expel the newcomers or to destroy them so completely that not even their memory should remain. It is a fact that the people who accompanied the Admiral in his second voyage were for the most part undisciplined, unscrupulous vagabonds, who only employed their ingenuity in gratifying their appetites. Incapable of moderation in their acts of injustice, they carried off the women of the islanders under the very eyes of their brothers and their husbands; given over to violence and thieving, they had profoundly vexed the natives. It had happened in many places that when our men were surprised by the natives, the latter strangled them, and offered them as sacrifices to their gods. Convinced that he should put down a general insurrection by punishing the murderers of the Spaniards, Columbus summoned the cacique of this valley, lying at the foot off the Ciguano Mountains, which are described in the preceding book. This cacique was called Guarionex. He had been pleased to give his sister to be the wife of that Diego Columbus who had been from his infancy brought up by the Admiral, and had served him as interpreter during his occupation of Cuba. Guarionex had hoped by these means to establish a more intimate friendship with the Admiral. He afterwards sent one of his officers to Caunaboa, cacique of the mountains of Cibao, which is the gold region. The people of this Caunaboa had besieged Hojeda and fifty soldiers in the blockhouse of San Tomas and, had they not heard of the approaching arrival of Columbus in person at the head of imposing reinforcements, they would never have raised the siege. The Admiral chose Hojeda as his envoy, and while the latter was engaged in his mission, several caciques sent from different parts to urge Caunaboa not to allow the Christians to settle in the island, unless he wished to exchange independence for slavery; for if the Christians were not expelled to the last man from the island, all the natives would sooner or later become their slaves. Hojeda, on the other hand, negotiated with Caunaboa, urging him to come in person to visit the Admiral, and contract a firm alliance with him. The envoys of the caciques promised Caunaboa their unlimited support for the expulsion of the Spaniards, but Hojeda threatened to massacre him if he chose war rather than peace with the Christians. Caunaboa was very undecided. Besides, the consciousness of his crimes disturbed him, for he had cut off the heads of twenty of our men whom he had surprised. If, therefore, he desired peace on the one hand, on the other he feared the interview with the Admiral. Having carefully planned his treachery, he decided that under cover of peace he would seize the first occasion to destroy Columbus and his men. He set out, escorted by all his household and a large number of soldiers, armed after the fashion of the country, to meet the Admiral. When asked why he took such a numerous troop of men, he answered that it was not becoming for such a great king as he to quit his house and journey without an escort. In this event, however, things turned out differently from what he had expected and he fell into the net that he had himself prepared. Hardly had he left his house before he regretted his decision, but Hojeda succeeded by flatteries and promises in bringing him to Columbus, where he was at once seized and put in irons. The souls of our dead might rest in peace.
[Note 3: A cacique of the Vega, who was a vassal of Guarionex, Juatinango by name, had succeeded in killing ten Spaniards and in setting fire to a house which served as a hospital for forty others who were confined there ill. After these exploits, he besieged the blockhouse of Magdalena, which Luis de Arriaga only succeeded in defending by the greatest efforts. Herrera, Hist. Ind., tom, i., lib. ii., cap. xvi.]
[Note 4: The principal caciques of Hayti at that time numbered five. They were: Caunaboa, who was the most powerful of all; Guarionex, Gauccanagari, Behechio, and Cotubanama.]
[Note 5: Hojeda tricked this cacique into allowing him to fasten handcuffs on him; after which the helpless chief was carried sixty leagues through the forests. Pizarro, in his Varones Illustres, relates the story, as does likewise Herrera.]
After the capture of Caunaboa and all his household, the Admiral resolved to march throughout the whole island. He was informed that the natives suffered from such a severe famine that more than 50,000 men had already perished, and that people continued to die daily as do cattle in time of pest.
This calamity was the consequence of their own folly; for when they saw that the Spaniards wished to settle in their island, they thought they might expel them by creating a scarcity of food. They, therefore, decided not only to plant no more crops, but also to destroy and tear up all the various kinds of cereals used for bread which had already been sown, and which I have mentioned in the first book. This was to be done by the people in each district, and especially in the mountainous region of Cipangu and Cibao; that was the country where gold was found in abundance, and the natives were aware that the principal attraction which kept the Spaniards in Hispaniola was gold. At that time the Admiral sent an officer with a troop of armed men to reconnoitre the southern coast of the island, and this officer reported that the regions he had visited had suffered to such an extent from the famine, that during six days he and his men had eaten nothing but the roots of herbs and small plants, or such fruits as grow on the trees. Guarionex, whose territory had suffered less than the others, distributed some provisions amongst our people.
Some days later Columbus, with the object of lessening journeys and also to provide more numerous retreats for his men in case of sudden attack by the natives, had another blockhouse built, which he called Concepcion. It is situated between Isabella and San Tomas in the territory of Cibao, upon the frontiers of the country of Guarionex. It stands upon an elevation, well watered by a number of fresh streams. Seeing this new construction daily nearing completion, and our fleet half ruined lying in the port, the natives began to despair of liberty and to ask one another dejectedly whether the Christians would ever evacuate the archipelago.
It was during these explorations in the interior of the mountainous district of Cibao that the men of Concepcion obtained an ingot of massive gold, shaped in the form of a sponge-like stone; it was as large as a man's fist, and weighed twenty ounces. It had been found by a cacique, not on a river bank but in a dry mound. I saw it with my own eyes in a shop at Medina del Campo in Old Castile, where the Court was passing the winter; and to my great admiration I handled it and tested its weight. I also saw a piece of native tin, which might have served for bells or apothecaries' mortars or other such things as are made of Corinthian brass. It was so heavy that not only could I not lift it from the ground with my two hands, but could not even move it to the right or left. It was said that this lump weighed more than three hundred pounds at eight ounces to the pound. It had been found in the courtyard of a cacique's house, where it had lain for a long time, and the old people of the country, although no tin has been found in the island within the memory of any living man, nevertheless knew where there was a mine of this metal. But nobody could ever learn this secret from them, so much were they vexed by the Spaniards' presence. Finally they decided to reveal its whereabouts, but it was entirely destroyed, and filled in with earth and rubbish. It is nevertheless easier to extract the metal than to get out iron from the mines, and it is thought that if workmen and skilled miners were sent out, it would be possible to again work that tin mine.
[Note 6: Adeo jam stomacho pleni in nostros vivebant.]
Not far from the blockhouse of Concepcion and in these same mountains, the Spaniards discovered a large quantity of amber, and in some caverns was distilled a greenish colour very much prized by painters. In marching through the forest there were places where all the trees were of a scarlet colour which are called by Italian merchants verzino, and by the Spaniards brazil wood.
At this point, Most Illustrious Prince, you may raise an objection and say to yourself: "If the Spaniards have brought several shiploads of scarlet wood and some gold, and a little cotton and some bits of amber back to Europe, why did they not load themselves with gold and all the precious products which seem to abound so plenteously in the country you describe?"
Columbus answered such questions by saying that the men he had taken with him thought more of sleeping and taking their ease than about work, and they preferred fighting and rebellion to peace and tranquillity. The greater part of these men deserted him. To establish uncontested authority over the island, it was necessary to conquer the islanders and to break their power. The Spaniards have indeed pretended that they could not endure the cruelty and hardship of the Admiral's orders, and they have formulated many accusations against him. It is in consequence of these difficulties that he has not so far thought about covering the expenses of the expeditions. I will nevertheless observe that in this same year, 1501, in which I am writing to you, the Spaniards have gathered 1200 pounds of gold in two months.
But let us return to our narrative. At the proper time I will describe to you in detail what I have only just touched upon in this digression.
The Admiral was perfectly aware of the alarm and disturbance that prevailed amongst the islanders, but he was unable to prevent the violence and rapacity of his men, whenever they came into contact with the natives. A number of the principal caciques of the frontier regions assembled to beg Columbus to forbid the Spaniards to wander about the island because, under the pretext of hunting for gold or other local products, they left nothing uninjured or undefiled. Moreover, all the natives between the ages of fourteen and seventy years bound themselves to pay him tribute in the products of the country at so much per head, promising to fulfil their engagement. Some of the conditions of this agreement were as follows: The mountaineers of Cibao were to bring to the town every three months a specified measure filled with gold. They reckon by the moon and call the months moons. The islanders who cultivated the lands which spontaneously produced spices and cotton, were pledged to pay a fixed sum per head. This pact suited both parties, and it would have been observed by both sides as had been agreed, save that the famine nullified their resolutions. The natives had hardly strength to hunt food in the forests and for a long time they contented themselves with roots, herbs, and wild fruits. Nevertheless the majority of the caciques, aided by their followers, did bring part of the established tribute. They begged as a favour of the Admiral to have pity on their misery, and to exempt them till such time as the island might recover its former prosperity. They bound themselves then to pay double what was for the moment failing.
Owing to the famine, which had affected them more cruelly than the others, very few of the mountaineers of Cibao paid tribute. These mountaineers did not differ in their customs and language from the people of the plain more than do the mountaineers of other countries differ from those who live in the capital. There exist amongst them, however, some points of resemblance, since they lead the same kind of simple, open-air life.
But let us return to Caunaboa, who, if you remember, had been taken prisoner.
This cacique, when he found himself put in irons, gnashed his teeth like an African lion and fell to thinking, night and day, upon the means to recover his liberty. He begged the Admiral, since the region of Cipangu was now under his authority, to send Spanish garrisons to protect the country against the attacks of neighbours who were his ancient enemies. He said that it was reported to him that the country was ravaged, and the property of his subjects considered by his enemies as their lawful plunder. As a matter of fact it was a trap he was preparing. He hoped that his brother and other relatives in Cibao would, either by force or by trickery, capture as many Spaniards as would be required to pay his ransom. Divining this plot, Columbus sent Hojeda, but with an escort of soldiers sufficient to overcome all resistance of the inhabitants of Cibao. Hardly had the Spaniards entered that region when the brother of Caunaboa assembled about 5000 men, equipped in their fashion, that is to say, naked, armed with arrows without iron points, clubs, and spears. He succeeded in surrounding the Spaniards, and held them besieged in a small house. This chief showed himself under the circumstances to be a veritable soldier. When he had approached within a distance of one stadium, he divided his men into five groups, stationing them in a circle, and assigning to each one his post, while he himself marched directly against the Spaniards. When all his arrangements were completed, he ordered his soldiers to advance, shouting all together, so as to engage in a hand-to-hand combat. He hoped that, by thus surrounding the Spaniards, none of them would escape. But our men, persuaded that it was better to attack than to await their assault, fell upon the most numerous band they saw in the open country. The ground was adapted for cavalry manoeuvres and the horsemen, opening their charge, rode down the enemy, who were easily put to flight. Those who awaited the encounter were massacred; the others, overcome with fright, fled, abandoning their huts, and seeking refuge in the mountains and upon inaccessible rocks. They begged for mercy, promising and swearing to observe all the conditions imposed upon them, if they were only permitted to live with their families. The brother of the cacique was finally captured, and each of his men was sent to his own home. After this victory that region was pacified.
[Note 7: Las Casas (Hist, de las Indias, tom, i., p. 102) relates that Caunaboa never forgave Columbus for his treatment of him, while he had, on the contrary, great respect for Hojeda, the latter's clever ruse, deftly executed, being precisely the kind of trickery he was able to appreciate and admire.]
The mountain valley where the cacique lived is called Magona. It is traversed by auriferous rivers, is generously productive and marvellously fertile. In the month of June of this same year occurred a frightful tempest; whirlwinds reaching to the skies uprooted the largest trees that were swept within their vortex. When this typhoon reached the port of Isabella, only three ships were riding at anchor; their cables were broken, and after three or four shocks—though there was no tempest or tide at the time—they sank. It is said that in that year the sea penetrated more deeply than usual into the earth, and that it rose more than a cubit. The natives whispered that the Spaniards were the cause of this disturbance of the elements and these catastrophes. These tempests, which the Greeks called typhoons, are called by the natives huracanes. According to their accounts hurricanes are sufficiently frequent in the island, but they never attain such violence and fury. None of the islanders living, nor any of their ancestors remembers that such an atmospheric disturbance, capable of uprooting the greatest trees, had ever swept the island; nor, on the other hand, had the sea ever been so turbulent, or the tidewater so ravaged. Wherever plains border the sea, flowery meadows are found nearby.
[Note 8: The word hurricane is from Hurakan, the name of the god or culture hero who, in the mythology of Yucatan, corresponded to Quetzalcoatl of the Mexicans. Being the god of the winds, storms were ascribed to his fury, and the typhoons and tempests which broke out at times with destructive violence over the seas and countries were called by his name.]
Let us now return to Caunaboa. When it was sought to take them to the sovereigns of Spain, both he and his brother died of grief on the voyage. The destruction of his ships detained the Admiral at Hispaniola; but, as he had at his disposal the necessary artisans, he ordered two caravels to be built immediately.
While these orders were being carried out, he despatched his brother, Bartholomew Columbus,—Adelantado, the Spaniards call him, of the island,—with a number of miners and a troop of soldiers, to the gold mines, which had been discovered by the assistance of the natives sixty leagues from Isabella in the direction of Cipangu, As some very ancient pits were found there, the Admiral believed that he had rediscovered in those mines the ancient treasures which, it is stated in the Old Testament, King Solomon of Jerusalem had found in the Persian Gulf. Whether this be true or false is not for me to decide. These mines cover an area of six miles. The miners, in sifting some dry earth gathered at different places, declared that they had found such a great quantity of gold hidden in that earth that a miner could easily collect three drachmas in a day's work. After they had explored that region, the Adelantado and the miners wrote to Columbus acquainting him with their discovery. The ships being then ready, Columbus immediately and with great delight embarked to return to Spain; that is to say, the fifth day of the ides of March in the year 1495. He confided the government of the province with full powers to his brother, the Adelantado, Bartholomew Columbus.
[Note 9: Columbus sailed on March 10, 1496.]
TO CARDINAL LUDOVICO D'ARAGON, NEPHEW OF OUR KING
Acting upon the parting counsel of his brother, the Adelantado, Bartholomew Columbus, constructed a blockhouse at the mines, which he called El Dorado, because the labourers discovered gold in the earth with which they were building its walls. It required three months to manufacture the necessary tools for washing and sifting the gold, but famine obliged him to abandon this enterprise before it was terminated. At a place sixty miles farther on, where he and the greater part of his soldiers went, he succeeded in procuring from the islanders a small quantity of the bread they make, to such a bad state were affairs at that time reduced. Unable to prolong his stay, he left ten men at El Dorado, furnishing them with a small part of the bread that remained. He moreover left with them an excellent hunting dog for chasing the game, which I have above said resembles our rabbits, and which are called utias; after which he left to return to Concepcion. It was at that time that the tribute from the caique Guarionex and one of his neighbours called Manicavex was due. The Adelantado remained there the whole month of June, and obtained from the caciques, not only the sum total of the tribute, but also provisions necessary to support himself and the 400 men of his escort.
[Note 1: The name first given to the place was San Cristobal.]
About the calends of July three caravels arrived, bringing provisions—wheat, oil, wine, and salted pork and beef. In obedience to the orders from Spain, they were distributed amongst all the Europeans, but as some of the provisions had rotted, or were spoiled by the damp, people complained. Fresh instructions from the sovereigns and from the Admiral were sent to Bartholomew Columbus by these ships. After frequent interviews with the sovereigns, Columbus directed his brother to transfer his residence to the southern coast of the island, nearer to the mines. He was likewise ordered to send back to Spain, in chains, the caciques who had been convicted of assassinating the Christians, and also those of their subjects who had shared their crimes; Three hundred islanders were thus transported to Spain.
[Note 2: This transport marks the beginning of the slave trade in America.]
After having carefully explored the coast, the Adelantado transferred his residence and built a lofty blockhouse near a safe harbour, naming the fort Santo Domingo, because he had arrived at that place on a Sunday. There flows into that harbour a river, whose wholesome waters abound in excellent fish, and whose banks are delightfully wooded. This river has some unusual natural features. Wherever its waters flow, the most useful and agreeable products flourish, such as palms and fruits of all kinds. The trees sometimes droop their branches, weighted with flowers and fruit over the heads of the Spaniards, who declare that the soil of Santo Domingo is as fertile, or even perhaps more so, than at Hispaniola. At Isabella there only remained the invalids and some engineers to complete the construction of two caravels which had been begun, all the other colonists coming south to Santo Domingo. When the blockhouse was finished, he placed there a garrison of twenty men, and prepared to lead the remainder of his people on a tour of exploration through the western parts of the island, of which not even the name was known. Thirty leagues distant from Santo Domingo, that is to say, at the ninetieth mile, they came upon the river Naiba, which flows south from the mountains of Cibao and divides the island into two equal parts. The Adelantado crossed this river, and sent two captains, each with an escort of twenty-five soldiers, to explore the territory of the caciques who possessed forests of red trees. These men, marching to the left, came upon forests, in which they cut down magnificent trees of great value, heretofore respected. The captains piled the red-coloured wood in the huts of the natives, wishing thus to protect it until they could load it on the ships. During this time the Adelantado, who had marched to the right, had encountered at a place not far from the river Naiba a powerful cacique, named Beuchios Anacauchoa, who was at that time engaged in an expedition to conquer the people along the river, as well as some other caciques of the island. This powerful chieftain lives at the western extremity of the island, called Xaragua. This rugged and mountainous country is thirty leagues distant from the river Naiba, but all the caciques whose territory lies in between are subject to him. All that country from the Naiba to the western extremity produces no gold. Anacauchoa, observing that our men put down their arms and made him amicable signs, adopted a responsive air, either from fear or from courtesy, and asked them what they wanted of him. The Adelantado replied: "We wish you to pay the same tribute to my brother, who is in command here in the name of the Spanish sovereigns, as do the other caciques." To which he answered: "How can you ask tribute from me, since none of the numerous provinces under my authority produce gold?" He had learned that strangers in search of gold had landed on the island, and he did not suspect that our men would ask for anything else. "We do not pretend," continued the Adelantado, "to exact tribute from anybody which cannot be easily paid, or of a kind not obtainable; but we know that this country produces an abundance of cotton, hemp, and other similar things, and we ask you to pay tribute of those products." The cacique's face expressed joy on hearing these words, and with a satisfied air he agreed to give what he was asked, and in whatever quantities they desired; for he sent away his men, and after despatching messengers in advance, he himself acted as guide for the Adelantado, conducting him to his residence, which, as we have already said, was situated about thirty leagues distant. The march led through the countries of subject caciques; and upon some of them a tribute of hemp was imposed, for this hemp is quite as good as our flax for weaving ships' sails; upon others, of bread, and upon others, of cotton, according to the products of each region.
[Note 3: Xaragua includes the entire western coast from Cape Tiburon to the island of Beata on the south.]
When they finally arrived at the chieftain's residence in Xaragua, the natives came out to meet them, and, as is their custom, offered a triumphal reception to their king, Beuchios Anacauchoa, and to our men. Please note amongst other usages these two, which are remarkable amongst naked and uncultivated people. When the company approached, some thirty women, all wives of the cacique, marched out to meet them, dancing, singing, and shouting; they were naked, save for a loin-girdle, which, though it consisted but of a cotton belt, which dropped over their hips, satisfied these women devoid of any sense of shame. As for the young girls, they covered no part of their bodies, but wore their hair loose upon their shoulders and a narrow ribbon tied around the forehead. Their face, breast, and hands, and the entire body was quite naked, and of a somewhat brunette tint. All were beautiful, so that one might think he beheld those splendid naiads or nymphs of the fountains, so much celebrated by the ancients. Holding branches of palms in their hands, they danced to an accompaniment of songs, and bending the knee, they offered them to the Adelantado. Entering the chieftain's house, the Spaniards refreshed themselves at a banquet prepared with all the magnificence of native usage. When night came, each, according to his rank, was escorted by servants of the cacique to houses where those hanging beds I have already described were assigned to them, and there they rested.
Next day they were conducted to a building which served as a theatre, where they witnessed dances and listened to songs, after which two numerous troops of armed men suddenly appeared upon a large open space, the king having thought to please and interest the Spaniards by having them exercised, just as in Spain Trojan games (that is to say, tourneys) are celebrated. The two armies advanced and engaged in as animated a combat as though they were fighting to defend their property, their homes, their children or their lives. With such vigour did they contest, in the presence of their chieftain, that within the short space of an hour four soldiers were killed and a number were wounded; and it was only at the instance of the Spaniards that the cacique gave the signal for them to lay down their arms and cease fighting. After having advised the cacique to henceforth plant more cotton along the river banks, in order that he might more easily pay the tribute imposed on each household, the Adelantado left on the third day for Isabella to visit the invalids, and to see the ships in construction. About three hundred of his men had fallen victims to divers maladies, and he was therefore much concerned and hardly knew what course to adopt, for everything was lacking, not only for caring for the sick, but also for the necessities of life; since no ship had arrived from Spain to put an end to his uncertainty, he ordered the invalids to be distributed in the several blockhouses built in different provinces. These citadels, existing in a straight line from Isabella to Santo Domingo, that is to say, from north to south, were as follows: thirty-six miles from Isabella stood Esperanza; twenty-four miles beyond Esperanza came Santa Caterina; twenty miles beyond Santa Caterina, Santiago. Twenty miles beyond Santiago had been constructed a fortification stronger than any of the others; for it stood at the foot of the mountains of Cibao, in a broad and fertile plain which was well peopled. This was called La Concepcion. Between La Concepcion and Santo Domingo, the Adelantado built an even stronger fortress, which stood in the territory of a chieftain, who was obeyed by several thousands of subjects. As the natives called the village where their cacique lived, Bonana, the Adelantado wished the fortress to have the same name.
Having distributed the invalids amongst these fortresses or in the houses of the natives in the neighbourhood, the Adelantado left for Santo Domingo, collecting tribute from the caciques he encountered on his way. He had been at Santo Domingo but a few days when the report was brought that two of the caciques in the neighbourhood of La Concepcion were driven to desperation by the Spaniards' rule, and were planning a revolt. Upon the reception of this news he set out for that region by rapid marches.
He learned upon his arrival that Guarionex had been chosen by the other caciques as their commander-in-chief. Although he had already tested and had reason to fear our arms and our tactics, he had allowed himself to be partly won over. The caciques had planned a rising of about 15,000 men, armed in their fashion, for a fixed day, thus making a new appeal to the fortunes of battle. After consultation with the commander at La Concepcion and the soldiers he had with him, the Adelantado determined to take the caciques in their villages, while they were off their guard and before they had assembled their soldiers. Captains were thus sent against the caciques, and surprising them in their sleep, before their scattered subjects could collect, invaded their houses which were unprotected either by ditches, walls, or entrenchments; they attacked and seized them, binding them with cords, and bringing them, as they had been ordered, to the Adelantado. The latter had dealt with Guarionex himself, as he was the most formidable enemy, and had seized him at the appointed hour. Fourteen caciques were thus brought prisoners to La Concepcion, and shortly afterwards two of those who had corrupted Guarionex and the others, and who had favoured the revolt were condemned to death. Guarionex and the rest were released, for the Adelantado feared that the natives, affected by the death of the caciques, might abandon their fields, which would have occasioned a grievous damage to our people, because of the crops. About six thousand of their subjects had come to solicit their freedom. These people had laid down their arms, making the air ring and the earth shake with their clamour. The Adelantado spoke to Guarionex and the other caciques, and by means of promises, presents, and threats, charged them to take good care for the future to engage in no further revolt. Guarionex made a speech to the people, in which he praised our power, our clemency to the guilty, and our generosity to those who remained faithful; he exhorted them to calm their spirits and for the future neither to think nor to plan any hostilities against the Christians, but rather to be obedient, humble, and serviceable to them, unless they wished worse things to overtake them. When he had finished his speech, his people took him on their shoulders in a hammock, and in this wise they carried him to the village where he lived, and within a few days the entire country was pacified.
Nevertheless the Spaniards were disturbed and depressed, for they found themselves abandoned in a strange country. Fifteen months had elapsed since the departure of the Admiral. The clothes and the food to which they were accustomed were wanting, and so they marched with sad faces and eyes bent on the ground. The Adelantado strove as best he might to offer consolation. At this juncture, Beuchios Anacauchoa, for such was the name of the king of the western province of Xaragua of which we have before spoken, sent to the Adelantado notifying him that the cotton and other tribute he and his subjects were to pay, were ready. Bartholomew Columbus marched thither, therefore, and was received with great honours, by the cacique and by his sister. This woman, formerly the wife of Caunaboa, King of Cibao, was held in as great esteem throughout the kingdom as her brother. It seems she was gracious, clever, and prudent. Having learned a lesson from the example of her husband, she had persuaded her brother to submit to the Christians, to soothe and to please them. This woman was called Anacaona.
[Note 4: The story of the disorders, privations, and unrest, as told by Las Casas, Columbus, and others, makes cheerless reading; the misfortunes of the colonists were due to their inveterate idleness, their tyranny, which had alienated the good-will of the natives, and to the disillusionment that had dispersed their hope of speedily and easily won riches.]
[Note 5: Herrera (iii., 6) speaks of her as la insigne Anacaona ... mujer prudente y entendida... etc. She composed with unusual talent the arreytos or folk-ballads the natives were fond of singing. Las Casas describes her dreadful death in his Brevissima Relacion.]
Thirty-two caciques were assembled in the house of Anacauchoa, where they had brought their tribute. In addition to what had been agreed upon, they sought to win favour by adding numerous presents, which consisted of two kinds of bread, roots, grains, utias, that is to say, rabbits, which are numerous in the island, fish, which they had preserved by cooking them, and those same serpents, resembling crocodiles, which they esteem a most delicate food. We have described them above, and the natives call them iguanas. They are special to Hispaniola. Up to that time none of the Spaniards had ventured to eat them because of their odour, which was not only repugnant but nauseating, but the Adelantado, won by the amiability of the cacique's sister, consented to taste a morsel of iguana; and hardly had his palate savoured this succulent flesh than he began to eat it by the mouthful. Henceforth the Spaniards were no longer satisfied to barely taste it, but became epicures in regard to it, and talked of nothing else than the exquisite flavour of these serpents, which they found to be superior to that of peacocks, pheasants, or partridges. If, however, they are cooked as we do peacocks and pheasants, which are first larded and then roasted, the serpent's flesh loses its good flavour. First they gut them, then wash and clean them with care, and roll them into a circle, so that they look like the coils of a sleeping snake; after which they put them in a pot, just large enough to hold them, pouring over them a little water flavoured with the pepper found in the island. The pot is covered and a fire of odorous wood which gives very little light is kindled underneath it. A juice as delicious as nectar runs drop by drop from the insides. It is reported that there are few dishes more appetising than iguana eggs cooked over a slow fire. When they are fresh and served hot they are delicious, but if they are preserved for a few days they still further improve. But this is enough about cooking recipes. Let us pass on to other subjects.
[Note 6: Iguanas are found in all the tierras calientes of the continent.]
The tribute of cotton sent by the caciques filled the Adelantado's hut, and, in addition, he accepted their promise to furnish him all the bread he needed. While waiting for the bread to be made in the different districts, and brought to the house of Beuchios Anacauchoa, King of Xaragua, he sent to Isabella directing that one of the caravels he had ordered to be built be brought to him, promising the colonists that he would send it back to them loaded with bread. The delighted sailors made the tour of the island with alacrity, and landed on the coast of Xaragua. As soon as that brilliant, prudent, and sensible woman called Anacaona, sister of Beuchios Anacauchoa, heard that our ship had reached the coast of her country, she persuaded her brother to accompany her to visit it. The distance from the royal residence to the coast was only six miles. They halted for the night at a village about halfway, where the queen kept her treasure; this treasure did not consist of gold, silver, or pearls, but of utensils necessary to the different requirements of life, such as seats, platters, basins, cauldrons, and plates made of black wood, brilliantly polished; they display great art in the manufacture of all these articles. That distinguished savant, your doctor, Joannes Baptista Elysius, thinks that this black wood is ebony. It is to the manufacture of these articles that the islanders devote the best of their native ingenuity. In the island of Ganabara which, if you have a map, you will see lies at the western extermity of Hispaniola and which is subject to Anacauchoa, it is the women who are thus employed; the various pieces are decorated with representations of phantoms which they pretend to see in the nighttime, and serpents and men and everything that they see about them. What would they not be able to manufacture, Most Illustrious Prince, if they knew the use of iron and steel? They begin by softening the inner part of pieces of wood in the fire, after which they dig them out and work them with shells from the rivers.
Anacaona presented to the Adelantado fourteen seats and sixty earthen vessels for the kitchen, besides four rolls of woven cotton of immense weight. When they all reached the shore where the other royal town is situated, the Adelantado ordered out a barque fully equipped. The king also commanded two canoes to be launched, the first for the use of himself and his attendants, the second for his sister and her followers, but Anacaona was unwilling to embark on any other than the boat which carried the Adelantado. As they approached the ship, a cannon was fired at a given signal. The sound echoed over the sea like thunder, and the air was filled with smoke. The terrified islanders trembled, believing that this detonation had shattered the terrestrial globe; but when they turned towards the Adelantado their emotion subsided. Upon approaching closer to the ship the sound of flutes, fifes, and drums was heard, charming their senses by sweet music, and awakening their astonishment and admiration. When they had been over the whole ship, from stern to prow, and had carefully visited the forecastle, the tiller, and the hold, the brother and sister looked at one another in silence; their astonishment being so profound that they had nothing to say. While they were engaged in visiting the ship, the Adelantado ordered the anchor to be raised, the sails set, and to put out on the high sea. Their astonishment was redoubled when they observed that, without oars or the employment of any human force, such a great boat flew over the surface of the water. It was blowing a land wind, which was favourable to this manoeuvre, and what astonished them most was to see that the ship which was advanced by the help of this wind likewise turned about, first to the right and then to the left, according to the captain's will.
At the conclusion of these manoeuvres the ship was loaded with bread, roots, and other gifts, and the Adelantado after offering them some presents took leave of Beuchios Anacauchoa and his sister, their followers and servants of both sexes. The impression left upon the latter by this visit was stupefying. The Spaniards marched overland and returned to Isabella. On arriving there, it was learned that a certain Ximenes Roldan, formerly chief of the miners and camp-followers, whom the Admiral had made his equerry and raised to the grade of chief justice, was ill-disposed towards the Adelantado. It was simultaneously ascertained that the Cacique Guarionex, unable longer to put up with the rapacity of Roldan and the other Spaniards at Isabella, had been driven by despair to quit the country with his family and a large number of his subjects, taking refuge in the mountains which border the northern coast only ten leagues to the west of Isabella. Both these mountains and their inhabitants bear the same name, Ciguaia. The chief of all the caciques inhabiting the mountain region is called Maiobanexios, who lived at a place called Capronus. These mountains are rugged, lofty, inaccessible, and rise from the sea in a semicircle. Between the two extremities of the chain, there lies a beautiful plain, watered by numerous rivers which rise in these mountains. The natives are ferocious and warlike, and it is thought they are of the same race as the cannibals, for when they descend from their mountains to fight with their neighbours in the plain, they eat all whom they kill. It was with the cacique of these mountains that Guarionex took refuge, bringing him gifts, consisting of things which the mountaineers lack. He told him that the Spaniards had spared him neither ill-treatment nor humiliation nor violence, while neither humility nor pride had been of the least use in his dealings with them. He came, therefore, to him as a suppliant, hoping to be protected against the injustice of these criminals. Maiobanexios promised him help and succour to the extent of his power.
Hastening back to La Concepcion the Adelantado summoned Ximenes Roldan, who, accompanied by his adherents, was prowling amongst the villages of the island, to appear before him. Greatly irritated, the Adelantado asked him what his intentions were. To which Roldan impudently answered: "Your brother, the Admiral is dead, and we fully understand that our sovereigns have little care for us. Were we to obey you, we should die of hunger, and we are forced to hunt for provisions in the island. Moreover, the Admiral confided to me, as well as to you, the government of the island; hence, we are determined to obey you no longer." He added other equally misplaced observations. Before the Adelantado could capture him, Roldan, followed by about seventy men, escaped to Xaragua in the western part of the island, where, as the Adelantado reported to his brother, they gave themselves over to violence, thievery, and massacre.
[Note 7: Some of the principal colonists, including Valdiviesso and Diego de Escobar, favoured Roldan. The sketchy description of this notable rebellion here given may be completed by consulting Herrera, Dec. I., 3, i.; Fernando Columbus, Storia del Almirante; Irving, Columbus and his Companions, book xi., caps iv., v., etc.]
While these disturbances were in progress, the Spanish sovereigns finally granted the Admiral eight vessels, which Columbus promptly ordered to sail from the town of Cadiz, a city consecrated to Hercules. These ships were freighted with provisions for the Adelantado. By chance they approached the western coast of the island, where Ximenes Roldan and his accomplices were. Roldan won over the crews by promising them fresh young girls instead of manual labour, pleasures instead of exertion, plenty in place of famine, and repose instead weariness and watching.
During this time Guarionex, who had assembled a troop of allies, made frequent descents upon the plain, killing all the Christians he surprised, ravaging the fields, driving off the workmen, and destroying villages.
Although Roldan and his followers were not ignorant that the Admiral might arrive from one day to another, they had no fears, since they had won over to their side the crews of the ships that had been sent on ahead. In the midst of such miseries did the unfortunate Adelantado await from day to day the arrival of his brother. The Admiral sailed from Spain with the remainder of the squadron but instead of sailing directly to Hispaniola, he first laid his course to the south. What he accomplished during this new voyage, what seas and countries he visited, what unknown lands he discovered, I shall narrate, and I shall also explain at length the sequel of these disorders in the following books. Fare you well.
[Note 8: This was the third voyage of Columbus, concerning which some of the best sources of information are as follows: Oviedo, Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. iii., 2, 4; Navarrete, tom iii., Lettera di Simone Verde a Mateo Curi; Fernando Columbus, op. cit.; Herrera, dec. i., 7; R.H. Major, Hakluyt Society, 1870, Select Letters of Columbus.]
TO THE SAME CARDINAL LUDOVICO D'ARAGON
On the third day of the calends of June, 1498, Columbus sailed from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, which is situated at the mouth of the Guadalquivir not far from Cadiz. His fleet consisted of eight heavily freighted ships. He avoided his usual route by way of the Canaries, because of certain French pirates who were lying in wait for him. Seven hundred and twenty miles north of the Fortunate Isles he sighted Madeira, which lies four degrees to the south of Seville; for at Seville, according to the mariners' report, the north star rises to the 36th degree, whereas at Madeira it is in the 32d. Madeira was, therefore, his first stop, and from thence he despatched five or six ships loaded with provisions directly to Hispaniola, only keeping for himself one ship with decks and two merchant caravels. He laid his course due south and reached the equinoctial line, which he purposed to follow directly to the west, making new discoveries and leaving Hispaniola to the north on his starboard side. The thirteen islands of the Hesperides lie in the track of this voyage. They belong to the Portuguese, and all, save one, are inhabited. They are called the Cape Verde islands, and are distant only a day's sail from the western part of Ethiopia. To one of these islands the Portuguese have given the name of Bona Vista; and each year numerous lepers are cured of their malady by eating the turtles of this island.
[Note 1: The date was May 30, 1498, and the number of ships under his command was six, instead of eight. Much delay had occurred in fitting out the fleet for the voyage, owing to the poor management of the royal functionaries, especially the Bishop of Burgos, whose enmity towards Columbus was from thenceforward relentless.]
[Note 2: Properly Boavista. A leper colony had been established here by the Portuguese.]
The climate being very bad, the Admiral quickly left the archipelago behind, and sailed 480 miles towards the west-south-west. He reports that the dead calms and the fierce heat of the June sun caused such sufferings that his ships almost took fire. The hoops of his water barrels burst, and the water leaked out. His men found this heat intolerable. The pole star was then at an elevation of five degrees. Of the eight days during which they endured these sufferings only the first was clear; the others being cloudy and rainy, but not on that account less oppressive. More than once, indeed, did he repent having taken this course. After eight days of these miseries a favourable wind rose from the south-west, by which the Admiral profited to sail directly west, and under this parallel he observed new stars in the heavens, and experienced a more agreeable temperature. In fact, all his men agree in saying that after three days' sailing in that direction, the air was much cooler. The Admiral affirms that, while he was in the region of dead calms and torrid heat, the ship always mounted the back of the sea, just as when climbing a high mountain one seems to advance towards the sky, and yet, nevertheless, he had seen no land on the horizon. Finally, on the eve of the calends of July, a watcher announced with a joyful cry, from the crow's nest, that he saw three lofty mountains. He exhorted his companions to keep up their courage. The men were, indeed, much depressed, not merely because they had been scorched by the sun, but because the water-supply was short. The barrels had been sprung by the extreme heat, and lost the water through the cracks. Full of rejoicing they advanced, but as they were about to touch land they perceived that this was impossible, because the sea was dotted with reefs, although in the neighbourhood they descried a harbour which seemed a spacious one. From their ships the Spaniards could see that the country was inhabited and well cultivated; for they saw well-ordered gardens and shady orchards, while the sweet odours, exhaled by plants and trees bathed in the morning dew, reached their nostrils.
[Note 3: Alonzo Perez Nirando, a sailor from Huelva, made the joyous announcement, and the sailors sang the Salve Regina in thanksgiving. Columbus named the island Trinidad, having already decided to dedicate the first sighted land to the Holy Trinity. The three mountain peaks close together seemed to render the name all the more appropriate.]
Twenty miles from that place, the Admiral found a sufficiently large port to shelter his ships, though no river flowed into it. Sailing farther on he finally discovered a satisfactory harbour for repairing his vessels and also replenishing his supply of water and wood. He called this land Punta del Arenal. There was no sign of any habitation in the neighbourhood of the harbour, but there were many tracks of animals similar to goats, and in fact the body of one of those animals, closely resembling a goat, was found. On the morrow, a canoe was seen in the distance carrying eighty men, all of whom were young, good-looking, and of lofty stature. Besides their bows and arrows they were armed with shields, which is not the custom among the other islanders. They wore their hair long, parted in the middle, and plastered down quite in the Spanish fashion. Save for their loin-cloths of various coloured cottons, they were entirely naked.
[Note 4: The narrative at this point is somewhat sketchy, but the author, doubtless, faithfully recounted the events as they were reported to him. The ships approached the island from the east, and then coasted its shore for five leagues beyond the cape named by Columbus La Galera, because of it's imagined resemblance to a galley under sail. The next day he continued his course westwards, and named another headland Punta de la Playa; this was a Wednesday, August the first; and as the fleet passed between La Galera and La Playa, the South American continent was first discovered, some twenty-five leagues distant. Fernando Columbus affirms that his father, thinking it was another island, called it Isla Santa; but in reality Columbus named the continent Tierra de Gracia. Punta del Arenal forms the south-western extremity of the island and is separated by a channel, according to Columbus, two leagues broad.]
The Admiral's opinion was that this country was nearer to the sky than any other land situated in the same parallel and that it was above the thick vapours which rose from the valleys and swamps, just as the high peaks of lofty mountains are distant from the deep valleys. Although Columbus declared that during this voyage he had followed without deviation the parallel of Ethiopia, there are the greatest possible physical differences between the natives of Ethiopia and those of the islands; for the Ethiopians are black and have curly, woolly hair, while these natives are on the contrary white, and have long, straight, blond hair. What the causes of these differences may be, I do not know. They are due rather to the conditions of the earth than to those of the sky; for we know perfectly well that snow falls and lies on the mountains of the torrid zone, while in northern countries far distant from that zone the inhabitants are overcome by great heat.
In order to attract the natives they had met, the Admiral made them some presents of mirrors, cups of bright polished brass, bells, and other similar trifles, but the more he called to them, the more they drew off. Nevertheless, they looked intently and with sincere admiration at our men, their instruments and their ships, but without laying down their oars. Seeing that he could not attract them by his presents, the Admiral ordered his trumpets and flutes to be played, on the largest ship, and the men to dance and sing a chorus. He hoped that the sweetness of the songs and the strange sounds might win them over, but the young men imagined that the Spaniards were singing preparatory to engaging in battle, so in the twinkling of an eye they dropped their oars and seized their bows and arrows, protecting their arms with their shields, and, while waiting to understand the meaning of the sounds, stood ready to let fly a volley against our men. The Spaniards sought to draw near little by little, in such wise as to surround them; but the natives retreated from the Admiral's vessel and, confident in their ability as oarsmen, they approached so near to one of the smaller ships that from the poop a cloak was given to the pilot of the canoe, and a cap to another chief. They made signs to the captain of the ship to come to land, in order that they might the more easily come to an understanding; but when they saw that the captain drew near to the Admiral's vessel to ask permission to land, they feared some trap, and quickly jumped into their canoe and sped away with the rapidity of the wind.
The Admiral relates that to the west of that island and not far distant he came upon a strong current flowing from east to west. It ran with such force that he compared its violence to that of a vast cataract flowing from a mountain height. He declared that he had never been exposed to such serious danger since he began, as a boy, to sail the seas. Advancing as best he could amongst these raging waves, he discovered a strait some eight miles long, which resembled the entrance of a large harbour. The current flowed towards that strait, which he called Boca de la Sierpe, naming an island beside it, Margarita. From this strait there flowed another current of fresh water, thus coming into conflict with the salt waters and causing such waves that there seemed to rage between the two currents a terrible combat. In spite of these difficulties, the Admiral succeeded in penetrating into the gulf, where he found the waters drinkable and agreeable.
[Note 5: Columbus was then near the mouth of the Orinoco River.]
Another very singular thing the Admiral has told me, and which is confirmed by his companions (all worthy of credence and whom I carefully questioned concerning the details of the voyage), is that he sailed twenty-six leagues, that is to say, one hundred and forty-eight miles, in fresh water; and the farther he advanced to the west, the fresher the water became. Finally, he sighted a very lofty mountain, of which the eastern part was inhabited only by a multitude of monkeys with very long tails. All this side of the mountain is very steep, which explains why no people live there. A man, sent to reconnoitre the country, reported however that it was all cultivated and that the fields were sown, though nowhere were there people or huts. Our own peasants often go some distance from their homes to sow their fields. On the western side of the mountain was a large plain. The Spaniards were well satisfied to drop anchor in such a great river. As soon as the natives knew of the landing of an unknown race on their coasts, they collected about the Spaniards anxious to examine them, and displaying not the slightest fear. It was learned by signs that that country was called Paria, that it was very extensive, and that its population was most numerous in its western part. The Admiral invited four natives to come on board and continued his course to the west.
[Note 6: See Orinoco Illustrado, by Gumilla, 1754, also Schomburgk's Reisen in Guiana und Orinoco. The fresh waters of the estuary are in fact driven a considerable distance out to sea.]
[Note 7: This was the first landing of the Spaniards on the American continent, but Columbus, being ill, did not go on shore. Pedro de Torreros took possession in the Admiral's name (Navarrete, tom. iii., p. 569). Fernando Columbus states that his father suffered from inflamed eyes, and that from about this time he was forced to rely for information upon his sailors and pilots (Storia, cap. lxv.-lxxiii.). He seemed nevertheless to divine the immensity of the newly discovered land, for he wrote to the sovereigns y creo esta tierra que agora, mandaron discrubir vuestras altezzas sea grandissima.]
Judging by the agreeable temperature, the attractiveness of the country, and the number of people they daily saw during their voyage, the Spaniards concluded that the country is a very important one, and in this opinion they were not wrong, as we shall demonstrate at the proper time. One morning at the break of dawn the Spaniards landed, being attracted by the charm of the country and the sweet odours wafted to them from the forests. They discovered at that point a larger number of people than they had thus far seen, and as they were approaching the shore, messengers came in the name of the caciques of that country, inviting them to land and to have no fears. When Columbus refused, the natives urged by curiosity, flocked about the ships in their barques. Most of them wore about their necks and arms, collars and bracelets of gold and ornaments of Indian pearls, which seemed just as common amongst them as glass jewelry amongst our women. When questioned as to whence came the pearls, they answered by pointing with their fingers to a neighbouring coast; by grimaces and gestures they seemed to indicate that if the Spaniards would stop with them they would give them basketfuls of pearls. The provisions which the Admiral destined for the colony at Hispaniola were beginning to spoil, so he resolved to defer this commercial operation till a more convenient opportunity. Nevertheless he despatched two boats loaded with soldiers, to barter with the people on land for some strings of pearls and, at the same time, to discover whatever they could about the place and its people. The natives received these men with enthusiasm and pleasure, and great numbers surrounded them, as though they were inspecting something marvellous. The first who came forward were two distinguished persons, for they were followed by the rest of the crowd. The first of these men was aged and the second younger, so that it was supposed they were the father and his son and future successor. After exchanging salutations the Spaniards were conducted to a round house near a large square. Numerous seats of very black wood decorated with astonishing skill were brought, and when the principal Spaniards and natives were seated, some attendants served food and others, drink. These people eat only fruits, of which they have a great variety, and very different from ours. The beverages they offered were white and red wine, not made from grapes but from various kinds of crushed fruits, which were not at all disagreeable.
This repast concluded, in company with the elder chief, the younger one conducted the Spaniards to his own house, men and women crowding about in great numbers, but always in separate groups from one another.
The natives of both sexes have bodies as white as ours, save those perhaps who pass their time in the sun. They were amiable, hospitable, and wore no clothes, save waist-cloths of various coloured cotton stuffs. All of them wore either collars or bracelets of gold or pearls, and some wore both, just as our peasants wear glass jewelry. When they were asked whence the gold came, they indicated with the finger that it was from a mountainous country, appearing at the same time to dissuade our men from going there, for they made them understand by gestures and signs that the inhabitants of that country were cannibals. It was not, however, entirely clear whether they meant cannibals or savage beasts. They were much vexed to perceive that the Spaniards did not understand them, and that they possessed no means of making themselves intelligible to one another. At three o'clock in the afternoon the men who had been sent on shore returned, bringing several strings of pearls, and the Admiral, who could not prolong his stay, because of his cargo of provisions, raised anchor and sailed. He intends, however, after putting the affairs of Hispaniola in order, shortly to return. It was another than he who profited by this important discovery.
The shallowness of the sea and the numerous currents, which at each change of the tide dashed against and injured the lesser vessels, much retarded the Admiral's progress, and to avoid the perils of the shallows he always sent one of the lighter caravels ahead; this vessel being of short draught took repeated soundings and the other larger ones followed. At that time two provinces of the vast region of Paria, Cumana and Manacapana, were reached, and along their shores the Admiral coasted for two hundred miles. Sixty leagues farther on begins another country called Curiana. As the Admiral had already covered such a distance, he thought the land lying ahead of him was an island, and that if he continued his course to the west he would be unable to get back to the north and reach Hispaniola. It was then that he came upon the mouth of a river whose depth was thirty cubits, with an unheard-of width which he described as twenty-eight leagues. A little farther on, always in a westerly direction though somewhat to the south, since he followed the line of the coast, the Admiral sailed into a sea of grass of which the seeds resemble those of the lentil. The density of this growth retarded the advance of the ships.
The Admiral declares that in the whole of that region the day constantly equals the night. The north star is elevated as in Paria to five degrees above the horizon, and all the coasts of that newly discovered country are on the same parallel. He likewise reports details concerning the differences he observed in the heavens, which are so contradictory to astronomical theories that I wish to make some comments. It is proven, Most Illustrious Prince, that the polar star, which our sailors call Tramontane, is not the point of the arctic pole upon which the axis of the heavens turns. To realise this easily, it is only necessary to look through a small hole at the pole star itself, when the stars are rising. If one then looks through the same aperture at the same star when dawn is paling the stars, it will be seen that it has changed its place; but how can it be in this newly discovered country that the star rises at the beginning of twilight in the month of June to a height of only five degrees above the horizon, and when the stars are disappearing before the sunrise, it should be found by the same observer to be in the fifteenth degree? I do not at all understand it, and I must confess the reasons the Admiral gives by no means satisfy me. Indeed, according to his conjectures, the terrestrial globe is not an absolute sphere, but had at the time of its creation a sort of elevation rising on its convex side, so that instead of resembling a ball or an apple, it was more like a pear, and Paria would be precisely that elevated part, nearest to the sky. He has also persisted in affirming that the earthly paradise is situated on the summit of those three mountains, which the watcher from the height of the crow's nest observed in the distance, as I have recounted. As for the impetuous current of fresh water which rushed against the tide of the sea at the beginning of that strait, he maintains that it is formed of waters which fall in cascades from the heights of these mountains. But we have had enough of these things which to me seem fabulous. Let us return to our narrative.
[Note 8: Speaking of the earthly paradise, Columbus describes it as adonde ne puede llegar nadie, sabro par voluntad divina. Vespucci it was who thought it would be found in the New World; se nel mondo e alcun paradiso terrestre.]
Seeing his course across that vast gulf had, contrary to his expectation, been arrested, and fearing to find no exit towards the north through which he might reach Hispaniola, the Admiral retraced his course and sailing north of that country he bent towards the east in the direction of Hispaniola.
Those navigators who later explored this region more carefully believe that it is the Indian continent, and not Cuba, as the Admiral thought; and there are not wanting mariners who pretend that they have sailed all round Cuba. Whether they are right or whether they seek to gratify their jealousy of the author of a great discovery, I am not bound to decide. Time will decide, and Time is the only truthful judge. The Admiral likewise discusses the question whether or not Paria is a continent; he himself thinks it is. Paria lies to the south of Hispaniola, a distance of 882 leagues, according to Columbus. Upon the third day of the calends of September of the year 1498, he reached Hispaniola, most anxious to see again his soldiers and his brother whom he had left there. But, as commonly happens in human affairs, fortune, however favourable, mingles with circumstances, sweet and pleasant, some grain of bitterness. In this case it was internecine discord which marred his happiness.
[Note 9: Rivalry and perhaps jealousy existed among the navigators, each bent on eclipsing the achievements of his fellows, and the former feeling was a spur to enterprise. Yanez Pinzon, Amerigo Vespucci, Juan Diaz de Solis all explored the American coasts, discovering Yucatan, Florida, Texas, and Honduras.]
TO THE SAME CARDINAL LUDOVICO D'ARAGON
Upon his arrival at Hispaniola, the Admiral found an even greater state of disorder than he had feared, for Roldan had taken advantage of his absence to refuse obedience to his brother, Bartholomew Columbus. Resolved not to submit to him who had formerly been his master and had raised him in dignity, he had stirred up the multitude in his own favour and had also vilified the Adelantado and had written heinous accusations to the King against the brothers. The Admiral likewise sent envoys to inform the sovereigns of the revolt, begging them at the same time to send soldiers to put down the insurrection and punish the guilty, according to their crimes. Roldan and his accomplices preferred grave charges against the Admiral and the Adelantado, who, according to them, were impious, unjust men, enemies to the Spaniards, whose blood they had profusely shed. They were accused of torturing, strangling, decapitating and, in divers other ways, killing people on the most trifling pretexts. They were envious, proud, and intolerable tyrants; therefore, people avoided them as they would fly from wild beasts, or from the enemies of the Crown. It had in fact been discovered that the sole thought of the brothers was to usurp the government of the island. This had been proven by different circumstances, but chiefly by the fact that they allowed none but their own partisans to work the gold-mines.
In soliciting reinforcements from the sovereigns, sufficient to deal with the rebels according to their merits, the Admiral explained that those men who dared thus to accuse him were guilty of misdemeanours and crimes; for they were debauchees, profligates, thieves, seducers, ravishers, vagabonds. They respected nothing and were perjurers and liars, already condemned by the tribunals, or fearful, owing to their numerous crimes, to appear before them. They had formed a faction amongst themselves, given over to violence and rapine; lazy, gluttonous, caring only to sleep and to carouse. They spared nobody; and having been brought to the island of Hispaniola originally to do the work of miners or of camp servants, they now never moved a step from their houses on foot, but insisted on being carried about the island upon the shoulders of the unfortunate natives, as though they were dignitaries of the State. Not to lose practice in the shedding of blood, and to exercise the strength of their arms, they invented a game in which they drew their swords, and amused themselves in cutting off the heads of innocent victims with one sole blow. Whoever succeeded in more quickly landing the head of an unfortunate islander on the ground with one stroke, was proclaimed the bravest, and as such was honoured. Such were the mutual accusations bandied about between the Admiral and the partisans of Roldan, not to mention many other imputations.
[Note 1: Ab insularibus namque miseris pensiles per totam insulam, tanquam aediles curules, feruntur.]
[Note 2: See Las Casas, Brevissima Relacion, English translation, pub. by G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909.]
Meanwhile the Admiral, desiring to put a stop to the dangerous attacks of the Ciguana tribe which had revolted under the leadership of Guarionex, sent his brother the Adelantado with ninety foot-soldiers and some horsemen against them. It may be truthfully added that about three thousand of the islanders who had suffered from the invasions of the Ciguana tribe, who were their sworn enemies, joined forces with the Spaniards. The Adelantado led his troops to the bank of a great river which waters the plain between the sea and the two extremes of the mountain chain of Ciguana, of which we have already spoken. He surprised two of the enemy's spies who were concealed in the underbrush, one of whom sprang into the sea, and, swimming across the river at its mouth, succeeded in escaping to his own people. From the one who was captured, it was learned that six thousand natives of Ciguana were hidden in the forest beyond the river and were prepared to attack the Spaniards when they crossed over. The Adelantado therefore marched along the river bank seeking a ford. This he soon found in the plain, and was preparing to cross the river when the Ciguana warriors rushed out from the forest in compact battalions, yelling in a most horrible manner. Their appearance is fearsome and repulsive, and they march into battle daubed with paint, as did the Thracians and Agathyrses. These natives indeed paint themselves from the forehead to the knees, with black and scarlet colours which they extract from certain fruits similar to pears, and which they carefully cultivate in their gardens. Their hair is tormented into a thousand strange forms, for it is long and black, and what nature refuses they supply by art. They look like goblins emerged from the infernal caverns. Advancing towards our men who were trying to cross the river, they contested their passage with flights of arrows and by throwing pointed sticks; and such was the multitude of projectiles that they half darkened the light of the sun, and had not the Spaniards received the blows on their shields the engagement would have ended badly for them.
A number of men were wounded in this first encounter, but the Adelantado succeeded in crossing the river and the enemy fled, the Spaniards pursuing them, though they killed few, as the islanders are good runners. As soon as they gained the protection of the woods, they used their bows to repulse their pursuers, for they are accustomed to woods, and run naked amongst underbrush, shrubs, and trees, like wild boars, heedless of obstacles. The Spaniards, on the contrary, were hindered amongst this undergrowth by their shields, their clothes, their long lances, and their ignorance of the surroundings. After a night passed uselessly in the woods the Adelantado, realising the next morning that they could catch nobody, followed the counsel of those islanders who are the immemorial enemies of the Ciguana tribe, and under their guidance marched towards the mountains where the King Maiobanexius lived at a place called Capronus. Twelve miles' march brought them to the village of another cacique, which had been abandoned by its terrified inhabitants, and there he established his camp. Two natives were captured, from whom it was learned that King Maiobanexius and ten caciques with eight thousand soldiers were assembled at Capronus. During two days there were a few light skirmishes between the parties, the Adelantado not wishing to do more than reconnoitre the country. Scouts were sent out the following night under the guidance of some islanders who knew the land. The people of Ciguana caught sight of our men from the heights of their mountains, and prepared to give battle, uttering war-cries as is their custom. But they did not venture to quit their woods, because they thought the Adelantado had his entire army with him. Twice on the following day, when the Adelantado marched on with his men, the natives tested the fortune of war; hurling themselves against the Spaniards with fury, they wounded many before they could protect themselves with their shields, but the latter, getting the better of them, pursued them, cutting some in pieces, and taking a large number prisoners. Those who escaped took refuge in the forests, from which they were careful not to emerge.
The Adelantado selected one of the prisoners, and sending with him one of his allies, he despatched them both to Maiobanexius with the following message: "The Adelantado has not undertaken to make war upon you and your people, O Maiobanexius, for he desires your friendship; but he formally demands that Guarionex, who has taken refuge with you and has drawn you into this conflict to the great damage of your people, shall be delivered to him to be punished as he merits. He counsels you, therefore, to give up this cacique; if you consent, the Admiral will count you among his friends and protect and respect your territory. If you refuse you will be made to repent, for your entire country will be devastated with fire and sword, and all you possess will be destroyed." Maiobanexius, upon hearing this message, replied: "Everybody knows that Guarionex is a hero, adorned with all the virtues, and therefore I have esteemed it right to assist and protect him. As for you, you are violent and perfidious men, and seek to shed the blood of innocent people: I will neither enter into relations with you, nor form any alliance with so false a people."
When this answer was brought to the Adelantado, he burnt the village where he had established his camp and several others in the neighbourhood. He again sent envoys to Maiobanexius, to ask him to name one of his trusty advisers to treat for peace. Maiobanexius consented to send one of the most devoted of his counsellors, accompanied by two other chiefs. The Adelantado earnestly conjured them not to jeopardise the territory of Maiobanexius solely in the interests of Guarionex. He advised Maiobanexius, if he did not wish to be ruined himself and to be treated as an enemy, to give him up.
When his envoys returned, Maiobanexius called together his people and explained the conditions. The people cried that Guarionex must be surrendered, cursing and execrating the day he had come amongst them to disturb their tranquillity. The cacique reminded them, however, that Guarionex was a hero, and had rendered him services when he fled to him for protection, for he had brought him royal presents. Moreover, he had taught both the cacique himself and his wife to sing and dance, a thing not to be held in mediocre consideration. Maiobanexius was determined never to surrender the prince who had appealed to his protection, and whom he had promised to defend. He was prepared to risk the gravest perils with him rather than to merit the reproach of having betrayed his guest. Despite the complaints of the people, the cacique dissolved the assembly, and calling Guarionex to him, he pledged himself for the second time to protect him and to share his fortunes as long as he lived.
Maiobanexius resolved to give no further information to the Adelantado: on the contrary he ordered his first messenger to station himself with some faithful soldiers at a place on the road where the Adelantado's envoys usually passed, and to kill any Spaniards who appeared, without further discussion. The Adelantado had just sent his messengers, and both these men, one of whom was a prisoner from Ciguana and the other from amongst the native allies, were decapitated. The Adelantado, escorted by only ten foot-soldiers and four horsemen, followed his envoys and discovered their bodies lying in the road, which so incensed him that he determined to no longer spare Maiobanexius. He invaded the cacique's village of Capronus with his army. The caciques fled in every direction, abandoning their chief, who withdrew with his entire family into places of concealment in the mountain districts. Some others of the Ciguana people sought to capture Guarionex, since he was the occasion of the catastrophe; but he succeeded in escaping and concealed himself almost alone amidst the rocks and desert mountains. The soldiers of the Adelantado were exhausted by this long war, which dragged on for three months; the watches, the fatigues, and the scarcity of food. In response to their request they were authorised to return to Concepcion, where they owned handsome plantations of the native sort; and thither many withdrew. Only thirty companions remained with the Adelantado, all of whom were severely tried by these three months of fighting, during which they had eaten nothing but cazabi, that is to say, bread made of roots, and even they were not always ripe. They also procured some utias, or rabbits, by hunting with their dogs, while their only drink had been water, which was sometimes exquisitely fresh, but just as often muddy and marshy. Moreover the character of the war obliged them to pass most of the time in the open air and perpetual movement.
With his little troop the Adelantado determined to scour the mountains to seek out the secret retreats where Maiobanexius and Guarionex had concealed themselves. Some Spaniards, who had been driven by hunger to hunt utias for want of something better, met two servants of Maiobanexius, whom the cacique had sent into the villages of his territory, and who were carrying back native bread. They forced these men to betray the hiding-place of their chief, and under their leadership, twelve soldiers who had stained their bodies like the people of Ciguana succeeded by trickery in capturing Maiobanexius, his wife, and his son, all of whom they brought to the Admiral at Concepcion. A few days later hunger compelled Guarionex to emerge from the cavern where he was concealed, and the islanders, out of fear of the Admiral, betrayed him to the hunters. As soon as he learned his whereabouts, the Admiral sent a body of foot-soldiers to take him, just at the moment when he was about to quit the plain, and return to the mountains. These men caught him and brought him back, after which that region was pacified, and tranquillity restored.
A relative of Maiobanexius who was married to a cacique whose territory had not yet been invaded, shared the former's misfortunes. Everybody agreed in saying that she was the most beautiful of the women nature had created in the island of Hispaniola. Her husband loved her dearly, as she merited, and when she was captured by the Spaniards he almost lost his reason, and wandered distractedly in desert places, doubtful what course to pursue. Finally he presented himself before the Admiral, promising that he and his people would submit without conditions, if he would only restore him his wife. His prayer was granted and at the same time several others of the principal captives were likewise freed. This same cacique then assembled five thousand natives who instead of weapons carried agricultural implements, and went himself to labour and plant the crops in one of the largest valleys in his territories. The Admiral thanked him by means of presents, and the cacique came back rejoicing. This news spread throughout Ciguana, and the other caciques began to hope that they too might be treated with clemency, so they came in person to promise they would in future obey the orders given them. They asked that their chief and his family might be spared, and in response to their petition, the wife and children were delivered to them, but Maiobanexius was held a prisoner.
While the Admiral was thus engaged in administering the affairs of Hispaniola, he was ignorant of the intrigues his adversaries were carrying on against him at the Spanish Court. Wearied by these continuous quarrels, and above all annoyed at receiving but a small quantity of gold and valuable products because of these dissensions and revolts, the sovereigns, appointed another Governor, who, after a careful enquiry, should punish the guilty and send them back to Spain, I do not precisely know what has come to light against either the Admiral or his brother the Adelantado, or their enemies; but this is certain, that the Admiral and his brother were seized, put in irons, deprived of all their property, and brought to Spain; and of this, Most Illustrious Prince, you are not ignorant. It is true that the sovereigns, when they learned that the Columbus brothers had arrived at Cadiz loaded with irons, promptly sent their secretaries to order their release and that their children should be allowed to visit them; nor did they conceal their disapproval of this rough treatment. It is claimed that the new Governor has sent to the sovereigns some letters in the handwriting of the Admiral, but in cipher, in which the latter summoned his brother the Adelantado, who was at that time absent with his soldiers, to hasten back and repel force with force, in case the Governor sought to use violence. The Adelantado preceded his soldiers, and the Governor seized him and his brother before their partisans could rejoin them. What will be the outcome, time will show, for time is the supreme arbiter of events. Fare you well.
[Note 3: One of the most inveterate of his enemies was Juan de Fonseca, afterwards Bishop of Burgos, who was unfortunately in a position to do Columbus serious harm.]
[Note 4: Francisco de Bobadilla, commander of Calatrava.]
[Note 5: The sovereigns made what amends they could for the abusive execution of their orders by over-zealous agents; they sent Columbus a present of two thousand ducats—not an insignificant sum at the time—and wrote him a letter, full of affectionate expressions of confidence; he was admitted to audience on December 17th.]