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fears; finally also reminding them that if they refused him their obedience or attempted violence against him, they would be accused of treason by their sovereigns. To their great joy, the much-desired land was finally discovered.[5] During this first voyage Columbus visited six islands, two of which were of extraordinary magnitude; one of these he named Hispaniola, and the other Juana,[6] though he was not positive that the latter was an island. While sailing along the coasts of these islands, in the month of November, the Spaniards heard nightingales singing in the dense forests, and they discovered great rivers of fresh water, and natural harbours sufficient for the largest fleets. Columbus reconnoitred the coast of Juana in a straight line towards the north-west for no less than eight hundred thousand paces or eighty leagues, which led him to believe that it was a continent, since as far as the eye could reach, no signs of any limits to the island were perceptible. He decided to return,[7] also because of the tumultuous sea, for the coast of Juana towards the north is very broken, and at that winter season, the north winds were dangerous to his ships. Laying his course eastwards, he held towards an island which he believed to be the island of Ophir; examination of the maps, however, shows that it was the Antilles and neighbouring islands. He named this island Hispaniola. Having decided to land, Columbus put in towards shore, when the largest of his ships struck a concealed rock and was wrecked. Fortunately the reef stood high in the water, which saved the crew from drowning; the other two boats quickly approached, and all the sailors were taken safely on board.

[Note 5: Land was discovered on the morning of October 12th, Julian calendar. Efforts to identify the island on which Columbus first landed have been numerous. The natives called it Guanahani and Columbus named it San Salvador. Munoz believed it to be the present Watling’s Island; Humboldt and Washington Irving thought Cat Island more likely, while Navarrete identified it as Grand Turk. Captain G.V. Fox, U.S.N., published in Appendix 18 to the Report for 1880, the conclusions he had reached after exhaustive examinations conducted in the Bahamas, with which islands and their seas long service had made him familiar. He selected Samana or Atwood Cay as the first land discovered.]

[Note 6: In honour of the Infante Don Juan, heir to the Castilian crown. It has, however, always borne its native name of Cuba.]

[Note 7: But for this infelicitous change in his course, Columbus must have discovered the coast of Mexico.]

It was at this place that the Spaniards, on landing, first beheld the islanders. Upon seeing strangers approaching, the natives collected and fled into the depths of the forests like timid hares pursued by hounds. The Spaniards followed them, but only succeeded in capturing one woman, whom they took on board their ships, where they gave her plenty of food and wine and clothes (for both sexes lived absolutely naked and in a state of nature); afterwards this woman, who knew where the fugitives were concealed, returned to her people, to whom she showed her ornaments, praising the liberality of the Spaniards; upon which they all returned to the coast, convinced that the newcomers were descended from heaven. They swam out to the ships, bringing gold, of which they had a small quantity, which they exchanged gladly for trifles of glass or pottery. For a needle, a bell, a fragment of mirror, or any such thing, they gladly gave in exchange whatever gold was asked of them, or all that they had about them. As soon as more intimate relations were established and the Spaniards came to understand the local customs, they gathered by signs and by conjectures that the islanders were governed by kings. When they landed from their ships they were received with great honour by these kings and by all the natives, making every demonstration of homage of which they were capable. At sunset, the hour of the Angelus, the Spaniards knelt according to Christian custom, and their example was immediately followed by the natives. The latter likewise adored the Cross as they saw the Christians doing.[8]

[Note 8: The first report Columbus made to the Catholic sovereigns was most flattering to the American aborigines. _Certifico a vuestras altezas que en el mundo creo que no hay mejor gente ni mejor tierra: ellos aman a sus projimos como a si mismo_. Like most generalisations, these were found, upon closer acquaintance with native character and customs, to be too comprehensive as well as inaccurate.]

These people also brought off the men from the wrecked ship, as well as all it contained, transporting everything in barques which they called canoes. They did this with as much alacrity and joy as though they were saving their own relatives; and certainly amongst ourselves greater charity could not have been displayed.

Their canoes are constructed out of single tree-trunks, which they dig out with tools of sharpened stone. They are very long and narrow, and are made of a single piece of wood. It is alleged that some have been seen capable of carrying eighty rowers. It has been nowhere discovered that iron is used by the natives of Hispaniola. Their houses are most ingeniously constructed, and all the objects they manufacture for their own use excited the admiration of the Spaniards. It is positive that they make their tools out of very hard stones found in the streams, and which they polish.

The Spaniards learned that there were other islands not far distant, inhabited by fierce peoples who live on human flesh; this explained why the natives of Hispaniola fled so promptly on their arrival. They told the Spaniards later that they had taken them for the cannibals, which is the name they give to these barbarians. They also call them _Caraibes_. The islands inhabited by these monsters lie towards the south, and about half-way to the other islands. The inhabitants of Hispaniola, who are a mild people, complained that they were exposed to frequent attacks from the cannibals who landed amongst them and pursued them through the forests like hunters chasing wild beasts. The cannibals captured children, whom they castrated, just as we do chickens and pigs we wish to fatten for the table, and when they were grown and become fat they ate them.[9] Older persons, who fell into their power, were killed and cut into pieces for food; they also ate the intestines and the extremities, which they salted, just as we do hams. They did not eat women, as this would be considered a crime and an infamy. If they captured any women, they kept them and cared for them, in order that they might produce children; just as we do with hens, sheep, mares, and other animals. Old women, when captured, were made slaves. The inhabitants of these islands (which, from now on we may consider ours), women and men, have no other means of escaping capture by the cannibals, than by flight. Although they use wooden arrows with sharpened points, they are aware that these arms are of little use against the fury and violence of their enemies, and they all admit that ten cannibals could easily overcome a hundred of their own men in a pitched battle.

[Note 9: See Henry Harrisse, _Christophe Colombe_, ii., p. 72. Letter of Simone Verde to Nicoli.]

Although these people adore the heavens and the stars, their religion is not yet sufficiently understood; as for their other customs, the brief time the Spaniards stopped there and the want of interpreters did not allow full information to be obtained. They eat roots which in size and form resemble our turnips, but which in taste are similar to our tender chesnuts. These they call _ages_. Another root which they eat they call _yucca_; and of this they make bread. They eat the ages either roasted or boiled, or made into bread. They cut the yucca, which is very juicy, into pieces, mashing and kneading it and then baking it in the form of cakes. It is a singular thing that they consider the juice of the yucca to be more poisonous than that of the aconite, and upon drinking it, death immediately follows. On the other hand, bread made from this paste is very appetising and wholesome: all the Spaniards have tried it. The islanders also easily make bread with a kind of millet, similar to that which exists plenteously amongst the Milanese and Andalusians. This millet is a little more than a palm in length, ending in a point, and is about the thickness of the upper part of a man’s arm. The grains are about the form and size of peas. While they are growing, they are white, but become black when ripe. When ground they are whiter than snow. This kind of grain is called _maiz_.

The islanders set some value on gold and wear it in the form of fine leaves, fixed in the lobes of their ears and their nostrils. As soon as our compatriots were certain that they had no commercial relations with other peoples and no other coasts than those of their own islands, they asked them by signs whence they procured the gold. As nearly as could be conjectured, the natives obtain gold from the sands of the rivers which flow down from the high mountains. This process was not a difficult one. Before beating it into leaves, they form it into ingots; but none was found in that part of the island where the Spaniards had landed. It was shortly afterwards discovered, for when the Spaniards left that locality and landed at another point to obtain fresh water and to fish, they discovered a river of which the stones contained flakes of gold.

With the exception of three kinds of rabbits, no quadruped is found in these islands. There are serpents, but they are not dangerous. Wild geese, turtle-doves, ducks of a larger size than ours, with plumage as white as that of a swan, and red heads, exist. The Spaniards brought back with them some forty parrots, some green, others yellow, and some having vermilion collars like the parrakeets of India, as described by Pliny; and all of them have the most brilliant plumage. Their wings are green or yellow, but mixed with bluish or purple feathers, presenting a variety which enchants the eye. I have wished, most illustrious Prince, to give you these details about the parrots; and although the opinion of Columbus[10] seems to be contradictory to the theories of the ancients concerning the size of the globe and its circumnavigation, the birds and many other objects brought thence seem to indicate that these islands do belong, be it by proximity or by their products, to India; particularly when one recalls what Aristotle, at the end of his treatise _De Caelo et Mundo_, and Seneca, and other learned cosmographers have always affirmed, that India was only separated from the west coast of Spain by a very small expanse of sea.

[Note 10: Columbus died in the belief that the countries he had discovered formed part of the Indies. They were thus described officially by the Spanish sovereigns.]

Mastic, aloes, cotton, and similar products flourish in abundance. Silky kinds of cotton grow upon trees as in China; also rough-coated berries of different colours more pungent to the taste than Caucasian pepper; and twigs cut from the trees, which in their form resemble cinnamon, but in taste, odour, and the outer bark, resemble ginger.

Happy at having discovered this unknown land, and to have found indications of a hitherto unknown continent, Columbus resolved to take advantage of favouring winds and the approach of spring to return to Europe; but he left thirty-eight of his companions under the protection of the king of whom I have spoken, in order that they might, during his absence, acquaint themselves with the country and its condition. After signing a treaty of friendship with this king who was called by his enemies Guaccanarillo,[11] Columbus took all precautions for ensuring the health, the life, and the safety of the men whom he left behind. The king, touched with pity for these voluntary exiles, shed abundant tears, and promised to render them every assistance in his power. After mutual embraces, Columbus gave the order to depart for Spain. He took with him six islanders,[12] thanks to whom all the words of their language have been written down with Latin characters. Thus they call the heavens _tueri_, a house _boa_, gold _cauni_, a virtuous man _taino_, nothing _nagani_. They pronounce all these names just as distinctly as we do Latin.

[Note 11: Otherwise Guacanagari.]

[Note 12: One of these Indians died at sea on the voyage, and three others landed very ill at Palos; the remaining six were presented to Ferdinand and Isabella at Barcelona, and were afterwards baptised.]

You are now acquainted with such details concerning this first voyage as it has seemed expedient to me to record. The King and Queen, who, above everything and even in their sleep, thought about the propagation of the Christian faith, hoping that these numerous and gentle peoples might be easily converted to our religion, experienced the liveliest emotions upon hearing these news. Columbus was received upon his return with the great honour he merited for what he had accomplished.[13] They bade him sit in their presence, which for the Spanish sovereigns is regarded as a proof of the greatest friendship and the highest mark of gratitude. They commanded that henceforward Columbus should be called “_Praefectus Marinus_,” or, in the Spanish tongue, _Amiral_. His brother Bartholomew, likewise very proficient in the art of navigation, was honoured by them with the title of Prefect of the Island of Hispaniola, which is in the vulgar tongue called _Adelantado_.[14] To make my meaning clear I shall henceforth employ these usual words of Admiral and Adelantado as well as the terms which are now commonly used in navigation. But let us return to our narrative.

[Note 13: The historian Oviedo, who was present, describes the reception of Columbus at Barcelona. _Hist. Nat. de las Indias_, tom. ii., p. 7.]

[Note 14: This statement is premature; Bartholomew’s appointment was made considerably later.]

It was thought, as Columbus had moreover declared in the beginning, that in these islands would be found riches such as all struggle to obtain. There were two motives which determined the royal pair to plan a second expedition, for which they ordered seventeen ships to be equipped; three of these were vessels with covered decks, twelve were of the kind called caravels by the Spaniards, which had none, and two were larger caravels, of which the height of the masts made it possible to adapt decks. The equipment of this fleet was confided to Juan de Fonseca, Dean of Seville, a man of illustrious birth, of genius and initiative.[15] In obedience to his orders more than twelve hundred foot-soldiers, amongst whom were all sorts of labourers and numerous artisans, were commanded to embark. Some noblemen were found amongst the company. The Admiral took on board mares, sheep, cows and the corresponding males for the propagation of their species; nor did he forget vegetables, grain, barley, and similar seeds, not only for provisions but also for sowing; vines and young plants such as were wanting in that country were carefully taken. In fact the Spaniards have not found any tree in that island which was known to them except pines and palms; and even the palms were extraordinarily high, very hard, slender, and straight, owing, no doubt, to the fertility of the soil. Even the fruits they produce in abundance were unknown.

[Note 15: The evil that has been attributed to Juan Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, may exceed his dues, but the praise here and elsewhere given him by Peter Martyr is excessive and all but unique. That he cordially hated Columbus and after him Cortes, Las Casas and most of the men of action in the New World, is undeniable.]

The Spaniards declare that there is not in the whole universe a more fertile region. The Admiral ordered his work people to take with them the tools of their trades, and in general everything necessary to build a new city. Won by the accounts of the Admiral and attracted by the love of novelty, some of the more intimate courtiers also decided to take part in this second voyage. They sailed from Cadiz with a favourable wind, the seventh day of the calends of October in the year of grace 1493.[16] On the calends they touched the Canaries. The last of the Canaries is called Ferro by the Spaniards. There is no potable water on it, save a kind of dew produced by one sole tree standing upon the most lofty point of the whole island; and from which it falls drop by drop into an artificial trough. From this island, Columbus put to sea the third day of the ides of October. We have learned this news a few days after his departure. You shall hear the rest later. Fare you well.

[Note 16: The sailing date was Sept. 25, 1493.]

From the Court of Spain, the ides of November, 1493.



You renew to me, Most Illustrious Prince, your desire to know all that treats of the Spanish discoveries in the New World. You have let me know that the details I have given you concerning the first voyage pleased you; listen now to the continuation of events.

Medina del Campo is a town of Ulterior Spain, as it is called in Italy, or of Old Castile, as it is called here. It is distant about four hundred miles from Cadiz. While the Court sojourned there the ninth day of the calends of April, messengers sent to the King and Queen informed them that twelve ships returning from the islands had arrived at Cadiz, after a happy voyage. The commander of the squadron did not wish to say more by the messengers to the King and Queen except that the Admiral had stopped with five ships and nine hundred men at Hispaniola, which he wished to explore. He wrote that he would give further details by word of mouth. The eve of the nones of April, this commander of the squadron, who was the brother of the nurse of the eldest royal princes, arrived at Medina, being sent by Columbus. I questioned him and other trustworthy witnesses, and shall now repeat what they told me, hoping by so doing to render myself agreeable to you. What I learned from their mouths you shall now in turn learn from me.

The third day of the ides of October the Spaniards left the island of Ferro,[1] which is the most distant of the Canaries from Europe, and put out upon the high seas in seventeen ships. Twenty-one full days passed before they saw any land; driven by the north wind they were carried much farther to the south-west than on the first voyage, and thus they arrived at the archipelago of the cannibals, or the Caribs, which we only know from the descriptions given by the islanders. The first island they discovered was so thickly wooded that there was not an inch of bare or stony land. As the discovery took place on a Sunday, the Admiral wished to call the island Domingo.[2] It was supposed to be deserted, and he did not stop there. He calculated that they had covered 820 leagues in these twenty-one days. The ships had always been driven forward by the south-west wind. At some little distance from Domingo other islands were perceived, covered with trees, of which the trunks, roots, and leaves exhaled sweet odours. Those who landed to visit the island found neither men nor animals, except lizards of extraordinarily great size. This island they called Galana. From the summit of a promontory, a mountain was visible on the horizon and thirty miles distant from that mountain a river of important breadth descended into the plain. This was the first inhabited land[3] found since leaving the Canaries, but it was inhabited by those odious cannibals, of whom they had only heard by report, but have now learned to know, thanks to those interpreters whom the Admiral had taken to Spain on his first voyage.

[Note 1: The chronology throughout is erroneous. Columbus had sailed from Cadiz on September 25th, arriving at Gomera on October 5th.]

[Note 2: The first island was discovered on November 3d, and was named La Deseada, or The Desired; five others, including Domingo and Maria Galante were discovered on the same date.]

[Note 3: The island of Guadeloupe, called by the natives Caracueira.]

While exploring the island, numerous villages, composed of twenty or thirty houses each, were discovered; in the centre is a public square, round which the houses are placed in a circle. And since I am speaking about these houses, it seems proper that I should describe them to you. It seems they are built entirely of wood in a circular form. The construction of the building is begun by planting in the earth very tall trunks of trees; by means of them, shorter beams are placed in the interior and support the outer posts. The extremities of the higher ones are brought together in a point, after the fashion of a military tent. These frames they then cover with palm and other leaves, ingeniously interlaced, as a protection against rain. From the shorter beams in the interior they suspend knotted cords made of cotton or of certain roots similar to rushes, and on these they lay coverings.[4]

[Note 4: Hamacs, which are still commonly used in _tierra caliente_ of the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America.]

The island produces cotton such as the Spaniards call _algodon_ and the Italians _bombasio_. The people sleep on these suspended beds or on straw spread upon the floor. There is a sort of court surrounded by houses where they assemble for games. They call their houses _boios_. The Spaniards noticed two wooden statues, almost shapeless, standing upon two interlaced serpents, which at first they took to be the gods of the islanders; but which they later learned were placed there merely for ornament. We have already remarked above that it is believed they adore the heavens; nevertheless, they make out of cotton-fabric certain masks, which resemble imaginary goblins they think they have seen in the night.

But let us return to our narrative. Upon the arrival of the Spaniards, the islanders, both men and women, abandoned their houses and fled. About thirty women and children whom they had captured in the neighbouring islands and kept either as slaves or to be eaten, took refuge with the Spaniards. In the houses were found pots of all kinds, jars and large earthen vessels, boxes and tools resembling ours. Birds were boiling in their pots, also geese mixed with bits of human flesh, while other parts of human bodies were fixed on spits, ready for roasting. Upon searching another house the Spaniards found arm and leg bones, which the cannibals carefully preserve for pointing their arrows; for they have no iron. All other bones, after the flesh is eaten, they throw aside. The Spaniards discovered the recently decapitated head of a young man still wet with blood. Exploring the interior of the island they discovered seven rivers,[5] without mentioning a much larger watercourse similar to the Guadalquivir at Cordoba and larger than our Ticino, of which the banks were deliciously umbrageous. They gave the name of Guadaloupe to this island because of the resemblance one of its mountains bore to the Mount Guadaloupe, celebrated for its miraculous statue of the Virgin Immaculate. The natives call their island Caracueira, and it is the principal one inhabited by the Caribs. The Spaniards took from Guadaloupe seven parrots larger than pheasants, and totally unlike any other parrots in colour. Their entire breast and back are covered with purple plumes, and from their shoulders fall long feathers of the same colour, as I have often remarked in Europe is the case with the capons peasants raise. The other feathers are of various colours,–green, bluish, purple, or yellow. Parrots are as numerous in all these islands as sparrows or other small birds are with us; and just as we keep magpies, thrushes, and similar birds to fatten them, so do these islanders also keep birds to eat, though their forests are full of parrots.

[Note 5: In reality, these so-called rivers were unimportant mountain torrents.]

The female captives who had taken refuge with our people received by the Admiral’s order some trifling presents, and were begged by signs to go and hunt for the cannibals, for they knew their place of concealment. In fact they went back to the men during the night, and the following morning returned with several cannibals who were attracted by the hope of receiving presents; but when they saw our men, these savages, whether because they were afraid or because they were conscious of their crimes, looked at one another, making a low murmur, and then, suddenly forming into a wedge-shaped group, they fled swiftly, like a flock of birds, into the shady valleys.

Having called together his men who had passed some days exploring the interior of the island, Columbus gave the signal for departure. He took no cannibal with him, but he ordered their boats, dug out of single tree-trunks, to be destroyed, and on the eve of the ides of November he weighed anchor and left Guadaloupe.

Desiring to see the men of his crew whom he had left the preceding year at Hispaniola to explore that country, Columbus passed daily by other islands which he discovered to the right and left. Straight ahead to the north appeared a large island. Those natives who had been brought to Spain on his first voyage, and those who had been delivered from captivity, declared that it was called Madanina, and that it was inhabited exclusively by women.[6] The Spaniards had, in fact, heard this island spoken of during their first voyage. It appeared that the cannibals went at certain epochs of the year to visit these women, as in ancient history the Thracians crossed to the island of Lesbos inhabited by the Amazons. When their children were weaned, they sent the boys to their fathers, but kept the girls, precisely as did the Amazons. It is claimed that these women know of vast caverns where they conceal themselves if any man tries to visit them at another than the established time. Should any one attempt to force his way into these caverns by violence or by trickery, they defend themselves with arrows, which they shoot with great precision. At least, this is the story as it is told, and I repeat it to you. The north wind renders this island unapproachable, and it can only be reached when the wind is in the south-west.

[Note 6: This is the island of Martinique; the legend of its Amazons is purely fantastic.]

While still in view of Madanina at a distance of about forty miles, the Spaniards passed another island, which, according to the accounts of the natives, was very populous and rich in foodstuffs of all kinds. As this island was very mountainous they named it Montserrat. Amongst other details given by the islanders on board, and as far as could be ascertained from their signs and their gestures, the cannibals of Montserrat frequently set out on hunts to take captives for food, and in so doing go a distance of more than a thousand miles from their coasts. The next day the Spaniards discovered another island, and as it was of spherical form, Columbus named it Santa Maria Rotunda. In less time he passed by another island discovered next day, and which, without stopping, he dedicated to St. Martin, and the following day still a third island came into view. The Spaniards estimated its width from east to west at fifty miles.

It afterwards became known that these islands were of the most extraordinary beauty and fertility, and to this last one the name of the Blessed Virgin of Antigua was given. Sailing on past numerous islands which followed Antigua, Columbus arrived, forty miles farther on, at an island which surpassed all the others in size, and which the natives called Agay. The Admiral gave it the name of Santa Cruz. Here he ordered the anchor to be lowered, in order that he might replenish his supply of water, and he sent thirty men from his vessel to land and explore. These men found four dogs on the shore, and the same number of youths and women approached with hands extended, like supplicants. It was supposed they were begging for assistance or to be rescued from the hands of those abominable people. Whatever decision the Spaniards might take in regard to them, seemed better to them than their actual condition. The cannibals fled as they had done at Guadaloupe, and disappeared into the forests.

Two days were passed at Santa Cruz, where thirty of our Spaniards placed in an ambuscade saw, from the place where they were watching, a canoe in the distance coming towards them, in which there were eight men and as many women. At a given signal they fell upon the canoe; as they approached, the men and women let fly a volley of arrows with great rapidity and accuracy. Before the Spaniards had time to protect themselves with their shields, one of our men, a Galician, was killed by a woman, and another was seriously wounded by an arrow shot by that same woman. It was discovered that their poisoned arrows contained a kind of liquid which oozed out when the point broke. There was one woman amongst these savages whom, as nearly as could be conjectured, all the others seemed to obey, as though she was their queen. With her was her son, a fierce, robust young man, with ferocious eyes and a face like a lion’s. Rather than further expose themselves to their arrows, our men chose to engage them in a hand to hand combat. Rowing stoutly, they pushed their barque against the canoe of the savages, which was overturned by the shock; the canoe sank, but the savages, throwing themselves into the water, continued while swimming to shoot their arrows with the same rapidity. Climbing upon a rock level with the water, they still fought with great bravery, though they were finally captured, after one had been killed and the son of the queen had received two wounds. When they were brought on board the Admiral’s ship, they no more changed their ferocious and savage mood than do the lions of Africa, when they find themselves caught in nets. There was no one who saw them who did not shiver with horror, so infernal and repugnant was the aspect nature and their own cruel character had given them. I affirm this after what I have myself seen, and so likewise do all those who went with me in Madrid to examine them.

I return to my narrative. Each day the Spaniards advanced farther. They had covered a distance of five hundred miles. Driven first by the south wind, then by the west wind, and finally by the wind from the north-west, they found themselves in a sea dotted with innumerable islands, strangely different one from another; some were covered with forests and prairies and offered delightful shade, while others, which were dry and sterile, had very lofty and rocky mountains. The rocks of these latter were of various colours, some purple, some violet, and some entirely white. It is thought they contain metals and precious stones.

The ships did not touch, as the weather was unfavourable, and also because navigation amongst these islands is dangerous. Postponing until another time the exploration of these islands which, because of their confused grouping could not be counted, the Spaniards continued their voyage. Some lighter ships of the fleet did, however, cruise amongst them, reconnoitring forty-six of them, while the heavier ships, fearing the reefs, kept to the high sea. This collection of islands is called an archipelago. Outside the archipelago and directly across the course rises the island called by the natives Burichena, which Columbus placed under the patronage of San Juan.[7] A number of the captives rescued from the hands of the cannibals declared they were natives of that island, which they said was populous and well cultivated; they explained that it had excellent ports, was covered with forests, and that its inhabitants hated the cannibals and were constantly at war with them. The inhabitants possessed no boats by which they could reach the coasts of the cannibals from their island; but whenever they were lucky in repulsing a cannibal invasion for the purpose of plundering, they cut their prisoners into small bits, roasted, and greedily ate them; for in war there is alternative good and bad fortune.

[Note 7: Porto Rico.]

All this was recounted through the native interpreters who had been taken back to Spain on the first voyage. Not to lose time, the Spaniards passed by Burichena; nevertheless some sailors, who landed on the extreme western point of the island to take a supply of fresh water, found there a handsome house built in the fashion of the country, and surrounded by a dozen or more ordinary structures, all of which were abandoned by their owners. Whether the inhabitants betake themselves at that period of the year to the mountains to escape the heat, and then return to the lowlands when the temperature is fresher, or whether they had fled out of fear of the cannibals, is not precisely known. There is but one king for the whole of the island, and he is reverently obeyed. The south coast of this island, which the Spaniards followed, is two hundred miles long.

During the night two women and a young man, who had been rescued from the cannibals, sprang into the sea and swam to their native island. A few days later the Spaniards finally arrived at the much-desired Hispaniola, which is five hundred leagues from the nearest of the cannibal islands. Cruel fate had decreed the death of all those Spaniards who had been left there.

There is a coast region of Hispaniola which the natives call Xarama, and it was from Xarama that Columbus had set sail on his first voyage, when he was about to return to Spain, taking with him the ten interpreters of whom I spoke above, of whom only three survived; the others having succumbed to the change of climate, country, and food.

Hardly were the ships in sight of the coast of Xarama, which Columbus called Santa Reina,[8] than the Admiral ordered one of these interpreters to be set at liberty, and two others managed to jump into the sea and swim to the shore. As Columbus did not yet know the sad fate of the thirty-eight men whom he had left on the island the preceding year, he was not concerned at this flight. When the Spaniards were near to the coast a long canoe with several rowers came out to meet them. In it was the brother of Guaccanarillo, that king with whom the Admiral had signed a treaty when he left Hispaniola, and to whose care he had urgently commended the sailors he had left behind. The brother brought to the Admiral, in the king’s name, a present of two golden statues; he also spoke in his own language–as was later understood,–of the death of our compatriots; but as there was no interpreter, nobody at the time understood his words.

[Note 8: Xarama is also spelled in the Latin editions _Xamana_, and Santa Reina, _Sancteremus_.]

Upon arriving, however, at the blockhouse and the houses, which were surrounded by an entrenchment, they were all found reduced to ashes, while over the place a profound silence reigned. The Admiral and his companions were deeply moved by this discovery. Thinking and hoping that some of the men might still be alive, he ordered cannon and guns to be fired, that the noise of these formidable detonations echoing amongst the mountains and along the coasts might serve as a signal of his arrival to any of our men who might be hidden among the islanders or among wild beasts. It was in vain; for they were all dead.

The Admiral afterwards sent messengers to Guaccanarillo, who, as far as they could understand, related as follows: there are on the island, which is very large, a number of kings, who are more powerful than he; two of these, disturbed by the news of the arrival of the Spaniards, assembled considerable forces, attacked and killed our men and burned their entrenchments, houses, and possessions; Guaccanarillo had striven to save our men, and in the struggle had been wounded with an arrow, his leg being still bandaged with cotton; and for this reason he had not, despite his keen desire, been able to go to meet the Admiral.

There do exist several sovereigns on the island, some more powerful than the others; just as we read that the fabulous AEneas found Latium divided amongst several kings, Latinus, Mezentius, Turnus, and Tarchon, all near neighbours who fought over the territory. The islanders of Hispaniola, in my opinion, may be esteemed more fortunate than were the Latins, above all should they become converted to the true religion. They go naked, they know neither weights nor measures, nor that source of all misfortunes, money; living in a golden age, without laws, without lying judges, without books, satisfied with their life, and in no wise solicitous for the future. Nevertheless ambition and the desire to rule trouble even them, and they fight amongst themselves, so that even in the golden age there is never a moment without war; the maxim _Cede, non cedam_, has always prevailed amongst mortal men.

The following day the Admiral sent to Guaccanarillo a Sevillan called Melchior, who had once been sent by the King and the Queen to the sovereign Pontiff when they captured Malaga. Melchior found him in bed, feigning illness, and surrounded by the beds of his seven concubines. Upon removing the bandage [from his leg] Melchior discovered no trace of any wound, and this caused him to suspect that Guaccanarillo was the murderer of our compatriots. He concealed his suspicions, however, and obtained the king’s assurance that he would come the following day to see the Admiral on board his ship, which he did. As soon as he came on board, and after saluting the Spaniards and distributing some gold among the officers, he turned to the women whom we had rescued from the cannibals and, glancing with half-opened eyes at one of them whom we called Catherine, he spoke to her very softly; after which, with the Admiral’s permission, which he asked with great politeness and urbanity, he inspected the horses and other things he had never before seen, and then left.

Some persons advised Columbus to hold Guaccanarillo prisoner, to make him expiate in case it was proven that our compatriots had been assassinated by his orders; but the Admiral, deeming it inopportune to irritate the islanders, allowed him to depart.

The day after the morrow, the brother of the king, acting in his own name or in that of Guaccanarillo, came on board and won over the women, for the following night Catherine, in order to recover her own liberty and that of all her companions, yielded to the solicitation of Guaccanarillo or his brother, and accomplished a feat more heroic than that of the Roman Clelia, when she liberated the other virgins who had served with her as hostages, swam the Tiber and thus escaped from the power of Lars Porsena. Clelia crossed the river on a horse, while Catherine and several other women trusted only to their arms and swam for a distance of three miles in a sea by no means calm; for that, according to every one’s opinion, was the distance between the ships and the coast. The sailors pursued them in light boats, guided by the same light from the shore which served for the women, of whom they captured three. It is believed that Catherine and four others escaped to Guaccanarillo, for at daybreak, men sent out by the Admiral announced that he and the women had fled together, taking all their goods with them; and this fact confirmed the suspicion that he had consented to the assassination of our men.

Melchior, whom I have mentioned, was then despatched with three hundred men to search for him. In the course of his march he came upon a winding gorge, overlooked by five lofty hills in such wise as to suggest the estuary of a large river. There was found a large harbour, safe and spacious, which they named Port Royal. The entrance of this harbour is crescent-shaped, and is so regularly formed that it is difficult to detect whether ships have entered from the right or the left; this can only be ascertained when they return to the entrance. Three large ships can enter abreast. The surrounding hills form the coasts, and afford shelter from the winds. In the middle of the harbour there rises a promontory covered with forests, which are full of parrots and many other birds which there build their nests and fill the air with sweet melodies. Two considerable rivers empty into this harbour.

In the course of their explorations of this country the Spaniards perceived in the distance a large house, which they approached, persuaded that it was the retreat of Guaccanarillo. They were met by a man with a wrinkled forehead and frowning brows, who was escorted by about a hundred warriors armed with bows and arrows, pointed lances and clubs. He advanced menacingly towards them. “_Tainos_,” the natives cried, that is to say, good men and not cannibals. In response to our amicable signs, they dropped their arms and modified their ferocious attitude. To each one was presented a hawk’s bell, and they became so friendly that they fearlessly went on board the ships, sliding down the steep banks of the river, and overwhelmed our compatriots with gifts. Upon measuring the large house which was of spherical form, it was found to have a diameter of thirty-five long paces; surrounding it were thirty other ordinary houses. The ceilings were decked with branches of various colours most artfully plaited together. In reply to our inquiries about Guaccanarillo, the natives responded,–as far as could be understood,–that they were not subjects of his, but of a chief who was there present; they likewise declared they understood that Guaccanarillo had left the coast to take refuge in the mountains. After concluding a treaty of friendship with that cacique, such being the name given to their kings, the Spaniards returned to report what they had learned to the Admiral.

Columbus had meanwhile sent some officers with an escort of men to effect a reconnaissance farther in the interior; two of the most conspicuous of these were Hojeda and Corvalano, both young and courageous noblemen. One of them discovered three rivers, the other four, all of which had their sources in these same mountains. In the sands of these rivers gold was found, which the Indians, who acted as their escort, proceeded in their presence to collect in the following manner: they dug a hole in the sand about the depth of an arm, merely scooping the sand out of this trough with the right and left hands. They extracted the grains of gold, which they afterwards presented to the Spaniards. Some declared they saw grains as big as peas. I have seen with my own eyes a shapeless ingot similar to a round river stone, which was found by Hojeda, and was afterwards brought to Spain; it weighed nine ounces. Satisfied with this first examination they returned to report to the Admiral.

Columbus, as I have been told, had forbidden them to do more than examine and reconnoitre the country. The news spread that the king of the mountain country, where all these rivers rise, was called the Cacique Caunaboa, that is to say, the Lord of the Golden House; for in their language _boa_ is the word for a house, _cauna_ for gold, and _cacique_ for king, as I have above written. Nowhere are better fresh-water fish to be found, nor more beautiful nor better in taste, and less dangerous. The waters of all these rivers are likewise very wholesome.

Melchior has told me that amongst the cannibals the days of the month of December are equal to the nights, but knowledge contradicts this observation. I well know that in this self-same month of December, some birds made their nests and others already hatched out their little ones; the heat was also considerable. When I inquired particularly concerning the elevation of the north star above the horizon, he answered me that in the land of the cannibals the Great Bear entirely disappeared beneath the arctic pole. There is nobody who came back from this second voyage whose testimony one may more safely accept than his; but had he possessed knowledge of astronomy he would have limited himself to saying that the day is about as long as the night. For in no place in the world does the night during the solstice precisely equal the day; and it is certain that on this voyage the Spaniards never reached the equator, for they constantly beheld on the horizon the polar star, which served them as guide. As for Melchior’s companions, they were without knowledge or experience, therefore I offer you few particulars, and those only casually, as I have been able to collect them. I hope to narrate to you what I may be able to learn from others. Moreover Columbus, whose particular friend I am, has written me that he would recount me fully all that he has been fortunate enough to discover.[9]

[Note 9: The letter of Columbus here mentioned is not known to exist.]

The Admiral selected an elevation near the port as the site for a town[10]; and, within a few days, some houses and a church were built, as well as could be done in so short a time. And there, on the feast of the Three Kings (for when treating of this country one must speak of a new world, so distant is it and so devoid of civilisation and religion) the Holy Sacrifice was celebrated by thirteen priests.[11]

[Note 10: The first Spanish settlement was named Isabella, as was likewise the cape on which it stood. Long after it was abandoned and had fallen into ruin, the site was reputed to be haunted. See Las Casas, _Historia de las Indias_, vol. i., p. 72.]

[Note 11: There were certainly not as many as thirteen priests with Columbus. The text reads …._divina nostro ritu sacra sunt decantata tredecim sacerdotibus ministrantibus_. The number doubtless includes all laymen who took any part, as acolytes, etc., in the ceremonies.]

As the time when he had promised to send news to the King and Queen approached, and as the season was moreover favourable [for sailing], Columbus decided not to prolong his stay. He therefore ordered the twelve caravels, whose arrival we have announced, to sail, though he was much afflicted by the assassination of his comrades; because, but for their death, we should possess much fuller information concerning the climate and the products of Hispaniola.

That you may inform your apothecaries, druggists, and perfumers concerning the products of this country and its high temperature, I send you some seeds of all kinds, as well as the bark and the pith of those trees which are believed to be cinnamon trees. If you wish to taste either the seeds or the pith or the bark, be careful, Most Illustrious Prince, only to do so with caution; not that they are harmful, but they are very peppery, and if you leave them a long time in your mouth, they will sting the tongue. In case you should burn your tongue a little in tasting them, take some water, and the burning sensation will be allayed. My messenger will also deliver to Your Eminence some of those black and white seeds out of which they make bread. If you cut bits of the wood called aloes, which he brings, you will scent the delicate perfumes it exhales.

Fare you well.

From the Court of Spain, the third day of the calends of May, 1494.



You desire that another skilful Phaeton should drive the car of the Sun. You seek to draw a sweet potion from a dry stone. A new world, if I may so express myself, has been discovered under the auspices of the Catholic sovereigns, your uncle Ferdinand and your aunt Isabella, and you command me to describe to you this heretofore unknown world; and to that effect you sent me a letter of your uncle, the illustrious King Frederick.[1] You will both receive this precious stone, badly mounted and set in lead. But when you later observe that my beautiful nereids of the ocean are exposed to the furious attacks of erudite friends and to the calumnies of detractors, you must frankly confess to them that you have forced me to send you this news, despite my pressing occupations and my health. You are not ignorant that I have taken these accounts from the first reports of the Admiral as rapidly as your secretary could write under my dictation. You hasten me by daily announcing your departure for Naples in company of the Queen, sister of our King and your paternal aunt, whom you had accompanied to Spain. Thus you have forced me to complete my writings. You will observe that the first two chapters are dedicated to another, for I had really begun to write them with a dedication to your unfortunate relative Ascanio Sforza, Cardinal and Vice-chancellor. When he fell into disgrace,[2] I felt my interest in writing also decline. It is owing to you and to the letters sent me by your illustrious uncle, King Frederick, that my ardour has revived. Enjoy, therefore, this narrative, which is not a thing of the imagination.

Fare you well. From Granada, the ninth of the calends of May of the year 1500.

[Note 1: Frederick III., of Aragon, succeeded his nephew Frederick II., as King of Naples in 1496. Five years later, when dispossessed by Ferdinand the Catholic, he took refuge in France, where Louis XII. granted him the duchy of Anjou and a suitable pension. He died in 1504.]

[Note 2: Upon the death of Innocent VIII., four members of the Sacred College were conspicuous _papabili_: Raffaele Riario and Giuliano della Rovere, nephews of Sixtus IV., and Roderigo Borgia and Ascanio Sforza. Borgia was elected and took the title of Alexander VI. He rewarded Cardinal Sforza for his timely assistance in securing his elevation, by giving him the Vice-Chancellorship he had himself occupied as Cardinal, the town of Nepi and the Borgia Palace in Rome. Dissensions between Alexander and the Sforza family soon became acute; Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and sometime husband of Lucrezia Borgia, was expelled, and his brother, Cardinal Ascanio was included in the papal disfavour. He sought refuge in Lombardy, where he was taken prisoner by Louis XII., of France. Peter Martyr had foreseen, in a measure, the turbulent events of Alexander’s pontificate; the Spanish sovereigns charged him to express to Cardinal Sforza their disapproval of his action in supporting the Borgia party, that Cardinal, though a Spaniard, being _persona non grata_ to them; and in so doing he wrote to his friend the dubious augury, “God grant he may be grateful to you.” Ep. 119.]

I have narrated in a preceding book how the Admiral Columbus, after having visited the cannibal islands, landed at Hispaniola on the fourth day of the nones of February, 1493, without having lost a single vessel. I shall now recount what he discovered while exploring that island and another neighbouring one, which he believed to be a continent.

According to Columbus, Hispaniola is the island of Ophir mentioned in the third book of Kings.[3] Its width covers five degrees of south latitude, for its north coast extends to the twenty-seventh degree and the south coast to the twenty-second; its length extends 780 miles, though some of the companions of Columbus give greater dimensions.[4] Some declare that it extends to within forty-nine degrees of Cadiz, and others to an even greater distance. The calculation concerning this has not been made with precision.

[Note 3: Ortelius, in his _Geographia Sacra_, gives the name of Ophir to Hayti; and it was a commonly held opinion that Solomon’s mines of Ophir were situated in America. Columbus shared this belief, and he later wrote of Veragua, when he discovered the coasts of Darien, that he was positive the gold mines there were those of Ophir.]

[Note 4: Hayti is 600 kilometres long from east to west, and 230 broad, from north to south, with a superficial area of 74,000 square kilometres.]

The island is shaped like a chestnut leaf. Columbus decided to found a town[5] upon an elevated hill on the northern coast, since in that vicinity there was a mountain with stone-quarries for building purposes and chalk to make lime. At the foot of this mountain a vast plain[6] extends for a distance of sixty miles in length, and of an average of twelve leagues in breadth, varying from six in the narrowest part to twenty in the broadest. This plain is fertilised by several rivers of wholesome water, of which the largest is navigable and empties into a bay situated half a stadium from the town. As the narrative proceeds you will learn how fruitful this valley is, and how fertile is its soil. The Spaniards laid out parcels of land on the river bank, which they intended to make into gardens, and where they planted all kinds of vegetables, roots, lettuces, cabbages, salads, and other things. Sixteen days after the sowing, the plants had everywhere grown; melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and other similar products were ripe for picking thirty-six days after they were planted, and nowhere had our people tasted any of finer flavour. Throughout the whole year one might thus have fresh vegetables. Cane-roots, from the juice of which sugar is extracted (but not crystallised sugar) grew to a height of a cubit within fifteen days after planting, and the same happened to graftings of vines. Excellent grapes may be eaten from these vines the second year after planting, but on account of their exaggerated size, the bunches were not numerous. A certain peasant planted a foot of wheat about the calends of February, and wonderful to say, in the sight of everybody he brought into the town a bunch of ripe grain on the third day of the calends of April, which fell in that year on the eve of Easter. Two harvests of vegetables may be counted upon within the year. I have repeated what is told to me about the fertility of the country by all those, without exception, who have returned from there. I would notice, however, that according to some observations wheat does not grow equally well throughout the whole country.

[Note 5: The town of Santo Domingo, standing at the mouth of the Ozama river.]

[Note 6: This valley is the actual Vega Real.]

During this time the Admiral despatched some thirty of his men in different directions to explore the district of Cipangu, which is still called Cibao. This is a mountainous region covered with rocks and occupying the centre of the island, where, the natives explained by signs, gold is obtained in abundance. The Admiral’s explorers brought back marvellous reports of the riches of the country. Four large rivers rise in these mountains, into which other streams flow, thus dividing the island by an extraordinary natural arrangement into four almost equal parts. The first, which the natives call Junua, lies towards the east; the second, which borders on it and extends to the west, is called Attibinico; the third lies to the north and is called Iachi, while the fourth, Naiba, lies to the south.

But let us consider how the town was founded. After having surrounded the site with ditches and entrenchments for defence against possible attacks by the natives on the garrison he left there, during his absence, the Admiral started on the eve of the ides of March accompanied by all the gentlemen and about four hundred foot-soldiers for the southern region where the gold was found. Crossing a river, he traversed the plain and climbed the mountain beyond it. He reached another valley watered by a river even larger than the former one, and by others of less importance. Accompanied by his force he crossed this valley, which was in no place more elevated than the first one, and thus he reached the third mountain which had never been ascended. He made the ascent and came down on the other side into a valley where the province of Cibao begins. This valley is watered by rivers and streams which flow down from the hills, and gold is also found in their sands. After penetrating into the interior of the gold region a distance of some seventy-two miles from the town, Columbus resolved to establish a fortified post on an eminence commanding the river banks, from which he might study more closely the mysteries of this region. He named this place San Tomas.

While he was occupied in building this fortification he was delayed by the natives, who came to visit him in the hope of getting some bells or other trifles. Columbus gave them to understand that he was very willing to give them what they asked, if they would bring him gold. Upon hearing this promise the natives turned their backs and ran to the neighbouring river, returning soon afterwards with hands full of gold. One old man only asked a little bell in return for two grains of gold weighing an ounce. Seeing that the Spaniards admired the size of these grains, and quite amazed at their astonishment, he explained to them by signs that they were of no value; after which, taking in his hands four stones, of which the smallest was the size of a nut and the largest as big as an orange, he told them that in his country, which was half a day’s journey distant, one found here and there ingots of gold quite as large. He added that his neighbours did not even take the trouble to pick them up. It is now known that the islanders set no value on gold as such; they only prize it when it has been worked by a craftsman into some form which pleases them. Who amongst us pays attention to rough marble or to unworked ebony? Certainly nobody; but if this marble is transformed by the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles, and if it then presents to our eyes the form of a Nereid with flowing hair, or a hamadryad with graceful body, buyers will not be wanting. Besides this old man, a number of natives brought ingots, weighing ten or twelve drachmas,[7] and they had the effrontery to say that in the region where they had found them, they sometimes discovered ingots as big as the head of a child whom they indicated.

[Note 7: The Greek drachma weighed one eighth of an ounce.]

During the days he passed at San Tomas, the Admiral sent a young nobleman named Luxan, accompanied by an escort, to explore another region. Luxan told even more extraordinary things, which he had heard from the natives, but he brought back nothing; it is probable that he did this in obedience to the Admiral’s orders. Spices, but not those we use, abound in their forests, and these they gather just as they do gold; that is to say, whenever they wish to trade with the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands for something which pleases them; for example, long plates, seats, or other articles manufactured out of a black wood which does not grow in Hispaniola. On his return journey, towards the ides of March, Luxan found wild grapes of excellent flavour, already ripe in the forest, but the islanders take no account of them. The country, although very stony (for the word Cibao means in their language _rocky_) is nevertheless covered with trees and grasses. It is even said that the growth on the mountains, which strictly speaking is only grass, grows taller than wheat within four days after it has been mown. The rains being frequent, the rivers and streams are full of water, and as gold is everywhere found mixed with the sand of the river-beds, it is conjectured that this metal is washed down from the mountains by the streams. It is certain that the natives are extremely lazy, for they shiver with cold among their mountains in winter, without ever thinking of making clothes for themselves, although cotton is found in abundance. In the valleys and lowlands they have nothing to fear from cold.

Having carefully examined the region of Cibao, Columbus returned on the calends of April, the day after Easter, to Isabella; this being the name he had given to the new city. Confiding the government of Isabella and the entire island to his brother[8] and one Pedro Margarita, an old royal courtier, Columbus made preparations for exploring the island which lies only seventy miles from Hispaniola, and which he believed to be a continent. He had not forgotten the royal instructions, which urged him to visit the new coasts, without delay, lest some other sovereign might take possession of them. For the King of Portugal made no secret of his intention also to discover unknown islands. True it is that the Sovereign Pontiff, Alexander VI., had sent to the King and Queen of Spain his bull, sealed with lead, by which it was forbidden to any other sovereign to visit those unknown regions.[9] To avoid all conflict, a straight line from north to south had been drawn, first at one hundred leagues and afterwards by common accord at three hundred leagues west of the parallel of the isles of Cape Verde. We believe these islands to be those formerly called the Hesperides. They belong to the King of Portugal. The Portuguese mariners have continued their explorations to the east of that line; following the coast of Africa on their left, they directed their course to the east, crossing the Ethiopian seas, and up to the present time none of them has yet sailed to the west of the Hesperides, or towards the south.

[Note 8: According to the judgment of Las Casas, Bartholomew Columbus was a man of superior character and well qualified to rule, had he not been eclipsed by his famous brother. _Hist. Ind_., ii., p. 8.]

[Note 9: Bull granted May 4, 1493: _Ac quibuscumque personis . . . districtius inhibemus, ne ad insulas et terras firmas inventas, et inveniendas detectas et detegendas, versus occidentem et meridiem, fabricando et construendo lineam a Polo Arctico ad Polum antarcticum, sive terrae firmae, Insulae inventae et inveniendae sint versus aliam quamcumque partem quae linea distet a qualibet insularum quae vulgariter appellantur de los Azores el Capo Verde, centum leucis versus occidentem et meridiem ut praefertur pro mercibus habendis, vel quavis alia de causa accedere praesumant, absque vestra et haeredum et subcesorum vestrorum praedictorum licentia spetiali_…. By the agreement signed at Tordesillas, the distance was increased by common consent between Spain and Portugal, not as Martyr says, to 300, but to 370 leagues.]

Leaving Hispaniola,[10] the Admiral sailed with three vessels in the direction of the land he had taken for an island on his first voyage, and had named Juana. He arrived, after a brief voyage, and named the first coast he touched Alpha and Omega, because he thought that there our East ended when the sun set in that island, and our West began when the sun rose. It is indeed proven that on the west side India begins beyond the Ganges, and ends on the east side. It is not without cause that cosmographers have left the boundaries of Ganges India undetermined.[11] There are not wanting those among them who think that the coasts of Spain do not lie very distant from the shores of India.

[Note 10: He left Hispaniola on April 24th.]

[Note 11: This was the general opinion of cosmographers and navigators at that period; contemporary maps and globes show the Asiatic continent in the place actually occupied by Florida and Mexico. See map of Ptolemeus de Ruysch, _Universalior coquiti orbis tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus_, Rome, 1508.]

The natives called this country Cuba.[12] Within sight of it, the Admiral discovered at the extremity of Hispaniola a very commodious harbour formed by a bend in the island. He called this harbour, which is barely twenty leagues distant from Cuba, San Nicholas.

[Note 12: Always deeming Cuba to be an extension of Asia, Columbus was anxious to complete his reconnaissance, and then to proceed to India and Cathay.]

Columbus covered this distance, and desiring to skirt the south coast of Cuba, he laid his course to the west; the farther he advanced the more extensive did the coast become, but bending towards the south, he first discovered, to the left of Cuba, an island called by the natives Jamaica,[13] of which he reports that it is longer and broader than Sicily. It is composed of one sole mountain, which rises in imperceptible gradations from the coasts to the centre, sloping so gently that in mounting it, the ascent is scarcely noticeable. Both the coast country and the interior of Jamaica are extremely fertile and populous. According to the report of their neighbours, the natives of this island have a keener intelligence and are cleverer in mechanical arts, as well as more warlike than others. And indeed, each time the Admiral sought to land in any place, they assembled in armed bands, threatening him, and not hesitating to offer battle. As they were always conquered, they ended by making peace with him. Leaving Jamaica to one side, the Admiral sailed to the west for seventy days with favourable winds. He expected to arrive in the part of the world underneath us just near the Golden Chersonese, which is situated to the east of Persia. He thought, as a matter of fact, that of the twelve hours of the sun’s course of which we are ignorant he would have only lost two.

[Note 13: The island is about eighty-five miles from Cuba. The name Jamaica, which has survived, meant in the native tongue “land of wood and water.” It was really discovered on May 13th, but was not colonised until 1509.]

It is known that the ancients have only followed the sun during the half of its course, since they only knew that part of the globe which lies between Cadiz and the Ganges, or even to the Golden Chersonese.

During this voyage, the Admiral encountered marine currents as impetuous as torrents, with great waves and undercurrents, to say nothing of the dangers presented by the immense number of neighbouring islands; but he was heedless of these perils, and was determined to advance until he had ascertained whether Cuba was an island or a continent. He continued, therefore, coasting the shores of the island, and always towards the west, to a distance, according to his report, of two hundred and twenty-two leagues, which is equal to about one thousand three hundred miles. He gave names to seven thousand islands, and moreover beheld on his left hand more than three thousand others rising from the waves. But let us return to those matters worthy to be remembered which he encountered during this voyage.

While the Admiral was carefully examining the character of these places, coasting along the shore of Cuba, he first discovered, not far from Alpha (that is from the end of it), a harbour sufficient for many ships. Its entrance is in the form of a scythe, shut in on the two sides by promontories that break the waves; and it is large and of great depth. Following the coast of this harbour, he perceived at a short distance from the shore two huts, and several fires burning here and there. A landing was made, but no people were found; nevertheless there were wooden spits arranged about the fire, on which hung fish, altogether of about a hundred pounds’ weight, and alongside lay two serpents eight feet long.[14] The Spaniards were astonished, and looked about for some one with whom to speak, but saw nobody. Indeed, the owners of the fish had fled to the mountains on seeing them approach. The Spaniards rested there to eat, and were pleased to find the fish, which had cost them nothing, much to their taste; but they did not touch the serpents. They report that these latter were in no wise different from the crocodiles of the Nile, except in point of size. According to Pliny, crocodiles as long as eighteen cubits have been found; while the largest in Cuba do not exceed eight feet. When their hunger was satisfied, they penetrated into the neighbouring woods, where they found a number of these serpents tied to the trees with cords; some were attached by their heads, others had had their teeth pulled out. While the Spaniards busied themselves in visiting the neighbourhood of the harbour, they discovered about seventy natives who had fled at their approach, and who now sought to know what these unknown people wanted. Our men endeavoured to attract them by gestures and signs, and gentle words, and one of them, fascinated by the gifts which they exhibited from a distance, approached, but no nearer than a neighbouring rock. It was clear that he was afraid.

[Note 14: As will be later seen, these so-called serpents are iguanas. They are still a common article of food throughout the islands, and _tierra caliente_ of Mexico and Central America, and make savoury dishes.]

During his first voyage the Admiral had taken a native of Guanahani (an island near by Cuba), whom he had named Diego Columbus, and had brought up with his own children. Diego served him as interpreter, and as his maternal tongue was akin to the language of the islander who had approached, he spoke to him. Overcoming his fears, the islander came amongst the Spaniards, and persuaded his companions to join him as there was nothing to fear. About seventy natives then descended from their rocks and made friends, and the Admiral offered them presents.

They were fishermen, sent to fish by their cacique, who was preparing a festival for the reception of another chief. They were not at all vexed when they found that their fish had been eaten and their serpents left, for they considered these serpents the most delicate food. Common people among them eat less often of the serpents than they would with us of pheasants or peacocks. Moreover they could catch as many fish as the Spaniards had eaten, in one hour. When asked why they cooked the fish they were to carry to their cacique, they replied that they did so to preserve it from corruption. After swearing a mutual friendship they separated.

From that point of the Cuban coast which he had named Alpha, as we have said, the Admiral sailed towards the west. The middle portions of the shores of the bay were well wooded but steep and mountainous. Some of the trees were in flower, and the sweet perfumes they exhaled were wafted out across the sea,[15] while others were weighted with fruit. Beyond the bay the country was more fertile and more populous. The natives were likewise more civilised and more desirous of novelties, for, at the sight of the vessels, a crowd of them came down to the shore, offering our men the kind of bread they ate, and gourds full of water. They begged them to come on land.

[Note 15: The fragrant odours blown out to sea from the American coasts are mentioned by several of the early explorers.]

On all these islands there is found a tree about the size of our elms, which bears a sort of gourd out of which they make drinking cups; but they never eat it, as its pulp is bitterer than gall, and its shell is as hard as a turtle’s back. On the ides of May the watchers saw from the height of the lookout an incredible multitude of islands to the south-west; two of them were covered with grass and green trees, and all of them were inhabited.

On the shore of the continent there emptied a navigable river of which the water was so hot that one could not leave one’s hand long in it. The next day, having seen a canoe of fishermen in the distance, and fearing that these fishermen might take to flight at sight of them, the Admiral ordered a barque to cut off their retreat; but the men waited for the Spaniards without sign of fear.

Listen now to this new method of fishing. Just as we use French dogs to chase hares across the plain, so do these fishermen catch fish by means of a fish trained for that purpose. This fish in no wise resembles any that we know. Its body is similar to that of a large eel, and upon its head it has a large pouch made of a very tough skin. They tie the fish to the side of the boat, with just the amount of cord necessary to hold it under the water; for it cannot stand contact with the air. As soon as a large fish or turtle is seen (and these latter are as large as a huge shield), they let the fish go. The moment it is freed, it attacks, with the rapidity of an arrow, the fish or turtle, on some part exposed from the shell, covering it with the pouch-like skin, and attaching itself with such tenacity that the only way to pull it off alive is by rolling a cord round a pole and raising the fish out of the water, when contact with the air causes it to drop its prey. This is-done by some of the fishermen who throw themselves into the water, and hold it above the surface, until their companions, who remained in the barque, have dragged it on board. This done, the cord is loosened enough for the fisherman-fish to drop back into the water, when it is fed with pieces of the prey which has been caught.

The islanders call this fish _guaicano_, and our people call it _riverso_.[16] Four turtles which they caught in this fashion and presented to the Spaniards almost filled a native barque. They highly prize the flesh of turtles, and the Spaniards made them some presents in exchange which highly pleased them. When our sailors questioned them concerning the size of the land, they answered that it had no end towards the west. They insisted that the Admiral should land, or should send some one in his name to salute their cacique, promising moreover that if the Spaniards would go to visit the cacique, the latter would make them various presents; but the Admiral, not wishing to retard the execution of his project, refused to yield to their wishes. The islanders asked him his name, and told him the name of their cacique.

[Note 16: A sea-lamprey, also called _remora_ and _echineis_. Oviedo gives details concerning the manner of catching, raising, and training the young lampreys to serve as game-fish. _Hist. delle Indie_, cap. x., in Ramusio. The account is interesting and despite obvious inaccuracies may have a basis of truth.]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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.



When Columbus returned from the land which he believed to be the Indian continent, he learned that the Friar Boyl[1] and Pedro Margarita,[2] 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.[3] The Admiral chose Hojeda as his envoy, and while the latter was engaged in his mission, several caciques[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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_.[8] 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.[9] 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.]



Acting upon the parting counsel of his brother, the Adelantado, Bartholomew Columbus, constructed a blockhouse at the mines, which he called El Dorado,[1] 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.[2]

[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.[3] 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