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of the crops. About six thousand of their subjects had come to solicit their freedom. These people had laid down their arms, making the air ring and the earth shake with their clamour. The Adelantado spoke to Guarionex and the other caciques, and by means of promises, presents, and threats, charged them to take good care for the future to engage in no further revolt. Guarionex made a speech to the people, in which he praised our power, our clemency to the guilty, and our generosity to those who remained faithful; he exhorted them to calm their spirits and for the future neither to think nor to plan any hostilities against the Christians, but rather to be obedient, humble, and serviceable to them, unless they wished worse things to overtake them. When he had finished his speech, his people took him on their shoulders in a hammock, and in this wise they carried him to the village where he lived, and within a few days the entire country was pacified.

Nevertheless the Spaniards were disturbed and depressed, for they found themselves abandoned in a strange country. Fifteen months had elapsed since the departure of the Admiral. The clothes and the food to which they were accustomed were wanting, and so they marched with sad faces and eyes bent on the ground.[4] The Adelantado strove as best he might to offer consolation. At this juncture, Beuchios Anacauchoa, for such was the name of the king of the western province of Xaragua of which we have before spoken, sent to the Adelantado notifying him that the cotton and other tribute he and his subjects were to pay, were ready. Bartholomew Columbus marched thither, therefore, and was received with great honours, by the cacique and by his sister. This woman, formerly the wife of Caunaboa, King of Cibao, was held in as great esteem throughout the kingdom as her brother. It seems she was gracious, clever, and prudent.[5] Having learned a lesson from the example of her husband, she had persuaded her brother to submit to the Christians, to soothe and to please them. This woman was called Anacaona.

[Note 4: The story of the disorders, privations, and unrest, as told by Las Casas, Columbus, and others, makes cheerless reading; the misfortunes of the colonists were due to their inveterate idleness, their tyranny, which had alienated the good-will of the natives, and to the disillusionment that had dispersed their hope of speedily and easily won riches.]

[Note 5: Herrera (iii., 6) speaks of her as _la insigne Anacaona … mujer prudente y entendida_… etc. She composed with unusual talent the _arreytos_ or folk-ballads the natives were fond of singing. Las Casas describes her dreadful death in his _Brevissima Relacion_.]

Thirty-two caciques were assembled in the house of Anacauchoa, where they had brought their tribute. In addition to what had been agreed upon, they sought to win favour by adding numerous presents, which consisted of two kinds of bread, roots, grains, utias, that is to say, rabbits, which are numerous in the island, fish, which they had preserved by cooking them, and those same serpents, resembling crocodiles, which they esteem a most delicate food. We have described them above, and the natives call them iguanas. They are special to Hispaniola.[6] Up to that time none of the Spaniards had ventured to eat them because of their odour, which was not only repugnant but nauseating, but the Adelantado, won by the amiability of the cacique’s sister, consented to taste a morsel of iguana; and hardly had his palate savoured this succulent flesh than he began to eat it by the mouthful. Henceforth the Spaniards were no longer satisfied to barely taste it, but became epicures in regard to it, and talked of nothing else than the exquisite flavour of these serpents, which they found to be superior to that of peacocks, pheasants, or partridges. If, however, they are cooked as we do peacocks and pheasants, which are first larded and then roasted, the serpent’s flesh loses its good flavour. First they gut them, then wash and clean them with care, and roll them into a circle, so that they look like the coils of a sleeping snake; after which they put them in a pot, just large enough to hold them, pouring over them a little water flavoured with the pepper found in the island. The pot is covered and a fire of odorous wood which gives very little light is kindled underneath it. A juice as delicious as nectar runs drop by drop from the insides. It is reported that there are few dishes more appetising than iguana eggs cooked over a slow fire. When they are fresh and served hot they are delicious, but if they are preserved for a few days they still further improve. But this is enough about cooking recipes. Let us pass on to other subjects.

[Note 6: Iguanas are found in all the _tierras calientes_ of the continent.]

The tribute of cotton sent by the caciques filled the Adelantado’s hut, and, in addition, he accepted their promise to furnish him all the bread he needed. While waiting for the bread to be made in the different districts, and brought to the house of Beuchios Anacauchoa, King of Xaragua, he sent to Isabella directing that one of the caravels he had ordered to be built be brought to him, promising the colonists that he would send it back to them loaded with bread. The delighted sailors made the tour of the island with alacrity, and landed on the coast of Xaragua. As soon as that brilliant, prudent, and sensible woman called Anacaona, sister of Beuchios Anacauchoa, heard that our ship had reached the coast of her country, she persuaded her brother to accompany her to visit it. The distance from the royal residence to the coast was only six miles. They halted for the night at a village about halfway, where the queen kept her treasure; this treasure did not consist of gold, silver, or pearls, but of utensils necessary to the different requirements of life, such as seats, platters, basins, cauldrons, and plates made of black wood, brilliantly polished; they display great art in the manufacture of all these articles. That distinguished savant, your doctor, Joannes Baptista Elysius, thinks that this black wood is ebony. It is to the manufacture of these articles that the islanders devote the best of their native ingenuity. In the island of Ganabara which, if you have a map, you will see lies at the western extermity of Hispaniola and which is subject to Anacauchoa, it is the women who are thus employed; the various pieces are decorated with representations of phantoms which they pretend to see in the nighttime, and serpents and men and everything that they see about them. What would they not be able to manufacture, Most Illustrious Prince, if they knew the use of iron and steel? They begin by softening the inner part of pieces of wood in the fire, after which they dig them out and work them with shells from the rivers.

Anacaona presented to the Adelantado fourteen seats and sixty earthen vessels for the kitchen, besides four rolls of woven cotton of immense weight. When they all reached the shore where the other royal town is situated, the Adelantado ordered out a barque fully equipped. The king also commanded two canoes to be launched, the first for the use of himself and his attendants, the second for his sister and her followers, but Anacaona was unwilling to embark on any other than the boat which carried the Adelantado. As they approached the ship, a cannon was fired at a given signal. The sound echoed over the sea like thunder, and the air was filled with smoke. The terrified islanders trembled, believing that this detonation had shattered the terrestrial globe; but when they turned towards the Adelantado their emotion subsided. Upon approaching closer to the ship the sound of flutes, fifes, and drums was heard, charming their senses by sweet music, and awakening their astonishment and admiration. When they had been over the whole ship, from stern to prow, and had carefully visited the forecastle, the tiller, and the hold, the brother and sister looked at one another in silence; their astonishment being so profound that they had nothing to say. While they were engaged in visiting the ship, the Adelantado ordered the anchor to be raised, the sails set, and to put out on the high sea. Their astonishment was redoubled when they observed that, without oars or the employment of any human force, such a great boat flew over the surface of the water. It was blowing a land wind, which was favourable to this manoeuvre, and what astonished them most was to see that the ship which was advanced by the help of this wind likewise turned about, first to the right and then to the left, according to the captain’s will.

At the conclusion of these manoeuvres the ship was loaded with bread, roots, and other gifts, and the Adelantado after offering them some presents took leave of Beuchios Anacauchoa and his sister, their followers and servants of both sexes. The impression left upon the latter by this visit was stupefying. The Spaniards marched overland and returned to Isabella. On arriving there, it was learned that a certain Ximenes Roldan, formerly chief of the miners and camp-followers, whom the Admiral had made his equerry and raised to the grade of chief justice, was ill-disposed towards the Adelantado. It was simultaneously ascertained that the Cacique Guarionex, unable longer to put up with the rapacity of Roldan and the other Spaniards at Isabella, had been driven by despair to quit the country with his family and a large number of his subjects, taking refuge in the mountains which border the northern coast only ten leagues to the west of Isabella. Both these mountains and their inhabitants bear the same name, _Ciguaia_. The chief of all the caciques inhabiting the mountain region is called Maiobanexios, who lived at a place called Capronus. These mountains are rugged, lofty, inaccessible, and rise from the sea in a semicircle. Between the two extremities of the chain, there lies a beautiful plain, watered by numerous rivers which rise in these mountains. The natives are ferocious and warlike, and it is thought they are of the same race as the cannibals, for when they descend from their mountains to fight with their neighbours in the plain, they eat all whom they kill. It was with the cacique of these mountains that Guarionex took refuge, bringing him gifts, consisting of things which the mountaineers lack. He told him that the Spaniards had spared him neither ill-treatment nor humiliation nor violence, while neither humility nor pride had been of the least use in his dealings with them. He came, therefore, to him as a suppliant, hoping to be protected against the injustice of these criminals. Maiobanexios promised him help and succour to the extent of his power.

Hastening back to La Concepcion the Adelantado summoned Ximenes Roldan, who, accompanied by his adherents, was prowling amongst the villages of the island, to appear before him. Greatly irritated, the Adelantado asked him what his intentions were. To which Roldan impudently answered: “Your brother, the Admiral is dead, and we fully understand that our sovereigns have little care for us. Were we to obey you, we should die of hunger, and we are forced to hunt for provisions in the island. Moreover, the Admiral confided to me, as well as to you, the government of the island; hence, we are determined to obey you no longer.” He added other equally misplaced observations. Before the Adelantado could capture him, Roldan, followed by about seventy men, escaped to Xaragua in the western part of the island, where, as the Adelantado reported to his brother, they gave themselves over to violence, thievery, and massacre.[7]

[Note 7: Some of the principal colonists, including Valdiviesso and Diego de Escobar, favoured Roldan. The sketchy description of this notable rebellion here given may be completed by consulting Herrera, Dec. I., 3, i.; Fernando Columbus, _Storia del Almirante_; Irving, _Columbus and his Companions_, book xi., caps iv., v., etc.]

While these disturbances were in progress, the Spanish sovereigns finally granted the Admiral eight vessels, which Columbus promptly ordered to sail from the town of Cadiz, a city consecrated to Hercules. These ships were freighted with provisions for the Adelantado. By chance they approached the western coast of the island, where Ximenes Roldan and his accomplices were. Roldan won over the crews by promising them fresh young girls instead of manual labour, pleasures instead of exertion, plenty in place of famine, and repose instead weariness and watching.

During this time Guarionex, who had assembled a troop of allies, made frequent descents upon the plain, killing all the Christians he surprised, ravaging the fields, driving off the workmen, and destroying villages.

Although Roldan and his followers were not ignorant that the Admiral might arrive from one day to another, they had no fears, since they had won over to their side the crews of the ships that had been sent on ahead. In the midst of such miseries did the unfortunate Adelantado await from day to day the arrival of his brother. The Admiral sailed from Spain with the remainder of the squadron but instead of sailing directly to Hispaniola, he first laid his course to the south.[8] What he accomplished during this new voyage, what seas and countries he visited, what unknown lands he discovered, I shall narrate, and I shall also explain at length the sequel of these disorders in the following books. Fare you well.

[Note 8: This was the third voyage of Columbus, concerning which some of the best sources of information are as follows: Oviedo, _Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, lib. iii., 2, 4; Navarrete, tom iii., _Lettera di Simone Verde a Mateo Curi_; Fernando Columbus, _op. cit_.; Herrera, dec. i., 7; R.H. Major, Hakluyt Society, 1870, _Select Letters of Columbus_.]



On the third day of the calends of June, 1498,[1] Columbus sailed from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, which is situated at the mouth of the Guadalquivir not far from Cadiz. His fleet consisted of eight heavily freighted ships. He avoided his usual route by way of the Canaries, because of certain French pirates who were lying in wait for him. Seven hundred and twenty miles north of the Fortunate Isles he sighted Madeira, which lies four degrees to the south of Seville; for at Seville, according to the mariners’ report, the north star rises to the 36th degree, whereas at Madeira it is in the 32d. Madeira was, therefore, his first stop, and from thence he despatched five or six ships loaded with provisions directly to Hispaniola, only keeping for himself one ship with decks and two merchant caravels. He laid his course due south and reached the equinoctial line, which he purposed to follow directly to the west, making new discoveries and leaving Hispaniola to the north on his starboard side. The thirteen islands of the Hesperides lie in the track of this voyage. They belong to the Portuguese, and all, save one, are inhabited. They are called the Cape Verde islands, and are distant only a day’s sail from the western part of Ethiopia. To one of these islands the Portuguese have given the name of Bona Vista[2]; and each year numerous lepers are cured of their malady by eating the turtles of this island.

[Note 1: The date was May 30, 1498, and the number of ships under his command was six, instead of eight. Much delay had occurred in fitting out the fleet for the voyage, owing to the poor management of the royal functionaries, especially the Bishop of Burgos, whose enmity towards Columbus was from thenceforward relentless.]

[Note 2: Properly _Boavista_. A leper colony had been established here by the Portuguese.]

The climate being very bad, the Admiral quickly left the archipelago behind, and sailed 480 miles towards the west-south-west. He reports that the dead calms and the fierce heat of the June sun caused such sufferings that his ships almost took fire. The hoops of his water barrels burst, and the water leaked out. His men found this heat intolerable. The pole star was then at an elevation of five degrees. Of the eight days during which they endured these sufferings only the first was clear; the others being cloudy and rainy, but not on that account less oppressive. More than once, indeed, did he repent having taken this course. After eight days of these miseries a favourable wind rose from the south-west, by which the Admiral profited to sail directly west, and under this parallel he observed new stars in the heavens, and experienced a more agreeable temperature. In fact, all his men agree in saying that after three days’ sailing in that direction, the air was much cooler. The Admiral affirms that, while he was in the region of dead calms and torrid heat, the ship always mounted the back of the sea, just as when climbing a high mountain one seems to advance towards the sky, and yet, nevertheless, he had seen no land on the horizon. Finally, on the eve of the calends of July, a watcher announced with a joyful cry, from the crow’s nest, that he saw three lofty mountains.[3] He exhorted his companions to keep up their courage. The men were, indeed, much depressed, not merely because they had been scorched by the sun, but because the water-supply was short. The barrels had been sprung by the extreme heat, and lost the water through the cracks. Full of rejoicing they advanced, but as they were about to touch land they perceived that this was impossible, because the sea was dotted with reefs, although in the neighbourhood they descried a harbour which seemed a spacious one. From their ships the Spaniards could see that the country was inhabited and well cultivated; for they saw well-ordered gardens and shady orchards, while the sweet odours, exhaled by plants and trees bathed in the morning dew, reached their nostrils.

[Note 3: Alonzo Perez Nirando, a sailor from Huelva, made the joyous announcement, and the sailors sang the _Salve Regina_ in thanksgiving. Columbus named the island _Trinidad_, having already decided to dedicate the first sighted land to the Holy Trinity. The three mountain peaks close together seemed to render the name all the more appropriate.]

Twenty miles from that place, the Admiral found a sufficiently large port to shelter his ships, though no river flowed into it. Sailing farther on he finally discovered a satisfactory harbour for repairing his vessels and also replenishing his supply of water and wood. He called this land Punta del Arenal.[4] There was no sign of any habitation in the neighbourhood of the harbour, but there were many tracks of animals similar to goats, and in fact the body of one of those animals, closely resembling a goat, was found. On the morrow, a canoe was seen in the distance carrying eighty men, all of whom were young, good-looking, and of lofty stature. Besides their bows and arrows they were armed with shields, which is not the custom among the other islanders. They wore their hair long, parted in the middle, and plastered down quite in the Spanish fashion. Save for their loin-cloths of various coloured cottons, they were entirely naked.

[Note 4: The narrative at this point is somewhat sketchy, but the author, doubtless, faithfully recounted the events as they were reported to him. The ships approached the island from the east, and then coasted its shore for five leagues beyond the cape named by Columbus _La Galera_, because of it’s imagined resemblance to a galley under sail. The next day he continued his course westwards, and named another headland _Punta de la Playa_; this was a Wednesday, August the first; and as the fleet passed between La Galera and La Playa, the South American continent was first discovered, some twenty-five leagues distant. Fernando Columbus affirms that his father, thinking it was another island, called it _Isla Santa_; but in reality Columbus named the continent _Tierra de Gracia_. Punta del Arenal forms the south-western extremity of the island and is separated by a channel, according to Columbus, two leagues broad.]

The Admiral’s opinion was that this country was nearer to the sky than any other land situated in the same parallel and that it was above the thick vapours which rose from the valleys and swamps, just as the high peaks of lofty mountains are distant from the deep valleys. Although Columbus declared that during this voyage he had followed without deviation the parallel of Ethiopia, there are the greatest possible physical differences between the natives of Ethiopia and those of the islands; for the Ethiopians are black and have curly, woolly hair, while these natives are on the contrary white, and have long, straight, blond hair. What the causes of these differences may be, I do not know. They are due rather to the conditions of the earth than to those of the sky; for we know perfectly well that snow falls and lies on the mountains of the torrid zone, while in northern countries far distant from that zone the inhabitants are overcome by great heat.

In order to attract the natives they had met, the Admiral made them some presents of mirrors, cups of bright polished brass, bells, and other similar trifles, but the more he called to them, the more they drew off. Nevertheless, they looked intently and with sincere admiration at our men, their instruments and their ships, but without laying down their oars. Seeing that he could not attract them by his presents, the Admiral ordered his trumpets and flutes to be played, on the largest ship, and the men to dance and sing a chorus. He hoped that the sweetness of the songs and the strange sounds might win them over, but the young men imagined that the Spaniards were singing preparatory to engaging in battle, so in the twinkling of an eye they dropped their oars and seized their bows and arrows, protecting their arms with their shields, and, while waiting to understand the meaning of the sounds, stood ready to let fly a volley against our men. The Spaniards sought to draw near little by little, in such wise as to surround them; but the natives retreated from the Admiral’s vessel and, confident in their ability as oarsmen, they approached so near to one of the smaller ships that from the poop a cloak was given to the pilot of the canoe, and a cap to another chief. They made signs to the captain of the ship to come to land, in order that they might the more easily come to an understanding; but when they saw that the captain drew near to the Admiral’s vessel to ask permission to land, they feared some trap, and quickly jumped into their canoe and sped away with the rapidity of the wind.

The Admiral relates that to the west of that island and not far distant he came upon a strong current flowing from east to west.[5] It ran with such force that he compared its violence to that of a vast cataract flowing from a mountain height. He declared that he had never been exposed to such serious danger since he began, as a boy, to sail the seas. Advancing as best he could amongst these raging waves, he discovered a strait some eight miles long, which resembled the entrance of a large harbour. The current flowed towards that strait, which he called Boca de la Sierpe, naming an island beside it, Margarita. From this strait there flowed another current of fresh water, thus coming into conflict with the salt waters and causing such waves that there seemed to rage between the two currents a terrible combat. In spite of these difficulties, the Admiral succeeded in penetrating into the gulf, where he found the waters drinkable and agreeable.

[Note 5: Columbus was then near the mouth of the Orinoco River.]

Another very singular thing the Admiral has told me, and which is confirmed by his companions (all worthy of credence and whom I carefully questioned concerning the details of the voyage), is that he sailed twenty-six leagues, that is to say, one hundred and forty-eight miles, in fresh water; and the farther he advanced to the west, the fresher the water became.[6] Finally, he sighted a very lofty mountain, of which the eastern part was inhabited only by a multitude of monkeys with very long tails. All this side of the mountain is very steep, which explains why no people live there. A man, sent to reconnoitre the country, reported however that it was all cultivated and that the fields were sown, though nowhere were there people or huts. Our own peasants often go some distance from their homes to sow their fields. On the western side of the mountain was a large plain. The Spaniards were well satisfied to drop anchor in such a great river.[7] As soon as the natives knew of the landing of an unknown race on their coasts, they collected about the Spaniards anxious to examine them, and displaying not the slightest fear. It was learned by signs that that country was called Paria, that it was very extensive, and that its population was most numerous in its western part. The Admiral invited four natives to come on board and continued his course to the west.

[Note 6: See _Orinoco Illustrado_, by Gumilla, 1754, also Schomburgk’s _Reisen in Guiana und Orinoco_. The fresh waters of the estuary are in fact driven a considerable distance out to sea.]

[Note 7: This was the first landing of the Spaniards on the American continent, but Columbus, being ill, did not go on shore. Pedro de Torreros took possession in the Admiral’s name (Navarrete, tom. iii., p. 569). Fernando Columbus states that his father suffered from inflamed eyes, and that from about this time he was forced to rely for information upon his sailors and pilots (_Storia_, cap. lxv.-lxxiii.). He seemed nevertheless to divine the immensity of the newly discovered land, for he wrote to the sovereigns _y creo esta tierra que agora, mandaron discrubir vuestras altezzas sea grandissima_.]

Judging by the agreeable temperature, the attractiveness of the country, and the number of people they daily saw during their voyage, the Spaniards concluded that the country is a very important one, and in this opinion they were not wrong, as we shall demonstrate at the proper time. One morning at the break of dawn the Spaniards landed, being attracted by the charm of the country and the sweet odours wafted to them from the forests. They discovered at that point a larger number of people than they had thus far seen, and as they were approaching the shore, messengers came in the name of the caciques of that country, inviting them to land and to have no fears. When Columbus refused, the natives urged by curiosity, flocked about the ships in their barques. Most of them wore about their necks and arms, collars and bracelets of gold and ornaments of Indian pearls, which seemed just as common amongst them as glass jewelry amongst our women. When questioned as to whence came the pearls, they answered by pointing with their fingers to a neighbouring coast; by grimaces and gestures they seemed to indicate that if the Spaniards would stop with them they would give them basketfuls of pearls. The provisions which the Admiral destined for the colony at Hispaniola were beginning to spoil, so he resolved to defer this commercial operation till a more convenient opportunity. Nevertheless he despatched two boats loaded with soldiers, to barter with the people on land for some strings of pearls and, at the same time, to discover whatever they could about the place and its people. The natives received these men with enthusiasm and pleasure, and great numbers surrounded them, as though they were inspecting something marvellous. The first who came forward were two distinguished persons, for they were followed by the rest of the crowd. The first of these men was aged and the second younger, so that it was supposed they were the father and his son and future successor. After exchanging salutations the Spaniards were conducted to a round house near a large square. Numerous seats of very black wood decorated with astonishing skill were brought, and when the principal Spaniards and natives were seated, some attendants served food and others, drink. These people eat only fruits, of which they have a great variety, and very different from ours. The beverages they offered were white and red wine, not made from grapes but from various kinds of crushed fruits, which were not at all disagreeable.

This repast concluded, in company with the elder chief, the younger one conducted the Spaniards to his own house, men and women crowding about in great numbers, but always in separate groups from one another.

The natives of both sexes have bodies as white as ours, save those perhaps who pass their time in the sun. They were amiable, hospitable, and wore no clothes, save waist-cloths of various coloured cotton stuffs. All of them wore either collars or bracelets of gold or pearls, and some wore both, just as our peasants wear glass jewelry. When they were asked whence the gold came, they indicated with the finger that it was from a mountainous country, appearing at the same time to dissuade our men from going there, for they made them understand by gestures and signs that the inhabitants of that country were cannibals. It was not, however, entirely clear whether they meant cannibals or savage beasts. They were much vexed to perceive that the Spaniards did not understand them, and that they possessed no means of making themselves intelligible to one another. At three o’clock in the afternoon the men who had been sent on shore returned, bringing several strings of pearls, and the Admiral, who could not prolong his stay, because of his cargo of provisions, raised anchor and sailed. He intends, however, after putting the affairs of Hispaniola in order, shortly to return. It was another than he who profited by this important discovery.

The shallowness of the sea and the numerous currents, which at each change of the tide dashed against and injured the lesser vessels, much retarded the Admiral’s progress, and to avoid the perils of the shallows he always sent one of the lighter caravels ahead; this vessel being of short draught took repeated soundings and the other larger ones followed. At that time two provinces of the vast region of Paria, Cumana and Manacapana, were reached, and along their shores the Admiral coasted for two hundred miles. Sixty leagues farther on begins another country called Curiana. As the Admiral had already covered such a distance, he thought the land lying ahead of him was an island, and that if he continued his course to the west he would be unable to get back to the north and reach Hispaniola. It was then that he came upon the mouth of a river whose depth was thirty cubits, with an unheard-of width which he described as twenty-eight leagues. A little farther on, always in a westerly direction though somewhat to the south, since he followed the line of the coast, the Admiral sailed into a sea of grass of which the seeds resemble those of the lentil. The density of this growth retarded the advance of the ships.

The Admiral declares that in the whole of that region the day constantly equals the night. The north star is elevated as in Paria to five degrees above the horizon, and all the coasts of that newly discovered country are on the same parallel. He likewise reports details concerning the differences he observed in the heavens, which are so contradictory to astronomical theories that I wish to make some comments. It is proven, Most Illustrious Prince, that the polar star, which our sailors call Tramontane, is not the point of the arctic pole upon which the axis of the heavens turns. To realise this easily, it is only necessary to look through a small hole at the pole star itself, when the stars are rising. If one then looks through the same aperture at the same star when dawn is paling the stars, it will be seen that it has changed its place; but how can it be in this newly discovered country that the star rises at the beginning of twilight in the month of June to a height of only five degrees above the horizon, and when the stars are disappearing before the sunrise, it should be found by the same observer to be in the fifteenth degree? I do not at all understand it, and I must confess the reasons the Admiral gives by no means satisfy me. Indeed, according to his conjectures, the terrestrial globe is not an absolute sphere, but had at the time of its creation a sort of elevation rising on its convex side, so that instead of resembling a ball or an apple, it was more like a pear, and Paria would be precisely that elevated part, nearest to the sky. He has also persisted in affirming that the earthly paradise[8] is situated on the summit of those three mountains, which the watcher from the height of the crow’s nest observed in the distance, as I have recounted. As for the impetuous current of fresh water which rushed against the tide of the sea at the beginning of that strait, he maintains that it is formed of waters which fall in cascades from the heights of these mountains. But we have had enough of these things which to me seem fabulous. Let us return to our narrative.

[Note 8: Speaking of the earthly paradise, Columbus describes it as _adonde ne puede llegar nadie, sabro par voluntad divina_. Vespucci it was who thought it would be found in the New World; _se nel mondo e alcun paradiso terrestre_.]

Seeing his course across that vast gulf had, contrary to his expectation, been arrested, and fearing to find no exit towards the north through which he might reach Hispaniola, the Admiral retraced his course and sailing north of that country he bent towards the east in the direction of Hispaniola.

Those navigators who later explored this region more carefully believe that it is the Indian continent, and not Cuba, as the Admiral thought; and there are not wanting mariners who pretend that they have sailed all round Cuba. Whether they are right or whether they seek to gratify their jealousy of the author of a great discovery, I am not bound to decide.[9] Time will decide, and Time is the only truthful judge. The Admiral likewise discusses the question whether or not Paria is a continent; he himself thinks it is. Paria lies to the south of Hispaniola, a distance of 882 leagues, according to Columbus. Upon the third day of the calends of September of the year 1498, he reached Hispaniola, most anxious to see again his soldiers and his brother whom he had left there. But, as commonly happens in human affairs, fortune, however favourable, mingles with circumstances, sweet and pleasant, some grain of bitterness. In this case it was internecine discord which marred his happiness.

[Note 9: Rivalry and perhaps jealousy existed among the navigators, each bent on eclipsing the achievements of his fellows, and the former feeling was a spur to enterprise. Yanez Pinzon, Amerigo Vespucci, Juan Diaz de Solis all explored the American coasts, discovering Yucatan, Florida, Texas, and Honduras.]



Upon his arrival at Hispaniola, the Admiral found an even greater state of disorder than he had feared, for Roldan had taken advantage of his absence to refuse obedience to his brother, Bartholomew Columbus. Resolved not to submit to him who had formerly been his master and had raised him in dignity, he had stirred up the multitude in his own favour and had also vilified the Adelantado and had written heinous accusations to the King against the brothers. The Admiral likewise sent envoys to inform the sovereigns of the revolt, begging them at the same time to send soldiers to put down the insurrection and punish the guilty, according to their crimes. Roldan and his accomplices preferred grave charges against the Admiral and the Adelantado, who, according to them, were impious, unjust men, enemies to the Spaniards, whose blood they had profusely shed. They were accused of torturing, strangling, decapitating and, in divers other ways, killing people on the most trifling pretexts. They were envious, proud, and intolerable tyrants; therefore, people avoided them as they would fly from wild beasts, or from the enemies of the Crown. It had in fact been discovered that the sole thought of the brothers was to usurp the government of the island. This had been proven by different circumstances, but chiefly by the fact that they allowed none but their own partisans to work the gold-mines.

In soliciting reinforcements from the sovereigns, sufficient to deal with the rebels according to their merits, the Admiral explained that those men who dared thus to accuse him were guilty of misdemeanours and crimes; for they were debauchees, profligates, thieves, seducers, ravishers, vagabonds. They respected nothing and were perjurers and liars, already condemned by the tribunals, or fearful, owing to their numerous crimes, to appear before them. They had formed a faction amongst themselves, given over to violence and rapine; lazy, gluttonous, caring only to sleep and to carouse. They spared nobody; and having been brought to the island of Hispaniola originally to do the work of miners or of camp servants, they now never moved a step from their houses on foot, but insisted on being carried about the island upon the shoulders of the unfortunate natives, as though they were dignitaries of the State.[1] Not to lose practice in the shedding of blood, and to exercise the strength of their arms, they invented a game in which they drew their swords, and amused themselves in cutting off the heads of innocent victims with one sole blow. Whoever succeeded in more quickly landing the head of an unfortunate islander on the ground with one stroke, was proclaimed the bravest, and as such was honoured.[2] Such were the mutual accusations bandied about between the Admiral and the partisans of Roldan, not to mention many other imputations.

[Note 1: _Ab insularibus namque miseris pensiles per totam insulam, tanquam aediles curules, feruntur_.]

[Note 2: See Las Casas, _Brevissima Relacion_, English translation, pub. by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909.]

Meanwhile the Admiral, desiring to put a stop to the dangerous attacks of the Ciguana tribe which had revolted under the leadership of Guarionex, sent his brother the Adelantado with ninety foot-soldiers and some horsemen against them. It may be truthfully added that about three thousand of the islanders who had suffered from the invasions of the Ciguana tribe, who were their sworn enemies, joined forces with the Spaniards. The Adelantado led his troops to the bank of a great river which waters the plain between the sea and the two extremes of the mountain chain of Ciguana, of which we have already spoken. He surprised two of the enemy’s spies who were concealed in the underbrush, one of whom sprang into the sea, and, swimming across the river at its mouth, succeeded in escaping to his own people. From the one who was captured, it was learned that six thousand natives of Ciguana were hidden in the forest beyond the river and were prepared to attack the Spaniards when they crossed over. The Adelantado therefore marched along the river bank seeking a ford. This he soon found in the plain, and was preparing to cross the river when the Ciguana warriors rushed out from the forest in compact battalions, yelling in a most horrible manner. Their appearance is fearsome and repulsive, and they march into battle daubed with paint, as did the Thracians and Agathyrses. These natives indeed paint themselves from the forehead to the knees, with black and scarlet colours which they extract from certain fruits similar to pears, and which they carefully cultivate in their gardens. Their hair is tormented into a thousand strange forms, for it is long and black, and what nature refuses they supply by art. They look like goblins emerged from the infernal caverns. Advancing towards our men who were trying to cross the river, they contested their passage with flights of arrows and by throwing pointed sticks; and such was the multitude of projectiles that they half darkened the light of the sun, and had not the Spaniards received the blows on their shields the engagement would have ended badly for them.

A number of men were wounded in this first encounter, but the Adelantado succeeded in crossing the river and the enemy fled, the Spaniards pursuing them, though they killed few, as the islanders are good runners. As soon as they gained the protection of the woods, they used their bows to repulse their pursuers, for they are accustomed to woods, and run naked amongst underbrush, shrubs, and trees, like wild boars, heedless of obstacles. The Spaniards, on the contrary, were hindered amongst this undergrowth by their shields, their clothes, their long lances, and their ignorance of the surroundings. After a night passed uselessly in the woods the Adelantado, realising the next morning that they could catch nobody, followed the counsel of those islanders who are the immemorial enemies of the Ciguana tribe, and under their guidance marched towards the mountains where the King Maiobanexius lived at a place called Capronus. Twelve miles’ march brought them to the village of another cacique, which had been abandoned by its terrified inhabitants, and there he established his camp. Two natives were captured, from whom it was learned that King Maiobanexius and ten caciques with eight thousand soldiers were assembled at Capronus. During two days there were a few light skirmishes between the parties, the Adelantado not wishing to do more than reconnoitre the country. Scouts were sent out the following night under the guidance of some islanders who knew the land. The people of Ciguana caught sight of our men from the heights of their mountains, and prepared to give battle, uttering war-cries as is their custom. But they did not venture to quit their woods, because they thought the Adelantado had his entire army with him. Twice on the following day, when the Adelantado marched on with his men, the natives tested the fortune of war; hurling themselves against the Spaniards with fury, they wounded many before they could protect themselves with their shields, but the latter, getting the better of them, pursued them, cutting some in pieces, and taking a large number prisoners. Those who escaped took refuge in the forests, from which they were careful not to emerge.

The Adelantado selected one of the prisoners, and sending with him one of his allies, he despatched them both to Maiobanexius with the following message: “The Adelantado has not undertaken to make war upon you and your people, O Maiobanexius, for he desires your friendship; but he formally demands that Guarionex, who has taken refuge with you and has drawn you into this conflict to the great damage of your people, shall be delivered to him to be punished as he merits. He counsels you, therefore, to give up this cacique; if you consent, the Admiral will count you among his friends and protect and respect your territory. If you refuse you will be made to repent, for your entire country will be devastated with fire and sword, and all you possess will be destroyed.” Maiobanexius, upon hearing this message, replied: “Everybody knows that Guarionex is a hero, adorned with all the virtues, and therefore I have esteemed it right to assist and protect him. As for you, you are violent and perfidious men, and seek to shed the blood of innocent people: I will neither enter into relations with you, nor form any alliance with so false a people.”

When this answer was brought to the Adelantado, he burnt the village where he had established his camp and several others in the neighbourhood. He again sent envoys to Maiobanexius, to ask him to name one of his trusty advisers to treat for peace. Maiobanexius consented to send one of the most devoted of his counsellors, accompanied by two other chiefs. The Adelantado earnestly conjured them not to jeopardise the territory of Maiobanexius solely in the interests of Guarionex. He advised Maiobanexius, if he did not wish to be ruined himself and to be treated as an enemy, to give him up.

When his envoys returned, Maiobanexius called together his people and explained the conditions. The people cried that Guarionex must be surrendered, cursing and execrating the day he had come amongst them to disturb their tranquillity. The cacique reminded them, however, that Guarionex was a hero, and had rendered him services when he fled to him for protection, for he had brought him royal presents. Moreover, he had taught both the cacique himself and his wife to sing and dance, a thing not to be held in mediocre consideration. Maiobanexius was determined never to surrender the prince who had appealed to his protection, and whom he had promised to defend. He was prepared to risk the gravest perils with him rather than to merit the reproach of having betrayed his guest. Despite the complaints of the people, the cacique dissolved the assembly, and calling Guarionex to him, he pledged himself for the second time to protect him and to share his fortunes as long as he lived.

Maiobanexius resolved to give no further information to the Adelantado: on the contrary he ordered his first messenger to station himself with some faithful soldiers at a place on the road where the Adelantado’s envoys usually passed, and to kill any Spaniards who appeared, without further discussion. The Adelantado had just sent his messengers, and both these men, one of whom was a prisoner from Ciguana and the other from amongst the native allies, were decapitated. The Adelantado, escorted by only ten foot-soldiers and four horsemen, followed his envoys and discovered their bodies lying in the road, which so incensed him that he determined to no longer spare Maiobanexius. He invaded the cacique’s village of Capronus with his army. The caciques fled in every direction, abandoning their chief, who withdrew with his entire family into places of concealment in the mountain districts. Some others of the Ciguana people sought to capture Guarionex, since he was the occasion of the catastrophe; but he succeeded in escaping and concealed himself almost alone amidst the rocks and desert mountains. The soldiers of the Adelantado were exhausted by this long war, which dragged on for three months; the watches, the fatigues, and the scarcity of food. In response to their request they were authorised to return to Concepcion, where they owned handsome plantations of the native sort; and thither many withdrew. Only thirty companions remained with the Adelantado, all of whom were severely tried by these three months of fighting, during which they had eaten nothing but cazabi, that is to say, bread made of roots, and even they were not always ripe. They also procured some utias, or rabbits, by hunting with their dogs, while their only drink had been water, which was sometimes exquisitely fresh, but just as often muddy and marshy. Moreover the character of the war obliged them to pass most of the time in the open air and perpetual movement.

With his little troop the Adelantado determined to scour the mountains to seek out the secret retreats where Maiobanexius and Guarionex had concealed themselves. Some Spaniards, who had been driven by hunger to hunt utias for want of something better, met two servants of Maiobanexius, whom the cacique had sent into the villages of his territory, and who were carrying back native bread. They forced these men to betray the hiding-place of their chief, and under their leadership, twelve soldiers who had stained their bodies like the people of Ciguana succeeded by trickery in capturing Maiobanexius, his wife, and his son, all of whom they brought to the Admiral at Concepcion. A few days later hunger compelled Guarionex to emerge from the cavern where he was concealed, and the islanders, out of fear of the Admiral, betrayed him to the hunters. As soon as he learned his whereabouts, the Admiral sent a body of foot-soldiers to take him, just at the moment when he was about to quit the plain, and return to the mountains. These men caught him and brought him back, after which that region was pacified, and tranquillity restored.

A relative of Maiobanexius who was married to a cacique whose territory had not yet been invaded, shared the former’s misfortunes. Everybody agreed in saying that she was the most beautiful of the women nature had created in the island of Hispaniola. Her husband loved her dearly, as she merited, and when she was captured by the Spaniards he almost lost his reason, and wandered distractedly in desert places, doubtful what course to pursue. Finally he presented himself before the Admiral, promising that he and his people would submit without conditions, if he would only restore him his wife. His prayer was granted and at the same time several others of the principal captives were likewise freed. This same cacique then assembled five thousand natives who instead of weapons carried agricultural implements, and went himself to labour and plant the crops in one of the largest valleys in his territories. The Admiral thanked him by means of presents, and the cacique came back rejoicing. This news spread throughout Ciguana, and the other caciques began to hope that they too might be treated with clemency, so they came in person to promise they would in future obey the orders given them. They asked that their chief and his family might be spared, and in response to their petition, the wife and children were delivered to them, but Maiobanexius was held a prisoner.

While the Admiral was thus engaged in administering the affairs of Hispaniola, he was ignorant of the intrigues his adversaries were carrying on against him at the Spanish Court.[3] Wearied by these continuous quarrels, and above all annoyed at receiving but a small quantity of gold and valuable products because of these dissensions and revolts, the sovereigns, appointed another Governor,[4] who, after a careful enquiry, should punish the guilty and send them back to Spain, I do not precisely know what has come to light against either the Admiral or his brother the Adelantado, or their enemies; but this is certain, that the Admiral and his brother were seized, put in irons, deprived of all their property, and brought to Spain; and of this, Most Illustrious Prince, you are not ignorant. It is true that the sovereigns, when they learned that the Columbus brothers had arrived at Cadiz loaded with irons, promptly sent their secretaries to order their release and that their children should be allowed to visit them; nor did they conceal their disapproval of this rough treatment.[5] It is claimed that the new Governor has sent to the sovereigns some letters in the handwriting of the Admiral, but in cipher, in which the latter summoned his brother the Adelantado, who was at that time absent with his soldiers, to hasten back and repel force with force, in case the Governor sought to use violence. The Adelantado preceded his soldiers, and the Governor seized him and his brother before their partisans could rejoin them. What will be the outcome, time will show, for time is the supreme arbiter of events. Fare you well.

[Note 3: One of the most inveterate of his enemies was Juan de Fonseca, afterwards Bishop of Burgos, who was unfortunately in a position to do Columbus serious harm.]

[Note 4: Francisco de Bobadilla, commander of Calatrava.]

[Note 5: The sovereigns made what amends they could for the abusive execution of their orders by over-zealous agents; they sent Columbus a present of two thousand ducats–not an insignificant sum at the time–and wrote him a letter, full of affectionate expressions of confidence; he was admitted to audience on December 17th.]



I have presented to you this immense and hitherto unknown ocean which the Admiral, Christopher Columbus, discovered, under the auspices of our sovereigns, in the guise of a necklace of gold, although, owing to the poor skill of the artisan, it is but poorly executed. Yet I have judged it worthy, Most Illustrious Prince, of your splendour. Accept now a necklace of pearls which, suspended from the former, will ornament your breast.

Some of the Admiral’s ship-captains who had made a study of the different wind-currents sought the royal permission to prosecute discoveries at their own expense,[1] proposing to relinquish to the Crown its due, that is to say, one fifth of the profits. The most fortunate of these adventurers was a certain Pedro Alonzo Nunez,[2] who sailed towards the south; and it is of his expedition that I will first write. To come at once to the essential details of this voyage, this Nunez had but one ship, fitted out at his expense, though some people claimed that he was helped.[3] The royal edict forbade him to anchor within fifty leagues of any place discovered by the Admiral. He sailed towards Paria, where, as I have said, Columbus found both native men and women wearing bracelets and necklaces of pearls. In obedience to the royal decree he coasted along this shore, leaving behind him the provinces of Cumana and Manacapana, and thus arrived at a country called by its inhabitants Curiana, where he discovered a harbour quite similar to that of Cadiz.

[Note 1: See Navarrete, tom, ii., 1867; Gomara, _Historia General_, p. 50.]

[Note 2: Also called Nino; he had sailed with Columbus on his first two voyages. Oviedo, _op. cit_., xix., I, also describes this expedition.]

[Note 3: Nunez was poor and only found assistance from a merchant of Seville called Guerro, on condition that the latter’s brother, Christobal, should command the one ship his loan sufficed to provide. This vessel was only fifty tons burden, and carried a crew of thirty-three persons.]

Upon entering this harbour he found a number of houses scattered along the banks, but when he landed it was discovered to be a group of eight houses; about fifty men, led by their chief, promptly came from a populous village only three miles distant. These men, who were naked, invited Alonzo Nunez to land on their coast, and he consented. He distributed some needles, bracelets, rings, glass pearls, and other pedlar’s trifles amongst them, and in less than an hour he obtained from them in exchange fifteen ounces of the pearls they wore on their necks and arms. The natives embraced Nunez affectionately, insisting more and more that he should come to their village, where they promised to give him any amount of pearls he might desire. The next day at dawn the ship drew near to the village and anchored. The entire population assembled and begged the men to land, but Nunez, seeing that they were very numerous and considering that he had only thirty men, did not venture to trust himself to them. He made them understand by signs and gestures that they should come to the ship in barques and canoes. These barques, like the others, are dug out of a single tree-trunk, but are less well shaped and less easy to handle than those used by the cannibals and the natives of Hispaniola. They are called _gallitas_. The natives all brought strings of pearls, which are called _tenoras_, and showed themselves desirous of Spanish merchandise.

They are amiable men; simple, innocent, and hospitable, as was made clear after twenty days of intercourse with them. The Spaniards very soon ceased to fear to enter their houses, which are built of wood covered with palm leaves. Their principal food is the meat of the shellfish from which they extract pearls, and their shores abound with such. They likewise eat the flesh of wild animals, for deer, wild-boar, rabbits whose hair and colour resemble our hares, doves, and turtle-doves exist in their country. The women keep ducks and geese about the houses, just as ours do; peacocks fly about in the woods, but their colours are not so rich or so varied as ours and the male bird differs little from the female. Amongst the undergrowth in the swamps, pheasants are from time to time seen. The people of Curiana are skilful hunters and generally with one single arrow shot they kill beasts or birds at which they aim. The Spaniards spent several days amongst the abundance of the country. They traded four needles for a peacock, only two for a pheasant, and one for a dove or a turtle-dove. The same, or a glass bead, was given for a goose. In making their offers and bargaining and disputing, the natives conducted their commercial affairs just about the same as do our women when they are arguing with pedlars. As they wore no clothes, the natives were puzzled to know the use of needles, but when the Spaniards satisfied their naive curiosity by showing them that needles were useful for getting thorns from beneath the skin, and for cleaning the teeth, they conceived a great opinion of them. Another thing which pleased them even more was the colour and sound of hawk-bells, which they were ready to buy at good prices.

From the native houses the roaring of large animals[4] was audible amidst the dense and lofty forest trees, but these animals are not fierce, for, although the natives constantly wander through the woods with no other weapons than their bows and arrows, there is no recollection of any one being killed by these beasts. They brought the Spaniards as many deer and wild-boar, slain with their arrows, as the latter desired. They did not possess cattle or goats or sheep, and they ate bread made of roots and bread made of grain the same as the islanders of Hispaniola. Their hair is black, thick, half curly, and long. They try to spoil the whiteness of their teeth, for almost the entire day they chew a herb which blackens them, and when they spit it out, they wash their mouth. It is the women who labour in the fields rather than the men, the latter spending their time in hunting, fighting, or leading dances and games.

[Note 4: Supposed to have been tapirs, animals unknown in Europe.]

Pitchers, cups with handles, and pots are their earthenware utensils, which they procure from elsewhere, for they frequently hold markets, which all the neighbouring tribes attend, each bringing the products of his country to be exchanged for those of other places. In fact, there is nobody who is not delighted to obtain what is not to be had at home, because the love of novelty is an essential sentiment of human nature. They hang little birds and other small animals, artistically worked in base gold,[5] to their pearls. These trinkets they obtain by trade, and the metal resembles the German gold used for coining florins.

[Note 5: A kind of alloyed gold called by the natives _guanin_; the Spaniards were often deceived by its glitter.]

The men either carry their private parts enclosed in a little gourd which has been opened at the back, like our cod-piece, or they use a seashell. The gourd hangs from a cord tied round the waist.[6] The presence of the animals above mentioned, and many other indications not found in any of the islands, afford evidence that this land is a continent. The most conclusive proof[7] seems to be that the Spaniards followed the coast of Paria for a distance of about three thousand miles always in a westerly direction, but without discovering any end to it. When asked whence they procured their gold, the people of Curiana answered that it came from a country called Cauchieta situated about six suns distant (which means six days) to the west, and that it was the artisans of that region who worked the gold into the form in which they saw it. The Spaniards sailed towards Cauchieta and anchored there near the shore on the calends of November, 1500. The natives fearlessly approached and brought them gold, which in its rough state is not valued amongst them. The people also wore pearls round their throats; but these came from Curiana, where they had been obtained in exchange for gold, and none of them wanted to part with anything they had obtained by trade. That is to say the people of Curiana kept their gold, and the people of Cauchieta their pearls, so that very little gold was obtained at Cauchieta.[8] The Spaniards brought away some very pretty monkeys and a number of parrots of varied colours, from that country.

[Note 6: The text continues: _alibi in eo tractu intra vaginam mentularemque nervum reducunt, funiculoque praeputium alligant_.]

[Note 7: Navarrete, iii., 14.]

[Note 8: _Auri tamen parum apud Cauchietenses: lectum reperere_ meaning, doubtless, that they traded away most of their gold for pearls.]

The temperature in the month of November was delicious, without a sign of cold. Each evening the stars which mark the north pole disappeared, so near is that region to the equator; but it was not possible to calculate precisely the polar degrees. The natives are sensible and not suspicious, and some of the people of Curiana passed the entire night in company with our men, coming out in their barques to join them. Pearls they call _corixas_. They are jealous, and when strangers visit them, they make their women withdraw behind the house, from whence the latter examine the guests as though they were prodigies. Cotton is plentiful and grows wild in Cauchieta, just as shrubs do in our forests, and of this they make trousers which they wear.

Continuing their course along the same coast, the Spaniards suddenly encountered about two thousand men armed according to the fashion of the country, who prevented them from landing. They were so barbarous and ferocious that it was impossible to establish the smallest relations with them or to effect any trade; so, as our men were satisfied with the pearls they had procured, they returned by the same course to Curiana, where they remained for another twenty days bountifully supplied with provisions.

It seems to me neither out of place nor useless to this history, to here narrate what happened when they arrived within sight of the coasts of Paria. They encountered by chance a squadron of eighteen canoes full of cannibals engaged in a man-hunt: this was near the Boca de la Sierpe and the strait leading to the gulf of Paria, which I have before described. The cannibals unconcernedly approached the ship, surrounding it, and shooting flights of arrows and javelins at our men. The Spaniards replied by a cannon shot, which promptly scattered them. In pursuing them, the ship’s boat came up with one of their canoes, but was able to capture only a single cannibal and a bound prisoner, the others having all escaped by swimming. This prisoner burst into tears, and by his gestures and rolling his eyes, gave it to be understood that six of his companions had been cruelly disembowelled, cut into pieces, and devoured by those monsters, and that the same fate awaited him on the morrow. They made him a present of the cannibal, upon whom he immediately threw himself, gnashing his teeth and belabouring him with blows of a stick and his fists and with kicks, for he believed that the death of his companions would not be sufficiently avenged till he beheld the cannibal insensible and beaten black and blue. When questioned as to the customs and usages of the cannibals when they made expeditions to other countries, he said they always carried with them, wherever they went, sticks prepared beforehand which they planted in the ground at the place of their encampment, and beneath whose shelter they passed the night.

Hanging over the door of one of the chieftains in Curiana, the Spaniards found the head of a cannibal, which was regarded as a sort of standard or helmet captured from the enemy, and constituted a great honour for this chief.

There is a district on the coast of Paria, called Haraia, which is remarkable for a peculiar kind of salt found there. It is a vast plain over which the waves of the sea are driven in heavy weather and when the waves subside and the sun comes out, the pools of water crystallise into masses of the whitest salt, in sufficient quantity for the natives to load all the ships that sail, did they arrive before it rained. The first rainfall melts the salt, which is then absorbed by the sands and thus returns through fissures in the earth, to the sea which produces it. Others pretend that this plain is not inundated by the sea, but that it possesses saline springs, more bitter than sea water, which send forth their waters when the tempest rages. The natives set great store on these salines, and they not only use the salt in the same way that we do, but they mould it into brick-shaped forms and trade it to foreigners for articles which they do not themselves possess.

The bodies of the chiefs of the country are laid upon biers under which a slow fire is lighted which consumes the flesh, little by little, but leaves the bones and the skin intact. These dried bodies are then piously preserved, as though they were their _penates_. The Spaniards say that in one district they saw a man being thus dried for preservation and in another a woman.

When, on the eighth day of the ides of February, the Spaniards were ready to leave the country of Curiana, they found they had ninety-six pounds of pearls at eight ounces to the pound, which they had obtained at an average price of five cents.

Although their return voyage was shorter than when they came from Hispaniola, it lasted sixty-one days, because continual currents running from east to west not only retarded their speed, but sometimes completely stopped the ship. Finally they arrived, loaded with pearls like other people come loaded with straw. The commander, Pedro Alonzo Nunez, concealed an important quantity of valuable pearls, and thus cheated the royal revenues, to which a fifth of all merchandise belongs.[9] His fellows denounced him, and Fernando de Vega, a learned statesman, who was Governor of Galicia where they landed, arrested him, and he was held in prison for a long time, but was finally released; and even to this day he still claims they robbed him of his share of the pearls. Many of these stones are as large as nuts, and resemble oriental pearls, but as they are badly pierced, they are less valuable.

[Note 9: Navarrete, iii., 78. The treasure was sold in August, 1501, and the proceeds divided among the sailors.]

One day, when lunching with the illustrious Duke of Medina-Sidonia in Seville, I saw one of these pearls which had been presented to him. It weighed more than a hundred ounces, and I was charmed by its beauty and brilliancy. Some people claim that Nunez did not find these pearls at Curiana, which is more than one hundred and twenty leagues distant from Boca de la Sierpe, but in the little districts of Cumana and Manacapana near by the Boca and the island of Margarita. They declare that Curiana is not rich in pearls. This question has not been decided; so let us treat of another subject. You now perceive what, in the course of years, may be the value of this newly discovered country and western coasts, since after a superficial exploration they have yielded such evidences of wealth.



Vincent Yanez Pinzon and his nephew Arias, who accompanied the Admiral Columbus on his first voyage as captains of two of the smaller vessels which I have above described as caravels, desirous of undertaking new expeditions and making fresh discoveries, built at their own expense four caravels in their native port of Palos, as it is called by the Spaniards.[1] They sought the authorisation of the King and towards the calends of December, 1499, they left port. Now Palos is on the western coast of Spain, situated about seventy-two miles distant from Cadiz and sixty-four miles from Seville in Andalusia, and all the inhabitants without exception are seafaring people, exclusively occupied in navigation.

[Note 1: An interesting account of this expedition may be read in Washington Irving’s _Companions of Columbus_; see also Navarrete, _op. cit_., 82, 102, 113.]

Pinzon coasted along the Fortunate Isles,[2] and first laid his course for the Hesperides, otherwise called the islands of Cape Verde, or still better, the Medusian Gorgons. Sailing directly south on the ides of January, from that island of the Hesperides called by the Portuguese San Juan, they sailed before the south-west wind for about three hundred leagues, after which they lost sight of the north star. As soon as it disappeared they were caught in winds and currents and continual tempests, though in spite of these great dangers they accomplished by the aid of this wind two hundred and forty leagues. The north star was no longer to be seen. They are in contradiction with the ancient poets, philosophers, and cosmographers over the question whether that portion of the world on the equinoctial line is or is not an inaccessible desert. The Spaniards affirm that it is inhabited by numerous peoples,[3] while the ancient writers maintain that it is uninhabitable because of the perpendicular rays of the sun. I must admit, however, that even amongst ancient authorities some have been found who sought to maintain that that part of the world was habitable.[4] When I asked the sailors of the Pinzons if they had seen the polar star to the south, they said that they had seen no star resembling the polar star of our hemisphere, but they did see entirely different stars,[5] and hanging on the higher horizon a thick sort of vapour which shut off the view. They believe that the middle part of the globe rises to a ridge,[6] and that the antarctic star is perceptible after that elevation is passed. At all events they have seen constellations entirely different from those of our hemisphere. Such is their story, which I give you as they told it. _Davi sunt, non Oedipi_.[7]

[Note 2: Meaning the Canaries in which the ancients placed the Garden of the Hesperides. From them Ptolemy began to reckon longitude. The names Hesperia, Hesperides, Hesperus, etc., were used to indicate the west; thus Italy is spoken of by Macrobius: _illi nam scilicet Graeci a stella Hespero dicunt Venus et Hesperia Italia quae occasui sit_; Saturnalium, lib. i., cap. iii. Ptolemy likewise says: _Italia Hesperia ab Hespero Stella quod illius occasui subjecta sit_, and again in his _Historia tripartita_, lib. viii: _Quum Valentinianus Imperator as oras Hesperias navigaret, id est ad Italiam, et Hispaniam_. Elsewhere the same author mentions the islands off the west coast of Africa, of which he received some vague information as: _Incognitam terram qui communi vocabulo Hesperi appellantur Ethiopes_. Pliny, Strabo, in the last chapter _De Situ Orbis_, Diodorus, and others make similar usage of the terms. St. Anselm, _De Imagine Mundi_, lib. i., cap. xx., _Juxta has, scilicet Gorgonas Hesperidum ortus_; Pomponius Mela, lib. iii. cap. ix., x., xi.]

[Note 3: The sub-equatorial regions of Africa had already been visited by numerous navigators since the time of Prince Henry of Portugal, and the fact that they were inhabited was well known to the Spaniards.]

[Note 4: Plato, Cicero, Aristotle, Anaxagoras, Mela, and others were amongst those who believed in the existence of the Antipodes.]

[Note 5: Aristotle, _De Caelo et Terra_, ii., 14. The constellation of the Southern Cross was known from the writings of the Arab geographers.]

[Note 6: First noted by Columbus in a letter written from Hispaniola in October, 1498.]

[Note 7: _Davus sum non Oedipus_, Andria, Act I, Scene II. The quotation, transposed by Martyr from the singular into the plural number, is from Terrence, Davus being a comic character in the comedy of _Andria_.]

On the seventh day of the calends of February, land was finally discovered on the horizon.[8] As the sea was troubled, soundings were taken and the bottom found at sixteen fathoms. Approaching the coast they landed at a place where they remained two entire days without seeing a single inhabitant, though some traces of human beings were found on the banks. After writing their names and the name of the King, with some details of their landing, on the trees and rocks, the Spaniards departed. Guiding themselves by some fires they saw during the night, they encountered not far from their first landing-place a tribe encamped and sleeping in the open air. They decided not to disturb them until daybreak and when the sun rose forty men, carrying arms, marched towards the natives. Upon seeing them, thirty-two savages, armed with bows and javelins, advanced, followed by the rest of the troop armed in like manner. Our men relate that these natives were larger than Germans or Hungarians. With frowning eyes and menacing looks they scanned our compatriots, who thought it unwise to use their arms against them. Whether they acted thus out of fear or to prevent them running away, I am ignorant, but at any rate, they sought to attract the natives by gentle words and by offering them presents; but the natives showed themselves determined to have no relation with the Spaniards, refusing to trade and holding themselves ready to fight. They limited themselves to listening to the Spaniards’ speech and watching their gestures, after which both parties separated. The natives fled the following night at midnight, abandoning their encampment.

[Note 8: The present Cape San Augustin; it was sighted Jan. 28, 1500, and named Santa Maria de la Consolacion.]

The Spaniards describe these people as a vagabond race similar to the Scythians, who had no fixed abode but wandered with their wives and children from one country to another at the harvest seasons. They swear that the footprints left upon the sand show them to have feet twice as large as those of a medium-sized man.[9] Continuing their voyage, the Spaniards arrived at the mouth of another river, which was, however, too shallow for the caravels to enter. Four shallops of soldiers were therefore sent to land and reconnoitre. They observed on a hillock near the bank a group of natives, to whom they sent a messenger to invite them to trade. It is thought the natives wanted to capture one of the Spaniards and take him with them, for, in exchange for a hawk’s-bell which he had offered them as an attraction, they threw a golden wedge of a cubit’s length towards the messenger, and when the Spaniard stooped to take up the piece of gold, the natives surrounded him in less time than it takes to tell it, and tried to drag him off. He managed to defend himself against his assailants, using his sword and buckler until such time as his companions in the boats could come to his assistance. To conclude in a few words, since you spoke to me so urgently of your approaching departure, the natives killed eight of the Spaniards and wounded several others with their arrows and javelins. They attacked the barques with great daring from the river banks, seeking to drag the boats ashore; although they were killed like sheep by sword strokes and lance thrusts (for they were naked); they did not on that account yield. They even succeeded in carrying off one of the barques, which was empty, and whose pilot had been struck by an arrow and killed. The other barques succeeded in escaping, and thus the Spaniards left these barbarous natives.

[Note 9: One of the numerous tales of giants in America, which circulated and for a long time obtained credence.]

Much saddened by the loss of their companions, the Spaniards followed the same coast in a north-westerly direction and, after proceeding some forty leagues, they arrived at a sea whose waters are sufficiently fresh to admit of their replenishing their supply of drinking water. Seeking the cause of this phenomenon they discovered that several swift rivers which pour down from the mountains came together at that point, and flowed into the sea.[10] A number of islands dotted this sea, which are described as remarkable for their fertility and numerous population. The natives are gentle and sociable, but these qualities are of little use to them because they do not possess the gold or precious stones which the Spaniards seek. Thirty-six of them were taken prisoners. The natives call that entire region Mariatambal. The country to the east of this great river is called Canomora, and that on the west Paricora. The natives gave it to be understood by signs that in the interior of the country gold of good quality was found. Continuing their march, directly north, but always following the windings of the coast, the Spaniards again sighted the polar star. All this coast is a part of Paria, that land so rich in pearls which Columbus himself discovered, as we have related; he being the real author of these discoveries. The coast reconnoitred by the Pinzons continues past the Boca de la Sierpe, already described, and the districts of Cumana, Manacapana, Curiana, Cauchieta, and Cauchibachoa, and it is thought that it extends to the continent of India.[11] It is evident that this coast is too extended to belong to an island, and yet, if one takes it altogether, the whole universe may be called an island.[12]

[Note 10: Possibly the estuary of the Amazon.]

[Note 11: _Propterea Gangetidis Indiae continentem putans_. The Ruysch map (1516) shows the junction of the American continent with Asia.]

[Note 12: _Licet universum terrae, orbem, large sumptum, insulam dicere fas sit_.]

From the time when they left the land where they lost sight of the pole star, until they reached Paria, the Spaniards report that they proceeded towards the west for a distance of three hundred uninterrupted leagues. Midway they discovered a large river called Maragnon, so large in fact that I suspect them of exaggerating; for when I asked them on their return from their voyage if this river was not more likely a sea separating two continents, they said that the water at its mouth was fresh, and that this quality increased the farther one mounted the river. It is dotted with islands and full of fish. They above all declare that is it more than thirty leagues broad, and that its waters flow with such impetuosity that the sea recedes before its current.[13]

[Note 13: The mouth of the Maragnon or Amazon is, in fact, sixty leagues wide.]

When we recall what is told of the northern and southern mouths of the Danube, which drive back the waters of the sea to such a great distance and may be drunk by sailors, we cease to be astonished if the river described be represented as still larger. What indeed hinders nature from creating a river even larger than the Danube, or indeed a still larger one than the Maragnon? I think it is some river[14] already mentioned by Columbus when he explored the coasts of Paria. But all these problems will be elucidated later, so let us now turn our attention to the natural products of the country.

[Note 14: Referring to the Orinoco.]

In most of the islands of Paria the Spaniards found a forest of red-coloured wood, of which they brought back three thousand pounds. This is the wood which the Italians call _verzino_ and the Spaniards brazil wood. They claim that the dye-woods of Hispaniola are superior for the dyeing of wools. Profiting by the north-west wind, which the Italians call the _grecco_[15] they sailed past numerous islands, depopulated by the ravages of the cannibals, but fertile, for they discovered numerous traces of destroyed villages. Here and there they descried natives, who, prompted by fear, quickly fled to the mountain crags and the depths of the forests, as soon as they saw the ships appear. These people no longer had homes but wandered at large because they feared the cannibals. Huge trees were discovered, which produce what is commonly called cinnamon-bark and which is claimed to be just as efficacious for driving off fevers as the cinnamon which the apothecaries sell. At that season the cinnamon was not yet ripe. I prefer to rely on those who have made these reports rather than to weary myself to discuss these questions. Pinzon’s men further claim that they have found huge trees in that country which sixteen men holding hands and forming a circle could scarcely encompass with their arms.

[Note 15: The different points of the compass were designated by the winds: north being _tramontane_; north-east, _grecco_; east _levante_; south-east _scirocco_; south, _ostro_; south-west, _libeccio_; west, _ponente_; north-west, _maestrale_.]

An extraordinary animal[16] inhabits these trees, of which the muzzle is that of the fox, while the tail resembles that of a marmoset, and the ears those of a bat. Its hands are like man’s, and its feet like those of an ape. This beast carries its young wherever it goes in a sort of exterior pouch, or large bag. You have seen one of these animals, at the same time that I did. It was dead, but you have measured it, and you have wondered at that pouch or curious stomach with which nature has provided this remarkable animal for carrying its young and protecting them either against hunters or beasts. Observation has proven that this animal never takes its young out of this pouch save when they are at play or nursing, until the time comes when they are able to fend for themselves. The Spaniards captured one such with its young, but the little ones died one after another, on shipboard. The mother survived a few months, but was unable to bear the change of climate and food. Enough, however, about this animal, and let us return to the discoverers.

[Note 16: The animal here described is doubtless the opossum; the only non-Australian marsupial found in America.]

The Pinzons, uncle and nephew, have endured severe hardships during this voyage. They had explored six hundred leagues along the coast of Paria, believing themselves the while to be at the other side of Cathay on the coast of India, not far from the river Ganges, when in the month of July they were overtaken by such a sudden and violent storm that, of the four caravels composing the squadron, two were engulfed before their eyes. The third was torn from its anchorage and disappeared; the fourth held good, but was so shattered that its seams almost burst. The crew of this fourth ship, in despair of saving it, landed. They did not know what to do next, and first thought of building a village and then of killing all the neighbouring people to forestall being massacred themselves. But happily the luck changed. The tempest ceased; the caravel which had been driven off by the fury of the elements returned with eighty of the crew, while the other ship, which held to her anchorage, was saved. It was with these ships that, after being tossed by the waves and losing many of their friends, they returned to Spain, landing at their native town of Palos, where their wives and children awaited them. This was the eve of the calends of October.

Pinzon’s companions brought a quantity of woods[17] which they believed to be cinnamon and ginger; but, to excuse the poor quality of these spices, they said they were not ripe when they were gathered. Baptista Elysius, who is a remarkable philosopher and doctor of medicine, was in possession of certain small stones they had gathered on the shores of that region, and he thinks they are topazes. He told you this in my presence. Following the Pinzons and animated by the spirit of imitation, other Spaniards have made long voyages toward the south, following the track of their forerunners, such as Columbus, and coasting, in my opinion, along the shores of Paria. These latter explorers have collected cinnamon bark, and that precious substance the fumes of which banish headaches, and which the Spaniards call _Anime Album_.[18] I have learned nothing else worthy of your attention; thus I will conclude my narration since you hasten me by announcing your departure.

[Note 17: Pinzon obtained license to sell a quantity of brazil wood to pay his debts, his creditors having seized the ships and their cargoes.]

[Note 18: _Cassiam et hi fistulam pretiosumque illud ad capitis gravidinem suo suffumigio tollendam quod Hispani animen album vocant referre_.]

Nevertheless, to conclude my decade, listen still to some details concerning the ridiculous superstitions of Hispaniola. If it is not a decade in the style of Livy, it is only because its author, your Martyr, has not been blessed, as he should have been according to the theory of Pythagoras, with the spirit of Livy. You also know what mountains in travail bring forth. These things are only the fancies of the islanders; nevertheless, though fanciful, they are more interesting than the true histories of Lucian, for they really do exist in the form of beliefs, while the histories were invented as a pastime; one may smile at those who believe them.

The Spaniards lived for some time in Hispaniola without suspecting that the islanders worshipped anything else than the stars, or that they had any kind of religion; I have indeed several times reported that these islanders only adored the visible stars and the heavens. But after mingling with them for some years, and the languages becoming mutually intelligible, many of the Spaniards began to notice among them divers ceremonies and rites. Brother Roman,[19] a hermit, who went, by order of Columbus, amongst the caciques to instruct them in the principles of Christianity, has written a book in the Spanish language on the religious rites of the islanders. I undertake to review this work, leaving out some questions of small importance. I now offer it to you as follows:

It is known that the idols to whom the islanders pay public worship represent goblins which appear to them in the darkness, leading them into foolish errors; for they make images, in the forms of seated figures, out of plaited cotton, tightly stuffed inside, to represent these nocturnal goblins and which resemble those our artists paint upon walls.

[Note 19: Roman Pane was a Jeronymite friar who, as here stated, wrote by order of Columbus. His work was in twenty-six chapters covering eighteen pages, and was inserted at the end of the sixty-first chapter of the _Storia_ of Fernando Columbus. The original Spanish MS. is lost, the text being known in an Italian translation published in Venice in 1571. Brasseur de Bourbourg published a French translation in his work on Yucatan, _Relation des Choses de Yucatan de Diego Landa_. Paris, 1864.]

I have sent you four of these images, and you have been able to examine them and verify their resemblance to the goblins. You will also be able to describe them to the most serene King, your uncle, better than I could do in writing. The natives call these images _zemes_. When they are about to go into battle, they tie small images representing little demons upon their foreheads, for which reason these figures, as you will have seen, are tied round with strings. They believe that the _zemes_ send rain or sunshine in response to their prayers, according to their needs. They believe the _zemes_ to be intermediaries between them and God, whom they represent as one, eternal, omnipotent, and invisible. Each cacique has his _zemes_, which he honours with particular care. Their ancestors gave to the supreme and eternal Being two names, Iocauna and Guamaonocon. But this supreme Being was himself brought forth by a mother, who has five names, Attabeira, Mamona, Guacarapita, Iella, and Guimazoa.

Listen now to their singular beliefs relating to the origin of man. There exists in Hispaniola a district called Caunauna, where the human race took its origin in a cavern on a certain mountain. The greater number of men came forth from the larger apertures, and the lesser number from the smaller apertures of this cavern. Such are their superstitions. The rock on whose side the opening of this cavern is found is called Cauta, and the largest of the caverns is called Cazabixaba, the smaller Amaiauna. Before mankind was permitted to come forth, they ingeniously affirm that each night the mouths of the caves were confided to the custody of a man called Machochael. This Machochael, having deserted the two caves from a motive of curiosity, was surprised by the sun, whose rays he could not endure, and so was changed into stone. They relate amongst their absurdities that when men came out of their caverns in the night because they sought to sin and could not get back before the rising of the sun, which they were forbidden to see, they were tranformed into myrobolane trees,[20] of which Hispaniola plentiously produces great numbers.

[Note 20: This name is comprehensive of several kinds of trees whose fruits are used in compounding astringent and slightly purgative medicines.]

They also say that a chief called Vagoniona sent from the cavern where he kept his family shut up, a servant to go fishing. This servant, being surprised by the sun, was likewise turned in like manner into a nightingale. On every anniversary of his transformation he fills the night air with songs, bewailing his misfortunes and imploring his master Vagoniona to come to his help. Such is the explanation they give for the nightingale’s song. As for Vagoniona, he dearly loved this servant, and therefore deeply lamented him; he shut up all the men in the cavern and only brought out with him the women and nursing children, whom he led to an island called Mathinino, off the coasts; there he abandoned the women and brought back the children with him. These unfortunate infants were starving, and upon reaching the river bank they cried “_Toa, Toa_” (that is like children crying, Mamma, Mamma), and immediately they were turned into frogs. It is for this reason that in the springtime the frogs make these sounds, and it is also the reason why men alone are frequently found in the caverns of Hispaniola, and not women. The natives say that Vagoniona still wanders about the island, and that by a special boon he always remains as he was. He is supposed to go to meet a beautiful woman, perceived in the depths of the sea, from whom are obtained the white shells called by the natives _cibas_, and other shells of a yellowish colour called _guianos_, of both of which they make necklaces. The caciques in our own time regard these trinkets as sacred.[21]

[Note 21: The following passage does not lend itself to admissible translation. _Viros autem illos, quos sine feminis in antris relictos diximus, lotum se ad pluviarum acquarum receptacula noctu referunt exiisse; atque una noctium, animalia quaedam feminas aemulantia, veluti formicarum agmina, reptare par arbores myrobolanos a longe vidisse. Ad feminea ilia animalia procurrunt, capiunt: veluti anguillae de manibus eorum labuntur. Consilium ineunt. Ex senioris consilio, scabiosos leprososque, si qui sint inter eos, conquirunt, qui manos asperas callossasque habeant ut apraehensa facilius queant ritenere. Hos homines ipsi caracaracoles appellant. Venatum proficiscuntur: ex multis quas capiebant quatuor tantum retinent; pro feminis illis uti adnituntur, carere feminea natura comperiunt. Iterum accitis senioribus, quid facieudum consulunt. Ut picus avis admittatur, qui acuto rostra intra ipsorum inguina foramen effodiat, constituerunt: ipsismet caracaracolibus hominibus callosis, feminas apertis cruribus tenentibus. Quam pulchre picus adducitur! Picus feminis sexum aperit. Hinc bellissime habuit insula, quas cupiebat feminas; hinc procreata soboles_. “I cease to marvel,” continues the author, “since it is written in many volumes of veracious Greek history that the Myrmidons were generated by ants. Such are some of the many legends which pretended sages expound with calm and unmoved visage from pulpits and tribunals to a stupid gaping crowd.”]

Here is a more serious tradition concerning the origin of the sea.[22] There formerly lived in the island a powerful chief named Jaia who buried his only son in a gourd. Several months later, distracted by the loss of his son, Jaia visited the gourd. He pried it open and out of it he beheld great whales and marine monsters of gigantic size come forth. Thus he reported to some of his neighbours that the sea was contained in that gourd. Upon hearing this story, four brothers born at a birth and who had lost their mother when they were born sought to obtain possession of the gourd for the sake of the fish. But Jaia, who often visited the mortal remains of his son, arrived when the brothers held the gourd in their hands. Frightened at being thus taken in the act both of sacrilege and robbery, they dropped the gourd, which broke, and took flight. From the broken gourd the sea rushed forth; the valley was filled, the immense plain which formed the universe was flooded, and only the mountains raised their heads above the water, forming the islands, several of which still exist to-day. This, Most Illustrious Prince, is the origin of the sea, nor need you imagine that the islander who has handed down this tradition does not enjoy the greatest consideration. It is further related that the four brothers, in terror of Jaia, fled in different directions and almost died of hunger because they dared stop nowhere. Nevertheless, pressed by famine, they knocked at the door of a baker and asked him for _cazabi_, that is to say, for bread. The baker spit with such force upon the first who entered, that an enormous tumour was formed, of which he almost died. After deliberating amongst themselves, they opened the tumour, with a sharp stone, and from it came forth a woman who became the wife of each of the four brothers, one after another, and bore them sons and daughters.

[Note 22: Diego Landa, in his _Cosas de Yucatan_, and Cogolludo (_Hist. de Yucatan_), treat this subject. Peter Martyr likewise elaborates it in his letters to Pomponius Laetus and the Cardinal de Santa Croce. _Opus Epistolarum_, ep. 177 and 180.]

Another story, most illustrious Prince, is still more quaint. There is a cavern called Jouanaboina, situated in the territory of a cacique called Machinnech, which is venerated with as great respect by the majority of the islanders as were formerly the caves of Corinth, of Cyrrha, and Nissa amongst the Greeks.[23] The walls of this cavern are decorated with different paintings; two sculptured zemes, called Binthiatelles and Marohos, stand at the entrance.

[Note 23: The caverns of Hayti have been visited and described by Decourtilz, _Voyage d’un Naturaliste_. Some of them contain carvings representing serpents, frogs, deformed human figures in distorted postures, etc.]

When asked why this cavern is reverenced, the natives gravely reply that it is because the sun and moon issued forth from it to illuminate the universe. They go on pilgrimages to that cavern just as we go to Rome, or to the Vatican, Compostela, or the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.

Another kind of superstition is as follows. They believe the dead walk by night and feed upon _guarina_, a fruit resembling the quince, but unknown in Europe. These ghosts love to mix with the living and deceive women. They take on the form of a man, and seem to wish to enjoy a woman’s favour, but when about to accomplish their purpose they vanish into thin air. If any one thinks, upon feeling something strange upon his bed, that there is a spectre lying beside him, he only needs to assure himself by touching his belly, for, according to their idea, the dead may borrow every human member except the navel. If therefore the navel is absent, they know that it is a ghost, and it is sufficient to touch it to make it immediately disappear. These ghosts frequently appear by night to the living, and very often on the public highways; but if the traveller is not frightened, the spectre vanishes. If, on the contrary, he allows himself to be frightened, the terror inspired by the apparition is such that many of the islanders completely lose their heads and self-possession. When the Spaniards asked who ever had infected them with this mass of ridiculous beliefs, the natives replied that they received them from their ancestors, and that they have been preserved from time immemorial in poems which only the sons of chiefs are allowed to learn. These poems are learnt by heart, for they have no writing; and on feast days the sons of chiefs sing them to the people, in the form of sacred chants.[24] Their only musical instrument is a concave sonorous piece of wood which is beaten like a drum.

[Note 24: Commonly called in the native tongue _arreytos_. Some specimens exist. Brasseur de Bourbourg in his _Grammaire Quiche_ gives the _Rabinal Achi_.]

It is the augurs, called bovites, who encourage these superstitions. These men, who are persistent liars, act as doctors for the ignorant people, which gives them a great prestige, for it is believed that the zemes converse with them and reveal the future to them.

If a sick man recovers the bovites persuade him that he owes his restoration to the intervention of the zemes. When they undertake to cure a chief, the bovites begin by fasting and taking a purge. There is an intoxicating herb which they pound up and drink, after which they are seized with fury like the maenads, and declare that the zemes confide secrets to them. They visit the sick man, carrying in their mouth a bone, a little stone, a stick, or a piece of meat. After expelling every one save two or three persons designated by the sick person, the bovite begins by making wild gestures and passing his hands over the face, lips, and nose, and breathing on the forehead, temples, and neck, and drawing in the sick man’s breath. Thus he pretends to seek the fever in the veins of the sufferer. Afterwards he rubs the shoulders, the hips, and the legs, and opens the hands; if the hands are clenched he pulls them wide open, exposing the palm, shaking them vigorously, after which he affirms that he has driven off the sickness and that the patient is out of danger. Finally he removes the piece of meat he was carrying in his mouth like a juggler, and begins to cry, “This is what you have eaten in excess of your wants; now you will get well because I have relieved you of that which you ate.” If the doctor perceives that the patient gets worse, he ascribes this to the zemes, who, he declares, are angry because they have not had a house constructed for them, or have not been treated with proper respect, or have not received their share of the products of the field. Should the sick man die, his relatives indulge in magical incantations to make him declare whether he is the victim of fate or of the carelessness of the doctor, who failed to fast properly or gave the wrong remedy. If the man died through the fault of the doctor, the relatives take vengeance on the latter. Whenever the women succeed in obtaining the piece of meat which the bovites hold in their mouths, they wrap it with great respect in cloths and carefully preserve it, esteeming it to be a talisman of great efficacy in time of childbirth, and honouring it as though it were a zemes.

The islanders pay homage to numerous zemes, each person having his own. Some are made of wood, because it is amongst the trees and in the darkness of night they have received the message of the gods. Others, who have heard the voice amongst the rocks, make their zemes of stone; while others, who heard the revelation while they were cultivating their ages–that kind of cereal I have already mentioned,–make theirs of roots.

Perhaps they think that these last watch over their bread-making. It was thus that the ancients believed that the dryads, hamadryads, satyrs, pans, nereids, watched over the fountains, forests, and seas, attributing to each force in nature a presiding divinity. The islanders of Hispaniola even believe that the zemes respond to their wishes when they invoke them. When the caciques wish to consult the zemes, concerning the result of a war, about the harvest, or their health, they enter the houses sacred to them and there absorb the intoxicating herb called _kohobba_, which is the same as that used by the bovites to excite their frenzy. Almost immediately they believe they see the room turn upside down, and men walking with their heads downwards. This kohobba powder is so strong that those who take it lose consciousness; when the stupefying action of the powder begins to wane, the arms and hands become loose and the head droops. After remaining for some time in this attitude, the cacique raises his head, as though he were awakening from sleep, and, lifting his eyes to the heavens, begins to stammer some incoherent words. His chief attendants gather round him (for none of the common people are admitted to these mysteries), raising their voices in thanksgiving that he has so quickly left the zemes and returned to them. They ask him what he has seen, and the cacique declares that he was in conversation with the zemes during the whole time, and as though he were still in a prophetic delirium, he prophesies victory or defeat, if a war is to be undertaken, or whether the crops will be abundant, or the coming of disaster, or the enjoyment of health, in a word, whatever first occurs to him.

Can you feel surprised after this, Most Illustrious Prince, at the spirit of Apollo which inspired the fury of the Sibyls? You thought that that ancient superstition had perished, but you see that such is not the case. I have treated here in a general sense all that concerns the zemes, but I think I should not omit certain particulars. The cacique Guamaretus had a zemes called Corochotus, which he had fixed in the highest part of his house. It is said that Corochotus frequently came down, after having broken his bonds. This happened whenever he wished to make love or eat or hide himself; and sometimes he disappeared for several days, thus showing his anger at having been neglected and not sufficiently honoured by the cacique Guamaretus. One day two children, wearing crowns, were born in the house of Guamaretus; it was thought that they were the sons of the zemes Corochotus. Guamaretus was defeated by his enemies in a pitched battle; his palace and town were burnt and destroyed; and Corochotus burst his bonds and sprang out of the house, and was found a stadium distant.

Another zemes, Epileguanita, was represented in the form of a quadruped, carved out of wood. He often left the place where he was venerated and fled into the forests. And each time that his worshippers heard of his flight, they assembled and sought him everywhere with devout prayers. When found, they brought him reverently on their shoulders back to the sanctuary sacred to him. When the Christians landed in Hispaniola, Epileguanita fled and appeared no more, which was considered a sinister forecast of the misfortunes of the country. These traditions are handed down by the old men.

The islanders venerate another zemes, made of marble, which is of the feminine sex, and is accompanied by two male zemes who serve as attendants; one acting as herald to summon other zemes to the woman’s assistance when she wishes to raise storms or draw down clouds and rains; the other is supposed to collect the water which flows down from the high mountains into the valleys, and upon the command of the female zemes to let it loose in the form of torrents which devastate the country whenever the islanders have failed to pay her idol the honours due to it. One more thing worthy of remembrance and I shall have finished my book. The natives of Hispaniola were much impressed by the arrival of the Spaniards. Formerly two caciques, of whom one was the father of Guarionex, fasted for fifteen days in order to consult the zemes about the future. This fast having disposed the zemes in their favour, they answered that within a few years a race of men wearing clothes would land in the island and would overthrow their religious rites and ceremonies, massacre their children, and make them slaves. This prophecy had been taken by the younger generation to apply to the cannibals; and thus whenever it became known that the cannibals had landed anywhere, the people took flight without even attempting any resistance. But when the Spaniards landed, the islanders then referred the prophecy to them, as being the people whose coming was announced. And in this they were not wrong, for they are all under the dominion of the Christians, and those who resisted have been killed; all the zemes having been removed to Spain, to teach us the foolishness of those images and the deceits of devils, nothing remaining of them but a memory. I have brought some things to your knowledge, Most Illustrious Prince, and you will learn many others later, since you will probably leave to-morrow to accompany your great-aunt to Naples, in obedience to the orders of your uncle, King Frederick. You are ready to leave and I am weary. Therefore, fare you well, and keep the remembrance of your Martyr, whom you have constrained in the name of your uncle, Frederick, to choose these few from amongst many great things.




I have been prompted by the letters of my friends and of high personages to compose a complete chronicle of all that has happened since the first discoveries and the conquest of the ocean by Columbus, and of all that shall occur. My correspondents were lost in admiration at the thought of these discoveries of islands, inhabited by unknown peoples, living without clothes and satisfied with what nature gave them, and they were consumed by desire to be kept regularly informed. Ascanio, whose authority never allowed my pen to rest, was degraded from the high position he occupied when his brother Ludovico[1] was driven by the French from Milan. I had dedicated the first two books of this decade to him, without mentioning many other treatises I had selected from my unedited memoirs. Simultaneously with his overthrow I ceased to write, for, buffeted by the storm, he ceased to exhort me, while my fervour in making enquiries languished; but in the year 1500, when the Court was in residence at Granada, Ludovico, Cardinal of Aragon, and nephew of King Frederick, who had accompanied the Queen of Naples, sister of King Frederick, to Grenada, sent me letters addressed to me by the King himself, urging me to select the necessary documents and to continue the first two books addressed to Ascanio. The King and the Cardinal already possessed the writings I had formerly addressed to Ascanio. You are aware that I was ill at the time, yet, unwilling to refuse, I resolved to continue. Amongst the great mass of material furnished me at my request by the discoverers, I selected such deeds as were most worthy to be recorded. Since you now desire to include my complete works amongst the numerous volumes in your library, I have determined to add to those of my former writings by taking up the narrative of the principal events between the years 1500 and 1510, and, God giving me life, I shall one day treat them more fully.

[Note 1: His downfall was greeted with rejoicing throughout Italy. In Venice the joy-bells rang and the children danced and sang a _canzone_ in Piazza San Marco

_Ora il Moro fa la danza
Viva San Marco e il re di Franzia_.

Milan fell a prey to Louis XII., and all northern Italy passed under the French yoke. The Pope rewarded the bearer of the news with a present of one hundred ducats, and at once seized Cardinal Ascanio’s palace with its art treasures. The Cardinal was captured near Rivolta by the Venetians, who delivered him to the French. He was kept in the citadel of Bourges until 1502, when he was released at the request of the Cardinal d’Amboise to take his place in the conclave which elected Pius III. He died in 1505; and his former enemy, Guiliano della Rovere, reigning as Pope Julius II., erected the magnificent monument to his memory which still stands in Santa Maria del Popolo.]

To complete the decade, I had written a book which remained unfinished, treating of the superstitions of the islanders; this new book, which will be called the tenth and last, I wish to dedicate to you, without rewriting my work or sending you my draft. Therefore, if on reading the ninth book you come across promises which are not realised, do not be astonished; it is not necessary to be always consistent.[2]

[Note 2: _Non semper oportet stare pollicitis_.]

Let us now come to our subject. During these ten years many explorers,[3] have visited various coasts, following for the most part in the track of Columbus. They have always coasted along the shore of Paria, believing it to be part of the Indian continent. Some heading to the west, others to the east, they have discovered new countries rich in gold and spices, for most of them have brought back necklaces and perfumes obtained in exchange for our merchandise, or by violence and conquest. Despite their nakedness, it must be admitted that in some places the natives have exterminated entire groups of Spaniards, for they are ferocious and are armed with poisoned arrows and sharp lances with points hardened in the fire. Even the animals, reptiles, insects, and quadrupeds are different from ours, and exhibit innumerable and strange species. With the exception of lions, tigers, and crocodiles, they are not dangerous. I am now speaking of the forests of the district of Paria and not of the islands, where, I am told, there is not a single dangerous animal, everything in the islands speaking of great mildness, with the exception of the Caribs or cannibals, of whom I have already spoken and who have an appetite for human flesh. There are likewise different species of birds, and in many places bats[4] as large as pigeons flew about the Spaniards as soon as twilight fell, biting them so cruelly that the men, rendered desperate, were obliged to give way before them as though they had been harpies. One night, while sleeping on the sand, a monster issued from the sea and seized a Spaniard by the back and, notwithstanding the presence of his companions, carried him off, jumping into the sea with his victim despite the unfortunate man’s shrieks.

[Note 3: Labastidas, Pinzon, Hojeda, Vespucci, Las Casas, and others.]

[Note 4: Vampire bats, which haunt the Venezuelan coast in large numbers.]

It is the royal plan to establish fortified places and to take possession of this continent, nor are there wanting Spaniards who would not shrink from the difficulty of conquering and subjugating the territory. For this purpose they petitioned the King for his authorisation.

The journey, however, is long and the country very extensive. It is claimed that the newly discovered country, whether continent or island, is three times larger than Europe, without counting the regions to the south which were discovered by the Portuguese and which are still larger. Certainly the Spain of to-day deserves the highest praise for having revealed to the present generation these myriad regions of the Antipodes, heretofore unknown, and for having thus enlarged for writers the field of study. I am proud to have shown them the way by collecting these facts which, as you will see, are without pretension; not only because I am unable to adorn my subject more ornately, but also because I have never thought to write as a professional historian. I tell a simple story by means of letters, written freely to give pleasure to certain persons whose invitations it would have been difficult for me to refuse. Enough, however, of digressions, and let us return to Hispaniola.

The bread made by the natives is found, by those who are accustomed to our wheat bread, to be insufficiently nourishing and therefore they lose their strength. The King consequently issued a recent decree, ordering that wheat should be sown in different places and at different seasons. The harvest produced nothing but straw, similar to twigs, and with little grain; although what there is, is large and well formed. This also applies to the pastures where the grass grows as high as the crops; thus the cattle become extraordinarily fat, but their flesh loses its flavour; their muscles become flabby, and they are, so to say, watery. With pigs it is just the contrary; for they are healthy and of an agreeable flavour. This is due doubtless to certain of the island’s fruits they greedily devour. Pork is about the only kind of meat bought in the markets. The pigs have rapidly increased, but they have become wild since they are no longer kept by swineherds. There is no need to acclimatise any other species of animal or birds in Hispaniola.

Moreover, the young of all animals flourish on the abundant pasturage and become larger than their sires. They only eat grass, not barley or other grain. Enough however of Hispaniola; let us now consider the neighbouring islands.

Owing to its length, Cuba was for a long time considered to be a continent, but it has been discovered to be an island. It is not astonishing that the islanders assured the Spaniards who explored it that the land had no end, for the Cubans are poor-spirited people, satisfied with little and never leaving their territory. They took no notice of what went on amongst their neighbours, and whether there were any other regions under their skies than the one they inhabited, they did not know. Cuba extends from east to west and is much longer than Hispaniola, but from the north to the south it is, in proportion to its length, very narrow, and is almost everywhere fertile and agreeable.

There is a small island lying not far off the east coast of Hispaniola, which the Spaniards have placed under the invocation of San Juan.[5] This island is almost square and very rich gold mines have been found there, but as everybody is busy working the mines of Hispaniola, miners have not yet been sent to San Juan, although it is planned so to do. It is gold alone of all the products of Hispaniola to which the Spaniards give all their attention, and this is how they proceed. Each industrious Spaniard, who enjoys some credit, has assigned to him one or more caciques (that is to say chiefs) and his subjects, who, at certain seasons in the year established by agreement, is obliged to come with his people to the mine belonging to that Spaniard, where the necessary tools for extracting the gold are distributed to them. The cacique and his men receive a salary, and when they return to the labour of their fields, which cannot be neglected for fear of famine, one brings away a jacket, one a shirt, one a cloak, and another a hat. Such articles of apparel please them very much, and they now no longer go naked. Their labour is thus divided between the mines and their own fields as though they were slaves. Although they submit to this restraint with impatience, they do put up with it. Mercenaries of this kind are called _anaborios_. The King does not allow them to be treated as slaves, and they are granted and withdrawn as he pleases.[6]

[Note 5: Porto Rico.]

[Note 6: The system of repartimientos. Consult the writings of Las Casas on this subject.]

When they are summoned, as soldiers or camp-followers are drafted by recruiting agents, the islanders fly to the woods and mountains if they can, and rather than submit to this labour they live on whatever wild fruit they find. They are a docile people, and have completely forgotten their old rites, complying without reasoning, and repeating the mysteries they are taught. The Spanish gentlemen of position educate sons of caciques in their own houses, and these lads easily learn the elements of instruction and good manners. When they grow up and especially if their fathers are dead, they are sent back to Hispaniola, where they rule their compatriots. As they are devout Christians, they keep both Spaniards and natives up to their duties, and cheerfully bring their subjects to the mines. There are gold mines found in two different districts, of which the first, called San Cristobal, is about thirty miles from the town of Dominica. The other, called Cibaua, is about ninety miles distant. Porto Real is situated there.

Great revenues are drawn from these countries, for gold is found both on the surface and in the rocks, either in the form of ingots or of scales which are sometimes small but generally of considerable weight. Ingots weigh 300 pounds, and sometimes even more, for one has been found which weighed 310 pounds.[7] You have heard it said that this one was brought, just as it was found, to the King of Spain, on board the ship on which the governor Bobadilla embarked for Spain. The ship, being overloaded with men and gold, was wrecked and sunk with all it contained. More than a thousand witnesses saw and touched this ingot. When I speak of pounds I do not mean precisely a pound, but a weight equal to a golden ducat of four ounces, which is what the Spaniards call a _peso_ or castellano of gold. All the gold found in the mountains of Cibaua is transported to the blockhouse of La Concepcion, where there are founderies for receiving and melting the metal. The royal fifth is first separated, after which each one receives a share according to his labour. The gold from the mines of San Cristobal goes to the founderies of Bona Ventura; the amount of gold melted in these founderies exceeds 300 pounds of metal. Any Spaniard who is convicted of having fraudulently kept back a quantity of gold not declared to the royal inspectors, suffers confiscation of all the gold in his possession. Contentions frequently occur among them, and if the magistrates of the island are unable to settle them, the cases are appealed to the Royal Council, the decisions of that tribunal being without appeal in the King’s dominions of Castile.

[Note 7: Las Casas describes the finding of this nugget by an Indian girl, who accidentally turned it up while idly prodding the ground with a sharp instrument. He gives its weight as 3600 castellanos, equivalent to thirty-five pounds. The vessel which was