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were omitted, the cacique would feel himself grievously outraged; and his colleagues share this view.

Let us now examine their peculiar practices when drawing up their last wills. The caciques choose as heir to their properties, the eldest son of their sister, if such a one exists; and if the eldest sister has no son, the child of the second or third sister is chosen. The reason is, that this child is bound to be of their blood. They do not consider the children of their wives as legitimate. When there are no children of their sisters, they choose amongst those of their brothers, and failing these, they fall back upon their own. If they themselves have no children, they will their estates to whomsoever in the island is considered most powerful, that their subjects may be protected by him against their hereditary enemies. They have as many wives as they choose, and after the cacique dies the most beloved of his wives is buried with him. Anacaona, sister of Beuchios Anacauchoa, King of Xaragua, who was reputed to be talented in the composition of areytos, that is to say poems, caused to be buried alive with her brother the most beautiful of his wives or concubines, Guanahattabenecheua; and she would have buried others but for the intercession of a certain sandal-shod Franciscan friar, who happened to be present. Throughout the whole island there was not to be found another woman so beautiful as Guanahattabenecheua. They buried with her her favourite necklaces and ornaments, and in each tomb a bottle of water and a morsel of cazabi bread were deposited.

There is very little rain either in Xaragua, the kingdom of Beuchios Anacauchoa, or in the Hazua district of the country called Caihibi; also in the valley of the salt- and fresh-water lakes and in Yacciu, a district or canton of the province of Bainoa. In all these countries are ancient ditches, by means of which the islanders irrigate their fields as intelligently as did the inhabitants of New Carthage, called Spartana, or those of the kingdom of Murcia, where it rarely rains. The Maguana divides the provinces of Bainoa from that of Caihibi, while the Savana divides it from Guaccaiarima. In the deeper valleys there is a heavier rainfall than the natives require, and the neighbourhood of Santo Domingo is likewise better watered than is necessary, but everywhere else the rainfall is moderate. The same variations of temperature prevail in Hispaniola as in other countries.

I have enumerated in my First Decade the colonies established in Hispaniola by the Spaniards, and since that time they have founded the small towns of Porto de la Plata, Porto Real, Lares, Villanova, Assua, and Salvatiera. Let us now describe these of the innumerable neighbouring islands which are known and which we have already compared to the Nereids, daughters of Tethys, and their mother’s ornament. I shall begin with the nearest one, which is remarkable because of another fountain of Arethusa, but which serves no purpose. Six miles distant from the coast of the mother island lies an isle which the Spaniards, ignoring its former name, call Dos Arboles [Two Trees], because only two trees grow there. It is near them that a spring, whose waters flow by secret channels under the sea from Hispaniola, gushes forth, just as Alpheus left Eridus to reappear in Sicily at the fountain of Arethusa. This fact is established by the finding of leaves of the _hobis_, mirobolane, and many other trees growing in Hispaniola, which are carried thither by the stream of this fountain, for no such trees are found on the smaller island. This fountain takes its rise in the Yiamiroa River, which flows from the Guaccaiarima district near the Savana country. The isle is not more than one mile in circumference, and is used as a fish market.

Towards the east, our Tethys is protected in a manner by the island of San Juan,[2] which I have elsewhere described. San Juan has rich gold deposits, and its soil is almost as fertile as that of its mother, Hispaniola. Colonists have already been taken there, and are engaged in gold-seeking. On the north-west Tethys is shielded by the great island of Cuba, which for a long time was regarded as a continent because of its length. It is much longer than Hispaniola, and is divided in the middle from east to west by the Tropic of Cancer. Hispaniola and the other islands lying to the south of Cuba occupy almost the whole intervening space between the Tropic of Cancer and the equator. This is the zone which many of the ancients believed to be depopulated because of the fierce heat of the sun: in which opinion they were mistaken. It is claimed that mines, richer than those of Hispaniola, have been found in Cuba and at the present writing it is asserted that gold to the value of one hundred and eighty thousand castellanos has been obtained there and converted into ingots; certainly a positive proof of opulence.

[Note 2: Porto Rico.]

Jamaica lies still farther to the south and is a prosperous, fertile island, of exceptional fecundity, in which, however, there does not exist a single mountain. It is adapted to every kind of cultivation. Its inhabitants are formidable because of their warlike temperament. It is impossible to establish authority within the brief period since its occupation. Columbus, the first discoverer, formerly compared Jamaica to Sicily in point of size, but as a matter of fact it is somewhat smaller, though not much. This is the opinion of those who have carefully explored it. All these people agree as to its inviting character. It is believed that neither gold nor precious stones will be found there; but in the beginning the same opinion was held of Cuba.

The island of Guadaloupe, formerly called by the natives Caraqueira, lies south of Hispaniola, four degrees nearer to the equator. It is thirty-five miles in circumference and its coast line is broken by two gulfs, which almost divide it into two different islands, as is the case with Great Britain and Caledonia, now called Scotland. It has numerous ports. A kind of gum called by the apothecaries _animen album_, whose fumes cure headaches, is gathered there. The fruit of this tree is one palm long and looks like a carrot. When opened it is found to contain a sweetish flour, and the islanders preserve these fruits just as our peasants lay by a store of chestnuts and other similar things for the winter. The tree itself might be a fig-tree. The edible pineapple and other foods which I have carefully studied above also grow in Guadaloupe, and it is even supposed that it was the inhabitants of this island who originally carried the seeds of all these delicious fruits to the other islands.

In conducting their man-hunts, the Caribs have scoured all the neighbouring countries; and whatever they found that was likely to be useful to them, they brought back for cultivation. These islanders are inhospitable and suspicious, and their conquest can only be accomplished by using force. Both sexes use poisoned arrows and are very good shots; so that, whenever the men leave the island on an expedition, the women defend themselves with masculine courage against any assailants. It is no doubt this fact that has given rise to the exploded belief that there are islands in this ocean peopled entirely by women. The Admiral Columbus induced me to believe this tale and I repeated it in my First Decade.

In the island of Guadaloupe there are mountains and fertile plains; it is watered by beautiful streams. Honey is found in the trees and crevices of the rocks, and, as is the case at Palma, one of the Fortunate Isles, honey is gathered amongst briar and bramble bushes.

The island recently named La Deseada lies eighteen miles distant from the former island, and is twenty miles in circumference.

There is another charming island lying ten miles to the south of Guadaloupe, which is called Galante; its surface is level and it is thirty miles in circumference. Its name was suggested by its beauty, for, in the Spanish, dandies are called _galanes_.[3]

[Note 3: The island was, in reality, named after one of the ships of Columbus.]

Nine miles to the east of Guadaloupe lie six other islands called Todos Santos and Barbadas. These are only barren reefs, but mariners are obliged to know them. Thirty-five miles north of Guadaloupe looms the island called Montserrat, which is forty miles in circumference, and is dominated by a very lofty mountain. An island called Antigua, thirty miles distant from Guadaloupe, has a circumference of about forty miles.

The Admiral Diego Columbus, son of the discoverer, told me that when obliged to go to court he left his wife in Hispaniola, and that she had written him that an island with rich gold deposits had been discovered in the midst of the archipelago of the Caribs, but that it had not yet been visited. Off the left coast of Hispaniola there lies to the south and near to the port of Beata an island called Alta Vela. Most astonishing things are told concerning sea monsters found there, especially about the turtles, which are, so it is said, larger than a large breast shield. When the breeding time arrives they come out of the sea, and dig a deep hole in the sand, in which they deposit three or four hundred eggs. When all their eggs are laid, they cover up the hole with a quantity of earth sufficient to hide them, and go back to their feeding grounds in the sea, without paying further heed to their progeny. When the day, fixed by nature, for the birth of these animals arrives, a swarm of turtles comes into the world, without the assistance of their progenitors, and only aided by the sun’s rays. It looks like an ant-hill. The eggs are almost as large as those of a goose, and the flavour of turtle meat is compared to veal.

There is a large number of other islands, but they are as yet unknown, and moreover it is not required to sift al1 this meal so carefully through the sieve. It is sufficient to know that we have in our control immense countries where, in the course of centuries, our compatriots, our language, our morals, and our religion will flourish. It was not from one day to another that the Teucrians peopled Asia, the Tyrians Libya, or the Greeks and Phoenicians Spain.

I do not mention the islands which protect the north of Hispaniola; they have extensive fisheries and might be cultivated, but the Spaniards avoid them because they are poor. And now adieu, ancient Tethys:

Jam valeant annosa Tethys, nymphaeque madentes, Ipsius comites; veniat coronata superbe Australis pelagi cultrix, re ac nomine dives.[4]

[Note 4: The following English translation for these lines has been suggested:

Farewell, old Tethys, ocean goddess old; Farewell thy company, the Nereid band;
And come thou, rich in name and pearls and gold Crowned royally, Queen of the Southern strand.]

In the volume of letters I sent Your Holiness last year, by one of my servants, and which Your Holiness has read in its entirety before the Cardinals of the Apostolic See and your beloved sister, I related that on the same day the Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the leader of the men who had crossed the lofty mountain chain, had been told that an island remarkable for the size of its pearls lay within sight of the coast and that its king was rich and powerful and often made war against the caciques whose states lay on the coast, especially Chiapes and Tumaco. We have written that the Spaniards did not attack the island because of the great storms which render that South Sea dangerous, during three months of the year. This island has now been conquered and we have tamed its proud cacique. May Your Holiness deign to accept him and all his rich principalities, since he has now received the waters of baptism. It will not be out of place to remember under whose orders and by whom this conquest was effected. May Your Holiness attend with serene brow and benignant ear to the account of this enterprise.


As soon as he landed, the governor, Pedro Arias, confided to a certain Gaspar Morales an expedition to Isla Rica.[1] Morales first passed by the country of Chiapes, called Chiapeios, and of Tumaco, those two caciques along the South Sea who were friends of Vasco. He and his men were received magnificently as friends, and a fleet was equipped for attacking the island. This island is called Rica and not Margarita, although many pearls are found there; for the name Margarita was first bestowed upon another island near Paria and the region called Boca de la Sierpe, where many pearls had likewise been found. Morales landed upon the island with only sixty men, the dimensions of his boats, called culches, not permitting him to take a larger number. The proud and formidable king of the island, whose name I have not learned, advanced to meet them, escorted by a large number of warriors, and proffering menaces. Guazzaciara is their war-cry; when they utter this cry, they let fly their javelins; they do not use bows. Guazzaciara means a battle; so they engaged in four guazzaciaras, in which the Spaniards, aided by their allies of Chiapes and Tumaco, who were that chieftain’s enemies, were victorious. Their attack was in the nature of a surprise. The cacique wished to assemble a larger army, but was dissuaded by his neighbours along the coast from continuing the struggle. Some by their example, and others by threatening him with the ruin of a flourishing country, demonstrated that the friendship of the Spaniards would bring glory and profit to himself and his friends. They reminded him of the misfortunes which had the preceding year befallen Poncha, Pochorroso, Quarequa, Chiapes, Tumaco, and others who attempted to resist. The cacique gave up fighting and came to meet the Spaniards, whom he conducted to his palace, which was a veritable royal residence marvellously decorated. Upon their arrival at his house he presented them with a very well-wrought basket filled with pearls of ten pounds weight, at eight ounces to the pound.

[Note 1: The description at this point is inaccurate and misleading. The pearl islands number in all one hundred and eighty-three, forming an archipelago. There are thirty-nine islands of considerable size, of which the principal ones are San Jose, San Miguel, and Isla del Rey; the others are small, some being no more than reefs, or isolated rocks rising above the surface of the sea.]

The cacique was overjoyed when they presented him with their usual trifles, such as glass beads, mirrors, copper bells, and perhaps some iron hatchets, for the natives prize these things more than heaps of gold. In fact, they even make fun of the Spaniards for exchanging such important and useful articles for such a little gold. Hatchets can be put to a thousand uses among them, while gold is merely a not indispensable luxury. Pleased and enchanted by his bargains, the cacique, took the captain and his officers by the hand and led them to the top of one of the towers of his house from whence the view embraced an immense horizon towards the sea. Looking about him, he said: “Behold the infinite ocean which has no end towards the rising sun.” He pointed to the east, and afterwards turning to the south and the west he gave them to understand that the continent, on which the vast mountain ranges were perceptible in the distance, was very large. Glancing about nearer to them, he said: “These islands lying to the left and right along the two coasts of our residence belong to us. They are all rich; they are all happy, if you call lands happy which abound in gold and pearls. In this particular place there is not much gold, but the shores of all these islands are strewn with pearls, and I will give you as many as you want if you will be my friends. I prefer your manufactures to my pearls, and I wish to possess them. Therefore do not imagine that I desire to break off relations with you.”

Such were the words, amongst many others similar, they exchanged. When the Spaniards planned to leave, the cacique promised to send each year as a present to the great king of Castile a hundred pounds of pearls, at eight ounces to the pound. He made this promise voluntarily, attaching little importance to it, and in no way considering himself their tributary.

There are so many rabbits and deer in that island that, without leaving their houses, the Spaniards could kill as many as they chose with their arrows. Their life there was luxurious, and nothing was wanting. The royal residence lies only six degrees from the equator. Yucca, maize bread, and wine made from grains and fruits, are the same as at Comogra or amongst the other continental and insular tribes.

The cacique, Most Holy Father, was baptised with all his people who are become as sheep under their shepherd to increase your flock. Pedro Arias, the governor, wished to bestow his name upon them. The friendship established increased, and the cacique, to assist the Spaniards to regain the continent more easily, lent them his fishermen’s culches, that is to say barques dug out of treetrunks in the native fashion. He also accompanied them to the shore.

After setting aside the fifth for the royal officials, the Spaniards divided amongst themselves the pearls they had secured. They say they are extremely valuable. Here is a proof of the great value of the pearls from that island. Many of them are white and have a beautiful orient, and are as large or even larger than a nut. What has quickened my recollection is the remembrance of a pearl which the Sovereign Pontiff, Paul, predecessor of Your Holiness, bought from a Venetian merchant through the intermediary of my relative Bartolomeo the Milanese, for forty-four thousand ducats. Now amongst the pearls brought from the island there is one equal in size to an ordinary nut. It was sold at auction and bought at Darien for twelve thousand castellanos of gold, ending in the hands of the governor, Pedro Arias. This precious pearl now belongs to his wife, of whom we have already spoken at the time of his departure. We may assume, therefore, that this pearl was the most precious of all, since it was valued so highly amongst that mass of pearls which were bought, not singly, but by the ounce. It is probable that the Venetian merchant had not paid such a price in the East for the pearl of Pope Paul; but he lived at a time when such objects were greedily sought and a lover of pearls was waiting to swallow it.

Let us now say something of the shells in which pearls grow. Your Beatitude is not ignorant of the fact that Aristotle, and Pliny who followed the former in his theories, were not of the same opinion concerning the growth of pearls. They held but one point in common, and upon all others they differed. Neither would admit that pearl oysters moved after they were once formed. They declare that there exist at the bottom of the sea, meadows, as it were, upon which an aromatic plant resembling thyme grows; they affirm they had seen these fields. In such places these animals resembling oysters are born and grow, engendering about them numerous progeny. They are not satisfied to have one, three, four, or even more pearls, for as many as a hundred and twenty pearls have been found in one shell on the fisheries of that island; and the captain, Caspar Morales, and his companions carefully counted them. While the Spaniards were there, the cacique had his divers bring up pearls. The matrix of these pearl oysters may be compared to the organ in which hens form their numerous eggs. The pearls are produced in the following manner: as soon as they are ripe and leave the womb of their mother, they are found detached from the lips of the matrix. They follow one by one each in turn detaching itself, after a brief interval. In the beginning the pearls are enclosed, as it were, in the belly of the oyster, where they grow just as a child while in the womb of its mother lives on the substance of her body. Later on they leave the maternal asylum, where they were hidden. The pearl oysters found–as I myself have seen from time to time–upon the beach and imbedded in the sand on different Atlantic coasts, have been cast up from the depths of the sea by storms, and do not come there of themselves. Why brilliant morning dew gives a white tint to pearls; why bad weather causes them to turn yellow; why they like a clear sky, and remain immovable when it thunders, are questions which cannot be examined with precision by those ignorant natives. It is not a subject that can be treated by limited minds. It is further said that the largest pearl oysters remain at the bottom, the commoner ones in the half-depths, and the little ones near the surface; but the reasons given to sustain this theory are poor ones. The immovable mollusc does not reason about the choice of its home. Everything depends on the determination, the ability, and the breath of the divers. The large pearl oysters do not move about; they are created and find their sustenance in the deepest places, for the number of divers who venture to penetrate to the bottom of the sea to collect them is few. They are afraid of polyps, which are greedy for oyster meat and are always grouped about the places where they are. They are likewise afraid of other sea-monsters, and most of all they fear to suffocate if they stay too long under water. The pearl oysters in the profoundest depths of the sea consequently have time to grow, and the larger and older the shell becomes, the larger the pearls they harbour, though in number they are few. Those born at the bottom of the sea are believed to become food for the fish; when first gathered they are soft, and the shape of the ear is different from the larger ones. It is alleged that no pearl adheres to the shell as it grows old, but there grows in the shell itself a sort of round and brilliant lump which acquires lustre by filing. This, however, is not valuable, and takes its nature rather from the shell than from the pearl. The Spaniards call the tympanum _pati_.[2] Sometimes pearl oysters have been found growing in small colonies upon rocks, but they are not prized. It is credible that the oysters of India, Arabia, the Red Sea, and Ceylon exist in the manner described by celebrated authors, nor should the explanations given by such eminent writers be entirely rejected; I speak of those who have been for a long time in contradiction with one another.

[Note 2: _Pati appellat Hispanus tympanum_; a sentence for which the translator has found no satisfactory meaning.]

We have already spoken enough about these sea-animals and their eggs, which luxury-loving people stupidly prefer to the eggs of chickens or ducks. Let us add some further details outside our subject.

We have above described the entrance to the Gulf of Uraba, and said the different countries washed by its waters were strangely different from one another. I have nothing new to relate of the western shore, where the Spaniards established their colony on the banks of the Darien River.

What I have recently learnt about the eastern shore is as follows: the entire country lying to the east between the promontory and shore which extend into the sea and receive the force of the waves, as far as Boca de la Sierpe and Paria, is called by the general name of Caribana. Caribs are found everywhere, and are called from the name of their country,[3] but it is well to indicate from whence the Caribs take their origin, and how, after leaving their country, they have spread everywhere like a deadly contagion. Nine miles from the first coast encountered coming from seawards where, as we have said, Hojeda settled, stands in the province of Caribana a village called Futeraca; three miles farther on is the village of Uraba, which gives its name to the gulf and was formerly the capital of the kingdom. Six miles farther on is the village of Feti, and at the ninth and twelfth miles respectively stand the villages of Zeremoe and Sorachi, all thickly populated. All the natives in these parts indulged in man-hunts, and when there are no enemies to fight they practise their cruelties on one another. From this place the infection has spread to the unfortunate inhabitants of the islands and continent.

[Note 3: There are more theories than one concerning the origin of the Caribs and their name. Among other writers who have treated this subject may be cited Reville, in an article published in the _Nouvelle Revue_, 1884, and Rochefort in his _Histoire naturelle et morale des isles Antilles_.]

There is another fact I think I should not omit. A learned lawyer called Corales, who is a judge at Darien, reported that he encountered a fugitive from the interior provinces of the west, who sought refuge with the cacique. This man, seeing the judge reading, started with surprise, and asked through interpreters who knew the cacique’s language, “You also have books? You also understand the signs by which you communicate with the absent?” He asked at the same time to look at the open book, hoping to see the same characters used among his people; but he saw the letters were not the same. He said that in his country the towns were walled and the citizens wore clothing and were governed by laws. I have not learned the nature of their religion, but it is known from examining this fugitive, and from his speech, that they are circumcised.[4] What, Most Holy Father, do you think of this? What augury do you, to whose domination time will submit all peoples, draw for the future?

[Note 4: …_recutiti tamen dispraeputiatique, ab exemplo et sermone fugitivi confererunt_. The man may have been a Peruvian or of the civilised plateau people of Cundinamarca. Wiener, in his interesting work, _Perou et Bolivie_, studies the Peruvian system of writing.]

Let us add to these immense considerations some matters of less importance. I think that I should not omit mentioning the voyage of Juan Solis,[5] who sailed from the ocean port of Lepe, near Cadiz, with three ships, the fourth day of the ides of September, 1515, to explore the southern coasts of what was supposed to be a continent. Nor do I wish to omit mention of Juan Ponce,[6] commissioned to conquer the Caribs, anthropophagi who feed on human flesh; or of Juan Ayora de Badajoz, or Francisco Bezerra, and of Valleco, already mentioned by me. Solis was not successful in his mission. He set out to double the cape or promontory of San Augustin and to follow the coast of the supposed continent as far as the equator. We have already indicated that this cape lies in the seventh degree of the antarctic pole. Solis continued six hundred leagues farther on, and observed that the cape San Augustin extended so far beyond the equator to the south that it reached beyond the thirtieth degree of the Southern Hemisphere. He therefore sailed for a long distance beyond the Boca de la Sierpe and Spanish Paria, which face the north and the pole star. In these parts are found some of those abominable anthropophagi, Caribs, whom I have mentioned before. With fox-like astuteness these Caribs feigned amicable signs, but meanwhile prepared their stomachs for a succulent repast; and from their first glimpse of the strangers their mouths watered like tavern trenchermen. The unfortunate Solis landed with as many of his companions as he could crowd into the largest of the barques, and was treacherously set upon by a multitude of natives who killed him and his men with clubs in the presence of the remainder of his crew.[7] Not a soul escaped; and after having killed and cut them in pieces on the shore, the natives prepared to eat them in full view of the Spaniards, who from their ships witnessed this horrible sight. Frightened by these atrocities, the men did not venture to land and execute vengeance for the murder of their leader and companions. They loaded their ships with red wood, which the Italians call verzino and the Spaniards brazil-wood, and which is suitable for dyeing wool; after which they returned home. I have learned these particulars by correspondence, and I here repeat them. I shall further relate what the other explorers accomplished.

[Note 5: Juan Diaz de Solis, a native of Sebixa, sailed with Vincente Yanez Pinzon in 1508, when the mouths of the Amazon were discovered. In 1512, the King appointed him and Giovanni Vespucci his cartographers.]

[Note 6: Governor in 1508 of Porto Rico and later, in 1512, the discoverer of Florida, of which country he was appointed Adelantado by King Ferdinand. He died in Cuba in 1521, from the effects of a wound received during his expedition to Florida in that year.]

[Note 7: The scene of this massacre was between Maldonado and Montevideo.]

Juan Ponce likewise endured a severe check from the cannibals on the island of Guadaloupe, which is the most important of all the Carib islands. When these people beheld the Spanish ships, they concealed themselves in a place from which they could spy upon all the movements of the people who might land. Ponce had sent some women ashore to wash some shirts and linen, and also some foot-soldiers to obtain fresh water, for he had not seen land after leaving the island of Ferro in the Canaries until he reached Guadaloupe, a distance of four thousand two hundred miles. There is no island in the ocean throughout the entire distance. The cannibals suddenly attacked and captured the women, dispersing the men, a small number of whom managed to escape. Ponce did not venture to attack the Caribs, fearing the poisoned arrows which these barbarous man-eaters use with fatal effect.

This excellent Ponce who, as long as he was in a place of safety, had boasted that he would exterminate the Caribs, was constrained to leave his washerwomen and retreat before the islanders. What he has since done, and what discoveries he may have made, I have not yet learned. Thus Solis lost his life, and Ponce his honour, in carrying out their expeditions.

Another who failed miserably in his undertaking the same year is Juan Ayora de Cordova, a nobleman sent out as judge, as we have elsewhere said, and who was keener about accumulating a fortune than he was about administering his office, and deserving praise. Under some pretext or other he robbed several caciques and extorted gold from them, in defiance of all justice. It is related that he treated them so cruelly that, from being friends, they became implacable enemies, and driven to extremities they massacred the Spaniards, sometimes openly and sometimes by setting traps for them. In places where formerly trade relations were normal and the caciques friendly, it became necessary to fight. When, so it is said, he had amassed a large amount of gold by such means, Ayora fled on board a ship he suddenly procured, and it is not known at this present writing where he landed. There are not wanting people who believe that the governor himself, Pedro Arias, closed his eyes to this secret flight; for Juan Ayora is a brother of Gonzales Ayora, the royal historiographer, who is a learned man, an excellent captain, and so intimate with the governor that he and Pedro Arias may be cited amongst the rare pairs of friends known to us. I am in very close relations with both of them, and may they both pardon me; but amidst all the troubles in the colonies, nothing has displeased me so much as the cupidity of this Juan Ayora, which troubled the public peace of the colonies and alienated the caciques.

Let us now come to the tragic adventures of Gonzales de Badajoz and his companions. In the beginning fortune smiled upon them, but sufficiently sad changes very quickly followed. Gonzales left Darien with forty soldiers in the month of March of the preceding year, 1515, and marched straight to the west, stopping nowhere until he reached the region the Spaniards have named Gracias a Dios, as we have above stated. This place is about a hundred and eighty miles, or sixty leagues from Darien. They passed several days there doing nothing, because the commander was unable either by invitations, bribes, or threats to induce the cacique to approach him, although he desired very much to accomplish this. While camping here he was joined by fifteen adventurers from Darien, under the leadership of Luis Mercado who had left that colony in May, wishing to join Gonzales in exploring the interior. As soon as the two groups met, they decided to cross the southern mountain chain and take possession of the South Sea already discovered. The most extraordinary thing of all is, that on a continent of such length and breadth, the distance to the South Sea was not more than fifty-one miles, or seventeen leagues. In Spain people never count by miles; the land league equals three miles, and the marine league four miles. When they reached the summit of the mountain chain, which is the watershed, they found there a cacique called Javana. Both the country and its ruler bear the name of Coiba, as we have already stated is the case, at Careta. As the country of Javana is the richest of all in gold, it is called Coiba Rica. And in fact, wherever one digs, whether on dry land or in the river-beds, the sand is found to contain gold. The cacique Javana fled when the Spaniards approached, nor was it possible to overtake him. They then set to work to ravage the neighbourhood of his town, but found very little gold, for the cacique had taken with him in his flight everything he possessed. They found, however, some slaves who were branded in a painful fashion. The natives cut lines in the faces of the slaves, using a sharp point either of gold or of a thorn; they then fill the wounds with a kind of powder dampened with black or red juice, which forms an indelible dye and never disappears. The Spaniards took these slaves with them. It seems that this juice is corrosive and produces such terrible pain that the slaves are unable to eat on account of their sufferings. Both the kings who originally captured these slaves in war, and also the Spaniards, put them to work hunting gold or tilling the fields.

Leaving the town of Javana, the Spaniards followed the watershed for ten miles, and entered the territory of another chief, whom they called the “Old Man,” because they were heedless of his name and took notice only of his age. Everywhere in the country of this cacique, both in the riverbeds and in the soil, gold was found. Streams were abundant and the county was everywhere rich and fertile. Leaving that place, the Spaniards marched for five days through a desert country which they thought had been devastated by war, for though the greater part of it was fertile, it was neither inhabited nor cultivated. On the fifth day they perceived in the distance two heavily laden natives, approaching them. Marching upon them, they captured the men, and found that they were carrying sacks of maize on their shoulders. From the answers of these men they gathered that there were two caciques in these regions, one on the coast, called Periqueta, another in the interior, called Totonogo; the latter being blind. These two men were fishermen who had been sent by their cacique Totonogo, to Periqueta, with a burden of fish, which they had traded for bread.[8] Trade is thereabouts carried on by exchange in kind, and not by means of gold, which claims so many victims. Led by these two natives, the Spaniards reached the country of Totonogo, the cacique whose country extends along the west side of the gulf of San Miguel on the south sea. This chieftain gave them six thousand castellanos of gold, partly in ingots and partly worked; amongst the former was one which weighed two castellanos, proving that gold exists in abundance in this region.

[Note 8: There has evidently at some time been an error of transcription: the cacique Totonogo, who is first mentioned as ruling along the sea-coast, is now described as sending fish to his neighbour Periqueta.]

Following along the western coast, the Spaniards visited the cacique Taracuru, from whom they obtained eight thousand pesos; a peso, as we have already said, corresponding to an unminted castellano. They next marched into the country of his brother Pananome, who fled and was seen no more. His subjects declared the country to be rich in gold. The Spaniards destroyed his residence. Six leagues farther on they came to the country of another cacique called Tabor, and then to that of another called Cheru. The latter received the Spaniards amicably, and offered them four thousand pesos. He possesses valuable salt deposits, and the country is rich in gold. Twelve miles farther they came to another cacique called Anata, from whom they obtained twelve thousand pesos, which the cacique had captured from neighbouring chieftains whom he had conquered. This gold was even scorched, because it had been carried out of the burning houses of his enemies. These caciques rob and massacre one another, and destroy their villages, during their atrocious wars. They give no quarter, and the victors make a clean sweep of everything.[9]

[Note 9: This was everywhere the case on the mainland; while it does not excuse the cruelties inflicted by the Spaniards upon the native populations in their rapacious struggle for wealth, it may temper the undiscriminating sympathy of the emotional to reflect that oppression, torture, extortion, and slavery, not to mention human sacrifices and cannibalism were practised among them with a hideous ingenuity upon which no refinement introduced by the Spaniards could improve.]

In this wise the excellent Gonzales de Badajoz and his companions wandered, without any fixed plan, until they came to the territory of Anata; and during their journey they had collected piles of gold, girdles, women’s breast ornaments, earrings, headdresses, necklaces, and bracelets, to the value of eighty thousand castellanos more. This they had acquired, either by trading their merchandise or by pillage and violence; for the majority of the caciques had opposed their passage and had sought to resist them. They had in addition forty slaves, whom they used as beasts of burden to carry their provisions and baggage, and also to care for the sick.

The Spaniards traversed the country of a cacique, Scoria, and arrived at the residence of another called Pariza. They did not expect to be attacked, but the cacique closed about them with a great number of armed men, surprising them at a moment when they were off their guard and scattered. They had no time to seize their weapons; seventy of them were wounded or killed, and the rest fled, abandoning their gold and all their slaves. Very few of them ever came back to Darien.

The opinion of all the sages upon the vicissitudes of fortune and the inconstancy of human affairs would prove unfounded if this expedition had terminated profitably and happily; but the ordering of events is inevitable, and those who tear up the roots, sometimes find sweet liquorice and sometimes bitter cockle. Woe, however, to Pariza! for he shall not long rest quietly. This great crime will soon be avenged. The governor was preparing to lead a campaign against him in person at the head of three hundred and fifty men when he fell ill. The learned jurisconsult, Caspar Espinosa, royal judge at Darien, took his place and acted as his lieutenant; at the same time the Spaniards sent to the island called Rica to collect the tribute of pearls imposed upon its cacique. We shall in due course learn what happened.

Other leaders marched against the dwellers on the other side of the gulf; one of whom, Francisco Bezerra, crossed the head of the gulf and the mouth of the Dabaiba River. His band consisted of two officers and a hundred and fifty well-armed soldiers. His plan was to attack the Caribs in the country of Caribana itself. He first marched against the village of Turufy, of which I have spoken when describing the arrival of Hojeda. He was provided with engines of war, three cannon firing lead bullets larger than an egg, forty archers, and twenty-five musketeers. It was planned to fire upon the Caribs from a distance because they fight with poisoned arrows. It is not yet known where Bezerra landed nor what he did; but it was feared at Darien when the vessels were leaving for Spain, that his expedition had turned out badly.

Another captain, called Vallejo, carried on operations along the lower part of the gulf, crossing over by another route than that taken by Bezerra; thus one of them menaced Caribana from the front and the other from behind. Vallejo has come back, but out of seventy men he took with him, forty-eight wounded were left in the power of the Caribs. This is the story told by those who reached Darien, and I repeat it.

On the eve of the ides of October of this year, 1516, Roderigo Colmenares, whom I have above mentioned, and a certain Francisco de la Puente belonging to the troop commanded by Gonzales de Badajoz came to see me. The latter was amongst those who escaped the massacre executed by the cacique Pariza. Colmenares himself left Darien for Spain after the vanquished arrived. Both of them report, one from hearsay and the other from observation, that a number of islands lie in the South Sea to the west of the gulf of San Miguel and the Isla Rica and that on these islands trees, bearing the same fruits as in the country of Calicut, grow and are cultivated. It is from the countries of Calicut, Cochin, and Camemor that the Portuguese procure spices. Thus it is thought that not far from the colony of San Miguel begins the country where spices grow. Many of those who have explored these regions only await the authorisation to sail from that coast of the South Sea; and they offer to build ships at their own cost, if they only be commissioned to seek for the spice lands. These men think that ships should be built in the gulf of San Miguel itself, and that the idea of following the coast in the direction of Cape San Augustin should be abandoned, as that route would be too long, too difficult, and too dangerous. Moreover it would take them beyond the fortieth degree of the southern hemisphere.

This same Francisco, who shared the labours and the perils of Gonzales says, that in exploring those countries he saw veritable herds of deer and wild boar, of which he captured many in the native fashion by digging ditches across the trails followed by these animals and covering them over with branches; this is the native method of trapping these wild quadrupeds. In catching birds they use doves just as we do. They tie a tame dove in the trees, and the birds of each species which flock about it are then shot with arrows. Another way is by spreading a net in an open space, sprinkling food round about it, and placing the tame dove in the middle. The same system is used with parrots and other birds. The parrots are so stupid that, while one chatters on a tree in whose branches the bird-catcher is concealed, the others flock thither, and allow themselves to be easily caught. They are not frightened when they see the bird-catcher, but sit looking until the noose is thrown round their necks. Even when they see one of their companions captured and thrown into the hunter’s bag, they do not fly away.

There is another system of bird-hunting which is quite original and diverting to relate. We have already stated that there exist in the islands, and especially at Hispaniola, stagnant lakes and ponds upon whose waters flutters a whole world of aquatic birds, because those waters are covered with grasses, and little fish and a thousand varieties of frogs, worms, and insects live in that liquid mud. The work of corruption and generation ordained by the secret decree of providence is promoted in these depths by the heat of the sun. Different species of birds swarm in these waters: ducks, geese, swans, divers, gulls, sea-mews, and countless similar.

We have elsewhere related that the natives cultivate a tree in their gardens, whose fruit resembles a large gourd. The natives throw a large quantity of these gourds into the ponds, after having carefully stopped up the holes by which water is introduced into them, to prevent their sinking. These gourds, floating about on the water, inspire the birds with confidence; the hunter then covers his head with a sort of cask made of a gourd, one in which there are little holes for his eyes, like in a mask. He wades into the water up to his chin, for from their infancy they are all accustomed to swim, and do not fear to remain a long time in the water. As the birds find the gourd which conceals the hunter similar to all the others floating about, the man is able to approach the flock. Imitating with his head the movements of the floating gourd, he follows the little waves produced by the wind, and gradually approaches the birds. Stretching out his right hand he seizes a bird by the foot, and without being seen, quickly jerks it under the water and thrusts it into a bag he carries. The other birds imagining their companion has dived in search of food, as they all do, fearlessly continue their movements, and in their turns become victims of the hunter.

I interrupted my narrative with this description of bird-hunting and other sport, in order that these harmless tales might divert you from the horror you must have felt in reading the story of so many crimes. I should still like to speak to you concerning a new theory of the current which drives the waters of the gulf of Paria towards the west; and also of the system of gold-mining in Darien. These are particulars which have just recently been furnished me. After this dual report, which will be in no sense tragic, I shall take leave of Your Holiness.

The Captain Andreas Morales and Oviedo, whom I have above mentioned, came to visit me at Madrid, or to be more accurate, at Mantua Carpetana; and in my presence they had a discussion on the subject of this current. They agree that the Spanish possessions extend without interruption towards the northern lands behind Cuba and the other islands, and to the north-west of Hispaniola and Cuba; but they do not hold the same opinion concerning the current. Andreas claims that the force of these waters is broken by the great body of land believed to be a continent, and which, as we have said, bends towards the north, in such wise that, breaking against these obstacles, the waters turn in a circle and are driven towards the northern coasts of Cuba and the other lands lying outside the Tropic of Cancer. Thus, these waters, which flow from narrow straits are absorbed, as it were, in the immensity of the ocean, and their force is diminished as they spread through immense spaces where they ultimately disappear. I might compare this current to the eddies of water in a mill-race. Water flowing, no matter how rapidly, through a narrow canal, and afterwards falling into a lake, at once spreads out; the volume is broken, and although an instant before it flowed riotously, and seemed capable of sweeping away every obstacle, it is calmed. Even the direction of the current is no longer perceptible. I once questioned Admiral Diego Columbus, son and heir of the discoverer, who had crossed these seas, coming and going, four times. When asked his opinion, he answered: “It is difficult to return as one went; but upon sailing northwards on the open ocean to return to Spain, the movement in the waters driving towards the east is very perceptible. I think this is probably due to the ordinary influence of ebb and flow, and should not be attributed to those eddyings of the waters. The continent is open, and there must exist between the two bodies a strait through which these turbulent waters escape to the west. In obedience to a decree of Heaven, they circulate throughout the entire universe.”

Oviedo agrees with Andreas in thinking that the continent is closed, but he does not believe that this western mass of the continent breaks the current, driving it into the vast ocean. He likewise affirms that he has carefully noted that the current running westwards, takes its rise in the open sea; when following along the coast in small ships, it is the current running eastwards that is struck, so that one may be transported in two opposite directions at the same spot. This is a phenomenon which may frequently be observed in rivers, where the conformation of the banks gives rise to whirlpools. If straws or bits of wood are thrown into the river at such a place, those which fall into the middle are carried away by the current; on the contrary, those which drop into some bend along the shore or by a slanting bank, go up the current until they again drift into the middle of the river.

Such are their opinions, and I repeat them, although they are in contradiction. We shall form no well-grounded opinion until the true cause of this phenomenon has been verified. Meanwhile it is only possible to set forth these different theories, until the day fixed and the astronomical moment for the discovery of this secret of Nature shall arrive. But enough concerning these pelagic currents.

Some few more words about gold mines at Darien, and we shall have accomplished our task.

We have said that nine miles from Darien begin the hills and plains containing gold deposits, either in the earth or in the bed or the banks of the rivers. Any one who has been bitten by the gold fever usually sets out as follows: the directors assign him a parcel of ground twelve paces square, which he may choose as he pleases, on condition that it is not land that has already been occupied or abandoned by his companions. When he has made his choice, he settles on that spot with his slaves, as though within a temple, whose limits the Augurs have traced with their sacred staves. The Christians use native labour both in the mines and in agriculture. This plot of land may be held as long as the occupant wishes; and in case no gold, or very little, should be found there, a request for a fresh square of like dimensions is presented, and the parcel of abandoned land reverts to the common demesne. This is the order followed by the colonists of Darien who are engaged in gold-seeking. I think it is the same for the others, but I have not questioned all of them. Sometimes such a parcel of twelve paces square has netted its possessor the sum of eighty castellanos. Such is the life people lead to satisfy the sacred hunger for gold;[10] but the richer one becomes by such work, the more does one desire to possess. The more wood is thrown on the fire, the more it crackles and spreads. The sufferer from dropsy, who thinks to appease his thirst by drinking, only excites it the more. I have suppressed many details to which I may later return if I learn that they afford pleasure to Your Holiness, charged with the weight of religious questions and sitting at the summit of the honours to which men may aspire. It is in no sense for my personal pleasure that I have collected these facts, for only the desire to please Your Beatitude has induced me to undertake this labour.

[Note 10: _Sic vivitur in sacra fame auri explenda_.]

May Providence, which watches over this world, grant to Your Holiness many happy years.