The Account of Cabeza de Vaca
ON the 27th day of the month of June, 1527, the Governor
Panfilo de Narvaez departed from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, with
authority and orders from Your Majesty to conquer and govern the provinces that
extend from the river of the Palms to the Cape of the Florida, these provinces
being on the main land. The fleet he took along consisted of five vessels, in
which went about 600 men. The officials he had with him (since they must be
mentioned) were those here named: Cabeza de Vaca, treasurer and alguacil mayor;
Alonso Enriquez, purser; Alonso de Solis, factor of Your Majesty and inspector.
A friar of the order of Saint Francis, called Fray Juan Gutierrez, went as
commissary, with four other monks of the order. We arrived at the Island of
Santo Domingo, where we remained nearly forty-five days, supplying ourselves
with necessary things, especially horses. Here more than 140 men of our army
forsook us, who wished to remain, on account of the proposals and promises made
them by the people of the country. From there we started and arrived at
Santiago (a port in the Island of Cuba) where, in the few days that we remained
the Governor supplied himself again with people, arms and horses. It happened
there that a gentleman called Vasco Porcallo, a resident of la Trinidad (which
is on the same island ), offered to give the Governor certain stores he had at
a distance of 100 leagues from the said harbor of Santiago. 1.
The Governor, with the whole fleet, sailed for that place,
but midways, at a port named Cape Santa Cruz, he thought best to stop and send
a single vessel to load and bring these stores. Therefore he ordered a certain
Captain Pantoja to go thither with his craft and directed me to accompany him
for the sake of control, while he remained with four ships, having purchased
one on the Island of Santo Domingo. Arrived at the port of Trinidad with these
two vessels, Captain Pantoja went with Vasco Porcallo to the town (which is one
league from there) in order to take possession of the supplies. I remained on
board with the pilots, who told us that we should leave as soon as possible,
since the harbor was very unsafe and many vessels had been lost in it. Now,
since what happened to us there was very remarkable, it appeared to me not
unsuitable, for the aims and ends of this, my Narrative, to tell it here. 2.
The next morning the weather looked ominous. It began to
rain, and the sea toughened so that, although I allowed the men to land, when
they saw the weather and that the town was one league away, many came back to
the ship so as not to be out in the wet and cold. At the same time there came a
canoe from the town conveying a letter from a person residing there, begging me
to come, and they would give me the stores and whatever else might be
necessary. But I excused myself, stating that I could not leave the ships. 3.
At noon the canoe came again with another letter, repeating
the request with much insistency, and there was also a horse for me to go on. I
gave the same reply as the first time, saying that I could not leave the
vessels. But the pilots and the people begged me so much to leave and hasten
the transportation of the stores to the ships, in order to be able to sail
soon, from a place where they were in great fear the ships would be lost in
case they had to remain long. So I determined upon going, although before I
went I left the pilots well instructed and with orders in case the south wind
(which often wrecked the shipping) should rise, and they found themselves in
great danger, to run the vessels ashore, when men and horses might be saved. So
I left, wishing for some of them to accompany me, but they refused, alleging
the hard rain, the cold and that the town was far away. 4.
On the next day, which was Sunday, they promised to come,
God helping, to hear mass. One hour after my departure the sea became very
rough and the north wind blew so fiercely that neither did the boats dare to
land, nor could they beach the vessels, since the wind was blowing from the
shore. They spent that day and Sunday greatly distressed by two contrary storms
and much rain, until nightfall. Then the rain and storm increased in violence
at the village, as well as on the sea, and all the houses and the churches fell
down, and we had to go about, seven or eight men locking Arms at a time, to
prevent the wind from carrying us off, and under the trees it was not less
dangerous than among the houses, for as they also were blown down we were in
danger of being killed beneath them. In this tempest and peril we wandered
about all night, without finding any part or place where we might feel safe for
half an hour. 5.
In this plight we heard, all night long and especially after
midnight, a great uproar, the sound of many voices, the tinkling of little
bells, also flutes and tambourines and other instruments, the most of which
noise lasted until morning, when the storm ceased. Never has such a fearful
thing been witnessed in those parts. I took testimony concerning it, and sent
it, certified, to Your Majesty. On Monday morning we went down to the harbor,
but did not find the vessels. We saw the buoys in the water, and from this knew
that the ships were lost. So we followed the shore, looking for wreckage, and
not finding any turned into the forest. Walking through it we saw, a fourth of
a league from water, the little boat of one of the vessels on the top of trees,
and ten leagues further, on the coast, were two men of my crew and certain
covers of boxes. The bodies were so disfigured by striking against the rocks as
to be unrecognizable. There were also found a cape and a tattered, nothing
else. Sixty people and twenty horses perished on the ships. Those who went on
land the day we arrived, some thirty men, were all who survived of the crews of
both vessels. 6.
We remained thus for several days in great need and
distress, for the food and stores at the village had been ruined also, as well
as some cattle. The country was pitiable to look at. The trees had fallen and
the woods were blighted, and there was neither foliage nor grass. In this
condition we were until the 5th day of the month of November, when the
Governor, with his four vessels, arrived. They also had weathered a great storm
and had escaped by betaking themselves to a safe place in time. The people on
board of the ships and those he found were so terrified by what had happened
that they were afraid to set to sea again in winter and begged the Governor to
remain there for that season, and he, seeing their good will and that of the
inhabitants, wintered at that place. He put into my charge the vessels and
their crews, and I was to go with them to the port of Xagua, twelve leagues
distant, where I remained until the 20th day of February. 7.
At that time the Governor came with a brig he had bought at
Trinidad, and with him a pilot called Miruelo. That man he had taken because he
said he knew the way and had been on the river of the Palms and was a very good
pilot for the whole northern coast. The Governor left, on the coast of Habana,
another vessel that he had bought there, on which there remained, as captain,
Alvaro de Cerda, with forty people and twelve horsemen. Two days after the
Governor arrived he went aboard. The people he took along were 400 men and
eighty horses, on four vessels and one brigantine. The pilot we had taken ran
the vessels aground on the sands called “of Canarreo,” so that the next day we
were stranded and remained stranded for fifteen days, the keels often touching
bottom. Then a storm from the south drove so much water on the shoals that we
could get off, though not without much danger. 8.
Departing from there and arrived at Guaniguanico, another
tempest came up in which we nearly perished. At Cape Corrientes we had another,
which lasted three days. Afterward we doubled the Cape of Sant Anton and sailed
with contrary winds as far as twelve leagues off Habana, and when, on the
following day, we attempted to enter, a southerly storm drove us away, so that
we crossed to the coast of Florida, sighting land on Tuesday, the 12th day of
the month of April. We coasted the way of Florida, and on Holy Thursday cast
anchor at the mouth of a bay, at the head of which we saw certain houses and
habitations of Indians. 9.
On that same day the clerk, Alonso Enriquez, left and went
to an island in the bay and called the Indians, who came and were with him a
good while, and by way of exchange they gave him fish and some venison. The day
following (which was Good Friday) the Governor disembarked, with as many men as
his little boats would hold, and as we arrived at the huts or houses of the
Indians we had seen, we found them abandoned and deserted, the people having
left that same night in their canoes. One of those houses was so large that it
could hold more than 300 people. The others were smaller, and we found a golden
rattle among the nets. The next day the Governor hoisted flags in behalf of
Your Majesty and took possession of the country in Your Royal name, exhibited
his credentials, and was acknowledged as Governor according to Your Majesty’s
commands. We likewise presented our titles to him, and he complied as they
required. He then ordered the remainder of the men to disembark, also the
forty-two horses left (the others having perished on account of the great
storms and the long time they had been on sea), and these few that remained
were so thin and weak that they could be of little use for the time. The next
day the Indians of that village came, and, although they spoke to us, as we had
no interpreters we did not understand them; but they made many gestures and
threats, and it seemed as if they beckoned to us to leave the country.
Afterward, without offering any molestation, they went away. 10.
After another day the Governor resolved to penetrate inland
to explore the country and see what it contained. We went with him; the
commissary, the inspector and myself, with forty men, among them six horsemen,
who seemed likely to be of but little use. We took the direction of the north,
and at the hour of vespers reached a very large bay, which appeared to sweep
far inland. After remaining there that night and the next day, we returned to
the place where the vessels and the men were. The Governor ordered the
brigantine to coast towards Florida in search of the port which Miruelo, the
pilot, had said he knew, but he had missed it and did not know where we were,
nor where the port was. So word was sent to the brigantine, in case it were not
found to cross over to Habana in quest of the vessel of Alvaro de la Cerda,
and, after taking in some supplies, to come after us again. 11.
After the brigantine left we again penetrated inland, the
same persons as before, with some more men. We followed the shore of the bay,
and, after a march of four leagues, captured four Indians, to whom we showed
maize in order to find out if they knew it, for until then we had seen no trace
of it. They told us that they would take us to a place where there was maize
and they led us to their village, at the end of the bay nearby, and there they
showed us some that was not yet fit to be gathered. There we found many boxes
for merchandise from Castilla. In every one of them was a corpse covered with
painted deer hides. The commissary thought this to be some idolatrous practice,
so he burnt the boxes with the corpses. We also found pieces of linen and
cloth, and feather head dresses that seemed to be from New Spain, and samples
of gold. 12.
We inquired of the Indians (by signs) whence they had
obtained these things and they gave us to understand that, very far from there,
was a province called Apalachen in which there was much gold. They also
signified to us that in that province we would find everything we held in
esteem. They said that in Apalachen there was plenty. 13.
So, taking them as guides, we started, and after walking
ten or twelve leagues, came to another village of fifteen houses, where there
was a large cultivated patch of corn nearly ready for harvest, and also some
that was already ripe. After staying there two days, we returned to the place
where we had left the purser, the men and the vessels, and told the purser and
pilots what we saw and the news the Indians had given us. 14.
The next day, which was the 1st of May, the Governor took
aside the commissary, the purser, the inspector, myself, a sailor called
Bartolomé Fernandez and a notary by the name of Jeronimo de Albaniz, and told
us that he had in mind to penetrate inland, while the vessels should follow the
coast as far as the harbor; since the pilots said and believed that, if they
went in the direction of the Palms they would reach it soon. On this he asked
us to give our opinions. 15.
I replied that it seemed to me in no manner advisable to
forsake the ships until they were in a safe port, held and occupied by us. I
told him to consider that the pilots were at a loss, disagreeing among
themselves, undecided as to what course to pursue. Moreover, the horses would
not be with us in case we needed them, and, furthermore, we had no interpreter
to make ourselves understood by the natives; hence we could have no parley with
them. Neither did we know what to expect from the land we were entering, having
no knowledge of what it was, what it might contain and by what kind of people
it was inhabited, nor in what part of it we were; finally, that we had not the
supplies required for penetrating into an unknown country, for of the stores
left in the ships not more than one pound of biscuit and one of bacon could be
given as rations to each man for the journey, so that, in my opinion, we should
re-embark and sail in quest of a land and harbor better adapted to settlement,
since the country which we had seen was the most deserted and the poorest ever
found in those parts. 16.
The commissary was of the contrary saying, that we should
not embark, but follow the coast in search of a harbor, as the pilots asserted
that the way to Panuco was not more than ten or fifteen leagues distant and
that by following along the coast it was impossible to miss it, since the coast
bent inland for twelve leagues. The first ones who came there should wait for
the others. As to embarking, he said it would be to tempt God, after all the
vicissitudes of storms, losses of men and vessels and hardships we had suffered
since leaving Spain, and until we came to that place. So his advice would be to
move along the coast as far as the harbor, while the vessels with the other men
would follow to the same port. 17.
To all the others this seemed to be the best, except to the
notary, who said that before leaving the ships they should be put into a harbor
well known, safe and in a settled country, after which we might go inland and
do as we liked. 18.
The Governor clung to his own idea and to the suggestions
of the others. 19.
Seeing his determination, I required him, on the part of
Your Majesty, not to forsake the vessels until they were in a secure port, and
I asked the notary present to testify to what I said. The Governor replied that
he approved the opinion of the other officials and of the commissary; that I
had no authority for making such demands, and he asked the notary to give him a
certified statement as to how, there not being in the country the means for
supporting a settlement, nor any harbor for the ships, he broke up the village
he had founded, and went in search of the port and of a better land. So he
forthwith ordered the people who were to go with him to get ready, providing
themselves with what was necessary for the journey. After this he turned to me,
and told me in the presence of all who were there that, since I so much opposed
the expedition into the interior and was afraid of it, I should take charge of
the vessels and men remaining, and, in case I reached the port before him, I
should settle there. This I declined. 20.
After the meeting was over he, on that same evening, saying
that it seemed to him as if he could not trust anybody, sent me word that he
begged me to take charge of that part of the expedition, and as, in spite of
his insistency, I declined, he asked for the reasons of my refusal, I then told
him that I refused to accept, because I felt sure he would never see the ships
again, or be seen by their crews any more; that, seeing how utterly unprepared
he was for moving inland, I preferred to share the risk with him and his
people, and suffer what they would have to suffer, rather than take charge of
the vessels and thus give occasion for saying that I opposed the journey and
remained out of fear, which would place my honor in jeopardy. So that I would
much rather expose of my life than, under these circumstances, my good name.
Seeing that he could not change my determination, he had
others approach me about it with entreaties. But I gave the same answer to them
as to him, and he finally provided for his lieutenant to take command of the
vessels, an alcalde named Caravallo.22.
On Saturday, the 1st of May, the day on which all this had
happened, he ordered that they should give to each one of those who had to go
with him, two pounds of ship-biscuit and one-half pound of bacon, and thus we
set out upon our journey inland. The number of people we took along was three
hundred, among them the commissary, Father Juan Xuarez, another friar called
Father Juan de Palos and three priests, the officers, and forty horsemen. We
marched for fifteen days, living on the supplies we had taken with us, without
finding anything else to eat but palmettos like those of Andalusia. In all this
time we did not meet a soul, nor did we see a house or village, and finally
reached a river, which we crossed with much trouble, by swimming and on rafts.
It took us a day to ford the river on account of the swiftness of its current.
When we got across, there came towards us some two hundred Indians, more or
less; the Governor went to meet them, and after he talked to them by signs they
acted in such a manner that we were obliged to set upon them and seize five or
six, who took us to their houses, about half a league from there, where we
found a large quantity of corn ready for harvest. We gave infinite thanks to
our Lord for having helped us in such great need, for, as we were not used to
such exposures, we felt greatly exhausted, and were much weakened by hunger.
On the third day that we were at this place the purser, the
inspector, the commissary and myself jointly begged the Governor to send out in
search of a harbor, as the Indians told us the sea was not very far away. He
forbade us to speak of it, saying it was at a great distance, and I being the
one who most insisted, he bade me to go on a journey of discovery and search of
a port, and said I should go on foot with forty people. So the next day I
started with the Captain Alonso del Castillo and forty men of his company. At
noon we reached sandy patches that seemed to extend far inland. For about one
and a half leagues we walked, with the water up to the knee, and stepping on
shells that cut our feet badly. All this gave us much trouble, until we reached
the river which we had crossed first, and which emptied through the same inlet,
and then, as we were too ill-provided for crossing it, we turned back to camp
and told the Governor what we had found and how it was necessary to ford the
river again at our first crossing in order to explore the inlet thoroughly and
find out if there was a harbor. 24.
The next day he sent a captain called Valenzuela with sixty
footmen and six horsemen to cross the river and follow its course to the sea in
search of a port. After two days he came back, reporting that he had discovered
the inlet, which was a shallow bay, with water to the knees, but it had there
no harbor. He saw five or six canoes crossing from one side to the other, with
Indians who wore many feather bushes. 25.
Hearing this, we left the next day, always in quest of the
province called Apalachen by the Indians, taking as guides those whom we had
captured, and marched until the 17th of June without finding an Indian who
would dare to wait for us. Finally there came to us a chief, whom an Indian
carried on his shoulders. He wore a painted deerskin, and many people followed
him, and he was preceded by many players on flutes made of reeds. He came the
place where the Governor was and stayed an hour. We gave him to understand by
signs that our aim was to reach Apalachen, but from his gestures it seemed to
us that he was an enemy of the Apalachen people and that he would go and help
us against them. We gave him beads and little bells and other trinkets, while
he presented the Governor with the hide he wore. Then he turned back and we
followed him. 26.
That night we reached a broad and deep river, the current
of which was very strong and as we did not dare to cross it, we built a canoe
out of rafts and were a whole day in getting across. If the Indians had wished
to oppose us, they could have easily impeded our passage, for even with their
help we had much trouble. One horseman, whose name was Juan Velazquez, a native
of Cuellar, not willing to wait, rode into the stream, and the strong current
swept him from the horse and he took hold of the reins, and was drowned with
the animal. The Indians of that chief (whose name was Dulchanchellin)
discovered the horse and told us that we would find him lower down the stream.
So they went after the man, and his death caused us much grief, since until
then we had not lost anybody. The horse made a supper for many on that night.
Beyond there, and on the following day, we reached the chief’s village, whither
he sent us corn. 27.
That same night, as they went for water, an arrow was shot
at one of the Christians, but God willed that he was not hurt. The day after we
left this place, without any of the natives having appeared, because all had
fled, but further on some Indians were seen who showed signs of hostility, and
although we called them they would neither come back nor wait, but withdrew and
followed in our rear. The Governor placed a few horsemen in ambush near the
trail, who as they (the Indians) passed, surprised them and took three or four
Indians, whom we kept as guides thereafter. These led us into a country
difficult to traverse and strange to look at, for it had very great forests,
the trees being wonderfully tall and so many of them fallen that they
obstructed our way so that we had to make long detours and with great trouble.
Of the trees standing many were rent from top to bottom by thunderbolts, which
strike very often in that country, where storms and tempests are always
With such efforts we travelled until the day after St.
John’s Day, when we came in sight of Apalachen, without having been noticed by
the Indians of the land. We gave many thanks to God for being so near it,
believing what we had been told about the country to be true, and that now our
sufferings would come to an end after the long and weary march over bad trails.
We had also suffered greatly from hunger, for, although we found corn
occasionally, most of the time we marched seven or eight leagues without any.
And many there were among us who besides suffering great fatigue and hunger,
had their backs covered with wounds from the weight of the armor and other
things they had to carry as occasion required. But to find ourselves at last
where we wished to be and where we had been assured so much food and gold would
be had, made us forget a great deal of our hardships and weariness. 29.
Once in sight of Apalachen, the Governor commanded me to
enter the village with nine horsemen and fifty foot. So the inspector and I
undertook this. Upon penetrating into the village we found only women and boys.
The men were not there at the time, but soon, while we were walking about, they
came and began to fight, shooting arrows at us. They killed the inspector’s
horse, but finally fled and left us. We found there plenty of ripe maize ready
to be gathered and much dry corn already housed. We also found many deer skins
and among them mantles made of thread and of poor quality, with which the women
cover parts of their bodies. They had many vessels for grinding maize. The
village contained forty small and low houses, reared in sheltered places, out
of fear of the great storms that continuously occur in the country. The
buildings are of straw, and they are surrounded by dense timber, tall trees and
numerous water-pools, where there were so many fallen trees and of such size as
to greatly obstruct and impede circulation. 30.
The country between our landing place and the village and
country of Apalachen is mostly level; the soil is sand and earth. All
throughout it there are very large trees and open forests containing nut trees,
laurels and others of the kind called resinous, cedar, juniper, wateroak,
pines, oak and low palmetto, like those of Castilla. Everywhere there are many
lagoons, large and small, some very difficult to cross, partly because they are
so deep, partly because they are covered with fallen trees. Their bottom is
sandy, and in the province of Apalachen the lagoons are much larger than those
we found previously. There is much maize in this province and the houses are
scattered all over the country as much as those of the Gelves. The animals we
saw there were three kinds of deer, rabbits and hares, bears and lions and
other wild beasts, among them one that carries its young in a pouch on its
belly as long as the young are small, until they are able to look for their
sustenance, and even then, when they are out after food and people come, the
mother does not move until her little ones are in the pouch again. The country
is very cold; it has good pasture for cattle; there are birds of many kinds in
large numbers: geese, ducks, wild ducks, muscovy ducks, Ibis, small white
herons (Egrets), herons and partridges. We saw many falcons, marsh-hawks,
sparrow-hawks, pigeon-hawks and many other birds. Two hours after we arrived at
Apalachen the Indians that had fled came back peaceably, begging us to give
back to them their women and children, which we did. The Governor, however,
kept with him one of their caciques, at which they became so angry as to attack
us the following day. They did it so swiftly and with so much audacity as to
set fire to the lodges we occupied, but when we sallied forth they fled to the
lagoons nearby, on account of which and of the big corn patches, we could not
do them any harm beyond killing one Indian. The day after, Indians from a
village on the other side came and attacked us in the same manner, escaping in
the same way, with the loss of a single man. 31.
We remained at this village for twenty-five days, making
three excursions during the time. We found the country very thinly inhabited
and difficult to march through, owing to bad places, timber and lagoons. We
inquired of the cacique whom we had retained and of the other Indians with us
(who were neighbors and enemies of them) about the condition and settlements of
the land, the quality of its people, about supplies and everything else. They
answered, each one for himself, that Apalachen was the largest town of all;
that further in less people were met with, who were very much poorer than those
here, and that the country was thinly settled, the inhabitants greatly
scattered, and also that further inland big lakes, dense forests, great deserts
and wastes were met with. 32.
Then we asked about the land to the south, its villages and
resources. They said that in that direction and nine days’ march towards the
sea was a village called Aute, where the Indians had plenty of corn and also
beans and melons, and that, being so near the sea, they obtained fish, and that
those were their friends. Seeing how poor the country was, taking into account
the unfavorable reports about its population and everything else, and that the
Indians made constant war upon us, wounding men and horses whenever they went
for water (which they could do from the lagoons where we could not reach them)
by shooting arrows at us; that they had killed a chief of Tezcuco called Don
Pedro, whom the commissary had taken along with him, we agreed to depart and go
in search of the sea, and of the village of Aute, which they had mentioned. And
so we left, arriving there five days after. The first day we travelled across
lagoons and trails without seeing a single Indian. 33.
On the second day, however, we reached a lake very
difficult to cross, the water reaching to the chest, and there were a great
many fallen trees. Once in the middle of it, a number of Indians assailed us
from behind trees that concealed them from our sight, while others were on
fallen trees, and they began to shower arrows upon us, so that many men and
horses were wounded, and before we could get out of the lagoon our guide was
captured by them. After we had got out, they pressed us very hard, intending to
cut us off, and it was useless to turn upon them, for they would hide in the
lake and from there wound both men and horses. 34.
So the Governor ordered the horsemen to dismount and attack
them on foot. The pursuer dismounted also, and our people attacked them. Again
they fled to a lagoon, and we succeeded in holding the trail. In this fight
some of our people were wounded, in spite of their good armor. There were men
that day who swore they had seen two oak trees, each as thick as the calf of a
leg, shot through and through by arrows, which is not surprising if we consider
the force and dexterity with which they shoot. I myself saw an arrow that had
penetrated the base of a poplar tree for half a foot in length. All the many
Indians from Florida we saw were archers, and, being very tall and naked, at a
distance they appear giants. 35.
Those people are wonderfully built, very gaunt and of great
strength and agility. Their bows are as thick as an arm, from eleven to twelve
spans long, shooting an arrow at 200 paces with unerring aim. From that
crossing we went to another similar one, a league away, but while it was half a
league in length it was also much more difficult. There we crossed without
opposition, for the Indians, having spent all their arrows at the first place,
had nothing wherewith they would dare attack us. The next day, while crossing a
similar place, I saw the tracks of people who went ahead of us, and I notified
the Governor, who was in the rear, so that, although the Indians turned upon
us, as we were on our guard, they could do us no harm. Once on open ground they
pursued us still. We attacked them twice, killing two, while they wounded me
and two or three other Christians, and entered the forest again, where we could
no longer injure them. 36.
In this manner we marched for eight days, without meeting
any more natives, until one league from the site to which I said we were going.
There, as we were marching along, Indians crept up unseen and fell upon our
rear. A boy belonging to a nobleman, called Avellaneda, who was in the rear
guard, gave the alarm. Avellaneda turned back to assist, and the Indians hit
him with an arrow on the edge of the cuirass, piercing his neck nearly through
and through, so that he died on the spot, and we carried him to Aute. It took
us nine days from Apalachen to the place where we stopped. And then we found
that all the people had left and the lodges were burnt. But there was plenty of
maize, squash and beans, all nearly ripe and ready for harvest. We rested there
for two days. 37.
After this the Governor entreated me to go in search of the
sea, as the Indians said it was so near by, and we had, on this march, already
suspected its proximity from a great river to which we had given the name of
the Rio de la Magdalena. I left on the following day in search of it,
accompanied by the commissary, the captain Castillo, Andres Dorantes, seven
horsemen and fifty foot. We marched until sunset, reaching an inlet or arm of
the sea, where we found plenty of oysters on which the people feasted, and we
gave many thanks to God for bringing us there. 38.
The next day I sent twenty men to reconnoiter the coast and
explore it, who returned on the day following at nightfall, saying that these
inlets and bays were very large and went so far inland as greatly to impede our
investigations, and that the coast was still at a great distance. Hearing this
and considering how ill-prepared we were for the task, I returned to where the
Governor was. We found him sick, together with many others. The night before,
Indians had made an attack, putting them in great stress, owing to their
enfeebled condition. The Indians had also killed one of their horses. I
reported upon my journey and on the bad condition of the country. That day we
remained there. 39.
On the next day we left Aute and marched (all day) to the
spot I had visited on my last exploration. Our march was extremely difficult,
for neither had we horses enough to carry the sick, nor did we know how to
relieve them. They became worse every day, and our sufferings were afflicting.
There it became manifest how few resources we had for going further, and even
in case we had been provided we did not know where to go; our men were mostly
sick and too much out of condition to be of any use whatever. I refrain from
making a long story of it. Any one can imagine what might be experienced in a
land so strange and so utterly without resources of any kind, either for stay
or for an escape. Nevertheless, since the surest aid was God, Our Lord, and
since we never doubted of it, something happened that put us in a worse plight
Most of the horsemen began to leave in secret, hoping thus
to save themselves, forsaking the Governor and the sick, who were helpless.
Still, as among them were many of good families and of rank, they would not
suffer this to happen unbeknown to the Governor and Your Majesty’s officials,
so that, when we remonstrated, showing at what an unseasonable time they were
leaving their captain and the sick and, above all, forsaking Your Majesty’s
service, they concluded to stay, and share the fate of all, without abandoning
one another. The Governor thereupon called them to his presence all together,
and each one in particular, asking their opinion about this dismal country, so
as to be able to get out of it and seek relief, for in that land there was
One-third of our people were dangerously ill, getting worse
hourly, and we felt sure of meeting the same fate, with death as our only
prospect, which in such a country was much worse yet. And considering these and
many other inconveniences and that we had tried many expedients, we finally
resorted to a very difficult one, which was to build some craft in which to
leave the land. It seemed impossible, as none of us knew how to construct
ships. We had no tools, no iron, no smithery, no oakum, no pitch, no tackling;
finally, nothing of what was indispensable. Neither was there anybody to
instruct us in shipbuilding, and, above all, there was nothing to eat, while
the work was going on, for those who would have to perform the task.
Considering all this, we agreed to think it over. Our parley ceased for that
day, and everyone went off, leaving it to God, Our Lord, to put him on the
right road according to His pleasure. 42.
The next day God provided that one of the men should come,
saying that he would make wooden flues, and bellows of deerskin, and as we were
in such a state that anything appearing like relief seemed acceptable, we told
him to go to work, and agreed to make of our stirrups, spurs, cross-bows and
other iron implements the nails, saws and hatchets and other tools we so
greatly needed for our purpose. 43.
In order to obtain food while the work proposed was in
progress we determined upon four successive raids into Aute, with all the
horses and men that were fit for service, and that on every third day a horse
should be killed and the meat distributed among those who worked at the barges
and among the sick. The raids were executed with such people and horses as were
able, and they brought as many as four hundred fanegas of maize, although not
without armed opposition from the Indians. We gathered plenty of palmettos,
using their fibre and husk, twisting and preparing it in place of oakum for the
barges. The work on these was done by the only carpenter we had, and progressed
so rapidly that, beginning on the fourth day of August, on the twentieth day of
the month of September, five barges of twenty-two elbow lengths each were
ready, caulked with palmetto oakum and tarred with pitch, which a Greek called
Don Teodoro made from certain pines. Of the husk of palmettos, and of the tails
and manes of the horses we made ropes and tackles, of our shirts sails, and of
the junipers that grew there we made the oars, which we thought were necessary,
and such was the stress in which our sins had placed us that only with very
great trouble could we find stones for ballast and anchors of the barges, for
we had not seen a stone in the whole country. We flayed the legs of the horses
and tanned the skin to make leather pouches for carrying water. 44.
During that time some of the party went to the coves and
inlets for sea-food, and the Indians surprised them twice, killing ten of our
men in plain view of the camp, without our being able to prevent it. We found
them shot through and through with arrows, for, although several wore good
armor, it was not sufficient to protect them, since, as I said before, they
shot their arrows with such force and precision. According to the sworn
statements of our pilots, we had travelled from the bay, to which we gave the
name of the Cross, to this place, two hundred and eighty leagues, more or less.
In all these parts we saw no mountains nor heard of any,
and before embarking we had lost over forty men through sickness and hunger,
besides those killed by Indians. On the twenty-second day of the month of
September we had eaten up all the horses but one. We embarked in the following
order: In the barge of the Governor there were forty-nine men, and as many in
the one entrusted to the purser and the commissary. The third barge he placed
in charge of Captain Alonso del Castillo and of Andres Dorantes, with
forty-eight men; in another he placed two captains, named Tellez and Penalosa,
with forty-seven men. The last one he gave to the inspector and to me, with
forty-nine men, and, after clothing and supplies were put on board, the sides
of the barges only rose half a foot above the water. Besides, we were so
crowded as to be unable to stir. So great is the power of need that it brought
us to venture out into such a troublesome sea in this manner, and without any
one among us having the least knowledge of the art of navigation. 46.
That bay from which we started is called the Bay of the
Horses. We sailed seven days among those inlets, in the water waist deep,
without signs of anything like the coast. At the end of this time we reached an
island near the shore. My barge went ahead, and from it we saw five Indian
canoes coming. The Indians abandoned them and left them in our hands, when they
saw that we approached. The other barges went on and saw some lodges on the
same island, where we found plenty of ruffs and their eggs, dried, and that was
a very great relief in our needy condition. Having taken them, we went further,
and two leagues beyond found a strait between the island and the coast, which
strait we christened Sant Miguel, it being the day of that saint. Issuing from
it we reached the coast, where by means of the five canoes I had taken from the
Indians we mended somewhat the barges, making washboards and adding to them and
raising the sides two hands above water. 47.
Then we set out to sea again, coasting towards the River of
Palms. Every day our thirst and hunger increased because our supplies were
giving out, as well as the water supply, for the pouches we had made from the
legs of our horses soon became rotten and useless. From time to time we would
enter some inlet or cove that reached very far inland, but we found them all
shallow and dangerous, and so we navigated through them for thirty days,
meeting sometimes Indians who fished and were poor and wretched people. 48.
At the end of these thirty days, and when we were in
extreme need of water and hugging the coast, we heard one night a canoe
approaching. When we saw it we stopped and waited, but it would not come to us,
and, although we called out, it would neither turn back nor wait. It being
night, we did not follow the canoe, but proceeded. At dawn we saw a small
island, where we touched to search for water, but in vain, as there was none.
While at anchor a great storm overtook us. We remained there six days without
venturing to leave, and it being five days since we had drank anything our
thirst was so great as to compel us to drink salt water, and several of us took
such an excess of it that we lost suddenly five men. 49.
I tell this briefly, not thinking it necessary to relate in
particular all the distress and hardships we bore. Moreover, if one takes into
account the place we were in and the slight chances of relief he may imagine
what we suffered. Seeing that our thirst was increasing and the water was
killing us, while the storm did not abate, we agreed to trust to God, Our Lord,
and rather risk the perils of the sea than wait there for certain death from
thirst. So we left in the direction we had seen the canoe going on the night we
came here. During this day we found ourselves often on the verge of drowning
and so forlorn that there was none in our company who did not expect to die at
any moment. 50.
It was Our Lord’s pleasure, who many a time shows His favor
in the hour of greatest distress, that at sunset we turned a point of land and
found there shelter and much improvement. Many canoes came and the Indians in
them spoke to us, but turned back without waiting. They were tall and well
built, and carried neither bows nor arrows. We followed them to their lodges,
which were nearly along the inlet, and landed, and in front of the lodges we
saw many jars with water, and great quantities of cooked fish. The Chief of
that land offered all to the Governor and led him to his abode. The dwellings
were of matting and seemed to be permanent. When we entered the home of the
chief he gave us plenty of fish, while we gave him of our maize, which they ate
in our presence, asking for more. So we gave more to them, and the Governor
presented him with some trinkets. While with the cacique at his lodge, half an
hour after sunset, the Indians suddenly fell upon us and upon our sick people
on the beach. 51.
They also attacked the house of the cacique, where the
Governor was, wounding him in the face with a stone. Those who were with him
seized the cacique, but as his people were so near he escaped, leaving in our
hands a robe of marten-ermine skin, which, I believe, are the finest in the
world and give out an odor like amber and musk. A single one can be smelt so
far off that it seems as if there were a great many. We saw more of that kind,
but none like these. 52.
Those of us who were there, seeing the Governor hurt,
placed him aboard the barge and provided that most of the men should follow him
to the boats. Some fifty of us remained on land to face the Indians, who
attacked thrice that night, and so furiously as to drive us back every time
further than a stone’s throw. 53.
Not one of us escaped unhurt. I was wounded in the face,
and if they had had more arrows ( for only a few were found) without any doubt
they would have done us great harm. At the last onset the Captains Dorantes,
Penalosa and Tellez, with fifteen men, placed themselves in ambush and attacked
them from the rear, causing them to flee and leave us. The next morning I
destroyed more than thirty of their canoes, which served to protect us against
a northern wind then blowing, on account of which we had to stay there, in the
severe cold, not venturing out to sea on account of the heavy storm. After this
we again embarked and navigated for three days, having taken along but a small
supply of water, the vessels we had for it being few. So we found ourselves in
the same plight as before. 54.
Continuing onward, we entered a firth and there saw a canoe
with Indians approaching. As we hailed them they came, and the Governor, whose
barge they neared first, asked them for water. They offered to get some,
provided we gave them something in which to carry it, and a Christian Greek,
called Doroteo Teodoro (who has already been mentioned), said he would go with
them. The Governor and others vainly tried to dissuade him, but he insisted
upon going and went, taking along a negro, while the Indians left two of their
number as hostages. At night the Indians returned and brought back our vessels,
but without water; neither did the Christians return with them. Those that had
remained as hostages, when their people spoke to them, attempted to throw
themselves into the water. But our men in the barge held them back, and so the
other Indians forsook their canoe, leaving us very despondent and sad for the
loss of those two Christians. 55.
In the morning many canoes of Indians came, demanding their
two companions, who had remained in the barge as hostages. The Governor
answered that he would give them up, provided they returned the two Christians.
With those people there came five or six chiefs, who seemed to us to be of
better appearance, greater authority and manner of composure than any we had
yet seen, although not as tall as those of whom we have before spoken. They
wore the hair loose and very long, and were clothed in robes of marten, of the
kind we had obtained previously, some of them done up in a very strange
fashion, because they showed patterns of fawn-colored furs that looked very
They entreated us to go with them, and said that they would
give us the Christians, water and many other things, and more canoes kept
coming towards us, trying to block the mouth of that inlet, and for this
reason, as well as because the land appeared very dangerous to remain in, we
took again to sea, where we stayed with them till noon. And as they would not
return the Christians, and for that reason neither would we give up the
Indians, they began to throw stones at us with slings, and darts, threatening
to shoot arrows, although we did not see more than three or four bows. 57.
While thus engaged the wind freshened and they turned about
and left us. We navigated that day until nightfall, when my bark, which was the
foremost, discovered a promontory made by the coast. At the other end was a
very large river, and at a small island on the point I anchored to wait for the
other barges. 58.
The Governor did not want to touch, but entered a bay close
by, where there were many small islands. There we got together and took fresh
water out of the sea, because the river emptied into it like a torrent. 59.
For two days we had eaten the corn raw, and now, in order
to toast it, we went ashore on that island, but not finding any firewood,
agreed to go to the river, which was one league from there behind the point.
However, the current was so strong that it in no way allowed us to land, but
rather carried us away from the shore against all our efforts. The north wind
that blew off shore freshened so much that it drove us back to the high sea,
without our being able to do anything against it, and at about one-half league
from shore we sounded and found no bottom even at thirty fathoms. Without being
able to understand it, it was the current that disturbed our soundings. We
navigated two days yet, trying hard to reach the shore. On the third day, a
little before sunrise, we saw many columns of smoke rising on the coast.
Working towards these, we found ourselves in three fathoms of water, but it
being night did not dare to land because, as we had seen so much smoke, we
believed that greater danger might be in wait for us there. We were unable to
see, owing to the darkness, what we should do. So we determined to wait until
When it dawned the barges had been driven apart from each
other. I found myself in thirty fathoms and, drifting along at the hour of
vespers, I descried two barges, and as I approached saw that the first one was
that of the Governor, who asked me what I thought we should do. I told him that
we ought to rejoin the other barge, which was ahead of us, and in no manner
forsake her, and the three together should continue our way whither God might
take us. He replied it was impossible, since the barge was drifting far away
into the sea, whereas he wanted to land, but that if I wished to follow I
should put the people of my barge at the oars and work hard, as only by the
strength of our arms the land could be reached. In this he had been advised by
a captain he had along, whose name was Pantoja, who told him that if he did not
land that day he would not in six days more, during which time we would of
necessity starve. 61.
Seeing his determination, I took to my own oar and the
other oarsmen in my craft did the same, and thus we rowed until nearly sunset.
But as the Governor had with him the healthiest and strongest men, in no way
could we follow or keep up with him. Seeing this, I asked him to give me a rope
from his barge to be able to follow, but he answered that it was no small
effort on their part alone to reach the shore on that night. I told him that
since it was barely possible for us to follow and do what he had ordained, he
should tell me what he commanded me to do. He answered that this was no time
for orders; that each one should do the best he could to save himself; that he
intended to do it that way, and with this he went on with his craft. 62.
As I could not follow him, I went after the other barge,
which was out at sea and waited for me, and reaching it I found it was the one
of the Captains Penalosa and Tellez. We travelled together for four days, our
daily ration being half a handful of raw maize. At the end of these four days a
storm overtook us, in which the other barge was lost. God’s great mercy
preserved us from being drowned in that weather. 63.
It being winter and the cold very great, and as we had been
suffering so many days from hunger and from the injuries we received from the
waves, that the next day people began to break down, so that when the sun set
all those aboard of my barge had fallen in a heap and were so near dying that
few remained conscious, and not five men kept on their feet. 64.
When night came the skipper and I were the only ones able
to manage the barge. Two hours after nightfall the skipper told me to steer the
craft alone, since he felt that he would die that same night. Thereupon I stood
at the helm, and after midnight went to see if the skipper was dead, but he
said that, on the contrary, he felt better and would steer till daybreak. On
that occasion I would have hailed death with delight rather than to see so many
people around me in such a condition. After the skipper had taken the barge
under his control I went to rest, very much without resting, for I thought of
anything else but sleep. 65.
Near daybreak I fancied to hear the sound of breakers, for
as the coast was low, their noise was greater. Surprised at it, I called to the
skipper, who said he thought we were near the shore. Sounding, we found seven
fathoms, and he was of the opinion that we should keep off shore till dawn. So
I took the oar and rowed along the coast, from which we were one league away,
and turned the stern to seaward. 66.
Close to shore a wave took us and hurled the barge a
horse’s length out of water. With the violent shock nearly all the people who
lay in the boat like dead came to themselves, and, seeing we were close to
land, began to crawl out on all fours. As they took to some rocks, we built a
fire and toasted some of our maize. We found rain water, and with the warmth of
the fire people revived and began to cheer up. The day we arrived there was the
sixth of the month of November. 67.
After the people had eaten I sent Lope de Oviedo, who was
the strongest and heartiest of all, to go to some trees nearby and climb to the
top of one, examine the surroundings and the country in which we were. He did
so and found we were on an island, and that the ground was hollowed out, as if
cattle had gone over it, from which it seemed to him that the land belonged to
Christians, and so he told us. I sent him again to look and examine more
closely if there were any worn trails, and not to go too far so as not to run
into danger. He went, found a footpath, followed it for about one-half league,
and saw several Indian huts which stood empty because the Indians had gone out
into the field. 68.
He took away a cooking pot, a little dag and a few ruffs
and turned back, but as he seemed to delay I sent two other Christians to look
for him and find out what had happened. 69.
They met him nearby and saw that three Indians, with bows
and arrows, were following and calling to him, while he did the same to them by
signs. So he came to where we were, the Indians remaining behind, seated on the
beach. Half an hour after a hundred Indian archers joined them, and our fright
was such that, whether tall or little, it made them appear giants to us. They
stood still close to the first ones, near where we were. 70.
We could not defend ourselves, as there were scarcely three
of us who could stand on their feet. The inspector and I stepped forward and
called them. They came, and we tried to quiet them the best we could and save
ourselves, giving them beads and bells. Each one of them gave me an arrow in
token of friendship, and by signs they gave us to understand that on the
following morning they would come back with food, as then they had none. 71.
The next day, at sunrise, which was the hour the Indians
had given us to understand, they came as promised and brought us plenty of fish
and some roots which they eat that taste like nuts, some bigger, some smaller,
most of which are taken out of the water with much trouble. 72.
In the evening they returned and brought us more fish and
some of the same roots, and they brought their women and children to look at
us. They thought themselves very rich with the little bells and beads we gave
them, and thereafter visited us daily with the same things as before. As we saw
ourselves provided with fish, roots, water and the other things we had asked
for, we concluded to embark again and continue our voyage. 73.
We lifted the barge out of the sand into which it had sunk
( for which purpose we all had to take off our clothes) and had great work to
set her afloat, as our condition was such that much lighter things would have
given us trouble. 74.
Then we embarked. Two crossbow shots from shore a wave
swept over us, we all got wet, and being naked and the cold very great, the
oars dropped out of our hands. The next wave overturned the barge. The
inspector and two others clung to her to save themselves, but the contrary
happened; they got underneath the barge and were drowned. 75.
The shore being very rough, the sea took the others and
thrust them, half dead, on the beach of the same island again, less the three
that had perished underneath the barge. 76.
The rest of us, as naked as we had been born, had lost
everything, and while it was not worth much, to us it meant a great deal. It
was in November, bitterly cold, and we in such a state that every bone could
easily be counted, and we looked like death itself. Of myself I can say that
since the month of May I had not tasted anything but toasted maize, and even
sometimes had been obliged to eat it raw. Although the horses were killed
during the time the barges were built, I never could eat of them, and not ten
times did I taste fish. This I say in order to explain and that any one might
guess how we were off. On top of all this, a north wind arose, so that we were
nearer death than life. It pleased Our Lord that, searching for the remnants of
our former fire, we found wood with which we built big fires and then with many
tears begged Our Lord for mercy and forgiveness of our sins. Every one of us
pitied not only himself, but all the others whom he saw in the same condition.
At sunset the Indians, thinking we had not left, came to
bring us food, but when they saw us in such a different attire from before and
so strange-looking, they were so frightened as to turn back. I went to call
them, and in great fear they came. I then gave them to understand by signs how
we had lost a barge and three of our men had been drowned, while before them
there lay two of our men dead, with the others about to go the same way. 78.
Upon seeing the disaster we had suffered, our misery and
distress, the Indians sat down with us and all began to weep out of compassion
for our misfortune, and for more than half an hour they wept so loud and so
sincerely that it could be heard far away. 79.
Verily, to see beings so devoid of reason, untutored, so
like unto brutes, yet so deeply moved by pity for us, it increased my feelings
and those of others in my company for our own misfortune. When the lament was
over, I spoke to the Christians and asked them if they would like me to beg the
Indians to take us to their homes. Some of the men, who had been to New Spain,
answered that it would be unwise, as, once at their abode, they might sacrifice
us to their idols. 80.
Still, seeing there was no remedy and that in any other way
death was surer and nearer, I did not mind what they said, but begged the
Indians to take us to their dwellings, at which they showed great pleasure,
telling us to tarry yet a little, but that they would do what we wished. Soon
thirty of them loaded themselves with firewood and went to their lodges, which
were far away, while we stayed with the others until it was almost dark. Then
they took hold of us and carried us along hurriedly to where they lived. 81.
Against the cold, and lest on the way some one of us might
faint or die, they had provided four or five big fires on the road, at each one
of which they warmed us. As soon as they saw we had regained a little warmth
and strength they would carry us to the next fire with such haste that our feet
barely touched the ground. 82.
So we got to their dwellings, where we saw they had built a
hut for us with many fires in it. About one hour after our arrival began to
dance and to make a great celebration (which lasted the whole night), although
there was neither pleasure, feast nor sleep in it for us, since we expected to
be sacrificed. In the morning they again gave us fish and roots, and treated us
so well that we became reassured, losing somewhat our apprehension of being
That same day I saw on one of the Indians a trinket he had
not gotten from us, and asking from where they had obtained it they answered,
by signs, that other men like ourselves and who were still in our rear, had
given it to them. Hearing this, I sent two Christians with two Indians to guide
them to those people. Very near by they met them, and they also were looking
for us, as the Indians had told them of our presence in the neighborhood. These
were the Captains Andres Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo, with all of their
crew. When they came near us they were much frightened at our appearance and
grieved at being unable to give us anything, since they had nothing but their
clothes. And they stayed with us there, telling how, on the fifth of that same
month, their barge stranded a league and a half from there, and they escaped
without anything being lost. 84.
All together, we agreed upon repairing their barge, and
that those who had strength and inclination should proceed in it, while the
others should remain until completely restored and then go as best they could
along the coast, following it till God would be pleased to get us all together
to a land of Christians. 85.
So we set to work, but ere the barge was afloat Tavera, a
gentleman in our company, died, while the barge proved not to be seaworthy and
soon sank. Now, being in the condition which I have stated, that is, most of us
naked and the weather so unfavorable for walking and for swimming across rivers
and coves, and we had neither food nor any way to carry it, we determined upon
submitting to necessity and upon wintering there, and we also agreed that four
men, who were the most able-bodied, should go to Panuco, which we believed to
be nearby, and that, if it was God, Our Lord’s will to take them there, they
should tell of our remaining on the island and of our distress. One of them was
a Portuguese, called Alvaro Fernandez, a carpenter and sailor; the second was
Mendez; the third, Figueroa, a native of Toledo; the fourth, Astudillo, from
Zafra. They were all good swimmers and took with them an Indian from the
A few days after these four Christians had left, the
weather became so cold and tempestuous that the Indians could no longer pull
roots, and the canebrake in which they used to fish yielded nothing more. As
the lodges afforded so little shelter, people began to die, and five
Christians, quartered on the coast, were driven to such an extremity that they
ate each other up until but one remained, who being left alone, there was
nobody to eat him. Their names are: Sierra, Diego, Lopez, Corral, Palacios and
Gonzalo Ruiz. At this the Indians were so startled, and there was such an
uproar among them, that I verily believe if they had seen this at the beginning
they would have killed them, and we all would have been in great danger. After
a very short time, out of eighty men who had come there in our two parties only
fifteen remained alive. 87.
Then the natives fell sick from the stomach, so that
one-half of them died also, and they, believing we had killed them, and holding
it to be certain, they agreed among themselves to kill those of us who
But when they came to execute it an Indian who kept me told
them not to believe we were the cause of their dying, for if we had so much
power we would not have suffered so many of our own people to perish without
being able to remedy it ourselves. He also told them there remained but very
few of us, and none of them did any harm or injury, so that the best was to let
us alone. It pleased Our Lord they should listen to his advice and counsel and
give up their idea. 89.
To this island we gave the name of the Island of Ill-Fate.
The people on it are tall and well formed; they have no other weapons than bows
and arrows with which they are most dexterous. The men have one of their
nipples perforated from side to side and sometimes both; through this hole is
thrust a reed as long as two and a half hands and as thick as two fingers; they
also have the under lip perforated and a piece of cane in it as thin as the
half of a finger. The women do the hard work. People stay on this island from
October till the end of February, feeding on the roots I have mentioned, taken
from under the water in November and December. They have channels made of reeds
and get fish only during that time; afterwards they subsist on roots. At the
end of February they remove to other parts in search of food, because the roots
begin to sprout and are not good any more. 90.
Of all the people in the world, they are those who most
love their children and treat them best, and should the child of one of them
happen to die, parents and relatives bewail it, and the whole settlement, the
lament lasting a full year, day after day. Before sunrise the parents begin to
weep, after them the tribe, and the same they do at noon and at dawn. At the
end of the year of mourning they celebrate the anniversary and wash and cleanse
themselves of all their paint. They mourn all their dead in this manner, old
people excepted, to whom they do not pay any attention, saying that these have
had their time and are no longer of any use, but only take space, and food from
the children. 91.
Their custom as to bury the dead, except those who are
medicine men among them, whom they burn, and while the fire is burning, all
dance and make a big festival, grinding the bones to powder. At the end of the
year, when they celebrate the anniversary, they scarify themselves and give to
the relatives the pulverized bones to drink in water. Every man has a
recognized wife, but the medicine men enjoy greater privileges, since they may
have two or three, and among these wives there is great friendship and harmony.
When one takes a woman for his wife, from the day he
marries her, whatever he may hunt or fish, she has to fetch it to the home of
her father, without daring to touch or eat of it, and from the home of the
father-in-law they bring the food to the husband. All the while neither the
wife’s father nor her mother enter his abode, nor is he allowed to go to
theirs, or to the homes of his brothers-in-law, and should they happen to meet
they go out of each other’s way a crossbow’s shot or so, with bowed heads and
eyes cast to the ground, holding it to be an evil thing to look at each other
or speak. The women are free to communicate with their parents-in-law or
relatives and speak to them. This custom prevails from that island as far as
about fifty leagues inland. 93.
There is another custom, that when a son or brother dies no
food is gathered by those of his household for three months, preferring rather
to starve, but the relatives and neighbors provide them with victuals. Now, as
during the time we were there so many of them died, there was great starvation
in most of the lodges, due to their customs and ceremonials, as well as to the
weather, which was so rough that such as could go out after food brought in but
very little, withal working hard for it. Therefore the Indians by whom I was
kept forsook the island and in several canoes went over to the mainland to some
bays where there were a great many oysters and during three months of the year
they do not eat anything else and drink very bad water. There is lack of
firewood, but great abundance of mosquitoes. Their lodges are made of matting
and built on oyster shells, upon which they sleep in hides, which they only get
by chance. There we remained to the end of April, when we went to the seashore,
where we ate blackberries for a whole month, during which time they danced and
celebrated incessantly. 94.
On the island I have spoken of they wanted to make medicine
men of us without any examination or asking for our diplomas, because they cure
diseases by breathing on the sick, and with that breath and their hands they
drive the ailment away. So they summoned us to do the same in order to be at
least of some use. We laughed, taking it for a jest, and said that we did not
understand how to cure. 95.
Thereupon they withheld our food to compel us to do what
they wanted. Seeing our obstinacy, an Indian told me that I did not know what I
said by claiming that what he knew was useless, because stones and things
growing out in the field have their virtues, and he, with a heated stone,
placing it on the stomach, could cure and take away pain, so that we, who were
wiser men, surely had greater power and virtue. 96.
At last we found ourselves in such stress as to have to do
it, without risking any punishment. Their manner of curing is as follows: When
one is ill they call in a medicine man, and after they are well again not only
do they give him all they have, but even things they strive to obtain from
their relatives. All the medicine man does is to make a few cuts where the pain
is located and then suck the skin around the incisions. They cauterize with
fire, thinking it very effective, and I found it to be so by my own experience.
Then they breathe on the spot where the pain is and believe that with this the
disease goes away. 97.
The way we treated the sick was to make over them the sign
of the cross while breathing on them, recite a Pater noster and Ave Maria, and
pray to God, Our Lord, as best we could to give them good health and inspire
them to do us some favors. Thanks to His will and the mercy He had upon us, all
those for whom we prayed, as soon as we crossed them, told the others that they
were cured and felt well again. For this they gave us good cheer, and would
rather be without food themselves so as to give it to us, and they gave us
hides and other small things. So great was the lack of food then that I often
remained without eating anything whatsoever for three days, and they were in
the same plight, so that it seemed to me impossible for life to last, although
I afterwards suffered still greater privations and much more distress, as I
shall tell further on. 98.
The Indians that kept Alonso del Castillo, Andres Dorantes
and the others, who were still alive, being of another language and stock, had
gone to feed on oysters at another point of the mainland, where they remained
until the first day of the month of April. Then they came back to the island,
which was from there nearly two leagues off, where the channel is broadest. The
island is half a league wide and five long. 99.
All the people of this country go naked; only the women
cover part of their bodies with a kind of wool that grows on trees. The girls
go about in deer skins. They are very liberal towards each other with what they
have. There is no ruler among them. All who are of the same descendancy cluster
together. There are two distinct languages spoken on the island; those of one
language are called Capoques, those of the other Han. They have the custom,
when they know each other and meet from time to time, before they speak, to
weep for half an hour. After they have wept the one who receives the visit
rises and gives to the other all he has. The other takes it, and in a little
while goes away with everything. Even sometimes, after having given and
obtained all, they part without having uttered a word. There are other very
queer customs, but having told the principal ones and the most striking, I must
now proceed to relate what further happened to us. 100.
After Dorantes and Castillo had come back to the island,
they gathered together all the Christians, who were somewhat scattered, and
there were in all fourteen. I, as told, was in another place, on the mainland,
whither my Indians had taken me and where I suffered from such a severe illness
that, although I might otherwise have entertained some hope for life, this was
enough to take it away from me completely. When the Christians learned of it
they gave an Indian the robe of marten we had taken from the cacique, as
stated, in order that he should guide them to where I was, to see me, and so
twelve of them came, two having become so feeble that they did not dare to take
them along. 101.
The names of those who came are: Alonso del Castillo,
Andres Dorantes and Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso, Estrada, Tostado, Chaves,
Gutierrez, an Asturian priest; Diego de Huelva, Estevanico, the negro Benitez,
and as they reached the mainland they found still another of our men named
Francisco de Leon, and the thirteen went along the coast. After they had gone
by, the Indians with whom I was told me of it, and how Hieronimo de Alaniz and
Lope de Oviedo had been left on the island. 102.
My sickness prevented me from following or seeing them. I
had to remain with those same Indians of the island for more than one year, and
as they made me work so much and treated me so badly I determined to flee and
go to those who live in the woods on the mainland, and who are called those
from (of) Charruco. 103.
I could no longer stand the life I was compelled to lead.
Among many other troubles I had to pull the eatable roots out of the water and
from among the canes where they were buried in the ground, and from this my
fingers had become so tender that the mere touch of a straw caused them to
bleed. The reeds would cut me in many places, because many were broken and I
had to go in among them with the clothing I had on, of which I have told. This
is why I went to work and joined the other Indians. Among these I improved my
condition a little by becoming a trader, doing the best in it I could, and they
gave me food and treated me well. 104.
They entreated me to go about from one part to another to
get the things they needed, as on account of constant warfare there is neither
travel nor barter in the land. 105.
So, trading along with my wares I penetrated inland as far
as I cared to go and along the coast as much as forty or fifty leagues. My
stock consisted mainly of pieces of seashells and cockles, and shells with
which they cut a fruit which is like a bean, used by them for healing and in
their dances and feasts. This is of greatest value among them, besides
shell-beads and other objects. These things I carried inland, and in exchange
brought back hides and red ochre with which they rub and dye their faces and
hair; flint for arrow points, glue and hard canes where-with to make them, and
tassels made of the hair of deer, which they dye red. This trade suited me well
because it gave me liberty to go wherever I pleased; I was not bound to do
anything and no longer a slave. Wherever I went they treated me well, and gave
me to eat for the sake of my wares. My principal object in doing it, however,
was to find out in what manner I might get further away. I became well known
among them; they rejoiced greatly when seeing me and I would bring them what
they needed, and those who did not know me would desire and endeavor to meet me
for the sake of my fame. 106.
My sufferings, while trading thus, it would take long to
tell; danger, hunger, storms and frost overtaking me often in the open field
and alone, and from which through the mercy of God, Our Lord, I escaped. For
this reason I did not go out trading in winter, it being the time when the
Indians themselves remain in their huts and abodes, unable to go out or assist
each other. 107.
Nearly six years I spent thus in the country, alone among
them and naked, as they all were themselves. 108.
The reason for remaining so long was that I wished to take
with me a Christian called Lope de Oviedo, who still lingered on the island.
The other companion, Alaniz, who remained with him after Alonso del Castillo
and Andres Dorantes and all the others had gone, soon died, and in order to get
him (Oviedo) out of there, I went over to the island every year, entreating him
to leave with me and go, as well as we could, in search of Christians. But year
after year he put it off to the year that was to follow. In the end I got him
to come, took him away, and carried him across the inlets and through four
rivers on the coast, since he could not swim. Thence we proceeded, together
with several Indians, to an inlet one league wide, very deep everywhere and
which seemed to us, from what we saw, to be the one called of the Holy Ghost.
On the opposite shore we saw Indians who had come to meet
those in our company. They informed us that further on there were three men
like ourselves and told us their names. Upon being asked about the rest of the
party, they answered that all had died from cold and hunger and that the
Indians beyond had killed Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso and Diego de Huelva
willfully, only because these had gone from one house to another, and their
neighbors with whom was now the Captain Dorantes, had, in consequence of some
dream dreamt by these Indians, killed Esquivel and Mendez also. We asked them
about those who remained alive, and they said they were in a very sorry
condition, as the boys and other Indians, idlers and roughs, kicked them,
slapped their faces and beat them with sticks, and such was the life they had
to lead. 110.
We inquired about the country further on and the
sustenance that might be found in it. They said it was very thinly settled,
with nothing to eat, and the people dying from cold, as they had neither hides
nor anything else to protect their bodies. They also told us that, if we wished
to meet the three Christians about two days hence, the Indians would come to a
place about a league from there on the shore of that river to feed on nuts. And
to show us that what they said of the ill-treatment of our people was true the
Indians with whom we were kicked and beat my companion. Neither did I remain
without my share of it. They threw mud at us, and put arrows to our chests
every day, saying they would kill us in the same way as our companions. And
fearing this, Lope de Oviedo, my companion, said he preferred to go back, with
some women of the Indians in whose company we had forded the cove and who had
remained behind. I insisted he should not go and did all I could to prevail
upon him to remain, but it was in vain. He went back and I remained alone among
these Indians, who are named Guevenes, whereas those with whom he went away
were called Deaguanes. 111.
Two days after Lope de Oviedo had gone the Indians who
kept Alonso del Castillo and Andres Dorantes came to the very spot we had been
told of to eat the nuts upon which they subsist for two months in the year,
grinding certain small grains with them, without eating anything else. Even of
that they do not always have, since one year there may be some and the next
year not. They (the nuts) are of the size of those of Galicia, and the trees
are very big and numerous. 112.
An Indian told me that the Christians had come and that if
I wished to see them I should run away to hide on the edge of a grove to which
he pointed, as he and some of his relatives were to visit these Indians and
would take me along to the Christians. I confided in them and determined to do
it because they spoke a different language from that of my Indians. So the next
day they took me along. When I got near the site where they had their lodges,
Andres Dorantes came out to look who it was, because the Indians had informed
him also that a Christian was coming, and when he saw me he was much
frightened, as for many days they believed me to be dead, the Indians having
told them so. We gave many thanks to God for being together again, and that day
was one of the happiest we enjoyed in our time, and going to where was Castillo
they asked me whither I went. I told him my purpose was to go to a country of
Christians and that I followed this direction and trail. Andres Dorantes said
that for many days he had been urging Castillo and Estevanico to go further on,
but they did not risk it, being unable to swim and afraid of the rivers and
inlets that had to be crossed so often in that country. 113.
Still, as it pleased God, Our Lord, to spare me after all
my sufferings and sickness and finally let me rejoin them, they at last
determined upon fleeing, as I would take them safely across the rivers and bays
we might meet. But they advised me to keep it secret from the Indians (as well
as my own departure) lest they would kill me forthwith, and that to avoid this
it was necessary to remain with them for six months longer, after which time
they would remove to another section in order to eat prickly pears. These are a
fruit of the size of eggs, red and black, and taste very good. For three months
they subsist upon them exclusively, eating nothing else. 114.
Now, at the time they pluck this fruit, other Indians from
beyond come to them with bows for barter and exchange, and when those turn back
we thought of joining them and escaping in this way. With this understanding I
remained, and they gave me as a slave to an Indian with whom Dorantes stayed.
This Indian, his wife, their son and another Indian who was with them were all
cross-eyed. These are called Mariames, and Castillo was with others, who were
their neighbors, called Iguaces. 115.
And so, being here with them, they told me that after
leaving the Island of Ill-Fate they met on the coast the boat in which the
purser and the monks were going adrift, and that crossing the rivers, of which
there were four, all very large and very swift, the barges in which they
crossed were swept out into the sea, where four of their number were drowned.
Thus they went ahead until they had crossed the inlet, which they did by dint
of great efforts. Fifteen leagues from there they met another of our parties,
and when they reached there, already two of their companions had died in sixty
leagues of travel. The survivors also were very near death. On the whole trip
they ate nothing but crawfish and yerba pedrera. 116.
At this, the last cove, they said they saw Indians eating
blackberries, who, upon perceiving the Christians, went away to another
promontory. While seeking a way to cross the cove an Indian and a Christian
came towards them, and they recognized Figueroa, one of the four we had sent
ahead from the Island of Ill-Fate, who there told them how he and his
companions had gotten to that place, where two of their number and one Indian
had died from cold and hunger, because they had come and remained in the worst
weather known. He also said the Indians took him and Mendez. 117.
While with them Mendez fled, going in the direction of
Panuco as best he might, but the Indians pursued and killed him. So, as he
(Figueroa) was with these same Indians he learned (from them) that with the
Mariames there was a Christian who had come over from the other side and had
met him with those called Guevenes, and that this Christian was Hernando de
Esquivel, from Badajoz, a companion of the commissary. From Esquivel he learned
how the Governor, the purser and the others had ended. 118.
The purser, with the friars, had stranded with their barge
among the rivers, and, while they were proceeding along the coast, the barge of
the Governor and his men came to land also. He (the Governor) then went with
his barge as far as the big cove, whence he returned and took his men across to
the other side, then came back for the purser, the monks and the rest. He
further told him that after disembarking, the Governor revoked the powers he
had given to the purser as his lieutenant, giving the office to a captain that
was with him called Pantoja. 119.
The Governor did not land that night, but remained on his
barge with a pilot and a page who was sick. They had neither water nor anything
to eat aboard, and at midnight a northerner set in with such violence that it
carried the barge out into the sea, without anybody noticing it. They had for
an anchor only a stone, and never more did they hear of him. Thereupon the
people who had remained on land proceeded along the coast, and, being much
impeded by water, built rafts with great trouble, in which they passed to the
other side. 120.
Going ahead, they reached a point of timber on the beach,
where they found Indians, who, upon seeing them approach, placed their lodges
on the canoes and crossed over to the other side of the coast, and the
Christians, in view of the season and weather, since it was in the month of
November, remained in this timber, because they found water and firewood, some
crawfish and other sea-food, but from cold and hunger they began to die. 121.
Moreover, Pantoja, who remained as lieutenant, ill-treated
them. On this Sotomayor, brother of Vasco Porcallo (the one from the Island of
Cuba, who had come in the fleet as Maestro de Campo), unable to stand it
longer, quarreled with Pantoja and struck him a blow with a stick, of which he
died. Thus they perished one after another, the survivors slicing the dead for
meat. The last one to die was Sotomayor, and Esquivel cut him up and fed on his
body until the first of March, when an Indian, of those who had taken to flight
previously, came to look if they were dead and took Esquivel along with him.
Once in the hands of this Indian, Figueroa spoke to
Esquivel, learning from him what we have told here, and he entreated him to go
in his company towards Panuco. But Esquivel refused, saying he had heard from
the monks that Panuco was in their rear, and so he remained, while Figueroa
went back to the coast where he formerly had been. 123.
All this account Figueroa gave after Esquivel’s narrative,
and thus, from one to the other, it came to me. Through it the fate of the
whole fleet will be learned and known, and what happened to every one in
particular. And he said furthermore that if the Christians would go about there
for some time they might possibly meet Esquivel, because he knew that he had
run away from the Indian with whom he was and gone to others called
Mariames,who were their neighbors. And, as I have just said, he and the
Asturian wished to go to other Indians further on, but when those with whom
they were found it out, they beat them severely, undressed the Asturian and
pierced one of his arms with an arrow. 124.
At last the Christians escaped through flight, and
remained with the other Indians, whose slaves they agreed to become. But,
although serving them, they were so ill-treated, that no slaves, nor men in any
condition of life, were ever so abused. Not content with cuffing and beating
them and pulling out their beards for mere pastime, they killed three out of
the six only because they went from one lodge to another. These were Diego
Dorantes, Valdivieso and Diego de Huelva. The three remaining ones expected to
meet the same fate in the end. 125.
To escape from that life Andres Dorantes fled to the
Mariames, and they were the ones with whom Esquivel had been. They told him how
Esquivel stayed with them and how he fled because a woman dreamt he would kill
her son, and the Indians pursued and killed him. They also showed Andres
Dorantes his sword, his rosary, his prayer book and other things of his. It is
a custom of theirs to kill even their own children for the sake of dreams, and
the girls when newly born they throw away to be eaten by dogs. The reason why
they do it is (as they say) that all the others of that country are their
enemies with whom they are always at war, and should they marry their daughters
they might multiply so much as to be able to overcome them and reduce them to
slavery. Hence they prefer to kill the girls rather than see them give birth to
children who would become their foes. 126.
We asked them why they did not wed the girls among
themselves. They replied it was bad to marry them to their own kin, and much
better to do away with their daughters than to leave them to relatives or to
enemies. This custom they have in common with their neighbors, the Iguaces, and
no other tribe of that country has it. When they want to get married they buy
their wives from their enemies. The price paid for a woman is a bow, the best
to be had, with two arrows, and if he has no bow he gives a net as much as a
fathom in width and one in length. They kill their own children and buy those
of strangers. Marriage only lasts as long as they please. For a mere nothing
they break up wedlock. 127.
Dorantes remained only a few days with those Indians and
then escaped. Castillo and Estevanico went inland to the Iguaces. All those
people are archers and well built, although not as tall as those we had left
behind us, and they have the nipple and lip perforated. Their principal food
are two or three kinds of roots, which they hunt for all over the land; they
are very unhealthy, inflating, and it takes two days to roast them. Many are
very bitter, and with all that they are gathered with difficulty. But those
people are so much exposed to starvation that these roots are to them
indispensable and they walk two and three leagues to obtain them. Now and then
they kill deer and at times get a fish, but this is so little and their hunger
so great that they eat spiders and ant eggs, worms, lizards and salamanders and
serpents, also vipers the bite of which is deadly. They swallow earth and wood,
and all they can get, the dung of deer and more things I do not mention; and I
verily believe, from what I saw, that if there were any stones in the country
they would eat them also. They preserve the bones of the fish they eat, of
snakes and other animals, to pulverize them and eat the powder. 128.
The men do not carry burdens or loads, the women and old
men have to do it, for those are the people they least esteem. They have not as
much love for their children as those spoken of before. Some among them are
given to unnatural vices. The women are compelled to do very hard work and in a
great many ways, for out of twenty-four hours of day and night they get only
six hours’ rest. They spend most of the night in stirring the fire to dry those
roots which they eat, and at daybreak they begin to dig and carry firewood and
water to their houses and attend to other necessary matters. Most of these
Indians are great thieves, for, although very liberal towards each other, as
soon as one turns his heads his own son or the father grabs what he can. They
are great liars and drunkards and take something in order to become
intoxicated. They are so accustomed to running that, without resting or getting
tired, they run from morning till night in pursuit of a deer, and kill a great
many, because they follow until the game is worn out, sometimes catching it
alive. Their huts are of matting placed over four arches. They carry them on
their back and move every two or three days in quest of food; they plant
nothing that would be of any use. 129.
They are a very merry people, and even when famished do
not cease to dance and celebrate their feasts and ceremonials. Their best times
are when “tunas” (prickly pears) are ripe, because then they have plenty to eat
and spend the time in dancing and eating day and night. As long as these tunas
last they squeeze and open them and set them to dry. When dried they are put in
baskets like figs and kept to be eaten on the way. The peelings they grind and
While with them it happened many times that we were three
or four days without food. Then, in order to cheer us, they would tell us not
to despair, since we would have tunas very soon and eat much and drink their
juice and get big stomachs and be merry, contented and without hunger. But from
the day they said it to the season of the tunas there would still elapse five
or six months, and we had to wait that long. 131.
When the time came, and we went to eat tunas, there were a
great many mosquitoes of three kinds, all very bad and troublesome, which
during most of the summer persecuted us. In order to protect ourselves we
built, all around our camps, big fires of damp and rotten wood, that gave no
flame but much smoke, and this was the cause of further trouble to us, for the
whole night we did not do anything but weep from the smoke that went to our
eyes, and the heat from the fires was so insufferable that we would go to the
shore for rest. And when, sometimes, we were able to sleep, the Indians roused
us again with blows to go and kindle the fires. 132.
Those from further inland have another remedy, just as bad
and even worse, which is to go about with a firebrand, setting fire to the
plains and timber so as to drive off the mosquitoes, and also to get lizards
and similar things which they eat, to come out of the soil. In the same manner
they kill deer, encircling them with fires, and they do it also to deprive the
animals of pasture, compelling them to go for food where the Indians want. For
never they build their abodes except where there are wood and water, and
sometimes load themselves with the requisites and go in quest of deer, which
are found mostly where there is neither water nor wood. 133.
On the very day they arrive they kill deer and whatever
else can be had and use all the water and wood to cook their food with and
build fires against the mosquitoes. They wait for another day to get something
to take along on the road, and when they leave they are so badly bitten by
mosquitoes as to appear like lepers. In this manner they satisfy their hunger
twice or thrice a year and at such great sacrifice as I have told. Having been
with them I can say that no toil or suffering in this world comes near it. 134.
All over this country there are a great many deer, fowl
and other animals which I have before enumerated. Here also they come up with
cows; I have seen them thrice and have eaten their meat. They appear to me of
the size of those in Spain. Their horns are small, like those of the Moorish
cattle; the hair is very long, like fine wool and like a peajacket; some are
brownish and others black, and to my taste they have better and more meat than
those from here. Of the small hides the Indians make blankets to cover
themselves with, and of the taller ones they make shoes and targets. These cows
come from the north, across the country further on, to the coast of Florida,
and are found all over the land for over four hundred leagues. On this whole
stretch, through the valleys by which they come, people who live there descend
to subsist upon their flesh. And a great quantity of hides are met with inland.
When I had been with the Christians for six months,
waiting to execute our plans, the Indians went for “tunas,” at a distance of
thirty leagues from there, and as we were about to flee the Indians began
fighting among themselves over a woman and cuffed and struck and hurt each
other, and in great rage each one took his lodge and went his own way. So we
Christians had to part, and in no manner could we get together again until the
year following. During that time I fared very badly, as well from lack of food
as from the abuse the Indians gave me. So badly was I treated that I had to
flee three times from my masters, and they all went in my pursuit ready to kill
me. But God, Our Lord, in His infinite goodness, protected and saved my life.
When the time for the tunas came we found each other again
on the same spot. We had already agreed to escape and appointed a day for it,
when on that very day the Indians separated us, sending each one to a different
place, and I told my companions that I would wait for them at the tunas until
full moon. It was the first of September and the first day of the new moon, and
I told them that if at the time set they did not appear I would go on alone
without them. We parted, each one going off with his Indians. 137.
I remained with mine until the thirteenth of the moon,
determined to escape to other Indians as soon as the moon would be full, and on
that day there came to where I was Andres Dorantes and Estevanico. They told me
they had left Castillo with other people nearby, called Anagados, and how they
had suffered many hardships and been lost. On the following day our Indians
moved towards where Castillo was and were going to join those who kept him,
making friends with them, as until then they had been at war. So we got
Castillo also. 138.
During all the time we ate tunas we felt thirsty. To allay
our thirst we drank the juice of the fruit, pouring it first into a pit which
we dug in the soil, and when that was full we drank to satisfaction. The
Indians do it in that way, out of lack of vessels. The juice is sweet and has
the color of must. There are many kinds of tunas, and some very good ones,
although to me all tasted well alike, hunger never leaving me time to select,
or stop to think which ones were better. Most of the people drink rainwater
that collects here and there, for, as they never have a fixed abode, they know
no springs nor established watering places, although there are rivers. 139.
All over the land are vast and handsome pastures, with
good grass for cattle, and it strikes me the soil would be very fertile were
the country inhabited and improved by reasonable people. We saw no mountains as
long as we were in this country. These Indians told us that further on there
were others called Cajoles, who live nearer the coast, and that they were those
who killed all the people that came in the barge of Penalosa and Tellez. They
had been so emaciated and feeble that when being killed they offered no
resistance. So the Indians finished with all of them, and showed us some of
their clothes and weapons and said the barge was still there stranded. This is
the fifth of the missing ones. That of the Governor we already said had been
swept out into the sea, the one of the purser and the monks was seen stranded
on the beach and Esquivel told us of their end. Of the two in which Castillo, I
and Dorantes were I have told how they sank close to the Isle of Ill-Fate. 140.
Two days after moving we recommended ourselves to God, Our
Lord, and fled, hoping that, although it was late in the season and the fruits
of the tunas were giving out, by remaining in the field we might still get over
a good portion of the land. As we proceeded that day, in great fear lest the
Indians would follow us, we descried smoke, and, going towards it, reached the
place after sundown, where we found an Indian who, when he saw us coming, did
not wait, but ran away. We sent the negro after him, and as the Indian saw him
approach alone he waited. The negro told him that we were going in search of
the people that had raised the smoke. He answered that the dwellings were
nearby and that he would guide us, and we followed. He hurried ahead to tell of
our coming. At sunset we came in sight of the lodges, and two crossbow shots
before reaching them met four Indians waiting for us, and they received us
well. We told them in the language of the Mariames that we had come to see
them. They appeared to be pleased with our company and took us to their homes.
They lodged Dorantes and the negro at the house of a medicine man, and me and
Castillo at that of another. These Indians speak another language and are
called Avavares. They were those who used to fetch bows to ours and barter with
them, and, although of another nation and speech, they understand the idiom of
those with whom we formerly were and had arrived there on that very day with
their lodges. Forthwith they offered us many tunas, because they had heard of
us and of how we cured and of the miracles Our Lord worked through us. And
surely, even if there had been no other tokens, it was wonderful how He
prepared the way for us through a country so scantily inhabited, causing us to
meet people where for a long time there had been none, saving us from so many
dangers, not permitting us to be killed, maintaining us through starvation and
distress and moving the hearts of the people to treat us well, as we shall tell
further on. 141.
On the night we arrived there some Indians came to
Castillo complaining that their heads felt very sore and begging him for
relief. As soon as he had made the sign of the cross over them and recommended
them to God, at that very moment the Indians said that all the pain was gone.
They went back to their abodes and brought us many tunas and a piece of
venison, something we did not know any more what it was, and as the news spread
that same night there came many other sick people for him to cure, and each
brought a piece of venison, and so many there were that we did not know where
to store the meat. We thanked God for His daily increasing mercy and kindness,
and after they were all well they began to dance and celebrate and feast until
sunrise of the day following. 142.
They celebrated our coming for three days, at the end of
which we asked them about the land further on, the people and the food that
there might be obtained. They replied there were plenty of tunas all through
that country, but that the season was over and nobody there, because all had
gone to their abodes after gathering tunas; also that the country was very cold
and very few hides in it. Hearing this, and as winter and cold weather were
setting in, we determined to spend it with those Indians. Five days after our
arrival they left to get more tunas at a place where people of a different
nation and language lived, and having travelled five days, suffering greatly
from hunger, as on the way there were neither tunas nor any kind of fruit, we
came to a river, where we pitched our lodges. 143.
As soon as we were settled we went out to hunt for the
fruit of certain trees, which are like spring bittervetch (orobus), and as
through all that country there are no trails, I lost too much time in hunting
for them. The people returned without me, and starting to rejoin them that
night I went astray and got lost. It pleased God to let me find a burning tree,
by the fire of which I spent that very cold night, and in the morning loaded
myself with wood, took two burning sticks and continued my journey. Thus I went
on for five days, always with my firebrands and load of wood, so that in case
the fire went out where there was no timber, as in many parts there is none, I
always would have wherewith to make other torches and not be without firewood.
It was my only protection against the cold, for I went as naked as a newborn
child. For the night I used the following artifice: 144.
I went to the brush in the timber near the rivers and
stopped in it every evening before sunset. Then I scratched a hole in the
ground and threw in it much firewood from the numerous trees. I also picked up
dry wood that had fallen and built around the hole four fires crosswise, being
very careful to stir them from time to time. Of the long grass that grows there
I made bundles, with which I covered myself in that hole and so was protected
from the night cold. But one night fire fell on the straw with which I was
covered, and while I was asleep in the hole it began to burn so rapidly that,
although I hurried out as quick as possible, I still have marks on my hair from
this dangerous accident. During all that time I did not eat a mouthful, nor
could I find anything to eat, and my feet, being bare, bled a great deal. God
had mercy upon me, that in all this time there was no norther; otherwise I
could not have survived. 145.
At the end of five days I reached the shores of a river
and there met my Indians. They, as well as the Christians, had given me up for
dead, thinking that perhaps some snake had bitten me. They all were greatly
pleased to see me, the Christians especially, and told me that thus far they
had wandered about famishing, and therefore had not hunted for me, and that
night they gave me of their tunas. On the next day we left and went where we
found a great many of that fruit with which all appeased their hunger, and we
gave many thanks to Our Lord, whose help to us never failed. 146.
Early the next day many Indians came and brought five
people who were paralyzed and very ill, and they came for Castillo to cure
them. Every one of the patients offered him his bow and arrows, which he
accepted, and by sunset he made the sign of the cross over each of the sick,
recommending them to God, Our Lord, and we all prayed to Him as well as we
could to restore them to health. And He, seeing there was no other way of
getting those people to help us so that we might be saved from our miserable
existence, had mercy upon us, and in the morning all woke up well and hearty
and went away in such good health as if they never had had any ailment
whatever. This caused them great admiration and moved us to thanks to Our Lord
and to greater faith in His goodness and the hope that He would save us,
guiding us to where we could serve Him. For myself I may say that I always had
full faith in His mercy and in that He would liberate me from captivity, and
always told my companions so. 147.
When the Indians had gone and taken along those recently
cured, we removed to others that were eating tunas also, called Cultalchuches
and Malicones, which speak a different language, and with them were others,
called Coayos and Susolas, and on another side those called Atayos, who were at
war with the Susolas, and exchanging arrow shots with them every day. 148.
Nothing was talked about in this whole country but of the
wonderful cures which God, Our Lord, performed through us, and so they came
from many places to be cured, and after having been with us two days some
Indians of the Susolas begged Castillo to go and attend to a man who had been
wounded, as well as to others that were sick and among whom, they said, was one
on the point of death. Castillo was very timid, especially in difficult and
dangerous cases, and always afraid that his sins might interfere and prevent
the cures from being effective. Therefore the Indians told me to go and perform
the cure. They liked me, remembering that I had relieved them while they were
out gathering nuts, for which they had given us nuts and hides. This had
happened at the time I was coming to join the Christians. So I had to go, and
Dorantes and Estevanico went with me. 149.
When I came close to their ranches I saw that the dying
man we had been called to cure was dead, for there were many people around him
weeping and his lodge was torn down, which is a sign that the owner has died. I
found the Indian with eyes up turned, without pulse and with all the marks of
lifelessness. At least so it seemed to me, and Dorantes said the same. I
removed a mat with which he was covered, and as best I could prayed to Our Lord
to restore his health, as well as that of all the others who might be in need
of it, and after having made the sign of the cross and breathed on him many
times they brought his bow and presented it to me, and a basket of ground
tunas, and took me to many others who were suffering from vertigo. They gave me
two more baskets of tunas, which I left to the Indians that had come with us.
Then we returned to our quarters. 150.
Our Indians to whom I had given the tunas remained there,
and at night returned telling, that the dead man whom I attended to in their
presence had resuscitated, rising from his bed, had walked about, eaten and
talked to them, and that all those treated by me were well and in very good
spirits. This caused great surprise and awe, and all over the land nothing else
was spoken of. All who heard it came to us that we might cure them and bless
their children, and when the Indians in our company ( who were the
Cultalchulches) had to return to their country, before parting they offered us
all the tunas they had for their journey, not keeping a single one, and gave us
flint stones as long as one and a-half palms, with which they cut and that are
greatly prized among them. They begged us to remember them and pray to God to
keep them always healthy, which we promised to do, and so they left, the
happiest people upon earth, having given us the very best they had. 151.
We remained with the Avavares Indians for eight months,
according to our reckoning of the moons. During that time they came for us from
many places and said that verily we were children of the sun. Until then
Dorantes and the negro had not made any cures, but we found ourselves so
pressed by the Indians coming from all sides, that all of us had to become
medicine men. I was the most daring and reckless of all in undertaking cures.
We never treated anyone that did not afterwards say he was well, and they had
such confidence in our skill as to believe that none of them would die as long
as we were among them. 152.
These Indians and the ones we left behind told us a very
strange tale. From their account it may have occurred fifteen or sixteen years
ago. They said there wandered then about the country a man, whom they called
“Bad Thing,” of small stature and with a beard, although they never could see
his features clearly, and whenever he would approach their dwellings their hair
would stand on end and they began to tremble. In the doorway of the lodge there
would then appear a firebrand. That man thereupon came in and took hold of
anyone he chose, and with a sharp knife of flint, as broad as a hand and two
palms in length, he cut their side, and, thrusting his hand through the gash,
took out the entrails, cutting off a piece one palm long, which he threw into
the fire. Afterwards he made three cuts in one of the arms, the second one at
the place where people are usually bled, and twisted the arm, but reset it soon
afterwards. Then he placed his hands on the wounds, and they told us that they
closed at once. Many times he appeared among them while they were dancing,
sometimes in the dress of a woman and again as a man, and whenever he took a
notion to do it he would seize the hut or lodge, take it up into the air and
come down with it again with a great crash. They also told us how, many a time,
they set food before him, but he never would partake of it, and when they asked
him where he came from and where he had his home, he pointed to a rent in the
earth and said his house was down below. 153.
We laughed very much at those stories, making fun of them,
and then, seeing our incredulity they brought to us many of those whom, they
said, he had taken, and we saw the scars of his slashes in the places and as
they told. We told them he was a demon and explained as best we could that if
they would believe in God, Our Lord, and be Christians like ourselves, they
would not have to fear that man, nor would he come and do such things unto
them, and they might be sure that as long as we were in this country he would
not dare to appear again. At this they were greatly pleased and lost much of
their apprehension. 154.
The same Indians told us they had seen the Asturian and
Figueroa with other Indians further along on the coast, which we had named of
the figs. All those people had no reckoning by either sun or moon, nor do they
count by months and years; they judge of the seasons by the ripening of fruits,
by the time when fish die and by the appearance of the stars, in all of which
they are very clever and expert. While with them we were always well treated,
although our food was never too plentiful, and we had to carry our own water
and wood. Their dwellings and their food are like those of the others, but they
are much more exposed to starvation, having neither maize nor acorns or nuts.
We always went about naked like they and covered ourselves at night with deer
During six of the eighteen months we were with them we
suffered much from hunger, because they do not have fish either. At the end of
that time the tunas began to ripen, and without their noticing it we left and
went to other Indians further ahead called Maliacones, at a distance of one
day’s travel. Three days after I and the negro reached there I sent him back to
get Castillo and Dorantes, and after they rejoined me we all departed in
company of the Indians, who went to eat a small fruit of some trees. On this
fruit they subsist for ten or twelve days until the tunas are fully ripe. There
they joined other Indians called Arbadaos, whom we found to be so sick,
emaciated and swollen that we were greatly astonished. The Indians with whom we
had come went back on the same trail, and we told them that we wished to remain
with the others, at which they showed grief. So we remained with the others in
the field near their dwellings. 156.
When the Indians saw us they clustered together, after
having talked among themselves, and each one of them took the one of us whom he
claimed by the hand and they led us to their homes. While with those we
suffered more from hunger than among any of the others. In the course of a
whole day we did not eat more than two handfuls of the fruit, which was green
and contained so much milky juice that our mouths were burnt by it. As water
was very scarce, whoever ate of them became very thirsty. And we finally grew
so hungry that we purchased two dogs, in exchange for nets and other things,
and a hide with which I used to cover myself. I have said already that through
all that country we went naked, and not being accustomed to it, like snakes we
shed our skin twice a year. Exposure to the sun and air covered our chests and
backs with big sores that made it very painful to carry the big and heavy
loads, the ropes of which cut into the flesh of our arms. 157.
The country is so rough and overgrown that often after we
had gathered firewood in the timber and dragged it out, we would bleed freely
from the thorns and spines which cut and slashed us wherever they touched.
Sometimes it happened that I was unable to carry or drag out the firewood after
I had gathered it with much loss of blood. In all that trouble my only relief
or consolation was to remember the passion of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and
the blood He shed for me, and to ponder how much greater His sufferings had
been from the thorns, than those I was then enduring. I made a contract with
the Indians to make combs, arrows, bows and nets for them. Also we made matting
of which their lodges are constructed and of which they are in very great need,
for, although they know how to make it, they do not like to do any work, in
order to be able to go in quest of food. Whenever they work they suffer greatly
from hunger. 158.
Again, they would make me scrape skins and tan them, and
the greatest luxury I enjoyed was on the day they would give me a skin to
scrape, because I scraped it very deep in order to eat the parings, which would
last me two or three days. It also happened to us, while being with these
Indians and those before mentioned, that we would eat a piece of meat which
they gave us, raw, because if we broiled it the first Indian coming along would
snatch and eat it; it seemed useless to take any pains, in view of what we
might expect; neither were we particular to go to any trouble in order to have
it broiled and might just as well eat it raw. Such was the life we led there,
and even that scanty maintenance we had to earn through the objects made by our
own hands for barter. 159.
After we had eaten the dogs it seemed to us that we had
enough strength to go further on, so we commended ourselves to the guidance of
God, Our Lord, took leave of these Indians, and they put us on the track of
others of their language who were nearby. While on our way it began to rain and
rained the whole day. We lost the trail and found ourselves in a big forest,
where we gathered plenty of leaves of tunas which we roasted that same night in
an oven made by ourselves, and so much heat did we give them that in the
morning they were fit to be eaten. After eating them we recommended ourselves
to God again, and left, and struck the trail we had lost. 160.
Issuing from the timber, we met other Indian dwellings,
where we saw two women and some boys, who were so frightened at the sight of us
that they fled to the forest to call the men that were in the woods. When these
came they hid behind trees to peep at us. We called them and they approached in
great fear. After we addressed them they told us they were very hungry and that
nearby were many of their own lodges, and they would take us to them. So that
night we reached a site where there were fifty dwellings, and the people were
stupefied at seeing us and showed much fear. After they had recovered from
their astonishment they approached and put their hands to our faces and bodies
also. We stayed there that night, and in the morning they brought their sick
people, begging us to cross them, and gave us of what they had to eat, which
were leaves of tunas and green tunas baked. 161.
For the sake of this good treatment, giving us all they
had, content with being without anything for our sake, we remained with them
several days, and during that time others came from further on. When those were
about to leave we told the first ones that we intended to accompany them. This
made them very sad, and they begged us on their knees not to go. But we went
and left them in tears at our departure, as it pained them greatly. 162.
From the Island of Ill-Fate on, all the Indians whom we
met as far as to here have the custom of not cohabiting with their wives when
these are pregnant, and until the child is two years old. 163.
Children are nursed to the age of twelve years, when they
are old enough to gather their own food. We asked them why they brought their
children up in that way and they replied, it was owing to the great scarcity of
food all over that country, since it was common (as we saw) to be without it
two or three days, and even four, and for that reason they nursed the little
ones so long to preserve them from perishing through hunger. And even if they
should survive, they would be very delicate and weak. When one falls sick he is
left to die in the field unless he be somebody’s child. Other invalids, if
unable to travel, are abandoned; but a son or brother is taken along. 164.
There is also a custom for husbands to leave their wives
if they do not agree, and to remarry whom they please; this applies to the
young men, but after they have had children they stay with their women and do
not leave them. 165.
When, in any village, they quarrel among themselves, they
strike and beat each other until worn out, and only then do they separate.
Sometimes their women step in and separate them, but men never interfere in
these brawls. Nor do they ever use bow and arrow, and after they have fought
and settled the question, they take their lodges and women and go out into the
field to live apart from the others till their anger is over, and when they are
no longer angry and their resentment has passed away they return to the village
and are as friendly again as if nothing had happened. There is no need of
mediation. When the quarrel is between unmarried people they go to some of the
neighbors, who, even if they be enemies, will receive them well, with great
festivities and gifts of what they have, so that, when pacified, they return to
their village wealthy. 166.
They all are warriors and so astute in guarding themselves
from an enemy as if trained in continuous wars and in Italy. When in places
where their enemies can offend them, they set their lodges on the edge of the
roughest and densest timber and dig a trench close to it in which they sleep.
The men at arms are hidden by brushwood and have their loopholes, and are so
well covered and concealed that even at close range they cannot be seen. 167.
To the densest part of the forest they open a very narrow
trail and there arrange a sleeping place for their women and children. As night
sets in they build fires in the lodges, so that if there should be spies about,
these would think the people to sleep there. And before sunrise they light the
same fires again. Now, ditches, without being seen or discovered. 168.
In case there are no forests wherein they can hide thus
and prepare their ambushes, they settle on the plain wherever it appears most
appropriate, surrounding the place with trenches protected by brushwood. In
these they open loopholes through which they can reach the enemy with arrows,
and those parapets they build for the night. While I was with the Aguenes and
these not on their guard, their enemies surprised them at midnight, killing
three and wounding a number, so that they fled from their houses to the forest.
As soon, however, as they noticed that the others had gone they went back,
picked up all the arrows the others had spent and left and followed them as
stealthily as possible. That same night they reached the others’ dwellings
unnoticed, and at sunrise attacked, killing five, besides wounding a great
many. The rest made their escape, leaving homes and bows behind, with all their
other belongings. 169.
A short time after this the women of those calling
themselves Guevenes came, held a parley and made them friends again, but
sometimes women are also the cause of war. All those people when they have
personal questions and are not of one family, kill each other in a treacherous
way and deal most cruelly with one another. 170.
Those Indians are the readiest people with their weapons
of all I have seen in the world, for when they suspect the approach of an enemy
they lie awake all night with their bows within reach and a dozen of arrows,
and before one goes to sleep he tries his bow, and should the string not be to
his liking he arranges it until it suits him. Often they crawl out of their
dwellings so as not to be seen and look and spy in every direction after
danger, and if they detect anything, in less than no time are they all out in
the field with their bows and arrows. Thus they remain until daybreak, running
hither and thither whenever they see danger or suspect their enemies might
approach. When day comes they unstring their bows until they go hunting. 171.
The strings of their bows are made of deer sinews. They
fight in a crouching posture, and while shooting at each other talk and dart
from one side to the other to dodge the arrows of the foe. In this way they
receive little damage from our crossbows and muskets. On the contrary, the
Indians laugh at those weapons, because they are not dangerous to them on the
plains over which they roam. They are only good in narrows and in swamps. 172.
Horses are what the Indians dread most, and by means of
which they will be overcome. 173.
Whoever has to fight Indians must take great care not to
let them think he is disheartened or that he covets what they own; in war they
must be treated very harshly, for should they notice either fear or greed, they
are the people who know how to abide their time for revenge and to take courage
from the fears of their enemy. After spending all their arrows, they part,
going each their own way, and without attempting pursuit, although one side
might have more men than the other; such is their custom. 174.
Many times they are shot through and through with arrows,
but do not die from the wounds as long as the bowels or heart are not touched;
on the contrary, they recover quickly. Their eyesight, hearing and senses in
general are better, I believe, than those of any other men upon earth. They can
stand, and have to stand, much hunger, thirst and cold, being more accustomed
and used to it than others. This I wished to state here, since, besides that
all men are curious to know the habits and devices of others, such as might
come in contact with those people should be informed of their customs and
deeds, which will be of no small profit to them. 175.
I also do wish to tell of the nations and languages met
with from the Island of Ill-Fate to the last ones, the Cuchendados. On the
Island of Ill-Fate two languages are spoken, the ones they call Capoques, the
others Han. On the mainland, facing the island, are others, called of Charruco,
who take their name from the woods in which they live. Further on, along the
seashore, are others, who call themselves Deguenes, and in front of them others
named those of Mendica. Further on, on the coast, are the Quevenes, in front
further inland the Mariames, and following the coast we come to the Guaycones,
and in front of them inland the Yeguaces. After those come the Atayos, and
behind them others, called Decubadaos, of whom there are a great many further
on in this direction. On the coast live the Quitoles, and in front of them,
inland, the Chauauares. These are joined by the Maliacones and the
Cultalchulches and others called Susola and Comos, ahead on the coast are the
Camolas, and further on those whom we call the people of the figs. 176.
All those people have homes and villages and speak
different languages. Among them is a language wherein they call men mira aca,
arraca, and dogs xo. 177.
In this whole country they make themselves drunk by a
certain smoke for which they give all they have. They also drink something
which they extract from leaves of trees, like unto water-oak, toasting them on
the fire in a vessel like a low-necked bottle. When the leaves are toasted they
fill the vessel with water and hold it over the fire so long until it has
thrice boiled; then they pour the liquid into a bowl made of a gourd cut in
twain. As soon as there is much foam on it they drink it as hot as they can
stand, and from the time they take it out of the first vessel until they drink
they shout,”Who wants to drink ?” When the women hear this they stand still at
once, and although they carry a very heavy load do not dare to move. Should one
of them stir, she is dishonored and beaten. In a great rage they spill the
liquid they have prepared and spit out what they drank, easily and without
pain. The reason for this custom, they say, is that when they want to drink
that water and the women stir from the spot where they first hear the shouts,
an evil substance gets into the liquid that penetrates their bodies, causing
them to die before long. All the time the water boils the vessel must be kept
covered. Should it be uncovered while a woman comes along they pour it out and
do not drink of it. It is yellow and they drink it for three days without
partaking of any food, each consuming an arroba and a half every day. 178.
When the women are ill they only seek food for themselves,
because nobody else eats of what they bring. 179.
During the time I was among them I saw something very
repulsive, namely, a man married to another. Such are impotent and womanish
beings, who dress like women and perform the office of women, but use the bow
and carry big loads. Among these Indians we saw many of them; they are more
robust than the other men, taller, and can bear heavy burthens. 180.
After parting from those we had left in tears, we went
with the others to their homes and were very well received. They brought us
their children to touch, and gave us much mesquite-meal. This mezquiquez is a
fruit which, while on the tree, is very bitter and like the carob bean. It is
eaten with earth and then becomes sweet and very palatable. The way they
prepare it is to dig a hole in the ground, of the depth it suits them, and
after the fruit is put in that hole, with a piece of wood, the thickness of a
leg and one and a half fathoms long they pound it to a meal, and to the earth
that mixes with it in the hole they add several handfuls and pound again for a
while. After that they empty it into a vessel, like a small, round basket, and
pour in enough water to cover it fully, so that there is water on top. Then the
one who has done the pounding tastes it, and if it appears to him not sweet
enough he calls for more earth to add, and this he does until it suits his
taste. Then all squat around and every one reaches out with his hand and takes
as much as he can. The seeds and peelings they set apart on hides, and the one
who has done the pounding throws them back into the vessel, pouring water over
them again. They squeeze out the juice and water, and the husks and seeds they
again put on hides, repeating the operation three or four times at every
pounding. Those who take part in that banquet, which is for them a great
occasion, get very big bellies from the earth and water they swallow. 181.
Now, of this, the Indians made a great feast in our
behalf, and danced and celebrated all the time we were with them. And at night
six Indians, to each one of us, kept watch at the entrance to the lodge we
slept in, without allowing anybody to enter before sunrise. 182.
When we were about to leave some women happened to come,
that belonged to Indians living further on, and, informing ourselves where
their abodes were, we left, although the Indians entreated us to remain a day
longer, since the place we wanted to go to was very far away, and there was no
trail to it. They showed us how the women who had just arrived were tired, but
that if we would let them rest until the next day, they then would accompany
and guide us. We left, nevertheless, and soon the women followed with others of
the village. 183.
There being no trails in that country, we soon lost our
way. At the end of four leagues we reached a spring, and there met the women
who had followed us, and who told us of all they had gone through until they
fell in with us again. We went on, taking them along as guides. 184.
In the afternoon we crossed a big river, the water being
more than waist-deep. It may have been as wide as the one of Sevilla, and had a
swift current. At sunset we reached a hundred Indian huts and, as we
approached, the people came out to receive us, shouting frightfully, and
slapping their thighs. They carried perforated gourds filled with pebbles,
which are ceremonial objects of great importance. They only use them at dances,
or as medicine, to cure, and nobody dares touch them but themselves. They claim
that those gourds have healing virtues, and that they come from Heaven, not
being found in that country; nor do they know where they come from, except that
the rivers carry them down when they rise and overflow the land. 185.
So great was their excitement and eagerness to touch us
that, every one wanting to be first, they nearly squeezed us to death, and,
without suffering our feet to touch the ground, carried us to their abodes. So
many crowded down upon us that we took refuge in the lodges they had prepared
for our accommodation, and in no manner consented to be feasted by them on that
The whole night they spent in celebration and dancing, and
the next morning they brought us every living soul of that village to be
touched by us and to have the cross made over them, as with the others. Then
they gave to the women of the other village who had come with their own a great
many arrows. The next day we went on, and all the people of that village with
us, and when we came to other Indians were as well received as anywhere in the
past; they also gave us of what they had and the deer they had killed during
the day. Among these we saw a new custom. Those who were with us took away from
those people who came to get cured their bows and arrows, their shoes and
beads, if they wore any, and placed them before us to induce us to cure the
sick. As soon as these had been treated they went away contented and saying
they felt well. 187.
So we left there also, going to others, by whom we were
also very well received, and they brought us their sick, who, after we had made
the sign of the cross over them, would say they were healed, and he who did not
get well still believed we might cure him. And at what the others whom we had
treated told they rejoiced and danced so much as not to let us sleep.188.
After we left those we went to many other lodges, but
thence on there prevailed a new custom. While we were received very well
everywhere, those who came with us would treat those who received us badly,
taking away their belongings and plundering their homes, without leaving them
anything. It grieved us very much to see how those who were so good to us were
abused. Besides, we dreaded lest this behavior might cause trouble and strife.
But as we could not venture to interfere or punish the transgressors, we had to
wait until we might have more authority over them. Furthermore, the sufferers
themselves, noticing how we felt, comforted us by saying we should not worry;
that they were so happy at seeing us as to gladly lose their own, considering
it to be well employed, and besides, that further on they would repay
themselves from other Indians who were very rich. On that whole journey we were
much worried by the number of people following us. We could not escape them,
although we tried, because they were so anxious to touch us, and so obtrusive
that in three hours we could not get through with them. 189.
The following day they brought us all the people of the
village; most of them had one eye clouded, while others were totally blind from
the same cause, at which we were amazed. They are well built, of very good
physique, and whiter than any we had met until then. There we began to see
mountains, and it seemed as if they swept down from the direction of the North
Sea, and so, from what the Indians told us, we believe they are fifteen leagues
from the ocean. 190.
From there we went with the Indians towards the mountains
aforesaid, and they took us to some of their relatives. They did not want to
lead us anywhere but to their own people, so as to prevent their enemies having
any share in the great boon which, as they fancied, it was to see us. And as
soon as we would arrive those that went with us would sack the houses of the
others; but as these knew of the custom before our coming, they hid some of
their chattels, and, after receiving us with much rejoicing, they took out the
things which they had concealed and presented them to us. These were beads and
ochre, and several little bags of silver. We, following the custom, turned the
gifts immediately over to the Indians who had come in our company, and after
they had given these presents they began their dances and celebrations, and
sent for others from another village near by to come and look at us. In the
afternoon they all came, and brought us beads, bows, and other little things,
which we also distributed. 191.
The next day, as we were going to leave, they all wanted
to take us to others of their friends, who dwelt on a spur of the mountains.
They said there were a great many lodges, and people who would give us much,
but, as it was out of our way, we did not want to go there, and continued on
the plain, though near the mountains, thinking them to be not far from the
coast. All the people there are very bad, and we preferred to cross the
country, as further inland they were better inclined, and treated us better. We
also felt sure to find the country more thickly settled and with more
resources. Finally, we did it because, in crossing the country, we would see
much more of its particulars, so that, in case God our Lord should be pleased
to spare one of us and take him back to a land of Christians, he might give an
account of it. 192.
When the Indians saw we were determined not to go whither
they wanted, they said that nobody lived where we intended to go, neither were
there tunas nor any other food, and they entreated us to tarry one day longer
with them, to which we consented. Two Indians were sent out to look for people
on our proposed route.193.
The next day we departed, taking many of them along, the
women carrying water, and so great had become our authority that none dared to
drink without our permission. After going two leagues we met the men sent out
in search of people, but who had not found any. At this the Indians seemed to
show grief, and again begged us to take the way of the mountains, but we
persisted, and, seeing this, they took mournful leave of us and turned back
down the river to their homes, while we proceeded along the stream upwards.
Soon we met two women carrying loads. As they descried us
they stood still, put down their loads, and brought us of what these contained,
which was cornmeal, and told us that higher up on the river we would meet with
dwellings, plenty of tunas, and of that same meat. We left them as they were
going to those from whom we had just taken leave, and walked on until at sunset
we reached a village of about twenty lodges, where they received us with tears
and deep sorrow. They already knew that, wherever we arrived, the people would
be robbed and plundered by those in our company. But, seeing us alone, they
lost their fear, and gave us tunas, though nothing else. We stayed there over
At daybreak the same Indians we had left the day before
surprised the lodges, and, as the people were unprepared, in fancied security,
and had neither time nor place to hide anything, they were stripped of all
their chattels, at which they wept bitterly. In consolation, the robbers told
them that we were children of the sun, and had the power to cure or kill, and
other lies, bigger even than those which they invent to suit their purposes.
They also enjoined them to treat us with great reverence, and be careful not to
arouse our wrath; to give us all they had and guide us to where there were many
people, and that wherever we should come to they should steal and rob
everything the others had, such being the custom. 196.
After giving these instructions, and teaching the people
how to behave, they returned, and left us with these Indians, who, mindful of
what the others had said, began to treat us with the same respect and awe, and
we travelled in their company for three days. They took us to where there were
many Indians, and went ahead to tell them of our coming, repeating what they
had heard and adding much more to it, for all these Indians are great gossipers
and liars, particularly when they think it to be to their benefit. As we neared
the lodges all the inmates came out to receive us, with much rejoicing and
display, and, among other things, two of their medicine-men gave us two gourds.
Thence onward we carried gourds, which added greatly to our authority, since
they hold these ceremonial objects very high. Our companions sacked the
dwellings, but as there were many and they only few in number, they could not
carry away all they took, so that more than half was left to waste. Thence we
turned inland for more than fifty leagues, following the slopes of the
mountains, and at the end of them met forty dwellings. 197.
There, among other things which they gave us, Andres
Dorantes got a big rattle of copper, large, on which was represented a face,
and which they held in great esteem. They said it had been obtained from some
of their neighbors. Upon asking these whence it had come, they claimed to have
brought it from the north, where there was much of it and highly prized. We
understood that, wherever it might have come from, there must be foundries, and
that metal was cast in molds. Leaving on the next day, we crossed a mountain
seven leagues long, the stones of which were iron slags. At night we came to
many dwellings, situated on the banks of a very beautiful river. 198.
The inmates of these abodes came to receive us halfways,
with their children on their backs. They gave us a number of pouches with
silver and powdered antimony (or lead), with which they paint their faces, and
many beads and robes of cow-skins, and loaded those who came with us with all
their chattels. These people ate tunas and pine-nuts; there are in that country
small trees of the sweet pine, the cones of which are like small eggs, but the
nuts are better than those of Castilla, because the husks are thin. When still
green they grind them and make balls that are eaten. When dried they grind the
nuts with the husks, and eat them as meal. And those who received us, as soon
as they had touched our bodies, returned to their houses on a run, then came
again, and never stopped running back and forth. In this way they brought us a
great many things for our journey. 199.
Here they brought to me a man who, they told, a long time
ago had been shot through the left side of the back with an arrow, the head of
which stuck close to his heart. He said it gave him much pain, and that on this
account he was sick. I touched the region of the body and felt the arrowhead,
and that it had pierced the cartilage. So, with a knife, I cut open the breast
as far as the place. The arrow point had gotten athwart, and was very difficult
to remove. By cutting deeper, and inserting the point of the knife, with great
difficulty I got it out; it was very long. Then, with a deer-bone, according to
my knowledge of surgery, I made two stitches. After I had extracted the arrow
they begged me for it, and I gave it to them. The whole village came back to
look at it, and they sent it further inland that the people there might see it
On account of this cure they made many dances and
festivities, as is their custom. The next day I cut the stitches, and the
Indian was well. The cut I had made only showed a scar like a line in the palm
of the hand, and he said that he felt not the least pain. 201.
Now, this cure gave us such fame among them all over the
country as they were capable of conceiving and respecting. We showed them our
rattle, and they told us that where it had come from there were a great many
sheets of the same (metal) buried, that it was a thing they valued highly, and
that there were fixed abodes at the place. We believe it to be near the South
Sea, for we always heard that sea was richer (in metal) than the one of the
After leaving these people we travelled among so many
different tribes and languages that nobody’s memory can recall them all, and
always they robbed each other; but those who lost and those who gained were
equally content. The number of our companions became so large that we could no
longer control them. 203.
Going through these valleys each Indian carried a club
three palms in length. They all moved in a front, and whenever a hare (of which
there are many) jumped up they closed in upon the game, and rained such blows
upon it that it was amazing to see. Thus they drove the hare from one to the
other, and, to my fancy, it was the most agreeable chase that could be thought
of, for many a time they would come right to one’s hands; and when at night we
camped they had given us so many that each one of us had eight or ten loads.
Those of the Indians who carried bows would not take part, but went to the
mountains after deer, and when at night they came back it was with five or six
deer for each one of us, with birds, quails, and other game; in short, all
those people could kill they set before us, without ever daring to touch
anything, even if dying of hunger, unless we blessed it first. Such was their
custom from the time they joined us. 204.
The women brought many mats, with which they built us
houses, one for each of us and those attached to him. After this we would order
them to broil all the game, and they did it quickly in ovens built by them for
the purpose. We partook of everything a little, giving the rest to the
principal man among those who had come with us for distribution among all.
Every one then came with the share he had received for us to breathe on it and
bless it, without which they left it untouched. Often we had with us three to
four thousand persons. And it was very tiresome to have to breathe on and make
the sign of the cross over every morsel they ate or drank. For many other
things which they wanted to do they would come to ask our permission, so that
it is easy to realize how greatly we were bothered. The women brought us tunas,
spiders, worms, and whatever else they could find, for they would rather starve
than partake of anything that had not first passed through our hands. 205.
While travelling with those, we crossed a big river coming
from the north and, traversing about thirty leagues of plains, met a number of
people that came from afar to meet us on the trail, who treated us like the
foregoing ones. 206.
Thence on there was a change in the manner of reception,
insofar as those who would meet us on the trail with gifts were no longer
robbed by the Indians of our company, but after we had entered their homes they
tendered us all they possessed, and the dwellings also. We turned over
everything to the principals for distribution. Invariably those who had been
deprived of their belongings would follow us, in order to repair their losses,
so that our retinue became very large. They would tell them to be careful and
not conceal anything of what they owned, as it could not be done without our
knowledge, and then we would cause their death. So much did they frighten them
that on the first few days after joining us they would be trembling all the
time, and would not dare to speak or lift their eyes to Heaven. 207.
Those guided us for more than fifty leagues through a
desert of very rugged mountains, and so arid that there was no game.
Consequently we suffered much from lack of food., and finally forded a very big
river, with its water reaching to our chest. Thence on many of our people began
to show the effects of the hunger and hardships they had undergone in those
mountains, which were extremely barren and tiresome to travel. 208.
The same Indians led us to a plain beyond the chain of
mountains, where people came to meet us from a long distance. By those we were
treated in the same manner as before, and they made so many presents to the
Indians who came with us that, unable to carry all, they left half of it. We
told the givers to take it back, so as not to have it lost, but they refused,
saying it was not their custom to take back what they had once offered, and so
it was left to waste. We told these people our route was towards sunset, and
they replied that in that direction people lived very far away. So we ordered
them to send there and inform the inhabitants that we were coming and how. From
this they begged to be excused, because the others were their enemies, and they
did not want us to go to them. Yet they did not venture to disobey in the end,
and sent two women, one of their own and the other a captive. They selected
women because these can trade everywhere, even if there be war. 209.
We followed the women to a place where it had been agreed
we should wait for them. After five days they had not yet returned, and the
Indians explained that it might be because they had not found anybody. So we
told them to take us north, and they repeated that there were no people, except
very far away, and neither food nor water. Nevertheless we insisted, saying
that we wanted to go there, and they still excused themselves as best they
could, until at last we became angry. 210.
One night I went away to sleep out in the field apart from
them; but they soon came to where I was, and remained awake all night in great
alarm, talking to me, saying how frightened they were. They entreated us not to
be angry any longer, because, even if it was their death, they would take us
where we chose. We feigned to be angry still, so as to keep them in suspense,
and then a singular thing happened. 211.
On that same day many fell sick, and on the next day eight
of them died! All over the country, where it was known, they became so afraid
that it seemed as if the mere sight of us would kill them. They besought us not
to be angry nor to procure the death of any more of their number, for they were
convinced that we killed them by merely thinking of it. In truth, we were very
much concerned about it, for, seeing the great mortality, we dreaded that all
of them might die or forsake us in their terror, while those further on, upon
learning of it, would get out of our way hereafter. We prayed to God our Lord
to assist us, and the sick began to get well. Then we saw something that
astonished us very much, and it was that, while the parents, brothers and wives
of the dead had shown deep grief at their illness, from the moment they died
the survivors made no demonstration whatsoever, and showed not the slightest
feeling; nor did they dare to go near the bodies until we ordered their burial.
In more than fifteen days that we remained with them we
never saw them talk together, neither did we see a child that laughed or cried.
One child, who had begun to cry, was carried off some distance, and with some
very sharp mice-teeth they scratched it from the shoulders down to nearly the
legs. Angered by this act of cruelty, I took them to task for it, and they said
it was done to punish the child for having wept in my presence. Their
apprehensions caused the others that came to see us to give us what they had,
since they knew that we did not take anything for ourselves, but left it all to
the Indians. 213.
Those were the most docile people we met in the country,
of the best complexion, and on the whole well built. 214.
The sick being on the way of recovery, when we had been
there already three days, the women whom we had sent out returned, saying that
they had met very few people, nearly all having gone after the cows, as it was
the season. So we ordered those who had been sick to remain, and those who were
well to accompany us, and that, two days’ travel from there, the same women
should go with us and get people to come to meet us on the trail for our
The next morning all those who were strong enough came
along, and at the end of three journeys we halted. Alonso del Castillo and
Estevanico, the negro, left with the women as guides, and the woman who was a
captive took them to a river that flows between mountains, where there was a
village, in which her father lived, and these were the first abodes we saw that
were like unto real houses. Castillo and Estevanico went to these and, after
holding parley with the Indians, at the end of three days Castillo returned to
where he had left us, bringing with him five or six of the Indians. He told how
he had found permanent houses, inhabited, the people of which ate beans and
squashes, and that he had also seen maize. 216.
Of all things upon earth this caused us the greatest
pleasure, and we gave endless thanks to our Lord for this news. Castillo said
that the negro was coming to meet us on the way, near by, with all the people
of the houses. For that reason we started, and after going a league and a half
met the negro and the people that came to receive us, who gave us beans and
many squashes to eat, gourds to carry water in, robes of cowhide, and other
things. As those people and the Indians of our company were enemies, and did
not understand each other, we took leave of the latter, leaving them all that
had been given to us, while we went on with the former and, six leagues beyond,
when night was already approaching, reached their houses, where they received
us with great ceremonies. Here we remained one day, and left on the next,
taking them with us to other permanent houses, where they subsisted on the same
food also, and thence on we found a new custom. 217.
The people who heard of our approach did not, as before,
come out to meet us on the way, but we found them at their homes, and they had
other houses ready for us. They were all seated with their faces turned to the
wall, the heads bowed and the hair pulled over the eyes. Their belongings had
been gathered in a heap in the middle of the floor, and thence on they began to
give us many robes of skins. There was nothing they would not give us. They are
the best formed people we have seen, the liveliest and most capable; who best
understood us and answered our questions. We called them “of the cows,” because
most of the cows die near therein and because for more than fifty leagues up
that stream they go to kill many of them. Those people go completely naked,
after the manner of the first we met. The women are covered with deer-skins,
also some men, especially the old ones, who are of no use any more in war. 218.
The country is well settled. We asked them why they did
not raise maize, and they replied that they were afraid of losing the crops,
since for two successive years it had not rained, and the seasons were so dry
that the moles had eaten the corn, so that they did not dare to plant any more
until it should have rained very hard. And they also begged us to ask Heaven
for rain, which we promised to do. We also wanted to know from where they
brought their maize, and they said it came from where the sun sets, and that it
was found all over that country, and the shortest way to it was in that
direction. We asked them to tell us how to go, as they did not want to go
themselves, to tell us about the way. 219.
They said we should travel up the river towards the north,
on which trail for seventeen days we would not find a thing to eat except a
fruit called chacan, which they grind between stones; but even then it cannot
be eaten, being so coarse and dry; and so it was, for they showed it to us and
we could not eat it. But they also said that, going upstream, we would always
travel among people who were their enemies, although speaking the same
language, and who could give us no food, but would receive us very willingly,
and give us many cotton blankets, hides and other things; but that it seemed to
them that we ought not to take that road. 220.
In doubt as to what should be done, and which was the best
and most advantageous road to take, we remained with them for two days. They
gave us beans, squashes and calabashes. Their way of cooking them is so new and
strange that I felt like describing it here, in order to show how different and
queer are the devices and industries of human beings. They have no pots. In
order to cook their food they fill a middle-sized gourd with water, and place
into a fire such stones as easily become heated, and when they are hot to
scorch they take them out with wooden tongs, thrusting them into the water of
the gourd, until it boils. As soon as it boils they put into it what they want
to cook, always taking out the stones as they cool off and throwing in hot ones
to keep the water steadily boiling. This is their way of cooking. 221.
After two days were past we determined to go in search of
maize, and not to follow the road to the cows, since the latter carried us to
the north, which meant a very great circuit, as we held it always certain that
by going towards sunset we should reach the goal of our wishes. 222.
So we went on our way and traversed the whole country to
the South Sea, and our resolution was not shaken by the fear of great
starvation, which the Indians said we should suffer (and indeed suffered)
during the first seventeen days of travel. All along the river, and in the
course of these seventeen days we received plenty of cowhides, and did not eat
of their famous fruit (chacan) but our food consisted (for each day) of a
handful of deer-tallow, which for that purpose we always sought to keep, and so
endured these seventeen days, at the end of which we crossed the river and
marched for seventeen days more. At sunset, on a plain between very high
mountains, we met people who, for one-third of the year, eat but powdered
straw, and as we went by just at that time, had to eat it also, until, at the
end of that journey we found some permanent houses, with plenty of harvested
maize, of which and of its meal they gave us great quantities, also squashes
and beans, and blankets of cotton, with all of which we loaded those who had
conducted us thither, so that they went home the most contented people upon
earth. We gave God our Lord many thanks for having taken us where there was
plenty to eat. 223.
Among the houses there were several made of earth, and
others of cane matting; and from here we travelled more than a hundred leagues,
always meeting permanent houses and a great stock of maize and beans, and they
gave us many deer (-hides?) and blankets of cotton better than those of New
Spain. They also gave us plenty of beads made out of the coral found in the
South Sea; many good turquoises, which they get from the north; they finally
gave us all they had; and Dorantes they presented with five emeralds, shaped as
arrow-points, which arrows they use in their feasts and dances. As they
appeared to be of very good quality, I asked whence they got them from, and
they said it was from some very high mountains toward the north, where they
traded for them with feather-bushes and parrot-plumes, and they said also that
there were villages with many people and very big houses. 224.
Among those people we found the women better treated than
in any other part of the Indies as far as we have seen. They wear skirts of
cotton that reach as far as the knee, and over them half-sleeves of scraped
deerskin, with strips that hang down to the ground, and which they clean with
certain roots, that clean very well and thus keep them tidy. The shirts are
open in front and tied with strings; they wear shoes. 225.
All those people came to us that we might touch and cross
them; and they were so obtrusive as to make it difficult to endure since all,
sick and healthy, wanted to be crossed. It happened frequently that women of
our company would give birth to children and forthwith bring them to have the
sign of the cross made over them and the babes be touched by us. They always
accompanied us until we were again in the care of others, and all those people
believed that we came from Heaven. What they do not understand or is new to
them they are wont to say it comes from above. 226.
While travelling with these we used to go the whole day
without food, until night, and then we would eat so little that the Indians
were amazed. They never saw us tired, because we were, in reality, so inured to
hardships as not to feel them any more. We exercised great authority over them,
and carried ourselves with much gravity, and, in order to maintain it, spoke
very little to them. It was the negro who talked to them all the time; he
inquired about the road we should follow, the villages, in short, about
everything we wished to know. We came across a great variety and number of
languages, and God our Lord favored us with a knowledge of all, because they
always could understand us and we understood them, so that when we asked they
would answer by signs, as if they spoke our tongue and we theirs; for, although
we spoke six languages, not everywhere could we use them, since we found more
than a thousand different ones. In that part of the country those who were at
war would at once make peace and become friendly to each other, in order to
meet us and bring us all they possessed; and thus we left the whole country at
We told them, by signs which they understood, that in
Heaven there was a man called God, by us, who had created Heaven and earth, and
whom we worshipped as our Lord; that we did as he ordered us to do, all good
things coming from his hand, and that if they were to do the same they would
become very happy; and so well were they inclined that, had there been a
language in which we could have made ourselves perfectly understood, we would
have left them all Christians. All this we gave them to understand as clearly
as possible, and since then, when the sun rose, with great shouting they would
lift their clasped hands to Heaven and then pass them all over their body. The
same they did at sunset. They are well conditioned people, apt to follow any
line which is well traced for them. 228.
In the village where they had given us the emeralds, they
also gave Dorantes over six hundred hearts of deer, opened, of which they kept
always a great store for eating. For this reason we gave to their settlement
the name of “village of the hearts.” Through it leads the pass into many
provinces near the South Sea, and any one who should attempt to get there by
another route must surely be lost, as there is no maize on the coast, and they
eat powdered fox-tail grass, straw, and fish, which they catch in the sea in
rafts, for they have no canoes. The women cover their loins with straw and
grass. They are a very shy and surly people. 229.
We believe that, near the coast, in a line with the
villages which we followed, there are more than a thousand leagues of inhabited
land, where they have plenty of victuals, since they raise three crops of beans
and maize in the year. There are three kinds of deer, one kind as large as
calves are in Castilla. The houses in which they live are huts. They have a
poison, from certain trees of the size of our apple trees. They need but pick
the fruit and rub their arrows with it; and if there is no fruit they take a
branch and with its milky sap do the same. Many of those trees are so poisonous
that if the leaves are pounded and washed in water near by, the deer, or any
other animal that drinks of it burst at once. In this village we stayed three
days, and at a day’s journey from it was another one, where such a rain
overtook us that, as the river rose high, we could not cross it, and remained
there fifteen days. 230.
During this time Castillo saw, on the neck of an Indian, a
little buckle from a swordbelt, and in it was sewed a horseshoe nail. He took
it from the Indian, and we asked what it was; they said it had come from
Heaven. We further asked who had brought it, and they answered that some men,
with beards like ours, had come from Heaven to that river; that they had
horses, lances and swords, and had lanced two of them. 231.
As cautiously as possible, we then inquired what had
become of those men; and they replied they had gone to sea, putting their
lances into the water and going into it themselves, and that afterwards they
saw them on top of the waves moving towards sunset. 232.
We gave God our Lord many thanks for what we had heard,
for we were despairing to ever hear of Christians again. On the other hand, we
were in great sorrow and much dejected, lest those people had come by sea for
the sake of discovery only. Finally, having such positive notice of them, we
hastened onward, always finding more traces of the Christians, and we told the
Indians that we were now sure to find the Christians, and would tell them not
to kill Indians or make them slaves, nor take them out of their country, or do
any other harm, and of that they were very glad. 233.
We travelled over a great part of the country, and found
it all deserted, as the people had fled to the mountains, leaving houses and
fields out of fear of the Christians. This filled our hearts with sorrow,
seeing the land so fertile and beautiful, so full of water and streams, but
abandoned and the places burned down, and the people, so thin and wan, fleeing
and hiding; and as they did not raise any crops their destitution had become so
great that they ate tree-bark and roots. Of this distress we had our share all
the way along, because they could provide little for us in their indigence, and
it looked as if they were going to die. They brought us blankets, which they
had been concealing from the Christians, and gave them to us, and told us how
the Christians had penetrated into the country before, and had destroyed and
burnt the villages, taking with them half of the men and all the women and
children, and how those who could escaped by flight. Seeing them in this
plight, afraid to stay anywhere, and that they neither would nor could
cultivate the soil, preferring to die rather than suffer such cruelties, while
they showed the greatest pleasure at being with us, we began to apprehend that
the Indians who were in arms against the Christians might ill-treat us in
retaliation for what the Christians did to them. But when it pleased God our
Lord to take us to those Indians, they respected us and held us precious, as
the former had done, and even a little more, at which we were not a little
astonished, while it clearly shows how, in order to bring those people to
Christianity and obedience unto Your Imperial Majesty, they should be well
treated, and not otherwise. 234.
They took us to a village on the crest of a mountain,
which can be reached only by a very steep trail, where we found a great many
people, who had gathered there out of dread of the Christians. These received
us very well, giving us all they had: over two thousand loads of maize, which
we distributed among the poor, famished people who had led us to the place. The
next day we dispatched (as we were wont to do) four runners, to call together
as many as could be reached, to a village three journeys away; and on the next
day we followed with all the people that were at the place, always meeting with
signs and vestiges where the Christians had slept. 235.
At noon we met our messengers, who told us they had not
found anybody, because all were hidden in the woods, lest the Christians might
kill or enslave them; also that, on the night before, they had seen the
Christians and watched their movements, under cover of some trees, behind which
they concealed themselves, and saw the Christians take many Indians along in
chains. At this the people who were with us became frightened, and some turned
back to give the alarm through the land that Christians were coming, and many
more would have done the same had we not told them to stay and have no fear, at
which they quieted down and were comforted. We had Indians with us at the time
who came from a distance of a hundred leagues, and whom we could not induce to
go back to their homes. So, in order to reassure them, we slept there that
night and the next day went further, and slept on the road; and the day after
those we had sent to explore guided us to where they had seen the Christians.
Reaching the place in the evening, we clearly saw they had told the truth, and
also, from the stakes to which the horses had been tied, that there were
horsemen among them. 236.
From here, which is called the river of Petutan, to the
river which Diego de Guzman reached, there may be, from the place where we
first heard of the Christians, eighty leagues; then to the village where the
rain overtook us, twelve leagues; and from there to the South Sea twelve
leagues. Throughout all that country, wherever it is mountainous, we saw many
signs of gold, antimony, iron, copper and other metals. Where the permanent
houses are it is so hot that even in January the air is very warm. From there
to the southward the land, which is uninhabited as far as the Sea of the North,
is very barren and poor. There we suffered great and almost incredible
starvation; and those who roam through that country and dwell in it are very
cruel people, of evil inclinations and habits. The Indians who live in
permanent houses and those in the rear of them pay not attention to gold nor
silver, nor have they any use for either of these metals. 237.
Having seen positive traces of Christians and become
satisfied they were very near, we gave many thanks to our Lord for redeeming us
from our sad and gloomy condition. Any one can imagine our delight when he
reflects how long we had been in that land, and how many dangers and hardships
we had suffered. That night I entreated one of my companions to go after the
Christians, who were moving through the part of the country pacified and
quieted by us, and who were three days ahead of where we were. They did not
like my suggestion, and excused themselves from going, on the ground of being
tired and worn out, although any of them might have done it far better than I,
being younger and stronger. 238.
Seeing their reluctance, in the morning I took with me the
negro and eleven Indians and, following the trail, went in search of the
Christians. On that day we made ten leagues, passing three places where they
had slept. The next morning I came upon four Christians on horseback, who,
seeing me in such a strange attire, and in company with Indians, were greatly
startled. They stared at me for quite a while, speechless; so great was their
surprise that they could not find words to ask me anything. I spoke first, and
told them to lead me to their captain, and we went together to Diego de
Alcaraza, their commander. 239.
After I had addressed him he said that he was himself in a
plight, as for many days he had been unable to capture Indians, and did not
know where to go, also that starvation was beginning to place them in great
distress. I stated to him that, in the rear of me, at a distance of ten
leagues, were Dorantes and Castillo, with many people who had guided us through
the country. He at once dispatched three horsemen, with fifty of his Indians,
and the negro went with them as guide, while I remained and asked them to give
me a certified statement of the date, year, month and day, when I had met them,
also the condition in which I had come, with which request they complied. 240.
From this river to the village called San Miguel, which
pertains to the government called New Galicia, there are thirty leagues. 241.
Five days later Andres Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo
came with those who had gone in quest of them. They brought along more than six
hundred Indians, from the village, the people of which the Christians had
caused to flee to the woods, and who were in hiding about the country. Those
who had come with us as far as that place had taken them our of their places of
concealment, turning them over to the Christians. They had also dispatched the
others who had come that far. 242.
When they arrived at where I was Alcaraz begged me to send
for the people of the villages along the banks of the river, who were hiding in
the timber,, and he also requested me to order them to fetch supplies. There
was not occasion for the latter as the Indians always took good care to bring
us whatever they could; nevertheless, we sent our messengers at once to call
them, and six hundred persons came with all the maize they had, in pots closed
with clay, which they had buried for concealment. They also brought nearly
everything else they possessed, but we only took of the food, giving the rest
to the Christians for distribution among themselves. 243.
Thereupon we had many and bitter quarrels with the
Christians, for they wanted to make slaves of our Indians, and we grew so angry
at it that at our departure we forgot to take along many bows, pouches and
arrows, also the five emeralds, and so they were left and lost to us. We gave
the Christians a great many cow-skin robes, and other objects, and had much
trouble in persuading the Indians to return home and plant their crops in
peace. They insisted upon accompanying us until, according to their custom, we
should be in the custody of other Indians, because otherwise they were afraid
to die; besides, as long as we were with them, they had no fear of the
Christians and of their lances. At all this the Christians were greatly vexed,
and told their own interpreter to say to the Indians how we were of their own
race, but had gone astray for a long while, and were people of no luck and
little heart, whereas they were the lords of the land, whom they should obey
and serve. 244.
The Indians gave all that talk of theirs little attention.
They parleyed among themselves, saying that the Christians lied, for we had
come from sunrise, while the others came from where the sun sets; that we cured
the sick, while the others killed those who were healthy; that we went naked
and shoeless, whereas the others wore clothes and went on horseback and with
lances. Also, that we asked for nothing, but gave away all we were presented
with, meanwhile the others seemed to have no other aim than to steal what they
could, and never gave anything to anybody. In short, they recalled all our
deeds, and praised them highly, contrasting them with the conduct of the
This they told the interpreter of the Christians, and made
understood to the others by means of a language they have among them, and by
which we understood each other. We call those who use that language properly
Primahaitu, which means the same as saying Bizcayans. For more than four
hundred leagues of those we travelled, we found this language in use, and the
only one among them over that extent of country. Finally, we never could
convince the Indians that we belonged to the other Christians, and only with
much trouble and insistency could we prevail upon them to go home. 246.
We recommended to them to rest easy and settle again in
their villages, tilling and planting their fields as usual, which, from lying
waste, were overgrown with shrubbery, while it is beyond all doubt the best
land in these Indies, the most fertile and productive of food, where they raise
three crops every year. It has an abundance of fruit, very handsome rivers, and
other waters of good virtues. There are many evidences and traces of gold and
silver; the inhabitants are well conditioned, and willingly attend to the
Christians, that is, those of the natives that are friendly. They are much
better inclined than the natives of Mexico; in short, it is a country that
lacks nothing to make it very good. When the Indians took leave of us they said
they would do as we had told them, and settle in their villages, provided the
Christians would not interfere, and so I say and affirm that, if they should
not do it, it will be the fault of the Christians. 247.
After we had dispatched the Indians in peace, and with
thanks for what they had gone through with and for us, the Christians (out of
mistrust) sent us to a certain Alcalde Cebreros, who had with him two other
men. He took us through forests and uninhabited country in order to prevent our
communicating with the Indians, in reality, also, to prevent us from seeing or
hearing what the Christians were carrying on. 248.
This clearly shows how the designs of men sometimes
miscarry. We went on with the idea of insuring the liberty of the Indians, and,
when we believed it to be assured, the opposite took place. The Spaniards had
planned to fall upon those Indians we had sent back in fancied security and in
peace, and that plan they carried out. 249.
They took us through the timber for two days, with no
trail, bewildered and without water, so we all expected to die from thirst.
Seven of our men perished, and many friends whom the Christians had taken along
could not reach before noon the following day the place, where we found water
that same night. We travelled with them twenty-five leagues, more or less, and
at last came to a settlement of peaceable Indians. There the Alcalde left us
and went ahead, three leagues further, to a place called Culiacan, where
Melchior Diaz was chief Alcalde and the captain of the province. 250.
As soon as the chief Alcalde became informed of our
arrival, on the same night he came to where we were. He was deeply moved, and
praised God for having delivered us in His great pity. He spoke to us and
treated us very well, tendering us, in his name, and in behalf of the Governor,
Nuño de Guzman, all he had and whatever he might be able to do. He appeared
much grieved at the bad reception and evil treatment we had met at the hands of
Alcaraz and the others, and we verily believe that, had he been there at the
time, the things done to us and the Indians would not have occurred. 251.
Passing the night there, we were about to leave in the
morning of the next day, but the chief Alcalde entreated us to stay. He said
that by remaining we would render a great service to God and Your Majesty, as
the country was depopulated, lying waste, and well nigh destroyed. That the
Indians were hiding in the woods, refusing to come out and settle again in
their villages. He suggested that we should have them sent for, and urge them,
in the name of God and of Your Majesty, to return to the plain and cultivate
the soil again. 252.
This struck us as difficult of execution. We had none of
our Indians with us, nor any of those who usually accompanied us and understood
such matters. At last we ventured to select two Indians from among those held
there as captives, and who were from that part of the country. These had been
with the Christians whom we first met, and had seen the people that came in our
company, and knew, through the latter, of the great power and authority we
exercised all through the land, the miracles we had worked, the cures we had
performed, and many other particulars. With these Indians we sent others from
the village, to jointly call those who had taken refuge in the mountains, as
well as those from the river of Petlatlan, where we had met the Christians
first, and tell them to come, as we wished to talk to them. In order to insure
their coming, we gave the messengers one of the large gourds we had carried in
our hands (which were our chief insignia and tokens of great power.) 253.
Thus provided and instructed, they left and were absent
seven days. They came back, and with them three chiefs of those who had been in
the mountains, and with these were fifteen men. The presented us with beads,
turquoises, and feathers, and the messengers said the people from the river
whence we had started could not be found, as the Christians had again driven
them into the wilderness. 254.
Melchior Diaz told the interpreter to speak to the Indians
in our name and say that he came in the name of God, Who is in heaven, and that
we had travelled the world over for many years, telling all the people we met
to believe in God and serve Him, for He was the Lord of everything upon earth,
Who rewarded the good, whereas to the bad ones He meted out eternal punishment
of fire. That when the good ones died He took them up to heaven, where all
lived forever and there was neither hunger nor thirst, nor any other wants,
only the greatest imaginable glory. But that those who would not believe in Him
nor obey His commandments he thrust into a huge fire beneath the earth and into
the company of demons, where the fire never went out, but tormented them
forever. Moreover, he said that if they became Christians and served God in the
manner we directed, the Christians would look upon them as brethren and treat
them very well, while we would command that no harm should be done to them;
neither should they be taken out of their country, and the Christians would
become their great friends. If they refused to do so, then the Christians would
ill treat them and carry them away into slavery. 255.
To this they replied through the interpreter that they
would be very good Christians and serve God. 256.
Upon being asked whom they worshipped and to whom they
offered sacrifices, to whom they prayed for health and water for the fields,
they said, to a man in Heaven. We asked what was his name, and they said Aguar,
and that they believed he had created the world and everything in it. 257.
We again asked how they came to know this, and they said
their fathers and grandfathers had told them, and they had known it for a very
long time; that water and all good things came from him. We explained that this
being of whom they spoke was the same we called God, and that thereafter they
should give Him that name and worship and serve Him as we commanded, when they
would fare very well. 258.
They replied that they understood us thoroughly and would
do as we had told. 259.
So we bade them come out of the mountains and be at ease,
peaceable, and settle the land again, rebuilding their houses. Among these
houses they should rear one to God, placing at its entrance a cross like the
one we had, and when Christians came, they should go out to receive them with
crosses in their hands, in place of bows and other weapons, and take the
Christians to their homes, giving them to eat of what they had. If they did so,
the Christians would do them no harm, but be their friends. 260.
The promised to do as we ordered, and the captain gave
them blankets, treating them handsomely, and they went away, taking along the
two captives that had acted as our messengers. 261.
This took place in presence of a scribe (notary) and of a
great many witnesses. 262.
As soon as the Indians had left for their homes and the
people of that province got news of what had taken place with us, they, being
friends of the Christians, came to see us, bringing beads and feathers. We
ordered them to build churches and put crosses in them, which until then they
had not done. We also sent for the children of the chiefs to be baptized, and
then the captain pledged himself before God not to make any raid, or allow any
to be made, or slaves captured from the people and in the country we had set at
peace again. This vow he promised to keep and fulfill so long until His Majesty
and the Governor, Nuño de Guzman, or the Viceroy, in his name, would ordain
something else better adapted to the service of God and of His Majesty. 263.
After baptizing the children we left for the village of
San Miguel, where, on our arrival, Indians came and told how many people were
coming down from the mountains, settling on the plain, building churches and
erecting crosses; in short, complying with what we had sent them word to do.
Day after day we were getting news of how all was being done and completed.
Fifteen days after our arrival Alcaraz came in with the
Christians who had been raiding, and they told the captain how the Indians had
descended from the mountains and settled on the plains; also that villages
formerly deserted were not well populated, and how the Indians had come out to
receive them with crosses in their hands, had taken them to their houses,
giving them of what they had, and how they slept the night there. Amazed at
these changes and at the sayings of the Indians who said they felt secure, he
ordered that no harm be done to them, and with this they departed. May God in
his infinite mercy grant that in the days of Your Majesty and under your power
and sway, these people become willingly and sincerely subjects of the true Lord
Who created and redeemed them. We believe they will be, and that your Majesty
is destined to bring it about, as it will not be at all difficult. 265.
For two thousand leagues did we travel, on land, and by
sea in barges, besides ten months more after our rescue from captivity;
untiringly did we walk across the land, but nowhere did we meet either
sacrifices or idolatry. During all that time we crossed from one ocean to the
other, and from what we very carefully ascertained there may be, from one coast
to the other and across the greatest width, two hundred leagues. We heard that
on the shores of the South there are pearls and great wealth, and that the
richest and best is near there. 266.
At the village of San Miguel we remained until after the
fifteenth of May, because from there to the town of Compostela, where the
Governor, Nuño de Guzman, resided, there are one hundred leagues of deserted
country threatened by hostiles, and we had to take an escort along. There went
with us twenty horsemen, accompanying us as many as forty leagues; afterwards
we had with us six Christians, who escorted five hundred Indian captives. When
we reached Compostela, the Governor received us very well, giving us of what he
had, for us to dress in; but for many days I could bear no clothing, nor could
we sleep, except on the bare floor. Ten or twelve days later we left for
Mexico. On the whole trip we were well treated by the Christians; many came to
see us on the road, praising God for having freed us from so many dangers. We
reached Mexico on Sunday, the day before the vespers of Saint James, and were
very well received by the Viceroy and the Marquis of the Valley, who presented
us with clothing, offering all they had. On the day of Saint James there was a
festival, with bull-fight and tournament. 267.
After taking two months’ rest at Mexico I desired to come
over to this realm, but when ready to sail in October, a storm wrecked the
vessel and it was lost. So I determined to wait until winter would be over, as
in these parts navigation is then very dangerous on account of storms. 268.
When winter was past, Andres Dorantes and I left Mexico,
during Lent, for Vera Cruz, to take a ship there, but had again to wait for
favorable winds until Palm Sunday. We embarked and were on board more than
fifteen days, unable to leave on account of a calm, and the vessel began to
fill with water. I took passage on one of the ships which were in condition to
leave, while Dorantes remained on the first one, and on the tenth day of the
month three craft left port. 269.
We navigated together for one hundred and fifty leagues;
afterwards two of the ships dropped behind, and in the course of a night we
lost track of them. It seems that, as we found out later, their pilots and
skippers did not venture any further, and returned to port without giving us
any warning; neither did we hear any more from them. So we kept on, and on the
fourth of May reached the port of Habana, on the second of June, still hoping
for the other two vessels to arrive. Then we left. 270.
We were afraid of falling in with French craft that only a
few days before had captured three of ours. 271.
At the altitude of the Island of Bermuda a storm overtook
us, as is quite usual in those parts, according to the people who are wont to
travel in them, and for a whole night we considered ourselves lost. But it
pleased God that, when morning came, the storm abated and we could proceed on
our way. Twenty-nine days after sailing from Habana we had made eleven hundred
leagues, said to be the distance from it to the settlement of the Azores, and
the next day we passed the island called of the raven, and met with a French
vessel at noon. She began to follow us, having with her a caravel taken from
the Portuguese, and gave us chase. That same evening we saw nine more sail, but
at such a distance that we could not distinguish whether they were of the same
nation as our pursuer, or Portuguese. At nightfall the Frenchman was but a
cannon-shot from our ship, and as soon as it was dark we changed our course so
as to get away from him. As he was close upon us he saw our maneuver and did
the same, and this happened three or four times. 272.
The Frenchman could have taken us then, but he preferred
to wait until daylight. It pleased God that, when morning came, we found
ourselves, as well as the French ship, surrounded by the nine craft we had seen
the evening before, and which turned out to belong to the Portuguese navy. I
thank Our Lord for having allowed me to escape from peril on land and sea. 273.
When the French saw it was the fleet of Portugal they
released the caravel, which was filled with negroes. They had taken it along in
order to make us believe they were Portuguese and to induce us to expect them.
On separating from the caravel the Frenchman told the skipper and pilot we were
French also, belonging to their own navy; then they put into their vessel sixty
oarsmen, and thus, by oar and sail, went away with incredible swiftness. 274.
The caravel then approached the galley warning its captain
that both our vessel and the other were French, so that when we came up to the
galley and the squadron saw it, believing us to be French, they cleared for
action and came to attack us. But when we were near enough to them we saluted,
and they saw we were friends. They had been deceived, suffering the privateer
to escape by means of his strategy in telling that we were also French. Four
caravels went in pursuit of him. Having come up with the galley and presented
our respects, the captain, Diego de Silveira, asked where we came from and what
we had on board. We told him from New Spain, and that we carried silver and
gold. He inquired how much it might be, and the skipper informed him that we
had about three hundred thousand Castellanos. Thereupon the captain exclaimed:
“Faith, you come back very rich, although you have a bad craft and miserable
artillery. That dog of a French renegade has lost a fat morsel, the bastard!
Now, go ahead, since you escaped; follow me closely, and, God helping, I shall
lead you back to Spain.” 275.
The caravels that had gone in pursuit of the French soon
returned because the latter sailed too fast for them and they did not want to
leave their squadron, which was escorting three ships loaded with spices. 276.
We reached the Island of Tercera, where we rested fifteen
days and took in supplies, also waiting for another ship from India, with the
same kind of cargo as the three our fleet was escorting. At the end of the
fifteen days we sailed, all together, for the port of Lisbon, where we arrived
on the ninth of August, vespers of Saint Laurentius day, of the year 1537. 277.
And, in testimony of, that what I have stated in the
foregoing narrative is true, I hereunto sign my name: 278.
Cabeza de Vaca 279.