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UPON receiving this news, the governor of Cuba,Fernandina,—Diego Velazquez, armed four caravels, manned by about three hundred men, and gave the command of this squadron to his nephew, Juan de Grijalva1; associated with him as lieutenants were Alfonso d'Avila, Francisco Montejo, and the commander Pedro de Alvarado. The pilot was the same Anton Alaminos, who had served the other fleet. The same route, but bending more toward the south, was taken. After sailing seventy leagues, a high tower was sighted from one of the ships, but no land; and taking that tower as an objective, they reached an island called Cozumel.a During three full leagues before landing, the land-breeze blowing from the island waited perfumed airs to the ships. This island is forty-five leagues in circumference and is flat; its soil is fertile, and gold is found there but not in the natural state, for it is brought from elsewhere. There is plenty of honey, fruits, vegetables, birds, and quadrupeds; to sum up in a few words, these islanders have the same customs and laws as those of Yucatan; the same temples, streets, occupations, and clothing both for men and women. Their clothing is not made of wool, but of spun cotton, such as the Italians call bombasio and the Spaniards algodon. The houses are built of brick or stone, roofed with thatch when there are no stones, but with stone flags when there are quarries in the neighbourhood. In most of the houses the door-jambs are made of marble, just as with us. The Spaniards noticed some ancient towers and the ruins of some fallen towers, which seemed of great antiquity. They mounted to the top of one of these towers, resembling a famous temple, by a staircase composed of twentyfour steps.1 The natives admired the ships and the dexterity of the sailors. In the beginning they were reluctant to receive the Spaniards, but they soon did so with amiability. Conducted by one who was undoubtedly a priest, the Spaniards mounted a tower and unfurled a flag on its summit, taking possession in the name of the King of Castile. The name of Santa Cruz was given to the island, because they landed there the fifth day of the nones of May, on the Feast of the Holy Cross. Its true name is Cozumel, after the cacique Cozumel, who boasted that his ancestors were the first inhabitants of the island.
1 The expedition of Grijalva is described in the Itinerant) de VArmata, compiled by the chaplain of the fleet, Juan Diaz. The original of this chronicle is lost, but an Italian translation was published in Venice in 1552, and another in French was published by Ternaux-Compans, in the tenth volume of his Voyages, Relations et Mimoires. The expedition sailed April 5, 1518.
'Sometimes written Acuzamil from Ah-Cuzamil, meaning "The Swallows." See Cogolludo, Historia de Yucatan, lib. iv., cap. vii.
Inside the tower were chambers filled with marble statues, mingled with images of bears made of terracotta. The natives venerate these objects, giving vent to loud cries, always on a single note. They offer them sacrifices and incense and sweet perfumes, and honour them as Penates. Mass was celebrated in these chambers. The natives are circumcised.
1 For a correct understanding of the aboriginal architecture of Yucatan, Mexico, and Central America, the following authorities should be consulted: Stevens and Catherwood, Incidents of Travel in Central America; Chiapas and Yucatan; Brasseur de Bourbourg, Histoire des nations civilisies de VAmhique Centrale; Charnay's Citis et mines Amiricaines; Maudslay, Biologia Centrali Americana; Bandelier, An Archeological Tour; Tozer, A Comparative Story of the Mayas and Lacandones; and the reports of Teobert Maler published in the Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of Harvard.
The cacique, who also wore a cotton costume, had the toes of one of his feet cut off; this was due to a ferocious shark which snapped them off at one bite while the cacique was swimming. This chieftain entertained the Spaniards with long and copious banquets.
At the end of three days the Spaniards left, sailing straight to the west. They perceived mountains in the distance; this was Yucatan, which had already been sighted, and is only five leagues distant from Cozumel. Following the south coast of Cozumel, very near the land believed to be a continent, they sailed round it, but could not continue because of the numerous reefs and shoals which protect it. The pilot Alaminos, therefore, conducted the fleet to the north side which was already known, returning to Campeche, governed by the cacique Lazarus, which they had visited the preceding year. They met with a good reception and were invited to enter the town. The natives later repented of their invitation, and at a stone's throw from Campeche they ordered the Spaniards to stop and go back. The latter asked permission to take water before leaving, and were shown some wells behind them, which they were given to understand they might use, but no others. The whole night was passed in the neighbourhood of these wells; about three thousand of the suspicious natives, carrying arms, camping not far distant. There was no sleep in either camp, for the natives feared an attack upon the town, while the Spaniards feared a sudden attack from them; while the piercing noise of their trumpets and drums kept everybody awake. When day dawned, the barbarians approached and called through interpreters, whose language, though not the same, is sufficiently similar, saying: "Behold this torch of incense which we will light and place between the two armies. If you do not make haste and retreat before the torch is burnt out, you will all perish. We do not want you as guests."
The torch either went out or burned out, and immediately the battle began. A Spaniard, whose shield insufficiently protected him against the arrows, was wounded, as were also many others. The Spaniards retreated towards their cannon, which they had left near the wells, and when they gained them, they fired a volley against the natives, who withdrew into their town. The Spaniards, whose courage was roused, wanted to pursue them; but Grijalva refused.
The Spaniards then proceeded to the remotest extremity of Yucatan and found that its length from east to west is two hundred leagues. They discovered a good harbour which they named Deseado, and from thence they visited other countries, landing in a neighbouring province of Yucatan, lying to the west. It is not known whether that is an island or not, but it is believed to be part of the continent. There is a gulf there, whose waters are thought to wash the coasts of both regions, though nothing is positively known. The natives call this country Coluacan, or Oloa. The Spaniards discovered a large river there, whose current carries the fresh, drinkable water two leagues out to sea; in honour of the captain they named it Rio de Grijalva. The natives lined both banks of the river, staring with surprise at the great bulk of the ships covered with sails. They numbered about six thousand men, all armed, with gilded shields, bows and arrows, large wooden swords, and lances with burnt points. It was their intention to resist any landing and to protect their coasts. All night both sides remained face to face.
We have elsewhere stated that canoes are barques dug out of tree-trunks. The Cuban interpreters and these natives understood one another with facility. The natives made offers of peace, which were accepted, and one of the canoes approached, the others remaining at rest. The commander of the canoe asked what the Spaniards sought in a strange country; to which the latter replied they were looking for gold, not as a gift or to be obtained by violence, but by trading. The canoe returned and reported the answer to the cacique, and the latter responded to the invitation and willingly came on board. Astonishing to relate, Most Holy Father, he ordered his valet to bring the entire furniture of a chamber, and to load the captain, Grijalva, with ornaments. They began by giving him gilded shoes; afterwards leggings, and cuirasses, and all the parts of the iron and steel armour a cuirassier ordinarily wears when going into battle, only these were made of gold, beautifully worked; this done the cacique paid homage to Grijalva. The latter gave him in exchange some silk, linen, and woollen clothing and some other articles of Spanish manufacture. Off the coast of Yucatan and well on the way from the island of Cozumel, the Spaniards encountered a canoe filled with fishermen. There were nine of them, and they fished with golden hooks. They were not armed nor on their guard, so they were taken prisoners. The cacique, who recognised one of them, promised Grijalva to send him the next day the weight of his prisoner in gold, but in spite of his companions, Grijalva refused and kept the prisoner. After which he departed, to continue his discoveries.