صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

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 remainéd 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.


to the west, the Spaniards discovered a large gulf, in which lay three small islands, upon the largest of which they landed. Alas! Most Holy Father, what a horrible crime! Alas, that men should be so cruel! Let not Your Beatitude be overcome with disgust! The natives sacrifice children and young girls to their gods. They are circumcised. Some of the idols they adore are made of marble, some of clay, and in the midst of them there is a lion, on whose head the blood of the victims is poured, afterwards trickling down into a marble basin. We shall describe the sacrificial ceremony. They tear out the heart and smear the warm blood upon the lips of their idols, allowing the remainder to run into the basin. They next burn the heart, without cutting it up, as well as the entrails, thinking that the gods love the smoke from these offerings. Amongst these idols one, representing a man with bent head looking into the basin of blood as though he delighted in the immolation of the victims, is noticeable. They eat the fleshy part of the arms, also the fat of the hips and calves, especially if the victim is an enemy captured in war. The Spaniards discovered a stream of dried blood, like those which flow from slaughter-houses. They seek their wretched victims for these sacrifices in the neighbouring islands. The Spaniards found a number of heads, headless and entire bodies still in their clothes.

vol. ii-2 17

A BOUT a hundred leagues farther on, and always In exploring the island one of our men found two half-buried alabaster vases, which were artistically decorated and filled with precious stones of various colours. One of these stones was sent to the governor, and was valued at two thousand castellanos of gold. The Spaniards named this island Isla de los Sacrificios. A number of other islands lie off the coast of Coluacan, which are inhabited only by women," who have no relations with men. Some people think they live as did the Amazons, but others who have studied the question more closely believe they are virgins dedicated to God, who take pleasure in solitude, just as those amongst us; or in ancient times, did the vestals or the priestesses of the Bona Dea. At certain epochs of the year, men cross to the islands, not to have intercourse with these religious women, but out of the spirit of piety to cultivate their fields and gardens, and thus assure their means of existence. The report is spread, however, that there are other islands likewise inhabited by women of bad morals, who from their earliest youth cut away the breast to enable them to draw their bows with greater facility. Men go to these islands to have relations with them, but they do not stop there. I think this story is a fable. Our people landed on the coast of Coluacan, and quietly began trading operations. The cacique made them a present of a gold kettle, some bracelets and balls, as well as a number of jewels of different shapes. In exchange, the Spaniards presented him with some of their manufactures which pleased him. They would have stopped there and founded a colony, but Grijalva forbade it, which aroused their resentment against him. Everywhere in Coluacan there are edifices ornamented with towers. There are fifteen large towns, one of which has as many as twenty thousand houses, not built near together, but separated by courts and gardens,

* This oft-repeated story is a fable, devoid of foundation.

« السابقةمتابعة »