« السابقةمتابعة »
and during four hours the result of the battle was uncertain, The barbarians, both men and women, fought with fury to regain their liberty, while the Spaniards were still more excited at the thought of losing their plunder. The latter finally conquered, because they handled their arms more skilfully. The defeated savages threw themselves into the sea, and though some of them were picked up by shallops, about a hundred were lost either in the fight or by drowning. Only very few Spaniards perished; and the prisoners were sent to Santiago or to the gold mines." The Spaniards next undertook an expedition to another of the neighbouring islands, which are more numerous thereabouts than the Symplegades” in the Ionian Sea, to which the vulgar give the general name of Archipelago. They got a bad reception, and all who landed were either killed or wounded. It is thought that this island is the one discovered by Juan Ponce, captain of a small fleet, and afterwards abandoned by him when he was repulsed by the natives. He named it Florida, because he discovered it on the Feast of the Resurrection, which is called Pasqua Florida. They claimed to have sighted twenty-six islands. Columbus had already navigated amongst them, for they are like daughters to Cuba or Hispaniola, and are the guardians of what is believed to be a continent, their rocks forming a breakwater against the ocean storms. In most of these islands the Spaniards found gold in the form of grains. The natives wear various kinds of necklaces and masks made of gilded wood or ingeniously wrought gold, for they are very clever artisans. Francisco Chieregato, nunzio of Your Holiness to the court of our Spanish sovereign, has taken back one of these masks so that you may see and examine the clever workmanship. They make a razor in the following curious fashion: they use certain yellow stones,' transparent as crystal, and razors made of these stones cut as well as those of good steel. What is still more singular is that when the blade is dull with usage, they do not sharpen it on a wheel or a stone or with powder, but merely dip it in water. A great variety of elegant instruments and other objects is found amongst them, but it would take too long to enumerate them, and perhaps, Your Beatitude, absorbed as you are in grave affairs, would feel little interest in such a description. I now return to my original subject, the islands of Cozumel, Yucatan, and Coluacan or Oloa; rich and truly Elysian lands, which have just been discovered, and from which I have somewhat wandered. The great importance of these regions is already fully understood.
* We owe the description of this typical act of piracy and slave-hunting to Spanish sources; the same sad tale is repeated throughout the years of misrule that depopulated the islands and disgraced Spain.
* Hac sunt ibi frequentiores quam in nostro Ionio Symplegades, quarum congeriam archipaelagus vulgus appellat. This sad slip of Peter Martyr's pen must have provoked derisive mirth amongst the humanists of the Pontifical Court, whose critical ears his lapses from Ciceronian purity had already offended. The Symplegades lie far distant from the Ionian Sea, being found in the Euxine, opposite the entrance to the Thracian Bosphorus. Being but two in number, nobody, however vulgar, ever called them an archipelago.
* Obsidian or iztli as the Mexicans called it, was the stone used for making sacrificial knives, spear-points, maquahuitl blades, razors, and all sharp instruments for cutting; its colour however is usually black, sometimes grey, but I recall no yellow.
the governor's authorisation to fit out a fleet of ten caravels carrying five hundred soldiers, and three brigantines similar to lightly harnessed horses." They intended to make use of these brigantines in shallow waters and along the coasts fringed with reefs. Seven war-horses were taken on board the fleet. Fernando Cortes, at that time a judge in Cuba, was appointed commander,” and with him were associated Alfonso Fernando Portocarrero, Francisco de Montejo, Alfonso d'Avila, Alvarado, commander of Badajoz, Juan Velasquez, and Diego de Ordaz. They sailed 3 from the same western point of Cuba favoured by the same wind that had already served Francisco Fernandez and Juan de Grijalva. They arrived within sight of the Isla de los Sacrificios, which we have already mentioned, where a sudden and violent storm prevented their landing, and drove them out of their course to the island of Cozumel, off the eastern coast of Yucatan. There is only one port
To: Spaniards recently settled in Cuba obtained on this island and to this they gave the name of San Juan de Porta Latina. They counted six towns in this island, where the only drinking water is from pits or cisterns, for it is flat and there are no rivers. The island is forty-five leagues in circumference. The islanders, seized with terror, abandoned their towns and fled into the depths of the forests, and the Spaniards took possession of their empty houses and ate the supplies they contained. They found there a number of ornaments, tapestries, clothing, and beds of native cotton called hammocks. They even discovered, Most Holy Father, many books. We shall later speak of these, as well as of different other articles which have been brought to our new sovereign. The Spaniards explored the entire island, keeping well together in order to avoid a surprise. They found few inhabitants and only one woman, through whom, by means of interpreters from Cuba and three natives of Yucatan who had been carried off during a preceding expedition, they invited the caciques who had fled, to return. These natives were servants of the woman who served as guide to the envoys, and they succeeded in bringing back the caciques. Peace was concluded and the islanders gladly resumed possession of their houses, and many of the pieces of furniture which had been taken, were restored to them. They are pagans and circumcised. They sacrifice boys and young girls to their zemes. The zemes are figures representing nocturnal goblins, to which they pay veneration. The pilot Alaminos, Francisco Montejo, and Portocarrero, who were later sent with gifts to the King, have been questioned by me. I asked them whence the islanders obtained the boys and girls for their sacrifices, and they told me that it was in the neighbouring islands. They traded gold and other merchandise for them. In fact, nowhere throughout the length and breadth of this vast new country do the natives busy themselves about money, which is the cause of so much evil; and it is the same in the more recently discovered countries, among which are the islands Bia and Segesta. When there are no children they sacrifice dogs. They raise dogs for food, just as we do rabbits. These dogs never bark, and have the snout of a fox. Those destined for food are castrated, and only a limited number of males are preserved for propagating the species, just as do our shepherds with their flocks. The castrated dogs become very fat. The Spaniards advised them to renounce human sacrifices, explaining their odious character. In reply, the barbarians asked to what law they should then conform. It was then proven to them without difficulty' that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth, giver of all good things, who is unique in his substance though triune in his Persons. They consented to the destruction of their zemes, and placed a picture of the Blessed Virgin painted by a Spaniard, in their temple. They swept and cleaned the temple, washed its floor, and accepted a cross, bearing the image of God made man, sacrificed for the good of the human race, to which they offered worship, and they placed upon the summit of the temple a large wooden cross. The natives told the Spaniards, through their interpreters, that there were seven Christians in the neighbouring province of Yucatan, who had been wrecked there during a storm. The distance separating this island from Yucatan being but five leagues, the commander Cortes sent two caravels with fifty men to rescue these prisoners. Three guides from Cozumel assisted them in their search, and the chief of the expedition was Diego de Ordaz. Cortes carefully explained
* The simile does not seem apt. As is explained in the next sentence, the brigantines were for use in places where the larger vessels could not penetrate, and hence in this somewhat strained sense might be likened to light cavalry skirmishers.
* Consult Bernard Diaz, Historia Verdadera; English translation by Maudslay 1910; Prescott's Conquest of Mexico; MacNutt's, Fernando Cortes in Heroes of the Nations Series, vol. xix; Gomara, Cronica de la Conquista; Las Casas, Hist. de las Indias, tom. iii.
3 February 18, 1519.