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TO THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF, CLEMENT VII. FROM PETER
MARTYR D'ANGUERA OF MILAN, APOSTOLIC PRO
THONOTARY AND ROYAL COUNSELLOR
OST Holy Father: I have received a parchment addressed to me by Your Holiness, sealed, according to pontifical custom, with the Ring of the Fisherman. It is divided into two parts; the first being a eulogy of my history of the New World, which I dedicated to your predecessors; and the second, an imperative order not to allow succeeding events to be lost in oblivion. Such is my desire to obey you, that I cannot deny that on this point I deserve commendation; but my inadequacy as a writer is so great that I must solicit indulgence rather than praise. The vastness of the subject I am treating requires Ciceronian inspiration, as I have in my preceding narrative often declared. Since I do not possess silks and brocades, I have been content with humble draperies to clothe my gracious Nereids, by which I mean those isles of the ocean, brilliant as pearls, and hidden since the beginning of the world from mankind.
Before the orders of Your Holiness were delivered to me, I had addressed the greater part of my narrative, first to Pope Adrian—and with that you are acquainted—and next to the Viscount Francesco Sforza, ruler of my native country. This was when fate had delivered him from the grasp of the most Christian king, and his envoys at the court of the Emperor imposed this task upon me. Now that I am to give my labours to Your Holiness, it appears to be indispensable to add to the work a copy of what I have heretofore written, although that narrative is dedicated to another than yourself. Is it not thus that in the Church, bishops and cardinals precede the Sovereign Pontiff? So then, let the Decade dedicated to a duke open the series. All that follows concerning cliferent events, all that has to do with incidents in the lives of captains, with quadrupeds, birds, insects, trees, herbs, ceremonies, manners, and superstitions of the natives, and especially with the situation of New Spain and the fleets upon the high seas, Your Holiness will learn; for no mortal may neglect your invitation with impunity.
I shall first describe what happened to Francesco de Garay, governor of Jamaica, recently renamed Santiago, and where, by the Emperor's grace, I hold the title of Abbot. I shall explain how Garay planned, in spite of the wishes of Cortes, to found a colony on the banks of the Panuco River, and there perished. I shall next mention the place where Egidius Gonzales touched, while seeking towards the north the famous strait, of which the discovery is so desired; and Cristobal Olid, of whom I have already said something, in the preceding Decade addressed to the Duke Sforza. I shall not forget Pedro Arias, governor of the mainland, also engaged in looking for the same strait. Next in order will follow the licenciate Marcel Villalobos, member of the India Council at Hispaniola, and his intimate friend Diego Garcia who has recently returned bringing us important news from Cortes, governor of New Spain.
Many other persons will pass before your eyes, among them the Dominican friar Tomaso Ortiz, a man of great probity who has lived for a long time in the country of Chiribichi. Nor shall we omit Diego Alvarez Orsorio, a man of illustrious birth, priest and canon of the cathedral of Darien, who, under the orders of Espinosa, has personally visited the immense regions of the South Sea, at the cost of a thousand dangers and hardships, spending many years there exploring the country of the Dabaiba. I take my narrative from the detailed reports of those captains and their colleagues, all of them trustworthy men, or in their absence, from their own depositions made when they came here on business; and I compose this narrative in obedience to the orders of three popes and other princes.
I shall begin by the life and deplorable death of Garay. In my preceding Decades addressed to Pope Adrian, predecessor of Your Holiness, I said that a secret hatred sprung up between Garay and Fernando Cortes, conqueror of New Spain and many other provinces; for Garay was reputed to want to colonise the Panuco country, bordering upon the states under the jurisdiction of Cortes. I have already said that this same Garay had twice been disastrously defeated by the savage population, along the Panuco River; and twice Fernando Cortes had received him in his flight, helping him to repair his misfortune, when he was reduced to the direst necessity. This is shown by the letters of Cortes and by my own writings, which circulate throughout the Christian world.
Four vessels have just arrived from the Indies, and from letters written by the companions of his labours and sufferings, and from the verbal reports of people who have come by these vessels, we know about Garay's misfortunes. On the eighteenth day of the calends of June, he left Jamaica—now called Santiago—of which he had long time been governor. He was authorised by the Emperor to settle on the banks of the Panuco River,1 a stream already well known, and to there found the colony of which he dreamed. His fleet consisted of eleven vessels, six of between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty tons burthen, two of the type called in Spain caravels, and also two brigantines. His force consisted of one hundred and forty-four horsemen, three hundred foot-soldiers armed with bows, two hundred musketeers, and two hundred men armed with swords and shields. He first directed his course towards Cuba, otherwise called Fernandina. Cuba is divided in two by the Tropic of Cancer, and Jamaica lies in the zone most people wrongly call the torrid zone. Cuba is about twice the length of Italy. Garay landed at a place called Cape Corrientes at the western extremity of the island, where there are many ports, to obtain fresh water, wood, and forage for his horses. He passed several days there. This point of the island is but a short distance from the dependencies of New Spain, governed in the Emperor's name by Fernando Cortes.
'The Panuco River empties into the Gulf of Mexico near the present town of Tampico.
When he learned that Cortes had established a colony on the banks of the Panuco, Garay assembled his captains and consulted them as to what action he should take. Some were of opinion that it would be better to seek a new country, since there were plenty of others, than to come into conflict with the good luck of Cortes. Others thought the enterprise should not be abandoned, especially as they were sustained by the Emperor's authority, authorising Garay to give his name to the future colony. The will of the latter party prevailed, Garay being pleased by their pernicious opinion. Understanding the disposition of his lieutenants, he made a pretence of founding a state, and divided amongst them the offices, the better to attach them to himself by the honours he offered them. He therefore named as the chief of this colony Alfonso Mendoza, nephew of Don Alfonso Pecheco, formerly Grand Equerry. He associated with him Ferdinando Figueroa, of a distinguished family in Saragossa, and to them he added two Spaniards from Cuba. He named as judges Gonzales Ovaglio, a noble of Salamanca, related to the Duke of Alva; Villagrano, a former member of the royal household, and Iago de Cifuentes, a man of