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other of the rivers of Florida, still farther distant, one of which is called Santo Spirito. It is there that all the great rivers of that region flow together, after having traversed fertile and populous countries. But his fate was foreordained and his destiny is accomplished.
Since I have just mentioned the Elysian island of Jamaica, where Garay governed for so many years, and since I am united to that charming nymph, it is only proper that I should describe her graces and charms. I give the following examples.
THAT remote and hidden part of the world where the Creator of everything placed the first man, after forming him from the slime of the earth, is called by the sages of the mosaic law and of the New Testament the Terrestrial Paradise, because during the entire year there exists no difference between day and night; summer does not burn nor is winter severe; the air is salubrious, the springs clear, the rivers limpid. With all these blessings our beneficent mother nature has adorned my spouse.1
Besides the various fruit-trees we have introduced there, Jamaica produces other trees peculiar to it, and which constantly enjoy perpetual spring and autumn. They put forth flowers and leaves simultaneously, while bearing both green and ripe fruits at the same time. In that island the earth is covered with grass, and the fields blossom with flowers. Nowhere does there exist a country enjoying a more agreeable climate. Thus Jamaica, my spouse, is more favoured than any other region. The length of the island, from east to west, is between sixty and seventy leagues, and its greatest width is thirty leagues.
Astonishing things are told of the vegetable products sown and gathered by man. I have already spoken at length concerning these in my first Decades, for I gave practically the same particulars about Hispaniola. I hope, however, that the repetition of the greater part of these details will not prove repugnant, especially to the Sovereign Pontiffs, under whose authority these new lands develop, day by day. The taste of good things is at all times agreeable, and it may be that precisely these passages of my decades were never brought to the knowledge of Your Holiness.
1 Histories of Jamaica have been published by Edward Long in 1774; by Harvin and Brevin in 1807, and by Gardner in 1873. Peter Martyr describes the beauties of his island spouse from hearsay, for he never visited Jamaica.
Bread, without which all other foods are valueless, exists in two kinds, one being made from grain, and the other from roots. There are three yearly harvests of grain. Wheat does not exist. A measure similar to a hetnina1 of the grain they call maize sometimes contains more than two hundred grains. A kind of bread made from roots is the most appreciated; it is made from the dried and ground root of the yucca. Cakes called cazabi are made of it, and may be kept for two years without spoiling. There is a very singular secret of nature in the usage of this yucca root. In order to squeeze out the juice, the natives pile this root into boxes which are pressed with heavy weights. The raw juice when first pressed out is more poisonous than aconite, and produces instant death, but when it is cooked it is harmless, and has a better taste than milk.
Many other different kinds of roots are found in Jamaica, to which the general name of potatoes is given. I have elsewhere described eight species of these potatoes, distinguishable by their blossoms, leaves, and sprouts. They are as good boiled as roasted, and even raw they have not a bad taste. They resemble turnips, radishes, parsnips, and carrots, but differ in their taste and substance. While writing these lines I have before me a certain quantity of these potatoes, which I received as a present. I would willingly share them with Your Holiness did distance not forbid. The ambassador of Your Holiness at the Emperor's court has eaten a share. This ambassador, who is Archbishop of Cosenza, is not an ordinary man, in the judgment of all good Spaniards. After fourteen years passed at this court, he thoroughly knows the history of the New World and, if Your Holiness desires, may some day relate it to you. Great princes are inclined to prolong their repasts with entertainments of this character.
1 Both a liquid and a surface measure.
I have already spoken much concerning the character of the skies, the trees, and the fruits, the harvests, bread, and roots. But what about the gardens? I have often spoken of the vegetables, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins to be had at all seasons.
My affection for Jamaica is certainly sincere, but perhaps exaggerated, and I have added too much fringe to the draperies of my spouse. Let us, therefore, bid her farewell, and return to those whom we have left behind.
Just recently a brave soldier, called Cristobal Perez Hernan has been to see us; he had been in Jamaica a long time as an officer of justice under Garay, being one of those agents called by the Spanish, alguazils. He had always accompanied Garay and was present at his death. According to him, all that is told concerning the misfortunes of Garay and his soldiers is true. Sent back by Pedro Cano after the massacre, he brought letters from Cortes to Espinosa, representative of the latter's and his sons' interests at the Emperor's court. At the close of these letters, Cortes counselled and exhorted Espinosa to give up Europe, leave his occupation, and return to that happy country. One would have thought he was enjoining him to leave desert sands to betake himself to the most fortunate of lands. He repeatedly insisted on the point that if Espinosa would follow his advice, he would quickly become rich.
The alguazil Hernan gives other information worth noticing. The waters of the Panuco and the Rio de las Palmas are about equal in volume at their mouths. Sailors find fresh water nine miles out at sea opposite the mouths of each of those rivers. A third and narrower stream, named by the Spaniards Santo Spirito, is nearer to Florida. It traverses rich and populous regions. The alguazil was asked whether it was chance, or a storm, or the execution of a well-thought-out plan that directed Garay's fleet to the Rio de las Palmas. He answered that it was the favourable south winds, and also the ocean currents that had driven them thither; meaning no doubt that same impetuous current I have already mentioned elsewhere, and which flows towards the west following the movement of the heavens. The alguazil—to call him by his Spanish name—moreover affirms that the pilots who laid the course were deceived by various things and mistook the Rio de las Palmas for the Panuco, until they found themselves within the estuary and unable to recognise the banks. He added that Garay was sufficiently advised to stop at that place and found a colony there. His companions were opposed to this, preferring to occupy the banks of the Panuco River, which had already been explored, and the fertile and known districts. Garay had the gloomiest forebodings, and it was very much against his will that he acquiesced in the decision of his associates, when they reminded him that the Panuco region had been conceded to him by the Emperor and should henceforth and forever be called Garayaria. When the Spaniards had dropped anchor at the mouth of the Rio de las Palmas, and were awaiting the return of Garay's brother-in-law, who had ascended the river, most of them examined the neighbourhood of the stream. They studied the nature of the soil, and took many new observations, though none of them very important. One of them, however, I will here record.