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Fernandina. This island lies to the west of Hispaniola, but far enough to the north to be divided by the Tropic of Cancer, while Hispaniola lies some degrees distant from both the tropic and the equator. Six fortified stations have been already established in Cuba, the first being placed under the patronage of Santiago,' protector of all the Spains. Native gold is found both in the mountains and in the rivers, and one of the occupations is mining.
In the same year1 that I ceased the publication of the Decades, three of the oldest colonists of Cuba, Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba, Lopez Ochoa Cayzedo, and Cristobal Morantes, resolved to undertake the discovery of new lands. Fernando Iniguez, a Galician, receiver of revenues for the King of Spain, was to be captain of one of the ships. The Spaniards are of a restless character, and constantly seek to accomplish great undertakings. Their ships, of the kind called in Spain caravels, were fitted out at their own expense and sailed for the western extremity of Cuba, named Cape San Antonio. Altogether there were one hundred and ten soldiers on board, and the pilot was Anton Alaminos. This point of Cuba is well adapted for ships' repairs and renewing supplies of water and wood. Driven by a wind between the Zephyr and Auster, called by the Spaniards south-west, they discovered land the sixth day3 after sailing. They had only covered a distance of sixty-six leagues in those six days, for they anchored at sunset, fearing to strike upon reefs in that unknown sea or to be lost in the depths. The country they discovered being apparently very large, they landed, and were amicably received by the natives. When they demanded by signs and gestures what was the name of the country, the latter replied Yucatan, a word which means in their own language, "I do not understand you." The Spaniards imagined that this was the name of the country; and because of that unforeseen circumstance the country will always be called Yucatan. The name given by the Indians to this country is Eccampi. The Spaniards discovered a fortified town on the bank, of such importance that they named it Cairo, after the capital of Egypt. It possesses houses with towers, magnificent temples, regular streets, squares and market-places. The houses are built of stone or brick, held together with mortar and skilfully built. Access to the first courts and habitations is had by stairs of six or seven steps. The roofs are not made of tiles, but of thatch or bundles of grass.
1 The other settlements made by Velasquez were Havana, Trinidad, Matanzas, Puerto del Principe, and San Salvador.
J Bernal Diaz describes the voyages as lasting twenty-one days; see
Ilistoria Verdadera, cap. vi.
Presents were mutually exchanged between the Spaniards and the natives, the barbarians giving beautifully worked buckles and necklaces, in exchange for which they received silk stuffs, woollen garments, glass beads, and copper bells. These gifts were graciously received because they came from strangers, but they attached no great value to them, because they make much more brilliant objects themselves out of certain stones. The natives wore clothing, not of wool, because they have no sheep, but made of a thousand different kinds of cotton dyed in divers colours. 'The women are covered from the waist to the heels, and they envelop their breasts in several veils, and take modest care that neither their legs nor their feet shall be visible. The natives visit the temples, to which paved streets lead, starting from the residence of the principal people of the community. They worship idols, and some of them, but not all, are circumcised. They have laws, and are extremely honest in trading, which they carry on without money. Crosses1 have been seen amongst them; and when they were asked, through interpreters, the meaning of that emblem, some of them answered that a very beautiful man had once lived amongst them, who had left them this symbol as a remembrance of him; others said that a man more radiant than the sun had died upon that cross.
1 Whether the existence of these and other crosses in Mexico and Central America is to be ascribed to some remote and passing Christian influence or not, has been much discussed with a wealth of argument for and against this theory. The celebrated cross of Palenque is now held by the best authorities to symbolise the four winds; as the symbol of Quetzalcoatl, god of the air and particularly associated with the rain-bringing winds, the cross was the emblem of fertility. Consult Icazbalceta, Documentos para la Historia de Mejeco, tom, i., pp. 306, 307; Torquemada, Monorchia Indiana, tom, iii., p. 134; Las Casas, Hist.Apologetica, p. 123; Mota Padilla, Hist, de la Nueva Galicia, p. 36; Zelia Nuttall, Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilisations; Beauvois, Migrations d'Europe pendant le moyen Age.
THE Spaniards remained some days in that country. They noticed that the Indians began to tire of their presence; for visitors who prolong their stay are never agreeable. They, therefore, collected their supplies, and pushed straight on westwards, following the coasts of the provinces called by the natives Corus and Matam, and stopping nowhere, save for wood and water. The barbarians along the coasts admired the great size of the floating hulks, and both men and women came from all directions with their children to look at them. From on board their vessels the Spaniards likewise beheld with astonishment the buildings, especially the temples resembling fortresses, which stood near the shore. They finally decided to anchor one hundred and ten leagues farther on in a province called Campeche, whose capital had as many as three thousand inhabitants. The meeting was cordial on both sides, the barbarians regarding with amazement the agility of the sailors, the size of the vessels, their sails, tackle, and all the rest. When they heard the thunder of the cannon and smelt the smoke and sulphurous odour, they thought a thunderbolt had fallen from heaven. The cacique was pleased to receive the Spaniards in his palace and to offer them magnificent hospitality. They sat down to a sumptuous repast, where they were served with peacocks, fat chickens, wild birds from the mountains, woods, and swamps; partridges, quails, doves, ducks, geese, and wild game such as boar, deer, and hare; not to mention wolves lions, tigers, and foxes.1
The natives conducted them with a royal escort to a large square just outside the village, where they showec them a square platform built of marble and approached by four steps. The floor was of hard bitumen in mosaic pattern; and upon this platform there stood the statue of a man surrounded by four quadrupeds of unknowr species, resembling fierce dogs, in the attitude of tearing out the bowels of the marble man. Just near to the statue there was a serpent made of bitumen and small stones, forty-seven feet in length and as large round as an ox, which seemed to devour a lion made of marble. It was splashed with newly shed blood. In the immediate neighbourhood there were three beams set in the ground, and three others leaning obliquely upon stones. This is the place of punishment for criminals, as was proven by the Spaniards seeing marks of blood in many of the streets, broken arrows, and the bones of victims thrown into a neighbouring court. The houses of Campeche are built of lime and bitumen. The Spaniards gave the name of Lazarus to the cacique, because they landed there on the feast-day of that saint.
Pursuing their course to the west, the Spaniards landed fifteen leagues farther on, in the province of Aguanil, whose capital is Moscobo and the cacique Chiapoton;2 a word pronounced with the accent on the last syllable. This cacique was ill-disposed towards the Spaniards and sought to draw them into an ambuscade when they were taking in a supply of fresh water. The latter were told there was a spring on the other side of the hill,
1 The narration throughout may be profitably compared with that of Bcrnal Diaz in his Historia Verdadera. Mr. Maudslay's admirable English translation, published by the Hakluyt Society in 1910, renders this valuable old chronicle easily accessible.
1Champoton; the Indian names throughout the decades are mostly misspelled.