Book VI, Chapter XXV
Of the rushes or palms that are brought to Spain and other parts of the world to be sold as canes and staffs for men of authority and for the old and elderly men; although they can be found in many parts of the Indies growing on their own, here is told of where they are sown and cultivated and for what purposes.
Translated by Sofia Rodas
The types of staffs or canes known in Spain as “Indies canes,” are very common and abundant in many parts of the Indies. In Book X, chapter VIII of the first part of this History, I will speak at length about the form and manner of these rushes. But what I have learned in the past few days will not be found there, because though I have lived in the Indies for many years, I only learned this past year of 1541 that these rushes were cultivated or that they were the product of human diligence, for it was my understanding that they were solely nature’s creation and grew where it was naturally appropriate. While recovering from an illness in the year mentioned above, I was left very thin and required a cane while convalescing. A friend and neighbor of mine lent me one of these rushes as a cane. A man worthy of being believed, he told me that he had had this cane since he had been in the company of captain Diego de Ordaz and Gerónimo Dortal during the discovery of the grand river called Huyapari, where it is a common and ordinary thing for the Indians from the town they call Arvacay to plant or sow and gather these rushes. Their primary purpose is to raise the sides of their canoes by securing rushes to add height. They are tied together very tightly to make the walls of their boats and canoes taller, and being so light they are ideal and useful for this purpose. No other wood or tie could work as well or be worked with as quickly as the rushes. It is for the Indians as good a merchandise and ware as it is vital for those who navigate in canoes, increasing their size without detriment to the canoe. I have said enough about the rushes here and will speak about them further in the place named above.