Sofia Rodas ’20: Book VII, Chapter XVI (Of the Tree That the Indians Call Çibucan and Its Fruit)

Book VIII, Chapter XVI

Of the tree that the Indians call çibucan (sibucán) and its fruit.

Translated by Sofia Rodas ’20

The sibucán is a good tree from this region. It has leaves like a willow’s and fruit like white hazelnuts. Inside the fruits are very small granules that resemble nits. These granules are as small as salt, but despite this comparison, the fruit is sweet. And if the comparison appears unappealing it is described in this manner because some call this delicacy the fruit or tree of nits. The wood of this tree is very good, and it is a good-looking and fresh tree. The reader should not confuse this name çibucan (sibucán) with the sack or press of the same name that the Indians use to wring the yuca for making pan caçabi or cassava bread; this bread is not made from this tree. As these Indians are simpleminded, so too are they short on words, and so they call various things by the same name. One cannot find similarities between the sack or press that purges and drains the grated yucca and this tree, nor can one find similarities between that awful animal, which is worse than fleas and enters through feet, called nigua or chigger, and the Nigua river. And it should not be surprising if between these wild peoples there are such faults in their tongues, considering that the Portuguese call a knife faça and small mares faça as well; just as in Spanish to honor a woman and say she is wise one uses the word cuerda, while calling bowstrings or any other common string cuerda as well. We would find the same defects if we looked at other languages and people. Nevertheless, the languages of the Indians are very limited, though they are many and very different from one another.

Image: A digitally restored vintage fig illustration by Giorgio Gallesio in the 1800s.