Book VI, Chapter XLI
Of a notable case of the love that an Indian woman felt for her husband, and how she tearfully pleaded to the author of these histories to pardon her husband (whom he had ordered hanged) and hang her instead. And other comparable stories of the way that some people have shown excessive love for others.
Translated by Eliana Blam ’22
In some parts of these histories I have noted how pleasing it is to be able to establish comparisons with the work of good authors whose writings apply to my own or who have written on topics related to mine. This brings to mind Valerius Máximus’ writings about the intense and endearing love between married people, where he tells of how two serpents or snakes were taken to the house of Tiberius Gracchus, the one male and the other female; and the fortune-tellers attested that if he let the male go and killed the female his wife Cornelia would die after a few days, and that if he killed the male and let the female go he would die shortly. He valued his wife’s life more than his own, and because of this he ordered the male to be killed and the female spared, and thus I do not know if Cornelia was more fortunate in having such a husband than unfortunate in having lost him. The author in question concludes that Gracchus died shortly thereafter and his wife lived. Saint Augustine writes of a friend who begged and pleaded to a prince who was going to kill his friend to kill him also.
While I was captain and judge in the city of Sancta Maria del Antigua de Darien, the cacique of Vea and his Indians murdered Captain Martin de Murga, to whom they were entrusted and who served him, having feigned good friendship and trust; the captain and other Christians were killed while having supper, after having shown them much love and a warm welcome. A few days later another cacique of the region rebelled, called Guaturo, and joined the evildoers, and they agreed to come to that city to burn it and kill all of us Christians who lived there.
This cacique Guaturo had a captain whose name was Gonzalo, who was baptized, although not out of his good will, given the hatred he bore in his heart for the very name of Christian; but he was very brave, and the cacique and his people did not do anything that Captain Gonzalo did not want or command. When I got news of his rebellion, I went out to look for them, as will be covered more extensively in the second part, in Book XXIX, Chapter XVI. I fared well and captured them with part of their people in a very rugged sierra where they were holed up. Captain Gonzalo was hanged on a hill called Buena-Vista, at a pass near the lagoons of Vea, where Captain Martin de Murga and other Spaniards who suffered with him were killed. And while the gallows were being set up, the wife of that captain Gonzalo, with many tears, begged me to hang her and pardon her husband. Seeing that I denied her request and that justice had been executed on her husband, she began to beg and pester me a great deal, and she said that, because I had not done what she had asked me to do, I should at least grant that she be hanged on the same gallows as her husband, and that we put two of her children, boys aged eight and ten years, on his other side, and that her five or six-year-old daughter be hanged by her side. When I replied that there was nothing I could do, and that she and her children were not guilty and had done nothing to deserve death (in truth, I would have wanted this Indian to have been such as she described, and that he had been capable of reform; but all the Spaniards there said that his death would secure the land), and after the tongue or interpreter let her know what I was saying, and that I did not want this woman nor her children to die as she asked, as they had done nothing wrong, she ceased their tears, wiped her eyes and said: “Captain, know that I advised my husband to urge the cacique to rebel and kill all the Christians, and that I am the most guilty of all, and my husband in all was advised by me and did not do more than I told him.” And since her wish was to die and she did not want life without her husband, and I knew that she did this in order to fulfill her desire of giving her soul to the devil, I did not want any part of it, so I continued on my journey to Darien, where the same justice was served on the cacique, thus securing the province. But it is worth noting that, after that woman saw that she could not attain her requests, she resumed her early tears; I ordered two hidalgos to divide the remaining Indians among the Spaniards that were there, and the Indian woman and her daughter went to one of the men, and her boys to others. Seeing this, the mother came to me screaming and said these words to me: “You, sir, did you not tell me that I nor my children were to blame? Well, if that is so, why do you take my children from me and give them to others, separating them from me?” So I arranged that she and her children would stay with one owner, a good neighbor of that city, so that they would be well treated. Great love was that which this woman showed for her husband, and like she said many times, she did not have her children because she had given birth to them or because she was their mother, but because she engendered them with her husband, whom she loved so much.
Returning to Valerio Máximo and to what he says that the fortune-tellers foretold of the snakes: because life consisted of letting go and not killing, and the death of him or his wife depended on which he wanted to kill, I would have freed them both, because the haruspex did not say that it was necessary that one of the two should die, and the choice of which would die rested under his control. Let us move on to other things.
 Valerius Maximus, Book IV, Chapter VI. Of the Love Between Married Couples.
 Augustine, Book VIII of the confessions, Chapter 6.
Image: Engraving of the marriage customs of the native Americans of Brazil by Pieter de Neyn in 1681.