Book VI, Chapter XXIII
Which deals with a repository about a new type of extremely poisonous snakes to be found in the island of Margarita, which are called rattlesnakes, and of other vipers or snakes from the province of the Alcázares that try to imitate them with their rattles, and which are very poisonous.
Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert
While we await the right time to speak of the island of Margarita in Book XIX, Chapter XIV, I want to place here a repository or marker to aid my memory about some of its most poisonous snakes, for I had never heard or read about a worse animal, and they are thus. On the island of Margarita there are very poisonous snakes that kill those they bite within three days, the victims’ eyes bursting from their faces. They are spotted, but when you look at them for the first time or see an entire snake from a distance, they seem to be a brownish color, because their spots are dark and cannot be easily seen, except close up. The largest of these snakes are about five or six feet long or smaller. This snake has on its tail five or seven round and distinct knots which appear strung together; and when this animal moves they sound like good but muffled rattles, a sound that benevolent nature (or better yet, God) has provided in His mercy to warn human beings to guard against them when they hear the rattle. Its poison would be less cruel if it killed immediately upon biting, instead of the victim of a bite suffering for the space of time I mentioned, losing his eyes and without the aid of any medicine. This is how it has been told and seen by many eyewitnesses, and even in this our city of Santo Domingo there are men of honor and worthy of trust who give testimony of it, and who have lived or stayed on the island of Margarita for some time. There are other snakes in the province of the Alcázares, on the Mainland, with a rattle and a sting at the end of their tails whose bite is very poisonous and its wound fatal, as the reader can hear more at length in Book XXIII, Chapter VII, in the second part of these histories.