Book VI, Chapter LIII
About another great novelty never heard or even known by me, which will be of no little amazement to readers and skeptics; and it is about the low and high tides on the bay of San Mateo in the governorate and coast of Perú.
Translated by Andrea Tellez ‘21
I said in the previous chapter that I would rather see the monkey of which I wrote above than all the rich emeralds I have seen come from Perú, and that I would see many others before seeing a similar animal. And since I seek to see and understand all the novelties and rare things worthy of this General History, a very bizarre one has come my way, one that would amaze those possessed of natural wit as well as people who are well read and have traveled the world, and will make them stop and ponder on what I am about to say, which I came upon through a honorable neighbor named Baltazar García, a native of the city of Trujillo in the province of Spain called Extremadura. On this Tuesday the twentieth of October of 1545, the very reverend Don Rodrigo de Bastidas, bishop of the island of San Juan (whose house is in this very fortress of the city of Santo Domingo, where I am and serve His Majesty), came with his habitual benevolence and kindness to relax and spend some time of leisure with his praiseworthy conversation and introduce me to this nobleman, who arrived in this city a few days ago, as they say, with a fortune of ten or twelve thousand gold pesos: and even though I had seen him, I did not know him well enough for him to show me a nugget of fine gold (of at least twenty three carats) worth four thousand castellanos. And after the bishop and Baltazar García came to this fortress, our conversation revolved around the riches of Perú and I begged him to send for the piece of gold they had told me he was carrying, and to show me his emeralds as well, which he did with pleasure. And once the piece of gold arrived, I held it in my hands with effort because of its weight, which according to its owner was four thousand pesos (which is forty pounds or eighty marcos or fifty castellanos or one arroba and fifteen pounds); and I think it did weigh that, because like I say, I had it in my hands, and so did the bishop and gentleman and others who were present. And with this piece of gold, he made them bring a beautiful golden bowl that weighed five marcos or fifty castellanos of gold and five rich emeralds (three set in great rings and one placed in lead and another was a round bead), large and completely perfect and of much value: if so many had not come into the possession of Christians I don’t think any of them would have been valued at less than three hundred pesos, and the larger round one at five hundred pesos by any jewel dealer. And before these emeralds from Puerto Viejo, Bogotá, and Somindoco were discovered, the worth of the five emeralds mentioned would have been at least more than four thousand ducats. In short, the piece of gold and golden bowl mentioned are worthy of a prince.
But continuing our conversation, this kind man told us, as an eyewitness, of something that brought me greater pleasure and happiness to know and hear than anything that has been said, and it was said in front of the bishop and two of his servants and other squires of this fort that were present during our exchange: that a powerful river, much larger than the one that flows through the city of Santo Domingo, flows into the bay of San Mateo (which is on the coast of Perú, a degree and a half on this side of the equinoctial line); and with the growing tide, the water is sweet and drinkable, and with the low tide it is salty, and it happens often that the ship can take fresh water from one side and saltwater from the other. This is a thing I had not heard from anyone else, none of the many I have spoken to who have been in that region have said anything about this novelty: and I do not wonder at others having said nothing, even though it is so, because not all men know how to understand things even though they see them, or to feel them truly, but also because they are passing through and are caught in the torment for gold, which makes them unfit to understand fully or as they should the things that simple people regard as ordinary or worthy of little thought, which are in turn what amazes people of discriminating minds and fine intellects. This nobleman lived nearby for a time and could very well see and consider what was said, and he spoke of this and everything else, like a man of fine reasoning and worthy of being believed. Those who watch the tides on the Guadalquivir and the Tajo and other rivers in Spain as they enter the sea can ascertain that what I have written is the opposite of what they observe: that at high tide rivers turn salty, and when the sea recedes at low tide, they water is fresh, which is the reverse in the bay of San Mateo, and behind this must be a mystery or secret of nature, which I cannot fathom.
 The original manuscript includes the beginning of the title for Chapter LIV, which manifests that the author proposed to add new repositories, as he did beginning with Chapter L, initially marked as the last one of this Book VI, and to which he added the three that followed. [AR]