Book VI, Chapter LI
On a case recently brought to the notice of the author of these histories, a new subject worthy of the admiration of those who hear and learn of it, which concerns a new form of hunting on this island of Hispaniola, which happened in the year 1543.
Translated by Joseph Wiswell ‘20
On this our island of Hispaniola there are many rebellious blacks who have risen against working for the Christians; so in order to punish them and make sure of those who remain in the settlers’ plantations, there are certain Spanish squads charged with searching for the rebels. And among their captains there is a nobleman named Antonio de San Miguel, a native of Ledesma, a good and brave man (whom I know); and a few months ago, being on the mountains of San Juan de la Maguana (which is in the center of the island somewhat towards the southern coast), he came across a maroon or wild Indian walking around naked and carrying tempered rods to fight or kill feral or wild pigs of which there are countless on this island from those brought from Spain but gone feral in the wild. And this Indian had with him a tame sow and two male pigs, and they were his companions and he ate and slept among them, and he had been a maroon twelve years or more, and he is wily and spoke our Castilian language very well.
And as this captain and his men came upon this Indian and his swinish company by chance, the Christians killed the two tame pigs and sow in an instant, without attention to their ownership or control in order to address their hunger, since they had not eaten meat for days: but the death of the three animals was the source of much sorrow and pain for that Indian, and the captain, wishing to learn more about the way of life and solitude of that Indian asked what he did with the pigs or what he used them for, to which the Indian replied: “Those pigs gave me life and supported me and I them: they were my friends and good company: one was named this and the other that, and the sow was named that or the other (as he had named them).” He said that the one pig had a great nose and the other was tougher and heavier and faster, and very bold; so that the one did the work of a bloodhound, and the other of a whippet, and the sow was consort and helper to the two at those times when they needed help. And as soon as it was daylight this Indian left his ranch and said to his companions the pigs: “Come on, friends, let’s go look for food.” And so they did; and the smeller would take the lead and when he got a scent he led the way in the direction it thought they should go, and the other pig and sow followed him, and after them went the Indian. And as the smeller came across a feral pig it engaged him in a fight and the battle commenced with bites; and when the other two pigs reached them, the three of them went after it with their teeth until the Indian arrived with his rods to assist his companions, using them to wound and quickly kill the feral pig. Once dead, the Indian would cut it open and offer the innards to his companions and he would light a fire with sticks, as the Indians do, and roast what he wished to eat; and the rest of the dead animal he cut into pieces, loaded it onto the two pigs and sow with his ropes, and he left for his ranch, where the whole company slept: and there he offloaded the meat, dried strips of it to save as jerky, and they ate them bit by bit, while continuing to kill other feral pigs in the manner described. At night the Indian slept among his beastly company, scratching now one, now the other, and sharing his food with them. And on other days, if they did not have meat or did not find eggs or it was not the season for certain fruit, the Indian knew how to find certain roots with which he fed his company, and he did not go hungry. This Indian lived in the bush in the manner described.
After Captain Antonio de San Miguel and his companions heard and understood the new and never-before-heard-of hunt, they very much regretted the death of the pigs and took the Indian with them to the city of la Vega, where he is at present.
And since it is my practice to claim the authority of trustworthy witnesses when I have not seen something myself, I state that the very reverend Lord Bishop Don Alonso de Fuenmayor left our city of Santo Domingo and went inland to visit his churches, and spent some days in the city of La Vega, where the same captain, Antonio de San Miguel, told him and others who were with him what I have recounted above, and where the bishop saw the same Indian: and after the prelate returned to this city I heard what I told above from some credible people, and to inform myself better I questioned the bishop himself, and he told me that is it very much the truth and well known, and happened in the same way I have described. It seemed to me a great novelty and of such interest, and so far from what has been told, seen, or written about, that it fits very well that sonnet, or at least its first four verses, where Francesco Petrarch says:
La gola, il sonno, et l’ociose piume
Hanno del mondo ogni certú sbandita
Ond’e dal corso suo quasi smarrita
Nostra natura vinta dal costume.
This means: greed, sleep, and the slothful feathers, or beds, have banished every virtue from the world, and have almost driven nature, overcome by habit, off its course; because man is devoted to reason, as opposed from the brute animals that lack it. We can see this clearly in these animals; since the pigs are there to be hunted, habit turns them into hunters and into performing a task that did not correspond to them, and the Indian, being a rational being and a human, turned himself into a pig or lived a bestial life, in the way that has been told. So, this proceeded from the long habit this Indian had developed, training these pigs to hunt, adding to the close friendship they developed their shared reliance on each other to fulfill the need to be fed; and mixing this with the jealousy and envy that compelled these pigs to kill those they encountered lest their master displace his love to others or train them to do their jobs as he taught them, so he could scorn them and place others in their stead. And the Indian separated himself from the excellence of his reason, and without taking into account nor respecting or fearing his God, fleeing men, contented himself with living with beasts and being bestial.
This story I have told produced in me a great deal of admiration and I would not have dared write it if it had not been verified first by this very reverend Lord Bishop, president of Their Majesties’ Royal Audience and Chancery, who resides in this city of Santo Domingo, whose authority and person are so creditable and sufficient for him to be believed, the novelty of this hunting method notwithstanding: moreover, many others claim the same, as it has become a very public and notorious thing in the city of la Vega.