Book XVI, Chapter IV
About the town of Guánica, and why it was deserted and another founded named Sotomayor, and about the Indian uprising and rebellion, and how they killed half of the Christians in the island of San Juan, and about the struggles and gallant deeds of Diego de Salazar.
Marta Candelas ’23
Early in the year 1510, the people taken by Don Cristóbal de Sotomayor and others went from this island of Hispaniola to the island of San Juan and established a town called Guánica located almost at one end of the island, where there is a bay known to be one of the best in the world: and from there they discovered five rivers with gold, five leagues from the town of Guánica, called Duyey, Horomico, Icau, In, and Quiminen. But there were so many mosquitoes in this town that it was reason enough to abandon it, and all those neighbors moved to a place called Aguada, to the west-northwest, and they called this other town Sotomayor. While being in this town, at the beginning of the year 1511, the island’s Indians rebelled against them, at a time when Indians and Christians were living in peace, and the uprising took this form. They saw that the Christians were spread around the island and so each cacique killed those on their homes or land; thus, they killed eighty or more Christians all at the same time. And the cacique Agueybana, who also called himself Don Cristóbal, as the principal cacique, commanded another cacique called Guarionex to go as captain and gather the other caciques to go burn down the town called Sotomayor. More than three thousand Indians acme together for this purpose; and because the town was surrounded by bush and thick forests, they were not heard until they were right upon the town, when an Indian child saw them and told them, but no one believed him. And like that, all of a sudden, they set the town on fire and killed some Christians, and none would have been left alive if it had not been for an hidalgo who lived in that town called Diego de Salazar: who was not only devoted to Our Lady the Mother of God and honorable, but also a very spirited and determined man. And seeing that the situation was a bad one and all lthe Christians thar remained in such dire straits, he brought them together and instilled such courage in those who had been almost vanquished, that given his bravery and encouraging words, he cheered them on and persuaded them to put on a brave defense with energy and boldness, like true men; and so they did, and he and them fought against all the enemies, in such a way that they held their own, and like a brave captain in the eyes of their enemies, he gathered all the surviving Christians and led them to the village of Caparra, where Juan Ponce de León, who like I said was already governor of the island, resided: and all of those who went there, said that, after God, Diego de Salazar saved them. This left the Indians so bewildered and so enhanced Diego de Salazar’s reputation among them, that they feared him as they feared fire, because they could not fathom that there would be in the world any mas as worthy of being feared. It is true that before this Diego de Salazar himself had already earned a personal reputation among the Indians, and of such nature that if they had thought they would encounter him in the town of Sotomayor, they would not have dared go there, even if there were three-thousand of them. But let’s move on to the rest, as I have talked about the determination and person of this hidalgo, I will tell of another notable tale about him, which marked the beginning of the reputation and perception theIndians had of him and why they feared him, and it was this. A cacique named Aymanio took a young Christian, son of Pero Juárez de la Cámara, born in Medina del Campo, and tied him, and ordered his people to play batey (which is the Indian ball game), and while playing, that the winners would kill him. This would have been about three months before what I have told they did in the town of Sotomayor; and while the Indians were eating, so that later in the afternoon they would play their ball game,as agreed for the life of the poor gentleman, a young man, a Naboria Indian belonging to the prisoner Pero Juarez, ran away to the cacique Guarionex’s land, where Diego de Salazar was at that time: and since the young man was crying, sorrowing over the travails and risk of death in which he had left his lord, Salazar asked him where was his owner, and the Indian explained to him what was happening; and then Salazar decided to go there to die or save him, if he could; the young man was scared and didn’t want to go back and guide him. And so Diego de Salazar threatened to kill him if he didn’t go with him and showed him where the Indians had his master; he ended up having to go with him, and as they approached the place, he waited so they wouldn’t see him until he was in the place. He entered a caney or round bohío, where Juarez was tied waiting for the Indians to finish eating so they could play and kill him while doing so; and quickly Diego de Salazar cut his ties, and told him: “Be a man and do what I do.” And so he started going through three hundred Indians or more, with a sword and a shield, killing and wounding with such kind bravery and effect, as if he was there with other Christians in his favor, and he ravaged the Indians, so that even if they were men of war, unwillingly, they let him go with Juarez; since Diego de Salaçar severely injured a captain from the same house, where the event took place, the others fainted in a way that Salazar and Juarez left, or so it was said. And when he was far away enough from the enemy they sent messengers after him, begging for him to come back because they loved him dearly for being so brave, and that they wanted to serve him in everything they could. Salazar, having heard the message, despite coming from such barbaric and savage people, decided to go back to see what the Indians wanted; and his companion, as a man who had just seen himself so close to death, was not in favor of returning: he got on his knees before Diego de Salazar and begged him for the love of God not to turn around, as he knew that there were many Indians and the two of them could only die and that doing so was only tempting God and not courage or anything to be attempted. And Diego de Salazar responded to him and said.“Look, Juarez, if you don’t want to come back with me, go with my leave as you are already safe; but I have to come back to see what these Indians want, so they don’t think that I am not coming back out fear.” And so Juarez had no other choice than to go back with him even if unwillingly; but since he was a good man and was alive only because of Salazar, he agreed to follow him and to turn around in the face of danger and in company of such a daring man who could so well handle the sword. And they went back together, and they found the Indian’s captain badly injured; and Diego de Salazar asked him what he wanted, and the captain or cacique pleaded for Salazar to give him his name and that he allowed him to be called Salazar like him, and that he wanted to be his friend for life, and that he loved him very much: and Diego de Salazar said that it would please him to have him called Salazar, like him. And so his Indians started calling him Salazar, Salazar; as if through this consent Diego de Salazar’s abilities and efforts were bestowed upon him.And to mark the beginning of this friendship and for the honor shown to him by consenting to give him his name, he gave him four Naborias or slaves to serve him and other jewels and presents, and the two Christians left in peace with them. Since then Diego de Salazar was so feared by the Indians that when some Christian threatened them, they responded. “You think that I have to fear you, as if you were Salazar.”
Juan Ponce de León, who governed the island, seeing what this nobleman in had done in both of these cases I have mentioned, made him captain among the Christians and noblemen that militated under his governance, and others were moved; and even though later there were many changes in governors, Diego de Salazar always remained as captain and was in charge of people until he died from the disease of the sores. And even though he was very ill, they took him despite his illness to the battlefield wherever they went to fight against the Indians; because in fact the Indians thought that Christians could not be defeated or they could not win as long as Salazar was there, and the first thing they diligently did was to find out if this captain was with the Christians. The truth was that he was a person, according to what I have heard from trustworthy witnesses, to be held in great esteem; because other than being a man of great strengths he was very discreet and well-mannered, a man to be well-regarded wherever there were men, and everyone praised him for his devotion to Our Lady. He died of the unfortunate illness I have mentioned, after making a public and patient penance, as I was informed all of this by Juan Ponce de Leon himself and Pedro López Angulo and by other gentlemen and hidalgos who were present in the island at the time these things happened and who shared in these and many other travails.
Image ‘Scene of Torture’ retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University