Book XVI, Chapter VIII
How the Indians thought the Christians were immortal after they went to the island of San Juan, and how they agreed to revolt but did not dare to undertake it until they determined whether the Christians could die or not. And the manner in which they determined this.
Translated by Mehr Nasir-Moin ’21
Because of the things that the Indians of the island of San Juan had heard of the conquest and past wars on this island of Española, and knowing, as they knew, that this island is very large and was very populated and full of natives, they thought it was impossible that the Christians had conquered it unless they were immortal and could not die from wounds or other diseases; and since they had arrived here from where the sun rises, they fought in this way; they were celestial beings and children of the sun, and the Indians were not powerful enough to harm them. And since they saw how they had come into the island of San Juan and become lords of the island, although the Christians were no more than two hundred men-at-arms more or less, they were determined to not be conquered by so few, and they wanted to procure their freedom and not serve them; but they feared them and thought they were immortal. And together the lords of the island gathered secretly to discuss this matter and agreed that before they moved on with their rebellion, it was better to first determine this, and dispel any doubt by trying it out with some wayward Spaniard they could engage separately and alone; and a chieftain named Urayoan, lord of the province of Yaguaca, took charge of this, which he accomplished in this way. There happened to be a young man in his land named Salcedo who was traveling to join the other Christians, and this chieftain, after feeding him well and showing him much love, sent fifteen to twenty Indians with him as a courtesy to him and to help him carry his clothing. Thus, feeling very safe and very obliged to the chieftain, upon reaching a river called Guarabo, which is to the western part, and enters the bay where now lies the village and town of San Germán, they said to him: “Sir, do you want us to carry you across so you will not get wet”; and he said yes and was happy about it, which he should not have, because in addition to the notorious danger that befalls those who trust their enemies, such men thus show their lack of prudence. The Indians carried him on their shoulders, for which they chose the toughest and most spirited among them, and when they reached the middle of the river, they held him under the water, both the ones who had been carrying him and those who had been watching, all being in agreement about his death, and drowned him; and after he was dead, they took him out to the bank and shore of the river, and they said to him: “Lord Salcedo, rise and forgive us, since we fell with you and can now go on our way.” And with these and other questions they stayed with him for three days, until he began to smell, and even then they did not believe he was dead or that the Christians died. And since they confirmed that they were mortal by the way I have told, they informed the cacique, who every day sent other Indians to see if Salcedo rose. Still doubting if they had told him the truth, he himself wanted to go and see him, until a few days later when they saw this sinner much more damaged and rotten. And from there they took courage and confidence for their rebellion, and they set about killing the Christians, and rebelling and doing what I have told in the previous chapters.
Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University