Lucy Brown ’23: Book IX, Chapter XX (Of the tree that the Indians in the province of Nicaragua call nanzi)

Book IX, Chapter XX

Of the tree that the Indians in the province of Nicaragua call nanzi.

Translated by Lucy Brown ’23

Nicaragua is a province that will be particularly addressed in the third part of these histories, and it is a very principal province about which there is a lot to say. But to keep the topic of the wild trees together, I say that among the other trees that I saw in that land there is one whose name seemed nasty to me, but it does not mean the same in the Nicaraguan language as it sounds, or worse, as it is used in Castilian. They call it nanzi: they are medium trees in height, and rough, twisted and not beautiful looking. The leaf is small, smaller than that of the holm oak, although not spiny, but almost the same in its form. The fruit it bears are some yellow berries, not unpleasant to the taste, but the flavor fades quickly and its texture is like that of soft cheese. It neither smells, nor is it harmful, but it is not a fruit to pay much attention to. There are many trees of this kind in many parts; and where I have seen the most is in the Masayamountain (about which later, in the third part, there would be a lot to say). The Indians call this tree and its fruit nanzi. And in many parts the fruit is as I have described; but in other parts they are as big as the small clay balls used to shoot from crossbows. Some of the fruit from this tree is bitter while others are sweet, and the best of these trees are in the plains or meadows of the Nicoya province.This tree is like that of brazil tree, but not like the brazil tree people will think of. And the Indians in the province of Nicaragua use it to color their cotton or whatever they want to dye.

Image retrieved from John Crater Brown Library at Brown University.