Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book III, Chapter IV (Of what the Adelantado Don Bartolomé did while the Admiral went to Spain until he returned to this island after discovering the Mainland)

Book III, Chapter IV

Of what the Adelantado Don Bartolomé did while the Admiral went to Spain until he returned to this island after discovering the Mainland; and of the Admiral’s governance until he was imprisoned, and of the kings or lords on this island.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

The previous chapter told the story of the Admiral Don Christopher Columbus’ third voyage until his return to this city of Santo Domingo. Now we should know that while he was in Spain and during the discovery of part of the coast and Mainland and of other islands as told in the preceding chapter, no ships came here from Spain or left on their way there; and because of those who had left with the Admiral, or earlier without him, and had suffered the travails described above, and had returned to Spain ill and poor and with such bad color that they look like the dead, this land and Indies gained a very bad name and no people willing to come here could be found.

I, by the way, saw many of those who returned to Castile in such a condition, and feel that if I had found myself in their circumstances I would never agree to come here, even if the King had given me his Indies. And the marvelous thing was not the condition in which some of these men were left, but how any of them could have been spared, having traveled to lands so far from their homes, having left behind the gift of the food they were raised on, separating themselves from relatives and friends, and lacking familiar medicines; and enduring other travails and needs that cannot be described without a lengthy narrative. And as we were in need of men, and the only ones who had not returned to Spain were those who could not because there were no ships, and as there was no certainty of the return of the Admiral, this land was almost lost, and was held as useless and the source of great distress to those who were left here. And undoubtedly they would have all been lost if they hadn’t been succored by the three caravels that they said had been sent by the Admiral from the Canary Islands, bearing three hundred men who had been exiled and sentenced to come to this island; and their arrival was timely, since between them and those who brought them, together with the few who were left here, the land was spared depopulation and was held, because before their arrival the Christians no longer dared leave this city or cross the river to come to the other side or bank. And it could be claimed that through this succor the lives of those who had been left here was preserved and we were able to hold and keep this island from being totally lost, since among those people there were many courageous and special men. And shortly thereafter the Indians lifted their siege on the town of Concepción de la Vega and on this town and its fort (which back then was still on the other side of the river, where it had been founded) and the Indians lost any hope they had of seeing the land again without Christians—particularly when they saw the Admiral return soon after with three caravels and with many good men in them, having already discovered other islands and part of the coast of the Mainland and the Pearl Islands, as was told in the preceding chapter. Upon his arrival to this city, which was (as I have said) on the other side of the river, across from where it is now, he found the adelantado, his brother, and the other Christians there in peace; but some of them were not very happy about the absence of Roldán Jiménez, and with the gossip that tends to run rampant in this land; since some of the men left were still infused with the passions and conflicts that had been created in the times of Frey Buyl. But they all obeyed and received the Admiral with happy faces and pledged their obedience as due to him as Viceroy or governor who came in the name of the Catholic Monarchs. And although he carried on his duties as governor as best he could, there were always those ready to complain about his actions, since it seemed to them that just as he favored and helped some, he offended and mistreated others. The governor who would please everyone would have to be angelic and beyond human, since some men are inclined to vice as other are inclined to virtue; some to work and motivate people and others to repose and quietude; some to spend and others to save; some to one thing and others to something different. And thus, given all these differing inclinations, the one governing cannot please everyone, since some want war and stealing and not to populate the land, but to take what they can and return where others await them, and where they wish to end their days;others who wanted just the opposite, to settle in and grow roots, felt they were not given what they needed and were not favored. And just as men’s goals differ so and it is so difficult to understand them all, so it is necessary that he who governs is gifted with good fortune and God’s blessing in order to be loved. Nonetheless, much rests in the hands of those who wield power in order to be loved by those he governs. And if the governor is lackluster, many would be satisfied if he just displayed three qualities: fairness in matters of justice, liberality, and absence of greed. Let’s return to our story.

During this time, the Admiral ordered the founding, or more accurately, the restoration of the city of Concepción de la Vega and the town of Santiago and the town of Bonao. These three settlements were founded by the First Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, on this island, and before all of them the city of Isabela, from which came the people that started building this city of Santo Domingo, as was told in Book II. And leaving things in this state, the Admiral Don Christopher returned to Spain; and the Catholic Monarchs, feeling well served by him, once again confirmed his privileges in the city of Burgos on the 23rd day of April of 1497.

Since, to move forward in our story, it would be convenient to tell of the kings or princess who held domains in this island of Haiti, which we now call Hispaniola, I will say that here there had been (as I learned from witnesses who had so told me, and from the notes I have compiled since I saw the first Indians and Columbus in Barcelona in  the year 1493) five prefects or kings, whom the Indians call caciques, who commanded and held power over the island; under them there were other caciques of lesser power who obeyed one of the principal five. And thus all five were obeyed by the inferiors they commanded, or who were under their jurisdictions and domain, and the lesser ones responded to their calls for peace or war as ordered by their superiors, who commanded them as they saw fit. The names of the five were these: Guarionex, Caonabo, Behechio, Goacanagari, Cayacoa. Guarionex controlled the plains and his domain included more than sixty leagues in the center of the island. Behechio had the western part and the land and province of Jaragua, in whose domain can be found the great lake of which I will write shortly. The cacique or king Goacanagari’s domain was in the north, where and in whose land the Admiral left the thirty-eight Christians when he first came to this island. Cayacoa held the eastern part of the island up to this city and to the Haina River and to where the Yuna River enters the sea, or a bit before; and he was in fact one of the most powerful lords on this island, and his people were the most mettlesome, given their proximity to the Caribs. And Cayacoa died shortly after the Christians began to engage him in war; and his wife remained in power and later became a Christian and was called Inés de Cayacoa. King Caonabo had his domain in the mountains, and was a great lord with a lot of land. He had a cacique named Uxmatex as captain general over all his lands, who was cross-eyed and who was so courageous that all the other caciques and Indians on the island feared him. This Caonabo was married to Anacaona, sister of Cacique Behechio, and being a principal Indian, had come to this island as an adventuring captain, and being who he was had married the above-mentioned woman and settled  where the town of San Juan de la Maguana is now, and became lord of the entire province.

There were never any wars or differences between the Indians on this island except for one of three reasons: disputes over terms and jurisdictions, or over fisheries, or when Carib archers came from other islands to raid. And when these strangers came, or threatened to come, no matter what differences or enmities prevailed among the princes or principal caciques of this island, they would come together and were in accord, and helped each other against those coming from the outside.

Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.