How the Admiral discovered this island of Hispaniola and left thirty-eight Christians in the land of the king or cacique Goacanagari while he carried the news of the first discovery of these parts; and how he returned safely to Spain.
Translated by Jessica Marasco ’22
On that island of Guanahani, which I previously mentioned, the Admiral and those who were with him sighted Indians and naked people, and there they told him of the island of Cuba. And as they found many islets clustered together around Guanahani, the Christians began calling them the White Islands (because of their white sand) and the Admiral named them the Princesses, because they were the first sight of these Indies. They approached these islands, especially Guanahani, spending time between this and another island called Caycos; but, according to Hernán Pérez Mateos, a pilot who was there and is now in the city of Santo Domingo, they did not set foot on land on any of these islands. But I have heard from many others that the Admiral did set foot on the island of Guanahani, calling it San Salvador, thus claiming it; I believe this to be the most truthful version and the one that should be believed. From there he came to Baracoa, a northern port on the island of Cuba; this port is twelve leagues west of the tip of the island they called Mayci. There he found people, as he did on this island of Cuba and others to the north of it, which are the island of Guanahani I mentioned, as well as many others which they generally call the islands of the Lucayos, although each island has its own name and they are many in number: such as Guanahani, Caycos, Jumeto, Yabaque, Mayaguana, Samana, Guanima, Yuma, Curatheo, Ciguateo, Bahama (which is the largest of them all), Yucayo, Negua, Habacoa, and many other islets to be found in the area.
Returning to the history, having arrived on the island of Cuba at the port I mentioned, the Admiral went ashore with his fellow Christians and started asking the natives about Cipango, and they signaled and pointed out that it was this island of Haiti, which we now call Hispaniola. And as the natives did not believe that the Admiral understood the name, they began to exclaim: “Cibao, Cibao!” thinking that Cibao meant Cipango, because Cibao is where the mines full of the finest gold are found on this island of Hispaniola. And with this the Admiral and the three caravels, guided by the Indians, of which some came willingly on board the ships, embarked from that port of Baracoa of Cuba, and they came to this island of Haiti, which we now call Hispaniola, and on the northern part or band they arrived at a very nice port, which the Admiral called Puerto Real. As they entered the port, the lead ship, called the Gallega, ran aground and sustained damage; no one was in danger, but many thought that malicious plans had been made to ground the ship so that they would have to leave part of the crew on the island, as it happened. The Admiral then emerged with all his people, and then many peaceful natives of that land came and spoke to the Christians, the ones from the land of king Guacanagari (who the Indians call cacique, just as we Christians say king), and peace and friendship were discussed. Guacanagari arrived as someone of a very high rank, and he met with the Admiral and the Christians very hospitably and honestly, and he was given several things of little value (little value among the Christians, but much esteemed in the eyes of the natives), things such as bells, pins, needles, and some glass beads of various colors; the cacique and his Indians beheld them with great admiration, and they rejoiced that such things had been given to them, and they gave the Christians some of their food and possessions.
Seeing that these people were so peaceable, it seemed to the Admiral that he could leave some Christians there to learn the language and local customs while he returned to Spain. He had them build a square fortress, in the manner of a fenced-in stronghold, with the wood from the lead ship or Gallega, and with timber and earth they built the best possible fort in a sandy area on the coast next to the port and surrounding reefs. And the Admiral commanded thirty-eight men to stay there, leaving orders about what they should do while he brought the exultant news of his discovery to the Catholic Monarchs, promising to return with many rewards for those who stayed. And he chose from among them a nobleman by the name of Rodrigo de Arana, a native of Cordoba, as their captain and he declared that everyone should obey him as his representative. And if the captain should die before he returned, he appointed a successor, as well as a successor to this second successor; so that he named two as successors to the first. He also left with them a master Juan, a surgeon and good person; he admonished everyone not to go inland, nor to rebel against their leader, nor to become divided, nor to take women, or give the Indians any problems for any reason, to the best of their efforts. Now that the lead ship was lost, the Admiral boarded the ship called the Niña, on which sailed Francisco Martín and Vicente Yáñez Pinzón. But the captain of the other ship, the Pinta, Martín Alonso Pinzón, brother of these others, did not like leaving the men behind, arguing against the decision at every turn; he said that it was wrong for those Christians to remain so far from Spain, because there were so few of them, and because they would not be able to provide for themselves and would be lost. And he said other words to this purpose, which displeased the Admiral, and Pinzón suspected that the Admiral planned to seize him; fearing what he suspected, Pinzón fled to sea with his caravel the Pinta and left for the port of Gracia, twenty leagues east of said Puerto Real. In the time it took the Admiral to build that fortress, he learned from the Indians where Pinzón and the other ship were; the other two brothers who were with the Admiral tried to reconcile them and return him to the good graces of the Admiral, and the latter agreed to pardon their brother. And he did it for many reasons, especially because the larger portion of the men out at the sea were relatives and friends of these Pinzón brothers and from the same land, and these three were the most noteworthy. Having forgiven him, the Admiral wrote him a very generous letter, as befitted the case, and he commanded that the port be called Puerto de Gracia, as it is named to this day. And the Indians that carried the letter returned with another, in which Martín Alonso responded to the Admiral thanking him for the pardon; in the letter they agreed on a day for Martín Alonso and the Admiral, from where each was with their caravels, to reunite in Isabela, and there they all went ashore very satisfied. The position of Isabela is in the same coast, eighteen or so leagues east of Puerto Real.
It was no small wonder for the Indians to see how the Christians understood each other through the letters; the messengers carried them on a stick, for they looked upon them with fear and respect, and they believed the letters had some spirit and spoke like any other man through some deity and not by human arts.
Leaving the thirty-eight men in the aforementioned place, the Admiral and his people took water and firewood and what they could from the land, so that the provisions they had brought from Castile would last longer; and they left Isabela, the name the Admiral gave this province and port in memory of the Catholic Queen, the Lady Isabella. From there both ships sailed to Puerto Plata, so named by the Admiral; afterwards they sailed to the port of Samana (called this by the Indians). From Samana, which is on the north band of Hispaniola, these two ships sailed for Castile with much pleasure, entrusting themselves to God and the good fortune of Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, who awaited such grand news, although not trusting Columbus’ science but the mercy of God. The Admiral brought nine or ten Indians with him, so that as witnesses to his good fortune they might kiss the hands of the King and Queen, and so they might see the land of the Christians and learn the language; upon returning, these and the Christians who stayed entrusted to Goacanagari in the fortress called Puerto Real would be interpreters for the conquest, pacification and conversion of these people. And as God, our Lord, made it possible for these lands to be discovered, and allowed the navigation of the first voyage to be prosperous, successful, and swift, so too did He allow a favorable return, safely returning the discoverer of these Indies to Spain. And the Admiral passed the Azores, and on March 4, 1493 he arrived in Lisbon, from where he went to the Port of Palos, where he had begun his journey; he made landfall in Castile fifty days after leaving this island. But when they were already close to Europe there was a storm and the ships were separated, and the Admiral sped to Lisbon and Martín Alonso to Bayona in Galicia. Thereafter each ship sailed to the Saltes River, reaching it on the same day (the Admiral in the morning and the other ship later in the afternoon). Suspecting that the Admiral would seize him because of his past insubordination, Martín Alonso Pinzón left the ship in a rowboat, going to where he thought was a secret place, and the Admiral then left for the court with the big news of his discovery. Martín Alonso, knowing he was done for, went to his house in Palos and died a few days later because he was already very ill.
The Admiral was slow in locating the first land of these Indies on the island of the Lucayos, according to what I have said, since it took him three months to reach the Indies, and once he returned to Spain he stopped for another three, and the entire journey was more or less six months and ten days.
Returning to the history, I said that after Columbus left Palos with the Indians that he took from the islands, one of whom had died at sea, he took the seven healthy ones and left there two or three that were sick, and he went to the court of the Catholic Monarchs to give them an account of their fortune, and of how God had increased the kingdoms and lordships of Castile; such news was not expected in such a short time, because in truth it was a matter of admiration, according to what would later be a very long journey coming and going from these Indies, until the navigation was better understood. And even now that it is better understood it was very impressive for two ships to sail the distances they had sailed in such a short time; as I said, this navigation is now better understood, but until then they sailed with caution, with the sounding line always at hand, furling the sails at night, very cautiously, as wise and knowledgeable pilots do when they explore and sail seas they do not know and have not navigated.
To land-based men who have not sailed the seas and perhaps may not find my work to be good or pleasing, they should know that I write for both land-based and seafaring men alike, and everyone should take from it what they like and leave everything else for others who may enjoy it. I well see that seafaring men would blame me if I did not write down what appertains to them; and to the gentlemen and men accustomed to matters of the land who may not have understood some navigational terms through with which I must give account of matters pertaining to the sea, they should move on, for that will not prevent them from understanding the rest.