Of the second trip that the first Admiral, Christopher Columbus, made from Spain to this island of Haiti or Hispaniola, and how he found the Christians he had left in the land of King Guacanagari dead; of the concession Pope Alexander VI made of the Indies to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, and their successors in the kingdoms of Castile and León; and of the discovery of the islands of the archer Indians, called Caribs, and other notable things.

Translated by Daniella Torres-Skendi ’22

Who is there that does not know that the Lord gave us terrestrial things for our use and created the souls of men for his uses, as Saint Gregory reminds us? So then, in agreement with this, wishing for the souls of these Indians to belong to God, the blessed monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella sent Admiral Christopher Columbus back to this island of Haiti or Hispaniola with a very good navy, which included some knights and noblemen from the royal house, other nobles or gentlemen of unblemished lineage, all eager to see this new land and what appertains to it. Those holy monarchs first obtained the gift and concession of these Indies from the Supreme Pontiff, so that with a more just title their sacred purpose (to disseminate the Christian religion as servants of God) would be carried out.  And though they did not have to, they secured the license and title from the vicar of Christ, whom they always obeyed with a faithful heart, as these seas and empire belong to the crown and conquest of Castile, given that the Catholic monarchs were the only ones engaged in this memorable and sacred endeavor; all the more so because this realm belonged to the monarchs of Spain many centuries ago, according to what I already said. And so the Pope, creating a line from pole to pole, granted the King and Queen and their successors to the kingdoms of Castile and León the Indies and everything to be found beyond a distance of one hundred leagues ahead of the Azores and Cape Verde, and from there running west everything to be found in the world of which no Christian prince had possession. After this it was agreed and settled between Spain and Portugal that three hundred and seventy leagues west of these aforementioned islands a line would be drawn from pole to pole, and everything that remained between the islands and this line would belong to Portugal; the Portuguese interpreted from this that everything to the east would belong to them, in which they are mistaken. According to the papal bull or apostolic donation given to Castile and its monarchs, this includes all of the Spice Islands, the Maluku Islands and Brunei, where cinnamon is obtained, along with the entire spice trade and the rest of the world, reaching back from the east to the aforementioned diameter line, meaning the one hundred leagues of the Azores and Cape Verde. And this, as I have said, falls under the area conceded to the Catholic monarchs, of glorious memory, and belongs to the crown of Castile.

But because these matters are approved by the Vicar of Christ and the sacred church, it is not necessary to say anything else, except that I have seen a copy of the apostolic bull, authorized and signed, the language of which says: Datis romoe apud sanctum Petrum, anno Incarnationis Domini millessimo quadrigentessimo nonagessimo tertio, quarto nonas maii, pontificatus nostri anno primo.[1] Thus, in accordance to what was decreed by the Holy Father in his papal bull and apostolic donation regarding the care that one should have in the conversion of the Indians, there came priests and people of approved and holy lives and letters. Brother Buil, of the order of the Benedictines, a native of Catalonia, was specifically selected for this task, and the Holy Father himself gave him plenary powers for the administration of the Church in these parts, as prelate and head of the clergymen and priests who at this time came over here for the service of the divine worship and conversion of these Indians. And they brought the ornaments and crosses and holy chalices and images, and everything that was necessary for the churches and temples to be built. And in the aforementioned apostolic bull the Pope decreed and ordered the King and Queen, in virtue of their sacred obedience, to send good, God fearing, learned and expert gentlemen to these Indies to train and teach the inhabitants of these new lands the Catholic faith and good customs, all with the due diligence that such a sacred and difficult task required. And so, in accordance with the admonishment of the Supreme Pontiff and the sacred zeal that the Catholic Monarchs had in fulfilling their part in this task, they looked for such people throughout their kingdoms as were needed, among the clergy and laity. Thus, with a very beautiful fleet and the graceful and noble company of people, as I have said, the Admiral departed from the court that same year, leaving the city of Barcelona for the province of Andalucía; when he reached the city of Seville he began to assemble the people and the ships and caravels for this fleet in the bay of Cadiz. From there, having inspected his fleet and given the order and course for their journey to each captain, ship master, and pilot, with good fortune he set sail with his navy on Wednesday, 25th of September, 1493. And at a quarter to dawn the lead ship raised its sails and all the other ships and caravels did the same. In total there were seventeen ships, on which there were in fact 1,500 men, all very well equipped with weapons, ammunition, supplies and everything that was necessary, all under royal employ. And this navy included religious men, knights, noblemen, and men of honor, and all those needed to settle new lands and develop their spiritual and temporal aspects sacredly and properly. And as the Christian Princes had provided many servants from their royal house, I saw and came to know many of the principal men among them; to this day some still live in these Indies and in Spain, although by now very few remain.

Returning to the story of the voyage, I say that the Admiral, being more skilled in navigation after the first journey, completed this second journey’s course with more accuracy and precision. The first land that he found and recognized was an island that he named, as he saw it, La Deseada (La Désirade), due to the desire that he and everyone in his fleet felt to see land. Likewise, he saw another island and named it Marie-Galante, because it was the name of the lead ship the Admiral was sailing in. And he named all the other islands in that area, from north to south or from pole to pole; it is advisable to know that to the north the first and closest islands are Guadeloupe, Barbuda, Aguja, Sombrero Island, and others; closer to it is Anegada, west of which are many islands called the Virgin Islands, and further ahead is the island of Boriquen (now called San Juan, which is very rich and one of the most notable, as will be said further on). Closest to the southern part of La Désiderade is the island of Dominica, which the Admiral named as such because it was seen on a Sunday. The Islands of the Saints are next, and further south is Martinique, which some historians have wanted to say was populated by Amazons and other fables very far from the truth, as seen in their treatises; it was later discovered by those of us who have seen the island and others near it that everything that has been said about it being populated solely by women is false, because it is not, nor is it known if it ever was. There are other islands around there like Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts, Barbados, and others that are not relevant because they are so many and small in size. But when the discovery of the Mainland is recounted, others will be mentioned that are between those I have named and the coast, like Libuqueyra, which the Christians call Santa Cruz, and which the chronicler Peter Martyr called Ayay.[2] The neighboring islands were populated by Indian archers called Caribs, which means brave and daring in the language of the Indians. They shoot arrowheads treated with an herb so pestilent and deadly that its poison is irreversible, and the men who are wounded by these arrowheads die raging and making many retching noises and biting their own hands and flesh, driven mad from the great pain they feel. When someone survives it is because they have a plentiful diet and because of the efficacy of some medicines suitable against the poison, of which few have been found here thus far. But what is most common when someone heals is that the herb used is old, or because it lacks some of the poisonous agents of which it is composed, as will be said further on; Indians from different areas have different ways of making this herb. These archers who shoot with herbs eat human flesh, except those of the island of Boriquen. Others from many parts of the Mainland also eat it, as will be described further on. Pliny says the anthropophagi of Scythia do the same[3]; he also says[4] they drink from the heads or skulls of dead men, whose teeth they wear in necklaces made from their hair, and I have seen some of these necklaces on the Mainland.

Let us return to our story and journey, for regarding the abovementioned and other criminal behaviors of the Indians there will be more forthcoming. So I say this: having recognized these first islands of La Désiderade and those close to it, the Admiral and his fleet moved on and continued their journey, threading their way through the different islands after they collected water from one of them; further on they noted the island of Boriquen, now called San Juan as mentioned above. And this is the largest and most principal island in that region, and because of its placement, size and people, and what can be seen on the way there and to the other islands I described from Spain, there will be a special mention in its place, when it is appropriate. And the reader should not believe, as have affirmed those who have written about these Indies, that all of these islands I have mentioned were discovered by the Admiral in this second journey, since even though he found La Désiderade and those which they came across after seeing it because they were all so close together, in time they were discovered and conquered by various captains, and more of them were simultaneously discovered through the ongoing navigation of these seas.

Returning to our purpose and journey, I say that after this fleet passed the island of Boriquen or San Juan it came to Haiti, which we call Hispaniola, and docked in Puerto Plata, which is part of the north coast, in the month of December, 1493. And from there it went west, down the coast to Isabela, and from there it passed to Montecristi, now called Puerto Real, where King Goacanagari was in control. Goacanagari had given this land to one of his brothers, and there the 38 men whom the Admiral had left on the first journey when he discovered this land and island had remained, all of whom the Indians killed because they could not suffer their excesses, like taking the Indian women and using them at their will, and committing other impositions and aggravations, like unruly people without a leader. The men had spread out (one by one and two by two, or three or four at most when there were more) throughout various parts of the land wherever they wanted, in disarray; the Indians decided to kill them because they saw them as divided and separated, doubting the Admiral’s return and believing that other Christians would never return. Another reason was that the people of this land were naturally of little to no prudence, because they never take what will come into account. Those thirty-eight Christians died, as we later learned from the Indians themselves, because of what was said and because they did not want to stay at the post where the Admiral had left them. Said post, as it was verified to be true, was resettled in Isabela, where he created a village with the people he brought, which as I said before would be 1,500 men, and he named that city Isabela in memory of her most serene and Catholic Queen, the Lady Isabella.

This was the second settlement of Christians in the Indies and it was founded on this island of Haiti (now called Hispaniola). That republic lasted until the year 1498, because the first village was that of the thirty-eight Christians from the first trip who stayed, and from Isabela that entire population was moved to the city of Santo Domingo, as I will say further ahead. But since we didn’t have notice of these parts through the fault of the ancient peoples who knew of these islands (if they are the Hesperides, as I see it and said at the beginning of the second chapter) but did not write  down the path of navigation, let us, before we proceed further, write the path down, assuring that there will never be a time when this route can be overlooked or lost; said course is navigated in a manner which will be stated in the following chapter, according to the heights of the Sun and the North Star and the help of modern maps and tested cosmography.

[1] Insert English translation here. [EE]

[2] In his first Decade, Chapter II.

[3] Pliny, Book VI, Chapter XVII.

[4] Book VII, Chapter II.