Of the arrival of Licenciado Alonso López Cerrato to this city of Santo Domingo of the island of Hispaniola to audit the Audiencia Real and all the other justices of this city and island. And he arrived with the new judge for the Audiencia Real,  Licenciado Alonso de Grageda, and arriving with these new judges were twenty-six or twenty-seven carracks from the navy and merchant marine, on Tuesday the first day of January of 1544.[1]

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Licenciado Alonso López Cerrato, a native of Mengabril, a villa in Medellín, audited the presiding bishop, Don Alonso de Fuenmayor, and the judges of this Royal Chancellery, and sent his report to Spain to the Royal Council of the Indies; and from whatever is determined there, based on the audit, we will know if he wronged the judges or did them justice. The bishop agreed to go to Spain, as did Licenciado Juan de Vadillo, in pursuit of justice. Licenciado Guevara died shortly thereafter; and Licenciado Cervantes remained here but did not rejoin the Audiencia until he heard how the affair had been decided. And as to what remains to be judged and is being reviewed as described, there is nothing more to say. The two licenciados, Cerrato and Grageda, remained in the Audiencia governing and fulfilling their roles as judges, during which time Cerrato, by special commission, took charge of the Royal Treasury, and he levied many invoices, of which part of them were paid, and he gave others time to pay what they owed across certain periods of time and terms, as he saw fit.[2] Many complained, and are still complaining, about the way in which this judge administered justice. I will not determine whether they are all justified or not about what affects their interests, since that will be something that His Majesty and the Royal Council of the Indies will determine; and it does not seem right to me to speak about this because the city of Santo Domingo sent me and Captain Alonso de Peña to Spain as their attorneys, with their powers and instructions, given the low opinion the city had of his rigor. But since these are matters of justice, let us move on. I do not think as badly of him as others claim, because he is learned and well-versed in matters of justice, and I think his word would be admitted among learned people. But it is another thing to be a governor and have no one to hold you to account. I know at least that he is ill-tempered, and that his tongue does not treat well those litigating before him or about whom he must reach judgment. I think that he rather sought to frighten them or to drive them to mend their ways with his irate air and rough words, in lieu of the whip and the knife. And even if this artifice is as I have said (which I do not know, since only God understands mankind), his threats and words made him abhorrent; because in the end man should not be mistreated by the judge’s tongue, nor vituperated, under the pretext of the command and authority of justice or high position.

I do not know how this affair will end. May God guide it to His service; at least the truth will be told on our part, in accordance to the instructions given to us by the city and our good conscience. And thus I believe that its most illustrious president, the Marquis of Modéjar, and the lords of the Royal Council of the Indies that together with his lordship assist in matters related to the Indies, will provide so that God and Their Majesties are served and this our island preserved, it being so worthy of being favored and helped, and so important. But since I was discharged to return to the island, I was assured by some of the lords of the Royal Council that Cerrato would be removed (and so he was) from his charge, and another resident judge would be named so that he and Licenciado Grageda would hold office. And they reappointed as judges Licenciado Bermúdez and Licenciado Zorita. May God give them grace so that in serving God and the Emperor they can grant justice in such a way that this island will grow and be preserved through their good governance, which is most needed.

But Licenciado Bermúdez, mentioned above, changed his mind and Licenciado Juan Hurtado de Salcedo y Mendoza was named as judge, and Cerrato was given the governance and presidency of the Audiencia Real, which has its seat in the confines of Honduras, and he went there to take his position. And the island of Hispaniola was left elated with his departure and awaiting the new president, of whom mention will be made in the course of theses histories where it is best suited.

In the year 1549 the Most Reverend Lord Bishop, Don Alonso de Fuenmayor, returned to this island and city with the title of archbishop of our once again metropolitan city, and his lordship as its first archbishop, who was much wanted in the island because of his goodness. May it please our Redeemer that he remain here for many years in His holy service. It is hoped that his arrival will bring a lot of growth and prosperity to our island and surroundings since, in addition to his good example and Christian doctrine, he is a good and loyal servant to Their Majesties, and very charitable and devoted to the poor and needy (in general as well as in particular), and much loved and appreciated by all.

And since these matters of governors and the governed are common and less pleasing in these lessons that other novelties and stories that the reader wants to hear, I will move on to Book VI, which will deal with more pleasant matters and things.

[1] The title of this chapter was erased by the author’s hand and reduced to the present terms. However, it can be read in the original codex as follows:

“Of the arrival of Licenciado Alonso López de Cerrato in this city of Santo Domingo of the island of Hispaniola by command of His Majesty to audit the presiding bishop, Don Alonso de Fuenmayor, and the judges of this Audiencia Real resident here, Licenciados Juan de Vadillo, Cervantes, and Guevara, and all the other judges of this city and island and of the other parts annexed to the jurisdiction of this Chancellery; he was sent by His Majesty for the purpose stated and to live here as president of this Royal tribunal and as main governor of these parts and the Mainland . . . . And named as judge of said Audiencia was Licenciado Alonso de Grageda, and they arrived with the said lord president with twenty-six or twenty-seven carracks of the navy and the merchant marine, on Tuesday the first day of January of 1544. And this chapter will tell of the person and qualities of the new president, and in sum it will touch upon certain events during his residence and of the new form and order and reformation that followed on the system of justice and governance of these parts.”

We have found it convenient to place here the title of the present chapter, just as it was first written and can be understood, because in addition to including the names of the judges assigned, who are not named in the text, the narrative of certain innovations is announced, which were introduced in the governance of the Indies as part of this audit; a purpose that Oviedo seemed to have abandoned later. [AR]

[2] Although this passage is erased in the original, it includes the following notes, worthy of the readers’ knowledge: “However it happened, he certified to me that the amount owed to Their Majesties exceeded LXXX thousand golden pesos, and His Majesty being satisfied with his work, he ordered them to give him two hundred thousand maravedís to help with costs.” [AR]