A summary or short account of the sources or deposits of tar or bitumen that are produced in diverse manners by nature in these Indies.
Translated by Sofia Rodas ’20
Book XVII, chapter VII, concerns itself with a source or deposit of tar located on the island of Cuba, alias Fernandina. It is a very notable thing, but not unique in the world, as the reader can confirm from other authors who have written of various sources of tar or bitumen in other parts of the world. But since this Book VI is about summaries or brief accounts, and it seems to me appropriate to include in it an or account of the wide-ranging or unique peculiarities of the things discovered in these Indies, it seems to me that these springs or fountains of tar should not be overlooked or left unreferenced since they are indeed a very notable thing. And I say that in the year 1542 we know there are tar or bitumen deposits in these parts that I will now name. There are springs or fountains on the island of Cubagua, also called Pearl Island, and on the island of Cuba, alias Fernandina. In New Spain there is another in the province of Panuco, and there are another two fountains on the point of Santa Elena, and one of those seems composed of perfect turpentine. There is another tar or bitumen lake in the province of Venezuela; there is yet another tar well on the governance of the new kingdom of Granada, found on the land of the fierce Indians called Panches. So, presently there are seven known fountains or springs of bitumen in our Indies, each different from the others, of which many Spaniards have taken advantage to tar their ships. However, according to the Indians, the extracts or bitumen are medicinal and appropriate to treat many illnesses, as will be said in its turn when the places or islands where they are found are discussed in detail.