This is the sixth book of the first part of the Natural and General History of the Indies, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea: which deals with various matters and types of things, and is also called the repository book.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

It takes little effort for a free man who places his trust on truth to speak it; but to know how to tell the truth in the way best suited to those who hear it has to be done by special grace, joined by the art or pleasing gift of narrating what the orator or writer wishes to declaim or write so it can be listened to with the greatest delight. And since that charm, that gift of adorning words does not grace my pen, I place God as its guide, begging Him with my unworthy prayers to favor my pen, so that in praising His omnipotence I can persevere in my work and bring to fruition the matters discussed here in such a way as to make them understood as they are. And in the shadow of divine mercy, I am determined never to forget what the saintly Job says: While I have breath in me, and God’s spirit in my nose, my lips will speak no evil, and my tongue will speak no lies.[1]

            And so determined, I say that such is the abundance of subjects springing to my memory that it is with great difficulty that I can finish my writing and set them apart, and it is not without great labor nor with a paucity of notes that I can continue organizing those things that are of importance, or that are somewhat similar or most appropriate to the storyline I’m following. And since many of the stories I am considering are so different, so unrelated to the others, and since it does not suit to dedicate to each and every one of them a different book when they are so brief, I will put all these tales, all the ones I can remember or hear about (regardless of their type and difference) in a shared repository in this Book VI; the stranger and more random they are, and not comparable one with the other, the worthier they will be of being known about and not left to be forgotten.

            And I will start with the houses or dwelling of these Indians; after which I will describe the game of batey, which is the same as our ball game (although played in a different manner and with a different ball); and I will tell of two hurricanes or significant storms that brought a lot of horror to this island of Hispaniola; and I will fill this repository or sixth book with subjects very different one from the other, like in a trunk or armoire; so that in the different books to follow I can more easily gather other matters of one type or nature, or somewhat similar to each other. And thus I could follow the order I wished for in this Natural and General History of the Indies, because in the preceding books I have written thus far it was necessary to combine many topics, as I was describing the voyages and discoveries of these parts accomplished by their first admiral (and other captains), as well as narrating his life and relating the merits and those of his successors; and I had to write of his manner of governing, and that of the others who came after him, and also to set the story straight about many things, among them several quarrelsome incidents that took place and were written about from Spain by several authors in various epistles and decades; and also to make known the true cosmography of the lands and provinces mentioned; and describe the people native to these parts or islands and how they were conquered; and of other notable things recorded in the five books preceding this one.

            Be forewarned, reader, that in what is to come you will always find something new in this repository book, and in what I intend to write later; and I call it the repository book or the repository, because everything that I describe briefly here belongs most particularly elsewhere, to different provinces and parts, where in effect these histories will fit perfectly. You will find, likewise, reader, great opportunities and many grounds and reasons to give thanks to Our Lord, and for any discreet gentleman to be in awe before such a wealth of secrets not known or heard with such particularity before our times (or some of them never known before), until the experience, might, and weapons of our Spaniards allowed us, through their virtues and travails, to have news of what they had personally seen and experienced in increasing the republic of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and serving the Emperor and his royal seat and scepter in Seville, whose grand empire this is; giving me as a task to write about subjects so prominent, high, and bounteous that the lives of the ancient Nestor, who knew and experienced so much, as Francesco Petrarch has written,[2] and Argantonio, king of Cádiz,[3] would not be long enough, even if we were to add the length of both their lifespans together, to come close to the number of years I would need to write down to the end all that can be written about this story. Homer[4] affirms that Nestor lived for a very long time, and in terms of doctrine and experience was exceedingly wise above all Greeks, and excellent in matters of arms; he vanquished the soldiers from Thessalia and went with Theseus and Perithoo against the Centaurs, and found himself in one and the other Trojan war, and fought in both on the side of the Greeks. Ovid says that he lived for two-hundred years.[5] Argantonio, king of Cádiz, reigned for eighty years, Pliny says,[6] and he started reigning at the age of forty. So that, according to these authors, these two I have mentioned lived for three-hundred and twenty years. But in the brevity of my life, I will write what will serve God in addressing these matters; despite my grey hairs, having passed the age of sixty-nine, I do not spend any day away from this occupation (at least some hours), giving it all of myself I can give and writing in my own hand, hoping that before the last of the days I have left I can see what I have written in this General History of the Indies corrected and printed.

            And as long as the sun will shine for me, I am now, in this year 1548 of the Nativity of our Redeemer, putting things in order so that in this year or the next this first part can be reprinted, expanded, corrected, and more embellished than the first printing; and the second part will be printed in the same way; and I will continue to work on the third; and I will not lack the will to finish it since a great part of it is already written in notes. And I hope in Our Lord that shortly after these two parts appear the last will come out, which covers what has been discovered and seen by the captains and armies of Their Majesties in the Mainland and its seas, in this our horizon and Artic Pole, as in the other part, south of the equinoctial line, in the other hemisphere and Antarctic Pole.

[1] Job, Chapter 27. Quia donec superset halitus in me, et spiritus Dei in naribus meis, non loquentur labia mea iniquitatem, nec lingua mea meditabitur mendacium. [GFO]

[2] Triumph. De la Fama, Chapter II. [GFO]

[3] Pliny, Book Vii, Chapter 48. [GFO]

[4] Homer in the Illiad. [GFO]

[5] Methamorphoses, Book 12. [GFO]

[6] Pliny, Book 7, Chapter 48. [GFO]