This is the seventh book of the first part of the Natural and General History of the Indies, Islands, and Mainland of the Ocean Sea, which addresses agriculture.


Translated by Max Eliot ’21

So it has pleased God to honor me with time to devote to the writing of these books on every possible topic, to be compiled into many volumes that can, with all their various contents, entertain the reader in many ways, I want, in this seventh book, to begin with agriculture, and tell of the type of bread the Indians had, the principal forms of sustenance they practiced, and which occurred naturally on this Island of Hispaniola by the industry and labor of its inhabitants. And because there are two very different varieties of bread here, I will discuss them both; I will discuss how they plant and harvest their flours, how they then make bread and liquor from the same grains, and what properties they have. I will likewise discuss some plants, legumes, and other things that these people cultivate for their use and sustenance, and the other supplementary foods that they have and use for their purposes. And as many of the things I will discuss in this and subsequent books will also pertain to other islands to be discussed in this first part of this history, and even in the second and third parts, which will deal with the Mainland, the reader will have some advanced notice of them here. May I not tire the reader by recalling too often what has already been written, nor the reader grow weary of the lesson for the same reason. For matters relating to governance are not what I have chiefly been asked to write about, nor are they what his Caesarean Majesty wants to hear from me. For this he has those great and illustrious gentlemen who assist him in his Royal Council of the Indies, like the most reverend Cardinal, Don Frey[1] Garcia Jofre de Loaysa, Archbishop of Seville, confessor of His Caesarean Majesty and president and governor-general of the same Council; and the illustrious lord Don Garçi-Fernandez Manrique, count of Osorno, who, when His Caesarean Majesty was away from Spain (in Germany in the resistance against the Turks and later in Africa at the victorious capture of Tunis and La Goulette), presided over said council along with other magnificent, sage, and noble conscripts and deputies for the governance of this New World—from whose every corner and province His Majesty receives continuous notice of all matters of justice and events of the Indies. And after God took the cardinal and the count, the very illustrious lord, Don Luis Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis of Mondéjar and Count of Tendilla, and captain and mayor of the great and famous city of Granada presides over the Real Quarto de Indias.

In order to organize my history something must be said of the governors and the governed, but not because of this will I ignore other things pertaining to the belongings and novelties of these lands and their fertility. Having already written of the rites, ceremonies, idolatries, and other vices and merits of the Indians, I will write in this Book VII of things related to their agriculture and sustenance. After this, certain books will touch on terrestrial and aquatic animals, birds, insects and girded creatures, wild and fruit-bearing trees, woods and medicinal trees, and plants and herbs—all that I promised and offered to write about in the principal proem or first book, and in the second book of this first part or volume. Because what follows from this point will be all those things which bring admiration to such a new and pioneering history.

[1] Title used among clergy of military orders, distinct from other orders, where they are called fray (friar). [EE]