How the admiral, Don Diego Columbus, and the Royal Audience and officials of Their Majesties sent from this city of Santo Domingo a fleet with Captain Gonzalo de Ocampo to punish the Indians who had killed the monks and other Christians on the Mainland and to recover the island of Cubagua, also known as the Island of Pearls; and of the arrival of the Licenciado Bartolomé de las Casas and other things concerning its history.
Translated by Isabella Perez ’21
After the rebellion of the Indians from the coast of Cumaná and the provinces described in the preceding chapter—and how the Christians that were on Cubagua abandoned it—came to the notice of the admiral, Don Diego Columbus, and the Royal Audience that reside on this Island of Hispaniola and to the officials who serve Their Majesties, with great solicitude and as fast as they could they agreed and deployed a plan to punish them and to send a captain there with men to this effect so that he could recover the island and the evildoers could be punished according to their serious crimes and faults. And for this purpose they gathered up to three hundred men and the ships and caravels that were necessary, and they provided arms and provisions and all that was needed for a fleet, and they sent as its captain general a gentleman named Gonzalo de Ocampo, a neighbor of this city of Santo Domingo, who travelled to that land with the men mentioned in the year 1520, and went directly to the coast of the Mainland. And, among the other particular captains who went with him there was one Andrés de Villacorta, a man of experience and one conversant with that land who was among those who entreated the mayor Antonio Flores not to forsake the island of Cubagua, which should never be lost, if he would be listened to.
This fleet, arriving at the coast of the Mainland a few days after it left the port of this city of Santo Domingo, reached the coast at a place called Maracapana, where there was an Indian called Gil González who had been involved in killing the friars and Christians, and he and many others of those delinquents were baptized; but they were not thankful for the baptism nor were they Christians but in name. But Captain Gonzalo de Ocampo had a very clever manner for taking some of the leading Indians responsible; and as the ships were seen, as soon as they were close to land, the Indians asked the Christians where they came from, and they responded that they were from Castile because the general ordered them to respond thus, and he made the men of war hide below deck so that only the sailors appeared visible, and not even all of them, and the Indians replied saying “Haiti, Haiti,” giving them to understand that they came from this island of Hispaniola, which in the Indian language is called Haiti: and our men responded “Castile, Castile,” and they showed them wine and things for bartering, which is what they most value. And thus they believed that those of the fleet knew nothing of the Christians and friars killed and that these caravels came from Spain and that they could kill these others as well, like innocents, as had been done with those of the other caravels, as is said in the preceding chapter; and some of the leaders of the coast dared to board the ships, and they said to the captain that he should disembark on land, and they brought him things to eat that are their customary delicacies, and they made other displays of peace and pleasure, pretending they greatly enjoyed their arrival and friendship. And the captain general, being astute, put on a very good show for them and rejoiced; and, thus entertaining the Indians, when it seemed to him it was time he gave his men the signal and some of the leading Indians, of whom he had already learned their names and crimes and there were there those in the fleet who knew them, were taken prisoner; and especially that Gil Gonzalez who was mentioned was taken prisoner, and, having his confession, he had him and others hang from the masts of the ships to give an example to the traitors and rebels looking at it from the coast, the cacique of Cumaná called Don Diego with them. And later, General Gonzalo de Ocampo freed and let on land the cacica Doña Maria, wife of the stated cacique Don Diego, whom he had brought with him, and who had been taken prisoner by the aforementioned Antonio Flores and brought to this city of Santo Domingo, and because of this woman, he later made peace with the Christians, as will be told ahead. So that, what is said having been done wisely and without any peril, Gonzalo de Ocampo went to the island of Cubagua and placed his standard by the port where he laid anchor, and after he and his men had rested there a few days, he travelled to the province of Cumaná and to the Tagares; and he conducted raids on the land and arrested many Indians on several occasions and executed those among them whom he deemed fit, and killed others when they defended themselves to avoid being taken prisoner. And continuing the war thus with total rigor, the cacique Don Diego came under safe-conduct to make peace with the Christians, in which his wife, thankful for her freedom, was the mediator; and through this peace the settlement of Cumaná was begun next to the river, a half league away from the sea, and Gonzalo de Ocampo named the village he founded there Toledo, where this captain and his men stayed for some months; but as this captain was not to the men’s taste, rather, his companions and men of war had fallen out with him, it so happened that a little while after what has been told a cleric named Licenciado Bartolomé de las Casas arrived on the coast with certain ships and very ample powers and commission contracted with Their Majesties to settle there, as will be told at length in the following chapter. And as a result of the arrival of that licenciado priest, there was discord and many differences between him and Captain Gonzalo de Ocampo, and as the men were not on good terms with the captain, nor he with them, Gonzalo de Ocampo travelled to the island of Cubagua, and later the men did the same; and they abandoned the village that they had built and named Toledo without a single person remaining in it.
At the time that these captains were engaged in their quarrels, or a little before, this Royal Audience and the admiral and officials of Their Majesties provided that Francisco de Vallejo, neighbor of this city of Santo Domingo, should go to Cubagua as lieutenant governor and ordered that he should return to settling that island of Cubagua: and he went to it with men and built a village and distributed plots of land to the neighbors, and he took with him all the Indians that had been brought by that Antonio Flores from Margarita to this city, with those who were free and those from Cumaná who returned, as they often did, to barter pearls with the Spaniards, and with some slaves they took from other parts during the war, the neighbors of Cubagua started (with their own people) to understand pearl fishing, as they saw that increasingly the Indians were less keen on bartering.