Which tells of the settlement of the islands of La Mona and Boriquen, now called San Juan, and other particularities.
Translated by Carlos Espina ’20
The Indians call Boriquen the island that Christians now call San Juan, which is east of Hispaniola, twenty-five or thirty leagues, and between them is La Mona island, ten or seven degrees from the equinoctial line, on the side of our Arctic pole. La Mona is a very small, low, and flat islet that may have a circumference of three leagues or so; it is fertile and inhabited by a few Christians and some Indians, and is in the charge of Francisco de Barrionuevo, who recently was governor of Castilla del Oro. There is ample fishing there and good waters; its main crops are the caçabi (cassava) flour (which is, as I said, from which the Indians make bread) and good corn. There are many good red crabs, which are better than the others, very good vegetables, and very singular cantaloupes from Castile grow there. But since there is little land, it is most useful for what I have said, and also because ships sometimes find water there when they need it. I will stop here to discuss the island of Boriquen or San Juan, which is another twelve or fifteen leagues ahead, further east of La Mona; at the western tip of La Mona there is a round and tall uninhabited islet called Çicheo. San Juan has a length of fifty or fifty-five leagues or so and, at its widest, a latitude of up to eighteen or twenty, and from there twelve to fifteen in some parts, according to the form and figure it has.
Its western part is at seventeen degrees, the northern part is at almost at eighteen degrees and it runs thus from east to west. On the north side its coast is rocky, except at the bay where the main town is now, but everything else is rough coast. On its eastern side there are many small islands called the Virgins, on the southern side there are other small islands along the coast and to the west it has the abovementioned island of Çicheo and Hispaniola, as I have said. This island is very rich in gold and a large quantity has already been mined and continues to be found, especially on the northern coast. The southern part of the island is very fertile and there is a lot of cassava, corn, and everything else that the Indians cultivated on Hispaniola; there is also very good fishing there, which is why the greatest lord of the island, who many other chiefs obeyed, lived and governed there.
There are also many good ports on this coast. The birds, animals, fish, trees and the costumes and customs of the people on this island do not differ from what I have said about Hispaniola; except that these Indians of San Juan use arrows and are mainly men of war, but they walk naked and are of the same color and height. The boats or canoes are the same as was written about Hispaniola or Hayti; the differences and other details will be discussed below, but before that I will discuss the way that this island was conquered by the Christians along with some notable things that happened there when it was pacified.
This island has almost at its center a beautiful mountain range with many and very good rivers, but the largest and most principal one enters through the coast of the northern sea and is called Cayrabon; another in the eastern part of the same coast is called Tayniabon; another one they call Bayamon, which enters the bay that joins the small island where the main town, called the city of San Juan of Puerto Rico, is located. A saltwater river runs between the bay and the city, separating them and leaving to the north the city called, like the island, San Juan; the town is a head diocese, with a cathedral church and a gentile population of up to a hundred neighbors, where the first Bishop Don Alonso Manso, a religious person and good clergyman, still lives. Manso was head sacristan of his most serene prince Don Johan, my lord, and after the prince passed from this life he was chosen by the Catholic King to this dignity and diocese as the churches and dioceses of Hispaniola were being raised, in the year 1511, and he has been a man of great example and divinity.
There is in this city of San Juan a monastery of the Orden de Predicadores (the Dominican Order), very well built but not yet finished. The easternmost river on the coast and to the east of said city is called Luysa. A cacica or Indian woman chief named Luysa, who later became a Christian, had her settlement there, and she was killed by the Carib Indians, as will be told below. The westernmost river is called Canuy, but the largest of the whole island is Cayrabon, as I have said. In the western part of this island there is a village called San German, in which there might be up to fifty neighbors; its port is not good because it is a large exposed bay or inlet where a river called Guaorabo enters. On the same west coast there are other rivers, such as Aguada and Culibrinas, between which a town called Sotomayor is located. South of San German, on the same west coast are Mayaguex and Coriguex, and further south there is the cape they call Cabo Rojo. On the south side, coming from the west, there is first a bay where there was a town called Guanica; further east is a round bay with a good port called Yauco; even further east is the Baramaya river; further on there is a river called Xacagua, in front of which is an island called Ángulo (so called because it is round). And further on, almost at the midpoint of this southern coast, there are the salt flats, and ahead of them is the Guayama River; further east is another river called Guaybana; beyond that one is the river called Guayaney; then there is another called Macao; and further down, to the east, is the Fajardo river. All these rivers in the south and also those in the north part have their source in the abovementioned mountain range or sierra, which runs across the island from east to west, and from its slopes it distributes these rivers, most of which are small; some are good rivers, though all are smaller or inferior to the one they call Cayrabon, which is in the northern part (the richest coast in terms of its gold). And since the air is temperate and the natural waters as I have told, the whole island is very fertile, and so it is that all kinds of cattle abound as in Hispaniola—like cows, sheep, pigs, horses and everything else that was written in the preceding books about Hayti or Hispaniola.