How the island of Boriquen, now call San Juan, began to be populated by Christians by the hand of Captain Juan Ponce de León, as mandated by the Lord Commissioner of Alcántara, Frey[1] Nicolás de Ovando, governor of Hispaniola, and other related information.

Translated by Carlos Espina ’20

After the Lord Commissioner, Don Frey Nicolás de Ovando, came to Hispaniola as governor and conquered and pacified the province of Higuey, which is at the easternmost part of the entire island, and closer to the island of Boriquen or San Juan, he appointed as lieutenant in that town of Higuey a captain, a man of good and gentleman, called Juan Ponce de León. I knew him very well, and he was one of those who came to these parts with the first Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, on the second trip he made to these Indies; as he had been in past wars, he had experience and was considered a man of trust and good skills. And because he had also been a captain in the conquest of Higuey, he knew from the Indians that there was a lot of gold in the island of Boriquen or San Juan. Armed with this knowledge, he secretly told the Lord Commissioner, who lived on Hispaniola, and he gave him license to go to the island of San Juan to find out what was happening there, because although the island was already known and it had been discovered by the first Admiral, it was not conquered or pacified.  To do this, he took a small caravel with some people and good Indian guides and went to the land of the main king or cacique of that island, called Agueybana, like the abovementioned river. He was very well received and honored; they gave him those things that the Indians have for their sustenance and showed him that they were pleased to meet him and be friends with the Christians. The mother and stepfather of the chief showed affection for the Christians; the captain Juan Ponce named the cacica or chief’s wife Doña Ines and her husband Don Francisco, and he called a brother of hers Añasco because the Indian wanted to be named after the gentleman who went with Juan Ponce, who was called Luis de Añasco. He named Agueybana Juan Ponce, after said captain—it is tradition for the Indians in these islands to take the name of the captain with whom they establish a new friendship or achieve peace.

This chief was a good person and obeyed his mother; she was a good woman and since she was a woman of great age, she knew what had happened in the conquest and pacification of Hispaniola, which is why she advised her son and the other Indians to be good with the Christians if they did not want to die at their hands. Heeding these warnings, the son helped Captain Juan Ponce and even gave him one of his sisters as a friend, and he took him to the north coast and showed him some rivers that carried gold, especially the one they call Manatuaban and another called Çebuco, which are two rich rivers from which Captain Juan Ponce took gold and brought great samples to Hispaniola and to the Lord Commissioner, leaving some Christians on San Juan in peace and friendship with the Indians. When Juan Ponce arrived in this city of Santo Domingo, he found that the second Admiral, Don Diego Columbus, had already come and that they had removed the Lord Commissioner from the governorship. Then came with the Admiral a gentleman who had been secretary to his most serene King Don Felipe, called Don Cristóbal de Sotomayor, who I knew very well, son of the old Countess of Camiña and heir to the Count of Camiña. Don Cristóbal was a generous and noble man, whom the Catholic King sent as governor of the island of San Juan. But, although he had come with the Admiral, the latter did not allow him to stay on that island or govern it, and so he came here to this city of Santo Domingo of Hispaniola; from here Captain Juan Ponce returned to San Juan with his wife and daughters, but was excluded from office because the Admiral sent there Juan Çeron as lieutenant and mayor and Miguel Diaz, who I have mentioned elsewhere, as alguacil mayor or Lord Sheriff, and they ruled that island for almost a year. As the Comendador Mayor had gone to Spain, he recounted the services done by Juan Ponce and negotiated with the Catholic King to give him governance of that island, sending royal provision for said purpose. He was admitted to the office of governor as lieutenant for Admiral Don Diego Columbus but was appointed by the King. A few days after taking office, Juan Ponce arrested Lord Mayor Juan Çeron and Lord Sheriff Miguel Diaz under accusation of some excesses and sent them to Spain to appear before the court of the Catholic King, appointing Cristóbal de Sotomayor as alcaide mayor. Sotomayor, being so generous, was so humble as to accept bad treatment. In addition to being of noble blood, he had previously been secretary to King Don Philip, our lord, as I have said; Juan Ponce was a poor squire at the time, and in Spain he had been servant to Pero Nuñez de Guzmán, brother of Ramiro Núñez, Lord of Toral. When Juan Ponce served as Pero Nuñez’ page the latter did not have more than a hundred thousand maravedís[2] to his name, despite being of illustrious blood; he later served as house master for his most serene Lord Infante Don Fernando, who is now king of the Romans. What I mean to say is that between Don Cristóbal and Juan Ponce there was a great inequality of blood, despite  Juan Ponce being reputed as hidalgo and having the aptitude and presence for what came after, as will be told in this history. So, those who had gone with Captain Juan Ponce and Don Cristóbal took his having accepted the position badly. Recognizing his mistake, he refused the position and left office, but not without being blamed for having taken it. Soon after, Captain Juan Ponce came to this city of Santo Domingo and brought with him the cacique Agueybana to see Hispaniola, which was very populated by Indians and Christians. And if that chief or cacique Agueybana or his mother were alive, there would never have been a rebellion and the evils that happened with the Indians of San Juan would have been avoided; but mother and son soon died, and a brother of his inherited the lordship, one who was naturally bad and whose wishes were wickeder. He was entrusted to Don Cristóbal de Sotomayor, who gave him his name, as part of his encomienda. His lord, Don Cristóbal de Sotomayor, was such a good gentleman and so noble, and gave that treacherous cacique everything he had, in payment for which and for the good things he did for him, the cacique murdered him very cruelly, as will be told further on. This was motivated by the hatred the cacique felt for his lord and for all Christians, because in truth these Indians are of an ungrateful nature and of bad inclinations, and they have no memory or will to be grateful for any good that is done for them.

[1] Title used among religious members of military orders, distinct from other orders where they are called fray or friar.

[2] Ancient Spanish coin, which had different values at different times.