Of the principal towns of Cuba or Fernandina, and other things particular to it.
Translated by Isabella Perez ’21
As I said in the proem of this book XVII, the first Admiral continued on to Cuba after he landed on the Bimini islands; but at that time he saw little of it, and he came to Hispaniola, sailing along the coast of Cuba from the port of Baracoa and following its northern band up to the point of Maycí, which may be twelve or thirteen leagues in all (this point, as is said in the previous chapter, is the easternmost part of the island). But on the second voyage that the Admiral made from Spain to these parts, in the year 1493, he came directly to Hispaniola and founded the city of Isabela, whose people later built and founded this city of Santo Domingo. From Isabela he left with two caravels with the intention of exploring Cuba, and he went by the southern band, discovering along the way the island of Jamaica, of which particular mention will be made in the following book. So, returning to our purpose, the Admiral left Isabela with the caravels of which I spoke and with the people and provisions which he deemed necessary, and he saw the island of Jamaica on his voyage, now called Santiago, which lies twenty-five leagues from the point of San Miguel of Hispaniola, and from this to the southern part of Cuba there are another twenty-five leagues from the southern part to the tip of the Jardines islands. According to some, he circumnavigated the entire island; others say that he never reached the end of it nor saw the tip, and that from there he returned to Hispaniola, which he had seen the previous year during the first discovery. This island of Cuba is what the chronicler Pedro Mártir wanted to call Alpha, α, and other times Johana; but here there is no island with any such names nor are any called so by Christians or Indians. Shortly thereafter the Catholic King, Don Fernando, ordered that it should be given the name of His Highness, and he himself named it Fernandina, in the very memory of his most serene and blessed King, in whose time it was discovered; Isabela was what they called the first Christian province and settlement in Hispaniola, in devotion and memory of the most serene Catholic Queen, Doña Isabel.
The first seat and settlement of Fernandina is the city of Santiago, in which there may be up to 200 inhabitants. This city has a very handsome and secure port, because from the mouth of the sea to the city there are almost two leagues, and the ships enter by a small opening in the port; and it is not a river, rather a salt water stretch of the same sea, and from within it widens and makes many small islets, and ships may dock almost without moorings, and there are large fisheries among these islands within the said port. This city has a cathedral church whose first bishop was Friar Bernaldo de Mesa of the Order of Santo Domingo, and after him it came a high chaplain of the most serene Madame Leonor, sister of His Cesarean Majesty, who was Queen of Portugal and now is Queen of France; this bishop was likewise Flemish and belonged to the Order of Preachers. The third bishop was called Friar Miguel Ramirez, another cleric of the same Order of Preachers and a very revered person and preacher to His Cesarean Majesty. The canons, dignitaries and chaplains that serve said church are well funded and endowed.
There are other villages on this island, like the village of Havana, which lies on the tip of the island to the northern band; the village of Trinidad, which lies on the southern band; the village of Sancti Spiritus and the village of Puerto del Principe, and the village of Bayamo, which lies thirty leagues from the city of Santiago. But as of now there are few people in these villages, because most have left for New Spain and other new lands; for it is the fate of men to not have rest in these parts and in all other parts of the world, more so in these Indies, because like all the others who come here they are young men of genteel ways, many of them courageous and needy, and are not contented with settling in what is already conquered.
Returning to the history—these settlements of which I have spoken are those that exist on the island of Cuba or Fernandina. Let us move on to the other particularities, especially to what relates to its conquest and pacification, so as to proceed with greater order in what remains to be said.