Of the matters and succession of the governorate of the island of Cuba, alias Fernandina, after the death of the Adelantado Diego Velázquez.
Translated by Onyx Beytia ’22
Before the Adelantado Diego Velázquez’ death, he had written to the Caesar and to the lords of his Royal Council of the Indies informing them that Licenciado Alonso Suazo, who had been presiding as judge on Fernandina, had committed many injustices; when he found out, the Admiral, don Diego Columbus, departed from the Island of Hispaniola and traveled to Fernandina with two oidores of the Royal Audience, as I stated previously. Once they arrived, don Diego removed Licenciado Zuazo from office and returned the position to the Adelantado Diego Velázquez. Having done this, the Admiral and his oidores returned to the island, leaving Licenciado Zuazo there at a disadvantage; but he was not investigated, not only because at the time there were no complaints about him but because the oidores did not have the power or authority to do so. A few days later His Majesty appointed the Adelantado Francisco de Garay as governor of Panuco and the Palmas river, which is within the confines of New Spain; de Garay then gathered a large armada and set sail from the island of Jamaica to go settle that province. Near the end of his journey the Adelantado made port on Fernandina Island, where he learned that Hernán Cortés had occupied and begun to settle that land and was determined not to allow Francisco de Garay or any other to enter it. From Fernandina, the Adelantado wrote to Licenciado Zuazo, begging him to go to New Spain to act as mediator between them (as Zuazo was friend to them both) and impose order until His Majesty determined what was convenient to his royal service. And so Licenciado Zuazo set sail but got lost on the Alacranes Islands (as will be detailed in the last book of shipwrecks and misfortunes), from where he miraculously escaped with a few of those who had gone with him. In the meantime, the Adelantado de Garay traveled to that land he was to settle (which was already occupied by Cortés), and his armada got lost and some of his people were killed by the Indians, and in a short time he too became lost; he then went to Mexico, where Cortés was, but died shortly thereafter, as will be told at greater length when the matters of New Spain are discussed. Licenciado Zuazo then arrived in New Spain, where Cortés received him warmly and eventually made him his lieutenant and chief justice, and in all matters of justice he was the authority in New Spain. And because Captain Cristóbal de Olit, who will be discussed more particularly in its place, had mutinied somewhere in the Mainland, Cortés (who had sent him to the port in Honduras) went to go look for him in person; he left certain powers to the officers of His Majesty to govern in his absence and left Licenciado Zuazo in the administration of justice. However, a lot of information against Zuazo had already made its way to Spain, mostly spread by his adversaries, and a royal decree was issued for Cortés to arrest Zuazo and take him to Fernandina to undergo an investigation. But when the decree got to Cortés, he was absent, and the decree was then in the hands of the King’s officers, who were divided as to who should govern, because there were rumors that Cortés was dead; after much deliberation, they finally decided to apprehend Zuazo. Some say that the imprisonment was not by virtue of the decree (for even back then they said that it had not arrived), but so that the officers could continue their actions without impediments. So they sent him as a prisoner to Cuba to be investigated by Licenciado Juan Altamirano, who the Emperor had sent there specifically for this purpose. Following the inquiry, he was absolved and released and was even declared a fine governor, having served very well; Their Majesties, having gotten news of this, made him one of their oidores at the Royal Audience of the city of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola, where he resided and served Their Majesties until God took him from this life this past year of 1539. Once Suazo’s inquiry was over, Licenciado Altamirano’s charge ended as well, and not without many complaints against him; so he went to Mexico, and Diego Velázquez remained in office as before.
Although there were these changes in the governorship of Fernandina, Velázquez was always the most involved, because he was captain and repartidor of the Indians of the island. And not long ago, God took him from this life, as stated in the previous chapter. Admiral Don Diego Columbus then appointed as his lieutenant in the governorship of that island a gentleman from the town of Portillo named Gonzalo de Guzmán, at the time a resident of the city of Santiago, who was in office from 1525 to 1532; by order of Their Majesties, Licenciado Juan de Vadillo, one of the oidores of the Royal Audience, was then sent to evaluate the situation. Once he did so, Gonzalo de Guzmán left under Their Majesties’ orders. Admiral Don Luis Columbus then named Manuel de Rojas, a noble and learned gentleman from the town of Cuéllar, as Lieutenant Governor of that island.
Then the same Gonzalo de Guzmán was named governor by Admiral Don Luis Columbus, a post he held until the year 1537, when certain longstanding disputes regarding the Admiral’s privileges were settled with the royal prosecutor. And the Emperor, our Lord, as a most gracious prince, did well in settling such disputes, those regarding the services of the first Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, and not the least because of Their Majesties’ relation to the illustrious Vicereine of the Indies, Doña María de Toledo, mother of the third admiral, Don Luis Columbus. And the Emperor confirmed his admiralship in perpetuity, for him and his successors, and made him Duke of the province of Veragua on the Mainland, and declared him Marquis of the island of Jamaica (alias Santiago); in addition, he was granted 10,000 gold ducats perpetual in royal revenue and rights belonging to Their Majesties on this island of Hispaniola; he was also confirmed as high constable of this city of Santo Domingo and of the Royal Chancellery that resides here, with a vote in the regiment and council of the city, by way of perpetual majorat for Don Luis and his successors; and he bestowed other honors on both him and his mother. And it was this lady’s diligence and prudence that made this possible, and it seems to me that her children owe her as much or almost as much as they do their grandfather, because it is not of lesser praise or merit to conserve estates or honors as it is to acquire and earn them. And just as we give Romulus the glory of the foundation of Rome, Camilo is not ascribed a lesser reputation in defending it from the Gallic fury, because if it were not for him, the former’s memory and lordship would perish. And this I say of this lady, who by the strength of her ingenuity and suffering, and not without many expenses and efforts by her person in the sea and land, went to Spain to pursue the disputes that her husband, Admiral Don Diego, had pending before His Caesarean Majesty, and she proved so formidable judging by the successes already mentioned that by her outstanding merits the debates and litigations ended in due fashion, and her son remains a great lord, as has been said, and has since acquired higher titles of greater honor and status. And through this agreement and exchange, his Majesty resumed the jurisdiction that the Admiral sought or intended to have of this island and Cuba and all other parts and provinces of the Indies, islands, and Mainland of the Ocean Sea where the Admiral had named his lieutenants and officers, a practice that came to an end when the aforementioned prizes were bestowed. Gonzalo de Guzmán was thus the last of the Admiral’s lieutenants on the Island of Fernandina.