Which tells of the initial discovery of the island of Jamaica, currently known as the island of Santiago.
Translated by Onyx Beytia ‘22
When Admiral Don Cristopher Columbus returned from Spain for the second time, he came to this island of Hispaniola and founded the city of Isabela. The town was built or begun in the year 1493, and from there, as was told in Book II, he went with two caravels to discover the island of Jamaica, and took with him the knights and people he saw fit from among those who owed him allegiance. And once that island had been discovered he had a closer look at that of Cuba, as was told in the book mentioned; but as with the other islands of which I have written, where I have started by stating their size and location, there is no reason to break the rule and order I have followed thus far in this general chronicle. Therefore, I say that from the tip of San Miguel, which some inconsiderately call Tiburón, which is the western-most part of this island of Hispaniola, to the closest land on the island of Jamaica to the west, the distance is about 25 leagues more or less. The island is 17 degrees from the equator, and it is 55 leagues long, a little more or less, and a width of almost half of that, and this is how sailors and seafarers have measured it. Those belonging to the land and inhabitants of the island, from whom I have inquired, say that it is larger than what I have said, and that they have seen and walked it many times, and they make this island out to be 75 or 80 leagues long and maybe 16 or 17 leagues wide. The 17 degrees from the equator I mentioned as the island’s location is measured from the southern coast; but from the northernmost or north-eastern part, it is at 18 degrees, a little more or less: the point of this island, which is called Punta de Morante, is the eastern-most part; and from there, running down the coast to the west by the southern band, one reaches Maynoa, and from there one goes down 6 leagues to the port of El Yaguabo; and from there down to the province of Añaya, and further down is the town of Oristan, and at the end of the island is the tip of Negrillo, which is the end of the island.
From there, going along the northern coast, one reaches a settlement called Sevilla, which is the main Christian town; it is placed almost at the center of the island. And from there, going up the coast, there is a small island called Melilla, where the caciques and Indians who serve the Christians live, and further to the east is the port called Guaygata, from which, still going up the coast, one arrives at the port of Anton, a good port that can hold many ships. Such as I have described it is the perimeter of this island, which could be around a hundred and fifty leagues, more or less, as we circumnavigate it. To its south are the islands of San Bernardo and the province of Cartagena on the Mainland, a hundred and twenty leagues distant, more or less; and twenty-five leagues to its north is the island of Fernandina, the closest to the tip of the Jardines. To the east, from the point of Morante to the closest point on the island of Hispaniola, which is the tip of Tiburón, there are an additional twenty-five leagues, as was said above; and thirty-five leagues to the west, more or less, are the islands they call Lagartos. However, since these are uninhabited, I will say that the land that lies directly east to west from Jamaica is the land of Yucatán on the Mainland, closest to the Bay of Ascensión. So these are the borders and surroundings of the island of Jamaica, an island of great assets, with trees, plants, and herbs such as those of the island of Hispaniola; and its people are of the same type and language, and go about naked. And the land is abundant in all the things that have been described in other islands; and has rich mines, although not much gold has been mined as no mines were found on the island of Jamaica until the year 1518 because the population was missing, having died from the same causes as those of Hispaniola, from pestilential smallpox. Their ceremonies and weddings and manner of living and their weapons, and everything else was and is just like in this island of Hispaniola.
The cattle, such as the sheep, pigs, and horses that were brought from Castile, have made themselves abundant: there are multitudes of pigs, particularly, and hence the hills are full of wild pigs: the waters and pastures are excellent for their growth. The soil is noticeably healthy, and not as flat as some have said or written about without seeing it; well, in truth there are a great many rivers and lakes, with good and plentiful fish as has been said of the other islands populated by Christians. The main trades practiced by Spaniards in Jamaica are cattle raising and textiles, such as shirts, fabrics, and hammocks, or beds made of cotton, of which there is plenty and of good quality. Likewise, sweet cane grows very well and there is a very good mill built by the Adelantado Francisco de Garay, which he established and now belongs to his heirs.
The first governor of the island of Jamaica was a gentleman by the name Juan de Esquivel, who came to these parts with the first Admiral Don Christopher Columbus on what was his second voyage in the year 1493: and who was later sent by the second Admiral, Don Diego Columbus, as his lieutenant, along with people to conquer and pacify the island from this island of Hispaniola towards the end of 1519. He fulfilled his task as a good knight and conquered and pacified the island, bringing it under the control of the kingdom Castile, by force of arms when necessary, but peacefully without them through his good management, avoiding the spilling of human blood, as one zealous in the service of God and in the manner in which it should be accomplished. After three years or so, this captain died, and the same admiral Don Diego named another gentleman named Perea in his place; but he lasted a short time, and after he was removed from office, the admiral replaced him with an hidalgo, a native of Burgos, named Camargo. Matters being in such a state, Francisco de Garay, alguacil of this city, went to Spain and reached an agreement with the Catholic King, Don Ferdinand, of blessed memory, to share equally on the cattle farms and haciendas the king owned on that island; and Francisco de Garay invested his share, and the king commanded the admiral to grant him permission to allow his lieutenant to venture there, and the admiral gave his approval, for the king had commanded it and because Francisco de Garay was both his friend and servant and married to a relative of his, and was also one of the initial settlers and among the first to come to these parts with the old admiral, his father, in the year 1493. Once this company was established, around the same time Juan de Mazuelo was sent to the island as treasurer to receive the income from the king’s half-ownership of the ranches and plantations. This transaction took place in Valladolid in 1513; after which, in the year 1519, Francisco de Garay sent a servant of his named Juan López de Torralva to His Imperial Majesty in Barcelona with certain samples of gold, which had never been found before on that island. And the Emperor, our lord, made him a repartidor of Indians; and he considered himself to have been well served by Francisco de Garay, and named the messenger Torralva his accountant on the island. Before this, Francisco de Garay, because of his industry and enterprises, had become a wealthy and well-favored man on the island of Santo Domingo, and was much more so afterwards with the share he had of the royal estates, from which ensued that, enjoying such prosperity from the benefits fortune gives and takes away, his increased desire for more hastened his perdition and led to toils and death; and it was like this.
In the year 1523, Francisco de Garay organized an impressive and well-supplied armada of ships and men to cross over to the Mainland to settle the area around the river they call Palmas in the Panuco province, an enterprise Hernando Cortés strongly opposed; as soon as he had learned that the Emperor had named Francisco de Garay adelantado and governor of that land, he had gone ahead to settle it, and when Francisco de Garay arrived neither the Indians nor the Christians allowed him to take office, and some felt this had been at Cortés’ orders, although he disclaimed this account. In short, Francisco de Garay, thwarted, went to Mexico City, where he died within a few days. Once Francisco de Garay had passed, the island of Jamaica remained, as this one, under the administration of Admiral Don Diego Columbus, and later under the Admiral Don Luis Columbus, along with his own lieutenants and ministers, since the admiral had jurisdiction over the four islands populated by Christians I have mentioned, as well as over Cubagua, of which I will writer later, but under the authority of the Royal Audience and Chancery that resides in this city of Santo Domingo of the island of Hispaniola. And this should suffice about the conquest and the government and people of Jamaica, where there are two small towns populated by Christians: the main town is called Sevilla, and it is located on the Northern coast, while the other is called Oristan and is on the Southern coast: the main church is in Sevilla and is holds the honors of an abbey, and past history shows that it made a decent income at the time of chronicler Pedro Mártir, who was in charge of it and was the abbot there. The income is no longer as much, because, as I have stated elsewhere, recent events and news of riches and other things that are being discovered every day in the Mainland, have greatly reduced the population of all these islands; but not for this should the island of Santiago or Jamaica be forgotten or held in little esteem; because in truth it is a very good island, fertile, healthy, and with good water, and many elements come together for it to be valued as an excellent land with beautiful, safe ports, and many great fisheries, and all that one could wish for in a good province of the Indies, according to what is produced here. And because Francisco de Garay’s loss was very notable, and he was one of a number of holders of the title of adelantado whose careers in these parts have ended badly, the rest will be told when I write about matters concerning New Spain (because on the subject of this island we need to say no more) and there he left a large estate to his heirs, a very good sugar mill, and other properties. He was also a landholder and regidor in this city of Santo Domingo; but there was much more that was lost and spent that he did not leave behind, because of his project and his armada, risking his person and titles in that province of Panuco, having wasted his time, his estate eaten away by ungrateful friends, offering an example for those sane people looking into these parts, who can see themselves in the fate of the Adelantado Francisco de Garay, the Adelantado Diego Velazquez, and the Adelantado Juan Ponce de León.