The expedition then returned to the eastern end of Cuba. At Santa Cruz, they went ashore and built an altar under the trees, at which a solemn service was held. Many countrymen had gathered to witness this solemnity, showing awe-stricken respect for the ceremony.
Among those present was, among other things, a dignified old casik, or chief. He came to the admiral and conversed with him through a Guanahan interpreter. The old man said: »You have come to these lands, which you have never seen before, you have come with a great force, and your coming has caused fear in all the people. I would like to let you know that according to our belief there are two places that the dead go to after death, one place is bad, the other is good. If you know that you must die and that your wages will be the same as your work has been, then here do not harm those who have not harmed you. What you have done now is good, because you seemed to thank God for us.»
Columbus was astonished at the profound wisdom of this simple man, and could only reply that he had been sent by a rich and powerful king to discover these lands, and that he had no other purpose than to seek out and chastise those who did evil to their neighbors, especially that nation called the Caribs . He intended to oppress and defeat these, but he intended to treat those who lived in peace well. The answer seemed to satisfy the chief. But the admiral did not know that at the very time that he was thus speaking, his newsmen in Espanjola had in the most horrible manner demonstrated the nullity of these assurances.
Along the southern shore of Espanjola, the journey was then continued, against the headwinds of the creatives and stopping now and then in the lands to get food resources from the natives. Everywhere the reception was equally friendly and the country people brought what they had. So Columbus could send a dozen men from here across the island to Isabella to report his results, while he himself and his ships slowly made their way to the north shore of the east end of the island. At the eastern end of the island, he became so dangerously ill that death was feared. On the 29th of September, however, Isabella was reached and the admiral was taken ashore unconscious to his brother’s house, where his strength gradually recovered through good treatment. There he also met his other brother, Bartolomeo, who had brought a favorable letter from the king and queen. Bartolomeo, having heard of his brother’s discoveries, had left France for Spain and received an excellent favorable reception at court. He was ennobled, he was allowed to write “Don” in front of his name, and in addition, he was entrusted with a small auxiliary expedition, which at the same time was sent to the West Indies. Bartolomeo was an intelligent, energetic and practical man, a skilled sailor and better used to criticizing and controlling people than the mild-mannered Christofer.
Mischief in Spain.
Bad news awaited Columbus in Spain. In the interior of the island, during his absence, the Spanish military forces had rioted so badly that a general rebellion threatened. He himself had maintained the best male discipline, but as soon as he left, discipline had loosened and the lawlessness had begun.
After Columbus left for his trip, Knight Ojeda, according to his instructions, had gone to the gold region with a considerable number of people, whose castle Margarit handed over to him. Margarit had to go with Ojeda’s group to explore the island and give the natives an idea of the might of the Spaniards; Columbus had specifically supervised him to maintain strict male discipline. But Margarit did not follow his instructions, but settled down to live in the richest part of the island, Vega Real, forcing the inhabitants of the country to support his riotous crowd. He practiced all kinds of violence there, plundered, extorted from the inhabitants what they had, treated them as slaves and their women as slave-girls, and by these actions kindled a burning hatred against the Spaniards. He did not heed the orders sent from Isabella.
In the midst of this disorder, Bartolomeo Colombo arrived at Isabella with three caravels, which saved the colony from want. Energetically, he set about helping his brother Diego to restore order. But Margarit did not obey his orders either, but arrived at Isabella with a superior force, forcibly took possession of Bartolomeo’s ships and sailed with other disaffected people, including father Boil, to Spain, where, by slandering the admiral, before he could defend himself, he hoped to save himself and his fellow criminals. Both Margarit and Boil were popular in court circles and Columbus had good reason to fear them. However, his reputation was still young to withstand such attacks. But it didn’t take long before he fell into exactly the same ruts.
Spanish military forces were still wandering around the island on Columbus’ return to Isabella, burdening the natives with all kinds of abuse. After recovering from his illness, the admiral immediately set about restoring order. Bartolomeo was the best help in this difficult work.
Princes of Haiti.
Espanjola, today’s Haiti, is one of the most luxurious regions of the hot climate due to its nature. The Sierra de Cibao, whose highest hills rise more than three thousand meters above sea level, runs along its central parts. Quite a few rivers begin in the mountains, which have formed fertile plains, especially on the southern shore. The northern shore is followed by a mountain range called Sierra de Monte Cristi, which prevents currents starting from the interior of the country from descending to that side, turning them towards the west or east. Between both mentioned mountain ranges there is a wonderful fertile expanse, »Vega Real». The Indian settlement was dense, the people good-natured; When the Spaniards arrived on the island, it was still in full stone age. The Haitians belonged to the older race that had first migrated to the island from the mainland. They might have been at peace for hundreds of years, but some time before the arrival of the Spaniards, another race had also appeared in Haiti, perhaps coming from the shores of South America. This race was more powerful and brutish, but better equipped than the old population. It had already conquered several of the Lesser Antilles. Columbus met this race, which we already know as the Carib, at Guadalupe and Santa Cruz. The Caribs had started making trips to Haiti as well, to take slaves and prisoners of war. Caonabo, one of Haiti’s greatest chiefs, who ruled the southern part of the island, was of Carib descent, it was said, although he ruled over a region populated by peaceful natives. It had already conquered several of the Lesser Antilles. Columbus met this race, which we already know as the Carib, at Guadalupe and Santa Cruz. The Caribs had started making trips to Haiti as well, to take slaves and prisoners of war. Caonabo, one of Haiti’s greatest chiefs, who ruled the southern part of the island, was of Carib descent, it was said, although he ruled over a region populated by peaceful natives. It had already conquered several of the Lesser Antilles. Columbus met this race, which we already know as the Carib, at Guadalupe and Santa Cruz. The Caribs had started making trips to Haiti as well, to take slaves and prisoners of war. Caonabo, one of Haiti’s greatest chiefs, who ruled the southern part of the island, was of Carib descent, it was said, although he ruled over a region populated by peaceful natives.
At that time, Haiti was divided between five kings, or caciques, besides which there were many smaller chiefs on the island. Guacanagari, that chief with whom Columbus had first entered into an alliance of friendship, governed the north-western part of the island, while Vega Real was ruled by Guarionex, a noble and chivalrous man; to the south-west of his territory reigned the fierce and cruel Caonabo, who, as the Spaniards afterwards learned, had also destroyed the castle of Navidad. Information about the social and administrative conditions of the island at that time is otherwise very scarce. In the principal residence of the princes, there was always a large room where images of gods carved from wood were kept. The language of the inhabitants has also become extinct, so that it is probably not possible to decide which branch of the original population of America they belonged to.
Hardly had Columbus recovered from his illness when Guacanagari came to him to complain about the misdeeds of the Spanish soldiers and announced that the whole island would rise up in arms under the leadership of Caonabo. Ten Spanish soldiers had already been killed near Isabella. Guacanagari himself offered to help the Spaniards. Columbus entrusted the defeat of the rebellion to his brother Bartolomeo, at the same time appointing him the governor of the island, or »adelantado». Bartolomeo took action on the spot, gathered the scattered soldiers and restored male discipline. At the same time, four ships arrived from Spain bringing additional troops.
Capture of Caonabo.
Columbus first built a line of forts inland to protect the road to the gold lands; but these fortifications were scarcely finished before Caonabo and his allies attacked them. One of the castles was defended by the brave Ojeda with a small group. Although he had immense superiority against him, he frightened the natives so badly with his frequent attacks that Caonabo, after besieging him for thirty days, finally retreated in vain. After getting out of the trap, Ojeda and his men went to Isabella and presented a war plot to the admiral there, which in its boldness was representative both of the time and especially of this knight. He promised to capture Caonabo from the midst of his army and bring him bound to Isabella. He based his war plot on the fear that the Christian church bells had created among the inhabitants of the country; they mistook metal for the sound of heaven and imagined the bells talking. Caonabokin believed that bells, or »tores», had supernatural power, and he also feared all metal objects brought by the Spanish, especially copper. It was probably due to the fact that the metal blade and tip had already been noticed to be so much more efficient than the stone and wood blade. Ojeda therefore made beautifully polished copper handcuffs and set off with nine armed miners to Caonabo’s camp, which was several days’ journey in the interior of the island. Caonabo, who had a great army with him, ordered the Spanish knight to be dismissed. Due to the small size of Ojeda’s group, he could not even foresee any danger. Ojeda said that he had come to bring him a gift from the chief of the Christians and showed him handcuffs, which he called “turei de Viscaya”. He suggested to Caonabol that he come with him to the river a short distance away, wash himself and then equip himself with new “tours” and mount Ojeda’s horse. In his new ornaments and riding a horse, he then had to appear before his vassals. Caonabo was delighted with the proposal. None of the chiefs of the island had yet ridden a horse, that strange fast animal that had not even been seen before the arrival of the Spaniards. Ojeda lifted the chief onto the horse, handcuffed him, and then jumped on the back himself. At first he rode a few graceful steps before the assembled host, but all the while lengthening the distance, and then suddenly turned at full gallop towards Isabella, Caonabo a prisoner. Having got a sufficient distance ahead, he and his companions bound the captured king, and after two or three days of tireless riding, they brought Caonabo to the admiral. The cruel Carib prince was imprisoned, where he confessed that he had murdered Arana and twenty others of the unfortunate defenders of Navidad, and that he had set the buildings on fire with his own hand.
Brawl at Vega Real.
The islanders were at first completely baffled by this daring act, but then began to form a new alliance against the Spaniards under the leadership of Caonabo’s brother. All the chiefs joined the confederacy, except Guacanagari, and a great army assembled at Vega Real. Columbus had nothing but 200 footmen and 20 horsemen against them. But every tenth man had a trained bloodhound. The admiral himself set out with this force, assisted by a considerable number of Guacanagar subjects. The enemy had gathered about 100,000 men. The Spanish infantry were divided into two divisions, led by the admiral and his brother Bartolomeo. The detachments were supposed to open fire against the sites of the immense enemy army, after which Ojeda and his cavalry were to attack the center. The fire of Arkpikusien on the spot confused the enemy force, and when the cavalry then made an attack, the islanders fled in all directions. Then followed a horrible slaughter. The naked Indians, with their poor weapons, could not put up any resistance.
Many became prisoners of war and all of them were made slaves. Five hundred were sent to Seville for sale. A tax was imposed on the other inhabitants of the island, a measure of gold sand prescribed in the Cibao gold district for every adult male to pay. The collected gold was sent by Columbus to the Castilian crown. However, this tax was found to be impossible, which is why it was mitigated, or changed to another one. The inhabitants of Cibao, in their distress, announced that there was another river on the south bank, where there was even more gold. The admiral sent men to investigate it. He sent his younger brother Diego to Spain to tell the ruling couple about the condition of the island and to dispel the suspicions that the Spaniards who had escaped from there might have aroused with their slander.
The return voyage of Columbus.
It still succeeded, Isabella and Ferdinand assured that they fully trusted the admiral’s actions and regulations. A number of reinforcements were sent to Espanjola, but with them also arrived a confidant of the king named Aguado, who had to gather information about the conditions of the colony.
Despite the assurances, this was a symptom of mistrust. Aguado fulfilled his mission by collecting the complaints of the disaffected and Columbus’s enemies, which is why Columbus decided it was wiser to go with him to Spain himself to defend himself. Bartolomeo stayed in Espanjola to manage the government. However, a terrible hurricane destroyed all the ships in the port of Isabella, except for the small “Nina”, and because of that, Columbus set sail once more across the Atlantic. Aguado traveled on a new caravel, which was hastily built from the wreckage of a broken ship. In March 1496, both ships left the port of Isabella. The admiral had taken Caonabo with him, and besides him, 220 sick and unnecessary news residents left for home. Small ships therefore had very cramped spaces. Unlucky Caonabo on the way died, despite the tender care he received from a noble caribbean woman. This was a pitiful wretch, against a chief who was a stranger to him, who had gone with him, even though he should have been allowed to return to his relatives. Cruising against the trade wind, the little “Nina” arrived happily in the port of Cadiz in June 1496.
Columbus met the royal couple in Burgos. The reception was cordial. He easily convinced the king and queen of the propriety of his rule, and Aguado’s complaints fell on deaf ears. Columbus did bring with him 200 ounces (almost 6 kilograms) of gold and all sorts of strange objects. He received the right of rule-inheritance (majorazgo) for himself and his descendants, and the queen adopted his younger son Fernando, who was barely ten years old at the time, as paus. The older son, Diego, had already been a paas to the crown prince and after he died young, he got to the queen’s court. At the same time, a new fleet was ordered to be equipped in Seville, which was to take additional men and equipment to Espanjola and then, under the leadership of the admiral, continue the discoveries.
At the same time, King João II of Portugal died and after him Manuel ascended the throne. Manuel’s first action was to equip the fleet, which, led by Vasco da Gama, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to India. This naturally encouraged Spain to continue its ventures in the West. In Spain, people still believed that the lands discovered by Columbus were part of the East Indies.