James W. (James William) Buel.

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to her is ascribed the composition of many legendary ballads
which the natives chanted at their national festivals. And
thougli she had felt the heavy arm of the cruel and rapacious
.Spaniards her nature was so mild that she entertained no
hostility towards the white men, rather regarding them
with admiration for what she believed was their superhuman
power and intelligence. Perceiving the futility of resisting
the superiority of the invaders, she counseled Behechio to
conciliate and foster the friendship of the Spaniards, and it
was this influence which probably induced the Adelantado
to undertake his present expedition.

Don Bartholomew, however, did not neglect to employ
the greatest precaution in his march to the dominion of
Xaragua, and he used such imposing measures as had been
found useful on former occasions. His cavalry he sent in


advance, realizing the terror which a sight of horses inspired
among the natives. These were followed by the foot sol-
diers, who advanced in martial array to the sound of the
drum and trumpet. After several days' march the Ade-
lantado met the cacique Behechio, who had moved out of
his capital with a great army armed with bows, arrows and
lances, probably intending to offer opposition to an inva-
sion of his domain ; though if so, he lost his resolution be-
fore the formidable appearance of the Spaniards. First
ordering his subjects to laj'- aside their weapons, he ad-
vanced and accosted Don Bartholomew in the most amicable
manner, and assigned as his excuse for his appearing in
such force his purpose to subjugate certain villages along
the river. The Adelantado was equally reassuring of his
peaceful intentions, and a friendship having been cemented
by mutual protestations, the cacique dismissed his army
and sent forward messengers to announce the approach of
the Spaniards and to make preparations for their suitable
reception. In this wise the two armies marched together
until they came at length to a large town beautifully situated
near the coast, at a bay called the Bight of Leogan. Many
accounts had been given the Spaniards of the extraordinary
salubrity and softness of the climate of Xaragua, in one part
of which was placed the Elysian fields of Indian tradition.
They had also heard from natives who had traveled in all
parts of the island of the incomparable beauty and urbanity
of the inhabitants, which had inclined them to favorable
prepossessions that they were now to see confirmed in
a most lavish hospitality. Knowledge of the approach-
ing army having been heralded, thirty females, wives and
daughters of Behechio, sallied forth, singing their weird
ballads and waving palm branches in consonance with the
dreamy but rhythmic motions of their dancing. The mar-
ried and unmarried were distinguishable by the garments


which they wore, the former being designated by aprons of
embroidered cotton which extended from the shoulder to
the knee, while the young women had no other covering
than a fillet around the forehead and their thick and lustrous
hair which fell in waves from their shoulders, and in many
cases extended below the waist. Their forms might well
be called Hebeic, while their motions were sylph-like, their
skin extremely delicate and their complexions a clear amber

Peter Martyr declares that the Spaniards, when they be-
held these beautiful women issuing forth from the green
woods, almost imagined that they beheld the fabled dryads
and native nymphs and fairies of the fields sung by the an-
cient poets вАФ a delusion which might well be excused when
we consider the Edenic surroundings, which were calculated
to inspire the most practical and prosaic with poetic imagina-
tions. As the Avomen advanced they knelt before Don Bar-
tholomew and then gracefully presented to him the green
palms which they carried. They then divided, half on
either side, to give place to Anacaona, who was now brought
forward on a light litter or palanquin borne by six Indians,
where she gracefully reposed until conducted into the
presence of the Adelantado, when she advanced and grace-
fully saluted him. She had on no other garment than an
apron of various colors, made of cotton, but around her head
she wore a garland of red and white flowers, while a wreath
of fragrant and flaming blossoms bedecked her neck and
arms. Her charm of manners was only equaled by the
grace of her person, both of which were well calculated to
infatuate even a less impressionable cavalier than Don
Bartholomew. The gallant governor accepted her saluta-
tion by kneeling in the most deferential manner and by
taking her hand as a sign of his admiration and unalterable
friendship. The ceremonies of reception having been con-


eluded, the Spaniards were conducted to the house of Bc-
hechio, where an elegant banquet was served, consisting of
a variety of sea and river fish, utias, a species of rodent
resembling a rat, and a variety of fine fruits and roots,
which were served in a manner that imparted delightful
flavor to the meats. Another dish with which the Span-
iards were thus for the first time made acquainted was the
flesh of the iguana, a reptile most repugnant in appearance,
but which is regarded as a special delicacy among the In-
dians, who highly esteem it to this day. The Adelantado
was the first of the Spaniards to taste of this strange ani-
mal food. His stomach being well fortified by a fast of
nearly twenty-four hours' duration, he found it to be highly
palatable, and this opinion directly brought it into high
repute among all the Spaniards.

At the conclusion of the banquet the Spaniards were dis-
posed among the several dwelling-houses of the inferior
caciques, while six of the principal ofificers were lodged in
the palace of Behechio. Here they were entertained for
two days in the most hospitable manner, and during this
time games and festivities were introduced for their enter-
tainment. Among the amusements was a sham battle
which, however, proved serious in its results, though this
appears to have been the usual termination. A consider,
able body of Indians armed with bows and arrows was
divided into two squadrons, and marching double-quick
into the public square a skirmish began, which, though
somewhat tame in the beginning, directly became so excit-
ing that the contestants fought with such earnestness that
four were killed outright while twice as many more were
seriously wounded. This fatal consequence did not appear
to abate but rather added to the interest and pleasure of
the spectators, and the battle would have continued longer
had not the Adelantado opposed his objections to such


bloody sport and begged the cacique to terminate the ex-

At the conclusion of the two days' visit Don Bartholo-
mew thought it proper to communicate to the cacique and
Anacaonathe real object of his visit. He began by acquaint-
ing them with the orders which he had received from his
brother, which were to collect the tribute which had been
imposed upon the tributary caciques of the island, for which
purpose he had visited Behechio, under the protection of
the Spanish sovereigns, to arrange a tribute to be paid by
him in the manner most convenient and satisfactory.

Behechio w^as somewhat embarrassed by this demand,
not so much by the terms in which the request was con-
veyed as the anticipations aroused by the sufferings which
had been inflicted through the avidity of the Spaniards for
gold upon the other caciques of the island. He, therefore,
replied that he knew that gold was the object for which the
Spaniards had visited his island and that many of the ca-
ciques had paid their tribute in that precious metal ; but
that, unfortunately for him, the value of his territory lay in
its fertility rather than its products of gold, that his people
had at no time followed mining, and that he doubted very
much whether gold was discoverable in any part of his do-
main. To this, however, Don Bartholomew replied by
affecting the most amiable manners and assuring the chief
that he had no intention of imposing a burden beyond his
ability to discharge ; that while his sovereigns were pleased
with tributes of gold, they were no less thankful for other
products, and that they would esteem with equal favor
tributes paid in cotton, hemp, cassava bread, or such other
products as the country afforded. To this request the
cacique gave a cheerful compliance and immediately issued
orders to his subordinates commanding them to have the
fields planted with cotton abundantly and thus prepare


themselves to pay the necessary tribute in that staple.
Thus by pacific measures and assurances Don Bartholomew
had been able to accomplish that which others with a less
generous mind were able to perform only through violence
and rapine. Behechio had gracefully complied with the re-
quirements, and at the same time his friendship had been
made secure, a procedure and result which had not charac-
terized dealings between the Spaniards and natives in other
provinces of the island.

Don Bartholomew had not been many weeks absent from
Fort Isabella on his visit to Behechio, nevertheless when
he returned a sorry condition of affairs confronted him.
Many of the colonists had succumbed under climatic dis-
eases, while a greater part were sick, and the lack of reme-
dies or adequate medical treatment was emphasized by the
insufficiency of food. The supplies brought out by Alonzo
Niilo had been consumed and no effort made to replenish
them by cultivating the fields, which needed but the plant-
ing to bring forth in largest abundance. The Indians, un-
used to work and outraged by their oppressors, fled to the
mountains, preferring to brave the hardships of the fastnesses
than to remain in their luxurious valley subject to the in-
humanities of the Spaniards. With famine staring them in
the face and the miseries of disease afflicting them, the
colonists turned their angry complainings against the Ad-
miral, whom they charged with luxuriating at the Spanish
palace, courting the Queen's favors with stories of Indian
wealth and aggrandizing himself with tales of his exploita-
tions, leaving them to miserably perish of hunger through
his neglect. Nor did Bartholomew wholly escape their
censures, for they reckoned him as culpable, chiefly because
he was brother to Christopher and likewise a foreigner.

This was the condition in which the Adelantado upon
his return found the colony planted with so much hope at


Isabella; but instead of reprimanding or stopping to plead
his defense he set resolutely to work to remedy the situa-
tion. First, he ordered the construction of two vessels
which were to be used by the colony in sending its own
messengers to Spain in case of necessity ; or, if urgency
demanded, they might serve as a means of returning to
Spain. Second, he caused all the sick and disabled to be
removed to more salubrious districts in the interior, which
served the double purpose of relieving the suffering, and at
the same time dissipated the discouraging feeling which the
appearance of the sick and dying had upon those not yet
stricken down. Third, as a means of further promoting the
security and comfort of the colony, Don Bartholomew con-
ceived the enterprise of a general system of fortifications
across the island. To this end five principal points were
chosen, which were to constitute a chain of fortresses.
Ninety miles from Isabella were laid the foundations of
Fort La Espcranza; twenty miles beyond that was placed
Fort Santa Catalina; twenty miles farther inland was Fort
Magdalena, where Santiago now stands, and fifteen miles
from this latter, in the valley of Vega Real, was located
Fort Concepcion. By this provision safe means of travel
by easy stages was provided between Isabella and the new
town of San Domingo.

The wise policy of Don Bartholomew was productive of
excellent results and was followed by immediate advantages ;
but while thus guarding against one source of mischief by
giving employment to the unemployed, and making his
rule more secure against the power of the confederated
caciques, a new and equally serious trouble arose which
was attended with calamitous consequences. The imme-
diate cause was due to the zeal of two priests, whose
work was a reaction against the prelatic efforts of De Buyl.
One of these friars was a hermit named Roman Pane, and


the other a Franciscan proselyter known as Juan Borgoiion,
both of whom entered the villages of the Vega Real bear-
ing tidings of new religious faith to the simple natives, who
were little prepared to understand a religion professed hy-
men who had outraged every sense of justice and repaid
hospitality by brutal license. But the labors of these two
priests were attended with some success, for a single family
of sixteen persons accepted the new faith, and being bap-
tized, the head of this family received the title of Juan

The first fruits of their enterprise bore no promise of a
prolific or even second crop, so the friars turned their atten-
tion to another field. They rightly reckoned that the most
direct way to the hearts of the natives was through their
chiefs ; to gain the chieftain would be to gain the whole
tribe ; conversion might thus be undertaken after the man-
ner which Charlemagne employed with the Saxons at the
River Weser. Accordingly they directed all their efforts
towards converting Guarionex, who, being a man of flexible
mind, was directly impressed by the mystery of the new
faith, and according to the measure of his intelligence he
embraced the new doctrine and learned to repeat the
Paternoster, the Ave Maria and the Credo.

The news that Guarionex had been converted to the re-
hgion of the Spaniards quickly spread through the province
of Vega Real, but the result was not what had been antici-
pated. The natives, who could not forget their wrongs,
immediately construed the act as a renunciation of their
cacique's nationality, and the subordinate chiefs were loud
in their denunciations of his recreancy. But even while
this charge of infidelity was sweeping through the villages
of Vega Real an incident occurred which in a moment
aroused all the ferocity and vengefulness in Guarionex's
nature, and transformed him into the bitterest foe of every-


thing that was Spanish. One of the officers at Fort Con-
cepcion, which was scarcely four miles from the cacique's
residence, contrived to ingratiate himself into the affections
of Guarionex's favorite wife. The king was not long in
discovering the guilty liaison, and his anger became at once
as boundless as his wrongs, but helpless to avenge his dis-
grace he could only drive the priests from his presence and
await his opportunity.

Seeing that their efforts in Vega Real must thereafter be
attended with danger, the two friars went into a neighbor-
ing province, taking Jean Mateo with them as interpreter,
and there renewed their attempts to proselytize the natives.
Here they erected a rude chapel to serve as a meeting-
house, and at the same time as a shelter for such new con-
verts as they might be able to win. But scarcely was the
chapel finished for service when some of Guarionex's sub-
jects pulled it down, seized the images and emblems, which
they buried in a neighboring field, and then returned and
burned the ruins. This crime, in those days, called for a
swift and awful retribution. Report of it was speedily
made to Don Bartholomew at Isabella, who promptly
ordered a judicial inquest to be made and the guilty pun-
ished by burning at the stake. Horrible to be related, sev-
eral natives were adjudged guilty of the charge and sufTered
this inhuman punishment for their act.

Can we blame the Indians that this last shocking injustice,
this barbarously cruel deed, nerved them to the desperate
undertaking of destroying every hated Spaniard who had
invaded and despoiled their peaceful homes ? Guarionex,
who was at once king and a principal sufferer, was besought
to put himself at the head of a confederacy of all the tribes
and lead them in one decisive attack on the foreigners.
This proposition he gladly accepted, and it was arranged
that the attack should be made on the next tribute day,



when it was the custom of the natives to gather in <;reat
numbers. But though the conspiracy was admirably con-
ceived, there was one difficulty which the natives had neg-
lected to provide against. In the multifarious relations
which had now come to exist between the Spaniards and
native islanders, it was impossible to prevent disclosure of
the plan if generally known among the Indians themselves,
for several of the Spaniards had native women for wives,
while many others sustained the most intimate relations
with them. These matrimonial unions were particularly
dangerous to a plot like the one concocted, and we are not
surprised, therefore, that before it could be put into execu-
tion the Spaniards were apprised of their danger. The
information being obtained, it was conveyed to Don Bar-
tholomew by secreting a letter, in a hollow cane which
was carried by an Indian pretending to be dumb and foolish,
and safely delivered. That officer, equal to any emergency,
organized a large force which he dispatched to the Vega
Real district, and quietly distributed his soldiers among the
villages where the inferior caciques had their respective
residences. This being accomplished without exciting any
uneasiness, on a fixed night and hour the soldiers invaded
these houses, and seizing fourteen of the caciques bore them
away to Fort Concepcion. As the Adelantado had antici-
pated the Indians were terrified beyond expression by this
abduction of their chiefs, and forgetting their revenge in
this greater calamity they raised their voices in lamenta-
tions and beseechings pitiable to hear.

Don Bartholomew was present at the judicial inquest
which followed, and by this examination he was made ac-
quainted with all the causes and circumstances which led to
the conspiracy. Feeling it imperative for the safety of the
colony that an example should be made by a severe punish-
ment of some of the leaders of the plot, he ordered the exe-


cution of two of the most vindictive chiefs, but magnani-
mously pardoned all the rest. Nor would his sense of jus-
tice permit the wrong that had been done to Guarionex to
go unrevenged, and accordingly the Adelantado proceeded
with stern measures against the Spaniard who had violated
the sanctity of the cacique's home, but historians fail to
mention the punishment that was inflicted. The clemency
and justice of Don Bartholomew subdued the anger in
Guarionex's heart, and that chief now earnestly exhorted
his people to henceforth cultivate the friendship of the
Spaniards, advice which was sincerely followed, and tran-
quillity was thus happily restored without further effusion
of blood.

After this incident the Adelantado repaired to Xaragua
with many of his soldiers, to receive the quarterly tribute
which Bchechio had notified him was ready for delivery.
His reception on this second visit was equally as cordial as
it was on the first, and the occasion was made one of much
rejoicing. The natives gave an entertainment and great
feast to their visitors, and were in turn amused by the
Spaniards, who had brought up one of their ships to receive
the tribute of cotton, which was sufficient to make a large
cargo. The guns of the vessel were fired, to the great
alarm of the natives, but they were reassured by acts of
kindness extended by the Adelantado, who distributed
presents among them and then had his soldiers execute
maneuvers to manifest their skill in arms.

While Don Bartholomew was absent in Xaragua a rebel-
lion was incited by a Spaniard named Francisco Roldan,
whose ambition had inspired him with the belief that he
might take advantage of the disaffection of the colonists,
and by subverting the authority of the Adelantado and Don
Diego raise himself to the gubernatorial dignity. In pursu-
ance of this mad purpose he succeeded in winning to his aid


a considerable faction, and then detaching himself with forty
well-armed followers from the main body, he boldly pro-
claimed his intention to launch the remaining vessel and
depart from the country for other fields, or take up his
quarters in another part of the island. To prevent this act
Don Bartholomew, who had now returned to Isabella, as-
sembled seventy of the soldiers who remained loyal to him
and prepared to give the conspirator battle. His force
being as yet too weak to hazard an engagement, Roldan
drew off and entered upon a systematic effort to attach the
caciques to his fortunes, by promising to free them from
the exactions laid upon them by their oppressors. But in
these efforts he did not succeed ; whereupon he determined
to proceed to Xaragua and there set up an independent
government. Taking advantage of the Adelantado's ab-
sence from Isabella, he suddenly made a foray upon the
place, broke open the magazine and supplied his followers
with arms and ammunition therefrom. He then attempted
to launch one of the vessels drawn upon the beach, but his
efforts were in vain, and fearing some surprise if he re-
mained longer at Isabella, he returned to the interior with
the purpose of putting into execution some strategy where-
by he might gain possession of the person of Don Bartholo-
mew, who was at Fort Concepcion, afraid to oppose the
rebel with the restless few who composed the garrison. In
a day after leaving Isabella Roldan appeared before Fort
Concepcion, and vaunting his loyalty to the Spanish sover-
eigns, used every artifice to corrupt the garrison, who for a
while manifested a disposition to abandon their allegiance
to the Adelantado. This, indeed, they would have no
doubt done had not the sagacious governor met the induce-
ments held out by Roldan with similar promises of reward
for their fidelity.

But though he was unable to corrupt the garrison at


Conccpcion, Roldan made headway by enlisting the co-
operation of several chiefs, who supplied him generously
with provisions and made the payments of tribute to him
instead of to the lawful authority. In this contention the
colony was brought to the verge of ruin, nor can we foresee
how they would have escaped destruction had not the criti-
cal situation been relieved at this juncture by the arrival at
the port of Isabella of two vessels dispatched under com-
mand of Pedro Fernandez Coronal with supplies, by order
of the Queen, as already related. This happy event oc-
curred on the 3d of February, 149S, and was the means not
only of saving the colony from the disasters of rebellion,
but Coronal brought, besides supplies and men. a commis-
sion confirming Don Bartholomew's title as governor, thus
relieving him of whatever cloud that rested upon the title
conferred by the Admiral.

Considering that the colony had already suffered all that
it could well bear, Don Bartholomew, in his anxiety to
reunite his men, sent Coronal with a pacific message to
Roldan, requesting that he would submit to his authority,
and promising pardon for all past offenses ; but Roldan
rejected these overtures, and feeling secure in his plans he
sowed the seeds of intrigue among the caciques, and then
departed for Xaragua to take up his residence in that sen-
sual paradise which had been the objective point of all his

The machinations of Roldan had been so well laid that
Guarionex, who had been accounted as faithful to the
authority of Don Bartholomew, organized a conspiracy for
the capture of Fort Concepcion, being instigated thereto by
Roldan's agreements to extend protection and relieve him
from his vassalage to the usurping Spaniards. It was ar-
ranged to assault the fort on the night of a full moon, but
by some mistake an impetuous chief with a small following


began the attack on the night preceding the appointed
time, and they were easily repulsed by soldiers quartered in
the village, while the garrison were thus timely put upon
their guard. The chief who had thus unluckily anticipated
the plans of the confederated caciques fled to Guarioncx
for protection, but that king was so incensed at his hasty
conduct that he struck him dead upon the spot. Don Bar-
tholomew now saw the futility of temporizing any longer
with the conspirators, and having a strong force under his

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 37)