A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 13

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Chapter XIII: Of the Province of St. Martha

The Province of St. Martha was rich in the Neighbouring Golden Mines, and a fruitful Soil, nay the People were very expert and industrious in those Mine-works: Upon this Account, or Temptation it was, that from the Year 1540, to 1542, abundance of Tyrants sailed thither, laying waste the whole Country by their Depredations, slaughtering the Inhabitants at a prodigious and bloody rate; and robbing them of all their Gold, who dayly fled to their Ships for Refuge, moving sometime to one place, and sometime to another. And thus those Provinces were laid waste, the greatest Outrages being committed on the Sea-shore, which lasted till the Year 1523, whither the Spaniards then came to seat themselves, and fis their intended Habitation. And because it is a plentiful Region and Opulent withal; it was subjected to several Rulers, who like Infernal Fiends contended who should obtain the Palm, by out-staining the Sword of his Predecessor in Innocent Blood; insomuch, that from the Year 1529 to this very day, they have wasted and spoiled as much good ground as extended Five Hundred Miles, and unpeopled the Country.

If I design'd to enumerate all the Impieties, Butcheries, Desolations, Iniquities, Violences, Destructions and other the Piacula and black Enormities committed and perpetrated by the Spaniards in this Province, against God, the King, and these harmless Nations; I might compile a Voluminous History, and that shall be completed, if God permit my Glass to run longer, in his good time. It may suffice for the present to relate some passages written in a Letter to our King and Lord by a Reverend Bishop of these Provinces, Dated the 20th of May, An. Dom. 1541. wherein among other matters he thus words it.

I must acquaint your Sacred Majesty, that the only way to succour and support this tottering Region is to free it from the Power of a Father in Law, and marry it to a Husband who will treat her as she ought to be, and lovingly entertain her, and that must be done with all possible Expedition too, if not, I am certain that she will suddenly decay and come to nothing by the covetous and sordid Deportment of the Governours, &c. And a little after he writes thus, By this Means your Majesty will plainly know and understand how to depose the Prefects or Governours of those Regions from their Office if they deserve it, that so they may be alleviated and eas'd of such Burthens; which if not perform'd, in my Opinion, the Body Politick will never recover its Health. And this I will make appear to your Majesty that they are not Christians, but Devils; not Servants of God and the King, but Traitors to the King and Laws, who are Conversant in those Regions. And in reality nothing can be more obstructive to those that live peaceably, then Inhumane and Barbarous Usage, which they, who lead a quiet and peaceable Life, too frequently undergo, and this is so fastidious and nauseous to them, that there can be nothing in the World so odious and detestable among them, as the Name of a Christian: for they term the Christians in their Language Yares, that is, Devils; and in truth are not without reason; for the Actions of those that reside in these Regions, are not such as speak them to be Christians or Men, gifted with Reason, but absolute Devils; hence it is, that the Indians, perceiving these Actions committed by the Heads as well as Members, who are void of all Compassion and Humanity, do judge the Christian Laws to be of the same strain and temper, and that their God and King are the Authors of such Enormities: Now to endeavour to work upon them a contrary persuasion is to no purpose; for this would afford them a greater Latitude and Liberty to deride Jesus Christ and his Laws. Now the Indians who protect and defend themselves by force of Arms, think it more eligible, and far better to dye once, than suffer several and many Deaths under the Spanish Power. This I know experimentally, Most Invincible Casar, &c. And he adds farther, Your Majesty is more Powerful in Subjects and Servants, who frequent these Kingdoms, then you can imagine. Nor is there one Soldier among them all, who does not publicly and openly profess, if he robs, steals, spoils, kills, burns His Majesties Subjects, 'tis to purchase Gold: He will not say that he therein does your Majesty great Service, for they affirm they do it to obtain their own Share and Dividend. Wherefore, Most Invincible Casar, it would be a very prudential Act for your Majesty to testify by a rigid Correction and severe Punishment of some Malefactors, that it is disservice to you for your Subjects to commit such Evil Acts, as tend to the Disobedience and Dishonour of the Almighty.

What you have read hitherto is the Relation of the said Bishop of St. Martha, Epitomized and Extracted from his Letters, whereby it is manifest, how Savagely they handle these mild and affable People. They term them Warlike Indians, who betake themselves to the Mountains to secure themselves from Spanish Cruelty; and call them Country Indians, or Inhabitants, who by a dreadful Massacre are delivered up to Tyrannical and Horrible Servitude, whereby at length they are become depopulated, made desolate, and utterly destroy'd; as appears by the Epistle of the praementioned Bishop, who only gives us a slight Account or Essay of their persecution and Sufferings. The Indians of this Country use to break out into such Words as these, when they are driven, loaded like Brutes through the uncouth wayes in their Journeys over the Mountains, if they happen to faint through Weakness, and miscarry through extremity of Labour, (for then they are kicked and cudge'd, their Teeth dasht out with the Pummels of their Swords to raise them up again, when tired and fallen under weighty Burthens, and force them to go on without Respiration, or Time to take Breath, and all this with the following increpation, or upbraiding and taunting words, O what a wicket Villain art thou?) I say they burst out into these Expressions, I am absolutely tir'd, kill me, I desire to dye, being weary of my Life as well as my Burthen and Journey: And this not without deep Heart-breaking Sighs, they being scarce able to draw or breathe out their words, which are the Characteristical Notes, and infallible of the Mind drowned in Anguish and Sorrow. My it please our Merciful God to order the discovery of these Crimes to be manifested to those Persons, who are able and obliged to redress them.