A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 15

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Chapter XV: Of the Pearl Coast, Paria, and Trinity Isle

The Spaniards made great Spoils and Havock from the Parian Coast to the Bay of Venecuola, exclusively, which is about Two Hundred Miles. It can hardly be exprest by Tongue or Pen how many, and how great Injuries and Injustices, the Inhabitants of this Sea-shore have endur'd from the year 1510, to this day. I will only relate Two or Three Piacular and Criminal Acts of the First Magnitude, capable of comprehending all other Enormities that deserve the sharpest Torments, Wit and Malice can invent, and so make way for a deserved Judgment upon them.

A Nameless Pirate of the Year 1510, accompanied with a parcel of Sixty or Seventy, arriv'd at Trinity-Island, which exceeds Sicile, both in Amplitude and Fertility, and is contiguous to the Continent on that side where it toucheth upon Paria, whose Inhabitants, according to their Quality, are more addicted to Probity and Vertue, than the rest of the Indians; who immediately published an Edict, that all the Inhabitants should come and cohabit with them. The Indian Lords and Subjects gave them a Debonair and Brotherly Reception, serving them with wonderful Alacrity, furnishing them with dayly Provisions in so plentiful a manner, that they might have sufficed a more numerous Company; for it is the Mode among Indians of this New World, to supply the Spaniards very bountifuly with all manner of Necessaries. A short time after the Spaniards built a stately House, which was an Appartment for the Indians, that they might accomplish their praemeditated Designs, which was thus effected. When they were to thatch it, and had rais'd it two Mens height, they inclos'd several of them there, to expedite the Work, as they pretended, but in truth that they who were within, might not see those without; thus part of them surrounded the House with Sword in Hand that no one should stir out, and part of them entred it, and bound the Indians, menacing them with Death, if they offered to move a Foot; and if any one endeavoured to escape, he was presently hackt in pieces; but some of them partly wounded, and partly unwounded getting away, with others who went not into the House, about One Hundred and Two Hundred, betook themselves to another House with Bows and Arrows; and when they were all there, the Spaniards secur'd the Doors, throwing in Fire at another place, and so they all perished. From hence they set Sail to the Island of St. John with near upon One Hundred and Eighty Slaves, whom they had bound, where they sold one half of them, and thence to Hispaniola, where they dispos'd of the rest. Now when I taxed this Captain with Wickedness and Treachery in the very Isle of St. John, he dismist me with this Answer; Forbear good Sir. I had this in commission from those who sent me hither, that I should surprize them by the spetious pretense of Peace, whom I could not sieze by open Force, and in truth this same Captain told me with his own Mouth, that in Trinity-Isle alone, he had met with a Father and Mother in Civil usage, which he uttered to his greater Confusion and the aggravation of his Sins. The Monks of our Order of St. Dominic on a certain time held a Consult about sending one of their Fraternity into this Island, that by their Preaching they might instruct them in the Christian Faith, and teach them the way to be sav'd, of which they were wholly Ignorant. And to this end they sent thither a Religious and Licentiate in Theologie, (or Doctor in Divinity, as we term it among us) a Man Famous for his Vertue and Holiness with a Laic his Associate, to visit the Country, converse with the Inhabitants, and find out the most convenient places for the Erection of Monasteries. As soon as they were arriv'd according to custom, they were entertain'd like Coelestial Messengers, with great Affection, Joy and Respect, as well as they could, for they were ignorant of their Tongue, and so made use of signs, for the present. It hapned that after the departure of that Vessel that brought these Religious Men, another came into the Port, whose Crew according to their Hellish Custom, fraudulently, and unknown to the Religious brought away a Prince of that Province as Captive, who was call'd Alphonsus, (for they are ambitious of a Christian Name,) and forthwith desire without farther Information, that he would Baptize him: But the said Lord Alphonsus was deceitfully overperswaded to go on board of them with his Wife and about Seventeen more, pretending that they would give hime a Collation; which the Prince and they did, for he was confident, that the Religious would by no means suffer himo be abus'd, for he had no so much Confidence in the Spaniards; but as soon as they were upon Deck, the perfidious Rogues, set Sail for Hispaniola, where they were sold as Slaves. The whole Country being extreamly discompos'd, and understanding that their Prince and Princess were violently carried away, addressed themselves to these Religioso's, who were in great danger of losing their Lives: But they being made to understand this unjust Action, were extraordinarily afflicted, and 'tis probable would have suffered Death, rather than permit the Indians to be so injuriously dealt with, which might prove an Obstruction to their receiving of, and believing in God's Word. Yet the Indians were sedated by the promises of the Religious; for they told them, they would send Letters by the first Ship that was bound for Hispaniola, whereby they would procure the Restitution and Return of their Lord and his Retinue. It pleased God to send a Ship thither forthwith, to the greater confirming of the Governours Damnation, where in the Letters they sent to the Religious of Hispaniola, Letters containing repeated Exclamations and Protestations, and protest against such Actions, but those that received them denyed them Justice, for that they were partakers of that Prey, made of those Indians so injustly and impiously captivated. But when the Religious, who had engag'd to the Inhabitants, that their Lord Alphonsus should be restor'd within Four Moneths, and found that neither in Four, nor Eight Moneths he was return'd, they prepar'd themselves for Death, and to deliver up their Life to Christ, to whom they had offer'd it before their departure from Spain: Thus the Innocent Indians were revenged on the Innocent Priests; for they were of Opinion, that the Religious had a hand in the Plot, partly, because they found their Promises that their Lord should return within Four Moneths, ineffectual, and partly because the Inhabitants made no difference between a Religious Frier and a Spanish Rogue. At another time it fell out likewise, through the Rampant Tyrrany and Cruel Deeds of evil-minded Christians, that the Indians put to Death two Dominican Friers, of which I am a faithful Witness, escaping my self, not without a very great Miracle, which Transaction I resolve silently to pass over, lest I should terrifie the Reader with the Horror of the Fact.

In these Provinces, there was a City seated on the Bay of Codera, whose Lord was call'd Higueroto, a Name, either proper to Persons or common to the Rulers of that Place. A Cacic of such signal Clemency, and his Subjects of such noted Vertue, that the Spaniards who came thither, were extraordinarily welcom, furnished with Provisions, enjoying Peace and Comfort, and no Refreshment wanting: But a perfidious Wretch got many of them on board, and sold them to the Islanders of St. John. At the same time I landed upon that Island, where I obtained a sight of this Tyrant, and heard the Relation of his Actions. He utterly destroy'd that Land, which the rest of the Spaniards took very unkindly at his Hands, who frequently playd the Pirate, and rob'd on that shore, detesting it as a wicked thing, because they had lost that place, where they use to be treated with as great Hospitality and Freedom, as if they had been under their own Roof: Nay they transported from this place, among them, to the Isles of Hispaniola and St. John Two Millions of Men and upward, and made the Coast a Desert.

It is most certainly true, that they never ship off a Vessel freighted with Indians, but they pay a third part as Tribute to the Sea, besides those who are slaughter'd, when found in their own Houses. Now the Soarce and Original of all this is the ends they have propos'd to themselves. For there is a necessity of taking with them a great number of Indians, that they may gain a great sum of Mony by their Sale, now the Ships are very slenderly furnished with Provisions and Water in small Quantity, to satisfie few, left the Tyrants, who are term'd Owners or Proprietors of Ships should be at too great expence in Victualling their Vessels, nay they scarce carry Food enough with them to maintain the Spaniards that manage the Vessel, which is the reason so many Indians dye with Hunger and Thirst, and of necessity they must be thrown over-board: Nay one of them told me this for a Truth, that there being such a Multitude of Men thus destroy'd, a Ship may sail from the Isle of Lucaya to Hispaniola, which is a Voyage of Twenty Leagues and upward, without Chart or Compass, by the sole Direction or Observation of dead fluctuating Carkasses.

But afterward, when arriv'd, and driven up into the Isle whither they are brought to be sold, there is no Person that is in some small measure compassionate, but would be extreamly mov'd and discompos'd at the sight; viz. to spie old Men and Women, together with Naked Children half starv'd. Then they separate Parents from Children, Wives from their Husbands, about Ten or Twenty in a Company, and cast lots for them, that the Detestable Owners of the Ships may have their share; who prepare Two or Three Ships, and equip them as a Fleet of Pirates, going ashore ravaging and forcing Men out of their Houses, and then robbing them: But when the lot of any one of them falls upon a parcel, that hath an aged or diseased Man; the Tyrant, whose Allotment he is, usually bursts out, as followeth. Let this old Fellow be Damm'd, why do you bestow him upon me; must I, think you; be at the charge of his Burial? And this sickly Wretch, how comes he to be one of my alloted portion must I take care for his cure? Not I. Hence you may guess what estimate and value the Spaniards put upon Indians, and whether they practise and fulful that Divine and Heavenly precept injoyning mutual Love and Society.

There can be nothing more cruel and detestable then the Tyrannical usage of the Spaniards towards the Indians in their Pearl-Fishing; for the Torments undergone in the unnatural Exenteration and tearing out with Paracidal hands the richer bowels of our common Mother, or the inward cruciating racks of the most profligate, Heaven daring Desperado can admit of no comparison with these, although the extracting or digging for Gold is one of the sharpest subterranean Drudgeries, they plunge them down four or five ells deep under Water, where swimming about without breathing, they eradicate and pull up Oisters, wherein the Pearls are engendred. Sometimes they rise up to the superfities of the Water with Nets full of Oisters for respiration and Air, but if these miserable Creatures stay but a little more then is Ordinary to rest themselves the Hangman is immediately upon them in a Canow or small Boat, who beating them with many stripes drag them by the hair of the head under Water, that they may drudge again at their expilcation or Pearl Fishing. Their Food is Fish, and the same which contains the Pearls and Cassabus made of Roots with a few Mahids, the Bread of that Countrey; in the former there is little or no nutriment or substance, and the other is not made without great trouble, nor for all this have they a sufficient allowance thereof to support nature. Their Lodging or Bed is the Earth confined to a pair of Stocks, for fear that they should run away: And it frequently happens that they are drown'd with the toil of this kind of Fishing and never more seen, for the Tuberoms and Maroxi (certain Marine Monsters that devour a complete proportioned Man wholly at once) prey upon them under Water. You must consider withall, that it is impossible for the strongest constitution to continue long under Water without breathing, and they ordinarily dye through the extream rigor of the Cold, spitting Blood which is occasioned by the too great compression of the Breast, procreated by a continued holding breath under Water, for by too much cold a profluvium of blood follows. Their hair naturally black is changed into a combust, burnt or Sun-colour like that of the Sea Wolves, their shoulders and backs covered, or overspread with a saltish humor that they appear rather like Monsters in humane shape then Men.

They have destroy'd all the Lucayans by this intolerable or rather Diabolical exercise, for the accustomary emolument or gain of lucre, and by this means gain'd the value of fifty, sometime one hundred Crowns of every individual Indian. They sell them (though it is prohibited) publickly; for the Lucayans were excellent Swimmers, and several perished in this Isle that came from other Provinces.