A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 5

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Chapter V: Of the Isle of Cuba

In the Year of our Lord 1511. They passed over to Cuba, which contains as much ground in length as there is distance between Valledolid and Rome, well furnished with large and stately Provinces and very populous, against whom they proceeded with no more humanity and Clemency, or indeed to speak truth with greater Savageness and Brutality. Several memorable Transactions worthy observation, passed in this Island. A certain Cacic a potent Peer, named Hathney, who not long before fled Hispaniola to Cuba for Refuge from Death, or Captivity during Life; and understanding by certain Indians that the Spaniards intended to steer their course thither, made this Oration to all his People Assembled together.

You are not ignorant that there is a rumor spread abroad among us of the Spaniards Arrival, and are sensible by woeful experience how such and such (naming them) and Hayti (so they term Hispaniola in their own language) with their Inhabitants have been treated by them, that they design to visit us with equal intentions of committing such acts as they have hitherto been guilty of. But do you not know the cause and reason of their coming? We are altogether ignorant of it, they replied, but sufficiently satisfied that they are cruelly and wickedly inclined: Then thus, he said, they adore a certain Covetous Deity, whose cravings are not to be satisfied by a few moderate offerings, but they may answer his Adoration and Worship, demand many unreasonable things of us, and use their utmost endeavors to subjugate and afterwards murder us. Then taking up a Cask or Cabinet near at hand, full of Gold and Gems, he proceeded in this manner: This is the Spaniards God, and in honour of him if you think well of it, let us celebrate our Arcytos (which are certain kinds of Dances and caprings used among them); and by this means his Deity being appeas'd, he will impose his Commands on the Spaniards that they shall not for the future molest us; who all unanimously with one consent in a loud tone made this reply. Well said, Well said, and thus they continued skipping and dancing before this Cabinet, without the least intermission, till they were quite tired and grown weary: Then the Noble Hathney re-assuming his discourse, said, if we Worship this Deity, till ye be ravished from us, we shall be destroyed, therefore I judge it convenient, upon mature deliberation, that we cast it into the River, which advice was approved of by all without opposition, and the Cabinet thrown in to the next River.

When the Spaniards first touched this Island, this Cacic, who was thoroughly acquainted with them, did avoid and shun them as much as in him lay, and defended himself by force of Arms, wherever he met with them, but at length being taken he was burnt alive, for flying from so unjust and cruel a Nation, and endeavuoring to secure his Life against them, who only thirsted after the blood of himself and his own People. Now being bound to the post, in order of his Execution a certain Holy Monk of the Franciscan Order, discours'd with him concerning God and the Articles of our Faith, which he never heard of before, and which might be satisfactory and advantagious to him, considering the small time allow'd him by the Executioner, promising him Eternal Glory and Repose, if he truly believ'd them, or other wise Everlasting Torments. After that Hathney had been silently pensive sometime, he askt the Monk whether the Spaniards also were admitted into Heaven, and he answering that the Gates of Heaven were open to all that were Good and Godly, the Cacic replied without further consideration, that he would rather go to Hell then Heaven, for fear he should cohabit in the same Mansion with so Sanguinary and Bloody a Nation. And thus God and the Holy Catholick Faith are Praised and Reverenced by the Practices of the Spaniards in America.

Once it so hapned, that the Citizens of a Famous City, distant Ten Miles from the place where we then resided, came to meet us with a splendid Retinue, to render their Visit more Honourable, bringing with them delicious Viands, and such kind of Dainties, with as great a quantity of Fish as they could possibly procure, and distributing them among us; but behold on a sudden, some wicked Devil possessing the minds of the Spaniards, agitated them with great fury, that I being present, and without the least Pretence or Occasion offered, they cut off in cold Blood above Three Thousand Men, Women and Children promiscuously, such Inhumanities and Barbarisms were committed in my sight, as no Age can parallel.

Some time after I dispatch Messengers to all the Rulers of the Province of Havana, that they would by no means be terrified, or seek their refuge by absence and flight, but to meet us, and that I would engage (for they understood my Authority) that they should not receive the least of Injuries; for the whole Country was extremely afflicted at the Evils and Mischiefs already perpetrated, and this I did with the advice of their Captain. As soon as we approached the Province, Two and Twenty of their Noblemen came forth to meet us, whom the Captain contrary to his Faith given, would have expos'd to the Flames, alledging that it was expedient they should be put to Death, who were, at any time, capacitated to use any Stratagem against us, but with great difficulty and much adoe, I snatcht them out of the fire.

These Islanders of Cuba, being reduc'd to the same Vasselage and Misery as the Inhabitants of Hispaniola, seeing themselves perish and dy without any redress, fled to the Mountains for shelter, but other Desperado's, put a period to their days with a Halter, and the Husband, together with his Wife and Children, hanging himself, put an end to those Calamities.

By the ferocity of one Spanish Tyrant (whom I knew) above Two Hundred Indians hang'd themselves of their own accord; and a multitude of People perished by this kind of Death.

A certain Person here in the same Isle constituted to exercise a kind of Royal Power, hapned to have Three Hundred Indians fall to his share, of which in Three Months, through excessive labour, One Hundred and Sixty were destroy'd, insomuch that in a short space there remained but a tenth part alive, namely Thirty, but when the number was doubled, they all perisht at the same rate, and all that were bestow'd upon him lost their lives, till at length he paid his last Debt to Nature and the Devil.

In Three or Four Months time I being there present, Six Thousand Children and upward were murder'd, because they had lost their Parents who labour'd in the Mines; nay I was a Witness of many other stupendous Villanies.

But afterward they consulted how to persecute those that lay hid in the Mountains, who were miserably massacred, and consequently this Isle made desolate, which I saw not long after, and certainly it is a dreadful and depolorable sight to behold it thus unpeopled and laid waste, like a Desert.