A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. III.
Robert Kerr

Part 9 out of 10

Spaniards gave them meat and wine, and a few strings of beads; and the
Indians before going away, made them understand by signs, having no
interpreter, that they would return next day with more canoes to carry all
the Spaniards on shore. These Indians expressed great admiration at the
Spaniards, their ships, beards, arms, and every thing which they had not
seen before. They returned next day with twelve canoes, and their cacique
continually called out _conez cotoche_, that is Come to my house, for
which reason this place was called Cape _Cotoche_. After the Spaniards had
consulted together, they hoisted out their boats, and went on shore with
their arms, where a prodigious multitude of people waited to see them. The
cacique still pressed them to go to his house, and having received so many
tokens of peace and friendship, they resolved to comply, in order to take
a view of the country. On coming to a wood, the cacique called out to a
great number of armed men who lay in ambush; when there immediately
appeared a great number of men in armour of quilted cotton, with targets,
wooden swords edged with flints, large clubs, spears, bows and arrows, and
slings. These warriors had their faces painted of many colours, and were
all adorned with plumes of feathers. They gave a hideous shout, pouring in
at the same time such a shower of stones and arrows, that they wounded
fifteen Spaniards at the first onset; after which they fell on sword in
hand, and fought with great resolution. The Spaniards had only twenty-five
cross-bows and muskets, which were well plied; but when the Indians felt
the sharpness of the Spanish swords, they soon fled, having seventeen
killed and many wounded. Two youths were taken in this action, who
afterwards became Christians by the names of Julian and Melchior. The
Spaniards returned to their ships, well pleased at having discovered a
more civilized people than any which had been hitherto seen at Darien, or
in any of the islands; more especially as they had houses of stone and
lime, which had not till then been seen in the West Indies.

They held their course along the coast for fifteen days, always laying to
at night, when they came to a large town with a bay, which they believed
to be a river in which they might find water, of which they were now in
great need. They landed, and hearing the Indians call the place
_Quimpeche_, it ever afterwards was called _Campechy_. Being come to a
well of excellent water, of which the natives used to drink, and having
taken what they needed, they were about to return to the ships, when fifty
Indians clad in jackets and large cotton cloth cloaks came up, asking by
signs what they wanted, whether they came from the east, and finally
invited them to their town. When they had seriously considered this, and
put themselves into a good posture of defence, lest they should be
treacherously used as they had already been at Cotoche, they accompanied
the Indians to certain temples or places of worship, built of stone and
lime, where there were many idols of very ugly shapes, with fresh signs of
blood, and several painted crosses, at which last they were much amazed.
Great numbers of men, women, and children, flocked to look at them,
shewing signs of great amazement, though some of them smiled. Soon
afterwards, two parties of armed men appeared in good order, clothed and
armed like those they had seen at Cotoche. In the next place, ten men in
very long white mantles came from one of the temples, having their long
black hair twisted up in rolls behind. In their hands these men held
little earthen fire-pans, into which they cast gum _anime_, which they
call _copal_, with which they perfumed the Spaniards, ordering them to
depart from the country on pain of death. They then began to beat upon
small kettle drums, and to sound their horns, trumpets, and pipes. The
Spaniards, who were rather weak, as two of the men wounded at Cotoche had
died, and the rest were not yet quite recovered, thought it prudent to
retire to the shore, which they did in good order, followed by the armed
Indians, and embarked without any conflict. After sailing six days longer,
the wind came round to the north, blowing with such violence on the coast
that they thought to have been cast away. When the storm abated, they
endeavoured to approach the shore for water, as the casks had become leaky,
and soon ran out. They landed accordingly in a bay near an Indian town,
and about a league from the town of Pontonchan, and filled their casks at
a well near certain places of worship, which were built of stone and lime
like those they had seen formerly. When ready to return to the ships, they
perceived a party of armed men advancing towards them, who asked whether
they had come from where the sun rises? On being answered in the
affirmative, the Indians drew back to some houses not far off, and the
Spaniards, because night was coming on, resolved to remain on shore. A
great noise was heard soon afterwards among the Indians, and the Spaniards
became divided in opinion; some being clear for getting on board
immediately, while others thought it would be dangerous to retreat in the
dark, as there seemed 300 Indians to every one of their small party.

When day broke next morning, it appeared that the Indians had been joined
by many others during the night, and they all surrounded the Spaniards,
pouring in a great shower of arrows, stones, and darts, by which eighty of
the Spaniards were wounded at the first onset. After this they closed in
with the Christians, using their swords and spears; and though the
Spaniards were not idle with their fire-arms, cross-bows, and swords, the
Indians distressed them greatly. On experiencing the sharpness of the
Spanish swords, the Indians drew farther off, continuing to ply their
arrows with a good aim, crying out calachani! calachani! which in the
language of Yucutan, signifies cacique or captain, meaning that they
should aim especially at the commander Cordova. In this they succeeded, as
he received twelve arrow wounds, as he exposed himself foremost in every
encounter, when he ought rather to have directed his men than fought
personally. Finding himself sorely wounded, and that the courage of his
men was unable to overcome so great a multitude, which was continually
increasing, he made a furious onset, and broke through the Indians, who
still pursued the Spaniards on their way to the boats. On getting to the
boats, they had nearly sunk them all by the hurry of so many men crowding
to embark; but they at length put off from the shore, the Indians still
plying them with missile weapons, and many of them advancing into the
water to wound the Spaniards with their spears.

In this unfortunate rencontre, forty-seven Spaniards were killed, and many
wounded, five of whom died on board. The wounded men endured excruciating
pain while in the boats, in consequence of their wounds being wet with sea
water, which caused them to swell much. All the people cursed the pilot
Alaminos for bringing them to this place, who still persisted that this
country was an island. They called this place _Bahia de Mala Prelea_, or
the Bay of Evil Battle, on account of the misfortune they had here
encountered. On arriving at the ships, the Spaniards gave thanks to God
for their deliverance from danger; and being all wounded except one, they
came to the resolution of returning to Cuba, and set fire to one of their
ships which had become leaky, as they had not now able hands enough to
manage the sails of both, and to work the pumps. Being much distressed for
water, as they had been constrained to abandon their casks at Pontonchan,
some of the soundest of the men went on shore at a creek which they called
_De los Logartos_, on account of the numbers of alligators found there.
Finding no water here but what was brackish, Alaminos, and the other
pilots, recommended to stand over to the coast of Florida, where they
arrived in four days. Alaminos went on shore in search of water, with
twenty of the stoutest soldiers, armed with cross-bows and muskets, the
Captain Hernandez begging them to bring him some water as speedily as
possible, as he was perishing of thirst. On landing near a creek, Alaminos
said he knew the place, having been here before with Ponce de Leon, and
advised them to be on their guard against the natives, and they
accordingly posted centinels to give the alarm. They dug pits along an
open shore, where they found good water, with which they quenched their
thirst; and while employed in washing some linen for the wounded men, and
almost ready to reimbark, one of their centinels came running towards them,
calling out to put to sea without delay, as warlike Indians were coming
towards them. Soon after they saw many canoes with Indians coming down the
creek. The Indians were armed with long bows and arrows, and spears and
swords after their manner, and being large men clothed in deer skins, they
had a very formidable appearance. At the first discharge of their arrows,
the Indians wounded six of the Spaniards; but finding the effects of the
Spanish arms, they drew off again to their canoes, and seized the Spanish
boat. On this the Spaniards closed with them, being obliged to wade up to
their middles in the water, but succeeded in rescuing the boat and putting
the Indians to flight, Alaminos being wounded in the throat during the
fight. When the Indians retreated and the Spaniards were all ready to
embark, the centinel who gave the alarm was asked what had become of his
companion? He answered, that he had stepped aside towards the creek by
which the Indians came down, on purpose to cut down a palmito; and that
hearing him soon afterwards cry out, he had run away to give the alarm. A
party was sent in search of him, following the track of the Indians, who
found the palmito he had begun to cut down, and near it the grass was much
trodden down, which made them conclude he had been carried away alive, as
they could not find him after an hours search. That unfortunate soldier
was the only one who had escaped unwounded from Pontonchan.

The boat now returned to the ship with the water which they had procured;
and many of the people on board were so eager to drink, that one of the
soldiers leaped into the boat immediately on its getting along-side, and
drank so greedily that he swelled and died in two days after. Leaving this
place, they came in two days sail to the Martyres, where the greatest
depth of water is only two fathoms, interspersed with many rocks, on one
of which the ships touched and became very leaky. Yet it pleased God,
after so many sufferings, that they arrived at the port of _Carenas_, now
called the Havanna; whence Hernandez de Cordova sent an account of his
voyage to James Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, and died in ten days
after. Three of his soldiers died also at the Havanna, making fifty-six in
all lost during the expedition out of an hundred and ten men. The rest of
the soldiers dispersed themselves over the island of Cuba, and the ships
returned to the city of St Jago, by which the fame of this voyage spread
over the whole island.

[1] We shall afterwards have occasion to give an account of this and other
Spanish Expeditions of Discovery and Conquest, written by Bernal Diaz
del Castillo, who was actually engaged in all those which he


_Farther Discoveries on the Continent by Juan Grijalva, under the orders
of Velasquez, by which a way is opened to Mexico or New Spain_.

However unfortunate Cordova had been in his expedition, yet Velasquez
considered the intelligence he had transmitted concerning his discoveries
as of high importance, and he determined to pursue these discoveries on
the first opportunity, chiefly because the people among whom Hernandez had
been so roughly bandied seemed much more civilized than any Indians
hitherto met with, and consequently were likely to prove proportionally
richer. These sentiments were no sooner made public, than several of the
principal inhabitants of the island offered their assistance, so that he
was soon in a condition to send out a small squadron of three ships and a
brigantine, having 250 men on board. These were commanded by the captains
Alvaredo, Montejo, and de Avila, and under chief command of Juan Grijalva,
who was ordered by Velasquez to make what discoveries he could, but to
form no settlement. They sailed from Cuba on the 8th of May 1518; and
having visited the coast of Florida, they doubled Cape St Anthony, and
discovered the island of _Cozumel_, to which Grijalva gave the name of
Santa Cruz, because discovered on the day of the invention of the Holy
Cross, yet it has always retained its Indian name of Cozumel, by which it
is still known. Grijalva landed with a competent number of soldiers, yet
no person could be found; for the natives had fled on the first appearance
of the ships. While some went to look out for the inhabitants, Grijalva
caused mass to be celebrated on the shore. Two old men were found in a
field of maize, who were brought to Grijalva; and as Julian and Melchior
happened to understand their language, Grijalva made much of them, giving
them some beads and looking-glasses, and sent them away to their chief and
countrymen, in hopes of establishing an intercourse with the natives, but
they never returned. While waiting for them, there came a handsome young
woman, who told them in the language of Jamaica, that the people had all
fled into the woods for fear, but that she had come to them, being
acquainted with ships and Spaniards. Many of the people of the ships
understood her language, and were astonished how she could have come to
that island. She said that she had gone out to fish from the island of
Jamaica about two years before, in a canoe with ten men, and had been
driven by a storm and the currents to that island, where the natives had
sacrificed her husband and all the rest of her countrymen to their idols.
Grijalva, beleaving that this woman would be a faithful messenger, sent
her to persuade the natives to come out of the woods, being afraid if he
sent Julian and Melchior that they might not return. The woman came back
in two days, saying that she had done all she could to prevail on the
natives, but altogether without effect.

Finding that nothing could be accomplished at this place, Grijalva
embarked his men, taking the Jamaica woman along with him, as she begged
him not to leave her behind. In this island of Cozumel the Spaniards found
many hives of excellent honey; they found likewise considerable quantities
of batatas, and swine having navels on their backs[1], by which articles
of food they were much refreshed. They saw several temples, one of which
was in form of a square tower, wide at bottom, and hollow at the top,
having four large windows and galleries. In the hollow at the top, which
was the chapel, there were several idols, behind which was a sort of
vestry where the things used in the service of the temple were kept. At
the foot of the temple there was an inclosure of stone and lime well
plastered, having battlements; and in the middle of this was a cross of
white lime three yards high. This was held to be the god of rain, which
they affirmed they always procured on praying devoutly to this image.
While sailing along the coast of this island, the Spaniards were greatly
surprised to see large and beautiful buildings of stone, having several
high towers, which had a fine appearance from a distance. No such things
having ever been seen before in the West Indies, and likewise on account
of the cross which they had seen, Grijalva said they had discovered a NEW
SPAIN. Eight days after leaving Cozumel, they came to anchor off the town
of Pontonchan, and landed all the soldiers near some houses. The Indians,
vain of having driven Hernandez and his men from their country, drew up in
martial array to hinder the Spaniards from landing, shouting and making a
great noise with their trumpets and kettle-drums. Though some falconets
which were in the boats put the natives into great terror, having never
experienced any such before, yet they shot their arrows when the boats
came near, and cast darts and stones from their slings, running even into
the water to attack the Spaniards with their spears. But as soon as the
Spaniards landed, they compelled the natives to give way; for, being
taught by experience, the Spaniards now used the same sort of defensive
armour with the Indians, being stuffed with cotton, so that they received
less harm from the arrows than on former occasions; yet three of the
soldiers were killed, and sixty wounded: Grijalva, the commander, was shot
with three arrows, one of which broke several of his teeth.

On the boats returning from the ships with a reinforcement of soldiers,
the Indians quitted the field, and the Spaniards went to town, where they
dressed their wounded men, buried the dead, and found only three of the
natives. Grijalva used these men kindly, giving them some toys, and sent
them to recal the inhabitants, engaging not to hurt any of them; but they
never returned, and Grijalva did not venture to send Julian or Melchior,
as he suspected they might run away. Grijalva embarked again, and came to
a large wide gulf of fresh water, which resembled a river, which however
it was not. Alaminos the pilot alleged that the land in which this gulf
was situated was an island, and that the water parted it from another
country, on which account it was called _Boca de Terminos_, or the Mouth
of Boundaries. They landed here, and remained three days, and found that
it was no island, but a bay forming a good harbour. There were temples,
having idols of clay and wood, representing men, women, and serpents; but
no town could be seen, and it was conjectured that these served as chapels
for people who went a-hunting. During the three days that the Spaniards
remained here, they took several deer and rabbits by means of a greyhound
bitch they had with them; but they negligently left her at this place.
Going on their voyage from hence, and always laying to or coming to anchor
at night, to avoid falling in with rocks or shoals, they discovered the
mouth of a very large river, which promised to be a good harbour; but, on
sounding it, they found that it had water enough for the two smaller ships
only. The boats went up the river with great caution, as they saw many
armed men in canoes along shore, resembling those of Pontonchan. This
river was named _Tabasco_, from the cacique of a neighbouring town; but
the Spaniards called it Rio de Grijalva, from the name of their commander.
As the boats advanced they heard a noise made by the Indians who were
felling trees, as, having heard of what had happened at Pontonchan, they
concluded the Spaniards meant to make war upon them.

The Spaniards landed at a grove of palms about half a mile from the town,
and the Indians came towards them with about fifty canoes full of armed
men in a warlike posture, all finely decorated with feathers. When all
were ready on both sides to begin an engagement, Grijalva sent Julian and
Melchior to speak with the natives. These interpreters told them that the
Spaniards were come to treat about some affairs that would please them,
and did not intend to go war, unless forced in their own defence. On this
four canoes drew near, and being shewn certain strings of glass beads,
which they mistook for a sort of stones called _chalcibites_, much valued
among them, they were pacified. Then Grijalva ordered the interpreters to
say, That he and his men were subjects of a great king, to whom mighty
princes were under obedience, and it was both reasonable and for their
advantage that they too should submit themselves to his authority; and
desired them, until these things could be explained more fully, to supply
him and his men with provisions. The Indians answered, That they would
give provisions, but saw no reason why, having a lord of their own, they
should submit to any other. They likewise warned the Spaniards to beware
of making war against them, as they had done at Pontonchan; for they had
provided three _xiquiples_ of armed men against them, each xiquiple being
8,000. That they already knew the Spaniards had killed and wounded above
200 of the people of Pontonchan; but that they were not so few and weak as
the people of that place, and had been deputed to know their intentions,
of which they would make a true report to a numerous assembly of wise men,
who were waiting to determine on peace or war, according to their answer.
Grijalva gave them several strings of beads, looking-glasses, and other
such trifles, and charged them to bring him an answer without delay, as
otherwise he would be obliged to go to their town, but not to do any harm.
He then returned to the ships, and the messengers delivered their message
to all the chief men of the tribe who were wont to be consulted on great
affairs, who determined that peace were better than war. They immediately
sent, therefore, a number of Indians to the ships, loaded with roasted
fish, hens, several sorts of fruit, and the bread of the country, all of
which they placed on mats on the ground in a very orderly manner, laying
beside them a handsome mask of wood, and several pieces of very beautiful
feather-work; and one of the Indians said that the lord of the town would
come next day to visit the Spaniards.

Next day, accordingly, the cacique went on board Grijalvas ship without
jealousy, attended by many people all unarmed. On perceiving their
approach, Grijalva dressed himself in a loose coat of crimson velvet and a
cap of the same, with suitable ornaments; and being a handsome man of
twenty-eight years of age, made a fine appearance. The cacique was
received on board with much respect, and sitting down with Grijalva, some
discourse took place between them, of which both understood very little,
as it was mostly carried on by signs, and by means of a few words which
Melchior and Julian were able to interpret. After some time, the cacique
ordered one of his attendants to take from a _petaca_, or a kind of trunk,
the presents which he had brought for the Spaniards. The Indian
accordingly took out certain plates of gold, and thin boards covered with
gold, in the nature of armour, which fitted Grijalva as perfectly as if
they had been made on purpose; and the cacique put them on him himself,
changing any that did not fit for others, till at length Grijalva was
fitted with a complete suit of golden armour. The cacique also presented
him with various works of gold and feathers, which are much valued among
these people; and it was wonderful how splendid Grijalva appeared in all
these fine ornaments, for which he made every sign of gratitude to the
cacique. He called for a shirt of fine linen, which with his own hands he
put upon the cacique; then took off his coat of crimson velvet, with which
he clothed him, and put a pair of new shoes on his feet, and gave him some
of the finest strings of beads and looking-glasses, with scissars, knives,
and several articles of tin; and distributed many such among the caciques
attendants. What the cacique had given to Grijalva was computed to be
worth 3000 pieces of eight; among which was a wooden helmet covered with
thin plates of gold, and three or four masks, some of which were studded
with a sort of stones resembling emeralds. The sight of all these things
made the Spaniards eager to settle in a country which produced so much
wealth. Grijalva, after receiving this great present at Tabasco, was
sensible that the Indians were not willing he should prolong his stay; and
on asking for more gold, the Indians answered _Culua_, _culua_.

He now proceeded farther along the coast, and in two days came to a town
called _Aqualunco_, which the Spaniards called _la Rambla_. The
inhabitants of this place were seen at a distance, armed with targets of
tortoiseshell, which glittered so in the sun that the Spaniards believed
they had been of pale gold. They discovered a bay into which the river
Tonala discharges itself, which they visited on their return, and called
it the river of St Anthony. At some distance farther on they saw the great
river of _Guazacoallo_, which they could not enter on account of bad
weather. After this they had a view of the _Snowy Islands_[2] of New Spain,
which the soldiers named St Martin. Holding on their course, Alvaredo,
having the headmost ship, entered a river called _Papaloava_, but which
the Spaniards named Alvaredos river. Here the natives of a town, called
_Tavotulpale_ brought fish, and the other ships waited till Alvaredo came
out. Beyond this they came to the mouth of another river, which they named
Rio de las Banderas, or Flag-river, because the Indians waved large white
cloths on long poles, like colours, as if inviting the Spaniards to land.
The country, on the coast of which the Spaniards now were, was a province
of the great empire of Mexico, over which Montezuma then reigned, a prince
of great wisdom and penetration, who had heard of the exploits of the
Spaniards, and the pains they took to become acquainted with the sea
coasts of his dominions. He was uneasy on this account, and was anxious to
learn who and what these people were, and wherefore they took so much
pains to examine the state of countries which did not belong to them. For
this purpose, he had given directions to the governors of these maritime
provinces, to take every opportunity of trading with these strangers, and
to send him an account of their motions from time to time, that he might
be able to come to some distinct notion respecting them and their
intentions. Seeing themselves thus invited on shore, Grijalva ordered two
boats to land under the charge of Captain Montejo, having all the
musketeers belonging to the armament and twenty other soldiers; with
orders, in case the Indians appeared in a warlike posture, that he should
give notice by signal, that succours might be sent him. As soon as Montejo
landed, the Indians presented him with fowls, bread, and fruit, and
perfumed him and his men by burning copal in fire-pans. Julian was not
able to understand the language of these people, which was Mexican, and
Montejo sent advice to Grijalva of the friendly behaviour of the Indians,
on which he brought his ships to anchor, and landed himself. He was
received with great respect by the Mexican governor and other men of note,
to whom he presented some glass beads and necklaces of several colours.
The governor ordered the Indians to bring gold to barter with the
Spaniards, and in the course of six days stay at this place, they got to
the value of 15,000 pieces of eight in gold baubles and toys of various
shapes. Hitherto all things had succeeded so as to do great credit to
Grijalva and his companions, yet nothing had been done to satisfy the high
expectation which had been formed in Cuba of this expedition. This
prompted Grijalva to lose as little time as possible in proceeding to
explore the country; and, having presented the cacique with such things as
he had to give, he took formal possession of the country for the king, and
for James Velasquez in the king's name, and embarked to go elsewhere,
because the north winds blew upon the land, and rendered his farther stay
unsafe. Proceeding on the voyage, he found an island near the continent
having whitish sands, which therefore he called _Isla Blancha_, or the
White Island, and not far off another, four leagues from the continent,
which he called _Isla Verde_, or the Green Island. Farther on they came to
another, a league and a half from the land, and there being a good
road-stead opposite, Grijalva brought the ships to anchor, and went on
shore in his boat at a place where some smoke was seen. He there found two
houses well built with stone and lime, having many steps which led up to
altars, on which there were idols; and they perceived that five men had
been sacrificed there that night, their breasts being ripped open, their
legs and thighs cut off, and the walls all bloody. This sight greatly
astonished the Christians, who called this place the Island of Sacrifices.
They landed afterwards on the coast opposite that island, making
themselves huts of boughs covered with sails, to which some natives
resorted to barter gold in small figures; but the natives being shy, and
the gold in small quantity, the Spaniards removed to another island only
half a league from the coast. Landing on the shore, they built barracks on
the highest part of the strand, to avoid the plague of mosquitos or gnats;
and having sounded the harbour, they found sufficient water for the ships,
which were sheltered from the north wind by the small island. Grijalva
went over to the small island with thirty soldiers in two boats, where he
found an idol temple and four priests clad in very long black mantles with
hoods. That very day they had sacrificed two boys, whom they found ripped
open and their hearts taken out, which moved the Spaniards to compassion.
Grijalva asked an Indian who had come with him from the Rio de Banderas,
who seemed a good rational person, what was the reason of this barbarous
practice, to which he answered, that the people of _Ulua_ would have it so.
On this account, and because Grijalvas name was Juan, this island has
always been called since _St Juan de Ulua_, to distinguish it from St Juan
de Puerto Rico. Grijalva staid here seven days, bartering for some small
quantity of gold. At length, the people being quite tired of the trouble
they received from prodigious swarms of gnats, and being quite certain the
country they had visited was the continent, having many large towns, which
justified the name of New Spain which they had given it; the cazibi bread
they had on board becoming mouldy, and the men being too few to settle a
colony in so populous a country, ten having died of their wounds, and many
of the rest being sick; it was judged proper to return to Cuba to give an
account to Velasquez of all their proceedings and discoveries, more
especially as he had expressly prohibited the making of any settlement,
that he might hereafter send a greater number for that purpose if he
judged right. Yet Grijalva was much inclined to remain and build a town,
and made choice of Alvaredo to carry a message to that effect to Velasquez,
sending by him all the gold and other curiosities which had been procured,
and all the sick.

After the departure of Grijalva from Cuba, Velasquez became very anxious
about his ships, which were navigating upon an unknown coast, and sent
therefore Christopher de Olido, a commander of good character, in a ship
with seventy soldiers, to endeavour to procure intelligence. While Olido
was at anchor on the coast of Yucutan, there arose so violent a storm that
he was forced to cut his cables, and run back to St Jago. Much about this
time Alvaredo arrived with the gold, cotton cloth, and other things from
Grijalva, and a relation of all that had been done during the expedition.
This was very satisfactory to Velasquez, who conceived great hopes of
brilliant consequences from the discoveries, and the news spread about the
island of Cuba, to the great astonishment and admiration of all men.
Velasquez was a severe master to those who served him, over credulous, and
easily provoked by misrepresentations. And Alvaredo having been of opinion
for settling a colony in New Spain, represented the affair to him in any
way he thought proper, and gave him very bad impressions of the man who
had served him so very successfully and faithfully, with such strict
regard to the orders he had given. Leaving this for the present, we
proceed to give an account of the farther operations of Grijalva in
obtaining a clear account of this part of the continent he was sent to

Soon after Alvaredo set out for Cuba, by the advice of his captains and
pilots, Grijalva continued his exploration of the coast, which he sailed
along in sight of the mountains of _Tuspa_, so named from a town in that
neighbourhood. Proceeding onwards to the province of Panuco, they saw
several towns on the shore, and a river which they named _Decancas_. While
they lay here at anchor rather off their guard, ten canoes full of armed
men came towards the ship commanded by Alonzo de Avila, and poured in a
flight of arrows, by which five men were wounded, and then attempted to
cut the cables, that they might carry off the ship, and even succeeded so
far as to cut one of the cables. The men on board de Avilas ship behaved
themselves well, and overset two of the canoes, yet required the aid of
fire-arms from the other ships before they could drive away the Indians.
At last, many of the Indians being wounded, they desisted from their rash
enterprise, and made for the land. From this place the Spaniards sailed
along the coast till they came to a large point of land which they found
very difficult to double, and the pilot Alaminos represented that it was
very inconvenient to proceed any farther in that direction. The captains
and pilots now consulted as to what was best to be done, some of whom were
for returning along the coast in search of a proper place in which to
settle a colony. Montejo and Avila differed from this opinion,
representing that winter was approaching, that provisions were growing
scarce, and one of the ships very leaky; for all which reasons it was
advisable to return to Cuba; the more especially because the natives of
this coast were numerous and warlike, and the Spaniards were so much
fatigued by having been so long at sea, that they were not able to
maintain their ground. Added to this, Grijalva considered that his
instructions were positive not to attempt any settlement; and this being
backed by the opinion of his captains, Montejo and Avila, he determined to
return. Tacking about, therefore, he came back to the great river of
_Guazacoallo_, but could not enter it on account of bad weather. They
proceeded thence to the river of Tonala, which they had named St Anthony,
where they careened their leaky ship. While here, many Indians came to
them from the town, which was a league off, bringing fowls, bread, and
other provisions, which they bartered for Spanish toys; and the news
having spread over the country, others came from Guazacoallo, and other
neighbouring towns, bringing provisions, small gold plates, and very
bright copper axes with painted handles. Thinking these axes had been pale
gold, the Spaniards purchased six hundred of them, and the natives would
willingly have sold them more.

While at this place, one Bartholomew Prado went to a temple which stood in
the fields, whence he brought some of the perfume used by the Indians,
named _copal_, or, as some call it, _gum anime_. He also brought away the
knives of flint, with which the priests sacrifice men to their false gods,
by ripping them open, and some idols. He delivered all these things to
Grijalva, having first taken off the ear-rings, pendants, plates, and
crowns of gold with which the idols were adorned, worth about ninety
pieces of eight, which he endeavoured to conceal; but not being able to
dissemble his joy for the booty he had obtained, Grijalva had notice of it;
yet, being of a generous temper, he restored all to Prado, reserving only
the fifth for the king. When they had refitted their ship, they sailed in
forty-five days to Cuba, with gold to the value of 4000 pieces of eight,
besides what Alvaredo had carried. When they came to pay the fifth for the
copper axes, which they had bought for gold, they were much confused on
finding them rusty. They put into the harbour of Matancas, where Grijalva
found a letter from Velasquez, ordering him to tell the soldiers that
another fleet was fitting out for returning to make a settlement in New
Spain, and that those who chose to go back should remain at some farms
belonging to the governor in that neighbourhood. Grijalva himself was
ordered to come with all speed with the ships to Santiago, where the new
fleet was fitting out. On appearing before Velasquez, he had no thanks for
all the trouble he had been at, and was even abused for not having made a
settlement, though he had acted exactly according to his instructions.
This was a capital blunder in Velasquez, as he seemed resolved to find a
person fitted both for making discoveries and of betraying him by setting
up for himself. One would have imagined that a man of so much good sense
as Velasquez certainly had, would have had the judgment to retain in his
employment a person so fit for his purpose as Grijalva had proved; and the
very thing for which he disgraced him ought assuredly to have preserved
him from that fate, since only by a scrupulous regard to his instructions
had he refrained, after such valuable discoveries, from pursuing that line
of conduct by which he was most likely to have established his fortune and
independence. But Velasquez, like many other men of excellent abilities,
often preferred the opinions of others to his own, thereby losing the
opportunities which his superior talents afforded. Yet it is highly
probable that this very error contributed more to the important conquests
which were afterwards made by the Spaniards, than the wisest measures he
could have taken.

[1] The Sue Tajassu of Naturalists, or the Pecary. This singular species
of the hog tribe, has an open glandular orifice in the hinder part of
the back, which discharges an unctuous foetid liquor, which must be
cut out immediately after the death of the animal, otherwise the whole
carcase is soon tainted with an intolerable odour.--E.

[2] This is probably an error for the _Sierra Nevada_, or Snowy

* * * * *




Although the present chapter may not, at first sight, appear
strictly conformable to the plan of this work, which professes to be a
Collection of Voyages and Travels, it is, notwithstanding, very intimately
connected with our plan, as every step of the conquerors, from their first
landing on the coast of the Mexican empire, to the final completion of the
conquest and reduction of the numerous dependent provinces, must be
considered as discoveries of kingdoms, provinces, and people before
utterly unknown. In our endeavours to convey a clear view of this
important event to our readers, we have preferred the original narrative
of Bernal Diaz, one of the companions of Cortes, who accompanied him
during the whole of his memorable and arduous enterprise, _an eye-witness
of every thing which he relates, and whose history, notwithstanding the
coarseness of its style, has been always much esteemed for the simplicity_
and sincerity of the author, everywhere discoverable_[1]. Those who are
desirous of critically investigating the subject, as a matter of history,
will find abundant information in the History of Mexico by Clavigero, and
in Robertson's History of America. In our edition of the present article
we have largely availed ourselves of _The true History of the Conquest of
Mexico by Bernal Diaz_, translated by Maurice Keating, Esq. and published
in 1800; but which we have not servilely copied on the present occasion.
This history is often rather minute on trivial circumstances, and somewhat
tedious in its reprehensions of a work on the same subject by Francisco
Lopez de Gomara; but as an original document, very little freedom has been
assumed in lopping these redundancies. The whole has been carefully
collated with the history of the same subject by Clavigero, and with the
recent interesting work of Humbolt, so as to ascertain the proper
orthography of the Mexican names of persons, places, and things, and to
illustrate or correct circumstances and accounts of events, wherever that
seemed necessary. Diaz commences his work with his own embarkation from
Spain in 1514, and gives an account of the two previous expeditions of
Hernandez de Cordova, and Juan de Grijalva, to the coast of New Spain,
both already given in the preceding chapter, but which it would have been
improper to have expunged in this edition of the original work of Diaz.

[Illustration: Sketch of Mexico and its Environs]

[1] Clavigero, History of Mexico, translated by C. Cullen, I. xiii.


I, BERNAL DIAZ DEL CASTILLO, regidor of the loyal city of Guatemala,
while composing this most true history of the conquest of Mexico, happened
to see a work by Francisco Lopez de Gomara on the same subject, the
elegance of which made me ashamed of the vulgarity of my own, and caused
me to throw away my pen in despair. After having read it, however, I found
it full of misrepresentations of the events, having exaggerated the number
of natives which we killed in the different battles, in a manner so
extraordinary as to be altogether unworthy of credit. Our force seldom
much exceeded four hundred men, and even if we had found the multitudes he
speaks of bound hand and foot, we had not been able to put so many to
death. In fact we were often greatly at a loss to protect ourselves, and
were daily reduced to pray to God for deliverance from the many perils
which environed us on every side. Alaric and Atilla, those great
conquerors, did not slay such numbers of their enemies as Gomara pretends
we did in New Spain. He alleges that we burned many cities and temples,
forgetting that any of us, the true conquerors, were still alive to
contradict his assertions. He often magnifies the merit of one officer at
the expence of another, and even speaks of the exploits of some captains
who were not engaged in the expedition. He pretends that Cortes gave
secret orders for the destruction of our ships; whereas this was done by
the common consent of us all, that we might add the seamen to our small
military force. He most unjustly depreciates the character of Juan de
Grijalva, who was a very valiant commander. He omits the discovery of
Yucutan by Hernandez de Cordova. He erroneously supposes Garay to have
been actually in the expedition which he fitted out. His account of the
defeat of Narvaez is sufficiently accurate; but that which he gives of the
war of Tlascala is exceedingly erroneous. He treats the war in Mexico as a
matter of little importance, though we there lost above 870 of our
soldiers. He makes no mention of our loss during the memorable siege of
that city, but treats of it as of a festival or a marriage pageant.

It is needless to enlarge on his numerous errors in this place. I shall
therefore proceed to my own narrative, ever mindful that the beauty of
historical composition is _truth_, and shall carefully relate the conquest
of New Spain, recording the heroic services of us the true conquerors; who,
though few in number, gained this rich country to his majesty through many
dangers and infinite hardships, under the guidance of the brave and
adventurous captain, HERNANDO CORTES; using in my work such ornament and
embellishment of language as may seem proper to the occasion. For these
great services, his majesty has often issued orders that we should be
amply rewarded, but his orders have not hitherto been obeyed. My narrative
will afford sufficient materials for future historians to celebrate the
fame of our general, Cortes, and the merits of those brave conquerors by
whom this great and holy enterprise was achieved. This is not a history of
ancient nations, made up of vain reveries, and idle hearsays, but contains
a true relation of events of which I was an actor and an eye-witness.
Gomara received and wrote such accounts of these events as tended to
enhance the fame and merit of Cortes exclusively, neglecting to make
mention of our valiant captains and brave soldiers; and the whole tenor of
his work shews his partiality to that family, by which he is patronized.
By him also the doctor Illescas, and the bishop Paulus Jovius have been
misled in the works which they have published. But in the course of this
history, as a vigilant pilot proceeds cautiously among shoals and
quicksands by the help of the line, so I, in my progress to the haven of
truth, shall expose the errors and misrepresentations of Gomara: Yet if I
were to point out every error he has committed, the chaff would much
exceed the grain.

I have brought this history to a conclusion, in the loyal city of
Guatimala, the residence of the royal audience, this 26th of February 1572.


_Expedition of Hernandez de Cordova, in 1517_.

I left Castille in the year 1514, along with Pedro Arias de Avila, then
appointed to the government of Tierra Firma, and arrived with him at
Nombre de Dios. A pestilence raged in the colony at our arrival, of which
many of the soldiers died, and most of the survivors were invalids. De
Avila gave his daughter in marriage to a gentleman named Vasco Nunez de
Balboa, who had conquered that province; but becoming afterwards
suspicious that Balboa intended to revolt, he caused him to be beheaded.
As troubles were likely to take place in this colony, several of us who
were men of good families, asked permission from Avila to go over to Cuba,
which had been lately settled under the government of Diego Velasquez. He
readily granted this request, as he had brought more soldiers from Spain
than were needed in his province, which was already subdued. We went
accordingly to Cuba, where we were kindly received by Velasquez, who
promised to give us the first lands that fell vacant; but, after waiting
three years, reckoning from the time of leaving Spain, and no settlements
offering, an hundred and ten of us chose Francisco Hernandez de Cordova
for our captain, a wealthy gentleman of Cuba, and determined to go on a
voyage of discovery under his command. For this purpose, we bought two
vessels of considerable burthen, and procured a bark on credit from
Velasquez, who proposed as a condition, that we should make a descent on
the islands called _Los Guanages_, between Cuba and Honduras, to seize a
number of the inhabitants as slaves, in order by their sale to repay the
expence of the bark: But when this proposal was made known to the soldiers,
we unanimously refused, as it was unjust, and neither permitted by God nor
the king to make slaves of freemen. Velasquez assented to the justice of
our objections, and gave us all the assistance in his power in regard to
provisions. We accordingly laid in a store of hogs at three crowns each,
there being no oxen or sheep at that time in Cuba, and a quantity of
_cassava_ bread, as flour was not to be had for biscuits. With these sorry
provisions, and some trifling toys and ornaments to barter with the
Indians, we assembled at a port named _Agaruco_, on the north side of Cuba,
eight leagues from the town of St Christopher, the inhabitants of which
removed two years afterwards to the Havanna. Our chief pilot was Antonio
de Alaminos of Palos, and two others named Comacho de Triana, and Juan
Alvarez. We got also a priest, named Alonso Gonzales to go with the
expedition; and appointed a soldier named Bernardino Iniguez as _veedor_,
to take care of his majesties rights in case of procuring any gold during
the voyage.

Having provided ourselves in necessaries as well as we could, and
recommended ourselves to God and the Holy Virgin, we sailed from the port
of Agaruco on the 8th of February 1517. In twelve days we passed Cape St
Antonio in the land of a tribe of savages called _Guanatareyes_, after
which we sailed to the westwards at random, being entirely ignorant of the
shallows, currents, or prevailing, winds in these seas. We were in most
imminent danger during our voyage for two days and two nights in a violent
storm; but the wind subsided, and in twenty-one days after leaving Cuba,
we came to a coast which had never been before discovered. On nearing the
shore, we saw a large town about two leagues inland, which we named Grand
Cairo, as it exceeded any of the towns in Cuba. Our bark was sent forwards
to examine the coast. Five canoes came off to us on the morning of the 4th
March. These boats of the Indians resemble troughs, being hollowed out of
a single trunk of a tree, and many of them are large enough to contain
fifty men. We invited the people by signs to come on board, and above
thirty of them came aboard Cordovas ship without shewing the smallest
apprehension, where they were treated with such provisions as we had, and
each of them received a string of green glass beads. Having examined the
vessels with much admiration, they went to the shore, promising by signs
to return next day with a greater number of canoes, in order to bring us
all on shore. All these Indians had close cotton dresses, having a narrow
cloth round their waists, being more decent than the natives of Cuba,
where the women only use this piece of dress. Next day the same chief came
off with twelve large canoes, inviting our captain to go on shore,
repeating frequently _con-escotoch, con-escotoch_, which we understood to
mean, _come to our town_, and from this circumstance we named the place
_Punta de Cotoche_. We resolved to accept the invitation, but using the
precaution to go in a body at one embarkation, as we saw many Indians on
shore. We therefore hoisted out our own boats, and in them and the canoes
and our own small bark, we proceeded to the land. After landing, we halted
to consider what we should do, and as the cacique still urged us by signs
to accompany him, we marched on in good order, fifteen of our men being
armed with cross-bows and ten with muskets. As we were passing some thick
woods, the cacique suddenly called aloud to a body of Indians which he had
posted there in ambush, who immediately sallied out, pouring in a flight
of arrows, by which fifteen of our soldiers were wounded. These Indians
wore thick coats of quilted cotton, and besides their bows and arrows,
were armed with lances, shields, and slings, and had their heads
ornamented with feathers. After discharging their arrows they advanced to
attack us with their lances; but our sharp swords, and the repeated
discharges of our muskets and cross-bows, soon drove them to a distance,
leaving fifteen of their men dead on the field. We took likewise two
prisoners, who were afterwards baptized by the names of Julian and
Melchior, and became useful as interpreters. On our return to the shore,
we had the pleasure to find that Gonzales had taken care of the chests we
had brought to land with articles for barter, as he had taken them off to
the ships, with the assistance of two natives of Cuba. Near the place of
the engagement, there were three buildings of stone and lime, in which
were several idols of clay in strange unnatural postures, with diabolical
countenances, and several wooden chests containing smaller idols, some
vessels, three diadems, and several figures of birds and fish, all of
inferior gold.

Having reimbarked, we proceeded along shore as formerly, coasting to the
west. After fifteen days sailing with great caution along an unknown coast,
we got sight of a large town near an inlet or creek, which had the
appearance of being the mouth of a river. We named this place St Lazarus,
because discovered on the Sunday of that saint; and we determined to
attempt procuring water at this place, being in much want, as our casks
were bad, not having sufficient means to purchase proper vessels at Cuba.
As the ebb-tide left an extensive shallow, we left our two large ships a
league from shore, and went well armed in our bark and the boats, to a
place from which the town was supplied with water; as so far as we could
discover this country has no running streams. Just as we had filled our
casks, about fifty Indians, dressed in cotton mantles, came towards us,
who all appeared to be chiefs. They inquired by signs what we wanted; and
we answered in the same manner, that we came for water, and were now
returning to our ships. They then pointed to the eastwards, as if asking
if we came from thence, frequently repeating the word _Castillano_. After
this, they invited us to their town, to which we accordingly went, and
came to some large and well-constructed temples, built of stone and lime,
having the figures of idols and serpents painted on the walls. On entering
one of these temples, we could plainly perceive the traces of fresh spilt
blood on one of the altars. We saw likewise several strange idolatrous
figures and symbolical paintings, altogether impressing us with horror and
astonishment. All this while the natives behaved peaceably, but collected
in great numbers, apparently from curiosity, yet we stood upon our guard,
remembering how we had been treated at the former place. A body of the
natives made their appearance, in very ragged dresses, each of whom
carried a bundle of dry reeds, which they laid in a heap, and then retired.
Soon afterwards came two bodies of warriors, dressed and armed like those
at the former place, each headed by a chief or captain, who drew up at
some distance from us. Immediately after this, ten priests rushed out from
a neighbouring temple. These men wore loose robes of white cotton, having
their long hair clotted with blood, and all matted and twisted together.
They bore vessels in their hands containing fire and aromatics, with which
they fumigated us, and made us to understand by signs, that they would put
us to death if we did not quit their country before the fuel lying by us
was consumed, which they now kindled and retired. The warriors who were
drawn up opposite us, began to make a noise, beating their drums, sounding
their horns, and whistling with great violence. Seeing these threatening
preparations, we deemed it prudent to retreat to our boats, on board of
which our water-casks had been already embarked, and returning to our
ships we proceeded on our voyage.

We coasted along for six days, during which time we had a violent storm
from the north, by which we were in great danger of being driven on shore.
We suffered much also from want of water, owing to the insufficiency of
our casks, and were often obliged to go on shore to sink wells for our
daily supply. At the end of six days, we came opposite a town about a
league from the shore, to which we determined to go, and came to anchor
therefore as near as we could. The name of this town was _Pontonchon_, in
which we could see several buildings of stone and lime, and it appeared to
be surrounded with fields of maize. We landed, and having found a spring
of water, we immediately began to fill our casks. While busied in this
necessary employment, several large bodies of warriors approached us in
silence. These men had their bodies covered to their knees with defensive
armour of cotton; their faces were painted black, white, and red, and
their heads were ornamented with plumes of feathers. Besides bows, arrows,
and slings, they had shields and two-handed swords. These people addressed
us in the same manner with those of Campechy, pointing to the east, and
repeating _Castillano_, _Castillano_; to which we replied by signs that we
came from the east, yet were much at a loss to know the intention of this
inquiry, and whether to understand it favourable or otherwise. Meaning to
remain on shore for the night, we formed ourselves in a compact body, with
sentinels on every side, and consulted together as to our farther
proceedings. We heard at this time a great noise among the Indians, which
we suspected to threaten us with evil; and some of us proposed to embark,
which was considered as too dangerous in the face of the enemy, while
others were for making an immediate attack, on the old principle, that the
assailant usually conquers; but the odds against us was at least 300 to
one, and this council was rejected as too rash. Day at length broke, and
gave us a view of our danger. Great bodies of warriors were seen advancing
with their standards displayed to join those who had assembled on the
preceding evening, and we soon found that we must exert our utmost efforts
for our defence, putting our trust in the mercy of GOD to relieve us from
our dangerous situation. The Indians surrounding us on every side,
immediately attacked us hand to hand, and soon wounded ten of our men; but
the execution made by our swords and fire-arms made them draw off to some
distance, whence they plied their arrows to good effect. They continually
called out, _al calachioni_, _al calachioni_, which we understood to mean,
Aim at the captain, who was wounded by arrows in twelve different places.
I also had three wounds, one of which in my left side, was very dangerous,
and two of our men were carried off alive. Seeing all our exertions
ineffectual, as the enemy continually received reinforcements, and above
fifty of our number were already slain, Cordova gave orders to force our
way through the enemy, which we effected in a compact body, the enemy
keeping up a close pursuit, continually pouring in their arrows, and even
attacking us with their spears. We at last reached our boats, which sunk
in the hurry and pressure of our embarkation, and many of us had to
endeavour to reach the bark, which came as near as possible to receive us,
half wading and half swimming. In this last effort many of our soldiers
were wounded, and it was with the utmost difficulty that any of us escaped.
This disastrous action lasted half an hour, and on mustering our force
after we got back to the ships, we found we had lost fifty-seven men. Our
wounds soon became very painful, owing to the cold and the sea water, and
we cursed Alaminos and his discoveries, who still persisted that this land
was an island. We gave this bay the name of _de Mala Prelea_, or of the
unlucky fight. One soldier only of those who escaped was unwounded, most
of us having three or four wounds, and our captain twelve. Many of the
sailors likewise were disabled; for which reason we set the smallest
vessel on fire, distributing her crew to the others. Our greatest
misfortune was that we had been forced to leave our casks behind, so that
during the rest of the time we remained at sea we were reduced to
inexpressible distress for want of water, our lips and tongues becoming
full of cracks from intolerable thirst. Such are the cruel hardships
attendant on voyages of discovery.

After three days sail, observing a creek which we hoped might lead to
fresh water, fifteen sailors and three soldiers went on shore to examine
it; but the only water they could find was salt, and some which they got
from pits which they sunk on the shore was not drinkable even in our
distressed situation. This was called _Alligators Creek_, as it contained
a great number of these animals. The prevailing winds at this time were
from the north and north-east, which increased to a storm, in which we
were near perishing. When it subsided, we determined on returning to the
Havanna; but, by the advice of Alaminos, we made in the first place for
the coast of Florida, which by his charts, and the observations he had
made of our voyage, was 70 leagues distant. He was well acquainted with
this navigation, as he had been there ten or twelve years before[1] with
Juan Ponce de Leon, and steering across the gulf, we came to that country
in four days sail. Our first object was to obtain a supply of water; for
our captain was sinking daily under the distress of his wounds and
intolerable thirst, and we were all in much need of that indispensable
necessary of life. Twenty of us, among whom I was one, went on shore with
the casks as soon as possible, being warned by Alaminos to be on our guard
against a sudden attack from the natives, who had fallen upon him by
surprise when formerly on that coast. We accordingly posted a guard in an
open place near the shore, and set about digging some pits, in which we
had the satisfaction to find excellent water. We remained about an hour
washing our linens and bathing our wounds, which delay enabled the Indians
to attack us, one of our centinels giving us the alarm only a few moments
before they appeared. The Indians, who were tall, athletic men, dressed in
the skins of beasts, immediately let fly a shower of arrows, by which six
of us were wounded, and myself among the rest. We soon beat them off,
however, when they went to the assistance of another party who had come
round in some canoes, and were dragging away our boat, after wounding
Alaminos and four sailors. We followed them as quickly as possible, wading
up to our middles in the sea, and rescued the boat, after killing
twenty-two of the Indians, and making prisoners of three who were only
slightly wounded, yet died afterwards during our voyage to Cuba.

After the natives were driven away, we inquired of the soldier who gave us
the alarm of the enemy, what had become of his comrade? He reported, that
a short time before he came to us, his companion went to the water side to
cut down a palmito, and soon afterwards, hearing him cry out, being as he
supposed in the hands of the enemy, he ran towards us and gave the alarm.
The soldier thus amissing, named Berrio, was the only person who escaped
from Pontonchan unwounded. We went to seek for him, and found the palmito
he had begun to cut, around which the ground was much trodden, but no
trace of blood, from which we concluded he had been carried away alive.
Having sought him in vain for an hour, we returned on board with the water,
to the infinite joy of our companions, who were quite beside themselves on
its arrival. One man leapt into the boat immediately on its getting
along-side, and never ceased drinking till he died. We next proceeded to a
certain low island called _los Baxos de los Martyres_, where our
commanders ship struck on a sunken rock, and took in so much water that
she was near sinking; indeed we greatly feared that our utmost exertions
at the pump could not bring her into port. When two of our sailors, who
were from the Levant, were called upon to aid in pumping, they calmly
replied _facetelo vos_, or Do it yourselves, when we were almost exhausted
by fatigue, and the ship on the very point of going down. We compelled
them, however, to fall to, and by the blessing of GOD we got safe to the
harbour then called _Puerto de Carenas_, where the city of Havanna has
been since built. Our captain went immediately to his estate near _Spiritu
Santo_, where he died in ten days, and three soldiers died of their wounds
at the Havanna, and the rest dispersed to their different homes or

Immediately after our arrival, an express was sent to Velasquez the
governor of Cuba, informing him that we had discovered a country having
houses of stone and lime, where the inhabitants were decently clothed,
cultivating maize, and possessing gold; and the fame of our discovery was
soon spread through the island, by the soldiers and mariners who had
returned from the expedition. On producing the figures and idols which we
had brought over, it was believed that they had been brought to that
country by a _Jewish_ colony, flying after the destruction of Jerusalem by
Titus and Vespasian[2]. The name of _Yucutan_, which that country we
discovered acquired at this time, was occasioned by the following mistake.
_Yuca_ in the language of the country is the name of the plant used in the
islands for bread, there named _cazabi_, and _tale_ in the same language
signifies the heap of earth on which it is planted. When the two prisoners
whom we brought from thence were shewn this plant in Cuba, they
immediately recognized it, saying _Yucu-tal_, which was supposed to
signify their country, and has ever since been applied by the Spaniards to
that part of America, but pronounced _Yucutan_. They alleged likewise that
their country produced gold, or at least they were so understood, but this
has since been found not to be the case. All that we soldiers got by this
discovery, was to come back poor and wounded, and thankful that we had
saved our lives, having lost seventy out of our small number during the
expedition. Diego Velasquez wrote an account to his patron, the bishop of
Burgos, of all the particulars of this discovery, and the expences he had
incurred, by which he obtained fame and credit from his majesty; but
nothing was said in favour of us poor soldiers, who had expended our
property, and risked our lives in the expedition.

As soon as our wounds were healed, I and two other soldiers, desiring to
go to the town of Trinidad, agreed for our passage with an inhabitant of
the Havanna, who was going there in a canoe to sell a cargo of cotton, for
which he was to be paid ten crowns in gold. We accordingly embarked with
him, and after coasting along for eleven days, we were driven on shore in
a violent gale of wind, near an Indian town named _Canarreon_, the canoe
being dashed to pieces, while we reached the shore with much difficulty
naked, bruised, and wounded. We were forced to adopt the clothing of our
first parents, and tied sandals to our feet made of bark which we cut from
the trees with sharp stones, fixing them on by means of the tough flexible
roots of a plant called _bejucos_. Travelling in this sorry plight, we
came in two days to the village of _Yaguarrama_, where _Fray Bartholome de
las Casas_ was then parish priest, who was afterwards bishop of _Chiapa_.
I went next day to the town of _Chipiona_, belonging to Alonso de Avila,
where I got myself decently clothed at the house of a friend named
Antonio de Medina. I then continued my journey to St Jago, where the
governor, Velasquez, was preparing to fit out another expedition of
discovery. Being my relation, as well as governor, I went to wait upon him,
when he asked if I was willing to undertake another expedition to Yucutan.
I answered, that it ought rather to be called the land of wounds and
disasters. He replied, he knew that we suffered much in the last voyage,
but such was often the fate of those who sought fame and honour by new
discoveries, and that he would take care to inform the king of our
services, that we might be rewarded according to our merits. "And now,"
said he, "my son, if you will try your fortune once more, I will place you
in a station where you may reap honour."

[1] The present voyage of Cordova was in 1517: that of Ponce de Leon in
1512, only five years before.--E.

[2] Nothing can be more ridiculous than this fancy of the Americans being
descended from the Jews: Without stopping to controvert this absurd
opinion, it need only be noticed that the Jews, at least after their
return from captivity, have uniformly rejected the use of images, even
under the severest persecutions; except perhaps in Spain, where the
modern Jews are said to worship the Catholic idols with much apparent
devotion, to avoid the terrors of the Inquisition.--E.


_Expedition of Juan de Grijalva in 1518_.

Encouraged by the accounts of the new discoveries which had been made in
the last expedition, Velasquez fitted out a new armament of four ships;
two of which had been on the former voyage, and the other two he now
purchased. This expedition was to be commanded in chief by his relation
Juan de Grijalva, under whom Pedro de Alvarado, Francisco de Montejo, and
Alonso de Avila were captains, all persons of known bravery, and
proprietors of estates in these islands. For this equipment, each captain
provided sailors and provisions, and the governor furnished ships, arms,
and other necessaries. The accounts which had been circulated of the
riches of the country, especially from the information of Melchior the
native, soon collected a number of unprovided adventurers from the
different islands, so that 240 _companions_ speedily engaged for the
expedition, among whom I resolved to try my fortune once more. We each
deposited a certain stipulated sum, to provide various necessary articles
for the voyage, and for our use when in the field. The orders given on the
occasion by Velasquez to Grijalva were, to bring back as much gold and
silver as he could procure, and in regard to colonization or settlements,
he left him to act according to circumstances as he might think best. We
had the same pilots as on the former voyage, with a fourth, whose name I
do not remember; Penalosa was our _veedor_, and Juan Diaz our chaplain.
The port of Matanzas was chosen as the most convenient rendezvous, as the
colonists had many plantations and flocks of swine in that neighbourhood.

All our preparations being made, we set sail on the 5th of April 1518,
after hearing mass with great devotion, and in ten days doubled the point
of _Guaniguanico_, which the pilots call Cape St Antonio. In eight days
more we came in sight of the island of _Cozumel_, the currents forcing us
farther down than we had been in our former voyage. On sight of our ships,
the natives fled from a town on the island, but our people found two old
men concealed in a field of maize who were unable to follow the rest. Our
interpreters, Julianillo and Melchiorejo, whom we had made prisoners in
the former voyage, understood the language of these people, as the island
of Cozumel is only four leagues from their country. Grijalva treated these
people well, after which he gave them some presents and dismissed them,
being in hopes to induce the natives of the town to return. Some time
afterwards, an Indian woman of a good person and handsome countenance
joined us, who spoke the language of Jamaica, which is the same with that
spoken in Cuba. She told us that she had left Jamaica two years before in
a canoe, with her husband and nine other men, intending to fish at certain
islands; but the currents had driven them to this place, where the natives
sacrificed her husband and all her other companions. Expecting that this
woman might prevail on the natives to return to the town, Grijalva sent
her away for that purpose, allowing two days for her return, but she came
back next day, saying that none of them could be prevailed upon to come.
At this place, named _Santa Cruz_, we found a great deal of honey in hives,
several kinds of vegetables, such as boniatos and potatoes, and many hogs
of the country, having their navel on their backs. There are two smaller
towns on this island, which we did not visit, being unwilling to lose time.
Following the course of Cordova, we arrived in eight days at
_Champoton_[1], where we cast anchor a league from the shore, on account
of the water being very shoal at low ebbs. We disembarked with half of our
soldiers close to the town, and the natives remembering their former
success against us, attacked us immediately with much military parade.
From our former experience, we took care to be well prepared on this
occasion, and accordingly had our boats armed with falconets[2]. Half of
our men were wounded before we could reach the shore: But having formed on
the beach, and being reinforced by a second disembarkation, we soon
defeated them, on which they fled to the marshes; yet we lost three of our
men, our captain receiving three arrows, and having two of his teeth
knocked out. On entering the town after the defeat of the natives, we
found it entirely deserted, the inhabitants having likewise removed all
their effects. We took three prisoners, whom we endeavoured to reconcile
by kind usage, and sent them with a message to bring back their countrymen;
but they never returned, and we suspected our interpreters of dealing
treacherously so as to counteract our wishes. The field in which we fought
with these Indians was very stony, and swarmed prodigiously with locusts,
and these animals sprung up in such numbers during the action, striking us
in the face, that we hardly knew when to raise our shields in our defence,
or whether it was locusts or arrows which flew about us, they were so
mixed together.

After staying four days in _Champoton_, we pursued our voyage to what
appeared the entrance of a large river; but Alaminos insisted that it was
the termination of a large island, on which account this inlet was called
_Boca de Terminos_. Grijalva went on shore with several officers and a
party of soldiers, to examine the bay and the adjacent country, where they
found several temples containing idols of clay and wood, some like women,
and others like serpents. As the country was quite uninhabited, and we
found many horns of deer at the temples, it was concluded they had been
built for the accommodation of hunters, when they frequented this part of
the country, which abounded in deer and rabbits. We killed ten of the
former, and many rabbits, by means of a dog we had with us, which we left
behind us by accident when we reimbarked; but we found him afterwards on
the shore, fat and sleek, when we returned on the expedition with Cortes.
Continuing along the coast to the westwards from _Boca de Terminos_, we
arrived in three days at another inlet called the river of _Tabasco_, from
a cacique in the neighbourhood, but which we named Rio de Grijalva, in
honour of our captain. Finding this inlet shallow, we entered with the
vessels of lightest draught of water, in which and our boats we embarked
our whole force; as from seeing numbers of armed Indians in canoes, we
concluded there was a populous town or district hard by, especially as we
found nets with fish in the track by which we entered. On approaching the
shore, we heard the noise of felling trees, which we concluded to be
preparations for defence, and we learnt afterwards that the natives were
acquainted with our transactions at Pontonchan. We landed at a point about
half a league from the town, close by a grove of palm trees, to which
place the natives advanced against us in martial order in about fifty
canoes, all painted and prepared for battle. We fortunately addressed them
by means of our interpreters, declaring that our intentions were pacific,
and invited their chiefs to a conference. On this about thirty Indians
landed, who were presented with beads of coloured glass, and our captain
made the interpreters explain to them, that we came from a distant country,
being the servants of a great prince, to whom he advised them to become
subjects, and besides, that he expected they would give us a supply of
provisions in return for our beads. Two these men, one a priest and
another a chief, made answer that they would willingly barter with us and
give us provisions, but that they had a sovereign of their own, and
advised us not to repeat the unseasonable demand of submission to our
prince, lest they should attack us as had been done at Pontonchan, having
two _xiquipils_ of warriors of 8000 men each: Yet, though confident in
their superior force, they had come to treat with us amicably, and would
report our proposal to their chiefs, after which they would bring their
decision, and inform us whether it was to be peace or war between us.
Grijalva embraced them in token of peace, and gave them several strings of
beads, requesting them to bring a speedy answer, which they promised, and
soon did, assuring us in name of their chiefs, of peace and concord; in
token of which thirty Indians came soon afterwards, loaded with broiled
fish, fowls, fruit, bread made of maize, and vessels with lighted coals to
fumigate us with certain perfumes. They then spread a mat on the ground,
which they covered with a mantle, on which they laid some golden toys made
in form of birds and lizards, and three strings of gold beads, desiring us
to accept these presents in a friendly manner, being all the gold they
could collect, which did not exceed the value of 200 crowns. They added
that there was abundance of gold to be had farther west, repeating several
times _Mexico_ and _Culua_, words which we did not then understand. We
were well satisfied with this proof that the country produced gold; and we
hastened to quit our present anchorage, as a gale from the north was
likely to happen, and might have proved fatal to the expedition.

Two days sail from Tabasco, we arrived opposite to a town called
_Aguayaluco_, which we named _la Rambla_, where we observed many of the
inhabitants armed with shields of tortoise-shell, which the soldiers
believed to have been gold, from being polished and shining in the sun. We
came next to the mouth of the river Farole, which we named St Antonio.
Whence we continued our course by the mouth of the great river
_Coatzacualco_, observing a distant range of high mountains covered with
perpetual snow, and others nearer the sea, which we named the ridge of St
Martin, as being first noticed by a soldier of that name. At this time
Alvarado discovered a river called _Papaloapan_ by the natives, which was
afterwards called the river of Alvarado, into which he entered, and
procured some fish from the inhabitants of a town named _Tlacotalpan_.
Grijalva was much offended by the conduct of Alvarado on this occasion, as
we had to wait three days for his return; and gave pointed orders that no
ship should separate in future from the squadron without orders, lest any
unforeseen misfortune should happen that could not be remedied by
assistance from the rest. From thence, after the return of Alvarado, we
proceeded to a river which we named _Vanderas_, because some white banners
were waved by a number of Indians on the shore, as a signal of invitation
for us to land.

It is now universally known that the city of Mexico is as large as Venice,
and is built in like manner in the water, and also that it is the capital
of a large empire, containing many extensive provinces, then ruled over by
a powerful monarch named Montezuma[3], whose thirst for conquest led him
to extend the boundaries of the empire in every direction. Having received
intelligence of our first appearance on this coast under Cordova, and of
the battle at _Champoton_; that our force was very small, and that our
object was to procure gold in exchange for articles which we had along
with us, all of which circumstances had been faithfully communicated to
him by means of paintings transmitted to his residence by expresses; he
issued orders, on receiving notice of our second arrival on his coast, to
procure our green glass beads in exchange for gold, as they set great
value on these baubles, not knowing they were artificial; and he likewise
directed his officers to make minute inquiries as to our persons and
intentions. We have likewise been told that he was greatly influenced in
regard to us, by an old tradition or prophesy, by which it was said that
men were to come from the rising sun who were to acquire the dominion of
his country. It was in compliance with these orders, that the officers of
Montezuma were now on the coast, and had made signs inviting us to come on
shore. Induced by the signals, Grijalva sent a party to land, under the
charge of Montejo, the weather being unusually favourable for the purpose.
On landing, we found the governor of the province attended by many natives,
having with them a quantity of provisions, such as fowls, bread, pines,
sapotes, and other fruit. They were reclining on mats under the shade of
some trees, and made signs for us to sit down by them, and as on former
occasions, perfumed us with fragrant gums. On this occasion our whole
intercourse was by signs, as our interpreters from _Cotoche_ in Yucutan,
did not understand the Mexican language. Our friendly reception being
reported to Grijalva, he immediately landed with all the rest of the
soldiers, and on his rank being made known to the Indians, he was treated
with extraordinary respect, which he returned with much politeness,
ordering beads and cut glass to be distributed among them, and expressing
a desire to obtain gold in return. On this occasion he procured gold in
various articles of workmanship, to the value of 15,000 crowns. On this
occasion, also, he made a formal act of possession of these territories
for his majesty, under the governor of Cuba; and, having distributed some
European shirts among the principal natives, we all returned on board. We
were accompanied by one of the natives, who was baptized by the name of
Francisco, whom I saw settled and married at the town of Santa Fe, after
the conquest of Mexico.

After remaining six days at this place, we proceeded along the coast,
passing a low island about three leagues from the main which we named
_Isla blanca_, or the White Island. About a league and a half farther on,
we came to a larger island, where Grijalva landed with a party of soldiers.
On this island there were two well constructed buildings of stone and lime,
having each steps to ascend to the top, on each of which there was an
altar placed before certain hideous idols, where were also the bodies of
five miserable persons who had been sacrificed the night before, having
their hearts cut out, their limbs separated from their bodies, and their
blood sprinkled on the walls and altars. We named this _Isla de los
Sacrificios_, or Sacrifice Island. We landed on the coast opposite to this
island, where we built huts for ourselves and remained for some days,
expecting the natives to trade with us for gold. Many of them came to
visit us, but they brought very little of that metal, and seemed very shy
and timid, on which account we reimbarked and continued our voyage.

When we arrived at that part of the coast which is opposite the island of
_St Juan de Ulua_, where _Vera Cruz_ now stands, we lodged ourselves in
huts on the sand hills, having discovered good anchorage at this place,
defended from the north winds. Grijalva, with about thirty of us, went
over to examine the island, where we found a temple containing a large and
hideous image of a god called _Tezcatepuca_[4]. We found at this place
four Indian priests in long black mantles, like Dominicans, who had that
day sacrificed two boys, offering up their hearts to that accursed idol.
They offered to perfume us with their incense pots, but we were completely
disgusted at the horrible cruelty of their sacrifices, and rejected their
proferred compliment with horror. Our interpreter, who seemed a person of
intelligence, being questioned as to the reason of immolating these human
victims, said that it was done by order of the Indians of _Culva_ or
_Culchua_[5], by which he meant the Mexicans. As he pronounced the word
_Ulua_, we named the island _St Juan de Ulua_, which it still bears;
partly in compliment to Juan de Grijalva, and partly because this happened
to be St John's Day. We remained seven days at this place, terribly
distressed by mosquitos, during which time we procured an inconsiderable
quantity of gold from the natives. Being now quite satisfied that the land
we were on was part of the continent, our wounded men declining in their
health, our number being too small for attempting to establish a colony,
and our bread growing bad; it was determined to send Alvarado to Cuba for
a reinforcement, as Grijalva was exceedingly desirous of making a
settlement on the coast, always shewing himself a most valiant officer,
quite contrary to what might be supposed from the aspersions thrown upon
his character and conduct by Gomara. In consequence of this determination,
Alvarado was sent to Cuba with an account of all our proceedings, and in
the mean time we determined to extend our discoveries as far as possible.

From the time that our expedition left Cuba, Velasquez was always
exceeding anxious about our success, and at length became so uneasy that
he sent a vessel in search of us, commanded by a gallant officer named
Christopher de Oli; who, after sailing for some time in our track, had his
ship so much injured in a storm, that he was under the necessity of
returning to Cuba without being able to procure any intelligence
respecting us. This disappointment added greatly to the anxiety of
Velasquez, from which he was relieved by the arrival of Alvarado. The
display of gold which he produced astonished the governor and all who saw
it; and Alvarado was feasted and honoured above measure, as the bearer of
such agreeable tidings. The fame of the new and wealthy country which we
had discovered was soon spread abroad and blazoned among the islands, and
even reached to Castile.

After the departure of Alvarado, we continued our progress of discovery
along the coast, and passing the mountains of Tusta and Tuspa, we
approached the province of Panuco, which is full of populous towns three
or four leagues from the coast. Farther on, we arrived at the River of
Canoes, so named from the following incident. While at anchor off its
mouth, ten canoes full of Indians made a sudden attack on our smallest
ship, which Alonzo de Avila commanded, and cut her cable for the purpose
of carrying her off, although the people in that ship made a very gallant
defence. But on receiving assistance from the other ships, the enemy was
beat off with considerable loss. Proceeding farther along the coast, we
came to a very bold cape, which our pilot believed we were unable to
weather, on account of a violent adverse current. It was then determined
in a council of the officers to return to the island of Cuba, though
Grijalva earnestly wished to have established a colony in some eligible
situation of the coast which we had explored. But in this proposal he was
opposed by the majority, on account of the lateness of the season, the
scarcity of provisions, and the hardships we had already undergone. We
therefore began our voyage back to Cuba, in which we made rapid progress,
as we were much assisted by the current; but had to stop at the river
_Tonala_, on purpose to repair one of our ships, which struck the ground
three times in going over the bar at the mouth of that river. While we
remained here, the natives came to us in a very friendly manner, bringing
bread, fish, and fruit, for which we gave them beads and cut glass. On our
desire of procuring gold being made known in the neighbouring country, the
inhabitants of _Guacacualco_ and other places brought us all they had.

The Indians in this part of the country were all in use to carry small
hatchets of very bright copper, with highly painted handles, intended both
for ornament and defence. These were mistaken by us for gold, and we were
consequently eager to purchase them, so that in the course of three days
we procured about six hundred of them in exchange for green beads. One of
our seamen having procured seven of these, thought he had made his fortune.
While at this place, a soldier named Bartholomew Pardo, happened to go
into a temple on the top of a hill, where he found in a chest some
coronets and collars of gold, along with two idols. He secreted the gold
for his own use, but gave the idols to Grijalva; who afterwards learnt the
circumstances of the gold, which he ordered Pardo to surrender, but gave
it back to the poor man, only reserving the fifth for the king, the whole
not exceeding the value of eighty crowns. Being much infested with
mosquitos, I used to sleep while here in a temple to avoid these
intolerable insects, near which I sowed seven or eight seeds of oranges
which I had brought from Cuba. These happened to grow, and being noticed
as uncommon plants by the priests of this temple, they took care of them,
being the first that ever grew in New Spain. As after the conquest, this
province was understood to offer great advantages for settlements, many of
the principal conquerors chose it for their residence. I was one of the
number; and on my arrival, I went in search of the produce of my seeds,
and finding the young orange trees in a flourishing state, I had them
transplanted, and they throve amazingly well. After our ship was repaired,
we set sail for Cuba, leaving the natives very well satisfied with our
behaviour, and arrived safe in forty-five days. Velasquez was much pleased
with the gold, which amounted to the value of 20,000 crowns; but we were
much laughed at on producing our six hundred copper axes to be assayed. On
the whole, Velasquez was well satisfied with the conduct of this
expedition; though he appeared at first displeased with Grijalva, owing to
the unjust aspersions which were thrown upon him by Avila and Montejo.

After receiving a full account of our voyage, Velasquez sent over his
chaplain, Benito Martinez, to make a report of these discoveries to the
court of Spain, with letters for Fonseca bishop of Burgos his patron, and
to the licentiate Juan Zapata, and the secretary Lope Conchillos, both of
whom were employed in conducting the affairs of the West Indies. Velasquez
had secured a powerful interest with all these three, by assigning them
rich districts in the island of Cuba, thus forwarding his own advantage at
the expence of the crown. Martinez was instructed to solicit a commission,
authorizing Velasquez to procure gold from the new discovered country, or
to make conquests and settlements, as he might see fit; and in this he so
effectually succeeded, that he brought back a commission for Velasquez as
_adelantado_ of the island of Cuba, so well pleased was the court with his
conduct in regard to the discoveries, and the proofs which he had
transmitted of the wealth of those countries which he had discovered.

[1] This seems the place named Pontonchan in the former voyage.--E.

[2] These were probably swivel guns mounted on the bows of their boats.--E.

[3] According to Clavigero, I. 240, the proper name of this Mexican
sovereign was Moteuczoma.--E.

[4] Named Tezcatlipoca by Clavigero, and said to be the god of providence,
the soul of the world, and the creator of all things.--E.

[5] By Clavigero called _Acolhua_, the name given by all the distant
inhabitants of the empire to the people of the Vale of Mexico, or


_Commencement of the Expedition of Hernando Cortes for the Conquest of
Mexico, in 1518_.

Anxious to prosecute the advantages derivable from the discoveries made by
Grijalva, Velasquez used the utmost efforts in providing a new and more
powerful armament. For this purpose, he collected ten ships at the port of
St Jago, four of which had been on the former expedition, and supplied
them with such provisions as could be procured in that place, intending to
complete their equipment at the Havanna. Velasquez was greatly at a loss
in his choice of a commander for the new expedition, and several were
recommended to him for this purpose. Among these was Vasco Procalla, a
gentleman of high rank, and related to the Conde de Feria; but the
governor was afraid to trust a person of his bold character, lest he might
revolt, as had been already done by several dependent leaders of
expeditions. In this state of uncertainty, several relations of the
governor were talked of as candidates for the office, such as Augustin
Vermudez, Antonio Velasquez Borrego, and Bernardino Velasquez, but of
their chances, or the reasons of their rejection, we were not informed.
All the soldiers, however, were disposed to have Grijalva for their chief.
While matters were in this state of uncertainty, Andres de Duero, who was
secretary to the governor, and Amador de Lares, the royal _contador_ in
Cuba, entered into a private agreement with Hernando Cortes to recommend
him to Velasquez for the command of the intended expedition. Cortes was a
respectable gentleman of good birth, a native of Medelin in Estremadura,
the son of Martin Cortes de Monroy, by Catalina Pizarro de Altamirano, who
were both _hidalgos_ of the best families in the province, though poor,
and had acquired a considerable property in the island of Cuba, where he
had been twice raised to the office of alcalde. He had lately married
Donna Catalina Suarez de Pacheco, the daughter of Diego Suares de Pacheco
of Merida, by Maria de Mercaida of Biscay; through which marriage he had
experienced much trouble, having been frequently confined by order of
Velasquez. The two officers before mentioned, who enjoyed the intimate
confidence of the governor, made an agreement with Cortes to procure the
appointment for him, for which they were to receive an equal division of
the treasure procured from the expedition out of his share, as the
commission was intended to extend no farther than the procurement of gold
by barter, without any power of settlement or colonization. For this
purpose they took every opportunity of praising Cortes to Velasquez, and
vouching for his fidelity, so that they at length succeeded in procuring
the appointment for him; and as it belonged to the secretary to draw it
out in due form, we may be sure that its conditions were sufficiently

On this appointment being communicated to the public, it gave satisfaction
to some, but greatly displeased others, who used every endeavour to
communicate their dissatisfaction to the governor, particularly by the
following device: When the governor was going on a Sunday to mass,
accompanied by the most respectable people of the town and neighbourhood,
he placed Cortes on his right hand, on purpose to shew respect to the
person he had chosen for an expedition of such high importance. There was
at this time one Cervantes at St Jago, a kind of buffoon, generally called
mad Cervantes, who used to assume great liberty of speech under pretence
of idiocy. This man ran before the governor all the road to church,
shouting out many absurdities, saying among others, "Huzza for my master
Don Diego, who will soon lose his fleet, and huzza for his new captain;"
besides many similar expressions, all having a tendency to awaken
suspicion in Velasquez. Andrew de Duero, who was present, beat him and
ordered him to be silent, but he persisted so much the more, saying, "I
will dismiss my old master, and follow the fortune of Cortes." This man
was certainly hired by the relations of Velasquez, who wished the
appointment for some of themselves, that they might instil jealousy into
the mind of the governor, but all to no purpose; yet all that was now
uttered under the semblance of folly, turned out true in the end.

Immediately on receiving his commission, Cortes used the utmost activity
in preparing for the expedition; and though already much embarrassed with
debts, through his own extravagance and the expensive dress and
establishment of his wife, he procured the advance of 4000 crowns in money
and as much in goods, on the security of his estate, from Jeronymo Tria
and Pedro de Xeres, two merchants, who considered him as rising in the
world, and a favourite of fortune. He now dressed and appeared in greater
state than formerly, wearing a plume of feathers and a gold medal in his
cap, and erected a standard of velvet embroidered with gold before his
house, embellished with the royal arms and a cross, and with a Latin motto
to this effect: "_Brothers, follow the cross in faith; for under its
guidance we shall conquer_."

Though Benito Martinez had not yet returned from Castile with the royal
commission, it was proclaimed by sound of trumpet and beat of drum, that
all who entered for the present expedition should have their share in what
gold might be procured, and should have ample grants of land as soon as
the intended conquest was effected. In consequence of these promises, and
by the influence of Cortes, volunteers quickly offered themselves from
every quarter. So great was the enthusiasm to engage in the expedition,
that people were everywhere eager to sell their lands to enable them to
purchase horses and arms. In every quarter people were seen busy in
preparing quilted-cotton armour, making bread, and salting pork for sea
stores. Above 300 volunteers assembled at St Jago, among whom I was, and
several of the principal persons belonging to the family of the governor
entered into our fraternity; among these were Diego de Ordas, his first
major domo, who was employed as a spy on the actions of Cortes, of whom
Velasquez already entertained jealousy. The other companions of our
expedition from the household of the governor were F. de Morla, Escobar,
Heredia, Ruano, Escudero, and Ramos de Lares, besides many other adherents
of the governor.

Knowing that Cortes was much dissatisfied with Velasquez on account of
certain circumstances respecting his marriage, and greatly envying his
good fortune in being chosen to command the expedition, the relations of
Velasquez continued to exert their utmost efforts to get the commission
revoked. But Cortes, who was well aware of all their practices, continued
carefully to make his court to the governor, appearing entirely devoted to
his service. He was likewise informed by Duero that the governor began to
hesitate respecting his appointment, owing to the importunate
representations of his relations, and was advised to exert every possible
exertion in completing his preparations. He left in charge therefore, the
care of providing many things that were necessary for the expedition, to
his lady, with directions to have them forwarded; and having summoned all
the captains, masters, pilots, and soldiers to embark, he went to take his
leave of the governor, accompanied by his friends Duero and Lares. After a
long confidential conference, the governor and general parted with much
politeness, and the strongest assurances of mutual friendship. Next
morning the governor accompanied him to his ship, and we set sail
immediately for Trinidad, where we arrived in a few days. This place was
at that time inhabited by several opulent and respectable gentlemen, who
received us all with much hospitality, but were particularly attentive to
our general. He planted the royal standard in front of his quarters at
this town, and made a proclamation, inviting volunteers to join the
expedition, in consequence of which, several wealthy persons of
respectable families now joined, among whom were the Alvarados and Alonzo
de Avila. We were here joined also by Alonzo Hernandez de Portocarrero,
cousin to the Conde de Medelin, Juan Velasquez de Leon, a relation to the
governor, Rodrigo Rangel, Gonzalo Lopez de Ximena, and his brother Juan
Lopez. These gentlemen joined us in a body, and were received by a
discharge of artillery, and every mark of joy and respect, as due to their
rank and respectability. We procured a supply of provisions from the
estates of these volunteers, and the number of our companions increased
daily, but horses were scarce and dear. Cortes sold some of his golden
ornaments to enable him to buy a horse for his friend Portocarrero, who
had not the means of procuring one for himself. About this time likewise
Juan Sedeno arrived from Santi Spiritus with a cargo of provisions, and
Cortes bought both ship and cargo upon credit, the owner enrolling himself
for the expedition.

The relations of Velasquez still continued to use their influence to make
him jealous of Cortes, and to supersede him in the command, even employing
one Juan Millan, an astrologer who was reputed mad, to represent that
Cortes would assuredly endeavour to be revenged for having been imprisoned
by the governor. They represented his sudden departure from St Jago, as an
indication of evil designs, and even began to suspect the secret
association with the secretary and contador. Velasquez was at last won
over by these repeated importunities, and sent two confidential persons to
his brother-in-law, Francisco Verdugo, who was alcalde major of Trinidad,
directing him to deprive Cortes of the command of the fleet and army, as
Vasco Porcallo was appointed in his place; and he sent orders to the same
purpose to Diego de Ordas, Francisco de Morla, and his other relations and
confidents. But Cortes, who was secretly informed of all these proceedings
by his friends Duero and Lares, exerted himself so effectually by promises
and otherwise, as to bring over all on whom Velasquez relied to his own
interest, and Diego de Ordas especially, who used every argument with
Verdugo to disobey the orders of the governor, representing the danger
which would arise from using violence, as Cortes possessed the entire
confidence of the troops. Cortes had such talents for gaining friends,
that he even prevailed on Pedro Lasso to enrol himself under his command,
though one of the messengers who carried the orders of Velasquez. Cortes
wrote to the governor by the other messenger, giving the strongest
assurances, of his fidelity and attachment, and earnestly entreating him
not to listen to the calumnies of his enemies, or the ridiculous
predictions of the old fool Millan the astrologer. During twelve days that
we remained at Trinidad, every exertion was made in preparing for our
departure; and among others, all the smiths in the place were employed in
making arrow-heads for our cross-bows, and Cortes engaged them all to
accompany the expedition. Leaving Trinidad, the fleet was ordered to sail
for the Havanna by the south course, except one ship under Juan de
Escalente, which was sent by the northern course. Such of the companions
as chose, were allowed to march by land for the Havanna, under the command
of Alvarado, of which permission I and fifty more availed ourselves,
having to pick up several volunteers who were expected to join from
different settlements that lay on our route. All the ships arrived safe at
the Havanna, except that in which Cortes was embarked, and we who marched
by land were there seven days before we could learn what had become of our
commander. We were afraid his ship had been lost among the shoals of _Los
Jardines_, and it was proposed to send three ships in search of him: But
there was no one to command, and factious disputes arose about the choice
of a lieutenant or substitute during his absence, in which intrigues Diego
de Ordas was particularly busy. At length Cortes arrived, his ship having
grounded on a shoal, but fortunately near the shore, so that they got her
off by lightening her of part of her cargo.

Cortes took his quarters at the Havanna in the house of Pedro Barba, who
commanded there for Velasquez, erecting his standard, and beating up for
volunteers. He was here joined by Francisco de Montejo, Diego de Soto,
Angula, Garci Caro, Sebastian Rodriquez, Gutierrez, Rojas, not he commonly
called the wealthy, a lad named Santa Clara, two brothers named Los
Martinez de Frexenal, and Juan, de Najara, not the deaf man of the tennis
court in Mexico. These were all men of quality, besides whom there were
many others whose names I do not now remember. Diego de Ordas was sent to
the governors estate at Guaniguanico, to procure a farther supply of bread
and bacon, and to wait there till he received farther orders, on purpose
to keep him out of the way, as Cortes knew he had shewn himself adverse to
his interest while he was absent. The artillery, consisting of ten brass
field-pieces and four falconets, were brought on shore to inspect and
complete its equipment, and placed under the charge of four gunners, named
Meza, Arbenga, Catalan, and Usagre. The cross-bows were ordered to be
inspected, all their cords, nuts, and arrows to be put in complete order,
and the range of each to be ascertained by shooting at a match. As cotton
was to be had in plenty at this place, the soldiers provided themselves
with good quilted jackets. Cortes now assumed great state in his
deportment and the establishment of his household, appointing a steward,
chamberlain, and major-domo. He ordered stalls and mangers to be fitted up
in the ships for the horses, and stores of maize and hay to be taken on
board for their use. Horses were at that time scarce and dear in Cuba, and
our whole stock amounted to fifteen, besides the horse belonging to the
general, which died at St Juan de Ulua[1].

Velasquez was exceedingly angry with Verdugo for neglecting to obey the
orders he had sent him, and reproached the secretary and contador with
having imposed upon him in regard to the character of the general. He now
renewed his endeavours to deprive Cortes of the command, sending orders by
one Garnica to Pedro Barba, to prevent the fleet from sailing, and to
arrest Cortes. Garnica likewise brought letters from the governor for
Ordas and Velasquez de Leon, ordering and entreating them to concur with
Barba in these measures; but Ordas had been judiciously sent out of the
way, and de Leon was now gained over by Cortes. All the rest of us, even
Barba the lieutenant-governor of the Havanna, were entirely devoted to the
interest of our general, who was fully aware of all that was intended
against him, as Garnica brought letters from a friar who resided with the
governor, to our chaplain de Olmedo, by which Duero and Lares sent
intelligence of all the schemes of Velasquez. Barba wrote back to the
governor, that Cortes was so beloved by the troops, that he durst not
execute the orders he had received; being assured that any such attempt
would occasion the destruction of the town, and that all the inhabitants
would go along with Cortes. The general wrote likewise to Velasquez,
repeating his assurance of perfect devotion to his service, and intimated
that he meant to sail the next day.

The fleet sailed from the Havanna on the 10th February 1519, for the
island of Cozumel[2]. The ship in which I was, commanded by Alvarado, was
directed to proceed by the north, with orders to wait for the fleet at
Cape St Antonio, and Diego de Ordas had similar directions; but our pilot
neglected these instructions, and proceeded directly for Cozumel, where we
accordingly arrived two days before the rest. As soon as we came to anchor,
our whole party landed and went to the town of Cozumel, which was deserted
by all its inhabitants. We then went to another place, whence likewise the
inhabitants fled on our approach, but we found a quantity of fowls, and
some idols, with toys and ornaments of much alloyed gold in a temple near
the town, with which booty we returned to the town of Cozumel. By this
time Cortes and his whole fleet were arrived, and he immediately put our
pilot, Comacho, in irons for disobeying his orders. He likewise
reprimanded Alvarado for taking the property of the natives, which he said
was a bad way of proceeding, as the people ought on no account to be ill
used, and immediately ordered two men and a woman whom we had made
prisoners to be brought before him. By means of our interpreter Melchorejo,
he desired these people to recal the natives to their habitations, with
assurance of perfect safety, ordering all the articles taken away to be
returned, and paid them in beads and trinkets for the fowls which we had
eaten. Giving each of the people a shirt, he dismissed them; and so well
satisfied were the inhabitants with this conciliatory behaviour, that the
chief and all the inhabitants of the place returned next day, and mixed
among us with perfect familiarity. During the three days which we remained
at this place, Cortes made a review of his troops, which amounted to 508,
besides the seamen. We had sixteen horsemen, eleven ships large and small,
including a brigantine belonging to one Nortes, thirteen musketeers,
thirty-two cross-bows, ten brass field-pieces, four falconets, and plenty
of ammunition. On this occasion, he appointed Francisco de Orocza, an
experienced soldier who had served in Italy, captain of the artillery, and
strictly enjoined him and the gunners to keep their guns always in
excellent order. From this time our general took the command in good
earnest, and always used the utmost vigilance in every thing relative to
the service on which we were engaged; and the grace of God enabled him to
succeed in all his undertakings.

Cortes sent at this time for me and one Martin Ramos, who had been on the
former voyages, inquiring our opinion respecting the word _Castillano_,
which was so often repeated by the Indians of Cotoche when we accompanied
Cordova, saying he was convinced it had allusion to some Spaniards who
were in that country. The native chiefs, and some Indian merchants who
were then in Cozumel, confirmed this opinion, assuring us that they had
seen and spoken to them only a few days before. Being anxious to relieve
these men, and being informed what ransom was expected, he amply provided
these native merchants for the purpose, and sent them with letters for
these Spanish captives. He likewise sent two of our smallest vessels,
under the command of Diego de Ordas, with twenty musketeers and cross-bows;
directing one of these ships to remain eight days at Cape Cotoche, waiting
the return of the messengers, while the other was to return with a report
of the proceedings. The place where the Spaniards were said to live at was
only about four leagues from Cape Cotoche, and Cortes sent a letter by the
Indian messengers, requesting these captive Christians to join him. The
ships with the Indian merchants crossed the gulf to Cotoche, and the
letters were delivered two days afterwards to one of these Spaniards,
Jeronimo de Aguilar, together with beads for his ransom. Jeronimo
immediately procured his liberty, and then went to his companion in
captivity, Alonso Guerrero, whom he solicited to go along with him; but he,
having a wife and children, could not be prevailed upon to desert them;
and so much time had been lost in this fruitless attempt, that when
Jeronimo came with the Indian messengers to the coast, the ships had
already sailed, having waited one day beyond the eight, so that Aguilar
was forced to return to his master.

There was a temple in the island of Cozumel containing some hideous idols,
to which the Indians used often to repair in solemn procession. Observing
the courts of this temple to be filled with Indians one morning, many of
us were excited by curiosity to go among them to observe their ceremonies.
We found them burning odoriferous resins, as we do incense; after which an
old priest, clad in a large loose gown or mantle, went up to the highest
part of the temple, whence he made a long discourse to the people. Cortes
was present on this occasion, and questioned Melchorejo respecting the
purport of the old mans harangue: After which he convened the native
chiefs, and explained to them as well as he could, partly by signs and
partly by means of his interpreter, that they worshipped devils which
would draw their souls to hell; and that, if they wished to preserve our
friendship, they must destroy their accursed idols, and plant the holy
cross of the Lord, through which they would procure good harvests and the
salvation of their souls. The priests and chiefs answered, that they
worshipped the gods of their forefathers, and if we attempted to injure
them, their gods would destroy us in the sea. But Cortes desired us to
throw the idols down the steps of the temple, and sending for lime, of
which there was plenty in the island, the Indian masons built by our
direction a very handsome altar, on which an image of the Holy Virgin was
placed, and a crucifix was erected in a small chapel or oratory close to
the altar. After these preparations were completed, the mass was
celebrated in great order by the reverend Father Juan Diaz[3], to which
ceremony the chiefs, priests, and natives all listened with great

Cortes now regulated the order of our fleet, appointing captains for all
the ships, of which the following is a list. The admirals ship was
commanded in person by Cortes, and the others as follow: Alvarado,
Puertocarrero, Montejo, de Oli[4], Ordas, Velasquez de Leon, Escalente, de
Morla, Escobar, and Nortes. Pilots were appointed for all the ships, night
signals were agreed upon, and every captain received a copy of the sailing
orders and instructions. All things being properly regulated, and having
taken a friendly leave of the natives, who promised to take great care of
the altar and crucifix, and presented Cortes with some fowls and honey, we
set sail from the island of Cozumel, in the beginning of March 1519. When
we had only proceeded a few hours on our voyage, we learned by a
signal-gun that the ship of Juan de Escalente, in which the bread of the
whole fleet was embarked, was in imminent danger, having sprung a leak.
This forced us to return to Cozumel, where the Indians gave us every
assistance, bringing their canoes to take out the lading of the vessel;
and we had the satisfaction to find, that so far from injuring our altar
and crucifix, they had placed incense before them.

On hearing of our return to Cozumel, the Indian messengers and Aguilar
hired a canoe in which they crossed the gulf and joined us. Aguilar on his
arrival was hardly to be distinguished from one of the natives, his colour
was so dark, and he was even marked like them, being dressed in some old
rags on his shoulders and round his waist, carrying an oar or paddle in
his hand, and the remnant of an old prayer-book tied in a bundle on his
back. He had almost forgot the use of his native tongue, and in coming
into the presence of the general, he squatted down on his hams like his
companions, so that no one knew which was the Spaniard. At length
announcing himself, he was provided with proper clothes, and gave the
following account of himself. He was a native of Ecija, and had been
ordained for the church; but had been wrecked eight years before, while on
a voyage from Darien to Hispaniola. He and his companions endeavoured to
reach Cuba or Jamaica in their boat, but were drifted by the current on
the coast, where the chiefs of the country had reduced them to slavery.
Many had been sacrificed, others had died of disease, and two women who
were with them had soon sunk under hard labour. Aguilar had at one time
been doomed to be sacrificed, but had made his escape to a cacique with
whom he had remained ever since, and of the whole who had escaped from the
wreck, he and Guerrero were only now alive. He knew little of the country,
having never been farther than four leagues from the coast, being employed
in procuring wood and water, and digging in the maize fields. He said that
Guerrero exactly resembled the Indians, by whom he was considered as a
brave man; and that, about a year before[5], when three ships were on the
coast, he had planned the attack on the Spaniards, and even led the Indian
warriors in person; on which account Cortes regretted much that he had not
been able to get hold of him. Aguilar was well used by the inhabitants of
Cozumel, who gave him plenty of provisions; in return for which he
exhorted them to continue in our holy faith, and advised them to get
letters of protection from Cortes, in case of any Spanish ship arriving on
their coast, which was granted, and became afterwards of great use.

The fleet, put to sea again on the 4th of March, and was separated by a
storm that same night; but they all joined again next day, except that
which was commanded by Velasquez de Leon, on which Cortes made for a
certain bay, where as the pilot expected, that ship had taken shelter from
the storm. At this place several of our company landed, and found four
temples in a neighbouring town, containing many female idols, on which
account the place was named _Punta de Las Mugeres_, or Cape Women. Aguilar
informed the general that he had been once sent to this place with some
goods, the place where he resided being only about four leagues distant,
and that the residence of Guerrero was not far off. He added that this
country produced a small quantity of gold, and that he was willing to
serve as a guide if our general thought proper to send a party on shore.
But Cortes said that his object was not in search of trifles, but to serve
God and the king in an effectual manner. Our general here ordered Escobar
to examine the _Boca de Terminos_, and, as the fleet was at this time
separated, to leave beacons or directions on the coast for the direction
of the other ships, or to cruize off that inlet till the missing ships
should arrive; for he was led to believe this a favourable place for the
settlement of a colony, from the description of the harbour, and the
abundance of game which was reported to be in its neighbourhood. On
Escobar landing at this place, he found the greyhound left by Grijalva on
the shore, which was accordingly taken on board; but when the rest of the
fleet arrived, as Escobars ship had been forced out to sea by a strong
gale from the south, she was not to be found. We found, however, a letter
on shore, in which Escobar gave a minute account of the state of this
harbour, representing the country in a favourable point of view; and we
had the good fortune to rejoin his ship next day. We were now off the
point of _Pontonchan_, the natives of which place Cortes and many of us
were much inclined to punish for their conduct in the two former
expeditions. But this was strongly objected to by the pilots, because the
coast was extremely shallow, insomuch that our vessels could not come
nearer the land than two leagues, on which account we continued our voyage
to the river of Grijalva, or Tabasco[6], where we arrived on the 13th of
March 1519. Being aware that the mouth of this river was too shallow for
ships of large burthen, those of light draught were selected, in which,
and the boats, our troops proceeded towards the shore, and were landed at
Point _Palmares_, about half a league from the Indian town of Tabasco.

The sides of this river were covered with mangrove trees, among which were
many canoes filled with armed Indians, above 12,000 warriors being
assembled in the town of Tabasco, which at that time enjoyed an extensive
dominion over the neighbouring country. We who had been formerly received
at this place in a friendly manner, were astonished at the present
appearance of hostilities; but we learned afterwards, that the
neighbouring nations of Pontonchan and Lazarus, as we called it, had
reproached the timidity of the Tabascans for receiving us amicably,
instead of falling upon us as they had done, and they had resolved,
therefore, to take the present opportunity of regaining their character.
On perceiving these demonstrations of hostility, Cortes desired Aguilar to
inquire the reason from some native chiefs who were passing near us in a
canoe, and to inform them that they would have sore cause to repent any
hostilities they might attempt against us. In reply, they threatened to
put us all to death if we dared to come near their town, which was
fortified with parapets and palisades. Aguilar then desired an interview
between their chiefs and our general, saying that he had matters of high
importance, and of a holy nature to inform them of, and requested
permission to supply our fleet with wood and water: But they only repeated
their former threats. Seeing no other alternative but retreat or war,
Cortes ordered three guns to be placed in each vessel, and divided the
musketeers and cross-bows among them. We who had been here before
recollected a narrow path which led from the point of Palmares, through
some marshes and across several brooks to the town of Tabasco, of which we
informed Cortes; who accordingly detached early next morning 100 soldiers
under Alonzo de Avila, with orders to march into the rear of the town by
that path; and, as soon as he heard the discharge of artillery, he was to
attack the town on that side, while the main body did the same on the
other side. Cortes then proceeded up the river with the vessels, intending
to disembark as near as possible to the town; and as soon as the enemy saw
us approaching, they sallied out in their canoes from among the mangroves,
and a vast multitude collected against us at the place where we meant to
land, making a prodigious noise of trumpets, horns, and drums. Before
commencing the attack, Cortes ordered Diego de Godoy, a royal notary, to
make a formal demand of liberty to supply ourselves with wood and water,
and to listen to what we had to communicate in the service of GOD and our
king, protesting that in case of violence, they should be held responsible
for all the mischief that might follow. But, after all this was explained
to them, they remained inflexibly determined to oppose us. They made the
signal with their drums to commence a general attack, and immediately
assailed us with a flight of arrows. They then closed round us in their
canoes, fighting with lances and bows and arrows, and we had great
difficulty to force our way to the shore, fighting up to our middles in
the water, and struggling to extricate ourselves from deep mud, in which
Cortes lost one of his buskins, and had to land barefooted. As soon as we
got on dry ground, Cortes placed himself at our head, calling out _St
Jago_, and we fell upon the enemy with great violence, whom we forced to
retreat within some circular entrenchments which they had constructed of
large timber. We soon drove them from these works, and made our way into
the town by certain small gateways, forcing them before us up the main
street to a second barricade, where they withstood us manfully, calling
out _al calachioni_, or _kill the captain_. While engaged at this
barricade, de Avila and the party which had marched from Point Palmares,
came up very opportunely to our assistance. He had been much retarded in
his march, as he had to break down several barricades in the path through
the marsh, so that he now arrived at the critical moment, for we too had
been detained a considerable time in making the formal summons by the
notary. We now drove the enemy before us, fighting manfully and never
turning their backs, to a large enclosed court, in which were three
idol-houses and several large halls. They had here collected all their
most valuable effects, and made a brave resistance at this last post, but
were at last obliged to evacuate it also.

Cortes now ordered the troops to halt, not thinking it prudent to pursue
the natives. Having called us together in the area of this enclosure, he
took formal possession of the country for his majesty, and giving three
cuts with his sword into a great _ceiba_ tree which grew beside him, he
declared himself ready to defend and maintain his majesty's right of
sovereignty against all gainsayers. This step was generally approved of
among us, yet it gave cause of secret murmurs among those who were
attached to Velasquez, as his name was not mentioned in the act of
possession, which was formally recorded and witnessed by a royal notary.
In the course of this action, fourteen of our soldiers were wounded, among
whom I had a slight wound. Of the enemy eighteen were found dead. Having
posted strong guards, we took up our quarters here for the night. Next day,
Alvarado was detached with 100 men to reconnoitre the country for two
leagues round our post; and on seeking Melchorejo to attend as interpreter,
he was discovered to have deserted during the night, leaving his clothes
behind. A second detachment of equal strength was sent in a different
direction under Francisco de Lugo, who had not gone far when he was
attacked by several large bodies of the enemy so furiously that he was
obliged to fall back, which he did in perfect order, sending a
swift-running Indian of Cuba to quarters to procure succour. Alvarado, who
had advanced about a league from the town, was obliged to change the
direction of his march by a river or creek, by which means he came within
hearing of the musketry, and of the instruments and shouts of the Indians
who were engaged with Lugo, and immediately hastened to his relief. These
two united were able to repulse the enemy, and made good their retreat to
the town; where we too were attacked by large bodies of the Indians, whom
we soon obliged to retreat by means of our muskets and cross-bows, and the
superiority of our good swords. Receiving intelligence that his
detachments were hard pressed by the enemy, Cortes now sallied out with
all of us who could carry arms, and met our companions on their retreat
about half a league from the town. Two soldiers of the detachment
belonging to Lugo were slain in this battle, and eleven were wounded. We
brought in three prisoners, one of whom appeared to be a chief, by whom we
were informed that Melchorejo had advised them to harrass us by continual
attacks, day and night, as our numbers were few, and they would be sure to
destroy us in the end. The native who gave us this information was sent
off with an amicable message to his countrymen, but he never returned; and
Aguilar was informed by the other natives, that the whole warriors of the
country were collecting to attack us.

Understanding the formidable preparations which were making to attack us,
Cortes ordered all the wounded men who were able to march to stand to
their arms, and brought the horses on shore, which were very dull and
spiritless at first, but recovered themselves in the course of the day.
Several of our ablest young men were at this time taken ill with a
weakness in their loins, by which they were unable to stand, owing, it was
supposed to the sudden change in their way of living, and to the weight of
their arms in very hot weather. These were sent on board ship. The horses
were distributed among the best riders, and each horse was provided with a
breast-plate hung with bells. He likewise directed his small body of
cavalry, while engaged with the enemy, to point their lances at the faces
of the natives, and on no account to stop for the purpose of making
thrusts, but always to ride straight onwards, bearing down all before them.
Of this body he took the command in person for the approaching battle,
being twelve in all besides himself. The infantry were placed under the
chief command of Diego de Ordas, the artillery under the charge of Mesa,
and the colours were carried by Antonio de Villareal. The army thus
arranged, marched out early in the morning of Lady-day, 25th March, after
hearing mass, and proceeded to the plain of _Cintia_[7], where the enemy
awaited us, our cavalry making a detour to avoid some marshy ground, and
on purpose to gain the rear of the enemy. After marching about a league,
we saw the enemy advancing towards us in the plain, making a vast noise of
trumpets, horns, and drums. They wore plumes of feathers on their heads,
having their faces painted black, red, and white, all wearing defensive
armour of quilted cotton with large shields, and bearing lances,
two-handed swords or maces, darts, large bows and arrows, and slings.
Their numbers covered the whole plain, and they immediately rushed
forwards to the attack, wounding above seventy of our soldiers at the
first discharge of their arrows, and one man named Saldana, was slain
outright by an arrow which pierced him under the ear. They closed upon us
with great bravery, fighting us hand to hand, while we maintained our
ground with firmness, using our cannon, muskets, cross-bows, and swords
as well as we could. After some time, they drew off a little, but in this
they had rather the advantage by means of their bows and arrows, though
our cannon made vast havock among their crowded bodies, which were at such
a distance as enabled our gunners to fire among them to the greatest
possible advantage. At every discharge of the cannon, they shouted,
whistled, and sounded all their warlike instruments, calling out _lala!
lala_! and throwing straw and dust in the air, as if to prevent our seeing
the destruction produced among them by our artillery. I advised de Ordas
to close with the enemy, which he objected to, saying that they
outnumbered us thirty for one; yet we did advance, and as they wished to
avoid encountering our sharp swords, they inclined towards a marsh. We
were all this time exceedingly anxious for the arrival of Cortes and the
cavalry, being afraid that he had met with some disaster; and were at
length rejoiced when we saw him approaching to our relief on the rear of
the Indians, who were so entirely occupied in their attack on us that they
did not perceive him till he came dashing among them. The ground was quite
level and open, most of the horses strong and active, and the riders brave
and expert; so that they charged through among the crowded Indians in
every direction, and we renewed our efforts to make them give way,
encouraged by this seasonable assistance. The Indians were astonished
beyond measure at this novel and unexpected attack, believing the horse
and rider to be one strange ferocious animal, and instantly fled into the
adjacent woods and marshes, leaving the field of battle to us.

Cortes informed us after the battle, that his march had been much retarded
by bad ground, and by the attacks of some detached bodies of the enemy,
who had wounded five of his men and eight horses. Being thus victorious,
the cavalry dismounted, and we assembled under a grove of trees, where we
gave thanks to GOD and his blessed mother for our victory. A town was
afterwards founded on the field of battle, named _Santa Maria della
Vittoria_[8], in memory of this victory. After binding up our wounds and
those of the horses, which we dressed with _the fat of dead Indians_, we
examined the field of battle, where we found upwards of 800 of the enemy
dead or dying of their wounds, the slain being particularly numerous where
the cavalry had charged. After burying two of our soldiers, one of whom
was killed by a wound in the ear, and the other by one in the throat, we
retired to our quarters at Tabasco towards evening, where we eat our
suppers, and having placed sufficient guards, we went to sleep.

Gomara relates that in this battle, previous to the arrival of Cortes with
the cavalry, one of the holy apostles, either St Jago or Peter, appeared
on a dapple-grey horse under the semblance of Francisco de Morla. All our
victories were assuredly guided by the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ; but
if this were the case, I, a poor sinner, was not worthy to be permitted to
see it, neither was it seen by any of our army, above 400 in number. I
certainly saw Francisco de Morla along with Cortes, but he rode a chesnut
horse that day. We certainly were bad Christians indeed, if, according to
the account of Gomara, GOD sent one of his holy apostles to fight at our
head, and we ungratefully neglected to give thanks for so great a mercy:
But, till I read the chronicle of Gomara, I never heard of this miracle,
neither was it ever mentioned by any of the conquerors who were present in
the battle.

In the battle we took only five prisoners, two of whom appeared to be
chiefs. These were kindly treated by Cortes, who exhorted them by means of
Aguilar to induce their countrymen to enter into terms of peace and
friendship with us; and having given them a number of beads and artificial
diamonds, he set them at liberty. These Indians faithfully executed the
commission with which they were entrusted; insomuch that the chiefs
immediately sent fifteen Indians, in wretched habits, and with their faces
blackened in token of contrition, and bearing a present of fowls, roasted
fish, and maize, Cortes received them with kindness; but Aguilar spoke to
them sharply, saying that we were disposed to treat with the chiefs, and
not with slaves. Next day thirty natives of rank came in good dresses with
another present, and begged permission to bury their dead, that they might
not be eaten by lions and tigers[9]. This was immediately granted, and
they proceeded to bury and inter the slain. On the following day, ten
chiefs arrived in great ceremony in rich dresses, who respectfully saluted
Cortes and the rest of us, fumigating us with fragrant gums; after which
they asked pardon for their hostilities, and promised to behave well for
the future. Cortes told them with a severe countenance, that they deserved
death for having rejected our former offers of peace; but that Don Carlos,
our great sovereign, had ordered us to favour them in all things if they
would now deserve it by peace and submission, and they might be sure to
feel the effects of our vengeance if they again revolted. He then ordered
a cannon to be fired off, the noise of which, and the effects of its ball
among the adjoining woods, filled them with terror, as they believed it to
be some terrible living creature. The most spirited of our horses was then
brought before them, so managed as to display his fierceness and action to
the best advantage, which impressed the natives with astonishment and awe.
Shortly after twenty Indians arrived, who were loaded with provisions for
our use; and after a long conference, the chiefs took leave of Cortes and
withdrew, much satisfied with their visit. We were visited on the
following day by many chiefs of the neighbouring districts, who brought
with them presents of golden toys in various shapes; some like human faces,
and others in the shape of various animals, as lizards, dogs, and ducks.
They presented at the same time three diadems or coronets, and two pieces
of gold resembling the sole of a shoe or sandal, with some other articles
of small value, as also some very large mantles. But the present which we
considered as most valuable, was twenty women; among whom was the
excellent _Donna Marina_, so called after her baptism. Cortes thanked the
chiefs for the presents, but told them that the most certain sign of peace
would be the return of the inhabitants to the town, which he desired might
be in two days; and this was done accordingly. He likewise exhorted them
to renounce their idolatry, explaining the mysteries of our holy faith,
especially those parts of it which are represented by the cross, and the
image of the holy virgin. They gave a ready assent to this, the caciques
declaring their admiration of the _Tecleciquata_, which signifies _the
great princess_ in their language.

The chiefs excused their late hostilities, alleging that they had been
instigated to attack us by the cacique of Champoton, and by our
interpreter Melchoreja who had deserted. Cortes was anxious to have this
man delivered up to him, but was told that he had fled; we learned


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