The History of Puerto Rico

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Then there were the monks and priests, whose religious zeal was stimulated by the prospect of converting to Christianity the benighted inhabitants of unknown realms; there were ruined traders, who hoped to mend their fortunes with the gold to be had, as they thought, for picking it up; finally, there were the proteges of royalty and of influential persons at court, who aspired to lucrative places in the new territories; in short, the Admiral counted among the fifteen hundred companions of his second expedition individuals of the bluest blood in Spain.

As for the mariners, men-at-arms, mechanics, attendants, and servants, they were mostly greedy, vicious, ungovernable, and turbulent adventurers.[3]

The confiscated property of the Jews, supplemented by a loan and some extra duties on articles of consumption, provided the funds for the expedition; a sufficient quantity of provisions was embarked; twenty Granadian lancers with their spirited Andalusian horses were accommodated; cuirasses, swords, pikes, crossbows, muskets, powder and balls were ominously abundant; seed-corn, rice, sugar-cane, vegetables, etc., were not forgotten; cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and fowls for stocking the new provinces, provided for future needs; and a breed of mastiff dogs, originally intended, perhaps, as watch-dogs only, but which became in a short time the dreaded destroyers of natives. Finally, Pope Alexander VI, of infamous memory, drew a line across the map of the world, from pole to pole,[4] and assigned all the undiscovered lands west of it to Spain, and those east of it to Portugal, thus arbitrarily dividing the globe between the two powers.

At daybreak, September 25, 1493, seventeen ships, three caracas of one hundred tons each, two naos, and twelve caravels, sailed from Cadiz amid the ringing of bells and the enthusiastic Godspeeds of thousands of spectators. The son of a Genoese wool-carder stood there, the equal in rank of the noblest hidalgo in Spain, Admiral of the Indian Seas, Viceroy of all the islands and continents to be discovered, and one-tenth of all the gold and treasures they contained would be his!

Alas for the evanescence of worldly greatness! All this glory was soon to be eclipsed. Eight years after that day of triumph he again landed on the shore of Spain a pale and emaciated prisoner in chains.

It may easily be conceived that the voyage for these fifteen hundred men, most of whom were unaccustomed to the sea, was not a pleasure trip.

Fortunately they had fine weather and fair wind till October 26th, when they experienced their first tropical rain and thunder-storm, and the Admiral ordered litanies. On November 2d he signaled to the fleet to shorten sail, and on the morning of the 3d fifteen hundred pairs of wondering eyes beheld the mountains of an island mysteriously hidden till then in the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the spectators were Bernal Diaz de Pisa, accountant of the fleet, the first conspirator in America; thirteen Benedictine friars, with Boil at their head, who, with Moren Pedro de Margarit, the strategist, respectively represented the religious and military powers; there was Roldan, another insubordinate, the first alcalde of the Espanola; there were Alonzo de Ojeda and Guevara, true knights-errant, who were soon to distinguish themselves: the first by the capture of the chief Caonabo, the second by his romantic love-affair with Higuemota, the daughter of the chiefess Anacaona. There was Adrian Mojica, destined shortly to be hanged on the ramparts of Fort Concepcion by order of the Viceroy. There was Juan de Esquivel, the future conqueror of Jamaica; Sebastian Olano, receiver of the royal share of the gold and other riches that no one doubted to find; Father Marchena, the Admiral's first protector, friend, and counselor; the two knight commanders of military orders Gallego and Arroyo; the fleet's physician, Chanca; the queen's three servants, Navarro, Pena-soto, and Girau; the pilot, Antonio de Torres, who was to return to Spain with the Admiral's ship and first despatches. There was Juan de la Cosa, cartographer, who traced the first map of the Antilles; there were the father and uncle of Bartolome de las Casas, the apostle of the Indies; Diego de Penalosa, the first notary public; Fermin Jedo, the metallurgist, and Villacorta, the mechanical engineer. Luis de Ariega, afterward famous as the defender of the fort at Magdalena; Diego Velasquez, the future conqueror of Cuba; Vega, Abarca, Gil Garcia, Marguez, Maldonado, Beltran and many other doughty warriors, whose names had been the terror of the Moors during the war in Granada. Finally, there were Diego Columbus, the Admiral's brother; and among the men-at-arms, one, destined to play the principal role in the conquest of Puerto Rico. His name was Juan Ponce, a native of Santervas or Sanservas de Campos in the kingdom of Leon. He had served fifteen years in the war with the Moors as page or shield-bearer to Pedro Nunez de Guzman, knight commander of the order of Calatrava, and he had joined Columbus like the rest--to seek his fortune in the western hemisphere.

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