« AnteriorContinuar »
OLUMBUS followed up his victory by
making a military tour through various parts of the island, and reducing
the natives to obedience. They made occasional attempts at opposition, but were easily checked. Ojeda's troop of cavalry was of great efficacy from the rapidity of its movements, the active intrepidity of its commander, and the terror inspired by the horses. There was no service too wild and hazardous for Ojeda. If any appearance of war arose in a distant part of the country, he would penetrate with his little squadron of cavalry through the depths of the forests, and fall like a thunderbolt upon the enemy, disconcerting all their combinations and enforcing implicit submission.
The Royal Vega was soon brought into subjection. Being an immense plain, perfectly level, it was easily overrun by the horsemen, whose appearance overawed the most populous villages. Guarionex, its sovereign cacique, was of a mild and placable character, and though he had been roused to war by the instigation of the neighboring chieftains, he readily submitted to the domination of the Spaniards. Manicaotex, the brother of Caonabo, was also obliged to sue for peace; and being the prime mover of the confederacy, the other caciques followed his example. Behechio alone, the cacique of Xaragua, and brother-in-law of Caonabo, made no overtures of submission. His territories lay remote from Isabella, at the western extremity of the island, around the deep bay called the Bight of Leogan, and the long peninsula called Cape Tiburon. They were difficult of access, and had not as yet been visited by the white men. He retired into his domains, taking with him his sister, the beautiful Anacoana, wife of Caonabo, whom he cherished with fraternal affection under her misfortunes, who soon acquired almost equal sway over his subjects with himself, and was destired subsequently to make some figure in the events of the island.
Having been forced to take the field by the confederacy of the caciques, Columbus now asserted the right of a conqueror, and considered how he might turn his conquest to most profit. His constant anxiety was to make wealthy returns to Spain, for the purpose of indemnifying the sovereigns for their great expenses ; of meeting the public expectations, so extravagantly excited ; and above all, of silencing the calumnies of those who had gone home determined to make the most discouraging representations of his discoveries. He endeavored therefore to raise a large and immediate revenue, by imposing heavy tributes on the subjected provinces. In those of the Vega, Cibao, and all the region of the mines, each individual above the age of fourteen years was required to pay, every three months, the measure of a Flemish hawk's-bell of golddust.* The caciques had to pay a much larger amount for their personal tribute. Manicaotex, the brother of Caonabo, was obliged indi
* A hawk's-bell, according to Las Casas (Hist. Ind., lib. i., cap. 105), contains about three castallanos' worth of gold-dust, equal to five dollars, and in estimating the superior value of gold in those days, equivalent to fifteen dollars of our time. A quantity of gold worth one hundred and fifty castellanos was equivalent to seven hundred and ninety-eight dollars of the present day.
vidually to render in, every three months, half a calabash of gold, amounting to one hundred and fifty pesos. In those districts which were distant from the mines, and produced no gold, each individual was required to furnish an arroba (twenty-five pounds) of cotton every three months. Each Indian, on rendering this tribute, received a copper medal as a certificate of payment, which he was to wear suspended round his neck; those who were found without such documents were liable to arrest and punishment.
The taxes and tributes thus imposed bore hard upon the spirit of the natives, accustomed to be but lightly tasked by their caciques; and the caciques themselves found the exactions intolerably grievous. Guarionex, the sovereign of the Royal Vega, represented to Columbus the difficulty he had in complying with the terms of his tribute. His richly fertile plain yielded no gold; and though the mountains on his borders contained mines, and their brooks and torrents washed down gold-dust into the sands of the rivers, yet his subjects were not skilled in the art of collecting it. He proffered therefore, instead of the tribute required, to cultivate with grain a band of country stretching across the island from sea to sea, “ enough,” says La Casas, “to
have furnished all Castile with bread for ten
His offer was rejected. Columbus knew that gold alone would satisfy the avaricious dreams excited in Spain, and insure the popularity and success of his enterprise. Seeing however the difficulty that many of the Indians had in furnishing the amount of golddust required, he lowered the demand to the measure of one half of a hawk's-bell.
To enforce the payment of these tributes, and to maintain the subjection of the island, Columbus put the fortress already built in a strong state of defence, and erected others. Besides those of Isabella, and of St. Thomas, in the mountains of Cibao, there were now the fortress of Magdalena, in the Royal Vega, near the site of the old town of Santiago, on the river Jalaqua, two leagues from the place where the new town was afterwards built; another called Santa Catalina, the site of which is near the Estencia Yaqui ; another called Esperanza, on the banks of the river Yaqui, facing the outlet of the mountain pass La Puerta de los Hidalgos, now the pass of Marney ; but the most important of those recently erected was Fort Conception, in one of the most fruitful and beautiful parts of the
* Las Casas, Hist. Ind., lib. i., cap. 105.