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N the recent hurricane the four caravels
of Aguado had been destroyed, together with two others which were in the har
bor. The only vessel which survived was the Niña, and that in a very shattered condition. Columbus gave orders to have her immediately repaired and another caravel constructed out of the wreck of those which had been destroyed. While waiting until they should be ready for sea he was cheered by tidings of rich mines in the interior of the island, the discovery of which is attributed to an incident of a somewhat romantic nature.* A young Arragonian, named Miguel Diaz, in the service of the Adelantado, having a quarrel * Oviedo, Cronica de los Indias, lib. ii., cap. 13.
with another Spaniard, fought with him and wounded him dangerously. Fearful of the consequences, he fled from the settlement, accompanied by five or six comrades, who had either been engaged in the affray or were personally attached to him. Wandering about the island, they came to an Indian village on the southern coast, near the mouth of the river Ozema, where the city of St. Domingo is at present situated. They were received with kindness by the natives and resided for some time
them. The village was governed by a female cacique, who soon conceived a strong attachment for the young Arragonian. Diaz was not insensible to her tenderness, a connection was formed between them, and they lived for some time very happily together.
The recollection of his country and his friends began at length to steal upon the thoughts of the young Spaniard. It was a melancholy lot to be exiled from civilized life and an outcast from among his countrymen. He longed to return to the settlement, but dreaded the punishment that awaited him from the austere justice of the Adelantado. His Indian bride, observing him frequently melancholy and lost in thought, penetrated the cause with the quick intelligence of female affection. Fearful that he would abandon her
and return to his countrymen, she endeavored to devise some means of drawing the Spaniards to that part of the island. Knowing that gold was their sovereign attraction, she informed Diaz of certain rich mines in the neighborhood, and urged him to persuade his countrymen to abandon the comparatively sterile and unhealthy vicinity of Isabella and settle upon the fertile banks of the Ozema, promising they should be received with the utmost kindness and hospitality by her nation.
Struck with the suggestion, Diaz made particular inquiries about the mines and was convinced that they abounded in gold. He noticed the superior fruitfulness and beauty of the country, the excellence of the river, and the security of the harbor at its entrance. He flattered himself that the communication of such valuable intelligence would make his peace at Isabella and obtain his pardon from the Adelantado. Full of these hopes, he procured guides from among the natives, and taking a temporary leave of his Indian bride, set out with his comrades through the wilderness for the settlement, which was about fifty leagues distant. Arriving there secretly he learnt to his great joy that the man whom he had wounded had recovered. He now presented himself boldly before the Adelantado, relying
that his tidings would earn his forgiveness. He was not mistaken. No news could have come more opportunely. The Admiral had been anxious to remove the settlement to a more healthy and advantageous situation. He was desirous also of carrying home some conclusive proof of the richness of the island as the most effectual means of silencing the cavils of his enemies. If the representations of Miguel Diaz were correct, here was a means of effecting both these purposes. Measures were immediately taken to ascertain the truth. The Adelantado set forth in person to visit the river Ozema, accompanied by Miguel Diaz, Francisco de Garay, and the Indian guides, and attended by a number of men well armed. They proceeded from Isabella to Magdalena, and thence across the Royal Vega to the fortress of Conception. Continuing on to the south they came to a range of mountains, which they traversed by a defile two leagues in length, and descended into another beautiful plain, which was called Bonao. Proceeding hence for some distance, they came to a great river called Hayna, running through a fertile country, all the streams of which abounded in gold. On the western bank of this river, and about eight leagues from its mouth, they found gold in greater quantities
and in larger particles than had yet been met with in any part of the island, not even excepting the province of Cibao. They made experiments in various places within the compass of six miles and always with success.
The soil seemed to be generally impregnated with that metal, so that a common laborer, with little trouble, might find the amount of three drachms in the course of a day.* In several places they observed deep excavations in the form of pits, which looked as if the mines had been worked in ancient times, a circumstance which caused much speculation among the Spaniards, the natives having no idea of mining, but contenting themselves with the particles found on the surface of the soil or in the beds of the rivers.
The Indians of the neighborhood received the white men with their promised friendship, and in every respect the representations of Miguel Diaz were fully justified. He was not only pardoned, but received into great favor, and was subsequently employed in various capacities in the island, in all which he acquitted himself with great fidelity. He kept his faith with his Indian bride, by whom, according to Oviedo, he had two children.
* Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. ii., cap. i8. Peter Martyr, decad. i., lib. iv.