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name of your majesty. Since that time, being constantly occupied in conquering and in quieting countries, in want of ships, and apprehensive for the fate of my first despatches, I have not had it in my power to give your majesty an account of my proceedings, and of the numerous difficulties which, God knows, I have had to contend with. But your majesty may at length assume the title of emperor of these immense provincest with as just a claim as that of emperor of Germany.
The various ubjects which are met with in these new kingdoms, are too numerous to attempt to describe to your majesty, and neither my talents, nor the duties of my station will permit it. I shall nevertheless endeavour to give every information that is important to be made known at present, and request your majesty's pardon if I should unintentionally omit any material circumstances, and not be able to point out precisely the time and manner in which events have occurred, or should be incorrect as to the names of the cities, villages, and countries that have submitted to your majesty, and acknowledged themselves your subjects, or vassals, as I have lost through an accident, which I shall hereafter give an account of, the several treaties which I had made with the inhabitants.
My former account contained the names of the cities and towns which had offered their services, or submitted to your majesty's arms. I also made mention of a great prince, called Montezuma, who, from such information as I could obtain, lived at about ninety, or a hundred leagues distance from that part of the coast where I had landed. I also added that, with the assistance of God, and the terror of your majesty's name, I was deterinined to seek Montezuma wherever he might be, and would have him dead or alive, either as a prisoner or a subject.
With this intention, circumstances being favourable, on the 16th of August I set out for Zempoullaş (which I have since named Seville) with fifty horse and three hundred of my bravest infantry. I left at Vera Cruz one hundred and fifty foot and two horsemen, with orders to erect a fort, which is now far advanced. As to the province of Zempoulla, which contains fifty cities or
* The city thus denominated by Cortez is the same with that now called Old Vera Cruz, and is distant three leagues from the new.
† The kingdom of New Spain alone, from the isthmus of Panama on the south, to the extremity of the diocese of Durango on the north, is more than fifteen hundred leagues in length.
Cortes was ignorant of the true naines of many places from not knowing their correct pronunciation, and the mode of writing them in Spanish.
s Zempoulla still retains the same name. It is four leagues from Vera Cruz, and from its ruins must have been a considerable city. This place must not be confounded with another of a similar name in the archbishoprick of Mexico, twelve leagues from that capital.
fortified towns, and can furnish about fifty thousand soldiers, I left it quite peaceable, consisting of subjects the more secure, loyal, and faithful, as they had been not long before subjected by force to the dominion of Montezuma, who oppressed them cruelly, and took their children from them, in order to sacrifice them to his idols.
When they were informed of the great power of your majesty, they made known to me their complaints against Montezu. ma, requested my friendship, offered to submit, and begged my protection. As I have treated them well and always favoured them, I doubt not but they will remain faithful, had they no other motive than gratitude for my having delivered them from the tyranny of Montezuma. In order, however, to secure their fidelity, I thought proper to select a number of persons of distinction from among them, together with some of inferior rank, and take them along with me, and they have proved of great service in my enterprize.
Among the Spaniards who accompanied me, I discovered some of them to be the friends or tools of Diego Velasques,* and that envious of my good fortune, they were desirous of quitting the country and exciting a revolt against me. Of these, Juan Escudero, Diego Cermeno, Piloto, and Gonzalez de Hongaria, to. gether with Piloto and Alphonzo Penoto, have confessed that they had formed a plan to seize a brig in the harbour, kill the master, take on board a supply of provisions, and repair to the island of Fernandina,t and give information to Velasquez of the sailing of my ship for Europe, what it contained, and the course it had pursued, that he might adopt measures for taking it, as he has already several others, and would have done the last had it not gone through the Bahama passage. They also acknowledged that there were others who were disposed to give information to Velasquez.
On making this discovery I determined to punish the guilty, as justice, the situation of affairs, and the good of the service required, and to order all the shipping in the harbour to be stranded, on the pretext that they were no longer fit for sea.
By this expedient I effectually suppressed the whole plot, which, considering the smallness of our numbers and the intrigues of the friends of Velasquez, might have had an unfortunate issue for the glory of God and your majesty's interest. I thus deprived
* The same who endeavoured to frustrate Cortez's expedition, and afterwards sought to render his character and views suspected by the court of Madrid, from the injurious accounts forwarded by him from Cuba, of which he was governor. He was a native of Cuella, and had been a servant to Don Bartholomew Colon. "Having obtained possession of Cuba at the head of a band of adventurers, he was appointed to the government of that island.
The island of Cuba was called Fernandina, from king Ferdinand, and that of St. Domingo, Isabella, from his queen.
those who were desirous of quitting me, of the means of carrying their plans into execution, and commenced my journey with the greater security, as before setting out, I had taken the precaution of requiring the inhabitants of the cities to deliver up their
Eight or ten days after the ships were stranded, while on my way to Zempoulla, I received information from Vera Cruz, that there were four ships on the coast; that the commanding officer of the city having gone in a boat to speak with them, had learned that they were upon a voyage of discovery, and belonged to Francis de Garay, lieutenant of the king and governor of Jamaica, upon which he had acquainted them that I had taken possession of the country in your majesty's name, and had built Vera Cruz, whither they might safely come with their ships to refit them. They returned for answer that they had noticed the harbour in sailing past, and would pursue the measure he had recommended.
The ships did not, however, follow the boat, or enter the harbour as was expected, but continued lying off and on without the officer's being able to discover their intentions. On receiving this information I went immediately to Vera Cruz, where I learned that the ships were lying three leagues below, with their sails all set, and that none of the crews had been on shore.
Taking with me some soldiers, I then proceeded along the coast to obtain intelligence, and at about a league from the ships I met with three men who had come from them. One who called himself the clerk, said that he was ordered in presence of the others, whom he had brought as witnesses, to require me to fix the boundaries between my discoveries and those of the commander of the ships, whose intention it was to establish colonies, and to make his principal settlement on the coast, at a place five leagues below Nautical, a city twelve leagues from that now known by the name of Almeria.
I replied to the messengers that their commander might come with his ships into the harbour of Vera Cruz, where I would confer with him; that every assistance in my power should be given to the ships and the crews, and that as they were on the same service with myself, it would give me pleasure in being able to serve them. As the messengers declared that neither the commander nor any of the crews would be persuaded to come on shore where I was, I determined to secure them, as I was apprehensive that they intended some injury against the country, from their being so fearful of meeting me. I then concealed myself near the shore, opposite to the ships, until noon the next day, in the hope of taking and sending to Europe the commander or the pilot, who might come on shore, to learn what had become of their messengers, or at least the route which they had taken.
At mid-day, no person appearing, I ordered the three messengers to be stripped, and three of my men to dress themselves in their clothes, and to make signals and hail the ships.
As soon as the signals were perceived, ten or twelve men armed with cross-bows and muskets leaped into a boat and rowed on shore. Four of them quitted the boat and were taken by my soldiers, who were posted behind some hedges that were near.
A captain of one of the ships, who was among those that were taken, attempted to shoot the commandant of Vera Cruz, and would have killed him, if through the favour of God, his musket had not flashed. The remainder regained their ships as soon as possible, which had set sail without waiting for them, so apprehensive were they that I should gain some information of their views or destination. Those whom I took informed me that they had gone on shore at the mouth of the river Panuco, thirty leagues below Almeria; that they had been well received by the Datives, who had promised to supply them with provisions. They had also found gold, though in small quantities; but had not ventured to land until they were fully satisfied as to the disposition of the inhabitants, whom they had seen from their ships. That the houses in that district were low, and built entirely of straw, except a few small boards wrought by hand.
I afterwards received a confirmation of the truth of this report from Montezuma and some interpreters belonging to the country who were in his suite, and at the same time sent the interpreters and an Indian of the district, with several messengers from Montezuma, to the lord of the shores of the Panuco, to persuade him to acknowledge himself your majesty's vassal. An ambassador of distinction returned with my envoys, who, in the name of his chief, presented me with garments, precious stones, and feathers, assuring me at the same time that he and his people were ready to become my friends and your majesty's subjects. I presented the ambassador in return with some articles of Spanish manufacture, with which the cacique was highly delighted.
I remained for three days in the province of Zempoulla, where I was well received and lodged by the inhabitants. On the fourth day I entered that of Sienchimalen, where I met with a city strongly situated on a very steep height. It is accessible only on one side, and the approach to it would be very difficult if the inhabitants should dispute the passage. In the plain are many villages, containing from two to five hundred peasants, who are employed in agriculture, and can on occasion, form an army of five or six thousand men. I was well received by them, and they gave me every assistance in their power to enable me to prosecute my journey.
These people informed me that they knew that I was going to visit Montezuma, who was their lord and my friend, as he had sent to them to let them know that it was his pleasure that I should
be at all times well received. . To these civilities I returned for answer, that I was going, by your majesty's order, to visit Montezuma.
At the extremity of this province I crossed a mountain, which I named the Mountain of God, it being the first of our passing. It was loftier, steeper, and more difficult to pass than any of our mountains in Spain. On the other side we came successively to some cultivated grounds, a town, and the fortress of Yshuacan, all belonging to Montezuma, in perfect safety, and without meeting the least opposition from the inhabitants. We were here, by the orders of Montezuma, as well received as at Tienchimalin, and on our part we treated the inhabitants kindly.
For the next three days I crossed a desert region, wholly uninhabited in consequence of its sterility, want of water, and extreme coldness. God only knows what we endured from hunger and thirst; we were likewise surprised by a violent tempest, and I feared lest many of my people would perish with the cold, as several Indians did who huddled together without order. After three days of suffering we came to a second mountain, not so steep as the first; on the top was a little tower, in the form of a chapel, which contained idols* of various forms. This tower was surrounded by more than a thousand wagon loads of wood, cut and piled in order, on which account we gave to this mountain the name of the Mountain of Wood. On descending it we traversed a valley, situated between two very steep cliffs, thickly settled with very poor inhabitants. We proceeded for two hours through this settlement, without being able to obtain any information, when we at length came to a more level country, where, as it seemed, the lord of the valley resided. I saw there several large houses built of hewn stone,f which were new, handsome, and commodiously disposed.
This valley and settlement is called Caltanni. I was well received and lodged there. · When I had made known to the cacique the object of my journey, I inquired if he was an ally or a subject of Montezuma. Surprised at my question, he replied, with great simplicity, “ Who is he that is not a subject of Montezuma?” He believed him to be the master of the world, and I doubt much if he was undeceived by my telling him of the great
* The archbishop of Toledo attempts to prove from the Mexican calender, that their idols were so numerous, that each month and day had its peculiar divinity. Might not the Mexicans with propriety have asked the Spaniards if they themselves were less idolatrous?
Bernal Diaz in his account of the expedition of Cordova, in which he embarked, says that the town of Potonchan in the province of Yucatan contained several buildings of lime and stone and that at Punta de Cotorhe, near where they landed “were three buildings of lime and stone, wherein were idols of clay with diabolical countenances, and in strange unnatural postures."-Keating's B. Diaz, p. 4 and 6.