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Arrival of the Armament commanded by H. Cortes, at St. Yuan de
Transactions and Occurrences there.


ON Holy Thursday of the year 1519, we arrived at the port of St. Juan de Ulua, and Cortes hoisted the royal standard. In about half an hour, two large canoes called piraguas full of Mexicans set off from the shore to visit the ship which bore the flag. When these people came on board, they enquired for the lord, or as they express it Tlatoan, who was pointed out to them by Donna Marina. They then advanced to Cortes with great respect, and informed him that a servant of their sovereign Montezuma had sent them to wait upon him, to know who we were, what our business was, and if we were in want of any thing, in which case they had orders to supply us. Cortes thanked them, and having made them a present of some cut glass, ordered an entertainment to be served up, after which he declared that the object of his visit was, to see and treat with the people of those countries; that no one should sustain any injury by him, and that he hoped they would have cause to be satisfied with his arrival there.

On Good Friday we disembarked the cavalry, infantry, and artillery, on the sand hills of which that coast is composed and having posted our artillery, and raised an altar, we constructed temporary barracks. On the ensuing day we were visited by many of the natives, who brought hatchets wherewith they proceeded to work in making the huts, that of Cortes especially, more convenient; they also brought mantles to guard us from the sun, and a present of gold, fowls, bread, and plumbs. Those who brought them informed Cortes, that on the next day the governor of the province intended to wait upon him.

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At the appointed time, on the day of the feast of the resurrection, a nobleman named Tendile who was the governor spoken of, accompanied by Pitalpitoque afterwards called Ovandillo, and attended by a great train of followers bearing various articles of provision, with much respect and ceremony, advanced, and made three reverences to Cortes and the soldiers who were about him. Cortes went to meet and bid the two chiefs welcome: he then caused mass to be said, after which the tables were placed, and he together with certain of his captains and the two Mexican lords, sat down to dinner. Their repast ended, and having withdrawn together he informed them, that he was the vassal of the greatest prince in the world, who had sent us thither, to wait upon the king of those countries, whose fame had reached him, in order to contract a treaty of peace and amity, and to tell many things to him of the greatest import to be known. To this Tendile somewhat haughtily replied, saying, “How is this? You are but just arrived, and you talk of seeing our monarch: receive this present which he sends you, and it is time enough to think of other things afterwards.” He then took out of a chest many pieces of gold well wrought, which he presented to Cortes, together with ten loads of fine mantles of white cotton adorned with plumage; and many other things, which, it being so long ago, I do not recollect. After these followed an abundant supply of provisions, such as fowls, fruit, and roasted fish. Cortes in return presented them with artificial diamonds, and requested that they would encourage the natives to come and barter with us, which they promised to do. We afterwards learned that these noble Mexicans were the governors of the provinces named Cotastlan, Tustepeque, Guazpaltepeque, Tlatalteclo, and other districts which had been lately reduced to subjection under their monarch. Cortes then produced as a present for the great Montezuma, an arm-chair elegantly carved and painted, some artificial jewels called margajitas envelloped in perfumed cotton, a string of artificial diamonds, and a crimson cap with a gold medal whereon was represented St. George killing the dragon. These he desired Tendile to present to his master in the name of our sovereign, and to signify to him al the fame time, his request to know when he might he permitted to wait

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wait upon him. To this the Mexican nobleman replied, that his monarch would be happy to hold an intercourse with our emperor, and that the application should be immediately made, and an answer transmitted.

With this embassy some of the abler painters of Mexico had been sent, who drew representations to the life, of the countenance of Cortes, the other captains and soldiers, Donna Marina, Aguilar, and even the greyhounds, guns, and balls. Cortes perceiving this, in order to impress the people and their monarch with a formidable idea of our power, caused the guns to be loaded with a high charge of powder, and mounting his horse, ordered the cavalry down to the wet sands, which were hard, to exercise under the command of P. de Alvarado. He took care to call the attention, as it were by accident, of the ambassadors at the moment that the guns were fired, and as the air was calm, the explosion, and noise of the balls through the trees, struck the natives with astonishment, and these circumstances were immediately represented it the painted cloths.

Tendile who was the most acute of the two in appearance, remarked at this time a partly gilt helmet with one of our soldiers, and observed that it resembled one which had belonged to their ancestors, and which was placed on the head of their god Huitzilopochtli; he therefore expressed a with to carry it to Montezuma. Cortes immediately presented it to him, saying at the same time, that in order to ascertain what resemblance existed between the gold of the two countries, it would not be amiss to return it filled with grains of that metal, as a fit present for our Emperor. Tendile now took his leave, alluring Cortes that he would speedily return with the answer to his request. The intelligence of what had passed, together with our presents, was rapidly conveyed to Montezuma by this officer, who was as eminent for his swiftness of foot, as for his rank. That Monarch was most particularly struck with the sight of the helmet; and it impressed strongly on his mind the idea, that we were the men destined by heaven to rule those countries.

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The other lord, Pitalpitoque, established his residence in a temporary building, at a little distance from our camp, his people supplying the table of Cortes with provisions, and the soldiers subsisting by barter. Thus six or seven days passed, at the expiration of which time, we one morning perceived Tendile approaching, followed by upwards of a hundred men bearing presents. With him came also a great Mexican lord, who in countenance, feature, and person, strongly resembled Cortes; and the reason of his being joined in the embassy was, that when the paintings were exhibited at the court, every one was immediately struck with the resemblance which the portrait of Cortes bore to this lord, who was named Quintalbor. The likeness was so strong, that whilst he remained among us in camp, we in speaking of them used to say, this, and the other Cortes.

On the arrival of the ambassadors in the pretence of Cortes, they touched the ground with their hands and kilted them, and with their vessels of incense fumigated him and the rest. After some conversation, mats and mantles being spread out, the presents were displayed upon them. The first was a plate of gold of the size of the wheel of a carriage, representing the sun, admirably wrought, and said to be worth upwards of twenty thousand crowns; a larger one, equally wrought, of silver, representing the moon; the helmet already mentioned filled with gold in its native state to the amount of three thousand crowns, but the information we hereby obtained of the value of the mines we estimated at more than thirty thousand; thirty pieces of wrought gold representing ducks, very well executed, others in the forms of deer, dogs, lions, tygers, and apes; twelve arrows; a bow with the cord; two rods like those borne by officers of justice, five palms long; ten collars, and many other ornaments, all of fine gold, and cast, or moulded work. After these were produced plumes of feathers represented in gold, others of silver, together with fans of the same materials, beautiful penaches of green feathers, thirty loads of the finest cotton cloth, with many other things which I cannot now recollect.

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All these being laid before Cortes, the ambassadors made a speech, wherein they told him that with the same good will that their monarch sent the present, it was hoped he would receive it, and divide it as he thought best among the Teules with him. They also communicated to him a message from the great Montezuma to this effect; “That he rejoiced in the arrival of such brave men in his country as the accounts he had received proved us to be; that he much wished to see our great emperor, and to communicate by a reciprocation of presents with him; and that he was ready to render us any services; but that as to visits to his court, they were attended with many difficulties, and he did not wish for them.” Cortes received this message with apparent good humour, and presented each of the ambassadors with holland shirts and other articles of small value, but replied by observing, that after having crossed such a vast space of sea, he could not return without executing the mission which he had been sent upon, which was, to see and speak to the Emperor Montezuma in person, such being the orders of our great monarch, which he was compelled and determined to obey. The ambassadors replied that they would convey his message, but gave no hopes of a favorable answer. Out of our poor means Cortes contrived to send by them a second present; it consisted of a glass cup of Venetian manufacture, curiously gilt and wrought with figures, three holland shirts, and some other articles. With these the two ambassadors returned to Mexico, leaving Pitalpitoque to take the charge of provisioning our camp.

Cortes seeing that these uninhabited sand banks infested by mosquitos were disadvantageous for a settlement, ordered Francisco de Montejo, with two small ships, to proceed along the coast for the space of ten days sail, in search of a port in a better situation. Montejo advanced as far as the great river of Panuco, which he could not pass on account of the violence of the currents. He accordingly returned without being able to report any information, except that twelve leagues from this place, he had seen a town or fortress named Quiabuistlan, and near it a harbour which appeared to the pilot to be secure to the north.

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It was afterwards called Puerto del Nombre Feo from its resemblance to one of that name in Old Spain. In this expedition Montejo employed ten or twelve days, during which time the Mexican lord who was intrusted with the care of our provisions, relaxed so much, that we began to experience great distress; our bread grew rotten, and unless we were successful in fishing we might starve, for the few Indians who occasionally brought fowls valued them much higher than they had done at first.

After waiting for some time very impatiently, the Mexican ambassador Tendile returned, with a present of ten loads of the finest mantles of cotton and feathers. Montezuma also sent four jewels called calchihuis, resembling emeralds, most highly valued by the Mexicans; and various articles of gold, to the amount of three thousand crowns. The two noblemen, Tendile and Pitalpitoque, for the third who resembled Cortes had fallen ill on the road, informed our general that the great Montezuma had received his present with much satisfaction, but that as to the interview, he could not permit any more to be said on the subject. That these rich jewels each of which exceeded in value a load of gold were intended for our emperor, and that herewith all farther intercourse with Mexico was precluded. Cortes, though greatly mortified, thanked them politely, and turning to some of us who were present said, “Truly this is a great monarch, and rich: with the permission of God we must see him.” To which all the soldiers replied, that they were ready to march. At this moment the bell tolled for the Ave Maria, and all of us fell on our knees, before the holy cross.

The Mexican noblemen being very inquisitive to know the meaning of this, Cortes hinted to the Rev. Father Bartholome the propriety of a sermon, such as should convey to them the truths of our holy faith. Fra. Bartholome accordingly preached, like an excellent theologian which he was, explaining the mysteries of the cross, at the sight of which the evil beings they worshipped as gods fled away. These subjects and much more he dilated upon, and it was perfectly ex-

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plained to, and understood by the Mexicans, who promised that they would relate all they had seen and heard to their sovereign. He also declared to them, that amongst the principal objects of our mission thither, were, those of putting a stop to human sacrifices, injustices, and idolatrous worship; and then, presenting them with an image of our Holy Virgin with her son in her arms, he desired them to take it with them, to venerate it, and to plant crosses similar to that before them in their temples.

A number of articles of gold were now brought in order to barter by the natives, and with this we paid for the provisions, principally fish, which we could procure; this was our only present resource against absolute want; we were mostly provided with those toys which were in request among the Indians, and with them we procured the gold, which as soon as obtained was paid to our fishermen, who were chiefly the mariners of the fleet. Cortes well knew of this private trade, nor did it afford him dissatisfaction, as he considered it a furtherance of his views, though he concealed his mind upon the subject.

The partizans of Velasquez however began now to grow jealous at this practice, and demanded Cortes to make such regulations as should bring all the gold which had been, or was in future to be purchased, into one common stock, under the care of a treasurer. To this Cortes consented, and named for the purpose one Gonzalo Mexia. He then turned to those who had made the application and with an angry countenance said, “Look you gentlemen! Our companions suffer under want; I therefore thought it prudent to connive at what was doing; all they obtained amounts to a mere trifle, with the blessing of God we have great and splendid prospects before us; it is now proclaimed, as you have desired; see if the soldiers will in future be able to procure food.” It is upon this transaction that Gomara relates, that it was done as a piece of art by Cortes, to induce Montezuma to think that gold was no object with the Spaniards; but the application for the 

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casque to be returned filled with gold, and other previous circumstances must have fully convinced him to the contrary.

One morning at this time, we were disagreeably surprised by perceiving that all our Mexican neighbours had quitted us without taking leave. This we afterwards learned was done by the order of Montezuma, who was determined to permit no more conferences. It seems this monarch was greatly bigotted to the worship of his idols, to which he every day sacrificed boys, in order to obtain directions how to act. Their commands were, that he should hold no farther intercourse with us, and they forbid the reception of the crucifix in Mexico. This was the cause of the flight of our former neighbours, which gave us an alarm and we prepared for hostilities.

One day while I and another soldier were centinels upon the sands at some distance from our post, we remarked the approach of five natives, whom, in order not to create an unnecessary alarm in the camp, was suffered to come up close to us. These men saluted us in a friendly manner, and by signs desired to be brought to our camp. I therefore left any comrade at the out-post, and attended them thither, for I then had the full use of my limbs, far otherwise than at present that I am worn down and old. When I had brought them to Cortes they saluted him with great reverence, addressing him with the title of Lopelucio, or lord, which is the signification of the word in the Totonaquean language. These Indians were very different in their appearance from the Mexicans, and they wore in their ears large rings of stone painted blue, and very fine leaves of gold in their lips. As their language was unintelligible to our interpreters, Donna Marina asked in the Mexican if any of their could speak in that dialect; to which two of them answered in the affirmative, and immediately proceeded to say, that their lord had sent them to congratulate us on our arrival; that he would be proud to serve such brave men as he had heard we were, and would have waited upon us before, but from dread of the people of Culchua, who were with us. In the course of conversation Cortes was pleased to find

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that Montezuma had enemies in the country; he dismissed these men with presents, and desired them to assure their chief, that he would shortly pay him an amicable visit. These people were ever after named the Lopelucios.

The sands we had remained on during this time, were infested by the small mosquito, which is much the most troublesome of all, and tinder whose attacks it is impossible to sleep; our bread was rotten, and we had hardly any thing else to eat. The faction of Velasquez, and those who had good plantations in Cuba therefore began to be very tired of our present situation, which indeed required some change, and Cortes prepared to proceed to the fortified town named Quiabuistlan. Upon this the persons I have alluded to grew more querulous than before; they complained that they should be worn down by the attacks of the natives of this vast country, having already lost above thirty-five of our number, and that it was preferable to return and report to Velasquez what we had done. To these remonstrances Cortes replied, that hitherto we had no cause to complain of fortune; that death was the fate of war, and it was our faults if we wanted while we lived in a plentiful land; that it was impossible to quit this country without seeing more of it, and he trusted in God’s assistance. This in some degree calmed, but by no means extinguished the spirit of the party which had formed itself.

Cortes had now obtained from Puertocarrero, Alvarado and his four brothers, De Oli, De Avila, Escalante, De Lugo, and myself, together with other officers and cavaliers, promises of our support in appointing him to an independent command, and this was suspected by Montejo, who closely watched all our motions. One night very late, Puertocarrero, Escalante, and De Lugo who was a distant relation of mine came to my hut, and said to me, “Senior del Castillo get your arms and join us to attend Cortes who is going his rounds.” I accordingly did so, and as soon as we had quitted the hut, they told that they wanted some conversation with me, which it was not proper for my comrades, who were of the faction of Velasquez, to hear. One of 

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them then addressed me as follows; “Senior del Castillo it is now the third time that you have visited this country to your cost and loss; Cortes has deceived us; he said in Cuba that he had powers to establish a colony, whereas they went no farther as at present appears than to traffic, and now we are to return to Cuba and assign all our wealth over to Velasquez. Here are many of us determined to take possession of this country under Cortes in his Majesty’s name, and until his royal pleasure is known; Cortes shall be elected our general, and we expect you will give him your vote.” To all this I most heartily and immediately assented, and we went through the different huts thus canvassing for Cortes. The affair was soon known to the party of Velasquez which was much more numerous than ours; they immediately went to Cortes, and haughtily desired him to desist from those underhand proceedings; they told him that it was his duty now to return to Velasquez who had sent him, and that we were not by any means provided for the establishment of a colony. To this Cortes mildly replied, that as in duty bound he would instantly return; but we who were of the other party now exclaimed against him for having deceived us in asserting that he had a commission to colonize, whereas it appeared that it went no farther than barter; adding, that we demanded a fulfilment of his original engagement with us, as necessary for the service of God and his Majesty. That once we were settled more soldiers would join us, and that Velasquez had drawn us to our ruin, by inducing us to come here in hopes of a settlement, and disappointing us; and we concluded by saying, that those who chose to return to Cuba were welcome to do so.

We then insisted on Cortes accepting the command of us who were determined to try our fortunes in this new country, for the service of God and his Majesty: he for some time refused, but at length acceded, for as the proverb says, “You ask me that, to which I have already got my own consent,” and thus he was appointed our captain general, and supreme magistrate. The worst part of the business was, the power which we gave him, to draw for himself, one fifth of all the gold after 

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that of his Majesty was deducted. However with all these authorities and privileges he was formally invested, before a royal notary, Diego de Godoy. It was now determined to proceed immediately to the foundation of a settlement and town, which we named De la Vera Cruz, because we arrived here on Holy Thursday, and disembarked on Good Friday, and we called it Villa Rica, from the words of a cavalier, who said, “Behold the rich lands.” We also appointed civil magistrates, the two first alcaldes being A. H. Puertocarrero, the cavalier I have just alluded to, and Francisco de Montejo; the latter was no friend to Cortes, and it was for that reason he, was from policy appointed to this situation. A gallows was erected in the square of the town, and another at some distance out of it. Pedro de Alvarado was appointed captain of the expeditions, Christoval de Oli maestre de campo, Juan de Escalante Maguazil mayor, Gonzalo Mexia treasurer, Alonzo de Avila contador, and one Corral standard bearer, for Villaroel who had held that situation was displaced, on account of some umbrage Cortes had taken against him about an Indian woman of Cuba. Ochoa Viscaino, and Alonzo Romero, were appointed military alguazils. If it is asked now, why I do not name Gonzalo de Sandoval that valiant captain, who was noticed by our great monarch the emperor, I reply, that he was at this time a stripling, and had not acquired the fame in arms he afterwards obtained.

The steps which we had taken enraged the faction of Velasquez beyond all measure; they were almost ready to break out into ads of violence, and uttered the most mutinous expressions. Juan de Escalante now, having previously concerted the measure with Cortes, demanded in the name of us all, a sight of the instructions given by Velasquez. The tenor of them was as follows; “As soon as you shall have procured the utmost quantity of gold that is to be had, return.” We requested this instrument, in order that the whole of the proceedings should be laid before his Majesty; a necessary precaution as afterwards appeared, from the steps which were taken against us by the Bishop of Burgos and Archbishop of Rossano, Don Juan Rodriguez 

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de Fonseca, for so he was named, who wished, throughout, to destroy us all.

The adherents of Velasquez now declared, that they would not remain under the command of Cortes, but, would return to the Island of Cuba; to which Cortes replied, that it was not his with to detain any one contrary to his inclination, even though he should remain alone. This pacified many, but Juan Velasquez de Leon a relation of the Governor of Cuba, Diego de Ordas, Escobar who had been his page, Escudero, and others were not to be reconciled; so that Cortes was obliged to arrest them, and keep them for a time in irons.