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The Spanish Army advances into the Country.


THE wants we experienced now required some relief, and Alvarado was accordingly sent with a hundred soldiers principally of the party of Velasquez, to search the country, and procure maize, and other provisions; for it was thought most politic, that the whole of those who were friends to Cortes should remain with him. It must be observed that this neighbourhood where the language of Culva was spoken, was dependent upon Mexico. Alvarado proceeding on his expedition, marched to same small villages, dependencies of the district, named Costitlan, which the inhabitants had quitted a short time before his arrival. In their temples he found the bodies of men and boys lately sacrificed, the stones on which the horrid ceremony was performed, and the knives yet smoking; the limbs were severed from the bodies, and taken away, as our people were informed, to be eaten. These shocking scenes astonished our soldiers, but we every where as we proceeded through the country found similar ones. In these villages they obtained abundance of provisions, of which they stripped them, without doing further damage, by the strict orders of Cortes, and returned with two prisoners to our quarters, where we rejoiced in the novelty of good fare: for, as the saying is, all hardships and misfortunes are supported with a hearty meal.

The address and activity of Cortes made him daily acquire an interest amongst the former adherents of Velasquez, some with gold which breaks the solid rocks, and more with promises were successively drawn over to him. He first brought his prisoners from the ships where they had been in confinement, and in a few days released them

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entirely, attaching them sincerely to his interest, and all by the softening effects of gold.

We now proceeded to the fortress of Quiabuistlan, and on our march thither along the coast, I recollect that we passed a great fish which was left behind by the tide. We then arrived at a river where the present town of Vera Cruz is built, and crossed it to a village on the opposite side. The district was subject to the great town of Cempoal, to which the five Indians belonged who visited us with golden ornaments in their under lips. In some temples we found the instruments and remains of human sacrifices, much plumage of parrots, and books of the paper of the country, folded in the manner of cloth of Castille; but the natives had all fled, and no provisions were to be found.

We now quitted the coast, and struck into the country towards the west, where, in some large plains without any beaten track, we saw herds of deer feeding. Alvarado with his swift chesnut mare gave chace to one of them, which he wounded with his lance, but the animal escaped from him into the woods. Just at this time twelve Indians came to us, bearing provisions; they had been seat by their chief with an invitation to go to his town, which vas distant one day’s journey. Cortes thanked them, and we proceeded on, to a town where we halted for the night. We found here the remains of human sacrifices, both of men and women, with the repetition of the further details of which, I will not tire the reader.

Early in the morning we proceeded under the conduct of our friendly Indians, and sent forward to the chief of Cempoal to inform him of our approach. When we came within a league of the place, we were met by twenty principal persons, who presenting Cortes and the cavalry with very odoriferous flowers tied in bunches, told him, that they came with an excuse on the part of their chief, who was so fat and unwieldy that he was not able to come out, but had sent them to invite us to his town. Cortes thanked them, and we proceeded.

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When we entered, we were surprised with the beauty of the buildings and situation, and the various plantations of trees. All the streets as we passed were filled with men and women, attracted by curiosity. Our advanced guard having gone to the great square, the buildings of which lead been lately whitewashed and plaistered, in which art these people are very expert, one of our horsemen was so truck with the splendor of their appearance in the sun, that he came back in full speed to Cortes, to tell him that the walls of the houses were of silver. When we came to know the reality we all laughed heartily at him, and used in future to say that every thing that was white, was silver in his eyes. These buildings were appointed for our lodgings, and large apartments aligned to us, which contained the whole; and here the fat cacique, for so I am in future to call him, came to pay his respects to Cortes. They had provided an entertainment for us, with baskets of plums, and bread of maize. We were well pleased with our situation, and teamed the town Villa Viciosa; though some called it Seville. Cortes ordered that the soldiers should give no umbrage to the inhabitants, and that we should for that reason remain in our quarters.

As soon as the fat cacique understood that we had dined, he signified to Cortes his intention of waiting on him, which he shortly after did, attended by many of the principal inhabitants, dressed in rich mantles, and ornamented with gold. Cortes went out to meet them with great ceremony, and having embraced the fat cacique, the latter ordered a present to be brought, composed of gold and mantles, but of little value, which he offered to Cortes, saying, “Great lord, receive this present kindly, for if I had more it should be yours.” Cortes answered that he would repay it with good works, and desired to know what services he could render him, having been sent by the emperor whose vassal he was, to redress wrongs, punish the wicked, and prevent the sacrifice of human souls. He then said many things to him concerning our holy faith. As soon as the fat cacique had heard them out, giving a deep sigh, he complained bitterly of Montezuma and his officers, saying, that having lately been compelled to submit to the 

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yoke of that monarch, he had seized all his gold, and now held him completely enthralled.

Cortes promised that he would soon take such measures as should free him from the tyranny he complained of. The cacique then made a very discreet answer, and they parted for the present. On the ensuing day we quitted this place attended by above four hundred Indians to carry our baggage. These persons are called Tamenes: they carry a burthen of about fifty pounds for the space of five leagues, where they are relieved; and we understood that in peaceable and orderly times, in these countries, each cacique was obliged, on demand, to provide them through his district. At night we arrived at a village hard by the town of Quiavistlan, where we found a good supper provided for us by the care of the fat cacique.

At ten o’clock in the forenoon of the ensuing day, we entered the fortified town of Quiavistlan, situated upon a rock of very difficult ascent, with our artillery in the front. Though I may be charged with breaking in upon my narrative to relate old stories, I must mention, that as we were marching up to this place, Captain A. de Avila, an ill-tempered man, being angry with a soldier named Villanueva for breaking his rank, gave him a thrust of his lance in the arm which lamed him ever after; he was therefore in future called Villa nueva el Manquillo. We advanced to the middle of the city without any resistance, or even meeting an individual; but on approaching the temples, which were upon the principal square, we saw fifteen persons dressed in rich mantles, who approaching Cortes presented him with incense, and apologizing for the absence of the people, through fear, invited us to repose ourselves, and promised that before night the inhabitants should return. Cortes informed them of that which related to our mission, in the service of our great emperor, and holy faith, and presenting them with some trinkets, desired that they would send us a supply of provisions, which they instantly did.

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Cortes was now informed of the approach of the fat cacique, who shortly appeared, borne in a litter by his principal nobility; and on his arrival, he immediately joined with the chiefs of this place, in bitter complaints of the tyranny of Montezuma; one of the heaviest articles of which was, his demand of their children for the purposes of sacrifice, or slavery; and they asserted that this was the practice, with many other acts of outrage committed by his officers, through the whole of the country where the language of Totonaque was spoken; a tract which contained above thirty towns. Cortes consoled them, promising redress, and whilst they were thus conversing a person came to inform the chiefs, that there were just then arrived five Mexican officers, or collectors of tribute. This intelligence drove the colour from the cheeks of all the natives, and they went trembling, to receive them, leaving Cortes quite alone.

For these officers lodgings were prepared with the greatest dispatch, and chocolate got ready for their refreshment. As they went to their apartments they passed us by with great state, not deigning to cast a look upon Cortes. They were dressed in mantles elegantly wrought, and drawers of the same; their hair shining, and as it were tied at the top of the head, and each of them had in his hand a bunch of roses, which he occasionally smelt to. They were attended by servants who fanned them, and each of whom carried a cord and a hooked stick. They were also attended by a numerous company of the principal persons, who did not quit them until they had taken their refreshment, after which they sent for the fat cacique, and those of this place, and gave them a severe reprimand for receiving and entertaining us, contrary to the will of their sovereign, Montezuma; and having used many threats of punishment, they concluded with a demand of twenty men and women to sacrifice to their gods, in order to expiate the offence.

This being made known to our general he acquainted the caciques, that in conformity to his duty, he deemed it proper to seize the person of these officers, until their lord, Montezuma, should be informed of the 

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tyrannies they committed on his subjects. This proposal terrified and astonished the chiefs, and they at first refused to lay hands on them, but Cortes was determined, and caused them to be seized and fastened by the neck in a kind of pillory made of large staves and collars. They were so fixed as not to be able to stir, and one of them also being refractory was beaten soundly. Cortes then proclaimed that neither tribute nor obedience should be paid to Montezuma, and this he ordered to be made universally known through these districts, and also, that wherever he should hear of any officers of Montezuma coming, he would send for and arrest them. The intelligence of these measures soon spread through the country, which the natives said were to be attempted only by superior beings, or Teules, the name which they give to their idols, and by which they henceforward distinguished the Spaniards.

The chiefs were now violent to sacrifice the officers, whom before their arrest they hardly dared to look at; and this they said was in order to prevent them from conveying intelligence to Mexico; but when it came to the knowledge of Cortes, he prevented it by taking them into his own custody, and putting them under a guard of soldiers. At midnight he caused two of them to be untied, and brought secretly into his presence; when they came before him, he asked them, as if ignorant of what had happened, what country they belonged to, and why they were kept prisoners. They answered, “That they had been seized by the caciques and people of that town, who were favored and encouraged in it by him and us.” To this Cortes replied, “That he knew nothing of it, and was very sorry for what had happened.” He then caused food to be brought to them, and treating them with great kindness, desired that they would go and inform their sovereign bow much he wished to be his friend and servant. He also promised that he would release their companions, and reprimand the caciques for what they had done. He then desired them to go away as fast as they could, but they informing him that it would be their destruction to attempt to pass through the country, he sent them by a boat with six

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sailors, who had orders to put them on shore beyond the territory of Cempoal.

In the morning, when the caciques found that two of their prisoners were flown, they were very determined on sacrificing the rest, but Cortes assuming the appearance of great displeasure at the loss, ordered a chain to be brought, in which he sent the remainder of the Mexicans to the ships, and this he did to get them out of the power of the others, for as soon as they were on board he released them, with a promise that they should soon be permitted to return to Mexico. The caciques now reverted to Cortes for advice how they should act, as Montezuma must inevitably know the manner in which his officers had been treated, and would in consequence overwhelm them with his great armies; to which Cortes with a cheerful countenance replied, that he and his brothers there would guard them against all attacks. The caciques on their part offered to support us with all their powers, and they at this time entered under allegiance to his Majesty before Diego de Godoy the royal notary, and caused proclamation thereof to be made through the province, the people of which rejoiced in the exemption from the vexatious demands of Montezuma’s officers.

The strong alliance which we had now made, induced us to lose no time in establishing our settlement in so advantageous a situation. For the scite of our town we chose a plain, half a league from the fortress where we now were and tracing out the foundations of the church, square, arsenal, and fort, we raised all the buildings to the first story, and also the walls and parapets of the fort, with loop holes and barbacans. Cortes was the first to carry earth, or stones, or dig in the foundations; and his example was followed by all the officers and soldiers, some digging, and others making the walls of clay, bringing water, and at the kilns making bricks and tiles; others seeking provisions or timber, and the smiths preparing the iron work. In this manner we continued, until, with the assistance of the natives, we had nearly completed the church, houses, and fortresses.

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At this time, it appears, the great Montezuma received intelligence of the manner in which his officers had been treated, and of the rebellion of the provinces. He was much enraged with Cortes, and had ordered two armies to march, one to punish his refractory subjects, the other against us, but when they were ready to let out, the arrival of the two officers whom Cortes had, released, and the account of the manner in which they had been treated while in our power, assuaged his anger, and induced him to send us a peaceable message. For this purpose he selected two of his nephews, whom he sent to us under the care of four old noblemen of the first rank about his court, with a present of gold, and mantles, worth two thousand crowns, and also to return his thanks to Cortes, for the civility shewn to his officers; but adding a complaint of his having instigated these people to throw off their allegiance, for which he would at a future opportunity punish them, though he refrained from doing so at the present, on account of our being amongst them; because he was convinced that we were those of whom the ancient prophecies had spoken, and that we were of the fame ancestors with himself. Cortes informed the ambassadors, that he and all of us were the most humble servants of the great Montezuma, for whom we had taken care of those officers, three of whom were now on board of our ships, and these he ordered to be immediately brought and delivered to their friends.

Cortes then complained of Montezuma, and the uncivil flight of his officer the governor, laying, that was the reason of his now coming to this country, where he had received much kindness; hoping what had passed would be pardoned, and that as to tribute, it was not possible to serve two masters, and the people of these provinces were now the vassals of our lord the emperor; but that he expected soon to wait on the great Montezuma, and then every thing should be done to his satisfaction by us. He presented the young princes with glass diamonds and beads, and treated them with much honor, ordering the cavalry out to exercise in their presence, a sight which afforded them great sa-

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tisfaction; after which they returned to Mexico, very well contented with their visit.

Cortes at this time lost his horse, whose place he supplied by that called El Harriero: he was a dark chesnut and one of the best that were brought to New Spain. The embassy sent by Montezuma had the greatest effect on the people of those countries, for said they how formidable must those Teules be, whom even the great Montezuma fears!!

The fat cacique now waited on Cortes, to complain of the outrages committed by a garrison of Mexican troops which occupied a town called Cingapacinga, nine leagues distant from the place where we were. Aster some consideration, Cortes laughing said to those about him, “Gentlemen you see that these people esteem us to be a superior race of beings, let us encourage the prejudice, and impress them with the idea that one of us is enough to drive an army before him. For this purpose I will send old Heredia the Biscayan musketeer, whose fierce and scarred face, great beard, one eye, and lame leg, will terrify them.” This man had been a soldier in Italy. Cortes told him when he had gone as far as the river to fire a musket as a signal, for he did this only to try how far the credulity of the Indians in our favor would carry them. Heredia being present, he called to the caciques saying, “Go with this Teule, whom I send to kill or make prisoners all your enemies.” The caciques set out with their party accordingly, being headed by the old soldier, who went firing his musket before them out of the town. As soon as he arrived at the river he gave the signal, and Cortes sent to stop them, having sufficiently tried their faith, and when they returned he informed them that it was his intention to proceed against their enemies with his whole force.

When the soldiers were warned for this duty, those of the party of Velasquez refused to obey orders, saying, that they would go on no expedition, but insisted on returning to the Island of Cuba. The number of mutineers who openly declared themselves was seven; when these were

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were brought before Cortes and asked by him how they could behave so ill, they insolently replied, that they wondered at his idea of colonizing amongst such numbers of the natives; that for their parts they were tired of being dragged about, and would go to their plantations in Cuba. Cortes replied that he would not oppose their going, though he disapproved of their conduct; accordingly they embarked, and brought their provisions of bread, oil, and vegetables, on board, and one of them named Moron sold a good horse to one Juan Ruano, who was to pay for it by an assignment of certain articles of his property in Cuba.

Just as the vessel was ready to sail, the soldiers, headed by the alcaldes, and other civil officers of the settlement, waited on Cortes with a quest that he would permit no persons whatever to quit their colours, a crime for which those who committed it deserved to suffer death. Cortes for some time appeared to be unwilling to withdraw the permission, but at length suffered himself to be persuaded, and the seven malcontents were obliged to come back to us and sustain the ridicule their conduct brought on them; Moron also lost his horse, which the other kept, referring him for the payment, to his assignment on his property in the Island of Cuba.

Our internal troubles being appeased for the present, Cortes let out upon his expedition with four hundred soldiers, being joined at Cempoal by a thousand of our allies divided into four companies. The first days march was five leagues, and on the ensuing day we reached the outskirts of the town of Cingapacinga, which was built among steep and difficult rocks. When the inhabitants heard of our approach, a deputation of eight of their chieftains was tent to Cortes, and being brought into his pretence, these persons with tears in their eyes asked him why he came to destroy them, who had given no occasion for such aggression, adding that this surprised them the more from the celebrity of our justice, which had reached them; and as to our allies Cempoal, their malevolence against them was founded upon an old dispute about boundaries, and now they took advantage of our support

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to rob and murder them. They admitted that a Mexican garrison had been in their town, but it had retired on the arrest of the officers of Montezuma. They therefore prayed that we would grant them our favor.

As soon as this was explained to Cortes, he gave orders to his troops not to suffer any of the allies to advance. This order was speedily communicated, but they were already plundering the people in the suburbs, at which Cortes was greatly enraged, and ordering the captains into his presence, he commanded them to return what had been taken, adding, that they deserved the punishment of death for, their misrepresentations, when their real and evident intention was, to rob and sacrifice their neighbours: an injustice which we were bound to prevent or redress. The chiefs of Cempoal, duly impressed by these menaces, instantly surrendered their prisoners and plunder. Cortes then, with an enraged countenance commanded them to quit the place for the night, which they accordingly did. This conduct won the hearts of the people of the district, and both chiefs and priests listened attentively to, and were convinced by, the truths which Cortes told them relative to our holy faith, and his exhortation to quit their abominable worship and customs, insomuch that, calling in the people of the neighbouring districts, the whole engaged under allegiance to his Majesty; after having done which, they made heavy complaints of the tyranny of Montezuma.

On the ensuing morning, Cortes called for the chiefs of Cempoal, and effected a permanent reconciliation between them and this people. We then departed by a different route, and being much fatigued, we halted in a town which was in the district of the place we had left. It happened here that a certain soldier named De Mora, took two fowls from the house of one of the inhabitants, and Cortes on hearing of it was so incensed at such an outrage being committed in a peaceable country, that he immediately hung him up, but Captain de Alvarado drawing his sword, cut the rope just in time to save the poor man’s 

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life; this soldier was afterwards killed in an action at a rock in Guatimala. I mention the circumstance as a proof of the strictness with which Cortes enforced discipline.

Proceeding from the place where this happened, we arrived at some huts where we found the fat cacique waiting for us with refreshments and provisions. Our conduct on this expedition made the natives hold us in higher estimation than before; for although untaught, they could see that justice is holy and good, and that the behaviour of Cortes was conformable to what he professed, when he declared that he came to redress and prevent tyranny. Here we rested for the night, and on the ensuing day all the caciques attended us to our lodgings in their town.

They were doubly interested now to retain us amongst them, for they were in great dread of the vengeance of Montezuma; they therefore in order to fix us proposed an intermarriage, and for that purpose offered to us eight ladies, all of the first families, who were introduced richly dressed, and ornamented with gold collars and ear rings, and attended by a number of female slaves. The fat cacique then said to Cortes, “Tlecle or lord, these seven young women are for the captains of your army, and this my niece who is proprietor of towns and vassals, I beg leave to present to you.” Cortes received the offer as it merited, but took the opportunity to observe, that in order to strengthen the friendship with us, it was necessary that they should first renounce their idolatrous worship, the abominable custom of male youths appearing in women’s dress, and their human sacrifices; for every day our sight was offended by the repetition of four or five of these horrid murders, the unfortunate victims being cut up and their limbs sold in the public markets, as beef is in the towns of Old Castille. He also added, that before we could accept their proposal relative to these ladies, it was necessary that they should undergo the ceremony of baptism.

The chiefs and priests replied, that they could not think of re- 

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nouncing the worship of their gods in any respect: but as to the other evil practice a stop should be put to it. This answer however did not by any means satisfy us, and Cortes strongly represented the necessity of suppressing by force their idolatrous worship, and his determination, though it cost the lives of all, on that very day to prostrate their false gods. For this purpose we therefore immediately got under arms, and then Cortes declared his intention to the chiefs. As soon as the fat cacique heard it, he ordered the people to arm and assemble in defence of their temple, and they all appeared greatly agitated; but when they saw that we were preparing to ascend the great flight of steps, the chief abovementioned came up to Cortes and expostulated with him, asking him why he proceeded upon a measure whereby he would bring destruction upon them and us also. Cortes answered that he was determined sine they paid no regard to what he said, to hurl their pretended gods down the steps. The chiefs replied, that they were unworthy to approach them, but if we were resolved on doing what we said, they could not help themselves. Accordingly, they had hardly laid this, when fifty of us going up for the purpose, threw down and broke to pieces the enormous idols which we found within the temple, some in the form of dragons, others of half human shape, and others like dogs. At this, sight the chiefs and priests wept and prayed for pardon, but the warriors prepared to attack us with their arrows. Perceiving their intention, we immediately seized the fat cacique and six more chiefs and priests, Cortes exclaiming, that if any outrage was attempted, they should every man die that moment. The fat cacique then called to his warriors to desist, and matters being soon brought to a state of quiet, Cortes took an opportunity of haranguing the people upon the subject of religion.

He next ordered that the fragments of the idols should be burned, and immediately eight priests who used to have the care of them came, and collecting them together, brought them into the temple, where they were consumed.

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These priests were dressed in long black mantles like sheets with hoods resembling those of our canons hanging to the shoulders, their robes reached to the feet, and they had a smaller hood like the dominicans. Their long hair was matted together with clotted blood; with some it reached to the waist, and with others to the feet, their ears were torn and cut, and they smelt horribly, as it were of sulphur, and putrid flesh. They were said to be all of noble families, and they were addicted to the evil practice of the country. On certain days they fasted: I have seen them make food of the seeds or kernels of the cotton plant, what else they might have used at other times I cannot say.

Cortes then harangued the people, raying that now we were really brothers, Montezuma should no longer oppress them, and he would place them under the protection of the great Lady whom we adore, the mother of Christ, with many other good and holy reasons and arguments, which could not be better expressed by any one, and all which the people listened to with great attention. He then caused a number of Indian masons to be collected, with lime, which abounded in that place, and had the walls cleared of blood, and new plaistered. He also constructed an altar which he hung round with rich mantles, and adorned with wreaths of rotes. The temple being thus purified and cleaned, he commanded four priests to cut off their hair, and change their black garments for white ones, and entrusted them with the care of the attar, and he placed an old soldier named Juan de Torres de Cordova, who was lame, as a hermit to reside in the temple. He also planted a cross against a column of timber, and on the next day mass was said there by F. Bart. de Olmedo. We likewise taught the natives to make candles of wax, and they were enjoined to keep them always burning before the holy altar.

The principal persons of this and the neighbouring districts attended at divine service, and the eight ladies were at this time baptized and instructed in our holy faith. The niece of the fat cacique was named Donna Catalina; she was as ugly as possible, but the general re- 

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ceived her by the hand affectionately. Puertocarrero was more fortunate; his lady was for an Indian very handsome; she was the daughter of a great cacique named Cuesco, and was called Donna Francisca. The alliance consolidated the friendship between us and this people, of whom we now took our leave, and returned to Villa Rica.

On our arrival we found a vessel from Cuba in the harbour, commanded by one Francisco Saucedo, called el Pulido on account of his affectation of finery and manners. Luis Marin a very able officer, and ten soldiers with two horses were on board. We learned by these people that Velasquez had received from Old Spain his authority to barter and colonize. This, with his appointment to the commission of adelantado of Cuba, put his friends in our army in very great spirits.

The works of our town were nearly finished, and many of us now grew anxious to pay a visit to the great Montezuma, and expressed to Cortes our wish to try our fortune. Consultations being held hereon, it was determined in the first place to send a deputation to his Majesty, with an account of what we had done, and also with the gold and other articles of value which had been obtained. This determination was agreed to by Cortes, and was immediately carried into effect, and Diego de Ordas, and Francisco de Montejo, two men of business, going through the whole of the officers and soldiers, and representing to them, that, although to such as claimed their share it should not be denied, yet it was for the general interest that the whole of the treasure should be sent to his Majesty, all our companions gave their consent, and renounced their claim to a partition. Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero, and Francisco de Montejo were named as our agents, the last mentioned of whom Cortes had already secured in his own interest by a gift of two thousand crowns. By these gentlemen Cortes wrote his private letters, the contents of which we never knew. The council also wrote conjointly with those of the soldiers who were most solicitous for the establishment of the colony, and the election of Cortes as captain general. In this letter nothing was omitted that could serve

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our cause; my hand was to it with the rest: and besides these, a letter to the following purport was written in the name of the whole army.

Beginning with the expressions of respect due to so great a monarch, it proceeded to inform him of the events which had occurred during our expedition, to the period of our election of Cortes, until his Majesty’s pleasure on the subject should be known; with our engagement to yield him a fifth of all treasure, after the deduction for his Majesty. It also contained an account of our discovery of the two Spaniards in this country, and our war in Tabasco, until we brought those people to submission to his Majesty, and to embrace our holy faith, of our obtaining two excellent linguists, of our arrival at St. Juan de Ulua, and our interviews with the ambassadors of Montezuma; our subsequent march into the country, and our alliance with the people here, who had in consequence renounced obedience to the Mexican monarch, of the expedition to Cingapacinga, the construction of our fortress, and our present determination to advance into the country, to the court of the great Montezuma. The letter also gave an account of the military and religious customs of the inhabitants, of the former expeditions of our countrymen, and an enumeration of the various articles of treasure which we sent by our agents, and how we also sent by the same opportunity, four natives, whom we rescued out of the cages of Cempoal, where they were fattening for victims. After these accounts we further stated, how we were at preterit four hundred and fifty soldiers, surrounded by hosts of enemies, and ready to lay down our lives for the service of God, and his Majesty, and we supplicated, that his Majesty would be pleased not to bestow the government of so great and rich a country, which deserved to be ruled by a great prince or lord, on any unworthy person. We also stated to his Majesty our apprehension, that the Governor of Cuba might be attempted to be put in upon us, through the interest of his patron the Bishop of Burgos, whom he had attached to him by the assignment of valuable estates in that Island, in which he failed in his duty to his Majesty, who was by right entitled to them. That these things we were bound to represent, and await the

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return of his gracious answer prostrate on the ground; and that if the Bishop of Burgos sent any person over us, we should suspend our obedience, until his Majesty’s pleasure was known, and that in the mean time, we remained under the command of his Majesty’s faithful servant Cortes, whose merits we exalted to the skies.

This being all drawn up in due form, our general desired to be permitted to read it, and on the perusal he expressed his highest satisfaction thereat. The only two articles he excepted to were, the mention of his share of the treasure, and of the names of the preceding discoverers; for it seems that he had in his private letter ascribed all the honor and merit to himself. These parts he desired to suppress, but there were not wanting those who told him, that his Majesty was to know, not only the truth, but the whole truth. This business completed, the letters were intrusted to our agents, with strict injunctions by no means to touch at the Havannah, nor at the port of El Marien, as we wished to keep the affair from the knowledge of Velasquez.

After mass on the twenty-sixth of July 1519 our agents sailed, and arrived safely at the Havannah, in direct opposition to our instructions, for, Puertocarrero being sick, Montejo compelled the pilot Alaminos into his views, on the pretence of getting provisions from his estate at El Marien. As soon as the ship cast anchor, Montejo sent a sailor on shore with letters and advices to the Governor Velasquez, and this man as he went through the Island proclaimed the news of all that had happened in the army under Cortes.

Velasquez on receiving the intelligence communicated by Montejo, as is said, heartily cursed Cortes, his secretary, and the contador, by whose advice he had chosen him. He immediately sent two vessels armed in search of our ship, of which the unwelcome intelligence was soon received, that she was by that time considerably advanced towards Europe; and with this news his vessels returned to St. Jago, making Velasquez more disconsolate than ever. He lodged a complaint before 

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the Bishop of Burgos, and the court of royal audience in St. Domingo, but the reverend fathers sent him back an answer highly favorable to us, whole services they were by this time made acquainted with. This answer, which was brought by a licentiate named Zuazo, or arrived about the same time with him, vexed the governor so much, that from being very fat, he grew quite lean. He now made the utmost exertions to collect a powerful armament in order to overwhelm us, on which business he went in person, and by the fury and determination he exhibited, he induced most of the settlers of Cuba to take part in the expedition, and prepared a fleet of eighteen sail great and small, under the command of Pamphilo de Narvaez.

Our agents passing the canal of Bahama, under the guidance of Alaminos, the first pilot who ever navigated through it, proceeded to the Islands of Terceras, and from thence to Seville; and in a few days arrived at the court, which was then at Valladolid; the Bishop of Burgos biting president of the royal council of the Indies. Our agents went to wit on him in great spirits, expecting a gracious reception, but having presented their letters and requested a speedy transmission of them and their present, to his Majesty, who was then in Flanders, the bishop returned a very repulsive and haughty answer, saying, that he would sake his own representations of our conduct, in having thrown off our obedience to the governor of Cuba. The arrival of Benito Martinez the chaplain of Velasquez at this time, contributed much to set our affairs in an unfavorable situation, and the bishop in consequence of a remonstrance which was made to him by A. H. Puertocarrero, one of those employed by us, and a cavalier of rank, caused him to be thrown into prison, on a pretended misdemeanor, in carrying away with him to the Indies a woman of Medellin, named Maria Rodriquez. All this it was necessary, according to the dictates of prudence, to keep silence upon, until the proper time and place.

The bishop now wrote to his Majesty, representing the transactions in the molt favorable light for Velasquez, and the most opposite 

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one for us, and entirely suppressed all mention of our letters, or presents, of which he appropriated a great part to his own use. Our agents then, in concert with Martin Cortes father to the general, and the licentiate Nunez, relator of his Majesty’s royal council and a neat relation to Cortes, with the countenance of some noblemen their friends, and others who were jealous of the haughty manners of the bishop, resolved to send the duplicates of our letters to his Majesty, and also others, complaining of the partiality of this prelate. It was the will of God that the said accounts should reach his Majesty’s hands, and that he should be well pleased with them, insomuch that, for many days, nothing was talked of but the services of Cortes, and us his soldiers. The Emperor was ever after dissatisfied with the Bishop of Burgos for the part he had acted. When he heard the turn our affairs had taken at court he was more furious against Cortes and the rest of us than ever, but it was the will of God that by the time two years more had elapsed, his courage should be cooled, for he was censured, while we continued to be held in estimation as loyal subjects to his Majesty, and the Emperor was pleased to say, that he would shortly come to Castille, and there attend to our memorials, and reward our services.

In four days after the departure of our agents, a plot was formed by certain persons who were enemies to Cortes on various accounts, such as the return to Cuba being precluded to them, and their being deprived of a share of the gold. Amongst these conspirators were one Escudero, and one Cermeno, Gonzalo de Umbria a pilot, Bernaldino de Coria, a clergyman named Juan Diaz, and certain sailors who had been whipped in Cozumel. It was determined amongst them to seize a vessel and sail for Cuba, there to give information to Velasquez of the departure of our agents, and this plan was suggested by some persons of consequence. Their scheme was frustrated a few hours before they were to have sailed, by the repentance and discovery of De Coria, who revealed it to Cortes. They were in consequence seized, and being examined confessed the whole, and accused several others; but of these no farther notice was taken. The prisoners were all condemned except the priest, whose

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orders protected him, but he got a great fright. Escudero and Cermeno were hanged, the pilot Umbria had his feet cut off, and each of the mariners received two hundred lashes. I remember when Cortes was ratifying this sentence, he gave a deep sigh and exclaimed, “How happy is he who is not able to write, and is thereby prevented from signing the death warrants of men.” It seems to me that this expression is very frequently affected amongst judges, and that it was borrowed from the cruel Nero at the time he counterfeited the appearance of being a good emperor. As soon as the sentences were executed, Cortes posted off at full speed to Cempoal, commanding two hundred soldiers, and all the cavalry, as also a detachment which was out under Alvarado, to follow him.

In the consultations which we held at Cempoal upon our intended expedition to Mexico, the friends of Cortes advised him to destroy the fleet, in order to prevent attempts similar to that related in the last chapter, and also to obtain so considerable a reinforcement as the whole body of mariners, who amounted to above a hundred. It appeared to me that Cortes had already determined this in his own mind, but he preferred that it should come as an application from us, in order that if damages were sued for on account of the loss incurred, we should be all responsible as himself. Cortes therefore ordered his friend Juan de Escalante who bore a bitter enmity to Velasquez on account of not being given a good district in Cuba, to dismantle the ships, and then sink them, retaining only the boats for the purpose of fishing. Escalante executed this service, and returned to Cempoal with a company formed of the mariners, many of whom turned out very good soldiers. Cortes now summoned the chiefs of these people who had renounced their allegiance to Montezuma, and enjoined them to render all services in their power to the party he left in Villa Rica, and to assist them in completing the town. Then taking Escalante by the hand he said, “This is my brother: obey him in whatever he desires you to do, and if you require assistance or protection against your enemies, recur to him, and he will give it to you.” This the caciques all promised

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to perform, and I recollect they immediately hereupon began, much against his will and endeavours, to fumigate Escalante with their incense. This officer was placed here in order to repel any attempts which might be made by Velasquez, as he was thoroughly attached to the interest of Cortes. Gomara here asserts that Cortes dared not publish to the soldiers his intention of marching to Mexico. I beg to be informed what is the disposition of a Spaniard? Or when it ever happened that he was not ready to march forward? He also errs where he says Pedro de Ircio remained commandant in Vera Cruz. I say again that Juan de Escalante was captain, and also alguazil major. Pedro de Ircio was not fit to be a corporal, nor is it just to take from one what belongs to him, and give it to another.

After having rendered the vessels unserviceable, but not privately as Gomara asserts, being one morning assembled after mass, and conversing on military affairs with Cortes, he desired our attention, and addressed us, saying, “We now knew the business which was before us; that with the aid of our Lord we should conquer, and it was necessary to do so, for in case of a defeat there was no escape; nor had we any support but in our valour, and the mercy of God.” To this he added many comparisons of our situation with those drawn from the history of the ancient Romans. We one and all replied, “That we were prepared to obey him; that the lot was now cast, let fortune take what turn she would, as Caesar said in passing the Rubicon, for that all our services were devoted to God and his Majesty.” Cortes then addressed us again in a very eloquent and impressive speech, which having concluded, he called for the fat cacique, and having informed him of our determination, he injoined him to take care of our church, and holy cross.

When we were just ready to depart, a soldier arrived with a letter to Cortes from Juan de Escalante, whereby he was informed that a strange ship was then at anchor in a river three leagues distant from Villa Rica, and that he could not obtain any answer to his signals from

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from those on board. Upon this, Cortes appointed Alvarado, and Sandoval who already began to shew himself the officer he afterwards was, to take the command of the army in his absence; (Avila being passed by, and Sandoval preferred on this occasion, first caused a certain jealousy on the part of the former;) he then set out with four of the cavalry to Villa Rica, ordering thirty of the lightest infantry to follow him thither, which number accordingly arrived there that night.

When we arrived at Villa Rica, Escalante offered to Cortes to go with twenty men to the vessel, lest the should make her escape, and that Cortes might take some repose; but Cortes replied, that he could not think of that, for “A lame goat took no afternoon’s nap.” Accordingly, without eating a morsel, we proceeded along the coast, and on our road fell in with four Spaniards, who were sent to take possession of the country, by Captain Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda. One of these, who was named Guillen de la Loa, was a notary, and the rest attended him as witnesses. Cortes having questioned these men as to what brought them there they replied, that Francisco de Garay, governor of Jamaica; had obtained from the court, a commission of adelantado and governor of such districts as he should discover on that coast, northward, from the river of St. Peter and St. Paul, by virtue of which, he had sent three ships, with two hundred and seventy soldiers, under the captain already named, who was then in the river Panuco. Cortes treated them with much kindness, and asked them if they thought that we could get possession of their ship; to which Guillen de la Loa replied that they would do their utmost to assist us, but no signs nor invitations that they made could induce those on board to approach, and we were told by them that their captain was aware of our being on the coat, and they supposed, when the boat did not come off, that we had been discovered. Cortes now bethought himself of a stratagem, and it was this; he dressed four of his soldiers in the clothes of these men, and left them there upon the spot, tracing back the way that he had come along the shore, so that we might be observed from the ship. Thus we proceeded, until we were out of sight of it, when we struck

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into the woods and made a stolen march back, reaching about midnight the rivulet where we had left our four companions. Here we concealed ourselves, and early in the morning our soldiers who were in disguise went down upon the shore, and made signs to those on board the vessel, in consequence, of which a boat put off with six sailors, two of whom landed with casks for water. Our four men pretended that they were washing their hands, and holding down their faces endeavoured to avoid being observed, but those in the boat calling to them, one of ours replied, desiring them to come on shore. The strange voice gave an alarm, and suspecting a trick they made off: we were going to fire upon them, but Cortes would not let us. Thus we obtained six men, and returned to Villa Rica, without having eaten a morsel during two entire nights and a day.