THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 98.
Of the Pearl Coast, of Paria and of the Island of Trinidad, 1552,
Source : Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias by
Bartolome de las Casas. Navarette. Colleccion de Docu-
mentos Ineditos. LXXI, 1879. Translated from the Spanish.
It is 2oo leagues from the Coast of Paria to the Gulf
of Venezuela and in this area the Spaniards have committed
some great and notable destruction amongst the natives
attacking them and taking as many as possible alive so as
to sell them as slaves. On many occasions they have been
taken during peace and amity negotiated so that the Spaniards
could trade and they had neither respected their faith nor
their word though being greeted by the natives as father
and son and receiving from them all they have.
It is not possible to find nor detail all the injustice, attacks,
damages and ravages which the people of this Coast have
suffered from the Spaniards from the year 1510 to the present
day. I will relate two or three instances from which may be
judged the many others which merit the worst punishments
by torments and fire.
In the Island of Trinidad which is much larger than that
of Sicily and more beautiful and which is linked to the
Tierra Firma by the Province of Paria, the Indians are as
good and kind as any to be found in all the Indies.
A marauder went there in the year 1516 with some 60
or 70 other villains who represented to the Indians that they
had come to settle there and live in the Island with them.
The Indians received them as if they were their friends and
relatives showing every mark of respect and affection, supplying
them every day with food, the best that could be got. It is
the generous custom of all the Indians in the New World to
give liberally to meet the needs of the Spaniards from whatever
they may have.
These men began to make a large house of wood in which
they could all live as this was what they had alleged they
had come to do. When the time came to apply palm leaves
to the supports and some way up the walls had been covered so
that those without could not see within, the Spaniards said
that they wanted to finish the house quickly and so put many
Indians inside to help while the Spaniards went outside
and drew their swords to prevent any Indians leaving. Then
they began to threaten the defenceless Indians with death
should they attempt to escape. They bound the Indians as
prisoners while some forcing their way out were cut to
pieces by the Spaniards.
Some who had managed to escape though wounded and
others from the pueblo who had not entered the house, seized
their bows and arrows and retired to another building in
the pueblo to defend themselves. When one or two hundred
of the Indians were inside holding the gate, the Spaniards
set fire to the house and burnt them all alive. With the
prisoners who amounted to about 180-200 men whom they
had been able to catch, they returned to their ship and set
sail for the Island of San Juan where they sold half of them
for slaves; thence they went to Espanola where they sold the
remaining half of the Indians.
Having reprimanded the Captain for this dastardly treachery
and evil attack when I met him at this time in the said Island
of San Juan, he replied I did Sir, what I was ordered;
those who sent me instructed me to take them how I could
either by war or in peace". He also told me that in all his
life he had never found Indians so kind and ready with
assistance as those in the Island of Trinidad. I repeat this
to emphasize the importance of his confession and to show
how great was his sin.
Such things have often been done in the Tierra Firma
repeatedly, the Indians being taken and enslaved without
restriction. Should such things be allowed to continue and
should Indians taken in this way be sold as slaves ?
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