THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 132.
A Report by the Council of the Indies to the King.
JANUARY 30TH, 1599.
Source :-Additional Mss. 36317. British Museum. Published
by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. Translated
from the Spanish.
Ever since the first discoveries of the Indies, there has
been talk of the provinces called El Dorado and it has been
said that they are peopled by great numbers of Indians and
contain vast riches and are very prosperous.
In the year 1531, Don Diego de Ordas, Knight of the
Order of Santiago, attempted to make an entry into these
lands in the hope of discovering them and having the Faith
extended there. But nothing came of it and no better success
attended the efforts of others who continued this enterprise
until Captain Antonio de Berrio undertook it by virtue of
the agreement made with him as to the discovery of the lands
lying between the two rivers, Pauto and Papamene, at the
exit of the New Kingdom of Granada.
He began to enter and to discover, so they say, the said
lands called El Dorado. He travelled as far as the Island of
Margarita and founded a settlement in the Island of Trinidad
whence he intended to form an expedition and enter the said
El Dorado by way of the Orinoco to Guayana.
From Trinidad he sent his Maestro de Campo, Domingo
de Ibargoyen y Vera, to give an account of the whole matter
to the King, Our Lord, that he might achieve this glory
and to obtain men, arms and ammunition. In the year 1596
orders were given for a thousand settlers consisting of
6oo bachelors and 400 married men with their wives and
children to be supplied to the said Maestro de Campo. His
Majesty also thought well to make a loan to the said Antonio
de Berrio from his Royal Treasury with which to buy and fit
out a number of fly boats to convey the said men and supplies
and other things for which he had asked.
With all this the said Domingo de Vera set out from these
Kingdoms for the Island of Trinidad. When he arrived
there with these people, his lack of foresight and his bad
government were such that the greater part were wasted and
perished without having achieved any of the objects for which
they were sent and without having gained any positive
knowledge of what these lands contained, for their opinions
The said Antonio de Berrio having died in the year 1597,
his son Fernando who succeeded him, remained there having
with him the said Domingo de Vera and the remanants of
the people who escaped. They are still insisting on continuing
the exploration of these lands and for that purpose have asked
the Governor of Venezuela to help them with cattle and
other supplies He writes to report that he is sending them
and approves of this venture.
During the time when the said Domingo de Vera was
in these Kingdoms and Antonio de Berrio was waiting in
the Island of Trinidad, some English arrived there and landed
and entered by the Orinoco River. They left an Englishman
in the country whom our men afterwards captured there
and who was sent to Seville and on to this Court. In the
depositions which he made he says a great deal about the
wealth and prosperity of these lands called El Dorado : he
had remained there as a hostage for certain Indians whom
the English had taken away intending to bring them back
and return and settle in these lands.
Ever since this, the Council has taken great pains to find
out whether the enemy had found an entrance to these lands
by way of the Orinoco and they regard this as of great
According to the letters of Alvaro Mendez de Castro,
an honourable man known to the Council, written from
Lisbon and enclosed herewith with a Castilian translation
of a report which he also sent, the English have discovered
a land between Brazil and Peru which they call Guiana.
This is a land rich in gold into which according to the said
Alvaro Mendez de Castro, the English have entered by the
River Maranon and are taking away much gold.
Certain things in the Flemish reports seem to corroborate
the accounts of the discovery of Guayana or El Dorado
brought by the Maestro de Campo. If the enemy should
settle and people it this would be very dangerous and much
expense would be required to drive them out.
The Council having taken these matters into their
consideration together with the inferences which are to be
drawn from the papers sent by the said Alvaro Mendez
de Castro, it has seemed fitting that endeavour should be made
to find out the exact truth of the matter which can be
determined by writing to all the Governors of the districts
and provinces contained in the said reports and in the
discoveries of Antonio de Berrio requiring them to use their
utmost endeavours to ascertain what truth there is in these
claims, for the Indians of their districts are in communication
with all the others.
The Council is also of the opinion that the Governor of
Brazil should be required to enquire and advise us of any
information which exists there about these provinces and
those bordering them and whether any English, French or
Flemish have made any entrance through those parts and
if so, in what place and whether any have remained, in what
numbers and with what defences.
Likewise it appears that it would be well to send two
intelligent persons by sea and land who should go in a vessel
for the special purpose to ascertain the truth of this matter
as well by sea as by land. They should bring a very
particular account of every detail whereby better deliberation
may be made as to what should be provided in a matter
of this urgent importance.
In any case it would be necessary to put into some
measure of defence, that part of Trinidad where the enemies
usually come and are accustomed to use as a port in order
to pass to the River Orinoco which is the principal entrance
for El Dorado which has been so far discovered.
News has now come that 12 ships from England are going
there which may result in great trouble unless in the meantime
all possible measures for defence have been resolved and
It would be very helpful to all if the decision which was
reached many days ago, to send the Armadilla to the Islands
of Barlovento, was put into effect.
May it please Your Majesty to consider this report and
provide what is necessary.
30th January, 1599.
On things concerning El Dorado. Let every effort be
made promptly to secure a thorough investigation into the
whole matter contained in this report recommending it to
the attention of intelligent and trustworthy persons.
As regards the fortification of the Island of Trinidad,
it would be well for the Council to say how, when and how
much is necessary and to whom this can be entrusted.
As to the Armadilla, when the ships which are now being
fitted out for patrol work during the coming summer have
sheltered for the winter, the most convenient method may be
considered and orders given accordingly.