THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 137.
A Report by Ousiel, Secretary of Tobago to the Dutch West
Source :-British and Venezuela Boundary Dispute, United States
Commission, Vol. II, Document No. 25.
Jacques Ousicl, late public Advocate and Secretary oj the Colony
of Tobago to the Directors of the ( ... ..... West Idia Company
Jacques Ousiel in compliance with your request states
and declares that on the north side of the Island of Trinidad,
7-8 miles to the cast of the Bocas del Drago (there are some
small islands lying between the aforesaid Island of Trinidad
and Tierra Firma) is situated a certain harbour named
Tamaracas, convenient for as many as fifty ships to anchor
therein protected against all winds except the north and
northwest. It can be recognized by two rocks which a ufll
half mile to the westward, stand in the sea a short distance
from the land. The aforesaid harbour is bordered around
with very high and steep mountains through which in the
southwest there runs into the sea, a river of entirely fresh water
but not navigable.
One mile inland there is good opportunity for obtaining
a supply of bananas from the old plantations of the Caribs
who were driven from the aforesaid Islands by the Spaniards
and still are wont to come there very year in their canoes
to lay in provisions.
The Governor of Trinidad told the writer that the King
had often intended to build a fort at the mouth of the aforesaid
From this harbour to the settlement of the Spaniards called
San Jose de Orona, the distance is south by west, seven miles
over very high mountains which are not to be crossed without
As one sails from the Bocas del Drago along the west
coast, south by east through the Golfb Dulce, there lies five
miles from there a large bay named Puerta de Espana where
the ships that come to trade there drop anchor. It is entirely
level there and the sea is always smooth. In the middle of
that bay empties a river trending as one goes in, to the cast
and afterwards a little more to the south. The mouth of
this river has not more than 5-6 feet of water but as one
gets in the depth increases to 9, io and 12 feet till IM mile
up where is a storehouse on the starboard side and the canoes
come to a stop. Half way up, the water is good to drink
This river is about 40 fet wide, not fit to be rowed upon
witl oars but only for paddling or pushing up Nwith sticks
and poles because many old pieces of trees and undergrowth
lie in it there. Besides some trees hang over very low wherefore
it would not be possible to go in with boats of any height.
The aforesaid river is lined, on both sides with trees that
stand in the water for there is along the coast there, a lake
or still water deeper in one place than another. To starboard
at the mouth of the river stands a barbacoa or old tumble-
down guard house on posts in the water where the inhabitants
formerly used to keep watch.
From the above-mentioned storehouse a road runs about
I miles to the town which road it is impossible to miss inasmuch
for some distance from there, the land is entirely open and
produces nothing but rushes.
About half a mile to the north of the aforesaid river there
is also a road by land to the aforesaid town running due cast
three miles among trees. This road the Spaniards take
when on foot or on horse (which are only eight there in number)
they wish to go to the aforesaid bay. This road can be
recognised from the sea by some posts of two ruined houses
which stand in the sea north from there.
The aforesaid town of San Jose lies on a small hill at the
foot of the high mountains at their south side. On the north
and east side of the town flows the aforesaid river about
half a foot deep whence the inhabitants get their water. The
town is open, consisting of 30 houses and 40-50 men, sometimes
more and sometimes less, inasmuch as some who come there,
either sent there by the Dutch or otherwise are against their
will held there by the Governor and get away again in canoes
when they can, as happened as many as three different times
the six months that the writer lay there.
The houses are made of earth stamped solid which they
call tapias and roofed with thatch or other combustible material.
Almost in the centre of the town stands the Church in which
the Spaniards keep a watch of 5-6 men, day and night
except from Sunday to Monday. The reveille is sometimes
beaten and again not, and one cannot rely upon the drum
beat for it is frequently employed for any trivial reason.
To the southeast and also to the east of the town
there is for some seven miles only plain and even country;
also for some four miles south and west down to the aforesaid
Nothing grows here except tobacco which is raised only
once a year to the amount of about ioo,ooo pounds, without
the inhabitants having any return from it on account of the
dampness of the country. They plant it in December and
January, gather it in May and have it all twisted by the
middle of that month as towards the end of that month or
early in June, they expect a ship from Spain to take if off
their hands about which time those of Orinoco also bring
their tobacco there to the amount of some 50,000 pounds.
Trade is very uncertain there for it often happens that
no ship comes there and then some of the inhabitants send
their tobacco to Margarita although the greater part remains
there and is spoiled.
About one mile east and one mile west of the aforesaid
town, there are several plantations where the Negroes with
the Indians and the Dutch boys from Tobago, plant provisions
and tobacco for the Spaniards. The name of the eastern
place is Tacaribe and of the western Aracao. Fully one mile
northwest by west from the said town lies a high mountain
where dwells an Indian who warns the town when he sees ships.
The Negro and Indian slaves may number about 300
in all, namely Ioo Negroes and 200 Indians and there is
nothing they would rather see than to be delivered from
On the east side of the Island named Punta Galera,
dwell two nations of Indians, the one called Nipujos and
the other Arawaks, over 600 able men. These are friendly
to the Dutch especially the Nipujos who are deadly enemies
of the Spaniards ; but the Arawaks occasionally serve the
Spaniards by rowing their canoes and can not be relied
upon so well.
Among the Nipujos there is a certain Indian named
Hierreyma who eleven years ago when a slave and
encommendado among the Spaniards, ran away from them
and has more than once joined in expeditions against them.
Because he has killed two Spaniards in some encounter,
he is the most famous and powerful among those people and
considered the chief by the others.
This Hicrreima came to Tobago in February 1636,
offering his services for driving the Spaniards out of the
aforesaid Island with ioo or 80 white musketeers and 400
Indians that he would add thereto, declaring that as an
assurance of his good intentions and purposes, he would
leave all their women and children and old men as hostages.
From the place of the aforesaid Indian to San Jose, the
distance is 31 miles, one days journey on foot.
In the Bocas del Drago are found some islands where
there is fresh water and they are all uninhabited where from
the months of March to November inclusive, multitudes of
turtles and sea parrots come up into the sandy bays.
On the westernmost little island of the aforesaid Bocas,
the spaniards and Indians who wish to sail through the
channel there, land to await favourable weather as it is very
dangerous for canoes to pass through because the currents
meet there ; for which reason the place on account of its
terrible aspect was called by the first discoverer, Las Bocas
del Drago. The Spaniards before going through promise
a mass to St. Anthony that he may guard them as they pass.
Having come through, the canoes proceed along the coast
of Paria, well provided with muskets and always with lighted
matches ready as they do in the Golfo Dulce for fear of the
Caribs. Having sailed 18 miles they run into a certain bay
where water is found in four places, in order to forage where,
upon a musket being fired, the Indians at once come to
the shore bringing provisions in exchange for knives and meat.
Ousiel then deals with Paria and Margarita.
He remained six months as a prisoner in Trinidad and
was then sent by patache to Margarita, Punta Araya, Cumana,
Caracas and Cartagena. From there he went with the
Silver Fleet to Havana and to Europe in 1637.