THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 165.
Geronimo de Ortal to the Emperor.
.Sorce: -Boletin de la Academia Nacional de la Historia de Caracas,
March, 1926. Vol. IX, No. 33.
Translated from the Spanish.
24th December, 1534.
YOUR ROYAL AND IMPERIAL MAJESTY.
Geronimo de Ortal who was ordered by Your Majesty
to serve as Governor in the Gulf of Paria and other provinces
humbly kisses the feet of Your Majesty and reports that he
sent news from the Island of Teneriffe of the departure of
his expedition from Spain and how the men whom he took
in two vessels had prayed to Our Lord that their journey
should be without shipwreck or other untoward event.
We arrived after 26 days at the Rio Deesco (Essequibo)
which is in eight degrees north on the coast of the Main
about 50 leagues from the Gulf of Paria. Coasting along
the land we came to the Island of Trinidad which lies at the
entrance to this Gulf. We then followed closely the coast
of this Island so as to obtain news and speech with Antonio
Sedeno who had been there with a few men for about a year
and a half.
But we could not find him in spite of all our efforts though
we knew from letters and reliable news in Spain that
this said Antonio Sedeno has settled in this Island with
great difficulty and danger to his person and that of the
few men with him.
As it was important in the interests of Your Majesty to
meet these Spaniards and to relieve their urgent necessities.
we followed the coast closely all round but could not see
them or find any trace of them until we came to the Gulf
of Paria where we anchored in front of the fort there and
learnt from some of the men there how the said Antonio
Sedeno had left the Island of Trinidad 50 days ago as he
could not maintain himself there against the repeated attacks
of the Indians who had killed at times many of the Spaniards,
He had therefore come to the Gulf of Paria to this said
fort about 12 leagues from his camp and it was about 30 days
since he had left there in a small boat for the Island of San
Juan with 25 men whom he had brought from Trinidad.
The rest that he had there, had departed as there was small
likelihood of conquering the Island which was too strong.
From what we have seen of it and from the accounts of the
many Indians there, it would require at least 300 Spaniards
and among them horsemen, to conquer it. This conquest
would be of great value because if the Island of Trinidad
were peopled with Spaniards, the province of Paria and other
provinces there would be more easily subdued and less
troublesome than Your Majesty has ever known.
We landed in the Gulf and found the fort to be a building
of tapia in bad repair with four ramparts of earth falling
down. One Alonso de Herrera with 35 men (sick and well)
was in charge of all, being Teniente for the Governor Diego
de Ordas, deceased, whom Your Majesty had appointed
Governor of these lands.
To him and to the others, I announced for what Your
Majesty had sent me out to these parts and two days after
I took over the wand of justice though it is almost
inconceivable, as Your Majesty will see, how disorganised
and uncontrolled these people were and what disturbances
they have created in these lands as can be seen all around
and the little they have accomplished. Had I known this
I would not have expected to get results nor set out with
only 150 soldiers and I cannot do much unless reinforcements
are sent by Your Majesty.
As I have related, I took over the Government and started
to consider what had been done and discovered how many
raids and attacks had been made in these lands as Your
Majesty knows from the reports sent from here under seal.
The Indians are disturbed and full of fighting as though
the Spaniards had never been here and in these disturbances
both Spaniards and priests have been killed for which there
was no need.
All these troubles have arisen since Antonio Sedeno left
the Island of Trinidad and came to the Gulf and are caused
by old quarrels with Alonso de Herrera who was Teniente
here. It is not possible for them to agree and unless they
are taken away ; a thousand troubles will continue and give
opportunity to the Indians to rebel and do what Your
Majesty will realise from the reports.
If I had arrived two months before Sedeno came, I could
have prevented this and restored order for Your Majesty
and sent each of them to render account for his deeds to
Antonio Sedeno has no need to come to this Province
except in so far as he may obtain supplies here. He is not
the Captain nor the Justicia as he claims because this could
not be allowed without trouble arising in this land. He
committed other offences as well which could not be allowed
but the harm is already done as Your Majesty will see and
it is impossible now to remedy all this save by a severe punish-
ment of the Indians for their rebellion and the attacks
they have made.
In the few days I have been here, nearly a month, I have
enlisted several Indians by presents and kindness who had
been captives and brought them to the service of Your
Majesty so that they will hold themselves at your commands to
do as they are ordered. They will secure this port by
occupying the hills and valleys around and so learn any
news from more distant places which is very encouraging
as in this way the danger of war in these lands will be
This was the position of affairs when I learnt that some
of the men had gone off to the Province of Viaparsi which
is 50 leagues up the river with the evil intention of making
war against the Indians. I hurried off some men at once
to that Province to keep the peace there and so prevent
the Indians from doing what they had done in the Gulf
and also to obtain information about the lands of
In this way I am doing everything possible to establish
myself. In the 21 days that I have been in the Gulf we have
prepared four bergantines with which to enter the river.
I sent these and one caravel, in which were 6 horses and
16o men, under a Captain to settle in the Province of Viaparsi
with ample supplies of biscuits, flour and other things from
Castille and with instructions until my arrival.
When this fleet had been sent off, a bergantine arrived
from the Island of Cubagua, 40 leagues from the Gulf, with
news that Captain Alderete whom we had left at San Lucar
nearly ready to leave, had followed us and had arrived at
the Island in a galleon with 130 men.
I left all necessary orders for those going to the river
as also for those left in the fort and went myself to the Island
of Cubagua where I am now, to fetch these men and arrange
other things necessary for Your Majesty's service.
I arrived on the I3th November and found the said
Captain with his men who were in good health and well
armed (no men have been brought from Spain in better
condition) and I was very pleased to see them since the
people in this Island have never failed to oppose me. I set
them at once to Your Majesty's service in making boats and
fitting them with necessaries. I bought in the Island of
Margarita some mares and horses for this expedition although
by no means cheap in these parts and am arranging to
carry all these men from Spain on this expedition and I
expect in a short time to have produced such great results
for Your Majesty as no one before has ever completed in
We continue to have good reports of these territories
which are obtained from Indians sent out and we have learnt
that when Diego de Ordas, deceased, turned back down
the river, he was only 150 leagues from where the Captain
Pizarro had found Tavalipa (Atahuallpa). The same Indians
who were with him and the Indians whom Your Majesty
ordered me to take from this Island as interpreters, two
of whom are Caribs, all say the same thing and more.
In the Province of Meta to which we are going, they
give great news of gold which is to be found in a range of
mountains and it is evident will provide all the gold in the
future in these parts.
We have selected pilots so as to go safely up the river
which is 200 leagues long, the most of which runs southwest,
in search of Meta and as the river has so many difficulties,
it is in their hands whether we arrive. Moreover in going
up and coming back, we shall be over the shallows of the river
during the equinox. From the river they say it is
about I5o leagues to the richest of the gold and when
we have arrived there we shall be able to believe the truth
of what the Indians relate and what has been reported in
Espanola. All the Indians of the Main agree in this.
I have with me in this expedition 300 men and 20 horses
and we shall leave this Island at the end of the month of
January straight for Viaparsi so as to join with the others
and by the Grace of Our Lord to begin our journey at the
beginning of May when the river is highest and 5 months
before it is lowest.
With the aid of Our Lord we should reach Viaparsi
in 28 days on the information of the interpreters and guides
who we take to the said Meta. We have 19 vessels all with
oars and carry the horses. These boats are well made and
have no fault which could destroy them and are fit to carry
us without trouble to the lands for which we are bound.
If these lands come up to the account given of them
which seems likely, I expect to take possession of them and
return to the coast of the Main by travelling to the north
and not by the river as we are now travelling.
According to our pilots on the river which we follow,
there will be made great discoveries of immense value to
Your Majesty of which faithful reports will be submitted
to your Majesty with the results of the expedition.
May Our Lord keep Your Royal and Imperial Majesty
and add to your dominions.
From Your Royal and Imperial Majesty's
most humble servant and vassal who
kisses your hands and feet.
24th December, 1534.