THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 261.
Antonio de Berrio to the King of Spain.
Source :-British Museum. Additional Mss. 36315.
Published by the courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Translated from the Spanish.
24th May, 1585.
YOUR CATHOLIC AND ROYAL MAJESTY,
It is forty years since' I have been serving the Emperor,
Our Lord, and also Your Majesty in the wars of Almania,
Cerberia, Italia and Flanders and finally Your Majesty
ordered me to the wars of Granada in Spain. The duties
that I have done during this time do not require describing
since they were done in the service of so Christian King who
recognizes them without special report. When my age
justified retirement 1 came to the Indies to succeed to tile
cncomiendas of the Ad'lantado of this new Kingdom of
Granada whTo had discovered, conquered and settled it. He,
in accordance with the Ccdula of Your Majesty, left them to
myv wife who was the daughter of one of the sisters of the
Adelantado and the colonell Hernando de Oruna who has
served Your Majesty lor many years.
I arri\ ed in this Kiindom and found great nc\\s of' the
explorationn of the Plovince of El Dorado and learnt that my
prcdccessor had .spent three years in the search as also a
large suml of gold and that lie had left to me the continuation
of this quest. This appeared to me no tine to retire without
attempting, as I always have, to serve Your Majesty and I
agreed with the A.udiencia to accept the same conditions as
had been granted by Your Majesty to the Adelantado.
A certific ed c, of this agreement was sent to the Royal
Council of the Indies so that Your Majestv might appio'.c.
The Audiencia giantcd this agreement to me by which I was
pledged to make this exploration at my own cost and without
expense to Your Majesty. Among these conditions was one
which stipulated that lor two years after 1 had begun to
raise men, no one else would be allowed to recruit men in
the whole of this district so that I should be able to obtain
what was necessary to make the expedition. Relying on this
assurance in the name of Your Majesty, I began to collect
munitions, food, necessary supplies and men, collecting and
supplying more than 200 men which cost me 4 o,00o ducats.
The Royal Audiencia tried to attach to m1e Captain
Caceres; this I refused as it appeared to me that this was
not in the interests of Your lMajesty knowing of the disputes
and troubles with him in Piru. In consequence ol this
refusal, the Licenciados Pcralta and Salazar, Oidors of the
Royal Audiencia, contrary to what had been promised and
agreed with me in Your Majesty's name nominated
six Captains to make other expeditions, none of them having
any importance save only that upon which I go.
They gave It Captain (Caccres and Aguila, 3,O)j pe('sos
cf 22 carats from die Royal Estate and to Captain Bocanegra
more than 4,(o0 which have been disrilbuted amongst all
the vccinos of the Kingdom. OF all this Your Majcsty may
obtain information at Your Court from those w\honm have
sent and who go in this fleet.
In view of this great opposition and as iV\ mein were
leaving me, I determined to go forth with only ioo men,
of whom only 2o eventually remained with me. We crossed
the plains passing many rivers and many swamps and
through lands occupied b) Indians who were naked and
indolent and had no metals. We traversed more than
200 leagues and then by the Grace of God and His Glorious
Mother on Pahn Sunday of the year 1584, 1 discovered the
cordillera on the other side of' the plains so n uch sought
after for 70 years during which so many Spaniards have died.
They are so high that we first saw them 2(3 leagues away
but at this time the rains were beginning which prevent any
travelling, so that t6 leagues away from the cordillera in a
place where we Jound food, we wintered and remained there
four nmontihs. T'he Indians united and came to attack us and
thiouji wx. ollered peace they refused so that it was necessary
to fight and we killed several of them and took others
prisoners. Ten days later they appeared again in much
greater ibrce attacking with more than 4,000 Indians coming
from all directions. As we could not repel them, we broke
through quite easily killing and taking prisoners. In disputing
our passage, more were killed than we had taken prisoner in
We made every effort to obtain information about the
cordillera floin these )prlioncis Nwho agreed with such Iindians
as had met us upon our journey in peace, in reporting that
there was a very large lake in tlhe cordillera on the shores (t
which there were many towns and numerous people will
great riches of gold and jewels. When askcd if there .were
people like them in the plains, they replied that in the cordillcra
there were many places in each one of which (were many
more people than in all the plains. I guarantee to Y our
Majesty that I must have seen tll(le more than 2o,ooo and
there nma be another '0,000 or 120.000). After these two
attacks the Indians disturbed us no more nor did 1 seek them
further should they he nearby since tinh had left me their
The rains ceased and we set forward towards the
cordillera. Knowing there was a river four leagues ahead
which had to be passed, we had made a barca to take across
the horses and animals since this is the largest which I have
seen in my liif and is called the Carraguan and into it some
two leagues higher citer four otilci large rivers of vhic]
there is here no sign. This river, 1 understand, passes on and
empties into thie sea opposite to thic Island of Trinidad whence
the voyage to Spain would be quite short.
I went forward along the banks in order to find out the
way to surmount the cordillera and the miasima of the marshes.
The fear that the soldiers had of going with me made so many
ill that I could not collect more than 14. healthy men V ho
went with me to seek a path to cross the cordillcra. With
these 13 men and myself the fourteenth, we left the camp on
foot and spent io days exploring but because of the thickness
of the forest could not get to the cordillera. We reached a
very high hill two leagues from it and here we fund some
Indians who gave us information and front their directions
we learnt that the way through, with the Indian meeting and
trading place, was much lower down so we returned and in
the barca went Io leagues down the river and found a small
island in which there were more than i,ooo warlike Indians.
We could not land because of the strong current which swept
us into a backwater, a musket shot away. From here we sent
a canoe with a soldier and interpreter with gifts offering peace
and friendship ; they received the gifts and sent ic blood in
return. I felt sure that this Island was the meeting place
between the Indians of the plains and the sierras and that
from here the way was open to the cordillera and with this
certain knowledge I returned to the camp.
We found not a soldier nor any person of any kind and I
realized our desperate condition since if the Indians chose to
attack, very little would cause a great disaster just when I
had seen and discovered the cordillera and gained important
inlirration about this country. They would kill my people
and myself and all would be lost which had been sought for
,o many years and which by the grace of God I had found.
However with my troop I returned safely only losing in this
journey 8 Spaniards, three killed by Indians and five dying
lifom disease. We had been absent on this expedition for
I returned bN a, different way to that by which I had gone
and found it much shorter, drier and more populated;
instead of' going along the banks of the River Meta and
crossing it and following the banks of the Casanare which
ariscs in the cordillera of the New Kingdom of Granada,
1 left tlhe river as being well known and went a short dry
way by land.
The distance ifom the cordillera of the New Kingdom to
those on the other side of the plains is 120 leagues more or less.
To begin this exploration I consider 300 Spaniards are
necessary and to complete it and to subdue the Indians right
down to the Maranon, more than 3,000 Spaniards are
In order that 1 can proceed and achieve this very
important conquest, I beseech Your Majesty to send by the
drst vesse.l. orders to the Royal Audiencia to give me the
necessary support and to help me to collect the men and
prevent any other expeditions whatever until this is completed,
because it is of such importance and is done at my expense
and I regard it as so agreed.
Humbly I beseech Your Majesty as knowing my past
services and also now this present discovery of the long sought
land, that Your Majesty may be pleased to grant me
dchnitely I(he privilege of this settlement since now that the
wav is known, many are claiming I his privilege from
To those serving a King so Catholic, rew ard is due and
thus I beseech Your Majesty for the Love of God, to grant
me recompense lor the above mentioned services and for the
three brother who have been killed in the service of Your
Majesty. Two of lthcse were cut to pieces before my eyes and
the third was killed in a naval battle. hle only remaining
brother now serves Your Majesty in legal affairs ; may Your
Majesty grant him a place as Judge on the bench so that
he may live with honour serving Your Majesty since my
services and the loss of three brothers well merit this reward.
Further if it were possible I beg Your Majesty to send
my wife and sons to this Kingdom where places are ready
for them, since this conquest to which I am now going is so
extensive and my years are such that I may not be able to
return to see them, look after them and protect them as they
are without support. This I seek from Your Majesty confident
that Your Majesty will have pity upon me, keeping before
you the services of the Adelantado of this Kingdom and of
the Colonel Hernando de Oruna, my father in law and
myself and so will grant this privilege to my sons because of
eight children, six are girls and the eldest is ten years old.
I am now raising men in order to return and enter the
plains and settle the lands I have discovered. It is not possible
to go there until the beginning of January since it is only in
the spring in this country that a large number of people could
be taken there while a small number could do nothing. As
this conquest is so great and can redeem so many souls to
God as can easily be done I beg Your Majesty to send a
Cedula ordering the Royal Audiencia to make it their duty
to help me to raise the men for this expedition of such great
importance to Your Majesty.
May Our Lord preserve the Catholic and Royal Person
of Your Majesty as Christianity needs.
24th May, 1585.
I beg Your Majesty to remember that in the last
sixteen years, three expeditions have been made. The first
was by Captain Serpa who started through Nueva Andalucia-
The second was by Don Pedro de Silva who also sought this
country through Nueva Andalucia. The third was by my
predecessor, the Adelantado, who sought it by way of
El Dorado and all these three have been searching from
different directions for these provinces which I have now
discovered, the true name of which is Guayana.
In order to settle these large provinces, it is of great
importance to settle the Island of Trinidad first, because this
Island is near these provinces and also near to Spain being
in the longitude allowing a passage there without doubling
any point of land. From this Island one could supply people
and necessary supplies to these provinces and in the mean-
while supplies could be had from Margarita by way of the
Your Catholic and Royal Majesty, your humble vassal
and servant kisses the Royal feet of Your Majesty.
ANTONIO DE BERRIO.