Group Title: The Trinidad Historical Society publication.
Title: Publication
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Publication
Physical Description: no. : ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Port-of-Spain
Publication Date: 1932?-52?
Frequency: irregular
completely irregular
Subject: History -- Periodicals -- Trinidad   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Trinidad and Tobago -- Trinidad
Dates or Sequential Designation: no. 1-1042.
Numbering Peculiarities: Ceased publication.
Issuing Body: Issued 1932-35 by the society under its earlier name: Trinidad Historical Society.
General Note: Reprints of documents relating to the history of Trinidad.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080962
Volume ID: VID00004
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 45882505

Full Text

I/ 1/1593-



Publication No. 16.
Despatch from Antonio de Berrio to the Council of the Indies.

Source:-Archivo General de Indias. Consejo. Escrivania
de Camera Pleitos, 1597-1599. Additional Mss. 36315,
f. 186 et. sq. British Museum.
Published by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Translated from the Spanish.

It is twelve years since I set out from Spain to inherit
the Indians and estates that the Adelantado Don Gonzalo
Jiminez de Quesada possessed in the New Kingdom of
Granada with the desire for rest which my age demanded.
And the estates yielded more than 14,ooo ducats income
which would suffice for one who had travelled and laboured
as much as I. And being come to that Kingdom and hearing
the great news there is about the expedition to El Dorado
and seeing the insistence with which the Adelantado in a clause
of his will commands me to continue and complete this
expedition that he had commenced, this alone and my
inclinations sufficed to impel me and so I determined to
hasten and set out in search of it and I collected at once a
number of men and a great quantity of horses and cows
and plenty of munitions and other necessary supplies; and
with this equipment which cost me a large sum of gold I set
out from the New Kingdom and crossed the Ilanos and marched
more than 300 leagues through them where no Spaniard
had ever entered until I came to the cordillera on the other
side of them which has been so sought for and desired
by twenty-three Captains who have begun this conquest.
I had skirmishes with some of the Indians and the captives
and many others who came peaceably gave me a great deal
of information about the land and all were very much agreed
as to the great multitude of the people and the great riches
that were beyond those cordilleras which I tried to pass
several times in different parts, and with light armed men
and on foot and I was never able to find any way that the
horses and cattle could pass and it was impossible to attempt
to take supplies and provisions such a long way on men's
backs; and the troops seeing this clearly were so anxious

and desirous to pass through and see part of what had been
told us that they drew strength out of weakness and laboured
beyond their powers so that nearly all of them fell sick of
fever so violently that they forthwith became delirious; so
for this cause and because I knew that the Indians seeing us
so ill were uniting to attack us I decided to depart at the
end of seventeen months after I had entered the plains.
And upon arriving at the Kingdom I began again to
provision myself and to raise troops ; and I set out for the
second time and went much lower down than the first time
where I obtained the same information and more and tried
again many times to cross the cordillera and skirted it for more
than 200 leagues and in all that length it was not possible to
cross it and although I tried many times for it is very broad
rough and wooded and quite uninhabited. I found large
navigable rivers and much information that lower down the
Orinoco the Cordilleras ended. And while I was making
pirogues to descend it a Captain mutinied against me and
fled with the greater part of the men so that I was obliged
to set out after him and could not overtake him until he
reached the Kingdom; and this second time it took me
twenty-eight months to go through the plains only. And
when I started I found new Cedulas from His Majesty
encouraging me to set out for the third time so I set out
with more men and a greater equipment than on the other
occasions. I set out with twenty-two pirogues and a great
number of horses by land and with these forces I reached
the great River Caraguan which lower down is called
Orinoco and there I tried again to cross the Cordilleras
in many places and made great efforts to cross it and
it was not possible. So seeing this I attempted to march down
along the Orinoco but could make no way by land although
I went io or 12 leagues from the River ; for all the country
is without natives on account of the fleets of Caribs who
ascend the river and have eaten them up and the others have
abandoned the plains and gone to the woods. By this time
the pirogues had been lost and thirty-four Spaniards had
deserted me in three bands taking many horses and all my
slaves and more than thirty Spaniards had been killed by
an illness resembling the plague. And it was by this time
eighteen months since I had set out from the Kingdom and
as I was in want of supplies and had lost the pirogues I
determined to make others and kill the remaining horses
for food for the men and to descend the Orinoco because all
the Indians assured me that in descending the Orinoco
I should find great settlements ofCaribs and lower still I should
find a great river which is called Caroni which descends
from Guayana and on account of a great waterfall cannot

be navigated but that there and a little above where there
is a chief called Morquita the Cordilleras end and the provinces
of Guayana begin, and then come successively those of
Manoa and El Dorado and many other provinces. So upon
this information and when the pirogues were finished I
embarked and on the same day that we commenced our
journey God was pleased to send us guides in the form of
two pirogues of Caribs who were stealing people for their
cannibal feasts and food and who came with me for presents.

They were Caribs of Barima towards which I travelled
in their company down the Orinoco as far as the dwellings
of the River Caroni which will be more than 350 leagues;
and during this voyage we experienced much friendship
and two of the chiefs came into my pirogue and I gave them
a Spaniard and they disclosed to me great secrets of the
country and confirmed all the information that I had received
above and I found all that had been told me true. I asked
these Caribs why they took such a long journey with so much
labour when they were so numerous and courageous and had
Guayana so near. They replied that the Guayanese were
numerous and were very near and can make war upon them
by land and for this reason they wish to be friendly
with them.
These Caribs came with me to the River Caroni and there
I gave them some of the things I brought and letters to the
Governor of Margarita requesting him to assist me. I had
written to him when I started from the New Kingdom advising
him of my departure and of the great riches which the
expedition promised and that he was to send his reply to
Trinidad and that I had written to His Majesty and to his
Royal Council supplicating him to command that it should
be settled and if perchance it was not and he wished to
do a great service to His Majesty, he should take care upon
hearing news of me to come and assist me and that he could
easily get news through the traders who went from the island ;
and the Governor was on the lookout and heard that I was
in Moriquita. And upon this information and with the
desire that they have in this country for Guayana, Faxado
undertook at his own cost to go and enquire about me and
assembled thirty-five soldiers and as the intentions of both
were very different they delayed seven months in which my
provisions were exhausted and I had no more than forty-five
soldiers remaining who were most of them almost blind
a disease which affected the eyes and others were very ill
with other maladies; and owing to this and the delay of
help and in accordance with the orders that I hold from
His Majesty in which he says that rather than my supplies

should fail I should go and supply myself from the nearest
province, I determined to depart and descended the Orinoco
as far as the sea where it debouches by a great number of
arms and channels so that it inundates more than 2oo leagues
along the coast and more than 40 leagues inland. The arm
by which I went comes out opposite the Island of Trinidad
and it is 4 leagues across.

I went to Trinidad and as it was of great importance to
me to see and examine it I remained there several days.
I found that it was thickly populated with natives, a very
domestic race, the land very productive and signs of gold
in the ravines ; and I saw clearly that if that island were
not settled it would be impossible to settle Guayana.

So having seen and understood the aforesaid I went to
Margarita and when I arrived there I found that Faxardo
had set out seven days previous in search of me and lie had
met with three of my soldiers in a pirogue who returned
with him and brought him to the same place of Moriquito
and the Indians came out to him in peace and gave him
food and in payment for their hospitality and against the
assurance that I left them in His Majesty's name he plundered
their houses and carried off nearly 300 souls whom he is
selling like negros. I complained to the Governor who
arrested him and two days after set him at liberty and they
conspired together to turn me out of this island and make
the expedition themselves; and I when I knew of this
wickedness and that Don Juan opposed it as I was his guest
I desired to agree with him so as not to lose every thing and
having spent Ioo,ooo pesos of good gold myself on
three incursions with 50,000 more that the Adelantado my
predecessor had spent, I gave him half of all the grant which
His Majesty had conceded to me and more so that he might
settle the Island of Trinidad at our joint cost and it should
be for him alone ; and as it appeared to him that I was
very old and had received here news of the death of my wife
and that it was necessary for me to visit my daughters and
my estates and that my eldest son whom 1 brought with me
was 14 years old and was suffering from a quartan fever
and that I was very far from home and that anyone of these
things was sufficient to cause me to return there and that
as soon as I turned my back he could unite with Fazardo
who is a man of small account and would be contented with
little, he did not wish for any agreement with me and
commenced openly to do a thousand villainies which by my
authority have not been written down. I seeing these
wickednesses rendered account of it to the Royal Audiencia of

Santo Domingo and in its investigations, my affairs or rather
those of the King were forgotten. I wrote several times to His
Majesty and to his Royal Council and to Senor Antonio de
Guevara to call attention to it as your Majesty well knc-s
the friendship we have and I get no reply from anyone.
While I was waiting for a reply and was hesitating in
my mind what I should do I found Domingo de Vera here
whom I sent secretly to Caracas and wrote to Don Diego
Osorio, Governor of that province asking him to assist me
who, solely for the service of the King and without any other
pretensions and being grieved at the roguery of this fellow
whom it is a shame to call Governor, provided me with some
troops and with them and with part of those I had brought,
I sent Domingo de Vera and he settled Trinidad and I ha e
there to-day eighty very good Spanish soldiers without having
more than seven from this island.
Having overrun all the Island and made the description
of the natives that are there, there are found 7,000 and so many
Indians married that they would exceed 35,000 souls.
It is a land very abundant in yuca, maize and sugar cane.
The undergrowth is of plantain, there are plenty of potatoes, a
greatquantityof cotton and gold has been foundin four ravines.
They say it is a very good country for ginger but the best
thing in it is its proximity to the mainland, the number of
natives and the great quantity of pirogues so that in a single
voyage as many troops can be taken as we may risk.
I shall leave this island tomorrow with fourteen or fifteen
other soldiers which will make altogether ninety-five Spaniards
and I hope Don Diego Osorio will send me twenty or thirty
more with whom if they arrive, I shall set out from Trinidad
with seventy Spaniards leaving fifty there for the guard of a
fort that has been made there, and with these and a number
of articles for barter I shall attempt to penetrate into the
interior of Guayana by means of the Chief of Moriquita whom
I have in my power and of other Chiefs of the same part
who are mv friends and upon whom the Guayanese have
commenced to make war because they are my friends and
every day they entreat me to go.
My intention is with these few Spaniards and a number of
friendly Indians to try and raise war against them and sustain
it for some days. And by these means and by barter I shall
try and see and ascertain what there is inland knowing that
with this information and some gold I shall not want for
troops; for, owing to my house being so far off and the
Governor trying in every possible way to hinder me I have not
finished the discovery or commenced to settle the greatest
grandeur and wealth that the world produces.

And as in such a great place as Seville where there are so
many intelligent men and they have so much information
about these great provinces they will desire to know why
I have not found the entrance, being so near, I will express
my opinion on this matter.
These great provinces lie between two very great rivers
namely the Amazon and the Orinoco. The Amazon descends
from Peru and the Orinoco takes its source from Quito and is
joined by all the tributaries of the New Kingdom which
run to the plains which is where I embarked and many
abundant rivers run into this river.
The reason the Orinoco appears small where it enters
the sea although it is so large is because where the River
Caroni joins it which is the one that comes from Guayana,
the Orinoco divides into seven arms and from each arm
come a great number of creeks and these arms and creeks
run each one by itself into the sea and from this cause and
from the rising of the sea, many leagues along the coast are
inundated and these inundations reach 40 leagues inland
and on this account no boat can enter except a little rowing
boat and the people who have entered by these arms to
barter and not finding settlements near the water believed
that they were further up and they travelled without finding
any and turned back.
But the Indians told the truth for the great settlements
and riches are much above the lands of Moriquita but
one cannot enter in that place and it is more than 60 leagues
inland from Moriquita to the commencement of the great
settlements. I having come down from above and having
skirted the cordilleras in the three times that I have entered
by land and having gone more than 700 leagues by water
and spent ten years in continual labours am well informed
and know what it is.
From the mouth of the River Amazon to that of the
Orinoco the map shows more than 400 leagues ; in all this
breadth and more than 1,500 leagues in length there is not
a spot settled by the Spaniards though they have the splendid
news that all the world knows for it is said as a certainty
that the Inca Kings of these provinces set out to conquer
Peru and afterwards on account of the disagreement between
two brothers, the one from fear of the other, fled back to
these provinces.
There are signs of gold in the 700 leagues and more that
I have travelled, skirting the Cordilleras. In all parts I have
met with gold and asking whence they brought it, they all
said from the other part of the Cordillera and they describe
the quantity to be so great that it is incredible,

I have not felt so much fatigue in ten years wanderings
as in 15 months I have been in this island ; and in all that time
I have not been able to collect a hundred men and these
at their weight in gold, which has been wanting to me
on account of my house being so far off and my estate
very involved.

But the chief thing is the opposition which Don Juan makes
to me so that if the powers I hold from the King were not
so ample, he would have ejected me from this country. In all
the time I have been in this island I have found nothing
that pleases me excepting only to hear everyone in general
speak well of you ; and although it is so may years since
I left Segovia, the fact of having been born there and being
who I am, causes me to feel very great pleasure at hearing
those well spoken of who were born there ; and such has
been the affection that I have felt towards you and the desire
of serving you and the long friendship between us, that 1 have
been obliged to send this long report-which I have sent to
no one except the Royal Council-in order that by your
means the President of the Contratation may see it and those
who are curious to know in what state this expedition is and
how easy it will be to finish it if His Majesty will send me
orders that they are not to hinder me in obtaining the troops
I may require to go there; and also I desire that he may
know of the settlement of Trinidad and what a fertile country
it is and that if God aids me to settle Guayana, Trinidad will
be the richest trade centre of the Indies ; and in order that
people may be encouraged to come there I desire that the
fact of its settlement may be proclaimed. Among other
favours that His Majesty can do me is that two ships of
200 tons each may for the period of five years bring to my
Government all the things necessary as provisions and supplies
and all other necessary stores and that these may come
together or separately as I may desire, in a fleet or not in a
fleet and that I may appoint the master and the pilot even
though they may not have passed examination, provided
that they are from His Majesty's Kingdoms; and that
what these ships bring may be free from duty and averages
and from all the impositions which are usually paid which
favour could not be enjoyed until now because there was no
Government nor could it be used at present since for the
Isle of Trinidad alone but little is required still as I say above
I will enter immediately into Guayana; and if it is one
twentieth of what is supposed it will be richer than Peru.

Then I will despatch a suitable man to arrange this
grant and others and he shall be sent to you at the house
of Seville.

The grant is also made me of 500 licences for negros
free from all dues belonging to His Majesty. All this will be
negotiated at the same time and what is necessary at present
is to associate me with some trader who is not a bucanecr
but has courage and wealth and that he should bring a great
quantity of articles for barter hatchets, which must be good,
billhooks, knives, amber and glass beads, taguache ware
and no other because neither turquoise nor coral arc profitable;
trumpets, some needles, cloaks, bells, small mirrors and some
large and very good ones for the Chiefs. This is necessary
at the present time because if the Country cannot be
conquered for a great while, it would perish directly, I mean
to say in less than a year; but 10,000 Castilian ducats may
be invested in this merchandize and in future when I have
money, I want you to invest it and 50,000 ducats will be
little to invest in these trifles and for others besides I am
taking 5o0,ooo ducats. May God bring us to that time.
You may assure the traders who may wish to come to Trinidad
and pledge them my word as a Castilian gentleman that
they will be rewarded and that I shall endeavour that that city
may be called the city of truth in contrast to Margarita which
in respect of those who govern it, is called the city of falsehood ;
and I had many other things to say but after entering Guayana
I will inform you at length with the first despatches that
I shall send to His Majesty and I shall do so if God gives
me the good fortune that I have not now. I do not wish
to ask for anything except letters which you may write to
Scnor Antonio de Guevara to whom I am writing now in the
despatches to the King and have earnestly begged that the
despatches which I have sent to ask for may be forwarded
to me.
After this was written Francisco de Vides came with
150 men. They say that he brings the title of Governor
of Cumana and Trinidad and other provinces. As concerns
Trinidad according to the Ordinances of His Majesty unless
His Majesty orders me particularly I cannot deliver up to
him. I have written to him that if he brings a special Cedula
by which I am commanded, I will deliver it up immediately
notwithstanding the great expenditure I have made. I do
not know what will be the end of these things and thus
I cannot tell you more than what I report to His Majesty
in order that what he directs in his Royal Council may be
This Governor takes such care in searching that I fear
the letters I write do not reach the Royal Council and may it
please God that these may arrive as 1 am in such a small
island where lie lords it so that he does what he likes without
considering there is a God or King.


I beg of you to show this to the president so that if by
chance the others do not appear this may serve to show
clearly what I am doing and what a bad turn has been done
to me in sending Francisco de Vides. If he were only a
soldier or a man of courage but you know what he is and
I am certain that the troops that he brings will leave him
within a month each one individually, without having done
any good.

May our Lord help you,


Publication No. 16.

Published by courtesy of the Argonant Press (Discovrcne
of Guiana by Dr V. T..Harlow).

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