THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 55.
The Council of the Indies to the King.
Source :---Additional Mss. 36335, British Museum. Published
by courtesy of the Trustees qo the British Museum. Translated
/rom the @Sanish.
6th February, 1737.
In a let ter of 25th April, 1732 Don Bartholome de Aldunate
the Governor of the Island of Trinidad and of Guayana
reported the miserable state of the Indians in Trinidad
because of the failure of the cacao crop which is complete;
they are suffering much sickness and distress from the
want of food, medicines and attendance.
The Governor visited these pueblos to see what could be
done in this extremity and recommended that Your Majesty
should relieve them of the annual tribute for such time as
Your Majesty may approve, the more so because the total
amount of the tribute which is paid by the Indians of these
pueblos only amounts to 1,300 pesos. Many of them were
leaving for the forests as they were unable to pay which
causes the loss of a vassal and to the Indian the loss of his soul.
As a result of this report, the Council on 6th May, 1733
recommended that Your Majesty be pleased to relieve these
poor Indians of the annual tribute for six years and that
the loss of revenue be replaced from the Treasury of Santa Fd.
So that still further steps may be taken to assist the
Indians in addition to the relief from the annual tribute
and so that they can live in the doctrine of Our Lord who
created them and remain in Our Holy Faith, we considered
it advisable to obtain further reports ; as a result of which
Your Majesty was pleased to remit the annual tribute until
definite decisions were made based on the reports.
The necessary dispatches were sent to the Governor
Don Estevan Linan de Vera with a letter of 21st December,
1735 giving orders to the Royal Contador of the Island to
relieve the Indians from the charges made upon them.
Funds have to be provided for the pay of the Curas ;
the maintenance of the Church and equipment; for the
Sacristan Mayor of San Joseph and the Sacristan of the
pueblo of Puerto de Espana and the Corregidor who is paid
by the Royal Contador. There are also the repairs to the
Casa Real, to the Redoubt, the cost of equipment, munitions
and other things necessary for war. The Cura of San Joseph
de Oruna, the SacristanMayor and the Sacristan of Puerto
de Espana are paid from the diezmos which by the failure
of the cacao crop does not produce even 70 pesos in a year.
Though there are no other tolls or sources of revenue to
draw upon, the Governor took the decision of reducing
the Indian tribute ; that from the Indians of the Nepuyo
nation who contributed 6 pesos and 6 reals each in a year, to
4 pesos and that from the Naparimas from 2 pesos to 12 silver
reals until Your Majesty may decide what may be the Royal
Pleasure because although the report by the said Aldunate
was verified, he omitted to relate the exact details of this
It is clear that even the Curas cannot maintain themselves
who are paid in kind from the articles sent by the Indians
which are inadequate ; the Curas are in the same necessitous
condition and go indecently clad and not according to their
position. Some people under pressure of this want have
Don Pedro Joseph Gonzalez de Acuna is in charge of the
Nepuyo Indians and has not succeeded yet in obtaining
a Cura Proprietario in any of the pueblos. On two occasions
for 30 days he made public the vacancies of these benefices
as also that of San Joseph de Oruna but without having any
applicant. He has sent these notices to the Diocesano.
The Governor hopes that Your Majesty in royal sympathy
will relieve them entirely of these charges and payments,
ordering the salaries for the Curas of the Spaniards and Indians
to be paid from the Treasury at Santa F6 since in this way it
will be possible to obtain applicants for these benefices who
will devote due care to their charge.
The Alcaldes Ordinarios of the Island of Trinidad send
reports showing that the tribute paid by the Nepuyo Indians
of San Agustin de Arauca, San Pablo dc Tacarigua and the
Partido of Quare is fixed at 6 pesos and 6 reals the amount
of which they pay in cacao which they produce abundantly
in the Island but the whole crop of this fruit having failed
since the year I735,1 the Indians had cultivated in place
of cacao, casabe, maize, tabaco and cabuyas, articles which
are of little use to the Royal Treasury.
The Indians find great difficult\ in paying the tribute
andalsomaintaining their wives and families; they arcunable,
even to buy a shirt due evidently to the said heavy tax since
the cacao has failed; for these reasons the Corregidor of the
said pueblos brought to notice the provisions of the laws of
these Kingdoms by which if the taxation of the Indians is so
heavy by depopulation, death or other accident that it is
difficult for them to pay easily, they may be relieved so as to
maintain their houses, care for their families and obtain
necessaries and the amount of the tax may be reduced.
As the loss of the cacao was an accident within the meaning
of the said law, it was right that a loss of this kind should
bring sympathetic consideration and the troubles which
the Indians have suffered since tic said year of 1725 should
be regarded as adequate cause to abate the said taxation
especially as these Indians are entitled to assistance for
their constant loyalty as also because they have for a long
time undertaken the guard at the mouth of the Caroni without
any help. They were very faithful guards and notified the
Spaniards at once of any foreign ships, boats or other craft
which approached the coasts of this Island without the
slightest reward and only with the desire to exhibit their
zeal for the Royal Service.
They are as worthy of relief as the Naparima Indians
who without any obligation save only that of guarding their
own ports have been taxed 2 pesos and even this is collected
from them with great difficulty.
The Council having heard the opinion of the Fiscal
and having considered the reports mentioned recommend
to Your Majesty that you shall be pleased to order the relief
mentioned to these Indians from tribute for ten years and
to order the Treasury at Santa Fd to pay the salaries of the
Curas both for Spaniards and Indians and the other charges
usually paid and in respect of which it has not been possible
to obtain a Cura en propiedad to assist the Nepuyo Indians
because one cannot be obtained.
I. 1735 in original. Probably a mistake for 1725.
As I t! fi[lini olf this post is purge, the Council recommends
thalt Yowir NMajc!ty order the Govei(no to report wha\t aImount
of mon,1cy it \\.u!ld Ib necessari'y to provide and pay to a
Cura ini addition to the goods allocated to him to maintain
him so 1h it it would be possible to obtain a Cura en propiedad
for the Indian aind also to make any otlier suitable
re'coil i endt; i ti l s.
Meanwhile he should help by all possible measures,
writing to the Bislhop of Puerto Rico so that a Cua may be
obtained promptly Jr the Indians. The Bishop should
also be instructed to co-operate on his part for so holy an
,oject and to assist by providing C'uras and to take steps to
i'OC( 1I C diI ] ItI.
AvLtrcov,\r the Governoi should be ordered to leave undone
inothlin tlht could help to re-establish the cul tivation of
.aca) aid of produce of (lhie Indians : this the Council
oniders i; most impIortant for the relief as also for the service
of Your Majesty, for the preservation and the advantage
of the Island.
Minute by His Majesty. As recommended