THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 76.
A letter from Antonio de Berrio to the King.
June 23rd, 1593. St. Joseph.
Source : Additional Mss. 36315, British Museum. Published by
courtesy of the Trustees of the British iMuseum. Translated
from the Spanish.
Sire, The greatnessof Your Majesty on which Christianity
depends, has conquered with a courageous heart the enemy
which holds the earth in thrall which is the devil ; he is the
protector and defender of the very great provinces of Manoa
which have remained hidden for eighty years until I found
them after most excessive labours and expenses ever known.
In the Indies we have traversed in this conquest during
our wanderings, more than a thousand leagues without
finding them yet always receiving accounts of these provinces
and around there I went since the area is very great and on
all sides we heard that high hills and mountains would prevent
us passing and after all these wanderings I have got to
Margarita which is 400 leagues from my home.
This is a small Island governed by Don Juan Sarmiento
a noble youth, governing well who received us kindly ; this
reception lasted three days and no longer since those born
in the Indies are unable to be constant any longer.
The Devil chose him as one of his ministers since he has
obstructed me with a persistency so continuous as to make
it appear that he was born in Spain. But God the Allpowerful,
desires Your Majesty to bring to the knowledge of Our Holy
Faith a multitude of people, much greater than in Peru
because it is only by a miracle that God in his divine pity
was pleased to grant this to Your Majesty.
I would have been able to do nothing 400 leagues from
my estates, being very old and without money which is the
sinews of war, without men and having for an open enemy
he who governs the Island ; now at this time I am here
without hope of doing anything because I lack as I have said
the forces which are necessary and have only twenty old
campaigners who have been with me throughout all these
explorations and who are constantly true and are always
ready to proceed to the province and I waver, not knowing
what to do.
The only way to provide what we require to enter and
open up such large provinces of which we have such reports
appears to me to write to all the Audiencias and Governors
seeking help since no reply has come to the letters from Your
Majesty and up to now I haveseennonefromanyAudienciaor
Governor. With the exception of Don Diego Osorio, Governor
of Caracas, to whom I sent my son who had been with me
through all these journeys, so that he might obtain what
we wanted ; he helped and like a good caballero and servant
of Your Majesty lie sent me immediately 30 soldiers at his
own expense ; with theseand 6,ooo pesos which the merchants
lent me with a few more men and the old campaigners still
with me, we went and settled the Island of Trinidad which
is four leagues from the mouth of the River Orinoco which
is the way to the large provinces of Guayana.
In this Island I have collected about 8o soldiers but can
get no more since the Governor of Margarita took away from
me those I had obtained elsewhere at great expense ; as it
was impossible to get more men I decided to go myself to
the Island of Trinidad and join the others there although
the Indians have been estranged by the orders and efforts
of the said Governor of Margarita.
And God has helped me by maintaining the loyalty and
valour of the above-mentioned men and of Domingo de Bera
whom I have appointed Maese de Campo and we are agreed
that though adequate forces are not available we should
venture skilfully even at the risk of our lives in obtaining
a sight of the land which we have had such reports and the
way to which we know.
With this decision and with a thousand ducats of barter
of hatchets, knives and other things, we determined that
the said Maese de Campo with 35 soldiers should enter into
this land making the most of the small and insignificant
barter available so that it would appear munificent, giving
it only where necessary and for definite services rendered;
with these orders he and his companions went from this
Island of Trinidad going direct to the province of Carapana
whom I regard as a friend and in whose house I had remained
two months ; from there they went to the province of
Moriquito whom I had kept prisoner for a year and whose
village is the place of entry for these large provinces,
From these two Caciques full reports were obtained of all
the country around and where it was possible to pass ; they
reported that we could not enter with less than a thousand
men which it is impossible to collect since I have only got
roo after great expense ; I am far from my estates as I have
related and so many Captains have been lost in these
explorations and none of them have found the way or knows
it so no one wishes to venture there any more.
The Maese de Campo Domingo de Vera and my
companions could not have done this had they not been very
adventurous and determined, all going with unanimous
decision leaving me in this Island old and useless ; with this
determination and with but little barter as I have said above
and a fev friendly Indians they carried for a banner the whole
hearted christianity of Your Majesty and the great services
to God. All of them confessed and received the sacrament
and started on their voyage; they succeeded so well that
they got to the province of Moriquite which is the way to
the interior and having refreshed there they went overland
for about 30 leagues.
For the first 18 leagues there were but few Indians but
further on there were many more to be found travelling about
and here there were reports of a country of good climate
and very fruitful. They obtained provisions and fowls and
deer and other meats of the country and many kinds of wine
of the Indians and having gone on to 18 leagues as I have
said, they got definite news that i days journey from that
place was a very large lake on the banks of which and in the
country round about was a very numerous race of people
well clothed, very warlike and rich ; they had come there
only 20 years ago and had conquered and taken all these
provinces and that for many years they had gone on conquering
and subjecting that country.
This is certainly the people who had left Piru flying from
our conquest. It is remarkable in this respect how many
must have fled from there and arrived where my men went;
they certify that in this eleven days journey and round about
there are more than a million of warlike Indians, how many
therefore must be those who have turned them out of these
lands and settled the lake. This is also an indication how
greatly to our advantage are their discords in this conquest.
Having seen and learnt what I have reported above and
suspecting from certain indications that the Indians were
seeking to kill them and their being no necessity to see any
more to be able to certify that this is what they had always
been seeking, they returned with the ardent wish to get to
where I was with such wonderful news so that I could give
it to Your Majesty.
I at once sent the principal persons of my companions
of whom I spoke to spread the good news everywhere, to
collect as many men as possible and send them to my estates
in New Granada so that what I have may be sold and
one of my sons could then bring down all the men possible
by the river.
I on my part have done all that is possible and I 1:g
Your Majesty to grant me the favour of ordering all to help
me because the result of this will be of great value to Gcd
and to the advance of Christianity.
We all believe that help could be got easily if your ministers
were sufficiently interested and I beg Your Majesty to look
into this as a matter of grave importance to yourself.
After having settled three or four towns, I should not
have to importune Your Majesty nor seek further favours
neither for myself nor for my companions because by virtue
of the powers granted to me by Your Majesty, I should be
able to arrange and supply that which Your Majesty by
your cedulas has confirmed.
May Your Majesty be pleased to grant that which I now
beg and honour my 20 companions allowing each of them
to have for ever the livery of' Santiago and appointing 12 of
them to be honoured as senators ; these have served Your
Majesty loyally and with constancy. I am confident that
what I seek is so just that you will grant me this. I say no
more but pray God to give me life to settle these provinces
so that I may complete that which has cost me so much
labour and expense.
I am sending the Maese de Campo, Domingo de Eera
to collect men in the Government ofBenezuela ; the Governor
is Don Diego Osorio who has already helped me; from there
horses and cows can be supplied by land now discovered;
Domingo de Bera will be able to send you some articles as
samples since I am here and out of the way ; I beg ycu to
give credit to his letters as though they were mine with a view to
considering and supplying a remedy.
May Our Lord preserve Your Majesty for many e-cars
as Christianity needs.
The Town of San Joseph de Oruna in the Island of Trinidad.
June 23rd, 1593.
Your Catholic and Royal Majesty,
ANTONIO DE BERRIO