Hola amigos: Today we will continue our saga of The History of Puerto Rico by R.A. Van Middeldyk. This time we will read about the Indians rebellion. The Indians needed to be sure the enemies were mortal before starting a war so they decided on an experiment just to be sure: Salcedo, a young Spanish was dumped into a river and held down, when the man did not moved they knew the supposed demi-gods were mortals.
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The sullen but passive resistance of the Indians was little noticed by
the Spaniards, who despised them too much to show any apprehension;
but the number of fugitives to the mountains and across the sea
increased day by day, and it soon became known that nocturnal
“areytos” were held, in which the means of shaking off the odious yoke
were discussed. Soto Mayor was warned by his paramour, and it is
probable that some of the other settlers received advice through the
same channels; still, they neglected even the ordinary precautions.
At last, a soldier named Juan Gonzalez, who had learned the native
language in la Espanola, took upon himself to discover what truth
there was in these persistent reports, and, naked and painted so as to
appear like one of the Indians, he assisted at one of the nocturnal
meetings, where he learned that a serious insurrection was indeed
brewing; he informed Soto Mayor of what he had heard and seen, and the
latter now became convinced of the seriousness of the danger.
Before Gonzalez learned what was going on, Guaybana had summoned the
neighboring caciques to a midnight “areyto” and laid his plan before
them, which consisted in each of them, on a preconcerted day, falling
upon the Spaniards living in or near their respective villages; the
attack, on the same day, on Soto Mayor’s settlement, he reserved for
himself and Guarionez, the cacique of Utuao.
But some of the caciques doubted the feasibility of the plan. Had not
the fugitives from Quisqueia told of the terrible effects of the
shining blades they wore by their sides when wielded in battle by the
brawny arms of the dreaded strangers? Did not their own arrows glance
harmlessly from the glittering scales with which they covered their
bodies? Was Guaybana quite sure that the white-faced invader could be
killed at all? The majority thought that before undertaking their
extermination they ought to be sure that they had to do with a mortal
Oviedo and Herrera both relate how they proceeded to discover this.
Urayoan, the cacique of Yagueeca, was charged with the experiment.
Chance soon favored him. A young man named Salcedo passed through his
village to join some friends. He was hospitably received, well fed,
and a number of men were told to accompany him and carry his
luggage. He arrived at the Guaoraba, a river on the west side of the
island, which flows into the bay of San German. They offered to carry
him across. The youth accepted, was taken up between two of the
strongest Indians, who, arriving in the middle of the river, dumped
him under water–then they fell on him and held him down till he
struggled no more. Dragging him ashore, they now begged his pardon,
saying that they had stumbled, and called upon him to rise and
continue the voyage; but the young man did not move, he was dead, and
they had the proof that the supposed demi-gods were mortals after all.
The news spread like wildfire, and from that day the Indians were in
open rebellion and began to take the offensive, shooting their arrows
and otherwise molesting every Spaniard they happened to meet alone or
off his guard.
The following episode related by Oviedo illustrates the mental
disposition of the natives of Boriquen at this period.
Aymamon, the cacique whose village was on the river Culebrinas, near
the settlement of Soto Mayor, had surprised a lad of sixteen years
wandering alone in the forest. The cacique carried him off, tied him
to a post in his hut and proposed to his men a game of ball, the
winner to have the privilege of convincing himself and the others of
the mortality of their enemies by killing the lad in any way he
pleased. Fortunately for the intended victim, one of the Indians knew
the youth’s father, one Pedro Juarez, in the neighboring settlement,
and ran to tell him of the danger that menaced his son. Captain Diego
Salazar, who in Soto Mayor’s absence was in command of the settlement,
on hearing of the case, took his sword and buckler and guided by the
friendly Indian, reached the village while the game for the boy’s life
was going on. He first cut the lad’s bonds, and with the words “Do as
you see me do!” rushed upon the crowd of about 300 Indians and laid
about him right and left with such effect that they had no chance even
of defending themselves. Many were killed and wounded. Among the
latter was Aymamon himself, and Salazar returned in triumph with the
But now comes the curious part of the story, which shows the character
of the Boriquen Indian in a more favorable light.
Aymamon, feeling himself mortally wounded, sent a messenger to
Salazar, begging him to come to his caney or hut to make friends with
him before he died. None but a man of Salazar’s intrepid character
would have thought of accepting such an invitation; but _he_ did, and,
saying to young Juarez, who begged his deliverer not to go: “They
shall not think that I’m afraid of them,” he went, shook hands with
the dying chief, changed names with him, and returned unharmed amid
the applauding shouts of “Salazar! Salazar!” from the multitude, among
whom his Toledo blade had made such havoc. It was evident from this
that they held courage, such as the captain had displayed, in high
esteem. To the other Spaniards they used to say: “We are not afraid of
_you_, for you are not Salazar.”
* * * * *
It was in the beginning of June, 1511. The day fixed by Guaybana for
the general rising had arrived. Soto Mayor was still in his grange in
the territory under the cacique’s authority, but having received the
confirmation of the approaching danger from Gonzalez, he now resolved
at once to place himself at the head of his men in the Aguada
settlement. The distance was great, and he had to traverse a country
thickly peopled by Indians whom he now knew to be in open rebellion;
but he was a Spanish hidalgo and did not hesitate a moment. The
morning after receiving the report of Gonzalez he left his grange with
that individual and four other companions.
Guaybana, hearing of Soto Mayor’s departure, started in pursuit.
Gonzalez, who had lagged behind, was first overtaken, disarmed,
wounded with his own sword, and left for dead. Near the river Yauco
the Indians came upon Soto Mayor and his companions, and though there
were no witnesses to chronicle what happened, we may safely assert
that they sold their lives dear, till the last of them fell under the
clubs of the infuriated savages.
That same night Guarionex with 3,000 Indians stealthily surrounded the
settlement and set fire to it, slaughtering all who, in trying to
escape, fell into their hands.
In the interior nearly a hundred Spaniards were killed during the
night. Gonzalez, though left for dead, had been able to make his way
through the forest to the royal grange, situated where now Toa-Caja
is. He was in a pitiful plight, and fell in a swoon when he crossed
the threshold of the house. Being restored to consciousness, he
related to the Spaniards present what was going on near the
Culebrinas, and they sent a messenger to Caparra at once.
Immediately on receipt of the news from the grange, Ponce sent Captain
Miguel del Toro with 40 men to the assistance of Soto Mayor, but he
found the settlement in ashes and only the bodies of those who had
[Footnote 16: La Espanola.]
[Footnote 17: The chroniclers say fifteen or twenty, which seems an
[Footnote 18: Salazar was able in the dark and the confusion of the
attack on the settlement to rally a handful of followers, with whom he
cut his way through the Indians and through the jungle to Caparra.]