Some Eventful Diary Entries From 1492...
So that they may feel great friendship for us, and because I knew
that they were a people who would be better delivered and converted
to our Holy Faith by love than by force, I gave to some of them
red caps and glass bells which they put round their necks, and
many other things of little value, in which they took much pleasure,
and they remained so friendly to us that it was wonderful.
Afterwards they came swimming to the ship‚s boats where
we were. And they brought us parrots and cotton-thread in skeins,
and javelins and many other things. And they bartered them with
us for other things, which we gave them, such as little glass
beads and little bells. In short, they took everything, and gave
of what they had with good will. But it seemed to me that they
were a people very destitute of everything.
They all went as naked as their mothers bore them, and the women
as well, although I only saw one who was really young. And all
the men I saw were young, for I saw none more than thirty years
of age; very well made, with very handsome persons, and very good
faces; their hair thick like the hairs of horses' tails, and cut
short. They bring their hair above their eyebrows, except a little
behind, which they wear long, and never cut. Some of them paint
themselves blackish (and they are of the color of the inhabitants
of the Canaries, neither black nor white), and some paint themselves
white, and some red, and some with whatever they can get. And
some of them paint their faces, and some all their bodies, and
some only the eyes, and some only the nose.
They do not bear arms nor do they know them, for I showed them
swords and they took them by the edge, and they cut themselves
through ignorance. They have no iron at all; their javelins are
rods without iron, and some of them have a fish‚s tooth
at the end, and some of them other things. They are all of good
stature, and good graceful appearance, well made. I saw some who
had scars of wounds in their bodies, and I made signs to them
[to ask] what that was, and they showed me how people came there
from other islands which lay around, and tried to take them captive
and they defended themselves. And I believed, and I [still] believe,
that they came there from the mainland to take them for captives.
They would be good servants, and of good disposition, for I see
that they repeat very quickly everything which is said to them.
And I believe that they could easily be made Christians, for it
seems to me that they have no belief. I, if it please our Lord,
will take six of them to your Highnesses at the time of my departure,
so that they may learn to talk. No wild creature of any sort have
I seen, except parrots, in this island.
Saturday, October 13
As soon as the day broke, many of these men came to the beach,
all young, as I have said, and all of good stature, a very handsome
race. Their hair is not woolly, but straight and coarse, like
horse hair, and all with much wider foreheads and heads than any
other people I have seen up to this time. And their eyes are very
fine and not small, and they are not black at all, but of the
color of the Canary Islanders. And nothing else could be expected,
since it is on one line of latitude with the Island of Ferro,
in the Canaries.
They came to the ship with almadias, which are made of the trunk
of a tree, like a long boat, and all of one piece ˜and made
in a very wonderful manner in the fashion of the country˜
and large enough for some of them to hold forty or forty-five
men. And others are smaller, down to such as hold one man alone.
They row with a shovel like a baker‚s, and it goes wonderfully
well. And if it overturns, immediately they all go to swimming
and they right it, and bale it with calabashes which they carry.
They brought skeins of spun cotton, and parrots, and javelins,
and other little things which it would be wearisome to write down,
and they gave everything for whatever was given to them.
And I strove attentively to learn whether there were gold. And
I saw that some of them had a little piece of gold hung in a hole
which they have in their noses. And by signs I was able to understand
that going to the south, or going round the island to the southward,
there was a king there who had great vessels of
it, and had very much of it. I tried to persuade them to go there;
and afterward I saw that they did not understand about
I determined to wait till the next afternoon, and then to start
for the southwest, for many of them told me that there was land
to the south and southwest and northwest, and that those from
northwest came often to fight with them, and so to go on to the
southwest to seek gold and precious stones.
Christopher Columbus, 1493
Paraphrased by Washington Irving
Retranslated by Edward Everett Hale