Primary Resource

Letter from Luis de Quirós and Juan Baptista de Segura to Juan de Hinistrosa (September 12, 1570)

In this letter, dated September 12, 1570, two Spanish Jesuits update Juan de Hinistrosa, the royal treasurer of Cuba, on their mission to the Chesapeake Bay (the Spanish understood the general area to be called Ajacán). Father Luis de Quirós is the letter's primary author, referring to Juan Baptista de Segura as "Father Vice-Provincial." Segura follows with a brief note, and Quirós adds a note after that. With the Jesuits was a Virginia IndianDon Luís de Velasco (Paquiquineo), who over the previous decade had visited Spain, Mexico, and Cuba, and converted to Christianity. Don Luís later killed Quirós, Baptista, and the other missionaries. The letter appears to have been lost. This version is a transcription made from the original in Seville, Spain, on July 14, 1889, by a B. Smith. It is now archived at the New York Historical Society. What follows is Smith's transcription of the original Spanish and an English translation made for Encyclopedia Virginia by Susan M. Smith, the Elliott Professor of Modern Languages at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney.

Transcription from Original

Spanish Transcription

Jhs. 1570

Ill[ustr]e. S[en]or.

La gracia del Espiritu Santo sea siempre en el anima de V[uestra] m[erced], Amen. Por no tener lugar el P[adr]e Vice P[rovinci]al de escrevir a Vm atento a la priessa q convenia darse en bolver el piloto a essa tierra me ordeno q hiziesse yo esto en su nombre dando cuenta de nuestra jornada y lo demas.

Ha sido la tardança en llegar hasta aqui mucho mayor de lo que se pensava por las difficultades que Vm entendera q suele aver en descubrir tierras nuevas, y las incommodidades del tiempo como mas largamente dara cuenta el piloto a Vm, y llegamos aqui adonde se descargo la ropa ayer q[u]e fueron dies dias de Setiembre aviendo partido como Vm sabe a cinco de Agosto de Sancta Elena. Hallamos la tierra de don Luis muy de otra manera q se penso, no porque aya avido falta en don Luis en el dar relacion della, sino porque la ha n[uest]ro S[en]or. castigado con seis años de esterilidad y mortandad que ha sido causa de quedar muy despoblada conforme a lo que ella solia ser y porque son muchos los muertos y tambien los q se an ydo por otras tierras a proveer a su hambre, han quedado poca mas jente de los principales que dizen q quieren morir donde sus padres murieron, aunque ya ni tienen mais, ni se hallan frutas de las silvestres que ellos suelen comer, ni raizes ni otra cosa q comer sino muy poco y alcansado con mucho trabajo por estar ya muy agostada la tierra y por esta causa no han tenido los indios que offreser a nosotros ni a

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los q venian en el navio mas q buena voluntad q cierto esta han mostrado estos indios de don Luis buena de la manera q ellos han podido paresceles q ha don Luis resuscitado y que viene del cielo y que como todos los mas que han quedado son sus parientes han se consolado con el muy mucho y cobrado animo y esperança q Dios los quiere favorescer y dizen q quieren ser como don Luis y rogado q nos quedamos en esta tierra con ellos y teniendo el cacique her[man]o de don Luis un hijo de tres años muy enfermo q estava siete u ocho leguas de aqui paresciendole q ya se queria morir a hecho instancia que se le fuessen a baptizar por lo qual parescio al vice pal. embiar a noche a uno de los n[uest]ros q le baptizasse por estar ya muy propinco a la muerta. Visto pues la buena voluntad q esta gente mostrava aunque por otra parte como ya dize estan tan habrientos q todos pensavan perescer de hambre y de frio este invierno como lo han hecho muchos en los inviernos pasados porque de mas de q con difficultad hallan ya las raizes de q se solian sustentar las grandes nieves q ay en esta tierra no les dexan buscarlas mirando tambien la esperanza grande q se tiene de las conversion desta gente y servicio de nro Sr. y de Su Magestad y entrada para la sierra y la China &c. le parescio al Pe. aventurarnos aquedar aunque con tan poco matalotaje y recaudo porque nos hemos comido por el camino los dos barriles de

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biscocho de los quatro y el pequeño de harina q se nos dio para el viaje porque tambien ha sido necessario socorrer con algo dello a todo el navio porque venian muy faltos de mantenimiento. bien creo q no nos faltara materia para exercitar la paciencia y a bien succeder se avia de padeser mucho pero a todo esse riesgo ha parescido ponernos y especialmente por parescernos que son la buena diligencia de Vm se podra proveer buena catidad de maiz para q nos podamos sustentar y tenga toda esta gente q siembre y assi por lo que toca al servicio de nro Sor. y de su Magestad conviene mucho q Vm procura si fuesse possible proveernos con mucha presteza y sino fuesse possible hazerse en el invierno es necessario que por todo Março o a mas tardar al principio de Abril se haga alguna buena provision de manera q se les pueda dar para sembrar a toda esta gente. Y porque en este tiempo se puede sembrar aca y desta manera se llegara mucha gente q esta derramada por toda la tierra a buscar de comer q sera grande disposicion pa el Sancto Evangelio y particularmente q lo ha pedido esto con mucha instancia el cacique de la informacion desta tierra lo que toca a la derota q se ha de traer el piloto la dara porque no conviene q se entre por el rio que nosotros entramos a causa de no tener tambuena informacion quanto convenia de los indios por donde aviamos de entrar y por esso es ydo oy el piloto por tierra dos buenas leguas de aqui a ver un rio por donde se ha de hazer la entrada quanto con la buena ventura

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nos vengan a proveer y visitar, pues por aquella parte se puede yr por mar hasta el lugar donde hemos de hazer la habitacion y por aqui ay dos buenas leguas por tierra y otros dos o mas por la mar de manera que la ropa q hemos desembarcado en este desierto adonde se puede llegar por este rio la han de llevar los indios a cuestas estas dos leguas y despues se ha de tornar a embarcar en canoas q es harto trabajo.

La informacion que hasta ahora se ha podido aver de la tierra adentro es que unos indios que encontramos alla abaxo en este rio nos informaron que tres o quarto jornadas de alli estava la sierra y las dos dellas se yva por un rio y despues de la sierra otra jornada o dos se via otro mar. Si otra cosa se pudiere saber con mas certidumbre y claridad se procurara, aunque para esto haze grande falta una buena chalupa porque con la hambre y mortandad aun no tienen canoas esta gente de que se pueda hazer caso. El piloto ha hecho muy bien su viaje y trabajado lo possible en el y nos entrego todo el hato que se embarco nuestro en Sa. Elena y aun vista la necessidad en que quedamos para llevar por tierra este hato nos ayudo con una botija vazia porque en ellas se avia de llevar el vino, y con un costal porque tambien sera menester llevar en costales la harina y con la mitad de la brea q traya pa remendar alguna de las canoas rotas que tienen estos indios y nos dio un esculpil que traya.

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Por la mucha necessidad que trayan todos los del navio de mantinimiento. ha sido necessario q llegando como llegamos aqui ayer se vayan oy dixandonos aqui en este despoblado con las incommodidades ya dichas y por esto no ha habido otro lugar de tener mas informacion ni la ay de alargarme mas. Dios nor Sr. prospere a Vm y a todus sus cosas en su Sancto Servicio como Vm lo dessea. Deste Puerto a 12 de Setiembre de 1570.

Por comission del Pe vice Pal. Capellan de Vm

Quiros

Sor mio por no poder mas ordene al Pe Quiros diese larga cuenta a Vm de todo yo scrivo a Su M[ages]t[ad]. la disposicion que hallo en esta tierra para plantar el Sto Evangelio y la grave necesidad en q quedamos a trueco de cumplir este ministerio, yo entiendo no sera necesario tornar yo a suplicar de nuevo a Vm nos embie con toda brevedad una fragata cargada de mais y no otros regalos pues vea Vm muy bien quanto importa se haga esto con toda presteca para el remedio y amparo de toda esta gente, servicio de Dios nro Sor. y de Su Mgt. a quien tambien scrivo como Vm embiara a Su Mgt. clara noticia y informacion de la derota para venir a Axacam como quien tambien lo sabe &c. En ninguna manera me parecio convener embiar alla

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muchacho alguno de estos indios por lo que dira el piloto y otras cosas. Guarde Dios nro Sor. a Vuestra Merced muchos años y prospere en su Sto amor y gracia.

J. Babth. de Sgra.

JHS

Arivasele me olvidado de escrivir a Vm q desque se entienda ser tiempo en que venga la fragata q se pide con el socorro, se embiara un indio o dos con una carta a la boca del braço de mar por donde se ha de passar para que viendo algun navio haga humada grande de dia y de noche fuego y mas de esso q desque llegue el navio la gente del alli tenga su carta guardada y no la de hasta que le den a el otra como aquella lo qual sera para señal de que los que vienen son amigos y los que traen el recaudo Vm tenga cuenta desta seña o de aviso a quien viniere della llevara la carta el aviso del modo que se ha de tener para entrar y servira de guia.

Sea Ch[risto] nro Sor. con Vm Amen.

Don Luis lo haze bien como del se esperava y esta muy obediente a lo que en el Pe le ordena con mucho respect asi al Pe. como a los demas q aca estamos y se encomienda mucho a Vm y a todos los demas q acasus amigos y señores.

Por un descuido que ubo de no se quien en el navio de hazer algun rescate de comida sevido luego a el inconveniente que se siguio dello que como antes los indios que encontravamos en el camino nos davan de la pobreza q tenian despues como vieron q aquellos avian llevado no se que ju-

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guetes por las macorcas &c. de maiz traian las macorcas y otras comidas y pedian que les diessen algo y las darian alegandole q asi lo avian hecho a los otros y como el Pe avia prohibido que aquello no se hiziesse porque no se acostumbrassen y despues nos lo quisiessen a nosotros rescatar se bolvian con ello parescio le al Pe que diesse cuenta desto a Vm para que pues hemos de estar en esta tierra a lo que los indios nos dieren por la mayor parte Vm provea que la gente q vinieren en ninguna manera rescate si fuere menester [si] graves penas y si algo traxeren que rescatar dando lo aca a don Luis se dara orden como don Luis haga que les den en correspondencia algo sengun que fuere los rescates y que no traten con los indios mas ni de otra manera q como aca se juzgare convenir. Chro nro Sor. con todos. Amen.

Quiros.

carefully corrected by the original

Seville July 14 1889

B Smith

English Translation

JHS

Illustrious Lord

May the grace of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen. The Vice-provincial Father has been unable to write to Your Majesty, being mindful of the need to send the ship's navigator back to you quickly. He commanded me to send you this missive in his name giving an account of our journey and other things.

Our delay in arriving here has been much longer than we anticipated, as you will surely understand given the usual difficulties in exploring new lands and the impairments of weather, which the navigator will report to you in greater detail. We arrived and unloaded the cargo yesterday, the 10th of September, having departed as you know on the 5th of August from Santa Elena. We find Don Luis' land quite different from what was thought although not due to any fault in Don Luis' telling us about it, but rather Our Lord has punished it with six years of famine and death, leaving a much reduced population than before. Many have died and others have moved away in order to relieve their hunger. A few leaders remain who say they want to die where their parents died even though they no longer have corn; they cannot find wild fruit, which they usually eat, nor roots nor anything else except in very small amounts and only by hard work as the soil is now exhausted. Therefore the Indians have nothing more to offer us, or to the others who came on the ship, save good will. And certainly Don Luis' Indians have shown that as best they can. It seems to them that Don Luis has been raised from the dead and come down from heaven. Those who remain are all his relatives who are greatly consoled by him and they have regained hope and faith that God wants to favor them. They say they want to be like Don Luis and beg us to stay in this land with them. The leader, a brother of Don Luis, has a three-year old son who was quite ill and was eight leagues from here. He thought the boy was about to die and he begged us to go to baptize him. So the Vice-provincial Father sent one of our priests last night to baptize him as he was so close to death.

We have seen the good will these people demonstrate even though, as I said, they are so hungry they all are expecting to die from hunger and the winter cold just as many have in past winters. It is only with great difficulty now they are able to find the roots with which they normally survive because heavy snowfalls hinder their search for them. Given the high hopes of conversion for this people to serving Our Lord and Your Majesty and then going into the mountains and China, etc., it seems to Father we should try to stay despite so little remaining of the ship's stores. En route, we had consumed two of the four barrels of biscuits and the little flour we were given for the trip because it has also been necessary to help the whole crew with some part of it as they set out with insufficient supplies. I certainly believe we will not lack opportunities to exercise the virtue of patience and it will be necessary to suffer greatly.

Nevertheless, it seems to us we must expose ourselves to the risk especially if, of your good will, you may be able to send us a goodly amount of corn so that we may sustain ourselves and also leave some for the people to plant. And so as concerns service to Our Lord and to you, it is best if you can provide for us as quickly as possible. If it is not possible for some provisions to arrive during the winter months, they must arrive by March or at the latest early April, so that we may give all these people something to plant. Sowing seed is done here at that time and therefore many widely scattered peoples in search of food will come here and it will be a great opportunity to spread the Holy Gospel. In particular the chief has asked for this quite insistently.

The ship's navigator will bring you information about this land and the route to be taken as it is not good to come by way of the river where we entered, not having had such good information from the Indians. Therefore, the navigator has gone by land today about two leagues from here to see a river by which they should enter when, with good luck, they return to bring us provisions and to visit. By that route one can travel by sea as far as the place where we have to make camp. From here it is a good two leagues overland and another two or more by water. Thus the Indians must carry the cargo we have unloaded here on their backs and then load it again into canoes, which is quite difficult work.

Information we have heard up to now about the territory farther inland, we learned from Indians we met down river. They told us there were mountains three or four days from here. It is two days travel by river, then another day or two crossing the mountains, then one finds another sea. If anything else with more certainty and clarity can be found out, we shall do so, although the trip would necessitate a good river craft. With so much famine and death, these people do not even have canoes that could be used.

The ship's navigator has done very well on this voyage and has worked hard to bring along all the provisions we loaded at Santa Elena, even with the need we had to carry them overland. He helped us with a large, empty jug for carrying wine and a sack for carrying flour; he gave us half of the tar he brought so that we could repair some of the Indian canoes and he gave us a chisel he had brought.

Given the great needs of the ship's crew for provisions, although having arrived here only yesterday, the crew must depart today leaving us in this uninhabited place with its discomforts as mentioned above. There has been no time to learn more and so I cannot send you any further information May God, our Lord, prosper you and all your endeavors in His holy service as Your Majesty wishes.

From this port, 12 September, 1570.

By order of the Vice-provincial Father.

Your chaplain,

Quiros

My Lord, unable to do more myself I ordered Father Quirós to give you a detailed account about everything. I am writing to His Majesty of the circumstances I find in this area for implanting the Holy Gospel and of the serious need remaining in order for us to accomplish this ministry. I know it is not necessary to appeal to you once again to send us, as quickly as possible, a shipload of corn and no other gifts. You well understand how important haste is for the aid and protection of all these people, and for serving God, Our Lord, and His Majesty. I am writing to him also, as I do to you, so that you may send him detailed news and clear information of the route to Axacam as one who also knows it. It did not seem to me best at all to send an Indian boy there, which the ship's navigator will explain as well as other things. May Our Lord guard you and keep you for many years and may you grow in his Holy love and grace.

J. Baptista de Segura

JHS

I forgot to write to Your Majesty in the previous message that since it is understood the frigate will come with the aid requested, one or two Indians will be sent with a letter to the mouth of this channel of the sea through which it must enter. Seeing the ship, they will make a large smoke signal by day and a fire by night. Those arriving will also have a letter from you and will not give it to the Indians until they give them another one like it as a sign that they come as friends. Take note of this sign and advise whoever comes that the letter contains information about the way one must enter and will serve as their guide. May Christ, Our Lord, be with you. Amen.

Don Luis has done well, as was hoped, and is quite obedient to whatever Father wishes him to do and he does so respectfully, treating the rest of us in the same manner. He commends himself to you, to your friends and others.

Through carelessness, by whom on the ship I do not know, the attempt to barter for some food led to the result that follows. Previously, the Indians we met on the road had given us from their poor stores whatever they had. Now, as they saw that those to whom they gave food had no trinkets to give in return, they bring ears of corn and other food asking first to be given something and then they will leave the food such as they had done with others. But Father had forbidden that practice so that the Indians would not get accustomed to receiving something. Then, not wanting to barter with us, they left taking the food with them. Father wanted us to inform you of this since we have to be living here in this place, in large part, on what the Indians give us. Therefore, you ought to advise those who come here not to barter in any way, under penalty of serious punishments if necessary. If they do bring some things to barter, those things should be given to Don Luis who can ensure that something of like value be offered in return. They should not deal with the Indians except in a manner judged fitting here. May Christ, Our Lord, be with you all.

Quirós

carefully corrected by the original

Seville July 14 1889

B Smith