A short time previous to these events, an Indian from Florida arrived in Havana; he called himself Don Luis de Velasco. He was a person of note and had been raised in Mexico by the friars of Saint Dominic and had been baptized there at the instance of the Viceroy Don Luis de Velasco, who was, as I understand it, his godfather and gave him his name. This fellow had been educated at the court of King Philip II and had received many favors from him. Finally the King sent him back to his own country, where he said he was a chief, in the company of some Dominican friars. For some reason or other, he found himself deserted by the friars; so he began to tell his plan to the Admiral, Pedro Menéndez. From what the Indian told him of the grandeurs of his land and the information he already had about the existence of another sea in this region and another navigation route of great importance for the discovery of great kingdoms such as Tartary and others contiguous to it, the Admiral heard the Indian and discussed the matter with Father Baptista [de Segura], who was at that time with the Admiral in Havana, where all this was going on. The two easily came to an agreement, nor was there further discussion. The Father believed that God had granted to him, as to Father Master Francis Xavier, another Paul of Holy Faith and another greater and more important Japan. Longing to spread our holy Catholic Faith, he prepared himself for the trip and had a boat made and equipped with everything necessary for both the sea voyage and that land which was to be stocked with different sorts of animals and birds and many other things. With all this equipment he sailed from Havana in the month of July or August in 1571, by my reckoning. He arrived in good weather at this point of Santa Elena in Florida, where I was staying at the time, and there we all had a meeting.
— page 132 —Since we treated one another with great love and familiarity, he confided to me all the plans and designs and hopes for this journey. These were all clearly praiseworthy, for they came from a holy, sincere Christian heart, and I gave him high praise. But I pointed out the difficulty in the execution of the plan, saying that the Indian did not satisfy me, and judging from what he had told me, I saw that he was a liar. I begged and entreated him to examine the plan more thoroughly, to talk it over with the Fathers present and to decide what was best in conformity with their advice. The idea of a superior wanting to go to such remote and distant lands relying on an Indian, leaving everything behind, without a guard of soldiers or any people other than his own [Jesuits], was in my opinion not as good as that of having another Father go and travel light to look around the country and see what there was in the whole notion and learn if the Indian was lying or telling the truth. That is how it looked to me. All the Fathers assembled there reached the same conclusion except Father Quirós, who was to go along, and he had just come from Spain without any experience. In spite of all this he [Segura] decided to go, according to the arrangements already made, and stay there alone with his companions. This was to prevent anyone from giving a bad example to the Indians. His companions were Father Quirós, Brother Linares, Brother Zavallos, Brother Gabriel Gómez, and three novices, one of whom was named Juan Baptista Méndez, and Gabriel de Solís and Cristóbal Redondo and a boy called Alonso. This mission seemed to him to be more in conformity with the will of Our Lord which he desired to accomplish in everything, and with this resolution he left, firm in his high purpose.
Then his companion, Father Quirós, a man of distinguished learning, came to me with a long list, on which he asked me to give him the best and the larger portion of everything I had in my charge, especially the church goods. When I saw the list I was a little upset and I said to him, "Father, I would gladly give you everything you ask of me, even though I know that it is all going to be lost, were it not for the fact that I know for certain that all this will contribute greatly to the death of everyone going there. Will your Reverence do me the kindness of saying this for me to the Father Vice-Provincial [Segura], and after that if he wants me to give you what you ask, well then here it is at your command." He came back with the answer that I should give him everything for which he had asked. I fulfilled his request, but there were also fulfilled the forebodings I expressed. I gave Father Quirós as much as he
— page 133 —wanted, and it was the greater part of the best and richest articles that I had in the way of chalices, monstrances, and vestments and other articles besides church furnishings. With these they completed their equipment for their journey.
The novices that he was taking with him came to say good-bye to me with great tenderness and tears. I was deeply stirred because I loved them kindly as one who had reared them. Now when they told me that they were going to their death, I replied that they should be consoled wherever holy obedience was sending them and that God would be with them and that from Him they would receive the pay and reward of their labors, and that it was a great blessing to die for God and obedience. I felt the same tender sorrow when Father Vice-Provincial and the rest of his companions, whom I was not to see again in this life, departed amidst the tears of all.
They arrived at the country of this Indian Don Luis in August. Its name is Ajacán. They expected through him to do great things in that land, and in all the other lands they hoped to discover, because the Indian was a big chief and a clever talker. Our Fathers and Brothers disembarked in a great and beautiful port, and men who had sailed a great deal and have seen it say it is the best and largest port in the world. So, if I remember rightly, the pilot remarked to me. It is called the Bay of the Mother of God, and in it there are many deep-water ports, each better than the next. I saw this port myself when I went with the Admiral, as I will narrate later. It seemed to me (for as it looked to me and I was given to understand), it was about 3 leagues in the mouth, and in length and breadth it was close to 30. They say that at the end of it the other sea begins. Also there is the very important navigation route, mentioned before, which the Admiral wanted to explore. I understand he would have done this, had he lived long enough. There is a large population on the shores of this port and inland.
After he unloaded all his effects at this beautiful port, Segura decided to remain there without soldiers or guards other than our Fathers and Brothers, and to trust in God's care and protection and the help of His most Holy Mother and of the saints and angels in heaven. He placed himself in the hands of this Indian whom he trusted, for if he was what he ought to be, there would certainly be a rich harvest gathered through him. But it was far to the contrary, for he was very different from what he had seemed to be and what Father Baptista [Segura] had believed about him. The Father bade farewell to all the people in the boat
— page 134 —and remained alone with his own men, who carried all the baggage to the village of a brother of Don Luis. This was very fatiguing labor because of the distance from the port and the poor footpaths and swamps that abounded in the whole region.
Then this wretched native saw himself the master of the Father and his sons and all their supplies. There was no one to fear because he was among his brothers and relatives and friends and many leagues away from the sea. They had no one on land to help them, and aid by water would have been difficult. At the beginning, I understand, he did not show at once his criminal intent, and the Fathers built their poor little hut and chapel and began to treat with him the office of preaching the gospel for which they had come. But this second Judas began to indulge in vices and sins publicly without fear of God or man and then to relinquish their conversation and company. Since he was acting more like a pagan than a Christian in his manners, dress, and habits, he went off and lived with his uncle, a chief, in a country far distant from ours. There he allowed himself free rein in his sins, marrying many women in a pagan way. neither reasoning nor any other method which Father Baptista tried to release him from his sinful life and draw him back to himself had any effect.
By my reckoning, from the end of August to the Purification of Our Lady these blessed Religious, our Fathers and Brothers, lived in that country in continual fright and alarm, awaiting death each day. It was in the control of this Indian and his kinsmen to take away their lives, when and in what way they wanted without meeting any resistance. Therefore Father Vice-Provincial with several expedients prepared and disposed himself and his companions for a death they held as certain. The first arrangement he made was that all should give themselves to longer and more continual prayer, readying themselves with exhortations and conferences, which he frequently gave them, and with other good spiritual exercises, and he had all of them make a general confession of their past life. Their mortification was great and they must have undergone great austerity even without wanting it, for the supplies they brought ran out, and they were obliged to sustain themselves on the roots and herbs of the countryside, like the Indians who live off the land, for their food usually fails around that time.
The good Father was more despondent over the tiresome work of his sons than his own, because he was naturally compassionate, pious, and meek and very charitable and when he saw them suffering so much his
— page 135 —heart was greatly stirred. It seemed to him that the cure for their misfortunes would be to bring back to friendship that evil and rebellious Indian. So he decided to send Father Quirós and two Brothers to try and succeed. On the way they took some sustenance and some mats which would be some protection against the great cold they endured, because the ground was cold and the house in which they were living was so wretched that its chief covering was palm leaves which served as roof and walls. I know this from experience too, for I have lived many times in similar houses suffering much from the cold, even though the lands were not so cold.
This Father and the Brothers made a cautious trip to the country of Don Luis' uncle, where he was living, as has been narrated. While going along safely with these bundles on their back, lo! the traitor with armed companions suddenly springs out on the path to kill them with bows and arrows. When they saw the sudden attack, Father Quirós turned to Don Luis and asked him what they wanted to do and why they were about to kill them. Then the good Father began to preach to them but the answer was a volley of arrows, and so after wounding them many times they slew Father Quirós and Brother Gabriel de Solís. Brother Baptista Méndez fled to the woods with blood running from his deep wounds. There he hid himself that night and in the morning he was discovered and killed. After that the murderers burned the bodies and stole their clothing and bundles.
Good Father Baptista Segura, who was anxiously awaiting the companions and the successful outcome of their embassy, grieved deeply over their tardiness and feared some mischance and frequently said so to his companions with great sorrow of his heart and soul. Before dawn of the morning of the same day, as I understand, of Our Lady of Candlemas, when he was praying as usual with all his sons, Segura heard someone calling at the door, and all around the house a great noisy crowd of people with their captain and leader, Don Luis. They told the Fathers to give them all the axes and machetes used to cut wood, because they were going into the forests for it. The good Father, oblivious of the evil the Indians were plotting against him, and innocent of their evil intention, said that they would give everything to them, and two of the house would go along to the forest and carry their bundles of wood to warm themselves. The traitor Don Luis, seeing himself in control of the weapons, with which, as he looked at it, they could defend themselves, used the following stratagem.
— page 136 —The Indian archers approached the house from the back, so that if anyone came out he would be killed at once. Don Luis, dressed in the clothing which he had stolen from Father Quirós on the path when he killed him, went inside with some picked followers, keeping the axes and machetes he already had. He assigned his warriors each to a different man, so that all were killed at the same time, without being able to help one another. The wretched and perverse Don Luis attacked Father Baptista first to pay him back for the many kindnesses shown him, and when the Father saw him come in and recognized him he though he came in for a very different purpose. They say that he spoke joyfully at his sight: "You are very welcome, Don Luis!" Certainly before he got any further the Indian replied with his axe and gave him many blows on the head, the arms, the legs, and his whole body, which lay gravely wounded and maltreated. While the captain was dealing with the Father, the other murderers were occupying themselves similarly with the rest, like wolves among gentle sheep who were doing evil to no one but good to all. They went into the kitchen where they found a Brother named Cristóbal Redondo, who was in soul an body, disposition and speech, more of an angel than a man. When that meek lamb saw himself attacked by those wolves and was wounded by them he raised his voice saying: "Help me, my Fathers, they are going to kill me." But by this time it was useless to look for help, for they were all dead; not one of those who were in the house remained. As to the two who had gone out into the woods, they split the head of one, Brother Zaballos, an old Brother of great virtue, and he lay there dead. They did not touch the boy who had gone with him saying that they did not want to kill him but only the Fathers. When he saw them dead and so badly wounded he asked them in deep sorrow of soul to kill him too. He preferred to die with them rather than live without them among infidels and barbarians. Despite this they spared him. Then he asked the murderers to bury their bodies all naked and cut to pieces by the hands of those enemies of our holy Faith. The Fathers had longed and tried in every way to bring them to the knowledge of their Creator and Lord. As the boy recalls, the wicked Indian who fostered this crime, though evil and hardened in his errors and sins, was so touched at seeing them dead that he wept copiously and called them martyrs. They dug a long ditch and there they buried them each one separately with their crosses in their hands, first Father Baptista and the rest in order.
Then they turned to stealing whatever they found in the house,
— page 137 —leaving nothing that had been brought there except a box in which there was a devotional crucifix surrounded by other pious objects. For when they irreverently opened the box, three Indians fell dead at once; the rest were very frightened and did not dare touch it. They profaned the holy vessels dedicated to the divine service and drank from the chalices and hung the patens around their necks and dressed themselves in the sacred vestments.
It pleased Our Lord that this boy who was called Alonso de Olmos should remain alive in order that from his mouth as from an eye-witness we should learn all these things. Then after all this they wanted to kill him too; so he fled to the territory of a chief who was an enemy of these murderers and defended him with his own hands and kept him in his own custody until we took him from his protection when the Admiral went in person to administer punishment for the massacre and we went with him. Later I will tell how this was.
To resume the thread of our story again, after the departure of the Father and his companions to Ajacán, we remained, as already mentioned, at the port of Santa Elena in Florida, and then all embarked for Havana according to his instructions. There we received letters from the same Father brought back on the boat which had carried them up. A soldier in their service gave them to us. From his report as well as the letters, we saw the great peril in which all our Fathers and Brothers were placed, and so we took steps that a relief ship be dispatched with all speed to bring reinforcements, provisions, and a good stock of supplies. But for all the haste with which we acted, it was God's will that they be already dead.
The Father had given definite signals to the pilot so that when the ship should reach port they would see certain things that the Father wanted, and if they did not find those signals, it was an indication that they were dead. Since the pilot went and did not find the signals, he suspected some foul play, and refused to set foot on land but made for the sea; no matter how many gestures the people on land made calling them in, the pilot, like a prudent man, always refused to land. When they saw this they determined to attack them in numbers with their canoes and capture the ship. These canoes are their ships; and so there was a sharp fight on both sides. The guns that they had on board were not as useful to them as a great pile of rocks which they were carrying for ballast. When they saw so great number of rocks falling on them (a thing they had never seen, for there are no rocks in that region and they
— page 138 —do not know what they are), the natives retired with damage and the loss of two captured Indian chiefs. With these the Spaniards returned, not knowing for certain if the Fathers were dead or alive, nor could they get anything out of the Indians.
This news put us all in a state of great perplexity and anxiety. Now we lived for a long period in deep fear and trembling unable to know anything certain about them. With greater probability we took it as more certain that they had killed our beloved superior and our Fathers and Brothers and in my particular pain and anxiety, I spoke to Father Juan Rogel, who was the superior when Father Sedeño was in Florida with the Admiral Pedro Menéndez. I expressed my sad feelings in these words: "I am deeply afflicted by the memory of Father Vice-Provincial and his companions our brothers, not knowing if they are dead or alive. It occurs to me as a good idea to rid ourselves of this doubt by having some one of us go and find out for certain and bring a good supply of provisions for the journey." He said that he himself saw that already, but did not know what to do or what means to take. I said that if it were agreeable to him I would undertake the task of going up and risking and endangering my life for the welfare of our Fathers and Brothers. This the Father regarded highly and thanking me he ordered me to take charge of the mission. I did this and with all possible energy. In a short time I equipped myself with all necessary items: a ship, a pilot and sailors, supplies, clothing and miscellaneous items and everything necessary. Besides this boat of ours, two others were prepared with a large and capable crew, and these three ships sailed together from the port of Havana for Florida, where the Admiral was with his household and Father Antonio Sedeño with Brother Villareal.
[There follows the story of the impounding of the ship by Menéndez and his adventures on the coast of Florida while returning to Havana with Father Sedeño and Brother Carrera. The translation resumes with the history of the second relief ship which left with the Governor's little fleet from Santa Elena.]
We embarked on that ship and sailed amid fierce storms and no less dangers to our lives, but the Lord delivered us from every threat and brought us to Ajacán safely in August, 1572. After the Admiral had given out instructions about his own affairs, he divided all the people and soldiers among the three ships. We made landfall in the Bay of the Mother of God, and in this port we found a very beautiful vineyard, as well laid out and ordered as the vineyards of Spain. It was located on
— page 139 —sandy soil and the vines were laden with fair white grapes, large and ripe. These the Lord had prepared for us and we gave Him many thanks. Also within the vineyard there was a great number of plum, cherry, and persimmon trees like those in Spain. We ate from the laden branches and took some away for our journey; it was a great windfall and we glorified the Lord for it.
The Admiral sent out a well protected ship, carrying many soldiers and the pilot who had brought Ours there, to reconnoiter the land inside the bay. In the country of Don Luis' uncle he captured the chief and several of his men who were found guilty an brought them before the Admiral. The captain killed many in their country, and took the paten from an Indian who was wearing it around his neck and the chasuble from another who was walking about in it. We also got hold of the boy who was a companion of Ours; he was in the custody of the other chief. We learned from him all about the way things happened, and this has been related here.
When the chief stood in the presence of the Admiral and saw Father Rogel and Brother Villareal and me dressed like those whom they had slain, he was thunderstruck and thought we had risen from the dead. The Admiral told him to bring Don Luis in three days; if not, they would all be killed. And so he sent back one of the Indian prisoners. Since he did not come back at the appointed time, he hanged them all from the yardarms of the ship. Previously Father Rogel had baptized the chief and his men.
When the Admiral had accomplished this, as has been related, he started on his way for Spain in search of his fleets, which he found before reaching Spain near Islas Terceras. Then we returned to the island of Cuba and our house in Havana.