Relacion de Puerto Rico, 1582


Memory and description of the island of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Compiled by the order of His Majesty, King Philip the Second. In the year 1582.

In the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, of the Indies, of the Ocean sea, on the first of January of fifteen hundred and eighty two, the illustrious Lord, Captain Juan Melgarejo, governor and highest in command in this city and island, following the order of His Majesty to gather the description of the island and of all the memorable things in it. According to the printed Instructions that were sent, and that are inserted here, and having been only a month as governor of the island and therefore not being fully knowledgeable of its things, ordered Juan Ponce de Leon, the cleric, and the Bachelor and lawyer Antonio de Santa Clara, both reliable and experienced persons about the affairs of this island to answer the chapters in the said Instructions, as in this manner His Majesty will be well-served.

And he signed his name,

the Captain Juan Melgarejo. (There is an emblem?)

And in obedience to such edict, Juan Ponce de Leon and the Bachelor Antonio de Santa Clara, who were present took the Instruction that the Governor gave them, and with the utmost diligence and care said the following:


Chapter One

Puerto Rico is the principal city; it is not known whether it had any other name in the Indian language, but the whole island was known as Boriquen. Its Spanish name, Puerto Rico, was given to it because of the richness of the gold that was found in it. Others have said that it was named so because its port is very good, enclosed and safe from storms.


Chapter Two

The discoverer and conqueror of this island was Juan Ponce de Leon, a citizen of the city of San Servas del Campo. He conquered it by himself, following the orders of the Admiral don Diego de Colon, the son of the first discoverer of the Indies. To do this he sailed from the port of Xiguey, the old, a place they used to call Salvaleon, in the island of Santo Domingo. The first time that he came he landed on the tip of this island that they call Aguada. It is on the northern part. He took some Indians with whom he had made acquaintance and he found gold which he brought back as a sample to the Admiral. He did not conquer it then but negotiated with the Admiral and then returned to conquer and populate it. He landed on the southern tip of the island, and he founded a city in the port of Guanica. Don Cristobal Sotomayor, from Galicia, was lieutenant of this outpost. And from here they began the conquest of this island. This was in the year 1508.


Chapter Three

The climate of the city of Puerto Rico and its district, which covers almost the entire island, is very good. And its almost the same throughout the whole year, except in December and January, during which its like winter. It is not too hot throughout the whole year. It rains a lot from May to September. There is no order to this and some years, this is not the case. The winds that ordinarily blow are those from the East, or the Northeast. And at nights the wind lifts the earth. During August and September there are these storms called JURACANES, and sometimes these winds cause great damage. The wind that does the most harm though is the Northern wind as wherever this reaches, it burns and parches the crops and wrecks the plantain trees -- a fruit that serves as sustenance like bread. In the early years of the conquest, and even later on, these JURACANES were very common, every two or three years. Its been ten to twelve years since they had the last one.


Chapter Four

This island is very rugged and full of mountains, with abundant rivers and creeks that are very good and healthy. And in many of these rivers they find and have found gold. They descend from its source in the mountains and hills where they have found and it is believed that there are rich deposits of gold. In the city of Puerto Rico, however, there is no fresh water, as it is located in separate isle from the principal island. Because of this there is no river or creek, but a fountain that flows from a sandy place close to the sea, about a one and a half league from the city in the principal island. And they go there by a causeway over the sea. They call it the FOUNTAIN OF AGUILAR. It has not been brought over to the city because it is not suitable and the water is not much. Water is drank from cisterns, and there is one in almost every house. There is a lack of grazing land for the cattle. Because of the existence of these trees called GUAYABOS, everyday there is less land for this. These trees grow a fruit like apples that is full of seeds. The cows, pigs, birds and beasts eat these fruit so wherever the seed falls, a tree sprouts. And the land is closing up in such a manner that the cattle cannot graze and no grass can grow underneath. And everyday the land is being ruined more and more.


Chapter Five

According to the copy of the document at the time of the REPARTIMIENTO made when the island was conquered, there were 5,000 male and 500 female Indians. Those that were not distributed were not domesticated. Today there are no native Indians, except a few that come from the mainland and that were brought here. There is maybe twelve or fifteen. Their numbers dwindled because of the diseases such as the measles, colds, and smallpox. And because of the bad treatments, they fled to other islands with the Caribes. And the ones there are not organized in the town. They serve a soldier here and there, or they live in their ranches among the Spaniards, and they don't speak in their language because most of them were born in this island and they are good Christians.


Chapter Six

The height and elevation of the city of San Juan de Puerto Rico can be determined by the eclipse that I, Juan Ponce de Leon, as mandated by the Captain Juan de Cespedes who was Governor of this island, observed on the fifteen of July of last year, and which is being sent to His Majesty on this ship.


Chapter Seven

In this island there is a town that they call NUEVA SALAMANCA, or SAN GERMAN EL NUEVO. It was founded by the Governor Francisco de Solis with the leftovers from a town that was called GUADIANYLLA that was on the southern tip of the island. This town was burnt by the Carib Indians, who are neighbors of this island. The French also robbed it. It was close to the sea, on a mountain, about a half a league from the sea. Because it was so exposed, it was moved further inland. This was done with the permission of the Audiencia de Santo Domingo. This Villa de Salamanca is four leagues from the sea. The French have also reached it and robbed it there. It lies to the West, thirty leagues from the city of San Juan. It is governed by a lieutenant and mayors appointed by the Governor of the city. The climate and winds are the same as in the city of Puerto Rico. It does not have defenses against corsairs.


Chapter Nine

The city of Puerto Rico, that is the main villa, was founded by the already mentioned Juan Ponce de Leon. He called it San Juan because this was his name. This was in the year 1521 as he abandoned a city they had built before in the main island, about one league and a half from the current one and which they used to call Caparra. It was abandoned because all the children would die as the waters were bad. It had very few people then and now it has 170 VEZINOS and 14 clerics. Many have left for the mainland, and Spain and to other places.


Chapter Ten

The location of this main town is even land. But there is a hill towards the monastery of Dominican friars, as can be seen from the tracing that accompanies this report. The highest part, which is where the monastery is located faces north. Opposite to this lies the level land. It faces Noon.


Chapter Fourteen

As has been told by some of the conquerors of the island, its native Indians were peaceful people. They did not eat human flesh, or practice sodomy, or use poison. The ones on the coast fought with arrows and bows, those from inland with sticks. They worshipped the devil. They spoke with it. They were afraid of the Carib Indians. These Carib Indians come from neighboring islands to the East. They are ferocious warriors and they eat human flesh. They have poison. They have ruined and keep ruining this island. They are a principal cause for its depopulation. This has already been brought to the attention of His Majesty in the reports that have been sent to the Casa de la Contratacion in Sevilla.


Chapter Fifteen

There was no principal Cacique who was lord of this island. In every valley, or principal river, there was a Cacique. They had Captains and Lieutenants that would serve them. They were called in their language, NITAYNOS. After they were distributed to the Spaniards, the tribute that they would pay their lords was to bring out gold from the mines, and to make CONUCOS of cazabe and maiz that are the sustenance of this land. And batatas, YMOCONAS, YAHUTIAS, GUAYAROS, LERENES and MANI which are the roots that they used to eat. Understand that the main cause for the lack of Indians, aside from the diseases already mentioned, was moving them away from their towns to the mines and to other places other than where they were born (even though they did not move them from this island.)


Chapter Sixteen

The site of the city of San Juan de Puerto Rico is the one mentioned in Chapter Ten. As has been said, there are no Indian towns. The city of Nueva Salamanca is on a mountain range. This is not a good location, because there is no level land, the water is far and because there is a mud that stains the clothes whenever there is wind. The closest river is called GUAINABO.


Chapter Seventeen

The city of Puerto Rico is healthy land. Commonly the people have good color. The most dangerous diseases is tetanus. Many children die at birth from this disease. And many adults from only drinking the water they are sweating. Of the remedies that they use to cure this disease, which few escape, is applying heat to the neck and the kidneys and giving the juice of the herb they call tobacco. In the city of Nueva Salamanca it is the same situation with respect to this disease.


Chapter Eighteen

To the southeast of the city of Puerto Rico there is a large mountain range that has three peaks. It is very high and it is called LOQUILLO. The highest peak is called FURIDI. This name was given to it by the Negroes and in their language it means a thing that is always covered by clouds. The next highest is called ESPIRITU SANTO and the other Loquillo. It lies ten leagues from the city of Puerto Rico. It is thus called by the Spaniards who named it so on account of a Cacique who lived there and who has constantly rising against the Christians so they knew no respite. From this mountain range rises a chain of mountains that divides the island in half , East to West. It reaches the sea and the district of Nueva Salamanca.


Chapter Nineteen

There is a river that they call BAYAMON. Its source is near the bay of the city of Puerto Rico. It is half a league from the entry to the city. Ships navigate it and bring wood, grass for the horses, fruits like oranges, limes, plantains, ciders and other things. There are four sugar refineries of the kind they call TRAPICHES because they use horse power. And through this river they bring sugars to the ships on the port to export to Spain. At the mouth of the river there are sand dunes so they cannot navigate well except when the tide is high. Just the same, in the river banks there are some ranches that they call CONUCOS, which is where they make CASABE, that is the bread of this land, and corn, and there also grows plenty of plantains. The mouth of this river does not have a lot of water, but it grows with the water from other rivers that flow into it.

There is another river of great volume, of the largest ones of this island that is called TOA. It empties into the sea about a league and a half from the city of San Juan. Its banks are fertile and there are three sugar mills. One works with water, the other two with horse power. In its banks, they plant ginger, and it grows well. The river TOA flows from far away. It comes from a mountain called GUABATE, that is located fourteen leagues from the city. In its banks there is a tree that they call SEYBA in the Indian language. This tree is so large that its shadow is cast from one side of the river to the other (the tree is about 120 steps from the river shore). There was a carpenter called Pantaleon who made a hole in the tree and made a chapel, so mass could be said. It is so wide that fifteen men cannot encompass it. There are men of faith who swear that its circumference is 7 fathoms wide. It does not bear fruits. In old times, it was an Indian temple. In its surroundings you can still see some painted ZEMIES which are the idols the Indians would adore on the river bank. Next to the sugar mill that they call La Trinidad, there is a quarry of white, smooth stone that is very good. This stone was used to build the principal church in the city.

In the southwest of the island there is another river called SIBUCO. It is not too wide. And in its source, that is called Sibuco Alto y Bajo, they have found a lot of gold of 21 and 22 karats. In this banks there is a lot of cattle and pigs. Gold is no longer mined because of lack of Negroes and many of the settlements and ranches have been abandoned. The source of this river is about 5 leagues from the city.

Further west, towards the northern part of the island, there is large, very abundant river called GUAYANES. It is almost as big as the TOA. In its fertile banks there was in the old days, of the Indians and afterwards the Spaniards, many houses, farms and ranches. Because of the lack of Indians and Negroes in the land, it is all depopulated now.

Ever further west, about 5 leagues from this river, there is yet another more abundant river that is called ARRECIBO (in the Indian language it used to be called ABACOA.) For the reasons stated above , it is also depopulated. In its mouth there is a congregation of about ten people. These are poor people and they have a Lieutenant named by the Governor. They have been robbed by the French who arrive on the coast on barges.

Further west there is another river that they call CAMUY. Its banks are muddy and depopulated. It is two leagues from Arecibo and it divides the district of Salamanca from this Arecibo. Further west there is another river called GUATACA. **** It is three leagues from CAMUY.

Further along another river flows to the sea that is called CULEBRINA. It is on the tip of the island that they call CULEBRINA. There is nothing memorable to say about it. Further west there is a large river that they call GUAURABO. It is here that the old village of San German was located, with many neighbors and rich people. It was depopulated because of the French, who burned it two, three or four times. And if this had not happened, you would have many sugar mills and farms on its banks, as the land is very fertile.

On the northern coast that goes from the tip of la Aguada to Cabo Rojo, there is another river called GUAYNABO in the Indian language. This is the river that goes by the town of Nueva Salamanca.

Further south a river called GUADIANYLLA flows to the sea. On its banks the town we have already mentioned (that was burned by the French) was located. There used to be many farms that would grow pomegranates, grapes and quince, just like in Spain.

Further East, on the southern coastline there is a river called TAIABOA. Its banks are not populated. Further along there is another river called XACAGUA. On its banks there are a few Spaniards. Even though they are far from the sea, they have been robbed by the Caribs. This river marks the boundary between San Juan and Nueva Salamanca.

Three leagues eastward there is another river called CUAMO. There is also a town that shares this name. There are about twenty Vezinos and they have their own mayor that is appointed by the Governor of the city. There is a lot of cattle grazing land and farming land, since the GUAYABO tree does not grow as much in the southern part of this island. The land has gold and is very healthy.They have planted wheat and it grows. There is a spring close to this river CUAMO that they call BANO. The waters are very hot. They smell like sulfur and its medicinal to those who bathe in it. It used to be a bathing spot for the Indians. There is a stone in the shape of a basin that has figures of Indians painted on it. The water flows from a small hill and underneath it there is another fountain of very cold water.

Moving forwards there is another river that flows to the sea that they call ABEYNO. It is not populated because of the neighboring Carib Indians. They are the main cause for the island's depopulation.

Five leagues further on, there is a river where once there were great farms called GUAYAMA. It is also depopulated because the Indians already mentioned would pillage, kill, and take prisoners. Three leagues further on there is another that in the Indian language is called UNABO. It is also depopulated for the reasons already stated.

Further to the east there is another river called GUAYANEZ. It is a large river, about a league and a half in distance from Maunabo. It is also depopulated. 1 league further there is a river called JUMACAO in the Indian language. Its banks are very fertile for growing cazabe, corn, and for grazing cattle. They found plenty of gold in this river. It is now depopulated because of the Carib Indians that inhabit in Dominica and other neighboring islands.

A league and a half further towards the north there is another river that they call PEDAGUA in the Indian language. Further north there is a river called FAJARDO. It was discovered by a nobleman who had the same name. It was rich with gold (and it still is) but there are no Negroes to mine it. It is also depopulated because of the Carib Indians.

To the west of this river, four big leagues towards the city of Puerto Rico, there is yet another river called RIO GRANDE. This river was also rich with gold, and ranches and it is also depopulated for the reasons already stated.

Three fourths of a league westward there is another more abundant river that flows from the mountain range we already mentioned (Loquillo) to the sea. This river has been very wealthy in gold and farming. In that mountain range there are this very large trees called TABONUCOS. They release a white resin like ***anime***. This resin is like tar for ships and it can be used to light up torches in the processions and other festivities. It also medicinal and can be used for chills and to cure sores. It is also depopulated and there is one person left. They have burnt his farm two or three times.

Three leagues from this river, to the west, there are two other rivers that are called the big rivers. They have not been populated and there is no particular thing one can say about them. From these, about a league and a half, there is a very large river called LOISA. It is so named because of a female cacique who converted to christianity and was called Luisa. It is very abundant because of the many rivers that flow into it. The finest gold in the island is found in this river that flows into it called MACAUCA. The gold was 23 karats. In this river Loisa there are three sugar mills. One of them is powered by water. It is on the river called CANOBANA. The other two are powered by horses. The river bank is very fertile and it used to be populated by many more farms than what it has at the present. One of the sugar mills in this river Loisa has been pillaged and burnt three times by the Carib Indians. They navigate upstream on their canoes until they reach the sugar mill. They have robbed it three times and they have stolen many Negroes. On one occasion they stole 25 and they killed the foreman. They have not depopulated it because it is one of the best farming regions of the island. They owner has invested in repairs and made it into a kind of fortress.

By the coastline from this river Loisa to the city of Puerto Rico the distance is six leagues. The land is low and swampy. About two leagues from the city they have formed a town. There are about twenty vezinos here. They were fleeing the Caribs. Even though the land is not as fertile, they would make cazabe. A few days ago, these Indians attacked, they took prisoners and burn the ranches. In all these rivers mentioned, they have found gold. There is nothing more to say in this present chapter.


Chapter Twenty Two

In this island of San Juan there are many wild trees amongst which there is one that in the Indian language they call MAGA. It does not bear fruit. With it they make tables, chairs, beds, desks and other woodwork. The color of the wood is dark and very nice. It produces a flower that is like a very large pink rose. There is another tree called CAPA in the Indian language. It can be used to build ships, houses and other things. It is like an oak. There is another called UCAR. It is a big tree. Since its wood is very sturdy, they use it to make presses, carriages, axes and other heavy equipment for the sugar mills. On the southern coast of this island there is a tree called GUAYACAN. It is medicinal and it can be used for syphilis and other like diseases. It is exported to Spain for this purpose. It is also exported to Flandes to be used in dyeing textiles. Another tree like this is called PALO SANTO. It is also medicinal. There is a tree called ANON. It sprouts a flower that is larger than a grapefruit and it has lots of black seed. And its very refreshing to eat.


Chapter Twenty Three

In this island there are pomegranates. These flourish plenty. There are figs and grapes on a limited quantity. There are large quantities of oranges, ciders, grapefruits, lemons and limes. The grapes, if they are sheared, bear fruit three times a year. The fruit itself is black and thick and in the hills there are wild grapevines. There pineapples, a low and thorny bush like sap. They fruit is mild and it is like a small fruit bread. There is also a tree that bears a fruit that is white inside and with seeds that taste like cress. This fruit is very good and it is as big as a pear. In the Indian language it is called PITAHAYA. There have on this island olive trees that would flower but not bear fruit. They do not know the cause. There are coconuts and another fruit that they call MAMON and CORAZON. The inside is white and sweet. This is a very good and healthy fruit.


Chapter Twenty Five

Of the seeds that come from Spain there are radishes, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, turnips and other vegetables that grow on this island.


Chapter Twenty Six

There is on this island many medicinal plants that the Indians used to cure themselves. Some of them are now used by the Spaniards. For example, there is a small bush called HIGUILLO that is of a different color from the other two Higuillos. With this one you can cure open wounds. It is a remarkable thing as they have reported how a man, after having cut himself with an ax, rubs the leaf of this tree on the wound and thus cures himself without need of any other medicine. To use as a cure you must apply the soaked leaf on the outside of the wound. It will restrict circulation and prevents infection as it burns like fire. The wound will not develop pus. For this same chore, there is another bush that is called herb of SANTA MARIA, and yet another tree called BALSAMO. There is also a thorny herb that sprouts a white flower (much like the violet in form) and it is extremely poisonous. Any animal that eats it dies. The poison is in its sap. They call this dammed herb QUIBEY. There is also a tree that they call MANZANILLO. It bears a fruit like apples. Those who lie on its shade become swollen. These trees are found along the coastline. If the fish eats from it, their teeth will turn black. And it has happened that those who eat the fish that has eaten from this tree die within 24 hours. And if they don't die, their skin peels off.


Chapter Twenty Seven

In this island there is a great quantity of pigs. These come from Spain and they have multiplied and are everywhere. They help with the sustenance. There are also a lot of dogs, many of them have fled to the woods and they live in the wild and kill the cattle and the horses. There are hens from Guineas. These are as big as those from Castille. They sing and taste similar to a partridge. They are black with small white specks. They were distributed in the year 1549 by Diego Lorenzo a cleric from Cabo-Verde. It is said that he also brought the coconut trees to this island. These have multiplied and are now abundant. He also commanded that they build sugar mills powered by water.


Chapter Twenty Eight

In all of this island (except close to the sea) they have found plenty of gold, in veins on the rocks in the savannas, or in nuggets in the waters of the rivers. Most of the gold that was found was over silver from eighteen to twenty-one karats. In the MACAUCA river already mentioned, they found gold over copper that was twenty-three karats. And in other places they used to find gold. When there was a wage system it would yield from two to four reales a day. Nowadays, here and there someone will put a few Negroes to work on extracting gold and it will yield about four reales. It is true that if this industry was working, the land would be very prosperous and not lacking any of the things of Spain. This industry is not being developed because there are no more Indians and the Negroes as scarce. Few people come here, because those who come to the continent go to the mainland, mainly to Nueva Espana (Mexico). If his Majesty granted the island the sale of one thousand Negroes, these would be paid back in a short time, and the neighbors and His Majesty would prosper. Aside from what they have found in the rivers, they have found many mines from which they have extracted more than eighty thousand ducados in gold. And these were being mined, but since there is a lack of workers, they have gone to waste. It is thought that if there were people to fix these, a lot of gold could be gotten from them.

They have also found, in many places of this island, mines of silver. They have taken samples and its very fine silver. The alchemists, however, found that these deposits were poor so they did not exploit them. Understand that this was due to lack of knowledge, because in those days there was not as much curiosity about this matter as there is now. Also, they did not use quicksilver, like they do now. And if they were exploited now, like the ones in Nueva Espana, with slaves to mine them, there would be very rich mines, as they have found rocks of this metal in different places. They have also found in the source of a river called INABON, a deposit of a blue stone that painters use. They have also found deposits of copper, tin and iron. As we have already said, the Indians have died and there are no Negroes, so mining and exploration for deposits of other metals has ceased.


Chapter Thirty

In the whole island there are four or five salt mines. These curd every so often, without anyone's effort. The biggest one is called CABO-ROJO. This one is located along the coast on the southwestern tip of the island. The salt is very good; it is saltier than the one in Spain. When it curds you can draw a huge amount of salt, since it is very large. Since it is close to the district of Nueva Salamanca and the neighbors are poor, they only take what they need and about three or four thousand ***fanegas*** to sell. There is another salt mine in the same district that they call the GUANICA salt mines. It also curds but they don't benefit because there are no people. There is yet another one that they call PENON, also in the same district. This one also curds and no one benefits. There is another salt mine close to the river Abey, in the district of Puerto Rico. They don't use it and they get their salt from the island of Margarita and from the salt mines of Araya on the mainland in the province of Cumana. It is easier to transport it from there than to bring it by land to the city, as the land is rugged and difficult to travel. It is easier to sail from there.


Chapter Thirty One

The form and shape of the buildings in the city of Puerto Rico is that some of them are made of brick and mud. The materials that they use are a red, sandy mud, lime and coarse stone. They make such a strong mix with these that it is easier to break a slab of a stone quarry than to break one of these walls. The roofs are made with shingles and some have flat roofs. The other houses are made with wood and joined with boards made from palm trees. The roofs are made with shingles.


Chapter Thirty Two

In the city of Puerto Rico jutting out of the port and into the sea there is the a fortress known as LA FORTALEZA. It has a platform where they have placed the artillery. There are twelve cannons. At the entrance of the port, on a cliff, there is another fortress that they call El Morro. It has a platform with six medium-sized bronze cannons. Because the port is protected by land, it seems strong. It would be impregnable. if it had ***two towers***. La Fortaleza has very good living quarters, two water cisterns, a good patio of carved stone and closed off guard stations. It also has storage area for when it is needed. On its door you could fit 200 hundred people. It has a small fortress on the opposite side of the principal door. In front of this fortress there is a cannon for its defense. The view from here is very beautiful. Since it is built on solid rock, it cannot be breached from within, or from outside; it can only be attacked from the sea. It was built to this effect, since in the beginning they feared the Carib Indians and the Negroes from the land.


Chapter Thirty Three

The trades and businesses of the land are sugar that they grind on their mills, the leather that they get from cattle, cazabe bread, corn and now they are starting to plant ginger. This latter grows very well on this island, and it is finer than the one from the island of Espanola. All these products are exported to Spain. From this they pay the tribute to His Majesty. This is not too much because they only have eleven sugar mills, although we have mentioned only ten because there is one about a league from the city that used to run with water and it was abandoned not too long ago because of the lack of Negroes, or because the ones there are old and tired, or they escape. And when there are no more, this trade, that maintains the island, will also cease. These sugar mills produce each year 15,000 arrobas and could produce much more if each mill had 100 Negroes. Due to this, His Majesty, and the Cathedral loose rents. The neighbors would also prosper and the land would yield in abundance, and this loss would cease. These sugar mills are almost like the villages in Spain, the buildings are good, the bosses and Negroes have their houses in it, some of them even have churches with priests when these can be found, as the land is so poor that the clerics cannot find sustenance and they leave.


Chapter Thirty Four

The island of Puerto Rico has a bishop who resides in the island of Espanola. There is a cathedral in Puerto Rico.


Chapter Thirty Five

In the city of Puerto Rico, there is a cathedral and it is also a parish as there is no other. It has a Dean Chantre that is unoccupied, four chaplains, two rationed and a priest. In the old days, there were more deacons and chaplains. One arcediano and one teacher and one arcipreste. There is no endowed chapel in the city of Nueva Salamanca. There is a priest and a volunteer always.


Chapter Thirty Six

In the city of Puerto Rico there is a monastery of Dominican friars. They have a good building, but it is poor now. It used to maintain 25 friars but now it only has 10 who beg for alms and maintain some cattle. The monastery has a chapel that was founded by Garcia Troche, who was the Mayor and Accountant of His Majesty on this island. Father Ponce de Leon endowed it some ***memoria***. There is another chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary that belongs to Juan Guilarte de Salazar and Dona Luysa de Vargas, his sister in law.


Chapter Thirty Seven

There is in the city of Puerto Rico a Hospital of La Concepcion that was founded by Pedro Herrera in the year 1524. It is very poor. It has an annual income of 3,000 pesos that will be no more that 200 ducados in Castilla. There is another hospital called San Idelfonso that was founded by Alonso Manso who was the first bishop of this island and the Inquisitor General of the Indies. He died in Granada. They don't cure the ill and the building as it is too poor to perform the duties of the holy church. They have a school where they teach grammar and this provides some income. Anton Lucas who was a neighbor of this city left an endowment for this.


Chapter Thirty Eight

The northern coast of this island has no good port for the ships except the one already mentioned of Puerto Rico and the one of Aguada. The sea on the northern coast is very choppy and there are a lot of reefs. The southern coast is better and has many ports that are open when there are no storms of the ones already mentioned earlier.


Chapter Forty

The tides on the sea of this island are not as big as those of Spain or on the mainland. The bigger ones occur when there are conjunctions and oppositions of the moon and right around the time when the moon rises or sets the tide is bigger is there is also a northern or northwestern wind.


Chapter Forty One

The capes and headlands that there are in the northern coast, there is a cape called Punta de Cangrejos right outside the city, about a distance of five leagues. Towards the western end of the island there is cape Aguada, that we have already mentioned. It runs from north to south up to Cabo Rojo where there is a large bay that they call the Bay of San German. This is where they had the town that used to bear that name. And the ships can pass through this bay into a port close to a mountain range that ends on the bay. They don't have to take the river Guaorabo, but rather the Cabo Rojo that flows into this bay. In this river there can be ships of two hundred tons. ****From this port, small ships of up to one hundred tons can go to the city of San German.**** There are other ***encenadas*** called Puerto Frances and Puerto Pinas.

About five leagues to the south of Cabo Rojo there is a port called Guanica. This is the largest port in the Indies, with a deep entrance, it is closed and secure from the winds. The ships can be tied to the trees and the prows can rest on the land. This is where the first town was built and where in the old days the Indians captured and killed Juan Ponce de Leon's lieutenant's, Don Cristobal Sotomayor. He was also the son of the Countess of La Mina and a secretary to the Catholic king. It was not rebuilt because of the many mosquitoes.

Two leagues along the coastline and to the east there is a port called Guadianylla. This is where they had the town already mentioned that was burnt by the Caribs. This port is closed because of the reefs it has on its entrance. It looks like a bay, and ships that range from two to three hundred tons can enter.

Five leagues further there is a deep bay that they call Mosquitas. It is still water, and ships can approach it from any side as they sand is clean. It is partially closed by an isle that is about three fourth of a league long and it is called Island of Autias. They call it this name because of some animals that live in her that look like rabits and are called autias. Their tail is like a mouse but shorter. The port is susceptible to the southeastern wind, which is uncommon on this island.

Two leagues further there is a bay that they call Puerto de Coamo. At its entrance there are two isles. It can be approached by navigating between these two islands and between the reefs. This port can accommodate ships that range from one to one hundred and fifty tons, as long as they don not get too close to the land. In this port they have found a great quantity of oyster shells. The sea washes them away when the southern wind blows. No one knows where the shells come from because they have not found either oysters or pearls.

Further along the coastline there is another great bay that they call the Puerto de Abei. This is a good port, although it is not closed. Its so named because of a river that has the same name and flows into the sea. There are many isles in this port that they call Bocas de los Ynfiernos (Mouths of Hell). In between these there are many closed ports that can be used as shelter from the winds by small vessels, galleys and frigates.

And further along the coast, about three leagues in distance there is another big port called Guamani y de los Ynfiernos. It is very deep. To the west it is closed by the isles we mentioned, and to the east, by a large reef. The ships can come close to the land. And all along, up until the port of Guayama there are good ports and bays. This port of Guayama is to the east of Guamani, about four leagues in distance. It is a reasonable port and can be used by large ships. It is protected by a very large reef to the west, but to the east it is open sea and exposed to the southwestern winds.

Two leagues and a half is the port of Maunabo. This is not a good port because it is open and generally there is an undertow. Before reaching this port there is a piece of land that juts out that they call the Cabo de Malapas. It is very difficult for ships going windward from this port of Maunabo to the port Yabucoa. There is two leagues of distance, and there are lots of reefs. This is a shallow and dangerous port for all except frigates and small ships.

From this port of Yabucoa to San Juan, there is four leagues of distance. In here there is a port called Santiago, that is like an open bay. In front there is an island that they call Bieques whose perimeter is about eight leagues. There are a lot of sheep who have no keeper, or owner. The town hall has give permission for merchants from the city of San Juan to go there. This is not done often because of fear for the Carib Indians that reside in Dominica and who go to that island from there, then to this one, and return with bounty by the northern coast and through this port of Santiago. There is no other port or cape that we know of, or that can mentioned in this chapter , as there is no recollection of them, what they are called or why they have been so named.

And this is what we have found to pertain the task that was commended to us. And we so certify to His Majesty, and swear to God. El Bachiller de Santa Clara.




English Translation, Copyright, Lily Díaz, 1996