Today’s installment concludes Mendoza Settles Buenos Aires,
our selection from History of Brazil by Robert Southey published in 1810. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of two thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Mendoza Settles Buenos Aires.
Place: Buenos Aires
The Quirandies had not been dismayed by one defeat: they prevailed upon the Bartenes, the Zechuruas, and the Timbues to join them, and with a force which the besieged in their fear estimated at three-and-twenty thousand–though it did not probably amount to a third of that number–suddenly attacked the new city. The weapons which they used were not less ingeniously adapted to their present purpose than those which had proved so effectual against the horse. They are said to have had arrows which took fire at the point as soon as they were discharged, which were not extinguished until they had burned out, and which kindled whatever they touched. With these devilish instruments they set fire to the thatched huts of the settlers and consumed them all. The stone house of the Adelantado was the only dwelling which escaped destruction. At the same time, and with the same weapons, they attacked the ships and burned four; the other three got to a safe distance in time and at length drove them off with their artillery. About thirty Spaniards were slain.
The Adelantado now left a part of his diminished force in the ships to repair the settlement, giving them stores enough to keep them from starving for a year, which they were to eke out as best they could; he himself advancing up the river with the rest in the brigantines and smaller vessels. But he deputed his authority to Juan de Ayolas, being utterly unequal to the fatigue of command–in fact he was, at this time, dying of the most loathsome and dreadful malady that human vices have ever yet brought upon human nature.
About eighty-four leagues up the river they came to an island inhabited by the Timbues, who received them well. Mendoza presented their chief, Zchera Wasu, with a shirt, a red cap, an axe, and a few other trifles, in return for which he received fish and game enough to save the lives of his people. This tribe trusted wholly to fishing and to the chase for food. They used long canoes. The men were naked, and ornamented both nostrils with stones. The women wore a cotton cloth from the waist to the knee, and cut beauty-slashes in their faces. Here the Spaniards took up their abode, and named the place “Buena Esperanza,” signifying “Good Hope.” One Gonzalo Romero, who had been one of Cabot’s people and had been living among the savages, joined them here. He told them there were large and rich settlements up the country, and it was thought advisable that Ayolas should proceed with the brigantines in search of them.
Meantime Mendoza, who was now become completely crippled, returned to Buenos Aires, where he found a great part of his people dead, and the survivors struggling with famine and every species of wretchedness. They were relieved by the arrival of Gonzalo Mendoza, who, at the beginning of their distresses, had been despatched to the coast of Brazil in quest of supplies. Part of Cabot’s people, after the destruction of his settlement, had sailed for Brazil and established themselves in a bay called Ygua, four-and-twenty leagues from St. Vicente. There they began to form plantations, and continued two years on friendly terms with the adjoining natives and with the Portuguese. Disputes then arose, and, according to the Castilian account (for no other remains), the Portuguese resolved to fall upon them and drive them out of the country; of this they obtained intelligence, surprised the intended invaders, plundered the town of St. Vicente, and, being joined by some discontented Portuguese from that infant colony, sailed in two ships for the island of St. Catalina. There these adventurers began a new settlement, but such was their restless spirit that, when Gonzalo Mendoza arrived there, they were easily persuaded to abandon the houses which they had just constructed, and the fields which were now beginning to afford them comfortable subsistence; and the whole colony, with their two ships, joined him and made for the Plata, to partake in the conquest and spoils of the Silver River.
They brought a considerable supply of stores, and were themselves well armed and well supplied with ammunition. Some Brazilian Indians with their families accompanied them, and they themselves, being accustomed to the language and manners of the natives, were of the most essential service to the adventurers with whom they joined company. At sight of this seasonable relief Mendoza returned thanks to God, shedding tears of joy. He waited awhile in hopes of hearing good tidings from Ayolas, and at length sent Juan de Salazar with a second detachment in quest of him. His health grew daily worse and his hopes fainter; he had lost his brother in this expedition, and expended above forty thousand ducats of his substance; nor did there appear much probability of any eventual success to reimburse him, so he determined to sail for Spain, leaving Francisco Ruyz to command at Buenos Aires, and appointing Ayolas governor if he should return; and Salazar, in case of his death. His instructions were that, as soon as either of them should return, he was to examine what provisions were left, and allow no rations to any persons who could support themselves, nor to any women who were not employed in either washing or in some other such necessary service; that he should sink the ships, or dispose of them in some other manner, and, if he thought fit, proceed across the continent to Peru, where, if he met with Pizarro and Almagro, he was to procure their friendship in the Adelantado’s name; and if Almagro should be disposed to give him one hundred fifty thousand ducats for a resignation of his government–as he had given to Pedro de Alvarado–he was to accept it–or even one hundred thousand–unless it should appear more profitable not to close with such an offer. How strong must his hope of plunder have been after four years of continued disappointment and misery!
Moreover, he charged his successor, if it should please God to give him any jewel or precious stone, not to omit sending it him, as some help in his trouble, and he instructed him to form a settlement on the way to Peru, either upon the Paraguay or elsewhere, from whence tidings of his proceedings might be transmitted. Having left these directions Mendoza embarked, still dreaming of gold and jewels. On the voyage they were so distressed for provisions that he was obliged to kill a favorite bitch which had accompanied him through all his troubles. While he was eating this wretched meal his senses failed him–he began to rave, and died in the course of two days.
This ends our series of passages on Mendoza Settles Buenos Aires by Robert Southey from his book History of Brazil published in 1810. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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