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Expeditions of G. de Sandoval and P. de Alvarado.


WHEN our party (for I went with Sandoval) arrived at Tustepeque, I took up my lodgings in the summit of a tower in a very high temple, partly for the fresh air and to avoid the musquitos which were very troublesome below, and partly to be near Sandoval’s quarters. It was here that seventy two soldiers of those who came with Narvaez, and six Castillian women had been put to death. The whole province on our arrival came in and submitted, except the Mexican chief, who had been the cause of the deaths of our soldiers. Him Sandoval got arrested, and he was shortly after executed, being burned alive. There were many more as guilty but this example was judged sufficient. After this was done a message was sent to the Zapotecan mountaineers to come in and submit. Their country is about ten leagues distant from Tustepeque. On their refusal an expedition was ordered against them, under the command of a Captain Briones, who according to his own account had been a great officer in Italy. He marched with one hundred infantry and about the same number of Indian allies; the enemy were prepared for him, and laid a plan for a surprise, which they effected so completely that they drove our party over the rocks, rolling down to the bottom, and above a third of them were wounded, one of whom afterwards died. The district is so very difficult of access, that troops can only pass in single file, and the climate is very misty and humid. The natives are armed with large lances with an ell of blade, with two edges of stone as sharp as a razor, and pliable shields which cover the whole body. They are very nimble, and give their signals by whistlings which echo among the rocks with inconceivable shrillness. This district

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is called Tiltepeque. After it had been brought to submission the government of it was assigned to a soldier named Ojeda, who now lives in St. Ildefonso. Sandoval who was a good humoured man began to joke with Briones at his return, upon the bad success of his expedition, asking him if ever he had seen the like in Italy; for Briones was always giving accounts how he had severed men in two, and cut their heads off, &c. He was not pleased with Sandoval’s jocularity, and swore he had rather fight the Turks and Moors, than the Zapotecans. This expedition was of little use, but on the contrary injurious. There was another district of the Zapotecans which was called Xaltepeque, the people of which were at war with their neighbours, and immediately on being summoned waited on Sandoval with handsome presents, and a considerable quantity of gold partly formed into toys, and the rest in ten little tubes; their chiefs wore very long robes of cotton reaching to the feet, richly embroidered, and resembling the upper robes of the Moors. They applied to him for some of his soldiers to assist them against their enemies named the Minxes. This the state of his force did not permit him to comply with, but he promised to transmit an application to Mexico for a reinforcement for them, and in the interval would send some of his men to see the country and the nature of the passes; but his real object was to examine their mines. Thus he dismissed them all except three, sending eight of us upon the business I have mentioned.

There were two of the same name in this party, for we had three Castillos in our army. I who at that time prided myself upon my dress, was named Castillo “the gallant.” My namesake who went on his expedition was a man of very slow speech, not replying to a question for a length of time, and then he came out with some absurdity; he was named Castillo “the thoughtfull.” The other who was very smart and ready in all he said was called Castillo “the prompt.” But to have done with our witticisms and proceed with my narrative. On our arrival, the Indians turned over the earth in three different rivers, and in each they found gold, filling four tubes of the size of the middle finger with it, and with these we returned. Sandoval thought that all our fortunes were

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were now made; he took a district to himself from which he immediately procured fifteen thousand crowns. To Captain Luis Marin he gave Xaltepeque from whence we had obtained the gold. This turned out however very indifferently. He gave me a very profitable district there; would to God I had kept it! it consisted of three places named Matallan, Ozotequipa, and Oriaca, where is now the ingenio of the viceroy: but I thought it more consistent with my character to go with Sandoval upon his expeditions. Sandoval called his town Medellin, after the birth place of Cortes. The river De las Vanderas from which the fifteen thousand crowns were procured is the port, and it was here that the merchandise from Castille was discharged until Vera Cruz became the emporium.

We now proceeded on our route for Guacacualco. The province of Citla through which we passed has the most pleasant climate, and the greatest plenty of provisions, of any we had seen in this continent; its extent is about twelve leagues, in length and breadth, and it is very populous. The chiefs immediately submitted. On our arrival at the river of Guacacualco, those of that district, which is the head one of all the neighbouring people, on being summoned did not appear, which we considered as a declaration of hostility, and such in fact was their first determination; but after five days had paired, they waited on Sandoval with a present of some trinkets of fine gold. By his directions they collected one hundred canoes, in which, our troops crossed the river, after we had first sent four soldiers to observe and report the state of the people. The town which we founded here we called Del Espiritu Santo, which sublime name was given to it because it was on that day we defeated Narvaez; it was also our word in the battle, and it was on the fame day that we crossed this river, Here the flower of our army, was established, and it is certain that when we went out to the square upon a festival or review, we mustered eighty cavalry; a greater number in proportion than five hundred now, horses were then so scarce and dear. Sandoval having examined and considered the situation of the neighbouring districts, made repartitions of them as most convenient to the

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different settlements. The districts he allotted to his of Guacacualco were Guazpaltepeque, Tepeca, Chinanta, the Zapotecas, Copilco, Cimatan, Tabasco, Cachula, the Zoques, Techeapa, Cinacatan, the Quilenes and Papanahausta. We had much trouble afterwards on account of litigation with Vera Cruz concerning three of them, Guazpaltepeque, Chinanta, and Tepeca; with the town of Tabasco concerning two others, Cimatan, and Copilco, also with Chiapa concerning two, the Quilenes and Zoques, and with St. Ildefonso about the Zapotecas. I was very sorry I fixed myself here; the lands were very poor, and it turned out altogether to my disadvantage. Still we should have done very well had we been left as we were at first; but when the new settlements were formed our possessions were clipped, to accommodate them; whereby our colony fell to decay, from being the best, and containing the greatest number of the generous conquerors of Mexico; but it is at present a place of very few inhabitants.

Sandoval now received intelligence of the arrival of Donna Catalina lady of our general Hernando Cortes, and her brother, at the river of Aguayalco. La Zambrana also and her family arrived with them, and Elvira Lopez “the tall,” married to Juan de Palma who was afterwards hanged. We all set out to pay our respects to these ladies, and I recollect the roads were almost impassable from the constant and heavy rains. Donna Catalina and the rest were escorted by us to our town of Guacacualco, and we lent word to Cortes of their arrival. After a short stay with us they set out for Mexico. Cortes was very sorry for their coming, but he put the best face upon it, and received them with great pomp and rejoicings. In about three months after the arrival of Donna Catalina, we heard of her having died of an asthma.

Villafuerte who had been sent to Zacatula, and Alvarez Chico who had also gone to Colima, were unsuccessful in their endeavours to bring those provinces into submission. Cortes then sent a party thither commanded by Christoval de Oli; the natives attacked him on his march, killing two of his soldiers; but he reached the station of Villafuerte who 

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was afraid to stir out of it, and the enemy had even killed four of his men in the town. De Oli however before he departed reduced both these districts to submission. I do not know what became of Captain Juan Alvarez, but I believe he was killed in some of the anions with the natives at this time. De Oli returned to Mexico, but had hardly got there when intelligence arrived of three provinces being again in rebellion. Sandoval had at this time arrived at Mexico with the ladies. Cortes sent him with a small party of our veterans to take these districts into his hands, which he did, and punished, and regulated them in such a manner, that we heard no more of their being refractory.

Several of the districts subject to Guacacualco rebelled on the departure of Sandoval, killing the Spaniards employed in the management of the tribute; amongst others were the Xaltepeque Zapotecas, Cimatan, and Copilco; the first of which is difficult of access on account of its mountains, the two others on account of lakes and marshes, and they were not brought to subjection but with the greatest difficulty.

At this time, and while Captain Luis Marin was employed in subjugating these districts, arrived at our settlement in a small vessel which came up to the town, Juan Buono the Biscayan. He immediately summoned us all to a meeting, where, after some compliments on both sides, he opened his business to us, which was, to induce us to accept as governor Christoval de Tapia, of whose return to St. Domingo Buono was ignorant. Large offers were made by the Bishop of Burgos in unaddressed letters, which Buono had a discretionary power of directing to such as would support his views. These he accordingly sent to such as he found to hold offices; I was offered a regidor’s place. When Buono heard that Tapia was no longer in the country he was very much disappointed. We referred him to Cortes at Mexico, whither he went; I do not know what passed between them, but I believe Cortes sent him back to Castille with some money in his pocket.

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Amongst others who courted the alliance of the Spaniards after the conquest of Mexico, were the people called the Tutepeque Zapotecans. They applied very earnestly for our assistance against a nation which was in hostility to them, named likewise the Tutepeques, whom they represented as possessing a very rich country. Accordingly in the year one thousand five hundred and twenty two, Alvarado, by the order of Cortes, marched from Mexico with one hundred and eighty soldiers, infantry and cavalry, with an order to take twenty more in his march to the province of Guaxaca, and also to visit certain rocky districts said to be in rebellion. He was forty days upon his route from Mexico to Tutepeque; on his arrival he was hospitably received, and lodged in the most populous part of the city, where the houses joined, and were roofed with straw, it not being the custom of that country to have terraces on their house-tops, as the climate is very sultry. By the advice of Olmedo it was determined that our troops should remove to a more open part of the town, lest, in case of any treachery on the part of the people, their quarters should be set fire to. When they were fixed the chief of the town brought them provisions, and every day some rich present of gold. Alvarado desired a pair of stirrups of this metal, which was done according to the pattern. In a few days after, the chief was made prisoner, on an information from the Indians of Teguantepeque, who were in hostility to these, of his intention to burn the Spaniards in the quarters which they had first assigned to them in the temples. Some of the Spaniards say, it was to extort gold from him; however it was, he died in prison, after Alvarado had got from him to the value of thirty thousand crowns. Apparently his death was owing to vexation, though Fra Bartholome did what he could to console and encourage him. His son was permitted to succeed him in the chieftainry. Alvarado obtained from him more than he had got from the father, and then proceeded to establish a colony which he named Segura, as the colonists were mostly from Tepeaca, named by us Segura de la Frontera.

Alvarado then set out an his return, with all his wealth; for Cortes  

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had written to him to collect what he could, to send to Castille. The soldiers being thus excluded from any share, some of them formed a conspiracy to assassinate Alvarado and his brothers. They were principally musqueteers and crossbow-men. A soldier of the name of Tribejo gave information to Fra Bartholome, a few hours before it was to be attempted. The reverend father having called Alvarado aside, and informed him of what he had heard, at the hour of vespers, when the latter was riding out in company with several of the conspirators, and passing by some houses, he said to them, “gentlemen I am suddenly taken ill with a pain in my side, let us return, and call a barber to bleed me.” On his arrival he immediately sent for his brothers George and Gonzalo, together with, the alcaldes and alguazils. He then ordered them to arrest the assassins, two of whom were hanged; one was named Salamanca; he had been a pilot. The other was called Barnardino Levantisco. They both died like good christians, the reverend father taking great pains to bring them to a due sense of their situation.

Alvarado now returned to Mexico, leaving a colony in this place; but when the colonists sound that the gold had been drawn away, that the climate was hot and unhealthy, and infested with musquitos, bugs, and other vermin, and that they and their slaves were dying fast, they determined to abandon it, some going to Mexico, and some to other places. Cortes on hearing of the settlement being thus renounced, caused an enquiry to be set on foot, and found that it had been determined by the alcaldes and regidors in council, for which he condemned them to suffer death, which was afterwards mitigated at the intercession of Olmedo to banishment. Thus fell to the ground the colony of Segura or Tutepeque, a very fertile country, but unhealthy. The cruelty and extortion of Alvarado alienated the minds of the people, and they threw of their allegiance; but that officer returning thither brought them again to submission, and they afterwards continued peaceable.