The incident which led to the collapse of friendly and beneficial relations between the cacicazgo of Higüey and the Spanish was of such striking stupidity and thoughtlessness one is hard pressed to find its equal. In 1502, a few days before the arrival of Nicolás de Ovando and his fleet, fated to be destroyed on its return voyage by the great hurricane of 1502, a caravel called at Saona island to load a cargo of cazabe as was the custom. Las Casas, who has left us the only eyewitness account of the conquest of Higüey, describes the cordial relations that existed between the two peoples.
After the customary greetings, the business of loading cargo was undertaken. The bread was loaded into the ship's boat by Indians and delivered to the caravel in successive trips. This was being supervised by the cacique of the island, who directed his Indians with a sceptre, or vara, of office. A captain, by the name of Salamanca, stood near by with his attack dog on a chain. The animal became highly agitated by the cacique's gestures with the vara. The captain restrained his dog with difficulty and commented to a companion, "Wouldn't it be something if we set him on him". One or the other said to the dog, "take him", believing they could restrain the dog. Upon hearing the word, the dog lunged for the cacique dragging the Spaniard after him until he let go. Las Casas gives a vivid account.
Mourning their disembowelled cacique, the Indians took his body for funeral rites while the Spaniards collected their dog and left with their caravel full of bread. The news of the incident quickly spread throughout Higüey. The cacique Cotubanamá was outraged and promptly armed himself and his warriors and awaited an opportunity to avenge the foul deed.
News of the incident and the impending uprising had reached Santo Domingo by the time the fleet bearing Ovando and Las Casas arrived in April 1502, probably brought by captain Salamanca upon his return from Saona. This is made apparent in a statement of Las Casas, which also makes clear his character and intentions upon his first arrival in the New World. "Estos eran los indios alzados y de guerra que nos daban por buenas nuevas los que acá estaban cuando venimos, porque terníamos dónde hacer esclavos".
The seasoned colonist in Santo Domingo regarded the impending revolt as glad tidings for it presented an opportunity to take slaves for the mines and, as Las Casas himself asserts, he went along with the same intention.
The province of Higüey and Saona apparently went unvisited until Governor Ovando sent en expedition to found a villa at Puerto Plata shortly after the great hurricane. They unwittingly stopped at Saona and eight went ashore to stretch their legs. The inhabitants of the island, seeing the approach of the vessel, set an ambush and killed the unwary Spaniards.
Ovando, upon hearing the news, moved to wage war on Higüey and levied troops from the four villas of the island, Santiago, Concepción, el Bonao, and Santo Domingo. Included in this force were most of the new arrivals who still remained healthy. It seems the army numbered between three or four hundred Spaniards according to Las Casas, who tells us they took many of their subject Indians with them. These he says, for fear and wishing to please their masters, fought on their behalf. This later became the custom throughout the Indies.
The units from the different villas were each headed by a resident captain under the overall command of a captain general -Juan de Esquivel. They were met in Higüey by an armed population who had not yet experienced the rude shock of Spanish arms.
With cross bows, primitive firearms, steel swords, lances, and dogs, the Spaniards quickly defeated their opponents armed with bows, unpoisoned arrows, and throwing stones. Apparently the cavalry were especially ruthless for Las Casas relates that a single horseman could lance two thousand Indians in an hour. This would seem to be an exaggeration for it would require the horseman to lance 33.3 Indians a second which is clearly impossible. However, we may believe they were a deadly force.
Many Indians were killed and maimed and when the Spaniards entered villages, the Indians, after making a brief stand, fled to the mountains and scrub. This was the first phase of the war. After the villages had been abandoned, the Spaniards pursued the Indians to their hideaways where they carried out numerous massacres.
This phase of the first campaign undoubtedly survives in the archaeological record. It will have left destruction layers in sedentary settlements of some age with rich deposits of cultural material extending for long periods into the past. Included in the destruction layer will be Indian arrow heads of fish bone, Spanish crossbow bolt tips, and possibly firearm shot which Las Casas tells us were used in the first campaign. These will yield information on the kind of firearm used during the campaign.
The Indians who fled their villages set up temporary camps, probably within reasonable distance to a source of potable water. These camps will have left archaeological remains as well, many probably exhibiting destruction layers. These will appear as nomadic camps with poor material culture as the sedentary settlements were abandoned in a great hurry making it unlikely many possessions were brought to them. Some of these settlements may have remained occupied after the end of hostilities and others abandoned leaving only a thin layer of archaeological material. These nomadic camps will be of great interest because they may yield clues as to how the Indians adapted to the new conditions and environment. Changes in diet are likely and may be reflected in the archaeological record. Also, information as to the extent of industrial activity may possibly be found such as the production of ceramics and the working of stone.
Sometime during this first campaign, a caravel put in along the coast and Juan de Esquivel and a number of troops boarded for passage to Saona island. There the Indians resisted as best they could before fleeing. They were quickly followed. Six or seven hundred men were captured and confined in a house and then put to death. Esquivel had the bodies placed and counted in the plaza arriving at the above figures. Those that were taken alive and not put to death were made slaves. Thus the island of Saona, once the bread basket for Santo Domingo, was left deserted and destroyed. Here again, firearms shot may be found.
After a period of being hunted down and killed or enslaved, the Indians of Higüey sent envoys to the Spaniards claiming they no longer wished to fight and would serve if only the Spanish would cease their pursuit. Juan de Esquivel and his captains received the Indians and assured them they would do them no more harm and so could return and dwell in their villages without fear. The newly subjugated Indians were commanded to lay out a vast field of yuca from which they would make cazabe bread for the King and, upon executing this command, were to be free to live in their land and not be obliged to come and serve in Santo Domingo.
It is probable the Spaniards were as eager to end the war as the Indians. Santo Domingo, from its founding, was largely dependent on bread imports from both Saona island and greater Higüey. The war left bread production and procurement mechanisms in complete disarray and with the large influx of Spaniards who had arrived with Ovando only months before, Santo Domingo went through a period of severe food shortage.
The war was closed with some solemnity, on the Indian's part anyway, by the ceremonial exchange of names between Juan de Esquivel and Cotubanamá, whose estate and lands, Las Casas tells us, were on the mainland fronting Saona island. The ceremony was a pledge between individuals to life long friendship and comradeship in arms.
Juan de Esquivel had a fort built somewhere near the coast and garrisoned it with nine men under a captain Martín de Villamán. Then the Spaniards left, each to his villa with his share of slaves. So ended the first War of Higüey.
The second war broke out one and a half to two years later in 1504. Not surprisingly, it was brought about by abuse of the Indians in Higüey by the few Spaniards left in the fort under the command of Villamán. Indians were forced to transport cazabe they had produced to Santo Domingo, against the understanding reached with Esquivel, as well as forcing them to undertake labour in Santo Domingo, a more transparent infraction of the agreement. These offences coupled with the Spaniards tendency to steal women led to continual frustration and anger resulting in an attack on the fort which was burned and all Spaniards, save one who delivered the news, killed.
As before, Ovando levied troops from the four major villas, placing them once again under Juan de Esquivel from the villa of Santiago de los Caballeros. Making his debut on the stage of history was Juan Ponce de León, a resident and captain of the contingent from Santo Domingo. Diego de Escobar, a former adherent of the rebellious Francisco Roldan, was the captain from Concepción. The name of the captain from Bonao unfortunately escaped Las Casas's memory at the time of his writing. The able bodied men who could be spared from the villas amounted to some three hundred troops. As in the last campaign, they took their subject Indian warriors with them.
When the Spaniards arrived in Higüey, the news of their arrival was spread throughout the province by smoke signals transmitted from one village to the next. The women, children, and elders where placed in the most secret locations known to the Indians. Las Casas describes the Indian's preparations.
"Así que, llegada la gente de los españoles a los límites de aquella provincia, y sentida por las
gentes della, hacen por todas partes grandes ahumadas, unos pueblos a otros avisándose; y luego
ponían las mujeres y los hijos y viejos en cobro en lo más secreto que ellos halar podían y
sabían de los montes".
Since these evacuations were conducted in an organised manner considerably more material will have accompanied them to their new camps. These sites will yield more cultural material and probably less signs of industry than camps of the first campaign as there may not have been as urgent a need for manufacturing ceramics as in the earlier camps. Also, their diets may have differed from those in the camps of the first campaign since food supplies were probably stocked at the time the settlements were evacuated.
The Spanish army entered Higüey and advanced until they found suitable ground to encamp and establish their base of operations. They chose an area that was flat and clear so that they might manoeuvre and take advantage of their cavalry.
"Lléganse más los españoles; y en cierto lugar llano y de monte desembarazado asientan su real
para que se pudiesen aprovechar de los caballos y desde allí proveer adónde y cómo habían de
guerrear. Allí asentados, todo su principal cuidado era y es, a los principios -como debe ser en
todas las guerras-, prender alguno de los contrarios para que descubran los secretos propósitos y
dispusición y gente y fuerzas que en ellos hay. Y así, se tomaban y, atormentaban, y algunos
descubrían y otros antes se dexaban morir que descubrir la verdad, si sus señores se lo
After obtaining information from captives the Spaniards went to a large settlement where they found many Indians gathered from the surrounding villages. These were in the street armed with bows and arrows and howling war cries which Las Casas states were very eerie and he believed, had the Indians' weapons inspired as much fear as their cries, things would not have gone as badly with the Spaniards as they did.
The Indians and the Spaniards, armed with crossbows, engaged. The Indians loosed their arrows from maximum range and Las Casas describes them arriving so spent they would hardly kill a dwarf. The Spaniards, keeping just out of range of the Indian bows, fired volleys of crossbow bolts.
"Esperaban el primer ímpetu de los españoles aventando sus flechas harto de lexos, que cuando
llegaban iban tan cansadas que apenas mataran un escarabajo. Desarmadas en los cuerpos
desnudos las ballestas principalmente, porque por entonces pocas eran o ningunas las
espingardas, viendo caer munchos dellos, luego se iban retrayendo y pocas veces o ninguna
esperaban las espadas. Algunos había que, así como le daban la saetada -que le entraba hasta
las plumas-, con las manos se sacaba la saeta y con los dientes la quebraba; y, escupida, la
arronjaba con la mano hacia los españoles como que con aquella injuria que les hacía se
vengara; y luego, allí o poco después, caía muerto".
This important passage gives us a clear idea of the effectiveness of Indian bows versus Spanish crossbows. Clearly, the native bows were not as strong and powerful as the contemporary English longbow which so devastated the French mercenary crossbowmen at the Battle of Crécy in 1346 over a century and a half earlier. This passage is also very important because it mentions crossbows were the principal weapon because few or no espingardas, a kind of firearm, were in use at the time. This is intriguing for a kind of firearm, the escopeta, was used during the first campaign. Is it possible Las Casas has inadvertently described the time during which a primitive firearm was being replaced by a more sophisticated one? We know from archaeological sources, notably the Molasses Reef Wreck and Pre-Site Two off Saona island that the earliest type of firearm used by the Spanish in the New World was the haquebut, a heavy, wrought-iron muzzle loading portable weapon. At Molasses Reef, which apparently was wrecked no later than 1513, they are found together with the remains of an arquebuz, an early form of matchlock whose bore diameter was smaller than that of the larger haquebut. Is Las Casas describing the transition from the haquebut, which he terms escopeta, to the predominance of the arquebuz, called by him espingardas, between 1502 and 1504? Finding firearms shot from land sites associated with the War of Higüey may shed light on this issue.
As the battle in the large settlement described above progressed, the Indians retreated as the Spaniards advanced not caring to get within the effective range of Spanish sword. A number of Indians, mortally wounded, pulled the crossbow bolts from their bodies and broke the projectile's head off with their teeth, throwing them at the Spaniards as a last act of defiance.
This battle broke the first centralised and co-ordinated defence of the Indian warriors who then joined village and family units in their secret camps. As in the previous campaign, it turned into a slave hunt as the Spanish army broke into smaller companies called cuadrillas. The Indians probably reverted to a hit and run form of warfare with small bands of Indian archers laying ambushes for the Spanish companies in hilly and forested regions. The Spaniards occasionally took a spy or caught an Indian travelling between groups. These were tortured to extract information then bound and made to lead the way to the hidden Indian encampments. Occasionally, a bound Indian, whose line was held by a Spaniard walking with him, would jump off a cliff in hopes of taking the Spaniard with him and saving those he was being forced to betray.
Finding an encampment, the Spaniards would fall upon it and spare neither children, elders, men, nor women, pregnant or otherwise. After devastating the encampment, Indians who had escaped the massacre were usually captured in the surrounding forest. Of these, a number would have their hands hacked off or have the skin flayed from their bodies and sent away to take the message to the rest of their kind as to what awaited them at their enemies' hands. These quickly bleed to death and the only message received were the feelings and impressions an Indian had when coming upon such a body in the forest, perhaps a friend or relative.
Receiving news that Cotubanamá was awaiting their arrival in his town with a gathered host, the Spaniards decided to attack. They followed the coast to a place where two paths to Cotubanamá's village were found. One was well cleared, everything which may have been a hindrance removed. The other was blocked with branches, felled trees, and chopped foliage. Being past masters of treachery themselves, the Spaniards intued they were meant to take the cleared trail where the Indians would have an ambush set and so instead went down the blocked trail clearing it as they went. The trail was only obstructed for half a league with the remainder of the trail open and clear. On their guard, they moved up the path until they were on the outskirts of the village which they attacked at two in the afternoon, surprising those in the village as well as those along the other path in ambush.
Again, the Spanish employed their crossbows with deadly efficiency. The battle filled the streets of Cotubanamá's village, the Indians keeping the Spanish swords at bay with their bows while their number was depleted by crossbow fire. Eventually, many dropped their bows and approached the Spanish to launch volleys of stones which were hand launched with out the help of a sling. The Indians fought on fearlessly despite seeing so many of themselves felled by crossbows until something incredible happened.
An Indian, taller than most, and armed with a bow and a single arrow, stepped forward gesturing to the Spanish a challenge for one of them to face him in single combat. An experienced Indian fighter, Alexos Gómez, moved forward. He was armed with sword and dagger -sheathed, a half lance, and an adáraga, a large reed or bamboo (caña) shield. As he steeped forward the Indian boldly approached with his bow half drawn waiting for a good opening to fire. Alexos put the half-lance in his shield hand and began flinging stones at the Indian. These he deftly avoided, dodging them and jumping about. Everyone, Indians and Spaniards alike, were so amazed by the spectacle that all fighting stopped and everyone gathered to watch the two combatants. These were so close to one another that occasionally the Indian leapt kicking at the Spaniard who ducked behind his shield. Alexos grabbed more stones and continued flinging them while the Indian continued seeking an opening to launch his arrow. This continued for some time, the Spaniard throwing innumerable stones none of which hit. Eventually the Indian rushed him and almost got his arrow over the shield's edge. Alexos desperately crouched down raising his shield over his head. Seeing his opponent to be so close, he dropped his stones and grabbed his half-lance thrusting directly at the Indians body. His lancehead meet only air as the Indian mocked and laughed at him from a safe distance to which he had leapt. The Indians all gave a great cheer and laughed and scoffed at the Spaniards who stood back in amazed admiration, Alexos Gómez himself Las Casas wrote, seemed happier than if he had killed his opponent.Thus ended the day's fighting and dusk dispersed the two opposing hosts.
This account by Las Casas should be carefully considered when analysing the findings of the archaeological investigation currently under way at the Manantial de la Aleta, located in Cotubanamá's village in the Parque Nacional del Este. The large deposit of cultural material in the Manantial, or watering hole, may be objects and goods not taken to temporary camps during the evacuation and deposited there to prevent their use by the Spaniards who were known to be coming. If two destruction layers are found at this site indicating the settlement's destruction during the first campaign as well, the Manantial deposit should be investigated to determine if there are two different episodes of deposition associated with the separate campaigns.
The rumour that there are human bones in the Manantial is interesting. The many bodies of Indian warriors slain by crossbow fire may have been deposited there by the Indians to prevent the use of the Manantial and the settlement by the Spanish army which may have considered the site an attractive one not just for its abundant source of water but also for being the site of Cotubanamá's capital and the psychological impact its occupation would have on the Indians. If bones are found in the Manantial de la Aleta, they should be carefully examined to determine gender and age. If they are the remains of Indian warriors slain during the battle of the second campaign, they will prove mostly male and of an age distribution commensurate with an Indian fighting force. This is the only archaeological site so far known to have seen fighting during the War of Higüey and for which there is a written eyewitness account.
Following the remarkable single combat episode, the Indians of Higüey gave up any hope of defeating the Spaniards in pitched battle and those in hiding were joined by the warriors. The Spaniards reacted by breaking into cuadrillas in search of Indians, and above all, the caciques, Cotubanamá in particular.
The Indians were cautious and left little sign of their passing in the forest. Las Casas contends this was because they walked barefoot and naked and presumably were careful to avoid scratches, scrapes, and other injury by picking their path carefully. Among the Spaniards were a number of excellent trackers who, we are told, could find the clue to an Indian's tracks in a single overturned leaf or the smell of distant smoke on the breeze. They also used the tried method of capturing a single Indian and forcing him to lead the way to their camp, which was attacked mercilessly and all who could not or did not flee at once were slaughtered to the last individual. New methods were invented to humiliate and horrify while putting Indians to death. The Spaniards were purposely cruel in this campaign in order to inspire so much fear in the Indian population they would never consider rising against the Spaniards again.
An interesting aspect of this war has come through in Las Casas's narrative seemingly more by accident than by design; namely the workings and manner of the Spanish military machine. The Spanish military camp was mobile as one might suspect. When the campaign opened it was established in a cleared and open area so that the Spanish could utilise their cavalry. Presumably this was a defensive measure in order to employ the cavalry against a mass attack on the camp. The camp moved about the province depending on the objectives of the campaign. This is made clear by a passage in Las Casas where he describes what occurred when a cuadrilla of thirteen Spanish soldiers stumbled into an Indian camp of several thousand individuals.
"Y asi fue una vez, que trece españoles siguieron un rastro, y fueron a dar con mill o dos mill
ánimas entre mujeres y niños, chicos y grandes. Llevaban cuatro ballestas y sus rodelas y lanzas
y espadas, a los cuales acometen los indios muy denodados. Los españoles sueltan las ballestas y
hácenseles luego las cuerdas pedazos. Los indios fatíganlos a pedradas y flechazos, los cuales
rescebían en las rodelas y adáragas pero no llegaban junto a ellos para con las porras o macanas
hundilles los cascos porque, sólo con que el de la ballesta, que tenía siempre armada, les
amagaba como que la quería soltar, ninguno había que se les osase acercar. Y con solos
aquellos ademanes de la ballesta se libraron por maravilla, se oyó la grita en el real de los
españoles que, yendo de paso, habían cerca de allí aquella tarde parado. Entonces ocurrió toda
la más gente del real y van por el rastro de los trece españoles y llegan allá; dan en los indios de
fresco; desmayan los indios; pónense en huída; hácese gran matanza; y la presa de los captivos,
mujeres y niños y otras edades, fue grande".
This passage is packed full of information. The Spanish camp, or real, he says, on the move, had halted nearby that afternoon. The camp was of crucial importance and was under the administration of a governor, or Alguacil. Here the troops were quartered, with the possible exception of those on patrol in the field. Here the sick and wounded would be attended and the supplies, food, weapons, and otherwise, would have been kept. The military horse, and presumably pack animals as well, with all the attendant saddlery and leather work were accommodated and attented to. It is also likely that an armouror or two were to be found in the camp kept busy replacing and fixing the rodelas and adáragas, the cane or bamboo shields used in combination with the round rodelas. These, as is clear from numerous quoted passages, filled with arrows and needed repairing or fixing on a regular basis. Edged weapons had to be sharpened and crossbows with their mechanical parts of iron, susceptible to corrosion, had to be cared for. Crossbow strings, imported from Spain, which broke or were destroyed had to be replaced. It is likely a blacksmith, with his bellows, anvil, and tools would have been found in the camp employed in repairing or manufacturing iron work such as horse shoes, stirrups, swords, daggers, lance heads, crossbow arrow heads, crossbow bows, armour, and any other assorted iron work. A kitchen of some sort would also have been present and a supply of water for man and beast alike. All in all a very complicated and busy affair.
Such camps in all probability have left archaeological remains in the form of camp and forge fires with their slag waste, rubbish dumps, and possibly post holes if any sort of large structures such as a stockade, or lodgings for the captain general and others were temporarily erected. The real was regularly supplied by sea from Santo Domingo. Vessels owned or under contract to the crown were used to bring supplies of cazabe bread, wine, cheese, and other European goods. These in all probability called at various bays and rivers depending on where the real was located at the time. It seems likely these would sometimes be located inland thus necessitating the use of a train of pack animals to carry the supplies. Ovando clearly realised an army marched on its stomach and did everything possible to provide his men with good and ample supplies. That Ovando backed the war effort to the best of his ability is evident from this distribution of sorely needed supplies to the military when the war by virtue of its existence caused a severe food shortage in Santo Domingo and the mining zones.
The above quoted passage also contains a description of a typical Spanish cuadrilla, the basic unit of the conquest, and how it was armed and behaved when confronted by a considerably larger force. The cuadrilla discussed was thirteen men strong under a commander and possibly assisted by two sub-commanders. This company had four crossbowmen. The others were armed with lances, or more probably half lances which were found to be more effective in the forests of Española and later those of San Juan Bautista as well. It seems that all Spanish troops were equipped with swords, daggers and, perhaps most importantly, shields, of which there appear to be two varieties in this period, the reed or bamboo adáraga manufactured on Española, and the rodela, a more traditional European shield which may have been imported.
Upon encountering the enemy host, the crossbow men let fly their bolts. Perhaps due to panic and mishandling or simply bad luck, the cords of three crossbows broke rendering them useless. The Indians were kept at bay, Las Casas states, by the forth crossbowman threatening to fire his weapon. The Indians filled the Spaniards' shields with arrows and pelted them with stones until reinforcements arrived form the camp which had halted nearby that afternoon and been alerted by the commotion. There was considerable killing and Las Casas says a great number of women, children, and Indians of other ages were taken captive.
The usual cruelties were carried out with the warning that the same would happen to all unless they surrendered. At this stage, many Indians claimed they wished to surrender but feared reprisals and attacks by Cotubanamá who ordered his subjects never to surrender. The capture of Cotubanamá became paramount.
During the campaign, which lasted between eight and ten months, there was great hunger on the island. As the Spanish had never undertaken agricultural production themselves they were entirely dependent on Indian production and expensive imports from Spain. Warfare caused the Indians to flee and, as in the first campaign, the mechanisms for food production and procurement collapsed causing starvation and the death of many Spaniards. In spite of Ovando's efforts at supply, the field army always seemed to lack sufficient supplies during the campaign. This was partly resolved by sending out squads of captured Indian slaves under guard to collect guíyagas, a wild root only utilised by the Indians of Higüey to make a particular kind of bread. These roots would be collected and taken back to the real where Indian slaves would produce bread.
It became known through the interrogation of Indian prisoners that Cotubanamá had gone to Saona island where he was in hiding with his family and some of his ablest warriors. Esquivel sent for a caravel, ordering it to arrive at night so that he might embark his troops without being seen by Cotubanamá's observers.
Las Casas writes that Cotubanamá was based with his family in a large cave in the middle of the island. Having frequently seen the caravel carrying and delivering supplies for the real, and never being sure its purpose was not to land troops, either before or after dropping off supplies, Cotubanamá had a network of coast watchers stationed at the most likely landing places. Every day just before dawn, he arose and went with twelve of his most trusted warriors to the landing he suspected of being the most likely target.
The caravel arrived one night and Juan de Esquivel embarked along with fifty other troops and arrived there at dawn. The Indian watches set at the chosen landing site were late that morning, perhaps because the caravel had not been observed in the vicinity the previous day. Twenty to thirty Spaniards had landed before the Indians were aware of their presence.
The two unfortunate coast watchers were captured on their way to the landing site and brought before Esquivel. They were questioned as to the whereabouts of Cotubanamá to which one seems to have responded that he would be patrolling near by. Esquivel took out his dagger and plunged it into one of the Indians, presumably the one who gave no information thus putting considerable fear into the remaining captive who was probably used to guide the Spaniards. Hearing Cotubanamá was near by, a group of Spaniards rushed forward, each wishing to be the one who captured or killed the great Indian cacique. The trail they took split and all the Spaniards save one, Juan Lopes, an island resident of many years, took the trail to the right. Lopes followed the trail to the left and soon found himself face to face with a dozen large and well armed Indians.
Believing they had run into an entire cuadrilla, the Indians bent their bows and prepared to launch a volley of arrows when Juan Lopes asked after their cacique. They responded "See him, he comes from behind". They stepped aside and Juan Lopes passed between them, his sword drawn. Cotubanamá, surprised by his unexpected presence, attempted to notch an arrow, but before he could, Juan Lopes was upon him wounding Cotubanamá with a thrust of his sword. Cotubanamá grabbed him and lifted him off his feet. Lopes slashed his hands and then gave the cacique another blow with his sword. "Don't kill me, I'm Juan de Esquivel" cried Cotubanamá, reminding Lopes that he had exchanged names with the captain general. At this point his personal guard fled leaving the vanquished cacique with Juan Lopes who placed his sword point to Cotubanamá's belly and a hand on his shoulder. While pleading for his life he turned on Juan Lopes and knocked the sword from his hands falling upon him with his entire body weight. The commotion of the meeting, the ensuing struggle, and pleas for mercy were heard by the Spaniards on the other trail who came running. The first Spaniard on the scene found the cacique on top of Juan Lopes strangling him and struck him with his unloaded crossbow breaking his hold on Lopes. The last free cacique of Española was made prisoner.
The above passage by Las Casas describing the place where the Spaniards landed on Saona island is of interest. Thirty or forty Spaniards, Las Casas wrote, landed before they were detected by the Indians and climbed a certain high mount. The only high ground on Saona island is found in the very east of the island and is probably where Esquivel landed his men. The safest place to land in the hilly east would be on the north coast in the vicinity of Cayo Ratón which provides a safe and sheltered landing zone. This is also close to South Catalinita Reef, where Pre-Site Two and its collection of haquebuts is found. Did Esquivel land in the same area during his attack on Saona carried out in the first campaign? If Las Casas has described the replacement of the haquebut, or escopeta, used in 1502 by the arquebuz, or espingarda, sometime after 1504, it is possible Pre-Site Two with its cargo of haquebuts was involved in the first campaign during 1502 either transporting troops to Saona or supplying the Spanish real.
After Cotubanamá's capture, he was bundled into Esquivel's caravel which sailed to Santo Domingo. There he was delivered into the hands of Nicolás de Ovando where the cacique was later hanged by the governor's order.
With the imprisonment and execution of Cotubanamá all organised Indian resistance ceased. The termination of the Second War of Higüey marked the end of the conquest of Española, an intermittent war which had lasted twelve years.
The conquest was followed by a period of settlement in which the Governor had thirteen villas established through out the island to disperse the Spaniards and control the centres of Indian population. In Higüey, two settlements were established. One was inland and called Sancta Cruz de Aicayagua, the other, near the sea, was called Salvaleón de Higüey.
"Mandó poblar el comendador mayor dos pueblos o villas de españoles para tener esta provincia del todo segura, que más cabeza no alzase: una cerca de la mar, que fue nombrado Salvaleón; y la otra dentro de la tierra, llamada Sancta Cruz de Aicayagua. Y entre ambas repartió todos los pueblos de los indios, que sirviesen a los cristianos, que al cabo los consumieron".
So began the town and port of Salvaleón, the seat and estate of Juan Ponce de León, and the primary supplier of salt pork and cazabe bread to the soon to be founded villas of San Germán and Puerto Rico on the neighbouring island of San Juan Bautista.
The War of Higüey was the final act in the conquest of the island of Española, the first island to fall to the Spaniards in the New World. Much of the archaeology of this conquest is preserved in the Parque Nacional del Este, Dominican Republic.
The archaeological sites include mobile Spanish military camps, so far unstudied in the New World. A number of these may be found allowing archaeologists to trace the main body movement of the Spanish army during the two separate campaigns of the war.
During the course of the two campaigns many Indian settlements were destroyed, a number of them were possibly destroyed twice, if reoccupied after the first campaign, and show up in the archaeological record as two separate destruction layers. Not mentioned in Las Casas's account of the first campaign and of particular interest is whether Cotubanamá's settlement, the site of the Manantial de la Aleta, was destroyed during the first campaign.
The temporary camps of the two campaigns will be distinguishable since the manner in which they were established differed considerably. These will be helpful in allowing archaeologists and anthropologists to understand how the Indians coped with the sudden change from a sedentary and peaceful existence to a nomadic one fraught with danger.
Marine and land archaeology investigations being initiated in the Parque Nacional del Este have the potential to shed considerable light on one of the archetypal military actions that set the pattern for the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
Samuel Turner is currently a Doctoral student at King's College London and a founding director of the Institute of Maritime History.
REFERENCES Keith, D., 1987, The Molasses Reef Wreck. Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas A&M University , College Station. Las Casas, B., 1994, Historia de las Indias, tomo 2. Obras Completas 4, Primera Edición Crítica, Alianza Editorial S.A., Madrid. Sauer, C., 1966, The Early Spanish Main. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. Floyd, T., 1973, The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean 1492-1526. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Turner, S., 1994, Saona Artillery: Implications for Inter-Island Trade and Shipboard Armaments in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century. MA Thesis, Texas A&M University, College Station. Fig. 1. Native provinces and subdivisions of Española according to Morales and Peter Martyr (After Sauer, 1966, Fig. 7).