543

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CUBA.

643

[■soms. Their limbs were finely proportioned, and
their complexions, though brown, were smooth,
shining, and lovely. Tlic Spaniards were struck
with admiration, believing that they beheld the
dryads of the woods, and the nymphs of the foun-
tains, realizing ancient fable. The branches which
they bore in their hands, they now delivered ivith
lowly obeisance to the lieutenant, who, entering
the palace, found a plentiful, and, according to
the Indian mode of living, a splendid repast al-
ready provided. As niglA approached, the Spa-
niards were conducted to separate cottages, wherein
each of them was accommodated with a cotton
hammoc ; and the next morning they were again
entertained with dancing and singing. This was
followedliy matches of w restling, and running for
prizes ; after which two great bodies of armed In-
dians unexpectedly appeared, and a mock engage-
ment ensued ; exhibiting their modes of attack and
defence in their wars with the Caribes. For
three days were the Spaniards thus royally enter-
tained, and on the fourth the affectionate Indians
regretted their departure.”

3. Political institutions . — Their kings, as we have
seen, were called caciques and their power was
hereditary. But there were also subordinate
chieftains, or princes, who were tributaries to the
soverei<rn of each district. Thus the territory in
11 ispaniola, anciently called Xaraguay, extending
from the plain of Leogane to the westernmost part of
the island, was the kingdom of the cfle^ 5 '^/e Behechio;
but it appears from Martyr, that no less than 32
inferior chieftains or nobles had jurisdiction within
that space of country, who were accountable to the
supreme authority of Behechio, They seem to
have somewhat resembled the ancient barons or
feudatories of Europe : holding their possessions
by the tenure of service. Oviedo relates, that they
were under the obligation of personally attending
the sovereign, both in peace and Avar, whenever
commanded so to do. The whole island of His-
paniola was divided into five great kingdoms.
The islands of Cuba and Jamaica rvere divided,
like Hispaniola, into many principalities or king-
doms ; but we are told that the Avhole extent of
Puerto Rico was subject to one cacique onljr. It
has been remarked, that the dignity of these chief-
tians was hercditaiy ; but if Martyr is to be
credited, the laAv of succession among them was
different from that of all other people ; for he ob-
serves, that the caciques bequeathed the supreme
authority to the children of their sisters, according
to seniority, disinheriting their owm offspring ;
“ being certain,” adds Martyr, “ that, by this
policy, they preferred the blood royal ; which

might not happen to be the case in advancing any
of the children of their numerous wives.” The
relation of Oviedo is somewhat different, and seems
more probable : he remarks, that one of tlie wives
of each cacique was particularly distinguished
above the rest, and appears to have been considered
by the people at large as the reigning queen ; that
the children of this lady, according to priority of
birth, succeeded to the father’s honours; but, in
default of issue by the favourite princess, the sisters
of the cacique, if there were no surviving brothers,
took place of the cacique’s own children by his
other wives. The principal cacique was distin-
guished by regal ornaments and numerous attend-
ants. In travelling through his dominions, he was
commonly borne on men’s shoulders, after a man-
ner very much resembling the use of the palanquin
in the E. Indies. According to Martyr, he was
regarded by all his subjects with such reverence,
as even exceeded the bounds of nature and reason ;
for if he ordered any of them to east themselves
headlong from a high rock, or to drown themselves
in the sea, alleging no cause but his sovereign
pleasure, he was obeyed without a murmur ; op-
position to the supreme authority being consi-
dered not only as unavailing, but impious. Nor
did their veneration terminate with the life of the
prince ; it was extended to his memory after
death; a proof that his authority, however extra-
vagant, was seldom abused. When a cacique
died, his body was cmbowelled, and dried in an
oven moderately heated ; so that the bones and
even the skin Avere preserved entire. The corpse
W'as then placed in a cave with those of his ances-
tors, this being (observes Oviedo) among these
simple people the only system of heraldry ; Avhere-
by they intended to render, not the name alone,
but the persons also, of their worthies immortal.
If a cacique Avas slain in battle, and the body
could not be recovered, they composed songs in
his praise, Avhich they taught their children. It
is related by Martyr, that on the death of a cacique,
the most beloved of his wives Avas immolated at his
funeral. Thus he observes that Anacaona, on the
death of her brother. King Behechio, ordered a very
beautiful Avoraan, Avhose name Avas Guanahata
Benechina, to be buried alive in the cave Avlicre
his body (after being dried as above mentioned)
Avas deposited. But Oviedo, though by no means
partial towards the Indian character, denies that
this custom Avas general among them. Anacaona,
Avho had been married to a Caribe, probably
adopted the practice from the account she had re-
ceived from her husband of his national customs;
and it is not impossible, under a female adrninis-]

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JoshuaOB

Not present in Alcedo's text.