542

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JoshuaOB at Oct 11, 2018 02:16 PM

542

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[claimed a frank and gentle disposition. It was an
honest face, (says Martyr), coarse, but not gloomy ;
for it was enlivened by confidence, and softened by
compassion. Amongst our islanders, an attach-
ment to the sex was remarkably conspicuous.
Love, with this happy people, was not a transient
and youthful ardour only ; but the source of all
their pleasures, and the chief business of life : for
not being, like the Caribes, opjjressed by the
weight of perpetual solicitude, and tormented by
an unquenchable thirst of revenge, they gave full
indulgence to the instincts of nature, while the in-
fluence of the climate heightened the sensibility of
the passions. See Oviedo, lib.v. c.S. ' We
Lave nearly the same account at this day of the
Arrowauks of Guayana. “ In their natural dis-
position (says Bancroft) they are amorous and
wanton and Barrere observes, “ ils sont Intri-
gues au supreme degreZ' It is related by Herrera,
that a deity similar to the Venus of antiquity,
was one of the divinities of the Tlascalans, a
people of Mexico. In truth, an excessive sen-
suality was among the greatest defects in their
character : and to this cause alone is imputed, by
some writers, the origin of that dreadful disease,
witli the infliction of which they have almost re-
venged the calamities brought upon them by the
avarice of Europe; if indeed the venereal contagion
was first introduced into Spain from these islands;
a conclusion to which, notwithstanding all that
Las been written in support of it, an attentive in-
quirer will still hesitate to subscribe. Their agi-
lity was eminently conspicuous in their dances,
wherein they delighted and excelled, devoting the
cool hours of night to this employment. “ It was
their custom (says Herrera) to dance from evening
to the dawn ; and although 50,000 men and wo-
men were frequently assembled together on these
occasions, they seemed actuated by one common
impulse, keeping time by responsive motions of
their hands, feet, and bodies, with an exactness
that was wondertul. These public dances (for they
had others highly licentious) were appropriated to
particular solemnities, and being accompanied with
historical songs, were called arietoes ; a singular
feature in their political institutions, of which we
shall presently speak. Besides the exercise of
dancing, another diversion was prevalent among
them, which they called bato; and it appears from
the account given of it by the Spanish historians,
that it had a distant resemblance to the English
game of cricket ; for the players were divided into
two parties, Avhich alternately changed places, and
the sport consisted in dexterously throwing and re-
turning an elastic ball from one parly to the other.

It was not however caught in the hand, or re«
turned with an instrument, but received on the
head, the elbow, or the foot ; and the dexterity
and force with which it Avas thence repelled, Avere
astonishing and inimitable. Such exertions belong
not to a people incurably enervated and slothful.

2. Intellects. — The benevolence of these In-
dians, unexampled in the history of civilized na-
tions, was soon basely requited by the conduct of a
band of robbers, whom Columbus unfortunately
left in the island, on his departure for Europe.
When any of the Spaniards came near to a village,
the most ancient and venerable of the Indians, or
the cacique himself, if present, came out to meet
them, and gently conducted them into their habi-
tations, and seated them on stools of ebony curi-
ously ornamented. These benches seem to have
been seats of honour reserved for their guests ; for
the Indians threw themselves on the ground, and
kissing the hands and feet of the Spaniards, of-
fered them fruits and the choicest of their viands ;
entreating them to prolong their stay, with such
solicitude and reverence as demonstrated that they
considered them as beings of a superior nature,
whose presence consecrated their dAvellings, and
brought a blessing with it. The reception which
Bartholomew Columbus, who was appointed lieu-
tenant, or deputy -governor, in the absence of the
admiral, afterAvards met with, in his progress
through the island to levy tributes from the several
caciques or princes, manifested not only kindness
and submission, but on many occasions munifi-
cence, and even a high degree of politeness. These
caciques had all heard of the Avonderful eagerness
of the strangers for gold ; and such of them as
possessed any of this precious xnetal, willingly
presented all that they had to the deputy-governor.
Others, Avho had not the means of obtaining gold,
brought provisions and cotton in great abundance.
Among the latter Avas Behechio, a powerful ca-
cique, Avho invited the lieutenant and his attend-
ants to his dominions ; and tlie entertainment
which they received from this hospitable chief is
thus described by Martyr. “ As they approached
the king’s dwelling, they Avere met by his Avives,
to the number of SO, carrying branches of the
palm-tree in their hands, who first sainted the
Spaniards Avitli a solemn dance, accompanied Avith
a general song. These matrons Avere succeeded by
a train of virgins, distinguished as such by their
appearance; the former Avearing aprons of cotton
doth, Avhile the latter Avere arrayed only in the in-
nocence of pure nature. Their hair was tied
simply Avith a fillet over their foreheads, or suf-
fered to floAV gracefully on their shoulders and bo-]


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542


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