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on a visit to the mines. He ascended the river a few leagues when he encountered the quibian, or king of Veragua, who warily welcomed him, and provided him guides to conduct him to the base of the mountains around and away from his own richer and near mines, to those of a neighboring chieftain with whom he was at war. But the Spaniards were not disappointed. The soil over which they journeyed seemed to be impregnated for miles with fine particles of the precious metal. The adelantado and his companions were enabled to wash out small quantities of gold from earth taken from about the roots of great trees. Ascending a hill they gazed with rapture upon the surrounding country, which as far as the eye could reach was filled with riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. On another occasion the adelantado made an excursion along the coast westward, everywhere meeting with evidence of gold in abundance. Such were the riches of this country, that the admiral determined to plant a colony at this point, the first colony attempted upon the firm land of North America; but the jealousy of the quibian becoming aroused by the manifest intention of the permanent residence of the strangers within his dominions, they were obliged to abandon the project.

The returns from the mines of the new dominions of Spain prior to the death of Isabella in 1504 were comparatively insignificant, owing partly to the rapacious spirit of the adventurers, who preferred traffic with the natives to the drudgery of digging, and partly to the humanity of the queen, who forbade the compulsory imposition of native labor. Soon after

The natives of Veragua believed that in order to be successful it was necessary to practice temperance and chastity for some time before seeking for gold; and Columbus, desirous of inculcating in the minds of the Spaniards so wholesome a superstition, encouraged in them the practice of abstaining from women, of fasting and praying, before setting out upon a mining expedition. Peter Martyr, dec. iii. cap. 4; Herrera, dec. i. lib. vi. cap. i.; Carta de Colon, in Navarrete, i. 296; Las Casas, Hist. Ind., lib. ii. cap. 25; Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, 108, in Barcia, i.

Diego de Porras, in Navarrete, i. 277; Pedro de Ledesma, in Id., iii, 550.


her death, however, the revival of the inhuman system of repartimientos, or apportionment of Indians among settlers, which was inaugurated during the administration of Bobadilla, led to an immense yield, Española alone sending to Spain half a million ounces of gold annually; and according to Herrera 450,000 ounces of gold passed through the four foundries of that isle during the year 1506. All minerals were reserved by the crown, and were, in common with other royal perquisites, jealously guarded. Private individuals were permitted to work the mines, but were obliged to pay into the royal treasury at first two thirds, and afterward one fifth of the proceeds. Later it was ordered that in every audiencia district there should be a melting-house. In 1508 Ferdinand created a province of that part of the coast of tierra firme extending from the gulf of Darien to Cape Gracias á Dios, and called it Castilla del Oro, or Golden Castile, from the great riches it had already yielded, and the golden visions of Columbus, who believed it to be the veritable Aurea Chersonesus, whence was derived the gold used in building Solomon's temple. Diego de Nicuesa was appointed governor of the province for ten years, with the right to enjoy the products of all mines by paying to the crown one tenth of the proceeds of the first year, one ninth the second, one eighth the third, one seventh the fourth, one sixth the fifth, and one fifth of the products of each of the succeeding five years.


In 1510 the bachiller Martin Fernandez de Enciso, while on his way to San Sebastian, on the gulf of Darien, where was planted the colony of Alonso de Ojeda, touched at Cartagena, and there was told of the fabulous wealth of the province of Zenu, east of the gulf of Darien, the mountains of which were so impregnated with gold that during the season of rains, when the swollen streams rushed in torrents through the mountains, the natives spread nets in which they caught the coarsest pieces, some of them being as large

the thumb and first finger together, "and taken from shell-fish as large as that," pointing to a buckler which hung from the arm of a Spaniard. Vasco Nuñez thereupon called the largest island Isla Rica, and to the archipelago he gave the name of the Pearl Islands. Isla Rica later became known as the island of San Miguel.

From the town of Chiapes Balboa crossed a great river and entered the province of Cocura, where he obtained gold to the value of six hundred and fifty pesos. He then crossed the water to an arm of the gulf of San Miguel, later known as the Rio Savana, and entered a province belonging to a cacique named Tumaco, who, besides gold valued at 614 pesos, brought him a bowl filled with magnificent pearls, 240 of which were of extraordinary size and beauty.

Vasco Nuñez and his companions were by this time fully aware of the immense riches of that country in gold, for, although the natives placed but little value upon it, merely gathering what they could easily pick up from the surface of the ground, yet everywhere they found it among the Indians, in larger or smaller quantities, usually wrought into various shapes. But here was proof given them, that this southern sea contained pearls in no less profusion than its shores yielded gold, and a knowledge of this fact greatly enhanced the value of their discovery. "Our men marvelled greatly," says Peter Martyr, "at the size and beauty of these pearls, although they were not perfectly white, because they can not take them out of the sea mussels, except they first roast them, that they may the easier open themselves; and also that the fish may have the better taste. For they esteem it a delicate and princely dish, which they prize more highly than the pearls themselves."

When the chief Tumaco beheld the eagerness with which the Spaniards regarded his pearls, to show them the small value which he placed upon these baubles, and how easily they could be obtained, he sent some



of his men to fish for them, and after an absence of four days they returned with a most beautiful collection, amounting to twelve marks weight, or ninety-six ounces. The Spaniards taught them how to open the oyster without damaging the pearl, and the Indians very soon learned to prize the jewel more than the fish. Afterward, when the pearls became an important article of commerce, these Indians trained certain of their youths as divers. By practice they accustomed themselves to remain beneath the water for a long time. They could fish for large pearls only in calm weather as they were found in deep water; the smaller oysters were nearer the beach, and were frequently deposited upon it by the winds and tide.

On his return journey, Vasco Nuñez entered and ascended a large river flowing into the gulf, probably the Savana, to which he gave the name of San Lúcar, and landed at a province called Teaochan, the name of whose chief was Fesca, where he was presented with 160 ounces in gold and 200 pearls large and fine, except that they had been somewhat discolored from the action of the fire.

The next province belonged to a cacique named Poncra, who was hideously deformed, and who abandoned his village on the approach of the Spaniards. Gold to the value of 3,000 pesos was picked up in the village, and the Indians who accompanied Vasco Nuñez informed him that this was one of the richest provinces in all those parts. Balboa named the place Todos Santos. Part of his company who had remained at the town of Chiapes joined him at this place. As they journeyed northward from Chiapes they entered the dominions of a cacique called Bononiama. Their fame having preceded them, this chieftain received them with every demonstration of joy, and immediately presented them with gold valued at 2,000 pesos. They then accompanied this band of Spaniards to Todos Santos, in order to pay their respects to Vasco Nuñez.


Continuing their journey toward the north, they were one day overtaken by a band of Indians who came from a province which lay some distance out of their course, and, presenting the Spaniards with thirty large gold plates, weighing 14,000 pesos, they invited them to visit their chief, who would give them a much larger amount. They also begged Vasco Nuñez to assist them in subjugating a powerful neighbor, whose riches were very great. During their homeward march, gold had accumulated so rapidly, that they were unable to carry both their treasure and a sufficient quantity of provisions. Although they had Indians in abundance to act as beasts of burden, yet each man was not able to carry more than two days' supply in addition to his load of metal. They endured, therefore, intense suffering.

Descending the northern declivities of the mountains, they rested at a village, the cacique of which was called Pocorosa, who gave them gold valued at 1,500 pesos, at the same time informing them of a neighbor named Tumanamá, whom Vasco Nuñez with seventy men surprised by night and took prisoner with his eighty wives and gold to the value of 9,000 pesos. Not long after he was released, when he collected within a few days ninety marks of gold and gave it to Balboa. Being asked where this gold was found, Tumanamá refused to answer, fearful that if the locality was made known to the Spaniards they would never leave his dominions. It was ascertained by trial, however, that the soil in the vicinity was richly impregnated, and Vasco Nuñez determined to establish there a fort for the protection of mining and commerce between the two seas. Continuing their way toward the north, the Spaniards arrived at the village of Comagre. The old chief was dead, and Panciaco succeeded to the honors and dignities of his father. He received Vasco Nuñez with great joy, presented him with gold to the value of 2,000 pesos, and received in return a linen shirt and some trinkets, with which he

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