#10 from History of the New World
(Girolamo Benzoni, 1565)

Suffering at the Hands of the Spaniards

Then other governors were successively sent to La Espanola, as well clerical as secular, till the natives, finding themselves intolerably oppressed and worked on every side, with no chance of regaining their liberty, with sighs and tears longed for death.

Wherefore many went to the woods and there hung themselves, after having killed their children, saying it was far better to die rather than to live so miserably, serving such and so many ferocious tyrants and wicked thieves. The women, with the juice of a certain herb, dissipated their pregnancy, in order not to produce children, and then following the example of their husbands, hung themselves. Some threw themselves from high cliffs down precipices; others jumped into the sea; others again into rivers; and others starved themselves to death. Sometimes they killed themselves with their flint knives; others pierce their bosoms or their sides with pointed stakes. Finally, out of the two millions of original inhabitants, through the number of suicides and other deaths, occasioned by the oppressive labour and cruelties imposed by the Spaniards, there are not a hundred and fifty now to be found: and this has been their way of making Christians of them. What befell those poor islanders has happened also to all the others around: Cuba, Jamaica, Porto Rico, and other places. And although an almost infinite number of the inhabitants of the mainland have been brought to these islands as slaves, they have nearly all since died. In short, I may say, that wherever the Spaniards have unfurled their banner, they have, by their great cruelties, inspired the inhabitants with perpetual hatred of those chiefs having heard of the horrors committed by the Spaniards wherever they went, took up arms to resist them and to defend their liberty. Yet finding, after many battles, that they were always beaten, and that already a great proportion of them were killed, and moreover, that daily reinforcements of Christians arrived from Carthagena and Sta. Martha, their hopes failed of ever being able to expel them from their country, and, overpowered by the fear of being all destroyed, they sought for peace. Thus did the Spaniards obtain the dominion of a great part of that country. Then Don Pietro di Lugo, after enduring some skirmishes with the Indians, traversed many villages, burning and robbing, but collecting a great quantity of gold and emeralds, finally returned to Sta. Martha.

The oppressed natives seeing themselves persecuted in this manner on every side, were unable to sustain so much grief and suffering; abusing and inveighing against the Christian name, they used to go to the woods to hang themselves, the women as well as the men; and of those who had nothing to tie themselves up with, as they chiefly go naked, the one helped the other to tie their hair round the branches of the trees, and then letting themselves fall, with most bitter lamentations, with howls and shrieks full of terror, and filling the air with their miseries, persisted in making away with themselves.

[#10] “Suffering at the Hands of the Spaniards,” from Girolamo Benzoni, History of the New World, tr. and ed. Rear-Admiral W. H. Smyth (London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1857, pp.77-78, 111-12).

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