Arrival to the Island of Haiti

D. 8. The Santa María & la Niña in the Bay of Acul, Haití. December 22, 1492. D. 8. The Santa María & la Niña in the Bay of Acul, Haití. December 22, 1492. D: J. Arvelo. Drawing: F. Castro

Wednesday, December 5th, the Santa Maria and the Niña arrived on the northwest coast of Haiti, the actual island of Santo Domingo, and seeing that it was "very large, and that the lands and the trees were similar to the ones in Spain, and that they caught many fish also similar to the ones in Spain, such as mackerel, mullets, salmon, shad, John Dory, pompano, sea bass, and crabs, resolved to name the island something similar to Spain. On December 9th he named it Hispaniola.8

Following the gold clues in other encounters with the natives, the explorers continued on their trek to the east, entering on Thursday the 20th in the present day Bay of Acul, Haiti. It seems that this beautiful port impressed the Admiral for they remained there for four days, being visited and flattered by the local population, who probably helped these Christians live the most beautiful experience of the whole trip: "Then they got closer to the sea and the Admiral to the land, and after they lost the fear, there were so many that they covered the land, giving thanks, and women and children; some ran this way and that way , bringing what they called yams that they call ajes, which is white and very good, they brought us water in gourds, and they knew what the Admiral wanted with so much heart and emotion that it was marvelous".9

December 22nd, the Admiral received a message from the cacique Guacanagari, who implored that he "came with the vessels to his land and he would give him all he had, sending him a belt with two gold ears, a nose and a tongue."10 After receiving this invitation, and hearing other Indians speak of the Cibao as the place where the gold mines where located, Columbus thought it was his elusive Cipango and on the 24th they headed towards Guacanagari's lands.

It is fit to mention that, witnessing the marvelous spectacle that this virgin tropical jungle had to offer the explorers, certainly, a land of a thousand possibilities, their commentaries about it was minimal compared to the constant and precise references to the gold; the gold that would justify a Columbus enterprise to the Catholic Monarchs, making Columbus powerful for life and that, as he even insinuated, could open the doors to Paradise. With Paradise right in front of his eyes, his obsession was very strong when, on December 23rd he writes: "Our Lord has in his mercy made it possible for me to find this gold, the mines, that the people here know about."11

Columbus landing on Hispaniola lc

Library of Congress.