Construction of La Navidad

At midnight, on the 24th, the Admiral was resting after leaving the helm on the hands of a sailor that was, apparently delegated it to too young a cabin boy, the Santa Maria ran aground on a coral bank close to the shore. Attempting to save the ship, Columbus sent messengers to Guacanagari, who immediately sent all the people in the village with many and very large canoes. With these, they and us started to unload, and in a very short time unloaded all of the deck. Great was the help that this chief gave. Later, he, with his brothers and relatives, brought everything, as well as the ship on land so everything would be organized."12

The Christians were, once again, lucky to count with the help of Guacanagari and his people; this one was always trying to please the Admiral and promised to give him all he had, and that he would bring him great quantities of gold from the Cibao, giving him little masks "with gold encrustations in the ears and eyes."

columbus landing woodblockColumbus Landing WoodblockThe cacique lamented about constant attacks by the Caribs, so the Admiral made a demonstration of one of his weapons "saying that with these he would defend him. And they were very amazed about our armaments, which frightened them so much that they would drop to the ground as dead upon hearing the uproar".13

With around seventy men and only one ship, Columbus had only one recourse: begin construction of a fort using the wood from the Santa Maria and with the native's help. Thursday the 27th they got word from some Indians that the Pinta was in a nearby river in the island. The Admiral sped up the construction efforts of the fort which he named La Navidad (Christmas), leaving 29 men under the command of Diego de Arana, Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo de Escobedo, with provisions for a year and with plenty of artillery.

January 4th of 1493, the rest of the crew sailed in the Niña, after Columbus entrusted his men to Guacanagari, while gifting his new American friend with a shirt.

They headed to the east, bordering the whole coast until January 6th, when they saw the Pinta anchored near a river in the area of Monte Cristi. Martin Alonzo gave the Admiral various excuses. Columbus, who, imagining the truth and his bad intentions, remembered the liberties he had taken with many things during the trip, pretended that all was well and put up with all to salvage the enterprise".14

It is possible that the Pinzon, excellent sailors, investing money and risking their lives in this enterprise, felt with enough rights to benefit directly from the riches they were encountering; Martin Alonzo had been in this area for sixteen days exchanging European artifacts for gold, sharing half of the treasure with his crew and keeping the rest. This is the same attitude that hundreds would have in the future. It was very difficult for Christopher Columbus to realize that the he had to share the benefits of this discovery, not only with the Catholic Monarchs, but also with the rest of the world.

After an excursion up a wide river where they found gold in the sand and which he baptized as the Gold River (present day Yaque del Norte), the Admiral tried to return to Spain as fast as possible, continuing along the northeast coast and describing more about the landscape and fauna that he found in his way, "these lands, from Monte Cristo until where they begin are high and low lands with beautiful countryside and beautiful mountains from west to east, and are all green, such marvelous beauty, and with many rivers. In all this land there are many turtles that the sailors caught in Monte Cristi, that were laying eggs in the sand, and were very large like a board."15