Gulf of Arrows

D. 9. Encounter with Ciguayos, Gulf of Arrows. January 3, 1493. D. 9. Encounter with Ciguayos, Gulf of Arrows. January 3, 1493. D: J. Arvelo. Drawing: F. Castro

On the 13th of February, still in Hispaniola, they supposedly entered the present day bay of Samana, where they encountered indigenous people that were different than the Tainos. One of them was brought to the Admiral, and was written about this way: "his face was painted with charcoal, since in all areas they tended to stain it in various colors, his hair was very long and tied in the back and with a band with parrot feathers and naked like the rest."16

This was a ciguayo that inhabited the northeast part of the island; Columbus, following the descriptions of the Tainos, thought he had encountered the Caribs and with the aid of the San Salvador guides asked this man where the Caribs lived, to which the Indian signaled to the east, close to there... and told him that he would find a lot of gold there, signalling to the stern of the ship that was very large, told him that there were pieces of gold as big as that. They called gold "tuob" and didn't understand the word "canoe", as they were called by the other natives."17 After feeding him and giving him some glass beads and cotton, the Admiral sent him back to the land with the task of sending him gold if his companions had any.

When their boat landed, the Christians encountered some fifty men carrying bows and arrows, which they proceeded to trade with the Europeans. After exchanging some of the weapons, they changed their minds and picking up their bows, arrows and some rope to tie the Christians, who were always very well armed, began to "attack them with force, wounding one on the back and another on the butt and another on the chest with arrow. Because of this attack, the Indians, afraid of our valor and their wounds, fled, leaving behind most of their bows and arrows. And many would have been killed if not for the ship's pilot."`

The following day, they had another encounter in better terms, with a cacique and three helpers boarding the ship exchanging impressions with the Admiral and promising a gold crown which the same cacique sent him the next day with some young men that the Admiral decided to take with him back to Castile.

On January 16th, Christopher Columbus left the bay he named Gulf of the Arrows. With the ships taking in water, he headed towards the north seeking the winds that would sail him back to Spain. He was carrying around ten indigenous people, several parrots, hutias, masks and crowns inlaid with gold, samples of this metal in various sizes, and some botanical examples such as cotton, aloe, and possibly, Bixa orellana (achiote).

He was also carrying the glory of having made the most important crossing in human history; the trip that started the long process of the conquest and colonization, through which Europe, mixing with them from the start, incorporated other cultures and lands to it's domain, accumulating power and wealth that, up to that moment, had been unimaginable.