Battle of the Santo Cerro & Establishment of the Tribute

D. 12 Indians washing gold. La Vega Real. 1495. D. 12 Indians washing gold. La Vega Real. 1495. D: J. Arvelo. Drawing: F. Castro

This monarch's capture was a large victory for the Columbus, the second and defining would be marked by a campaign of dominion lasting ten months, counting with the help of his friend Guacanagari, 20 horses, 200 infantry and 20 hunting dogs, converted into lethal weapons against the naked Indians. Caonabo's capture provoked the attack of thousands of Indians part of an even larger confederation that was defeated by the Spanish in several encounters until culminating with the attack in the Santo Cerro (Holy Mount) on March 24th of 1495. According to Las Casas, unlike a classic battle, this was more of a massacre: The people that went with his brother the Governor parted forming two sides, and letting loose crossbows, rifles and dogs they broke the groups like birds, making less fuss than sheep into the corral."11 This battle debilitates the indigenous people's resistance in La Vega Real, initiating the quick process of disintegration of the island.

cascabelWith the local population under control, the governor puts into effect a more lucrative colonial governmental system, the tribute: all Tainos over the age of 14 had to deliver to the authorities a hawk bell full of gold nuggets or dust. The residents of the regions where the metal was scarce would pay the tribute in an arroba of cotton (around 25 pounds). The ones that complied wore a brass plate on their chests, the ones that did not suffered severe punishment. Although the bell seems small, it was impossible for the Indians to cover these quotas, "not in six or eight months and even a year, for lack of dedication and tools."12 large masses opted for running away and hiding in forests and mountains.