Columbus is Arrested

When the gold finally appears in considerable amounts, and the Indians and Spanish are controlled by the repressive government of the Colones with Roldan's help, the monarch scandalized by the news and letter of the last fleet,decide to replace Columbus and name Don Francisco Bobadilla, commander member of the Order of Calatrava, inquiring judge of the Indies with power over the Admiral.

On August 23, 1500, the new Governor arrives with two caravels in the Ozama river and the first thing he finds are seven Spanish recently hanged in the square of the young city. As he goes ashore, he is greeted by Don Diego who informs him that the Admiral is putting out a rebellion in La Vega Real and that the Governor was in Jaragua doing the same with another. The seven hanged were part of a group of rebels that had been captured and judged, of which there were still five in jail awaiting execution the next day.

Bobadilla was a man with extensive military experience and it seems of very few words; the next day he was sworn in and took possession on the steps of the church ordering Diego to release the prisoners from the fortress to him, all ships, the Crown's properties, and the payment of back pay of the Spanish in the island that had not been paid in months. Diego refused, was promptly put in shackles, sent to a caravel while at same time taking over the fortress with the help of the local garrison. Next, he sent a monk and a treasurer with a letter from the holy monarchs notifying the change of command and the order to appear before him in Santo Domingo.

On his return, the Admiral finds Bobadilla installed in his residence paying everyone's back pay with his own personal stockpile. He was immediately imprisoned in the fortress since the inquiring judge had opened an legal process against the Columbus backed by various witnesses that accumulated against them many accusations, many real and many a product of the anger and envy.

Christopher counseled his brothers to obey the monarch and obey peacefully the emissary's orders. The Governor returned from Jaragua accompanied by Roldan who was promptly pardoned by Bobadilla and of course, joined, along with his followers, with the new Governor.

The Columbus found themselves surrounded by only insults and blasphemies from a large crowd according to Las Casas "night and day they didn't cease". However, when taken to the ship no one dared put on the shackles on the Admiral, "only a cook unknown to him and unashamed... put them on... Columbus kept these shackles and ordered that he be buried with them as a testimony that the world accustoms to give to those who live from pay."29

This is the drastic state in which the Admiral of the Ocean Sea and his two brothers were taken from the Hispaniola in October of 1500. The ship captain offered to take off the shackles, "but the Admiral did not accept until the monarchs ordered that they were taken off."30 The voyage was fast and on his arrival to Spain sent a letter to the monarchs who, apparently, never thought Bobadilla would take such extreme measures and ordered the immediate release of the Columbus, sending them money so that they could present themselves at court. Meeting with Don Christopher they console him on his misfortune reassuring him that they would "undo and remedy all his grievances".

But the truth is that the Admiral would only conserve his original titles and his deserved place in history. Although the Catholic monarchs would fund a fourth voyage in 1502 already the new Continent discovered by him was escaping his grasp. New explorers, younger and with less attributions, were sailing those waters guided still by the experiences and maps of the first Admiral.

It is possible that his last days might have been better if he had not tried to oversee personally the economic and political project of humanity's most ambitious conquest. More sailor than administrator, Christopher Columbus saw himself trapped by his own successes, always searching the treasure that would justify his endeavors, and having to govern a foreign people in new lands in the only comprehensible way for the violent society of his days, through terror.

The Admiral of the Ocean Sea was not made for controlling the first colonial post in the new world, his real talent was developed at sea, whose security he would escape to as rapidly as he could run from his earthly obligations.

mapa antiguo de la isla