Roldan's Rebellion

D. 13 Encounter between Bartolomé Colón and Francisco Roldán. Valle de la Vega. 1498. D. 13 Encounter between Bartolomé Colón and Francisco Roldán. Valle de la Vega. 1498. D: J. Arvelo. Drawing: F. Castro

After receiving in la Isabel the ship loaded with the Jaragua tribute, Diego Columbus took it out of the water to prevent a few discontent men from taking it without authorization to Spain. The mayor of the island, Francisco Rodan reacted claiming that they needed to put it back in the water and send it to Castile to send word of their "hunger and necessity", quickly gathering around 70 men "the healthier and common folk"17, taking up arms and taking over the Isabela, where Don Diego had to take refuge to avoid being captured. But rather than leaving for Castile, to the screams of "long live the King", they plundered the King's cattle farms and horse stables and entered the indigenous people's territories cancelling the tribute and demanding personal favors.

The rebels arrived at the Concepcion fort in La Vega Real and tried to convert the service men; they decline to join the rebels so these decided to continue to Guaricano, part of Guarionex's territory and where later on the Christian city of La Vega would be erected.

The men in authority from the port sent for Don Bartholomew, who arrived promptly and took refuge in the fort where, a few days later, he had the famous meeting with Roldan that has been described in the following way: "came to the fort with his men very well armed, and spoke with Don Bartholomew, most likely through windows, Don Bartholomew standing up. He asks why he doesn't unite in the service of the Monarchs instead of defending their own;"18 "and with the disrespect and impudence from all the convene, asked the Governor to put the ship back in the water or give him permission to sink it... the Governor became upset and responded that he nor his friends were sailors so he thought it was not a reasonable nor necessary request ",19 "from there he continued to become more defiant and arrogant, because he intended to continue the rebellion with the rest and be free to continue with their vices and ambition with impunity."20

Roldan and his people left towards the Jaragua chiefdom terrorizing all the villages in their paths. They chose this region for "being the most abundant land and delicious of the island," and apparently, "because it had the prettiest and sweetest women".21

The ex-mayor sold himself as the avenger of injustices committed by the Columbus against the Spanish at the same time cancelling the Indian tribute, but only so he could exploit these directly since, according to the Roldanists, this one acted ambitiously, "as if he had sympathy for them from those that had imposed, for they robbed and later robbed more and did irreparable damages and wrongs."22

Since every day Roldan's group grew larger, Don Bartholomew tried to keep his men by offering them one or more slaves each, causing the Indian situation to only progressively worsen. This is the state of things when two ships arrive to which both Roldan and Bartolomeo reach to receive provisions and news from Castile, which carried Bartholomew's official title as Governor and his validity in the Indies.