Subjugation of Higuey and Jaragua

With the initiation of this project and awaiting the official approval of the crown, the new administration committed to dominate the more isolated indigenous territories of Xaragua and Higuey taking advantage of any incident in these locales to attack, capture large amounts of slaves and begin a breach to establish themselves in these territories. The fire started in the Adamanaym island, present day Saona, in the southeast region of the Higuey territory.

La Saona was the center for casabe supply for the area natives and Spanish settlements; days before Ovando's fleet arrived in the island, a caravel had docked to load casave, as the local chief and his people were loading a vessel, a Spaniard was careless and one of his hunting dogs attacked the chief maiming him in so badly that he died a few hours later. The locals complained to the local main chief in Higuey, Cotubamana or Cotubano, to seek vengeance, subsequently, a few months later Ovando sends another group of 8 Spanish to get casabe, the Saona Indians kill them on the spot.

The governor grouped 300 to 400 of the best men from the four existing villages at that moment: Santiago, la Concepcion, el Bonao and Santo Domingo, led by Juan de Esquivel with several secondary captains. That small army enters in the Higuey territory and starts the systematic massacre of village after village until arriving to the Saona island where they stab around 600 men to avenge the death of 8 dead Spaniards. They capture the rest as slaves fleeing "that island destroyed and deserted, having been the warehouse of bread, since it was very fertile."4

Two chiefs from other settlements of the region sent messages to Esquibel begin him to stop chasing them, that they would serve him unconditionally. The Spaniards established large farms in the Higuey area for their consumption, and Esquibel made a pact or accord with chief Cotubamana in which they became up "guatiao", relationship that consists in exchanging their established names in a league of perpetual friendship and confederation, and that the captain general and that chief became guatiaos, like brothers in arms and so the Indians would now call the captain Cotubamana and the chief Juan Esquibel."5 The captain also erected a wooden fortress where he left nine men and returned with the rest combatants and respective slaves to the villages of origin.

In the Xaragua chiefdom, Bohechio had already died and Anacaona ruled very judiciously, always achieving her tribute on time and bearing the treatment of the Christians that had remained in her territory since the Roldan rebellion. It seems there was a small quarrel between the Indians and one of the Spaniards that since "anything, no matter how small... the most atrocious vice that wasn't obeyed, even beaten by the Castilians, was enough to say the Indians were this or that, and that they were rebelling"6, governor Ovando moved there to establish order with 300 men on foot and 70 on horseback.

Anacaona, who, according to Las Casa was "a prudent and committed woman", convened the majority of the niTaino or nobles of the region to receive the "Guamiquina" or the Christian Big Chief. She and the rest of the sub chiefs offered them a splendid welcome reminiscent of the one for Bartolome Columbus in 1496, however, "Governor Ovando was uneasy and did not participate as a joyful guest. He hung back. He had determined to terrorize the Indians into submission and obedience. Since there were always many Indians and few Spaniards, it became customary to spring a trap and massacre many to put the fear of God in them every time they heard the name of Christians thereafter."7

With the plan very well agreed within his men, Ovando asked Anacaona to gather all her nobles and meet with him in the large caney (large gathering building). She and 80 nobles enter awaiting to speak with the Governor. Instead he gave the signal by placing his hand on a gold piece on his breast. Swords were drawn and immediately proceeded to tie up the Indian nobility. Later they "dragged Anacaona outside, big armed guards standing by the caney door so no one came out. Then they put the building to the torch, and burned alive the nobles and kings in their lands."8

Meanwhile the cavalry killed most of the population through one of the largest massacres of the entire period. Some Indians escaped by swimming to small islands in the vicinity but were later captured as slaves. Anacaona "to honour her" was hung".9

Also hung was Guarocuya, Anacaona's nephew who had escaped to the Bahoruco mountains; the governor dispatched two other expeditions of enslaving to the nearby regions from the Xaragua settlement, one to Guahaba to the North, in the Marien cacicazgo, and another to the extreme west to the Haitian peninsula named Hanyguayaba. The respective chiefs were also hung and their Indians enslaved.

In what was left of Xaragua, the governor ordered the construction and settlement of the villages of Vera Paz and Yaquimo. In Hanyguayaba he founded another named Salvatierra de la Cabana. From here on one would follow another; around 30 leagues between these villages and Santo Domingo he founded San Juan de la Maguana, area which had been governed by the missing Caonabo. Between San Juan and Santo Domingo Acua de Compostela was founded, settled by "a Galician governor that had lived there since before it was a town."10