The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
DISCOVERY OF PUERTO BELLO AND EL RETRETE—COLUMBUS
ABANDONS THE SEARCH AFTER TUB STRAIT.

[ 1502.]

On the 2d of November the squadron anchored in a spacious and commodious harbor, where the vessels could approach close to the shore without danger. It was surrounded by an elevated country; open and cultivated, with houses within bowshot of each other, surrounded by fruit-trees, groves of palms, and fields producing maize, vegetables, and the delicious pineapple, so that the whole neighborhood had the mingled appearance of orchard and garden. Columbus was so pleased with the excellence of the harbor and the sweetness of the surrounding country that he gave it the name of Puerto Bello.* It is one of the few places along this coast which retain the appellation given by the illustrious discoverer. It is to be regretted that they nave so generally been discontinued, as they were so often records of his feelings, and of circumstances attending the discovery.

For seven days they were detained in this port by heavy rain and stormy weather. The natives repaired from all quarters in canoes, bringing fruits and vegetables and balls of cotton, but there was no longer gold offered in traffic. The cacique and seven of his principal chieftains had small plates of gold hanging in their noses, but the rest of the natives appear to have been destitute of all ornaments of the kind. They were generally naked and painted red; the cacique alone was painted black.

Sailing hence, on the 9th of November, they proceeded eight leagues to the eastward, to the point since known as Nombre de Dios; but being driven back for some distance, they anchored in a harbor in the vicinity of three small islands. These, with the adjacent country of the main-land, were cultivated with fields of Indian corn, and various fruits and vegetables, whence Columbus called the harbor Puerto de Bastimentos, or Port of Provisions. Here they remained until the 23d, endeavoring to

____________________
*
Las Casas, lib. ii. cap. 33. Hist. del Almirante.
Peter Martyr, decad. iii. lib. iv.

-527-

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