It is time for a thorough revision of the history of the “minor” or “Andalusian” voyages, as modern scholars call them, which were the outcome of the discovery of South America in 1498 by Christopher Columbus. The first to make a comprehensive study of them was Martín Fernández de Navarrete;1 but historians who succeeded him have contributed very little to the subject, since like him most of them have overlooked the tremendous wealth of material preserved in the Archivo de Protocolos in Seville. In this archive are kept copies of legal documents recorded by the notaries of Seville since 1450. For the early period, up to 1600, these records are by no means complete, for many volumes have been lost; but those that have come down to us contain a vast amount of information concerning the participants in these voyages and their dealings with government officials, bankers, merchants, ship-owners and mariners. These documents throw a great deal of light on the financing of the expeditions, the outfitting of the ships, the hiring of the crews, and the loading of supplies, as well as the dates of departure and return to Spain.

Documentation from the Archivo de Protocolos helps us unravel the chronology of the Andalusian voyages. We can be sure now that at least eleven took place, in the order and at the times which can be seen in Table I.

In the financing of these expeditions, the merchants of Seville played a leading role. The discovery of America widened their horizons and opened new fields of commercial activity to them. Among those who became interested in the possibilities offered them in the New World were the three Guerra brothers, Antón Mariño, Luis and Cristóbal, whose ancestral home was in Triana, across the Guadalquivir from Seville, in the Santa Ana parish. They were bizcocheros; as such they made flour and bizcocho (hardtack) for the crews, and their family business prospered as naval trade increased. They contributed to the Andalusian voyages not only with their money, but also with their persons, since they took part in five expeditions to America between 1498 and 1504. The present study will be devoted to the activities of the three brothers Guerra of Triana and their five voyages to the New World.

I. Antón Mariño with Christopher Columbus (1498)

Why did Antón call himself Mariño instead of Guerra? Perhaps he took his mother’s maiden name, a frequent practice in those days. He appears for the first time in 1497 in the Libros de Armada, where we learn that he received fom the Spanish authorities 25 cahices (450 bushels) of wheat which he turned into 200 quintals of bizcocho, receiving for his work 300 maravedís per cahiz, a total of 7,500 maravedís. The bizcocho was for the two caravels of Pero Ferrández Coronel which sailed for Santo Domingo on January 23, 1498.2

The hardtack business in which Antón specialized must have brought him considerable profit, for he was a man of means. Toward the end of 1497 he was approached by Columbus and Juan de Fonseca, who were acting in the name of the Crown, and on January 1, 1498, he signed a contract with them. By its terms he was to buy a considerable amount of supplies, load them at his own cost on five ships which were to sail with the Admiral in the spring, and sell them to the settlers of Hispaniola at prices previously agreed on with the Spanish authorities (wine at 15 maravedís per azumbre or half-gallon, salt meat at 8 per pound, etc.).3 As a guarantee that he would fulfill his contract, Antón pledged all his worldly goods, and on January 22, in the family home which was next to the Santa Ana church, his wife Inez Núñez pledged her dowry and her share of the family fortune.4 The Crown lent him two-thirds of the funds, Antón personally supplying the other third. In all, he loaded 372 tons of merchandise, of which 252 were paid for by the government and 120 with his own money. He also provided one-third of the funds needed for freighting the five caravels, the avería (insurance), and four months’ advance pay for the pilots.5

During the first five months of 1498, he took an active part in outfitting the fleet, and at various times we find him acting as paymaster. The armada sailed on May 30. It consisted of six ships. Mariño went in the vessel commanded by Juan Antonio Colombo, Columbus’ cousin, and had charge of feeding the escuderos or “gentlemen” who were on board. The escuderos were an odd lot of officials, merchants, mining experts, and protégés of Columbus or of the Crown. Antón himself was classified as one of them; as such he collected 30 maravedís a day until his return to Spain. He was the first of the three Guerra brothers to set foot on American soil.

When the fleet reached the Canaries, Columbus divided it. He sent three vessels directly to Hispaniola, and with the other three he set sail for the Cape Verde archipelago. He had heard rumors that there was land south of the West Indies and wanted to find out if this was true.

The three caravels that went directly to Hispaniola overshot their mark, and instead of making port at Santo Domingo reached the region controlled by Francisco Roldán and his men, thus becoming involved in the rebellion. It is not known how Mariño disposed of his supplies. He may have been forced to hand over a large part of them to Roldán.

Two or three weeks later, Columbus arrived with the other three caravels. He had been successful in his search for land, having found a large island, which he baptized Trinidad, and a new continent. He had also brought back pearls from “Paria,” land forming a part of the “tierra firme” just discovered by him. In Santo Domingo, Columbus wrote a long letter to the Catholic Sovereigns to inform them of his discovery. With the letter, he sent a map picturing the newly found land, and 160 or 170 pearls (the sources do not agree as to the exact amount). The letter, the map and the pearls left Santo Domingo on October 18 on which day five vessels sailed under the command of Juan Antonio Colombo. Among those who returned to Europe with those five ships were Antón Mariño and Las Casas’ father.6

II. Peralonso Niño and Cristóbal Guerra (1499-1500)

Antón Mariño returned to Spain with the five ships on December 10, 1498.7 In Seville, he must have reported on his mission to Fonseca and rendered account to him. He must also have told his brothers, his neighbors and friends about the new continent and the pearls.

The news must have also quickly reached the Court, then residing in Alcalá de Henares. Most likely it was Juan Antonio, the admiral’s cousin and majordomo, who delivered Columbus’ letter to the Catholic Sovereigns. The latter were doubtless pleased with the discoveries, but Columbus’ prophetic tone, his lamentations, and his recriminations against Roldán and the settlers of Hispaniola must have produced a painful impression. Columbus wanted to send his brother Bartolomé to Paria, to continue exploring the newly discovered land, but both brothers had their hands full with the Roldán rebellion. The time was ripe for others to take up the task of exploration, all the more so if it did not cost the Crown anything. At the beginning of 1499, as the Catholic Sovereigns were thinking of removing Columbus from the governorship of Hispaniola, they were ready to grant licenses for discovery to any qualified person willing to proceed at his own cost.

It so happened that three men qualified for the task were at the Court at the time. The first was Alonso de Ojeda, a soldier who had distinguished himself in fighting the Indians of Hispaniola. The other two, Juan de la Cosa and Peralonso Niño, were experienced pilots who had accompanied the Genoese in his first and second voyages. (Some historians maintain that Niño also took part in the third voyage and was with Columbus when the latter discovered Paria. There is, however, positive evidence to the contrary. It is true that Niño had offered his services for the third voyage and was even paid two months’ salary in advance as chief pilot on December 23, 1497; but shortly after that he went to the Court and never returned.8) In the absence of more precise information, it might not be wrong to infer that Ojeda, La Cosa and Niño were at the Court in 1498 in some sort of advisory capacity on matters relating to the Indies. All three were shown the admiral’s letter and map, and all three were granted permission to explore the coast of the newly found continent. Two expeditions were organized. Ojeda and La Cosa were in charge of the first, which Amerigo Vespucci joined. Peralonso Niño undertook the other.

He tried, as most did, to make it a family affair. Among the members of his crew we find three of his brothers and a son or nephew. Peralonso also hired the services of Alonso García and Juan Barrero, two pilots who had been with Columbus when he discovered Paria. They knew the route to follow and were already familiar with the land to be explored. They must have played a leading part in the voyage.

Hiring the crew was probably an easy task for Peralonso, who had been a sailor all his life; but providing the pay, the supplies and the ship was a much more difficult matter, for he was not a rich man. To obtain the needed funds he turned to the Guerra brothers, and one of them, Luis, agreed to finance the expedition. Luis was a wealthy bizcochero; like his brother Antón he had been supplying vessels going to America with flour and hardtack. In some documents he is also mentioned as a merchant or as a cambiador (banker). To protect the family interests, he made one condition: that Cristóbal, the youngest of the three Guerra brothers, should be the captain. Niño did not object, nor did the Crown, and Cristóbal received from the Queen the titles of capitán and receptor.9 As captain, realizing his own inexperience, he probably let Niño run the caravel much as he pleased; but as receptor of the Queen’s quinto (fifth part of the profits), he was going to make things hot for Niño, and was largely responsible for landing him in jail when they returned to Spain.

Peralonso Niño and Cristóbal Guerra sailed on a fifty-ton ship with a crew of thirty-three from the Río Tinto at the beginning of June 1499, about two weeks after Ojeda and La Cosa had left the Puerto de Santa María (May 18). They probably followed the same route (Canaries, Cape Verde archipelago), which was also the route that Columbus had taken in 1498 and may have traced on his map. The Niño-Guerra expedition apparently struck land on the coast of Paria around August 1. After loading brazilwood in Paria, they landed in La Margarita, an island which Columbus and Ojeda had seen and sailed past. There they found a great quantity of pearls. Then for the next two months, they sailed along the coast between the Punta de Araya and Cabo Codera, visiting lands called (from east to west) Cumaná, Maracapana and Curiana, staying twenty days in Curiana. There they obtained many pearls from the natives, who seemed unafraid and hospitable, since it was their first contact with Europeans.

The Spaniards were also looking for gold, but Curiana did not produce any. The Indians told them they would find some in another land called Cauchiete, six days’ journey further west. Niño and his men set sail and reached Cauchiete on November 1. Las Casas has identified that land with the Coro region and the Paraguana peninsula. There they obtained gold, parrots and monkeys. Since the climate was temperate, the natives were friendly, and there was plenty of food, the Spaniards appear to have stayed about two months (November and December). When they sailed further west along the coast, they were met by two thousand armed Indians who kept them from landing and refused to have any dealings with them. So they turned back to Curiana, where they stayed for another twenty days and collected more pearls. They started on their homeward journey on February 6, 1500, with a stock of ninety-six pounds of pearls, acquired for a few pennies’ worth of trinkets.

They retraced their path, following the shore as far as Paria, then they crossed the Atlantic. It took the expedition sixty-one days to reach Spain. They were delayed by contrary winds, and finally made port at Bayona (Galicia) on or about April 8. When they landed, there was a marked disagreement between the two leaders. While Niño and some others were hiding their share of the pearls in an attempt to defraud the Crown, Cristóbal Guerra, taking his role of receptor seriously, vainly tried to force them to pay the quinto due the queen. The matter came before Hernando de Vega, governor and viceroy of Galicia, who had Peralonso Niño and other defrauders jailed. Niño was released later, but remained in disgrace and never took part in any other voyage. The queen seemed highly pleased with Cristóbal’s behavior, however, for it was decided almost immediately to send him back to the “Costa de las Perlas.”10

III. Alonso Vélez de Mendoza, Luis Guerra and Antón Mariño (1500-1501)

With the prospect of becoming rich through pearl hunting, a number of hardy souls tried to secure permission to sail to the shores of the new continent; and since the Court had moved to Seville, residents of that city had the best chance to make themselves heard. Thus Rodrigo de Bastidas, a mariner of Triana,11 and Alonso Vélez de Mendoza, an hidalgo who divided his time between Moguer and Seville, were granted capitulations on June 5, 1500, in almost identical terms. Plans were also made for Cristóbal Guerra to take another trip to the Costa de las Perlas, but he and Bastidas did not sail until the following year.12 Vélez de Mendoza was the first to leave.

A man of noble birth, Vélez de Mendoza was comendador of the prestigious Order of Santiago. His family probably originated from Jaén, where we find various members of it in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Another Alonso Vélez de Mendoza was contador of the Queen’s Household in 1501 and regidor of Granada in 1510.13 The comendador must have been related to him, and his family connection probably played no small part in securing his capitulation; but he had more relations than money, and he was forced to look for financial backing among the merchants of Seville.

As early as May 3, 1500, more than a month before his capitulation was signed, he was already hunting for people willing to associate with him in his venture. The first he contacted were the Guerra brothers Antón Mariño and Luis. They agreed to provide at their own cost one caravel, on which one of the two brothers was to sail as captain. For his part, Vélez promised to outfit another ship.14 Vélez also made deals with other people for the lease of two more vessels, and borrowed 15,000 maravedís to buy supplies.15 It was probably on the strength of these dealings that he was granted a capitulation (June 5, 1500) which authorized him to sail “with four ships,” but only two of them actually sailed.

The one equipped by the Guerras, the Sant (or Santi) Spiritu, belonged to Luis Rodríguez de la Mezquita, a shipowner who lived in Triana in the Santa Ana parish. He and his wife gave the church the baptismal font which is still used today, and on which the following inscription can be read: “This font was laid on the eve of our Lady Santa Ana, the year of the Lord 1499. It was the gift of Luis Rodríguez de la Mezquita and Elvira González de Vallejo, his wife”.16

According to the terms of their contract with the comendador, one of the Guerra brothers was to take part in the expedition; but finally both brothers sailed on the Sant Spiritu, Luis as captain, and Antón Mariño as escribano (recorder). This official’s duty was to keep a record of anything of value acquired during the voyage, in order to protect the queen’s interests. Gonzalo Gómez de Cervantes, corregidor of Jerez and uncle of Bishop Fonseca, was the man who, by order of the Crown, appointed the escribanos. There was to be one on each ship.

Other members of the crew were as follows: master, Juan Rodríguez de la Lanza; contramaestre, Luis López; pilots, Bartolomé Díaz and Antón García.17 The latter, a native of Triana, was a brother of the Alonso García who had taken part in Columbus’ third voyage and had been one of the pilots of the Peralonso Niño-Cristóbal Guerra caravel. To help outfit the Sant Spiritu, Luis Guerra and Juan de la Lanza borrowed 15,600 maravedís from Gonzalo Ferrández, and 3,400 more from Ruy González de la Sal, both merchants of Seville, on August 8, 1500.18

The owner of the other caravel, the Sant Cristóbal, was Pedro Ramírez. His brother Álvaro, and the latter’s father-in-law, an apothecary named Antonio, also invested money in this venture. The recorder was Juan de Chaves, the pilot was Bartolomé Roldáni and the master Cristóbal Rodríguez Tiscareño. Naturally Vélez de Mendoza himself commanded the Sant Cristobal.

We have seen that the comendador and Rodrigo de Bastidas had been granted their capitulations on June 5 in practically the same terms, the main difference being that Veléz could outfit four ships, while Bastidas was allowed only two. Both could go anywhere in the Indies, except to the lands previously discovered by Columbus and Cristóbal Guerra. They were to return to Cádiz and report to Ximeno de Briviesca, to whom they were to pay the cuarto of the profits after deduction of the costs.19

It so happened that after these permits were issued, Alonso de Ojeda returned from his voyage (about June 15). He too had discovered land, and this caused some modifications in the capitulations. On July 20, Pedro Ramírez and Cristóbal Tiscareño, owner and master of the San Cristóbal, were summoned before Fonseca with other investors and were read a slightly modified version, in which Ojeda’s land was declared taboo and his name added to those of Columbus and Cristóbal Guerra. The following day, it was the turn of another financial backer, Alonso de Córdova, trapero (cloth merchant) of Baeza; and two days later (July 22), Alonso Vélez himself appeared before Fonseca and pledged his property, personal and real, as a guarantee that he would keep the terms of the modified capitulation.20 On August 18, Vélez de Mendoza and Pedro Ramírez were summoned again before the notary Femando Ruiz de Porras, who read to them a third draft of a portion of the capitulation. In it the land discovered by Ojeda was mentioned by name as “the islands of Arquibacoa,” and Vélez and his men were strictly forbidden to go anywhere near it because of some “secret” which the Crown did not want to be known. The secret in question was the fact that Ojeda had found precious stones (piedras verdes) in Coquibacoa. Two new clauses which did not appear in the original capitulation were also read to Vélez de Mendoza on that day: 1) no foreigner was to be allowed to sail on his ships; 2) he should have his sailing charts checked, and should follow the route which would be traced for him.21 Very likely Luis Guerra, Antón Mariño and their backers similarly had to swear that they would observe the terms of the revised capitulation, although we have no documentary record of it.

The expedition sailed shortly after August 18, 1500. Since it returned before June 9, 1501, the voyage must have lasted slightly less than ten months. What route did they follow and where did they go? There is no doubt that the land they explored was part of the coast of Brazil south of Cape São Agostinho (8° 30′ S.). This we can infer from testimonies given in the Pleitos de Colón in 1512-13 by four experienced pilots, each of whom had taken part in one or several of the Andalusian voyages: Andrés de Morales, Antón García, Juan de Xerés and Arias Pérez Pinzón.22 They agreed that, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzón and Diego de Lepe had explored the coast of northeast Brazil from Cape São Agostinho to Paria, Vélez de Mendoza and Luis Guerra had rounded the said Cape and sailed south of it, “a la banda del sur.” Arias Pérez Pinzón testified that he had seen a map which Vélez de Mendoza had drawn and on which was outlined the land he had discovered. Another of the witnesses mentioned above, Antón García, had been pilot of the Sant Spiritu, Luis Guerra’s caravel. His testimony is of speoial value.

Even more significant is the declaration made on a different occasion by another participant in the voyage. In 1515, when Spaniards and Portugese were quarreling about the boundaries of their respective possessions in South America, the officials of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville ordered an inquiry to determine the exact position of Cape São Agostinho. A pilot named Juan Rodríguez Serrano testified that he did not know it, because when he had been with Vélez de Mendoza, he was only an adolescent and had not yet learned how to take the height of the sun, but he did remember this much about the voyage: they had sailed from Seville in two caravels under the command of Vélez de Mendoza, had first gone to the Canaries, and then to Santiago, one of the islands in the Cape Verde archipelago. After sailing a certain number of leagues from Santiago, they ran into bad weather and were driven SSW until they sighted land five or six leagues north of Cape São Agostinho. They rounded the cape without difficulty and kept sailing SSW until they turned back. He estimated the distance between the cape and Santiago at about 560 leagues.23

His testimony is corroborated by documents of the Archivo de Protocolos, from which we learn that both ships sailed from the Torre del Oro in Seville and made stopovers in Gran Canaria and Santiago Island. We also know that they reached the coast of Brazil, since two of the Indian captives who were brought to Seville and sold as slaves were said to be natives of a land called “Topia.”24 If the land in question was south of Cape São Agostinho, these Indians must have been Topaya or Tupi Indians, since these ethnic groups shared possession of the shores of the Bahia-Pernambuco region at the time of its discovery by the Europeans. The “Río de Cervatos” (Fawn or Deer River), at whose mouth the armada was anchored on Christmas Day, 1500, may have been the São Francisco River.25 Thus Vélez de Mendoza’s caravels seem to have been the first Spanish expedition to reach that part of Brazil, unless Vespucci did so in 1499. We must keep in mind that Alvares Cabral struck land in April 1500 at Porto Seguro, farther south, and took possession of the “Island of Santa Cruz” in the name of the King of Portugal; but this was not yet known in Spain at the time Vélez and Luis Guerra sailed from Seville.

From other documents in the Archivo de Protocolos we learn that Vélez de Mendoza had returned to Spain before June 9, 1501, because on that day Cristóbal Tiscareño leased out the Sant Cristóbal to the Genoese merchant Jacome de Riberol. At the time this transaction was made, the Sant Cristóbal was anchored in the Puerto de las Muelas, in the Guadalquivir, opposite the Torre del Oro.26

Although both caravels returned in good shape to Spain, the voyage had been far from peaceful, for the two captains had quarreled, and their dispute had to be settled by judges after they reached Seville. The cause of the trouble was the partition of the profits. Before leaving Spain the captains, the shipowners and the masters had reached an agreement. We are not told what it was, but it seems that each vessel would keep its own booty, and that each captain would divide it among his crew. This agreement was put into writing in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and was sworn to by all before a crucifix in a church of Santiago Island.

But when the expedition reached the coast of Brazil, Luis Guerra’s men made a foray inland, met with stiff resistance, and several of them lost their lives. This unfortunate event had its positive side for the survivors, since it meant more room for booty, particularly for Indian captives, on the Sant Spiritu, Guerra’s caravel, and bigger profits for each member of its crew. Alonso Vélez did not relish this development, nor did his master Cristóbal Tiscareño. They proposed a new partition, according to which all the gains would be pooled and divided among all the men, no matter which ship they belonged to. At first Luis Guerra refused; but since his men were outnumbered, and since Vélez and Tiscareño threatened to use force, he acceded to the terms proposed by them. A new agreement was made on Christmas Day, 1500, in the Río de Cervatos harbor, in the presence of the escribanos Mariño and Chaves; Luis Guerra never intended to keep it, but he said nothing until they returned to Spain. In Cádiz, where they made port to report to Ximeno de Briviesca as the capitulation prescribed, Luis formally declared before a notary that he did not feel bound by the Río de Cervatos agreement.27

We have seen that the caravels reached Seville before June 9, 1501. On June 12, Vélez de Mendoza empowered one of his retainers, named Diego Quintero, to undertake the partition of slaves and merchandise among the members of both crews.28 On June 16, Cristóbal Tiscareño had summons issued to Luis Guerra and his master Juan de la Lanza, enjoining them to keep the agreement made on December 25 at the Río de Cervatos; but both refused to do so.29 Since no understanding could be reached, the matter was left for judges to decide. On July 3, Luis Guerra’s men empowered him to represent them in court, and to avoid any hardship which the delay might cause them, he paid them off in full out of his own pocket.30 Then, without waiting for the case to be decided in court, each side began selling its Indian captives.

On July 7, Antón Mariño sold to Fernando de Toledo, merchant of Jerez, a seven-year-old boy and a twenty-year-old girl, each of whom was said to be a native of “Topia.” The price agreed on for both was 7,000 maravedís.31 Luis Guerra sold a girl named Sunbay for 6,ooo maravedís to Alonso de Medina, a swordsmith; but a few days later the girl became so ill that it looked as if she would soon die, and the swordsmith asked for his money back. Naturally Guerra refused, alleging that the girl was in excellent health when he sold her, and that Alonso de Medina, far from being pressured into buying her, had had plenty of time to examine her, and had even taken her to his home to show her to his wife before concluding the sale.32 In his reply to Medina’s demand, Luis Guerra made a pertinent comment on “indios bozales,” that being the name given to fresh captives who had not yet learned Spanish and were still untrained for any kind of work. This is what he wrote about them: “In the case of Bozal Indians who come from a distant land, they undergo so much change and such trials, that the vendor is not obligated and cannot be held responsible for anything that may affect the health and frame of mind of the slaves.”

Vélez de Mendoza too had some American natives to sell. One of his employees, Rodrigo de Lepe, sold for 6,ooo maravedís, to the tanner Pedro López de Gavilán, a twenty-five-year-old Indian who became ill a few days later. The tanner asked for his money back, but it may be doubted that he got it, although he claimed that Rodrigo de Lepe had promised to return the money in case of serious illness.33

The sale of his Indians does not seem to have brought the comendador much profit, for he soon found himself in serious financial trouble. On September 4 he borrowed from Martín Navarro, an innkeeper, the sum of 2,516 maravedís;34 but this was not enough to save him from his creditors, and on October 1 we find him in jail for debts. Martín Navarro again came to his rescue and made a deal with the jailer: Vélez would be unchained and allowed to move about freely in the prison building; if he escaped, Navarro would be held responsible and would have to pay Vélez’ debts. On the other hand, Vélez empowered the innkeeper to represent him in court (probably in his lawsuit against Luis Guerra), and promised to split evenly with him whatever money might be obtained from the settlement of the case, after deduction of the costs.35

Then on October 29 the comendador made a far-reaching agreement with the innkeeper. At that time Vélez was trying to obtain another capitulation from the Crown. He promised Navarro, “his loyal and true friend,” half of whatever gain might be obtained from such a capitulation, and if the comendador were to lead another expedition of discovery, Navarro would command one of the ships. Meanwhile, the innkeeper was to keep him in funds and pay for all his expenses.36

Vélez did secure another capitulation (February 15, 1502), but of a different character. He was authorized to found a new town in Hispaniola and to settle in it fifty families of Castilian immigrants.37 Vélez and his colonists sailed from Spain in March 1503. Navarro did not go along, but shipped a cargo of merchandise. Unfortunately the Libro de Armadas which contains detailed information concerning the comendador’s voyage to Hispaniola (AGI, Contratación 3250) was misplaced some thirty years ago and has not been found since. One of the last scholars to consult it, Father Angel Ortega, refers to it and quotes from it in his work on La Rábida.38 Father Ortega confused our comendador with Alonso Vélez, alcalde mayor of Palos in 1532. This identification cannot be accepted, since our Alonso Vélez figures on a list of Sevillans who died in Santo Domingo before 1512.39

As for Luis Guerra, he seems to have fared better than Vélez de Mendoza as a result of the voyage they had made together. The judges may have decided the lawsuit in his favor, and being the shrewd merchant that he was, he probably understood commercial and legal affairs much better than the noble comendador. At any rate, instead of borrowing money as Vélez had done, we find him making a loan. On January 16, 1502, he lent 22,000 maravedís to Diego Rodríguez de Grajeda, to help him supply a caravel which was about to sail for Santo Domingo.40 The year before, Diego de Grajeda had been on a voyage of discovery with Cristóbal, youngest of the Guerra brothers.

IV. Cristóbal Guerra and Diego de Grajeda (1501)

When Luis Guerra and Anton Mariño returned to Seville in June 1501, their younger brother Cristóbal was absent, having left a few months before on another voyage of exploration. His first venture, made jointly with Peralonso Niño, had been such a financial success that the Queen had decided almost immediately to send him back to the “Costa de las Perlas”; but this new undertaking was very different from his previous voyage. Instead of being a purely commercial venture, backed by private capital for personal gain, it was a state enterprise financed almost entirely by the Crown, in which Cristóbal played the part of a government official responsible directly to the Queen and not to investors. We know this from the instructions sent on June 28, 1500, by the treasurer Alonso Morales to one of his subordinates, Alonso Alvarez; the latter was to organize the expedition in cooperation with Juan de Fonseca and Ximeno de Briviesca, who were in charge of the affairs of the Indies in Seville and in Cádiz respectively.41

The expedition was to consist of two vessels, one of which at least was to be provided by the comitre Diego Rodríguez de Grajeda, who lived in Triana. A comitre was a sort of reserve naval officer who could be called to duty whenever the Crown saw fit, and was to serve with his own ship, for which he collected a monthly rent varying with the tonnage. When not required to serve, the comitre was free to use his ship for commercial purposes, as long as he kept it in shape. According to Morales’ instructions, Grajeda’s caravel, of about one hundred tons, was to earn during the trip 110 maravedís per ton and per month. The other vessel, still to be found, was to be much smaller, of only fifty tons. It seems that Grajeda provided it as well.

The composition of both crews, with their monthly salaries was stipulated, and may be seen in Table II. There followed a detailed list of all the supplies which were required for both vessels. The total expenditure, including the leasing of the ships and three months’ advance pay for both crews, amounted approximately to 425,000 maravedís, of which Grajeda was to pay one fifth (85,000). Cristóbal Guerra does not seem to have invested anything in this venture. Alonso Alvarez actually put all the above arrangements into effect, as is indicated in a note in red ink at the margin of his instructions, running as follows: “Alo Alvarez did what he had been told, and rendered accounts to the treasurer.” In the instructions, Grajeda is given the title of captain. He must have sailed on his own ship, with Cristóbal going on the smaller vessel of fifty tons,42 though retaining command of the expedition as a whole.

The date of their departure is not known; it must have been early in 1501. They returned toward November 1 of the same year. We know very little about this expedition, since historians of the time ignored it or confused it with Cristóbal’s other voyages. It seems that the vessels reached Curiana, where brazilwood and pearls were found; then they sailed as far as Cape Codera, which marked the western limit of the Costa de las Perlas. Apparently Cristóbal was not satisfied with his pickings, and he decided to supplement them by assaulting Bonaire Island, which with Curaçao stands just north of Cape Codera. In spite of strict orders from the Queen not to molest the natives, Cristóbal and his men killed a number of Indians, captured many others, and loaded them on his caravels. They returned to Cádiz with their human cargo around November 1.

At that time the Court was residing in Ecija, not far from Seville; but the Queen did not learn the truth immediately. At first she merely ordered Cristóbal to render accounts to Ximeno de Briviesca, and to send her an Indian girl whom she had heard he had brought back (November 10 and 11).43 By December 1, however, she had found out that Cristóbal had been selling Indians in Cádiz, Jerez, Seville and Córdoba. Becoming very indignant, she ordered Gonzalo Gómez de Cervantes, corregidor of Jerez, to arrest Cristóbal and his accomplices, and to have the Indians freed and returned to their homeland at Cristóbal’s expense. She also ordered a general inquiry, declaring that she wanted the culprits to be tried and properly punished.44

There are other letters from the Queen on the same subject and in the same tone, dated December 9 and 12. Why did Isabel act so sternly against Cristóbal, when a few months before she had not objected to Vélez de Mendoza and Luis Guerra selling their Indian captives? As a matter of fact, she was collecting her quinto on such transactions, and on July 28, 1503, she was even to complain that Luis Guerra and Pedro Ramírez had been lax in meeting tax payments on their slave sales.45

The answer to this apparent dilemma is obvious. The natives brought back by Vélez and Luis Guerra were from “Topia” (Brazil), a land which belonged to Portugal according to the treaty of Tordesillas. This had just become known in Spain through a letter from King Manoel of Portugal to Femando and Isabel (summer 1501), informing them of Alvares Cabral’s discovery of the Land of Santa Cruz. On the other hand, the Indians of Bonaire Island were subjects of the Catholic Sovereigns, and as such could not be enslaved. The matter is very clearly stated in Isabel’s letter to Gonzalo Gómez de Cervantes: “. . . the said Indians being our subjects . . . (siendo los dichos indios nuestros súbditos).”46

Apparently this was the official attitude of the Spanish Crown. We give another example of it. In 1525, when Esteban Gómez returned to Coruña from his vain attempt to find a northwest passage, he sold a number of Indians he had captured on the coast of Maine. They were set free on orders from the Court, for it was claimed that the whole coast of North America was Spanish territory. Two years later, however, the galleon San Gabriel, one of Loaysa’s ships, reached Coruña with a load of Brazilian natives, subjects of the king of Portugal, who were sold publicly without any objection from the Spanish authorities. Dootor Beltrán, a member of the Council of the Indies, bought one of them.47

Of course, this rule did not apply to “cannibals” and other rebellious Indians who refused to submit to the Spaniards. If captured in war, they could be reduced to slavery. More will be said about this shortly, in our discussion of the Guerras’ last voyage.

V. Cristóbal and Luis Guerra (1504)

The Queen’s displeasure with Cristóbal does not seem to have lasted very long. He soon was able to clear himself, probably because Isabel’s attitude toward the enslavement of the natives was becoming more flexible, since in 1503 she admitted the principle that cannibals and rebellious Indians could be sold into slavery. As early as 1494, Columbus had suggested that the Caribs would make good slaves, being allegedly of a sturdier stock than the natives of La Española;48 but the Queen had not shared this view, and when the Admiral sent Indians to Spain to be sold, Isabel had them set free. In 1503, however, she issued a royal cédula permitting the enslavement of the Indians of Cartagena and Urabá.49 This was the territory which had been discovered two years before by Bastidas and La Cosa. Bastidas was gentle with the natives, and had no trouble with them; but La Cosa was a man of entirely difficult mettle, just as harsh as the Guerras. In 1503, he was eager to go back to America and make good the title of alcalde mayor of Urabá which had just been granted to him.50 It was probably his urging which prompted the Queen to change her mind on Indian slavery in the region, for she had a high regard for him.

Juan de la Cosa was not the only one who wanted to return to the new continent, for Bastidas and Cristóbal Guerra were also applying for capitulations. The Queen was hoping that all three would go together in a single armada, each of them keeping control of his own ships, but under the supervision of a capitán general appointed by her, whose duty would be to maintain harmony between the leaders, enforce the terms of their capitulations, and, most important of all, collect from them directly, on the spot, the cuarto of their winnings before any deduction of the costs, thus avoiding much of the defrauding that took place in Spain.51 Cristóbal was willing to associate with La Cosa. Between them, he thought, they could muster ten or twelve vessels. Cristóbal would first go to the Costa de Perlas, then join with La Cosa in Urabá. From there they would send some ships back home with their booty, and with the other vessels they would proceed farther down the coast exploring. Isabel was pleased with this plan, and on July 12, 1503, a tentative agreement was made with Cristóbal. At the same time, the Queen urged the officials of the newly founded Casa de la Contratación to negotiate with La Cosa and others willing to take part in this project.52

Nevertheless, the plan fell through, because Juan de la Cosa refused to associate with Cristóbal. He was prepared to sail with three vessels, but only as his own master. He also objected to handing over a quarter of his earnings before deduction of the costs, preferring the old system of paying one fifth of the gross, and he held out for better terms.

Meanwhile Cristóbal was running into difficulties. Because of the war with France, he had trouble hiring crews for the seven vessels granted him in his tentative capitulation, and he now asked that he be allowed to outfit only four. He also complained that in part payment of 200,000 maravedís owed him by the Crown for his past two voyages, he had been forced to accept a stock of damaged secondhand cloth, and the rest was being paid out to him in brazilwood at a very unfavorable rate, so that he stood to lose trying to sell it. Another source of his discontent was the high favor which La Cosa enjoyed with the Queen and with Fonseca. All this we know from a letter that Cristóbal wrote on September 28, 1503, to Don Alvaro de Portugal, president of the Royal Council.53 Perhaps, as he wrote this letter he knew that the Queen had already taken the decision to allow La Cosa to sail alone with his three ships, provided he agreed to pay the cuarto as Cristóbal had done.54

But despite the Queen’s hopes of obtaining the cuarto, finally she had to settle for the quinto. On February 14, 1504, La Cosa, Bastidas and Cristóbal Guerra were granted identical capitulations. The plan to have them sail jointly had been abandoned. There was little restriction in the lands they could explore; Urabá and the Costa de las Perlas were thrown open to all, only the lands discovered by Columbus or belonging to the King of Portugal remaining taboo. The leaders were to hand over to the Casa de la Contratación the quinto of their gains, without deducting anything for the vessels, the wages or any other costs. The ships were to sail from Spain within four months, though it was fairly easy to obtain a postponement.55

Bastidas did not make use of his capitulation. Instead, he organized a compañía with a cloth merchant named Alfonso Rodríguez (June 28, 1504). The aim of the company was trade with Hispaniola, Bastidas handling the Santo Domingo end of the business, while Rodríguez remained in Seville. Soon afterwards Bastidas sailed for Santo Domingo with a cargo of merchandise.56

Cristóbal sailed with three ships between May 17 and July 18, 1504. In Sanlúcar de Barrameda, his fleet was inspected by Comendador Luis Pinelo, who checked the muster roll and the list of supplies.57 With him went as his co-captains his brother Luis and another resident of Triana called Monroy. The latter may have been Alonso de Monroy, another bizcochero who appears with Luis Guerra in the Libros de Armada for the year 1495 as a purveyor of flour and hard tack for ships going to America.58

We have very little information concerning this voyage; our main source is Oviedo.59 It seems that the Guerras sailed along the Costa de las Perlas, bartering with the natives; then they headed toward Urabá, hoping to take advantage of the royal cédula which made the Indians of that region fair prey to slave hunters. Las Casas narrates how Cristóbal kidnapped a cacique of the Cartagena area after enticing him on board his caravel, and refused to release him until the cacique’s servants filled a hamper with gold valued at 30,000 pesos. It is not clear, however, if this happened during Cristóbal’s second or third voyage, since Las Casas confused the two.60 Cristóbal made forays inland, in search of gold and slaves. One day he met with stiff resistance and was killed by the Indians.

Meanwhile Juan de la Cosa had sailed from Spain with four ships. He crossed the ocean, struck land at La Margarita, entered the Gulf of Cumaná and followed the shore. He found few pearls, but much brazilwood.61 Then he went to the Bay of Cartagena, where he met the armada of the brothers Guerra. Cristóbal was already dead, and Luis was now in charge. He and his men were suffering from scurvy, “muy dolientes y dañadas las bocas del mal pan que comían.” La Cosa gave them some fresh supplies. Luis Guerra wanted to go home, and it it was decided that his ships would take back to Spain part of the brazilwood and slaves which La Cosa had already acquired; but before the two expeditions parted, they made a joint attack on Codego Island (today Tierra Bomba), in the Bay of Cartagena. There they captured six hundred Indians, releasing some who were too old, too young, or too feeble. Then La Cosa departed for the Gulf of Urabá (which he and Bastidas had discovered three years before), leaving Luis Guerra behind. In Urabá he made several landings, looking for gold and plundering Indian villages. While his vessels were anchored on the west side of the gulf at the mouth of the river, he received an appeal for help from the Guerra expedition. Luis Guerra’s caravel (the Capitana) had run into some reefs and sunk near Cartagena, and most of the men on it had died. The remaining ship, commanded by Monroy, tried to rejoin La Cosa, but could not make it. Its hulk was worm-eaten, and it was leaking so badly that at the entrance of the Urabá Gulf its crew ran it aground.

La Cosa hurried to the rescue. He reached the spot where Monroy and his crew were beached and picked them up; but La Cosa’s own vessels were in such a sorry state that their pumps could not keep them afloat. They too had become the victims of the dreaded teredo, the scourge of the tropical seas. La Cosa decided to run them aground near the village of Urabá, where the remnants of both armadas were stranded for about a year. Most of the men died there, but La Cosa managed to save his gold, and returned to Spain with a handful of survivors before March 13, 1506.

Thus died both Guerra brothers on the coast of Cartagena in the fall or winter of 1504-5. Cristóbal at the hand of the Indians, and Luis in the wreck of his ship (according to Oviedo) or from disease (according to Las Casas). In the fate of the two brothers the Dominican saw the hand of Divine Providence, a punishment meted out to them by God for their cruel treatment of the Indians.62

What about Antón Mariño, the third Guerra brother? It is not known what became of him. We know, however, that one of his sons, Diego Guerra, applied for a license to go to Hispaniola on November 2, 1512.63 Another son, a priest named Luis Guerra like his late uncle, made a contract with Juan de Medina, owner of the Santa María de la Granada, for the shipment of a cargo of merchandise to Santo Domingo in 1520. After this we lose track of the Guerras of Triana.64


Martín Fernández de Navarrete, Colección de los viajes y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los españoles (5 vols., Madrid, 1825-37).


AGI, Contratación 3249, fol. 144v.


Ibid., fol. 184.


Ibid., fol. 186.


Ibid., fol. 230-231.


Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias (Madrid, 1957), I, 36.


AGI, Contratación 3249, fol. 199.


Ibid., fol. 192v.


CDIU, VII, 215-216. Las Casas, Historia, I, 450.


The main sources for the Niño-Guerra voyage are Pedro Martir de Anglería, Décadas del Nuevo Mundo, trans. by Torres Asensio (Buenos Aires, 1944), pp. 81-87; and Las Casas, Historia, I, 450-432. For a detailed account of this voyage, see Amando Melón in A. Ballesteros (ed.), Historia de América, VI, 42-47.


The belief that Bastidas was an escribano, shared by many historians, originated in an error of Navarrete. See J. Real Díaz, “El sevillano Rodrigo de Bastidas,” Archivo Hispalense, Nos. 111-112 (1962), p. 61 ff.


Bastidas was still in Seville on February 18, 1501. See Catálogo de los fondos americanos del Archivo de Protocolos de Sevilla, I (Madrid, 1930), nos. 13, 14, 15.


AGS, Cédulas de Cámara, V, fol. 50v; VII, fol. 237v.


Catálogo de los fondos . . . , I, no. 9. The legajo which contains this document and nos. 10-12 has been misplaced and is not available.


Ibid., nos. 10-12.


J. Gestoso y Pérez, Sevilla monumental y artística (3 vols., Seville, 1889-92), I, 185.


APS, Oficio III, Libro de 1501, fob 458 and 460v. The name of the master Juan de la Lanza is wrongly given as fuan de Tolanca in the Catálogo de los fondos . . . , I, nos. 17 and 19.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro de 1500, fol. 541.


Bastidas’ capitulation was printed by Navarrete (Colección, II, 244-246), but Vélez de Mendoza’s has never been published. The only extant copy is in Simancas (AGS, Libro de Cédulas, IV, fol. 103-104).


Navarrete, Colección, II, 247-251. This revised version should not be confused with the original capitulation, which is in Simancas (see note 19).


Navarrete, Colección, II, 251-252.


CDIU, VII, 195, 202-203, 221, 304; VIII, 226-227.


J. T. Medina, El veneciano Sebastián Caboto al servicio de España (2 vols., Santiago de Chile, 1908), I, 500.


APS, Oficio XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 417v-418r.


APS, Oficio XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 306-309. The “Río de Cervatos” is mentioned three times. For helping me decipher the name, I am indebted to friends in the Archivo de Indias and the University of Seville.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro I de 1501, fol. 279v-280.


APS, Oficio XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 306-309.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro I de 1501, fol. 291v-292r.


APS, Oficio XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 299v-300r, 306-309.


APS, Oficio III, Libro de 1501, fol. 458-461. Catálogo de los fondos . . ., I, nos. 17 and 19.


APS, Oficio XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 417v-418r.


APS, Oficio, XV, Libro de 1501, fol. 400-401.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro I de 1501, fol. 447.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro II de 1501, fol. 103v.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro II de 1501, fol. 216v-217.


APS, Oficio IV, Libro I de 1501, fol. 145-146.


AGI, Indiferente General 418, Libro I, fol. 78-79. CDIAO, XXXI, 121-129.


Angel Ortega, La Rábida (4 vols., Seville, 1925-26), II, 318-319.


Ibid., II, 327-328. AGI, Contratación 5575, no. 1.


Catálogo de los fondos . . . , I, no. 36.


AGS, Estado I, Parte II, fol. 158.


“. . . y en el segundo viaje, llevé una caravela de cincuenta toneladas que era la de Grajeda.” Letter of Cristóbal Guerra to Don Alvaro de Portugal (Navarrete, Colección, II, 293).


AGI, Indiferente General 418, Libro I, fol. 68.


AGI, ibid., fol. 70, 72v-75.


AGI, ibid., fol. 114. CDIU, V, 63.


AGI, ibid., fol. 70.


L.-A. Vigneras, “El viaje de Esteban Gómez a Norte América,” Revista de Indias, 17 (1957), 198.


Navarrete, Colección, I, 132. CDIAO, XXI, 545.


Ibid., II, 414-416.


CDIAO, XXXI, 129-131.


AGI, Indiferente General 418, Libro I, 87v-88r.


CDIAO, XXXI, 187-193 (tentative capitulation with Cristóbal Guerra). AGS, Memoriales de la Cámara, XLII, no. 45.


Navarrete, Colección, II, 292-295.


Ibid., III, 109-110.


CDIAO, XXXI, 220-229.


Real Díaz, “Rodrigo de Bastidas,” p. 61 ff.


On May 17 he was still in Seville, being paid 132,660 maravedís in brazil-wood (AGI, Contratación 4674, Primer Libro Manual fol. 29). On July 18 he had already sailed away with his three ships (AGI, ibid., fol. 35v). For Luis Pinelo’s inspection, see ibid., fol. 39.


AGI, Contratación 3249, fol. 16.


G. Fernández de Oviedo, Historia general y natural de las Indias, ed. by Juan Pérez de Tudela (Madrid, 1959). III, 131-133.


Las Casas, Historia, I, 454-455.


For a detailed account of this voyage, see Antonio Ballesteros y Beretta, La marina cantabra y Juan de la Cosa (Santander, 1954), pp. 318-344.


See note 60.


Catálogo de pasajeros a Indias, I (Seville, 1940), no. 850.


APS, Oficio VII, Libro de 1520, fol. 37 of cuaderno 10.

Author notes


The author has written frequently on topics of discovery and exploration. The following abbreviations are used in the notes: AGI—Archivo General de Indias; AGS—Archivo General de Simancas; APS—Archivo de Protocolos de Sevilla; CDIAO—Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y colonización de las antiguas posesiones españolas en América y Oceanía (Madrid, 1864-84); CDIE-Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España (Madrid, 1842-91); CDIU-Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas de ultramar (Madrid, 1885-1932).