They arrived at some bohios, which formed the population of a chief, called Chiapes, who had prepared to defend the pass with arms. The noise of the muskets and the ferocity of the war-dogs dispersed them in a moment, and they fled, leaving many captives; by these and by their Quarequano guides, the Spaniards sent to offer Chiapes secure peace and friendship if he would come to them, or otherwise the ruin and extermination of his town and his fields. Persuaded by them, the cacique came and placed himself in the hands of Balboa, who treated him with much kindness. He brought and distributed gold and received in exchange beads and toys, with which he was so diverted that he no longer thought of anything but contenting and conciliating the strangers. There Vasco Nunez sent away the Quarequanos, and ordered that the sick, who had been left in their land, should come and join him. In the mean while he sent Francisco Pizarro, Juan de Ezcarag, and Alonzo Martin to reconnoitre the environs and to discover the shortest roads by which the sea might be reached. It was the last of these who arrived first at the coast, and, entering a canoe which chanced to lie there, and pushing it into the waves, let it float a little while, and, after pleasing himself with having been the first Spaniard who entered the South Sea, returned to seek Balboa.
Balboa with twenty-six men descended to the sea, and arrived at the coast early in the evening of the 29th of that month; they all seated themselves on the shore and awaited the tide, which was at that time on the ebb. At length it returned in its violence to cover the spot where they were; then Balboa, in complete armor, lifting his sword in one hand, and in the other a banner on which was painted an image of the Virgin Mary with the arms of Castile at her feet, raised it, and began to march into the midst of the waves, which reached above his knees, saying in a loud voice: “Long live the high and mighty sovereigns of Castile! Thus in their names do I take possession of these seas and regions; and if any other prince, whether Christian or infidel, pretends any right to them, I am ready and resolved to oppose him, and to assert the just claims of my sovereigns.”
The whole band replied with acclamations to the vow of their captain, and expressed themselves determined to defend, even to death, their acquisition against all the potentates in the world; they caused this act to be confirmed in writing, by the notary of the expedition, Andres de Valderrabano; the anchorage in which it was solemnized was called the Gulf of San Miguel, the event happening on that day.
[Footnote 1: Balboa had his first view of the Pacific from this “peak in Darien” September 25th.]
EMBRACING THE PERIOD COVERED IN THIS VOLUME