A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 03 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 756 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 03.
with the court, and sent a body of men there at the beginning of the year 1511, under a confidential person; that having a lieutenant there of his own, the court might have no pretence for granting it away to new undertakers, as they had done that part of the continent which was discovered by his father, and even the island of Jamaica, which last, however, he had recovered.  For this purpose, he made choice of James Velasquez, who was the wealthiest and best beloved of all the Spanish inhabitants of Hispaniola, and was besides a man of experience, and of a mild and affable temper, who knew well how to maintain his authority.  As soon as it was known in Hispaniola that Velasquez was going to establish a settlement in Cuba, abundance of people resolved to bear him company, some of them from attachment to his person, and others because they were involved in debt.  All these rendezvoused at the town of Salvatierra de la Zavana, at the western extremity of Hispaniola, whence they proposed to embark for Cuba.

Before proceeding with the transactions of Velasquez, it may be proper to give some description of the island of Cuba, from the Spanish writers.  Cuba is within the tropic of Cancer, from 20 deg. to 21 deg. of N. latitude.  It is 230 leagues in length, from Cape St Antonio to Cape Mayci.  Its breadth between Cape Cruze and port Manati is forty-five leagues, whence it narrows to about twelve leagues between Matamano and the Havanna.  Most of the island is flat, and full of woods and forests; but from the eastern point of Mayci, there are exceedingly high mountains for thirty leagues.  Beyond these to the westwards, and in the middle of the island, there are many hills, but not very high.  Many fine rivers run down the sides of these hills, both to the north and south, which are full of fish, especially skates and olaves, which ascend the streams a great way from the sea.  On the south of Cuba there are a prodigious number of small islands, which were named the Queens Garden, by the admiral Don Christopher Columbus.  There are other small islands on the north side, though not so numerous, which Velasquez named the Kings Garden.  About the middle of the south side, a considerable river, named Cauto by the natives, runs into the sea, containing vast numbers of alligators, the banks of which river are very agreeable.  The island is wonderfully well wooded, insomuch that people may travel almost 230 leagues, or from one end of the island to the other, always under their shelter.  Among these are sweet-scented red cedars of such astonishing size, that the natives used to make canoes of one stick hollowed out, large enough to contain fifty or sixty persons, and such were once very common in Cuba.  There are such numbers of storax trees, that if any one goes up to a height in the morning, the vapours arising from the earth smell strongly of storax, coming from the fires made by the natives

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