In the volume of letters I sent Your Holiness last year, by one of my servants, and which Your Holiness has read in its entirety before the Cardinals of the Apostolic See and your beloved sister, I related that on the same day the Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the leader of the men who had crossed the lofty mountain chain, had been told that an island remarkable for the size of its pearls lay within sight of the coast and that its king was rich and powerful and often made war against the caciques whose states lay on the coast, especially Chiapes and Tumaco. We have written that the Spaniards did not attack the island because of the great storms which render that South Sea dangerous, during three months of the year. This island has now been conquered and we have tamed its proud cacique. May Your Holiness deign to accept him and all his rich principalities, since he has now received the waters of baptism. It will not be out of place to remember under whose orders and by whom this conquest was effected. May Your Holiness attend with serene brow and benignant ear to the account of this enterprise.
As soon as he landed, the governor, Pedro Arias, confided to a certain Gaspar Morales an expedition to Isla Rica. Morales first passed by the country of Chiapes, called Chiapeios, and of Tumaco, those two caciques along the South Sea who were friends of Vasco. He and his men were received magnificently as friends, and a fleet was equipped for attacking the island. This island is called Rica and not Margarita, although many pearls are found there; for the name Margarita was first bestowed upon another island near Paria and the region called Boca de la Sierpe, where many pearls had likewise been found. Morales landed upon the island with only sixty men, the dimensions of his boats, called culches, not permitting him to take a larger number. The proud and formidable king of the island, whose name I have not learned, advanced to meet them, escorted by a large number of warriors, and proffering menaces. Guazzaciara is their war-cry; when they utter this cry, they let fly their javelins; they do not use bows. Guazzaciara means a battle; so they engaged in four guazzaciaras, in which the Spaniards, aided by their allies of Chiapes and Tumaco, who were that chieftain’s enemies, were victorious. Their attack was in the nature of a surprise. The cacique wished to assemble a larger army, but was dissuaded by his neighbours along the coast from continuing the struggle. Some by their example, and others by threatening him with the ruin of a flourishing country, demonstrated that the friendship of the Spaniards would bring glory and profit to himself and his friends. They reminded him of the misfortunes which had the preceding year befallen Poncha, Pochorroso, Quarequa, Chiapes, Tumaco, and others who attempted to resist. The cacique gave up fighting and came to meet the Spaniards, whom he conducted to his palace, which was a veritable royal residence marvellously decorated. Upon their arrival at his house he presented them with a very well-wrought basket filled with pearls of ten pounds weight, at eight ounces to the pound.