CHAPTER 52: The Falling-Out with Our Countrymen

AFTER FIVE DAYS, Andrés Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo arrived with those who had gone for them; and they brought more than 600 natives of the vicinity whom the Indians who had been escorting us drew out of the woods and took to the mounted Christians, who thereupon dismissed their own escort.

When they arrived, Alcaraz begged us to order the villagers of this river out of the woods in the same way to get us food. It would be unnecessary to command them to bring food, if they came at all; for the Indians were always diligent to bring us all they could.

We sent our heralds to call them, and presently there came 600 Indians with all the corn they possessed. They brought it m clay-sealed earthen pots which had been buried. They also brought whatever else they had; but we wished only a meal, so gave the rest to the Christians to divide among themselves.

After this we had a hot argument with them, for they meant to make slaves of the Indians in our train. We got so angry that we went off forgetting the many Turkish-shaped bows, the many pouches, and the five emerald arrowheads, etc., which we thus lost. And to think we had given these Christians a supply of cowbides and other things that our retainers had carried a long distance!

It proved difficult to persuade our escorting Indians to go back to their homes, to feel apprehensive no longer, and to plant their corn. [February being the usual planting time m those parts, there would be a sense of urgency to plant before the crop should be entirely missed.] But they did not want to do anything until they had first delivered us into the hands of other Indians, as custom bound them. They feared they would die if they returned without fulfilling this obligation whereas, with us, they said they feared neither Christians nor lances.

This sentiment roused our countrymen's jealousy. Alcaraz bade his interpreter tell the Indians that we were members of his race who had been long lost; that his group were the lords of the land who must be obeyed and served, while we were inconsequential. The Indians paid no attention to this. Conferring among themselves, they replied that the Christians lied: We had come from the sunrise, they from the sunset; we healed the sick, they killed the sound; we came naked and barefoot, they clothed, horsed, and lanced; we coveted nothing but gave whatever we were given, while they robbed whomever they found and bestowed nothing on anyone.

They spoke thus through the Spaniards' interpreter and, at the same time, to the Indians of other dialects through one of our interpreters. Those who speak the tongue of our interpreter we give the blanket termPrimahaitu, which is like saying "Biscayans." [Frederick Hodge points out that if Cabeza de Vaca meant Pimahaitu, the word meant, literally, "Nothing," since Pima means "no" and haitu "thing"; the Pimas did not call themselves Pimas but O-otam: "people." Their way of saying "no" must have given them the name others knew them by. The analogy to Biscayans evidently only shows how the word might be used in a sentence.] We found this language, and no other, in use for more than 400 leagues. [From the Town of Hearts to Culiacán the Indians along Cabeza de Vaca's way were of the Pima family.]

To the last I could not convince the Indians that we were of the same people as the Christian slavers. Only with the greatest effort were we able to induce them to go back home. We ordered them to fear no more, reestablish their towns, and farm.

Already the countryside had grown rank from neglect. This is, no doubt, the most prolific land in all these Indies. It produces three crops a year; the trees bear a great variety of fruit; and beautiful rivers and brimming springs abound throughout. There are gold- and silver-bearing ores. The people are well disposed, serving such Christians as are their friends with great good will. They are comely, much more so than the Mexicans ["Mexicans" evidently meaning any Indians south of the Pima family]. This land, in short, lacks nothing to be regarded as blest.

When the Indians took their leave of us they said they would do as we commanded and rebuild their towns, if the Christians let them. And I solemnly swear that if they have not done so it is the fault of the Christians.

[The Pimas who had been escorting Cabeza de Vaca and his companions colonized a community at Bamoa, just south of the town of Sinaloa.]

After we had dismissed the Indians in peace and thanked them for their toil in our behalf, the Christians subtly sent us on our way [under arrest] in the charge of an alcalde named Cebreros, attended by two horsemen [and a number of Indian allies]. They took us through forests and wastes so we would not communicate with the natives and would neither see nor learn of their crafty scheme afoot. Thus we often misjudge the motives of men; we thought we had effected the Indians' liberty, when the Christians were but poising to pounce.