Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In Which Mithras Does a Poor Imitation of Far Outliers

Greetings to all from the Southern of our hemispheres!

Today we have a pair of readings, illustrating the alternately generous and brutal, ultimately xenocidic mindset of 16th century Argentina.

This first excerpt is from the account Voyage to Río de Plata and Paraguay by Ulderico Schmidt, a German soldier and adventurer, published in 1554. Do be patient and read all the way to the end, as it gets rather interesting.

There we built a new town and called it Bonas Aeieres, that is, in German, Guter Wind.

We also brought from Hispania on board the fourteen ships seventy-two horses and mares.

Here, also, we found a place inhabited by Indian folk, named Querandíes, numbering about three thousand people, including wives and children, and they were clothed in the same way as the Charrúas, from the navel to the knees. They brought us fish and meat to eat. Those Querandíes have no houses, but wander about, as do the Gipsies with us at home, and in summer they oftentimes travel upwards of thirty miles on dry land without finding a single drop of water to drink.

And when they meet with deer and other wild beasts, when they have killed them they drink their blood. Also if they find a root, called Cardos, they eat it to slack their thirst. This — namely, that they drink blood — only happens because they cannot have any water, and that they might peradventure die of thirst.

These Querandíes brought us daily their provisions of fish and meat to our camp, and did so for a fortnight, and they did only fail once to come to us. So our captain, Pedro de Mendoza, sent to them, the Querandíes, a judge, named Johan Pabon, with two foot-soldiers, for they were at a distance of four miles from our camp. When our emissaries came near to the Indians, they were all three beaten black and blue, and were then sent back again to our camp. Pedro de Mendoza, hearing of this from the judge's report (who for this cause raised a tumult about it in our camp), sent Diego Mendoza, his own brother, against them with three hundred foot-soldiers and thirty well-armed mounted men, of whom I also was one, straightaway charging us to kill or take prisoners all these Indian Querandíes and to take possession of their settlement. But when we came near them there were now some four thousand men,for they had assembled all their friends. And when we were about to attack them, they defended themselves in such a way that we had that very day our hands full. They also killed our commander, Diego Mendoza, and six noblemen. Of our foot-soldiers and mounted men over twenty were slain, and on their side about one thousand. Thus did they defend themselves valiantly against us, so that indeed we felt it...

In due course God Almighty graciously gave us the victory, and allowed us to take possession of their place; but we did not take prisoner any of the Indians, and their wives and children also fled away from the place before we could seize them.


And when we returned again to our camp, our folk were divided into those who were to be soldiers, and the others workers, so as to have all of them employed. And a town was built there... The town wall was three foot broad, but that which was built today fell to pieces the day after, so that they suffered great poverty, and it became so bad that the horses could not go. Yea, finally, there was such want and misery for hunger's sake, that there were neither rats, nor mice, nor snakes to still the great dreadful hunger, and unspeakable poverty, and shoes and leather were resorted to for eating and everything else.

It happened that three Spaniards stole a horse, and ate it secretly, but when it was known, they were imprisoned and interrogated under the torture. Whereupon, as soon as they admitted their guilt, they were sentenced to death by the gallows, and all three were hanged.

Immediately afterwards, at night, three other Spaniards came to the gallows to the three hanging men, and hacked off their thighs and pieces of their flesh, and took them home to still their hunger.


After all this we remained still another month together in great poverty in the town of Bonas Aeieres, until ships could be prepared.

At this time the Indians came in great power and force, as many as twenty-three thousand men, against us and our town of Bonas Aeieres. There were four nations of them, namely, Querandíes, Charrúas, and Timbúes. They all meant to go about to destroy us all. But God Almighty preserved the greater part of us, therefore praise and thanks be to Him always and everlasting, for on our side not more than about thirty men, including commanders and ensign were slain.

— from The Argentina Reader, pp 22-25.


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