When Two Worlds Met
Columbus’s journal, or Diario, has been lost for centuries. But we have an abridged paraphrase of it by Bartolomé de Las Casas. Here, Las Casas gives our best account of the momentous encounter:
At two hours after midnight the land appeared, from which they were about two leagues distant. They hauled down all the sails … passing time until daylight Friday, when they reached an islet of the Lucayas, which was called Guanahani in the language of the Indians.
Soon they saw naked people; and the Admiral went ashore in the armed launch.… The Admiral brought out the royal banner and the captains two flags with the green cross, which the Admiral carried on all the ships as a standard, with an F and a Y, and over each letter a crown, one on one side of the + and the other on the other.
Thus put ashore they saw very green trees and many ponds and fruits of various kinds. The Admiral … [took] possession of the said island for the king and for the queen his lords.…
Soon many people of the island gathered there. What follows are the very words of the Admiral in his book about his first voyage to, and discovery of, these Indies:
“I,” he says, “in order that they would be friendly to us—because I recognized that they were people who would be better freed [from error] and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force—to some of them I gave red caps, and glass beads which they put on their chests, and many other things of small value, in which they took so much pleasure and became so much our friends that it was a marvel.
“Later they came swimming to the ships’ launches where we were and brought us parrots and cotton thread in balls and javelins and many other things, and they traded them to us for other things which we gave them, such as ...