A Discourse of Western Planting, by Richard Hakluyt

Chap. X.

A brefe declaration of the chefe ilandes in the Baye of Mexico, beinge under the Kinge of Spaine, with their havens and fortes, and what comodities they yelde.

There ys one ilande, as the fleete cometh into the baye, named Margarita,72 wherein is greate store of perle; a riche ilande full of maiz (which is their corne), oxen, shepe, goates, fowle and fishe, greate store of frutes, grasse and woods.

Ouer againste the said islande, northewarde, there is one other iland named St. John de Porto Ricco, which hath store of all manner of victualls and suger.

The nexte is a faire iland called Hispaniola, in some parte well inhabited; havinge one citie called Sancto Domingo, which hath a faire hauen73 whereunto many of the shippes of the kinges fleete come, and there devide themselves. Some goe to St. John de Leu, and some to Nombro di Dios and other partes of the mayne lande. This is a frutefull iland for all manner of victuall, hides and suger.

The nexte ilande is called Jamaica, and hath in it great store of victualls.

The nexte is a faire, greate, and longe iland, called Cuba. This iland hath a forte and haven in it called the Havana, which is the key of all India. It is called the key of India, for that the Spaniardes cannot well returne into Spaine but that they muste touche there for victualls, water, woodde, and other necessaries. It lieth at the mouthe and entraunce into the Gulfe of Bahama. This ilande hath great plentie of victualls, but it is not greately inhabited.

There be divers other ilandes, riche for victualls, as Aeriaba, Corsal, Marigalante,74 &c., havinge not in them some xx. some x. Spaniardes a pece.

Thus you see that in all those infinite ilandes in the Gulfe of Mexico, whereof Cuba and Hispaniola are thoughte to be very nere as bigge as England and Ireland, wee reade not of past twoo or three places well fortified, as Sancto Domingo in Hispaniola, and Havana in Cuba. I may therefore conclude this matter with comparinge the Spaniardes unto a drone, or an emptie vessell, which when it is smitten upon yeldeth a greate and terrible sound, and that afarr of; but come nere and looke into them, there ys nothinge in them; or rather like unto the asse which wrapte himselfe in a lyons skynne, and marched farr of to strike terror in the hartes of the other beastes, but when the foxe drewe nere he perceaved his longe eares, and made him a jeste unto all the beastes of the forrest. In like manner wee (upon perill of my life) shall make the Spaniarde ridiculous to all Europe, if with pierceinge eyes wee see into his contemptible weakenes in the West Indies, and with true stile painte hym oute ad vivum unto the worlde in his fainte colours.

And if any man woulde objecte, that if by his weakenes he had loste the treasure of the West Indies, yet the riches of the Easte Indies woulde holde upp his heade; I answer, that those contries beinge so farr of, and suche naturall malice beinge betweene the Portingale and the Spaniarde, as greater cannot be, that it is not possible for him to holde those partes no more than the other, wantinge the treasure of the West Indies to supporte his garrisons both there and in Christendome againste his manifolde and mightie enemyes.

72 Off the cost of Venezuela.

73 Port-au-Prince.

74 It is strange the Hakluyt should omit St. Vincent, Dominica, Guadeloupe, etc., and mention such small islands as Marigalante. The other two islands named are probably Urala and Curasoa.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:00