Hernando Cortés sailed from Cuba with eleven ships, the largest being of 100 tons burden, placing in them eleven captains, and himself being one of these. He took along 500 men, some horses, and goods for barter, having Francisco de Montejo as a captain and Alaminos as chief pilot of the armada. On the admiral's ship he set a banner of white and blue in honor of Our Lady, whose image, together with the cross, he always placed wherever he destroyed idols. On the banner was a red cross surrounded by a legend reading: Amici sequamur crucem, et si habuerimus fidem, in hoc signo vincemus.
With this fleet and no further equipment he set sail and arrived at Cozumel with ten ships, one becoming separated in a storm; he however recovered it later on the coast. They arrived at Cozumel on the north, where they found fine buildings of stone for the idols, and a fine town; but the inhabitant. seeing so great a fleet and the soldiers disembarking, all fled to the woods.
On reaching the town the Spaniards sacked it and lodged themselves. Seeking through the woods for the natives they came on the chief's wife and children. Through an Indian interpreter named Melchior, who had been with Francisco Hernández and Grijalva, they learned it was the chief's wife, to whom and the children Cortés gave presents and caused them to send for the chief. Him on his arrival he treated very well, gave him some small gift; and returned to him his wife and children, with all the things that had been taken in the town; and begged him to have the Indians return to their houses, saying that when they came everything that had been taken away from them would be restored. When they were thus restored, he preached to them the vanity of idols, and persuaded them to adore the cross; this he placed in their temples with an image of Our Lady, and therewith public idolatry ceased.
Here Cortés learned that there were bearded men six days away, in the power of a chief, and persuaded the Indians to send a messenger to summon them. With difficulty he found one that would go, because of the fear they had of the chief of the bearded men. He then wrote this letter:
Noble sirs: I left Cuba with a fleet of eleven ships and 500 Spaniards, and laid up at Cozumel, whence I write this letter. Those of the island have assured me that there are in the country five or six men with beards and resembling us in all things. They are unable to give or tell me other indications, but from these I conjecture and hold certain that you are Spaniards. I and these gentlemen who go with me to settle and discover these lands urge that within six days from receiving this you come to us, without making further delay or excuse. If you shall come we will make due acknowledgment, and reward the good offices which this armada shall receive from you. I send a brigantine that you may come in it, and two boats for safety.
The Indians took this letter wrapped in their hair, and gave it to Aguilar. But the Indians delaying beyond the time appointed, those on the ships believed them killed, and returned to the port of Cozumel. Cortés then seeing that neither the Indians nor the bearded men returned, set sail the next day. On that day, however, a ship sprung a leak and it was necessary to return to port. While the repairs were being made Aguilar, having received the letter, crossed the channel between Yucatan and Cozumel in a canoe; when those of the fleet seeing him approach went to see who it was, Aguilar asked whether they were Christians. When they answered Yes, and Spaniards, he wept for joy and falling on his knees gave thanks to God. He then asked the Spaniards if it was Wednesday.
The Spaniards took him all naked as he was to Cortés, who clothed him and treated him with much affection; and Aguilar related there * his peril and labors, and the death of his companions, and how it was impossible to send word to Guerrero in so short a time, he being more than eighty leagues away.
Aguilar having told his story, and being an excellent interpreter, Cortés renewed the preaching of the adoration of the cross, and put the idols out of the temples; and they say that this preaching by Cortés made such an impression on those of Cuzco that they came out to the shore saying to the Spaniards who passed: "Maria, Maria, Cortés, Cortés."
Cortés departed thence, touched Campeche in passing, but did not make a stop until he reached Tabasco. Here among other presents and Indian
women which those of Tabasco gave to him was one who was afterwards called Marina. She was from Xalisco, a daughter of noble parents, stolen when small and sold in Tabasco, and later sold in Xicalango and Champotón, where she learned the language of Yucatan. By this she was able to understand Aguilar, and thus God provided Cortés with good and faithful interpreters, through whom he acquired knowledge and intimacy with Mexican matters. With these Marina was well posted, having mingled with Indian merchants and leading people, who spoke of them daily.
7:* The pleasant Sunday supplement story of the beautiful maiden, and the temptation arranged for Aguilar by the chief, which of course must have first been given currency by Aguilar himself, as related by Cogolludo, has probably been repeated by every succeeding chronicler. It is a bit hard to visualize, even when buttressed by his reported words on meeting Cortés men, asking the Spaniards if they were Christians, and then verifying his devotion to his breviary by asking if it was Wednesday. But beside it should be set off a curiously surviving manuscript, dated Mexico, 1554, in support of a petition for payment for military services under Cortés, by one Cristóbal Doria, of Oaxaca, the husband by a "legitimate church marriage" with Luisa, the natural daughter of Gerónimo de Aguilar, had by him, "an unmarried bachelor, and free," by an unnamed Tarascan woman.
7: So in the ms., but clearly an error for Cuzamil.
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