Saturday, March 29, 2014
Amerigo Vespucci Writing About Newly Discovered Islands In 1503
Below is Amerigo Vespucci Writing (extract only) About Newly Discovered Islands In 1503 In The West Indies. This great explorer's name became translated to the feminine which became the name that America adopted in honour of his feats and discoveries.
We anchored with our ships at a distance of a league and a half from the shore. We got out the boats, and, filled with armed men, we pulled them to the shore. Before we arrived we had seen many men walking along the beach, at which we were much pleased; and we found that they were naked, and they showed fear of us, I believe because we were dressed and of a different stature. They all fled to a hill, and, in spite of all the signs of peace and friendship that we made, they would not come to have intercourse with us. As night was coming on, and the ship was anchored in a dangerous place, off an open unsheltered coast, we arranged to get under weigh the next day, and to go in search of some port or bay where we could make our ships secure. We sailed along the coast to the north, always in sight of land, and the people went along the beach. After two days of navigation we found a very secure place for the ships, and we anchored at a distance of half a league from the land, where we saw very many people. We went on shore in the boats on the same day, and forty men in good order landed. The natives were still shy of us, and we could not give them sufficient confidence to induce them to come and speak with us. That day we worked so hard with this object by giving them our things, such as bells, looking-glasses, and other trifles, that some of them took courage and came to treat with us. Having established a friendly understanding, as the night was approaching we took leave of them, and returned on board. Next day, at dawn, we saw that there were an immense number of people on the beach, and that they had their women and children with them. We went on shore, and found that they all came laden with their food supplies, which are such as will be described in their place. Before we arrived on shore, many of them swam out to receive us at a cross-bow shot's distance; for they are great swimmers, and they showed as much confidence as if we had been having intercourse with them for a long time; and we were pleased at seeing their feelings of security.
What we knew of their life and customs was that they all go naked, as well the men as the women, without covering anything, no otherwise than as they come out of their mothers' wombs. They are of medium stature, and very well proportioned. The colour of their skins inclines to red, like the skin of a lion, and I believe that, if they were properly clothed, they would be white like ourselves. They have no hair whatever on their bodies, but they have very long black hair, especially the women, which beautifies them. They have not very beautiful faces, because they have broad faces, which make them look like Tartars. They do not allow any hairs to grow on their eyebrows, nor eyelashes, nor in any other part except on the head, for they hold hairiness to be a filthy thing.
They are very agile in their persons, both in walking and running, as well the men as the women; and think nothing of running a league or two, as we often witnessed; and in this they have a very great advantage over us Christians. They swim wonderfully well, and the women better than the men; for we have found and seen them many times two leagues at sea, without any thing to rest upon. *
Their arms are bows and arrows, well made, except that they have no iron, nor any other kind of hard metal. Instead of iron they use teeth of animals or of fish, or a bit of wood well burnt at the point. They are sure shots, and where they aim they hit. In some places the women use these bows. They have other weapons like lances, hardened by fire, and clubs with the knobs very well carved. They wage war among themselves with people who do not speak their language, carrying it on with great cruelty, giving no quarter, if not inflicting greater punishment. When they go to war they take their women with them; not because they fight, but because they carry the provisions in rear of the men. A woman carries a burden on her back, which a man would not carry, for thirty or forty leagues, as we have seen many times. They have no leader, nor do they march in any order, no one being captain. The cause of their wars is not the desire of rule nor to extend the limits of their dominions, but owing to some ancient feud that has arisen among them in former times. When asked why they made war, they have no other answer than that it is to avenge the death of their ancestors and their fathers. They have neither king nor lord, nor do they obey anyone, but live in freedom. Having moved themselves to wage war, when the enemy have killed or captured any of them, the oldest relation arises and goes preaching through the streets and calling upon his countrymen to come with him to avenge the death of his relation, and thus he moves them by compassion. They do not bring men to justice, nor punish a criminal. Neither the mother nor the father chastise their children, and it is wonderful that we never saw a quarrel among them. They show themselves simple in their talk, and are very sharp and cunning in securing their ends. They speak little, and in a low voice. They use the same accents as ourselves, forming their words either on the palate, the teeth, or the lips, only they have other words for things. Great is the diversity of languages, for in a hundred leagues we found such change in the language that the inhabitants could not understand each other.
Their mode of life is very barbarous, for they have no regular time for their meals, but they eat at any time that they have the wish, as often at night as in the day—indeed, they eat at all hours. They take their food on the ground, without napkin or any other cloth, eating out of earthen pots which they make, or out of half calabashes. They sleep in certain very large nets made of cotton, and suspended in the air; and if this should seem a bad way of sleeping, I say that it is pleasant to sleep in that manner, and that we slept better in that way than in coverlets. They are a people of cleanly habits as regards their bodies, and are constantly washing themselves. When they empty the stomach they do everything so as not to be seen, and in this they are clean and decent; but in making water they are dirty and without shame, for while talking with us they do such things without turning round, and without any shame. They do not practice matrimony among them, each man taking as many women as he likes, and when he is tired of a woman he repudiates her without either injury to himself or shame to the woman, for in this matter the woman has the same liberty as the man. They are not very jealous, but lascivious beyond measure, the women much more so than the men. I do not further refer to their contrivances for satisfying their inordinate desires, so that I may not offend against modesty. They are very prolific in bearing children, and in their pregnancy they are not excused any work whatever. The parturition is so easy, and accompanied by so little pain, that they are up and about the next day. They go to some river to wash, and presently are quite well, appearing on the water like fish. If they are angry with their husbands they easily cause abortion with certain poisonous herbs or roots, and destroy the child. Many infants perish in this way. They are gifted with very handsome and well-proportioned bodies, and no part or member is to be seen that is not well formed. Although they go naked, yet they are fleshly women, and, of their sexual organ, that portion which he who has never seen it may imagine, is not visible, for they conceal with their thighs everything except that part for which nature did not provide, which is, speaking modestly, the pectignone. Yet there no one cares, for the same impression is made on them at seeing anything indecent as is made on us at seeing a nose or mouth. Among them it is considered strange if a woman has wrinkles on the bosom from frequent parturition, or on the belly. All parts are invariably preserved after the parturition as they were before. They showed an excessive desire for our company.
We did not find that these people had any laws; they cannot be called Moors nor Jews, but worse than pagans.
For we did not see that they offered any sacrifices, nor have they any place of worship. I judge their lives to be Epicurean. Their habitations are in common. Their dwellings are like huts, but strongly built of very large trees, and covered with palm leaves, secure from tempests and winds. In some places they are of such length and width that we found 600 souls in one single house. We found villages of only thirteen houses where there were 4,000 inhabitants. They build the villages every eight or ten years, and when asked why they did this, they replied that it was because the soil was corrupted and infected, and caused diseases in their bodies, so they chose a new site. Their wealth consists of the feathers of birds of many colours, or rosaries made of the fins of fishes, or of white or green stones, which they wear on their necks, lips, and ears; and of many other things which have no value for us. They have no commerce, and neither buy nor sell. In conclusion, they live, and are content with what nature has given them.