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Rebellion of Roldán (II)

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The two caravels led by Captain Pedro Hernández Coronel arrived in Santo Domingo on February 3th, 1498. They brought something that all Spaniards needed since a long time ago: news from Castile. And these supposed the strengthening of the authority of the Bartholomew Columbus with confirmation of his title and power, to know that the admiral Columbus had also come out of the accusations that were coming from the island, the certification that was very close to his return to Spain, food, ammunition and troops.

With these arguments Bartholomew tried to negotiate again with Roldán promising, through Hernandez Coronel, forgiveness if he returned under his discipline, but the mayor did not trust and rejected such flattering proposals. He replied that he would only obey the admiral when he arrived in Santo Domingo. Bartholomew Columbus went into anger and left for Jaragua to convince his followers to abandon him, but along the way he encountered more problems, his troops were attacked by Chief Guarionex as well as the fortress of the Concepción. The uncoordinated attack against the fort put the soldiers of the stronghold on alert and managed to repel them. Guarionex fled with his family and his closest collaborators to the mountains of Ciguay, where he sought help and hospitality from the local chieftain, Mayonabex, who gladly accepted him but did not know that he was making a serious mistake, because this flight caused Bartholomew Columbus to go to his area in the northeast of the island, provoking a new confrontation with the Indians that ended with the imprisonment of both chieftains and the destruction of their villages.

Meanwhile, Roldán suddenly found his fortune when in the Jaragua they observed that three caravels were sailing close to the coast and seemed lost or with certain difficulties to navigate. At first they thought that perhaps they were looking for them to apprehend them, but they immediately perceived that this was not the case, but that they were looking for the port of Santo Domingo.

These were the three caravels captained by Alonso Sanchez de Carvajal had separated from Columbus’s convoy in the Canary Islands as he continued to sail south in search of the Cape Verde Islands. Roldán received them and told them nothing about the rebellion, but a few days later the secret could not be kept and they discovered the mess. Of the three captains, two marched to Santo Domingo, Arana and Juan Antonio Colombo, the admiral’s relative, and Carvajal stayed to try to convince them to put down their attitude but did not succeed, the rebels held firm in their plan to justify themselves and negotiate only with the admiral.

 rebelionRoldan2ColonAt the end of August 1498 Christopher Columbus, after a long journey to the north of the South American continent, arrived in Santo Domingo. He was greeted by his brother and informed him of what had happened in those two long years when the admiral had been away. He informed him of the Roldán rebellion and his establishment in Jaragua. Columbus was surprised to see that the three Carvajal’s caravels had not arrived, although it was almost better that they had not arrived.

The first important meeting took place in the Concepción Fort with Miguel Ballester whom Roldán demanded the liberation of the captured chieftains and the Indians who were going to be taken to Spain as slaves, as well as that he would only accept Sánchez de Carvajal as an intermediary, rectifying his intention to meet with Columbus personally.

This change of course puzzled Columbus, who immediately ordered all the inhabitants of Santo Domingo to present themselves armed to review them and thus, at firsthand, to know what troops were available for a possible military confrontation with Roldán. This call for a review was interpreted by the colonists, quite rightly, as a mission was being prepared against Roldánto which practically everyone objected and with various excuses refused to enlist, leaving the troops in an approximate number of forty men, while Roland would have more than two hundred troops, which did not stop growing, in addition to the Indian tribes who wanted to ally themselves with them.

Columbus quickly had a very good disposition to negotiate before the situation worsened further for his interests. Finally, after a tense lettering Roldán went to Santo Domingo to meet with the admiral, they did so and after several other meetings and letters completed some capitulations by which Columbus committed himself to:

– In two weeks, build a couple of ships so that the rebels who wished could return to Spain.
– A certificate of good behaviour for all.
– Collection of all unpaid payments until the day of shipment.
– They could take with them their Indian wives as well as their children, who would be free men.
– Gift of several slaves per person.

These capitulations were signed on November 16th, 1498 by Roldán and on November 21th in Santo Domingo by Columbus. However, the admiral wrote a letter to the Catholic Monarchs stating the opposite, especially with regard to the good behavior of the rebels, and that it should have been taken to Spain by someone of confidence to be brought to justice. Something cheating, Mr. Admiral.

This was Christopher Columbus’ first great defeat on the Hispaniola island against the rebels of the Spaniards themselves. The bad government, the injustices, the mistreatment of those who were victimized and the feeling of being abandoned in those faraway lands left them no alternative.

But new surprises were to occur, if the capitulations were signed in mid-November, the caravels promised in the capitulations did not reach where the rebels were until the end of March of the following year and in quite bad condition due to a series of storms that they suffered. This was considered by Roldán’s followers as a breach of the capitulation and they refused to return to Castile. They had changed their minds.

First part of the Roldán Rebellion.

Third part of the Roldán Rebellion.

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