The 1559 Luna Expedition to Pensacola Bay: The Women and Children

 by David B. Dodson

Contact Archeology Inc.

by: David B. Dodson

November 2017

(Edited from a lengthier manuscript)

 

The historical records inform us that Spanish women and children went along on the 1559 Luna Expedition, as well as Mestizo and African women; and some Aztec women. The numbers are unknown. Further, we also know that at least four Native American women brought to Mexico from la Florida by the survivors of the 1539 Soto expedition were ordered to go on the Luna expedition to serve as interpreters.

Typically on any Spanish expedition in the New World, a Muster Roll, or list of participants, was recorded, but also typically, only the soldiers and other men were recorded on those rolls—not the women and children. What also makes for problems concerning historical studies of the Luna expedition is that the Muster Roll drawn up by Luna and provided to Viceroy Luis de Velasco has been “lost” for now.

Besides not having a complete Muster Roll concerning the soldiers, married men, or even single men, we also lack practically any details or the names of the women who went as “serving peoples” to cook and care for the men. There is no doubt that most common Spanish women in the New World were considered second-class citizens. Therefore, they are largely vacant from the historical record. This was also true of the male servants and slaves as well as the children. Further, even the serving people that the priests brought with them have remained anonymous.

In the case of the Luna expedition, women and children went along because the expedition was intended to establish three towns with 100 households per town. It was an opportunity for a Spanish family from New Spain (Mexico) to strike out in search of a better life than the one presented in Mexico. To be a Luna colonist meant that town properties were to be granted them as well as land for cultivation and raising cattle and horses. The expedition was akin to the free opportunities to “get rich” in the many American gold rushes as well as the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1903.

After the early conquests in the New World, la Florida was one of the first for post-conquest opportunities to settle in a new land of “milk and honey” as had been presented by the reports from the survivors of the Soto expedition twenty years earlier. However, the dreamers of 1559 soon found that the “good” situations in la Florida had changed drastically since 1540 as well as the grandeur that the Soto expedition had found. To compound the problem, the hurricane of September 19-20, 1559, had destroyed most of the food supplies. The expedition quickly became an endless struggle to survive. Many people died on the expedition, including women and children.     

Presently, we have only a smattering of historic documents that provide information relative to the women and children of the Luna Expedition. Presented here are a number of the main documents available. The readers can draw their own conclusions of the roles of women on the expedition from these excerpts. The documents are presented in chronological order. There is much more documental investigation and research that needs to be done. It is hoped that this presentation will serve to spur others into such endeavors.

 

The Luna Papers

 

May 12, 1559, Velasco To Luna, (written at) Tlaxcala, Vol. I, 55.

 

    And I charge you for the service of his Majesty not to permit an unmarried woman of suspicious character to embark, for you know how much she will offend, and that one public mortal sin is enough to cause an army to be lost. They have informed me that the ensign of Don Alonso de Castilla took a young woman from the town, and they tell me that she is a singer, and that the captain does not object to her going in the company. This you will remedy. They also tell me that the woman of Porras whom they call La Lechera [the bedder, or prostitute] and her daughter have been in Tepeaca. She is the one who importuned us in Mexico, and went in the company of Don Alonso. Please find out whether they intend to go [on the expedition], and make them come back. The old woman may be given a (sic) whipping upon her return.

June 11, 1560, The Married Soldiers Ask That They Be Sent To New Spain, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 135.

 

    More than this, we see very clearly that we ourselves, our children and wives and our estates, are suffering from the great hunger, which we are at present enduring and we see that neither we, nor your Lordship, can remedy this situation, even though it be attempted with all the diligence in the world. And in order to provide relief for these wives and children we see the camp very much over-wrought and exhausted, which would not be the case if all the soldiers were single men. Wherefore, we pray and require your Lordship, once, twice, thrice, and as many times as we can in legal form ask it, that, in order that we may not see ourselves perish and our wives and children die, and before we can see ourselves in greater necessity, your Lordship will send us to New Spain under whatever precaution may be proper.

June 17, 1560, The Married Soldiers Again Insist On The Terms Of Their Former Petition, And Say That They Have No One To Whom To Make Complaint; And They Ask That The Brigantine Shall Not Be Sent To La Havana, Nanipacana, June 17, 1560, Volume 1, 139.

     Speaking with due respect, we say that you ought not to give such an order, for many causes and reasons: first, because we asked for this relief for [the sake of] the lives of our wives, our children, and ourselves, for we are so near to losing them that it is not just that we should be charged with treason for it and punished; another reason why we ask it is because we see that we have no prospect of food from any quarter, either from up the river or from down it, or much less from the interior, for the Indians have the whole [country] in revolt and burned over, as is notorious among all the captains and men who have gone out for the purpose [of finding food]…(Priestley, 1928).

June 19, 1560, Declaration Made By Luna, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 149.
    All these being convened in the said council, his Lordship spoke to them. He represented and indicated the want and the difficulty in which the army was on account of the hunger from which it was suffering, the clamors which the women and children made, and above all, the requests which other people of the camp presented in their petitions.

June 19, 1560, Another Opinion By A Private Person, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 168.

 

    This relief you could give out in agreement with the gentlemen of your council if you were there, for the purpose of retaining possession of this land. For these gentlemen are of the opinion that no license should be given to any man or woman without knowing the pleasure of his Majesty or that of the viceroy of New Spain in his royal name, except for the legitimate reason of very serious illness.

June 24, 1560, Request Of The Officials, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 175.

 

    …for this would conduce more effectively to the advantage and preservation of this camp and of the dependent people in it if his Lordship arrange, before he goes inland and leaves this province, for the settlement of the married people of this camp, as he is commanded by royal instruction, so that the settlers may be more commodiously provided for and be placed in safety with their wives and children. This demands at this time the person presence of his Lordship, to wait for Captain Juan Xaramillo and the people whom he left with him at the port.

August 1, 1560. Fray Domingo De La Anunciación And Others To Luna, Coosa, Vol. I, 229-231.

    

Here we found the chief and all his people in their houses, and they made no move to take away their food or women, as if they had talked and had dealings with us before this.

August 1, 1560, Fray Domingo De La Anunciación And Others To Velasco, Coosa, Vol. 1, 289.

    

    The people in this country have good constitutions and appearances; although they live in a cool country they have as brown a color as those down there [at Nanipacana]. Their dress is what nature gave them, except that the women wear kirtles made of thread from mulberry roots; they are about two palms wide and with them they cover their private parts.

August 20, 1560, Viceroy To Luna, Mexico, Vol. 1, 189.

 

   I am not at all grieved at the return of the married men with their wives and children, for in that section there is very little assurance of having provisions, and they are not likely to be profitable at present, for they only eat up what is sent from here or found there, so that it is feared that they might be the cause of bringing the camp to want. I told you many times not to try to take so many married men with their wives and children, and since experience has shown that for time being such people are of little use for what is needed.…It may be that our Lord will shortly be pleased to let you have a goodly land to which the married men with their wives and children may go, so that by their good example they may aid and be of utility in the conversion of the natives.

August 28, 1560, The Letter Which The Captains Wrote To The Camp Of The Sargento Mayor (up in Coosa) In Reply To His. They Send By Captain Porras, Polonça, Vol. II, 119.

 

    After many ups and downs we reached this port of Polonza. Eight days later came the fleet, in which there came from the king scant supplies indeed; for it had been written from here that there were supplies in plenty in the country and that [the fleet] would not find us here. It was necessary therefore to send some of the children, the sick, and the unfit to New Spain so that they should not eat from us the scant supplies which were brought…

September 9, 1560, Demand Of The Maestre de Campo That A Meeting Be Called, Polonça, II, 91.

 

    Because at present there are in this camp and port three hundred and sixty two persons to be fed, but among them there are not fifty useful and available soldiers, for the rest are sick, women, children, Indian men and women, and other incapable people who do nothing but eat.

September 8, 1560, The Letter Which The Captains Wrote To The Camp Of The Sargento Mayor In Reply To His. They Send It By Captain Porras, Polonça, Vol. II, 121.

    After many ups and downs we reached this port of Polonza. Eight days later came the fleet, in which there came from the king scant supplies…It is necessary therefore to send some of the children, the sick, and the unfit to New Spain so that they should not eat from us the scant supplies which were brought.

September 9, 1560, They Decide That The Tender Shall Go To New Spain, Polonça, Vol. II, 133.

 

    [Furthermore] in view of the fact that there are in the (sic) royal store house supplies for no more than the present month, and there are now in this camp three hundred and thirty persons, among whom are one hundred and eighty soldiers, the rest being women and servants of the soldiers, and since among the soldiers are many who are ill and, from the experience which has been had with some of them, rather fitted to eat and consume supplies than to profit or serve of his Majesty, here or anywhere else, it appears to the aforesaid [gentlemen] that the tender should take away one hundred persons from among the sick, the married persons, and the unfit. There will remain here in this camp the other two hundred and thirty persons, not counting the other two hundred who are in the interior.

September 13, 1560, Velasco to Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 143.

 

    It was well to send back the women and the sick, for there they served no purpose save to eat up the supplies. If any have remained, and any boys, you will send them back by the ship.

September 14, 1560, Velasco To Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 161.

 

     If any people are to be chosen to send away because they cannot be maintained, send them to La Havana, and not here; for they will suffer more hardships at the port of San Juan de Ulúa and coming from there to here than in La Havana, because, judging by the storms which have occurred, they will undergo much adversity if women and children have remained. The Indians may be sent on the first ship which comes to New Spain.

September 25, 1560, Velasco To Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 167, 169.

 

    These I am dispatching in order that the ships and men and supplies which should go to the Punta de Santa Elena may be provided here. The women and the sick who may be at the port you may send back in the caravel.

     As I doubt whether this will reach the port before the caravel sails, I will say no more, but refer you to what I have written in other letters. The sick, the women and children, and the Indians are to be sent to this country.

August 11, 1561, Testimony And Report Given By Certain Soldiers, Island of Hispañola. Testimony by Alonso de Montalván, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

 

Page 285

    With all of this they arrived safely without losing a man or ship at the port of Ochuse, which is now called Polonza; that five hundred and forty soldiers in all went, two hundred of them horsemen and the others foot soldiers, among whom were harquebus men, shield bearers, and crossbowmen. After the soldiers had been taken on shore with eight hundred other persons, including married Spanish women, Negro men and women servants, other servants, some friendly Indians, more than half of the supplies, and all the tools and arms…

Page 295

     Villafañe and all the captains and men stayed behind, at the port, for Don Tristán went away taking only two servants and a negro woman, and seeming very happy and content such as he never had been for the preceding eight or ten months, at which everyone was surprised.     

August 11, 1561, Testimony of Cristóbal Velázquez, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

Page 303

    …he said that what happened is that this declarant went on the said journey in the company of Captain Gonzalo Sánchez de Aguilar led under the command of the viceroy in the name of his Majesty, and arrived at the port of Ochuse with the other people who must have numbered up to five hundred infantry and cavalry, not counting women and serving people….

    They went inland some twenty leagues, more or less, for which reason he did not have more than twelve days to remain there until the return and they brought an Indian woman, whose name was Lacsohe, as an interpreter.

Page 307

     After Don Tristán set sail with only one or two servants and a Negro woman

August 12, 1561. Testimony of Miguel Sánchez Serano, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

Page 317

    Don Tristán departed from the port of Ochuse in a frigate for la Havana with two servants and a Negro woman.

 

AGI. Contaduria 877

(Translations by R. Wayne Childers)

On the march from Mexico City to the port at Veracruz, ca. May 1559:

Item: The said Pedro de Yebra presented the account for 20 pesos of common gold that he gave and paid to Hernando Alonso Ynes.o for the food and lodging of 4 soldiers with their wives and another two unmarried women and two more unmarried soldiers for 7 days who were sent by the said governor don Tristan from Florida as it is evidenced and appears by certification of the said Angel de Villafaña and warrant of the said deputy officials dated 26 September 1560.
Hernan Crespo, drover, was paid 49 pesos 7 tomines of the said common gold that were owed to him for the delivery of 19 loads of goods belong to His Majesty and Luis Daça, his factor of the said Provinces and of certain soldiers and of 4 Indian women from Florida which at an amount of 3 pesos per load amounted to 54 pesos (sic) and another 11 pesos more for another 11 more persons, that he also brought upon the said loads, all of which make up 65 pesos from which were subtracted 15 pesos 1 tomin for the maize that his mule drove ate from Mexico City to the said city of Veracruz at the price that His Majesty purchased it at, as it appears by warrant of the said Alcalde Mayor dated on the 2nd of the said month of May [1559] and his letter of payment before the notary.

 

Dávila Padilla’s 1596 Historia

(Translations by R. Wayne Childers and David B. Dodson)

The below entries concern the formulation of the expedition in 1559.

The Indians had not treated badly but rather had sustained and entertained them, and even more so in the Province of Coça, from where they had brought some Indian women with them when they returned to Mexico; the Viceroy ordered that these men and women must return.

The good Viceroy favored this journey and encouraged the voyage with his wise reasons, which brought together a great number of people, and it was then necessary to prepare thirteen ships in order to… Further, if all those that had presented themselves, had been chosen, there would have been double the people, having already between men, women and children, more than 1500 persons.

The below entries refer to the events of late February till the end of June, 1560, which included the trek from Polonça up to Nanipacana and the struggle from starvation.

Then the Governor, Master of the Camp and the other officials of the King, with the opinion of the Vicar Provincial, agreed that everyone would go to Nanipacana, since it was certain there was food there, and in the port [only] death because there was nothing to eat. They commenced to march, some by land, and others by water. Those on the land traveled a very rough road, and in places so much so, that it was necessary to open paths so that the poor women, and the people that were most heavy laden, would be able to walk.

It was sad to see the poor women sustaining themselves with the roots of trees; and others that were forcing themselves to walk faster, so as to arrive more quickly to the town, remaining then overcome by hunger and fatigue, fainting on the road.

The soldiers of the camp searched the countryside, looking for some fruits in order to stave off the hunger of the miserable women and children, and they did not find them because it was the month of April, when there are none even in fertile lands because the season has not arrived. They found some bitter acorns, so sour although that hunger did not let them reject them: and with all this, they found the need to season them so that they would be able to eat them.

The women gathered up their little children, and went through the countryside collecting leaves from trees for to give to them, picking out the most delicate part of the shoots for the little ones, contenting themselves with the common ones. Others dug up herbs finding the roots more tender and it was pitiful that the trees and roots were usually mortally poisonous, and without the poor people knowing what they ate, over there one woman fell dead,  yonder a child: everything was a spectacle of tears and sentiment.

Other Sources

(Translations by David B. Dodson)

Letter from Don Tristán to a soldier, April 27, 1559, New Spain:

Your honorable señor. I received the writings of the 26th to the present as requested and other things of mine, and saw that what they said, and I am satisfied of your person and Christianity that did not permit that no soldier carry one single woman but only Mulatas or Indian women for their service, it seemed to all in general to observe of this, and thus there is more than that to say concerning more of which with all brevity possible, truly I am thankful for the time, not to suffer other things.

Letter from Dominican frays Pedro de Feria, Domingo de la Anunciación, and Domingo de Salazar to King Phillip II, May 4, 1559, Tlaxcala, New Spain AGI Mexico 280, from a Spanish transcription furnished by John E. Worth:

and moreover of the necessity of the victuals—is the portal for to kill the Indians, [who] therefore many times they stand to defend their estates, and to take the women and [daughters] which to them is a very great abomination as is known through experience and as the Indian women they brought back with them say, and that the Spanish are now carrying back, for which to be the need [of interpreters], that Your Majesty recent sent ordering to the viceroy because of this voyage now to be carried….

Testimony of a soldier, New Spain, 1566:

…at the end of eight days that the said captain having gone down the river provided with a large bark that went up with personal items and furnishings with more than one hundred sick persons and married women and children, that brought very grand necessity and suffering that was found of grand hunger for lack of food provisions; and thus the same he provided a leader who went to find a remedy with food provisions of maize….

__________________________

In conclusion, hopefully with more research, additional details will be discovered concerning the women and children on the Luna Expedition. Those details might include how they lived, survived, and died and were buried in the foreign lands of la Florida.

Bibliographical Sources

 

  1. Wayne Childers, translator, AGI. Contaduria 877, 1999.

David B. Dodson, translator, Unpublished Manuscript.

Louisa S. Hoberman and Susan Midgen Socolow, editors, Cities and Society in Colonial Latin America, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1986.

Augustín Davila Padilla,  Historía de la Fundación y discorso de la provincia de Santiago de México de la orden de Predicadores, Madrid, 1596 edition, translated by R. Wayne Childers and David B. Dodson, 2002, 2010.

Herbert Ingram Priestley, The Luna Papers, Florida State Historical Society, Deland, 1928.

Susan Midgen Socolow, The Women of Colonial Latin America, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

+ Article

by: David B. Dodson

November 2017

(Edited from a lengthier manuscript)

 

The historical records inform us that Spanish women and children went along on the 1559 Luna Expedition, as well as Mestizo and African women; and some Aztec women. The numbers are unknown. Further, we also know that at least four Native American women brought to Mexico from la Florida by the survivors of the 1539 Soto expedition were ordered to go on the Luna expedition to serve as interpreters.

Typically on any Spanish expedition in the New World, a Muster Roll, or list of participants, was recorded, but also typically, only the soldiers and other men were recorded on those rolls—not the women and children. What also makes for problems concerning historical studies of the Luna expedition is that the Muster Roll drawn up by Luna and provided to Viceroy Luis de Velasco has been “lost” for now.

Besides not having a complete Muster Roll concerning the soldiers, married men, or even single men, we also lack practically any details or the names of the women who went as “serving peoples” to cook and care for the men. There is no doubt that most common Spanish women in the New World were considered second-class citizens. Therefore, they are largely vacant from the historical record. This was also true of the male servants and slaves as well as the children. Further, even the serving people that the priests brought with them have remained anonymous.

In the case of the Luna expedition, women and children went along because the expedition was intended to establish three towns with 100 households per town. It was an opportunity for a Spanish family from New Spain (Mexico) to strike out in search of a better life than the one presented in Mexico. To be a Luna colonist meant that town properties were to be granted them as well as land for cultivation and raising cattle and horses. The expedition was akin to the free opportunities to “get rich” in the many American gold rushes as well as the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1903.

After the early conquests in the New World, la Florida was one of the first for post-conquest opportunities to settle in a new land of “milk and honey” as had been presented by the reports from the survivors of the Soto expedition twenty years earlier. However, the dreamers of 1559 soon found that the “good” situations in la Florida had changed drastically since 1540 as well as the grandeur that the Soto expedition had found. To compound the problem, the hurricane of September 19-20, 1559, had destroyed most of the food supplies. The expedition quickly became an endless struggle to survive. Many people died on the expedition, including women and children.     

Presently, we have only a smattering of historic documents that provide information relative to the women and children of the Luna Expedition. Presented here are a number of the main documents available. The readers can draw their own conclusions of the roles of women on the expedition from these excerpts. The documents are presented in chronological order. There is much more documental investigation and research that needs to be done. It is hoped that this presentation will serve to spur others into such endeavors.

 

The Luna Papers

 

May 12, 1559, Velasco To Luna, (written at) Tlaxcala, Vol. I, 55.

 

    And I charge you for the service of his Majesty not to permit an unmarried woman of suspicious character to embark, for you know how much she will offend, and that one public mortal sin is enough to cause an army to be lost. They have informed me that the ensign of Don Alonso de Castilla took a young woman from the town, and they tell me that she is a singer, and that the captain does not object to her going in the company. This you will remedy. They also tell me that the woman of Porras whom they call La Lechera [the bedder, or prostitute] and her daughter have been in Tepeaca. She is the one who importuned us in Mexico, and went in the company of Don Alonso. Please find out whether they intend to go [on the expedition], and make them come back. The old woman may be given a (sic) whipping upon her return.

June 11, 1560, The Married Soldiers Ask That They Be Sent To New Spain, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 135.

 

    More than this, we see very clearly that we ourselves, our children and wives and our estates, are suffering from the great hunger, which we are at present enduring and we see that neither we, nor your Lordship, can remedy this situation, even though it be attempted with all the diligence in the world. And in order to provide relief for these wives and children we see the camp very much over-wrought and exhausted, which would not be the case if all the soldiers were single men. Wherefore, we pray and require your Lordship, once, twice, thrice, and as many times as we can in legal form ask it, that, in order that we may not see ourselves perish and our wives and children die, and before we can see ourselves in greater necessity, your Lordship will send us to New Spain under whatever precaution may be proper.

June 17, 1560, The Married Soldiers Again Insist On The Terms Of Their Former Petition, And Say That They Have No One To Whom To Make Complaint; And They Ask That The Brigantine Shall Not Be Sent To La Havana, Nanipacana, June 17, 1560, Volume 1, 139.

     Speaking with due respect, we say that you ought not to give such an order, for many causes and reasons: first, because we asked for this relief for [the sake of] the lives of our wives, our children, and ourselves, for we are so near to losing them that it is not just that we should be charged with treason for it and punished; another reason why we ask it is because we see that we have no prospect of food from any quarter, either from up the river or from down it, or much less from the interior, for the Indians have the whole [country] in revolt and burned over, as is notorious among all the captains and men who have gone out for the purpose [of finding food]…(Priestley, 1928).

June 19, 1560, Declaration Made By Luna, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 149.
    All these being convened in the said council, his Lordship spoke to them. He represented and indicated the want and the difficulty in which the army was on account of the hunger from which it was suffering, the clamors which the women and children made, and above all, the requests which other people of the camp presented in their petitions.

June 19, 1560, Another Opinion By A Private Person, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 168.

 

    This relief you could give out in agreement with the gentlemen of your council if you were there, for the purpose of retaining possession of this land. For these gentlemen are of the opinion that no license should be given to any man or woman without knowing the pleasure of his Majesty or that of the viceroy of New Spain in his royal name, except for the legitimate reason of very serious illness.

June 24, 1560, Request Of The Officials, Nanipacana, Vol. I, 175.

 

    …for this would conduce more effectively to the advantage and preservation of this camp and of the dependent people in it if his Lordship arrange, before he goes inland and leaves this province, for the settlement of the married people of this camp, as he is commanded by royal instruction, so that the settlers may be more commodiously provided for and be placed in safety with their wives and children. This demands at this time the person presence of his Lordship, to wait for Captain Juan Xaramillo and the people whom he left with him at the port.

August 1, 1560. Fray Domingo De La Anunciación And Others To Luna, Coosa, Vol. I, 229-231.

    

Here we found the chief and all his people in their houses, and they made no move to take away their food or women, as if they had talked and had dealings with us before this.

August 1, 1560, Fray Domingo De La Anunciación And Others To Velasco, Coosa, Vol. 1, 289.

    

    The people in this country have good constitutions and appearances; although they live in a cool country they have as brown a color as those down there [at Nanipacana]. Their dress is what nature gave them, except that the women wear kirtles made of thread from mulberry roots; they are about two palms wide and with them they cover their private parts.

August 20, 1560, Viceroy To Luna, Mexico, Vol. 1, 189.

 

   I am not at all grieved at the return of the married men with their wives and children, for in that section there is very little assurance of having provisions, and they are not likely to be profitable at present, for they only eat up what is sent from here or found there, so that it is feared that they might be the cause of bringing the camp to want. I told you many times not to try to take so many married men with their wives and children, and since experience has shown that for time being such people are of little use for what is needed.…It may be that our Lord will shortly be pleased to let you have a goodly land to which the married men with their wives and children may go, so that by their good example they may aid and be of utility in the conversion of the natives.

August 28, 1560, The Letter Which The Captains Wrote To The Camp Of The Sargento Mayor (up in Coosa) In Reply To His. They Send By Captain Porras, Polonça, Vol. II, 119.

 

    After many ups and downs we reached this port of Polonza. Eight days later came the fleet, in which there came from the king scant supplies indeed; for it had been written from here that there were supplies in plenty in the country and that [the fleet] would not find us here. It was necessary therefore to send some of the children, the sick, and the unfit to New Spain so that they should not eat from us the scant supplies which were brought…

September 9, 1560, Demand Of The Maestre de Campo That A Meeting Be Called, Polonça, II, 91.

 

    Because at present there are in this camp and port three hundred and sixty two persons to be fed, but among them there are not fifty useful and available soldiers, for the rest are sick, women, children, Indian men and women, and other incapable people who do nothing but eat.

September 8, 1560, The Letter Which The Captains Wrote To The Camp Of The Sargento Mayor In Reply To His. They Send It By Captain Porras, Polonça, Vol. II, 121.

    After many ups and downs we reached this port of Polonza. Eight days later came the fleet, in which there came from the king scant supplies…It is necessary therefore to send some of the children, the sick, and the unfit to New Spain so that they should not eat from us the scant supplies which were brought.

September 9, 1560, They Decide That The Tender Shall Go To New Spain, Polonça, Vol. II, 133.

 

    [Furthermore] in view of the fact that there are in the (sic) royal store house supplies for no more than the present month, and there are now in this camp three hundred and thirty persons, among whom are one hundred and eighty soldiers, the rest being women and servants of the soldiers, and since among the soldiers are many who are ill and, from the experience which has been had with some of them, rather fitted to eat and consume supplies than to profit or serve of his Majesty, here or anywhere else, it appears to the aforesaid [gentlemen] that the tender should take away one hundred persons from among the sick, the married persons, and the unfit. There will remain here in this camp the other two hundred and thirty persons, not counting the other two hundred who are in the interior.

September 13, 1560, Velasco to Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 143.

 

    It was well to send back the women and the sick, for there they served no purpose save to eat up the supplies. If any have remained, and any boys, you will send them back by the ship.

September 14, 1560, Velasco To Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 161.

 

     If any people are to be chosen to send away because they cannot be maintained, send them to La Havana, and not here; for they will suffer more hardships at the port of San Juan de Ulúa and coming from there to here than in La Havana, because, judging by the storms which have occurred, they will undergo much adversity if women and children have remained. The Indians may be sent on the first ship which comes to New Spain.

September 25, 1560, Velasco To Luna, Mexico, Vol. II, 167, 169.

 

    These I am dispatching in order that the ships and men and supplies which should go to the Punta de Santa Elena may be provided here. The women and the sick who may be at the port you may send back in the caravel.

     As I doubt whether this will reach the port before the caravel sails, I will say no more, but refer you to what I have written in other letters. The sick, the women and children, and the Indians are to be sent to this country.

August 11, 1561, Testimony And Report Given By Certain Soldiers, Island of Hispañola. Testimony by Alonso de Montalván, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

 

Page 285

    With all of this they arrived safely without losing a man or ship at the port of Ochuse, which is now called Polonza; that five hundred and forty soldiers in all went, two hundred of them horsemen and the others foot soldiers, among whom were harquebus men, shield bearers, and crossbowmen. After the soldiers had been taken on shore with eight hundred other persons, including married Spanish women, Negro men and women servants, other servants, some friendly Indians, more than half of the supplies, and all the tools and arms…

Page 295

     Villafañe and all the captains and men stayed behind, at the port, for Don Tristán went away taking only two servants and a negro woman, and seeming very happy and content such as he never had been for the preceding eight or ten months, at which everyone was surprised.     

August 11, 1561, Testimony of Cristóbal Velázquez, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

Page 303

    …he said that what happened is that this declarant went on the said journey in the company of Captain Gonzalo Sánchez de Aguilar led under the command of the viceroy in the name of his Majesty, and arrived at the port of Ochuse with the other people who must have numbered up to five hundred infantry and cavalry, not counting women and serving people….

    They went inland some twenty leagues, more or less, for which reason he did not have more than twelve days to remain there until the return and they brought an Indian woman, whose name was Lacsohe, as an interpreter.

Page 307

     After Don Tristán set sail with only one or two servants and a Negro woman

August 12, 1561. Testimony of Miguel Sánchez Serano, Island of Hispañola, Vol. II.

Page 317

    Don Tristán departed from the port of Ochuse in a frigate for la Havana with two servants and a Negro woman.

 

AGI. Contaduria 877

(Translations by R. Wayne Childers)

On the march from Mexico City to the port at Veracruz, ca. May 1559:

Item: The said Pedro de Yebra presented the account for 20 pesos of common gold that he gave and paid to Hernando Alonso Ynes.o for the food and lodging of 4 soldiers with their wives and another two unmarried women and two more unmarried soldiers for 7 days who were sent by the said governor don Tristan from Florida as it is evidenced and appears by certification of the said Angel de Villafaña and warrant of the said deputy officials dated 26 September 1560.
Hernan Crespo, drover, was paid 49 pesos 7 tomines of the said common gold that were owed to him for the delivery of 19 loads of goods belong to His Majesty and Luis Daça, his factor of the said Provinces and of certain soldiers and of 4 Indian women from Florida which at an amount of 3 pesos per load amounted to 54 pesos (sic) and another 11 pesos more for another 11 more persons, that he also brought upon the said loads, all of which make up 65 pesos from which were subtracted 15 pesos 1 tomin for the maize that his mule drove ate from Mexico City to the said city of Veracruz at the price that His Majesty purchased it at, as it appears by warrant of the said Alcalde Mayor dated on the 2nd of the said month of May [1559] and his letter of payment before the notary.

 

Dávila Padilla’s 1596 Historia

(Translations by R. Wayne Childers and David B. Dodson)

The below entries concern the formulation of the expedition in 1559.

The Indians had not treated badly but rather had sustained and entertained them, and even more so in the Province of Coça, from where they had brought some Indian women with them when they returned to Mexico; the Viceroy ordered that these men and women must return.

The good Viceroy favored this journey and encouraged the voyage with his wise reasons, which brought together a great number of people, and it was then necessary to prepare thirteen ships in order to… Further, if all those that had presented themselves, had been chosen, there would have been double the people, having already between men, women and children, more than 1500 persons.

The below entries refer to the events of late February till the end of June, 1560, which included the trek from Polonça up to Nanipacana and the struggle from starvation.

Then the Governor, Master of the Camp and the other officials of the King, with the opinion of the Vicar Provincial, agreed that everyone would go to Nanipacana, since it was certain there was food there, and in the port [only] death because there was nothing to eat. They commenced to march, some by land, and others by water. Those on the land traveled a very rough road, and in places so much so, that it was necessary to open paths so that the poor women, and the people that were most heavy laden, would be able to walk.

It was sad to see the poor women sustaining themselves with the roots of trees; and others that were forcing themselves to walk faster, so as to arrive more quickly to the town, remaining then overcome by hunger and fatigue, fainting on the road.

The soldiers of the camp searched the countryside, looking for some fruits in order to stave off the hunger of the miserable women and children, and they did not find them because it was the month of April, when there are none even in fertile lands because the season has not arrived. They found some bitter acorns, so sour although that hunger did not let them reject them: and with all this, they found the need to season them so that they would be able to eat them.

The women gathered up their little children, and went through the countryside collecting leaves from trees for to give to them, picking out the most delicate part of the shoots for the little ones, contenting themselves with the common ones. Others dug up herbs finding the roots more tender and it was pitiful that the trees and roots were usually mortally poisonous, and without the poor people knowing what they ate, over there one woman fell dead,  yonder a child: everything was a spectacle of tears and sentiment.

Other Sources

(Translations by David B. Dodson)

Letter from Don Tristán to a soldier, April 27, 1559, New Spain:

Your honorable señor. I received the writings of the 26th to the present as requested and other things of mine, and saw that what they said, and I am satisfied of your person and Christianity that did not permit that no soldier carry one single woman but only Mulatas or Indian women for their service, it seemed to all in general to observe of this, and thus there is more than that to say concerning more of which with all brevity possible, truly I am thankful for the time, not to suffer other things.

Letter from Dominican frays Pedro de Feria, Domingo de la Anunciación, and Domingo de Salazar to King Phillip II, May 4, 1559, Tlaxcala, New Spain AGI Mexico 280, from a Spanish transcription furnished by John E. Worth:

and moreover of the necessity of the victuals—is the portal for to kill the Indians, [who] therefore many times they stand to defend their estates, and to take the women and [daughters] which to them is a very great abomination as is known through experience and as the Indian women they brought back with them say, and that the Spanish are now carrying back, for which to be the need [of interpreters], that Your Majesty recent sent ordering to the viceroy because of this voyage now to be carried….

Testimony of a soldier, New Spain, 1566:

…at the end of eight days that the said captain having gone down the river provided with a large bark that went up with personal items and furnishings with more than one hundred sick persons and married women and children, that brought very grand necessity and suffering that was found of grand hunger for lack of food provisions; and thus the same he provided a leader who went to find a remedy with food provisions of maize….

__________________________

In conclusion, hopefully with more research, additional details will be discovered concerning the women and children on the Luna Expedition. Those details might include how they lived, survived, and died and were buried in the foreign lands of la Florida.

+ References and Related Works

Bibliographical Sources

 

  1. Wayne Childers, translator, AGI. Contaduria 877, 1999.

David B. Dodson, translator, Unpublished Manuscript.

Louisa S. Hoberman and Susan Midgen Socolow, editors, Cities and Society in Colonial Latin America, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1986.

Augustín Davila Padilla,  Historía de la Fundación y discorso de la provincia de Santiago de México de la orden de Predicadores, Madrid, 1596 edition, translated by R. Wayne Childers and David B. Dodson, 2002, 2010.

Herbert Ingram Priestley, The Luna Papers, Florida State Historical Society, Deland, 1928.

Susan Midgen Socolow, The Women of Colonial Latin America, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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