Primary Source: Manuel Jose Quintana, The Discovery of the Pacific by Balboa (1807)

European Exploration, Perception of the Other, and the Columbian Exchange

How did Europeans perceive the new people they encountered and how were they in turn perceived?

Manuel Jose Quintana was a poet, writer, and popular historian of the 19th century whose biographies of famous Spanish patriots, Vidas de Españoles célebres (1807) included a history of the discovery of the Pacific by Balboa that became the standard narrative of the exploration.

He discoursed with and animated his companions selected 190 of the best armed and disposed, and, with a thousand Indians of labor, a few bloodhounds, and sufficient provisions, took his way by the sierras toward the dominion of Ponca. That chief had fled, but Balboa, who had adopted the policy most convenient to him, desired to bring him to an amicable agreement, and, to that end, dispatched after him some Indians of peace, who advised him to return to his capital and to fear nothing from the Spaniards. He was persuaded, and met with a kind reception; he presented some gold, and received in return some glass beads and other toys and trifles. The Spanish captains then solicited guides and men of labor for his journey over the sierras, which the cacique bestowed willingly, adding provisions in great abundance, and they parted friends. His passage into the domain of Quarequa was less pacific; whose chief, Torecha, jealous of this invasion, and terrified by the events which had occurred to his neighbors, was disposed and prepared to receive the Castilians with a warlike aspect. A swarm of ferocious Indians, armed in their usual manner, rushed into the road and began a wordy attack upon the strangers, asking them what brought them there, what they sought for, and threatening him with perdition if they advanced. The Spaniards, reckless of their bravados, proceeded, nevertheless, and then the chief placed himself in front of his tribe, drest in a cotton mantle and followed by the principal lords, and with more intrepidity than fortune, gave the signal for combat. The Indians commenced the assault with loud cries and great impetuosity, but, soon terrified by the explosions of the crossbows and muskets, they were easily destroyed or put to flight by the men and bloodhounds who rushed upon them. The chief and 600 men were left dead on the spot, and the Spaniards, having smoothed away that obstacle, entered the town, which they spoiled of all the gold and valuables it possest Here, also, they found a brother of the cacique and other Indians, who were dedicated to the abominations before glanced at; fifty of these wretches were torn to pieces by the dogs, and not without the consent and approbation of the Indians. The district was, by these examples, rendered so pacific and so submissive that Balboa left all his sick there . . .

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