Apr 12, 2011

Columbus at Cariari

In 1502 Christopher Columbus set sail on his fourth and last voyage to the new world. After a long and disastrous voyage they arrived at the mailand. Starting in the Gulf of Honduras they skirted the coastline moving southward. On Sunday, September 25, 1502 Columbus' small armada anchored off the shore of Costa Rica, apparently at the place that is now the city of Limon.
Columbus' career ended in disappointment as he did not find the expected passage to the Pacific Ocean which would lead him to the riches of the orient. However, he did find gold that he could use to satisfy the thirst of his Royal patrons.  More importantly he fulfilled the prophecy of Nephi found in 1st Nephi 13:12.
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
Columbus' son Ferdinand, who accompanied him on this voyage, describes the landing in Costa Rica.
We continued south­ward [from present day Nicaragua] and anchored at an island named Quiribiri, off a village on the mainland named Cariay [also called Cariari]. Here we found the best country and people that we had yet seen; because the land was high and abounded in rivers and great trees, and the island itself was very verdant, full of groves of lofty trees, palms, myrobalans, and many other species. For this reason the Admiral named it La Huerta [the garden].
Satellite view Limon, Costa Rica
This island is a short league from a village called Cariay that lies near a river [probably the Rio Cieneguita]; to this village there came a great number of In­dians of the vicinity, many armed with bows and arrows, others with palm-tree spears black as pitch and hard as bone and tipped with fish bones, and still others with macanas or clubs. They seemed determined to resist our landing. The men wore their hair braided about their heads, while the women wore theirs cut as we do. See­ing that we came in peace, they appeared eager to trade their weapons, cotton cloaks and shirts, and the guanin [copper-gold alloy] pendants which they hang about their necks as we wear an Agnus Dei or other relic, in exchange for our things. They swam out to the ships with all their goods,….
The Admiral sent the Adelantado [his brother Bartholemew, the military commander] ashore with some men to survey the country and especially to learn of the Indians’ dwellings, customs, and mode of life. The most remarkable thing they saw was this: In a large wooden palace roofed with canes were some tombs, in one of which was a corpse, dried and embalmed [more of this in a later blog], and in another two more bodies, with no bad odor, wrapped in cotton cloth; over each tomb was a tablet carved with figures of beasts, and on some the effigy of the dead man, adorned with many beads, guanines, and other things they most prize. (from Life of Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand, p. 236 and 240)
This was the first extended contact Columbus had with mainland America. Of interest is that the Indians had gold (if only in the form of a copper alloy), they had a surplus of goods and food for exchange, and they had an advanced method of taking care of their dead.
Columbus then went on to explore the coast of Panama where they found extensive settlements of natives who were practicing advance agriculture. They had ornaments of pure gold and showed the Spaniard where to recover the placer gold from some nearby rivers. Columbus tried to establish a permanent settlement on the coast, but the wary Indians drove them back to their ships. This was the only contact Columbus had with the mainland American continent other than a brief stop in Venezuela on his third voyage. It is an excellent clue for the location of Nephite lands.