Sunday, July 17, 2022

Columbus in Puerto Rico (Colón en Puerto Rico) by Cayetano Coll y Toste Book Review


Book: “Colón en Puerto Rico- Disquisiciones Histórico-Filológicas” (Columbus in Puerto Rico- Historic-Philological Disquisitions) 

Author: Cayetano Coll y Toste

Dr. Cayetano Coll y Toste was a Puerto Rican historian and writer. He was born in 1850 in Arecibo, PR., and died in 1930 in Madrid, Spain. [1] “Colón en Puerto Rico”, was published in 1893.

The book begins with a discussion of the primary sources of Columbus’ discovery of Puerto Rico (PR) during his second voyage in 1493. One source example is a letter from Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca, which is published in full in one of the chapters.

Toste studied the claims of several scholars about Puerto Rico’s discovery. For example, he added a table of comparison between two scholars: Fray Nazario, and Mr. Lugares, who both discussed the chronological timeline and the order of places Columbus visited on this second voyage. 

Another chapter is dedicated to Juan de la Cosa, who accompanied Columbus on the first and second voyage. Toste affirms that the existing map from La Cosa is authentic and it included PR with exactitude. Juan de la Cosa later accompanied Amerigo Vespucci, reaching South America with Columbus’ map. Toste defends La Cosa from claims that he was a traitor (to Columbus) for being with Vespucci and not with Columbus during that voyage. 

Toste then discusses the Indigenous name of Puerto Rico, Borinquen, and how it’s spelling evolved through the time. Here is a sample of his list:

Buriquén: Chanca (1493), Oviedo (1535), Las Casas (1550). 

Boriquén (without “n”): Juan de Castellanos (1589), Antonio de Herrera (1601), Juan de Laet (1640), etc.

Borinquén (with “n”): Fray Iñigo Abbad (1788). 

Borinquen: Juan Bautista Muñoz (1793), Washinton Irwing (1828) and Alejandro Tapia (1854).

Toste added Salvador Brau’s own list of Borinquen’s name spelling evolution. Toste then proceeds to define “Bo-ri-quen”:

“Bo” means “Grande” or “Señor” (Great or Lord). Examples of “bo” would be the name of Caona-, who was a chief in Hispaniola.  His name means “Señor del oro” (Lord of gold). Another chief was Bo-hechio, meanig “Señor del gran territorio” (Lord of the great territory). There was a place named Bo-nao, meaning, “Lugar montañoso del señor” (Mountain place of the lord). Jo-bo is a fruit that people eat in PR and it means “gran árbol” (great tree).

“Ri” means “valor” (valour, courage, bravery). “Ri” is inserted in the names of several chiefs, including Guacanaga- and Gua-ri-onex. It’s also in the name of the tribe of cannibals known as Ca-ri-be (Caribs).

“Quen” means “land.” Examples are Bie-que (or Vieques, an islet in PR) which means “tierra pequeña” (small land). Si-que-o is the name of another islet in PR, today known as “Desheo.”

Therefore, Borinquen means “Tierras del Valiente Señor” or “Lands of the Brave Lord.” Toste noted that even though the natives of PR were not warlike people like the Caribs, they were bold in defending themselves.

Puerto Rico was named “San Juan Bautista” (St. John the Baptist) by Columbus. 

Toste has a chapter on the Caribs. One of the reasons is because 19th century scholar, Martín Fernández de Navarrete, mistakenly called Puerto Rico, “Caribe” island. Toste discussed the different opinions from scholars about where the Caribs came from. Assertions made by Indigenous tribes are included, like the Achaguas from Colombia, who believed the Caribs were descendants of the tigers (the animal). To them, that explained why the Caribs were cruel. 

Toste added a list of the original Indigenous names of the islands discovered by Columbus, and their present-day names.

Toste joined the scholars' debate on where Columbus landed in PR in 1493. We know Columbus landed at the east of the island; but, was it in the town of Aguada, Aguadilla, Mayagüez? That is unclear.

Toste studied a few more Indigenous words, like “Ma,” for Mayagüez (a town in PR). Depending on the context, it also means “great” or “abundance.” Examples would be:

Ma-mey, which is a great tree and another fruit eaten in PR. The Ma-natí (manatee), is a great fish, and I would add here that there is a municipality in PR named “Manatí," after the marine mammal. Ma-cagua, is a great tree in Cuba. etc.

Toste ends his book by confirming that Caparra was the first settlement in PR in1508. Founded by Juan Ponce de León, who was the first Governor of the island.


#CayetanoCollYToste #CristobalColon #BookReview #PuertoRico #Borinquen #ColonEnPuertoRico

Sunday, July 3, 2022

"Boundless" ("Sin Limites") Amazon Prime TV Series Review

“Boundless” (“Sin Limites”) is a 2022 Spanish TV series with 6 episodes about Ferdinand Magellan’s journey around the world in the 16th century. The show coincided with the journey’s 500th anniversary. [1]

Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic, The Expendables 2, etc.) was the director. It's available on Amazon Prime in Spanish and English. 

The show is well made, well written, well-directed, well-acted, and has great production for a TV series. However, one doesn't need to be an expert to know some artistic license was taken. For example, in the first episode, Juan Sebastián Elcano, who is the second most important character of the story, hangs out in a particular bar with his friends and some harlots. Somehow he gets in trouble and ends up in jail, to be bailed out by Magellan in order to help him with his journey. Though it’s doubtful this happened that way, Elcano indeed had his share of troubles with the law. 

There is a contrast between Magellan and Elcano that seems to be made purposely for the show. Like virtue and vice: Magellan being “virtue” and Elcano being “vice.” Another artistic license is Magellan and Elcano being on the same ship when they were not. In addition, a few good stories that happened on this journey were skipped. 

Regardless of the above, which is not a big deal, the premise of the show is accurate and correct. Whereas "Conquistadores: Adventum" was an unfair fictional show, “Boundless” is fair and entertaining. We see good Europeans and bad Europeans, good natives and bad natives. We see places where Magellan was received peacefully by the natives, and places where he was not; places where the Spaniards made friends and peace treaties with the natives, and places where they had to fight. All of this is accurate by the way.

Magellan’s story has its parallels with Columbus. Both had their exploration proposals rejected by Portugal’s kingdom. Both moved to Spain to pursue it. Both were serious and determined with their goals. As leaders, they did not put up with their crew’s misconduct. Both experienced all sorts of dangers, including storms, battles, mutiny, etc. Both discovered bigger things than what they first intended to do.

I disagree with the ending subtitles of the show, claiming Magellan’s journey was the “greatest in history” (or something of the sort). Columbus’ journey in 1492 remains the greatest. It’s the one that changed history and opened the doors for other explorers, including Magellan, to finish what Columbus started.

“Boundless” is Rated 16 T, which is like an R rated for the USA. This is due to a few gory battle scenes, Indigenous nudity, and a quick scene where a sailor rapes a young sailor (and got punished for it).  

Though the show sometimes dragged a little bit, I still recommend it. It could have been more epic, but they did a good job honoring the memory of Ferdinand Magellan. 

The show is good, but the book is better. I would suggest reading Magellan’s primary source, written by Antonio Pigafetta, whose character appears in the show as well. That way one can see what the show got right, what they got wrong, and what stories were omitted. 

Overall, I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

#Amazon #Prime #SinLimites #Boundless #FerdinandMagellan #JourneyAroundTheWorld #ChristopherColumbus

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

“Conquistadores: Adventum” TV Series Review


                                                                                     Film Poster IMDB

                                                                                     YoutTube Tv Trailer

“Conquistadores: Adventum” was a 2017 Spanish TV Series about the first 30 years after America’s discovery by Christopher Columbus followed by other explorers and Conquistadors' exploits. It was one season long with 8 episodes in total. The following review is only on the first three episodes since they are about Columbus:

Episode 1 “Las Llaves del Mar” (The Keys of the Sea):

The show is in Spanish. The episodes are nonlinear, they don’t follow a chronological timeline. One moment the story is in 1492, the next moment it goes back to time, then back to 1492 or another year, or another place, etc.

The actor who played Columbus (Miguel Lago Casal) doesn’t look like Columbus at all. Columbus was tall. The actor is not. Columbus had grey hair. The actor has black hair.

The tone of the show is somber, of a slow pace and, boring. The music score sometimes sounds like one from a horror movie. The story is mostly narrated by an anonymous fictional character who seems to be present in everything we see, apparently all 30 years long the events took place. This character remained anonymous at least for the first three episodes I watched. I don’t know if the character ever revealed himself later. 

The only thing this anonymous “witness” narrator does throughout the show is to complain about everything and everybody. To him the sailors who sailed with Columbus were all “wretches” (“desgraciados”), while the Pinzon brothers were “pirates,” and Juan Niño (owner of La Niña ship) was just a “slave trader.” For some unexplained reason, he liked Juan de la Cosa, the owner of the Santa María ship.

Christopher Columbus speaks with a perfect Castilian accent, even though Queen Isabel called him “a Genoese.” However, our “Anonymous Narrator” commented he did not know if Columbus was a Spaniard or an Italian, nor did he care.

Here, Columbus is not an inspiring character, but one who is stoic and stern. In fact, no one shows much emotion, even in the scene where they arrived discovering America. 

Queen Isabel is boring. The priest at her court looks goofy. The Pope looked sick and died drinking blood. Whether that happened or not, I don’t know. 

At times some characters looked and acted disgustingly. One of them throws up.

Christianity is not sincere in the show; maybe in Columbus, but only to some extent. The “Anonymous Narrator” ends this episode by stating that “they (the Indians) took us for gods, while we took them as slaves.” 

Episode 2 “El Pequeño Capitán” (The Little Captain):

This episode begins with Columbus' second voyage, where “Anonymous Narrator” claims this time they came to conquer. At one time “Anonymous Narrator” complained that Columbus often made up the things he wrote in his journal and letters. Like talking about gold, sirens, cannibals, etc., even though there was a scene (in the first episode) where one of the natives told Columbus about the cannibals.

The Narrator insisted that Columbus was delusional in thinking he was in Asia (the Indies) when he was in a new continent. Except that it wasn’t Columbus who thought so, but everyone else. It took many years for everyone to realize Columbus indeed discovered a new world.

Ojeda, who was one of Columbus’ captains, traps and murders Chief Caonabo. It is true that Ojeda arrested him, but he did not murder him. Caonabo died in a shipwreck. 

As you can see, this show is full of historical errors.

Columbus’ brother (Bartolome) shortly appears here, as Governor of Hispaniola. Like a scene from “Schindler's List,” Bartolome shoots an Indian in the back with a gun for no reason whatsoever. Bartolome never did such a thing. Bartolome also burns Indians alive without any reason explained. In fact, most of this show is fictional, and the dialogues are based on the imagination of whoever wrote the script.

Amerigo Vespucci makes a short appearance as well. “Anonymous Narrator” calls him the “the greatest liar of all” for some of the claims he made about his explorations.

Episode 3 “La Caprichosa” (The Capricious):

Here Columbus is still in denial that he was not in the Indies, but another, land and is arguing with Amerigo Vespucci about it. Except that never happened. 

At some point we see Columbus stranded in Jamaica during his fourth voyage. He requested help from Ovando, who was the new Governor of Hispaniola, but Ovando initially ignores the request as he is “busy” killing Anacaona, the female chief of the island. 

From here the show makes a transition from Columbus to other explorers and Conquistadors. First, we see Captain Ojeda, who is hanging natives (with no reason given) in the name of “the Holy Church.” Something he never said. Then we see short scenes involving Martín Fernández de Enciso, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Francisco Pizarro and Hernán Cortés.


Here was a great opportunity to bring history to the TV screen, but instead, what we get is a work of fiction written with a modern-day revisionist “perspective” with a lot of guessing. Though most of the show is boring, I did not fall asleep. The reason is because the production was excellent and so was the acting. That’s the only compliment I can give to the series, which is sad because it makes this production a waste of time, money and talent. This show is an anti-Spanish, anti-American, and anti-Christian propaganda film. Thank God it wasn’t dubbed in English and played in America in 2017, which is the year people vandalized and destroyed Columbus’ statues in United States.

If you want to learn the real story of the Conquistadors from a primary source, I would suggest to you, De Orbe Novo, Volume One and Two, written by Peter Martyr. His work begins with Columbus, followed by all the aforementioned explorers and Conquistadors, plus some extras. Martyr is the best primary source of the time in the sense that he brings everyone (Europeans and Indigenous) into its proper historical context. His letters (which were private) were written as the events were happening or close to the time it happened. 

The ebook version of Martyr’s work is available free on Google Books and other platforms. Skip the fictional film and read the real story.

#ConquistadoresAdventum #Conquistadors #Columbus #TvSeries #Spain #FilmReview #History #HernanCortez

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Salvador Brau's 19th Century Book Review "Puerto Rico and its History" (in Spanish)

Studying Columbus’ primary sources led me to go back and read some of the historians we studied or heard about in school when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. One of them is Salvador Brau and his work titled, “Puerto Rico y su Historia” (PR and its History- 1892). 

Brau’s Appendix at the end of the book includes a letter by Columbus (1493), a portion of Gomara’s Historia on the discovery of PR, a letter on how Ponce de Leon became the Governor, etc., However, I would suggest this work only to those who are already familiar with Columbus and other primary sources. The reason is that the book is not the story of Puerto Rico per se, but Brau’s insights and opinions on the subject, including the claims of many other historians who lived before him. 

He discusses the long-time debates on where Columbus exactly arrived in 1493 when he discovered the island. The same about the debates on how PR’s original name was supposed to be pronounced: Was it Buriquén, Boriquén, BoriNquén, or Boriquén?

Brau talks a little bit about the first Governors and bishops of PR during the16th century, along with the names of the first towns founded on the island. 

Brau informs the reader that there were many white Europeans who were slaves in the Americas. He debunks the claim that Spaniards exterminated the Taino race (in PR) since the number of Spaniards was small, to begin with. He discusses scientific evidence of Indigenous cannibalism (by the Caribs) and observes the importance of the word “Gua” often used by the natives. For example Guacanagari (the name of a chief Columbus met), Guanica (a place in PR), Guatios (a word meaning “friend”), etc. 

The most interesting thing to me was Brau’s interpretation of Columbus’ enigmatic signature: 


.S. A. .S.

X  M  Y 

Xpo Ferens .

According to him it means: Servus Supplex Altissimi Salvatoris. Jesus, Maria, Joseph, Christo ferens. Or Humble Servant of the Highest Savior. Jesus, Mary, Joseph. The Christ Bearer.

Salvador Brau was born in Puerto Rico in 1842 and died in 1912. He was a “journalist, poet, dramatist, novelist, historian, and sociologist.” [1]

“Puerto Rico y su Historia” ebook version is available free on Google books.

1. Wikipedia- Salvador Brau's Work

#SalvadorBrau #PuertoRico #History #Historia #CristobalColon #ChristopherColumbus #BookReview #19thCentury