Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/48

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Columbus sailed to the south; how much better would it have been for him had he sailed west! "Within a day or two," says Irving, "he would have arrived at Yucatan; the discovery of Mexico and the other opulent countries of New Spain would have necessarily followed; the Southern Ocean would have been disclosed to him, and a succession of splendid discoveries would have shed fresh glory on his declining age, instead of its sinking amidst gloom, neglect, and disappointment."

Four years later, in 1506, Juan Diaz de Solis, afterwards discoverer of the Rio de la Plata, and Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who commanded a ship in the first voyage of Columbus, and was so unfairly treated by him, entered the Gulf of Honduras and saw the east coast of Yucatan. They departed, however, without any attempt at exploration, lured by vague reports of gold in the south, and to Cordova and his companions must be awarded the glory of bringing Yucatan to the notice of the world, and of opening the way for its acquisition by the Spaniards.

This venture of Hernandez de Cordova, in 1517, though it yielded him and his comrades scarcely any reward save the consciousness of having found a new country, (all of his company being wounded and many of them killed in encounters with the natives,) yet first made known the existence of a land whose inhabitants were decently clothed, and built houses of stone and lime.

Following in the wake of that stout old soldier and chronicler, Bernal Diaz, who was with Cordova, we shall need no other guide through the historic portion of Mexico, for he attended its christening and was in at the death.[1] Undaunted by his wounds of the previous year, he sailed with Juan de Grijalva, in 1518, in which memorable voyage he coasted the entire northern and western shores of Yucatan, and reached under this

  1. "Bernal Diaz del Castillo is the best that ever writ of the Conquest of Mexico, as having been an Eye Witness to all the principal Actions there; and has an air of Sincerity; writing in a plain Style, and sparing none where he could see any Fault.

    "Cortes' Letters cannot be contradicted, he having been the chief Agent in the Conquest of Mexico, but he being more taken up with Acting than Writing, could not give them all their Perfection."—Herrera, Stevens's translation, 1740.