[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: South Florida History: The "Martires"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

South Florida History: The "Martires"

I was planning on doing this installment on the incorporation of Miami in 1896, but while doing some online research I found a fascinating memoir by Hernando De Escalante Fontaneda, a Spaniard who shipwrecked in Florida and was a captive of the native Indian tribes for 2 decades. His accounts of the geography and customs of the local Indian tribes are must reads for anyone even remotely interested in Florida history.
The Islands of Yucayo and of Ahite fall on one side of the Channel of the Bahama. There are no Indians on them, and they lie between Havana and Florida.

There are yet other islands, nearer to the mainland, stretching between the west and east, called the Martires; for the reason that many men have suffered on them, and also because certain rocks rise there from beneath the sea, which, at a distance, look like men in distress. Indians are on these islands, who are of a large size: the women are well proportioned, and have good countenances. On these islands there are two Indian towns; in one of them the one town is called Guarugunbe, which in Spanish is pueblo de Llanto, the town of weeping; the name of the other little town, Cuchiyaga, means the place where there has been suffering.
Can you guess what those west to east islands are called today?
These Indians have no gold, less silver, and less clothing. They go naked, except only some breech-cloths woven of palm, with which the men cover themselves; the women do the like with certain grass that grows on trees. This grass looks like wool, although it is different from it The common food is fish, turtle, and snails (all of which are alike fish), and tunny and whale; which is according to what I saw while I was among these Indians. Some eat sea-wolves; not all of them, for there is a distinction between the higher and the lower classes, but the principal persons eat them. There is another fish which we here call langosta (lobster), and one like unto a chapin (trunkfish), of which they consume not less than of the former.
There's also references to a large lake called Mayaimi (today's Lake Okeechobee). Yes, Miami takes its name from that lake.

You can read the entire memoir here.

On a related note: Dr. Paul George of the Historical Museum of South Florida is hosting a Julia Tuttle, Mother of Miami: Walking and Metromover Tour this Sunday from 12-2 PM. The timing is a bit unfortunate since it coincides with the Calle Ocho festival, but it ends early enough for people to go straight to the party from downtown. Anyway, it sounds very interesting and Dr. George is a local treasure. Check here and go about halfway down the page for more info.



Blogger nonee moose said...

I'm guessing Key Largo. Maybe Plantation Key for the other?

12:44 PM, March 13, 2008  

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