Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Spanish Y-Chromosome in Latin America

Cochran and Harpending write that Central and South American women have Amerindian MTDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) but the men have the Spanish Y Chromosome. Bernal Diaz in his New Conquest of Spain describes a case of that happening. Cortez in 1519 learns that the Amerindians have two Spanish slaves. He negotiates with the locals and they say Cortez can have them if he pays a ransom. He agrees to that and sends the locals off with the ransom and a letter of introduction to the Spaniards. Here is his letter:

"Dear Sirs and Brothers,—Here, on the island of Cozumel, I received information that you are detained prisoners by a cazique. I beg of you to come here to me on the island of Cozumel. To this end I have sent out an armed ship, and ransom-money, should it be required by the Indians. I have ordered the vessel to remain stationary off the promontory of Cotoche for eight days, to wait for you. Come as speedily as possible; you may depend upon being honorably treated by me. I am here with eleven vessels armed with 500 soldiers, and intend, with the aid of the Almighty and your assistance, to proceed to a place called Tabasco, or Potonchon; etc."

Diaz continues: With this letter the two Indian merchants embarked on board our vessel, which passed this narrow gulf in three hours, when the messengers with the ransom-money were put on shore. After the lapse of a couple of days they actually handed over the letter to one of the Spaniards in question, who, as we afterwards learnt, was called Geronimo de Aguilar, and I shall therefore in future distinguish him by that name. When he had read the letter and received the ransom-money we had forwarded, he was exceedingly rejoiced, and took the latter to the cazique his master to beg for his liberation. The moment he had obtained this he went in quest of his comrade, Gonzalo Guerrero, and made him acquainted with all the circumstances; when Guerrero made the following reply:

"Brother Aguilar,—I have united myself here to one of the females of this country, by whom I have three children; and am, during wartime, as good as cazique or chief. Go! and may God be with you: for myself, I could not appear again among my countrymen. My face has already been disfigured, according to the Indian custom, and my ears have been pierced: what would my countrymen say if they saw me in this attire? Only look at my three children, what lovely little creatures they are; pray give me some of your glass beads for them, which I shall say my brethren sent them from my country."

Gonzalo's Indian wife followed in the same strain, and was quite displeased with Aguilar's errand. "Only look at that slave there, (said she,) he is come here to take away my husband from me! Mind your own affairs, and do not trouble yourself about us." Aguilar, however, afterwards made another attempt to induce Gonzalo to leave, telling him to consider that he was a Christian, and that he ought not to risk the salvation of his soul for the sake of an Indian woman. Moreover, he might take her and the children with him if he could not make up his mind to separate himself from them. Aguilar, however, might say what he liked, it was all to no purpose; he could not persuade Gonzalo to accompany his heretofore companion in good and ill fortune. This Guerrero was most probably a sailor, and a native of Palos. He remained among the Indians, while Geronimo de Aguilar alone took his departure with the Indian messengers, and marched towards the coast where our ship was to have waited for them: but she had left; for De Ordas, after staying there the eight days, and another in addition, finding that no one appeared, again set sail for Cozumel. Aguilar was quite downcast when he found the ship was gone, and he again returned to his Indian master.

Ordas, however, did not meet with the best of reception when he returned without the ransom-money or any information respecting the Spaniards, and even without the Indian messengers. Cortes said to him, with great vehemence, he expected he would have fulfilled his commission better than to return without the Spaniards, and even without bringing him any information respecting them, although well.

Off Cortez goes but one of his ships develops a leak so he is forced to return to Cozumel, much to the delight of Geronimo de Aguilar: “When the Spaniard, who was in the power of the Indians got certain information that we had again returned to the island Cozumel, he rejoiced exceedingly and thanked God with all his heart. He immediately hired a canoe, with six capital rowers, for himself and the Indians who had brought him the glass beads. The former being richly remunerated with these, so valuable in their estimation: they performed their work so well, that the channel between the island and mainland, a distance of about twelve miles, was soon crossed. After they had arrived off the island and stepped on shore, some soldiers who were returning from the chase of musk swine, informed Cortes that a large canoe had just arrived from the promontory of Cotoche. Cortes immediately despatched Andreas de Tapia with a few men to learn what news they had brought. As Tapia with his men approached the shore, the Indians, who had arrived with Geronimo, evinced great fear and ran back to their canoe in order to put off to sea again. Aguilar, however, told him in their language they need have no fear; for we were their brothers. Andreas de Tapia, who took Aguilar also for an Indian, for he had every appearance of one, sent to inform Cortes that the seven Indians who had arrived were inhabitants of Cozumel. It was not until they had come up to them and heard the Spaniard pronounce the words—God, holy Virgin, Sevilla, in broken Spanish, and ran up to Tapia to embrace him, that they recognized this strange-looking fellow. One of Tapia's men immediately ran off to inform Cortes that a Spaniard had arrived in the canoe, for which news he expected a handsome reward. We all greatly rejoiced at this information, and it was not long before Tapia himself arrived with the strange-looking Spaniard. As they passed by us many of our men still kept inquiring of Tapia which among them was the Spaniard? although he was walking at his very side, so much did his countenance resemble that of an Indian. His complexion was naturally of a brownish cast, added to which his hair had been shorn like that of an Indian slave: he carried a paddle across his shoulder, had one of his legs covered with an old tattered stocking; the other, which was not much better, being tied around his waist. An old ragged cloak hung over his shoulders, his maltatas was in a much worse condition. His prayerbook, which was very much torn, he had folded in the corner of his cloak. When Cortes beheld the man in this attire, he, as all the rest of us had done, asked Tapia where the Spaniard was? When Geronimo heard this, he cowered down after the Indian fashion, and said: "I am he." Upon this Cortes gave him a shirt, a coat, a pair of trousers, a cap and shoes, from our stores. He then desired him to give us an account of the adventures of his life, and explain how he had got into [Del Castillo, Bernal Diaz (2013-11-03). The Conquest of New Spain (Kindle Locations 1445-1545). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.]

Comment: As far as I’ve read Gonzolo is still living with his Amerindian wife and three children and enjoying his status with is “as good as cazique,” and being of powerful physique admired as a powerful warrior. He would obviously be of more use to Cortes than the simple Aguilar who was employed in menial tasks and was too weak to walk 12 miles. Probably no modern-day Amerindian can trace his Y-Chromosome back to him. It is interesting though that everyone had difficulty believing that Aguilar was not an Indian. He was apparently born with a dark complexion and then living with the Indians he developed their mannerisms. How many other Spaniards could fit into that environment as well as Aguilar and Gonzolo, I wonder? But I wonder also why he spoke in “broken Spanish.” He surely hadn’t been with the Indians so long that he forgot his native language. Perhaps Spaniards employed in menial activities in Spain spoke an inferior form of Spanish and that is what Diaz intends to be inferred here, but I don’t know.

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