DON ANTONIO DE BERRIO AND SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Antonio de Berrío was almost ready to make his third expedition to search for El Dorado when entering the Serpent’s Mouth was the pirate and nobleman, Robert Dudley. Dudley was surprised that his friend Sir Walter Raleigh had not arrived yet. They had left Southampton together and had planned to meet at the Punta del Arenal of Columbus, which was otherwise known as Point Curiapan. Dudley, speaking by signs to the friendly tribe of the south, had gathered that no one in a big canoe had passed that way. No one with a big canoe and a white face. He was surprised but he was not unhappy, for he felt he could do a quick exploration to see if there was gold, and maybe if he got gold his friend would just hear of him!
Dudley apparently scoured the south of the country from end to end and there was no gold. Some native guides hastened him to a river and lifting his expectations they showed him golden objects glittering through the water, but Dudley recognized them at once. He wrote: “About three leagues to the eastward of this place we found a mine of marcazites which glister like gold, but all is not gold that glistereth and so we found the same nothing worth.”
Tired of waiting Dudley was soon on his way. He lifted anchor and sailed from Trinidad on March 12, 1595, and Raleigh arrived at Point Curiapan on March 22 - just 10 days later. Raleigh heard about Dudley of course but as his own quest was El Dorado he must have felt relieved. Two years before (1593) he had sent Captain Jacob Whiddon to spy on de Berrío, for he had heard of the expedition, but the Spaniards had waylaid and killed Whiddon and his men.
Raleigh did not tarry at Point Curiapan but sailed up to Puerto de los Españoles, and of the shore-line he said, “I myself coasted it in my barge, close aboard the shore, the better to know the islande, while the ships kept the channel.”
On that occasion he saw and wrote of the Pitch Lake with great interest and he also saw the hill called Anaparima, but his greater interest was in seeing Antonio de Berrío. When he arrived at Puerto de los Españoles he sent a message calling de Berrío to the port, but de Berrío refused to come, whereupon Raleigh with his men, and joined by great numbers of Amerindians, marched upon San José de Oruña. He wrote of what he did when he reached there: “I set upon the body-guards in the evening and having put them to the sword I sent Captain Caulfield onwards with sixty soldiers and myself followed with forty more and so toke their new city, which they called St Joseph, by break of day; they abode not any fight after a few shots and all being dismissed but only Berrío and his companion, I brought them with me aboard, and at the instance of the Indians I set their new city of St Joseph on fire.”
He mentioned what had happened to Whiddon’s men, and he also wrote, referring to El Dorado: “To depart 400 or 500 miles from my ships and leave a garrison at my back, interested in the same enterprise…I would have savoured very much of the ass.”
Raleigh went on to search for El Dorado and, naturally, he had no success. But as a result of their search he and de Berrío founded the nucleus of several cities, such as San Félix and San Tomé. On returning from his mission Raleigh released de Berrío and departed. De Berrío then organized another search for this legendary city. The expedition cost him dearly both in money and health, and in that year 1597, he was taken ill on the mainland. Before his faithful *maestro de campo, Domingo de Vera, could reach him, he died.
*maestro de campo - aide de camp