Diego Columbus (the son of Christopher Columbus) was the Admiral of the New World and Governor of Santo Domingo since 1508. He had spent the last five years in Spain in an attempt to have all the powers promised to his father re-established. Diego had gained some concessions (becoming Viceroy) and was preparing for his return to the New World when word first reached him of the epidemic there. He hastened his return, still not fully aware of the scope of the crisis.
When he reached the Indies he faced several crisis at once:
- Mortality due to disease (now reaching 40%).
- Revolt of slaves (These revolts were almost uncontainable on the mainland, on the smaller islands they were suppressed, but at further loss of life).
- Exodus of colonists back to Spain (About 10% of the Spaniards returned to Spain, the exodus was stopped only by Columbus' use of force).
- Unruly Castilians (A large number of armed opportunistic adventures combined with collapsing governmental authority was a recipe for lawless chaos).
- Collapse of basic services (Trade, legal services, farming, etc. all came to a halt - The situation became one of every family for itself).
Diego had to use brutal force to re-establish control. In addition he sent ships to the smaller colonies to bring the colonist and slaves to Hispanolia. Most of these remote colonist were eager to come, but some had to be moved by force.
No ships were arriving from Spain. Spain also refused to receive any ships from the New World. For a time, Columbus was able to conduct some trade through his contacts in Genoa, but by year's end even this was no longer possible. It became evident that the New World could not rely on the Old for some time to come.
Pizzaro had assumed control of Panama (the old governor had died of papatlaca) and Panama had become the center for unruly Castilians. Columbus commissioned Bernal Diaz to raise what forces he could and bring Panama under his authority. Bernal Diaz proved to be a resourceful man. He quickly determined that Pizzaro was planning on forming his own sort of sovereignty on the mainland and would not submit to Columbus. Pizzaro had treated the local population with great brutality which made it quite easy for Bernal to find allies among the local tribes. Bernal trained the locals to use Spanish military tactics and equipped some of the best of them with armor and swords (but not firearms).
On August 6 Bernal Diaz arrived outside Panama with 80 Spanish fighting men and 3200 native warriors. Pizzaro had 250 Castilians and a large number of slaves and tribesmen. Pizzaro's forces were routed in the ensuing battle and Pizzaro himself was captured.
Diego Columbus was now the undisputed European authority in the Indies and Mainland but the very survival of the colonies was in great doubt. Through the year of 1522 only two ships were able to travel to Europe, trade (in a German port), and return.
However the fighting spirit of the Spaniards which had caused so much grief during the last two years, now worked in Columbus' favor. The remaining Spaniards were strong, determined, aggressive, and ambitious. A land of boundless opportunity still awaited them and they were still eager to embrace the challenge.
In response to the Spanish Scourge, Europe renewed persecution against Jews. They are expelled from many nations and there is a great deal of violence against them in Poland. Kazimierz, a Jewish ghetto outside Cracow, is set aflame. Jews from Poland, Portugal, and other regions emigrated to the New World. Columbus allowed many to settle in Hispanolia, but he also passed laws forbidding them from owning slaves and required them to pay a great deal of taxes.
This is the last major arrival of Europeans to the New World for a dozen years.
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