September 1, 1529: Fort Sancti Spiritu is destroyed. Built by Sebastian Cabot near the Paraná River in 1527, it was the first European settlement in what is today Argentina. Years before, Juan Diaz de Solis was exploring the coast of Uruguay. He sailed up the Rio de la Plata and came ashore with six men. The locals saw the invaders and killed them, but spared Francisco del Puerto because of his young age. The rest of the crew went back to Europe after the misadventure. Francisco lived with the natives for ten years until he was rescued by Cabot. Francisco told his rescuer of a “White King” and a mountain of silver located to the north of the Paraná River. Cabot believed the tales and rather than continue his mission to seek a shorter path to the Indies, he went in search of the silver mountain. There were no precious metals in the La Plata basin, but it did lead to the naming of Argentina, a Spanish adjective meaning “silvery”.
A fort was built next to the Carcarañá River and Cabot built his house close by. They got help from the indigenous people, who were originally friendly towards the Spaniards. The climate was mild and the men enjoyed relative peace. Cabot left the fort on December 23, taking a ship filled with 130 men, leaving 32 men behind. His goal was to find the White King. The trip was arduous and the natives had to be forced to participate. They resented their treatment and left the expedition, thereby halting food procurement. The Spaniards were upset with Cabot and attempted to mutiny, but the priest in the group betrayed them and their leader was executed.
Other ships were in the region of exploration. Thirty men were killed in a secondary exploration when they mutinied against Núñez de Balboa which caused a feud between Cabot and Balboa. Back at sea, Cabot’s ship was intercepted by another Spanish vessel and they all returned to the fort to plan a second expedition to find the White King. They found conditions at the fort in disarray with the locals in rebellion and the personnel in the fort not meeting normal military discipline. When trying to correct this (by executing 100 natives), it only made matters worth both with the natives and the men at the fort. Regardless, a second expedition was mounted. When most of the men left, the same ineffective leader was left at the fort.
On this night, the fort was attacked. Cabot was at sea and had heard rumors, but felt his fort could be defended by those left behind. Instead, the fort was set on fire while all the soldiers slept inside. When they woke, they realized defense was now useless and tried to escape to the two remaining ships. One of the ships was also set ablaze and most of the Spaniards did not survive the attack. The second ship did escape and made its way to find Cabot who did return, but it was too late. They were defeated and left for Europe. The period of Spanish exploration in Argentina ended. Instead colonization led to the establishment of the city of Buenos Aires.
Civilization is only savagery silver-gilt. – H. Rider Haggard
Beauty attracts us men; but if, like an armed magnet it is pointed, beside, with gold and silver, it attracts with tenfold power. – Jean Paul
Silver and gold are not the only coin; virtue too passes current all over the world. – Euripides
No lower can a man descend than to interpret his dreams into gold and silver. – Kahlil Gibran
Also on this day: Japan’s Great Earthquake – In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake rocked Japan.
Six Million Dollar Man – In 1980, Terry Fox had to end his Marathon of Hope.
Martha: R.I.P. – In 1914, the last passenger pigeon died.
Walls – In 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived at Walla Walla Fort.
Juno is Found – In 1804, a new asteroid was discovered.