Concern about Maroons, 1662, Hispaņola

[marooms are runaway slaves, from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning "wild"] in Hispañola (today the Dominican Republic). Letter from Francisco, Archbishop-Elect of Santo Domingo to the King of Spain, 15 September 1662]
In the uninhabited regions of this island, some fifty leagues from this city [Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic], there are some sierras (a place called Maniel) which are very tall and fertile. After all the native Indians of this island disappeared, and the Spanish had to resort to black slaves to work the land, all the fugitive slaves escape to these sierras where they live without any doctrine nor priests to teach them. It is a robbers' cove of barbarians, because every year slaves escape from their owners' rural farms, and that is one of the main causes for the miserable state of this island.

There are four towns in this sierra, which "it is said" have six hundred families, and with children and wives should be more than two thousand persons. They have no churches nor do they worship images; some who were baptized before escaping put crosses in their homes, yet they do not get baptized nor do they have laws. They are governed by ladino Negroes [slaves born in the colony]; their weapons are arrows, which they use with skill; they use short, broad swords they fashion from the iron and steel that they purchase from other Negroes in this city.

They cultivate just enough land for their subsistence, because they have an abundance of meats and native fruits. They collect tomines [Spanish measure of weight] of gold and of silver in the rivers, and with this they buy clothes, wine, liquor, and whatever they need, from other Negroes. The militias have launched some attacks against them, in which women and children have been captured, because the rest escape to the heights of the sierras, and so far this robbers' cove has not been destroyed. Some of them pray the Holy Father and the Ave Maria, and mistakenly worship idols. They guard and watch their sierras with care. If someone commits a grave crime, they throw him down a cliff; and if he escapes, they search for him so that he may not give their location away. And they remain restless until they kill him. And if they cannot achieve that, they move their villages elsewhere so that escapees cannot serve as spies to entrap them. Slave owners live in uneasiness, because they cannot safeguard their slaves, and if their [the maroons' ] barbaric government were not so rigorous, all the slaves would be in the Maniel to obtain their freedom.

A few days after I arrived in this city, concerned about so many lost souls, and with the colonists—who are the interested party—inclined to offer them [the maroons] liberty at the time, and knowing that God's and Your Majesty's service was to pacify this people, after communicating the matter to President Don Pedro de Carvajal and others, I resorted to writing them a letter, in which I promised to beg Your Majesty their pardon, and that they all would be free if they left the Maniel and moved their towns to places to be indicated. There, Your Majesty would place them under the rule of justice, and my ministers of the church would teach them, so that thereafter they would live like Christians. And they shall not admit any more fugitive slaves, and if any are missing, they would be in charge of locating and delivering him. To deliver this letter I used a slave belonging to treasurer Don Diego Soria Pardo, who is brother of the captain of the largest [maroon] village. And though we know that he delivered it and talked to them, he has been detained and I have received no response from them, although a group of them went to a farm and said that I should be told that they do not trust whites, who in the past have betrayed their word.
And they have told me that if I travel alone with a servant, they would come to talk to me, as long as there are no other people present. If they decide to talk to me, certainly, God will subdue them. I have decided to seek them by early November, and to try to talk to them. This is important. Sir, to Your Majesty's service, because it is a robbers' cove (as I have said) of fugitive slaves, and from other Negroes they have news of whatever happens in town. And we have these barbarians on our backs, and if the enemy again tries to invade this island, we must guard ourselves from them [the maroons] as well as from the enemy, though during the 1655 events they were quiet. [In that year, Spanish forces defeated a British invasion force, but from Santo Domingo the British attacked and took over Jamaica.] They cause damages like stealing female slaves and admitting those slaves who flee. I will inform Your Majesty of whatever happens, since up to now nothing has been achieved, and the President believes that it is impossible to subdue them, so nothing will be informed until this mater develops, though nothing would be lost by trying.