[COLUMBUS FAMILY]. TOLEDO, Maria de (d.1549), Virreina de las Indias, daughter-in-law of Christopher Columbus, widow of Diego Columbus. Manuscript document, an edict issued under authority of Maria as Virreina, authorizing Fray Alberto de Flandes to negotiate contract terms for certain laborers being sent to Jamaica, 1 page, folio. [With:] Manuscript document, stipulating terms and conditions under which the workers will be hired for Jamaica, 1 page, folio. Both in the clerical hand and under the rubric of notary Juan de Ribera. Valladolid, 25 August 1542. Together 2 pages, folio, small loss to margin of second leaf, edges dusty, otherwise in fine condition. In Spanish. With partial transcript.
COLUMBUS'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW, VIRREINA MARIA DE TOLEDO, RECRUITS WORKERS FOR THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA. An unpublished decree which offers insight into the languishing state of certain Spanish settlements in the New World, a half century after their discovery by Christobal Colón. Maria de Toledo, a niece of Ferdinand II and widow of the first Admiral's son Diego Colón (1474-1526), wielded significant power in the Indies originally granted to her father-in-law by Ferdinand and Isabella; these privileges were formally conferred on her son, Luis Colón y Toledo (b. 1517), after contentious legal battles ending in 1536. His titles as Third Admiral of the Indies and "mayorazgo de la ysla de Xamayca" were confirmed (see F. Morales Padrón, Jamaica Española, 1962, p.110). Spain had first claimed the island in 1509 but exploration, settlement and development moved very slowly. Luis Colón had visited Jamaica in 1541, the year prior to this decree, and observed that sparse Spanish settlements were underpopulated and in some cases, in decline (Padron, p.111).
In an apparent effort to revitalize the languishing colony, Spanish workers ("labradores") are to be hired to work in Jamaica, as decreed and specified in this document. (Their nature is not stated, but from the context some may have been skilled [refiners, etc.] but many may have been simply adventurers). In the attachment are stipulated the following conditions: the workers will receive free passage to Jamaica and food from the day they board the vessel (but if any elect to settle on other islands, they are to reimburse the ship's master). In Jamaica, they will receive free bread and meat ("comer de carne i pan") for the first three months after arriving; later they will be assigned land to cultivate. Though precious metals had not yet been discovered in Jamaica, the contract provides that any who find gold and silver are to pay only one fifth of their yield in accordance with the laws of New Spain ("les guardaran las ordenancias de la nueva espana"). Refiners of silver are to pay 150 maravedis for every quintal they refine, but, as this is very lucrative, they will not receive free food. At the end, the authority of Alberto de Flandes over the 50 laborers is reconfirmed with the formula "and so has ordered the Virreina de las Indias" ("Las des dicho la ViReina de la Yndias").
Documents concerning the Columbus family and its long involvement in the New World are today very rarely offered for sale.