Remarkable reactions on a demonstration of a Spanish musket

The Coastline of south New Guinea has been discovered again and again by white explorers during more than 300 years. White explorers were probably preceded by Indonesians and Chinese from the west side and Micronesians from the east side of south New Guinea. (Read it in the beautiful book of the excellent Papua scholar Pamela Swatling "Plumes of Paradise") In 1606 sailors of a Spanish vessel landed at the southeast coast of New Guinea. Here, these two completely different cultures met each other for the first time. The Papua's Seemed to be as self assured as the white strangers and for a moment both sides must have looked in each other eyes with astonishment. The reaction of the Papua's on a demonstration of a Spanish musket was quite different we would expect. The following example says much about the sense of humor of the Papua's of this part of New Guinea

DON DIEGO DE PRADO Y TOVAR; commander of the `San Pedrico` August 15th 1606 Islas de San Bartolome 

''On the day of the Assumption of Our Lady we went ashore in the boats towards a big river which runs from a corner towards the north, and near its mouth we found a large village of well disposed people, tall and white, and though they saw us approaching they were not frightened, but waited for us and saluted us after their fashion, raising both hands to heaven, like one who gives thanks to God, and then sat down on the ground; we responded in like manner and sat down. They continued looking at us as at people they had never seen, and in a short time one of them, who must have been one of their chiefs, rose up and asked us by signs what we wanted. He was answered by putting the hand in the mouth, which is the sign for asking for water to drink. He at once went to a good sized house and brought a cane tube full of water, which would hold about three `azumbres’ and our people drank; these are the vessels in use throughout this country, tubes of very thick and large canes.'' 

 

 

'Having replaced the tube in the house he again asked by signs what we wanted further; he was answered by blowing with the mouth as one blows a firebrand and he brought it to him alight. Just then a very big pig, white with black spots like those of pasture land, came across among the men, and a soldier asked him by signs to give it to him, and he answered contemptuously that he might take it; he put the match to his arquebuse and shot the pig below its ear and straightway it fell dead. This caused them great astonishment. The said Indian who had brought the water rose up and asked him for the arquebuse, and went about twenty paces to a sty with a pig, which for sheer fatness could not move; he pointed the arquebuse at it and with his mouth said ''pu'' with great force, thinking that the soldier had killed the other in that fashion; and seeing that he had not killed it he aimed at if again and raised his voice still more saying `puu,` with the same result. All the Indians, some fifty, who were awaiting the event, seeing that he had not killed the pig began to roar with laughter so that it was a sight to see the fun they made of it after their fashion. The Indian came back very much ashamed, with his arquebuse so that he could hardly walk, and gave it back to the soldier, who turned the other way and recharged it and asked the Indian by signs that he should give him the pig, and he replied by signs that he might take it; the soldier went to the sty and killed it, then the laughter was still greater like men making fun of their companion. While they were amusing themselves thus I caused both pigs to be taken to the boat. I presented him with a Milanese bell hung from a silk ribbon, and rang it for him before them all, which he highly esteemed; and he in return gave a bird larger than a swan of dark grey colour, with a sharp beak, that had neither tongue nor wings, and in their place it had on each side five points like porcupine quills black and white; it ate pebbles, iron tarpaulin nails, pieces of linen and paper and when it drank sea water it got drunk, and then it was a sight to see the leaps and springs it made in the ship. At Ternate I gave it to the Camp Master Juan de Esquibel, who valued it greatly.''
 

 

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