Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OVANDO, Nicolas de (o-van'-do), Spanish soldier, born in Valladolid in 1460; died in Madrid in 1518. He was of a noble family and knight of the order of Alcantara. In 1501 he was chosen to supersede Bobadilla in the government of Hispaniola, trod on 13 February, 1502, he sailed from Spain with a fleet of thirty sail and 2,500 people, many of them persons of rank. He arrived at the city of Santo Domingo on 15 April, and immediately assumed the government of the island. One of his first acts was to refuse to let Columbus take shelter with his fleet in Santo Domingo to avoid the dangers of an approaching hurricane; and when the admiral, in 1503, was in a most desperate position in Jamaica, Ovando, though Columbus sent a messenger to him asking for relief, let several months pass without rendering aid. The administration of Ovando in Hispaniola was one of great cruelty toward the Indians. Hearing that Queen Anacaona (q. v.), who always had been friendly to the Spaniards, was secretly meditating a massacre of himself and followers, he announced his intention to make her a friendly visit, and went to her dominions of Xaragua accompanied by 300 foot soldiers, heavily armed, and ten horsemen. They were received with joy and kindly treated, but in the midst of the festivities that were held in his honor he ordered Anacaona and all her caciques to be seized, and after a mock trial caused the latter, eighty-four in number, to be burned alive (1503). Anacaona was taken to Santo Domingo city and hanged some time afterward. During six months after the massacre at Xaragua the destruction of the inhabitants continued. When the country had been pacified in this way, Ovando, in commemoration of his atrocities, founded the town of Santa Maria de la Verdadera Paz. In 1504 he waged war against the natives of the province of Higuey and caused many of the natives to be slaughtered and their chieftains to be burned alive. On one occasion he imprisoned 600 Indians of Saona in a dwelling and put them to the sword. The death of their cacique, Cotabanama, was followed by the complete subjugation of his people and ended the last struggle of the natives against foreign rule. By these persecutions the number of natives, which at the arrival of the Spaniards was said to be 500,000, was reduced, according" to a census taken in 1507, to 60,000" and to provide labor for the mines, Ovando sent expeditions to the Bahamas to kidnap Indians into slavery. Apart from his cruel treatment of the Indians, Ovando's administration was beneficial to the island. He founded several cities, fostered the mining industry, introduced the cultivation of sugar-cane with plants that he brought from the Canary islands, and sent out expeditions of discovery. Ovando was recalled in 1509 by King Ferdinand, in performance of a promise that he had made to Queen Isabella on her death-bed. He was succeeded by Diego Columbus, but was permitted to retain possession of all his property.
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