As Columbus continued along Haiti’s northern coast, local Taínos fled from encounters, precluding his trading for gold or locating its source. Frustrated, Columbus ordered sailors ashore to capture an inhabitant to whom he could confer courtesies and gifts to demonstrate peaceful intentions, and the sailors chased some Taínos through a forest to seize a young woman. As they hauled her back to the Santa María, she likely was petrified her fate was to be raped, enslaved, or eaten by unknown cannibals or the Santa María itself.
Assisted by a Guanahanían captive, Columbus offered her a glass bead necklace and a shirt intended for trade at the Grand Khan’s court in Cathay. After she calmed, Columbus ordered Guanahanían captives and sailors to restore her to her village, somewhere near the present Baie de Moustiques, Haiti, and they released her ashore clothed but unharmed.
The next morning, Columbus ordered a Guanahanían captive and armed sailors to learn if the woman had convinced her villagers it was safe to meet and to seek a meeting. Encounters Unforeseen explores the captive’s predicament, being dispatched by his captors as their ambassador to a village of people unknown to him whom he feared—but for his captors’ presence—might also enslave him or worse.
Crowds of villagers soon decided to meet the pale visitors.