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The mystery of the Amazons, the warrior women

The mystery of the Amazons, the warrior women
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In 1542 a group of men led by the Spanish captain Francisco de Orellana were exploring a large river whose name they did not know. They had had incredible adventures that I have recounted in my book “1542 The First Navigators of the Amazon River ”. When they arrived in a mysterious place, after some confrontations with indigenous people, they realized that there were warrior women, who were later named Amazons, following some Greek myths. Here is the chapter of my book where I describe the contact of the Spanish with women warriors.

These channels led away from the main arm. They were overflowing with logs, vines and floating vegetation, which hindered passage. From time to time the tam tom of distant drums could be heard. It was as if someone was watching them and, from afar, informing others of their arrival.

On June 22, 1542, the navigators arrived at a rich land, in which the people followed each other.

Some canoes approached the European ships and the indigenous people who were driving them addressed the intruders making strange gestures and speaking in an incomprehensible language. Were they making fun of them? Maybe not, they probably just wanted to communicate something, but their ridiculous faces were taken as jokes.

Orellana, irritated by this strange behavior, decided to drive them away, and gave the order to wound some of them with crossbows. After having sailed approximately one league, he decided to moor in a village, with the intention of getting supplies.

However, a slew of arrows fired by other screaming warlike natives complicated the landing.
The Spanish, who used large turtle shells as shields, defended themselves with crossbows and harquebuses, killing several indigenous people who were advancing relentlessly. Some of them, before violently launching themselves against the invaders, danced in a strange way, as if they had to pay tribute to Divinity before dying in the attempt to defend their territory.

In the middle of the battle, the foreigners observed some tall, white and muscular women warriors who launched their arrows with precision, in such a way that they injured five Spaniards, among whom was Brother Carvajal, who was wounded in the lower abdomen. They were the Amazons.

Below is a description of the battle, extracted from Carvajal's book, Relation of the new discovery of the famous Río Grande that Captain Francisco de Orellana discovered by great chance:

These women are very white and tall, and their hair is very long and braided and messy on their heads, and they are very skinny and they walk around naked in their skins, covered with their shame, with their bows and arrows in their hands, waging as much war as ten Indians; And in truth there was one of these women who put an inch of arrow through one of the brigs, and others who looked less like our porcupine brigs. Returning to our purpose and fight, Our Lord was able to give strength and encouragement to our companions, who killed seven or eight, which we saw, of the Amazons, after which the Indians fainted and were defeated and destroyed with much damage. of their people; And because a lot of people were coming from the other towns to help and they were going to riot, because they were already changing their last name, the Captain ordered the people to embark very quickly because he did not want to put everyone's lives at risk, and so they embarked without If it capsizes, because the Indians began to fight and rather than the water, a large fleet of canoes came, and so we went along the river and left the land.

The battle raged. The Spanish, finally, emerged victorious by being able to use their harquebuses and their iron swords. Then they retreated and reached the center of the river, from where they managed to get away.

Orellana took a native as a prisoner, who days later was interrogated and who described the habits and customs of the warrior women.

The mystery of the Amazons, the warrior women
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The navigation continued and the Spanish decided to dock in another town in the hope of finding food and shelter. It was not so. Also in that place they were attacked by furious natives who shot them lots of arrows, one of which wounded Brother Gaspar de Carvajal in the eye.

The religious, injured twice in the same day, lost his eye, in terrible pain.

The other men of the expedition helped him, trying to heal the empty and bloody orbit, but he did not complain, on the contrary, he thanked the Lord for helping him overcome what he called tests of faith, and he did not stop comforting the other wounded. He never cursed against the natives, but he understood their situation and realized that they felt threatened by strange beings that crossed his territory.

The next day, the ships were again surrounded by more than two hundred canoes of indigenous people who blew trumpets and beat drums as if to get excited before the battle. Orellana gave the order to shoot and managed to get out of that crossroads that could have been the end. The boats headed towards a channel, hoping to ward off the natives and then return to the main arm. However, near the confluence with the river, the indigenous people formed a barrier to block the way for foreigners and force them to surrender. It was the umpteenth harsh battle, and thanks to the harquebuses, the travelers managed to reach the center of the river again, where the current was becoming very strong. In fact, they were approaching the passage that today is called Óbidos, the narrowest place in the entire river, 1900 meters. Its depth reaches one hundred meters and the current there is very strong.
Once they crossed that passage, they sailed for more than a day and then reached the confluence with a large river, called Tapajós, coming from the right side. Then they stopped to spend the night on a huge beach where tranquility reigned.

Orellana took the opportunity to interrogate the native taken prisoner during the battle with the Amazons.

That man said that the lord of that town was Couynco, a tributary of the Amazons, called Cunan, which in Tupí-Guaraní means women.

Below is a fragment of the description of the fantastic tribe of the Amazons, transmitted in Carvajal's book:

The Captain asked him what women were those who had come to help them and fight us: the Indian said that they were women who lived inland seven days from the coast, and because this Mr. Couynco was subject to them, they had come to guard the coast. The Captain asked him if these women were married: the Indian said no. The Captain asked him how they lived: the Indian responded that, as he said, they were inland, and that he had been there many times and had seen their treatment and housing, and that as his vassal he was going to take the tribute when The Lord sent it. The Captain asked if there were many women: the Indian said yes, and that he knew seventy towns by name, counting them in front of those of us who were there and that he had been to some of them. The Captain asked him if these towns were made of straw: the Indian said no, but made of stone and with its doors and that from one town to the other there were roads that were fenced on one side and on the other, and there were guards posted along them so that he could not enter. no one without paying rights. The Captain asked him if these women gave birth: the Indian said yes. The Captain told him that since they were not married, nor was there a man residing among them, they got engaged: he said that these Indian women participated with Indians at times and when the urge comes, they gather a lot of warriors and go to war against a very great lord who resides and has his land next to these women, and by force they bring them to their lands and have with them as long as they want, and after they are found pregnant they send them back without doing them any further harm: and Later, when the time comes for them to give birth, if they give birth to a son, they kill him and send him to his parents, and if they give birth to a daughter, they raise her with great solemnity and impose the things of war on her. He further said that among all these women there is a lady who holds and has all the others under her hand and jurisdiction, which lady is called Conorì. He said that there is very great wealth of gold and silver, and that all the important ladies serve nothing but gold and silver, and the other commoner women serve themselves in wooden vessels, except for what reaches the fire that It is mud... and they are dressed in very fine woolen clothing, because in this land there are many sheep of the kind from Peru...

It seems that these women lived in the interior of what is today called the Jamundá River, current Conuris River, left tributary of the Amazon River. His kingdom extended to the Tapajós River.

After the native's story, it was learned that the Amazons lived in seventy towns located seven days' journey inland.

They imposed taxes on the subjugated peoples and did not marry, although they copulated with their prisoners, whom they later returned to their lands. Another legend related to this myth tells that after a night of love with an Amazon, the one who arrived as a boy returns old.

If a child was born, they killed him and sometimes sent the body to the town where his father came from. If a girl was born, they took care of her and taught her the art of war. In each of its rooms there was silver and gold in great abundance and richly decorated clay amphorae. Sometimes they dressed in brightly colored cotton habits, but generally they were naked, covering only their private parts. According to the native story, the Amazons believed in the Sun God, whom they worshiped in several temples where there were female idols. Also the religious Cristobal de Acuña, who visited the area in 1637, transmitted several news about the Amazons. He described Lake Parime, where warrior women extracted salt and a jade stone called Muirakitan. This mineral, the philosopher's stone of the Amazon, was used as an amulet and symbol to thank the Gods.


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