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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 9: The famous islands of the Bijagos heathen, the fertility of their soil, and the character and industry of their inhabitants,   pp. 1-6

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Chapter 9
The famous islands of the Bijagos heathen, the fertility of their
"soil, and the character and industry of their inhabitants
The situation of these islands leaves nothing to be desired, being
what the poet Lucian called "of luxuriance the most luxurious",
for divine
favour has made them the best situated islands in all this Ethiopia. Their
aspect is the most charming and pleasant, the flat countryside being open
to view Af.33v/ and covered throughout with groves of high palmtrees, as
well as being crossed by a number of creeks entering from the sea, whose
sands are, in recollection, attractive above all others. The perennial
springs of the countryside have the same quality.     In sum, these islands
are a paradise. Yet they belong to the worst people in Ethiopia. The land
is fertile, and produces in large quantities a variety of crops, such as
milho, macarras, mafafas, rice, beans and wood-yams.
But let us discuss the main pcint. It must be understood that there
are no heathen more astute than these. Hence what mainly occupies them is
the art of war. Excellent warriors, they have spread terror and desolation
among all those to the windward. They have destroyed the Biafares and even
burnt the house of Our Lady of Guinela in 1610, and they have made large-
scale assaults on Biguba. This is the reason why the preaching and propagation
of the Gospel has had limited success in these parts, for although many of
the kings wish to revere the true King, they fail to do this because of the
daily outrages and hardships comitted and inflicted by the Bijagos. An
'account has been presented to His Majesty.b) Yet perchance the covetousness
of the majority of these in Guinea would otherwise have obstructed the
achievement of a successful outcome. For it has been necessary to contend
with-an opinion spread by those least devoted to the eternal interests of
such a number of souls, souls who might with great ease have been brought
from darkness into light. What has been said is this : "Upset the Bijagos
and Guinea is finished ! " As if such an evil people were the fundamental
substance of Guinea! The canard only serves as a snare and as eternal fetters
for many souls who, being directed only by temporal interest, have lost
eternity. This piratical lot (the Bijagos) are here in large numbers, all
them living on loot, unjustly, which is precisely how they collect the goods.
Whatever they come upon at sea they grab, even if it belongs to their own
people; and so, once they get into their canoes, they plunder the Biafares,
(a) Although these are mainly wells containing small quantities of water,
dug in marshy ground, or near the sea in the sand-dunes.
(b) Or not actually presented, because, as it happened His Majesty in full
splendour of royalty accepted truth of what was alleged. (?)


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