The Columbus’s Gold Story
A true story about what Happened in the Dominican Republic
Written 2010 and rewritten 03/07/2016
This story actually begins in 1968 in the Country of Haiti.
I had made my first trip to Haiti, in 1968 when I was living in Florida, I went there to help my old friend Lou Gladstein. Lou had purchased the Haitian Railroad for scrap, and he requested my assistance to help him to disassemble and remove it.
I hadn’t heard from Lou since 1963, when I was 24 years old and had just married. Lou was my best man, and his wife was a witness at my wedding.
In 1963, I had originally moved to Florida to assist Lou in running an auto wrecking business, so it was really because of Lou that I had come to Miami in the first place. Then after Lou decided to close down the business, I had opted to stay in Florida
Then after we closed the business down, I started helping Lou to install a freezer in a 40 foot wooden work boat he had brought down from Connecticut. Then one day in 1963, Lou just disappeared, I was told he went to Haiti with the boat to buy lobsters, and he didn’t tell me he was leaving, so I suspected something had gone wrong up north, and he had to leave quickly.
So for me to have Lou call me in 1968, telling me to join him immediately in Haiti was quite extraordinary to say the least, especially after not hearing from him since 1963.
But now, looking back on it all, I have to admit that had it not been for Lou, and his call in 1968, I never would have had the experience of traveling to a country that I knew nothing about, as a matter of fact I didn’t even know where Haiti was. So Lou’s request, for me to come there was to awaken me to the existence of a whole other world that was out there, one that I could never have dreamed existed.
I found that Haiti was on an Island in the Caribbean between Cuba and Puerto Rico. The island was originally called “La Hispania” by the Spaniards, but now it was called “Hispanola.” with Haiti
constituting about 1/3 of the island, and its official language being French, but mostly they spoke the local language called Patois, and then there was the Spanish speaking Dominican Republic on the other side which constituted the other 2/3 of the island.
History says the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, even though there is a lot of conflicting evidence that he wasn’t the first European to be there.
However, there is no question that on Christmas day 1492, Columbus’s flagship the Santa Maria went aground and sank there near what is now the northern coast of Haiti, that ship breaking apart on coral in shallow water, is an undisputed fact.
Once that happened, Columbus, who has now turned out to be a pretty controversial guy, had only two ships left to return to Spain with, they were the Nina and the Pinta, and that was the reason he was forced to leave 39 of his crewmen behind in Haiti, back in 1492.
But, before Columbus left the island to return to Spain, his men constructed a small fortress using the wood planks from the Santa Maria. The fort was called “La Navidad”, Columbus had named it that because it was Christmas time 1492.
Regardless of what has been written over the years by many so-called historians, Columbus’s main goal, besides from finding what he thought was a western route to the “Indies,” was for his own enrichment. Thus, in 1492, when Columbus left his little colony of “La Navidad” and returned to Spain. His instructions to the 39 people that he left behind, was to search the islands interior for the true source of the gold that the natives had, and to also trade for as much gold as they could from the Indians. Columbus, expected to return to Navidad and have a lot of gold waiting for him.
Prior to Columbus’s arrival in what was then then referred to as the “New World”, the local native population didn’t put much value on gold, so those first Spaniards found it relatively easy to trade with them to get whatever gold they had. The Spaniards were trading things like small brass hawk’s bells, and glass beads and broken pieces of dishes, these were all things the natives had never seen before.
When Columbus returned in 1493, he arrived with 17 ships and 1500 colonists, all people who had come from Spain to colonize the new lands.
Some of the colonists that arrived were extremely talented people and they were ready to start building a colony. There were carpenters, farmers, stone masons and other people with skills, but unfortunately for Columbus, many of the so called colonists were a collection of Spain’s former soldiers, and there were also quite a few sons of wealthy families back in Spain.
The unemployed soldiers were fresh from Spain’s battles with the Moors, and now they wanted their share of the new land and some of the gold that Columbus had exaggerated about. These soldiers were not interested in building any colonies. That sentiment, also went for the sons of the wealthy families from Spain, who were called “Los Hidalgo’s” or “The Gentlemen.”, they also as a group were not interested in building a colony, they were not even interested in working or being told what to do, they only wanted adventure and gold.
So when Columbus returned to the island of La Hispania on November 27 1493, the first thing he did was look for his fort of La Navidad. But he only found lots of dead bodies. All the 39 men that he had left there had been killed or were missing and probably dead, and he found his little fort of La Navidad was burned to the ground.
Columbus looked for the all gold they had collected, but it was also gone. So now, with his fleet of 17 ships, loaded with lots of sick colonists, soldiers, horses and farm animals, they left the site of La Navidad to look for a more suitable place to establish another colony.
It was on January 2 1494, that Columbus finally arrived at what he thought was a good spot which was on the northern coast of what we now called the Dominican Republic, and there he went ashore and established his new colony that he called La Isabella, naming it after the queen of Spain.
Now this story jumps to 1970, when I returned to Miami from Haiti, it was after we had found the lost Columbus gold from Navidad. I had found the gold it in a partnership with my friend Lou, Gladstein, Doctor Marc Bulliet, and my friend Paul Sherwood from Miami. Paul and I had spent a bit of time in the interior of Haiti, so by the time I returned to Miami in 1970, I was feeling like I was the movie character Indiana Jones.
However when I returned from Haiti, I was suffering from the effects of cyanide poisoning that I had gotten from eating mountain grown Cassava there. My doctor suggested that I check into the local Palmetto General Hospital immediately to cure all the residual effects of the Cyanide poisoning that I still had, and I agreed.
I felt that my stay in the hospital would give me plenty of time to think over a lot of things, especially regarding my possibly going to find Columbus’s gold in the Dominican Republic. I thought that perhaps a peaceful stay in the hospital would give me time to read some books, and learn more about what had happened regarding Columbus and his second colony called La Isabella in the Dominican Republic. I also needed time to get over what had happened to my Miami friend Paul. He and I had gone into the Haitian interior together to look for Columbus’s gold.
What had happened was, my taxi driver and buddy Toni Richmond who was my Taxi driver in Haiti, had introduced us to an American thug that ran a combination nightclub and whore house that was known as the South Road Cabaret. The owner’s name was John, and he was the “Go to Guy” in Haiti when it came to stolen gold and treasure. John knew and paid off everyone. So once I talked to John, I realized that he could be a real problematic person if he found out that we were going after Columbus’s gold. My driver Toni said, when John heard from him that I had a small precious metal refinery in Miami, he was anxious to become friends with me. It appeared that John needed a way to get his illicit gold out of Haiti without arousing attention of the authorities. Toni said that was the reason John was so friendly and wanted to work with me. He said that John wasn’t afraid of being arrested by anyone in Haiti, but he was afraid the crooked authorities in Haiti would steal his gold, so it was because of that, that he spoke freely with me one evening. That evening we just talked about everything, and that included Columbus’s gold in Haiti. But I didn’t mention to John that we had any intentions of going after it. So that evening as we all drank Heineken after Heineken, John talked, and he talked, he even told me all about the gold that Columbus and the other Spaniards had hidden on the Dominican Republic side of the Island.
I believed that John, knew what he was talking about, because he told me that he had already purchased Spanish gold that came from the La Isabella colony.
However what also became apparent in our meeting, was that John didn’t like my association with Lou Gladstein, who he knew was living with his wife up the mountain in Fermathe. I think he was jealous that Lou had bought the railroad and knew who to pay off. He also didn’t like my association with my friend Dr. Marc Bulliet, who was the so called chief archeologist of Haiti. Mark could have been a competitor, or just too well connected with the government.
After my conversation with John at his Cabaret in Haiti, I better understood that our dealing in any Spanish gold was going to be illegal as well as dangerous. He said that it was mainly due to antiquity laws, but I think it was also due to bad people like him getting involved. Anyway, after our conversation, I knew that everything we did had to be done under the table, quietly and secretly. Besides learning about all the dangers, my talking with John, aroused my curiosity about the gold from the colony of Isabella in the Dominican Republic.
The doctor had said it was going to take around four days to a week to cure me, using Nitrate solutions, intravenously injected, so as long as I was going into the hospital, I went down to the Miami library with my wife and we both checked out as many books on Christopher Columbus as we could. One of the books was the English translation of Columbus’s own notes, and some of the other books contained the translated notes of other people that had traveled along with Columbus.
Once I was in the hospital, the more I read about Columbus, it became obvious that historians had really been off base in their assessment of him. It becomes easy to see by any intelligent person that they were all wrong about Columbus. There was no way that some uneducated guy from Genoa, had accomplished what Columbus supposedly did, speaking and writing in several languages, it was just impossible. According to my friend Dr. Marc Bulliet in Haiti, Columbus wasn’t even the person that he said he was, at the time I didn’t believe him, Marc had said that all the historians were wrong, and the person they all wrote about wasn’t the Italian guy Colombo from Genoa, but rather he was really a Portuguese fellow, named Salvador Fernandez Zarco, the bastard son of a Portuguese nobleman. Now here I was, reading books on the subject, and I could see that Marc was right, whoever Columbus was, because he was obviously a highly educated man only using the Columbus name. He was also a guy who wanted to be rich and famous, and to him that meant getting a lot of gold.
Then there was another thing the historians have neglected to write, it was obvious that Columbus was a person that already had plenty of solid information and maps showing him where he was going, and he already knew what he would find when he got there.
However, much has been said what happened once he made the discoveries, and was appointed Admiral of the Ocean Seas, and Governor of all the new lands. Columbus turned out to be a pretty nasty guy who wanted to take all the natives gold and then to sell them as slaves.
I read that Columbus even put a gold toll on each native and if they didn’t produce the gold, he had their hands cut off. It was because of his policies that Columbus and those Spaniards that followed him, were able to decimate the entire populations of people in the new lands. He allowed slavery in his own colony, and used slaves to dig in his gold mines, thus killing thousands of them, and that was what eventually forced the Spaniards to start importing stronger black slaves from Africa to replace the dead Indian workers.
Eventually in the Columbus colony of Isabella, the theft of the gold by Columbus and some of his fellow colonists was so bad that the King and Queen of Spain had to send soldiers to act as guards. The guards watched the gold from the moment it was mined until it was loaded on a ship going to Spain.
One of the more interesting facts I discovered, was that many of the colonists, soon after arriving rebelled against Columbus’s rule, so then he retaliated by hanging some of them. That caused many of them to return to Spain, but many just moved away. Columbus’s problems of having to dealing with these malcontents started the very first month they arrived. The ones that eventually moved and left the colony, were the former soldiers, and the uncontrollable Hidalgo’s. They then established their own homesteads a distance away from the colony of Isabella, with many of them taking several native wives, and they survived by foraging in the mountains and stealing and killing natives for their food and any gold ornaments they had.
I reasoned that most of these malcontents, as well as Columbus had to have buried their stolen gold somewhere near where they lived, and where they could watch over it. This I felt was important, because in those days, the colonists didn’t live very long, so my conclusion was that most of these people died before they ever could get any of their stolen gold smuggled out of the colony and back to Spain. I had read that the mortality of the colonists at La Isabella was extremely high, and it was for a variety of reasons’ with many dying from the extraordinary heat, the lack of good food and from diseases they brought with them as well as influenza and syphilis.
So, my conclusion, after reading all the books, was that the gold they plundered was probably was still buried there in the Dominican Republic, all I had to do was go and find it.
But, here I was laying in the hospital, and I knew that I no longer had my friend Paul to travel with me. Paul had gone with me into the interior of Haiti searching for the gold from La Navidad, and he had become badly traumatized there. He thought we were being shot at, and someone was trying to kill us. So after we got the gold, Paul didn’t want his share, and he had quickly returned to Miami. Then when I returned, I went to look for him, I found he had abandoned his house, moved away and simply disappeared. So now I had no one to travel with me to the Dominican Republic, and I knew that I needed a travel partner, I needed someone that I could trust and would assist me in looking for the gold.
As I thought more about it, I realized that I did have another good friend that fit the bill, he was my former employee and friend, Miguel Marquez. Miguel was a Cuban refugee that was once working for me at my automotive parts rebuilding company in Miami, and he was also still working for me in the evenings at my small precious metals refinery.
Since Miguel’s escape from Cuba in 1963, we had become really good friends. We were such good friends that I was teaching him the English language and he was teaching me his Cuban Spanish.
Miguel had escaped from Cuba in 1963 and came to America with his immediate family, and once in Miami, his cousin had brought him over to see me for a job.
By 1970, Miguel and I had really become very close friends, and my wife Katherine and I had been accepted into Miguel’s extended Cuban family who by then were living in Miami.
I had never considered traveling with Miguel because being a refugee he was very concerned about the airplane hijackings, and he was always afraid of ending up in prison in Cuba.
Miguel was a ruggedly good looking guy, he was 6 foot tall with wavy black hair. If it were not for his Mediterranean looking complexion, people would have thought we were brothers. So, as soon as I was released from the hospital, I mentioned to Miguel that I was going to the Dominican Republic, and I asked him if he would like to travel there with me. Naturally, the first thing Miguel asked me, was why I wanted to go there, so I told him that I was interested in learning more about the travels of Christopher Columbus. Miguel had a hard time accepting this explanation and he asked me “Why would you ever be interested in Christopher Columbus, everyone already knew all about him”, so that’s when I went into the details of my buried gold theory.
Miguel wasn’t much of a theorist, but he did know all about gold, and that interested him, so I told Miguel that I would cover all his expenses, I just wanted him to be my travel companion and I would share anything we found with him. Miguel finally agreed to it, so that’s when we left for our first trip to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
In Miami, I had obtained a Texaco road map of the Dominican Republic, the map clearly showed us where the village of Isabella was supposed to be located. So I naturally assumed that was where the original Christopher Columbus Colony of La Isabella was also located.
At the airport in Santo Domingo we had to go through the normal incoming customs routine, but something didn’t appear right to me, it was the funny way the customs inspectors looked at us. I had no idea that we had been profiled as possible Communist agents.
I knew that Fidel Castro had taken over Cuba in 1958 and I knew that he had established a Communist government there, but now it appears that Fidel had started trying to export Communism to other countries in the Caribbean, and Miguel and I didn’t know anything about what was going on.
The Dominican government was sure that Fidel Castro would eventually attempt to send guerillas into their country and establish a communist base for a revolution, and I guess we looked to them like we were the guys.
So here we were, Miguel a young Cuban guy that spoke lousy English and me a young American guy that spoke hillbilly Spanish and with a Cuban accent. We had stated on our papers that we were tourists, and that didn’t sit well with the customs inspectors, so they questioned us to no end.
Not being involved in politics ourselves, we had no idea as to what they were looking for, or how serious it was, so Miguel and I were constantly joking with them, and we were always smiling and laughing, so when they eventually let us go, I assumed they must have realized we were not Communist infiltrators. But now in recalling the incident, I think they might have thought we were a couple of Communist idiots.
We rented a car and drove directly to the Pan American Hotel and Casino which was, at the time, was one of the premier hotels in Santo Domingo. It was set back off of a main highway and had a long grassy esplanade leading up to it. The grassy esplanade had paved roads on either side, the right side road leading to the parking lot and the hotels front door, the left road being the exit back to the highway.
We parked the car, and I paid a little Dominican Republic brat 25 cents to watch our car, while we went to check in.
Once we were in our room, I unpacked and I showered first. I told Miguel that I would go downstairs to have a cigarette. I said that when Miguel was done showering, he could find me out in front of the hotel in the grassy esplanade area between the two roads. When he came down he should get me, and we could both go to the buffet supper in the Hotel.
I went out the front door of the hotel and lit up a cigarette, and as I walked out to the grassy area, I saw another fellow who was nicely dressed in a business suit and tie, he also lit up a cigarette. Soon, the guy edged his way over to me and greeted me in Spanish, I replied to him in kind. He asked me in Spanish “Where are you from Senior” and I replied to him that I was from Miami Florida in the United States.
“You are a Cuban then,” he said, I said no, I’m an American. “Oh” he said. “I am very familiar with your country.” So I asked him, where are you from, and he said, “I am a greeting card salesman from the country of Colombia, and I am very familiar with your former president Kennedy, he was a son of a bitch”. That’s very possible I replied, I am not involved in politics so I wouldn’t know. I could see the guy wasn’t very happy with my reply. It was obvious he wanted me to say something bad about President Kennedy.
At that moment I saw Miguel coming out of the hotel front door, and I excused myself to walk over to him. “Who was that” Miguel asked. “He is a greeting card salesman from Colombia.” I replied.
Miguel looked at me strangely, and he said, “A greeting card salesman from Colombia, “are you kidding me”, he said, “The only thing they have in Colombia is cocaine and whores, I bet that guy is with the Dominican Republic Secret Police and he is here following us”.
I thought about it, Miguel was probably right, and I was starting to think that everything we were going to do in the Dominican Republic was now going to be watched by the Dominican Secret Police.
As I said, we had parked our car in the hotel parking lot, and when we did, I had been accosted by a kid around 8 or 10 years old that said he would watch our car for 25 cents. Which I felt meant he wouldn’t steal our tires. After supper the kid was still there, and he was singing a little ditty over and over. “Pajaro Pelu, Pajaro Pelu. I asked Miguel what the kid was singing about, Miguel said, “Pajaro Pelu, meant a bird with hair, not feathers”. I had given the kid the 25 cents against Miguel’s wishes, and now I couldn’t get rid of him. That’s when Miguel, said to me that he was more familiar with Hispanic culture than I was, he said, “You see, I told you not to be nice to them, you should listen to me”.
We sat in the car and I looked over our road map and I determined that we needed to head for a city on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, called “Puerto Plata”, it was the only sizeable town before getting to Isabella. But I saw that Puerto Plata was way over on the other side of the Cordillera Central Mountains, and that was going to be quite a drive.
When we arrived in Puerto Plata, I could see how Christopher Columbus had named the place Puerto Plata or Silver Port, as the town was right near the coast and surrounded with mountains with big silver clouds over them, those clouds had reminded Columbus of the shiny silver metal, I had read all about that in his journals when I was in the hospital.
As we drove through the small town, of Puerto Plata, from the quantity of girls hanging around on the streets, we assumed the chief business there was hookers. They all appeared to be waiting for the local tourists that came to vacation on the beach.
In 1970, the city of Puerto Plata had not yet become the foreign tourist attraction that it is today, back then, there wasn’t even an airport for a jet to land on. But the area was still very popular with the local Dominican people, they were coming to the seaside and staying in the many small hotels that were there. Miguel and I drove along the ocean seawall until we saw a hotel that was right across the street from it, so I parked the car. We walked up two flights of wide cement stairs, and then more wooden ones, it was a strange looking kind of place, not like any hotel I had ever been to before, it was like a big wooden house with a porch all around it, and it was very picturesque. It was right across the street from the ocean seawall. So now here I was standing on the wooden porch looking at the ocean,
And I thought it appeared to be pretty shallow out there, but I could just envision what Columbus saw when he came and named this place Puerto Plata.
The wooden porch of the hotel went all around the one story building, but there were two big doors where we were standing so we walked inside. It was the hotel restaurant with perhaps 15 tables. There was a long liquor bar in the back of the room, and behind it were shiny swinging metal doors that appeared to lead into the kitchen.
On the far left end of the bar, sitting on a stool, with lots of papers on the bar in front of her, was a slightly overweight but good looking Dominican Mulatto girl, She looked to be in her middle 20’s, and I assumed that she was the manager.
From the looks of the place, it gave me the impression that they were expecting lots of guests, but we were the only ones in the restaurant, so Miguel and I both walked over to her.
Our bill for the room was $12.00 U.S. for one night, so I paid her in cash. Then we followed her out a side door, back onto the porch and around to the back of the building where she let us into a room that had two single beds.
At supper time Miguel and I went back into the restaurant and still we were the only customers. The young woman manager brought us the menu, and acted as our waitress, but I suspected she was the cook also.
In the morning, we had coffee and I again checked our map. We followed the shore road until we saw a huge Spanish fortress on a hill to our left overlooking the sea, it was very majestic looking but appeared to be falling apart due to neglect.
We passed the fortress and the road turned inland, then somehow we ended up back on a main highway, that’s when I realized we were already lost, there wasn’t even one road sign to direct us to Isabella. So we started looking for someone on the highway to ask directions. That’s when we saw a woman carrying a big ripe papaya, so I stopped to ask her where the town of Isabella was. I could see she was scared to death of us, so we smilingly asked for directions to Isabella several times, trying to be friendly, but she still kept nodding her head no. I then pointed to the town of Isabella, on our map, she studied it, and finally she pointed us to the right road.
Now using her directions we soon found a small village. It appeared to be mostly all palm leaf or tin roofed huts. I was looking for something more dramatic, like old Spanish buildings or some signs of the ruins of Columbus’s original 1493 colony, but there was nothing old to be seen there. Isabella just looked like a very poor farming village.
As we walked through the village, we saw what looked like a little store, it was no more than a shed, with people standing in front, so Miguel and I walked over to it.
There were several older men standing in front, all talking to each other, but they all stopped talking as we approached. Miguel asked them if this was the village of Isabella and they nodded yes. We were stumped. There was not one sign of anything that would lead us to believe that Christopher Columbus, and his 1500 colonists were ever there. I saw that in the shed there was a round hole in the ground with sawdust in it, it was full of beer and soda, and there were a few rusty cans of food on the shelves.
Miguel and I spent the rest of the morning walking around looking at everything, we knew that we couldn’t say or do anything that might make anyone suspicious as to what we were doing there, but it was easy to see that everyone in the village was suspiciously watching our every move. I should have known better, as it was just like in Haiti, where a white mans every move is always watched, and there was little I could do without always seeing someone following me.
At noon time, Miguel and I sat under a big tree and we each ate a can of sardines that we had brought in our pocket. Then as we left the village, I looked back and I could see the kids digging our empty sardine cans out of the trash pile.
We drove all the way back to Santo Domingo that evening, and we caught the next flight to Miami. I was very perplexed, could it be that all the maps in the history books showing the Colony of Isabella were wrong, and was the Texaco road map I had also wrong, where was the 1493 Columbus colony of La Isabella?
Two weeks later, I was back in Haiti, working on the railroad project with my friend Lou. While I was there, I also met up with my friend Marc Bulliet. Marc always told us that he was the chief archeologist in Haiti, but none of us really knew exactly how he made his living, other than the fact that he was well connected. Lou always joked about it and said Marc also worked for the CIA, but regardless of how Marc made his living, I personally found him to be a very intelligent and personable guy. His partnership with us, and the information he had provided us about the Columbus gold from La Navidad had paid off handsomely for all of us, and Marc had received his share.
Now I had become Marc’ Bulliet’s good friend and I was his source of John Rolfe fruit flavored pipe tobacco, I always brought him several packages of the tobacco every trip I made to Haiti.
I told Marc all about our trip to the Dominican Republic, and all about our looking for the Columbus colony of Isabella. I asked him what he thought about the village of Isabella that was on the maps not being the original colony.
Two days later I was sitting at the bar at the Hotel Castle Haiti, having a drink with my driver Toni, when a young man showed up and said that Doctor Marc Bulliet wished to see me that evening at his home in Petionville.
After supper Toni drove me to Marc’s house which was located in a nice but very modest neighborhood in the town of Petionville. Petionville was a town located the mountains just above Port Au Prince. Marc’s house was all cement construction, and in nice condition, freshly painted a in a light yellow color.
Toni waited in the car as I went in the house where I met Marc’s wife and an aunt. I sat down on a sofa in the living room as Marc disappeared into a bedroom.
He came out with what looked like a 15 inch long rolled up diploma, it had a red ribbon on it and he handed it to me. I untied the ribbon and found two large sheets of very old photographic paper, with what looked looked like a copy of a map of the island of Hispanola. I unfurled both pieces and held them together on my lap.
What I saw was a very old photo copy of a map. The map was made in 1776, by a geographer and map maker named Don Joseph Solano, and it had been commissioned by the king of Wales. It was a beautiful topographical map of the entire island of Hispanola that showed in exact detail where Columbus’s colony of La Isabella was, as well as the location of his gold mines in the mountains. Every coral rock and boulder along the coast line was shown on the map in perfect detail.
I saw that the original colony of La Isabella was farther up the coast from where the present village of Isabella was. The more I studied the map, I simply couldn’t imagine how such a detailed map like this could have ever been made back in 1776.
Mark held his fingers to his lips. “Pease don’t tell anyone”, Marc said, the map came from the Haitian archives, and any theft from the archives is punishable crime here in Haiti.
Once back in Miami, I discussed the map with Miguel, but I could see that now Miguel was acting very apprehensive about going back to the Dominican Republic, he thought the whole thing was just too risky and we could both end up in jail.
He said, “The local people watch our every move. The local kids are a pain in the ass, hounding us for petty change, and we were most certainly being watched by the Dominican Secret Police”. Miguel said, he also didn’t like seeing so many armed soldiers everywhere either. He had seen enough of that crap in Cuba.
It didn’t deter me, the following week I went out and bought a new White’s metal detector, it was the latest model they had. Then, when I showed the machine to Miguel he just loved it, and he started putting coins everywhere on the floor and listening to the machine buzz as the machine’s loop passed over it, and after half an hour, Miguel finally agreed to make another trip to the Dominican Republic with me.
On this trip the Dominican customs inspectors were much more serious with us. They wanted me to explain what we were doing with the metal detector, and they really put us through a battery of questions. I told them over and over that we were looking to find Columbus’s lost gold mines. Jokingly I offered to make them a partner with us if we found the mine. After an hour or so, they saw they were getting nowhere with us, so they finally escorted us to the office of the head of customs, officer who they referred to as the Colonel. I could see everything was getting very serious now. When we sat in the Colonel’s office, I said, look sir, I am writing a book on the history of Christobal Colon, and Miguel is only a Cuban friend who is traveling with me. The Colonel said, “I am very familiar with all the stories of Christobal Colon, he is buried here in our country you know”.
I told him where we were heading, and the metal detector was for us to find Columbus’s lost gold mine. The Colonel looked at me and said, “Do you know how many people have looked for that gold mine over the years, hundreds of them”. The Colonel was now smiling, and I knew that he may have now thought we were idiots, but not communist infiltrator idiots.
The Colonel took out a pad and wrote down a name. “Go to the Santo Domingo Cathedral down town, that’s where the Colon remains are, and ask the guard for a “Senior Hernandez, he is my brother in law, and Hernandez knows all about Columbus and all about Isabella”. “Go,” he said, pointing to the door out of his office.”
From the airport we went directly to the car rental agency and rented a car. At the Pan American Hotel, the little pain in the ass kid was still in the parking lot singing “Pajaro Pelu”, it was like he was just waiting for us.
When we checked into the hotel, I complained to the manager about the kid in the parking lot. I told him the kid was a pest and he was always singing about a bird with hair, “Pajaro Pelu”. The manager looked at me like I was a dimwit, and he said, “Senior, in my country Pajaro Pelu refers to a woman’s private parts, not a bird.
The next morning we stopped in a mini supermarket and I bought several six packs of Pepsi Cola, a carton of Winston cigarettes and enough canned food to last us for us for over a week. I knew Miguel would eat any canned food that I gave him, but he really loved the big oval cans of Portuguese sardines in tomato sauce so I got a few of them. Next door was a hardware store and we bought a pointed spade shovel.
The big cathedral in down town Santo Domingo was easy to find after we ended up paying a street kid 50 centavos to park in a free public parking area, Miguel wanted to kill me for paying him. But I felt that I wanted our car to be there in one piece when we returned.
At the church, “Senior Hernandez” was there and indeed knew all about Isabella, so I made believe we were interested in Isabella only from a historical perspective.
He said the Isabella site was abandoned around 1498.and that’s when Santo Domingo became the new capital of the Dominican Republic.
He said that the colony of Isabella was well known, by everyone, but hurricanes took their toll on the original buildings and most of the stones that were used to make the buildings in the colony were removed to build the town of Puerto Plata. He told us that since the late 1800’s there have been no less than 12 official archeological digs in the original Isabella colony, and there have been hundreds of illegal digs. Then in 1945, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trajillo, had the site bulldozed, and then it happened again, it was bulldozed another time in 1959, when the site was designated a military lookout point during and after the Cuban revolution. I didn’t dare mention anything to him about us looking for gold. I was sure he would have notified the police. But it was interesting talking to him, especially about the hundreds of illegal digs that were done there, I wondered, were the people illegally looking for gold, like we were.
The next day, we headed out over the mountains to Puerto Plata, I was heading for the same hotel we had stayed in before. The pretty mulatto manager must have thought we were going to be a regular customers and this time she was much friendlier to Miguel.
It was a Friday, and the last time we were there she said the place would be jumping on Friday, but just like before, Miguel and I were the only customers in the whole place.
In the morning, we drove to the Village of Isabella where we had been last time, and with my new map we easily found where the actual village of Isabella should have been. It was now easy to see how the topography had changed over 400 years, even a small fresh water stream that was originally there in 1776, when the map was made, was now gone and just a gully remained.
All the landscape had changed, all except for the big coral boulders that lined the shore. The map was so accurate that I stood on a pointed coral boulder. And it was exactly as it was on the map in 1776. I could just imagine the colonists and then the mapmaker standing right where I was so many years ago.
With the map in hand, I could see how the original colony had been set up, but now it was nothing more than a big field being plowed up to grow vegetables.
I now knew that everything had been bulldozed and leveled years ago, but I hoped that possibly there were some building cornerstone foundation rocks that had not been moved. But I knew that anything buried in that area, like gold, had probably already been dug up by some previous archeologist or by some illegal treasure hunters using a metal detector. So I knew that what I really needed was to find a local person that could tell us where the rebelling colonists and the Hidalgo’s that had left the colony, where they moved to. I felt that’s where our best chance to find gold was. But to ask anyone that question would risk getting us in to serious trouble and possibly thrown in jail. I knew that we were there gold hunting illegally and all the villager’s eyes were on us, and there were always armed soldiers in the area. So I needed time to think as to how we could do anything, and I needed to do it, with out our arousing suspicion and getting me or Miguel arrested.
Some of the villagers were always following us everywhere we went, so I picked what I thought was a likely spot on the edge of a farmer’s field to dig, I was trying to act like we were official archeologists. I had the map and a pad and pen and I pretended to take notes.
We had the spade shovel that we had bought, and Miguel offered to start the digging. The temperature was over 100 degrees, so it wasn’t long before Miguel took his shirt off, and in about 10 minutes he had only dug a few inches but the sweat was pouring off him, and he stopped. That’s when I noticed a young boy about 14 years old boy watching us intently, his arms folded across his chest. So when Miguel was thoroughly soaked with sweat, I suggested we walk over to the tiny village store and get something cold to drink. I knew they had bottles of soda, buried in sawdust in the hole in the ground. They said that our cost was 17 cents for each soda, so Miguel and I drank two sodas each. I could hear the small crowd all murmuring around us, they were commenting on how we two big guys were drinking two sodas each. I knew Miguel had heard them also, but he could care less about what they were saying, but I felt bad, I knew none of them could afford a soda, so I bought everyone standing there a soda, and by doing it, I cleaned the store out of their sodas as well as all the beer they had.
When we went back to the hole that we had started digging, I had a bad feeling that some irate farmer was going to come over and see what we were doing and then start screaming at us. Well no farmers came, but the young boy I had seen before came over, and in Spanish, he told us, “Digging there was illegal unless you had official permission from the government.”
I could see he was a very serious kid, and he said in Spanish, “Did we know that the removal of antiquities was a jail offense.” So now I could see a big, big problem coming and the last thing I needed was some kid calling the local military police on us. I replied to him that we were doing research on Christobal Colon and we were not going to steal anything.
It was near noon time, and it was hot, so I suggested to Miguel that we take a break and go over and sit close to the edge of the ocean, and possibly go in for a swim and cool off.
We found an area that had some rocks to sit on and there were a few bushes to shade us. The ocean was very shallow but had white sand, it was like a small miniature beach so I suggested that we take a dip. So we stripped down to our underwear and just laid down in the shallow water. The water was so hot, it was worse than being in a bath tub. But as we lay there, I saw that same young boy watching us. He was sitting on his haunches behind some bushes. He wasn’t hiding himself from us, we could see him, as he was just there watching us.
Miguel saw him, and motioned for him to come over. “What’s your name?” Miguel said. The boy replied “Juan, he said, “Juan Peralta.” Juan asked Miguel, “Where are you from”? That started a long conversation with Miguel talking and then he started joking around with Juan, and Juan’s face was smiling.
I could see Juan was super intelligent for a young boy. He said that he knew all about Christopher Columbus from school, and from reading the newspapers, and also from reading various things the government printed. I got the feeling that Juan really wanted to meet and talk to us, as we may have been the only foreigners he had ever met.
Juan, said that he was 15 years old , and it appeared, was also very knowledgeable about his countries history, so I avoided mentioning to him that our real intentions were to look for the dissenting colonists buried gold”. I told Juan that we had brought a metal detector, with the hopes of finding some old Spanish coins that might be buried around Santo Domingo, or by the colonists, but when I mentioned the metal detector, Juan didn’t know what I was talking about, he said that he had never seen one.
Miguel and I got up out of the water and got dressed, and then we walked over to the car, where I set up the Whites metal detecting machine, and I let Juan put the headset on, of course Miguel now acted like he was a professional about how to use a metal detector.
Once Juan heard the buzzing noise that the machine made when he passed it over a coin, I knew I had made a friend out of him forever, he just loved learning to use the machine.
All that afternoon, I talked with Juan regarding Christopher Columbus, and I mentioned that I had read all about his warehouse having a window facing the sea, so Columbus could watch for ships coming from Spain. “That was true.” Juan said. “Everyone here knows where his old original warehouse was located”. Juan then said, “All the embankment along the shore line had been changed due to plowing over of the original colony of Isabella by the government. But over the years, hurricanes and due to natural erosion, it had again exposed most of the old warehouse floor. Juan said “Follow me, I will show you.”
He took us to a spot on the shoreline and stepped down the embankment and onto some flat rocks. Juan said, this is the original Columbus warehouse. As I looked around I saw lots of broken pieces of terra cotta Spanish roof tile, so I picked up a bigger piece and studied it. I could see in it the fingerprints of the 1492 Spanish colonists, they were still in the red clay pieces. Juan said, “Those pieces are from the roof of the warehouse, I could see he was disturbed by my picking them up, so I dropped them back on the ground, then when Juan wasn’t looking I picked up another small piece and put it in my pocket.
It appeared that the recent storms had again uncovered the warehouse floor that had been bulldozed under since 1945. I had read that when Columbus was sick, he spent a lot of time in a bed right in this building, I wondered why he did that, was he guarding something that he had here.
Now as we stood all there, there was an extremely low tide that day, and I could see the floor of the warehouse just as it was when Columbus lay in bed there. I tried slowly sweeping over the rock floor with the metal detector but there was nothing. As Juan and Miguel started to climb back up the embankment, I walked to the far end of the warehouse floor, the water had just receded and white sand was still covering the top of the large flat stones. With my shoe I kicked some sand away. I couldn’t believe I was probably standing right where Columbus once stood.
I looked down where I had kicked the sand away and there was a square hole about two inches by two inches cut into the stone floor, the hole was filled with sand, so I stuck my fingers in and removed some sand. I could feel an undercut. So I knew immediately that this was a hole made for a metal tool to fit into to lift the stone. I quickly stood up and refilled the hole with sand with my shoe. Then I turned on the Whites metal detector and it went absolutely crazy, it was buzzing so loud that I immediately turned the switch off. I did it so Juan or Miguel didn’t hear the loud bussing noise coming from my earphones. I knew that there was something big and metallic under that stone floor, and I was standing on it.
I climbed up the embankment and walked over to where Miguel and Juan were talking and joking around. We walked to the car, took out cans of sardines, then we all sat down in the shade of a tree and I again talked with Juan about the history of Christopher Columbus, and the island of Hispanola. I think it was the first time Juan had ever had canned sardines.
We talked a little about the original Taino Indians that had inhabited the island and Juan acknowledged to us that he was a mulatto, and his ancestors were probably the results of a Spaniard marrying an African slave. Juan said that in 1493, the original Taino Indians on Hispanola had tried to hide from the Spaniards. Then he said, “Do you want to see where some of them hid? Juan said he knew of a Taino village that no archeologists or white man had ever seen before, I couldn’t believe he was telling us this, so I said yes we would want to see it. I told Juan we would meet him in the morning, and go there.
That evening I told Miguel about the possibility of something metallic, most likely Columbus’s hidden gold was under the floor in the old warehouse, and I told him about the square hole I found. It was obviously put there for some kind of tool to be inserted to lift the floor. Miguel said “How are you going to do anything with this kid Juan watching and everyone in the village also watching us. I could see Miguel was becoming very irritated and nervous just talking about it, so I stopped talking about it.
The next morning we came with the car and picked up Juan. He led us deep into the Cordillera Mountains, we drove inland along several very rough and unpaved mountain roads until we finally came to a mountain that looked like a haystack. I could see curling smoke coming from small fires made by squatters that had built their huts all along the winding trail that was leading up to the top of the haystack shaped mountain.
With the Whites metal detector over my shoulder, and my SX70 camera in Miguel’s pocket, we started hiking up the long winding path to the mountains summit.
On the mountain top, I was surprised to see someone had already been plowing and farming something there. The land was all long furrows with small stones piled up at the end of each row.
Right away I started using the metal detector, walking up all the rows. But there was no sound of anything metallic. However the first thing that caught my eye was a small round stone worn flat on all 4 sides, it was a grinding tool made by the Taino Indians, I picked it up and I inconspicuously put it in my pocket, I didn’t want Juan to see me doing it.
I could see Miguel and Juan were way over on the other side of the mountain top, and that’s when I saw them waving and yelling for me to come to them. When I got there, it appears they had found the Indians trash dump. There were tons of oyster shells piled up and bits and pieces of clay pottery everywhere.
I saw that mixed in the trash piles there were quite a few miniature clay heads, which looked to have been broken off the edges of pottery or bowls.
I picked a couple up and slipped them in my pocket. Just As I did that, Miguel poked me in the side, and I looked up, and I could see someone on horseback approaching us. He was coming from way over on the other side of the mountain. His horse stepping carefully over the furrows. As he got closer I could see by his demeanor that he must be an important person, He was a small man, and looked to be no more than 5 feet tall,
He was on a big black horse. The guy had on a big black embroidered sombrero, just like the Mexicans wore, and he had on a black jacket and black pants that were all heavily embroidered with bright silvery designs on them. I could also see the horse’s bridal hardware was gleaming, it looked bright like it was real polished silver. I could see there was silver trim on his saddle and stirrups. He had hanging from his saddle a machete in a scabbard, the scabbard was also lined in silver trim, he looked to be right out of a Mexican cowboy movie. Juan whispered to me that the fellow might be the “Don” or the wealthy Spaniard that owned the mountain, I could clearly see this was no ordinary guy.
He stopped a few feet in front of us, slowly looking us over, and then in quiet Spanish, he politely asked if he could be of service to us.
I walked over and with my best smile, I told him in Spanish that we were from Miami, and following the trail of Christobal Colon.
He said he was the owner of the mountain and all the surrounding land. So I apologized for not contacting him first for permission to come up the mountain, we just didn’t know.
I studied his face, and he looked to me to be more like a white Spaniard, he was not a mulatto like most of the population of the island. He was small, like I had read that all the original Spaniards were. As he dismounted his horse, he slid his machete out of its scabbard. At first I was a little concerned, but I could see, the machete was also engraved in great detail, and I was sure he just wanted us to see that. Once on the ground, he politely smiled, and shook my and Miguel’s hand, but he didn’t shake Juan’s. My guess on his size was correct, he was a little more than five feet tall and meticulously dressed like he was going to a parade.
In retrospect, I think he was told by someone that strangers were going up his mountain and he had dressed up like this to impress us as to who he was.
There was a long log lying on the ground in the shade so we all walked over and sat down on it. There was Juan who appeared afraid to talk to this guy, then there was me, and then the land owner and after him sat Miguel.
I told him that we were surprised to see that there was once an Indian village on the mountain top, and I told him all about our visit to the colony of Isabella the day before. He listened to me, and as I talked he poked his machete into the soft earth in front of us. The tip of the machete uncovered out of the dirt the torn rubber sole of an old shoe that was buried there. Miguel always the joker, said in Spanish, “Mira, la Zapata de Christobal Colon”. Look the shoe of Christopher Columbus, and when he said that everyone started laughing. The old rubber sole was obviously from the one of the laborers that was working at farming the land.
As we continued talking, the fellow also continued to poke his machete into the dirt until I heard a loud clinking noise, I looked as he twisted the machete and up from the dirt came a perfect carved Indian axe head. It was the typical Indian stone axe head, the kind I have seen many times before in pictures. It was about 8 inches long and it was perfectly polished with a narrow neck to attach a handle. This particular axe head was really a museum quality piece, as it was so highly polished.
The land owner picked it up with his hand and he said to me in Spanish, “This must be worth a lot of money in Miami.” As soon as he said that, I could see our conversation was going to get difficult at that point, so I said to him that the Miami market was flooded with Indian artifacts, and we had no interest in them, and with that I had a thought I needed to try and change the subject.
Miguel had carried my SX 70 camera up in his pocket, so I asked him for it, and I stood up and took a picture of the guy, then I took one with him, his horse, his sombrero, and the machete.
He was astounded, at the results, the picture was in color and came out fairly good as we were all in a shaded area without a lot of sunlight.
He asked me if I would come to his home and take a picture of him and his wife, certainly I said, so he gave the directions to Juan as to how to find his house, then, he gently mounted his horse and he and the horse slowly turned and left us, returning down the mountain the way they had come.
Juan found the Don’s house easily, it was on the other side of the mountain, it was big, and it was old, but it looked just like a New England farmhouse it even had a front porch. We saw his horse tied up in back, so we got out of the car and walked to the rear of the house. As we walked by the open windows, we could hear a big commotion going on inside, and heard a loud squawk and I saw some pin feathers flying out of one of one of the windows.
The Don came out the rear of the house with his wife, she was in a fluffy white dress and she had their two children who were also all dressed up. The Don started tossing out handfuls of corn on the ground and soon there was a flock of Guinea hens running all around them. As hard as I tried, the damn SX 70 just wouldn’t take a good picture, I think the sun was just too bright, and it was also because I really didn’t know how to properly use the camera. I was really embarrassed, so we excused ourselves and gracefully departed.
On the way back I spoke to Juan regarding the Don that owned the mountain, and Juan said that many original families like him, still had the old Spanish land grants that were issued by Columbus and other Spanish Governors that had followed in his place after him. He probably was a descendant of one of those families that had a Spanish land grant.
Now after my having that conversation with Juan, sort of allowed me to ease into a conversation with him regarding the rebellious colonists that revolted against Columbus in 1493 and 1494.
I knew that they had left the colony, so I asked Juan if he knew where they made their homes. That’s hard to say, Juan said, as there was so many old homesteads in the Isabella area are where shacks have since been built and rebuilt over the last 500 years. None of the original type thatched huts remained, having been replaced many times by wooden shacks. I mentioned to Juan that I had read that the rebelling colonists left the Isabella colony but most of them built homesteads somewhere within sight of the colony. They didn’t like to be ruled by Columbus, but they wanted to have protection from the soldiers in the colony in case they were attacked by marauding native Indians. “Yes”, Juan said, he told me that he had read the same thing.
I told Juan that I knew none of the original huts would still be there, but I thought perhaps the rock fireplaces that they used might still be there. I didn’t want to mention to Juan that some colonists must have built small furnaces outside their homes especially to melt the gold they stole from the Indians. I was sort of hoping we could find a homestead that had remnants of one of those furnaces still there. I also didn’t dare tell Juan why I really wanted to find the old homes of the those rebelling soldiers or the Hidalgo’s, as he thought we were just looking for old Spanish coins. But I wanted to test my theory, I knew the rebelling colonists all had gold stolen from the Indians, and they would have buried that gold near their homes. Juan said he would show us several possible old sites the next day.
The next day, we went to half a dozen locations, some had small shacks with people living in them.
One place had only the remnants of an old fireplace remaining and what appeared to be remnants of another smaller fireplace that was outside the house, I looked at it and I thought it could have been a gold melting furnace. As I stood there, I envisioned what the original homestead site would have looked like 500 years ago, and if I had some gold to hide back then, where would I have buried it. So while Miguel and Juan were looking around where a wood shack had once stood, I walked into the surrounding woods and turned on the metal detector near a pile of boulders. The noise from the detector was so loud that I thought everyone in the area heard it buzz, so I quickly turned off the machine. I kicked the earth next to the root of a small tree and a shiny cup shaped disc of gold, about an inch in diameter appeared. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I was sure Juan didn’t see what had happened, so I drew a mental picture as to where we were, so we could return later and dig in the spot when no one was around looking at us. I picked up a small rock from the pile and threw it to the spot where there was the buzzing noise and where the small piece of gold came from.
That evening I thanked Juan for everything and I asked him what he wanted to do with his life, and Juan said, “I want to continue my education and I want to go to high school in the city of Santiago de Los Caballero’s, and then I want to go to the University of Santo Domingo.” So I promised Juan that I would help him do it, and then Miguel and I headed back to our hotel.
I told Miguel that the metal detector had located something at the homestead. “I know,” he said, “I saw you turn off the metal detector, so I suspected you found something”, so I reached in my pocket and showed him the small cup shaped gold disc. He studied it, and then Miguel said, “ I think it would be impossible to dig up anything more back there as there were just too many people watching, and we could both end up in jail,” Miguel said he wanted to go back to Miami now, and I didn’t want to argue with him.
The next day we were back in Santo Domingo but our flight to Miami wasn’t until late in the afternoon the next day, so I suggested to Miguel that we do a little sightseeing, sort of like tourists. I had heard that there was a big medical school in a town called San Pedro De Macoris, and according to my map, the town wasn’t too far away. The map showed that San Pedro was just on the other side of a big bridge on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. We found the bridge easily, crossed over it and entered the town of San Pedro De Macoris. The Town was a real dump, and we never found the university. The town was so dirty we didn’t even want to stop the car to ask someone for directions.
On our return to Santo Domingo, we again crossed the bridge and I saw that on the side of the road were two kids selling big green coconuts for 5 cents each. Their sign said Coco Frio, 5 cents. They would cut the coconuts open for you and you could drink the cool coconut water inside. So I told Miguel to pull over and I opened up the car’s trunk. We still had Pepsi cola, cigarettes, and lots of canned food and also the new shovel. So I traded the kids 2 of our hot Pepsi Colas, for 2 of their coconuts, they were ecstatic as they couldn’t believe their good fortune, a 17 cent Pepsi for a 5 cent coconut.
Within a minute two elderly men came out of the woods from behind them. One came over to me and asked for a cigarette, so I gave him one. Then the other came and asked for one also, and that’s when Miguel got very mad. “See he said they are all beggars here, they know you are an American and a soft touch, you should tell them all to go away”.
I said, Miguel, we have a trunk full of food that we can’t take back to Miami, why not give it away here. Now Miguel was really getting mad at me, and he said “They will all think you are a fool”, and just as he said that, the two elderly men reappeared from the woods, and behind them were about 30 people, so I started handing out all our sodas, cigarettes and canned stuff to them, and I even gave the shovel away.
Miguel was absolutely pissed off at me, but within a few seconds some of the people started reappeared from the woods, they were carrying stalks of bananas, and lots of mangos, limes, papayas and some had fruit I had never seen before. They filled up the trunk of the car, and the whole back seat as well. Miguel got real quiet, these good natured Dominican people had paid me back with whatever they had to give.
When we turned the car in, I told the clerk he could have all the fruit, I told them what had happened and everyone at the car rental agency had a good laugh.
Back in Miami, over the next few weeks I talked with Miguel about returning to the Dominican Republic. Look he said, you’re an American and not worried about what could happen to you. I’m a Cuban and I only have a green card. My brother served 8 years in a Cuban prison for trying to escape, and I don’t want to have that happen to me. If I get in trouble in the Dominican Republic they will deport me to Cuba. I can’t take the chance. So with that said, it appeared to me it was to be the end of my Christopher Columbus gold adventure in the Dominican Republic.
Several months passed and I kept my promise to Juan and helped him. He moved to Santiago de los Caballeros to attend high school.
I happened to have had a meeting with my attorney Marty Greenbaum, Marty had an office on Alton Road on Miami Beach. You could say Marty was a very typical New York, type attorney, and he specialized in things like simple divorces and real estate, Marty was not the type of attorney you used if you really wanted to win a case. But Marty was a nice guy and he was reasonable on his price. Marty was about 5 foot 10 inches with a slight build, he had thick glasses, thinning curly hair and he tended to wear pants and sport jackets that were a little too gaudy for me. Marty seemed to liked wearing pants that had a metal fleck design in the fabric, and I’m sure his choice of clothing was probably acceptable in New York City where lots of people did that kind of thing. Marty was the kind of guy that thought going to a movie was exciting, I guess you could say that he was a real city boy.
The reason Marty knew all about what I was doing regarding Columbus’s gold was because he was also my friend Lou Gladstein’s attorney, and Lou told him everything that was going on. It was because of Lou that I had met Marty in the first place.
Marty would sit at his office desk with a big bottle of “Gelusol” tablets which he said was some kind of antacid that settled his stomach. As Marty talked to you, he would reach over and gobble down two tablets every few minutes.
“So how’s the Columbus gold thing going for you in the D.R.”, he asked, “Did you find any more gold”. I reached in my pocket and put the small piece of gold that I had found at the homestead, and I said I am sure there is a lot more gold where this piece came from, but my traveling companion Miguel has backed out on me. “Why did he back out”, Marty asked, as he rubbed the piece of gold between his fingers. I said, because he’s a Cuban and afraid of getting arrested in the Dominican Republic. The antiquities laws are pretty strict, and he was afraid of getting arrested and then being deported to Cuba, and quite frankly Marty, I have been thinking about it, and I really have no way of defending myself, if I get arrested in the Dominican Republic, I could go to jail, and they could throw the key away, and no one would know the difference, so I think Miguel might be right it’s just getting too dangerous.
“That’s all bullshit,” Marty said. “I have plenty of friends that are lawyers and even Judges in the Dominican Republic, I went to school with them and they still are all my friends”. I said, look Marty, I have no one I could trust to travel with anymore, so I’m going to have to call it quits.
Hold on, Marty said “I want to go with you, if you promise you won’t tell my wife what we are doing.” I’m going to tell her I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic for business with a client.
I didn’t exactly know what to say to Marty. I knew that the way he dressed the whole island would be watching us, and what would I do with him in the rural areas of the Dominican Republic, would Marty even eat the food there. “When are we leaving, Marty asked me?”
Well, we took a Pan Am flight to Santo Domingo, and I planned on staying at the same Pan American hotel we always stayed at. Marty had on a pair of gray slacks with a metallic fleck in them, and he had on a pair of shiny black patented leather shoes, and he was wearing a sport jacket and long sleeve shirt even though I had told him it would be hot there. We rented a car, and I could see the agent was staring at Marty, but he remembered me. Next we stopped at the hardware store and I bought a small hand gardening spade to dig with, and a strong cloth shopping bag that easily folded up.
The next morning we drove to Puerto Plata and checked into my usual hotel. I have to admit that besides from his awful choice of clothing, Marty was a real trooper, he never complained about the food or the accommodations. The young girl at the hotel had asked where Miguel was, I told her he was coming the next trip.
I had already told Marty all about what we had done on the last trip. I told him about the possibility of their being gold under the floor of the Columbus warehouse, and I told him about how we found the old homestead, and I had told him that I was 99 percent sure there was some more melted gold pieces in the ground there. So I felt that we should head for the village of Isabella first, but we should park down the road out of sight of the villagers, and then go to the homestead area first and dig up whatever was there, Then we could walk to the big farm field where the original colony of Isabella used to be, and I could show Marty where the Columbus warehouse floor was, that was, if the tide was low enough. By us parking down the road from the village and going to the homestead first, we wouldn’t attract the attention of the villagers. I didn’t have to worry about Juan Peralta seeing us, as I knew that he was staying with an aunt in Santiago and he was attending high school there.
As we drove past the old Spanish fort at Puerto Plata, I could see there was a lot more activity going on in the area, and as we got close to the village there were a lots of cars and military trucks parked on the side of the road and a soldier was in the road directing the parking. I knew something wasn’t right, something was going on like a celebration of some kind, so I drove past the village, just as I had planned and we parked out of anyone’s view as I had planned, I took the gardening spade, and I gave Marty the SX 70 camera, and the folded shopping bag to carry in his jacket pockets.
We had to climb up an embankment and I could hear Marty’s leather shoes slipping every step we took, but once we were in the woods we slowly walked around to the back of the village, and towards where the old homestead had been. My intention was to go to the old home site first, then come out near the rear of the big farm field, and we could just walk down to the Columbus warehouse site.
As we got deeper into the woods and behind the village of Isabella, I could hear faint music, it sounded like a band warming up. We walked through one uninhabited site, and then we entered the home site where I had found the piece of gold. By the time we got there we were both sweating heavily, and Marty had taken his jacket off.
I led him right over to the pile of rocks, where there were several small trees growing, I knew exactly where to dig, as my stone marker was still there. I was on my knees digging with the hand spade, and sweat was dripping from my fore head. Marty, was leaning over my shoulder watching me. There were plenty of tangled tree roots to dig through but when I dug less than 2 inches down in the dirt, there was a small chunk of melted gold in the roots. It was about 1 inch x 2 inches in size, I picked it out and it felt like it weighed about an ounce. Marty said, “Holy shit, is that really gold. I couldn’t believe it myself, my theory was correct, who knows how much gold we were going to find. I handed the piece of gold to Marty and I asked him for the shopping bag, I wanted to dig some more as I was sure we would find more gold. But just then we heard voices, and they sounded very close, so I stood up, and threw the gardening spade and bag into the woods, I brushed off my knees, and Marty put the small piece of gold in his pocket. We stood still but didn’t see any one approaching, so we both walked about 100 yards in the direction towards the big farm field and the Isabella colony site.
There were two soldiers standing at the edge of the woods talking loud, that’s what we had heard, so I made believe I was zipping up my pants like we had just taken a leak in the woods, and Marty and I walked past them and out onto what used to be a farm field. But the field was no longer being farmed, it was now all perfectly mowed green grass.
I could see something like a big celebration was going on, but I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were at least a hundred people walking around, all dressed up in nice suits and ties and the women were in fancy dresses. I saw that there was a giant bleacher set up overlooking the ocean where Columbus’s warehouse once stood. The bleachers had a podium set up in front of it for a speaker. We walked to the ocean’s edge where the floor of the Christopher Columbus warehouse had been before, but now it was completely buried. It appeared that tons of earth had been pushed into the ocean burying everything beneath it. There appeared to be armed soldiers walking around everywhere, and the music we heard was coming from a military band that was situated on the far side of the bleachers. There was also a long table set up with bottles of champagne and lots of glasses.
Marty asked me “What’s going on?” I have no idea, I replied, as we walked into the crowd. That’s when I saw an army officer looking at us, and I just hoped he thought we were just part of the celebration or whatever it was. Marty, with his outlandish pants and jacket almost looked like he belonged in the big gathering. The whole crowd appeared to be government dignitaries of one type or another, and now I was the only one that looked out of place. As we walked towards the bleachers, I saw that there was a newly installed concrete stand in the ground with a bronze plaque on it. So I walked over to it and started to read the plaque. It said something like, “On this site in 1492 Christopher Columbus, blah, blah, blah.
It appears that the government of the Dominican Republic had again plowed over the old colony of
Isabella and they had spread tons of earth over everything and then planted grass. We had somehow, by accident arrived on the very day that the government was dedicating the place as a historical site.
I didn’t get a chance to read the entire plaque, as that army officer came over to us and asked us for our invitations, he spoke to us only in Spanish, and Marty kept asking me what the guy was saying. He took our passports, he looked at them and said for us to follow him and we did.
Once we were at the main road, we were put in the back of a military Chevy Blazer pickup truck with two armed soldiers. Then with nothing more said, except for Marty’s constant protesting in English, they drove us to the old Spanish fortress near Puerto Plata. Marty said, don’t they know we are Americans, and we have rights, just wait until I talk to the commanding officer. But I could see Marty looked nervous, he was sweating heavy and he said to me, “Don’t say anything, I will handle it, I’m going to report all this to the commanding officer, we have rights, what are they are they arresting us for.”
At the Spanish fort, we were walked to the center courtyard where there was a big circular brick jail cell with bars on the doors and we were gently pushed in, and the cell door was closed, with an armed guard posted right outside. Marty, clenching the bars on the cell door, continued his yelling about wanting to speak with the commanding officer, but no one was listening to him. Soon 8 soldiers with rifles appeared, it looked like a firing squad. Marty was now sitting on the cell floor in despair. He had taken the piece of gold out of his pocket and was pushing it in the dirt to hide it.
But I knew something was very wrong with the whole scenario. Why had the soldiers not searched us, we still had my SX 70 camera, and our wallets and Marty still had the piece of gold. It was obvious someone was just trying to scare us. All of the soldiers were friendly as can be, so I thought I knew what was going on, Marty had obviously called one of the judges or lawyers that he knew in the Dominican Republic, and he probably he had bragged to them that we were coming there with me to look for Columbus’s gold. I felt that for sure Marty’s friends had notified the army that he was coming and probably told them that they should lock Marty up to give him the scare of his life.
After about a half hour, the same officer, came by and said we were being released, and with no explanations gave us back our passports. I told him our car was back at the town of Isabella. He said he would have a driver take us there, he did suggest we leave the country as soon as possible.
Before we left I took a picture of Marty in the jail cell looking through the bars with the armed guard standing there posing, then Marty took a picture of me the same way.
Back at our car, Marty said, “Well this certainly was one hell of an experience.” These guys must have been watching us from the moment we arrived in this country. I asked Marty if he had called any of his lawyer friends in Santo Domingo before we arrived, and as I suspected he said he only called one guy. I didn’t tell Marty that it was probably his lawyer friend that had orchestrated it all.
I told Marty that I was happy that we found some gold, it proved my theory was correct, and I was sure there was still a lot more of the gold buried there and at other old homesteads. But I still couldn’t understand how or why the Dominican government chose to plow everything from the colony of Isabella into the ocean, and thus covering everything up. I told him that the Columbus warehouse floor was now buried under many tons of earth.
Once we were in the car, we were both just sitting there with the air conditioning running. We were both filthy dirty, and all sweaty, so I suggested to Marty that we find someplace to wash up, and change our clothes then we should head back to Santo Domingo, driving at night if we had to, and then we could catch the first flight back to Miami.
Marty said “I will do whatever you want, just get me to the god damn airport tomorrow morning, I want to get back to Miami.” So I drove up the road a short way to where there was the very wide river with a dirt road that ran along side of it. I remembered the river as I had been there before with Miguel. I got out of the car and looked all around, there wasn’t a sole in sight in any direction. It was about 3 in the afternoon, and we were both filthy dirty and tired. The river water looked clean, so I asked Marty if he wanted to wash up there. “Wash up”, he said, “We don’t have any soap.” Yes we do, I said, I have a can of shaving cream. Marty looked at me like I was crazy, use shaving cream as soap, he had never heard of it.
I undressed and walked into the river, the water was cool and running pretty fast, but it couldn’t have been more than 8 inches deep. So I thought if I walked out to the middle it might be deeper. But the water was only about a foot deep there, so I just sat down and lathered up with the shaving cream. The next thing I knew Marty had stripped down and was sitting there next to me, so I gave him the can of shaving cream.
We sat there for quite a while, just letting the cool water run past us as it headed towards the ocean.
Suddenly we heard a loud noise behind us, it sounded like someone pouring water with a fire hose into the river. We both turned and looked at the same time, about 50 feet upstream from us was a donkey peeing into the river, and the pee was flowing to right where we were sitting.
Worse than that, about 100 yards behind the donkey was about 50 completely nude Dominican women all in the river. They were quietly all washing themselves, and about a hundred yards behind the women was a large group of naked men, all washing. I guess they had all just come from working in the farm fields and had entered the river to wash up. They must have seen us and did it without making any noise. “The donkey is pissing on us,” Marty said, so I said lets go get dressed and leave. Marty looked at me and said “You want me to stand up naked in front of all these people”.
Yes, it was embarrassing but I got up and walked the 100 yards to shore, I took the SX 70 camera and I took a picture of Marty sitting naked in the middle of the river.
Eventually Marty got up and covering his private parts with his hands walked to shore. Those natives from the village of Isabella are probably still talking about it today.
We decided to go back to the hotel at Puerto Plata, and get in a clean shower and rinse the urine off us. would drive to Santo Domingo the next day.Two weeks later, when we were back in Miami, I called Marty to see how he was doing. He said, “I just came from the doctor’s office, I got some kind of amoeba up my colon from being in the river.” Marty never mentioned anything about the Christopher Columbus gold to me again. Actually he never spoke to me again, I heard he was appointed as a judge to the city of Surfside on Miami Beach, then I later heard that Marty passed away in 2007, and then my good friend Miguel Marquez passed away in 2009. Juan Peralta the young boy from Isabella went on to graduate college just like he wanted, and then he worked for the Dominican government inspecting rural schools. Juan eventually came to visit us in Miami on his way to France to live with one of his college professors. The 1776 map that Marc Bulliet stolen from the Haitian archives still hangs in a gold frame in my hallway. The Columbus gold at the colony of Isabella is still there.