Author Andrew Rowen retells the history of Columbus’s invasion of Española on his second voyage from a bicultural perspective in the historical fiction novel “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold,” releasing on Nov. 9, 2021—the sequel to his lauded 2017 bicultural presentation of Columbus’s first voyage, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold.”
“Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” dramatizes Columbus’s invasion of Española and the bitter resistance mounted by its Taíno peoples during the period and aftermath of Columbus’s second voyage. Based closely on primary sources, the story is told from both Taíno and European perspectives, including through the eyes of Caonabó—the conflict’s principal Taíno chieftain and leader—and Columbus.
Chief Caonabó opposes any European presence on the island and massacres the garrison Columbus left behind on his first voyage. When Columbus returns, the second voyage’s 1,200 settlers suffer from disease and famine and are alienated by his harsh rule, resulting in crown-appointed officers and others deserting for Spain. Sensing European vulnerability, Caonabó establishes a broad Taíno alliance to expel the intruders, becoming the first of four centuries of Native American chieftains to organize war against European expansion. Columbus realizes that Caonabó’s capture or elimination is key to the island’s conquest, and their conflict escalates—with the fateful clash of their soldiers, cultures, and religions, enslavement of Taíno captives, the imposition of tribute, and hostile face-to-face conversations.
As battles are lost, Caonabó’s wife Anacaona anguishes and considers how to confront the Europeans if Caonabó is killed. The settlers grow more brutal when Columbus explores Cuba and Jamaica, and his enslaved Taíno interpreters witness them forcing villagers into servitude, committing rape, and destroying Taíno religious objects. Chief Guarionex, whose territory neighbors Caonabó’s, studies Christianity with missionaries and observes the first recorded baptism of a Native in the Americas but ultimately rejects his own conversion. All brood upon the spirits’ or Lord’s design as epidemic diseases ravage the island’s peoples. Isabella and Ferdinand are disturbed when Columbus initiates slave shipments home, but they deliberately acquiesce—and the justification for the European enslavement of Native Americans begins to evolve.
The new novel is the sequel to “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold,” which portrays the lives of the same Taíno and European protagonists from youth through 1492.
A Note From the Publisher
“…fascinating. Rowen’s research into the historical record is impressively thorough…He carefully depicts what happened or may have happened (experts disagree) and…fictionalizes the perceptions, beliefs, and decisions of the European and Taíno protagonists, affording them commensurate sophistication. While unprovable, the fictionalizations are one of the book’s great strengths, stepping beyond worn stereotypes to humanize the protagonists as individuals…the book adds to our understanding of the Taínos and Contact history.”
– L. Antonio Curet, Caribbean archaeologist; museum curator. Co-ed., Islands at the Crossroads: Migration, Seafaring, and Interaction in the Caribbean
“…succeeds on two levels, as all the best historical fiction must...With meticulous research and deft phrasing, Andrew Rowen brings the 1490s to life. At the same time, he tells a great story, carrying us on a narrative journey as skillfully...”
– Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, When Montezuma Met Cortés
“As a leader in the Taíno community, I am often skeptical of non-Caribbean people writing about our history, culture, and customs. Many who embark on this endeavor have only skimmed through the upper layers of our written story. On the other hand, Andy Rowen takes us on a deep journey that humanizes our ancestors and treats us as equals rather than passive victims. The dialogue between the Caciques and Spaniards is intelligent, meaningful, and extremely believable…His writing invokes vivid images of events that happened long ago, credibly weaving fiction and fact! I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject!”
– Kacike Jorge Baracutei Estevez, Higuayagua Taíno of the Caribbean
“…a feat of meticulous research, beautiful writing, and great imagination. Much of the early history of the Caribbean is irretrievably lost, but Andrew Rowen has given us a detailed and exciting glimpse.”
– Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Conquering the Pacific