In 1502, on his fourth and final voyage, Christopher Columbus happened upon a great trading canoe just off the coast of Honduras. It was ''long as a galley'', as Ferdinand, the Admiral´s thirteen year-old son recalled, and carved from one great tree trunk. Neither it´s twenty five naked paddlers nor the richly clad men who appeared to be their masters offered any resistance as the Spaniards seized the craft, and they remained paralyzed with freight as the bearded strangers rifled through the cargo. It was only when some cacao beans were allowed to spill from their containers in the course of the looting that they momentarily forgot fear, scrambling to retrieve them ''as if they were their eyes.''
Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard Yucatán, 1517-1570 (Cambridge University Press, 1987), 3.