Early Veraguas Explorers (Part 2): Thank God we’re Here, or how Nombre de Dios Got its Name

historicalpart2After Colon’s crew came back, singing the laurels of this mysterious Costa del Oro de Colon (Veraguas), the Spanish King named Diego de Nicuesa the new governor, and in 1511, Nicuesa set out to find a great place for his new capital.

Gold Coast – Sounds Great to Me

Of course, Columbus didn’t include the Gold Coast of Veraguas on his map.  No problem. Nicuesa was traveling with a ship pilot (lieutentant), Olano who had been with Columbus on his journey.  They started out from Cartegena, and the fleet stopped in Puerto de Las Misas, where they said mass, the majority of the fleet stayed behind, while Nicuesa and Olano forged ahead, in  a small, nimble group,  trying to locate the Gold Coast of Veraguas – with two ships, 90 men, a lieutenant that had made the journey with Columbus, and some chart’s drawn by Bartholemew, Columbus’s brother.  Olano was piloting of the smaller ship, and he the captian of the larger

Now, if only there were a Map of Veraguas

Soon in the trip, Olano started saying that they had passed Veragua.  Nicuesa thought he was wrong, and forged ahead.  There was a big storm.  Olano took shelter in the lee side of an island.  Nicuesa in a river mouth.  After the storm passed, Olano, thinking the ship had sunk, and knowing they had passed Veraguas, turned back around and sailed back towards Puerto de las Misas.

The refrain of nicuesa: I’m right, I’m Right, I’m Right

Nicuesa and his men had survived, but the ship had beached and broke apart.  They were able to rescue a small boat from the craft.  Nicuesa, still insisting that Veraguas lay ahead, had the men walk parallel to the coast through swamp and forest looking for the Rio Belen.  It was hot, some people died.  Belen was long passed. The smaller boat helped them with large river crossings and parallelled the men marching, in the sea.  They came to a point after many days where they saw land in the distance, and thought it the other side of a bay.

Nicuesa had the smaller boat ferry the men over.  It was stormy.  In the morning they found the boat and its crew gone, and that they really were on a small, barren island.  Oops.  With no boat.

and in belen…

In the meantime, Olano had met with the fleet from Puerto de Las Minas.  Thinking Nicuesa dead, Olano was in charge, and ordered the fleet to Belen, where they dismantled the ships and started building the settlement.

The crew from the smaller boat from Nicuesa’s island had come to the realization that Veraguas was long passed.  The captain of the small boat, realizing that he’d never convince Nicuesa, convinced the other men of the crew to abandon the men and go for help.  They sailed back, saw the activity in Belen, stopped, and Olano sent boats to rescue Nicuesa.

In the meantime, Nicuesa and his men were thirsty and dying.  Rescue came, Nicuesa was furious at Olano for having left him.  The rescue party took him to Belen, which in itself, was not doing well.  Nicuesa had enough of the entire idea of Veraguas, said, let’s leave, and forced the people to abandon Belen, and returned eastward, looking for another place to establish a settlement.

Fed up and tired of Veraguas to Thank God we’re Here

After a failed attempt at a colony in Puerto Bello, they arrived at a small bay.  On seeing it, Nicuesa fed up with travel with half his men dead, cried, “We’ll stop here – En Nombre de Dios!”  The new colony was called Nombre de Dios.  A town today in the province of Colon still exists today.


Perhaps the history of the country would have been quite different if Nicuesa had listened to his pilot.