Columbus’s first real settlement was La Isabela, located on the north side of the island now called Hispaniola. It was home to a farms, a fortified town center, Columbus’s personal house, and a whole lot of bad karma.
Built on Columbus’s second journey, things started out bad. There was little food and little water, and when Columbus ordered people to start planting crops and building a wall to protect their huts, no one was happy about staying there. Charles C. Mann, author of 1493, says (via Salon) it wasn’t long before Columbus abandoned his settlement to continue his search for Asia, while ordering them to keep looking for gold. When they couldn’t even find that, the hungry residents ended up raiding the storehouses of the local Taino, and it’s not even necessary to describe how poorly that went. Taino groups banded together to drive out the Europeans, and it was a case of steel weapons against chemical warfare featuring gourds filled with ash and ground hot peppers. The Taino were so desperate to get rid of the intruders that they destroyed their own food supplies, crops, and homes, hoping to give them nothing to take away.
La Isabela continued under a cloud of starvation and bloody conflict. Columbus headed back to Spain in defeat and with a desperate appeal for more money, supplies and men, while the cemeteries continued to fill. It was all abandoned in a matter of years.