Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/11
Upper Ucayali — M. Castelnau — Length of navigation — Loss of the priest — Departure from Sarayacu — Omaguas — Iquitos — Mouth of the Napo — Pebas — San Jose de los Yaguas — State of Indians of Peru.
I have the less to regret, however, in that M. Castelnau has given so exact and interesting an account of the descent of this river. This accomplished traveller and naturalist left Cuzco on the 21st July, 1846. His party consisted of himself, M. D’Osery, M. Deville, M. Saint Cric, (who joined the party in the valley of Sta. Ana,) three officers of the Peruvian navy, seven or eight domestics and muleteers, and fifteen soldiers as an escort. After seven days of travel (passing a range of the Andes at an elevation of fourteen thousand eight hundred feet) he arrived at the village of Echacraté, in the valley of Sta. Ana. He remained at this place until the 14th of August, when the canoes and rafts which he had ordered to be constructed were ready. He then embarked on a river called by the various names of Vilcanota, Yucay, Vilcomayo, and Urubamba, in four canoes and two balsas. The difficulties of the navigation, dissensions with the Peruvian officers, and desertions of the peons, soon reduced the expedition to a lamentable state of weakness and destitution. On the 17th M. D’Osery was sent back with a large part of the equipage, and most of the instruments and collections in natural history. This unfortunate gentleman was murdered by his guides on his route from Lima to rejoin M. Castelnau on the Amazon. After passing innumerable cascades and rapids, M. Castelnau reached, on the 27th of August, the lowest rapid on the river, that is an effectual bar to navigation. This is one hundred and eighty miles from his point of embarkation at Echacraté. An idea may be formed of the difficulties of the passage when it is reflected that it cost him thirteen days to descend this one hundred and eighty miles, with a powerful current in his favor. He found this point, by the barometer, to be about nine hundred and sixteen feet below Echacraté; thus giving the river a fall of a little more than five feet to the mile. He afterwards found that the mouth of the Ucayali, which is one thousand and forty miles down stream of the cascade,
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was, by the barometer, nine hundred and four feet below it; thus giving the river a fall of 87 of a foot per mile. He says that if the navigation of the Ucayali is attempted, it would be well to make a port at this point, and open a road thence to the valley of Sta. Ana, in which Echacraté is situated, and which is exceedingly fertile, producing large quantities of Peruvian bark, with coca, and many other tropical productions. M. Castelnau thinks that this last cascade is the first impassable barrier to the navigation of the Ucayali upwards; but he found many places below this where the river had but a depth of three feet, and many, though unimportant, rapids. Indeed, two hundred and seventy miles below this, he describes a strait, called the Vuelta del Diablo, as a dangerous passage, blocked up by heavy trunks of trees, against which the current dashes with great violence. At two hundred and sixteen miles below the cascade he passed the mouth of the river Tambo, the confluence of which with the Urubamba makes the Ucayali. Two hundred and fifty-two miles below the mouth of the Tambo he passed the mouth of the Pachitea, which he describes as being about the size of the Seine at Paris; and the Ucayali, after the junction of this river, as like the Thames at London. Sarayacu is two hundred and ninety-seven miles below the mouth of the Pachitea. From the Vuelta del Diablo to Sarayacu is four hundred and ninety-five miles. From Sarayacu to the mouth of the Ucayali is two hundred and seventy-five miles; so that we have an undoubtedly open navigation on this river of seven hundred and seventy miles; and, taking M. Castelnau’s opinion as correct, there are two hundred and seventy miles more to the foot of the last cascade on the Urubamba; making a total of one thousand and forty miles. Well, then, may he call this stream the main trunk of the Amazon; for, taking my estimate of the distance from the mouth of this river to the ocean, at two thousand three hundred and twenty miles, we have an uninterrupted navigation of three thousand three hundred and sixty miles, which will be found in no other direction. I estimate the distance from the Pongo de Chasuta, the head of clear navigation on the Huallaga, to the sea, at two thousand eight hundred and fifteen miles. An idea may be formed of the difficulties and dangers of passing the rapids of these rivers from the following description, given by this accomplished gentleman and clever writer:
214 DANGERS OF NAVIGATION.
“We started about 8 o’clock, and employed an hour and a half in passing the cascade, which was composed of two strong rapids. Immediately after this, two other rapids arrested our course. We passed the first by the left bank; but, as it was impossible to continue our route on that side, after consultation, we embarked to cross to the right bank. “We found the current of exceeding rapidity; and the second cataract roared and foamed only one hundred metres below us. The Indians at every instant cast anxious glances over the distance that separated them from the danger. At one moment our frail canoe manifestly lost ground; but the Indians redoubled their efforts, and we shot out of the strength of the current. “At this moment we heard cries behind us, and an Indian pointed with his finger to the canoe of M. Carrasco, within a few yards of us. It was struggling desperately with the violence of the current; at one instant we thought it safe, but at the next we saw that all hope was lost, and that it was hurried towards the gulf with the rapidity of an arrow. The Peruvians and the Indians threw themselves into the water; the old priest alone remained in the canoe, and we could distinctly hear him reciting the prayer for the dying until his voice was lost in the roar of the cataract. We were chilled with horror; and we hastened to the bank, where we met our companions successively struggling to the shore from the lost canoe. M. Bizerra, particularly, encountered great danger, but he evinced a remarkable sang-froid, and, amidst his difficulties, never let go the journal of the expedition, which he carried in his teeth. “Poor little Panchito, the servant of the priest, wept bitterly, and begged us to let him seek the body of his benefactor; but an hour was already lost, and our absolute want of provisions forbid us from acceding to his sad demand. “We deeply regretted the loss of our companion, whose death was as saint-like as his life.” The party suffered grievously from the hardships of the voyage and the want of food. They were at the point of starvation when they arrived at Sarayacu, forty-four days after their embarkation at Echacraté. M. Castelnau’s description of their condition when they arrived is quite touching. “At 3 p.m., after a journey of thirty miles, the Indians all at once turned the canoe to a deserted beach, and told us that we were arrived at Sarayacu. Before us was the bed of a little river nearly dry, to which they gave this name. The absence of any indication of habitations, and the dark forest which surrounded the beach, made us believe for the instant that we were the victims of some terrible mistake. We
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thought that the mission so ardently desired had been abandoned, Among our people only one knew the place, and his canoe had not yet arrived. We set ourselves to search out a path through the forest, but without success; we were completely discouraged, and our eyes filled with tears. We were in this state of anxiety more than an hour; at last our guide arrived; he told us that the town was some distance from the river, and, after considerable search, he found in a ravine the entrance to the narrow path which led to it. M. Deville and I were so enfeebled, and our legs so swollen, that we could not travel it. M. Carrasco, anxious to arrive, started in company with his friends; and Florentino (the servant of the count) accompanied them. We were thus sadly detained upon the beach, when, towards nine o’clock, we thought we heard singing in the woods; the voices soon became distinct, an we could recognise the airs. An instant after, the good Florentino rush to us in the height of joy. He was followed by a dozen Indiana of the Mission carrying torches, and a man dressed in European costume. This last gave us an affectionate shake of the hand, and told us, in English, that his name was Hackett; that the prefect of the Missions, the celebrated Padre Plaza, had sent him to welcome us and to beg us to excuse him, in that his great age had not permitted him to come himself. The Indians brought us fowls, eggs, and a bottle of wine; supper was instantly prepared; and Mr. Hackett, who seemed sensibly touched with our misery, staid with us till midnight. He told us that the Mission was nearly six miles in the interior, but that he would send us Indians early in the morning to conduct us to it. We learned that the Peruvian government faithful to its engagements, had announced our voyage in the Missions, and that the Bishop of Mainas had sent an express messenger so that effect; but Padre Plaza, regarding our voyage from Cuzco to the Missions as an absolute impossibly, had supposed that we were dead, and had celebrated masses for the weal of our souls.” I could get any number of men for the voyage down, and on Ocober 28th, at 10 a.m., we left Sarayacu and dropped down to the mouth of the caño, where we stopped to re-stow and shake things together. We found the Ucayali a very different-looking stream from what it was when we left it; it was much higher, with a stronger current, and covered wih floating trees. At 3 p.m. we took leave of good Falther Calvo with much regret, and started in company with Father Bregati, (who was returning to his cure of Catalina.) and with a large canoe that we were carrying down for the return of our peons from Pebas. I was much pleased with our new men, particularly with our pilot, old Andres Urqia, a long, hard-weather, Tom-Coffin-looking fellow, 
216 THE UCAYALI.
whom travel and exposure for many years seemed to have hardened into a being insensible to fatigue, and impervious to disease. He has navigated the rivers of the country a great deal; was with Father Cimini when driven back by the Campas; and says that he has passed, in company with a Portuguese, named Da’Costa, from the Yavari to the Ucayali in two weeks, by a small inosculating stream called Yana Yacu, and returned in four by the ravine of Maquia. He says that there is another natural canal called Yawarangi which connects the two rivers. These canals are all very narrow, and are passed by pushing the canoe with poles; though Andres says there is plenty of water, but not room enough for such a boat as mine. We passed the distance from Sarayacu to Nauta in eight days, which had cost us twenty-three in the ascent. The distance from Sarayacu to the mouth by the channel is two hundred and seventy miles — in a straight line one hundred and fifty. We travelled all one night when near the mouth; but this is dangerous on the Ucayali and Huallaga. The channels on these rivers are frequently obstructed by grounded trees, striking one of which the boat would almost inevitably perish. It is safer on the broader Amazon. The Ucayali, as far as Sarayacu, averages half a mile of width, twenty feet of depth at its lowest stage, and three miles the hour of current. I fear that there is a place at the great bend of the river, just below Sarayacu, where there are islands with extensive sand-flats, that may form, at the lowest stage of the river, an obstruction to navigation for a vessel of greater draught than ten feet. At this place, going up, we were paddling close in to the left bank, with apparently deep water, when, seeing a beach on what I thought was the opposite side of the river, probably two hundred and fifty yards distant, I directed the pilot to go over and camp for the night. To my surprise, almost immediately from the moment of his turning the boat’s head outward to cross over, the men dropped their paddles, and, taking to their poles, shoved the boat over in not more than four or five feet water. I observed, when we had crossed, that we were on the beach of an island, and asked the pilot if there was more water in the other channel, on the right bank. He said yes; that, when the river was very low, this side was dry, but the other never. It is difficult, on account of the roving habits of the people who live upon the Ucayali, to make any estimate concerning the increase and decrease of the population. I scarely find a village that Smyth names when he passed in 1835, and find several which he does not mention. Tipishka Nueva, which he says was the largest settlement on the river
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next to Sarayacu, and had a population of two hundred, has now entirely disappeared; and Sta. Maria, of which he makes no mention, has probably been settled since he was here, and has at present one hundred and fifty souls. I thought it singular (but of course a casualty) that, in summing up my estimates of the number of the people on the river, between its mouth and Sarayacu, I find it to amount to six hundred and thirty-four, and that Smyth’s estimate makes it six hundred and forty. As it regards the length and direction of the reaches of the river, I find that officer remarkably correct. He descended about the 1st of March, and of course had the river wider and deeper, and the current stronguer than I found it; for this reason our accounts differ somewhat. The difference between high and low-water mark is about thirty-five feet. I planted a pole at a settlement called Guanache as I went up, on the 9th of October; when I passed it going down, on the 1st of November, I found the river had risen nine fet seven inches. It did not, however, commence its regular and steady rise till the 15th of October. A mile inside of the mouth, in the middle of the river, I found seventy-two feet of depth, and two and three-quarter miles current per hour. The bottom of the river is full of sunken trees. I lost two sounding-leads and three axe-heads in the descent. My sounding-line, however, had become very rotten from the dampness of the atmosphere, and did not even stand the strain of the current upon the log-chip, which I also lost. I had intended to stay at Nauta some days, for I found that so much canoe life was beginning to affect my health, and that I was getting weaker day by day; but Nauta seemed a different place than when I left it. Arebalo, the priest, and Antonio, the Paraguá, were gone, and Senhor Cauper seemed out of humor, and not glad to see us. I expect the old gentleman was troubled in his mind about his fish. He had three thousand pieces on a beach of the Ucayali, with the river rising fast and threatening its safety; while his boats had just got off to fetch them away, and were travelling very slowly up.
I wished to get a few more peons; but there were no authorities, and the Indians were engaged in drinkng and dancing. Two of my men, whom I had picked up at a settlement called Santos Guagua, on the Ucayali, deserted, though paid as far as Pebas. I feared to lose more; and, collecting the few birds and animals I had left here, I started at half-past 5 p.m. on the 5th of November, having slept in my boat on the night of the 4th for the want of a house, and been nearly devoured by the musqitoes.
I left Lopez, the servant, who had only engaged for the Ucayali trip, and two of my Sarayacu people, who were reported to have gone into the woods to gather chambira, but who I suspected were drinking with the Cocamas, and did not wish to be found. We drifted with the current all night. The soundings at the mouth of the Ucayali were forty-two feet. The Amazon looked grand in the moonlight, below the island of Omaguas, where I judged it to be a mile and a half wide.
November 6. — We arrived at Omaguas at 5 a.m. The two Samayacu men that I had left at Nauta joined us in the montaria which I had left there for them, carrying off their bedding. Omaguas is situated on a height on the left bank, and is screened from the river, at this season, by a small island, which is covered in the full. The entrance now is by a narrow creek, to the southward of the town. The number of inhabitants is two hundred and thirty-two, of the tribes of Omatguas and Panos. They are peons and fishermen; cultivate chacras; and live in the usual filthy and wretched condition of all these people. I gave some calomel, salts, and spermaceti-ointment to the governor’s wife, who was a pitiable object — a mere skeleton, and covered with inveterate-looking sores. I was reminded of Lazarus, or old Job in his misery. I doubt if my remedies were of the proper sort; but her husband and she were anxious to have them; and she will, probably, die soon at any rate, and cannot well be worsted. Left Omaguas at a quarter past nine; at eleven, anchored near midstream in eighty-four feet water, and found two and one-third miles current; river three-fourths of a mile wide; shores low, and wooded with apparently small trees, though they may have appeared small on account of the width of the river; sand beaches few and small. At noon, moderate breeze from the northward and eastward, Thermometer 86°. Most of the men and animals fast asleep. Even the monkeys, except a restless friar (who seems as sleepless as I am,) are dozing. The friar gapes and closes his eyes now and then; but at the next instant appears to have discovered something strange or new, and is a wide awake and alert as if he never slept. There was a great disturbance among the animals this moring. The Pumagarza or tiger crane, (from being speckled and colored like the tiger of the country,) with a bill as long and sharp as an Infidel’s spear, has picked to pieces the head of a delicate sort of turkey-hen, called Pava del Monte. The Diputado (as we call a white monkey, because Ijurra says he is the image of the worthy deputy in Congress from Chachapoyas) has eaten off the ear of the Maquisapa, (a stupid
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looking black monkey, called Coatá in Brazil,) and the tail of another, called Yanacmachin. Some savage unknown, though I strongly suspect my beautiful chiriclis, has bitten off the bill of the prettiest paroquet. There was a desperate battle between the friar and the chiriclis, in which one lost fur and the other feathers; and symptoms of warfare between a wild pig, called Huangana, and a Coati, or Mexican mongoose. The latter, however, fierce as he generally is, could not stand the gnash of the wild boar’s teeth, and prudently “fled the fight.” The life of the fowls is a state of continued strife; and nothing has kept the peace except an affectionate and delicate Pinshi monkey, (Humboldt’s Midas Leonina,) that sleeps upon my beard, and hunts game in my moustache.
We spoke two canoes that had come from near Quito by the Napo, and were bound to Tarapoto. This party embarked upon the Napo on the 3d of October. They told me that I could reach the mouth of the river Coca, which empties into the Napo, in two and a half months from the mouth; but could go no further in my boat for want of water. There are very few christianized towns upon the Napo, and the rowers of these boats were a more savage-looking set than I had seen. I have met with a good many inhabitants of Quito in the Missions of the Huallaga; and very many of the inhabitants are descendants of Quiteños. In fact, these Missions were formerly under the charge and direction of the Bishopric of Quito, and most of the Jesuits who first attempted the conversion of these Indians came from that quarter. There is a report now current in these parts that thirty Jesuits recently banished from New Grenada have gone to Ecuador; have been well received at Quito, and have asked for the ancient Missions of the company, which has been conceded to them as far as Ecuador has jurisdiction. This party from the Napo also reported that the governor (Gefe Politico) of the Ecuador territory of the Napo had left his place of residence and gone up the river for the purpose of supplying with laborers a French mining company, that had recently arrived and was about to commence operations. It is generally thought that much gold is mixed with the sands of the Napo; but I think that the Moyobambinos would have it if it were there. They get a quill-full of gold dust, now and then, from the Indians; but no regularly organized expedition for collecting it has been successful. It is said that the Indians of the Napo formerly paid their contributions to the government in gold dust, but now that they are relieved (as are all the Missions by express exception) from the burden of the contibution, there is no more gold collected.
The inhabitants of the Missions of Mainas are exempted, by special legislation, from the payment of the contribution of seven dollars per head, paid towards the support of the government by all the other Indians of Peru. This exception was made on the ground that these people had the forest to subdue, and were only able to wring a hard-earned support from the cultivation of the land. Many persons belonging to the province think that this was an unwise law, and that the character of the Indian has deteriorated since its passage. They think that some law compelling them to work would be beneficial to both country and inhabitants.
Fearful of going to the right of Iquitos island, and thus passing the town, I passed to the left of some islands, which Smyth lays down on his chart as small, but which are at this season large; and in running between the one just above Iquitos island and the left bank of the river, the boat grounded near the middle of the passage, which was one hundred and fifty yards broad, and came near rolling over from the velocity of the current. We hauled over to the left bank and passed close along it in forty-two feet water. At half-past 9 p.m. we arrived at Iquitos.
November 7. — Iquitos is a fishing village of two hundred and twenty seven inhabitants; a considerable part of them, to the number of ninety-eight, being whites and Mestizos of San Borja, and other settlements of the upper Mission, who were driven from their homes a few years ago by the Huambisas of the Pastaza and Santiago. This occurred in 1841. In 1843, these same Indians murdered all the inhabitants of a village called Sta. Teresa, situated on the upper Marañon, between the mouths of the rivers Santiago and Morona. My companion Ijurra was there soon after the occurrence. He gave the dead bodies burial, and published in his Travels in Mainas a detailed account of the affair.
In October, 1843, Ijurra, with seventeen other young men of Moyobamba, formed a company for the purpose of washing for gold the sands of the Santiago; they were furnished with arms by the prefecture, and recruited sixty-six Cocamillas of Laguna, armed with bows and arrows, as a light protecting force. They also engaged eighty-five of the Indians of Jeveros as laborers at the washings; and, after they started, were joined by four hundred and fifty of the people who had been expelled in 1841 from Santiago and Borja, desirous of recovering their homes and taking vengeance of the savages.
The party went by land from Moyobamba to Balza Puerto; thence north to Jeveros; and thence to the port of Barranca, at the mouth of the river Cahuapanas, when they embarked to ascend the Amazon to the mouth of the Santiago. At Barranca they received intelligence of the massacre at Sta. Teresa, with the details.
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A Moyobambino, Canuto Acosta, fearing that the company would get all the gold, and that he should not be able to collect a little that was due him by the people about Sta. Teresa, hastened on before. He met at Sta. Teresa with a large party of Huambisas, who had come down the Santiago for the ostensible purpose of trade. Conversing with the curaca of the tribe, named Ambuscha, Acosta told him that a multitude of Christians were coming with arms in their hands to conquer and enslave his people. The curaca, turning the conversation, asked Acosta what he had in his packages. The reply was more foolish and wicked than the other speech; for, desirous to play upon the credulity of the Indian, or to overawe him, he said that he had in his packages a great many epidemic diseases, with which he could kill the whole tribe of the Huambisas. It was his death-warrant. The curaca plunged his spear into his body, and giving a shrill whistle, his people, who were scattered about among the houses, commenced the massacre. They killed forty-seven men, and carried off sixty women; some few persons escaped into the woods. The Indians spared two boys — one of seven and one of nine years — and set them adrift upon the Amazon on a raft, with a message to the gold-hunting company that they knew of their approach, and were ready, with the assistance of their friends, the Paturos and Chinganos, to meet and dispute with them the possession of the country. The raft was seen floating past Barranca and brought in.
The gold-seekers found no gold upon the borders of the Marañon; quarreled; became afraid of the savages; broke up and abandoned their purpose before they reached the mouth of the Santiago.
Ijurra and a few others then turned their attention to the collection of Peruvian bark. They spent two or three years in the woods, about the mouth of the Huallaga; gathered an enormous quantity, and floated it down to Pará on immense rafts, that Ijurra describes as floating houses, with all the comforts and conveniences of the house on shore.
When they arrived at Pará the cargo was examined by chymists; said by them to be good; and a mercantile house offered eighty thousand dollars for it. They refused the offer; chartered a vessel, and took the cargo to Liverpool, where the chymist pronounced the fruit of years of labor to be utterly worthless.
The village of Iquitos is situated on an elevated plain, which is said to extend far back from the shores of the river. This is different from the situation of many towns upon the Amazon, most of which are built upon a hill, with a low, swampy country behind them. There are cotton and coffee-trees growing in the streets of the village, but no attention is paid to the cultivation of either, A small stream, said to be one of the
222 THE RIVER.
mouths of the river Nanay, enters the Amazon just above the town. The main mouth of the Nanay is five miles below; it is said to communicate, back of the plain, with the Tigre Yacu, which empties into the Marañon above San Regis; and branches of it, which run to the northward and eastward, inosculate with the Napo.
We left Iquitos at half-past 9 a.m. The shores of the river just below are bold, and of white clay; at a quarter to eleven we passed the mouth of the Nanay, about one hundred and fifty yards broad. The depth of the Amazon at the junction of the two rivers is fifty feet; the current a mile and two-thirds the hour. After passing several small islands where the river appeared two miles wide, it seemed to contract within its own banks to half a mile, immediately in front of a settlement of two or three houses, called Tinicuro, where I found no bottom at one hundred and eighty feet; at half-past five we arrived at Pucallpa, where we passed the night.
November 8. — Pucallpa, or New Oran, is a small settlement, of twenty houses, and one hundred and eleven inhabitants, who formerly belonged to Oran, but who, finding their situation uncomfortable, removed and settled here. It is one of the most pleasantly-situated places I have seen — on a moderate eminence, with green banks shelving to the river. The water is bold (twenty-five to thirty feet deep) close to the shore. Two islands — one above and one below the town, with a narrow opening in front — gave the place the appearance of a snug little harbor.
We bought at this place two of the great cranes of the river, called Tuyuyú. These were gray. A pair that I succeeded in getting to the United States were white. Started at 4 a.m.; high white chalky banks just below Pucallpa. At nine we arrived at the mouth of the Napo; we found it two hundred yards broad, and of a gentle current. The soundings across the mouth were thirty-five and forty feet; stopped at Chorococha, a settlement of eighteen inhabitants, just below the mouth of the Napo. We found some of our Nauta friends here salting fish; and got a capital breakfast from them. After leaving, we anchored near the head of a small island, where I supposed we would feel the effect of the current of the Napo; but had but a mile and two-thirds current.
November 9. — We started at 5, and arrived at Pebas at 10 a.m. We found that the people of Pebas, under the direction of Father Valdivia, (my Nauta friend,) were establishing a new town about a quarter of a mile up a stream called Ambiyacu, which enters into the Amazon two miles above Pebas. We pulled up this stream, and found the good priest and the governor general busy in directing the felling of trees and building of houses. I determined to stay here for some
time, for I was now getting so weak that I could scarcely climb the banks upon which the towns are situated. Father Valdivia received us with great cordiality, and gave us quarters in a new house he was building for himself.
The new settlement had not yet a name; Ijurra wished it called Echenique, after the new president; while I insisted on “Ambiyacu,” as being Indian and sonorous. The population already numbered three hundred and twenty-eight; almost all the people of Pebas having come over. The inhabitants are principally Oregones, or Big Ears, from the custom of introducing a bit of wood into a slit in the ear and gradually increasing the size of it until the lobe hangs upon the shoulder. They have, however, now discontinued the custom, and I saw only a few old people thus deformed.
They are fishermen, and serve as peons; but their condition seems better than that of the inhabitants of the other towns on the river, which is doubtless owing to the presence and exertions of the good priest, who is very active and intelligent.
Visited Pebas in the afternoon. We found it nearly abandoned and overgrown with grass and weeds. We saw some cattle roving about among the houses, which were fat, and otherwise in good condition. The town is situated immediately on the banks of the river, which is here unbroken by islands, three-quarters of a mile broad, and apparently deep and rapid. We carried over to the new town specimens of black clay slate that crops out in narrow veins on the banks, and made a fire of it, which burned all night, with a strong bituminous smell.
November 10. — I gave Arebalo the message sent him by Padre Calvo, which was a request that he would send the Sarayacu men back in the larger canoe that we had brought down for that purpose. He, however, was careless in the matter, and two of them went up the river with a trader, and one down. The others started back in the canoe; but much to my surprise, and even regret, I found in the evening that they had returned, turned over their canoe, sold their pots and other utensils to Arebalo, and expressed their determination to go down the stream. They said that if I would not take them they would go with any body that would. I of course was glad to have them, and, I quieted my conscience in thus robbing Father Calvo by the reflection that if they wvent with me to the end of my voyage, I could give them my boat and fit them out for the return; whereas, if they separated, they might never go back. I think that Arebalo winked at their conduct in returning, because he and the padre were busy with their new town, and did not wish to furnish me with men of their own. But I
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think we are all culpable. The peons were culpable for not going back; I was culpable for taking them further; and Arebalo was culpable for permitting it; and thus it is that the population of Sarayacu diminishes, and the friars are cheated out of the hard-earned fruits of their labor.
November 15. — Ijurra and I went with the padre to visit his mission of San José of the Yaguas. This is a settlement of Yaguas Indians, of two hundred and sixty inhabitants, about ten miles in a N. E. direction from Ambiyacu, or (as I find by a letter received from Ijurra since my return home) from Echenique.
San Jose is reached by a path through the woods over a rather broken country. There were two or three rivulets to pass on the road, which have pebbly beds, with black slate rock cropping out of the sides of the ravine — the first stones I have seen since leaving the Pongo of Chasuta. The soil is dark clay, and deeper than I have seen it elsewhere on the river. Birds of a brilliant plumage occasionally flitted across our path, and the woods were fragrant with aromatic odors.
The Yaguas received their priest in procession, with ringing of the church bell and music of drums. They conducted him, under little arches of palm branches stuck in the path, to the convento, and politely left us to rest after the fatigue of the walk. These are the most thorough-looking savages in their general appearance and costume, though without anything savage in the expression of their countenances, which is vacant and stupid. Their ordinary dress consists of a girdle of bark around the loins, with a bunch of fibres of another kind of bark, looking like a swab or mop, about a foot in length, hanging down from the girdle in front and rear. Similar, but smaller bunches, are hung around the neck and arms by a collar and bracelets of small beads. This is the every-day costume. On festivals they stain all their bodies a light brown, and on this ground they execute fantastic devices in red and blue. Long tail-feathers of the macaw are stuck in the armlets, reaching above the shoulders, and a chaplet, made of white feathers from the wings of a smaller bird, is worn around the head. This generally completes the costume, though I did see one dandy who had stuck short white feathers all over his face, leaving only the eyes, nose, and mouth exposed. The curaca, and some one or two of the Varayos, wore frocks and trousers; but I was told they had the national costume underneath these. The dress of the women is a yard or two of cotton cloth rolled around the hips. They are strong people for drinking and dancing, and hate work.
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Their houses are peculiar. Very long, slender poles are stuck in the ground opposite each other, and about thirty feet apart; their ends are brought together at the top, forming a Gothic arch about twenty feet high. Similar poles, of different lengths, are planted in front of the openings of the arch, and their ends are brought down and lashed to the top and sides of the openings. They are secured by cross-poles, inside and out, and the whole is thickly thatched to the ground, leaving two or three apertures for entrance. The house looks, on the outside, like a gigantic bee-hive. On the inside, small cabins of cane are built at intervals around the walls, each one of which is the sleeping-room of a family. Four or five families generally occupy one house, and the middle space is used in common. This is never cleaned, nor even levelled, and is littered with all manner of abominations. There is a puddle of water before each door; for, from the construction of the house, the rain, both from the heavens and the roof, pours directly into it.
After evening service, the Indians went off to their houses to commence the festival. They kept the drums going all night, and until 10 o’clock next morning, when they came in a body to conduct us to mass. Most of them were the worse for their night’s debauch, and sat upon the ground in a listless and stupid manner; occasionally talking and laughing with each other, and little edified, I fear, by the sacred ceremony. I was annoyed at the poverty of the church, and determined, if I ever went back, that I would appeal to the Roman Catholics of the United States for donations. The priestly vestments were in rags. The lavatory was a gourd, a little earthen pitcher, and a jack towel of cotton; and it grieved me to see the host taken from a shaving box, and the sanctified wine poured from a vinegar cruet.
After mass, and a procession, the Indians went back with us to the convento, and entertained us with music whilst we breakfasted. It was well that the drums were small, or we should have been fairly deafened, There were six of them, and they were beaten without intermission. One fellow dropt to sleep, but we gained nothing by this, for his neighbor beat his drum for him. Nearly the whole male population were crowded into the convento. The breakfast was furnished by the Indians; each family contributing a dish. The old women were proud of their dishes, and seemed gratified when we partook of, and commended them. They continued their frolic all day and night. On Monday we visited the houses of the Indians to see what curiosities we could get. We found the men stretched in their hammocks,
226 THE YAGUAS.
sleeping off the effects of the masato; and the patient, much-enduring women at work twisting chambira for hammocks, or preparing yuccas or plantains to make drink for their lords. We could get nothing except a hammock or two, and some twisted chambira to make me a lead line. The Indians had hidden their hammocks; and we had to go poking about with our sticks, and searching in corners for them. The reason of this was that most of them owe the padre; and this paying of debts seems as distasteful to the savage man as to the civilized.
The only article of manufacture is a coarse hammock, made of the fibres of the budding top of a species of palm, called chambira in Peru, aud tucum, in Brazil. The tree is very hard, and is defended with long, sharp thorns, so that it is a labor of a day to cut a “cogollo,” or top; split the leaves into strips of convenient breadth; and strip off the fibres, which are the outer covering of the leaves, and which is done very dexterously with the finger and thumb. A “top” of ordinary size yields about half a pound of fibres; and when it is reflected that these fibres have to be twisted, a portion of them dyed, and then woven into hammocks of three or four pounds weight, it will be seen that the Indian is very poorly paid for his labor when he receives for a hammock twelve and a half cents in silver, or twenty-five in efectos.
The women twist the thread with great dexterity. They sit on the ground, and, taking two threads, which consists of a number of minute fibres, between the finger and thumb of the left hand, they lay them, separated a little, on the right thigh. A roll of them down the thigh, under the right hand, twists each thread; when, with a scarcely perceptible motion of the hand, she brings the two together, and a roll up the thigh makes the cord. A woman will twist fifty fathoms about the size of a common twine in a day.
The Indians brought me some few birds; but they were too drunken and lazy to go out into the forest to hunt rare birds, and only brought me those that they could shoot about their houses. The climate of San José is very agreeable. It seems drier and more salubrious than that of Pebas; and there are fewer musquitoes. The atmosphere was very clear for the two nights I spent there; and I thought I could see the smaller stars with more distinctness than I had seen them for a long time.
The history of the settlement of this place is remarkable, as showing the attachment of the Indians to their pastor and their church.
Some years ago, Padre “Jose de la Rosa Alva” had established a mission at a settlement of the Yaguas, about two days’ journey to the northward and eastward of the present station, which he called Sta. Maria,
RELIGIOUS TEACHING. 227
and where he generally resided. Business took him to Pebas, and unexpectedly detained him there for fifteen days. The Indians, finding he did not return, reasoned with themselves and said, “Our father has left us; let us go to him.” Thereupon they gathered together the personal property the priest had left; shouldered the church utensils and furniture, even to the doors; set fire to their houses, and joined the padre in Pebas. He directed them to the present station, where they built houses and established themselves.
Our little padre has also considerable influence over them; though, when he will not accede to all their demands, they contrast his conduct with that of Father Rosa; call him mean, get sulky, and won’t go to mass.
It is sad to see the condition of the Peruvian Indians. (That of the Indians of Brazil is worse.) They make no progress in civilization, and they are taught nothing. The generally good, hard-working, and well-meaning padres, who alone attempt anything like improvement, seem contented to teach them obedience to the church, observance of its ceremonies, and to repeat the “doctrina” like a parrot, without having the least idea of what is meant to be conveyed. The priests, however, say that the fault is in the Indian — that he cannot understand. Padre Lorente, of Tierra Blanca, thought he had his flock a little advanced, and that now he might make some slight appeal to their understanding. He accordingly gathered them together, and exhibiting a little plaster image of the Virgin Mary that they had not yet seen, he endeavored to explain to them that this figure represented the Mother of God, whom he had taught them to worship and pray to; that She was the most exalted of human beings; and that through Her intercession with Her Son, the sins and crimes of men might be forgiven &c. The Indians paid great attention, passing the image from hand to hand, and the good father thought that he was making an impression; but an unlucky expression of one of them showed that their attention was entirely occupied with the image, and that the lesson was lost upon them. He stopped the priest in his discourse, to know if the image were a man or a woman. The friar gave it up in despair, and fell back upon the sense-striking ceremonial of the church, which I think (humanly speaking) is far better calculated to win them to respect and obedience, and thus advance them in civilization, than any other system of religious teaching.
The mind of the Indian is exactly like that of the infant, and it must grow rather by example than by precept. I think that good example, with a wholesome degree of discipline, might do much with this docile people; though there are not wanting intelligent men, well acquainted
with their character, who scruple not to say that the best use to which an Indian can be put is to hang him; that he makes a bad citizen and a worse slave; and (to use a homely phrase) “that his room is more worth than his company.” I myself believe — and I think the case of the Indians in my own country bears me out in the belief — that any attempt to communicate with them ends in their destruction. They cannot bear the restraints of law or the burden of sustained toil; and they retreat from before the face of the white man, with his improvements, till they disappear. This seems to be destiny. Civilization must advance, though it tread on the neck of the savage, or even trample him out of existence.
I think that in this case the government of Peru should take the matter in hand-that it should draw up a simple code of laws for the government of the Missions; appoint intelligent governors to the districts, with salaries paid from the treasury of the country; suppress the smaller villages, and gather the Indians into fewer; appoint a governor general of high character, with dictatorial powers and large salary; tax the inhabitants for the support of a military force of two thousand men, to be placed at his disposal; and throw open the country to colonization, inducing people to come by privileges and grants of land. I am satisfied that in this way, if the Indian be not improved, he will at least be cast out, and that this glorious country may be made to do what it is not now doing — that is, contribute its fair proportion to the maintenance of the human race.
November 18. — Returned to Echenique; the walk occupied three hours without stopping. Although the Orejones have left off some of their savage customs, and are becoming more civilized, they are still sufficiently barbarous to permit their women to do most of the work. I saw today twenty of the lazy rascals loitering about, whilst the same number of women were fetching earth and water, trampling it into mud, and plastering the walls of the convento with it. I also saw the women cleaning up and carrying away the weeds and bushes of the town; most of them, too, with infants hanging to their backs. These marry very young. I saw some, whom I took to be children, with babies that I was told were their own. They suffer very little in parturition, and, in a few hours after the birth of a child, they bathe, go to the chacra, and fetch home a load of yuccas.
The musquitoes are very troublesome here. I write my journal under a musquito curtain; and whilst I am engaged in skinning birds, it is necessary to have an Indian with a fan to keep them off; even this does not succeed, and my face and hands are frequently quite bloody, where
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he has to kill them with his fingers. The Indians bring me a number of very beautiful birds every evening, and I have my hands full, even with the occasional assistance of Arebalo and the padre’s servant. I do not know if it arises from the constant tugging at the bird-skins, or the slovenly use of arsenical soap, but the blood gathered under nearly all the nails of my left hand, and they were quite painful.
We have increased our stock of animals largely at this place. They now number thirteen monkeys, a mongoose, and a wild pig, (the Mexican peccary,) with thirty-one birds, and one hundred skins. I bought a young monkey of an Indian woman today. It had coarse gray and white hair; and that on the top of its head was stiff, like the quills of the porcupine, and smoothed down in front as if it had been combed. I offered the little fellow some plantain; but finding he would not eat, the woman took him and put him to her breast, when he sucked away manfully and with great “gusto.” She weaned him in a week so that he would eat plantain mashed up and put into his mouth in small bits; but the little beast died of mortification, because I would not let him sleep with his arms around my neck.
I had two little monkeys not so large as rats; the peccary ate one, and the other died of grief. My howling monkey refused food, and grunted himself to death. The friars ate their own tails off, and died of the rot; the mongoose, being tied up on account of eating the small birds, literally cut out his entrails with the string before it was noticed. The peccary jumped overboard and swam ashore; the tuyuyus grabbed and swallowed every paroquet that ventured within reach of their bills; and they themselves, being tied on the beach at Eyas, were devoured by the crocodiles. My last monkey died as I went up New York bay; and I only succeeded in getting home about a dozen mutuns, or curassows; a pair of Egyptian geese; a pair of birds, called pucacunga in Peru, and jacu in Brazil; a pair of macaws; a pair of parrots; and a pair of large white cranes, called jaburú, which are the same, I believe, as the birds called adjutants in India.
November 24. — Preparing for departure. Our boat, which had been very badly calked in Nauta, required re-calking. The tow, or filling used is the inner bark of a tree called machinapuro, beaten and mashed into fibres. It answers very well, and there is great abundance in the forest. Its cost is twelve and a half cents the mantada, or as much as an Indian can carry in his blanket. An Indian can gather and grind. two mantadas in a day. Ten or twelve mantadas are required to calk such a boat as mine. The pitch of the country is said to be the deposit of an ant in the trees. I never saw it in its original state. It is gathered
230 POWER OF THE PRIEST.
by the Indians; heated till soft; made into the shape of wide, thin bricks; and is worth sixty-two and a half cents the arroba. It is very indifferent. A better kind is made by mixing black wax with gum copal.
Father Yaldivia entertained us most kindly. His aguadiente gave out; and he occasionally regaled us with a glass of wine, bought for the church in Loreto. It is a weak white wine. I suppose I could not drink it at home, but here it seems very good. I find that this is the case with a great many things. The green plantains, roasted, which were at first an abomination to me, have now become a very good substitute for bread; and a roasted yucca is quite a treat. We have some small red-headed pan fish that are very fine; and, at my suggestion, the padre had two or three fried, added to his usual evening cup of chocolate. I looked forward to this meal with considerable pleasure. I do not know if it arises from the fact of our seeing so few things that are good to eat, or from the freshness of the cocoa, but chocolate, which I could not touch before this, is now very palatable and refreshing. The bean is simply toasted and pulverized, and the chocolate is made nearly as we make coffee.
After supper, we — that is, the padre, the governor general, Ijurra, and I, provided with fans to keep off the musquitoes — light our cigars, stretch ourselves at full length in a hammock, and pass an hour before bed-time in agreeable conversation. The priest, in this country, has more power, though it is by force of opinion, than the governor of the districts, or even than the governor general. I saw an instance in Nauta, where a man withstood Arebalo to his face, but yielded without a struggle, though growlingly, to the mandate of the padre. In fact, Father Yaldivia, though half Indian, and exceedingly simple-minded, is a very resolute and energetic person. On one occasion the governor of Pebas succeeded in carrying off the Indians of that village to the Napo to gather sarza, against the wish of the padre, who wanted them to clear the forest and build the new town. When the governor returned, the priest told him that they two could not live together; that one or the other must resign his office and go away; and the man, knowing the power and influence of the priest, retired from the contest and his post. The padre had great opposition and trouble in forming his new settlement. Even the women (wives of the white men) of Pebas came over to laugh at and ridicule his work; but the good father called his Varayos, had the ladies conducted to their canoes, and, with much ceremonious politeness, directed them to be shoved off.
We obtained from the Indians more of the poisonous milk of the catao, and also the milk of the cow-tree. This they drink when fresh;
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and, when brought to me in a calabash, it had a foamy appearance, as if just drawn from the cow; and looked very rich and tempting. It, however, coagulates very soon, and becomes as hard and tenacious as glue. The Indians make use of this property of it to eradicate their eyebrows. This is not so painful an operation as it would seem; for the Indians have never suffered the eyebrows to grow and become strong, and the hair is only down, which is easily plucked up. When the milk coagulates, it expands, so that it forced the glass stopper out of the bottle I put it in, though sealed with pitch. We also got some of the almonds of the country, which I have not seen elsewhere. They are about the size, and have something the appearance, of our common black walnut, with a single oblong kernel, similar in taste to the Brazil nut.
November 26. — We had much heavy rain for the last day or two. A number of persons were affected with catarrh and headache. The padre told me that half of the population were ill of it, and that this always happens at the commencement of the rains. The disease is called romadiza, and is like our influenza. Ijurra and I were both indisposed with rheumatic pains in the back of the neck and shoulders. I don’t wonder at this, for we have slept all the time in a room just plastered with mud, and so damp that, where my bed-clothes came in contact with the wall, they were quite wet; and the rain beat in upon my head and shoulders through an open window nearly over head. My boots are covered with mould every morning, and the guns get half full of water. I gave the padre’s servant, who was suffering very much from romadiza, fifteen grains of Dover’s powder, (Heaven knows if it were proper or not,) and also to the padre’s sister, who had been suffering for some days with painful diarrhea, forty drops of laudanum. The old lady was cured at once, and said she had never met with so great a remedio. I left her a phial of it, with directions for its use; telling her (at which she looked aghast) that it was a deadly poison. It is curious to see how entirely ignorant the best-informed people out here are concerning the properties of medicines. Most of them do not know the names, much less the effects, of even such common drugs as calomel and opium. I suspect this is the case among most Spanish people, and think that Spanish physicians have always made a great mystery of their science.
We sailed from Echenique at half-past 1 p.m. Father Valdivia, who is musical, but chanted the mass in a falsetto that would be very difficult to distinguish, at a little distance, from the rattling of a tin pan,
232 THE PRIEST AND THE GOVERNOR.
commissioned me to bring him out (should I ever return) a small piano and a French horn, which he would pay for in salt fish and sarsaparilla. I cannot refrain from expressing my grateful thanks, for much attention and much information, to my friends — the well-informed and gentlemanlike Arebalo, and the pious, simple-minded, single-hearted little Indian priest of Pebas. We arrived at Cochiquinas (twenty-five miles distant) at half-past 8 p.m.