Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/13
Egas has a population of about eight hundred inhabitants, and is the largest and most thriving place above Barra. It occupies an important position with regard to the trade of the river, being nearly midway between Barra and Loreto, (the Peruvian frontier,) and near the mouths of the great rivers Juruá, Japurdá, and Teffé.
There are now eight or ten commercial houses at Egas that drive a tolerably brisk trade between Peru and Pará, besides employing agents to go into the neighboring rivers and collect from the Indians the productions of the land and the water.
Trade is carried on in schooners of between thirty and forty tons burden, which commonly average five months in the round trip between Egas and Pará, a distance of fourteen hundred and fifty miles, with an expense (consisting of pay and support of crew, with some small provincial and church taxes) of about one hundred and fifty dollars. M. Castelnau estimates these provincial and church taxes at about thirteen per cent. on the whole trade. Here is the bill of lading of such a vessel bound down: 150 arrobas of sarsaparilla: cost at Egas, $4 the arroba; valued in Pará at from $7 to $7 50. 300 pots manteiga: cost at Egas, $1 40 the pot; value in Pará, $2 50 to $3 50. 200 arrobas of salt fish: cost at Egas, 50 cents the arroba; value in Pará, $1 to $1 25.
Thus it appears that the cargo, which cost at Egas about thirteen hundred dollars, is sold in Pará, in two months, for twenty-six hundred dollars. The vessel then takes in a cargo of coarse foreign goods, worth there twenty-five hundred dollars, which she sells, in three months, in Egas, at twenty per cent. advance on Pará prices; making a profit of six hundred and twenty-five dollars. This, added to the thirteen hundred of profit on the down trip, and deducting the one hundred and fifty of expenses, will give a gain of seventeen hundred and seventy-five dollars in five months, which is about two hundred and seventy-five dollars more than the schooner costs.
There are five such vessels engaged in this trade, each making two trips a year; so that the value of the trade between Pará and Egas may be estimated at thirty-eight thousand dollars annually. Between
Egas and Peru, it is about twenty thousand dollars. I myself know of about ten thousand dollars on its way, or about to be on its way up. A schooner came in today ninety-two days from Pará, which is bound up with a greater part of its cargo. I met one belonging to Guerrero at Fonteboa. Marcus Williams, a young American living at Barra, has one now off the mouth of the river, which has sent a boat in for provisions and stores; and Batalha himself is about to send two.
Major Batalha (for my friend commands a battalion of the Guarda Policial of the province divided between San Paulo, San Antonio, Egas, and Coari) complains, as all do, of the want of energy of the people. He says that as long as a man can get a bit of turtle or salt fish to eat, a glass of cacacha, and a cotton shirt and trousers, he will not work, The men who fish and make manteiga, although they are employed but a small portion of the year in this occupation, will do nothing else. There is wanting an industrious and active population, who know what the comforts of life are, and who have artificial wants to draw out the great resources of the country.
Although the merchants sell their foreign goods at an advance of twenty-five per cent. on the cost at Pará, yet this is on credit; and they say they could do much better if they could sell at fifteen per cent. for cash. Moreover, in this matter of credit they have no security. When a trader has made sufficient money to enable him to leave off work with his own hands, the custom is for him to supply some young dependant with a boat-load of goods and a crew, and send him away to trade with the Indians, depending upon his success and honesty for the payment of the twenty-five per cent. The young trader has no temptation to desert or abandon his patron, (habilitador;) but much is lost from the dangers incident to the navigation, and the want of judgement and discretion in the intercourse of the employer with the Indians, and in the hostile disposition of the Indians themselves.
There is much in this life of the habilitado, or person employed by the traders, to attract the attention of the active, energetic young men of our country. It is true that he will encounter much hardship and some danger. These, however, are but stimulants to youth. It is also true that he will meet with a feeling of jealousy in the native towards the foreigner; but this feeling is principally directed towards the Portuguese, who are hard-working, keen, and clever; and who, as a general rule, go to that country to make money, and return home with it. This is their leading idea, and it makes them frugal, even penurious, in their habits, and indisposes them to make common cause with the natives of the country. Not so with the Italians, the French,
256 THE TAPUIOS.
the English, and the Americans, whom I have met with in this country. I do not know more popular people than my friends Enrique Antonii, the Italian, and his associate, Marcus Williams, the Yankee, who are established at Barra. Everywhere on the river I heard sounded the praises of my countryman. At Sarayacu, at Nauta, at Pebas, and at Egas, men said they wished to see him again and to trade with him, He himself told me that, though the trade on the river was attended with hardships, exposure, and privation, there was a certain charm attending the wild life, and its freedom from restraint, that would always prevent any desire on his part to return to his native country. I heard that he carried this feeling so far as to complain bitterly, when he visited Morris, the consul at Pará, of the restraints of society that compelled him to wear trousers at dinner.
Any number of peons, or, as they are called in Brazil, Tapuios, may be had for an almost nominal rate of pay for this traffic with the Indians.
All the christianized Indians of the province of Pará (which, until within the last two or three years, comprehended all the Brazilian territory drained by the Amazon and the lower part of its tributaries on each side, but from which has been lately cut off and erected into a new province the Comarca of Alto Amazonas, comprising the Brazilian territory between Barra and Tabatinga) are registered and compelled to serve the State, either as soldiers of the Guarda Policial or as a member of Bodies of Laborers, (Corpos de Trabalhadores,) distributed among the different territorial divisions (comaras) of the province. There are nine of these bodies, numbering in the aggregate seven thousand four hundred and forty-four, with one hundred and eighty-two officers. A better description of the origin and character of these bodies of laborers cannot be given than is given in the message to the Provincial Assembly of the President of the Province, Jeronimo Francisco Coelho, for the year 1849. This distinguished official, whose patriotism, talents, and energy are still spoken of with enthusiasm throughout the province, says:
A sentiment of morality and of order, created by the impression of deplorable and calamitous facts, gave birth to this establishment; but abuse has converted it into a means of servitude and private gain. The principal object of the law which created it was to give employment to an excessive number of tapuios, negroes, and mestizos — people void of civilization and education, and who exceeded in number the worthy, laborious, and industrious part of the population by more than three-quarters. This law founded, in some measure, a system which
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appeared to anticipate the theory of the organization of labor. In Europe this is a desideratum among the inferior classes of the community, who are oppressed by want, by pauperism, and by famine. For these to have work, is to have the bread of life and happiness; but in the fertile provinces of Pará, where nature gives to all, with spontaneous superabundance, the necessaries of life, work is held by these classes to be an unnecessary and intolerable constraint. Our tapuio, who erects his palm-leaf hut on the margin of the lakes and rivers that are filled with fish, surrounded by forests, rich with fruits, drugs, and spices, and abounding in an infinite variety of game, lives careless and at his ease in the lap of abundance. If these circumstances give him a dispensation from voluntary labor, with what repugnance and dislike will he render himself to compulsory toil, and especially when the obligation to work, imposed by the law, has so generally been converted into vexatious speculation by abuse!
Last year I gave my opinion to you at length upon this subject: I will not now tire you with a repetition. A very general idea prevails that the best method to do away with the abuses of this institution of laborers is its total abolition. But remember that the adoption of this measure imposes upon you a rigorous obligation to have a care of, and give direction (dar destino) to, nearly sixty thousand men, who, deprived by the law of political rights, without any species of systematic subjection, unemployed, and delivered up to their own guidance, and to an indolent and unbridled life, live floating among the useful and laborious part of the population, who are in a most disproportionate minority.
Your penetration and wisdom will find a means which will guaranty protection to one, security to the other, and justice to all. A convenient law, based upon a regular enlistment, moderate employment in cases, and at places well defined, and subjection to certain and designated local authorities, may give this means; and it was upon these principles that I formed the project, which I presented to you last year, converting the corps of laborers into municipal companies, added to the battalions of the National Guard. But said project depended upon the reorganization of this guard; and this failing, it of course fell through.
The question relative to the corps of laborers is, as I have said, a problem of difficult solution, but which must necessarily be solved. The how and the when belongs to you.
It is from these bodies that the trader, the traveller, or the collector of the fruits of the country, is furnished with laborers; but, as is seen from the speech of the President, little care is taken by the government officials in their registry or proper government, and a majority of them.
258 CHRISTMAS IN EGAS.
are either entire drones, or have become, in fact, the slaves of individuals. It is now difficult for the passing traveller to get a boat’s crew; though I have no doubt that judicious and honest dealing with them would restore to civilization and to labor many who have retired from the towns and gone back to a nomadic, and nearly savage life.
Most of the leading men at Egas own negro slaves; but these are generally employed in household and domestic work. A young negro man is worth two hundred and fifty dollars — if a mechanic, five hundred dollars. Major Batalha tells me that he will purchase no more slaves; he has had ill-luck both with them and with his tapuios. The slaves desert to Spain, (as Peru, Ecuador, and New Grenada are called here,) and he has lost six tapuios, by a sort of bloody flux, within the last two months. I asked him if the disease were confined to his household; but he told me that it was general, and supposed that it was caused by drinking the water of the lake, which was thought to be, in some small degree, impregnated with the poisonous milk of the assacu, (the Peruvian catao,) many of which trees grow on its borders. I have no idea that this is the cause, but suppose the disease originates from exposure, bad food, and an imprudent use of fruit, though I see no fruit except a few oranges and limes. It is even difficult to purchase a bunch of bananas. There are no other diseases in Egas except tertiana, caught in gathering sarsaparilla on the tributaries.
December 25. — We are very gay at Egas with Christmas times. The people keep it up with spirit, and with a good deal of spirits, too, for I see a number of drunken people in the streets. I attended midnight mass last night. The church was filled with well-dressed people, and with some very pretty, though dark-complexioned ladies. The congregation was devout, but I could not very well be so, on account of the music, which was made by a hand-organ that wouldn’t play. It gave a squeak and a grunt now and then, but there were parts of the music when nothing could be heard but the turning of the handle. There was also a procession on the lake. A large, very well illuminated boat, with rockets and music moving about, and a long line of lights on logs or canoes anchored in the lake, had a very pretty effect. Processions of negroes, men and women, with songs and music of tambourines and drums, were parading the streets all night.
The higher classes are taking a little Champagne, Teneriffe wine, or English ale. Ginger beer is a favorite and wholesome drink in this climate. I was surprised to see no cider. I wonder if some Yankee from below has not thought to send it up. Yankee clocks abound, and are worth from ten to twenty dollars.
December 26. — I had requested the commandante-militar to furnish me with a few more tapuios, and he had promised to send out an expedition to catch me some. He now says there are none to be had; but I suspect he gave himself no trouble about it. Many persons go down the river with only two rowers and a steersman; and I having six, I have no doubt he thought that I had a sufficient number.
My Ticunas, and the negro soldier sent with them, gave me a great deal of trouble — the soldier with his drunkenness and dishonesty, and the Indians by their laziness and carelessness; suffering the boat to be injured for the want of care, and permitting the escape and destruction of my animals and birds. It is as much as my patience and forbearance towards a suffering and ill-treated people can stand, to refrain from reporting them to the commandant, who would probably punish them with severity. Last night they broke the leg of one of my tuyuyus (great crane), and an alligator carried off the other. I am told that these animals have killed three persons at this same place. I had bathed there twice a day until I heard this; but after that, although I knew that they only seize their prey at night, it was going too close to danger, and I chose another place.
I saw a very peculiar monkey at Egas. It is called Acaris, and has a face of a very pretty rose color. The one I saw here was nearly as large as a common baboon. He had long hair, of a dirty-white color, and was evidently very old. Two that I saw at a factoria, on a beach of the Amazon, had hair of a reddish-yellow color; the tail is very short. M. Castelnau says that the vermillion color of the face disappears after death; and during life it varies in intensity, according to the state of the passions of the animal. The owners would not sell me those at the factoria, and I would not buy the one at Egas, because his face was blotched with some cutaneous affection, and he was evidently so old that he would soon die.
During our stay in Egas we had our meals cooked by an old negro woman who has charge of M. Fort’s house, furnishing her with money to buy what she could. It is very difficult to get anything but turtle even here. I counted thirty-nine cattle grazing on the green slope before our door; yet neither for love nor money could we get any beef, and with difficulty a little milk for our coffee. We sent to Nogueyra for fowls and eggs, but without success. These are festival times, and people want their little luxuries themselves, or are too busily engaged in frolicking to care about selling.
Major Batalha treated us with great kindness, sending us delicacies from his own table — the greatest of which was some well-made bread.
260 THE SARAYACU BOATMEN.
We had not tasted any since leaving Huanuco — now five months; and of course it was very welcome. On Christmas day he sent us a pair of fine, large, sponge-cakes. A piece of this, with a glass of tolerable ale, was a princely luncheon to us wayfarers, who had lived so long on salt fish and farinha. It fairly made Ijurra grin with delight. We could always get a cup of very good chocolate by walking round to the Major’s house; and the only thing I had to find fault with was, that I was always received in the shop. The Brazilians, as a general rule, do not like to introduce foreigners to their families, and their wives lead a monotonous and somewhat secluded life.
An intelligent and spirited lady friend told me that the customs of her country confined and restrained her more than was agreeable, and said, with a smile, that she would not like to say how much she had been influenced in the choice of a husband by the hope that she would remove to another country, where she might see something, learn something, and be somebody.
December 28. — We left Egas at half-past 2 p.m., in the rain. We seemed to have travelled just ahead of the rainy season; and whenever we have stopped at any place for some days, the rains have caught up with us.
I now parted with my Sarayacu boatmen, and very sorry I was to lose them. They were lazy enough, but were active and diligent compared with the stupid and listless Ticunas. They were always (though somewhat careless) faithful and obedient. I believe that the regret at parting was mutual. Their earnest tone of voice and affectionate manner proclaimed their feeling; and a courtier, addressing his sovereign, would have envied the style in which old Andres bent his knee and kissed my hand, and the tremulous tones, indicating deep feeling, with which he uttered the words “A Dios, mi patron.” They are all going back to Sarayacu but one, who has engaged himself to Senhor Batalha. It is a curious thing that so many Peruvian Indians should be working in Brazil; but it shows that they are removed above the condition of savages, for, though worse treated in Brazil, and deprived of the entire freedom of action they have in Peru, yet they are paid something; they acquire property, though it be nothing more than a painted wooden box with hinges and a lock to it, (the thing they most covet,) with a colored shirt and trousers to lock up in it and guard for feast-days. With such a box and contents, a hatchet, a short sabre, and red woollen cap, the Peruvian Indian returns home a rich and envied man, and others are induced to go below in hopes of similar fortune. They are frequently gone from their homes for years. Father Calvo complained
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that they abandoned their families; but in my judgment this was a benefit to them, rather than an injury, for the man at home is, in a great measure, supported by the woman.
I could not make an estimate of the number of Peruvian Indians in Brazil; but I noticed that most of the tapuios were Cocamas and Cocamillas, from the upper Amazon.
We entered the Amazon at 4 p.m. The mouth of the Teffé is three hundred yards wide, and has thirty feet of depth and one mile per hour of current. This is an inconsiderable stream, and may be ascended by canoes to near its sources in twenty days. In ten or twelve days’ ascent, a branch called the Rio Gancho is reached, which communicates by a portage with the Jurua. Indians of the Purus, also, sometimes descend the Teffé to Egas.
I was surprised to find the temperature of boiling water at Egas to be but 208°.2, the same within .2 of a degree that it was at a point one day’s journey below Tingo Miaria, which village is several hundred miles above the last rapids of the Huallaga river; at Sta. Cruz, two days above the mouth of the Huallaga, it was 211°.2; at Tauta, three hundred and five miles below this, it was 211°.3; at Pebas, one hundred and seventy miles below Nauta, 211°.l. I was so much surprised at these results that I had put the apparatus away, thinking that its indications were valueless; but I was still more surprised, upon making the experiment at Egas, to find that the temperature of the boiling water had fallen three degrees below what it was at Sta. Cruz, thus giving to Egas an altitude of fifteen hundred feet above that village, which is situated more than a thousand miles up stream of it. I continued my observations from Egas downwards, and found a regular increase in the temperature of the boiling water until our arrival at Pará, where it was 211°.5.
M. Castelnau gives the height of Nauta at four hundred and five feet above the level of the sea; the temperature of boiling water gives it at three hundred and fifty-six. Both these, I think, are in error; for, taking off forty feet for the height of the hill on which Nauta is situated, we have three hundred and sixty-five for the height of the river at that point above the level of the sea. Now, that point I estimate at two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles from the sea, which would give the river only a fall of about sixteen-hundredths of a foot per mile — a descent which would scarcely give the river its average velocity of two and a half miles per hour. From an after-investigation, I am led to believe that the cause of this phenomenon arises from the fact that the trade-winds are dammed
262 LAKE COARI.
up by the Andes, and that the atmosphere in those parts is, from this cause, compressed, and consequently heavier than it is farther from the mountains, though over a less elevated portion of the earth. The discovery of this fact has led me to place little reliance in the indications of the barometer for elevation at the eastern foot of the Andes. It is reasonable, however, to suppose that this cause would no longer operate at Egas, nearly one thousand miles below the mouth of the Huallaga.
I shall, therefore, give the height of Egas above the level of the sea, from the temperature of boiling water, (208°.2) at two thousand and fifty-two feet. Egas is about eighteen hundred miles from the sea; this would give the river a descent of a little more than a foot per mile, which would about give it its current of two and a half miles per hour.
December 29. — We drifted with the current, and a little paddling on the part of the crew, until 10 p.m., when we made fast to a tree on the right bank.
December 30. — We started at 5 a.m. At 3 p.m., where the river was quite a mile wide, I found but thirty feet in mid-channel; and about two hundred yards on our right hand was a patch of grass, with trees grounded on it. At 6 p.m. I judged from the appearance of the shores on each side (bold, red cliffs) that we had all the width of the river. It was only about a mile wide, and I thought it would be very deep; but I found only sixty feet. I could not try the current for the violence of the wind. At seven we arrived at the mouth of the Lake Coari, one hundred and fifteen miles from Egas, and made fast to a schooner at anchor near the right bank.
This schooner seemed to have no particular owner or captain, but to be manned by a company of adventurers; for all appeared on an equality. They were from Obidos, upwards of two months; and twenty-eight days from Barra, which place we reached from here in five. They were travelling at their leisure, but complained much of the strength of the current and the want of strength of the easterly winds. I heard the same complaints at Egas, but I have found the winds quite fresh from the eastward, and the current, compared with that above, slights But there is a wonderful difference in the estimation of a current, or the strength of a wind, when voyaging with and against them.
The fault of the vessels navigating the Amazon is the breadth of beam and want of sail. I am confident that a clipper-built vessel, sloop, or rather ketch-rigged, with a large mainsail, topsail, topgallantsail, and studding-sails — the last three fitted to set going up before the wind, and to strike, masts and all, so as to beat down with the current
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under mainsail, jib, and jigger — would make good passages between Pará and Egas. The vessels used now on the river are built broad and flat-bottomed, to warp along shore when the wind is light or contrary. Their sails are much too small, and are generally made of thin, bad material.
December 31. — We pulled into the Lake of Coari; but being told that it would take nearly all day to reach the village of Coari, and that it was an insignificant place, where I would get neither supplies nor information, I decided not to go.
It may seem strange that just out of Egas I should need supplies, but all I could purchase there were half a dozen fowls, four turtles, and some farinha; and upon opening the baskets of farinha, it was found to be so old and sour that, though the Indians could eat it, I could not; and thus we had no bread, nor even the substitutes for it — plantains and farinha; and had to eat our meat with some dried peas that we fortunately found at Egas.
The entrance to the Lake of Coari is about four hundred yards wide, and half a mile long. It expands, particularly on the right hand, suddenly into the lake, which at once shows itself six or seven miles wide, having a large island extending apparently nearly across it. The entrance has forty-two feet of depth in the middle, and, being faced by an island at both mouths, (the one into the lake, the other into the river,) appears land-locked, and makes a beautiful harbor. The banks are very low, of a thin, sandy soil, covered with bushes; and the right bank is perforated with small channels, running into the Amazon. The water of the lake is beautifully clear, and of a brown color; it runs into the Amazon at the rate of three-fourths of a mile per hour.
We pulled up the right bank of the lake about a mile, and stopped at a little settlement of ten or twelve houses, but could get nothing. The people seemed afraid of us, and shut their doors in our faces. The lieutenant, or principal man of the place, said that if we would give him money, he would send out and get us some fowls and plantains; but as he was a little drunk at this hour, (seven in the morning,) I would not trust him. We breakfasted, and sailed at 11.
We passed several small streams coming into the river on the right bank. Some of these are probably Furos, or small mouths of the Purus. Igarapé is the Indian name for a creek or ditch, which is filled with back-water from the river; and the term Paranamiri (literally, little river) is applied to a narrow arm of the main river, running between the main bank and an island near to it.
264 THE CODAJASH
January 1, 1852. — At 9 a.m. we had the easterly breeze so strong that we were compelled to keep close in shore to avoid the sea raised by it. Our heavy flat-bottomed boat rolls nearly gunwales under. Some of the Indians look alarmed, and Tomas, a servant whom we brought from Caballo-cocha, is frightened from all propriety. He shouts to the men to make for the land; and, seizing a paddle, makes one or two vigorous strokes; but fear takes away his strength, and he stretches himself on his face and yields to what appears his inevitable destiny. Ijurra is much scandalized at his cowardice, and asks him what he would do if he got upon the sea.
At 12 m. we passed another mouth of the Purus. These mouths can only be navigated at high water, and in small canoes. At half-past four we passed the mouth of the Codajash. We were on the opposite side of the river, and had nearly passed before I was aware of it. Smyth places the islands of Coro and Onca above it. They are really below. The mouth appeared a quarter of a mile wide; but I was afterwards told that this was not the largest mouth, and that the true mouth lay opposite to the island of Coro. I learned, from some persons who were engaged in salting fish upon a small sand island just below this mouth, (one of whom had visited it,) that it is an arm of the river communicating with a large lake abounding with fish, vaca marina, and turtle; and had growing on its shores many resins and oils, particularly the copaiba. It requires three days to ascend the arm of the river to the lake, and two more to reach the head of the lake, which is fed by small streams that are said to communicate with the Japura, on one hand, and the Rio Negro, on the other.
The Amazon, at this little island, commenced falling day before yesterday. A boat which arrived at Egas from Tabatinga the day before we left there reported that the river had commenced falling at Tabatinga on the twentieth of December. This is probably the fall due to the “Verano del Niño” of the Cordillera, and will only last a week or ten days, when the river will again commence to swell.
At seven we stopped at a factoria on Coro island, where the party who were working it had made one thousand pots of manteiga, and were about starting for below. Camped on the beach on right bank at half-past 11 p.m.
January 2. — The usual fresh easterly wind commenced at nine. The only time to make progress is at night; during the day the breeze is so fresh, and the sea so high, that very little is made. The wind usually subsides about 4 or 5 p.m., and concludes with a squall of wind and rain; leaving heavy-looking thunder-clouds in the southward
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and westward. The easterly wind often rises again, and blows for a few hours at night.
January 3. — We stopped to breakfast at nine, in company with a schooner bound up. She was three months from Pará, and expected to be another month to Egas. Two others also passed us at a distance this morning. We arrived at the mouth of the Purus, one hundred and forty-five miles from Lake Coari. The Amazon is a mile and a half wide from the right bank to the island of Purus, (which is opposite the mouth of the river.) The mouth of the Purus proper is three-quarters of a mile wide; though a little bay on the left, and the trend of the right bank off to the northeast, make the two outer points more than a mile apart. It is a fine-looking river, with moderately bold shores, masked by a great quantity of bushes growing in the water. These bushes bore a great number of berries, which, when ripe, are purple, and about the size of a fox-grape. They were, at this time, green and red. The pulp is sweet, and is eaten.
The water of the river is of the same color, and scarcely clearer, than that of the Amazon. We pulled in about a mile, and found one hundred and eight feet water, rather nearer the left than the right bank, with a bottom of soft blue mud. In mid-stream there was seventy-eight feet, with narrow streaks of sand and mud. In the strong ripples formed by the meeting of the waters of the two rivers, we found ninety-six feet; and when fairly in the stream of the Amazon, one hundred and thirty-eight feet. I am thus minute in the soundings because, according to Smyth, Condamine found no bottom at six hundred and eighteen feet. A person sounding in a strong tide-way is very apt to be deceived, particularly if he has a light lead and the bottom is soft; for if he does not feel it at the instant the lead touches the bottom, the current will cause the line to run out as fast as the lead would sink; so that the lead may be on the bottom, and yet the observer, finding the line not checked, may run out as many fathoms as he has, and think that he has found no bottom. Ijurra has frequently run out one hundred fathoms where I have afterwards found fifteen and seventeen. The current of the Purus is, at this time, very sluggish-not over three-quarters of a mile per hour. Temperature of the water, 84°; that of the Amazon, 83°; and the air, 82°. Drifted with the current all night; beautifully calm and clear.
January 4. — We travelled slowly all day, on account of the fresh wind and sea. At 7 p.m. we stopped at the village of Pesquera, at the mouth of the Lake Manacapuru, forty-five miles from the mouth of the Purus. It has only three or four houses, and is situated on a
266 ENTRANCE OF THE RIO NEGRO.
knee-cracking eminence of one hundred feet in height. The entrance to the lake is bold and wide-quite three hundred yards across — and with no bottom, at its mouth, in one hundred and twenty feet. A man at Pesquera, just from the lake with a cargo of manteiga, and bound to Pará, told me that it was two days’ journey to the opening of the lake; that the lake was very long, and about as wide as the Amazon at this place, (three miles;) that it was full of islands, and that no one knew its upper extremity; but that it was reported to communicate with the Japura. All this country seems cut up with channels from river to river; but I believe they are canoe channels, and only passable for them at high water. In many instances these channels, in the rainy season, widen out into lakes.
The banks of the river are now losing the character of savage and desolate solitude that characterizes them above, and begin to show signs of habitation and cultivation. We passed today several farms, with neatly framed and plastered houses, and a schooner-rigged vessel lying off several of them.
January 5. — At 3 a.m. we passed a rock in the stream called Calderon, or Big Pot, from the bubbling and boiling of the water over it when the river is full. At this time the rock is said to be six or eight feet above the surface of the water.
We stopped two hours to breakfast, and then drifted with the current, broadside to the wind, (our six men being unable to keep the boat head to it,) until four, when the wind went down. At five we entered the Rio Negro. We were made aware of our approach to it before getting into the mouth. The right bank at the mouth is broken into islands, and the black water of the Negro runs through the channels between these islands and alternates, in patches, (refusing to mingle,) with the muddy waters of the Amazon. The entrance is broad and superb. It is far the largest tributary of the Amazon I have yet seen; and I estimate its width at the mouth at two miles. There has been no exaggeration in the description of travellers regarding the blackness of its water. Lieut. Maw describes it perfectly when he says it looks like black marble. It well deserves the name of Rio Negro. When taken up in a tumbler, the water is a light-red color, like a pale juniper water; and I should think it colored by some such berry. A body immersed in it has the color, though wanting the brilliancy, of red Bohemian glass.
It may have been fancy, but I thought the light cumuli that hung over the river were darker here than elsewhere. These dark, though peaceful-looking clouds, the setting sun, the glitter of the rising moon
ARRIVAL AT BARRA. 267
upon the sparkling ripples of the black water, with its noble expanse, gave us one of the fairest scenes upon our entrance into this river that I ever recollect to have looked upon.
The mouth of the river is about fifty miles below Pesquera. I found one hundred and five feet of depth in the middle, with a muddy bottom, and little or no current. We pulled across and camped at half-past six, on a small sand-beach on the left bank.
January 6. — Started at 1 a.m. Moderate breeze from the eastward, blowing in squalls, with light rain. The left bank of the river is bold, and occasionally rocky. At 5 a.m. we arrived at Barra. My countryman, Mr. Marcus Williams, and Senhor Enrique Antonii, an Italian, (merchants of the place,) came on board to see me. Williams was fitting out for an expedition of six months up the river; but Antonii took me at once to his house, and established me there snugly and comfortably. The greatest treat I met here, however, was a file of New York papers. They were not very late, it is true, but still six months later than anything I had seen from home; and I conned them with great interest and no small anxiety.
The Comarca of the Rio Negro, one of the territorial divisions of the great province of Pará, has, within the last year, been erected into a province, with the title of Amazonas. The President, Senhor Joao Baptista de Figuierero Tenreiro Aranha, arrived at the capital (Barra) on the first of the month, in a government steamer, now lying abreast of the town. He brought most of the officers of the new government, and the sum of two hundred contos of reis, (one hundred and four thousand one hundred and sixty-six dollars,) drawn from the custom-house at Pará, to pay the expenses of establishing the new order of things until the collection of customs shall begin to yield.
This territory, whilst a Comarca, was a mere burden upon the public treasury, and will probably continue to be so for some time to come. 1 have not seen yet any laws regulating its trade, but presume that a custom-house will be established at Barra, where the exportation duties of seven per cent., and the meio dezimo, a duty of five per cent. for the support of the church, now paid at Pará, will be collected. Goods also pay a provincial tax of one and a half per cent. on foreign articles, and a half per cent. on articles of domestic produce. The income of the province would be much increased by making Barra a port of entry for the trade with Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and New Grenada; and I have no doubt that industry and enterprise will, in the course of time, bring goods of European manufacture from Demarara, by the
268 PROVINCE OF AMAZONAS.
Essequibo and Rio Branco, to Barra, and foreign trade may likewise grow up along the banks of the Orinoco, Cassiquiari, and Rio Negro.
The province has six hundred square miles of territory, and but thirty thousand inhabitants — whites and civilized Indians. (No estimate can be made of the number of Gentios, or savages, but I think this is small.) It is nobly situated. By the Amazon, Ucayali, and Huallaga, it communicates with Peru; by the Yavari, Jutay, Juruá, Purus, and Madeira, with Peru and Bolivia; by the Santiago, Pastaza, and Napo, with Ecuador; by the Iça and Japurá, with New Grenada; by the Negro and Branco, with Venezuela and the Guayanas; and by the Madeira, Tapajos Tocantins, and Xingu, with the rich interior provinces of Brazil. I presume that the Brazilian government would impose no obstacles to the settlement of this country by any of the citizens of the United States who would choose to go there and carry their slaves; and I know that the thinking people on the Amazon would be glad to see them. The President, who is laboring for the good of the province, and sending for the chiefs of the Indian tribes for the purpose of engaging them in settlement and systematic labor, said to me, at parting, “How much I wish you could bring me a thousand of your active, industrious, and intelligent population, to set an example of labor to these people;” and others told me that they had no doubt that Brazil would give titles to vacant lands to as many as came.
Foreigners have some advantage over natives in being exempt from military and civil services, which are badly paid, and a nuisance. There is still some jealousy on the part of the less educated among the natives against the foreigners, who, by superior knowledge and industry, monopolize trade, and thus prosper. This produced the terrible revolution of the Cabanos (serfs, people who live in cabins) in the years from 1836 to 1840, when many Portuguese were killed and expelled. These are the most numerous and active foreigners in the province. I have been told that property and life in the province are always in danger from this cause; and it was probably for this reason that the President, in his speech to the provincial assembly, before quoted, reminded that body, in such grave terms, that laws must be made for the control and government of the sixty thousand tapuios, who so far outnumbered the property-holders, and who are always open to the influence of the designing, the ambitious, and the wicked.
The military force of the province of Amazonas consists of two battalions of a force called Guarda Policial, numbering about thirteen hundred, and divided amongst the villages of the province. They are not paid; they furnish their own uniform, (a white jacket and trousers;) and small
bodies of them are compelled by turns to do actual military service in the barracks of some of the towns, for which time they are paid at the same rate as the soldiers of the line. This is a real grievance. I have heard individuals complain of it; and I doubt if the government would get very effective service from this body in the event of civil war. This organization took the place of the national guard, disbanded in 1836. Since I left the country the national guard has been reorganized, and the military force of the province placed upon a better footing.
I am indebted to Senhor Gabriel de Guimaraes, an intelligent citizen of Barra, for the following table of the annual exports of the Comarca, being the mean of the three years from 1839 to 1842, with the prices of the articles at Barra:
Sarsaparilla, 4,000 arrobas, a 83 00 - - 12,000 Salt fish, 8,500 “ 50 - - 4,250 Brazilian nutmeg, 3 “ 1 00 - - 73 Tonka beans, 3 “ 1 00 -
- 3 Tow, 360 “ 25 - 90 Pitch, 132 “ 32 - - 42 Carajuru, 320 pounds, 50 - - 160 Cocoa, 1,200 arrobas, 50 - 600 Coffee, 1,000 “ 1 00 -
- - 1,000 Tobacco, 140 3 00 - - 720 Copaiba, 400 canadas, 2 50 — - 1,000 Mixira, 750 pots, 1 00 - - - - 50 Oil of turtle-eggs, 6,000
“. 100 - - - - 6,000 Farinha, 300 alquieres, 40 - 120 Brazil nuts, 1,400 “ 25 - - - - 350 Tapioca, 30 “ 50 - - 15 Hides, 100 50 - - - - 50
Hammocks, 2,000 25 - - 500 Heavy boards, 480 1 25 - - - 600 28,323
These are the exports of the whole province including the town of Egas, (the exports of which alone I estimate now at thirteen thousand dollars,) with the little villages of Tabatinga, San Paulo, Tunantins, &c. Very little, however, of the trade of these last-named places passes Barra, and goes on to Pará. We will now see how much the trade has increased by examining the following table of the exports of Barra alone for the year 1850. This was also furnished me by the Senhor Guimaraes.
Hammocks, ordinary, 40 a $1 50 $60 00 “ superior, 15 4 00 -60 00 “ de travessa,* 100 5 00 500 00 feathered, 2 30 00 60 00’” bags containing 25, 9 5 00 - 45 00 “ boxes, 1 10 00 - - 10 00 Bird-skins, “ 2 10 00 - - 20 00 Tiger-skins, 4 50 - - 2 00 Hides, 27 50 - - 13 50 Oil of turtle-eggs, pots, 1,212 1 50 - - 1,818 00 Copaiba, “ 27 2 50 - - 67 50 Mixira, “( 66 1 50 — 99 00 Linguicas,f’ 2 1 50 - - 3 00 Rope of piasaba, inches, 1,792 50 - - 896 00 Piasaba, in bunlles, arrobas, 4,292 42 - - 1,802 64 Brazil nuts, alquieres, 10,406 50 - 5,203 00 Salt fish, arrobas, 14,002 50 - - 7,001 00 Coffee, “ 316 1 50 - - 474 00 Cocoa, “ 631 1 00 - - 631 00’ Tow, 6 119 42 - - 50 00 Tobacco, “ 154 4 00 - - 616 00 Sarsaparilla, 786 4 00 - 3,144 00 Peixe-boi, 50 42 - - 21 00 Brazilian nutmeg, “20 5 00 - - 100 00 Guaranla, pounds, 16 31 - 5 00
(1) Hammocks, “de travessa,” are those that are woven with close stripes across them.
(2) Sausages made from the flesh of the Peixe-boi.
(3) Piasaba is a palm, from the bark of which is made nearly all the rope used upon the Amazon. The appearance of the rope made from it is exactly that of the East India coir. It is very strong, but liable to rot in the heat and moisture of this climate. The fibres of the bark are brought down the rivers Negro and Branco, put up in large bundles, and are at Barra made into cables and running rigging. The coils are always sixty fathoms in length, and they are sold at so much per inch of circumference.
(4) Guaraná is the fruit of a low wide-spreading tree. It is about the size of a common walnut, and contains, within, five or six small seeds. These seeds are toasted, ground, mixed with a little water, pressed into moulds, and dried in an oven. Two spoonfuls, grated into a tumbler of water, is thought to make a very
Tonka beans, arrobas, 4 a $5 00 - $20 00 Grude de piraiba, ^ “ 1 3 50 - 3 50 Plank, feet, 10,000 2 - - 250 00 22,975 00
In this last list there appears to be no carajurú, pitch, farinha, tapioca, or planking for vessels. In place of these we find a greater variety of hammocks, bird-skins, tiger-skins, guaraná, grude de paraiba, and boards. This last article, however, was only furnished for one year; the saw-mill was burned, and no one seems disposed to take the speculation up again.
The Brazilian nutmeg (Puxiri) is the fruit of a very large tree that grows in great abundance in the low lands (frequently covered with water) that lie between the rivers Negro and Japurá, above Barcellos, a village situated on the banks of the first-named river. Its value seems to have increased between the dates of the two tables, or between the years 1840 and 1850, from one dollar the arroba to five. The fruit is round, and about the size of our common black walnut. Within a hard outer shell are contained two seeds, shaped like the grains of coffee, though much longer and larger, which are ligneous and aromatic, and are grated for use like the nutmeg of commerce. It is not equal in flavor to the Ceylon nutmeg; but this may be owing to the want of cultivation.
Tonka beans (Cumarú) are found in great abundance on the upper waters of the Rio Negro. This is also the nut-like fruit of a large tree. It is the aromatic bean that is commonly used to give flavor to snuff.
I thought it a curious fact that nearly all the valuable fruits of this country are enclosed either in hard ligneous shells, or in acid pulps; and judge that it is a provision of nature to protect them from the vast number of insects with which this region abounds. Thus we have the coffee and the cocoa enveloped in an acid, mucilaginous pulp, and the Castanhas de Maranham, or Brazil nuts, the Sapucaia nut, the Guaraná the Puxiri, and the Cumarú, covered with a hard outer shell, that neither the insects nor the monkeys are able to penetrate.
(1) refreshing drink. It is said to be a stimulant to the nerves, and, like strong tea or coffee, to take away sleep. It grows principally on the banks of the upper Tapajos, and is much used by the inhabitants of Matto Grosso.
(2)This is isinglass, taken from a fish called piraiba. I heard in Pará of a fish called gurijuba, which yielded an isinglass worth sixteen dollars the arroba.
It appears from an examination of the tables, that the exports of Barra alone, in the year 1850, are not in value far below those of the whole Comarca in the year 1840. I have no doubt, as in the case of Egas, that the value of the imports is very nearly double that of the exports; so that the present trade of Barra with Pará may fairly be estimated at sixty thousand dollars per annum.