Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/1
U. S. ship Vandalia — Valparaiso — Santiago — Vicente Pazos — Prepatory orders — Lima — Means of information — Conquests of the Incas in the Montaña — First explorations of the Spaniards — Madame Godin.
Attached to the U. S. ship Vandalia, of the Pacific squadron, lying at anchor in the harbor of Valparaiso, in the month of August, 1850, I received a communication from the Superintendent of the National Observatory, (1st cousin) Matthew Fontaine Maury informing me that orders to explore the Valley of the Amazon would be sent me by the next mail steamer.
The ship was then bound for the Sandwich Islands, but Captain Gardner, with that kindness which ever characterized his intercourse with his officers, did not hesitate to detach me from the ship, and to give me permission to await, in Valparaiso, the arrival of my instructions.
The officers expressed much flattering regret at my leaving the ship, and loaded me with little personal mementos — things that might be of use to me on my proposed journey.
On the 6th of August I unexpectedly saw, from the windows of the club-house at Valparaiso, the topsails of the ship mounting to the mastheads; I saw that she must needs make a stretch in shore to clear the rocks that lie off the western point of the bay; and desirous to say farewell to my friends, I leaped into a shore-boat, and shoved off, with the hope of reaching her before she went about. The oarsmen, influenced by the promise of a pair of dollars if they put me on board, bent to their oars with a will, and the light whale-boat seemed to fly; but just as I was clearing the outer line of merchantmen, the ship came sweeping up to the wind; and as she gracefully fell off on the other tack, her royals and courses were set; and, bending to the steady northeast breeze, she darted out of the harbor at a rate that set pursuit at defiance. God’s blessing go with the beautiful ship, and the gallant gentlemen, her officers, who had been to me as brothers.
Owing to the death of President Taylor [July 9, 1850], and the consequent change in the Cabinet, my orders were delayed, and I spent several weeks in
Valparaiso, and Santiago, the capital of Chili. This time, however, was not thrown away: my residence in these cities improved my knowledge of the Spanish language, and gave me information regarding the Bolivian tributaries of the Amazon which I probably could have got nowhere else.
The commander of the English naval forces in the Pacific, Admiral Hornby, was much interested in my mission, and searched for me, through his valuable library, for all that had been written upon the subject. I am indebted to him, and the officers of his fleet, for much personal kindness.
I must also return thanks to Messrs. George Hobson, H. V. Ward, George Cood, and Commodore Simpson, of the Chilian navy, for the loan of books and maps which assisted me in forming my plans, and deciding as to route.
Mr. Bridges, an English florist and botanist, who had descended the Chaparé and Mamoré, tributaries of the Madeira, as far as the mouth of the Beni, and who sent the first specimen of the Victoria Regia to England from this country, gave me such a description of it as enabled me to point out to Mr. Lardner Gibbon the most practicable route to the head waters of those streams.
I also had long conversations with General Ballivian, ex-President of Bolivia, then an exile to Chili. He lent me a map of Bolivia, executed under his orders whilst President of that republic, of which I took a tracing, but which I had afterwards the misfortune to lose.
At Santiago I received information regarding the river Beni, and the interior of Bolivia and Peru, from a French gentleman named Pissis, an engineer in the employment of the Chilian government; and also from a gentleman named Smith, an employé in the large mercantile house of Huth, Grunin, & Co., who had travelled much in those countries.
To Don Jose Pardo, chargé d’affaires of Peru to the republic of Chili, I owe much for information and advice. He gave me copies of letters from Vicente Pazos, a citizen of Buenos Ayres, who has always manifested much interest in the improvement and advancement of South America, and who, in 1819, published a series of papers on the affairs of that country, directed to Henry Clay. These letters I deem of sufficient interest to give a translation of.
Buenos Ayres, July 14, 1850.
To Don Jose Pardo,
Minister of the Peruvian Republic, near the Government of Chili.
Sir: In a journal of this capital of the 2d inst., I have seen a transcript of a letter from you to the editor of a periodical of this place, in which you say, under date of the 25th of April last, that you have received special notice of the discovery, in the province of “Carabaya,” of the ore and washings of gold. In consequence, the government of Peru invites all who desire it to take advantage, and make use of the natural productions of these regions, where emigrants of all nations shall have all the political and religious guarantees necessary in the exercise of their industry.
This announcement fills me with pleasure, because it is an evidence of the elevation of ideas which obtains in the government, and which will carry this part of Upper Peru to the height of prosperity to which it is called by its topographical and territorial position; and particularly because it has in its midst navigable rivers which connect it with the Atlantic — I allude to the navigation of the Amazon.
I have been now engaged some ten years in the thought and study of the political, social, and commercial relations concerning this matter, as is shown in my many publications which have circulated in Europe and America. These show the pains I have taken with the government of Louis Philippe, King of France, in order to open a new line of commercial communication between Cayenne and French Guyana and the republics of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
But I have always thought that our America, by the intelligence of its people, was to make a great social and commercial change; and I have always thought that this change would operate by means of its gigantic and navigable rivers. This conception is corroborated by the announcement of the discovery of the gold regions of Carabaya. Its upper parts, which belong to the Andes, feed sheep of the most exquisite wool; and as it goes on descending, vegetation springs up with a fecundity and ease unknown in the Old World. The land is cut up with mountain torrents, whose banks contain gold, and which unite to form the river “Purus,” one of the greatest tributaries of the Amazon.
Of this river, our celebrated botanist, D. Tadeo Há-énke, in a special report, says: “Purus, or Cachivara, is a river of the first order. It arises in the cordillera of Vilcanota, a little to the east of the mountains of Carabaya, from which descend many considerable streams, rich in gold.” To the testimony of this wise naturalist I add that of Conda
mine, and of the English naval officer, Smyth, and lastly the works of the Count of Castelnau, who descended the Amazon from Cuzco.
The scientific and hydrographical works of these travellers persuade me that the “Purus” will be the best channel of interior commerce, and will put the centre of Peru in communication with the industrial, commercial, and manufacturing nations of Europe and North America.
For this effect it is proper not only to speak of and familiarize people with this easy line of communication, but also to stimulate foreign emigration, and the civilization of the inhabitants of our forests — a people of a gentle disposition and an active intelligence.
The first sight I had of steam in the United States of America, in 1818, gave me the idea that our rivers were equally susceptible with theirs of this motive power, so that, in a work which I published in New York in 1819, I said that the day would arrive in which vessels moved by steam would navigate upon the gold-bearing rivers of Peru, as upon the fabulous Pactolus. This prediction is not now to me a fable, and, therefore, my conviction is unshaken, as will be seen by a letter which I have written to the President of the republic, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. The note to which I refer in it is very long, which prevents me from copying it, but some day it will be published.
In the mean time, I congratulate you, and your government, that in its administration should have taken place a measure so necessary for the common good.
Permit me, also, to offer you my respects, and to subscribe myself,
Your obedient servant,
Buenos Ayres, February 2, 1850.
To His Excellency Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte,
President of the French Republic.
PRINCE: In bringing to the notice of your Excellency the adjoined copy, which is a duplicate of my note, laid before the executive power which governed republican France in June, 1848, my object is to call the attention of your Excellency to the same project which Napoleon, your august uncle, conceived for the aggrandizement of the most important colony which France possesses in the New World — French Guyana. Before the application of steam to navigation, this tutelar genius of France comprehended that Cayenne would some day be the key to a vast commerce in all those regions, where might be created great empires.
This sublime conception infused into my spirit the idea that the time had arrived to realize the views of the Emperor; and, with this object, I addressed myself to the French government, in April, 1840, when the Chambers decreed trans-Atlantic steam navigation, to the end that there should also be established a river line between French Guyana and the republics of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. All the ministers who governed until February, 1848, including also the monarchy, approved my project, and took the preliminary measures necessary for beginning a system of navigation without equal since the days of Columbus and Vasco de Gama.
Officers of the French navy, stimulated by the example of those of the English, who had preceded them in the exploration of the Amazon, made also important hydrographical observations of the course of that river, which show that its principal outlet is along the shores of French Guyana, whence France may command the fluvial navigation and the commerce of those vast regions.
I thought that this advantage, which a glance at the geographical position of French Guyana shows, would work effectually in the judgment of M. Arago, then Minister of Marine and member of the provincial government of the French republic. The reply of this wise astronomer, of April 14th, to my note of the 22d April preceding, smothered, not only my hopes, but closed the doors to the prosperity of the French colonies, and to that of those nations whose streams form the Amazon, and whose people desire with eagerness this new and short way of communication between Europe and meridional America.
The grandeur of this plan, which is found set forth in my notes, memorials, and writings, which may be found in the different ministerial bureaus of France, together with the opinions of many French writers and travellers, among whom the most distinguished is M. Castelnau, demonstrate the utility of encouraging the growth of Guyanaz.
To all the information furnished by these ought to be added the verbal communications which I have received from the commander of the “Astrolabe,” M. Montravel, who is now on the station of the river Plate, under the order of Vice Admiral Le Predour. M. De Montravel, in the corvette Boulognaise, is the officer who made the exploration of the Amazon, and whose most valuable information, which exists in the department of the French marine, corroborates all that I have expressed to the French government for these ten years, and now animates me to
address myself to your Excellency directly, renewing the same project which I had the honor of presenting to the French nation, &c.
The city of Santiago is situated in a lovely plain at the very foot of the cordillera. The snowy summits of this chain, painted in bold relief against the hard, gray sky of the morning, have a very singular and beautiful appearance; they seem cut from white marble, and within reach of the hand. It is almost impossible to give an idea of the transparency of the atmosphere at this place. I was never tired of watching, from Lieut. Gillis’s little observatory, the stars rising over these mountains. There was nothing of the faint and indistinct glimmer which stars generally present when rising from the ocean; but they burst forth in an instant of time, in the full blaze of their beauty, and seemed as if just created. Gillis told me that his small telescope, of American manufacture, of 6 1/2 inches of aperture, was there fully equal in power to the German glass at Washington of 9 inches.
Chili, in arts and civilization, is far ahead of any other South American republic. There are many young men of native families, educated in the best manner in Europe, who would be ornaments to any society; and the manners of the ladies are marked by a simple, open, engaging cordiality, that seems peculiar to Creoles. I do not know a more pleasant place of residence than Santiago, except for two causes: one, earthquakes, to the terrors of which no familiarity breeds indifference; the other, the readiness of the people to appeal to the bayonet for the settlement of political differences, or in the struggle for political power. These two causes shook the city and society to their foundations a few months after I left it.
On the 20th of January, 1851, I received the following instructions from the Hon. William A. Graham, Secretary of the Navy:
NAVY DEPARTMENT, October 30, 1850.
SIR: Proceed to Lima, for the purpose of collecting from the monasteries, and other authentic sources that may be accessible to you, information concerning the head waters of the Amazon and the regions of country drained by its Peruvian tributaries. You will then visit the monasteries of Bolivia for a like purpose, touching the Bolivian tributaries of that river, should it in your judgment be desirable.
The object of the department in assigning you to this service is with the view of directing you to explore the Valley of the Amazon, should the consent of Brazil therefore be obtained; and the information you are directed to obtain is such as would tend to assist and guide you in such exploration, should you be directed to make it.
As this service to which you are now assigned may probably involve the necessity of the occasional expenditure of a small amount on government account, you are furnished with a bill of credit for one thousand dollars, for which you will account to the proper office. Also, enclosed you will find a letter of introduction to Messrs. Clay and McClung, chargés d’affaires near the governments of Peru and Boliviano.
WILLIAM A. GRAHAM.
As I had obtained from my Santiago and Valparaiso friends — particularly from General Ballivian — all the information that I would be likely to get in the cities of Bolivia, I determined to proceed to Lima, and accordingly embarked on board the mail boat 26th of January, 1851.
My residence in Valparaiso had made new friends and established new ties, that I found painful to break; but this is the lot of the navy officer: separated from his family for years, he is brought into the closest and most intimate association with his messmates, and forms ties which are made but to be broken, generally by many years of separation. Taken from these, he is thrown among strangers, and becomes dependent upon their kindness and hospitality for the only enjoyments that make his life endurable. Receiving these, his heart yearns towards the donors; and my Valparaiso friends will readily believe that I was sad enough when compelled to leave them.
I arrived in Lima on the 6th of February 1851. This city has changed greatly since I was here, twenty years ago . Though we had bullfights on the accession of the new President, General Echenique, (which accession, strange to say, took place without popular tumult, except a small outbreak at Arequipa, resulting in the immediate imprisonment at Lima of the opposing candidate, General Vivanco,) yet the noble amphitheatre was not crowded as in old times with the élite and fashion of Lima, but seemed abandoned to the vulgar. The ladies have given up their peculiar and most graceful national costume, the “Saya y Manto,” and it is now the mark of a ragged reputation. They dress in the French style, frequent the opera, and, instead of the “Yerba de Paraguay,” called Matté, of which they
used a great quantity formerly, they now take tea. These are causes for regret, for one likes to see nationality preserved; — but there is one cause for congratulation, (especially on the part of sea going men, who have sometimes suffered,) the railroad between Lima and Callao has broken up the robbers.
But with these matters I have nothing to do. My first business at Lima was to establish relations with Don Francisco Paula y Vigil, the accomplished and learned superintendent of the public library. This gentleman, who is an ecclesiastic and a member of the Senate, has so high a character for learning and honesty, that, though a partisan politician, and a member of the opposition to the new government, he preserves (a rare thing in Peru) the respect and confidence of all. He placed the books of the library at my disposal, and kindly selected for me those that would be of service.
The sources of information, however, were small and unsatisfactory. The military expeditions into the country to the eastward of the Andes left little or no reliable traces of their labors. The records of the explorations of the Jesuits were out of my reach—in the archives of Quito, at that time the head of the diocese, and the starting-point of the missions into the interior; and nearly all that I could get at were some meagre accounts of the operations of the Franciscans, collected by Father Manuel Sobreviela, guardian of the missionary college of Ocopa, and published, in 1790, in a periodical called Mercurio Peruano, edited by an association styling itself Amantes del Pais, or lovers of their country.
Though the information obtained in Lima was not great, I still think that a slight historical sketch of the attempts to explore the Montaña* of Peru, made since the conquest of that country by Pizarro, will not be uninteresting.
Before commencing it, however, I desire to express my acknowledgments to the many gentlemen, both native and foreign, who have assisted me in my researches with information and advice, particularly to Don Nicholas Pierola, the Director of the National Museum, whose name is associated with that of Mariano de Rivero, as “par excellence” the scientific men of Peru; to the Hon. John Randolph Clay, charge d’affaires of the United States; to Dr. Archibald Smith,
- Montaña (pronounced Montanya) is the name given by the Peruvians to any wooded country, “monte” being the Spanish term for a thick and tangled forest. As there is no other wooded country in Peru except to the eastward of the Andes, the term applies only to the eastern slope and the level country at the base of the mountains, stretching as far as the confines of Brazil.
an eminent physician, and author of a very clever book called “Peru as it is;” and to the courteous and hospitable partners of the mercantile house of Alsop & Co., Messrs. Prevost, Foster, & McCall.
Modern books upon the subject — such as Prescott’s Peru; Humboldt’s Narrative; Von Tschude’s Travels; Smith’s “Peru as it is;” Condamine’s Voyage on the Amazon; Prince Adalbert’s Travels; the Journals of the English Lieutenants, Smyth and Maw; “Travels in Maynas” of Don Manuel Ijurra, who afterwards accompanied me as interpreter to the Indians; Southey’s Brazil, and a Chorographic Essay on the Province of Pará, by a Brazilian named Baena — were all consulted, and, together with oral communications from persons who had visited various parts of the Valley of the Amazon, gave me all the information within my reach, and prepared me to start upon my journey at least with open eyes.
According to Garcilasso de la Vega, himself a descendant of the Incas, the attention of the Peruvian government was directed to the country east of the Andes even before the time of the Spanish conquest. The sixth Inca, Rocca, sent his son, Yahuar Huaccac, at the head of 15,000 men, with three generals as companions and advisers, to the conquest of the country to the northward and eastward of Cuzco, called Antisuyo, inhabited by Indians called Antis. The young prince added a space of thirty leagues in that direction to the dominions of his father, but could reach no further on account of the roughness of the country and the difficulties of the march. The tenth and great Inca, Yupanqui, sent an expedition of 10,000 men to pursue the conquests of Yahuar Huaccac. These reached the Montaña, and, embarking on rafts upon the great river Amarumayo,* fought their way through tribes called Chunchos, till they arrived, with only 1,000 men, into the territory of tribes called Musus. Finding their numbers now too small for conquest, they persuaded these Indians that they were friends, and, by their superior civilization, obtained such an ascendency among them, that the Musus agreed to send ambassadors to render homage and worship to the “Child of the Sun,” and gave these men of the Inca race their daughters in marriage, and a place in their tribe.
- As I shall have occasion, in speaking of routes, to refer again to this river, I would like to draw particular attention to it, simply stating here, however, that all who have penetrated into the Montaña to the northward and eastward of Cuzco, agree in reporting a large and navigable river arrived at soon after clearing the skirts of the mountains. Different tribes of Indians inhabit its banks, and I presume it is on this account that so many different names — such as Amarumayo, Mano, Tone, Inambiri, Guariguari, Cachihuara, and Madre-de-Dios — have been given it.
Years afterwards, during the reign of Huaynal Capac, the Incas and their descendants desired to return to Cuzco; but in the midst of their preparations they received intelligence of the downfall of their nation, and settled finally among the Musus, who adopted many of the laws, customs, usages, and worship of the Incas.
I have little doubt of the truth of this account, for even at the present day may be found amongst the savages who dwell about the head waters of the Ucayali, the Purus, and in the country between the Purus and Beni, traces of the warlike character of the mountain race, and that invincible hatred of the white man which the descendants of the Incas may well be supposed to feel. This determined hostility and warlike character prevented me from embarking upon the Chanchamayo to descend the Ucayali, was the cause why I could not get men to ascend the Ucayali from Sarayacu, and I have no doubt hindered Mr. Gibbon from penetrating to the eastward of Cuzco, and seeking in that direction the sources of the Purus. This character is entirely distinct from that of the Indians of the plains everywhere in South America, who are, in general, gentle, docile, and obedient, and who fear the white man with an abject and craven fear.
Love of dominion and power had induced the Indian princes of Peru to waste their treasures and the lives of their subjects in the subjugation of the Montaña. A stronger passion was now to urge a stronger people in the same direction. Stories of great empires, which had obtained the names of Beni, or Gran Pará, Gran Pairiri, or Paititi, and El Dorado, filled with large and populous cities, whose streets were paved with gold — of a lake of golden sand called Parima — of a gilded king, who, when he rose in the morning, was smeared with oil and covered with gold dust blown upon him by his courtiers through long reeds — and of immense mineral and vegetable treasures — had for some time filled the ears and occupied the minds of the avaricious conquerors; and, after the partial settlement of affairs by the defeat of the Almgro faction at the battle of Salinas, near Cuzco, on the 26th April, 1538, various leaders sought opportunities of obtaining wealth and distinction by incursions into these unknown lands.
Hernando Pizarro fitted out two expeditions, giving to Pedro de Candia the command of the first, and to Pedro Anzulo, that of the second. These men, led on by the report of the Indians, who constantly asserted that the rich countries they sought lay yet farther to the eastward, penetrated, it is supposed, as far as the Beni; but, overcome by danger, privation, and suffering, they returned with no results, save
marvellous stories of what they had seen and learned, which inflamed the curiosity and cupidity of others. These parties were generally accompanied by an ecclesiastic, who was the historian of the expedition. Some idea may be formed of the worthlessness of their records by examining a few of the stories related by them. Here is one:--
“Juan Alvarez Maldonado made an expedition from Cuzco in the year 1561. He descended the eastern range of the Andes, and had scarcely cleared the rough and rocky ground of the slope when his party encountered two pigmies. They shot the female, and the male died of grief six days afterwards.
“Following the course of the great river Mano downwards, at the distance of two hundred leagues they landed upon a beach, and a piquet of soldiers penetrated into the woods. They found the trees so tall as to exceed an arrow-shot in height, and so large that six men, with joined hands, could scarcely circle them. Here they found lying upon the ground a man, five yards in height, members in proportion, long snout, projecting teeth, vesture of beautiful leopard skin, short and shriveled, and, for a walking stick, a tree, which he played with as with a cane. On his attempting to rise, they shot him dead, and returned to the boat to give notice to their companions. These went to the spot, and found traces of his having been carried off. Following the track towards a neighboring hill, they heard thence such shouts and vociferations that they were astounded, and, horror-stricken, fled.” One more: “Between the years 1639 and 1648, Padre Tomas de Chavas, a Dominican, entered among the Chunchos, from Cochabamba, in Bolivia. He took twelve of them to Lima, where they were baptized. He then went back and lived among them fourteen years, making many expeditions. His last was in 1654 among the Moxos Indians of the Mamoré. He there cured a cacique of some infirmity, and the Emperor of the Musus (this is the great Paititi or gilded King of the Spaniards) sent six hundred armed men to the cacique of the Moxos, demanding that the reverend father should be sent to cure his Queen. The Moxos were very unwilling to part with their physician; but threats of extermination delivered by the ambassadors of the Emperor induced compliance; and the padre was carried off on the shoulders of the Indians. After a travel of thirty days, he came to the banks of a stream so wide that it could scarcely be seen across; (supposed to be the Beni.) Here the Indian ambassadors had left their canoes; loosing them from the banks, they launched, went down the stream twelve days, and then landed. Here the father
found a large town inhabited by an incredible number of savages, all soldiers, guarding this great port of the river, and entrance into the empire of the Musus. No women were to be seen; they lived in another town, a league off, and only came in by day to bring food and drink to the warriors, and returned at night.
“He observed that the river at this place divided into many arms, all appearing navigable, and formed large islands, on which were great towns. He travelled hence twenty-seven days, when he arrived at court. The King came out to meet him, dressed in the finest and most delicate feathers, of different colors. He treated his guest with great courtesy, had a sumptuous feast prepared for him, and told him that, hearing of his wonderful powers as a physician, he had sent for him to cure the Queen of a disease which had baffled the skill of all his doctors. The good father remarked that he was no physician, and had not been bred to that art; but observing that the Queen was beset with devils, (“obsesa,”) he exorcised her according to the formulary, whereby she was thankfully made a Christian. He was eleven months in the court of the Paititi; at the end of which time, seeing that the wine and flour for the sacred elements were giving out, and having baptized an infinite number of infants in “Articulo Mortis,” he took leave of their majesties, recommending to the Queen that she hold fast the faith she had received, abstaining from all offence towards God. He refused from the King a great present of gold, silver, pearls, and rich feathers; whereat (says Father Tomas) the King and courtiers wondered greatly.”
These are of the number of stories which, inflaming the cupidity of the Spaniards, led them to brave the perils of the wilderness in search of El Dorado. They serve to show at this day the little confidence which is to be placed in the relations of the friars concerning this country; I do not imagine, however, that they are broad lies. The soldiers of Maldonado evidently mistook monkeys for pigmies, and some beast of the forest, probably the tapir, for a giant; and there is doubtless some truth in the account of Padre Tomas, though one cannot credit the six hundred ambassadors; the river that could scarcely be seen across; the garrisoned port; and the gold, silver, and pearls of an alluvial country.
But the defeated followers of Almagro, flying from before the face of the still victorious Pizarros, did find to the eastward of Cuzco a country answering, in some degree, to the description of the fabulous El Dorado. They penetrated into the valleys of Carabaya, and found there washings of gold of great value. They subjugated the Indians;
built the towns of San Juan del Oro, San Gaban, Sandia, &c.; and sent large quantities of gold to Spain. On one occasion they sent a mass of gold in the shape of an ox’s head, and of the weight of two hundred pounds, as a present to Charles V. The Emperor, in acknowledgment, gave the title of “Royal City” to the town of San Juan del Oro, and ennobled its inhabitants. The Indians, however, in the course of time, revolted, murdered their oppressors, and destroyed their towns. Up to the last three years this has been a sealed country to the white man. I shall have occasion to refer to it again.
While these efforts to penetrate the Montaña to the eastward of Cuzco were being made, Gonzalo Pizarro fitted out at Quito an expedition, consisting of 350 Spaniards and 4,000 Indians, with large supplies of provisions and live stock. All who have read the brilliant pages of Prescott, know the history of this expedition: the discovery of cinnamon; the treachery of Orellana; and the origin of the present name of the great river. I shall not tread upon such ground; but shall content myself with observing that, if Pizarro built a brig, or anything that carried a mast, he either embarked low down upon the Napo, or, what I rather suspect, the Napo was a much larger stream then than now.
The failure of this expedition, and the almost incredible sufferings of the party who composed it, could not deter the Spaniards from their search for El Dorado. In 1560 the Marquis of Cañete, Viceroy of Peru, sent Pedro de Ursoa with a large company on this mission. This officer marched northward from Cuzco, and embarked upon the Huallaga. At Lamas, a small town near that river, he was murdered by his lieutenant, Lope de Aguirre, who determined to prosecute the enterprise. Aguirre descended the Huallaga — and the Amazon to its mouth — coasted along the shores of Guayana and Venezuela, and took possession of the small island of Marguerita. There raising a party, he landed at Cumaná, with the purpose of conquering an empire on the main land. He was, however, defeated by some Spanish troops who had already possession of the country, taken prisoner, carried to Trinidad and hung.
Aguirre appears to have been a bold and violent man. His letter to Philip II, published in Humboldt’s narrative, is indicative of his character. He says: “On going out of the river Amazon we landed at an island called La Margaretta. We there received news from Spain of the great faction of the Lutherans. This news frightened us exceedingly. We found among us one of that faction; his name was
Monteverde. I had him cut in pieces, as was just; for, believe me, señor, wherever I am, people live according to the law.
“In the year 1559 the Marquis of Cañete sent to the Amazon Pedro de Ursoa, a Navarrese, or rather a Frenchman. We sailed on the largest rivers of Peru till we came to a gulf of fresh water. We had already gone 300 leagues, when we killed that bad and ambitious captain. We chose a Cavallero of Seville, Fernando de Guzman, for king; and we swore fealty to him, as is done to thyself. I was named quartermaster general; and, because I did not consent to all his will, he wanted to kill me. But I killed this new king, the captain of his guards, his lieutenant general, his chaplain, a woman, a knight of the order of Rhodes, two ensigns, and five or six domestics of the pretended king. I then resolved to punish thy ministers and thy auditors. I named captains and sergeants. These again wanted to kill me; but I had them all hanged. In the midst of these adventures we navigated eleven months, till we reached the mouth of the river. We sailed more than 1,500 leagues. God knows how we got through that great mass of water. I advise thee, O great king, never to send Spanish fleets into that cursed river.”
The following story, from the “Viagero Universal” of Ulloa, shows his barbarity in yet more revolting colors. It appears that in all his marches he carried with him a favorite daughter. When defeated and surrounded, so that escape was impossible, he called this lady, and addressing her, said: “I had hoped to make thee a queen. This now is impossible. I cannot bear that you should live to be pointed at as the child of a traitor and a felon. Thou must prepare for death at my hands.” She requested a few minutes for prayer, which was granted; but her father, thinking she was too long at her devotions, fired upon her whilst on her knees. The unfortunate lady staggered towards him; but taking her by the hand as she approached, the villain plunged his knife into her bosom, and she sank at his feet, murmuring “Basta Padre Mio,” — It is enough, my father.
It is not to be expected that information of an exact and scientific character could be had from the voyages of adventurers like these. They were mere soldiers, and too much occupied in difficulties of travel, conflicts with Indians, ambitious designs, and internal dissentions, to make any notes of the topography or productions of the countries they passed through.
But a task that had baffled the ambition and power of the Incas and love of gold, backed by the indomitable spirit and courage of the hardy Spanish soldier, was now to be undertaken by men who were urged on
by a yet more absorbing passion than either of these. I mean missionary zeal — the love of propagating the faith.
The first missionary stations established in the Montaña were founded by the Fathers Cuxia and Cueva, of the holy company of the Jesuits, in 1737.
They commenced operations at the village of St. Francis de Borja, founded by Don Pedro de Vaca, in 1634, when he conquered and settled the province of Mainas, under the direction of the Viceroy Don Francisco de Bocja, prince of Esquilache. This village is situated on the left bank of the Marañon, not far below where it breaks its way through the last chain of hills that obstructs its course, at the Pongo (a rapid) de Manseriché.
In the same year (1637,) according to Ulloa, (whose statements, I think, are always to be received “cum grano salis”) [pinch of salt] Pedro Texeira, a Portuguese captain, ascended the Amazon with a fleet mounting forty-seven large guns. After an eight months’ voyage from Pará, he arrived at the port of Payamino, or Frayamixa, in the province of Quixos, on the river Napo. I am unable to find out how far up the Napo this is; but Texeira, leaving his fleet there, went with some of his officers by land to Quito. The Royal Audience of that city determined to send explorers with him on his return, and the Jesuit Fathers, Acuña and Artieda, were selected for that purpose, and directed to report to the King of Spain. Passing through the town of Archidona, on the head-waters of the Napo, with much suffering they joined the fleet in the port of Payamino, and after a voyage of ten months, by land and water, arrived at Pará, whence they sailed for Spain.
The Spanish government, then occupied with the rebellion of Portugal, could lend no aid to the missionaries, and Father Artieda returned to Quito in 1643. He appealed to the royal audience, and to the college of the Jesuits at that city, for help to the missions, and the latter institution furnished him with five or six missionaries. These were well received by the Indians, and prosecuted their labors with such success, that in the year 1666 they had formed thirteen large and populous settlements in the country, bordering on the upper Marañon, and near the mouths of the Pastaza, Ucayali, and Huallaga.
About this time the Franciscans commenced pushing their explorations and missionary operations from Lima, by the way of Tarma and Jauxa, into the Montaña, drained by the headwaters of the Ucayali; and here (thanks to Father Sobreviela) we begin to get a little
topographical information; and the map may now be consulted in elucidation of the text.
In 1673 the Franciscan Father Manuel Biedma penetrated into the Montaña from Jauxa, by the way of Comas and Andamarca, and established the missionary station of Santa Cruz de Sonomzora, on the river Pangoa, a tributary of the Ucayali.
In 1681 Father Manuel Biedma opened a mule road from Andamarca to Sonomora, and in 1684 one from Sonomora to the junction of the Pangoa with the Perene. In 1686 he embarked at this place with Antonio Vital, and descended the Ucayali to near the junction of the Pachitea. Here he established a station called “San Miguel de los Conibos,” and, leaving Father Antonio Vital in charge, he attempted to ascend the river again, but was killed by the savages. Antonio Vital, hearing of his death and seeing himself abandoned, without hope of succor, determined to commit himself to the downward current; and, embarking in a canoe with six Indians, he soon reached the Jesuit missionary stations near the mouth of the Ucayali. Directed by these missionaries, he ascended the Marañon, the Huallaga, and the river Mayo as far as it is navigable. He then disembarked, travelled by land through Moyobamba and Chachapoyas, and passing through Lima arrived at Jauxa, whence he had set out with Father Biedma.
About this time the Franciscans, also penetrating from Tarma by the valleys of Chanchamayo and Vitoc, established the missions of the Cerro de la Sal and the Pajonal. The Cerro de la Sal is described as a mountain of rock and red earth, with veins of salt of thirty yards in breadth, to which the Indians, for many miles round, were in the habit of repairing for their supply. The Pajonal is a great grassy plain, enclosed between the river Pachitea and a great bend of the Ucayali. It is about one hundred and twenty miles in length from north to south, and ninety from east to west, and I judge from its name, and some imperfect descriptions of it, that it is a very fine grazing country.
In the year 1712 Padre Francisco de San José established a college, “de propaganda fide,” at the village of Ocopa, in the Andes, a few leagues from Jauxa. By his zeal and abilities he induced many European monks, of the order of St. Francis, to come over and join him in his missionary labors. These men labored so successfully, that up to 1742 they had established ten towns in the Pajonal and Cerro de la Sal, and had under their spiritual direction ten thousand converts. But in this year an Indian of Cuzco, who had been converted and baptized as Juan Santos, apostatized from the faith; and, taking upon himself the style and title of Inca, and the name of Atahualpa, excited to rebellion all the Indians of the plain, and swept away every trace of
the missionary rule; some seventy or eighty of the priests perishing in the wreck.
It is quite evident that no distaste for the Catholic religion induced this rebellion; for in the year 1750, eight years afterward, the Marquis of Minahermosa, marching into this country for the punishment of the rebels, found the church at Quimiri, on the river Perene, in perfect order, with candles burning before the images. He burned the town and church. And six years after this, when another entrance into this country was made by Gen. Bustamente, he found the town rebuilt, and a large cross erected in the middle of the plaza, or public square. I have had occasion myself to notice the respect and reverence of these Indians for their pastors, and their delight in participating in the ceremonial, and sense-striking worship of the Roman Church.
It remains but to speak of the conversions of the Ucayali, in the Pampa del Sacramento, made by the Franciscans of Ocopa, and which are the only trophies that now remain of the zeal, patience, and suffering of these devoted men.
The missions established on the Ucayali by Fathers Biedma and Caballero, in the years 1673 to 1686, were lost by insurrections of the Indians in 1704. In 1726, the converted Indians about the head of canoe navigation on the Huallaga, (the tidings of the gospel were first carried to these from Huanuco, by Felipe Luyendo, in 1631,) crossing the hills that border that river on its eastern bank, discovered a wooded plain, which was named Pampa del Sacramento, from the day of its discovery being the festival of Corpus Cristi. This was a new field for the missionary; and by 1760, the Fathers of the college at Ocopa had penetrated across this plain to the Ucayali, and re-established the missions of Manoa, the former spiritual conquests of Biedma. To get at these missions with less difficulty, expeditions were made from Huanuco by the way of Pozuzu, Mayro, and the Pachitea, in the years 1763 to 1767. Several missionaries lost their lives by the Cashibos Indians of the Pachitea; and in this last year the Indians of the Ucayali rose upon the missionaries, killed nine of them, and broke up their settlements. But not for this were they to be deterred. In 1790 Father Narciso Girbal, with two others, under the direction of Sobreviela, then guardian of the college at Ocopa, went down the Pachitea and again established these missions, of which there remain three at this time, called, respectively, Sarayacu, Tierra Blanca, and Sta. Catalina.
The difficulties of penetrating into these countries, where the path is to be broken for the first time, can only be conceived by one who has
travelled over the roads already trodden. The broken and precipitous mountain track — the deep morass-the thick and tangled forest — the danger from Indians, wild beasts, and reptiles — the scarcity of provisions — the exposure to the almost appalling rains — and the navigation of the impetuous and rock-obstructed river, threatening at every moment shipwreck to the frail canoe-form obstacles that might daunt any heart but that of the gold-hunter or the missionary.
The most remarkable voyage down the Amazon was made by a woman. Madame Godin des Odonnais, wife of one of the French commissioners who was sent with Condamine to measure an arc of the meridian near Quito, started in 1769, from Rio Bamba, in Ecuador, to join her husband in Cayenne by the route of the Amazon. She embarked at Canelos, on the Borbonaza, with a company of eight persons; two, besides herself, being females. On the third day the Indians who conducted their canoe deserted: another Indian, whom they found sick in a hovel near the bank, and employed as pilot, fell from the canoe in endeavoring to pick up the hat of one of the party, and was drowned.
The canoe, under their own management, soon capsized, and they lost all their clothing and provisions. Three men of the party now started for Andoas, on the Pastaza, which they supposed themselves to be within five or six days of, and never returned. The party left behind, now consisting of the three females and two brothers of Madame Godin, lashed a few logs together and attempted again to navigate; but their frail vessel soon went to pieces by striking against the fallen trees in the river. They then attempted to journey on foot along the banks of the river, but finding the growth here too thick and tangled for them to make any way, they struck off into the forest in hopes of finding a less obstructed path.
They were soon lost: despair took possession of them, and they perished miserably of hunger and exhaustion. Madame Godin, recovering from a swoon, which she supposes to have been of many hours duration, took the shoes from her dead brother’s feet and started to walk, she knew not whither. Her clothes were soon torn to rags, her body lacerated by her exertions in forcing her way through the tangled and thorny undergrowth, and she was kept constantly in a state of deadly terror by the howl of the tiger and the hiss of the serpent. It is wonderful that she preserved her reason. Eight terrible days and nights did she wander alone in the howling wilderness, supported by a few berries and birds’ eggs. Providentially (one cannot say accidentally) she stuck the river at a point where two Indians (a man and a woman)
were just launching a canoe. They received her with kindness, furnished her with food, gave her a coarse cotton petticoat, which she preserved for years afterwards as a memorial of their goodness, and carried her in their canoe to Andoas, whence she found a passage down the river, and finally joined her husband. Her hair turned gray from suffering, and she could never hear the incidents of her voyage alluded to without a feeling of horror that bordered on insanity.