Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/5

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Division of the party – Acobanaba — Plain of Junin — Lake Chinchaycocha — Preservation of potatoes — Cerro Pasco — Drainage of the mines — Boliches.

Gibbon and I had long and earnest consultations about the propriety of dividing the party; and I now determined to do so, giving to him the task of exploring the Bolivian tributaries, while I took the head-waters and main trunk of the Amazon. It was a bold, almost a rash determination, for the party seemed small enough as it was; and we might readily encounter difficulties on our route which would require our united exertions to overcome. I had many misgivings, and told Gibbon at first that it seemed midsummer madness; but the prospect of covering such an extent of territory; of being enabled to give an account of countries and rivers so little known; and the reflection that I need not abandon routes that I had looked upon with a longing eye, were so tempting that they overrode all objections; and we set about making our preparations for the separation.

We divided the equipage, the tocuyo, or cotton cloth, (which we had not yet touched,) the hatchets, the knives, the beads, the mirrors, the arms and ammunition. I gave Gibbon fifteen hundred dollars in money, and all the instruments, except some thermometers and the boiling-point apparatus, because I was to travel a route over which sextants and chronometers had been already carried; and he might go where these had never been. I directed him to hire a guide in Tarma, and, so soon as Richards (who was still sick) should be able to travel, to start for Cuzco, and search for the head-waters of the Madre de Dios.

On the 29th, we dined with General Otero, this being his wife’s birthday and festival of St. Peter. The General, being an Argentine born, gave us the national dish — the celebrated carne con cuero, or beef, seasoned with spices, and roasted under ground in the hide, which is said to preserve its juices, and make it more palatable. I observed that the soups and the stews were colored with achote. This is the urucu of the Brazilians, of which the dye called annatto is made. It grows wild in great abundance all over the Montaña, and is extensively used by the Indians for painting their bodies and dyeing their cotton cloths. It is a bush of eight or ten feet in height, and bears a prickly burr like


our chincapin. This burr contains a number of small red seeds, the skin or covering of which contains the coloring matter.

The General gave us some “quinua,” the seed of a broom-like bush, which, boiled in milk, makes a pleasant and nutritious article of food. The grains are something like rice, though smaller, and contain a sort of mucilaginous matter. He also gave us some flower seeds, and valuable specimens of silver ore from his mines at Cerro Pasco. He has large flocks of sheep, the wool of which he sends to Lima; and has introduced the Merino, which thrives, He gave us some asbestos from Cuzco, and stalactites from a cave on a sheep farm, which, he says, the sheep are fond of licking, and which Von Tschudi [1] [Johann Jakob von Tschudi] pronounced to contain Epsom salts. I could detect no taste, and thought it a kind of magnesia. We parted from our agreeable host and kind friend with regret.

July 1. — I started at noon with Ijurra and Mauricio, accompanied by Gibbon and Captain Noel, with one of the Señores, Sta. Marias. At General Otero’s gate, Noel left us. A very pleasant gentleman this; and I shall long remember his kindness. Soon after, Gibbon and I lingered behind the company; and at the entrance of the valley of the Acobamba, which route I was to take, we shook hands and parted. I had deliberated long and painfully on the propriety of this separation; I felt that I was exposing him to unknown perils; and I knew that I was depriving myself of a pleasant companion and a most efficient auxiliary. My manhood, under the depressing influence of these feelings, fairly gave way, and I felt again that hystericct passio, that swelling of the heart and filling of the eyes, that I have so often been called upon to endure in parting from my gallant and generous comrades of the navy.

He returned to make the necessary arrangements for his expedition. We crossed the Chanchamayo by a stone bridge, and passed through the village of Acobamba. This town contains about fifteen hundred or two thousand inhabitants; but, like all the towns in the Sierra at this season, it appears deserted — no one in the streets, and most of the doors closed. The road is a steady and tolerably smooth ascent of the valley, which is narrow, pretty, and well cultivated. As usual, the hills facing the north are bare and rugged; those facing the south present more vegetation, but this is scant. Cactus and long clump grass run to within two-thirds of the top, and then the rock shoots perpendicularly up in naked majesty.

Three miles above Acobamba we passed the village of Picoi, which has its plaza, church, and cemetery, with about one hundred houses.

Six miles further brought us to Palcamayo, a village of one thousand


inhabitants, belonging to the Doctrina of Acobamba. A justice of the peace, a good-looking Indian, whom we encountered sitting at the door of a grog-shop in the plaza, conducted us to the house of the alcalde. We found this worthy drunk, and asleep on the floor, and were much annoyed with the attentions of another individual, who had a very dirty poultice on his jaws; this was his worship’s secretary, who was in little better condition than his patron. Two drunken regidores came in to see us; and it seemed that all the magistracy of Palcamayo had been “on a spree.” They required the money of us before they would get us or our cattle anything to eat.

It would be difficult to find a clearer sky and a purer atmosphere than we had here. The sky, at twilight, looked white or gray, rather than blue; and I thought it was cloudy until my eye fell upon the young moon, with edges as distinct and clear as if it were cut out of silver, and near at hand. The elevation of Palcamayo is ten thousand five hundred and thirty-nine feet above the level of the sea.

July 2. — Thermometer, at 6 a.m., 37; clear and calm. Three miles above Palcamayo we left the maize and alfalfa, and encountered potatoes and barley. The road a league above this point turns sharp to the westward, and ascends a steep and rugged “cuesta.” This brought us out upon a small plain, bounded by low hills, and dotted with small detached houses, build of stone and covered with conical roofs of straw. They were circular, and looked like bee-hives. The plain was covered with a short grass, and many tolerable-looking cattle and sheep were feeding on it. A small stream, coming from the westward, ran through its midst. The water had been carried by a canal half-way up the sides of the hills that bounded the plain to the northward, so as to enable the people to irrigate the whole plain. Where the water had broken through the canal and spread itself over the side of the hill, it had frozen, and the boys were amusing themselves sliding down it.

At the western edge of the plain is the village of Cacas, of two hundred and fifty or three hundred inhabitants. The people were celebrating the festival of St. Peter, for they are not particular about days. The church was lighted and decorated with all the frippery that could be mustered; and preparations were making for a great procession. There were two Indians, or Meztizos, dressed in some old-fashioned infantry uniform, with epaulets; flaming red sashes, tied in monstrous bows behind, and white gloves. (The cocked hats, for size and variegated plumage, beggar description.) These were evidently the military part of the procession; one was mounted on a little shaggy nag, with his sword hanging on the right-hand side; and the other was strutting


about nearly buried in his cocked hat, while just fourteen men were employed in caparisoning his horse. The drinking had already colmmenced; most of the population were getting drunk fast, and I have no doubt there was a grand row that night.

Drinking seems a very general vice amongst the inhabitants of these wet, cold, and highly-elevated plains. The liquor is invariably the Pisco or Ica brandy, made in that province. It is pleasant to the taste and of good quality. In the Montaña we had often occasion to regret the exchange of this for new-made cane rum.

The hills that bound the plain on the west have two salt springs, from which the inhabitants of the village get their salt by evaporation. The hill over which we rode is called the Cuesta de la Veta, because travellers suffer fiom this sickness in passing it. As I had felt nothing of it, even at the Pass of Antarangra, I watched very closely for any symptoms of it here; but perceived none, though I sucked a cigar all the way to the top. The road to the top of the Cuesta is about three miles in length, and its ascent brought us to the historical plain of Junin, where Simón Bolivar, [2]on the 6th of August, 1824, gave the Spaniards a heavy and very nearly conclusive overthrow. Half an hour’s ride over the plain brought into view the Western Cordillera, the Lake Chinchaycocha, and the pyramid [3] erected by Mariano Rivero[4] (then prefect of the province) to commemorate the battle. It stands off to the left of the road about a league, and is at the foot of a little hill, where the liberator stood to direct the fight; it is white, and seemed seventy or eighty feet high.

Our day’s ride of eighteen miles brought us to the town of Junin, where we took lodgings in the house of the governor; more drunken people there.

July 3. — Junin is a village of one thousand inhabitants, situated about a mile and a half from the southern extremity of the Lake Chinchaycocha, and twelve thousand nine hundred and forty-seven feet above the level of the sea. This lake is twenty miles long, in a N. W. and S. E. direction, and has an average breadth of about six miles. It is said to discharge its waters into the Amazon by the river of Jauxa, which we crossed at Oroya, and which is a tributary of the Ucayali. The inhabitants of Junin, and the other towns of this plain, are herdsmen. They raise cattle for the supply of Cerro Pasco and Tarma, and mules for beasts of burden. Their houses are built of mud and straw; and they eat mutton and macas, (a root of the potato kind, but looking, and when boiled tasting, more like a turnip.) The people of these regions find it very difficult to procure vegetables, as quinua and barley


will not grain, nor potatoes grow, in the wet soil and cold atmosphere of the plain. They therefore have to resort to means for preserving the potato and its varieties, which are got from the valleys of the Andes. These means are, generally, drying and freezing; and they make a variety of preparations from the potato in this way. The macas are simply exposed to the frost and sun for a number of days, and then put away in a dry room. The inhabitants make a sort of soup or sirup of them, the smell of which, Rivero says, “is a little disagreeable to people unaccustomed to it,” (it is really very offensive;) and it is the general opinion that it is a stimulant to reproduction.

Caya is made from the oca and the mashua, (a variety of the oca,) by putting them in water till they rot, and then exposing them to the sun and cold. This, when cooked, smells worse than the macas, and no stomach but that of an Indian or a beast could possibly tolerate it.

There are two kinds of chuno. One (the black) is made from the common potato by soaking it some days in water, then pressing it to express all the moisture, and freezing it. The white (called moray) is made from. a large, bitter potato, which abounds in the departmnents of Junin, Cuzco, and Puno. The potatoes are put in water, in a bag, at the setting of the sun, and taken out before sunrise. This operation is carried on for fifteen or twenty days. It is an especial condition of this chuno’s turning out well that it shall be put in water after sunset, and taken out before sunrise; for, if it is touched by the sun, it immediately turns black. It is then pressed and exposed to the sun for a few days.

Chochoca is the common potato, first cooked and peeled, and then frozen. This and the chuno are healthy and nutritive articles of diet.

I quote these means of preserving the potato and its varieties from Rivero, who thinks that these articles of food will, in time, become of great importance, particularly in the supply of the army and navy, and for long journeys or voyages; and that if the European nations knew of these productions, and the means of preserving them, they would draw great advantages from the knowledge.

The plain, about forty-five miles long, and from six to twelve broad, is generally wet, and in some places marshy. The soil is gravelly, with a light covering of mould, producing a short grass scarcely adequate for the support of the flocks, which are indeed of small size, but sometimes fat and good. A great number of large beautiful waterfowl, including the scarlet flamingo and several varieties of snipe, frequent the banks of the lake and marshy places. The people cut their supply of fuel from the turf of the bogs, in the dry, and stack it up for use in the rainy season. There is said to be much thunder and lightning here at the


commencement of the rainy season, (about the first of October,) and the lighting frequently falls on a hill about four miles to the eastward of the town, where the inhabitants say there is much loadstone. The plain is about thirteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. It has a gentle slope downwards from west to east. I found the difference in elevation (by temperature of boiling water) between the villages of Junin and Ninaccaca (the latter about twenty miles to the west of the former) to be four hundred and forty-five feet.

The road onward from Junin runs not far from the banks of the lake. On the left we had the grand snow-covered domes and pinnacles of the Western Cordillera sleeping in the sunlight, while clouds and storm enveloped the Eastern. About 2 p.m. a breeze from the northward brought some of the storm down upon us. It snowed fast; the flakes were small and round, like hail, but soft and white. The thermometer which was 54 at the commencement of the storm, fell, during its continuance of ten minutes, to 46. We found an overcoat very comfortable.

About fifteen miles from Junin we passed the village of Carhuamayo. Here I saw the only really pretty face I have met with in the Sierra, and bought a glass of pisco from it.

The road between Junin and Carhuamayo is a broad and elevated one, built of stones and earth. by the Spaniards. Without this the plain would be impassable in the rainy season. Six miles further we stopped at the tambo of Ninaccaca.

July 4. — The village of Ninaccaca, of two or three hundred inhabitants, lies off to the right of the road, on which the tambo is situtied, abouat half a mile. I would have gone there, but I was desirous of sleeping in a tambo for the purpose of testing the accounts of other travelllers who complain so bittlerly of tlhem. We were fortunate enough to have the tambo to ourselves, there being no other travellers; and I had quite as comfortable as in the alcade’s house, at Palcamayo, or in that of of the governor of Junin. My bed is generally made on the baggage in the middle of the floor; while Ijurra takes to the mud standing bed-places which are to be found in every house. Last night I wroke up, and, finding him very uneasy, I asked “if he had fleas up there.” He replied, with the utmost sang-froid, and as if he were discussing some abstract philosophical question with which he had no personal concern whatever, that “this country was too cold for fleas, but that his bed-place was full of lice.” It made my blood run cold; but long before I got out of the mouth of the Amazon I was effectually cured of fastidiousness upon this or any similar sibject.

We were somewhat annoyed by the attentions of the master of the

100 PASCO.

house, who was very drunk. His wife told us next morning that he came near killing her with his knife, and would infallibly have beaten her but that she told him “those strangers were soldiers, and would shoot him if he did.” Her naïve way of telling how she managed the man, and got off from the beating, was quite amusing. The accent of these people is a sort of sliding drawl that makes every voice alike. They use an imperfect Quichna or Inca language, which I am told is only spoken perfectly in the neighborhood of Cuzco.

Our route now approached the Western Cordillera fast. About three miles from the tambo the plain began to be broken into rolling hills. The direction of the road, which had been W. N. W., changed to N. W. by N., and crossed them. After crossing a range we stopped to breakfast at a collection of a few huts, where I was amused at an instance of the apathy of the people. A very common reply to the inquiry of the traveller if he can have such and such things, is manam cancha, (there is none; we haven’t it.) We rode up to the door of a hut, the mistress of which was sitting “knitting in the sun” at the back of it. She heard our horses’ tread, and, too lazy to change her position, without seeing us or ascertaining if we wanted anything, she screamed out manam cancha. Ijurra abused her terribly; and we had our water boiled (which was all we wanted) at another hut. The Viuda pass of the Cordillera, which is generally crossed by travellers between Lima and Cerro Pasco, was in view from this place, bearing S. 30° W.

Immediately after starting we began passing haciendas for the grinding of ores and getting out silver. They are situated on small streams that come from either the Eastern or Western Cordillera, and that find their way into Lake Chinchaycocha. They all seem dry at this season; and none of the haciendas are at work. Passed the old village of Pasco. This was once the great mining station, but, since the discovery of the mines at the Cerro, it is falling into decay. Three miles from this, the country becomes more hilly and rocky, losing the character of Pampa. The passage of a low, but abrupt chain of hills, brings the traveller in view of Cerro Pasco. The view from this point is a most extraordinary one. I can compare it to nothing so fitly as the looking from the broken and rugged edges of a volcano into the crater beneath. The traveller sees small houses, built, without regard to regularity, on small hills, with mounds of earth and deep cavities in their very midst; the mud chimneys of ancient furnaces, contrasting strikingly with the more graceful funnel of the modern steam engine; the huge cross erected on the hill of Sta. Catalina, near the middle of the city, which his fancy may suppose placed there to guard, with its holy presence,


the untold treasures beneath; two beautiful little lakes, only divided by a wide causeway at the southern extremity of the crater, and another embedded among the hills to the westward; hills, (on one of which he stands,) of five hundred feet in height, with bold white heads of rock, surrounding these; and the magnificent Cordillera from the right and left overlooking the whole.

These are the objects that strike the eye of the traveller at his first view. As he rides down the hill, he sees the earth open everywhere with the mouths of mines now abandoned; he is astonished at their number, and feels a sense of insecurity as if the whole might cave in at once and bury him quick. He rides into the narrow, ill-paved streets of the city, and, if he can divert his attention for a moment from the watching of his horse’s footsteps, he will observe the motliest population to be met with anywhere out of the dominions of the Sultan. I believe that he may see, in a single ride through the city, men of all nations, and of almost every condition; and if he doesn’t see plenty of drunken people, it will be a marvel.

I was delighted when we turned into the patio of the house of the sub-prefect of the province, Don Jose Mier y Teran, and escaped the rude stare and drunken impertinence of the Indians, thronging the streets, and doors of the grog-shops. This gentleman, whose kindness we had experienced at Tarma, gave us quarters in his house, and pressed us to make ourselves at home, to which his blunt, abrupt, and evidently sincere manners particularly invited.

After a wash, to which the coldness of the weather and the water by no means invited, I put on my uniform in honor of the day, and went out to see Mr. Jump, director of the machinery, and Mr. Fletcher, an employee of the Gremio, (Board of Miners,) to whom I brought letters of introduction from Lima. These gentlemen received me with great cordiality. Mr. Jump offered me a room in his house, and Mr. Fletcher handed me a number of letters from friends at home, at Lima, and at Santiago. These letters were cordial medicines to me; I had arrived cold, sick, and dispirited, and but for them should have passed the first night of mental and physical suffering that I had been called upon to endure since leaving Lima.

July 6. — Rain nearly all night; I was cold and sick, and sat by the fire all day, trying to keep myself warm. The houses in Cerro Pasco are generally built of stones and mud, and covered in with tiles or straw; most of them have grates, with mud chimneys, and are plentifully supplied with good coal, both bituminous [soft coal] and hard [anthracite coal]. Mier says that if the


place owes nothing else to the Pasco Peruvian Company, it owes it (at least) a debt of gratitude for the introduction of the grates. I found however, very little comfort in them; for the houses are so open about the doors and windows, that while my toes were burning, my back was freezing; and one has to be constantly twisting round, like a roasting turkey, to get anything of their benefit. My companion, Ijurra, whose fathers were rich miners and powerful men in these parts, had many visitors. The talk of the company was of nothing but the mines, and incessant was the complaining (which I have heard elsewhere) of the miseries and uncertainties of the miners life. All seem to agree that it is a sort of gambling, in which most lose; but there is the same sort of feverish infatuation in it that there is in gaming with cards, and the unlucky player cannot but persevere, in the hope that the luck will change, and that the boya, (striking the rich vein,) like “the bullets and bragger oldest,” will come at last.

I went out with Mr. Jump to look at the town. It is a most curious looking place, entirely honey-combed, and having the mouths of mines (some two or three yards in diameter) gaping everywhere. From the top of the hill called Sta. Catalina, the best view is obtained of the whole. Vast pits, called Tajos, surround this hill, from which many millions of silver have been talken; and the miners are still burrowing, like so many rabbits, in their bottoms and sides. I estimate that at the tajo of Sta. Rosa is six hundred yards long, by four hundred broad and sixty deep; those of the Descubridora and ——— are about half as large. The hill of Sta. Catalina is penetrated in every direction; and I should not be surprised if it were to cave in any day, and bury many in its ruins. The falling in of mines is of frequent occurrence; that of Mata-gente (kill people) caved in years ago, and buried three hundred persons; and four days ago a mine fell in and buried five; four have been recovered, but one is still incarcerated, and the people are now hard at work for him. We visited a machine-shop, and the hacienda for grinding ores by steam, that Mr. Jump is erecting near the city. I should think the hacienda would be a good speculation; for the ores, which have now to be transported on the backs of mules and llamas for a distance of four, five, or six miles to the haciendas, may be taken to this by a railroad in a few minutes; and Mr. Jump believes that he shall have have water enough for his boilers all the year; whereas the other haciendas cannot grind for more than three parts of the year. The cost of the mchinery, which is cast in England, in parts equal to a mule-load, and transported from Lima on the backs of these animals; the pay of machine and


engine drivers; the digging of ditches for the supply of water; fuel; and all such expenses to which the other haciendas are not subject, I could not well calculate.

Mr. Fletcher, who has lived a long time in Cerro Pasco, says that a purchaser of the ores (making sure of his guias or experiments on the yield of the ore) can count his gains as easily and certainly as he can the dollars in his pocket; that those men who lose are either the lazy and the careless, or the speculators and lookers after rich ores, to make a fortune at once. The most common and easily obtained ores here are called cascajos. They do not require roasting, as do the ores at Párac; but otherwise the silver is got out in the same mainner as I have described it to be at that place.

Instead, however, of the ground ore being placed in small piles, and, after being mixed with salt and mercury, trodden with the feet, and worked with hoes as it is at Párac, a large quantity is placed in a circular enclosure, with a stone floor and mud wall, and it is trodden with horses (as we used in old times to tread wheat in Virginia) until the amalgamation is completed. The general yield of the cascajos is six marks to the caxon. Their cost, according to the hardness of the rock in which they are enclosed, or their distance from the surface, is from six to sixteen dollars. Here is a calculation to show that, even at their highest price, of sixteen dollars, (being assured by the guia that the caxon will yield six marks,) their working, or benificiation, as it is called here, will pay. The complete amalgamation in the circo, or circle, requires from forty to fifty days.

Dr. Circo of six caxones, a


16 caxon - — 96 00 150 mule loads, (transportation to the hacienda,) a 25 cents - - - - -3750 Grinding, a 810 - - - - - - 60 00 Magistral, (calcined iron pyrites,) 1 arroba - - - 1 00 40 arrobas of salt, a 50 cents - - - - 20 00 5 tramplings by horses, a $5 - - 25 00 Working and washing the amalgam - - - 11 50 Loss of 35 lbs. quicksilver, a 1 - - - - - 35 00 286 00 CR. 6 caxones, at 6 marks caxon, 36 marks. (Mark is worth in Cerro Pasco $8 50) - - - - - - 306 00



I had this statement from Mr. Jump. I did not examine it at the time, but I observed afterwards that there is no charge for driving off the mercury of the amalgam, and leaving the pure silver, which is worth eight dollars and fifty cents the mark. This would amount to six dollars more, leaving the profit to the purchaser, for the two months that he has been engaged in getting his silver, but fourteen dollars. This, of course, is but a poor business; for, though any quantity of the ore may be purchased, there are not haciendas enough to grind, or circos to amalgamate, a sufficient quantity to make the speculation good; and thus many millions of this ore are left unworked. The ore, however, rarely costs sixteen dollars, and will frequently give seven or eight marks to the caxon. Statement showing the cost of a mark of silver placed on board ship for exportation:

Cost of a mark of pina in the Cerro - -

Impost for steam machines for pumping water from the mines.


(This has been 12- cents, and soon will be 50 cents) - - 25 Socabon (or great drain) duty - - - - - 121 Public works - - 6 Government or export duty 50 Mineral tribunal duty - - - - — - 12 Loss in running the piina into bars - - - - - 12 Carriage to Lima, and other petty expenses - - - 6 Profit of the purchaser in the Cerro - - - - 3 10 12


Twelve dwts. is the standard of pure silver in the mint at Lima. All the bars that go from this place are marked 11.22. They are assayed in Lima. If they come up to that standard they are worth 8.6746 the mark. For every grain under this 11.22 there is a deduction in the price of .0303 of a dollar.

To-day there was a meeting of the gremio, to take into consideration a question that had arisen whether the contractors for putting up the steam machinery for draining the mines had fulfilled their part of the contract. A short history of the draining of these mines may not be uninteresting, and will at all events put persons on their guard how they make contracts with miners.

The mines of Cerro Pasco were discovered in 1630, by an Indian making a fire on some stones and observing melted silver. They were worked, with little or no drainage, and with great success, up to the


year 1780, when the socabon (or drain) of San Judas was commenced. This is a great ditch of five and a half feet in breadth and six feet ten inches in height, which drains the mines into the lake of San Judas. Its length is about thirty-five hundred feet, and it cost one hundred thousand dollars. It was finished in 1800. This would drain, by percolation, all the mines above it. For those below it, it was necessary to pump the water up by hand. This was found so inefficient a means, (the socabon also not being sufficiently large,) that in 1806 the gremio commenced the construction of the socabon of Quiulacochca, eighlty-eight feet below that of San Judas, six feet ten inches broad, and eight feet three inches high, The work is continued upon it to this day. The part that I saw is arched, well walled with solid masonry, and the water rushes through it like a small river. Many lumbreras, or light holes, are sunk down upon it in various directions to give light and air, and to carry into the socabon the drainage of the neighboring mines.

In 1816, the gremio contracted with two Spaniards, Abadia and Arismendi, for the drainage of the mines by steam machinery. These persons put up three steam machines for working pumps, and the results were very happy, the ores being found much richer the farther down the mines reached. The war of independence broke them up; their miners being taken away for soldiers, and their machines used up for horse-shoes.

In 1825, an English company, styling itself the Pasco Peruvian, undertook the drainage. This company contracted to be paid in ores, which they were to beneficiate themselves. They were never fairly paid. They employed English officials and operatives at high salaries; and after having dug one hundred and ten feet, at a cost of forty thousand dollars, between September, 1825, and January, 1827, they failed. The government then took it up, and gave two thousand dollars monthly towards the work, the miners also taxing themselves twelve and a half cents on the mark of silver obtained. Rivero took charge of the work, and from the first of June, 1827, to the first of January,1828, he perforated one hundred and twenty-two feet in the socabon, the workmen finding powder and candles, and he supplying tools. In an official statement, afterwards made by Rivero, he shows that to excavate a vara cost him eighty-six dollars, while it cost the Pasco Peruvian Company one thousand dollars; though he says that in the lumbrera of Sta. Rosa the Pasco Peruvian Company found the rock so hard that twelve men could not perforate more than half a vara a month. The socabon at present is eight thousand two hundred and fifty feet long, and three hundred feet below the surface. About a million of dollars have been spent upon it, though it is said it has not really cost so much.


A few years ago it was determined to try steam again, for the purpose of carrying on the mining below the great drain, and the gremio contracted with Mr. Jump to undertake it. He bound himself to put up four sets of engines, to work those engines for a year at his own expense, and then turn them over to the gremio; the gremio on the other hand, binding itself to sink the shafts and to pay weekly twelve and a half cents on every mark of silver produced by the mines for a certain length of time, then twenty-five, and then fifty cents, till six hundred thousand dollars were paid.

The work is carried on with unexampled despatch on the part of Mr. Jump, so that now two sets of engines are at work, a third is going up, and the fourth has arrived from England, though the shaft is not yet ready for it. But there are two parties in the gremio, representing distinct interests. One party, of which General Bermudez (at the time of making the contract prefect of the department and ex-oficio president of the gremio) is the leader, represents the speculative men, who look for boyas and think that great and sudden riches are to be had by draining the mines below the socabon. The other party (and the majority) represents the men who, content with moderate and certain gain, work the cascajos which are generally above the drain, and therefore need no machinery.

These men were probably borne down by the influence of Bermudez during his prefecture and a majority was obtained for the contract; but since his retirement they rise up and say, “It is a hard case that we should contribute to pay for machines that do us no good;” and they seek for means to avoid this. They find it in the wording of the contract; and although they see that the machines are doing, and more than doing, the work required, they take advantage of the wording, and raise the question now under consideration. The words of the contract are, that “he, the contractor, shall bind himself to put up four sets of engines, each set to consist of two engines of fifteen horse power each, and to drive three pumps; each engine to be entirely independent of the other in such a manner that if an accident happens to one engine, the other shall be able to drive two pumps.”

I thought, from examination of the engines, that a case might occur whereby the wording of the contract would fail to be fulfilled; but it seemed to me that this arose from the nature of the contract, and was not at all chargeable on Mr. Jump; for it appears to me that, for two engines to drive three pumps, and in such a manner that if one breaks the other may drive two, it is necessary to have a connection between those engines, which connection breaking, although either engine may be intact and able to drive its own pump, (thus keeping two pumps


going,) yet the engines must stop to repair the connexion, so as to drive all three again.

That the pretended objection is a quibble, may be seen from the fact that the engines keep the shafts clear with only two pumps, and do not work the third; but I suspect that news recently received from Lima of the discovery of large quicksilver mines in California, which would bring down the price of that article one-half, and double the value of the cascajos, (thus still diminishing the necessity for drainage,) had something to do with the movement. A committee of the gremio, appointed for the investigation of the matter, did report in favor of stopping the payments; but before this was decided upon, some rich ores were discovered by the operation of the pumps. This changed their tune, for, although they now only work the ores above the socabon, they may, if they choose, penetrate below it; and if these machines should show conclusively that there are richer ores below, they of course would be glad to have them, and the gremio, therefore, (including even some of the members of the committee,) voted that the works and the payments should continue, and the matter should be arbitrated. I of course get my knowledge and views pretty much from Mr. Jump, one of the parties; but I meet at his house and elsewhere with men of the opposite party, and hear the matter very fully discussed. I would have advised Mr. Jump, in any other country, to reject arbitration and appeal to the law; but the less a man has to do with law in this country the better, not so much on account of its ill administration as of its vexatious delay.

I removed from the sub-prefect’s house to that of Mr. Jump, Ijurra staying with his relations, and Mauricio and the mules at board.

The callana or smelting-house, where the piña is run into bars, is a government establishment, and is farmed out. All the produce of the mines has to pass through it; is here run into bars, weighed, stamped, and the duties charged upon it. It is very rude in its appointments, a mere straw-covered hut, with an iron smelting pot in the middle, mounted by arms, on two iron uprights like anvils. The pot melts at one operation sufficient silver to make a bar of two hundred and fifty marks, or one hundred and twenty-five pounds. Alternate layers of piña and charcoal are put in the smelting pot; fire is applied, and air furnished by a rude bellows. When the silver is melted, the pot is turned on its arms, and the silver poured out of a sort of ear at the top of the pot into an iron mould below. From one and a half to one and three-fourths per cent. is lost in this operation; much seems to be driven off by the irregular and excessive heat, and the sides and roof of the hut are covered with a deposit of fine particles of silver, looking


like frost. They are frequently swept; I did not think to ask to whom these sweepings belong, but I imagine to the farmers of the callana. The bars are marked with the number of the bar for the year, the number of marks it contains, the initials of the owner, and the invariable 11.22, which designates its ley or quality.

Remittances of bars are made to Lima every week. Last week the remittance amounted to seven thousand five hundred marks — a large yield. Since my return, I cut from a Lima paper a letter from Cerro Pasco, of April, 1851, (a few months before the date of my visit,) in which the writer states the remittances for the week at eighteen bars, or four thousand five hundred marks. He says, “The drainage by steam is progressing rapidly. Another vein of ore has been discovered in the mine of Peña Blanca, but I believe not very rich. The advices from Lima are constant that the quicksilver mines of California will yield a sufficient supply for Peru, at a price not exceeding fifty or sixty dollars the quintal, (or hundred pounds.) Should this be the case, there will be no need of suspending the working of the cascajos, as ore of six marks to the caxon, with quicksilver at seventy dollars the quintal, and piña at eight dollars the mark, will leave fifty dollars of profit in the circo. The price of quicksilver at present is from one hundred to one hundred and seven dollars the quintal; that of piña, eight dollars and forty-three and three-fourth cents.”

The yield of these mines is about two millions a year, which is nearly equal to the yield of all the rest of the mines of Peru together.

M. Castelnau makes a calculation from all the data within his reach, by which it appears that the yield of the mines of Cerro Pasco, since the date of their discovery in 1630 to the year 1849, amounts to about the sum of four hundred and seventy-five millions of dollars, which would give a yearly mean of about two millions one hundred and seventy thousand.

About two hundred miles to the southward and eastward of Cerro Pasco are situated the celebrated quicksilver mines of Huancavelica. The viceroys of the regal and the presidents of the republican govermnent have made many efforts to keep up the working of these mines, but of late years entirely without success. M. Castelnau states that their produce since the opening in 1751 to the year 1789, inclusive, (since which time they have yielded nothing of importance,) has been one million forty thousand four hundred and fifty-two quintals, which, at a mean price of sixty-five dollars the quintal, will give the sum of sixty-seven million six hundred and twenty-nine thousand three hundred and eighty dollars. In the same


time have been expended on them ten million five hundred and eighty-seven thousand eight hundred and forty-five dollars.

S. S. Rivero and Pierola formed a society in the year 1828 for the working of these mines, but the scheme fell through. Many other propositions have been also made to the Peruvian government, since the independence, for the working of them, but have failed of success. The liberator (Bolivar) refused to sell them for a sum of six or seven hundred thousand dollars. (Castelnau, vol. 4, page 226.)

I met a gentleman in Cerro Pasco who was then on his way to examine and report upon the mines of Huancavelica.

July 8. — Visited the mines. We entered a mouth which seemed only a little larger than that of a common well; each of the party furnished with a tallow candle, shipped in an iron contrivance at the end of a staff. The descent was disagreeable, and, to the tyro, seemed dangerous. It was at an angle of at least 75° from the horizontal line; the earth was moist, and the steps merely holes dug for the heels at irregular distances. I feared every moment that my boot-heel would slip, and that I should “come with a surge” upon my next in advance, sending him and myself into some gulf profound. I was heartily glad when we got upon the apparently level and broad bank of the great socabon, and had made up my mind that I would tempt Providence no more. But, reflecting that I should never, probably, visit the mines of Cerro Pasco again, I took courage and descended one hundred and ten feet further, by an even worse descent than the former, to the bottom of the pump shafts. A burly and muscular Cornishman, whom I at first took to be a yankee, with a bit of candle stuck into a lump of mud in front of his hat, was superintending here, and growling at the laziness and inefficiency of his Indian subordinates. I should think that these pumps were not well attended to, so far from the eye of the master. They are worked by chains and long copper rods. All the metal work of the pumps is of copper. Iron is corroded very quickly, on account of the sulphuric acid and sulphates which the water of the mines holds in solution. The fish are said to have abandoned the lake of Quiulacocha, into which the waters are forced, on this account. The sides of the mines were covered in many places with beautiful sulphates of iron and copper.

Our exploration lasted about four hours; and we emerged at the tajo of Sta. Rosa, where, seated upon piles of silver ore, we partook of some bread and cheese, and a glass of pisco, which we found as welcome and as grateful as manna in the desert. This freshened us up, and we went to see the “boliches.” These are hand-mills, or rather foot-mills, for


grinding ore; generally owned by Frenchmen or Italians, who grinding the ore that is brought to them in small quantities by the women in the mines. Rivero’s account of their charges is amusing. He says: “One of these speculators commences with fifty dollars, (the value of a boliche,) and at the end of two or three years is known to be worth a fortune of eight or ten thousand dollars. He exacts from the workman in the mine, who brings it to him, fifty or sixty-two and a half cents to grinding a carga, which is a very uncertain measure — sometimes a mule load, sometimes a man-load; but in this case a small hamper-full. He charges twenty-five cents for the water used in the benificiation, twelve and a half cents for the man who pours the water on, twelve and a half cents for him who breaks the ore into small bits for grinding, sixty-two and a half cents for the grinder, twelve and a hallf cents for the hole where the mass of ground metal is deposited, (and if this is boarded) he exacts twenty-five cents more,) and twelve and a half cents to clear the water out of it, twelve and a half cents for taking the metal out of this hole and putting it in a bull’s hide, for the hire of which he charges twenty-five cents; so that the hide will yield the decent sum of sixty or seventy dollars before it wears out and becomes useless. A hoe will give as much more, for the hire of which twelve and a half cents is charged, and six and a quarter cents besides for every time it is used in incorporating the mass. He gains at least fifty cents in every arroba of salt which he furnishes. For a pound of magistral, which is worth fifty cents, he exacts two dollars. He gains fifty cents in every pound of quicksilver; so that, calculating these expenses with regard to a caxon, they amount to about fifty dollars, which is just so much profit to the bolichero. The relabes moreover, are his; and they are frequently very valuable. He then expresses all the quicksilver from the pella that he can, and receives it of the workmen at three pounds the mark, paying him six dollars and twenty-five cents; by which negotiation he gains a mark in every nine, after the quicksilver is driven off by heat, bating to the workman at the same time half a pound in the extraction of the quicksilver. The workman is contented with all this, because, however little profit he makes, the ore which he delivered to the bolichero for grinding cost him nothing but the stealing.” This, however, is not, always the case. The laborer frequently demands his wages in a portion of ore. Custom seems to give him this right; and the proprietor of the mine complains, with justice, that he has to pay in ore when they are rich, and in money when the ores are poor.

A boliche consists of a large flat stone laid on an elevated platform of rock or earth, and aother, convex on its lower side, resting upon


The grinder, standing on this upper stone, spreads his feet apart, and gives it motion by the movement of his body. The bits of ore are placed between these stones, and a small stream of water from a barrel above mixes with the harina, and carries it off to a receptacle below. It may be imagined that, to draw any a profit from so rude a contrivance as this, it is necessary that the ores ground by it should be of the richest kind.

The apparatus for driving off the mercury by heat is as rude as the boliche. The pella is placed in a kind of earthen jar or bottle made in the neighborhood, and worth from two to three reals An iron tube, of about two yards long, is introduced into the mouth of the jar, which is then closed with a yellowish clay. The other end of this tube (which is bent) is put into an earthen jar half full of water, where the fumes of the mercury are condensed. Fire is kindled around the earthen bottles which contain the pella, and continued for three or four hours, when the bottles are broken and the piña taken out.

The man who was buried by the falling of one of the mines was got out yesterday. He seemed strong, though he had had no food for nearly seven days. He had lost the account of time, and thought he had been enclosed in the earth but three days.

July 9. — Suffering from an affecton called macolca, which is insident to nearly every one on his first visit to the mines. This is a painful soreness of the muscles, particularly on the front of the thigh. I could barely bear that my legs be touched, and locomotion was anything but agreeable.

The town of Cerro Paso is (by temperature of boiling water) thirteen thousand eight hundred feet above the level of the sea. Rivero states it at fourteen thousand two hundred and seventy nine. The population varies from six to fifteen thousand souls, according to the greater or less yield of the mines. Most of the adult part of this population are, of course, engaged in mining. This seems to be a calling that distorts much the moral perception and engenders very confusd ideas of right and wrong. The lust from money making seems to have swallowed up all the finer feelings of the heart, and cut off all the amenities of society. There are no ladies — at least I saw none in society; and the men meet to discuss the mines, the probable price of quicksilver, and to slander and abues each other. There seems to be no religion here even in form. The churches are mere barns, going to decay; and I saw no processions or religious ceremonies. Smyth saw a procession in 1834, but I should doubt if these had been one of these


contemptible mockeries since. Not that the people are getting better, but that their love of gain is swallowing up even their love of display. Rivero speaks of the wretched condition of society, and tells of drunkenness, gaming, assassination, and bad faith, as of things of common occurrence.

I met with much kindness on the part of the few gentlemen whose acquaintance I made, particularly on that of the sub-prefect, who lodged me in his house, and, by his frank and sincere manner, made me feel at home; and I do not say that men here are individually bad; but only speak of the philosophical fact that mining, as an occupation, has a tendency to debase men’s characters, and destroy those sensibilities and affections that smooth and soften the rugged path of life. Moreover, I don’t speak half so badly of them as they do of themselves; for one, if he were to seek it, might easily hear that every individual in the Cerro was a rascal.

The climate of this place is exceedingly uncomfortable, and I should suppose unhealthy. I could not sleep between sheets, but preferred “the woollens,” with an abundance of them. Rivero states the mean temperature, during the months of July, August, and September, at 44° in the day, and 35° at night. In these months there is an abundance of snow and hail, which lowers the thermometer considerably; and even without these it goes down to 30° and 28° in August. From the middle of October to the end of April the climate is insupportable from the rains, tempests and lightning’s, which almost every year cause damage. There is a period of fine weather from the middle of December to the middle of January, called, in the poetic language and religious turn of thought of the Spaniards, El verano del niño, or the summer of the child, from its happening about Christmas. The streams, which are fed from the rains of this country, invariably stop rising, and fall a little after this period. The temperature is so rigorous here that the hens do not hatch, nor the llamas procreate; and women, at the period of their confinement, are obliged to seek a more genial climate, or their offspring will not live.

Persons recently arrived, particularly if they have weak lungs, suffer from affections of the chest and difficulty of breathing. The miners suffer paralysis from the sudden changes of temperature to which they are exposed in and out of the mines, and from inhaling the fumes of the mercury in the operation of distilling. Those who suffer in this way are called azogcados, from azogue, (quicksilver.) The most common diseases are pleurisies, rheumatisms, and a putrid fever called


tabardillo. Pleurisies are said to be cured by taking an infusion of mullaca, [5] an herb which grows in the neighborhood. It has very small leaves, and gives a small, round, red fruit. There is no cultivation in this neighborhood, with the exception of a little barley, which gives no grain, but is cut for fodder. The market, however, is well supplied from Huanuco, and the neighboring valleys. Expenses of living are great, particularly where articles of luxury from the coast are used.

July 12. — I visited some of the haciendas for grinding the ores. These mills are also rude. A horizontal water-wheel turns an upright axis, which passes up through a hole in the centre of the lower stone. The upper stone is bolted to the side of the axis, and is carried round on its edge upon the lower one. A very small stream of water trickles continually on the stones, and carries off the ground ore into a receptacle below, prepared for it, where the water drains off, and leaves the harina to be carried to the circo. A pair of stones will grind nearly a caxon a day. A stone of granite, nine feet in diameter, and twenty inches thick, costs, delivered, one hundred and thirty-five dollars. It will wear away in six or seven months so as to be unfit for an upper stone; it then answers for a lower one.

I had a visit from an enthusiastic old gentleman, the Intendente of Pozuzu, who says that he is about to memorialize Congress for funds and assistance to carry on a work which he has himself commenced — that is, the opening of a road from the Cerro direct to Pozuzu, without taking the roundabout way by Huanuco. He says that he is practically acquainted with the ground; that it is nearly all pampa, or plain; (people told us the same thing of the road between Tarma and Chanchamayo;) and that part of it is over a pajonal, or grassy plain, where there will be no forest to clear. He says that when the road is opened from the Cerro to Pozuzu, and thence to Mayro, (the head of navigation on the Pachitea,) communication may be had and burdens carried between the Cerro and Mayro in four days; also, that roads may run to the southward from Pozuzu, over a plain, by which the commerce of foreign countries, coming up the Amazon, may reach Tarma, Jauxa, and all the towns of the Sierra.

This is the day-dream of the Peruvians of that district. They know the difficulties of the Cordillera passage, and look earnestly to the eastward for communication with the world. Though this gentleman is led away by his enthusiasm, and probably misstates, yet I think he is in the main correct; for between the Cerro and Mayro there is but one range of the Andes to pass to arrive at the Montaña, (as is also the case


between Tarma and Chanchamayo;) whereas, by the route through Huanuco there are at least two, and these very broken, elevated, and rugged. I think that the Ucayali affords the best means of communication with the interior of Peru, and my impression is that it is best approached by the way of Chanchamayo. I hinted this, but my friend hooted at the idea; and I find the same jealousy in him that I found in the Tarma people. Both here and there they say it will be a great day for them when the Americans get near them with a steamer.

July 13. — I had unfortunately selected a feast-day, and one, too, on which there was a regular bull fight, (the first that had been seen in the Cerro,) for my departure, and found great difficulty in getting off. The muleteers I had engaged were drunk at an early hour, and not making their appearance, I had to send the police after them. It is really curious to observe how entirely indifferent to the fulfillment of a promise these people are, and how very general the vice is. These muleteers had given me the strongest assurances that they would be at my door by daylight, and yet when they made the promise they had not the slightest idea of keeping it. The habit seems to be acquiesced in and borne with patience by even the true and promise-keeping English. My friend, Mr. Jump, did not sympathize in the least with my fretfulness, and seemed surprised that I expected to get off. I desire to express my thanks to him, and the amiable members of his family, Mr. and Mrs. Biggs, for those kind attentions that cheer the heart and renew the energies of the worn wayfarer.