Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon/Volume 2/Chapter 10

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Horned cattle and horses — “Peste” — Salt trade — Church service — Bull fight — Mariano Cuyaba — Rules and regulations of the town — Laws and customs of the Creoles — A walk through the plaza at midnight — Scenes on the road to the town of Loreto — Annual deluge — The beasts, birds, and fishes — Loreto — Inhabitants — Grove of tamarind trees — Winds of the Madeira Plate — A bird-hunter — Trapiche — A black tiger burnt out — Departure in Brazilian boats — Enter the Mamoré river again — An Indian overboard.


Horned cattle and horses are scattered over the plains of Mojos far away from the settled parts, and are now roaming wild through the country, so that it is impossible to estimate their numbers. A Creole returned to Trinidad from Reyes reported many thousand cattle roaming wild between the Mamoré and Beni rivers.

These cattle and horses are suffering under the effects of an epidemic, which the Creoles call “peste” (plague). This disease is said to have been brought from Brazil, where the cattle are affected in the same way. The horse seems to suffer the most. Within the last few years nearly all the horses in Mojos have been swept away by the “peste.”

The first symptoms are weakness in the limbs. The animal does not lose his appetite, but gradually falls away, until his strength is entirely gone, when he lies down and eats the grass around him even to the roots with a most ravenous hunger. The nearer death approaches the greater his desire for food, when he ceases to be able to hold up his head, and finally is lost. We have seen a fine saddle-horse in good order kept clear of the peste by placing a cake of Potosi salt where he might lick it when he chose. This noble animal seemed really to feed upon the salt. His coat was sleek, and he held his head up above the pampa horses, who are never supplied with this expensive article.

The cattle all look miserably thin and stunted, as though not well fed, yet the plains are covered with a fine growth of grass. This epidemic commenced in 1846. There is no telling the sweeping effect it has had upon the cattle. As to the horses, we judge they have nearly all been destroyed. We see them still dying about on the plain. Mules are affected in the same way, though they linger longer than horses. Salt dissolved in water will sometimes bring them to after they are unable to stand on their legs


As we never heard the Gauchos of the pampas of Buenos Ayres speak of this disease, there is reason to believe it is principally confined within the rain-belt region, where fresh water covers so much of the pasture lands. We have no account of this disease having destroyed the cattle and horses of Chiquitos, where evaporation is greater than the precipitation.

Throughout our route we have found more females affected with the goitre than males. In the deep mountain ravines, we were nearly led to the belief men never were troubled with this swelling of the throat.

While looking at a drove of cattle, which has just arrived from the plains, at the market of Trinidad, we noticed that while nearly all the cows, young and old, were miserably thin, many of the males were in good condition.

There is no trade at the present day in this part of the country so important as that of salt brought from without the rain belt. This rain belt is broken. At LIMA, in PERU, it NEVER RAINS, only sometimes drops. There the precipitation is very little, and the evaporation great. Lima is in latitude 12° 03; south. A few leagues north of Lima, on the coast, are found the salt basins of Huacho. Sea-water is let into basins on the plain. In twenty months the sun evaporates the water, and blocks of salt are left, which supply the markets of North Peru. The government of Peru takes advantage of the break in the rain-belt, and leases the Salinas, as they are called, to those who pay an annual rent into the public treasury.

The salt of Huacho is carried east, over the Cordilleras, to the valley Juaja, where it rains half the year, and where we found animals suffering for the want of it, though found in veins. The northeast and southeast trade winds carry rains from the north and south Atlantic up to the snow-capped Cordilleras to the west of Juaja valley. There the winds give out; after they have had all the moisture wrung out of them, there is none left to pass over the Cordilleras and rain down into Lima. The break, in the rain-belt, formed by the meeting of these two trade winds, drawn back and forth after the sun takes place on the very tops of the Cordilleras range of mountains, where the last drop of moisture in the winds freeze and fall in the shape of snow flakes. Just below this is found the native habitation of the Peruvian camel. The Indian who inhabits the valley of Juaja, in want of salt, drives the llama down to the Pacific coast, and takes it from a line level with the ocean. He goes to the sea for it in preference to collecting it from the mine. Should he go south, to Chile, he finds the southerly winds bring rain along the coast, and instead of a supply, be finds a market.


If he goes north of Huacho to Equador, there northerly winds bring rain, and there is another market.

The Indian loads his llama with one hundred pounds of salt, and drives him up the western slope of the Peruvian mountains, through a gorge filled with snow, over sixteen thousand feet high, to the plains of Juaja.

While the Potosi Indian loads his Argentine mule with three hundred pounds of salt, not from the ocean, but from the salt lakes on the plains of Potosi, made by the natural evaporation of the sun from a fresh water stream on the top of the Andes, running over rock salt; he, too, takes it under the rain-belt to the market of Mojos. If salt may be made so readily from the water of the sea at Turk’s Island in the West Indies, why may it not be made somewhere on the west coast of Mexico? The scorching rays of the sun peel the skin off people’s noses there just as they do on the table lands of Potosi, and along the shores of Peru.

The town of Trinidad is the largest in Mojos, with a population of over three thousand, few of which are Creoles. The national creole guard musters about twenty soldiers and five officers, headed by the prefect with the rank of General de Brigada, armed with old flintlock muskets. One common gun-flint will purchase, in the market, a basket containing one dozen delicious oranges. The flint part of Don Antonio’s cargo was disposed of at once, and the silver willingly paid. He brought a supply for a long time to come, even at the risk of a revolution. External wars have never interfered with Mojos, except the war of exclusiveness.

On the 6TH of JUNE, mass was held in the cathedral, the day being called Santissima Trinidada. After mass we witnessed a grand procession, headed by the prefect and clergy, followed by the whole population dressed in white gowns, “camecitas” as they are called here. Whenever the Indians are performing church service, the women unplat their hair, and allow it to hang gracefully loose behind over their white dresses. The hair of the men is cut short.

At each comer of the plaza was an arbor, constructed of green foliage and flowers, with plantain trees and palm leaves. As they marched round to music and singing, the scene was beautiful and interesting. The red race dressed in white cotton cloth, following the catholic clergy in rich costume, bearing wooden images on their shoulders; three thousand savages, half civilized, were singing church music, and living under the laws of quasi white men. The few Creoles who walked by the side of the prefect and clergy were but a drop in the plate.


After the procession returned to the cathedral, the Indians pulled down the arbors and entered the plaza, bearing long poles, with which they built an enclosure on the corner of the square next the prefectura. A pen was erected adjoining, in which, one by one, were placed a number of savage bulls, wild from the pampas.

The people gathered round and on the balcony of the prefectura; musicians were comfortably and safely seated. As twelve or fourteen able-bodied Indians entered the enclosure, a bull was let loose on them, and the play was commenced. The bull rushed at the first man near him, and as he got away, ran headlong towards the crowd outside the poles. The people laughing jumped on either side and let the animal run his horns into the fence. He became furious, bellowed and tossed the poles of the fence into the air, but they were quickly put in place by the crowd outside.

Red handkerchiefs were shaken at his head; some pulled his tail, while one man, who was engaged talking to another, found himself suddenly raised off his feet by the horns of the bull under his camecita, He was not hurt, for by this time the bull had been teased so much he was tired down, when he was hissed out of the ring and let loose, to find his way back to the plain.

This was great sport for the Indians; they seemed particularly to enjoy the fun. Great jars of chicha had been provided by the authorities of the town, and passed round among those who wanted to drink. There were few who declined, and as soon as the bull was let out, baskets of bread, made of corn and yucca meal, were emptied from the balcony over the heads of the people, who scrambled after it. The manner in which this bread was presented to the Indians from the government store, was the same as throwing corn to poultry elsewhere, They scrambled for it amidst the dust that had just been torn up by the hoofs of the enraged bull.

After the scramble was over another bull was entered, and the sport continued, while a third was being saddled. An Indian mounted, holding to a strap placed round the breast of the bull; when they let him loose, the heaving and setting of the animal was most laughable; the man’s head was heavily nodded and jerked backwards and forwards as the bull reared or kicked up behind. It was like the tossing of a small fore-and-aft schooner in a heavy seaway. The roars of laughter from the Indians were amusing; they highly enjoyed the saint’s day of their city after the programme arranged by church and state.


The good order at all times maintained, the greetings of the people, and cleanliness of the city are owing to certain internal regulations.

Fratos, an old Indian, is considered the rich man of Trinidad; he is the correjidor and commander of the town; all the other officers among the Indians are under his orders.

Mariano Cayuba, another respected Indian, seventy-three years of age, holds the office of casique, which is second in command. Cayuba receives all reports — how many sick, and all deaths; the condition of the town, as to cleanliness and good order; how many canoes in port; their arrivals and departures; and the state of the cattle on the plains. When Cayuba goes to prayers in the evening with his wife and children, he stops at Fratos’s house and tells him all; makes a regular report of everything that is going on, be it good news or bad. Fratos is held responsible for the good order of things by the prefect, to whom he also pays a daily visit, for the purpose of posting him up in regular order by word of mouth.

Cayuba receives his reports from the following officers: one intendente, who oversees portions of the public business, with one alferes; four aguacils, (constables;)eighteen comisarios, who carry orders, keep watch at night, and are employed on duty about the prefectura — one of them is head waiter at the table; two policia officers, whose duty it is to see the boys of the town supply water for drinking during the day. The boys are marched out of town early in the morning with earthen jars on their heads — in the wet season to the stream, and in the dry to the lake. Boys don’t like such work, but they grow fast, when this labor falls to others. Four fiscales superintend the streets and houses; see that they are kept clean and in order. A fiscale, in olden time, was a ministerial officer — an attorney general. Sixteen capitanos, who command gangs of one hundred Indians each — these are working men. Whenever the government of Bolivia requires a house to be built, a bridge made, or a sugar plantation and sugar-cane gathered and manufactured, an order is given to that effect to Fratos, who calls for one or sixteen captains’ companies, as the case may be, and they muster their men into immediate service, for which they receive no pay, as it is for their country they are laboring.

A “teniente de estancia,” or mayor-domo de estancias, overlooks the cattle in the prairie; keeps accounts, as near as he can, of their number; what their condition is; whether the floods and the tigers destroy them; what is the state of the pasture-lands. When he finds the grass dead, he fires it, and a young pasture springs up, as the rain begins to fall, and fattens the cattle. He instructs the Indians how to build enclosures for the calves, which keep them from running wild. This brings the cattle in from the plains, when their bags of milk pain them — so the calves and people are both supplied without the trouble of driving in the cattle.


An alcalde takes charge of all the canoes in the ports; attends to their repairs; gives orders when others are to be built or dug put; appoints proper crews to them, when, through sickness or otherwise, the men are called away. He reports to Cayuba the state of commerce; how much cacao goes up the country, and how much salt comes down — in fact he is the old salt of the tribe.

Under this system of regulations the city is kept in order; no quarrelling or fighting is ever seen in the street. As soon as a person is taken sick, those whose duty it is to attend to that department give aid and assistance to the family; people are sent to the hospital as nurses, and a doctor of medicine is furnished by government. The daily duties are performed by all with so much regularity that no one seems to be over-worked, and all appear to be accommodated, for every Indian man is obliged by the regulations to do something; there are no loungers here except the creoles. One Indian goes a voyage on the river; another is obliged to cultivate a chacra or farm, tend cattle, cut timber, or learn some trade; while the boys go to a school teacher provided for them by the government.

The women are free to do as they please, which suits them best. They are volunteer workers to pick cotton, spin, and weave it by hand. The frame for the weaver is a simple wooden one, which stands upright in a corner of the house, where the women work at it when they have the cotton spun, by twisting it suspended from the hand to a ball, the thread being wound on a slight stick; bob spinning and weaving appear to us very slow work, but time is never considered by the Indian; he works as though he lived for the present, and thought more of the past than of the future.

The prefect has a secretary and clerk; a captain of police superintends the whole department of the Beni, and reports any internal disturbances; he keeps watch upon all people to see there are no revolutionary schemes, and receives twenty-five cents from every person wishing to leave, for a written passport granting permission so to do. When a traveller wants a boat and crew, he applies to the captain of police, who sees that the proper price is paid to the men, and no more. He is a creole, like the clerk of the prefect. The only other creole officer in the town is a justice of the peace.


For the last ten years the Indians of the Beni have paid annual contribution. Before that time the government supplied them with clothing, fed and lodged them, and received into the public treasury the whole products of their labors. The Indians very properly became dissatisfied, and it was found advisable to change the order of things, and to tax them.

Cayuba was the wise man of the Mojos tribe. He was respected for his intelligence, while Fratos claimed rank over him on account of his wealth. This Cayuba thought unjust; while he performed his duty well, and his house was the gay one of the town, he was constantly reminded by the most important man about him that he should be made correjidor. He was a planter, and owned a large chacra on the opposite side of the lake. The prefect took me to Cayuba’s and gave me a formal introduction to him. His first question was: What is your name? On being told, he sneezed, shook his head, and said, Mucha questa.

When the arrieros reach the foot of the mountains, they point to the tops of the Andes, and describe the difficulties of gaining the summit with the cacao, by saying mucha questa — much up-hill. Cayuba used the same expression to explain to me in Spanish how difficult English sounded to his ear. He looked intently at me and said, Another language? Where is your country? I pointed to the north. Ah, said he; have any women there? The Indians think strangers travel about alone because they have no women at home to take care of them.

Cayuba often came to see me. He spoke a little Spanish, and was so anxious to know all about my country, we became great friends. I asked him whether the people were happy. He said, “Yes; but we are all slaves to the white man; we used to have plenty of cattle and fine horses. The white man comes from Santa Cruz and drives them all away.”

By the laws of the land, Indians are punished by whipping on the bare back with a raw-hide rope — twelve stripes for insubordination, drunkenness, or idleness. The custom among the authorities has been to punish whenever they deem it proper, with as many lashes as they please, though there is less punishment now than in former times. One prefect, who was exceedingly tyrannical in his behavior to these people, was recalled, as the Indians all signed a petition against him to the President. He was displaced and afterwards banished to Brazil. On the voyage down the Mamoré river, the crew filled the boat with water at midnight while the ex-prefect was sleeping. They swam to the bank, and he was drowned.


Cayuba introduced me to his wife — a fine-looking, fat, cheerful Indian. Juana Jua Cayuba was very industrious; she superintended the hired women moulding earthen jars, which are used in manufacturing sugar; her house was kept in neat order; she was constantly employed weaving cotton hammocks, table-cloths, sheets, and bed-spreads; she wore two gold chains round her neck, to which were suspended a silver cross and a medal; she wore ear-rings of pure native gold, and on Sundays a very respectable man-like black beaver hat; she was a strict church woman, and kept Cayuba in that direction, who sometimes shyed off or overslept himself in the hammock, which was slung across the room.

The Indian men take to the European fancy of dress. On Sundays, before the authorities call upon the prefect, they take off the camecita, and put on trousers, coat, vest, boots, and hat; each one carries a cane, the signal of his office. On such occasions they walk with the most amusing air of importance. Cloth clothes are very different from their usual cool dress, though they undergo the greatest amount of warming rather than take them off before sun-set. All the discarded black beaver hats, which have been battered and bent on the road down the mountains, find a market here. All the queer-looking black frock and swallow-tailed dress-coats, that are made in the country, seem to have concentrated and are displayed before the public on state occasions, in this place. The native dress, worn by the Indians, is well adapted to the women, but the men work quite as awkwardly in camecitas as they appear in thick cloth clothes.

Cayuba was kind enough to send us milk and fruits; when I asked him what I should present him in return, he said, “a black silk handkerchief.” He was fitted out complete. The interest Indians expressed in sketches of their country, their town, or themselves, was remarkable. Cayuba was much surprised at daguerreotype likenesses of two ladies. He came to my room next day with a party of old men and his wife, to request they might be shown the women “of my tribe.” He looked at the pictures, then at his wife, saying he would like to swap her off for the original of that likeness; and then turned to me and said — “Have you got plenty of them there?” pointing to the north, and looking very intent.

Before the break of day the whole population, except the Creoles, are upon their feet; as day dawns, drummers, fifers, and fiddlers, assemble at the church, and beat reveille. The church bells are hung under the roof of a small steeple near by; as they ring, the Indians flock to morning prayers. The year round this form is gone through, as it was originally established by the Jesuits. While keeling in church, the music commingles with their songs of praise, as the morning sun throws his light upon the city.


Every evening the same ceremony, as the sun descends over the Andes, at 8 o’clock, on clear nights, the boys of the town kneel by the large wooden cross in the centre of the plaza, and sing a hymn before the inhabitants retire. A band of music accompanies their voices. As the bright moon lights up their world, these little boys shout their verses of thankfulness for the blessings of the day just past, and pray that God will protect his people in their sleep. There was something agreeably impressive in these forms of the church to attract the attention of the Indians. This daily service was pastime for them; their true natures were worked upon, and we found them performing such religious duties in a willing, grave, sincere manner, while the rules permit them after prayers to frolic. We have never seen more sober faces than among these Indians, as they walk to and from church; nor have we ever heard a more hearty roar of laughter at a bull-fight than in the plaza of Trinidad after mass.

Marriage ceremonies are performed by the priests, according to Catholic form. Before the appearance of the Jesuits, such were not known among the Indians, except in their own hearts.

We had been detained some time in Trinidad. I became much troubled at the idea of being fastened up amidst disease during a long rainy season, doubting by which route we were to find an outlet to the Atlantic. Kept awake after midnight; to drive away thoughts of the morrow, I got up and walked out into the plaza. The night was clear and moonlight; the only noise at first heard was that made by the bats — the air was filled with different species of these night-birds, flying in all directions, feeding upon musquitoes; the tops of the houses were covered with them; and so clear did they keep the air, as they darted close about me, that there were no insects left to attack the inhabitants, except those protected from the bats in the bed-rooms of the families. I supposed the whole population was sleeping, but it was not so. As I walked slowly round the square, when I came to a Creole’s house, silver and gold coin were heard to jingle on the inside of the door-way. The silent dealing of cards was going on; bets were being made by counting out the coins. The creole portion of the population were gambling. As the comisario struck one by the bell at the cathedral, the working population slept. Indians have no time for such occupation; their games are played at the weaving-frame and sugar-field. The supply of bread-stuff is drawn from the laborer of the plains of Mojos; the silver is chiselled from the rocks of the mountains by the Indians; and yet the most intelligent people of Bolivia ask how it is there is so much progress and improvement in other parts of the world and so little in Bolivia.


The Creoles of Trinidad are from all parts of the country. We never beheld such a rough-looking set — seemed to be the very outcasts of the nation. There are few married people among them; some of the men may have wives and families on the Andes, but they live here without them.

The Creoles dress in calicoes and silks, straw hats and leather shoes, with silk stockings. They prefer the foreign manufactured goods to the white cotton cloths of the Indians, except for the table or hammocks, and towels, which the Indians make to perfection.

The Indians seem to take pride in acting as servants. They cook, wash, and bring firewood to the whites for a trifle.

On the morning of the 17th of JUNE, (Bolivia) the prefect made up a party, inviting a Brazilian, an Englishman, and myself to join him in a visit to Loreto, twelve leagues south-southeast from Trinidad. Our horses were small, but in good order, though badly broken. It is the custom to lasso a horse in the pampa, saddle, bridle, and mount him. Should a man be thrown, no harm is done; he lights on the grass or in the mud. Indians had been sent ahead by the prefect, at daylight, with our bedding, and table furniture. The day was clear and pleasant as we rode along the level road over the prairie. One of the comisarios led the way on a little stunted mule. He rode well, with his big toes touching the large wooden stirrups; his legs and neck were bare; a scarlet skull cap on his head, and white camecita wrapped gracefully round him. He made quite a picture galloping over the plain, which was spotted with clusters of bushes, palm trees, or a pool of clear water. Here and there the view was uninterrupted, and the eye fell upon a clearly defined grassy horizon. A wooden bridge in the road proved so much out of order, that we wet our feet in wading the lazy stream, when we halted to hear a distressing story from the Brazilian, who was the life of the party. It seems the evening before a fellow countryman had sent him a couple of bottles for his saddle bags, to be opened on the road. Don Antonio examined a bottle, which proved to contain varnish.

His countryman was a cabinet-maker in Trinidad, and had evidently made an unfortunate mistake. It was not until long after that I understood why the prefect appeared so much displeased at the circumstance. The cabinet-maker had some difficulty, and the prefect had ordered him to leave the department of the Beni, and go home to Brazil. Don Antonio succeeded in persuading the prefect to let the man take passports for the department of Santa Cruz, as he had been a number of years in Bolivia. Owning property in both places, he was obliged to sell out at Trinidad at a great loss, and had the prefect insisted upon his


going directly to Brazil, he probably would have lost what he owned in Santa Cruz. The prefect believed the cabinet-maker had sent the bottles of material used for mechanical purposes, instead of those for medicinal, on purpose to varnish him. The honest mechanic, it is supposed, took this opportunity of showing his ill-will towards the authorities, who have orders from the supreme government not to be too smooth with foreigners, but to send them to Brazil immediately upon the least suspicion of misbehavior. Liberty, property, and even life hinge on the will of the prefect of this department. The power of the prefects of all the other divisions of the territories in Peru and Bolivia are great enough, but none are so far from the eye of the government as this, which is geographically independent of the mountainous regions. The authorities have unlimited powers, over foreigners particularly.

Four leagues travel brought us to a hacienda; we dismounted, after having toiled through herd grass, mud, and water up to the horses’ knees. The water is gradually drawing off the lands, it has settled among the grass, and now is perfectly transparent. For miles we waded through it a foot deep; then the land swells up and becomes dry. Where we find water, there fowls are in great abundance — flocks of ducks and long-legged cranes. As we rise on the dry soil, deer start from our path, and the ostrich walks slowly off, holding his head down below the tops of the grass, as though we did not see his tail of beautiful and valuable feathers.

The two houses at the hacienda were surrounded with plantain and papaya trees. There were several enclosures for cattle, one of which contained a great number of calves; they, with the Indian women and dogs, had used up all the morning’s milk. The Englishman, therefore, drew the cork of a bottle of wine, the prefect produced bread, but cheese had been left behind. A large pot of beef was boiling on the fire; it was so tough and insipid, for the want of salt, we could not eat it; while the “peste” remains, we doubt whether it is healthy food.

After leaving the hacienda, with its two-storied houses, we waded one league through water two feet deep, spread all through the grass on the plain as far as we could see in every direction. Birds of most beautiful plumage flew up about us, and the party became pretty well ducked. We would have done much better in canoes than in saddles. Reaching dry land we pushed on foot, in single file, to the river Yvaré. An Indian from the opposite side obeyed the call of our guide. The horses were unsaddled; we all embarked with the riding gear in a canoe and paddled over, as the horses swam to the opposite bank.


While the Indians saddled up, we bathed in the stream with the greatest number of snorting alligators above and below us. The stream is narrow, without current, making it difficult to tell which was up or down. The banks were twenty feet high, and yet they are overflowed in the wet season. The water was dark colored, though clear.

At the house of the ferryman we met his old Indian wife, who cultivated a few cotton-bushes about her hut, with some tobacco plants. The cotton is produced from a bush eight to ten feet high. It is difficult to find a person who has noticed how long these bushes will produce without replanting. The impression is seven years. The same tobacco plant yields from two to three years. The hut was shaded by a number of orange trees, from which the woman gathered us most delicious fruit. There is nothing like them on the coast of Brazil nor at the Cape de Verde islands. The skins are thin, almost bursting with the juice. The trees were as large as a moderate-sized apple tree, and loaded with oranges, while the sweet blossoms bloomed for another crop. Plantains form the bread of this country; near every house the trees are found. This hut stands on the northern boundary of what are called the Plains of Loreto. Here the land is somewhat higher; the path is smooth, and as the afternoon is passing, we hurry on. To our right a drove of cattle look up; fierce-looking bulls stand between us and their mates; they are not very amiable fellows, and often attack the lonely traveller; but their numbers have been reduced by the thieving Creoles from Santa Cruz, who come here and take them off by droves. There was a time when sixty thousand head of cattle were counted on these plains. As the doe leaped through the grass, following its young, the peccary — a sort of wild hog — jumped up under the horses’ noses, and with his civilized grunt and short tail, rushed along the same path. Tigers are found in great numbers; their skins are sold in the market of Trinidad. As we rode by a cluster of trees on our right, we heard a bellowing bull, and saw the wild cattle rushing to his aid. I was told the tiger leaps from his hiding-place in the grass, catches the bull by the ear, fastens his fore-claws securely in the neck and his hind-claws to the fore-shoulder; his head is then just behind the horns of the bull, and his tail hangs down by the side of the fore-leg. In this position the tiger commences to cut into the great vessels of the neck, while the bull runs through the pampa, his head high up in the air, bellowing with pain. Unless the herd who follow to help, gather round and attack the tiger, he soon brings the prey upon his knees. The suffering animal bleeds to death surrounded by his kind, while the panting tiger prowls about at a short distance, knowing that when the bull dies the cattle will disperse, and he can then enjoy the feast.


These tigers sometimes attack a man when he is alone, but seldom when in company. Few persons escape when engaged in the death-struggle with him. The Indians usually go together, or take dogs along, who attract his attention, and prevent his seeking an engagement with the man. The tigers make dreadful work among the calves when they are allowed to go abroad in the grass. They are generally kept up in the day and watched by the Indians and dogs. At night they are put with their mothers in an enclosure, where a tiger dare not go. His only chance of killing cattle is between the time he catches and when the herd come up to the sufferer, who rushes off at full speed the moment the tiger touches him. The work of death is speedily done.

As the sun was going down, we came upon a plain stretching far off to the west. Deer were grazing in pairs. We all put spurs to our horses and gave chase, but they showed their white tails and bounded out of reach of a rifle. The horses soon became worried down running through the grass. The tapir, or Brazil elk, is found on these plains, keeping close to the river. It is called “gran bestia” by the Spaniards. Its color is iron gray, with a short coat of coarse hair. The meat makes very tender beef. The hoof is divided into three parts like toes. On the inside of the fore-foot there is a fourth toe; and the hind legs double up at the joint like those of the llama and elephant. The strength of this animal is very great. The Indians sometimes lasso him, but take care not to have the end of the lasso fastened to the saddle, as is usual, for the tapir will manage three or four horsemen with ease. The tapir lives on grass, and although he is harmless, the Indians are excited upon meeting one, as though they feared the animal’s strength. He can only be taken by a musket ball or arrow. Although his skin is thick, he is not very difficult to kill. In Brazil there are great numbers of these animals. The Indians say the tapirs and the mules are cousins, because their heads somewhat resemble each other when looked at full in the face. The tapir holds his head about as high as a mule; his hinder parts are more like the elephant.

Night overtook us amidst the beasts of the prairie. As the road was reported dry by the guide, we galloped in a line for a long time through the silent plains, and finally reached the small town of Loreto. On the outskirts we passed enclosures filled with cattle. It was after eight o’clock, and the inhabitants had gone to bed. A death-like silence reigned as we dismounted at the door of the government house, where Indians had already arrived with our beds and provisions.


The correjieior was a fine-looking Indian, dressed in jacket and trowsers, becoming to him. Being of domestic materials, he was more at his ease than those who get into tight-fitting old cloth clothes. Bedsteads, chairs, and tables were put into different rooms, with jars of fresh water. Indians came rubbing their eyes, and, looking at us, smilingly offering to assist the correjidor. A fire was kindled, water heated, and a first-rate chicken soup made, while the cotton hammocks were slung across the room. A white table-cloth was spread; after soup, coffee was produced, and the party rested in the hammocks, with home-made cigars.

The day’s ride has been a fatiguing one. The motion of a horse wading in water is unpleasant and harassing, both to man and beast. This journey to Trinidad cannot be made on horseback during the rainy season. The roads are navigable for canoes half the year, when travelling is much more easy than when the season is called dry. The Indian builds his hut on those elevated places which remain islands; when the great flood of waters come down, crickets, lizards, and snakes crawl into his thatched roof; droves of wild cattle surround his habitation. Armadilloes rub their armor against the pottery in the corner of his hut, while the tiger and the stag stand tamely by. The alligator comes sociably up, when the “gran bestia” seats himself on the steps by the door. The animal family congregate thus strangely together under the influence of the annual deluge. Those of dry land meet where the amphibious are forced to go, and as the rains pour down, they patiently wait. Birds fly in and light upon the trees and top of the hut, while fish rise from out of the rivers and explore the prairie lands. The animals begin to seek a place of refuge in the month of January, when the soil becomes gradually covered. As the waters subside in March, they spread out over the drying earth, and pasture upon young grasses, which spring up upon the passing away of the flood. At these annual meetings of the beasts, birds live upon fish and upon each other. All the carnivorous animals, man included, fare the best; while horned cattle, tapirs, deer, and horses suffer for want, and become an easy prey. As the fluctuation is uncertain, many are drowned, or die from exhaustion in running about with the water up to their chins, out of sight or reach of shelter.

The Indians of Mojos are not friendly to the Spanish race at heart; that they love and respect the influences and arrangements of the church there is no doubt. The Indians of Loreto are of the Mojos tribe, and are remarkable for beauty and intelligence. The men are very independent. One of the most wealthy went to his chacra, while the prefect was here, and remained there, not only because be disliked him, but all the creole race.


Loreto has somewhat a ruinous appearance. The streets and plaza are filled with grass, on which hogs, goats, and sheep pasture. A small stream runs close by the town, and supplies the people with water. A wooden bridge is thrown across it, over which the Indians pass to their chacras. There are but few Creoles living among them. The population is poor, and the hospital filled with cases of small-pox. While walking through the town we saw too men evidently affected with consumption — one of them a silversmith. We met an old woman ninety years of age, without teeth, her hair as white as snow; she embraced us all. Don Antonio returned the compliment with so much warmth, that the old woman’s life seemed in danger, to the great amusement of all the young girls.

There were a number of cases of chills and fever, one of them a black man. There are said to be about two thousand fugitive slaves from Brazil in the territory of Bolivia. By the first article of the last constitution they are free and equal with the white people the moment they enter. The negro of Brazil, in Bolivia, has more rights and privileges granted to him by law, than the Indian on his own soil.

We visited an old Indian woman with a house full of daughters; these Indian girls are beautiful and much respected; several of the Creoles have desired to marry them, but the father is displeased with the whites, and refuses to permit his daughter to marry any but a man of their own race. The house was furnished better than any Indian’s house we had met; their beds were neatly curtained; floors partly carpeted; neat white hammocks and table cloths. One of the daughters was decidedly beautiful; her complexion white and clear, with regular features; her eyes large and deep black, like her hair; she was of middle size, with a most perfect figure; hands and feet exquisitely shaped, and teeth perfectly white; her manner was modest and shrinking, while, at the same time, she spoke Spanish remarkably well; attention had been paid to her education. This family of Indians were more respected by both white and red than any other in the Beni; yet the father would have as little to do as possible with the authorities. He was a leading man among the Indians, and did not hesitate to make them acquainted with his opinion of the wrongs every day practiced against the tribe. We were unfortunate in not seeing this man; upon inquiring, it was found he would not remain at his farm, but was visiting about the country among the Indians.


Near the town there is a grove of large tamarind trees, planted by the Jesuits. Under the shade of one of them some carpenters were hewing a large canoe, like the one we descended in from VINCHUTA. When complete, it will be worth from thirty-five to forty dollars.

The floods rise up into the streets of Loreto, and the church floor is so damp they have commenced a raised foundation for another alongside of it.

The southeast winds were exceedingly raw and wet during our two days’ stay at Loreto, so we had a poor opportunity to see the inhabitants. They keep their houses during these cold, damp days; such weather is the most pleasant for travelling. We returned to Trinidad by the same and only road, which continues on to Santa Cruz, through a wild country.

In the month of June, sometimes fresh winds blow from the northwest, over the bottom of the Madeira Plate, veering often to north and northeast; but this is seldom the case. When the wind is from the northwest, the thermometer ranges at 82°’in the morning, and as high as 90° in the afternoon. Although the dust is very much disturbed by it, the population sit out of doors in the calm, clear evenings after the wind goes down with the sun. This wind seldom exceeds three consecutive days; it then changes, and blows from southeast, rather lighter, but brings fogs. Rain falls from the clouds; and, in the latter part of June, during these winds, the thermometer falls as low as 66° in the morning and 70° in the afternoon. The natives then shut their doors, and keep in from the street; their cotton camecitas are doubled, or one of bark cloth put on. The Indians suffer for the want of proper clothing; they shiver, and are perfectly helpless until this wind changes to the northwest, when the town becomes enlivened again — the southeast winds being wet-winds and the northwest winds dry. These two currents appear to be struggling against each other. The northwest winds appear like water-carriers going back with dry buckets; as they pass the town of Trinidad, the southeast winds are pushed out of the way, and after they have passed, then the southeast winds come up like a train of watering pots, and down drizzles the rain, and the dry atmosphere, as well as the hot soil, becomes cooled and watered. The rains are seldom heavy in the month of June, nor are the winds strong except in puffs from the southeast. We have never witnessed such regularity in the distribution of heat and cold as we find in the Madeira Plate. The dry and wet winds are independent of the dry and wet seasons. The trees here ripen their fruits, while, at the same time, they put forth fresh buds and blossoms. Vegetable life goes on in rapid succession, and seems to be as regular as the year in and out. In the month of July, the southeast winds blow a little fresher, and sometimes veer round to the southwest.


The northwest wind often commences to blow-light from northeast and north; and in this month the wind from northwest is much fresher than it is in June. They come back as though showing some temper at the manner in which the southeast winds crowd up. While the northwest winds blow, the thermometer ranges at 16° in the morning, and 82° in the afternoon. The northeast winds are warmer than the northwest winds, both being dry winds. During the southeast winds the thermometer sometimes stands as low as 62° at 9 a.m., and 61° at 3 p.m. The southwest breezes are generally a little warmer than the southeasters, with lightning flashing among them — both wet winds. After a fresh wind from southeast, we may expect one from northwest; this wind appears very fighty at times.

In August the northwest current often increases to a gale in the struggle with its opponent, and the thermometer rises as high as 80° in the morning, and 90° at 3 p.m. When the wind from the southeast gets the upper hand, it knocks down the thermometer as low as 13° at 9 a.m., and 81° in the afternoon.

These winds sometimes blow for three days from the southeast, and then exactly three days back from the northwest. This is so frequently the case that the inhabitants say that, when it commences from either point, they expect the same wind for three days. On several occasions we were struck with this phenomenon, and whenever the Sundays happened to be calm days, the fact reminded us of the commandment for periodical rest.

MOJOS INVITES THE ZOOLOGIST. The different habits of the bird kind, from the ostrich to the most delicately shaped humming-bird, are observed with great interest. The ostrich lays its eggs in the thick grass on the dry plain; two eggs fill a man’s hat, and weigh as much as two pounds each. The ostrich lays a great number, spread out in the nest over so wide a space that it is very certain one bird cannot cover them all sitting, even by spreading all their feathers over them. Yet the eggs are all broken when the hatching is over, and the young have left the nest. The ostrich is so wild, it is difficult to become well acquainted with its habits. The number of young that appear upon the plain do not compare with the number of egg-shells found; some suppose the ostrich lays one egg for the purpose of producing, and another to feed with. The young grow very rapidly, stepping out of the eggs; their legs are enormous, compared with other parts of their system.

When the ostrich is going at full speed across the plain, his head is held erect, like the smoke-pipe of a locomotive; his body resembles the boiler, and beautiful rich feathers, which start up straight, flutter behind.


The great speed with which he passes through the level country, with the external appearance of the bird, reminds one very much of a distant locomotive, as it runs without any train attached. On one or two occasions we started them upon the pampas; Mamoré ran very fast, and so did our horse, but the ostrich outran us with the ease of a steam-engine. While running, its awkward looking legs are thrown out on the sides in circles, so as to clear the long grass, but the body and head are carried remarkably steady. We have never seen ostrich feathers in the market of Trinidad, and believe the Indians never hunt them, though they play with them at times by disguising themselves in a tiger skin, and prowl about near them for amusement. Indians pay great deference to those birds, originally worshipped by them. It is possible that the ostrich held the same relation to the religious worship of the Indians of these low lands, as the llama of the mountains occupied among the Indians there. These Indians appear to have no particular use for the ostrich, and for that reason do not hunt them, for an Indian seldom puts to death any animal unnecessarily; he makes use of what he finds about him, and is careful not to destroy, nor to waste without need.

There are a few individuals among the Creoles of Santa Cruz who understand the art of collecting and preserving the skins of birds with arsenical soap. They make their living by stuffing birds with cotton, to be boxed up and exported. The bird collector differs from the bark gatherer; he is found on the plains as well as in the woods; his ammunition is good powder, in small tin cannisters, different sized shot, and a small quantity of quicksilver. The shot are for ordinary birds. He puts a few drops of quicksilver in a small piece of paper, and loads his gun with it instead of shot. The quicksilver knocks the humming bird over, without tearing the skin, or disfiguring the plumage; it stuns, and before the bird recovers, the sportsman has him in hand. After the hunter has collected some five hundred kinds, he then becomes difficult to please; he wants the beautiful little songster who sits at the base of the Andes, and sends forth his music before the rising sun. There are many birds who feed by night, and sleep in daylight; some steal the eggs of their neighbors; others drive away the parents, feed and rear their young, or sit upon the eggs and hatch them for the rightful owner. All these birds we see around us have their regular hours for feeding, singing, bathing, resting, and sleeping.


We met a bird-hunter in Trinidad; he had been at work two years collecting near six hundred different kinds. He was of opinion there are over a thousand varieties of night and day birds to be found in the Madeira Plate, besides snakes, lizards, and any quantity of insects, Trinidad was his head-quarters from which he branched off in all directions during the dry season.

His room was a perfect curiosity shop, The birds were rolled up in paper after they had been properly cured, and stowed away in large wooden boxes. Every day, at different hours, he went to the field; after days of labor, he would be seen returning with a single bird, differing from any in his room. He procures poisonous snakes by splitting the end of a stick to form a fork, which he places over the neck of the snake, and holds him until a gourd or bottle is fixed over his head, when he loosens his fork and the snake crawls into the cavity. He then corks the gourd and puts it into his pocket. After the snake starves to death, or is drowned in spirits, his skin is taken off, preserved, and stuffed, ready for exporting to the museums of the civilized world.

During the rainy season the bird-hunter enters a canoe, and repairs to those places where the various animals are collected together. He obtains many species there, which would require a length of time to follow up, and fills his canoe with venison and deer skins.

Longevity is not so great in the bottom of the Madeira Plate as on the mountains. We find very few old people in Mojos. The population is principally composed of middle-aged men. Women appear to reach a greater age, both on the mountains and here. They arrive at maturity about the same time in both regions.

The men of Mojos are less addicted to exciting drinks; they raise tobacco in moderation, while those of the mountains are immoderate in their use of the coca. The men of Mojos appear to possess more physical strength; they are more supple and active than the mountain Indians. All agree perfectly as to indolence. The Creole portion of the population of Bolivia are the most idle of the two races.

ON THE 14th OF AUGUST, 1852, Don Antonio found his cargo could not be disposed of in Trinidad, and he must return to Brazil with his boats, Don Antonio had Brazilian boatmen — negroes and mestizos. These men came up from the Amazon with him, and were thought the only kind of people who could be employed upon the expedition.

At daylight in the morning, Cayuba came with his wife and thirty Indians, bearing poles, to carry our baggage to the port at Trapiche. Cayuba’s wife brought us yucca and oranges to use on the voyage. Our passports were made out, and upon my offering to pay what was usual, the Intendente, who was a very polite person, said the government did not charge me.


The passports of Don Antonio and his twelve people cost him the sum of four dollars, for permission to return by the river Mamoré to his own country, more than half the distance being through the wilderness, beyond the line of civilization, The authorities insisted upon it; he required a Bolivian passport to present to the authorities of his own country when he arrived there, “otherwise they would not know where he came from.” There was some displeasure shown towards Don Antonio, that he had not a thousand dollars in silver. He, on the other hand, was displeased at being obliged to take cacao, instead of silver, for his goods.

The prefect of the Beni gave me a letter to the prefect of the department of Santa Cruz, in case we found it impossible to get men in the town of Matto Grosso, for Don Antonio’s boat to descend the Madeira, and could not pass by the forts on the Paraguay river, or over the country to the Atlantic, through Brazil. We would have a passport to return into Bolivia. It is necessary to have permission to come in as well as to go out.

Child with small-pox



Trapiche is situated two leagues west-northwest of Trinidad. The road in August was dry, but in February is navigable for canoes. The whole surface of the country is strewed with ant-hills, though not quite as high as those of Masi plains. We examined the inside of one and found the earth worked into a perfect honey crust, not regular like hived bees make their comb, but bees that burrow in the ground, and deposit their honey in a mass of cups. The inside of the ant-house was built so that the ants could enter at the base and wind their way up to the top. There was no outlet on the top; the outside was one solid mass of baked clay, burnt hard by the heat of the sun. We suppose that the ants live in the garret when the lands are overflowed; do not crawl on the outside and get on the roof for safety or curiosity. Some of these ants are small and reddish in color, while others are black. They do not sting as those of the woods, until they are made very angry, and then they worry a dog considerably.

There are a great number of large pigeons feeding on these plains; the young are full-grown, very fat, and form a good substitute for miserable beef.

The Indians carry their, loads of plantains, yucca, and wood, on the crotches of two limbs. The single sticks made fast to the yoke of oxen, secured on each side to the horns, while the two prongs slide on the ground behind. Sometimes they secure a large square box or basket on the crotches, and let the children ride in this Mojos carriage.


The sugar-cane is generally planted on the side of the river and carried in canoes. At Trapiche we found them manufacturing sugar, molasses, and rum.

I embarked in a small canoe with my gun, and a little Indian boy paddled me up the Ybaré to look at a field or patch of sugar-cane. The Indians had just set fire to the dry weeds in it, and the light breeze soon created a flame. A large black tiger rushed out on the bank, plunged into the river, and swam before us to the opposite shore, where he looked round crossly at the fire. Shaking himself, he proceeded up the bank, and through the cane-brake, without condescending further to notice us. His body appeared full five feet long, with short, heavy legs, long tail, and a remarkably disagreeable expression of face, as though he would like to take some revenge for being burnt out. The little Indian boy looked up quickly, and simply said, in Spanish, “He is a large one.”

On the banks of the Ybaré we found plantains, pine-apples, papayas, Spanish peppers, lemons, and oil beans; small fish and eels in the river, with poisonous snakes in the grass.

Our baggage was stowed on board the “Igarite", over which the flag of the United States was hoisted. Don Antonio embarked his cargo on the “Coberta,” from which the flag of Brazil was suspended. Five Mojos Indians were employed in addition to the Brazilian crews. Two horses and two mules affected with the peste were embarked in a canoe. Four dogs and one man crowded a small bateau. Four of the Brazilians had their wives with them. Just before the boat squadron got underway, there was trouble on board the “Coberta” — the men whipped their wives all around. After which they followed us down stream, The noise and activity in getting off was new to us. The Indians crowded the banks, while the Brazilian negroes seemed disposed to show their seamanship to advantage. We were delighted to get off.

The Ybaré is a small winding stream, of fifty feet width, with perpendicular banks thirty feet high, a depth of nine to twelve feet, and a half- mile current. A short steamboat might ascend the Ybaré from the Mamoré river to Trapiche. The turns are too short to admit a long- river steamer. The Indians call this distance three leagues. There are a few snags, and quantities of musquitoes. The dew falls at night, and the new moon appears unusually red. We noticed this peculiarity at the base of the Andes east of Cuzco.


On entering the waters of the Mamoré river again, we found thirty-three feet of water. A ship-of-the-line could float in the bottom of Madeira Plate in the dry season. The current is now one mile per hour. Temperture of water, 76°. One of the Indians wanted us to give him our compass, after inquiring what it was, saying there were none in Mojos. The banks of the river are twenty-five feet high; with the depth of the river, the bed is fifty-eight feet below the surface of the plain. The river is less winding, with a width of four hundred yards, and the channel little obstructed by snags. We progress very slowly in this clumsy boat. The men propel her about half a mile per hour when they choose. Sometimes we pole along the bank. She measures thirty feet in length, and eight feet two inches beam, drawing three feet water when loaded.

Here we meet fish. Don Antonio came alongside with his bateau and hand-net, and politely gave me one of each of the different kinds he caught in a few hauls. This was quite an addition to our collection.

The country around is a perfect level. Clusters of trees here and there spot the plain, though cane-brakes and grass predominate, The banks of the river are often picturesque, sloping down to the water, covered with grass, while in other places the large drift-trees lay on the beach, where the Indians cultivate patches of maize, earth almonds, or ground peas.

AUGUST 19, 1852. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 80°; temperature of water, 78°. Among the heavy clouds that approach us from the south east the thunder roars, and a rainbow comes towards the Andes. Ducks, geese, turkeys, and cranes thickly line the stream; porpoises puff and hawks screech. The boat’s crew and their wives enjoy a roasted ring- tailed monkey for breakfast.

We landed on the east side on a bank thirty feet high, and visited the Trapiche of San Pedro. Four sugar mills were in motion by oxen, The Indians had collected large piles of cane from the patches, and were manufacturing rum and molasses under the superintendence of the correjidor, a creole, having a wife and children with him. We supplied ourselves with sugar of good quality for the voyage.

The same planting produces sugar for twenty years in Mojos. The suckers yield a juice which increases in sweetness for twelve years, after which it begins to loose its saccharine matter. Cacao is gathered in November, coffee in May, and sugar in August and September.

We have quantities of musquitoes during the night, but none in the day. At 3 p.m. thermometer, 91°; water, 78°. We count eighteen different kinds of fish in the Mamoré where the river is thirty-nine feet deep. The country has become somewhat broken in places; the land is dry, and raised well up from the level of the river, while in others it sinks down swampy. We drifted along by the current during the night after getting entangled with a sawyer or run on the side of the shore.


One of the Indians who had the “sleep in,” was seated napping on the rounded roof of the barrel-shaped boat, with his head between his knees and camecita doubled under his toes, to keep the musquitoes out. He lost his balance, rolled in his sleep over and off the boat into the river. The remarkably quick time of the man in waking up and regaining the boat, amused the old captain, who was standing forward like a figure-head, with a cigar in his mouth; now looking up at the bright moon, and then on the surface of the water for snags, both hands fighting musquitoes on all parts of his nakedness. Instead of giving the usual cry of a look-out, “Man overboard,” he laughingly remarked to himself, without offering assistance — “Mucha fiesta esta noche — plenty of fun to-night.

The grasses on the prairie are fired, and as the midnight hours pass, lightning flashes to the east. The wild cattle roam bellowing beyond the ravages of the flames. Our lead here tangles at the bottom of the river and troubles us, where we find fifty-one feet of water.

AUGUST 22, 1852. — The wind from southeast freshened almost to a gale, At a turn in the river we lay by the bank for the day; the men were unable to force the boat against the wind, which made a little sea against the current, and drove us up stream.

At 9 a.m., thermometer, 77°, and at 4 p.m., 69°. AUGUST 23d, 1852, rain and lightning, with a strong southeaster. We clung to the bank all night. At 9 a.m., thermometer, 62°, At 3 p.m., thermometer, 61°. The Indians became quite cold, fastened up in the boat by the side of a steep bank. To warm themselves they took out a line ahead and pulled us slowly along against the wind and sea to the next turn in the river, which gave us the wind fair. Our poles were rigged up as masts, and with old pouches and baggage covers, we stuck up a sail, which drove us along at the rate of four miles, very much to the delight of the Indians, who never use sails in their canoes. Arriving at another turn, it became necessary to take in all sail; doing so, we ran into a cluster of trees sticking fast to the bottom of the river, the Indians laughed, and pronounced sailing a humbug.