Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon/Volume 2/Chapter 9
Pass the mouth of Chimoré river — White cranes — Rio Mamoré — Woodbridge’s Atlas — Night watch — Masi guard-house — Pampas — Ant-houses — Cattle — Religion — Sugar cane — Fishing party of Mojos Indians — River Ybaré — Pampas of Mojos — Pasture lands — City of Trinidad — Prefect — Housed in Mojos — Don Antonio de Barras Cordoza — Population of the Beni — Cotton Manufactures — Productions — Trade — Don Antonio’s Amazonian boats — Jesuits — Languages — Natural intelligence of the Aborigines — Paintings — Cargoes of foreign goods in the plaza.
We ran down the river by the light of the moon; sounding in from three and a half fathoms to four; half the crew pulled at a time, until we passed the mouth of the Chimoré river, which empties into the Chapare from the south. We were obliged to come to as the morning became cloudy and dark, which made it unsafe for us to pass through the drift wood flowing from the Chimoré.
Canoes ascend the Chimoré in the rainy season to the town. Near its mouth, the river resembles the Chapare in width, color of water, and swiftness of current; but, from what I can learn, the Chapare is the largest stream, and deeper at the head.
The rains have been to the southeast; therefore we find more driftwood coming out of the Chimoré than we have in the Chaparé.
The country at their junction is all low, uninhabited, and unfinished. The current of the Chaparé continues the same below the junction. Unless we had seen the Chimoré enter, we should probably not have known that the quantity of water was nearly double, the width of the river and soundings being the same.
Lightning flashes to the south during the night; and, as the clouds thicken, thunder roars among the distant mountains.
MAY 30, 1852 — We have a strong wind from the east this morning, with light rain and thunder to the south. The drops are small compared with those which beat against the Andes in the boisterous region.
Files of white cranes of equal size stand in good order on the mud-beach, with a tall one at each end of the file, of from fifteen to twenty individuals, like sergeants. As we approach, a sergeant steps proudly out, gives orders by a “quack,” and the party either faces back over the mud-beach into a hollow, or flies down the river. The manners
RIO MAMORÉ. 219
and habits of these birds are very amusing. A large crane walks through the drizzle, holding his head and body as straight as possible, which gives him the air of an elderly gentleman leisurely walking out for his health, with hands crossed under his coat-tail.
We entered the river Mamoré, which, at Cochabamba, is called “Grande;” and where the Chaparé empties into it, is named Rio “Sara.” It seems the inhabitants upon the banks of this great stream call it by a name to suit their own neighborhood. Those who lived on its more slender parts called it “Grande,” probably without knowing where it flowed, or if it was a tributary to the Paraguay or Madeira; while those inhabiting the lower waters changed the name again and again. Grande is the Spanish, and Mamoré the Indian name.
We find it interesting to see how the people on the Andes supposed the rivers of South America flowed towards the Atlantic. The Beni, for instance, is represented as the source of the Amazon, while it is only the second tributary of the Madeira. The headwaters of the southern tributaries of the Amazon, over which we passed, are laid down in ordinary maps too far to the westward. They are made to appear to the student too near to the Pacific; there is a mountainous strip of land between the headwaters of the Amazon and the Pacific shore.
The long travel of Lieutenant Smyth, of the royal navy, before he reached the navigable waters of the Maranon from Lima, and the still longer journey taken by Lieutenant Maw, royal navy, over the mountains from Truxillo, in Peru, to the same point, show that these officers did not find the head of navigation as soon as was generally supposed they would, by the appearance of the maps they had studied in 1829.
Not only the Beni, but the Mamoré, is made, by recent publications, to flow into the Amazon, not through the Madeira, but by an imaginary course, through a ridge of mountains, distinctly laid down. This map represents the Paraguay and Madeira both flowing from the same source in Brazil, while the source of the Madeira is on the Andes, in Bolivia. Some credit is due to Mr. Woodbridge for endeavors, twenty-four years ago, to lay before the schools a map, which is useful and truthful, with only such errors as are consequent upon an existing want of information.
The Mamoré, at the junction with the Chaparé, being the smaller of the two streams, surprised us; but the rainy region explained the difference. All the tributaries of the Chaparé are within the rain-belt, while most of those forming the Mamoré, above Santa Cruz de la Sierra, are beyond the rain-belt.
Canoes ascend the Mamoré to the mouth of the Piray river, and up
that stream to Puerte de Jeres, or Quatro Ojos, as it is more frequently called. Thence travellers mount on horseback, by a road through the forest, to the city of Santa Cruz, where the Mojos cacao is sent to Market. During the latter part of the dry season, in the month of November, travellers from Trinidad to Santa Cruz go on horseback entirely through the country, in preference to poling and paddling against a rapid current, which in the descent often endangers the safety of the cargo by upsetting the canoes against snags.
The banks of the Mamoré are the same as the Chaparé. Our soundings are now thirty feet, and the Mamoré has a width of four hundred yards below the junction; this stream flows in a northerly direction. The current of the Mamoré runs at the same speed as the Chaparé — one mile and a half per hour.
While the porpoise bows his back in the air above the surface of the river, and spouts like the porpoise of the sea, small parties of seal whirl round and bark at us daringly. The seals are very small; not near so large as those we have seen on the river La Plata.
At 9 a.m., thermometer, 73°; wet bulb, 70°; river water, 75°. As we passed near the perpendicular bank a moderate-sized tree came down with a terrible crash just before us. The bank broke and the current washed away the earth, and we left the tree struggling with the river, which in time will either give way and follow us down, or stand stubborn as the foundation of another island.
We met with a fishing party of Indians in a canoe, with two women as cooks for twelve men. As we had been feasting on wild turkeys, ducks, and geese, we offered to purchase fish, but they were as much in want as we, and showed a disposition to keep at a distance — very likely on account of our cases of small-pox.
The river was so clear of snags and drift-wood that the men wanted to continue on all night, which promised to be clear, though the day was wet and unpleasant, with an easterly storm, which seemed rather to encourage the musquito tribe. We therefore had dinner cooked early.
After the sun went down the bright moon lit up our water-path through the wilds. The earth seemed asleep as we watched the nodding Indians at their paddles, which hung dripping over the sides of the canoe. At one moment a rustling noise was heard among the canes. We swept close in towards the bank by the current. The burning piece of wood which the old captain kept on his part of the boat disturbed the black tiger, or a serpent slipped softly from a cluster of canes into the water to avoid us. As we turn, the moon shines directly up the river, and the sheet of water appears like a silvery way. We think
PAMPAS — MASI GUARD-HOUSE. 221
of obstructions, and fear we are not going fast enough to see the glad waters of the Atlantic.
In the dead of night the owl calls, as though surprised at our daring, and a fish, by mistake, jumped into the boat. As it flapped its tail in the water, on the bottom of the canoe, every Indian was roused from his sleep. After joking awhile, they dipped their paddles into the stream, and away we went again.
Midnight passed; the watch was called, and while Richards fought musquitoes, the first watch slept. The sounding line was kept going by night and by day; the turns of the river mapped by the points of the compass; the distance made marked down at the end of each day, and all the streams entering the one we navigate carefully drawn in.
May 31. — At sunrise we ran alongside of a perpendicular bank of red and blue clay, eighteen feet high; by steps we ascend to see a great pampa stretching out before us, or an ocean of grasses, herd-grass from five to seven feet high, gently waving to and fro by the morning breeze, which came from the east. As we stood upon the bank the sun got up behind us; we looked towards the west over the bottom of the Madeira Plate, which is shallow and extensive.
A shed stands upon the bank, and as there was nothing under it, we took a well-beaten path leading from the river, and walked over a level, among ant houses built five feet high and three feet in diameter at the base, made of clay and shaped like sugar loaves.
The ants ascend to the tops of their houses when the pampa becomes overflowed, and there await the falling of the waters. This pampa, however, is not flooded every year, and we have pretty certain information from the ants that the rise is never as much as five feet. Every house is exactly the same height, though they may differ a little in thickness.
We came to a large wooden two-story building, the Masi guard and custom-house, at which all traders and travellers must show their passports and papers. We walked up the wooden steps to the second floor, to call upon the commander of the station. In the lower story was a sugar mill, and we found the commander of the guard in bed groaning with stomach-ache under his musquito net. He seemed glad to see us, and while he sat up in his night-cap reading our papers, we walked out on the balcony to look round.
To the north was a row of small trees which gave the pampas the appearance of cleared lands, but the commander came out and explained to us that those trees grew immediately on the bank of the Securé river, and that they marked out for me the true course of that stream as far
222 CATTLE OF THE PAMPAS.
as I could see, showing that the rivers in this low country are beautifully curtained in with thick foliage, while behind the curtain is a great flat, an extended stage on which wild animals roam. The tall crane stands admiring his reflected whiteness in a pool of clear water, which lies like a mirror on the bottom of this magnificent green floor.
The lands are beautifully hedged in by the line of forest trees. Man has set before him here the hedging and ditching of nature. This pampa looks like a great pasture-field, enclosed by the Mamoré ditch on the south, and the Securé on the north. Under the shade of those trees stand the cattle of the field. They have gradually clambered over the Cordilleras from the flats of Guayaquil, through the table lands of Oruro, and from the salt district of Charcas. The Creoles drove them down by the side of the Mamoré river, and let them out into the grassy prairie lands of Chiquitos and Mojos. From this balcony we see one Indian holding a calf, while another milks the cow.
When the cattle came among the Indians, they knew not what to make of them. There were no such animals in their wild lands. The fierce tiger, which they worshipped along with the poisonous serpent, were outdone. The cow interfered with the belief they previously had that the largest animals were God’s favorites, particularly those which had the greatest means for active aggression or self-defence.
The cow helped to change such a religion. She was larger than either; and to be attacked by a bull on the open prairie was quite as dangerous as the tiger or the serpent. Great horns stood out boldly in defence of a powerful body.
By degrees they learned that she neither bit, clawed, or stung; that she carried a bag full of milk; that her teeth were given her to cut the pampa grass, and not to devour the flesh of a human being. That she was docile and friendly to man, and not his enemy. The Jesuits taught the Indians how to milk a cow, and how to use its milk. They soon learn how to tend cattle; to lasso them; yoke them by the horns, and fasten long poles to them, so that they might drag along a bundle of drift wood from the edge of the river to the middle of the plain, and to give up their first impression that the tail was the most appropriate and convenient part of the animal to attach the sticks of fire wood to.
In this way they kept gentle cattle by them, while herds roamed through the pampas, became wild, and are now so scattered through the lands that it is difficult to count them.
The horse travelled the same way from Spain with the horned cattle. The ancestors of the five-mares with their colts, which we see grazing before us, crossed the Isthmus of Panama more than three hundred years
ago. This beautiful and useful creature caught the eye of the Indian, but as he had never seen an animal fit to straddle and ride, he little knew the true value of the horse who fattened on the pampa grass. When he mounted and found himself flying at full speed across the plain, he must have been quite as much pleased with the invention as more civilized people are with the movements of modern machinery.
The introduction of these animals among the Indians by the Spaniards had a powerful influence over them. It is said that when first the South American Indians looked at a man on horseback, they supposed both one animal, and it was not until they saw the man dismount that they knew his distinctness from the horse.
Accounts have been written of an Amazonian race of women defending their country with bows and arrows in their hands. The dress of. the Indian men of this warm climate is the same as that worn by the women. The Indians use bows and arrows altogether. It seems reasonable to suppose such was the origin of these stories.
A few Mojos Indian families occupied the only habitations on this pampa. Around the bed-room door of the commander were very light-colored Indian children. One of the several dogs running about, being impudent to Mamoré, received a thorough shaking.
We obtained a large bunch of plantains and bananas, with some yucas and jerked beef, and a cow was milked for us. As we were from Cochabamba, the native place of the bald-headed commander, he was exceedingly kind to us, hoped we wroukl come back and remain with him, as he found it very lonely on the pampa. He says it is very seldom that the lands are completely covered with water, though he lives up-stairs for fear he might be caught asleep. Like the ants, he keeps in the upper part of the house until the water falls, and this is the most elevated land in the neighborhood.
On the wave of the land along the river bank the Indians are encouraged to cultivate sugar-canes. The government has put up a mill under the custom-house for the accommodation of such as choose to pay contribution in sugar. The route of the sugar-cane was originally from China, by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, into Brazil at Rio Janeiro, thence across the interior to the head-waters of the Paraguay river, where the Mojos Indians got it, and carried it up stream to this pampa, and even bore it to Yuracares.
The best sugar-cane in Peru, it is said, came from the South Pacific Islands. So did that of Yungas, which adjoins Mojos at the base of the Andes in the Madeira. The inhabitants there have received this
plant from different sides of their continent, and the sugar-cane emigrants have met nearly in the centre of it.
The sugar-canes which have travelled from the West India islands, over the Isthmus of Panama into Peru, are thought not to be of as good a quality as those from the South Pacific islands. We suppose this is owing to the difference of soil and climate. The best sugar-canes on the plantations in South Peru come from the Society islands on a parallel of latitude due east through longitude. The plant kept in nearly the same latitude on the same side of the Equator. The line of longitude which passes through the Cuba plantation, runs due south into the Peruvian field, with a great change of latitude. The Cuba plants, in 20° north, were carried through 35° of north latitude, from near the Tropic of Cancer towards Capricorn. Yet, from personal observation while cruising among the Pacific islands, the richest sugar-cane and the most beautiful white sugar was produced among the Sandwich islands. The midshipmen of our mess declared they never saw such molasses as the caterer purchased at Maui — it was like honey.
As the Island of Maui is in the same latitude as the Island of Cuba — both near the Tropic of Cancer — we judge that the canes of Cuba are not less sweet than thecanes of the Society islands, until after they are transplanted into South Peru.
The Mojos Indian never would have known there was such a plant in the world, if the sugar-cane had not been carried to him. He does not travel abroad himself, but remains in his own district, as the wild animals do, living upon whatever may from time to time be passed over into his plate. The hand that brought him sugar was the hand of the Ruler of the winds — those winds, the southeast trades.
The old Indian seems perfectly comfortable now that he has milk and sugar. If he was wise enough to know anything about the advantages of commerce, it is doubtful how far he would exert himself. He is rather an indolent fellow. The Indians want nothing particularly; clothing they get from the bark of the tree, or the produce of the cotton plant. Yuca is their bread; there are fish in the stream, and beeves on the pampa; coffee, chocolate, and sugar.
The kind old commander said they only produced a little sugar for house use; there was only one other Creole with him; he had no guard, and the Indian population was but a handful.
There was a time when this pampa was unfitted for man’s habitation; when the water lay deep over the land. We are led to believe that the bottom of the Madeira Plate was a great lake. It appears to us like the
FISHING PARTY OF MOJOS INDIANS. 225
bed of an uplifted sheet of water. Water flows into it all round the edge, except at the head of the Madeira, its outlet to the sea.
All the streams that flow from the mountains are confined between high banks; the water is deep; cultivation and navigation join hands. Here we found the first signs of trade and of a friendly exchange.
We floated down the stream, passing the mouth of the Securé, which was two hundred yards wide, flowing in from the westward, and landed to enjoy breakfast. The disappointed governor distinguished himself this morning by making excellent coffee, with milk which we brought along in an earthen pot, manufactured by the Indians from clay of the pampa.
On the sides of the river there are several bays, which the schoolmaster calls Madres. Some of them are quite large. As the water falls in the dry season these madres supply the river, and in the wet season fill up again. From the name they are considered mothers to the river, from which it obtains sustenance when it gets dry.
We encamped for the night on a sandy beach, from which I judge the Securé river is not navigable far up, and that the distance between its mouth and the rocky formation is not very far. The lands to the west of the mouth of the Securé are wild and little known. Cattle roam upon the plains, and the cinchona trees grow in the woods.
We found a party of fourteen men and boys encamped on the beach. They had been up the river fishing and hunting. A fire was built by them; their canoe lay by the shore, and their white cotton hammocks were slung to poles stuck in the beach in a circle. They all go to bed by word of command, otherwise the hammocks would all come down by the run. They hang their hammocks out where the night breeze, as it comes sweeping up the river, will drive the musquitoes away. Near the trees they are very troublesome, and in the bushes insufferable.
The intelligent bright faces of the boys pleased us. They looked like little girls in their long cotton frocks of white, standing round the campfire watching yuccas roasting. The youngsters noticed us much more than the men of the party, who were generally from twenty-four to thirty years of age. These were Mojos Indians, from the town of Trinidad. Our Canichanas crew spoke a different language, though they only live a short distance apart on the pampa. The Canichanas came from the town of San Pedro, and yet these people do not understand the language of each other.
When our men landed, I noticed they said nothing to the others. Our fire was built and camping-ground was near theirs, but the Mojos boys and North Americans were the only ones disposed to be sociable. Mamoré seemed the favorite of both parties; they both fed him, and as
226 RIO YBARÉ.
he ran back and forth, receiving kindness from all sides, the dog became the cause of jealousy between the two crews.
The boys had little bows and arrows and small paddles, but they carried no game or fish — nothing but yucca to eat and water to drink They were fat, straight, well-built figures, with a clear molasses-and-water-colored skin. When they smiled, their white teeth and handsome black eyes gave them an agreeable and healthful appearance. They were washed of dirt and paint. The savage custom of boring great holes in their ears and noses had been cast aside, and they appeared neatly in simple frock, with straw hat, bows and arrows. The dress is certainly an awkward one for a man, but it is a great protection from the musquitoes, while it keeps off the sun and night dews; they are also cool and comfortable.
The ancient bark dress seems to have been the custom all through the interior of this plate. The Indians of the lowlands dress in bark and cotton cloth, while those of the mountains use wool and the skins of animals. Leather is best in a dry climate and rawhide in a wet one, Straw hats are seen in the truly tropical regions, while cloth caps and fur h&ts are wanted in the mountains and cold countries. Where there are the greatest diversities of climate, there are required the largest assortment of goods.
Soon after leaving Masi, the banks of the river are seven feet high, with the appearance of an overflow of as much as five feet.
One of the Mojos Indians informed the ex-governor we could get up to the town of Trinidad by a small stream which flowed by the town. This interested our men, as they would be obliged to carry the baggage some distance over the plain on their backs.
They pulled with a will, and entering a small channel we crossed, with the current, from the Mamoré to the river Ybaré. The channel was four fathoms deep and just wide enough to pass.
The Ybaré is sixty yards wide, and has very little current, with twrenty-four feet depth of water, though it is said this stream becomes very shallow in the dry season. Descending the Ybaré a short distance, we entered a stream only twelve feet wide, where the men found great difficulty in forcing the canoe against the current. The land on the left hand side of the Ybaré is an island formed by the channel we came through from the Mamoré. After the men had been working for some time up stream, they rested, got breakfast, and cut several long poles, which were carefully stowed away in the canoe for the purpose of carrying baggage. A trunk is
HONESTY OF INDIANS. 227
slung to the middle of the pole, and each end is placed on a man’s shoulder.
At 9 A.M., JUNE 1, 1852., thermometer 77°, wet bulb 72°; a short time after breakfast, we suddenly came where there were no trees. The men took their bow and stern lines and mounted the bank, and we followed; on gaining the top, there, stretched out to the far east, was a perfect sea of herd grass. As far as the eye could reach the land was as level as a floor; scarcely a tree to be seen except along the little stream we had been following, with a belief we were amidst a great wilderness of woods; but the clear light of day shone down upon an open pasture-field.
While the Indians towed the canoe by the path, “Padre” turned to inquire whether we wanted to go farther down the country; if so, the captain and crew still desired to serve us. But, señor, said he, “should you engage us to take you, please pay us and not the authorities, who keep the silver themselves and make us take cotton cloth.” Here, for the first time, I discovered the crew were dissatisfied with the way the governor of Yuracares had treated them. Under the circumstances, I considered it a duty to pay them extra, in silver coin, for valuable and faithfully-performed services.
There are two characteristics in the Indian we particularly notice — his honesty and his truthfulness. We have never lost the least thing from our baggage or persons by dishonest Indians; whenever they offer information it must be asked for, and what they say may be relied upon as correct. We have never found this to be otherwise among any of them — of the high or low countrymen — these traits are observed among all the tribes.
The schoolmaster told me he never knew, a boat’s crew volunteer to take passengers; that they preferred to go alone, and no doubt they offered to take us because we did not interfere with them. He said it was customary for the prefect of the Beni to “whip the Indians” when they delayed on the voyage up the river. This reminded me that on the way down the disappointed governor told me, if the men did not work fast enough, by threatening to have them whipped at Trinidad they would pull more rapidly.
We arrived at a wooden bridge thrown over the narrow stream, where a number of canoes and Indians were collected. The bridge is on a road leading from a plantation to the town of Trinidad. It was arched ten or twelve feet above the prairies, to prevent its being washed away. In the rainy season the lands overflow every year two feet deep. The road travelled by horses and on foot may then be navigated in
228 PASTURE LANDS — BIRDS.
canoes nearly up to the town. It is now a dusty road; then it is a narrow channel through the herd-grass, which grows eight feet high. The floods come loaded with earth from the mountains, and overflow these lands. The mud settles on the surface of the soil as it filters through the herd-grass, The clean water gradually drains off, leaving a coat of earth behind. The old crop of coarse grass has fallen; the seeds are planted in the old deposite, and up it grows again. Here we have an annual deposite of earth and one of grass-stalks.
The bridge stands so high we can see afar off in all directions. There are a few clusters of trees here and there where the river upheaves the land.
Thousands of birds that fly in the air or walk on the plain are water fowl. Away on the eastern horizon we see a long black line. As it approaches we hide in the grass, for the motion of the wings are those of the wild duck. As the gun goes off, wild geese rise up with cranes, as they do from the edge of a great lake. Snipe and signs of snakes are visible.
Mamoré enjoys being let out of the canoe. He dashes through the grass after the cattle; while he chases the calf, the cow rushes after. Suddenly he comes to a stand in front of an angry-looking bull, Some of these cattle are in good order, while others look small and thin. The land is all new formation; not a stone is to be seen in the soil nor a grain of sand. We now understand why the Indians gather up flint from rocks about Vinchuta. Here is a great market for salt and flints.
We find the sun warm as we walk along the stream. In the distance we see the red-tiled roofs of the town of Trinidad.
Flocks of large blue pigeons are flying by us, and feeding upon the seed of a weed that grows in marshy places. These pigeons are wild, yet they are the same in appearance as the common tamed pigeon. There are a number of large birds we never saw before. One of them I supposed to be an ostrich; but it flew up in the air, spreading a larger wing than the condor, and of a spotted gray color. Among the grass-tops are some of the most beautiful little scarlet and blue birds, all feeding upon the seed.
A deer bounded through the grass; the country seems to be alive with animals.
If we had come down the Andes in the wet season, we have some doubts if we should have found much of the province of Mojos above water; for, from the accounts of the men, they cross the country in every direction in their canoes, while the horses, cows, and other
CITY OF TRINIDAD. 229
anti-amphibious creatures, take tot the high spots for safety. They remain on what, in the wet season, become islands, there patiently to wait the going down of the annual deluge. Many cattle and horses are lost by not knowing where to go.
As we approached the town of Trinidad, the canoes lying at the bank of the stream, logs towed up from the wooded country, with the resemblance of the cathedral to a ship-house, added to the number of white cotton hammocks hung under sheds by the canoemen, reminded us very much of a navy yard.
The Indians were all dressed alike, in white cotton frocks; some carrying jars of water on their heads from the stream to the houses; others washing. Carpenters hewing logs for houses, or digging out canoes with North American tools. One of the men was somewhat astonished at the interest we took in his chisel, manufactured in New England, and from hand to hand passed to this Indian carpenter, who used it tolerably well, and took great care of it. He had no idea from whence it came, except that the canoe men from Yinchuta brought it with them. His mallet was of home manufacture. His adz came with the chisel. He had no nails for fastening his timbers; wooden pegs were used. Some of the canoe men were loading with chocolate and sugar for Santa Cruz and Vinchuta; others were unloading salt, flour, and foreign goods. Women were digging clay out of the bank for pottery. The men are industrious, and the women quite as good looking and as pleasant in expression of face as they are active and handsome in figure. The exterior of the town and people was remarkable for neatness. There was life and activity here. What particularly pleased us was, that no shabby-looking policemen came to demand our passports. We walked into town undisturbed by the side of a fine-looking Indian driving a yoke of oxen.
The streets were cleanly swept, wide, and perfectly level; they ran at right angles; each square had been nicely measured by the Jesuits who came into the wilderness, called the savages together, and instructed them how to build a city.
The houses are all of one story, roofed with tiles, which extend over the sidewalks and supported on a line of posts, by which arrangement every house in town has a piazza, and, in the wet season of the year, people walk all round one block under cover, or all over town, only exposed to the rain at the crossings. The floors are on the ground, raised a very little above the level of the street. The hollow of the square is open to all on each side, so that oxen or horses may be driven through. One of these squares is the market place, with buildings all round.
230 HOUSED IN MOJOS.
One square in the centre of the town is perfectly open — it is the plaza. A large wooden cross stands in the centre, directly in front of the cathedral. At each corner of the plaza there stands also small wooden crosses, roughly hewn. Next the cathedral stands the government house, the only one of two stories in the place. Here we met the prefect of the department of the Beni. As we knew him before he was appointed, in Cochabamba, he received us as old acquaintances.
One of the government houses was put in order for us, that is to say, a small table, three chairs, and bedsteads, with hide bottoms, were put in, with a jar of water, and the floor well swept. Our baggage was brought up by those of the crew not sent to the hospital, some distance from town, where numbers went every day with the small pox. Our hammocks slung up, Mamoré lay down at the door, and we were housed in Mojos. The crew came to take leave after every thing had been brought from the boat; they were going home to San Pedro, to their wives and families, after being absent on a voyage of over a month. We have been seven days descending from Vinchuta; they were twenty days on the river from this place up.
The old captain made a short speech of thanks for the crew, who seemed perfectly satisfied with what they received in addition to the cotton cloth. Nig was more pleased than any when presented with the hide rope he used to lasso the alligator. Padre was sent to the hospital; the remainder left immediately.
The doctor of the town is down with the small pox a few doors from us, and one hundred cases at the hospital. We have come into the midst of it, and are obliged to remain to make arrangements to get out of the Madeira Plate, which is considered difficult. There are three ways to reach the Atlantic ocean; one by the Paraguay river; the other across the empire of Brazil, from the town of Matto Grosso to Rio Janeiro, and the third by the Madeira to the Amazon. These roads all pass through tribes of savage Indians. We must try all three before we turn back towards the Pacific.
We dined with the prefect and all the officers of the prefectura, besides some of the correjidores of the neighboring towns in the province, The correjidor or governor of Trinidad, under the immediate eye of the prefect, is an Indian; but those of the smaller towns are Creoles, appointed by the prefect, and approved by the government.
The beef was tough and insipid; yuccas watery. The correjidores particularly fancied boiled cabbage, baked plantains and yuccas served as bread, except on particular occasions, when corn-cake, made of grain mashed into paste between two stones, was presented
DON ANTONIO DE BARRAS CORDOZA. 231
The corn is raised on the pampa near the river banks, and the stones sold in market, after being transported from Yuracares.
A row of large glasses containing chicha was set in the middle of the table, to which the government officials paid particular attention. One of the young men at the table had the goitre very badly, though the swelling was so low down on his neck that he could tie his cravat over it, which gave him a most strange expression. “We attribute the insipid taste of the beef of dinner, and the swelling in this man’s neck, to the same cause — the want of salt.
The coffee was excellent, but the tobacco not so good as some we found in Cochabamba from Santa Cruz, where the plant grows under a a drier climate.
Don Antonio de Barras Cordoza, a native of Pará in Brazil, came to see us. Don Antonio seems a clever person. He had more resolution in the expression of his face than any man we had met with, while he looked as if he had seen some hard service as a sailor on the Amazon. The quick and pleasant flash of his eye, when I told him I wanted to descend the Madeira and Amazon to Pará, gave me hopes. He told me he had been seven months on his voyage here from Borba on the Madeira river; that he had dragged his boats over the land on rollers by several of the falls on the Madeira, unloading his cargo at the foot of each fall, and, after carrying it by the fall, launched his boat and embarked again. His father had made a trip of the same kind some years before. He advised me not to take a Mojos canoe or crew; that the boat would be broken among the rocks, and that the Indians of Bolivia were so inexperienced they would be of no use to me, even if they did not desert me as soon as they came within the sound of the roaring of the waters of the first fall, as they had already done with some Bolivians who attempted to descend the river with them. It was very clear that our only way was to give up all idea of aid from the canoemen of Bolivia in this respect, and look to Brazil. The prefect might order men to descend the Madeira, and we might go at once; but Indians are unwilling to go a great distance from home. One month to them is considered a long voyage, therefore they would want to return in that time; but, by Don Antonio’s account, it will take them at least seven months to return alone. The Indians keep count of the number of days absent from their wives by cutting a small notch in the handle of their paddles every seventh day, and, it is thought that a crew that returns with over four notches has been absent a long time from Trinidad
Don Antonio explained to me how it was that the canoes of Mojos were not fitted for the route down the Madeira. They are all hewn or
232 BRAZILIAN TRADER.
dug out of one stick, long and narrow. When the crew drag the canoe over shallows in the river, she may lodge on a rock under the centre; the heavy weights fore and aft, on a boat forty feet long, break her back in two. The heft, as well as the length of these canoes, make them unmanageable among the rapids. When we come to navigate the land, he said, she might go along as well as other boats, but they were unfit for the waters of the Madeira.
Don Antonio was a trader; he had brought up a cargo of fancy glass-ware; liquors of different kinds — French wines, brandy, gin, and sweet wines. The Indians drink chicha; they are unaccustomed to the taste of good wine, and care little for it; they also use earthenware. For four months he has been here with goods exposed to view in a house on the corner of the square. He has sold but little. The iron he brought sells at eighteen and twenty cents the pound. He has but a few pounds that is not sold. Sweet oil is used among the few Creoles, but they refuse to take it by the bottle; so he retails it out, six cents a wineglassful.
He invites the people to purchase fire-rockets by setting off a few now and then at the corner of the plaza. A Creole comes along and gives him so many pounds of cacao for so many rockets, which he takes, knowing he will have to send the cacao to Santa Cruz to get money for it.
I lived for with Don Antonio, and mention with confidence and respect, that when we had eggs they were purchased with a handful of salt two; a wineglass four times filled with sweet oil paid for a chicken; two glasses bought a pound of sugar. A jar of molasses was offered us as a present from the correjidor; and a lady sent a pair of ducks, for which a bottle of sweet wine was returned. In this act Don Antonio displayed the most exquisite gallantry and generosity, so considered by her lady friends next door.
Don Antonio owned the only two boats from the Amazon on the upper waters, which were of the proper build for the falls in the Madeira, He offered me one of his small boats when it returned from the Itenez river, but he had no men. I was obliged to wait and go with him to Brazil to get them.
We met an Englishman here who had made a voyage over the falls in the Madeira and back with Señor Palacios. He also advised me not to trust the Mojos Indians on such a journey. This was discouraging, for I was uncertain how long we might be kept without knowing whether we would eventually succeed or not. This was the dry season, and the proper time to move forward. Should we be delayed until December in this plate, our chances were over until next year.
DEPARTMENT OF THE BENI. 233
The Department of the Beni has a population of 30,148 friendly Indians and Creoles, of which 6,732 Indian men, between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, and only 325 Creoles, pay contribution to the government of two dollars each a year. There are 985 men in this department over fifty years of age, and they are excused from paying this tax, as well as the women and children.
The government of Bolivia settles accounts with the church for the Indians out of the annual income of $13,464. The Indians pay this tax in cotton table cloths, sheets, hammocks, towels, ponchos, and pieces of cotton goods made by their own hands. They cultivate maize and coffee, tobacco, yucca, oranges, plantains, lemons, and papayos; cocoa grows wild along the rivers; rice is raised in small quantities.
A home-made table-cloth is worth three dollars; there were over seven hundred exported last year from this department. A pair of sheets costs five dollars and fifty cents; a hammock, five; a towel, two. Over three thousand yards of Indian domestic cotton cloth were also exported last year, at thirty-one and a quarter cents a yard; dry hides are valued at twelve and a half cents; tiger skins, two dollars; straw hats, from fifty cents to one dollar; coffee, three dollars; tamarinds, two dollars; tobacco, one dollar and twenty-five cents; and cocoa, two dollars the arroba of twenty-five pounds; prepared chocolate is worth eighteen and three-quarter cents a pound.
It is difficult to estimate the annual yield of cacao — last year over eight thousand arrobas were sent to the people on the Andes. Horned cattle on the pampa are worth two dollars a head. A few Brazil nuts are brought into the market of Trinidad, where they sell at one dollar the arroba.
This is a list of the exports from the very bottom of the Madeira Plate — all of which are sent out against the current and up the sides of the Andes. There are a few Indians in Yuracares who pay contribution in cinchona bark; it has to be entered at the sub-treasury here; forty arrobas have come down in a year. The Indian is allowed eight dollars and seventy five cents the arroba when it is forwarded to the Pacific ocean.
While the door of this interior is at the head of the Madeira river, the people go back up-stairs, and pass their goods and chattels over the roof, down through the chimney, to the Pacific; stemming the current, and struggling against difficulties among the clouds, through storms and dangers, passing through cold, frozen regions, on the way to market; leaving a most productive country road, and passing through one less and less valuable, until they get into a desert, the off-side of which may be approached by a ship; while Don Antonio has brought his vessels
234 AMAZONIAN BOATS.
from the Atlantic ocean, and is trying to sell them the very articles they are struggling for at such great expense from the other direction. He has brought a cargo of glassware and Pennsylvania iron up the Madeira, while they seem to insist upon getting New England tools over the Andes. He expresses to me the great difficulty he finds in selling his cargo. The Creoles seem perfectly contented with the trade as it is; some of them have gone so far as to express an opinion that, should commerce be made to flow through the Madeira, it will destroy their present prosperity.
The department of the Beni is considered by the government the dungeon of this country. When a man’s opinions are thought by the president to endanger the public peace, he is banished to the Beni. He leaves his domicil on the tops of the Andes, and comes down under the tamarind trees of Mojos. This band of exiles settle here amidst an industrious tribe of Indian planters. By their superior intelligence and greater recklessness, as a race, they out-trade the Indians. The Indian produces all the necessaries of life — he makes hats, cotton cloths, and leather shoes; tends the cattle; manufactures sugar; raises coffee and chocolate, yucca and plantains; builds houses; bakes the pottery, and lassoes the horse on the prairie for the Creole to ride. He is brought under control, and obeys as a servant.
We find our enterprise less popular here than anywhere upon our route. The prefect of the department tells me he doubts if one of the people will consent to go down with me to the Amazon; that Señor Palacios was one of the government authorities, and the Indians did not dare to disobey when they were called upon to go on his expedition; but the Englishman says the men had such a rough time of it on that occasion, that when they returned and told their families and neighbors, it made such an impression they refused to go again, and deserted from the canoes. One of the correjidores fitted out an expedition for Pará; when the Indians ran, he confessed he had to run with them for fear of being left to starve in the wilderness. They have less fear of savages, it is said, than of the roaring sound of the falling waters.
I rode two leagues over the pampa with Don Antonio, to visit his vessels, which we found moored by the bank of the Ybaré river. The largest, the size of a line-of-battle ship’s launch built upon, had a covered cabin, and a roof over the forward part of the hold, called by the Amazon sailor Coberta. The second one was also covered, but smaller, called Igarite. They are without masts, propelled on the river by paddles or poles, and prepared to pass over the land on rollers. The largest one mounted a small four-pound iron gun, which Don Antonio
fired off when the new prefect arrived; and the sound of that little gun was echoed through the whole of this country by the newspapers.
On the Andes we found two languages spoken by the Indians of the great tribes, the Quechua and Aymara, both in the days of the Incas under the same government. But in the Madeira Plate, the Indians living on the same plain are divided into small tribes, and speaking different languages, between the Inca territory and uncivilized tribes of savages below them. Here, in the city of Trinidad, the tribe is called Mojos, speaking the same language as the Indians of the three nearest towns — Loreto, San Javier, and San Ignacio. In Santa Ana the language differs; the Indians speak Mobimos; in San Pedro, Canichanos; in Exaltacion, Cayuvaba; in San Ramon, Magdelina, and San José del Guacaraje, Itonama; in San Borja, Borgano; in Reyes, Reyesano; in San Ivaquin, Baures and Yuracares.
HERE ARE NINE DIFFERENT LANGUAGES OR DIALECTS IN THE SAME DISTRICT OF LEVEL COUNTRY, and we recognise a difference in the physiognomies of the Yuracares, Mojos, and Canichanas tribes. The Yuracares are more lively, cheerful, and talkative; they are lighter colored, more fond of hunting and rambling through the woods than the others. The Mojos Indians are a grave, sedate, and thoughtful people. They are larger than the men of Yuracares. The women are considered handsome; those of Yuracares are very homely. Here the girls are large, well developed, and pleasant; there they are small and cross-tempered, looking as though they wanted to quarrel with men. Here they take their rights without asking. The Mojos Indians are particularly fond of cultivating the soil; they drive the ox-team well. The boys run away from school to the plough-field, where they seem to enjoy the labor, or paddle the canoe with a load of fruit to market. They have little fancy for the town or house; the older ones like farming the best, and the women seem satisfied to stay at home. These Indians carry no bows and arrows about with them, except on long voyages up and down the river, Since domestic cattle were introduced, they have put aside the arrow and taken up the lasso, which they handle well. They know nothing of fire-arms, never having used them. The Spanish race has stripped them of all means of defence, except the war-club, should they choose to cut one. They are civil, quiet, and peaceable; seldom quarrel among themselves, and are already taught the consequences should they do so with the Creole, who treats them worse than slaves. The humble Indian obeys the meanest creole. The laws are made for the creole, not for him ; he pays the same annual tax, yet he has no vote. He is ignorant of the laws by which he is governed. But one case has been known
where the correjidor had been so overbearing and cruel in his treatment of them that they put him to death and burnt the government house. These sent to say they would obey any one else the President might appoint over them. They built a new government house, and were ever after quiet. These were the Canichanas, the same as our faithful canoemen, who appear to be spirited fellows.
The province of Mojos extends to the east as far as the Itenez river, which is the boundary line between it and Brazil. The country is inhabited by wild tribes of savages, upon whom the Jesuits never could make any impression, for they will neither hold friendly intercourse with the Spanish race nor with the friendly Indians. They are warlike in disposition, and meet all overtures on the part of others at the point of their arrows.
The labors of the Jesuits, here, were much more difficult than on the mountains, where the whole nation seemed as one man to fall under the new order of things after the Spanish conquest. Here all the different tribes had to be approached with distinct care, for as their language and dispositions differed, their forms of worship also in some degree varied from each other. The Jesuits were untiring in their efforts, and made advances to them all. Many of the priests were murdered in their moral struggle with the red man.
The few Spaniards who followed down the eastern slope of the Andes at the heels of the priests, and settled near the line, have not assisted the workings of the church; for, wherever they have met the savage, a difficulty between them have caused continuous wars, and now the savage disposition of the red man excites a constant desire for revenge.
The Spanish schools are drawing the children of these different tribes closer together by teaching them lessons from the same language. The Bolivian government has adopted a wise plan to bind these ignorant people together. The fewer number of languages the more friendly disposed people become towards each other.
We have seen on the mountains the effect of the Quechua speech taught by the Inca family to the wild tribes that inhabited those regions. There remained but two languages from the equator to the southern boundary of Potosi, and the highest state of civilization. From what we see of the Mojos Indians they are quite as intelligent, and even more so, than the Quechuas or Aymaras, who never manufactured the wool of the alpaca or vicuña so well as the Mojos Indians do the cotton. The stone-work of the Quechuas or Ayamaras does not surpass the wood-work of these. The stone chisel in the hand of the Cuzco or Tiahuanco Indian was skilfully used; but we see at a glance in how
INDIAN PAINTINGS. 237
superior a manner the Mojos Indian employs carpenter’s tools. The mountain Indians have been praised for their natural talent in painting. Some of the productions in Trinidad would amuse the critic; yet the highest taste is found here. The lesson in colors is nowhere more plainly set before the eye. We have seen in the hand of a Mojos Indian a bird the size of a sparrow, with seven distinct colors among its feathers; probably there is no part of the world where there are a greater variety of beautifully-colored birds than in the Madeira Plate.
The aptness of these people in learning is not second to those of the mountains. They cultivate the sugar-cane quite as well as the others do the barley, and when we examined the woollen goods of the mountain girls, and compared them with the white cotton dresses of the fair ones on the banks of the rivers in the lowlands, both made by their own hands, we must give preference to the manufactures of Mojos, with all deference to the memory of Manco Cápac’s wife, who taught the mountain girls to net and knit, to spin and to weave. The Mojos women are few in number, and the people of the next tribe being as exclusive as those of Japan, the manufacturers of the one tribe had no opportunities to exchange with them ideas.
The Mojos Indians have a natural fondness for painting human figures and representing birds and animals, particularly the common chicken and the cow. The latter seems to have made a deep impression upon them at first sight; they often paint the cow fighting or chasing a man. These Indians describe the novel sights. I have not seen a single painting of an Indian or of an animal which originally belonged on this pampa. The white man, the cow, and chicken cock, are their favorite studies. On the white walls of their houses, inside and out, such figures appear as a decoration. In the rooms of the government houses the best artist displayed his talent, and those drawings on the walls of the marketplace are admired by all who go there. So much taste and caution have the boys and little children, that none of them are known to disfigure any of these paintings in the public market-place.
The Indians of Cuzco have had some of the most beautiful, large, and costly paintings hung before them in the churches of that ancient city. The church encourages this taste; yet we saw nothing there like what we find among these people who have never had lessons set them, and the natural scenery here is less calculated to draw upon the imagination. The whole country is a dead level; the view only extends to the horizon, the sky above, and one continued sheet of herd grass below.
The Mojos Indian makes a scene for himself, and describes it with colored paints. On a windy day he strikes light and puts fire to the
238 FOREIGN GOODS.
dry prairie-grass. As the wind carries the fire swiftly along, and the sheets of blaze shoot up under the heavy cloud of smoke, the Indian sketches the effect produced upon the cattle, who toss their tails into the air, and rush in fear with heads erect at the top of their speed in an opposite direction to that from which the wind comes. He decorates the inside wall of his house with this scene, which is a common one on these prairie lands.
The Mojos Indians also have musical talent, what the Quechua Indians want. The Aymaras have a little, but the Mojos are decided by natural characteristics: they play the guitar, violin, and flute; blow their organic pipes, and beat the drum. They accompany the instruments with a sweet voice, and read music with ease. They all take part in church music, while on the mountains a regular choir is employed.
The altar of the cathedral is beautifully carved out of ornamental woods, adorned with hundreds of dollars’ worth of silver. The candlesticks are made of tin, and the candles are tallow. The silver and tin came from Potosi. The wood and tallow are close at hand.
We are ignorant of the means used by the Jesuits to incline the savages to collect together on a swell of the pampa, and plant the corner post of this cathedral. They could not understand the white man’s language; they worshipped what they saw before them on the plain, in the heavens, and among the woods; and yet they were induced to erect a church, kneel in it, and worship the God who made them as well as the animals. All this was accomplished by a series of signs of the hand.
Don Antonio brought among his cargo some gold ornaments manufactured in France and Portugal; amidst other similar articles, a number of gilded beads. The Indian women of the town of Exaltacion fancied and purchased a quantity of them. They were sold as gold beads, just as a jeweller disposes of such things. The Indian women put one of them into the fire, and after heating it well and then cooling it, placed it by the side of some others. The change of color proved to them that the beads contained alloy. They were at once deposited in the hands of the police and sent back to Don Antonio, who had left for this place. He laid the case before the prefect, and informed him the beads had not been sold as pure gold, but as ornaments. The beads were forwarded to a jeweler in Cochabamba to determine their true value, which was as Don Antonio said. But the Indians would not receive them. They answered that the beads were not pure, and for that reason they did not wish them, nor would they wear such things if they were manufactured in Paris. He had to return their money.
Gold manufactured into ornaments in this country is generally worked up just as it comes from the river, without the application of any artificial alloy. The Indians do not understand this art of mixing. The Spaniards often do; and the Indians have their own way of proving the impositions sometimes practiced on them. The Brazilian merchant was exceedingly annoyed at the idea of being considered dishonest by those he had been dealing fairly with. He tried in vain to show that he sold the beads for less than if they had been pure. It was of no use; the Indians had their ideas of what they should be; they did not want the reasoning, but pure gold beads.
Don Antonio made a young mestizo girl a present of a gilded chain, because she had purchased a number of ribbons and silk handkerchiefs from him. She brought it back a short time after, and thanked him for it, saying it was of no use. They had put it into the fire, and it very soon turned copperish. He was much displeased with her, because he had made it a present; but she answered, “Had your present been pure, I should have valued it.”
Shot-guns are valuable; but the people refuse to pay coin for them; there is very little here indeed. The Amazon trader, who comes from a cacao-producing country, is invited to accept so many pounds of chocolate for a shot-gun, or to exchange shot for the same article.
The copper coin and paper money of Brazil are of no value here. The smallest coins in Bolivia are three-cent silver pieces. There is no copper currency. The metal is found on the plains of Oruro in too great abundance. Neither have they paper money in Bolivia as in Brazil.
The authorities mentioned to Don Antonio he would be expected to pay a duty for every thousand dollars he may collect in silver and gold in the country.
The people seem jealous of the foreigner who brings them goods and carries off silver.