Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/564

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By Captain JOHN PAGE,


THE Gran Chaco derives its name, according to Charlevoix, from those great Indian battues, or collections of wild game, which, surrounded by a cordon of fire and hunters, were gradually driven to a given center. It is a vast central tract of country lying between the southern tropic and 29° south latitude, bounded on the north by Brazil and Bolivia, on the south by the Argentine province of Santa Fé, on the east by the Paraná and Paraguay Rivers, and on the west by Santiago del Estero and Salta. It contains about one hundred and eighty thousand square miles, or considerably more than the superficies of Great Britain and Ireland. About one third part of this vast area belongs to Paraguay, but the exact demarkation of the limits between the Argentine Republic, Bolivia, and Paraguay has still to be made, although between the first and last of these countries an arrangement was entered into through the arbitration of President Hayes, of the United States, which must necessarily be called satisfactory. The Gran Chaco has been called, particularly in allusion to the low-lying Paraguay section, the "Oceano firme," or solid ocean. In fact, owing to the comparatively limited means of communication, it was formerly considered too vast for an undivided control, and the Argentine part was constituted into two territorial governorships—one called the Chaco Austral and the other the Chaco Central. A third section is that belonging to Paraguay, part of which, along its northern side, is disputed by Bolivia, and goes by the name of Province of Azero. The Chaco Austral is the most favored in natural riches of these three great sections, and has extensive primeval forests.[1] The principal water-courses of these territories are the Pilco-mayo and Bermejo, which are undoubtedly destined to become highways of commerce. The waters of these rivers differ in color, those of the Pilcomayo being dark and sometimes brownish, and those of the Bermejo red, as its name indicates; both are narrow

  1. Mr. Clements Markham said, in the discussion on Captain Page's paper, that the Gran Chaco was a most important region, lying between the plateaus of the Andes on one side, and the great fluvial highway of riches. In the Quichua language "chacu" meant a hunt, but under the government of the Incas of Peru the word was used for that festival when they surrounded and numbered their flocks. It was a counting of wealth. Hence the Hatun chacu, or Gran chacu, was so named by the Incas, because those vast, forest-covered regions to the cast of their mountain homes were a source of wealth to them in wild animals, precious drugs, and the highly prized harvests of coca. In the distant future the channels which flowed from the homes of the Incas across the Gran Chaco were destined to bring down the produce of the Andes to markets beyond the Atlantic, but that time had not yet arrived, although the speaker believed it was near at hand.—Editor.