Cleon hath a million acres,
Ne'er a one have I;
Cleon dwelleth in a palace.
In a cottage, I;
Cleon hath a dozen fortunes.
Not a penny, I;
Yet the poorer of the twain is
Cleon, and not I.
Cleon, true, possesseth acres.
But the landscape, I;
Half the charms to me it yieldeth,
Money cannot buy;
Cleon harbors sloth and dullness.
Freshening vigor, I;
He in velvet, I in fustian.
Richer man am I.
Cleon is a slave to grandeur,
Free as thought am I;
Cleon fees a score of doctors.
Need of none have I;
Cleon fears to die;
Death may come, he'll find me ready,
Happier man am I.
Cleon sees no charm in nature,
In a daisy, I;
Cleon hears no anthems ringing
In the sea and sky;
Nature sings to me forever.
Earnest listener, I;
State for state, with all attendants.
Who would change?—Not I. —Charles Mackay
Deux choses sont pernicieuses dans I'aristocratie; la pauvrete extreme des nobles, et leurs richesses exorbitantes. Pour prevenir leur pauvrete. il faut surtout les obliger de bonne heure a payer leurs dettes. Pour moderer leurs richesses.il faut des dispositions sages et insensibles; non pas des confiscations, des lois agraires, des abolitions de dettes, qui font des maux infinis. —Montesquieu
Nur klugthatige Menschen, die ihre Krafte kennen und sie mit Maasz und Gescheidtigkeit benutzen, werden es im Weltwesen weit bringen.—Goethe.
Aurum omnes victa jam pietate colunt;
Auro pulsa fides; auro venalia jura;
Aurum lex sequitur, mox sine lege pudor. —Propertius
One or more thousand years ago there lived in the mountains and on the tableland of Central America, where the peninsula of Yucatan juts out from the long narrow strip which unites the two Americas, a people, who to judge from the specimens of architecture which they left, were superior either to the Nahuas of the north or the Peruvians of the south. The Mayas, they were called, the somewhat indefinite line of separation from their northern neighbors being at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
For into these two great nations, the Nahuas and the Mayas, the indigenous civilization of North America divides itself, the central empire of the former being the Aztec, and that of the latter the Quiche. Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, was where the city of Mexico now stands, in the valley of Mexico, or Anahuac, as it was anciently called; the Aztec people occupied the tableland of what is now central and southern Mexico, but their empire extended from sea to sea. So it was with the Mayas in Central America, the Quiche capital being Utatlan, in the present state of Guatemala. Among those who figured in the migrations of the north, with the predecessors of the Aztecs, were the Toltecs and Chichimecs, whose history extending from the fifth to the fifteenth century. I cannot trace here; in the south early figured the Zapotecs and Miztecs.
The great cities, the ruins of which are found embedded in the forests of Chiapas, Yucatan, Guatemala, and Honduras were the work of none of these nations, but rather of some people who were on the ground before them. The art and architecture of these ruined cities are more like each other than like those of the Aztecs or the Quiches, who were occupying the field when the conquerors came.
Tradition says that these great edifices were built by the people who brought hither civilization, under the guidance of Votan and Zamma, and it is certain that the ruined cities of Central America were occupied by their builders at a later date than were those of the north. The Mayas inhabiting the peninsula of Yucatan in the sixteenth century were divided into four families, the Cocomes, Tutul Xius, Itzas, and Cheles; Chiapas was occupied by the Chiapanecs, Tzendales, and Quelenes; in Guatemala and northern Honduras were the Mames, Pocomams, Quiches, and Cakchiquels, the two latter being the most powerful, and ruling the country from their capitals of Utatlan and Patinamit, and fighting for their homes when the Spaniards came until near the point of annihilation.
The oldest of prehistoric American cities was Copan, extending two miles along the bank of the Copan River in Honduras near the Guatemalan line. The most prominent structures were the sacred edifices, enclosed in a wall 900 by 1,600 feet and 25 feet thick at the base, built of large blocks of cut stone. The principal temple was 624 by 809 feet, and in form a terrace. The place of sacrifice was a great circus surrounded by stone pyramids with carved figures at the base, obelisks statues and idols, and steps leading up to an elevation in the center. Utatlan, when the Spaniards came, was not a ruin, but a highly prosperous city, it was said, the richest and most magnificent south of Mexico; but in great monuments and carved stone work it must be regarded as inferior to Copan and Uxmal, though larger than Patinamit, the Cakchiquel capital. Yet Utatlan has a long line of ruined structures, of hewn stone, evidently fortifications, besides which was the great fortress of Resguardo, a square based pyramidal pile, 120 feet high, with three terraces, all reached by steps. The chief edifice there was the castle, or palace of the Quiche kings, covering ground 1,100 by 2,200 feet in area.
Yucatan is full of these great ruins, so much so that the name New Spain was given to the country, because the discoverers who saw them from their ships fancied even in their decadence that they resembled the cities of their native land, with their regular streets and fine white stone or stucco houses. So brilliant were the reports sent back of what was seen by the expeditions of Grijalva and Cortes, that they were thought to be exaggerated, writers of a late day calling them liars, when indeed the half was not told, because they never saw the half of what lay there buried in tropical vegetation. Although Yucatan belongs politically to Mexico, I speak of the Yucatan ruins here for the reason that they were the work of the Mayas of Central America rather than of the Nahuas of Mexico.
Great indeed was Uxmal of the Mayas, in proof of which behold the debris scattered for miles around the central piles, great trees of the forest standing there in evidence where once was a populous city as an exclamation point of its antiquity! The principal ruins are within a rectangular space measuring a third by a fourth of a mile. First and largest among the edifices was the governors house, standing upon a terraced mound, with sculptured decorations which would have excited wonder and praise in Nineveh or Thebes. Then there was a house for aged women, and a nunnery, smaller edifices, scattered for some distance around. Other ruined cities of Yucatan were those of Chichen Itza, the remains of which still in sight may be included in a rectangle 2,000 by 3,000 feet. Then there was a great nunnery, supported on a mass of solid masonry 112 by 160 feet in dimensions, and 32 feet high. When it is remembered that we are able to give at the present day a description only of what is left after 500 or 1000 years of decay under the overpowering influence of tropical life and a tropical atmosphere, it must be admitted that he who would prove up from existing state of things the actual relative condition of aboriginal civilization is taken somewhat at a disadvantage.
All the higher hospitable lands in this region are full of interesting relics, as at Ticul, Mayapan, Tihoo, Oke, Izamal, Bolonchen, Labphak, Aguardas, Tuloom, Campeche, and Palenque, the last the grandest of any. In the far distant past, before the time which we now call ancient the capital of the great empire of Votan was called Xiballa, which many believe to be identical with the ruins of Palenque, or as the Aztecs called it Culhuacan.
But it is with the stones rather than the name that we have here to do. One of the earliest accounts of these ruins reports 200 buildings extending over twenty miles of country along the Otolum river. The largest structure is called the palace, a pyramidal elevation measuring 260 by 310 feet at the base faced with blocks of hewn stone, and having broad central stairways. Within were four high thick walls supporting the pile. The summit platform sustained the palace, which was 180 by 228 feet in size, and 30 feet high. The outer wall was pierced with forty doorways, each about nine feet square. The outside was covered with a coat of hard plaster, with bas-reliefs, and the building seems to have been surrounded at one time by a projecting cornice. Within were courts and corridors with pillars, stairways, and subterranean galleries, sculptures in low relief, and sculptured tablets. Next in importance to the palace is the temple of the Three Tablets as it is called, the pyramid supporting it being similar to that of the palace. Then there are the temples of Beau Relief of the Cross, of the Sun, and others with statues and engraved hieroglyphic tablets showing no small degree of skill and labor.
Conspicuous among the Nahua monuments in Mexico, are those of Mitla, Centla, Huatusco, Papantla, Xochicalco, and Anahuac, of which of the first mentioned only I shall be able to speak here. Mitla, whose magnificent ruins are in Oajaca, about thirty miles southeast from the capital of that state, was once the great religious center of the Zapotecs, who waged fierce wars with the Aztec powers in Anahuac one or two centuries before the conquest. The walls of the several parts of the principal palace, which rest on mounds of substantial construction, were of hewn stone from four to nine feet in thickness, each building covering ground equal to about 20 by 100 feet in area. In the construction of the walls, oblong panels of unsculptured hewn stone were laid alternately with open panel work filled with a facing of stone mosaic grecques and arabesques. The larger stones used in the construction of these buildings were blocks of granite, some of them twenty or thirty feet long. A sculptured lintel of one of the doorways measured nineteen feet in length. The floor of the interior was of flat stones covered with cement, and through the center ran a line of round stone pillars fourteen feet high, three feet in diameter, and cut from a single block of porphyry. There were three other palaces at Mitla, of several buildings each, a detailed examination of which tends only to increase our wonder and admiration for the high state of culture attained by peoples isolated from the progressive nations of Europe, and surrounded by what would seem an almost impenetrable savagism. There were likewise here and elsewhere in these parts fortresses, temples, idols, carved statues, bridges, and relics of various kinds, for a full description of which I can only refer the reader to the fourth volume of my Native Races of the Pacific States.
Coming back to Utatlan, the capital of the opulent Quiche kings, we find Kicah Tanub ruler at the time of the conquest, and being on terms of amity with Montezuma, the latter sent him word of his imprisonment, that he might be the better prepared to meet the dreadful evil when it should come. In the center of the city stood the royal palace, and around it the houses of the nobility. Back of these dwelt the common people. There were many imposing edifices built of stone, and plastered, or ornamented with stone and stucco. Next in size and magnificence to the royal palace and palaces of princes of the blood was a college, having 6,000 attendants, and maintained by the government, The castles of Atalaya and Resguardo, four and five stories high respectively, were strong and imposing edifices, the latter covering an area of 540 by 690 feet.
Torquemada says that the royal palace of the Quiches at Utatlan was not surpassed in its construction by those of either Montezuma of Mexico or of the Incas at Cuzco. It was built of hewn stone of several colors, so laid as to produce a striking effect; it was in size 1,128 by 2,184 feet and was divided into six main parts, one for the king, one for princes, one for soldiers, one for officials and judges, two for the queen and royal concubines, and one for the daughters of the kings and princes. The throne stood under a canopy of feathers in four sections; there was an armory, menageries, and aviaries, gardens and baths, and yards for geese-breeding. The city was compactly built, high houses, narrow streets, and surrounded by a high wall and deep ravine. It had but two ways of approach, one a narrow causeway and the other by an ascent of twenty-five steps. Having received from his priests and divines assurances that it would be useless to attempt the overthrow of the invaders, on the approach of Alvarado with his army, Kicah Tanub invited him to enter the city; but fancying he saw signs of treachery Alvarado retired with his force to the grassy plain without, and enticing thither the king and his son, he slew them, defeated their army, and made himself master of the kingdom.
Seventeen kings before Kicah Tanub had lived and reigned since Nimaquiche and his brothers had come down from the north and divided the land between them. Upon the death of Nimaquiche, Axcopil, his son, established himself in Utatlan as ruler of the Quiches, the Cachiquels, and the Zutugiles, and advanced his people in wealth and prosperity. Following his death, the three peoples separated and fell to fighting, after the manner of nations. One cause of war was the carrying off of the daughter and niece of one of the Quiche kings, Balam Acan, by the king of the Zutugiles and his relative. Arraying himself in regal robes with three diadems, and seated in his jeweled chair of state borne on the shoulders of his nobles, with 80,000 warriors he went forth to meet the king of the Zutugiles with 60,000. At first Balam Acan held the advantage, but only to be overcome and slain at last. In the olden time the king was attended in public by a large following; his lawn flowing white robe was ornament with jewels, and he wore bracelets collar and sandals of gold. Surmounting his golden crown, which was broader in front than behind, was a plume of quetzal-feathers, and he was born on the shoulders of nobles reclining in a palanquin shaded by a feather canopy and fanned by attendants. In the Popul Vuh, the national and religious book of the Mayas, were set forth the rules of public and private behavior; crimes and punishments were detailed, and instructions given as to education, taxation, morals, and the conduct of life. The Quiches had many festivals, some of which were attended by the sacrifice of slaves. Maize and cacao were highly prized, being special gifts of the gods, and affording food and intoxicating drinks.
When Christopher Columbus stepped ashore on the island he named San Salvador, and looked about him in vain for signs of the cities that the ancient and sometimes mendacious traveler Marco Polo had told about,—the cities and fortress of Cathay, the gorgeous palaces with pillars and roofs emblazoned in gold, mountains veined with silver and silver-beds paved with gold, pearls as big and as common as pebbles, sheep as large as oxen and oxen as large as elephants, and luxurious groves and banqueting barges on sparkling waters, and the rest; then going on to Cuba, hoping somewhere thereabout he might find a small mountain of gold-dust from which to shovel in a ship load or two as a preliminary present to the pope toward defraying the expenses of recovering the holy sepulcher from the infidels at Jerusalem; and when instead of realizing these brilliant anticipations he saw only the trees and forest jungle and thick-matted tropic verdure, and for humanity naked men and women squatting on their haunches and smoking the twisted roll of a stinking dried weed of the color of their dusky skins, drawing in the vile smoke upon their lungs, swallowing it, and blowing it out through the nostrils, he little dreamed that in this dirty, disgusting performance lay a subtle essence which should sway humanity more than any holy crusade, more than any religion or other influence of heaven or hell, and set aflow the world's wealth in broader and deeper channels than ever the great Kahn and all Cathay could do.
Yet it was so. Tobacco carried across the sea, quickly spread itself through Europe and came into common use among oriental peoples. All the civilized and half-civilized nations seized it with an avidity which seemed to proclaim it as a long-lost or newly found inspiration of the human organism. In vain laws were passed prohibiting its use, and the Vatican fulminated its decrees against it. In a tract issued by King James I of England, entitled A Counterblast to Tobacco, he calls its use ''a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." Popes Urban VIII and Innocent XI forbade its use. Preachers everywhere declared the smoking of tobacco a sin; the priests of Turkey pronounced it a crime, and Sultan Amuret IV decreed punishment by cruel death. In Turkey the smoker's pipe was thrust through his nose, and in Russia his nose was cut off. Thus tobacco became king, and is king today, above all laws and all religions. And still the question remains open to debate,—but only among those who like it—Is the Cuban weed a blessing or a curse? Should those American savages be damned or deified for giving to all men of all races this everlasting smoke and smell, with its soothing satisfying effects, with the snuffings and chewings and expectorations which sometimes seize its votaries,—for giving this blocked or twisted or pulverized black weed to the world and showing men how to use it? But while awaiting the answer, it is hardly worthwhile to delay action; so we will exterminate the savages and then see what tobacco will do. At the time of the discovery by Columbus, the weed was in use in parts of America quite remote from its native soil and some claim that it was known in India long ere this; but such could hardly have been, for its use there would have led to its use elsewhere, in every quarter of the globe which could be reached from that point. If money is to be considered, it is safe to say that tobacco costs the world more than intoxicating drink, and drink costs more than food; hence, although tobacco may be productive of revenue and even worthy of government control and monopoly, it is an expensive luxury.
Although in Espanola was found one piece of gold weighing 3,200 castellanos, and miners obtained for a short time from six to 250 castellanos a day, and in the ships which perished with Bobadilla gold to the value of 200,000 castellanos was lost; yet finding the yield of the metal among the islands of these Indies did not hold out, the Spaniards turned their attention to agriculture and the enslavement of the natives under the partition systems of repartimientos and encomiendas; that is to say, the lands were divided among the conquerors, and the native inhabitants forced to work those lands for the benefit of the conquerors. At first under this system they tried mining, and while the gold was easily gathered the returns were large, Espanola alone sending to Spain half a million ounces annually; but soon the work became more severe, and the lordly aboriginals loved not labor more than the chivalrous Spaniard; they would allow themselves to be beaten to death, or they would hang themselves to escape work, until they finally learned that it was easy enough for a savage to die under the benign influence of civilization without resorting to self-destruction. However that may be, the Indians would not work; and so the Spaniards, obliged either to abandon their West India plantations or find others to labor for them, began seizing and bringing in black men from Africa; and there they are yet, their descendants, in no small numbers.
Sugar, corn, cotton, and coffee, were easily cultivated by Europeans in the West India islands, and are the chief products at this day. Cuba is larger than Ireland, though the people are not so political. Sugar comes first, but tobacco stands ever conspicuous as the money-making weed. All tropical fruits flourish on these islands. Jamaica, or Xaymaca as the aboriginal owners called it, the Land of Wood and Water, enjoying still the maternity of England but not the blessings of the slave-trade, is dropping behind in the production of its staples, sugar and rum. Besides cotton, coffee and cocoa, logwood is a conspicuous article of export from Haiti. A sugar plantation in Cuba is to a great extent representative of plantations and haciendas throughout Spanish America.
The dwelling is of one story, having thick walls of stone or adobe with stucco front, enclosing one or more squares, some of them filled with tropical plants, banana, cocoa-nut, and orange trees and flowers, and birds of brilliant plumage; the back plaza or square may be used by the servants, or as stables, and for stores. A veranda extends round the entire court. The windows may have glass with iron grating, or board shutters only the roof, though sometimes thatched, is usually of tiles. Outhouses are scattered on every side, forming a little village, with often quite a large manufactory. The planter may be rich, and his family quarters elegantly furnished, and yet have neither carpets nor curtains. Darwin describes the estates of Manuel Figuireda and Juan Fuentes which he visited while in Brazil, and which in these countries are all much the same.
In his fourth voyage Christopher Columbus and his brother Bartolome attempted settlement on the shore of Veragua, but soon abandoned the project. On the way thither they touched at Guanaja Island, and saw considerable gold there, besides copper, stone, and wood utensils, and earthen-ware. On the mainland opposite, Honduras, fruit, vegetables, fish, fowl, and maize were given them to eat. Coming along to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, they found pendent from the necks of the natives great gold plates, which augured well. For sixteen of these plates, valued at 150 ducats, they gave three hawk's bells. Corn and fruit and groves of palm were seen on every side, but property of this kind was not available for fitting out an expedition to Jerusalem; besides they did not like this strip of land which barred their progress to the cutting cane limitless property of the great Khan. Ascending the river Veragua, they found gold, but it was not easy to gather in any considerable quantity. It had been previously revealed from on high to Columbus that here were the Ophir mines of Solomon, the source whence the wise man drew the means to build his temple; but there must have been some mistake, thought the admiral of the ocean sea.
I have spoken of gold. And the cry is ever silver and gold! Silver and gold! The image and measure of wealth; the shadow superior to substance, before which throughout the ages all men bow; what magic spells these metals cast upon the destinies of mankind! As there is pleasing fiction in their value, so is there fascinating romance in their story. Here at this hinge on which turn the two Americas, it seemed that not only the dreams of men became discolored but likewise their skin. "In this climate," says Gomara, "as in Peru, the people turn yellow; it may be that the desire for gold which fills their hearts shines forth in their faces."
Rodrigo de Bastidas sailed along the coast of Darien in 1501, bartering beads for gold, which he found plentiful. A dozen years later Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the narrow strip which holds together the two Americas, and discovered the Pacific Ocean. There was an abundance of gold in these parts scattered about on the surface of the ground, and hatfuls of pearls at the islands in the bay of Panama which Balboa called the Pearl islands. The natives of the Isthmus grew quantities of maize, which the Spaniards did not disdain to accept when hungry for bread, but they were usually more hungry for gold. In one of his foraging expeditions in the vicinity of Darien, prior to his great discovery, Vasco Nunez encountered the wealthy chief Comagre, who perceiving his appetite for the yellow metal soon collected for him 4,000 ounces of finely wrought gold. After solemnly setting aside the king’s fifth, the remainder was divided among the Spaniards, but in this division a dispute arose, accompanied by loud words and the drawing of swords. Seeing which Panciaco, the chivalrous son of the chief Comagre, stepped forward and struck the scales with which they were weighing the metal, scattering the contents in every direction. "Why quarrel over such a trifle!” he exclaimed. "Is it for this you leave your country, cross seas, and disturb the peace of nations? Cease your voracious brawl, and I will tell you where you may obtain your fill of gold. Six days march across yonder sierra will bring you to an ocean sea where are cities and ships and wealth unlimited."
"Speak you true; what proof have you?" demanded Balboa.
"Listen to me,” said Panciaco. "You Christians seem to prize this metal more than body life or soul; more than love or hate or any other happiness. Some mysterious virtue it must possess to charm men so! We who cannot fathom its subtle power love better peace and friends. I will accompany you and while I fight an ancient enemy, you may secure the gold."
After somewhat lengthy preparations the Spaniards started, 90 in number, accompanied by 1,000 natives and a pack of bloodhounds. They found the ocean and the pearls, but not the cities and ships; they returned well laden with treasure, gold to the value of 40,000 pesos, 800 Indian slaves, a large quantity of pearls, besides cotton cloth and Indian weapons.
While some were thus seeking the Ophir of Solomon, and some the palaces of Cathay's khans, and all were hungry for gold, Juan Ponce de Leon fancied the world as he saw it in Florida fair enough for him without more of the metal than he could use, provided only he could live long to enjoy it. So hearing of a Fountain of Youth he set out in search of it. With a gallant company in 1512, and again in 1514, he waded the morasses and penetrated the jungles of the southeast peninsula, until, instead of finding a fountain of youth, he encountered a poisoned arrow and returned to Cuba to die.
Pedrarias Davila became ruler of this Tierra Firme, called also the Castilla del Oro, making his capital, after hunting Vasco Nunez to death, first at Panama, and then removing it to Nicaragua. To Gil Gonzalez were given by the king of Spain the four ships which Vasco Nunez had made, lying at the Pearl islands, and with them Gil Gonzalez set out west and northward by sea and land. At San Vicente these Spaniards succeeded in getting from the natives 30,000 pesos in gold, and further on the great chief Nicoya, at the gulf of that name, gave him 14,000 castellanos, and six golden idols; "for being now a Christian," he said, "I shall have no further use for them." This was indeed a great proselytizing tour, the priest who accompanied Gil Gonzalez baptizing 40,000 in one day, which must have given him enough to do.
Nicaragua was another great chief whom Gil Gonzalez encountered, and him he converted to Christianity and robbed of 15,000 castellanos. Nicaragua's town stood on a large freshwater sea, into which Gil Gonzalez rode his horse and took possession, drinking of the water. It seems that Nicaragua's gold had not been enough to satisfy the captain, so he now thought he would take his lake. "The pilots I had with me," wrote Gil Gonzalez, "certify that it opens into the North Sea; and if so it is a great discovery, as the distance from one sea to the other is but two or three leagues of very level road." Gil Gonzalez freshwater sea remains still in the same spot, and let us hope the Nicaragua Canal company will soon have use for it.
Many have been the fanciful searches and ignis fatuus flittings hither and thither for gold since the so ardent worshippers of the metal first came to America. We have an example of it here on the Isthmus. In some way the rumor became current, shortly after the time of old Pedrarias, that southeast of the gulf of Uraba, in the territory of the cacique Dabaiba, was a golden temple, where lay hidden stores of wealth that surpassed in volume and value any that Mexican or Peruvian had ever dreamed of. This golden country and treasure-house were guarded by a rugged sierra, which in turn was guarded by many a tangled jungle and morass; so that while sometimes the native, with his light portable canoe, and leathern lungs tanned by pestiferous airs to withstand the deadly malaria, might with difficulty make his way to the mountain, it was next to impossible for the Spaniard with heavy armor and cumbersome accoutrements to do so. Perhaps rise was given to the rumors of the existence of the golden-temple of Dabaiba, which cost the lives of so many Spaniards, by a discovery made near a place of worship in the valley of the Cenu river, by the colonists of San Sebastian, of numerous tombs, in which gold and gems and armor had been found plentifully scattered among the chiefs and their wives sitting thus in state beneath the ground for centuries. Indeed, all the way from Panama to Nicaragua, particularly in Chiriqui and Costa Rica, graves of an extinct people have been found in which were interred with the occupant large quantities of gold ornaments. These graves have given up of their contents gold to the value of over $1,000,000. The Chiriqui graves, besides gold ornaments contain fine pottery. In the graves of the Nicoya peninsula are found tools and ornaments of jadeite. He who loves to indulge his fancy may go back ten or twenty centuries to the time when the mound-builders of Ohio began their long pilgrimage to the southwest, stopping at intervals on the way, at the Mississippi, at New Mexico, resting long in the valley of Anahuac, and longer still in Yucatan and on the mountains between Chiapas and Guatemala, building there great stone edifices, and making for themselves mammoth stone gods, elaborately carved; then on the tableland of Central America for a time, finally to reach the narrow lowlands of the Isthmus, there to lay themselves away with all their trinkets all upon them, only to be robbed of them centuries after by human hyenas of the European type.
Two facts are quite clear in this connection, first that these old bejeweled bones belonged to a people in no way related to the present wild occupants of these parts, some of whom have never to this day been subdued by any European conqueror; and secondly, that these Indians do not regard with favor the white man's desecration of the dead. As for the savages themselves who lived there when Columbus called, if the admiral, his brother, and son may be believed, they cared too little for gold and regarded the possession of it with too much indifference to take the trouble to gather and bury it with their dead.
But to return to our tale of the golden temple of Dabaiba. Thus it runs. There was a captain of infantry at San Sebastian, a post near Darien, whose name was Francisco Cesar. His gallantry and courage had gained for him the confidence of his men; so that when one dull day he proposed the desperate adventure of going in search of the golden temple of Dabaiba, he found supporters. A hundred of them set out one day in 1536, twelve years after Pizarro's performance, eighty foot and twenty horse. Westward they journeyed ten months through a trackless wilderness, until they came to the valley of Guaca, when they were attacked by 20,000 natives. Soon they were surrounded, and all hope of retreat cut off, when in the heavens they saw the image of Spain's patron saint, and three hours afterward the good Spaniards were at liberty to look about them for gold. They could not find it. That is to say, there was no golden temple filled with treasure in sight, but they found a crumbling sepulcher containing treasure to the value of 30,000 castellanos, which was better than nothing. This they did not scruple to take; and all that were left of Cesar's band returned to San Sebastian.
Then came forward Pedro de Heredia, who with 210 mail-clad men set out from the same place the same year, and following the river Atrato came presently to a dense forest, through which he must cut his way or turn back. He opened a path through the matted underbrush, cut down trees and made rafts and bridges. and all the while the rain fell in torrents, while poisonous reptiles crawled round them, and stinging wasps and mosquitoes filled the air. When they had got enough of it, they went back to San Sebastian, and the golden temple of Dabaiba remained where it was.
Francisco Cesar tried it once more, and failed again. Then the licentiate Juan de Badillo, with 350 Spaniards, besides Indians and Negroes, and 512 horses, proceeding from Darien came to the valley of Los Pitos, where was a fort defended by a large force of natives. After an attack, the savages giving way, the invaders continued their march, and in due time came to where the golden temple of Dabaiba should be.
“Where is it?" they asked of a friendly cacique. "Where is the treasure?" "Treasure?" he replied, "what want we with treasure as you call it? If it be gold you mean, we pick it up as we have need of it; look under the rocks in the riverbed, and you will find all you want."
The achievements of Columbus resulted in little benefit to himself or his descendants, except that they are permitted to call themselves dukes of Veragua, if that is any satisfaction. When in 1540 Diego Gutierrez became governor of that densely wooded country between Veragua and the river San Juan, called Nueva Cartago, now Costa Rica, the region was thought to be rich in gold. It had been surmised that Montezuma had once drawn considerable supplies from there, but the actual mineral wealth of this section does not bear out the idea. For six weeks in the year, when the galleons from Spain were in port, merchants and artificers from every quarter congregated at Portobello.
Upon the arrival of the galleons the treasurer, contador, or factor, was ordered by the governor to proceed thither, taking with him the deputies of the other two officials. When the gold and silver had been put on board the galleons, and the commodities on the other ships, all were visited by the royal officers to see that the king was not cheated—that is to say by anyone except themselves, or without a proper consideration. The coming and going of the annual fleet was a matter of the utmost solicitude to the crown and to shippers. Many a treasure-laden craft either foundered at sea or fell a prey to buccaneers, and the safe arrival of a convoy was heralded with joy. Smuggling was largely practiced; in 1624 the records show that out of $9,000,000, worth of goods which came into Panama, duties were paid only on $1,500,000. As time passed by the traffic across the Isthmus became great, as not only the gold and silver from the west coasts of South and North America was brought to Panama and thence transported to Portobello or Nombre de Dios on the Atlantic side, thence to be shipped to Spain, but the large cargoes of silks and spices from the Philippine islands also found this way to Europe. It was the good Las Casas, they say, who in his zeal in lessening the wrongs of the natives fell into the other extreme, and laid the burden of the poor Indian on the backs of the tougher African. At all events negro slavery came into vogue in the islands and on the Isthmus, and so severe were their masters that during the middle part of the sixteenth century, many of them escaped to the mountains, became outlaws, and preyed upon the Spaniards. At that time the woods around Nombre de Dios swarmed with them, and many of the treasure-trains fell into their hands. They even defeated the soldiers sent against them, having great advantage in their use of poisoned arrows shot from their hiding places. In these encounters no quarter was given on either side. And it was in the islands as on tierra firme, hundreds of these outlaws banded and became a terror to Europeans. In 1596, the cimarrones, as these black banditti were called, in company with the buccaneers, or white robbers, that is to say mostly white, and generally sea-roving, opened a road from their rendezvous, which indeed might more properly be called a town, to Chagre river, the better to facilitate the disposal of their booty. Thus we have here the beginning of the African slave-trade, which assumed such giant proportions in America, and which cost the lives of millions of her noblest sons in its extermination. At the time of which I write, it required, under Spanish law, to engage in the importation of slaves, a royal license, jealously guarded, and seldom if ever granted to Spain's ancient rivals, the Portuguese, but freely bestowed on the English, who gradually monopolized the trade. So great were the profits in this traffic, that Portuguese and English alike were found continually violating the law regarding it.
So it came to pass that round this narrow strip of land had come to revolve the commerce of the Indies, islands and firm land from the shores of Asia to Spain. Portobello became an important place, as between Panama and this port passed for a time the wealth of the Spice Islands on the way from Asia to Europe. And as in the case of individual men who grew too great, the jealousy of Philip began to show itself in regard to Panama and Portobello and Nombre de Dios, and during the seventeenth century galleons from the Philippine islands with merchandise for Spain went to Acapulco instead of Panama, and their cargoes were carried through Mexico to Vera Cruz. In 1589, ninety-four richly laden vessels arrived at Panama; in 1605 there were but seventeen ships arrived. The profit on Asiatic goods sent to Spain via Panama had been six fold; now by way of Acapulco it was reduced one-half. True, American productions interfered somewhat with the early extravagant profits, as for example wine, leather, and oil from Peru, soap and pitch from Nicaragua, wax from Campeche, cordage from Guayaquil, manufactured cloths from Quito, and silk and woolen goods from New Spain. Peru furnished a good wine, but no wine could be drunk on the Isthmus save that which came from Spain.
Pearls and gold were still among the leading products of the Isthmus, and the most valuable fisheries were at the Pearl islands of Vasco Nunez. Diving for pearls was performed by Negroes chosen by their masters for their dexterity as swimmers, and the ability to hold their breath under water. From twelve to twenty under one overseer formed a gang. Anchoring in twelve or fifteen fathoms of water, they would dive in succession, and bring up as many shells as they could gather or carry. It was a laborious calling, and attended with great danger from the sharks. After the divers had collected a certain quantity of pearls they were allowed to sell what more they gathered, but only to their masters and at a fixed price. Richard Hawkins describes one of these pearls, which became the property of Philip II, as of "the size of a pommel of a ponyard;” weight 250 carats, value $150,000. These islands at that time made Panama and her people rich, Seville alone getting from there 600 pounds weight, some of them as fine as any found in Ceylon or the East Indies. After the natives had been stripped of their surface-pickings, mines were found and worked in different parts of the Isthmus, notably in Darien, where one governor reported gold so abundant as to be "weighed by the hundredweight." At Veragua there were 2,000 men, Indians and Negroes, at work for the Spaniards at one time. Dampier reported them "the richest gold mines ever yet found,” and Ogilby says "the Spaniards there knew not the end of their wealth.” No wonder then they imagined Veragua the veritable Ophir of Solomon. The yield however did not prove permanent, and in 1580 there were but four of these mines in operation. Then the people turned their attention elsewhere, in particular to Honduras, which besides had a much better climate. "The gold and silver of these parts" they said "are as nothing to the mines of Honduras, which if worked by Negroes, with the aid of quicksilver, would give your majesty a kingdom thrice as rich as Spain.”
Francis Drake, "the introducer of potatoes into Europe in the year of our Lord 1586," as the statue in Offenburg hath it, began his piratical career on the Isthmus under letters of marque from Queen Elizabeth. Entering Nombre de Dios at night at the head of his band, a rush was made for the treasure-house, where was stored the metal from the mines awaiting shipment to Spain; but the invaders were beaten off by the inhabitants. A watch was placed at Cruces for the treasure-trains from Panama, and a capture of several Spanish vessels was made at Cartagena. After the loss of many of his men by fever with the aid of the cimarrones Drake crossed, the Isthmus and narrowly missed capturing a treasure-train of fourteen mules laden with gold silver pearls and jewels. Better fortune attended another attempt near Nombre de Dios, where was captured a train of three companies, two of seventy mules each and one of fifty mules, laden with nearly thirty tons of silver and gold. Three years later John Oxenham, who had been with Drake, planned a daring raid. Landing on the north side, he beached his vessel, covered her with boughs, buried his cannon, and guided by cimarrones to a stream flowing wouthward, he built a pinnace, and descending the river reached the Pearl islands, which lay in the track of vessels conveying treasure from Lima to Panama. Prizes were made of two vessels containing gold and silver to the value of nearly $300,000, but on the way back the party was attacked by a force from Panama and destroyed.
Three other expeditions were made by Drake before death terminated his career at Portobello, shortly after remarking to one of his officers, “God hath many things in store for us; and I know many means to do her majesty service and to make us riche, for wee must have gould before wee see Englande." The first was his voyage of circumnavigation, in which he captured much treasure on the coast between Peru and Panama. The second was in 1585 when Elizabeth determined to strike Spain's New World possessions a fatal blow. With twenty-five ships and 2,300 men Drake took Santo Domingo and Cartagena, which were ransomed the former for 25,000 ducats and the latter for 145,000 pesos, and after some minor captures, and the loss of 750 men by sickness, returned to England. The third expedition consisted of sixteen men of war, twenty-one other vessels, and 2,500 men, and ended in failure. After this came William Parker from England with two ships and 200 men and captured Portobello and the pearl fishery at Cubagua, besides many ships.
All through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the raids of the pirates and buccaneers infesting the islands and mainland of the Indies were very severe. There was then in the country much floating wealth not difficult of capture. Says the Englishman Gage, regarding his journey through Central America: "We came at last through a thousand dangers to the city of Carthago, which was found to be not so poor as in richer places, Guatemala and Nicaragua, it was reported to be. For there we had occasion to inquire after some merchants for exchange of gold and silver, and we found that some were very rich, who traded by land and sea with Panama, and by sea with Portobello, Cartagena, and Havana, and from thence with Spain." French corsairs hovered along the coast of Tierra Firme as far as Mexico, and English, French, and Dutch filibusters rendezvoused at Santo Domingo. Many towns and cities were captured and recaptured several times by the freebooters, after intervals allowing wealth to flow in once more into the depleted coffers. Leaders by the force of their own powers or by election, came frequently to the front, and the deeds done by these fiends incarnate are not surpassed for inhuman cruelty by any on the pages of history.
Conspicuous among these leaders was Francois L'Olonois, who hacked in pieces his captives, having sworn never to give quarter to any Spaniard. With six ships and 700 men at his command, he invaded Central America, destroying villages, sacking storehouses, and murdering the inhabitants. At the head of fifteen vessels and 500 men was the leader Mansvelt, who established a buccaneer settlement on the island of Santa Catarina, and thence made raids on the islands and mainland. Out of this hot-bed of villainy came St. Simon, Henry Morgan the Welshman, and other notable high priests of Satan. On the death of Mansvelt, in 1664, Morgan was chosen his successor. With twelve ships and 700 men, he thought at first to attempt the capture of Havana, but the enterprise appearing too formidable, he turned his talents to the plundering of Puerto Principe, an inland town of Cuba grown rich by traffic in hides, and one never yet sacked by the sea-robbers. There they secured only $50,000. With nine ships and 450 men Morgan next sailed for the coast of Castilla del Oro bent on the plunder of Portobello, then one of the strongest of Spain's fortresses in America. Amidst the most horrible atrocities the place was finally taken, and spoils secured to the value of 260,000 pesos, besides large stores of silk, linen, and other merchandise. Increasing his force to fifteen ships and 960 men, Morgan plundered the town of Espanola, securing booty to the value of $250,000. Finally with thirty-seven ships and 2,000 men Morgan set out for the capture of Panama, Vera Cruz, and Cartagena, in which expedition the old city of Panama was razed to the ground, and was never rebuilt on that spot. The treasure brought away was small for the destruction of life and property attending the bloody work. Volumes have been filled with the horrible atrocities of these sea and land monsters in these parts, but I can follow them no further here. The exploits of the gentle Captain Kidd were mild in comparison. The South Sea was filled with corsairs and freebooters at one time, among whom were Hawkins and Dampier and Sharp. George Alison took the track of the Spanish galleons between Manila and Acapulco, and secured rich prizes.
In the making of the two Americas, nature seems to have been somewhat undecided whether to join the continents by way of Panama and Central America, or cross over from Venezuela to Florida, or both, filling the intervening space with mountains or leaving land-locked the Caribbean Sea. Having determined on the former course, the latter line remains to this day unfinished, or else split off, partially sunk, and broken into 1,000 islands. With a current more rapid than that of the Mississippi or the Amazon, and a volume a thousand times greater than both together, the Gulf Stream by the influence of the all-compelling sun, sets forth from its islanded niche, and coasting northward sweeps by Newfoundland, bathing the otherwise uninhabitable British Isles in tropic-tempered moisture. The same service the Japan current performs for the western shore of North America, giving to Alaska her forest-feathered slopes and to California her delightful air and hazy sunshine.
To him who approaches on the wonderfully blue water any of these tropical isles is wafted from the land a soft fragrant air suggestive of earth and plants and tropical fruits and flowers. The sky may be clear, but more likely a little clouded with an atmosphere humid if not hazy. Or if peradventure the water be green, and cannibals keep the island, and sharks play about them, the tropical odor from the bunch of bright foliage comes just the same. For some men were born to eat, and others to be eaten; only the wasteful hunter, Alexander Caesar or Napoleon, kills more than he can eat. Travelers hither love to recite how, when the steamer comes to anchor in the port, naked black boys swim in the water around the ship clamoring for coins to dive for, and the passengers to whom this sort of thing is new empty their pockets of small silver, throwing out one coin after another, for which the swimmer instantly dives, catching it and putting it in his mouth before it has sunk many feet in the transparent water.
Though Haiti is but 400 miles long its coast line measures 1,500 miles. Three chains of mountains cross the island from west to east, between which are broad plains and well watered valleys. Cuba has a low flat coast, the interior rising to 2,000 or 3,000 feet, the Pico de Tarquino being 7,670 feet high. Porto Rico has a hilly interior, interspersed with plains, the Yunque summit of the Luquillo having an altitude of 3,678 feet. The low lying Bermudas rest on a coral reef; the Bahamas likewise without high hills, and in common with most of the other islands are of calcareous formation. The eastern part of Jamaica is mountainous; western part level, and near the sea low. The Blue Mountains, running east and west, have peaks 7,000 feet high. Three ranges cross Trinidad, one of them in places 3,000 feet in height. Toboga is a mass of rocks; the Barbados have some beautiful scenery; Dominica, St. Christopher, Montserrat, St. Vincent, Guadeloupe, Martinque, St. Thomas, St Croix, and St. Eustache are all more or less hilly or mountainous inland.
Although the soil of the Bermudas for many purposes is poor, yet esculent plants flourish, and citrons and limes, coffee indigo cotton and tobacco, grow spontaneously.
The Bahamas have a thin sandy soil, in which however sugar-cane and pineapples, oranges, bananas and cocoanuts, cotton and tobacco, corn and vegetables do well. The wealth of the sea is here at hand, fish, turtles, and sponges abounding. Besides some good agricultural lands, Jamaica has a wealth of woods, mahogany, lignum vilae, ebony, logwood, balatta, rosewood, satinwood, fustic, and cedar. Pimento is indigenous. In a word, here grow all the tropical fruits and plants, and also in the Leeward Islands, where are many sugar factories, this being the leading product also in the Virgin Islands, Dominica, Tobago, and the Danish Dutch and French islands. Besides forests of pine woods St. Vincent and St. Lucia produce sugar, cacao, spice, rum, arrow-root, and cotton. Cuba has fine forests and grows the best tobacco; also sugar-cane, coffee, vegetables and fruits, and has many minerals, though not as a rule in large deposits. The highest point on the island of St. Thomas is the top of a submerged chain of mountains, the dome-shaped hills on either side being highest at the western end. On two of the hills are towers Blue Beard and Black Beard, both used now as residences. Unless a hurricane be playing, two hundred ships may ride safely in the port, which is a busy place considering the size of the island and the number of the people living on it. But the towns of the West Indies have little to boast of. Kingston will show you a club-house, museum, court house, market, and Mico institute. The port of St. Thomas is quite lively for one of its size, but it is not very large and the island exports little or nothing now, though when African slaves were cheap sugar was raised there. It is rather a port of call than of commerce and with the whole island and its two little brother saints, to whomsoever belonging it is property better sold than held.
There is a Jew's synagogue at St. Thomas; the show house of the place is the one occupied by Santa Anna when exiled from Mexico. A small public library, a theater and a hospital amply suffice for the few cultured people of the place. Sharks fill the water and pestilence too often overspreads the hot land, with an occasional cyclone and hurricane. Upon the higher ground the nights are cool and the air pure; the few sugar plantations that remain will produce for three or four years without replanting.
St. Pierre, on the picturesque island of Martinique, the commercial city of the French West Indies, is a well-built town with paved streets and shaded avenues, schools public library and other institutions of modern progress. It may be remembered that on this island were born for the weal or woe of France two notable women, Maintenon and Josephine, a marble statue of the latter standing in the Place de la Savane at Fort de France, the political capital of these French isles. Martinique is honored by a half dozen volcanoes, called extinct, though Mont Pelee sent forth fire and smoke as late as 1851. Besides the staples coffee, cotton, sugar, and rum, Martinique produces tobacco bread-fruit bananas and mianioc. The flora of the island is gorgeous, containing forty varieties of the mango, and a magnificent muscatel grape, not to mention the feathery bamboo, royal palm, and many flowers from which perfumery is made. Though used by some as a health resort, the island is by no means free from fever, smallpox, and other epidemics, not to mention hurricanes and earthquakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and the rat-eating fer-de-lance.
The English, once Portuguese, island of Barbados is one vast sugar plantation, cane being cut every year from 30,000 acres, yielding 70,000 hogs-heads of sugar, and keeping in operation twenty-five rum distilleries. Nearly all West India island rum takes the name Jamaica, by reason of reputation; much of it goes to Africa, the good people of Boston contributing some of the still famous New England article, to aid in the destruction of the black man they so coddle at home—just as opium was forced by Christian England on China to the destruction of the yellow man. All commerce is consistent, and piety also, where money is concerned. Bridgetown is not especially attractive; its ice-house, however, is well sustained. All these island towns have their ice-house, a kind of drinking and cooling off rendezvous, where artificial ice and fancy drinks are made and sold. England's glory is set up in these hot latitudes by an atrocious bronze statue of Nelson in the Trafalgar square of Bridgetown.
There is a Codrington college here, and a Harrison College. Some call the country healthy, but fevers and leprosy are common, and the two tornadoes which broke the record were, one in 1780 which killed 4,000 persons, and one in 1831 which swept away 2,000 lives and $10,000,000 worth of property. At the same time to make matters more interesting Brimstone Mountain, on St. Vincent Island, sent forth flames and ashes covering the country around. Colored men thrive, several who were born slaves being now among the most prosperous planters; donkeys also abound in all these islands.
The cities of Cuba display some points of interest. Havana has a fine harbor, the entrance guarded by the Morro Castle, with its plentiful supply of guns, its heavy walls of rock and mortar, and its grim dungeons, once deemed impregnable, but no more than a plaything before the fire of modern artillery. On the opposite side is the frowning battery of La Punta, and within are the fortifications of Los Cabanas and the forts of Casa Blanca and San Diego. All is life and gaiety in the city. El Prado is the promenade of Havana; in the central park is a statue of Isabella, and not far away the winter palace of the governor, plaza, bishop's garden, opera house, cathedral, and other notable places.
In Central as in South America, the Cordillera runs near the Pacific side, but dropping its flat tops into temperate climes. The surface throughout is uneven; of the volcanoes thirty are active, and earthquakes are frequent and disastrous. So throughout the more northern regions, the great southern cordillera of the Andes, coming to the Panama isthmus descends into broken hills, but soon rises again into the Central American and Mexican tablelands, and on reaching California separates in the two Rocky and Nevada chains, which roll on to the frozen ocean. Of the five republics of Central America, two, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, extend from sea to sea; Honduras borders mostly on the Atlantic and Guatemala and Salvador on the Pacific. On the Isthmus and in Costa Rica are mountain peaks from which on a clear day both oceans may be seen. Central America has fifty volcanoes, many of them not yet extinct; the borders on both oceans are very fertile, but hot, malarious, and exceedingly unhealthy for any but natives or well acclimated foreigners; the habitable and salubrious interior tablelands are from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. The whole political division is simply an isthmus, of varying width and interior heights; it has communication by steamship with every quarter; there are a few railways, some short pieces of wagon roads, but inland traffic and transportation is performed mostly by mules, mozos, and natives, the last named carrying 100 pounds twenty-five miles a day for one real. All the coins of Mexico and the United States circulate here as money, but the Peruvian silver dollar seems to be as plentiful as any. As a whole it is an agricultural rather than a mineral country, though Costa Rica derived its name of rich coast from the gold which was found there and Honduras, besides its priceless forests of rare woods has an abundance of coal, iron and lead, gold, silver and copper, zinc platina and quicksilver, asbestos opals and marbles. It is a land teeming with natural wealth and resources, and might supply the world with coffee and all the tropical products, were it occupied by an energetic intelligent and progressive people.
Under the king of Spain, the present five republics were five provinces each in charge of a governor and all under a captain-general, or viceroy, whose government was in Guatemala; it was called the viceroyalty of Guatemala, and was responsible only to the home government, just as were the viceroyalties of Mexico and of Peru. After independence in 1823 these states federated under the name of United States of Central America with constitution and executive and other offices and law makers similar to those of the United States of North America. But this confederation was continued for only sixteen years, after which a separation occurred, unsuccessful attempts towards union having been made since then. All these years the country has been troubled with chronic revolution, which, though unattended by much bloodshed, wrought injury to the country, preventing industry investment and development, and giving the land over to rabble rule, the dictator overthrown being succeeded by the dictator overthrowing, each draining the country of such resources as were left him by his predecessor, until men of means were glad to escape with any portion of their property still left to them.
Some progress, however, has been made toward more rational methods. By treaty of 1889 the five republics agree to settle all disputes by arbitration; to send delegates to an annual meeting for the consideration of matters of mutual interest; no one to enter into any foreign alliance without the consent of all,—a good beginning toward ultimate union.
Three attempts have contributed to make the capital city of Guatemala; the first, founded by Alvarado in 1524, was flooded to its destruction in 1541; a second, then built near the old site in 1773, was destroyed by an earthquake; then was begun the capital of today, 30 miles away. In the days of its glory Antigua, or old, Guatemala, as it is now called, was the third city of the two Americas, Mexico, and Lima being alone its superior. Hither from the old world came noble families, cultivating large plantations of sugar coffee and cochineal, and building for themselves beautiful city residences. Schools and colleges were established, art, science, theology, inquisition, and all so that for two centuries old Guatemala was not only a center of commerce but a seat of learning, the Athens of America, its 150,000 inhabitants regarding themselves second to none in points of prosperity intelligence and happiness. These Guatemalas were all regularly laid out in broad beautiful streets and plazas, the site of old Guatemala being particularly charming, situated as it was on a fertile plain, with the restless rumbling mountains Agua and Fuego on one side and a wide sweep of glistening verdure on the other. The old city, its great palace in ruins, is still for many a favorite dwelling-place, notwithstanding the so treacherous infernal fires contiguous. Food is abundant and cheap; house and raiment are secondary considerations; a supply of good water is obtained from the rio Pensativo, which comes in graceful curves from the mountains. The new city is supplied by an aqueduct fifteen miles long, begun in 1832, and completed at a cost of $2,250,000.
It was Alvarado's Guatemala which was overwhelmed with sand and water from the mountains, the second one being known as Antigua. With thousands of natives to help, Alvarado spent fifteen years in building his city, a fine cathedral being the first structure, and which was buried to the roof in the day of the great destruction. When years afterward the sand was cleared away the building was found uninjured, owing to the protection of Santiago. Alvarado's palace was also buried and in it his wife and much treasure. Many relics are preserved in the church, some of great value. Guatemala Antigua is a city of magnificent and picturesque ruins, ancient arches and streets of grand old solid structures surrounded by gardens and shrubs and trees growing up from the roofs. Liberal space was allowed for each building when the city was laid out, and this, together with the size and grandeur of the structures, makes all so imposing in the decadence. Of churches convents and monasteries, the ruins of some sixty may be counted, each occupying several acres, and many of which had cells for 400 or 600 men or women. The restoration of the viceregal palace was at one time attempted, the armorial bearing granted to the city by Charles V being placed upon the front.
After securing independence from Spain, Guatemala, like other parts of Spanish America, fell under the epidemic of revolutions, as I have said. Military and political leaders desired each to be first, and the church would be supreme over all. When Morazan became dictator he endeavored to abolish monasteries and convents and secularize church property. Then came from out the wilderness the guerrilla, Rafael Carera, called the chosen of God by the priests, until, after they had well established him in power, he began to plunder them; then he was minister of hell. Under this bandit rule lay Guatemala for thirty years, until to aid the liberal party came from near the spot which bred both Juarez and Diaz, the Central American border of the valley of Oaxaca. Jose Rufino Barrios, who from obscurity rose to be first general and then president, giving life and progress to his country until he died in the effort to unite the five republics under one general government. What Juarez did for Mexico, Barrios did for Guatemala. At one blow he delivered his country from the power of the church and the bandit of the mountains. He ruled with a rod of iron, but such rule was necessary. It must be absolute or nothing. But the absolutism of President Barrios was mainly in the direction of patriotism and progress.
He had at heart the welfare of his country, though he did not neglect himself when blessings came, as during his reign of a dozen years he made himself the possessor of as many millions of money. First of all he informed himself by intelligent application to the sources of knowledge, visiting Europe and the United States that he might gather practical experience to apply to his government; then he encouraged agriculture, established railroad and telegraph lines, founded schools and colleges, and brought his people at one bound from their state of darkness into the full light of modern progress.
Barrios saw clearly the advantage of federation, as many saw it before and after his time. Each president of the several states was willing to unite if he might thereby be made master of all. Barrios offered to retire from the field and let them choose a ruler from among themselves, but they doubted his good faith. Then he determined to force a union. It was a bold thing to do, with only one of the other states with him and Mexico against the measure. There was a brilliant assembly at the national theater on the night of Sunday, February, 28, 1885. The opera of Boccaccio was being performed by a French company. Toward the close of the play, and when at the most exciting point of interest, a military officer stepped to the front of the stage and read a proclamation by President Barrios declaring the states of Central America united, with himself as dictator, and calling on all present to sustain him. Honduras joined Guatemala at once; San Salvador hesitated; Nicaragua and Costa Rica refused flatly. Diaz denounced Barrios, threatened Honduras, offered assistance to the other states, and ordered an army into the field. Barrios and a son were killed at the outset, and the project went no further at that time.
What fools men are! Here was one whom fortune had favored, brought forth from the wilderness, given a great work to do and had been permitted to do it, given fame and fortune and power, all of his people being afraid of him, and foreigners quite willing to let him alone. He was thought well of and spoken well of, for though a fool he deserved it; he was the peer of Juarez, who was the peer of Washington. He had a beloved family and a beloved country; he was one of the first men in the world, infinitely superior to any one of the manikins of a dried up aristocracy, for he had made himself; and yet he was not satisfied, but must crown all by going out and getting his son and himself shot, and not for any principle but purely from personal ambition.
The present Guatemala is the most civilized city in Central America, having electricity lights, officers in French uniforms, policemen from New York, hacks and hippodrome, street cars and castle, mail wagon, a fair hotel, fine theater, opera with government subvention, and surroundings reminding one of Bogota. Among the almost universal one-story dwellings, the higher churches and government buildings rise to over-powering prominence. The national institute has forty professors and the university twenty; museum, zoological and botanical gardens, library, are all good but not very large.
A coffee plantation is a beautiful sight; so are orange and lemon orchards, and an olive plantation. The hacienda buildings in Guatemala usually cover several acres, with avenues of trees and gardens well laid out, for the owner is a rich man. His grounds are well kept, his coffee plants in straight rows and of equal distance apart. The annual crop is from 1,000 to 1,500 quintals; near Champerico is a plantation of 380,000 trees which yields every year 15,000 bags of coffee. The best coffee is grown on mesas of 4,000 feet high or more, on suitable soil, and made ready for market by the aid of proper machinery. The berries when brought to the factory are first passed through a pulping machine, a steady stream of water running into the hopper where the berries are thrown. The pulp is torn from the berry and carried away by the water, as to be used finally a fertilizer. The berry is carried through a spout into a tank where it is washed and then taken from the water and dried in the sun. Another machine breaks the skin which encloses the berry and after, winnows it away, after which it is sorted by hand into four grades, and sacked for market. This work can be all done by hand in a slow imperfect way where there is no machinery.
The site of Comayagua, once capital of Honduras, was chosen in 1540 by Alonzo Caceres, sent thither with 1,000 men for that purpose by Hernan Cortes, his commander. A more central spot could not have been chosen. A broad plain, 2,300 feet above the sea, half encircled with mountain peaks and with fine soil and temperature averaging not more than 75 degrees, and varying less than twenty degrees throughout the year, where corn and wheat grow beside the pineapple and the palm, apple and orange orchards standing side by side, here indeed united the best of tropical and temperate climes. But this very redundancy of natural wealth, with its isolation in the heart of the continent, proves the greatest drawback to its development. It would seem that the greater the freedom the greater the laziness, with such a people so environed, for the 30,000 persons here in the time of the viceroys have fallen off to some 5,000. For all this it was a good enough place in which to hatch revolutions; so easy of incubation were they in Central America following independence. But in Honduras the people seemed not very fierce about it; they could not make up their minds to be energetic about anything; so when in 1885 President Marco A. Soto, for some reason best known to himself, sailed away to San Francisco and sent back his resignation, General Brogan took his place with none to say him nay.
A better town is Tegucigalpa, the commercial center as well as present capital of the government. front of the cathedral stands a large stone monument raised to royalty, but with exceptional economy or aversion to labor the original inscription was removed and the pillar left undisturbed as an exclamation point to independence. At the base of this pillar criminals are shot; sometimes traitors, as was the case with bluff old General Delgrado, who raised a revolution in 1886 which came to grief as a rebellion through the general apathy. President Brogan very fairly offered the general his life if he would swear allegiance to existing powers; but the old soldier would not. He asked of his enemy but one favor, that he might give the word of command to fire at his own execution. This was granted him, and the word which brought him death was given with apparent gusto. Tegucigalpa stands by a river on a rocky plain surrounded by treeless hills, the whole having an aspect somewhat barren and forbidding. It has paved streets, is twice as large as Comayagua, though that is not saying much. The wealth and fashion of the republic live here. The buildings are chiefly adobe, and there are no carriages. They have free schools but there are few of them; education is compulsory, but no one enforces the law. Every Spanish American country has its Washington, as every Spanish American republic is patterned after the great Anglo-American republic. Francisco Morazan was the Honduras Washington; for he it was who shook his first in the face of the imbecile Ferdinand who then sat on the Spanish throne; that was about all there was of it. True, the clergy came forward and fought for their property; banditti from out the woods came forth to help first one and then another, and finally to rob all; one of a million turned out a patriot and hero, and he was the one who survived the others.
In the haciendas of Honduras, likewise a dolce, far niente life is led. Indians and half-breeds swarm about the place, little better than the vermin which they breed, living on tortillas and fruit which costs nothing but the trouble of picking, lashed into a little work now and then, and that is all. Nature here is lavish of her luxuries, for silk as well as cotton grows upon the trees,—vegetable silk they call it,—a fine soft fiber used in making scrapes, rebozas, and even dresses. Then there are medicinal plants without compare, all prolific of wealth and of spontaneous growth. Improvements may come if people will have patience; a century ago was begun a national highway which two more centuries will finish, and then Tegucigalpa will have wheel connection with Amapala, her Pacific seaport, which nestles among the verdant hills on the border of Fonseca bay, with its whitewashed walls, barracks, long wharf, and custom house. Under the coconut palms is a marble statue of Morazan.
A man here may be rich in cattle, corn, and plantains, and yet live with his family in a thatched hut, twenty feet square, made of poles stuck into the ground; floor of earth and a heap of stones for the fire place; no window, no chimney, three bedsteads and a hammock; no chairs or table, meals being eaten from a shelf,—a true picture. There are fine rivers offering every facility for crocodile hunting, with plenty of crocodiles. Gold, silver, and other metals are plentiful; also fine woods. But whatever requires labor the people shun, so that abandoned mines are marked by abandoned villages. These old mines are better than new ones, as only the rich ones attract attention, and little work is done on any of them before they are given up.
Balise, the capital of British Honduras, does some business in sarsaparilla, dyewoods, and mahogany. Next after cutting logwood and mahogany, the chief industry is agriculture—growing bananas, cocoanuts, plantains, coffee, rubber, corn, and sugar. There is a plentiful supply of sugar-mills and rum-mills.
Though the republic of Salvador is small, the people are active, intelligent, and more enterprising than are their neighbors. They were the first to throw off the yoke of Spain and the first to emancipate themselves from the temporal power of the church. For a time the provisional congress was driven by the royalists from one town to another, until in December 1822 an act was passed to unite Salvador to the republic of the United States; but the prompt action of the other Central American states in securing independence, and the confederacy which followed, prevented formal application to the Anglo-American republic for admission.
Salvador has 157 miles of sea-coast and no harbor. At La Libertad lighters take the place of wharves, although an iron pier runs out three-quarters of a mile toward the vessel, which fears to approach it. All along this harborless coast passengers and freight are hoisted from the ship to a high pier by means of steam crane and iron cage, so heavy is the swell of the sea. The tiled roofs of La Libertad glow red upon a background of green. Passing hence through plantations of sugarcane and coffee, corn, and beans, with occasional glimpses of the ocean, while the surf sounds its heavy boom and myriads of screaming birds of brilliant plumage fill the air, ascent through the hills is made to San Salvador, capital city of the republic of Salvador. At first among the foliage the white corrugated galvanized iron dome of the cathedral is seen; then the Central park and market may be approached over a paved street. Sheet iron and wood enter largely into the construction of houses, making this differ from most other Spanish American cities. Fronting Morazan Park, where stands a bronze statue of the patriot made in Genoa, is the wooden theater, made in San Francisco and brought hither in pieces, the interior ornamented in white and gold. Wire screens cover the lower proscenium boxes for the benefit of families in mourning who may wish to attend unseen. The cathedral is expected to have a new iron facade from France, with a finish of oiled red cedar throughout the interior of the building. The two-story national palace spreads over an entire square. Twenty bare-footed soldiers sit on benches to guard the imposing entrance, lest revolution should enter unawares. The university and national institute buildings are likewise of two stories, with galvanized iron roofs and fronts of wood and stucco. On the plaza de Armas is the president's palace, a large wooden house, two stories high, supporting a three-story square tower. The city of San Salvador stands on a mesa 2,800 feet above and eighteen miles distant from the ocean. Two of the eleven volcanoes which encircle the plain, San Miguel and Yzalco, are constantly active, the latter having regular eruptions every seven minutes; the other nine break out occasionally. The city has suffered severely from earthquakes and eruptions, having been many times almost wholly or partially destroyed; hence the houses are low, even the buildings about the plaza presenting an insignificant appearance. The town of Santa Tecla, twelve miles distant, is likewise built with due respect to earthquakes.
The seas which are north and south of the Isthmus where Vasco Nunez made his discovery, at Nicaragua are due east and west, another peculiarity being that San Juan del Norte on the east side is more southerly than San Juan del Sur on the west side. At neither place does the town or harbor amount to much, even as termini of an interoceanic canal, which on the Pacific side is to be at Brito, twenty miles north of San Juan. Freight is landed at Corinto from lighters, and carried to the warehouses on the naked backs of very dark skinned natives. Leon, and Managua the capital, like so many of the other towns in Central America, are buried in foliage. Much of the country around is covered with forests, in places quite scrubby. One of the most imposing buildings in Managua is the School of Arts and Trades, of two stories. More intelligence and wealth are found in Granada, as well as better buildings. Masaya differs little from Granada and Managua, but Leon is larger and has more churches, the archiepiscopal palace standing on the plaza and the cathedral covering a block.
After all has been said that may be, Nicaragua is the land of indigenous revolutions; fighting springs spontaneously from the ground, and although their wars do not amount to much, none bring killed and few wounded, they are perennial.
They shot Walker, the filibuster when he went there, to interfere; that was right, and only in vindication of Central American Monroe doctrine. Some countries enjoy religion, some money-making, but Nicaragua enjoys civil war. Like Honduras, it is a land of magnificent possibilities; it was so before ever Cortes came; it will remain so until peopled by a better race. There is one good government road in the republic, made before ever a republic was thought of some 300 years ago, from Granada to the sea. Carts pass over it, the only vehicles in the country, and soldiers; the road is quite convenient in time of civil war. Carts, ox-carts, are an institution in this country, as railways are in Germany, steamboats in England, and electric cars in the United States. There are rich mining districts; and thence down to the Mosquito Coast is a fine forest of the most beautiful woods, which thus far has scarcely been disturbed by the cormorants of civilization. Mahogany, here and in Honduras, vast forests of it, and rosewood, and the rest. The India-rubber tree is plentiful also, but the product is not as good as that of Brazil. Cocoa grows wild, and the indigo and many other valuable plants flourish.
There is a university, so-called, at Leon, and another at Granada, the first having forty and the other fifty students. There are sixty schools; education has been fought over as well as other things in Nicaragua; the quality of such education may be left to the imagination of the reader. Leon was a fine city once; there are now the remains of seventeen churches one of which, it is said cost $5,000,000. From the tower of this church may be seen thirteen of eighteen volcanoes that surround the lakes of Managua and Nicaragua. All have been sprinkled with holy water, and so rendered harmless except Momotombo, who refuses to receive baptism, being so discourteous, some 200 years ago, as to consume three monks who attempted to plant a cross on his crest and throw holy water into his mouth. Cosequina, near Granada, seems to have the strongest lungs, being able to throw ashes 1,500 miles, all over the West Indies, and even to Bogota, which event occurred in the eruption of 1835, thus sending her coals to Newcastle indeed. Before the filibuster Walker destroyed the town in 1857. Granada, at the eastern end of the valley of Nicaragua, was the abode of the aristocracy; during vice-regal rule this was the great commercial city, 1,000 or 2,000 mules arriving daily, during the busy season, with bullion and other natural products to be sent to Spain. Managua, on the shore of Lake Managua, is the place of politics, the wealthy inhabitants being for the most part planters, with estancias in the country. The houses of the president and leading men are elegantly furnished within, but the ever-threatening earthquakes prevent height or grandeur without.
Walker’s first attempt at filibustering was in Guatemala, where he worked himself up to the position of dictator for a short time; but soon overthrown, he was glad to find himself safe at home again. Then he gathered a handful of men at New Orleans, and getting possession of a small vessel sailed away on the full tide of the manifest destiny he liked to talk about. It was not that this American filibuster lacked the ambition of the European filibuster who met his fate at Waterloo that he was not as great a man; he greatly desired to rule and be famous, and probably would have been had he possessed the ability of Napoleon and had met the opportunity as did the Corsican; yet Walker was not without his Waterloo,—at the battle of Rivas where he fought the Costa Ricans and the Nicaraguans, and being defeated took refuge on a British war ship whose captain gave him up to be shot. Probably Walker deserved his fate, but it was a beastly captain all the same.
For three and a half centuries men have talked about cutting a ditch from Lake Nicaragua through the twelve-miles-wide strip which separates it from the Pacific ocean, and clearing out the San Juan river so that ships might pass from ocean to ocean. Over a like period the drainage of the valley of Mexico has been discussed and attempted. Meanwhile a score of things, each as great as this, have been accomplished elsewhere, and little thought of it, President Diaz even carrying forward his great drainage scheme. But owing to the nature of our political system, a narrow-minded, penurious, and dog-in-the-manger policy has prevailed in congress, where thrice the amount required to carry out this profitable benefaction is every year squandered by the lawmakers of a nation which will neither act itself nor let another do the work.
This is the same government which spends $20,000,000 every year to carry for next to nothing in its mails trashy novels for the benefit of booksellers, and stands supinely by and sees the agriculturists, miners, and manufacturers of the whole western part of the republic robbed and ruined by railway monopolists, which the lawmakers create and foster. It is estimated that the Nicaragua canal would cost $100,000,000; were it to cost $200,000,000 it would be but a trifle as compared with the benefits which would accrue therefrom to the country.
Punta Arenas, on the gulf of Nicoya, stands upon a sandy point, as the name indicates, with a background of dense tropical foliage and grassland. The one-story dwellings with tiled roofs and enclosed in cactus fences, are almost smothered in trees and flowers, magnolia, coconut, palms, and papayas, the almond, orange, and lime, bananas, mangoes, and tamarinds. Living and the cares of life are here reduced to a minimum; people may live comfortably in bamboo huts, dressed in cotton, and eating the spontaneous fruits which scarcely require plucking; hence one sees everywhere contented happy faces, happiness and contentment, according to the old saw, depending less on what one has than on what one does not want. Conspicuous here are great coffee warehouses, well filled during the marketing season. The chief cities of Costa Rica are in the interior; Alajuela, 3,000 feet high; Heredia, San Jose, and Cartago, the last named 5,000 feet high. Coming hither from Punta Arenas, one crosses on a stone bridge the rio Grande, on whose tributaries are mines of coal, copper, and gold, and near Atenas the gold mines of Aguacate. Alajuela has a beautiful bronze fountain, and San Jose, a marble monument of President Fernandez, and a government university. All around is one vast coffee plantation, conspicuous among which are the lands of Senor Troyo, between Aguas Calientes and Cartago. At the hot springs of Agua Calientes is a large brick hotel with every accommodation for bathers. The larger plantations have mills and factories for shelling, cleaning, and drying the coffee, the machinery being usually run by water power. San Jose is a tropical garden city, embowered in flowers and foliage, the villas of the wealthy being separated by cactus hedges and fences of wild pineapple. Calle del Commercio is the business street, and in or near the grand plaza, here called Central park, are the inevitable cathedral, cuartel, government, president's and other palaces. In the center of the park is a garden of orchids, a fountain, and parakeets with clipped wings in black, gray, blue, and yellow. The cathedral has a doric facade, dome, and two towers. Within all is white and gold, with a floor of light colored tile, a band stand, and special worshipping-ground for the soldiers. The hall of congress is in the government palace; crystal chandeliers overhang the chairs and desks, and on the walls are portraits of notable men, as Morazan, Guardia, Carillo, and Soto. There are here, likewise, the buildings of the palace of Justice, and the International club, and, not to be forgotten, the National Liquor factory, where from the juice of the sugar-cane are made aguardiente, or rum; guarapo, a fermentation, the aguardiente being a distillation, and all under government monopoly. The works, enclosed in fortress-like walls, stand on a hill near the railway station and with engine, fermentation and storage houses, cover two acres. Besides the 1,500,000 bottles of the stuff here annually made, and which is but twenty-two percent alcohol and hence not so strong as common whiskey, imported beer and wine are extensively drunk, and yet the hard-working hard-drinking people carry it all off without any great display of intoxication. For it is only the working men who have money with which to buy drink; the poor fellows who will not work shall by no means taste the sweets of drunkenness.
Between 1804 and 1868 the yield of precious metals of the five republics of Central America was estimated at $21,200,000, of which $13,800,000 was in gold, and $7,400,000 in silver. Since the latter date the average yearly supply has been roughly computed at $300,000 in gold, and $200,000 in silver.
Guatemala is not a mining country, though in the latter part of the eighteenth century the district in the Alotepec Mountains yielded large quantities of silver, and between 1858 and 1865, 621,000 ounces were obtained from it. The river sands in the department of Chiquimula are auriferous, and are washed by the Indians. Gold placers in the department of Izabal were also being worked, and there are a few very promising silver mines. There are also deposits of lead, cinnabar, coal, kaolin and marble.
In 1860 and for some years previously, about $400,000 in bullion was exported annually from Honduras, most of it being gold gathered by the Indians from shallow washings. Silver ores are abundant, being found principally in the Pacific group of mountains, while the gold washings are the most numerous on the Atlantic side. The mineral districts in Tegucigalpa, Choluteca, and Gracias are very rich in silver, the chief supplies of gold being from the washings of Olancho; for though gold mines abound in Honduras, only a few have been worked. The Guayape, a tributary of the Patuca, and the Jahan rivers, and the streams running into them are the richest in auriferous sands .
In Salvador, the only deposits of precious metals are found in the portion of the state which is geographically connected with the mountain system of Honduras. There are rich mines of iron near Santa Ana and of coal the valley of the river Lempa and some of its tributaries, covering a region 100 miles long by 20 in breadth.
Nicaragua possesses an enormous wealth of minerals which, except on a small scale, have not as yet been developed. Gold, silver, zinc, iron, copper, lead, tin, and antimony are found in abundance, and there are also deposits of gypsum marble, alabaster, lime, and saltpeter. The entire northern frontier abounds in silver. Gold veins are found in the Cordillera, extending to the San Juan river, the principal one crossing the Machuca river. The metal is almost pure when washed from the river beds, but when dug out of the earth is more or less mixed with silver.
Manufactures are in their infancy in Central America. Since 1871 the governments of several republics have endeavored to promote their development; but the results, thus far, have not answered expectations. However, they are by no means unknown in the country. In Guatemala good factories have been established for spinning and weaving textiles at Quetzaltenango. In Chiquimula palm-leaf hats, mats, and baskets from the maguey fiber are made. In Vera Paz the Indians make hammocks, bags, rope, etc. But, the fact stands officially acknowledged that domestic products cannot compete even in the Guatemalan market with the better and cheaper ones brought from abroad. In Honduras manufactures are at a very low ebb. Salvador possesses factories for making cotton and silk rebozos, which find a ready market throughout Central America. Hammocks, as earthenware, straw hats, cigarettes, sweetmeats, etc., are manufactured. Rum is made in Guatemala, from sugar-cane. In Nicaragua there is a total lack of skilled mechanics. The manufacturing industry is as yet restricted to a few articles of home consumption which are made by Indians, such as pottery, mats, baskets, palm-leaf and maguey hats, cordage and hammocks. The hammocks of Masaya and Sultiaba are good. Some coarse cotton goods are made, in good repute for their strength and permanent colors. In late years some improved machinery has been imported for refining sugar, ginning cotton, distilling liquors, cleaning coffee, sawing lumber, and extracting fibers. In Costa Rica domestic manufactures mainly consist of furniture, arms, hammocks, nets, cotton goods, and pottery, all on a primitive scale and in small quantity. The government offered subsidies in 1885 for silk culture, and for the manufacture of paper, rebozos, cotton goods, and sacks. In the succeeding year the following establishments were in operation: Two iron foundries, 58 forges, 7 armories, 72 saw-mills, 2 cotton mills, 252 coffee-mills, 9 sugar, 2 ice, 5 soap, one vermicelli, one oil, one Remington caps factory, 2 breweries, one distillery, 438 iron, and 612 wooden mills, two sculpture workshops, 117 ovens for making tile and brick, 31 lime kilns, besides a number of artisans' shops.
The central republics are well provided with roads and bridges, but they are not kept in the best condition. The national highways of Costa Rica, owing to the destructive action of the winter rains, are often in a dilapidated condition. It is due to the government, however, to say that it endeavors to improve them. In Nicaragua, the public roads are fit only for mule travel, except at short distances from the chief towns, which wagons can traverse. In the rainy season they are almost impassable. The same is to be said in regard to those of Honduras. Much has been done, however, in recent years toward improving the roads, and constructing bridges. Salvador has been for some years past macadamizing her highways. Guatemala is well provided with roads and bridges, and derives a revenue from tolls, which is expended in repairs, and in constructing new roads and bridges. The first line of railway built in Guatemala, that from San Jose to the capital, via Escuintla, 69 miles, went into operation in September 1884. Another line, from Champerico to Retalhuleu, 30 miles, was opened in December 1883. A new line, from the port of Santo Tomas to Gualhos was begun in September 1884. During the administration of President J. Rufino Barrios, measures were adopted to connect by railway the capital with the Caribbean sea, intending at the same time to build a line from Coban to the Polochic river. Barrios' untimely death put a stop to such projects for a time.
Telegraph lines intersect the republics, and are the property of the several governments. The construction of telegraphic lines began about 1870. A submarine cable, extended from the port of La Libertad to Panama, furnishes rapid telegraphic communication between Central America and the outer world. Under the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation existing between the United States and Guatemala, the vessels of either nation are admitted into the ports of the other on the same footing as national vessels. The coasting trade is reserved to the national Hag.
Honduran vessels are placed at the ports of the United States on the same footing as those of the latter, with respect to duties, imposts, and charges. Upon the arrival of a vessel at a port of Honduras she is visited by an officer of the customs, who demands her clearance from the port of departure, and information on the nature of her cargo. The master must produce within twenty-four hours a manifest in triplicate of the cargo to the chief officer of the custom house.
The treaty existing between Salvador and the United States stipulates that the vessels of either nation, no matter where they come from or how laden, shall be treated at the ports of the other, as regards tonnage, light dues, or any other charges whatsoever, as national vessels.
Any favors granted to any other foreign nation by cither of the contracting parties, will apply equally to the other. With respect to import duties, imports into Salvador on vessels of the United States, no matter whence the merchandise came, or what its origin is. must be subjected to the same duties, charges, and fees, as similar imports in vessels of Salvador; and if these imports consist of articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of the United States, they cannot be made to pay higher or other duties than other similar imports, the growth, produce, or manufacture of any other foreign country. The same rules apply in ports of the United States to imports on Salvadoran vessels.
Nicaragua is entitled by treaty with the United States to have her vessels and their cargoes treated at the ports of the latter on the footing of the most favored nation. This stipulation is equally applied to American vessels in Nicaraguan ports.
Costa Rica and the United States have a treaty which places the vessels and cargoes of either country on the footing of the most favored nation at the ports of the other. But in Costa Rica, rum, firearms, and munitions of war cannot be imported without a permit from the Costa Rican government, previously obtained. Tobacco, gunpowder, and saltpeter can be introduced only on government account.
During the last quarter of the last century and the first quarter of the present one, Europe was forced to release from her clutches no inconsiderable part of the foreign domains taken from others. England lost the United States; Spain lost all her American possessions save Cuba and Porto Rico; Holland lost the Cape of Good Hope; France lost her best colonies, but the hungry and fast-breeding hordes of Great Britain and other avaricious and not too Christian nations of Europe, lighted like birds of prey on certain parts of Africa and Asia, and fastened with their talons perpetual slavery upon the defenseless inhabitants. War was everywhere; men so like to butcher men. A continental blockade paralyzed commerce, and compelled most nations to import their colonial products, and also their cotton by way of Russia and Turkey. On the restoration of peace in 1815 trade revived, notwithstanding the obstacles thrown in its way by a line of internal custom houses, and the commercial policy adopted by the several nations. The most important measure for developing German commerce was the zollverein, or customs union, initiated by Prussia in 1833. One of the most potent elements of prosperity in trade is rapidity of communications, and of transportation. This desideratum has been attained by the construction of railways and telegraphs, while other factors are the improved machinery and methods applied to the development of agriculture and manufactures. Commerce has likewise been benefited by the removal of many pernicious obstructions. Great Britain, for instance, put an end to the monopoly of the East India Company, abolished the duty on foreign cereals, and reduced her tariff rates, thus securing for her trade an enormous development. The United States followed her closely in some, points with similar results.
The Hispano-American republics, after encountering almost insurmountable difficulties in consolidating their institutions, at last inaugurated an era of peace, which promises to be lasting, and their commerce has been keeping pace with the rapid development of their agricultural and other industries. Brazil has also made vast strides in supplying the markets of the world with her staples, especially with coffee. Great Britain, chiefly, France in the second rank, and Germany in late years, have had almost the entire control of the Mexican, and Central and South American demand for manufactured goods. The United States have not made such progress in this direction as their position and other circumstances permitted.
On the 15th of April, 1887, the treaty concluded at Guatemala, between the five republics of Central America was officially published. The aim of the diet there assembled was "to establish an intimate relationship between them, and by making the continuance of peace certain, to provide for their future final fusion into one country.” The treaty contains 32 articles: The first article declares that there shall be perpetual peace between the republics; all differences shall be arranged, and when not possible by mutual agreement, then referred to arbitration. In the case of armed disputes between two or more, the rest are to maintain the strictest neutrality. All the republics bind themselves to respect the independence of the others, and to forbid the preparation in any one of expeditions to assail any of the others. Article six gives to the citizens of the different states similar privileges and rights throughout all of them.
Constitutions must be amended to this effect. Article seven stipulates that the citizens of any Spanish-American republic may become naturalized after one year's residence, and natives of other countries after three years' residence. Article eight exempts the citizens of one republic from military or naval service in another, and from forced loans or military contributions, and in no case are they to be obliged to pay ordinary or extraordinary taxes other than those paid by the natives of the state. Articles thirteen to seventeen are intended to establish a reciprocal freedom of navigation between the five countries; equality in port privileges; civil, commercial, and criminal suits are placed on the same footing in the several republics. Article twenty-seven provides that the contracting parties will endeavor peacefully so to frame matters gold mining, Honduras as to render possible the ultimate confederation of the five republics. Article thirty calls upon the governments of the different states to respect the democratic principles of the several constitutions, and always refuse to support second presidential terms.
The population of the five republics of Central America may be estimated at about 3,070,000; like that of Mexico, it is made up of many mixtures with these differences, that in Guatemala Honduras, Salvador, and, Nicaragua, the pure Indian element largely predominates, and in Costa Rica the white.
Under a decree of President Barrios of Guatemala, dated in December, 1879, an excellent system of public instruction was established, compulsory as well as gratuitous, and embracing the following branches: Reading, practical rudiments of the country's language, the knowledge of objects, writing, linear drawing, geography and history, ethics, and good manners. Facilities are also afforded for gratuitous instruction in Spanish grammar, book-keeping, elements of natural history, geography and history of Central America, together with other complementary branches. There are institutes held for teachers at three places each year, which teachers are expected to attend, in order to profit by the new information which will be laid before them connected with their especial calling. It is understood that the teachers are ambitious to acquire the utmost efficiency.
Miscellany—Summing up the resources and wealth of Central America we find in abundance gold, silver, tobacco, sarsaparilla, sugar, cocoa, indigo, and dye-woods. Costa Rica is conspicuous in her exports of coffee, hides, and cedar, of the first of which there are twenty-five or thirty million pounds annually. Nicaragua has mines of the precious metals, and has also copper, iron, and lead. The fruits of the tropics here abound, exports of sarsaparilla, aloes, ipecacuanha, ginger, copal, gumarabic, and caoutchouc being prominent. The minerals of Honduras are gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, platinum, antimony, zinc, and cinnabar; there are likewise coal, marble, opals, amethysts, limestone, chalk, and asbestos. The timber is very valuable; then to all the usual tropical productions may be added beans potatoes and wheat. Guatemala exports coffee, sugar, wheat, tobacco, India-rubber, cinchona, indigo, and mahogany. The soil of Salvador is extremely fertile, and sends forth balsam, indigo, sugar, cotton, cocoa, spices and turpentine, as well as some silver and iron although the mineral wealth is not great. In the early part of the present century cattle were the mainstay of the large estates in Central America, but the great staple was indigo. Sugar and raspadura were also important crops, but a yet more valuable one was corn. Some tobacco was also grown. The cocoa plantations had ceased to exist. The cultivation of jiquilite, cochineal and vanilla, had also declined. Seeing this, the Guatemalan government passed laws for the protection and development of agriculture, and soon a change became visible. Coffee and sugar came to the front, and are now the chief source of wealth in the country. Other staples likewise assumed importance. There is a sugar-cane indigenous to Honduras; the soil on both coasts is adapted to cotton; there is also much good coffee and tobacco land. So it is in all these republics; the possibilities in every direction are great, and development is progressing. Mount Merendon, in Honduras, was long celebrated for its gold and silver mines. Up to the middle of the present century, mining was the chief industry; then, owing largely to political disturbances, many mines were abandoned, the owners becoming proprietors of great grazing estates. Between 1850 and 1860 the natives collected annually from shallow washings gold to the value of $400,000. There is this peculiarity in regard to metalliferous deposits; while silver ores are most abundant on the Pacific side, placer gold, if not deep diggings are mostly on the Atlantic side. The mineral districts in Gracias, Tegucigalpa, and Choluteca are rich in silver, and in some places there are opals and amethysts. One mine yielded 58 percent of copper and 80 ounces of silver to the ton. The placer mines of Olancho are prominent in Honduras, Guayape, and Talan rivers and tributary streams are rich in auriferous sands. The southern districts bordering on Nicaragua have rich placers. The laws of New Spain are here in force; foreigners are allowed to work mines. At Izabal, in Guatemala, gold placers are extensively worked, and there are indications of large silver deposits. In Quetzaltenango is quicksilver. Nicaragua has great mineral wealth, as yet but slightly developed, although the laws favor mining by natives and foreigners. Nearly all the metals here abound.
There are deposits of copper, lead, and iron pronounced inexhaustible. There is some little quick-silver here. The more famous mines of this republic are the Ticaro, Santa Rosa, Achuapa, San Francisco, Potosi, and Corpus. There are others as good or better which have not yet come into notice. Salvador has large iron deposits near Santa Ana, and the silver mines of Tabanco, Encuentros, Sociedad, Lomo Larga, Divisaderos, Capetilla, and the minas de Tabanco group. Although Costa Rica is called the rich coast, it has less mineral wealth than any other of the five republics. There are gold mines near Panama, in the Aginatc Sierra, and at cuesta del Tosote. There are unquestionably mineral deposits on the Isthmus; there is gold in Darien, and elsewhere, from ocean to ocean, but it is guarded by jungle, morass, and deadly malaria. The Santa Cruz de Cana began to be worked during the latter part of the 17th century. All these countries have mints for coinage. During the century Central America has probably given to the world $25,000,000 in gold and $15,000,000 in silver. From first to last the output of precious metals by the United States of Colombia has been about $750,000,000. While at work on their great interoceanic canal, the French had commercial possession of the Isthmus; they gave impetus to trade, increased population, and brought into use their decimal system as applied to weights measures and money.
In some of the early books on America are pictures of the natives pouring molten gold down the throats of the Spanish conquerors, and saying "Eat, Christian, eat; take thy fill of gold!" The question arises, Did these savages of Central America ever hear of Marcus Licinius Crassus, surnamed the Rich, one of the Roman triumvirate who sought to make himself master of Parthia, but failed, and being brought before Orodes, had molten gold poured down his throat, his captor saying, "Sate thy greed with this, thou hungry hound;" or of Manlius Nepos Aquilius, who was put to death by Mithridates by pouring melted gold down his throat—did the savages of Central America ever hear of this, or were they of as original bent of mind as the old Grecians and Romans, or did Peter Martyr, Las Casas, and Stephen Gage draw it all from their imagination?
Some one set in motion the idea that there were great riches in El Infierno de Masaya, as the crater of the burning mountain between lakes Nicaragua and Managua was called. So in the summer of 1538 two priests, Blasdel Castillo and Juan de Gandavo, formed a joint-stock company for the purpose of emptying this mountain of its molten money. A windlass was placed over the crater, and a beam thirty feet in length let down; after which descended one of the priests with an iron helmet on his head and a crucifix in his hand, accompanied by three others of the association. In an iron pot they placed earthen vessels into which they proposed to pour the liquid gold dipped from the molten mass. On being drawn up, after remaining in the abyss over night, they reported the presence there of great treasures, though they brought none away with them. Again in 1551 Juan Alverez, dean of the Chapter of Leon, obtained permission from Madrid to open the volcano and secure the gold that it contained. It was long held in Europe that volcanoes contained precious metals. As late as 1822 Monticelli and Covelli were obliged to make a chemical analysis of the ashes thrown out by Vesuvius in order to prove that they contained no gold.
Without the least idea of what they were understanding, a Scotch colony of several hundred persons in 1699 attempted settlements on the Isthmus at Caledonia bay. After building a road from the North to the South Sea, and beginning some other improvements, the few that survived the fever and the pirates made their way back to Scotland.
During the first century of the Spanish occupation of America, the isthmus of Panama, or Darien, was the pivotal point of commerce and transportation. And later yet, when the cry of gold was heard from the California sierra, thousands passed up the Chagres river on their way thither, or rode from Aspinwall by rail, to the same Panama,—yet not the same, for the old Panama was five miles away, having been abandoned 300 years before, when it was destroyed by the buccaneers.
At an early date there had been frequent discussions over the coal deposits at Panama and at Magdelena. The Chiriqui Land and Improvement Company, organized in 1859, was prevented from developing coal by local wars. At San Andres, in Sinu province, and elsewhere are extensive deposits.
In the capital of Costa Rica is a statue of a female figure with her foot on the head of a prostrate William Walker. Filibusters beware!
The Caribs, who inhabited the eastern islands of the Antilles and the opposite shore of the South American mainland, and who gave their name to the Caribbean Sea, were no worse man-eaters than a hundred other nations, including our own respected ancestors, who failed to acquire such historical distinction. Cannibalism is seldom if ever resorted to from preference for food, but is practiced rather as a religious rite, or from revenge, or in honor of the dead, or to absorb with the dead warrior’s flesh some part of his courage.
For the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, Secretary Seward in 1866 offered the king of Denmark $5,000,000, which was accepted; but congress declining to furnish the money the purchase was never consummated. Both Seward and congress were but right enough; doubtless the islands were worth the money, what do we want with them? Why should the United States go around buying islands? Alaska was not high at $7,000,000; but do we want the earth?
Cuba exports $60,000,000 a year in sugar, United States merchants and manufacturers have invested in Cuba $40,000,000, more in sugar than in tobacco, some of the money being loaned on plantations in the provinces of Cienfuegos, Las Tunas, Sagua, Santiago de Cuba, Manzanilla, Trinidad, and Matanzas. Fourteen plantations owned in the United States yield 100,000 tons annually, or one-tenth of the entire production of the island. Four United States companies are largely the owners of the rich iron mines in the province of Santiago de Cuba, at the eastern end of the island.
Jamaica has a government cinchona plantation. In Spanish-town visitors are shown the King's House and grounds, barracks, and Rodney monument and garden.
Santiago de Cuba, once the capital of the island, has a good harbor, and in the town a fine cathedral, custom-house, hospital, and cigar works.
Until 1863 Havana was a walled city, the intramural portion being at the harbor with narrow streets, while the extramural city was spaciously laid out with wide streets, plazas, and gardens well adorned with trees. The houses are chiefly of stone, with flat roofs, white marble and gaudy coloring being conspicuous. Monasteries and nunneries abound; there are seven hospitals, several asylums, university, seminary, and military and art schools and 100 cigar manufactories of the first class. La Honradez factory occupies a whole square and makes 2,500,000 cigarettes a day. In ordinary times Havana exports annually 200,000 million cigars, and 8,000,000 pounds of tobacco.
The two best fortified towns about the Isthmus were Panama on one side and Cartagena on the other.
The glory of Havana is the paseo, and the glory of the paseo are the volantes. It is for the paseo and the volante that men work and women dress. If there be another glory it is the volante's in the person of its driver, he who rides the horse that draws the cart, he and the gold lace on his coal.
Before the emancipation Cuba had 600,000 slaves.
They charge it to the abolition of slavery, the decadence of Jamaica, for however bad black men as slaves may be they are, worse when free, the planter says. Look at this island in the days of its glory! English dukes governed it, spending and pocketing thousands in behalf of royal magnificence here and at home. Families got rich, and English brides were not averse to the country. Niggers worked, and white men were master. Now all is changed; so they say.
Soulougue, surnamed Faustin the First, black, for twelve years emperor of Hayti, during that time secured three or four hundred thousand pounds in the English funds; but becoming too ambitious, as his brother blacks thought he felt constrained with the queen and all the royal family, to retire to Jamaica, which he did, the princes and princesses of his black blood royal, thereafter forever declaring Victoria their king.