BOHN'S SCIENTIFIC LIBRARY.
HUMBOLDT'S PERSONAL NARRATIVE
PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF TRAVELS TO THE EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS OF AMERICA DURING THE YEARS 1799-1804
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT AND AIME BONPLAND.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT AND EDITED BY THOMASINA ROSS.
IN THREE VOLUMES
GEORGE BELL & SONS. 1908. LONDON: PORTUGAL STREET, LINCOLN'S INN. CAMBRIDGE: DEIGHTON, BELL AND CO. NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO. BOMBAY: A.H. WHEELER AND CO.
The longitudes mentioned in the text refer always to the meridian of the Observatory of Paris.
The real is about 6 1/2 English pence.
The agrarian measure, called caballeria, is eighteen cordels, (each cordel includes twenty-four varas) or 432 square varas; consequently, as 1 vara = 0.835m., according to Rodriguez, a caballeria is 186,624 square varas, or 130,118 square metres, or thirty-two and two-tenths English acres.
20 leagues to a degree.
5000 varas = 4150 metres.
3403 square toises = 1.29 hectare.
An acre = 4044 square metres.
Five hundred acres = fifteen and a half caballerias.
Sugar-houses are thought to be very considerable that yield 2000 cases annually, or 32,000 arrobas (nearly 368,000 kilogrammes.)
An arroba of 25 Spanish pounds = 11.49 kilogrammes.
A quintal = 45.97 kilogrammes.
A tarea of wood = one hundred and sixty cubic feet.
SPANISH GUIANA.—ANGOSTURA.—PALM-INHABITING TRIBES.—MISSIONS OF THE CAPUCHINS.—THE LAGUNA PARIME.—EL DORADO.—LEGENDARY TALES OF THE EARLY VOYAGERS.
THE LLANOS DEL PAO, OR EASTERN PART OF THE PLAINS OF VENEZUELA.—MISSIONS OF THE CARIBS.—LAST VISIT TO THE COAST OF NUEVA BARCELONA, CUMANA, AND ARAYA.
POLITICAL STATE OF THE PROVINCES OF VENEZUELA.—EXTENT OF TERRITORY.—POPULATION.—NATURAL PRODUCTIONS.—EXTERNAL TRADE.—COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT PROVINCES COMPRISING THE REPUBLIC OF COLUMBIA.
PASSAGE FROM THE COAST OF VENEZUELA TO THE HAVANA.—GENERAL VIEW OF THE POPULATION OF THE WEST INDIA ISLANDS, COMPARED WITH THE POPULATION OF THE NEW CONTINENT, WITH RESPECT TO DIVERSITY OF RACES, PERSONAL LIBERTY, LANGUAGE, AND WORSHIP.
POLITICAL ESSAY ON THE ISLAND OF CUBA.—THE HAVANNAH.—HILLS OF GUANAVACOA, CONSIDERED IN THEIR GEOLOGICAL RELATIONS.—VALLEY OF LOS GUINES, BATABANO, AND PORT OF TRINIDAD.—THE KING AND QUEEN'S GARDENS.
PASSAGE FROM TRINIDAD DE CUBA TO RIO SINU.—CARTHAGENA.—AIR VOLCANOES OF TURBACO.—CANAL OF MAHATES.
CUBA AND THE SLAVE TRADE.
GEOGNOSTIC DESCRIPTION OF SOUTH AMERICA, NORTH OF THE RIVER AMAZON, AND EAST OF THE MERIDIAN OF THE SIERRA NEVADA DE MERIDA.
PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A JOURNEY TO THE EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS OF THE NEW CONTINENT.
SPANISH GUIANA. ANGOSTURA. PALM-INHABITING TRIBES. MISSIONS OF THE CAPUCHINS. THE LAGUNA PARIME. EL DORADO. LEGENDARY TALES OF THE EARLY VOYAGERS.
I shall commence this chapter by a description of Spanish Guiana (Provincia de la Guyana), which is a part of the ancient Capitania general of Caracas. Since the end of the sixteenth century three towns have successively borne the name of St. Thomas of Guiana. The first was situated opposite to the island of Faxardo, at the confluence of the Carony and the Orinoco, and was destroyed* by the Dutch, under the command of Captain Adrian Janson, in 1579. (* The first of the voyages undertaken at Raleigh's expense was in 1595; the second, that of Laurence Keymis, in 1596; the third, described by Thomas Masham, in 1597; and the fourth, in 1617. The first and last only were performed by Raleigh in person. This celebrated man was beheaded on October the 29th, 1618. It is therefore the second town of Santo Tomas, now called Vieja Guyana, which existed in the time of Raleigh.) The second, founded by Antonio de Berrio in 1591, near twelve leagues east of the mouth of the Carony, made a courageous resistance to Sir Walter Raleigh, whom the Spanish writers of the conquest know only by the name of the pirate Reali. The third town, now the capital of the province, is fifty leagues west of the confluence of the Carony. It was begun in 1764, under the Governor Don Joacquin Moreno de Mendoza, and is distinguished in the public documents from the second town, vulgarly called the fortress (el castillo, las fortalezas), or Old Guayana (Vieja Guayana), by the name of Santo Thome de la Nueva Guayana. This name being very long, that of Angostura* (the strait) has been commonly substituted for it. (* Europe has learnt the existence of the town of Angostura by the trade carried on by the Catalonians in the Carony bark, which is the beneficial bark of the Bonplanda trifoliata. This bark, coming from Nueva Guiana, was called corteza or cascarilla del Angostura (Cortex Angosturae). Botanists so little guessed the origin of this geographical denomination that they began by writing Augustura, and then Augusta.)
Angostura, the longitude and latitude of which I have already indicated from astronomical observations, stands at the foot of a hill of amphibolic schist* bare of vegetation. (* Hornblendschiefer.) The streets are regular, and for the most part parallel with the course of the river. Several of the houses are built on the bare rock; and here, as at Carichana, and in many other parts of the missions, the action of black and strong strata, when strongly heated by the rays of the sun upon the atmosphere, is considered injurious to health. I think the small pools of stagnant water (lagunas y anegadizos), which extend behind the town in the direction of south-east, are more to be feared. The houses of Angostura are lofty and convenient; they are for the most part built of stone; which proves that the inhabitants have but little dread of earthquakes. But unhappily this security is not founded on induction from any precise data. It is true that the shore of Nueva Andalusia sometimes undergoes very violent shocks, without the commotion being propagated across the Llanos. The fatal catastrophe of Cumana, on the 4th of February, 1797, was not felt at Angostura; but in the great earthquake of 1766, which destroyed the same city, the granitic soil of the two banks of the Orinoco was agitated as far as the Raudales of Atures and Maypures. South of these Raudales shocks are sometimes felt, which are confined to the basin of the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro. They appear to depend on a volcanic focus distant from that of the Caribbee Islands. We were told by the missionaries at Javita and San Fernando de Atabapo that in 1798 violent earthquakes took place between the Guaviare and the Rio Negro, which were not propagated on the north towards Maypures. We cannot be sufficiently attentive to whatever relates to the simultaneity of the oscillations, and to the independence of the movements in contiguous ground. Everything seems to prove that the propagation of the commotion is not superficial, but depends on very deep crevices that terminate in different centres of action.
The scenery around the town of Angostura is little varied; but the view of the river, which forms a vast canal, stretching from south-west to north-east, is singularly majestic.
When the waters are high, the river inundates the quays; and it sometimes happens that, even in the town, imprudent persons become the prey of crocodiles. I shall transcribe from my journal a fact that took place during M. Bonpland's illness. A Guaykeri Indian, from the island of La Margareta, was anchoring his canoe in a cove where there were not three feet of water. A very fierce crocodile, which habitually haunted that spot, seized him by the leg, and withdrew from the shore, remaining on the surface of the water. The cries of the Indian drew together a crowd of spectators. This unfortunate man was first seen seeking, with astonishing presence of mind, for a knife which he had in his pocket. Not being able to find it, he seized the head of the crocodile and thrust his fingers into its eyes. No man in the hot regions of America is ignorant that this carnivorous reptile, covered with a buckler of hard and dry scales, is extremely sensitive in the only parts of his body which are soft and unprotected, such as the eyes, the hollow underneath the shoulders, the nostrils, and beneath the lower jaw, where there are two glands of musk. The Guaykeri Indian was less fortunate than the negro of Mungo Park, and the girl of Uritucu, whom I mentioned in a former part of this work, for the crocodile did not open its jaws and lose hold of its prey. The animal, overcome by pain, plunged to the bottom of the river, and, after having drowned the Indian, came up to the surface of the water, dragging the dead body to an island opposite the port. A great number of the inhabitants of Angostura witnessed this melancholy spectacle.
The crocodile, owing to the structure of its larynx, of the hyoidal bone, and of the folds of its tongue, can seize, though not swallow, its prey under water; thus when a man disappears, the animal is usually perceived some hours after devouring its prey on a neighbouring beach. The number of individuals who perish annually, the victims of their own imprudence and of the ferocity of these reptiles, is much greater than is believed in Europe. It is particularly so in villages where the neighbouring grounds are often inundated. The same crocodiles remain long in the same places. They become from year to year more daring, especially, as the Indians assert, if they have once tasted of human flesh. These animals are so wary, that they are killed with difficulty. A ball does not pierce their skin; and the shot is only mortal when it penetrates the throat or a part beneath the shoulder. The Indians, who know little of the use of fire-arms, attack the crocodile with lances, after the animal has been caught with large pointed iron hooks, baited with pieces of meat, and fastened by a chain to the trunk of a tree. They do not approach the animal till it has struggled a long time to disengage itself from the iron fixed in the upper jaw. There is little probability that a country in which a labyrinth of rivers without number brings every day new bands of crocodiles from the eastern back of the Andes, by the Meta and the Apure, toward the coast of Spanish Guiana, should ever be delivered from these reptiles. All that will be gained by civilization will be to render them more timid and more easily put to flight.
Affecting instances are related of African slaves, who have exposed their lives to save those of their masters, who had fallen into the jaws of a crocodile. A few years ago, between Uritucu and the Mission de Abaxo, a negro, hearing the cries of his master, flew to the spot, armed with a long knife (machete), and plunged into the river. He forced the crocodile, by putting out his eyes, to let go his prey and to plunge under the water. The slave bore his expiring master to the shore; but all succour was unavailing to restore him to life. He had died of suffocation, for his wounds were not deep. The crocodile, like the dog, appears not to close its jaws firmly while swimming.
The inhabitants of the banks of the Orinoco and its tributary streams discourse continually on the dangers to which they are exposed. They have marked the manners of the crocodile, as the torero has studied the manners of the bull. When they are assailed, they put in practice, with that presence of mind and that resignation which characterize the Indians, the Zamboes, and copper-coloured men in general, the counsels they have heard from their infancy. In countries where nature is so powerful and so terrible, man is constantly prepared for danger. We have mentioned before the answer of the young Indian girl, who delivered herself from the jaws of the crocodile: "I knew he would let me go if I thrust my fingers into his eyes." This girl belonged to the indigent class of the people, in whom the habits of physical want augment energy of character; but how can we avoid being surprised to observe in the countries convulsed by terrible earthquakes, on the table-land of the province of Quito, women belonging to the highest classes of society display in the moment of peril, the same calm, the same reflecting intrepidity? I shall mention one example only in support of this assertion. On the 4th of February, 1797, when 35,000 Indians perished in the space of a few minutes, a young mother saved herself and her children, crying out to them to extend their arms at the moment when the cracked ground was ready to swallow them up. When this courageous woman heard the astonishment that was expressed at a presence of mind so extraordinary, she answered, with great simplicity, "I had been told in my infancy: if the earthquake surprise you in a house, place yourself under a doorway that communicates from one apartment to another; if you be in the open air and feel the ground opening beneath you, extend both your arms, and try to support yourself on the edge of the crevice." Thus, in savage regions or in countries exposed to frequent convulsions, man is prepared to struggle with the beasts of the forest, to deliver himself from the jaws of the crocodile, and to escape from the conflict of the elements.
The town of Angostura, in the early years of its foundation, had no direct communication with the mother-country. The inhabitants were contented with carrying on a trifling contraband trade in dried meat and tobacco with the West India Islands, and with the Dutch colony of Essequibo, by the Rio Carony. Neither wine, oil, nor flour, three articles of importation the most sought after, was received directly from Spain. Some merchants, in 1771, sent the first schooner to Cadiz; and since that period a direct exchange of commodities with the ports of Andalusia and Catalonia has become extremely active. The population of Angostura,* after having been a long time languishing, has much increased since 1785. (* Angostura, or Santo Thome de la Nueva Guayana, in 1768, had only 500 inhabitants. Caulin page 63. They were numbered in 1780 and the result was 1513 (455 Whites, 449 Blacks, 363 Mulattoes and Zamboes, and 246 Indians). The population in the year 1789 rose to 4590; and in 1800 to 6600 souls. Official Lists manuscript. The capital of the English colony of Demerara, the town of Stabroek, the name of which is scarcely known in Europe, is only fifty leagues distant, south-east of the mouths of the Orinoco. It contains, according to Bolingbroke, nearly 10,000 inhabitants.) At the time of my abode in Guiana, however, it was far from being equal to that of Stabroek, the nearest English town. The mouths of the Orinoco have an advantage over every other part in Terra Firma. They afford the most prompt communications with the Peninsula. The voyage from Cadiz to Punta Barima is performed sometimes in eighteen or twenty days. The return to Europe takes from thirty to thirty-five days. These mouths being placed to windward of all the islands, the vessels of Angostura can maintain a more advantageous commerce with the West Indies than La Guayra and Porto Cabello. The merchants of Caracas, therefore, have been always jealous of the progress of industry in Spanish Guiana; and Caracas having been hitherto the seat of the supreme government, the port of Angostura has been treated with still less favour than the ports of Cumana and Nueva Barcelona. With respect to the inland trade, the most active is that of the province of Varinas, which sends mules, cacao, indigo, cotton, and sugar to Angostura; and in return receives generos, that is, the products of the manufacturing industry of Europe. I have seen long boats (lanchas) set off, the cargoes of which were valued at eight or ten thousand piastres. These boats went first up the Orinoco to Cabruta; then along the Apure to San Vicente; and finally, on the Rio Santo Domingo, as far as Torunos, which is the port of Varinas Nuevas. The little town of San Fernando de Apure, of which I have already given a description, is the magazine of this river-trade, which might become more considerable by the introduction of steamboats.
I have now described the country through which we passed during a voyage of five hundred leagues; it remains for me to make known the small space of three degrees fifty-two minutes of longitude, that separates the present capital from the mouth of the Orinoco. Exact knowledge of the delta and the course of the Rio Carony is at once interesting to hydrography and to European commerce.
When a vessel coming from sea would enter the principal mouth of the Orinoco, the Boca de Navios, it should make the land at the Punta Barima. The right or southern bank is the highest: the granitic rock pierces the marshy soil at a small distance in the interior, between the Cano Barima, the Aquire, and the Cuyuni. The left, or northern bank of the Orinoco, which stretches along the delta towards the Boca de Mariusas and the Punta Baxa, is very low, and is distinguishable at a distance only by the clumps of moriche palm-trees which embellish the passage. This is the sago-tree* of the country (* The nutritious fecula or medullary flour of the sago-trees is found principally in a group of palms which M. Kunth has distinguished by the name of calameae. It is collected, however, in the Indian Archipelago, as an article of trade, from the trunks of the Cycas revoluta, the Phoenix farinifera, the Corypha umbraculifera, and the Caryota urens. (Ainslie, Materia Medica of Hindostan, Madras 1813.)) The quantity of nutritious matter which the real sago-tree of Asia affords (Sagus Rumphii, or Metroxylon sagu, Roxb.) exceeds that which is furnished by any other plant useful to man. One trunk of a tree in its fifteenth year sometimes yields six hundred pounds weight of sago, or meal (for the word sago signifies meal in the dialect of Amboyna). Mr. Crawfurd, who resided a long time in the Indian Archipelago, calculates that an English acre could contain four hundred and thirty-five sago-trees, which would yield one hundred and twenty thousand five hundred pounds avoirdupois of fecula, or more than eight thousand pounds yearly. History of the Indian Archipelago volume 1 pages 387 and 393. This produce is triple that of corn, and double that of potatoes in France. But the plantain produces, on the same surface of land, still more alimentary substance than the sago-tree.); it yields the flour of which the yuruma bread is made; and far from being a palm-tree of the shore, like the Chamaerops humilis, the common cocoa-tree, and the lodoicea of Commerson, is found as a palm-tree of the marshes as far as the sources of the Orinoco.* (* I dwell much on these divisions of the great and fine families of palms according to the distribution of the species: first, in dry places, or inland plains, Corypha tectorum; second, on the sea-coast, Chamaerops humilis, Cocos nucifera, Corypha maritima, Lodoicea seychellarum, Labill.; third, in the fresh-water marshes, Sagus Rumphii, Mauritia flexuosa; and 4th, in the alpine regions, between seven and fifteen hundred toises high, Ceroxylon andicola, Oreodoxa frigida, Kunthia montana. This last group of palmae montanae, which rises in the Andes of Guanacas nearly to the limit of perpetual snow, was, I believe, entirely unknown before our travels in America. (Nov. Gen. volume 1 page 317; Semanario de Santa Fe de Bogota 1819 Number 21 page 163.) In the season of inundations these clumps of mauritia, with their leaves in the form of a fan, have the appearance of a forest rising from the bosom of the waters. The navigator, in proceeding along the channels of the delta of the Orinoco at night, sees with surprise the summit of the palm-trees illumined by large fires. These are the habitations of the Guaraons (Tivitivas and Waraweties of Raleigh* (* The Indian name of the tribe of Uaraus (Guaraunos of the Spaniards) may be recognized in the Warawety (Ouarauoty) of Raleigh, one of the branches of the Tivitivas. See Discovery of Guiana, 1576 page 90 and the sketch of the habitations of the Guaraons, in Raleghi brevis Descrip. Guianae, 1594 tab 4.)), which are suspended from the trunks of trees. These tribes hang up mats in the air, which they fill with earth, and kindle, on a layer of moist clay, the fire necessary for their household wants. They have owed their liberty and their political independence for ages to the quaking and swampy soil, which they pass over in the time of drought, and on which they alone know how to walk in security to their solitude in the delta of the Orinoco; to their abode on the trees where religious enthusiasm will probably never lead any American stylites.* (* This sect was founded by Simeon Sisanites, a native of Syria. He passed thirty-seven years in mystic contemplation, on five pillars, the last of which was thirty-six cubits high. The sancti columnares attempted to establish their aerial cloisters in the country of Treves, in Germany; but the bishops opposed these extravagant and perilous enterprises. Mosheim, Instit. Hist. Eccles page 192. See Humboldt's Views of Nature (Bohn) pages 13 and 136.) I have already mentioned in another place that the mauritia palm-tree, the tree of life of the missionaries, not only affords the Guaraons a safe dwelling during the risings of the Orinoco, but that its shelly fruit, its farinaceous pith, its juice, abounding in saccharine matter, and the fibres of its petioles, furnish them with food, wine,* and thread proper for making cords and weaving hammocks. (* The use of this moriche wine however is not very common. The Guaraons prefer in general a beverage of fermented honey.) These customs of the Indians of the delta of the Orinoco were found formerly in the Gulf of Darien (Uraba), and in the greater part of the inundated lands between the Guarapiche and the mouths of the Amazon. It is curious to observe in the lowest degree of human civilization the existence of a whole tribe depending on one single species of palm-tree, similar to those insects which feed on one and the same flower, or on one and the same part of a plant.
The navigation of the river, whether vessels arrive by the Boca de Navios, or risk entering the labyrinth of the bocas chicas, requires various precautions, according as the waters are high or low. The regularity of these periodical risings of the Orinoco has been long an object of admiration to travellers, as the overflowings of the Nile furnished the philosophers of antiquity with a problem difficult to solve. The Orinoco and the Nile, contrary to the direction of the Ganges, the Indus, the Rio de la Plata, and the Euphrates, flow alike from the south toward the north; but the sources of the Orinoco are five or six degrees nearer to the equator than those of the Nile. Observing every day the accidental variations of the atmosphere, we find it difficult to persuade ourselves that in a great space of time the effects of these variations mutually compensate each other: that in a long succession of years the averages of the temperature of the humidity, and of the barometric pressure, differ so little from month to month; and that nature, notwithstanding the multitude of partial perturbations, follows a constant type in the series of meteorological phenomena. Great rivers unite in one receptacle the waters which a surface of several thousand square leagues receives. However unequal may be the quantity of rain that falls during several successive years, in such or such a valley, the swellings of rivers that have a very long course are little affected by these local variations. The swellings represent the average of the humidity that reigns in the whole basin; they follow annually the same progression because their commencement and their duration depend also on the mean of the periods, apparently extremely variable, of the beginning and end of the rains in the different latitudes through which the principal trunk and its various tributary streams flow. Hence it follows that the periodical oscillations of rivers are, like the equality of temperature of caverns and springs, a sensible indication of the regular distribution of humidity and heat, which takes place from year to year on a considerable extent of land. They strike the imagination of the vulgar; as order everywhere astonishes, when we cannot easily ascend to first causes. Rivers that belong entirely to the torrid zone display in their periodical movements that wonderful regularity which is peculiar to a region where the same wind brings almost always strata of air of the same temperature; and where the change of the sun in its declination causes every year at the same period a rupture of equilibrium in the electric intensity, in the cessation of the breezes, and the commencement of the season of rains. The Orinoco, the Rio Magdalena, and the Congo or Zaire are the only great rivers of the equinoctial region of the globe, which, rising near the equator, have their mouths in a much higher latitude, though still within the tropics. The Nile and the Rio de la Plata direct their course, in the two opposite hemispheres, from the torrid zone towards the temperate.* (* In Asia, the Ganges, the Burrampooter, and the majestic rivers of Indo-China direct their course towards the equator. The former flow from the temperate to the torrid zone. This circumstance of courses pursuing opposite directions (towards the equator, and towards the temperate climates) has an influence on the period and the height of the risings, on the nature and variety of the productions on the banks of the rivers, on the less or greater activity of trade; and, I may add, from what we know of the nations of Egypt, Merce, and India, on the progress of civilization along the valleys of the rivers.)
As long as, confounding the Rio Paragua of Esmeralda with the Rio Guaviare, the sources of the Orinoco were sought towards the south-west, on the eastern back of the Andes, the risings of this river were attributed to a periodical melting of the snows. This reasoning was as far from the truth as that in which the Nile was formerly supposed to be swelled by the waters of the snows of Abyssinia. The Cordilleras of New Grenada, near which the western tributary streams of the Orinoco, the Guaviare, the Meta, and the Apure take their rise, enter no more into the limit of perpetual snows, with the sole exception of the Paramos of Chita and Mucuchies, than the Alps of Abyssinia. Snowy mountains are much more rare in the torrid zone than is generally admitted; and the melting of the snows, which is not copious there at any season, does not at all increase at the time of the inundations of the Orinoco.
The cause of the periodical swellings of the Orinoco acts equally on all the rivers that take rise in the torrid zone. After the vernal equinox, the cessation of the breezes announces the season of rains. The increase of the rivers (which may be considered as natural pluviometers) is in proportion to the quantity of water that falls in the different regions. This quantity, in the centre of the forests of the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro, appeared to me to exceed 90 or 100 inches annually. Such of the natives, therefore, as have lived beneath the misty sky of the Esmeralda and the Atabapo, know, without the smallest notion of natural philosophy, what Eudoxus and Eratosthenes knew heretofore,* that the inundations of the great rivers are owing solely to the equatorial rains. (* Strabo lib. 17 page 789. Diod. Sic. lib. l c. 5.) The following is the usual progress of the oscillations of the Orinoco. Immediately after the vernal equinox (the people say on the 25th of March) the commencement of the rising is perceived. It is at first only an inch in twenty-four hours; sometimes the river again sinks in April; it attains its maximum in July; remains at the same level from the end of July till the 25th of August; and then decreases progressively, but more slowly than it increased. It is at its minimum in January and February. In both worlds the rivers of the northern torrid zone attain the greatest height nearly at the same period. The Ganges, the Niger, and the Gambia reach the maximum, like the Orinoco, in the month of August.* (* Nearly forty or fifty days after the summer solstice.) The Nile is two months later, either on account of some local circumstances in the climate of Abyssinia, or of the length of its course, from the country of Berber, or 17.5 degrees of latitude, to the bifurcation of the delta. The Arabian geographers assert that in Sennaar and in Abyssinia the Nile begins to swell in the month of April (nearly as the Orinoco); the rise, however, does not become sensible at Cairo till toward the summer solstice; and the water attains its greatest height at the end of the month of September.* (* Nearly eighty or ninety days after the summer solstice.) The river keeps at the same level till the middle of October; and is at its minimum in April and May, a period when the rivers of Guiana begin to swell anew. It may be seen from this rapid statement, that, notwithstanding the retardation caused by the form of the natural channels, and by local climatic circumstances, the great phenomenon of the oscillations of the rivers of the torrid zone is everywhere the same. In the two zodiacs vulgarly called the Tartar and Chaldean, or Egyptian (in the zodiac which contains the sign of the Rat, an in that which contains those of the Fishes and Aquarius), particular constellations are consecrated to the periodical overflowings of the rivers. Real cycles, divisions of time, have been gradually transformed into divisions of space; but the generality of the physical phenomena of the risings seems to prove that the zodiac which has been transmitted to us by the Greeks, and which, by the precession of the equinoxes, becomes an historical monument of high antiquity, may have taken birth far from Thebes, and from the sacred valley of the Nile. In the zodiacs of the New World—in the Mexican, for instance, of which we discover the vestiges in the signs of the days, and the periodical series which they compose—there are also signs of rain and of inundation corresponding to the Chou (Rat) of the Chinese* and Thibetan cycle of Tse, and to the Fishes and Aquarius of the dodecatemorion. (* The figure of water itself is often substituted for that of the Rat (Arvicola) in the Tartar zodiac. The Rat takes the place of Aquarius. Gaubil, Obs. Mathem. volume 3 page 33.) These two Mexican signs are Water (Atl) and Cipactli, the sea-monster furnished with a horn. This animal is at once the Antelope-fish of the Hindoos, the Capricorn of our zodiac, the Deucalion of the Greeks, and the Noah (Coxcox) of the Azteks.* (* Coxcox bears also the denomination of Teo-Cipactli, in which the root god or divine is added to the name of the sign Cipactli. It is the man of the Fourth Age; who, at the fourth destruction of the world (the last renovation of nature), saved himself with his wife, and reached the mountain of Colhuacan. According to the commentator Germanicus, Deucalion was placed in Aquarius; but the three signs of the Fishes, Aquarius and Capricorn (the Antelope-fish) were heretofore intimately linked together. The animal, which, after having long inhabited the waters, takes the form of an antelope, and climbs the mountains, reminds people, whose restless imagination seizes the most remote similitudes, of the ancient traditions of Menou, of Noah, and of those Deucalions celebrated among the Scythians and the Thessalians. As the Tartarian and Mexican zodiacs contain the signs of the Monkey and the Tiger, they, no doubt, originated in the torrid zone. With the Muyscas, inhabitants of New Grenada, the first sign, as in eastern Asia, was that of water, figured by a Frog. It is also remarkable that the astrological worship of the Muyscas came to the table-land of Bogota from the eastern side, from the plains of San Juan, which extend toward the Guaviare and the Orinoco.) Thus we find the general results of comparative hydrography in the astrological monuments, the divisions of time and the religious traditions of nations the most remote from each other in their situation and in their degree of intellectual advancement.
As the equatorial rains take place in the flat country when the sun passes through the zenith of the place, that is, when its declination becomes homonymous with the zone comprised between the equator and one of the tropics, the waters of the Amazon sink, while those of the Orinoco rise perceptibly. In a very judicious discussion on the origin of the Rio Congo,* (* Voyage to the Zaire page 17.) the attention of philosophers has been already called to the modifications which the periods of the risings must undergo in the course of a river, the sources and the mouth of which are not on the same side of the equinoctial line.* (* Among the rivers of America this is the case with the Rio Negro, the Rio Branco, and the Jupura.) The hydraulic systems of the Orinoco and the Amazon furnish a combination of circumstances still more extraordinary. They are united by the Rio Negro and the Cassiquiare, a branch of the Orinoco; it is a navigable line, between two great basins of rivers, that is crossed by the equator. The river Amazon, according to the information which I obtained on its banks, is much less regular in the periods of its oscillations than the Orinoco; it generally begins, however, to increase in December, and attains its maximum of height in March.* (* Nearly seventy or eighty days after our winter solstice, which is the summer solstice of the southern hemisphere.) It sinks from the month of May, and is at its minimum of height in the months of July and August, at the time when the Lower Orinoco inundates all the surrounding land. As no river of America can cross the equator from south to north, on account of the general configuration of the ground, the risings of the Orinoco have an influence on the Amazon; but those of the Amazon do not alter the progress of the oscillations of the Orinoco. It results from these data, that in the two basins of the Amazon and the Orinoco, the concave and convex summits of the curve of progressive increase and decrease correspond very regularly with each other, since they exhibit the difference of six months, which results from the situation of the rivers in opposite hemispheres. The commencement of the risings only is less tardy in the Orinoco. This river increases sensibly as soon as the sun has crossed the equator; in the Amazon, on the contrary, the risings do not commence till two months after the equinox. It is known that in the forests north of the line the rains are earlier than in the less woody plains of the southern torrid zone. To this local cause is joined another, which acts perhaps equally on the tardy swellings of the Nile. The Amazon receives a great part of its waters from the Cordillera of the Andes, where the seasons, as everywhere among mountains, follow a peculiar type, most frequently opposite to that of the low regions.
The law of the increase and decrease of the Orinoco is more difficult to determine with respect to space, or to the magnitude of the oscillations, than with regard to time, or the period of the maxima and minima. Having been able to measure but imperfectly the risings of the river, I report, not without hesitation, estimates that differ much from each other.* (* Tuckey, Maritime Geogr. volume 4 page 309. Hippisley, Expedition to the Orinoco page 38. Gumilla volume 1 pages 56 to 59. Depons volume 3 page 301. The greatest height of the rise of the Mississippi is, at Natchez, fifty-five English feet. This river (the largest perhaps of the whole temperate zone) is at its maximum from February to May; at its minimum in August and September. Ellicott, Journal of an Expedition to the Ohio.) Foreign pilots admit ninety feet for the ordinary rise in the Lower Orinoco. M. Depons, who has in general collected very accurate notions during his stay at Caracas, fixes it at thirteen fathoms. The heights naturally vary according to the breadth of the bed and the number of tributary streams which the principal trunk receives.
The people believe that every five years the Orinoco rises three feet higher than common; but the idea of this cycle does not rest on any precise measures. We know by the testimony of antiquity, that the oscillations of the Nile have been sensibly the same with respect to their height and duration for thousands of years; which is a proof, well worthy of attention, that the mean state of the humidity and the temperature does not vary in that vast basin. Will this constancy in physical phenomena, this equilibrium of the elements, be preserved in the New World also after some ages of cultivation? I think we may reply in the affirmative; for the united efforts of man cannot fail to have an influence on the general causes on which the climate of Guiana depends.
According to the barometric height of San Fernando de Apure, I find from that town to the Boca de Navios the slope of the Apure and the Lower Orinoco to be three inches and a quarter to a nautical mile of nine hundred and fifty toises.* (* The Apure itself has a slope of thirteen inches to the mile.) We may be surprised at the strength of the current in a slope so little perceptible; but I shall remind the reader on this occasion, that, according to measurements made by order of Mr. Hastings, the Ganges was found, in a course of sixty miles (comprising the windings,) to have also only four inches fall to a mile; that the mean swiftness of this river is, in the seasons of drought, three miles an hour, and in those of rains six or eight miles. The strength of the current, therefore, in the Ganges as in the Orinoco, depends less on the slope of the bed, than on the accumulation of the higher waters, caused by the abundance of the rains, and the number of tributary streams. European colonists have already been settled for two hundred and fifty years on the banks of the Orinoco; and during this long period of time, according to a tradition which has been propagated from generation to generation, the periodical oscillations of the river (the time of the beginning of the rising, and that when it attains its maximum) have never been retarded more than twelve or fifteen days.
When vessels that draw a good deal of water sail up toward Angostura in the months of January and February, by favour of the sea-breeze and the tide, they run the risk of taking the ground. The navigable channel often changes its breadth and direction; no buoy, however, has yet been laid down, to indicate any deposit of earth formed in the bed of the river, where the waters have lost their original velocity. There exists on the south of Cape Barima, as well by the river of this name as by the Rio Moroca and several estuaries (esteres) a communication with the English colony of Essequibo. Small vessels can penetrate into the interior as far as the Rio Poumaron, on which are the ancient settlements of Zealand and Middleburg. Heretofore this communication interested the government of Caracas only on account of the facility it furnished to an illicit trade; but since Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo have fallen into the hands of a more powerful neighbour, it fixes the attention of the Spanish Americans as being connected with the security of their frontiers. Rivers which have a course parallel to the coast, and are nowhere farther distant from it than five or six nautical miles, characterize the whole of the shore between the Orinoco and the Amazon.
Ten leagues distant from Cape Barima, the great bed of the Orinoco is divided for the first time into two branches of two thousand toises in breadth. They are known by the Indian names of Zacupana and Imataca. The first, which is the northernmost, communicates on the west of the islands Congrejos and del Burro with the bocas chicas of Lauran, Nuina, and Mariusas. As the Isla del Burro disappears in the time of great inundations, it is unhappily not suited to fortifications. The southern bank of the brazo Imataca is cut by a labyrinth of little channels, into which the Rio Imataca and the Rio Aquire flow. A long series of little granitic hills rises in the fertile savannahs between the Imataca and the Cuyuni; it is a prolongation of the Cordilleras of Parima, which, bounding the horizon south of Angostura, forms the celebrated cataracts of the Rio Caroni, and approaches the Orinoco like a projecting cape near the little fort of Vieja Guyana. The populous missions of the Caribbee and Guiana Indians, governed by the Catalonian Capuchins, lie near the sources of the Imataca and the Aquire. The easternmost of these missions are those of Miamu, Camamu, and Palmar, situate in a hilly country, which extends towards Tupuquen, Santa Maria, and the Villa de Upata. Going up the Rio Aquire, and directing your course across the pastures towards the south, you reach the mission of Belem de Tumeremo, and thence the confluence of the Curumu with the Rio Cuyuni, where the Spanish post or destacamento de Cuyuni was formerly established. I enter into this topographical detail because the Rio Cuyuni, or Cuduvini, runs parallel to the Orinoco from west to east, through an extent of 2.5 or 3 degrees of longitude,* and furnishes an excellent natural boundary between the territory of Caracas and that of English Guiana. (* Including the Rio Juruam, one of the principal branches of the Cuyuni. The Dutch military post is five leagues west of the union of Cuyuni with the Essequibo, where the former river receives the Mazuruni.)
The two great branches of the Orinoco, the Zacupana and the Imataca, remain separate for fourteen leagues: on going up farther, the waters of the river are found united* in a single channel extremely broad. (* At this point of union are found two villages of Guaraons. They also bear the names of Imataca and Zacupana.) This channel is near eight leagues long; at its western extremity a second bifurcation appears; and as the summit of the delta is in the northern branch of the bifurcated river, this part of the Orinoco is highly important for the military defence of the country. All the channels* that terminate in the bocas chicas, rise from the same point of the trunk of the Orinoco. (* Cano de Manamo grande, Cano de Manamo chico, Cano Pedernales, Cano Macareo, Cano Cutupiti, Cano Macuona, Cano grande de Mariusas, etc. The last three branches form by their union the sinuous channel called the Vuelta del Torno.) The branch (Cano Manamo) that separates from it near the village of San Rafael has no ramification till after a course of three or four leagues; and by placing a small fort above the island of Chaguanes, Angostura might be defended against an enemy that should attempt to penetrate by one of the bocas chicas. In my time the station of the gun-boats was east of San Rafael, near the northern bank of the Orinoco. This is the point which vessels must pass in sailing up toward Angostura by the northern channel, that of San Rafael, which is the broadest but the most shallow.
Six leagues above the point where the Orinoco sends off a branch to the bocas chicas is placed an ancient fort (los Castillos de la Vieja or Antigua Guayana,) the first construction of which goes back to the sixteenth century. In this spot the bed of the river is studded with rocky islands; and it is asserted that its breadth is nearly six hundred and fifty toises. The town is almost destroyed, but the fortifications subsist, and are well worthy the attention of the government of Terra Firma. There is a magnificent view from the battery established on a bluff north-west of the ancient town, which, at the period of great inundations, is entirely surrounded with water. Pools that communicate with the Orinoco form natural basins, adapted for the reception of vessels that want repairs.
After having passed the little forts of Vieja Guayana, the bed of the Orinoco again widens. The state of cultivation of the country on the two banks affords a striking contrast. On the north is seen the desert part of the province of Cumana, steppes (Llanos) destitute of habitations, and extending beyond the sources of the Rio Mamo, toward the tableland or mesa of Guanipa. On the south we find three populous villages belonging to the missions of Carony, namely, San Miguel de Uriala, San Felix and San Joaquin. The last of these villages, situate on the banks of the Carony, immediately below the great cataract, is considered as the embarcadero of the Catalonian missions. On navigating more to the east, between the mouth of the Carony and Angostura, the pilot should avoid the rocks of Guarampo, the sandbank of Mamo, and the Piedra del Rosario. From the numerous materials which I brought home, and from astronomical discussions, the principal results of which I have indicated above, I have constructed a map of the country bounded by the delta of the Orinoco, the Carony, and the Cuyuni. This part of Guiana, from its proximity to the coast, will some day offer the greatest attraction to European settlers.
The whole population of this vast province in its present state is, with the exception of a few Spanish parishes, scattered on the banks of the Lower Orinoco, and subject to two monastic governments. Estimating the number of the inhabitants of Guiana, who do not live in savage independence, at thirty-five thousand, we find nearly twenty-four thousand settled in the missions, and thus withdrawn as it were from the direct influence of the secular arm. At the period of my voyage, the territory of the Observantin monks of St. Francis contained seven thousand three hundred inhabitants, and that of the Capuchinos Catalanes seventeen thousand; an astonishing disproportion, when we reflect on the smallness of the latter territory compared to the vast banks of the Upper Orinoco, the Atabapo, the Cassiquiare and the Rio Negro. It results from these statements that nearly two-thirds of the population of a province of sixteen thousand eight hundred square leagues are found concentrated between the Rio Imataca and the town of Santo Thome del Angostura, on a space of ground only fifty-five leagues in length, and thirty in breadth. Both of these monastic governments are equally inaccessible to Whites, and form status in statu. The first, that of the Observantins, I have described from my own observations; it remains for me to record here the notions I could procure respecting the second of these governments, that of the Catalonian Capuchins. Fatal civil dissensions and epidemic fevers have of late years diminished the long-increasing prosperity of the missions of the Carony; but, notwithstanding these losses, the region which we are going to examine is still highly interesting with respect to political economy.
The missions of the Catalonian Capuchins, which in 1804 contained at least sixty thousand head of cattle grazing in the savannahs, extend from the eastern banks of the Carony and the Paragua as far as the banks of the Imataca, the Curumu, and the Cuyuni; at the south-east they border on English Guiana, or the colony of Essequibo; and toward the south, in going up the desert banks of the Paragua and the Paraguamasi, and crossing the Cordillera of Pacaraimo, they touch the Portuguese settlements on the Rio Branco. The whole of this country is open, full of fine savannahs, and no way resembling that through which we passed on the Upper Orinoco. The forests become impenetrable only on advancing toward the south; on the north are meadows intersected with woody hills. The most picturesque scenes lie near the falls of the Carony, and in that chain of mountains, two hundred and fifty toises high, which separates the tributary streams of the Orinoco from those of the Cuyuni. There are situate the Villa de Upata,* the capital of the missions, Santa Maria, and Cupapui. (* Founded in 1762. Population in 1797, 657 souls; in 1803, 769 souls. The most populous villages of these missions, Alta Gracia, Cupapui, Santa Rosa de Cura, and Guri, had between 600 and 900 inhabitants in 1797; but in 1818 epidemic fevers diminished the population more than a third. In some missions these diseases have swept away nearly half of the inhabitants.) Small table-lands afford a healthy and temperate climate. Cacao, rice, cotton, indigo, and sugar grow in abundance wherever a virgin soil, covered with a thick coat of grasses, is subjected to cultivation. The first Christian settlements in those countries are not, I believe, of an earlier date than 1721. The elements of which the present population is composed are the three Indian races of the Guayanos, the Caribs and the Guaycas. The last are a people of mountaineers and are far from being so diminutive in size as the Guaycas whom we found at Esmeralda. It is difficult to fix them to the soil; and the three most modern missions in which they have been collected, those of Cura, Curucuy, and Arechica, are already destroyed. The Guayanos, who early in the sixteenth century gave their name to the whole of that vast province, are less intelligent but milder; and more easy, if not to civilize, at least to subjugate, than the Caribs. Their language appears to belong to the great branch of the Caribbee and Tamanac tongues. It displays the same analogies of roots and grammatical forms, which are observed between the Sanscrit, the Persian, the Greek, and the German. It is not easy to fix the forms of what is indefinite by its nature; and to agree on the differences which should be admitted between dialects, derivative languages and mother-tongues. The Jesuits of Paraguay have made known to us another tribe of Guayanos* in the southern hemisphere, living in the thick forests of Parana. (* They are also called Guananas, or Gualachas.) Though it cannot be denied in general that in consequence of distant migrations,* (* Like the celebrated migrations of the Omaguas, or Omeguas.) the nations that are settled north and south of the Amazon have had communications with each other, I will not decide whether the Guayanos of Parana and of Uruguay exhibit any other relation to those of Carony, than that of an homonomy, which is perhaps only accidental.
The most considerable Christian settlements are now concentrated between the mountains of Santa Maria, the mission of San Miguel and the eastern bank of the Carony, from San Buenaventura as far as Guri and the embarcadero of San Joaquin; a space of ground which has not more than four hundred and sixty square leagues of surface. The savannahs to the east and south are almost uninhabited; we find there only the solitary missions of Belem, Tumuremo, Tupuquen, Puedpa, and Santa Clara. It were to be wished that the spots preferred for cultivation were distant from the rivers where the land is higher and the air more favourable to health. The Rio Carony, the waters of which, of an admirable clearness, are not well stocked with fish, is free from shoals from the Villa de Barceloneta, a little above the confluence of the Paragua, as far as the village of Guri. Farther north it winds between innumerable islands and rocks; and only the small boats of the Caribs venture to navigate amid these raudales, or rapids of the Carony. Happily the river is often divided into several branches; and consequently that can be chosen which, according to the height of the waters, presents the fewest whirlpools and shoals. The great fall, celebrated for the picturesque beauty of its situation, is a little above the village of Aguacaqua, or Carony, which in my time had a population of seven hundred Indians. This cascade is said to be from fifteen to twenty feet high; but the bar does not cross the whole bed of the river, which is more than three hundred feet broad. When the population is more extended toward the east, it will avail itself of the course of the small rivers Imataca and Aquire, the navigation of which is pretty free from danger. The monks, who like to keep themselves isolated, in order to withdraw from the eye of the secular power, have been hitherto unwilling to settle on the banks of the Orinoco. It is, however, by this river only, or by the Cuyuni and the Essequibo, that the missions of Carony can export their productions. The latter way has not yet been tried, though several Christian settlements* are formed on one of the principal tributary streams of the Cuyuni, the Rio Juruario. (* Guacipati, Tupuquen, Angel de la Custodia, and Cura, where the military post of the frontiers was stationed in 1800, which had been anciently placed at the confluence of the Cuyuni and the Curumu.) This stream furnishes, at the period of the great swellings, the remarkable phenomenon of a bifurcation. It communicates by the Juraricuima and the Aurapa with the Rio Carony; so that the land comprised between the Orinoco, the sea, the Cuyuni, and the Carony, becomes a real island. Formidable rapids impede the navigation of the Upper Cuyuni; and hence of late an attempt has been made to open a road to the colony of Essequibo much more to the south-east, in order to fall in with the Cuyuni much below the mouth of the Curumu.
The whole of this southern territory is traversed by hordes of independent Caribs; the feeble remains of that warlike people who were so formidable to the missionaries till 1733 and 1735, at which period the respectable bishop Gervais de Labrid,* (* Consecrated a bishop for the four parts of the world (obispo para las quatro partes del mundo) by pope Benedict XIII.) canon of the metropolitan chapter of Lyon, Father Lopez, and several other ecclesiastics, perished by the hands of the Caribs. These dangers, too frequent formerly, exist no longer, either in the missions of Carony, or in those of the Orinoco; but the independent Caribs continue, on account of their connection with the Dutch colonists of Essequibo, an object of mistrust and hatred to the government of Guiana. These tribes favour the contraband trade along the coast, and by the channels or estuaries that join the Rio Barima to the Rio Moroca; they carry off the cattle belonging to the missionaries, and excite the Indians recently converted, and living within the sound of the bell, to return to the forests. The free hordes have everywhere a powerful interest in opposing the progress of cultivation and the encroachments of the Whites. The Caribs and the Aruacas procure fire-arms at Essequibo and Demerara; and when the traffic of American slaves (poitos) was most active, adventurers of Dutch origin took part in these incursions on the Paragua, the Erevato, and the Ventuario. Man-hunting took place on these banks, as heretofore (and probably still) on those of the Senegal and the Gambia. In both worlds Europeans have employed the same artifices, and committed the same atrocities, to maintain a trade that dishonours humanity. The missionaries of the Carony and the Orinoco attribute all the evils they suffer from the independent Caribs to the hatred of their neighbours, the Calvinist preachers of Essequibo. Their works are therefore filled with complaints of the secta diabolica de Calvino y de Lutero, and against the heretics of Dutch Guiana, who also think fit sometimes to go on missions, and spread the germs of social life among the savages.
Of all the vegetable productions of those countries, that which the industry of the Catalonian Capuchins has rendered the most celebrated is the tree that furnishes the Cortex angosturae, which is erroneously designated by the name of cinchona of Carony. We were fortunate enough to make it first known as a new genus distinct from the cinchona, and belonging to the family of meliaceae, or of zanthoxylus. This salutary drug of South America was formerly attributed to the Brucea ferruginea which grows in Abyssinia, to the Magnolia glauca, and to the Magnolia plumieri. During the dangerous disease of M. Bonpland, M. Ravago sent a confidential person to the missions of Carony, to procure for us, by favour of the Capuchins of Upata, branches of the tree in flower which we wished to be able to describe. We obtained very fine specimens, the leaves of which, eighteen inches long, diffused an agreeable aromatic smell. We soon perceived that the cuspare (the indigenous name of the cascarilla or corteza del Angostura) forms a new genus; and on sending the plants of the Orinoco to M. Willdenouw, I begged he would dedicate this plant to M. Bonpland. The tree, known at present by the name of Bonplandia trifoliata, grows at the distance of five or six leagues from the eastern bank of the Carony, at the foot of the hills that surround the missions Capapui, Upata and Alta Gracia. The Caribbee Indians make use of an infusion of the bark of the cuspare, which they consider as a strengthening remedy. M. Bonpland discovered the same tree west of Cumana, in the gulf of Santa Fe, where it may become one of the articles of exportation from New Andalusia.
The Catalonian monks prepare an extract of the Cortex angosturae which they send to the convents of their province, and which deserves to be better known in the north of Europe. It is to be hoped that the febrifuge and anti-dysenteric bark of the bonplandia will continue to be employed, notwithstanding the introduction of another, described by the name of False Angostura bark, and often confounded with the former. This false Angostura, or Angostura pseudo-ferruginea, comes, it is said, from the Brucea antidysenterica; it acts powerfully on the nerves, produces violent attacks of tetanus, and contains, according to the experiments of Pelletier and Caventon, a peculiar alkaline substance* analogous to morphine and strychnine. (* Brucine. M. Pelletier has wisely avoided using the word angosturine, because it might indicate a substance taken from the real Cortex angosturae, or Bonplandia trifoliata. (Annales de Chimie volume 12 page 117.) We saw at Peru the barks of two new species of weinmannia and wintera mixed with those of cinchona; a mixture less dangerous, but still injurious, on account of the superabundance of tannin and acrid matter contained in the false cascarilla.) As the tree which yields the real Cortex angosturae does not grow in great abundance, it is to be wished that plantations of it were formed. The Catalonian monks are well fitted to spread this kind of cultivation; they are more economical, industrious, and active than the other missionaries. They have already established tan-yards and cotton-spinning in a few villages; and if they suffer the Indians henceforth to enjoy the fruit of their labours, they will find great resources in the native population. Concentered on a small space of land, these monks have the consciousness of their political importance, and have from time to time resisted the civil authority, and that of their bishop. The governors who reside at Angostura have struggled against them with very unequal success, according as the ministry of Madrid showed a complaisant deference for the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or sought to limit its power. In 1768 Don Manuel Centurion carried off twenty thousand head of cattle from the missionaries, in order to distribute them among the indigent inhabitants. This liberality, exerted in a manner not very legal, produced very serious consequences. The governor was disgraced on the complaint of the Catalonian monks though he had considerably extended the territory of the missions toward the south, and founded the Villa de Barceloneta, above the confluence of the Carony with the Rio Paragua, and the Ciudad de Guirior, near the union of the Rio Paragua and the Paraguamusi. From that period the civil administration has carefully avoided all intervention in the affairs of the Capuchins, whose opulence has been exaggerated like that of the Jesuits of Paraguay.
The missions of the Carony, by the configuration of their soil* and the mixture of savannahs and arable lands, unite the advantages of the Llanos of Calabozo and the valleys of Aragua. (* It appears that the little table-lands between the mountains of Upata, Cumanu, and Tupuquen, are more than one hundred and fifty toises above the level of the sea.) The real wealth of this country is founded on the care of the herds and the cultivation of colonial produce. It were to be wished that here, as in the fine and fertile province of Venezuela, the inhabitants, faithful to the labours of the fields, would not addict themselves too hastily to the research of mines. The example of Germany and Mexico proves, no doubt, that the working of metals is not at all incompatible with a flourishing state of agriculture; but, according to popular traditions, the banks of the Carony lead to the lake Dorado and the palace of the gilded man* (* El Dorado, that is, el rey o hombre dorado. See volume 2.23.): and this lake, and this palace, being a local fable, it might be dangerous to awaken remembrances which begin gradually to be effaced. I was assured that in 1760, the independent Caribs went to Cerro de Pajarcima, a mountain to the south of Vieja Guayana, to submit the decomposed rock to the action of washing. The gold-dust collected by this labour was put into calabashes of the Crescentia cujete and sold to the Dutch at Essequibo. Still more recently, some Mexican miners, who abused the credulity of Don Jose Avalo, the intendant of Caracas, undertook a very considerable work in the centre of the missions of the Rio Carony, near the town of Upata, in the Cerros del Potrero and de Chirica. They declared that the whole rock was auriferous; stamping-mills, brocards, and smelting-furnaces were constructed. After having expended very large sums, it was discovered that the pyrites contained no trace whatever of gold. These essays, though fruitless, served to renew the ancient idea that every shining rock in Guiana is teeming with gold (una madre del oro). Not contented with taking the mica-slate to the furnace, strata of amphibolic slates were shown to me near Angostura, without any mixture of heterogeneous substances, which had been worked under the whimsical name of black ore of gold (oro negro).
This is the place to make known, in order to complete the description of the Orinoco, the principal results of my researches on El Dorado, the White Sea, or Laguna Parime, and the sources of the Orinoco, as they are marked in the most recent maps. The idea of an auriferous earth, eminently rich, has been connected, ever since the end of the sixteenth century, with that of a great inland lake, which furnishes at the same time waters to the Orinoco, the Rio Branco and the Rio Essequibo. I believe, from a more accurate knowledge of the country, a long and laborious study of the Spanish authors who treat of El Dorado, and, above all, from comparing a great number of ancient maps, arranged in chronological order, I have succeeded in discovering the source of these errors. All fables have some real foundation; that of El Dorado resembles those myths of antiquity, which, travelling from country to country, have been successively adapted to different localities. In the sciences, in order to distinguish truth from error, it often suffices to retrace the history of opinions, and to follow their successive developments. The discussion to which I shall devote the end of this chapter is important, not only because it throws light on the events of the Conquest, and that long series of disastrous expeditions made in search of El Dorado, the last of which was in the year 1775; it also furnishes, in addition to this simply historical interest, another, more substantial and more generally felt, that of rectifying the geography of South America, and of disembarrassing the maps published in our days of those great lakes, and that strange labyrinth of rivers, placed as if by chance between sixty and sixty-six degrees of longitude. No man in Europe believes any longer in the wealth of Guiana and the empire of the Grand Patiti. The town of Manoa and its palaces covered with plates of massy gold have long since disappeared; but the geographical apparatus serving to adorn the fable of El Dorado, the lake Parima, which, similar to the lake of Mexico, reflected the image of so many sumptuous edifices, has been religiously preserved by geographers. In the space of three centuries, the same traditions have been differently modified; from ignorance of the American languages, rivers have been taken for lakes, and portages for branches of rivers; one lake, the Cassipa, has been made to advance five degrees of latitude toward the south, while another, the Parima or Dorado, has been transported the distance of a hundred leagues from the western to the eastern bank of the Rio Branco. From these various changes, the problem we are going to solve has become much more complicated than is generally supposed. The number of geographers who discuss the basis of a map, with regard to the three points of measures, of the comparison of descriptive works, and of the etymological study* of names, is extremely small. (* I use this expression, perhaps an improper one, to mark a species of philological examination, to which the names of rivers, lakes, mountains, and tribes, must be subjected, in order to discover their identity in a great number of maps. The apparent diversity of names arises partly from the difference of the dialects spoken by one and the same family of people, partly from the imperfection of our European orthography, and from the extreme negligence with which geographers copy one another. We recognize with difficulty the Rio Uaupe in the Guaupe or Guape; the Xie, in the Guaicia; the Raudal de Atures, in Athule; the Caribbees, in the Calinas and Galibis; the Guaraunos or Uarau, in the Oaraw-its; etc. It is, however, by similar mutations of letters, that the Spaniards have made hijo of filius; hambre, of fames; and Felipo de Urre, and even Utre, of the Conquistador Philip von Huten; that the Tamanacs in America have substituted choraro for soldado; and the Jews in China, Ialemeiohang for Jeremiah. Analogy and a certain etymological tact must guide geographers in researches of this kind, in which they would be exposed to serious errors, if they were not to study at the same time the respective situations of the upper and lower tributary streams of the same river. Our maps of America are overloaded with names, for which rivers have been created. This desire of compiling, of filling up vacancies, and of employing, without investigation, heterogeneous materials, has given our maps of countries the least visited an appearance of exactness, the falsity of which is discovered when we arrive on the spot.) Almost all the maps of South America which have appeared since the year 1775 are, in what regards the interior of the country, comprised between the steppes of Venezuela and the river of the Amazons, between the eastern back of the Andes and the coast of Cayenne, a simple copy of the great Spanish map of La Cruz Olmedilla. A line, indicating the extent of country which Don Jose Solano boasted of having discovered and pacified by his troops and emissaries, was taken for the road followed by that officer, who never went beyond San Fernando de Atabapo, a village one hundred and sixty leagues distant from the pretended lake Parima. The study of the work of Father Caulin, who was the historiographer of the expedition of Solano, and who states very clearly, from the testimony of the Indians, how the name of the river Parima gave rise to the fable of El Dorado, and of an inland sea, has been neglected. No use either has been made of a map of the Orinoco, three years posterior to that of La Cruz, and traced by Surville from the collection of true or hypothetical materials preserved in the archives of the Despacho universal de Indias. The progress of geography, as manifested on our maps, is much slower than might be supposed from the number of useful results which are found scattered in the works of different nations. Astronomical observations and topographic information accumulate during a long lapse of years, without being made use of; and from a principle of stability and preservation, in other respects praiseworthy, those who construct maps often choose rather to add nothing, than to sacrifice a lake, a chain of mountains, or an interbranching of rivers, which have figured there during ages.
The fabulous traditions of El Dorado and the lake Parima having been diversely modified according to the aspect of the countries to which they were to be adapted, we must distinguish what they contain that is real from what is merely imaginary. To avoid entering here into minute particulars, I shall begin first to call the attention of the reader to those spots which have been, at various periods, the theatre of the expeditions undertaken for the discovery of El Dorado. When we have learnt to know the aspect of the country, and the local circumstances, such as they can now be described, it will be easy to conceive how the different hypotheses recorded on our maps have taken rise by degrees, and have modified each other. To oppose an error, it is sufficient to recall to mind the variable forms in which we have seen it appear at different periods.
Till the middle of the eighteenth century, all that vast space of land comprised between the mountains of French Guiana and the forests of the Upper Orinoco, between the sources of the Carony and the River Amazon (from 0 to 4 degrees of north latitude, and from 57 to 68 degrees of longitude), was so little known that geographers could place in it lakes where they pleased, create communications between rivers, and figure chains of mountains more or less lofty. They have made full use of this liberty; and the situation of lakes, as well as the course and branches of rivers, has been varied in so many ways that it would not be surprising if among the great number of maps some were found that trace the real state of things. The field of hypotheses is now singularly narrowed. I have determined the longitude of Esmeralda in the Upper Orinoco; more to the east amid the plains of Parima (a land as unknown as Wangara and Dar-Saley, in Africa), a band of twenty leagues broad has been travelled over from north to south along the banks of the Rio Carony and the Rio Branco in the longitude of sixty-three degrees. This is the perilous road which was taken by Don Antonio Santos in going from Santo Thome del Angostura to Rio Negro and the Amazon; by this road also the colonists of Surinam communicated very recently with the inhabitants of Grand Para. This road divides the terra incognita of Parima into two unequal portions; and fixes limits at the same time to the sources of the Orinoco, which it is no longer possible to carry back indefinitely toward the east, without supposing that the bed of the Rio Branco, which flows from north to south, is crossed by the bed of the Upper Orinoco, which flows from east to west. If we follow the course of the Rio Branco, or that strip of cultivated land which is dependent on the Capitania General of Grand Para, we see lakes, partly imaginary and partly enlarged by geographers, forming two distinct groups. The first of these groups includes the lakes which they place between the Esmeralda and the Rio Branco; and to the second belong those that are supposed to lie between the Rio Branco and the mountains of Dutch and French Guiana. It results from this sketch that the question whether there exists a lake Parima on the east of the Rio Branco is altogether foreign to the problem of the sources of the Orinoco.
Beside the country which we have just noticed (the Dorado de la Parime, traversed by the Rio Branco), another part of America is found, two hundred and sixty leagues toward the west, near the eastern back of the Cordillera of the Andes, equally celebrated in the expeditions to El Dorado. This is the Mesopotamia between the Caqueta, the Rio Negro, the Uaupes, and the Yurubesh, of which I have already given a particular account; it is the Dorado of the Omaguas which contains Lake Manoa of Father Acunha, the Laguna de oro of the Guanes and the auriferous land whence Father Fritz received plates of beaten gold in his mission on the Amazon, toward the end of the seventeenth century.
The first and above all the most celebrated enterprises attempted in search of El Dorado were directed toward the eastern back of the Andes of New Grenada. Fired with the ideas which an Indian of Tacunga had given of the wealth of the king or zaque of Cundirumarca, Sebastian de Belalcazar, in 1535, sent his captains Anasco and Ampudia, to discover the valley of El Dorado,* twelve days' journey from Guallabamba, consequently in the mountains between Pasto and Popayan. (* El valle del Dorado. Pineda relates: que mas adelante de la provincia de la Canela se hallan tierras muy ricas, adonde andaban los hombres armados de piecas y joyas de oro, y que no havia sierra, ni montana. [Beyond the province of Canela there are found very rich countries (though without mountains) in which the natives are adorned with trinkets and plates of gold.] Herrera dec. 5 lib. 10 cap. 14 and dec. 6 lib. 8 cap. 6 Geogr. Blaviana volume 11 page 261. Southey tome 1 pages 78 and 373.) The information which Pedro de Anasco had obtained from the natives, joined to that which was received subsequently (1536) by Diaz de Pineda, who had discovered the provinces of Quixos and Canela, between the Rio Napo and the Rio Pastaca, gave birth to the idea that on the east of the Nevados of Tunguragua, Cayambe, and Popayan, were vast plains, abounding in precious metals, and where the inhabitants were covered with armour of massy gold. Gonzales Pizarro, in searching for these treasures, discovered accidentally, in 1539, the cinnamon-trees of America (Laurus cinnamomoides, Mut.); and Francisco de Orellana went down the Napo, to reach the river Amazon. Since that period expeditions were undertaken at the same time from Venezuela, New Grenada, Quito, Peru, and even from Brazil and the Rio de la Plata,* for the conquest of El Dorado. (* Nuno de Chaves went from the Ciudad de la Asumpcion, situate on Rio Paraguay, to discover, in the latitude of 24 degrees south, the vast empire of El Dorado, which was everywhere supposed to lie on the eastern back of the Andes.) Those of which the remembrance have been best preserved, and which have most contributed to spread the fable of the riches of the Manaos, the Omaguas, and the Guaypes, as well as the existence of the lagunas de oro, and the town of the gilded king (Grand Patiti, Grand Moxo, Grand Paru, or Enim), are the incursions made to the south of the Guaviare, the Rio Fragua, and the Caqueta. Orellana, having found idols of massy gold, had fixed men's ideas on an auriferous land between the Papamene and the Guaviare. His narrative, and those of the voyages of Jorge de Espira (George von Speier), Hernan Perez de Quesada, and Felipe de Urre (Philip von Huten), undertaken in 1536, 1542, and 1545, furnish, amid much exaggeration, proofs of very exact local knowledge.* (* We may be surprised to see, that the expedition of Huten is passed over in absolute silence by Herrera (dec. 7 lib. 10 cap. 7 volume 4 238). Fray Pedro Simon gives the whole particulars of it, true or fabulous; but he composed his work from materials that were unknown to Herrera.) When these are examined merely in a geographical point of view, we perceive the constant desire of the first conquistadores to reach the land comprised between the sources of the Rio Negro, of the Uaupes (Guape), and of the Jupura or Caqueta. This is the land which, in order to distinguish it from El Dorado de la Parime, we have called El Dorado des Omaguas.* (* In 1560 Pedro de Ursua even took the title of Governador del Dorado y de Omagua. Fray Pedro Simon volume 6 chapter 10 page 430.) No doubt the whole country between the Amazon and the Orinoco was vaguely known by the name of las Provincias del Dorado; but in this vast extent of forests, savannahs, and mountains, the progress of those who sought the great lake with auriferous banks, and the town of the gilded king, was directed towards two points only, on the north-east and south-west of the Rio Negro; that is, to Parima (or the isthmus between the Carony, the Essequibo, and the Rio Branco), and to the ancient abode of the Manaos, the inhabitants of the banks of the Yurubesh. I have just mentioned the situation of the latter spot, which is celebrated in the history of the conquest from 1535 to 1560; and it remains for me to speak of the configuration of the country between the Spanish missions of the Rio Carony, and the Portuguese missions of the Rio Branco or Parima. This is the country lying near the Lower Orinoco, the Esmeralda, and French and Dutch Guiana, on which, since the end of the sixteenth century, the enterprises and exaggerated narratives of Raleigh have shed so bright a splendour.
From the general disposition of the course of the Orinoco, directed successively towards the west, the north, and the east, its mouth lies almost in the same meridian as its sources: so that by proceeding from Vieja Guyana to the south the traveller passes through the whole of the country in which geographers have successively placed an inland sea (Mar Blanco), and the different lakes which are connected with the El Dorado de la Parime. We find first the Rio Carony, which is formed by the union of two branches of almost equal magnitude, the Carony properly so called, and the Rio Paragua. The missionaries of Piritu call the latter river a lake (laguna): it is full of shoals, and little cascades; but, passing through a country entirely flat, it is subject at the same time to great inundations, and its real bed (su verdadera caxa) can scarcely be discovered. The natives have given it the name of Paragua or Parava, which means in the Caribbee language sea, or great lake. These local circumstances and this denomination no doubt have given rise to the idea of transforming the Rio Paragua, a tributary stream of the Carony, into a lake called Cassipa, on account of the Cassipagotos,* who lived in those countries. (* Raleigh pages 64 and 69. I always quote, when the contrary is not expressly said, the original edition of 1596. Have these tribes of Cassipagtos, Epuremei, and Orinoqueponi, so often mentioned by Raleigh, disappeared? or did some misapprehension give rise to these denominations? I am surprised to find the Indian words [of one of the different Carib dialects?] Ezrabeta cassipuna aquerewana, translated by Raleigh, the great princes or greatest commander. Since acarwana certainly signifies a chief, or any person who commands (Raleigh pages 6 and 7), cassipuna perhaps means great, and lake Cassipa is synonymous with great lake. In the same manner Cass-iquiare may be a great river, for iquiare, like veni, is, an the north of the Amazon, a termination common to all rivers. Goto, however, in Cassipa-goto, is a Caribbee term denoting a tribe.) Raleigh gives this basin forty miles in breadth; and, as all the lakes of Parima must have auriferous sands, he does not fail to assert that in summer, when the waters retire, pieces of gold of considerable weight are found there.
The sources of the tributary streams of the Carony, the Arui, and the Caura (Caroli, Arvi, and Caora,* of the ancient geographers (* D'Anville names the Rio Caura, Coari; and the Rio Arui, Aroay. I have not been able hitherto to guess what is meant by the Aloica (Atoca, Atoica of Raleigh), which issues from the lake Cassipa, between the Caura and the Arui.)) being very near each other, this suggested the idea of making all these rivers take their rise from the pretended lake Cassipa.* (* Raleigh makes only the Carony and the Arui issue from it (Hondius, Nieuwe Caerte van het wonderbare landt Guiana, besocht door Sir Walter Raleigh, 1594 to 1596): but in later maps, for instance that of Sanson, the Rio Caura issues also from Lake Cassipa.) Sanson has so much enlarged this lake, that he gives it forty-two leagues in length, and fifteen in breadth. The ancient geographers placed opposite to each other, with very little hesitation, the tributary streams of the two banks of a river; and they place the mouth of the Carony, and lake Cassipa, which communicates by the Carony with the Orinoco, sometimes* ABOVE the confluence of the Meta. (* Sanson, Map for the Voyage of Acunha, 1680. Id. South America, 1659. Coronelli, Indes occidentales, 1689.) Thus it is carried back by Hondius as far as the latitudes of 2 and 3 degrees, giving it the form of a rectangle, the longest sides of which run from north to south. This circumstance is worthy of remark, because, in assigning gradually a more southern latitude to lake Cassipa, it has been detached from the Carony and the Arui, and has taken the name of Parima. To follow this metamorphosis in its progressive development, we must compare the maps which have appeared since the voyage of Raleigh till now. La Cruz, who has been copied by all the modern geographers, has preserved the oblong form of the lake Cassipa for his lake Parima, although this form is entirely different from that of the ancient lake Parima, or Rupunuwini, of which the great axis was directed from east to west. The ancient lake (that of Hondius, Sanson, and Coronelli) was also surrounded by mountains, and gave birth to no river; while the lake Parima of La Cruz and the modern geographers communicates with the Upper Orinoco, as the Cassipa with the Lower Orinoco.
I have stated the origin of the fable of the lake Cassipa, and the influence it has had on the opinion that the lake Parima is the source of the Orinoco. Let us now examine what relates to this latter basin, this pretended interior sea, called Rupunuwini by the geographers of the sixteenth century. In the latitude of four degrees or four degrees and a half (in which direction unfortunately, south of Santo Thome del Angostura to the extent of eight degrees, no astronomical observation has been made) is a long and narrow Cordillera, that of Pacaraimo, Quimiropaca, and Ucucuamo; which, stretching from east to south-west, unites the group of mountains of Parima to the mountains of Dutch and French Guiana. It divides its waters between the Carony, the Rupunury or Rupunuwini, and the Rio Branco, and consequently between the valleys of the Lower Orinoco, the Essequibo, and the Rio Negro. On the north-west of the Cordillera de Pacaraimo, which has been traversed but by a small number of Europeans (by the German surgeon, Nicolas Hortsmann, in 1739; by a Spanish officer, Don Antonio Santos, in 1775; by the Portuguese colonel, Barata, in 1791; and by several English settlers, in 1811), descend the Noeapra, the Paraguamusi, and the Paragua, which fall into the Rio Carony; on the north-east, the Rupunuwini, a tributary stream of the Rio Essequibo. Toward the south, the Tacutu and the Urariquera form together the famous Rio Parima, or Rio Branco.
This isthmus, between the branches of the Rio Essequibo and the Rio Branco (that is, between the Rupunuwini on one side, and the Pirara, the Mahu, and the Uraricuera or Rio Parima on the other), may be considered as the classical soil of the Dorado of Parima. The rivers at the foot of the mountains of Pacaraimo are subject to frequent overflowings. Above Santa Rosa, the right bank of the Urariapara, a tributary stream of the Uraricuera, is called el Valle de la Inundacion. Great pools are also found between the Rio Parima and the Xurumu. These are marked on the maps recently constructed in Brazil, which furnish the most ample details of those countries. More to the west, the Cano Pirara, a tributary stream of the Mahu, issues from a lake covered with rushes. This is the lake Amucu described by Nicolas Hortsmann, and respecting which some Portuguese of Barcelos, who had visited the Rio Branco (Rio Parima or Rio Paravigiana), gave me precise notions during my stay at San Carlos del Rio Negro. The lake Amucu is several leagues broad, and contains two small islands, which Santos heard called Islas Ipomucena. The Rupunuwini (Rupunury), on the banks of which Hortsmann discovered rocks covered with hieroglyphical figures, approaches very near this lake, but does not communicate with it. The portage between the Rupunuwini and the Mahu is farther north, where the mountain of Ucucuamo* rises, the natives still call the mountain of gold. (* I follow the orthography of the manuscript journal of Rodriguez; it is the Cerro Acuquamo of Caulin, or rather of his commentator. Hist. corogr. page 176.) They advised Hortsmann to seek round the Rio Mahu for a mine of silver (no doubt mica with large plates), of diamonds, and emeralds. He found nothing but rocky crystals. His account seems to prove that the whole length of the mountains of the Upper Orinoco (Sierra Parima) toward the east, is composed of granitic rocks, full of druses and open veins, the Peak of Duida. Near these lands, which still enjoy a great celebrity for their riches, on the western limits of Dutch Guiana, live the Macusis, Aturajos, and Acuvajos. The traveller Santos found them stationed between the Rupunuwini, the Mahu, and the chain of Pacaraimo. It is the appearance of the micaceous rocks of the Ucucuamo, the name of the Rio Parima, the inundations of the rivers Urariapara, Parima, and Xurumu, and more especially the existence of the lake Amucu (near the Rio Rupunuwini, and regarded as the principal source of the Rio Parima), which have given rise to the fable of the White Sea and the Dorado of Parima. All these circumstances (which have served on this very account to corroborate the general opinion) are found united on a space of ground which is eight or nine leagues broad from north to south, and forty long from east to west. This direction, too, was always assigned to the White Sea, by lengthening it in the direction of the latitude, till the beginning of the sixteenth century. Now this White Sea is nothing but the Rio Parima, which is called the White River (Rio Branco, or Rio del Aguas blancas), and runs through and inundates the whole of this land. The name of Rupunuwini is given to the White Sea on the most ancient maps, which identifies the place of the fable, since of all the tributary streams of the Rio Essequibo the Rupunuwini is the nearest to the lake Amucu. Raleigh, in his first voyage (1595), had formed no precise idea of the situation of El Dorado and the lake Parima, which he believed to be salt, and which he calls another Caspian Sea. It was not till the second voyage (1596), performed equally at the expense of Raleigh, that Laurence Keymis fixed so well the localities of El Dorado, that he appears to me to have no doubt of the identity of the Parima de Manao with the lake Amucu, and with the isthmus between the Rupunuwini (a tributary stream of the Essequibo) and the Rio Parima or Rio Branco. "The Indians," says Keymis, "go up the Dessekebe [Essequibo] in twenty days, towards the south. To mark the greatness of this river, they call it the brother of the Orinoco. After twenty days' navigating they convey their canoes by a portage of one day, from the river Dessekebe to a lake, which the Jaos call Roponowini, and the Caribbees Parime. This lake is as large as a sea; it is covered with an infinite number of canoes; and I suppose" [the Indians then had told him nothing of this] "that this lake is no other than that which contains the town of Manoa."* (* Cayley's Life of Raleigh volume 1 pages 159, 236 and 283. Masham in the third voyage of Raleigh (1596) repeats these accounts of the Lake Rupunuwini.) Hondius has given a curious plate of this portage; and, as the mouth of the Carony was then supposed to be in latitude 4 degrees (instead of 8 degrees 8 minutes), the portage of Parima was placed close to the equator. At the same period the Viapoco (Oyapoc) and the Rio Cayenne (Maroni?) were made to issue from this lake Parima. The same name being given by the Caribs to the western branch of the Rio Branco has perhaps contributed as much to the imaginary enlargement of the lake Amucu, as the inundations of the various tributary streams of the Uraricuera, from the confluence of the Tacutu to the Valle de la Inundacion.