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seasoned to the climate, and Indians, are known to attain a happy old age in the torrid zone.
I have mentioned elsewhere,' says our author,' the history of a native of Peru, who died at the
age of 143 years, after having been 90 years married.'
The city, or town, or village of Vittoria, sitụate as it were in the bottom of a desiccated lake, contains 7,000 inhabitants, many fine edifices, a church decorated with Doric columns, and all the resources of commercial industry. The environs presented to the travellers a remarkable aspect, with regard to agriculture. On the surface little less than three hundred toises above the level of the ocean, they beheld fields, of corn mingled with plantations of sugar-canes, coffee, and plantains. La Vittoria and the neighbouring village of San Matheo yield an annual produce of four thousand quintals of wheat. It is sown in the month of December, and the harvest is reaped on the seventieth or seventy-fifth day. An acre (14 English) generally yields from three thousand to three thousand two hundred pounds of wheat; and consequently, says M. de Humboldt, the average produce is here, as at Buenos Ayres, three or four times as much as that of northern countries.' We know not in what “northern countries' it would repay
the husbandman's labour and expense to reap so scanty a crop, as from ten to twelve bushels an acre, but we are quite sure it would not answer to an English farmer. We suspect the Baron is not much of an agriculturist, and we are inclined to doubt the accuracy of the statement, that beyond the latitude of 45°, the produce of wheat is no where so considerable as on the northern coasts of Africa and the table-lands of New Grenada, Peru, and Mexico.' If it be meant by merely turning over the soil to throw in the seed, without any preparatory tilth or manure, then indeed the fact
be as he states it, as the augmentation of heat may to a certain degree stand in lieu of tillage.
From St. Matheo to Turmero, a distance of four leagues, the road leads through plantations of sugar, indigo, cotton, and coffee. The regularity of all the villages indicated their origin to monks and missions-streets straight and parallel, crossing each other at right angles, and the church in the great square, situate in the centre. Indians are here mixed with the whites. Those of Turmero are described as of small stature, but less squat than the Chaymas, and with more vivacity and intelligence in their eyes : active and laborious during the short intervals in which they can be prevailed on to work, they spend in one week the earnings of two months in strong liquors, at the small inns which every where abound.
Our travellers remained some time at Cura on the borders of the Jake of Valentia or Tacarigua, agreeably surprized not only at the
progress of agriculture, but at the obvious increase of a free and laborious population, accustomed to toil, and too needy to rely on the assistance of slaves. The great landholders, had at length discovered their advantage in letting out small separate farms to the poor families, who applied themselves chiefly to the cultivation of cotton. I love,' says M. de Humboldt,' to dwell on these details of colonial industry, because they prove to the inhabitants of Europe, what to the enlightened inhabitants of the colonies has long ceased to be doubtful, that the continent of Spanish America can produce cotton, as well as sugar and indigo, by free hands, and that the unhappy slaves are capable of becoming peasants, farmers, and landholders.
We pass over the picturesque beauties of the lake of Valentia, with its numerous rocky islets, and its cultivated shores, together with the question of the diminution of its waters, which is discussed at great length; and which seems to us fully accounted for by the destruction of forests, the clearing of plains, the evaporation of the soil, and the dryness of the atmosphere. On one of the fifteen islands which embellish the lake, our travellers learnt the following anecdote.
Burro, the largest of these islands, is two miles in length ; and even inhabited by some families of Mestizoes, who rear goats. These simple men seldom visit the shore of Mocundo. To them the lake appears of immense extent; they have plantains, cassava, milk, and a little fish. A hut constructed of reeds; hammocks woven with the cotton, which the neighbouring fields produce; a large stone, on which the fire is made, the ligneous fruit of the tutuma, in which they draw water, constitute their domestic establishment. The old Mestizo, who offered us some of the milk of his goats, had a beautiful daughter. We learned from our guide, that solitude had rendered him as mistrustful, as he might perhaps have been made by the society of men. The day before our arrival, some sportsmen had visited the island. They were surprized by the night ; and preferred sleeping in the open air to returning to Mocundo. This news spread alarm throughout the island. The father obliged the young girl to climb up a very lofty zamang or acacia, which grows in the plain, at some distance from the hut; while he stretched himself at the foot of the tree, and did not permit his daughter to descend, till the sportsmen had departed. Travellers have not always found this timorous watchfulness, this great austerity of manners, among the inhabitants of islands.'-p. 159.
From Mocundo our travellers continued their journey by Los Guayos to the city of Nueva Valencia which, occupying a very extensive space, contains only six or seven thousand souls. Many of the white inhabitants however forsake their houses, and live in little plantations of indigo and cotton, where they can venture to work with their own hands, which it seems would be a disgrace to them in the town. Here the termites or white ants are so abundant, that their excavations are said to resemble subterraneous canals, which filling with water in the time of the rains, become very dangerous to the buildings of the town.
Valencia calls to the recollection of our author the crimes and adventures of Lopez de Aguirre, which form one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the conquest. On entering this city, he proclaimed the independence of the country, and the deposition of Philip II. In his celebrated letter to this sovereign, of which M. de Humboldt has given several extracts, he paints with frightful truth the manners of the soldiery of the fifteenth century in this unfortunate country,
“The tyrant (Aguirre is still thus denominated by the vulgar) boasts alternately of his crimes and his piety; he gives advice to the king on the government of the colonies, and the system of missions. Surrounded by savage Indians, navigating on a great sea of fresh water, as he calls the river of Amazons, he is alarmed at the heresies of Martin Luther, and the increasing influence of schismatics in Europe. Lopez de Aguirre was killed at Barquesimeto, after having been abandoned by his own men. At the moment when he fell, he plunged a dagger into the bosom of his only daughter, “ that she might not have to blush before the Spaniards at the name of the daughter of a traitor,” The soul of the tyrant (such is the belief of the natives) wanders in the savannahs, like a fame that flies the approach of men.'
Our travellers visited Porto Cabello on the sea coast, and stopping, on their return to Valencia, at the farm of Burbula, were gratified with a new object of the vegetable world, interesting to the philosopher and lover of natural history; it was the palo de vaca or cow-tree, yielding, from incisions made in its trunk, a vegetable milk of a nutricious quality, used plentifully by the negroes. This juicy matter is described as glutinous, tolerably thick, destitute of all acrimony, and of an agreeable and balmy smell. M. de Humboldt says that they drank considerable quantities of it in the evening before they went to bed, and very early in the morning, without feeling the least injurious effect; the viscosity alone rendering it a little disagreeable. The tree, it seems, has not been described or classed by botanists, but it is supposed to belong to the sapota family, of which the butter-tree of Mungo Park is another member. It is represented as a beautiful tree, rising like the broad-leaved star-apple (chrysophylum cainito.) The milk exposed to the air produces a coagulum, which the people call cheese. The following reflections are in the best manner of M.de Humboldt.
* Amid the great number of curious phenomena, which have presented themselves to me in the course of my travels, I confess there are few that have so powerfully affected my imagination as the aspect of
the cow-tree. Whatever relates to milk, whatever regards corn, inspires an interest, which is not merely that of the physical knowledge of things, but is connected with another order of ideas and sentiments. We can scarcely conceive how the human race could exist without farinaceous substances; and without that nourishing juice, which the breast of the mother contains, and which is appropriated to the long feebleness of the infant. The amylaceous matter of corn, the object of religious veneration among so many nations, ancient and modern, is diffused in the seeds, and deposited in the roots of vegetables ; milk, which serves us as an aliment, appears to us exclusively the produce of animal organization. Such are the impressions we have received in our earliest infancy: such is also the source of that astonishment, which seizes us at the aspect of the tree just described. It is not here the solemn shades of forests, the majestic course of rivers, the mountains wrapped in eternal frost, that excite our emotion. A few drops of vegetable juice recall to our minds all the powerfulness and fecundity of nature. On the barren fank of a rock grows a tree with coriaceous and dry leaves. It's large woody roots can scarcely penetrate into the
For several months of the year not a single shower moistens its foliage. Ils branches appear dead and dried; but when the trunk is pierced, there flows from it a sweet and nourishing milk. It is at the rising of the sun, that this vegetable fountain is most abundant. The Blacks and natives are then seen hastening from all quarters, furnished with large bowls to receive the milk, which grows yellow, and thickens at its surface. Some employ their bowls under the tree itself, others carry the juice home to their children. We seem to see the family of a shepherd, who distributes the milk of his flock.
• I have described the sensations, which the cow-tree awakens in the mind of the traveller at the first view. In examining the physical properties of animal and vegetable products, science displays them as closely linked together; but it strips them of what is marvellous, and perhaps also of a part of their charms, of what excited our astonishment. Nothing appears isolated; the chemical principles that were believed to be peculiar to animals, are found in plants; a common chain links together all organic nature.'- p. 215.
We must quit the remaining part of this chapter, which is chiefly occupied by a tedious dissertation on the culture of cacao, and the manufacture and export of chocolate. There is an incident, however, culled out of Oviedo's History of Venezuela, which is interesting as being somewhat analogous to those which are now passing in the island of St. Domingo.
• A Negro slave excited an insurrection among the miners of the Real de San Felipe de Buria. He retired into the woods, and founded, with two hundred of his companions, a town, where he was proclaimed king. Miguel, this new monarch, was a friend to pomp and parade. He caused his wife Guiomar, to assume the title of queen; and, according to Oviedo, he appointed ministers and counsellors of state, officers of la casa real, and even a Negro bishop. He had soon after the boldness to attack
the neighbouring town of Nueva Segovia de Barquesimeto; but, being repulsed by Diego de Losada, he perished in the fight. This African monarchy was succeeded at Nirgua by a republic of Zamboes, the descendants of Negroes and Indians. The whole municipality is composed of men of colour, to whom the king of Spain has given the title of “ his faithful and loyal subjects, the Zamboes of Nirgua.” Few families of Whites will inhabit a country, where the system that prevails is so contrary to their pretensions; and the little town is called in derision la republica de Zambos y Mulatos. It is as imprudent to cede the government to a single cast, as to segregate that cast by depriving it of its natural rights.'-p. 252.
Our travellers now, to use the words of M. de Humboldt,' from a peopled country embellished with cultivation, plunge into a vast solitude'-into those immense plains, savannahs, destitute of trees, which
appear to the eye to ascend like the great ocean toward the horizon. In the Mesa de Paja, in the ninth degree of latitude, they first entered the basin of the Llanos.
• The sun was almost at the zenith; the earth, wherever it appeared sterile and destitute of vegetation, was at the temperature of 48° or 50°. Not a breath of air was felt at the height at which we were on our mules; yet, in the midst of this apparent calm, whirls of dust incessantly arose, driven on by those small currents of air, that glide only over the surface of the ground, and are occasioned by the difference of temperature, which the naked sand and the spots covered with herbs acquire. These sand winds augment the suffocating heat of the air, Every grain of quartz, hotter than the surrounding air, radiates heat in every direction; and it is difficult to observe the temperature of the atmosphere, without these particles of sand striking against the bulb of the thermometer. All around us, the plains seemed to ascend toward the sky, and that vast and profound solitude appeared to our eyes like an ocean covered with seaweeds. According to the unequal mass of vapours diffused through the atmosphere, and the variable decrement in the temperature of the different strata of air, the horizon in some parts was clear and distinct; in other parts it appeared undulating, sinuous, and as if striped. The earth there was confounded with the sky. Through the dry fog, and strata of vapour, the trunks of palmtrees were seen from afar. Stripped of their foliage, and their verdant summits, these trunks appeared like the masts of a ship discovered at the horizon.
* There is something awful, but sad and gloomy in the uniform aspect of these Steppes. Every thing seems motionless ; scarcely does a small cloud, as it passes across the zenith, and announces the approach of the rainy season, sometimes cast its shadow on the savannah. I know not whether the first aspect of the Llanos excite less astonishment than that of the chain of the Andes. Mountainous countries, whatever may be the absolute elevation of the highest summits, have an analogous physiognomy; but we accustom ourselves with difficulty to the view of the Llanos of Venezuela and Casanare, to that of the Pampas of Buenos