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- Equinoctial Regions of America - 40/104 -

they did not alter the transparency of the atmosphere. The moon arose after a storm of rain, behind the castle of San Antonio. As soon as she appeared on the horizon, we distinguished two circles: one large and whitish, forty-four degrees in diameter; the other a small circle of 1 degree 43 minutes, displaying all the colours of the rainbow. The space between the two circles was of the deepest azure. At four degrees height, they disappeared, while the meteorological instruments indicated not the slightest change in the lower regions of the air. This phenomenon had nothing extraordinary, except the great brilliancy of the colours, added to the circumstance, that, according to the measures taken with Ramsden's sextant, the lunar disk was not exactly in the centre of the haloes. Without this actual measurement we might have thought that the excentricity was the effect of the projection of the circles on the apparent concavity of the sky.

If the situation of our house at Cumana was highly favourable for the observation of the stars and meteorological phenomena, it obliged us to be sometimes the witnesses of painful scenes during the day. A part of the great square is surrounded with arcades, above which is one of those long wooden galleries, common in warm countries. This was the place where slaves, brought from the coast of Africa, were sold. Of all the European governments Denmark was the first, and for a long time the only power, which abolished the traffic; yet notwithstanding that fact, the first negroes we saw exposed for sale had been landed from a Danish slave-ship. What are the duties of humanity, national honour, or the laws of their country, to men stimulated by the speculations of sordid interest?

The slaves exposed to sale were young men from fifteen to twenty years of age. Every morning cocoa-nut oil was distributed among them, with which they rubbed their bodies, to give their skin a black polish. The persons who came to purchase examined the teeth of these slaves, to judge of their age and health; forcing open their mouths as we do those of horses in a market. This odious custom dates from Africa, as is proved by the faithful pictures drawn by the inimitable Cervantes,* who after his long captivity among the Moors, described the sale of Christian slaves at Algiers. (* El Trato de Argel. Jorn. 2 Viage al Parnasso 1784 page 316.) It is distressing to think that even at this day there exist European colonists in the West Indies who mark their slaves with a hot iron, to know them again if they escape. This is the treatment bestowed on those "who save other men the labour of sowing, tilling, and reaping."* (* La Bruyere Caracteres edition 1765 chapter 11 page 300. I will here cite a passage strongly characteristic of La Bruyere's benevolent feeling for his fellow-creatures. "We find (under the torrid zone) certain wild animals, male and female, scattered through the country, black, livid, and all over scorched by the sun, bent to the earth which they dig and turn up with invincible perseverance. They have something like articulate utterance; and when they stand up on their feet, they exhibit a human face, and in fact these creatures are men.")

In 1800 the number of slaves did not exceed six thousand in the two provinces of Cumana and Barcelona, when at the same period the whole population was estimated at one hundred and ten thousand inhabitants. The trade in African slaves, which the laws of the Spaniards have never favoured, is almost as nothing on these coasts where the trade in American slaves was carried on in the sixteenth century with desolating activity. Macarapan, anciently called Amaracapana, Cumana, Araya, and particularly New Cadiz, built on the islet of Cubagua, might then be considered as commercial establishments for facilitating the slave trade. Girolamo Benzoni of Milan, who at the age of twenty-two visited Terra Firma, took part in some expeditions in 1542 to the coasts of Bordones, Cariaco, and Paria, to carry off the unfortunate natives, he relates with simplicity, and often with a sensibility not common in the historians of that time, the examples of cruelty of which he was a witness. He saw the slaves dragged to New Cadiz, to be marked on the forehead and on the arms, and for the payment of the quint to the officers of the crown. From this port the Indians were sent to the island of Haiti or St. Domingo, after having often changed masters, not by way of sale, but because the soldiers played for them at dice.

The first excursion we made was to the peninsula of Araya, and those countries formerly celebrated for the slave-trade and the pearl-fishery. We embarked on the Rio Manzanares, near the Indian suburb, on the 19th of August, about two in the morning. The principal objects of this excursion were, to see the ruins of the castle of Araya, to examine the salt-works, and to make a few geological observations on the mountains forming the narrow peninsula of Maniquarez. The night was delightfully cool; swarms of phosphorescent insects* glistened in the air (* Elater noctilucus. ), and over a soil covered with sesuvium, and groves of mimosa which bordered the river. We know how common the glow-worm* (* Lampyris italica, L. noctiluca.) is in Italy and in all the south of Europe, but the picturesque effect it produces cannot be compared to those innumerable, scattered, and moving lights, which embellish the nights of the torrid zone, and seem to repeat on the earth, along the vast extent of the savannahs, the brilliancy of the starry vault of heaven.

When, on descending the river, we drew near plantations, or charas, we saw bonfires kindled by the negroes. A light and undulating smoke rose to the tops of the palm-trees, and imparted a reddish hue to the disk of the moon. It was on a Sunday night, and the slaves were dancing to the music of the guitar. The people of Africa, of negro race, are endowed with an inexhaustible store of activity and gaiety. After having ended the labours of the week, the slaves, on festival days, prefer to listless sleep the recreations of music and dancing.

The bark in which we passed the gulf of Cariaco was very spacious. Large skins of the jaguar, or American tiger, were spread for our repose during the night. Though we had yet scarcely been two months in the torrid zone, we had already become so sensible to the smallest variation of temperature that the cold prevented us from sleeping; while, to our surprise, we saw that the centigrade thermometer was as high as 21.8 degrees. This fact is familiar to those who have lived long in the Indies, and is worthy the attention of physiologists. Bouguer relates, that when he reached the summit of Montagne Pelee, in the island of Martinique, he and his companions shivered with cold, though the heat was above 21.5 degrees. In reading the interesting narrative of captain Bligh, who, in consequence of a mutiny on board the Bounty, was forced to make a voyage of twelve hundred leagues in an open boat, we find that that navigator, in the tenth and twelfth degrees of south latitude, suffered much more from cold than from hunger. During our abode at Guayaquil, in the month of January 1803, we observed that the natives covered themselves, and complained of the cold, when the thermometer sank to 23.8 degrees, whilst they felt the heat suffocating at 30.5 degrees. Six or seven degrees were sufficient to cause the opposite sensations of cold and heat; because, on these coasts of South America, the ordinary temperature of the atmosphere is twenty-eight degrees. The humidity, which modifies the conducting power of the air for heat, contributes greatly to these impressions. In the port of Guayaquil, as everywhere else in the low regions of the torrid zone, the weather grows cool only after storms of rain: and I have observed that when the thermometer sinks to 23.8 degrees, De Luc's hygrometer keeps up to fifty and fifty-two degrees; it is, on the contrary, at thirty-seven degrees in a temperature of 30.5 degrees. At Cumana, during very heavy showers, people in the streets are heard exclaiming, que hielo! estoy emparamado;* though the thermometer exposed to the rain sinks only to 21.5 degrees. (* "What an icy cold! I shiver as if I was on the top of the mountains." The provincial word emparamarse can be translated only by a very long periphrasis. Paramo, in Peruvian puna, is a denomination found on all the maps of Spanish America. In the colonies it signifies neither a desert nor a heath, but a mountainous place covered with stunted trees, exposed to the winds, and in which a damp cold perpetually reigns. In the torrid zone, the paramos are generally from one thousand six hundred to two thousand toises high. Snow often falls on them, but it remains only a few hours; for we must not confound, as geographers often do, the words paramo and puna with that of nevado, in Peruvian ritticapa, a mountain which enters into the limits of perpetual snow. These notions are highly interesting to geology and the geography of plants; because, in countries where no height has been measured, we may form an exact idea of the lowest height to which the Cordilleras rise, on looking into the map for the words paramo and nevado. As the paramos are almost continually enveloped in a cold and thick fog, the people say at Santa Fe and at Mexico, cae un paramito when a thick small rain falls, and the temperature of the air sinks considerably. From paramo has been made emparamarse, which signifies to be as cold as if we were on the ridge of the Andes.) From these observations it follows, that between the tropics, in plains where the temperature of the air is in the day-time almost invariably above twenty-seven degrees, warmer clothing during the night is requisite, whenever in a damp air the thermometer sinks four or five degrees.

We landed about eight in the morning at the point of Araya, near the new salt-works. A solitary house, near a battery of three guns, the only defence of this coast, since the destruction of the fort of Santiago, is the abode of the inspector. It is surprising that these salt-works, which formerly excited the jealousy of the English, Dutch, and other maritime powers, have not created a village, or even a farm; a few huts only of poor Indian fishermen are found at the extremity of the point of Araya.

This spot commands a view of the islet of Cubagua, the lofty hills of Margareta, the ruins of the castle of Santiago, the Cerro de la Vela, and the calcareous chain of the Brigantine, which bounds the horizon towards the south. I availed myself of this view to take the angles between these different points, from a basis of four hundred toises, which I measured between the battery and the hill called the Pena. As the Cerro de la Vela, the Brigantine, and the castle of San Antonio at Cumana, are equally visible from the Punta Arenas, situated to the west of the village of Maniquarez, the same objects were available for an approximate determination of the respective positions of several points, which are laid down in the mineralogical chart of the peninsula of Araya.

The abundance of salt contained in the peninsula of Araya was known to Alonzo Nino, when, following the tracks of Columbus, Ojeda, and Amerigo Vespucci, he visited these countries in 1499. Though of all the people on the globe the natives of South America consume the least salt, because they scarcely eat anything but vegetables, it nevertheless appears, that at an early period the Guayquerias dug into the clayey and muriatiferous soil of Punta Arenas. Even the brine-pits, now called new, (la salina nueva,) situated at the extremity of Cape Araya, were worked in very remote times. The Spaniards, who settled at first at Cubagua, and soon after on the coasts of Cumana, worked, from the beginning of the sixteenth century, the salt marshes which stretch away like a lagoon to the north of Cerro de la Vela. As at that period the peninsula of Araya had no settled population, the Dutch availed themselves of the natural riches of a soil which appeared to be property common to all nations. In our days, each colony has its own salt-works, and

Equinoctial Regions of America - 40/104

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