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- Equinoctial Regions of America V2 - 6/97 -


dust, after having worked in the neighbouring fields of indigo and sugar-cane. Though the water of this bath (bano) is habitually from 12 to 14 degrees hotter than the air, the negroes call it refreshing; because in the torrid zone this term is used for whatever restores strength, calms the irritation of the nerves, or causes a feeling of comfort. We ourselves experienced the salutary effects of the bath. Having slung our hammocks on the trees round the basin, we passed a whole day in this charming spot, which abounds in plants. We found near the bano of Mariara the volador, or gyrocarpus. The winged fruits of this large tree turn like a fly-wheel, when they fall from the stalk. On shaking the branches of the volador, we saw the air filled with its fruits, the simultaneous fall of which presents the most singular spectacle. The two membranaceous and striated wings are turned so as to meet the air, in falling, at an angle of 45 degrees. Fortunately the fruits we gathered were at their maturity. We sent some to Europe, and they have germinated in the gardens of Berlin, Paris, and Malmaison. The numerous plants of the volador, now seen in hot-houses, owe their origin to the only tree of the kind found near Mariara. The geographical distribution of the different species of gyrocarpus, which Mr. Brown considers as one of the laurineae, is very singular. Jacquin saw one species near Carthagena in America.* (* The Gyrocarpus Jacquini of Gartner, or Gyrocarpus americanus of Willdenouw.) This is the same which we met with again in Mexico, near Zumpango, on the road from Acapulco to the capital.* (* The natives of Mexico called it quitlacoctli. I saw some of its young leaves with three and five lobes; the full-grown leaves are in the form of a heart, and always with three lobes. We never met with the volador in flower.) Another species, which grows on the mountains of Coromandel,* (* This is the Gyrocarpus asiaticus of Willdenouw.) has been described by Roxburgh; the third and fourth* grow in the southern hemisphere, on the coasts of Australia. (* Gyrocarpus sphenopterus, and G. rugosus.)

After getting out of the bath, while, half-wrapped in a sheet, we were drying ourselves in the sun, according to the custom of the country, a little man of the mulatto race approached us. After bowing gravely, he made us a long speech on the virtues of the waters of Mariara, adverting to the numbers of invalids by whom they have been visited for some years past, and to the favourable situation of the springs, between the two towns Valencia and Caracas. He showed us his house, a little hut covered with palm-leaves, situated in an enclosure at a small distance, on the bank of a rivulet, communicating with the bath. He assured us that we should there find all the conveniences of life; nails to suspend our hammocks, ox-leather to stretch over benches made of reeds, earthern vases always filled with cool water, and what, after the bath, would be most salutary of all, those great lizards (iguanas), the flesh of which is known to be a refreshing aliment. We judged from his harangue, that this good man took us for invalids, who had come to stay near the spring. His counsels and offers of hospitality were not altogether disinterested. He styled himself the inspector of the waters, and the pulpero* (* Proprietor of a pulperia, or little shop where refreshments are sold.) of the place. Accordingly all his obliging attentions to us ceased as soon as he heard that we had come merely to satisfy our curiosity; or as they express it in the Spanish colonies, those lands of idleness, para ver, no mas, to see, and nothing more. The waters of Mariara are used with success in rheumatic swellings, and affections of the skin. As the waters are but very feebly impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen, it is necessary to bathe at the spot where the springs issue. Farther on, these same waters are employed for the irrigation of fields of indigo. A wealthy landed proprietor of Mariara, Don Domingo Tovar, had formed the project of erecting a bathing-house, and an establishment which would furnish visitors with better resources than lizard's flesh for food, and leather stretched on a bench for their repose.

On the 21st of February, in the evening, we set out from the beautiful Hacienda de Cura for Guacara and Nueva Valencia. We preferred travelling by night, on account of the excessive heat of the day. We passed by the hamlet of Punta Zamuro, at the foot of the high mountains of Las Viruelas. The road is bordered with large zamang-trees, or mimosas, the trunks of which rise to sixty feet high. Their branches, nearly horizontal, meet at more than one hundred and fifty feet distance. I have nowhere seen a vault of verdure more beautiful and luxuriant. The night was gloomy: the Rincon del Diablo with its denticulated rocks appeared from time to time at a distance, illumined by the burning of the savannahs, or wrapped in ruddy smoke. At the spot where the bushes were thickest, our horses were frightened by the yell of an animal that seemed to follow us closely. It was a large jaguar, which had roamed for three years among these mountains. He had constantly escaped the pursuits of the boldest hunters, and had carried off horses and mules from the midst of enclosures; but, having no want of food, had not yet attacked men. The negro who conducted us uttered wild cries, expecting by these means to frighten the tiger; but his efforts were ineffectual. The jaguar, like the wolf of Europe, follows travellers even when he will not attack them; the wolf in the open fields and in unsheltered places, the jaguar skirting the road and appearing only at intervals between the bushes.

We passed the day on the 23rd in the house of the Marquis de Toro, at the village of Guacara, a very considerable Indian community. An avenue of carolineas leads from Guacara to Mocundo. It was the first time I had seen in the open air this majestic plant, which forms one of the principal ornaments of the extensive conservatories of Schonbrunn.* (* Every tree of the Carolinea princeps at Schonbrunn has sprung from seeds collected from one single tree of enormous size, near Chacao, east of Caracas.) Mocundo is a rich plantation of sugar-canes, belonging to the family of Toro. We there find, what is so rare in that country, a garden, artificial clumps of trees, and on the border of the water, upon a rock of gneiss, a pavilion with a mirador, or belvidere. The view is delightful over the western part of the lake, the surrounding mountains, and a forest of palm-trees that separates Guacara from the city of Nueva Valencia. The fields of sugar-cane, from the soft verdure of the young reeds, resemble a vast meadow. Everything denotes abundance; but it is at the price of the liberty of the cultivators. At Mocundo, with two hundred and thirty negroes, seventy-seven tablones, or cane-fields, are cultivated, each of which, ten thousand varas square,* (* A tablon, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and one-fifth: a legal acre has 1344 square toises, and 1.95 legal acre is equal to one hectare.) yields a net profit of two hundred or two hundred and forty piastres a-year. The creole cane and the cane of Otaheite* are planted in the month of April, the first at four, the second at five feet distance. (* In the island of Palma, where in the latitude of 29 degrees the sugar-cane is said to be cultivated as high as 140 toises above the level of the Atlantic, the Otaheite cane requires more heat than the Creole cane.) The cane ripens in fourteen months. It flowers in the month of October, if the plant be sufficiently vigorous; but the top is cut off before the panicle unfolds. In all the monocotyledonous plants (for example, the maguey cultivated at Mexico for extracting pulque, the wine-yielding palm-tree, and the sugar-cane), the flowering alters the quality of the juices. The preparation of sugar, the boiling, and the claying, are very imperfect in Terra Firma, because it is made only for home consumption; and for wholesale, papelon is preferred to sugar, either refined or raw. This papelon is an impure sugar, in the form of little loaves, of a yellow-brown colour. It contains a mixture of molasses and mucilaginous matter. The poorest man eats papelon, as in Europe he eats cheese. It is believed to have nutritive qualities. Fermented with water it yields the guarapo, the favourite beverage of the people. In the province of Caracas subcarbonate of potash is used, instead of lime, to purify the juice of the sugar-cane. The ashes of the bucare, which is the Erythrina corallodendrum, are preferred.

The sugar-cane was introduced very late, probably towards the end of the sixteenth century, from the West India Islands, into the valleys of Aragua. It was known in India, in China, and in all the islands of the Pacific, from the most remote antiquity; and it was planted at Khorassan, in Persia, as early as the fifth century of our era, in order to obtain from it solid sugar.* (* The Indian name for the sugar-cane is sharkara. Thence the word sugar.) The Arabs carried this reed, so useful to the inhabitants of hot and temperate countries, to the shores of the Mediterranean. In 1306, its cultivation was yet unknown in Sicily; but was already common in the island of Cyprus, at Rhodes, and in the Morea. A hundred years after it enriched Calabria, Sicily, and the coasts of Spain. From Sicily the Infante Don Henry transported the cane to Madeira: from Madeira it passed to the Canary Islands, where it was entirely unknown; for the ferulae of Juba, quae expressae liquorem fundunt potui ucundum, are euphorbias (the Tabayba dulce), and not, as has been recently asserted,* sugar-canes. (* On the origin of cane-sugar, in the Journal de Pharmacie 1816 page 387. The Tabayba dulce is, according to Von Buch, the Euphorbia balsamifera, the juice of which is neither corrosive nor bitter like that of the cardon, or Euphorbia canariensis.) Twelve sugar-manufactories (ingenios de azucar) were soon established in the island of Great Canary, in that of Palma, and between Adexe, Icod, and Guarachico, in the island of Teneriffe. Negroes were employed in this cultivation, and their descendants still inhabit the grottos of Tiraxana, in the Great Canary. Since the sugar-cane has been transplanted to the West Indies, and the New World has given maize to the Canaries, the cultivation of the latter has taken the place of the cane at Teneriffe and the Great Canary. The cane is now found only in the island of Palma, near Argual and Tazacorte,* where it yields scarcely one thousand quintals of sugar a year. (* "Notice sur la Culture du Sucre dans les Isles Canariennes" by Leopold von Buch.) The sugar-cane of the Canaries, which Aiguilon transported to St. Domingo, was there cultivated extensively as early as 1513, or during the six or seven following years, under the auspices of the monks of St. Jerome. Negroes were employed in this cultivation from its commencement; and in 1519 representations were made to government, as in our own time, that the West India Islands would be ruined and made desert, if slaves were not conveyed thither annually from the coast of Guinea.

For some years past the culture and preparation of sugar has been much improved in Terra Firma; and, as the process of refining is prohibited by the laws at Jamaica, they reckon on the fraudulent exportation of refined sugar to the English colonies. But the consumption of the provinces of Venezuela, in papelon, and in raw sugar employed in making chocolate and sweetmeats (dulces) is so enormous, that the exportation has been hitherto entirely null. The finest plantations of sugar are in the valleys of Aragua and of the Tuy, near Pao de Zarate, between La Victoria and San Sebastian, near Guatire, Guarenas, and Caurimare. The first canes arrived in the New World from the Canary Islands; and even now Canarians, or Islenos, are placed at the head of most of the great plantations, and superintend the labours of cultivation and refining.

It is this connexion between the Canarians and the inhabitants of Venezuela, that has given rise to the introduction of camels into those provinces. The Marquis del Toro caused three to be brought from Lancerote. The expense of conveyance was very considerable, owing to the space which these animals occupy on board merchant-vessels, and the great quantity of water they require during a long sea-voyage. A camel, bought for thirty piastres, costs between eight and nine hundred before it reaches the coast of Caracas. We saw four of these animals at Mocundo; three of which had been bred in America. Two others had died of the bite of the coral, a venomous serpent very common on the banks of the lake. These camels have hitherto been employed only in the conveyance of the sugarcanes to the mill. The males, stronger than the females, carry from forty to fifty arrobas. A wealthy landholder in the province of Varinas, encouraged by the


Equinoctial Regions of America V2 - 6/97

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