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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



IN MEMORY OF
MRS. VIRGINIA B. SPORER




FORDING THE CHAMELICON RIVER



THREE GRINGOS

IN VENEZUELA AND
CENTRAL AMERICA



BY

RICHARD HARDING DAVIS

ILLUSTRATED




NEW YORK AND LONDON

HAR PER & BROTHERS

PUBLISHERS 1903



Copyright, i8</>, by HARPBR & BROTHERS.



Collega
Library



F



TO

MY FRIENDS
H. SOMERS SOMERSET

AND

LLOYD GRISCOM



CONTENTS



PAGE

ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA i

THE EXILED LOTTERY 27

IN HONDURAS 56

AT CORINTO 160

ON THE ISTHMUS OF PANAMA 193

THE PARIS OF SOUTH AMERICA . , 221



ILLUSTRATIONS



PAGE

FORDING THE CHAMELICON RIVKR Frontispiece

MAP OF VENEZUELA AND CENTRAL AMERICA, SHOWING

THE ROUTE OF THE "THREE GRINGOS " .... xiii

GOVERNMENT HOUSE, BELIZE 7

SIR ALFRED MOLONEY IO

NATIVE CONSTABULARY, BELIZE 13

MAIN STREET, BELIZE 17

NATIVE WOMEN AT LIVINGSTON 2O

THE GUATEMALLECAN ARMY AT LIVINGSTON .... 23

BARRACKS AT PORT BARRIOS 2$

THE EXILED LOTTERY BUILDING 35

THE IGUANAS OF HONDURAS 5!

OUR NAVAL ATTACHE 57

OUR MILITARY ATTACHE 60

A STRETCH OF CENTRAL-AMERICAN RAILWAY .... 62

THE THREE GRINGOS 64

SETTING OUT FROM SAN PEDRO SULA 67

THE HIGHLANDS OF HONDURAS 7!

SOMERSET 74

A DRAWER OF WATER , 77

NATIVE METHOD OF DRYING COFFEE 85

IN A CENTRAL-AMERICAN FOREST 89

ON THE TRAIL TO SANTA BARBARA 97

A HALT AT TRINIDAD . IOI



X ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

GENERAL LOUIS BOGRAN IO5

OUR PACK-TRAIN AT SANTA BARBARA IO?

A VILLAGE IN THE INTERIOR 114

BRIDGE CONNECTING TEGUCIGALPA WITH ITS SUBURB . 123

BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF TEGUCIGALPA 127

THE BANK OF HONDURAS I2Q

STATUE OF MORAZAN 132

P. BONILLA 135

GENERAL LOUIS BOGKAN, EX-PRESIDENT 138

HARRACKS OF TEGUCIGALPA AFTER THE ATTACK OF THE

REVOLUTIONISTS 14!

MORAZAN, THE LIBERATOR OF HONDURAS 145

ON THE WAV TO CORINTO 155

PRINCIPAL HOTEL AND PRINCIPAL HOUSE AT CORINTO . l62

HARBOR OF CORINTO 175

THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSE AT MANAGUA 179

PRESIDENT ZEI.AYA OF NICARAGUA 183

MAP OF THE WORLD SHOWING CHANGE IN TRADE
ROUTES AFTER THE COMPLETION OF THE NICARA-
GUA CANAL IQI

DREDGES IN THE CANAL IQ5

THE BAY OF PANAMA igg

PANAMA CANAL ON THE PACIFIC SIDE 2O3

HUTS OF WORKMEN EMPLOYED ON THE CANAL . . . 2O(>

THE TOP OF A DREDGE 2CK)

STREET SCENE IN PANAMA 213

THE CANAL IN THE INTERIOR 217

STATUE OF SIMON BOLIVAR, CARACAS 223

STATUE OF WASHINGTON DECORATED WITH FLORAL

WREATHS BY THE VENEZUELANS 227

DECORATION OF THE STATUE OF BOLIVAR AT CARACAS,
VENEZUELA, DECEMBER l8, 1895, BY AMERICAN RESI-
DENTS 231



ILLUSTRATIONS XI

PAGE

SIMON BOLIVAR 234

VIEW OF LA GUAYRA 235

THE RAILROAD UP THE MOUNTAIN 23Q

COURT-YARD OF A HOUSE IN CARACAS 243

THE MARKET OF CARACAS 247

PRESIDENT CRESPO, OF VENEZUELA 2$I

LEGISLATIVE BUILDING, CARACAS 253

THE PRESIDENT'S BODY-GUARD OF COWBOYS .... 255
BAPTIZING INDIANS AT A VENEZUELAN STATION ON THE

CUYUNI RIVER 25y

A TYPICAL HUNTING-PARTY IN VENEZUELA 263

A CLEARING IN THE COUNTRY 267

THE CUYUNI RIVER 2?I

VIEW OF CARACAS Facing 274

VENEZUELAN STATION ON THE CUYUNI RIVER .... 274

ENGLISH STATION ON THE CUYUNI RIVER 275

DR. PEDRO EZEQUIEL ROJAS 277

MAP EXPLAINING VENEZUELAN BOUNDARY DISPUTE . . 2?8

THE CITY OF CARACAS 27Q



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA




|HE steamer Brcakivatcr lay at the
end of a muddy fruit -wharf a mile
down the levee.

She was listed to sail that morning
for Central American ports, and we were going
with her in search of warm weather and other
unusual things. When we left New York the
streets were lined with frozen barricades of snow,
upon which the new brooms of a still newer ad-
ministration had made so little impression that
people were using them as an excuse for being
late for dinners ; and at Washington, while the
snow had disappeared, it was still bitterly cold.
And now even as far south as New Orleans we
were shivering in our great-coats, and the news-
papers were telling of a man who, the night be-
fore, had been found frozen to death in the
streets. It seemed as though we were to keep
on going south, forever seeking warmth, only to
find that Nature at every point of lower latitude



2 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

had paid us the compliment of changing her
season to spite us.

So the first question we asked when we came
over the side of the Breakwater was not when
we should first see land, but when we should
reach warm weather.

There were four of us, counting Charlwood,
young Somerset's servant. There was Henry
Somers Somerset, who has travelled greater dis-
tances for a boy still under age than any other
one of his much- travelled countrymen that I
have ever met. He has covered as many miles
in the last four years as would make five trips
around the world, and he came with me for the
fun of it, and in what proved the vain hope of
big game. The third was Lloyd Griscom, of
Philadelphia, and later of London, where he has
been attache at our embassy during the present
administration. He had been ordered south by
his doctor, and only joined us the day before we
sailed.

We sat shivering under the awning on the
upper deck, and watched the levees drop away
on either side as we pushed down the last ninety
miles of the Mississippi River. Church spires
and the roofs of houses showed from the low-
lying grounds behind the dikes, and gave us the
impression that we were riding on an elevated
road. The great river steamers, with paddle-
wheels astern and high double smoke-stacks, that



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 3

were associated in our minds with pictures of the
war and those in our school geographies, passed
us, pouring out heavy volumes of black smoke,
on their way to St. Louis, and on each bank we
recognized, also from pictures, magnolia -trees
and the ugly cotton - gins and the rows of ne-
groes' quarters like the men's barracks in a fort.
At six o'clock, when we had reached the Gulf,
the sun sank a blood-red disk into great desolate
bayous of long grass and dreary stretches of va-
cant water. Dead trees with hanging gray moss
and mistletoe on their bare branches reared them-
selves out of the swamps like gallows-trees or giant
sign -posts pointing the road to nowhere; and
the herons, perched by dozens on their limbs or
moving heavily across the sky with harsh, melan-
choly cries, were the only signs of life. On each
side of the muddy Mississippi the waste swamp-
land stretched as far as the eye could reach, and
every blade of the long grass and of the stunted
willows and every post of the dikes stood out
black against the red sky as vividly as though it
were lit by a great conflagration, and the stag-
nant pools and stretches of water showed one
moment like flashing lakes of fire, and the next,
as the light left them, turned into mirrors of ink.
It was a scene of the most awful and beautiful
desolation, and the silence, save for the steady
breathing of the steamer's engine, was the si-
lence of the Nile at night.



4 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

For the next three days we dropped due south
as the map lies from the delta of the Mississippi
through the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean
Sea. It was moonlight by night, and sun and
blue water by day, and the decks kept level, and
the vessel was clean.

Our fellow- passengers were banana -planters
and engineers going to Panama and Blucficlds,
and we asked them many questions concerning
rates of exchange and the rainy season and dis-
tances and means of transportation, to which
they gave answers as opposite as can only come
from people who have lived together in the same
place for the greater part of their lives.

Land, when it came, appeared in the shape of
little islands that floated in mid -air above the
horizon like the tops of trees, without trunks
to support them, or low -lying clouds. They
formed the skirmish-line of Yucatan, the north-
ern spur of Central America, and seemed from
our decks as innocent as the Jersey sand-hills,
but were, the pilot told us, inhabited by wild
Indians who massacre people who are so un-
fortunate as to be shipwrecked there, and who
will not pay taxes to Mexico. But the little we
saw of their savagery was when we passed within
a ship's length of a ruined temple to the Sun,
standing conspicuously on a jutting point of land,
with pillars as regular and heavily cut as some
of those on the Parthenon. It was interesting



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 5

to find such a monument a few days out from
New Orleans.

Islands of palms on one side and blue moun-
tains on the other, and water as green as cor-
roded copper, took the place of the white sand-
banks of Yucatan, and on the third day out we
had passed the Mexican state and steamed in
towards the coast of British Honduras, and its
chief seaport and capital, Belize.

British Honduras was formerly owned by
Spain, as was all of Central America, and was,
on account of its bays and islands, a picturesque
refuge for English and other pirates. In the
seventeenth century English logwood-cutters vis-
ited the place and obtained a footing, which has
been extended since by concessions and by con-
quest, so that the place is now a British depend-
ency. It forms a little slice of land between
Yucatan and Guatemala, one hundred and seven-
ty-four miles in its greatest length, and running
sixty-eight miles inland.

Belize is a pretty village of six thousand peo-
ple, living in low, broad-roofed bungalows, lying
white and cool-looking in the border of waving
cocoanut-trees and tall, graceful palms. It was
not necessary to tell us that Belize would be the
last civilized city we should see until we reached
the capital of Spanish Honduras. A British col-
ony is always civilized ; it is always the same, no
matter in what latitude it may be, and it is al-



6 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

ways distinctly British. Every one knows that
an Englishman takes his atmosphere with him
wherever he goes, but the truth of it never im-
pressed me so much as it did at Belize. There
were not more than two hundred English men
and women in the place, and yet, in the two
halves of two days that I was there I seemed to
see everything characteristic of an Englishman
in his native land. There were a few concessions
made to the country and to the huge native pop-
ulation, who are British subjects themselves; but
the colony, in spite of its surroundings, was just
as individually English as is the shilling that the
ship's steward pulls out of his pocket with a
handful of the queer coin that he has picked up
at the ports of a half-dozen Spanish republics.
They may be of all sizes and designs, and of
varying degrees of a value, or the lack of it,
which changes from day to day, but the English
shilling, with the queen's profile on one side and
its simple " one shilling " on the other, is worth
just as much at that moment and at that dis-
tance from home as it would be were you hand-
ing it to a hansom-cab driver in Piccadilly. And
we were not at all surprised to find that the
black native police wore the familiar blue-and-
white-striped cuff of the London bobby, and the
district-attorney a mortar-board cap and gown,
and the colonial bishop gaiters and an apron.
It was quite in keeping, also, that the advertise-



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 9

ments on the boardings should announce and
give equal prominence to a "Sunday-school
treat" and a boxing -match between men of
H.M.S. Pelican, and that the officers of that man-
of-war should be playing cricket with a local
eleven under the full tropical sun, and that the
chairs in the Council - room and Government
House should be of heavy leather stamped V.R.,
with a crown above the initials. An American
official in as hot a climate, being more adaptable,
would have had bamboo chairs with large, open-
w r ork backs, or would have even supplied the
council with rocking-chairs.

Lightfoot agreed to take us ashore at a quarter
of a dollar apiece. He had a large open sail-boat,
and everybody called him Lightfoot and seemed
to know him intimately, so we called him Light-
foot too. He was very black, and light-hearted
at least, and spoke English with the soft, hesitat-
ing gentleness that marks the speech of all these
natives. It was Sunday on land, and Sunday in
an English colony is observed exactly as it should
be, and so the natives were in heavily starched
white clothes, and were all apparently going some-
where to church in rigid rows of five or six. But
there were some black soldiers of the West India
Regiment in smart Zouave uniforms and turbans
that furnished us with local color, and we pursued
one of them for some time admiringly, until he be-
come nervous and beat a retreat to the barracks.



10 THKKK C.RINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

Somerset had a letter from his ambassador in
Washington to Sir Alfred Moloney, K.C.M.G.,
the governor of British Honduras, and as we
hoped it would get us all an invitation to dinner,




SIR Al.FKKI) .MOLONEY
(Central Figure)



we urged him to present it at once. Four days
of the ship's steward's bountiful dinners, served
at four o'clock in the afternoon, had made us
anxious for a change both in the hour and the



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA . II

diet. The governor's house at Belize is a very
large building, fronting the bay, with one of the
finest views from and most refreshing breezes on
its veranda that a man could hope to find on a
warm day, and there is a proud and haughty
sentry at each corner of the grounds and at the
main entrance. A fine view of blue waters be-
yond a green turf terrace covered with cannon
and lawn-tennis courts, and four sentries march-
ing up and down in the hot sun, ought to make
any man, so it seems to me, content to sit on his
porch in the shade and feel glad that he is a
governor.

Somerset passed the first sentry with safety,
and we sat down on the grass by the side of the
road opposite to await developments, and were
distressed to observe him make directly for the
kitchen, with the ambassador's letter held firmly
in his hand. So we stood up and shouted to him
to go the other way, and he became embarrassed,
and continued to march up and down the gravel
walk with much indecision, and as if he could
not make up his mind where he wanted to go,
like the grenadiers in front of St. James's Palace.
It happened that his excellency was out, so
Somerset left our cards and his letter, and we
walked off through the green, well-kept streets
and wondered at the parrots and the chained
monkeys and the Anglicized little negro girls in
white cotton stockings and with Sunday-school



12 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

books under their arms. All the show-places of
interest were closed on that day, so, after an in-
effectual attempt to force our way into the jail,
which we mistook for a monastery, we walked
back through an avenue of cocoanut-palms to the
International Hotel for dinner.

We had agreed that as it was our first dinner
on shore, it should be a long and excellent one,
with several kinds of wine. The International
Hotel is a large one, with four stories, and a
balcony on each floor; and after wandering over
the first three of these in the dark we came upon
a lonely woman with three crying children, who
told us with reproving firmness that in Belize the
dinner-hour is at four in the afternoon, and that
no one should expect a dinner at seven. We
were naturally cast down at this rebuff, and even
more so when her husband appeared out of the
night and informed us that keeping a hotel did
not pay at least, that it did not pay him and
that he could not give us anything to drink be-
cause he had not renewed his license, and even if
he had a license he would not sell us anything
on Sunday. He had a touch of malaria, he said,
and took a gloomy view of life in consequence,
and our anxiety to dine well seemed, in contrast,
unfeeling and impertinent. But we praised the
beauty of the three children, and did not set him
right when he mistook us for officers from the
English gunboats in the harbor, and for one of



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 15

these reasons he finally gave us a cold dinner by
the light of a smoking lamp, and made us a pres-
ent of a bottle of stout, for which he later re-
fused any money. We would have enjoyed our
dinner at Belize in spite of our disappointment
had not an orderly arrived in hot search after
Somerset, and borne him away to dine at Gov-
ernment House, where Griscom and I pictured
him, as we continued eating our cold chicken
and beans, dining at her majesty's expense, with
fine linen and champagne, and probably ice.
Lightfoot took us back to the boat in mournful
silence, and we spent the rest of the evening on
the quarter-deck telling each other of the most
important people with whom we had ever dined,
and had nearly succeeded in re-establishing our
self-esteem, when Somerset dashed up in a man-
of-war's launch glittering with brass and union-
jacks, and left it with much ringing of electric
bells and saluting and genial farewells from ad-
mirals and midshipmen in gold-lace, with whom
he seemed to be on a most familiar and friendly
footing. This was the final straw, and we held
him struggling over the ship's side, and threatened
to drop him to the sharks unless he promised
never to so desert us again. And discipline was
only restored when he assured us that he was the
bearer of an invitation from the governor to both
breakfast and luncheon the following morning.
The governor apologized the next day for the in-



1 6 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

formality of the manner in which he had sent us
the invitation, so I thought it best not to tell
him that it had been delivered by a young man
while dangling by his ankles from the side of the
ship, with one hand holding his helmet and the
other clutching at the rail of the gangway.

There is much to be said of Belize, for in its
way it was one of the prettiest ports at which
we touched, and its cleanliness and order, while
they were not picturesque or foreign to us then,
were in so great contrast to the ports we visited
later as to make them most remarkable. It was
interesting to see the responsibilities and the
labor of government apportioned out so carefully
and discreetly, and to find commissioners of
roads, and then district commissioners, and under
them inspectors, and to hear of boards of edu-
cation and boards of justice, each doing its ap-
pointed work in this miniature government, and
all responsible to the representative of the big
government across the sea. And it was reassur-
ing to read in the blue-books of the colony that
the health of the port has improved enormously
during the last three years.

Monday showed an almost entirely different
Belize from the one we had seen on the day
before. Shops were open and busy, and the
markets were piled high with yellow oranges and
bananas and strange fruits, presided over by
negresscs in rich-colored robes and turbans, and




MAIN STREET, BELIZE



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 19

smoking fat cigars. There was a show of justice
also in a parade of prisoners, who, in spite of
their handcuffs, were very anxious to halt long
enough to be photographed, and there was a
great bustle along the wharves, where huge rafts
of logwood and mahogany floated far into the
water. The governor showed us through his
botanical station, in which he has collected food-
giving products from over all the world, and
plants that absorb the malaria in the air, and he
hinted at the social life of Belize as well, tempt-
ing us with a ball and dinners to the officers of
the men-of-war ; but the Breakwater would not
wait for such frivolities, so we said farewell to
Belize and her kindly governor, and thereafter
walked under strange flags, and were met at
every step with the despotic little rules and
safeguards which mark unstable governments.

Livingston was like a village on the coast of
East Africa in comparison with Belize. It is
the chief seaport of Guatemala on the Atlantic
side, and Guatemala is the furthest advanced of
all the Central American republics ; but her
civilization lies on the Pacific side, and does not
extend so far as her eastern boundary.

There are two opposite features of landscape
in the tropics which are always found together
the royal palm, which is one of the most beauti-
ful of things, and the corrugated zinc-roof cus-
tom-house, which is one of the ugliest. Nature



20



THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA




NATIVK WOMF.N AT LIVINGSTON

never appears so extravagant or so luxurious as
she does in these hot latitudes; but just as soon
as she has fashioned a harbor after her own
liking, and set it off at her best so that it is a
haven of delight to those who approach it from
the sea, civilized man comes along and hammers
square walls of zinc together and spoils the
beauty of the place forever. The natives, who



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA 21

do not care for customs dues, help nature out
with thatch - roofed huts and walls of adobe or
yellow cane, or add curved red tiles to the more
pretentious houses, and so fill out the picture.
But the "gringo," or the man from the interior,
is in a hurry, and wants something that will with-
stand earthquakes and cyclones, and so wher-
ever you go you can tell that he has been there
before you by his architecture of zinc.

When you turn your back on the custom-
house at Livingston and the rows of wooden
shops with open fronts, you mount the hill upon
which the town stands, and there you will find
no houses but those which have been created out
of the mud and the trees of the place itself.
There are no streets to the village nor doors to
the houses ; they are all exactly alike, and the
bare mud floor of one is as unindividual, except
for the number of naked children crawling upon
it, as is any of the others. The sun and the rain
are apparently free to come and go as they like,
and every one seems to live in the back of the
house, under the thatched roof which shades the
clay ovens. Most of the natives were coal-black,
and the women, in spite of the earth floors below
and the earth walls round about them, were
clean, and wore white gowns that trailed from
far down their arms, leaving the chest and shoul-
ders bare. They were a very simple, friendly
lot of people, and ran from all parts of the settle-



22 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

ment to be photographed, and brought us flowers
from their gardens, for which they refused money.

We had our "first view of the Central American
soldier at Livingston, and, in spite of all we had
heard, he surprised us very much. The oldest
of those whom we saw was eighteen years, and
the youngest soldiers were about nine. They
wore blue jean uniforms, ornamented with white
tape, and the uniforms differed in shade accord-
ing to the number of times they had been
washed. These young men carried their mus-
kets half-way up the barrel, or by the bayonet,
dragging the stock on the ground.

General Barrios, the young President of Guate-
mala, has some very smart soldiers at the capital,
and dresses them in German uniforms, which is
a compliment he pays to the young German
emperor, for whom he has a great admiration ;
but his discipline does not extend so far as the
Caribbean Sea.

The river Dulce goes in from Livingston, and
we were told it was one of the things in Central
America we ought to see, as its palisades were
more beautiful than those of the Rhine. The
man who told us this said he spoke from hear-
say, and that he had never been *on the Rhine,
but that he knew a gentleman who had. You
can well believe that it is very beautiful from
what you can see of its mouth, where it flows
into the Caribbean between great dark banks as



ON THE CARIBBEAN SEA



2 5



high as the palisades opposite Dobbs Ferry, and
covered with thick, impenetrable green.

Port Barrios, to which one comes in a few
hours, is at one end of a railroad, and surround-
ed by all the desecration that such an improve-
ment on nature implies, in the form of zinc
depots, piles of railroad-ties, and rusty locomo-
tives. The town consists of a single row of
native huts along the coast, terminating in a hos-
pital. Every house is papered throughout with
copies of the New York Police Gazette, which
must give the Guatemallecan a lurid light on
the habits and virtues of his cousins in North




I5ARRACKS AT PORT BARRIOS



26 THREE GRINGOS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

America. Most of our passengers left the ship
here, and we met them, while she was taking on
bananas, wandering about the place with blank
faces, or smiling grimly at the fate which con-


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Online LibraryRichard Harding DavisThree gringos in Venezuela and Central America → online text (page 1 of 11)