H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

Voyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.2) online

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* Bouguer, figure dc la terre, p. 31.



rerse ridges, which bind the two mighty walls together,
and are almost as elevated.*

The elevation of upper Peru above the level of the
sea, and the difference in the elevation of different
parts of this delightful country, enables one to choose
the temperature (with the thermometer in his hand,
as Humboldt expresses himself,) most agreeable to
him, from perpetual spring to the rigour of Siberian
winter ; few, I presume, would hesitate much in the
choice ; the higher regions are, therefore, abandoned
to the more wretched of the Indians, who subsist on
papas, or potatoes, and to the timid Guanaco; while
the condor, soaring above the loftiest peaks of the
Andes, seems to belong to another world. All who
have visited the region of perpetual spring, have ex-
pressed themselves with rapture* — a perpetual se-

* The Andes are most usually known by the name of the east-
ern and western Cordilleras. In upper Peru, the first is vulgjarly
known by the appellation of sierra del Oro, or gold range ; as it is
here that gold mines are most frequently found; the other is the
sierra de la Plata, the silver range ; as the silver mines are most
abundant. The first diverges as it runs south, gradually diminish-
ing as it passes through Tucuman and Cordova, and finally subsides
in the pampas of Buenos Ayres, near San Luis, in the province of
Cuyo. The western range, where it forms the eastern boundary
of Chili, (called the Cordillera of Chili,) is, in reality, an un-
broken wall ; but further north, it is more properly a chain of

t I saw several Peruvians at Buenos Ayres, who spoke of the
climate of that place with a kind of horror, and were unceasingly
praising the temperature of their " blissful seats above." In the
proceedings of the congress, in my possession, there is a notice of
a member from Peru, who asked leave of absence from Buenos
Ayres, his constitution having svffered from the unhealthiness of the


renity, skies the most brilliant, an air as soft and balmy
as Elysium ;

** Felices nimium populi, queis prodigua tellus,
Fundil opes ad vota saas, queis contigit aestas
iEmula veris, hyems sine frigore, nubibus aer
Usque careiis, nulloque solum foecundis imbre."

"Too happy people, to whose wishes the prodigal
earth showers her gifts, to whom are given summers that
resemble the spring, winters without cold, a sky uncloud-
ed, and a soil that requires not the aid of showers to be
rendered fruitful." Such is the kingdom of the Incas ;
extending from Chuquisaca,* to Cusco, from Cusco to
Quito, and containing, according to the calculation of
some of the early writers, eight millions of souls, when
conquered by that ferocious monster, Pizarro, and his
greedy followers.

The eastern side of the second Cordillera, differs in
some respects from the western. There are numerous
openings and deep glens, through which the mountain
streams, after having gathered their waters from their
elevated sources, become navigable rivers, making-
their way towards the vast plains of the Amazon. The
spurs and broken ridges of the Cordillera del Oro, con-
stitute a surface of the most extraordinary variety ; pro-
found valleys, whose temperature is that of the torrid
zone, the most delightful amphitheatric slopes, open
groves, pastoral plains, abundant waters, and impene-
trable forests of gigantic trees. This region is, in gene-
ral, moist and hot ; and, therefore, far inferior to the
high plains between the Cordilleras. It gradually sub-
sides into the immense plains w^hich stretch towards the

• This the Indian name of the city of La Paz, or Cliarras, the ca-
pital of the audiencia and province of Charcas,


Paraguay, and the Portuguese possessions, inhabited by
uncivilized tribes of Indians,* and forming, in point of
territorial extent, by far the greatest of the natural divi-
sions, in which, I have included the provinces of alto

To speak of the productions of this country, would
almost appear superfluous, when it is evident, that it is
capable of producing all the fruits of the earth! If there
be exceptions, their number is so small, as scarcely to
deserve to be noticed. It is true that nothing can ex-
ceed the sterility of the mine tracks, (of limited extent,)
and from this, arises the common error with respect to
the countries in which they are situated ; those are, be-
yond comparison, the most fertile and pleasant on the
globe. That they have not been known by their agri-
cultural productions to every region of the earth, is
owing to their having mines, and to the jealous policy of
Spain. Had there been no mines, the produce of the
soil would have found its way long ago to the Atlantic,
through the channels of La Plata and the Amazon. The
Mamore is navigable from Chulumani, a district of La
Paz, through the province of Cochabamba. The Beni,
another tributary of the Amazon, is navigable from Pau-
cartambo, a district of the province of Cusco ; the
Apuremac is navigable from the province of Truxillo,
and the Maragnon is navigable from Maines. These
rivers afford an easy communication with the gulph of
Mexico, or the coast of Caraccas ; the connexion be-
tween the Amazon and the Oronoco, still a subject of

♦ The vast track called Moxos, Chiqnitos, and Chaco, Avatcred by
some of the southern branches of the Amazon, and stretching alon^
the west side of Paraguay, is called by the Semanario, another ferra
incognita^ and estimated by Sobrevicla, at fifteen hundred miles in
length, by six hundred in breadth.


doubt when La Condamine descended the first of these
rivers, is now fully established, and accm-ately described
by Humboldt. It has already been stated that the Pil-
comayo is navigable from the neighbourhood of Potosi ;
opening a water communication with Buenos Ayres, as
easy as that of the western parts of Pennsylvania with
Orleans, by the Ohio.

As has been stated in the Introduction, it was the
policy of Spain to confine the inhabitants of these dis-
tricts to the business of mining ; any exports besides
the precious metals, and a few products almost of equal
value, were not encouraged. It is not to be supposed,
however, that there was a want of stimulus to cultivate
the earth. The mine districts collected crowds of peo-
ple, great cities rose up, which must be supplied by the
cultivators of the soil, a home market was formed,
greater perhaps than even in this country. The enor-
mous size of the interior cities, is noticed by Humboldt,
as a kind of phenomenon ; they were certainly out of all
proportion to the rural population. The size of the
cities were in proportion to the productiveness of the
mines, near which they grew up, and usually occupied
the most unpleasant spots of the whole country ; but the
surplus of agriculture grew only in the same proportion.
What would have been its increase if the whole world
had been laid open as a market ? What would have been
the proportion of foreign demand of articles of universal
consumption, when compared to the amount of gold and
silver ? Would it have been gieater or less ? What
would have been the effect on the state of society and
population ? Would it have produced a greater change
in the face of things throughout the world ? The expor-
tation of the precious metals was, after all, only a more
convenient mode of carrying the smplus produce of
labour to market, in a more portable shape ; and if it


were impossible to get it to market by any other
means than by the assistance of the representative of
value throughout the world, (in this respect a thousand
times better than mere bills of credit, whatever name
may be given to them, whose circulation is limited and
partial,) the case would be different ; but in opening
channels of trade, there was no danger that a surplus
would be wanting, both for foreign exports and for the
business of mining — they would both increase in propor-
tion to the demand. The articles which were permitted
to enter into the commerce of Peru, were, unquestion-
ably, sources of wealth. Would not that wealth have in-
creased with the augmentation of those exports? And
how was this to be effected ? By simply using the means
which " God and nature" have given — ^by opening the
navigation of the Amazon and La Plata, and by improv-
ing the communications with the Pacific. Labour is the
foundation of all national wealth ; the precious metals
are not taken from the mines without labour, and gold is,
itself, of no value but to purchase the labour, or the pro-
ducts of the labour, of others. At the same time, it may
be justly regarded as the standard of value, because it is
used for this purpose among all commercial nations, and
is the great agent in equalizing and regulating the pro-
ducts of labour. If our banks had been mines, the many
millions thrown into circulation, would have been slightly
felt throughout the world ; but without producing any
injurious effect, other than gradually to increase the
bulk of the circulating medium. There would be incon-
venience in having to lug about a cart load of specie, to
make the most trifling purchase; as it came to be the
case with the leather and iron money of the Greeks.
Unfortunately, our paper coin, was only a standard of
value in our own country ; and, although for a while it
effected improvements, and caused eveiy thing to flourish.


in the end it embarrased the whole of our foreign trade,
by raising the produce in our country to prices which did
not correspond to those in Europe. This event caused
us to feel the consequences of our mistake somewhat
sooner, but we should have felt it at last, and aggravated
a thousand fold. The theory of Dr. Bollman, of pre-
serving a certain equilibrium by regulating the issues
of paper-money, is very beautiful ; its only defect is,
that it cannot be put in practice, at least in this country.
Nature has placed a bar to the indefinite augmentation
of the precious metals ; but we must place our faith in
men, that the paper coinage will not be carried to excess.
In speaking of the intendencies in their order, I shall
begin with that of Charc as, (or La Plata,) as being also
the seat of the audiencia. It is bounded on the north by
Cochabamba, on the west and south by Potosi, and on
the east by Santa Ciiiz de la Sierra, (or Puno,) and is
divided into the following subordinate jurisdictions :
Ciiiti, Yamparaes, Tomina, Paria, Oruro, and Carangas.
The province was conquered in 1538, by Pedro Anzures,
one of the captains of Pizarro, who founded the present
city of La Plata, on the ruins of the Indian to^vn of
Chuquisaca. The audiencia was established in 1559 ;
and being the supreme court of these important inten-
dencies, it is much resorted to from other parts of Upper
Peru. There are said to be upwards of five hundred
lawyers, and a proportionate train of ofiicers and per-
sons connected with the law. There axe also said to
be a number of learned and eminent men ; as it is, in
fact, one of the principal seats of learning in South
America. The clergy are possessed of great riches, and
are very numerous. The jurisdiction of the archbishop
extends over the whole viceroyalty, excepting Cuyo,
which belongs to the diocese of Santiago.

In the district of Tomina^ which lies to the south-east,
the climate is warmer, but has some fine qoimtry within


its jurisdiction. Considerable numbers of homed cattle
are raised here, and there is some manufacture of leather.
In the district of Cinti, vines are cultivated and produce
large revenues to the inhabitants. The province of
Yamparaes, is chiefly agricultural, and produces wheat,
barley, maize, and fruits ; with which it supplies the
two cities of La Plata and Potosi. In Paria and Ca-
rangaSy besides having mines, some parts raise a great
number of sheep, and have numerous flocks of alpachus,
vicunas, and guanacos. In some of the other districts,
the sugar cane is cultivated. The Pilcomayo, and tri-
butary streams, water a considerable portion of the in-

The jurisdiction of Oruro, although included in the'
intendency, having a municipality of its own, is much less
dependent than the others. It has been much celebrated
for its gold mines,* and of silver, very productive. The
situation of the city is advantageous in several respects.
From its situation on the great road from Buenos Ayres
to Lima, its vicinity to Arica on the Pacific, and facility
of crossing the Cordillera, which is much broken here,
it had become the centre of the interior trade. During
the present war, it has been occupied as the principal
military depot of upper Peru. According to Helms,
there is an excellent road to Vilcanota, four hundred miles
towards Lima; and from that place, a good road might
be made across the mountains, and then along the coast
to the capital of lower Peru. It is stated by Mr. Pazos,
(to whose work I must refer the reader, for much interest-
ing information), " that there is not a single work of
public improvement, performed by Spaniards to be found ;
no public roads, no bridges, no establishments of com-
merce, nor improvements of navigation. In this fine
country, where nature is never idle, and where the choicest

* It is said there arc also tin mines.


productions of the globe grow almost spontaneously, the
hand of the Spaniard has never been employed, except-
ing in torturing the bowels of the earth for gold, to sa-
tiate the lust of his avarice, or in oppressing the natives
of the country, to gratify his pride." There are some
manufactures here ; the cattle and sheep of some of the
districts are fine.

The intendency of Potosi lies to the west and south
of Charcas, extending to the Pacific ; the district of Ata-
cama, is included within its jurisdiction. The province
of Salta confines it on the south. It is divided into the
following subordinate jurisdictions; Potosi, Chichas,
Lipes, Atacama, Porco, Chayanta, Tarija.

The district of Atacama lies between Chili and the
long narrow Peruvian province of Arica. Between it
and the settled parts of Chili, there are the deserts of
Atacama; which form a very serious obstacle to the
communication between Chili and Peru. The only port
is that of Cobija; frequented by fishermen and coasting
vessels. The copper mines of Concho are well known ;
the copper hammers for the use of the mines of Peru,
are manufactured here.

Lipes, along the sides of the western Andes, and south
of Oruro, has rather a cold climate; grain and fruit,
therefore, do not thrive so well ; but it abounds in cattle,
particularly in those which are native, as the vicuna,
alpacas, guanacos, and lamas.* These animals are

* These native animals are said to be a species of the sheep ; and
it is stated, in a curious and interesting paper in the Semanario, that
they will breed indiscriminately with each other, and the common
sheep. jThe paper shews the practicability of domesticating these
animals, in the low provinces, by crossing the breed. For an account
of these valuable animals, I refer the reader to Molina's Chili, to Aza-
ra, and to the recent work of Mr. Pazos, p. 225. The following con-
stitute tlie principal difference between them :— 1st, The lama and


common, however, to the whole extent of the Cordilleras,
in the more elevated regions. In the plains are found
salt, saltpetre, and sulphur.

Chiclias is one of the most extensive jurisdictions
of Potosi. It stretches east and west nearly three
hundred miles; part of the delightful valleys of Ta-

rija, being included on the east. The greater part of

alpaca are domestic animals. The lama is about the size of the stag",
and of different colours — white, brown, and black. Although some-
times called the American camel, the resemblance is not striking. Its
flesh is equal to mutton. The wool long and coarse : the Indians
make their clothing of the wool of the wild lama. Its burthen is
1251b ; its motion slow, gait majestic, carrying the head high in
the air. The neck is long and slender, as appears b}' the drawing
which accompanies the travels of Sobreviela. It is employed in tran-
sporting the specie across the rugged paths of the mountains.
It was the beast of burthen of the Indians, in the time of the
Incas. Its temper is mild and gentle. The alpaca is smaller than
the lama; colour white, black, and sometimes spotted; its flesh
is said not to be eaten. Its wool is fine and] valuable. 2. The
guanaco is smaller than the alpaca; its colour a pale red, like the rose
dried in the sun ; the belly and legs white ; the wool uncommonly
fine ; it is not domesticated, but frequents the most rude and inac-
cessible parts of the Cordillera, and is extremely fleet. 3. The
vicuna is of the same size with the guanaco ; somewhat taller than
the common sheep ; colour dark brown, with white belly and legs : it
is more vigorous in the elevated, than in the low and temperate situa-
tions ; the wool finer in those inhabiting the higher parts. The
vicuna and guanaco, inhabit the elevated regions where no other
animal can live. They are numerous in the Cordillera of Chili ;
flocks of several hundreds are seen together, like sheep. They are
killed for their m'ooI by the hunters; but are easily domesticated.
The wool is, perhaps, the finest in the world ; being as soft and glossy
as silk, which is not lost by being dyed. The hezoar stone is found
in this animal. The sheep-skin seen by Lewis and Clark, on their
passage across the rocky mountains, were, in all probability, from
one of these animals.


Chichas, is high and cold, and its agriculture is
scarcely sufficient for its inhabitants. To make amends,
it abounds in valuable mines of gold and silver ; those
of Suipacha, have become celebrated by the defeat
of the royalists, during the present revolution. Great
numbers of goats and asses are reared in this pro-
vince, and form an important article of trade with
the other provinces. The road from Buenos Ayres
to Potosi, passes through this district, and also se-
parates it from the jurisdiction of Tarija,

This district is one of the most celebrated in Peru
for its great fertility and beauty, and is almost exclu-
sively agricultural. It produces wheat, maise, cocoa,
grapes, flax, and the herb of Paraguay. That its pro-
duce is not in proportion to the fecundity of the soil,
is to be ascribed to the want of a sufficient demand in
the neighouring provinces. " San Bernardo is situated
in a delightful plain, well supplied with water, is very
fertile, but exclusively appropriated to the culture of
maise, and the rearing of swine. San Lorenzo, at the
foot of the mountains, enjoys a similar temperature
and fertility. The valley of Vermejo is indifferently
peopled, and there is room for new settlers. Its tem-
perature is warm and moist ; it is adapted to the rear-
ing of cattle, as well as the culture of olives, canes,
and a variety of plants and productions which are
not to be found in other parts of the dependencies
of Tarija." Large flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle,
are reared in its abundant pastures. The exportation
of homed cattle, alone, to the other provinces, exceeds
ten thousand head ; worth eight dollars each. The in-
habitants are represented by Helmes, as leading a most
indolent and inactive life, passing the greater part of
their time beneath the shade of their huts, in imitation
of the people of Tucuman. But the revolution has pro-


duced a very considerable change in their character ;
numerous parties of Guerillas harrass the Spaniards,
who are in possession of the capital, and hardly ever
suffer them to appear beyond its precincts. It is inter-
sected by a number of rivers, which fall into the Pilco-
mayo and Vermejo.

The district of Chayanta and Porco, situated to the
north of Potosi, rear large flocks and herds ; but the
climate is rather too cold for successful cultivation.
The chinchillas, whose skins are well known in com-
merce, are very abundant in this district.

The city of Potosi, so famous for its mines, is situated in
this jurisdiction, in latitude nineteen degrees thirty minutes
south, and sixteen hundred and fifty miles from Buenos
Ayres, twelve hundred from Lima, and three hundred
from the Pacific. It is built on a sterile mountain, which
is about eighteen miles in circumference. The popula-
tion of this place was estimated at one hundred thousand
souls, including the slaves and others, employed in
working the adjacent mines. Since these have ceased to
yield so abmidantly, the population has diminished more
than one half. The churches of Potosi surpass all
others in the world in riches ; during the revolutionary
struggle, they have been respected by both parties. The
houses of the wealthy are furnished in the most magni-
ficent manner. " The militia of the place," says Helms,
"made a wretched appearance, without uniforms, without
field-pieces, and one half of them parading with wooden
muskets." About twelve miles to the south of Potosi,
are the hot springs ; which are resorted to by some for
health, and by others for amusement. The mint is a
splendid edifice, and its coinage said to be superior to
that of Santiago or Lima. The markets are as abun-
dantly supplied as those of New York, or Philadelphia,
and for very moderate prices. The climate is cool when


compared to the valley below; but the houses are with-
out chimnies or fires. The j)opulation of Potosi was
wasted by the insurrection of Tupac and Amaru,
during the bloody conflict which then prevailed. This
city is the cenbe of the interior trade, and is a great place
of business; as it is much frequented by strangers, it is
a place of gaiety and dissipation. The owners of mines
are prodigal to excess, and their habits are essentially
different from those of merchants, agriculturists, or ma-
nufacturers. No where is gaming carried to such length
as in mine countries ; the business of mining, itself, is a
species of it, and the card or billiard tables, are only
varieties of the occupation. The following are the prin-
cipal mines of the intendency of Potosi. Those of sil-
ver are Guariguari, Machacamarca, Siposo, Charicari,
Maragua, Ocuri, Titiri, Aullagas, Porco, Coroma, Tom-
bi, Ubina, Chocaya, San Vincente, SeiTillos, Portuga-
lite, Esmoraca, and Lipes ; of gold, Capacirca, Amaya-
pampa, Choquenta, Aberanga, Terca, Rio Blanco, Tali-
na, and Libilibi ; copper in Ataca, and lead in Moxo.
Each of these names designate merely the metallic ridges
and mountains, and not the names of mines really worked ;
which might be much more numerous. Many of the
richest mines are no longer worked, from the want of
sufficient skill to free them from the water.

La Paz is the most northern of these intendencies.
It is bounded on the north by the country of th^ Ama-
zons and the intendency of Cusco, and on the west, by
that of Arequipa, on the east, by Cochabsunba and
Moxos. It is divided into the subordinate districts of
La Paz, Pacages, Cica-Cica, ChuUmiani, Omasuegos,
Larecaja, and Apolobamba. The western part of the
intendency includes the celebrated lake of Titiaca ; the
only one in South America which can properly be com-
VoL. II. F


pared to ours. It is two hundred and forty miles in
length, and on an average, thirty in width ; of great depth,
but subject to sudden flaws of wind, which rush down
from the mountains and raise dreadful storms. To the
east the intendency includes the eastern Cordillera and
its declivities, and then descends into the vast fertile
plains of Moxos, which stretch towards the Portuguese
possessions, and are traversed by the great branches of
the Amazon. The western Cordillera is much broken
from the western shores of the lake to Arequipa, distant
seventy-five miles ; at present there is nothing but a mule
road, though a carriage road might easily be made. The
eastern Cordillera is an immense unbroken ridge, whose
sunmiits are covered with snows; it has occasional
peaks, which, in height, might vie with tliat of Chimbo-
razo. The principal pass is that of Chulumani.

The city of La Paz does not yield in opulence and
population to Potosi or Chuquisaca. It is situated on
the banks of ihe Chokeeago, a branch of the Amazon,
and at the foot of one of the Cordilleras, and from its
sheltered position, is screened from the bleak cold air,

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeVoyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.2) → online text (page 5 of 25)