Copyright
J. O. P. (John Otway Percy) Bland.

Men, manners & morals in South America online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibraryJ. O. P. (John Otway Percy) BlandMen, manners & morals in South America → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Men, Manners & Morals
in South America



J. O. p. BLAND



ILLUSTRATED




I-ONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN



f



London : WiUiatn H(in^:>ia.'tn 1920.



CONTENTS



CHAP.

I. INTRODUCTORY .

II, OUTWARD BOUND

III. RIO AND PETROPOLIS .

IV. POLITICS EN PASSANT .
V. IN AND ABOUT SAO PAULO

VI. BUENOS AIRES .

VII, UP THE PARANA : A GLIMPSE OF THE CHACO AUSTRAL

VIII. THE DELECTABLE CITY OF ASUN(^ION

IX, ASUNCION TO MONTEVIDEO OVERLAND

X, URUGUAY : SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE ART O
GOVERNMENT



k



CHIEFLY ABOUT WOMAN

MONTEVIDEO

ESTANCIA LIFE IN URUGUAY

THE SON OF THE SOIL

TRIBES ON OUR FRONTIERS

INDEX



13
41
60

68

93
117
141
166

185
202
217
234
258
285
3"



^4071.4



MEN, MANNERS AND MORALS
IN SOUTH AMERICA



BY THE SAME AUTHOR
China Under the Empress Dowager

Being the History of the Life and Times
of Tzii Hsi, compiled from State Papers
and the private Diary of the Comptroller
of her Household, By J. O. P. Bland
and E. Backhouse. Illustrated. Cr. 4to.
i6j. net. Also a Popular Edition, Revised.
Demy 8vo. 6s. net.

Recent Events and Present
Policies in China

Illustrations and Map. Royal 8vo. 165.
net.

Houseboat Days in China

Popular Edition. Illustrated, 75. 6d. net.

Annals and Memoirs of the
Court of Peking

From the 16th to the 20th Century. By
J. O. P. Bland and E. Backhouse.
Royal 8vo. \6s. net.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Facing page
. Frontispiece



IN THE SHADE OF THE BIG PARAISO

SUNSET OVER RIO BAY ....

IN RIO HARBOUR .....

A TURCO PEDLAR .....

A HAWKER OF BRUSHES AND BROOMS, RIO

RUFFO, THE SHEEP-SHEARER ....

A PEDLAR OF TIN AND IRON WARE

A PICNIC IN THE WOODS ....

THE PLAZA CONGRESS, BUENOS AIRES

A "CARNE CON CUERRO/' ARGENTINA

CORRIENTES (ARGENTINA) SEEN FROM THE RIVER

THE WHARF AT ASUNCION, PARAGUAY

THE CITY HALL, ASUNCION ....

CROSSING A RIVER IN THE DRY SEASON, URUGUAY

VIEW NEAR COLONIA, URUGUAY

A MODEL ESTANCIA : HORSES AT PASTURE, " CANTA FIERO '

A MODEL ESTANCIA : A RIVERSIDE POTRERO, " CANTA FIERO

A MODEL ESTANCIA: HEREFORD CATTLE AT " CANTA FIERO

THE ESTANCIA UP-TO-DATE I " LOS CORALES," RAFAELO
SANTA FE, ARGENTINA .....

A LAGUNA OF THE MACIEL .....



40

48

64

64

64

64

76

96

116

126

142

142

166

186

212

212

240



Vlll



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



LOADING THE WOOL CLIP ....

THE CAPATAZ

BENITA

LUNCHEON TIME AT THE BRETE

PLOUGHING UP " ESPARTILLO " CAMP

A LAGUNA ON THE SAN SALVADOR

GAUCHOS AT DRABBLE STATION, CENTRAL URUGUAY

"■PANTALEON" A PEON ....

A GAME OF PELOTA .....



Facing page
• 244

. 250

. 250

260

. 260

. 266

. 280

. 280

. 288



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

Having regard to the present parlous price of paper and
to the patience of much-suffering readers, the perpetration
of yet another book on South America might appear at
the outset to call for some explanation, if not for apology.
The list of books pubhshed under this heading in recent
years is indeed so formidable that the world may well be
weary of it. From the library catalogue point of view, the
subject might well seem to have been exhausted, every
part of the continent having been ransacked and described,
all its words and works recorded. Yet, how few there be
amongst all these works (as some of us know to our cost)
that properly and worthily inculcate the profitable exercise
of travel, or that appeal to and justify the wandering
instinct of rational man ! Say what you will, the great
majority of them are so dreadfully infected with stodgy
commercialism, so monumentally useful, that their general
effect upon the mind (unless it be the mind of a bagman)
can only be compared to a surfeit of suet pudding. Here
and there only, rayi nantes, amidst all these dreary volumes,
will you find the sort of company for which the Lord of
Montaigne looked (alas, how oft in vain !) in all his
journeyings — that " rare chance and seld-seene fortune,
but of exceeding solace and inestimable worth," to wit,
" an honest man, of singular experience, of a sound
judgment and of manners conformable to yours, which
company a man must seek with discretion and with great
heed obtaine, before he wander from home," ay, even in



■rnVM MANNERS AND MORALS



.the spirit,^ I liicLke no claim, in this desultory narrative
.'urunevenff-dl journeys, to provide company of that rare
refreshing kind; but at least I hope to follow modestly
and, if it may be, profitably, in the path of that prince
of travellers, of him who believed that there is " no better
school to fashion a man's life than incessantly to propose
unto him the diversities of so many other men's lives,
customs, humours and fantasies, and make him talk or
apprehend one so perpetual variety of our nature's shapes
or formes."

A strange thing, surely, this modern obsession for
encyclopaedic information about trade and manufactures,
this all-pervading blue-book stodginess of statistics, which
permeate the works compiled by laboriously travelling
politicians, economists and globe-trotters, concerning
lands which (could they but discern them rightly) afford
matter for philosophical speculation at every turn of the
road or river. It is only another proof, I suppose, of the
lamentable truth, that one of the chief results of our
vaunted civilisation, of all our labour-saving and man-
killing devices, is to deaden the mind of man to the things
that matter, to deprive us of those spiritual activities and
adventures that are the proper business of life, and to
destroy our perception of relative values. How else shall
we account for the fact that, with the exception of one or
two naturahsts like Waterton and Hudson, or wandering
word-artists like Cunninghame Graham and Knight, all
those who have written, and are writing about South
America, seem to be completely obsessed by the com-
mercial and industrial possibilities of the country ? I am
not referring, mark you, to the works written by hungry
hacks to the order of South American politicians and
financiers, of those magnificently bound volumes which
confront you in hotel lounges and steamer saloons (the



IN SOUTH AMERICA 8

ground bait used by company promoters and Ministers of
Finance to attract capital), that read for all the world
like prospectuses for investors, and deserve to be treated
as such. I am speaking of the standard works of reputable
men, even men of high degree, like Lord Bryce, who went
there to learn, or M. Clemenceau, who went there to
lecture, not to mention the lesser fry of honest journahsts
and bona fide travellers. All alike seem to revel in
compiling soporific statistics of marketable products, in
recording the increase of whizzing machinery and the
building of railways and grain elevators, just as if the
entire population of these delectable lands lived and had
their being for the sole purpose of producing pabulum
and raw materials to feed our feverish industrialism.
How drearily great the host of writers who have gone
steadily from one end of the continent to the other, faith-
fully describing the present and potential resources of
each Republic, singing paeans of praise to the " produc-
tivity of capital," as if Brazil and Chile, Argentina and
Uruguay, had been created and developed solely so that
congested Europe might draw from them sustenance and
absolution for its economic and social sins ! Throughout
all their dismal pages, you hear no sound of laughter, no
echo of the Gaucho's guitar, nor any of the songs of Old
Spain that have lingered melodiously in the pampas since
the days of the Conquistadores, These scribes deal not
with the humanities, make no attempt to look beneath
the surface of men's lives, to tell us of the things that are
eternally important, of the way of a ship upon the sea, or
the way of a serpent on the rock and the way of a man
with a maid. And yet man in South America, even though
he descend not to the mental state of an amalgamated
Engineer, is just as worthy of study as he is elsewhere;
to regard him solely as a wheat-producing, cattle-raising



4 MEN, MANNERS AND MORALS

machine is merely to proclaim that, because of life, we
ourselves have lost the secret and art of living. What
we should ask travellers to tell us is not what the
country produces per capita — there will always be official
automata in Government offices to compile these fearful
records — but how the native lives, what^re the rational
purposes of his existence, what his dreams, and the
subjects of his noontide speculation.

It is not as if these countries did not provide plenty
of fresh and fruitful subjects for speculation and much
matter for our learning. Agassiz and Humboldt are there
to prove the contrary, to show that a traveller may be
concerned with things profitable to commerce and yet
remain alive to the humanities. Here, as in the Old
World, the stones have their profitable sermons and the
running brooks their books. Here, he that has eyes to
see and ears to hear, may contemplate mankind in the
making, may look forward and descry this continent,
veritable heir presumptive of the ages, gathering unto
itself the wealth and the culture of Europe. Here one
may stand and watch, from the strangers' gallery, many
interesting phases of the human comedy — the curious and
yet eminently logical results of the working out of Europe's
poHtical and social nostrums, transplanted to soils for
which they were never intended. Here one may see to
what base uses the worldly wisdom of Rousseau and Mill,
of Lloyd George and Jaures, may be converted when
applied to races essentially incapable (in their present
stage) of representative self-government. One may see,
as in a moving picture, the modification and fusion of
ancient European types — Spanish, Basque, Portuguese
and Italian — slowly but surely yielding to climatic
conditions and intermarriage. A journey up the Parana
river is as interesting in this respect as the journey from



IN SOUTH AMERICA 5

Moscow eastwards by the Siberian Railway, through those
regions where East and West meet and insensibly merge.

In these days of universal upheaval, the traveller
interested in political systems may contemplate in South
America the triumphant emergence of the Graeco-Latin
ideal and the ignominious eclipse of Germany's pinchbeck
and poisonous Kultur ; also he may observe the struggles
of that exotic growth " Pan-Americanism," a Washington
State Department dream, foredoomed for all its vividness
to futility in lands where the soul of the people holds
firmly to the Latin ideal. He may study the growth of
socialism in the great cities which live by the labour of
the unsophisticated " camp." Or he may observe the
development of party politics, 'mm all the tricks of that
evil trade, and the systematic exploiting of productive
industry by an unusually attractive, but none the less
pernicious, type of demagogue.

But above all these, in perennial interest and value,
there is the son of the soil, the man in the streets of Rio dc
Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, of Buenos Aires and Montevideo,
the peon of the camp, the light-hearted, hard-working,
philosophical hijo del pais ! Speaking without prejudice,
and from experience based chiefly on observation of the
natives of Uruguay and Argentina, I should say that the
peon of South America, like his social equivalents in China
and Japan, has a keener appreciation of the things that
make life worth living, a more philosophical perception of
relative values, than a Manchester mechanic or a Glasgow
riveter. He certainly has preserved, far better than the
denizens of our drained and paved ant-heaps, a more
abiding sense of the wonder and mystery of existence and
of the " glory of the universe." He does not need to kill
time : he " makes " it (to use his own word), and when
the day's work is done, or even while he is doing it, he can



6 INIEN, INIANNERS AND MORALS

take a disinterested and genuine delight in simple things.
He knows something of the joie de vivre and of the love
of beauty for beauty's sake. Even as a Japanese crafts-
man, he brings a measure of aesthetic enjoyment to his
daily task and can manifest its spirit in the work of his
hands.

Therefore, it seems to me, that despite the crowded
state of our bookshelves, there may be justification and
room for a book that shall endeavour to speak of men
and things in South America from the human, rather than
the commercial, point of view. For the great host of
travellers who shall hereafter make their way, either for
business or edification, to the lands of the Surplus Loaf, it
is surely advisable that every ship's library should contain
at least one book about these lands, that a man may read
without being reminded of his investments. To tell the
truth, our ships' libraries very seldom contain anything
new or interesting about the countries to which they
carry us. Even those of the Royal Mail give the im-
pression of having been selected, towards the close of the
Victorian era, by a cautious purser with one watchful eye
on the Company's purse and the other on Mrs. Grundy.
The bulk of the collection is usually in English, and
consists of samples of Scott, Dickens, and other respectable
classics, supported by modern stalwarts of the Rider
Haggard, Conan Doyle, Hall Caine, Wells, Marie Corelli
kind, and a few sea-dogs, such as Clark Russell and Bullen.
French literature is generally represented by Bourget,
Daudet, Erckmann-Chatrian and Pierre Loti, with Flaubert
and de Maupassant discreetly thrown in, as a concession to
the literary taste of the jeunesse doree and viellesse rouee
of Rio and Buenos Aires. Then there are a few Spanish
and Portuguese volumes of the harmless romantic kind,
calculated to give no cause for alarm to anxious mothers



IN SOUTH AMERICA 7

of convent-bred flappers ; and for the rest, one or two of
the stodgy books aforesaid — Koebel or Foster Fraser on
the Argentine — and a miscellaneous lot of decorative
works of the propagandist ground-bait order, supplied
gratuitously by Ministries of Finance or other Government
Departments of malice aforethought.

I suppose all this is so because Corporations, even when
they deal with those who go down to the sea in ships,
really have no souls, and, hke the War Office, cannot be
expected to have them. If such a thing as a Shipping
Company's soul could manifest itself in Lcadenhall Street,
it could hardly fail to perceive that the best way to
encourage travel would be to nourish the wayfarer's mind,
while yet they are in the way with him, upon such literary
fare as should stimulate the romantic adventurous spirit
of wanderlust ; to attune it to the tutelary influences of
these new lands and cities, which only yesterday (as time
goes) were as remote from us as if they belonged to another
planet, and to-day bid fair to rival those of the Old World.
Your German shipping companies will use their library,
of course, as they use everything else, to sow the insidious
seeds of poisonous Kultur, taking every advantage of the
fact that he who reads aboard ship is not in a position to
run ; but on English boats the catalogue reminds one of a
jumble-sale lot at a suburban bazaar. As a matter of
fact, it represents no process of selection or mental struggle
on the part of any of the ship's company; for I am told
that the builders provide them, en bloc, as an item in the
general specification. Two hundred books (assorted) for
bookcase in social hall, one parcel music for piano, ditto ;
six dozen cushions, one dozen miscellaneous parlour
games, and there you are; who could ask more in the
matter of comfort for body and soul, on a journey through
turquoise seas beneath the Southern Cross ? And yet, as



8 MEN, MANNERS AND MORALS

I have looked down the promenade deck of the good
ship Araguaya or the Avon, rolling down to Rio, and
marked the intellectual fare provided for the post-prandial
edification of the deck-chair recnmbents, how often have
I longed to write to Lord Inchcape, or whoever it is that
reviews the progress of the Company at its annual meet-
ings, and tell him what an excellent opportunity they are
missing. Never was there a time and place on this feverish
planet so suited to the inculcation of the art and philosophy
of travel, as this unbroken spell of sunlit days and star-
spangled nights, this oasis of silence and blue sea, beyond
which lies infinity. There should be on every ship that
makes these voyages, a " Travellers' Joy " library, selected
with care and understanding, consisting of books written
by men who knew that there are things far more important
in a journey than one's destination; the Odyssey should
be there, and Montaigne, Agassiz and Waterton, and of
the present generation books like Belloc's Path to Rome,
Knight's Cruise of the Falcon, and Graham's Vanished
Arcadia, with Sterne and Stevenson, Barrie and Locke;
so that a passenger, even though he be a financier, might
haply hear a new spirit-stirring message in the song of
the south wind, and dream dreams more profitable to
his soul than are any that are bred of preference stock
or canned beef. Thus might he come to the shores of
the New World, as Pizarro and Cortes came and all the
splendid dreamers of old Spain, with a fitting sense of
wonder and a proper spirit of adventure.

The ultimate objective of the three journeys around
and about which the present vagabond narrative is
compiled, is a certain Uruguayan estancia, a place of
flocks and herds, lying far from the haunts of men in the
province of Soriano, somewhere betwixt and between the
slumbering old " camp " towns of Mercedes and Dolores.



IN SOUTH AMERICA 9

These journeys were made in the years of strife 1915, 1916
and 1919 ; but before and beyond their concern with the
pastoral affairs of that remote sequestered spot, they
included certain digressions into odd corners of Southern
Brazil, Paraguay and the Chaco Austral of Argentina;
also they comprised poHte visits to such cities as lay by
the way, with certain subsidiary purposes of propaganda
therein, intended to foil the insidious plots and stratagems
of the Hun. This last business provided opportunities for
studying the then neutral attitude of South America from
more than one interesting point of view, and of gauging
some of the probable results of the war, upon men and
affairs in that continent. But fear not, patient reader,
this is not going to be an addition to the mountainous
growth of war literature. It may contain some brief
exposition (clearly labelled, that they who read may run)
of South American politics in the melting-pot ; but as to
the opinions of politicians and trade prophets, concerning
either the world at large or their own sordid affairs, I
promise j^ou that there shall be as little as possible. As
times go, it has not been possible to write of anything
under the sun without reference to the four years' con-
vulsion of Europe, because go where you will, even in the
remotest wilds, its results confront you at every step, in a
hundred ways. Of these things, of the reverberation of
the great struggle, its effects on the bodies and souls of
men at the other side of the world, there must needs be
some occasion to speak. But the estancia in Uruguay is
our ultimate object, the piece de resistance, of this writing —
the rest may be regarded as hors d'ceuvre — and the whole
thing is in reality only a pretext (publishers insist on these
things) for discursive speculation on the world in general
and the moods and manners of South America in
particular.



10 MEN, MANNERS AND MORALS

Also be it understood at the outset, I make no claim to
speak with special knowledge of these lands, or as one
having authority. These casual impressions and reflec-
tions by the wayside are not of the kind that are likely to
help any man to embark on the business of cattle raising
or coffee growing ; suffice it if they help him, when once
his cattle are sold or his coffee picked, to think and talk
about something that, in his haste or his absorption, he
may have overlooked; something other than the virtues
and vices of horses and the price of commodities. I am
well aware that there is a certain type of estanciero, the
good old crusty, forty-year-in-the-country resident, who
regards it as unqualified impertinence that any tenderfoot
gringo should venture to discuss, or even to pretend to
understand, the life and affairs of the " camp." To him I
would observe, with all the respect due to ancient in-
stitutions, that it may sometimes be vouchsafed to any
person of average intelligence, who has travelled and
studied life, to perceive truths that are hidden, by reason
of their very nearness and familiarity, from the wisest
of permanent fixtures. To tell the truth, experience in
many parts of the world. East and West, has taught me to
admire the oldest resident, but to distrust his judgments
of the country of his adoption and particularly his opinion
of its people. Even his faculty for observation may
frequently become atrophied by long disuse and by the
routine nature of his mental exercises; his mind, that
once was a sensitive plant (even as yours or mine) may
have been over-exposed, so that familiar phenomena make
little or no impression upon it. Amongst themselves,
estancieros and other acclimatised residents recognise and
profess to deplore the existence of this state of mind in
their midst. Nevertheless, your really good conservative
specimen infinitely prefers this state to the critical



IN SOUTH AMERICA 11

condition of mind which asks the why and wherefore of
things, and which may occasionally be led to the conclusion
that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
Of which things, more in due season.

The impressions of a new-comer have at least the virtue
of being clear-cut and vivid, and if he happen to possess
sufficient experience of human affairs and institutions in
other parts of the world to enable him to draw valid
comparisons and conclusions, it may be (who knows?)
that in the long run, his activities may prove as useful
as the garnered wealth of an inarticulate wisdom which
has forgotten the existence of most things beyond its
immediate horizon. The thing is conceivable. In any
case, disregarding the warnings of old crusty, let us go
bUndly forward. Half the world, they say, docs not
know how the other half lives, nor does it care. It
is the business of the peripatetic observer, howsoever
foohsh, to remind Peru of China's existence, and vice
versa.

At least I may claim to have dealt faithfully with men
and things, by the hght of such faculties as Heaven has
vouchsafed me; wherever possible, I have gathered the
crumbs that fall from the table of local wisdom. The
result gives no consecutive record of travel deliberately
planned to establish either facts or theories ; at the same
time, the description of life on' the " camp " in Uruguay,
closely studied on the spot for half a year, assumes to be
something more than a casual impression. A gringo,
unless to the manner born, may not be able in that time
to pick the scabby sheep from out of a moving flock;
he may not be able to recite the two-and-thirty names
under which that noble animal, the horse, figures eternally
in " camp " conversation, and by which his colour, quahties
and vices are distinguished. But he must be a poor



12 MEN, MANNERS AND MORALS

traveller and singularly lacking in curiosity and observa-
tion if he has not gathered useful materials for the com-
parative study of beasts and man, and picked up by the
wayside trifles that may serve either to adorn a tale or
point a dozen morals.



CHAPTER II

OUTWARD BOUND

There are several pleasant ways of getting to the
eastern coast of South America. For those who, in normal
times of peace, would approach it in a leisurely mood,
conducive to the appreciation of lands wherein time has
been relegated to its proper insignificance, I would suggest
starting through Russia, crossing Asia by the Trans-
Siberian Railway, thence via Peking and Shanghai to
Japan ; from Yokohama either direct or via San Francisco,
to Santiago de Chile, and thence across the Andes to the
Argentine. Thus travelling, through lands that have seen
many an Empire rise and fall, many an outworn creed perish
in oblivion, ay, many a race utterly wiped out in the fierce
struggle for a place in the sun, one may come to civihsa-
tion's latest playground and storehouse with a fitting
sense of the mystery of existence and the effect of time,
climate and rehgion on the destinies of mankind. After



Online LibraryJ. O. P. (John Otway Percy) BlandMen, manners & morals in South America → online text (page 1 of 25)