William Henry Edwards.

A voyage up the river Amazon: including a residence at Pará online

. (page 3 of 24)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry EdwardsA voyage up the river Amazon: including a residence at Pará → online text (page 3 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

greater ornament to the city, than it could have been in its
finished state.

Digitized by



The cathedral stands near the palace, upon the southern
side of the Largo ; the vastest edifice of the kind in Brazil.
Twin steeples tower aloft, from whose many bells issue most
of those chimes, that may be heard at almost any hour.

Near the arsenal, and sufficiently removed to be no nui-
sance to the city, is the public slaughter-house, where are
received all the cattle destined for the Para market. Stremgers
usually walk in that direction, to observe the immense con-
gregation of vultures that are here to be seen, laboring lustily
for the public health.

There are a number of pleasant walks, within and around
the city. The most agreeable, by far, of the former, is the Rua
da Mangabeiras, a long avenue, crossed, at right angles, by a
similar rua, and both thickly skirted by mangabeira trees.
This tree attains a vast size, and throws out a more widely
spreading top than most Brazilian forest trees. Its bark is a
singular combination of colors, between green and gray ; and
is of a lustrous smoothness. The ripened fruit hangs over the
branches ; large red pods, the size of a cocoa-nut, and con-
taining a yellowish, silky cotton. In the months of March
and April, these trees are divested of their leaves ; and every
where mingle in profusion, the ripened fruit, and the large,
white, crown-like flowers. Later in the season, the flowers
have given place, in turn, to a most luxuriant foliage ; and
when the sun strikes mercilessly upon every spot else, here,
all is coolness and repose. Paroquets, ravenously fond of the
cotton seeds, are every where chattering among the branches 5
and the brilliant cicadas chirp grateful thanks to him who
planted for them this delightful home. From adjacent thickets,
come the warblings of many birds ; and the stranger, haply
unacquainted with the Brazilian melodists, startles, as he
hears the liquid trill of the blue bird, the joyful song of the
robin, and the oriole's mellow whistle. 'Tis a delusion ; but
the familiar tones sound none the less delightfully, from the
throats of these southern cousins, than when uttered amid the
groves and by the streams, of our own home.

The Rua da Mangabeiras is deservedly a favorite walk in
summer, and in the early morning, or after sunset, it is con-
stantly thronged with groups of joyous citizens.

Digitized by



Another delightful walk, as well as the usual route for eques-
trians, is towards Nazare, distant about two miles from the pal-
ace, and one mile from the city. Here is a little chapel dedica-
ted to the service of our Lady of Nazareth, and looking like some
fairy's palace, on its spot of green, embowered in the native for-
est. Our Lady of Nazareth is the peculiar patroness of the sick,
the afflicted, and the desolate ; and here, the soul-sbddened peni-
tent may find quiet, far away from the crowded shrines of the
city. At the entrance of the square, a number of seats invite
the weary. A tall, white pillar, standing near, records, proba-
bly, some event connected with the place, but the inscription is
nearly illegible.

With our friend Captain Appleton, who is a most zealous
conchologist, and well acquainted with all the shell-haunts in
the Ticinity, we used often to take this route, and, upon the trees,
in various localities, found as many specimens as we cared for.
These were principally of three varieties : the Bulimus regius,
Bnlimus glabra, and the Auricula clausa. Continuing on
through the forest, at about a mile beyond Nazare, is the plan-
tation of Mr. Henderson, a Scotch gentleman, who, having a
taste for agricultural pursuits, is endeavoring to show the plant-
ers of the country the difference between a scientific cultiva-
tion, and their own slovenly and inefficient mode of farming.
Amongst other novelties, Mr. H. has introduced a plough, the
only one in the province of Pard. He has devoted particular
attention to the cultivation of grasses for hay, and his meadows
looked as freshly, and produced as fine grass as those of New
England. What with the delightful reception of Mr. Hender-
son, and the lesser attractions of scenery and flowers, butter-
flies and shells, we took many a stroll this way.

But there was no pleasanter place, wherein to while an
hour, than a rosinha, and as our friend, Mr. Smith, was propri-
etor of one of the most extensive, within a ten minutes' walk of
our residence, we used oflen to visit him, and amuse ourselves
among his trees. This rosinha was of about an acre's extent.
Down the middle ran a btoad walk, covered by an arbor, which
was profusely overrun by the Grenadilla passion-flower. This
produces a yellow fruit, about the size and shape of an egg^
within which is a pleasant acid pulp.

Digitized by



On either side the arbor were coffee trees. These are
planted at a distance of about ten feet apart, and being
prevented from growing more than a few feet high, by constant
trimming of their tops, they throw out very many lateral
branches. The flowers are white, and, at the flowering season,
ornament the plant beautifully. The leaves are about six inch-
es in length, broad, and of a rich and glossy green. The ber-
ries grow upon the under side of the limbs, and at first, are
green, but when matured, of a deep red. Within each are two
kernels, and the whole is surrounded by a sweet, thin pulp.
When the ripe berries are exposed to the sun, this pulp dries,
and is then removed by hand, or by a mill. The trees produce
in two or three years after being planted. Formerly the quan-
tity of coffee raised in the vicinity of Para was suflicient for a
large exportation, and it was celebrated for its superior flavor.
Now it is imported, so many planters having turned their at-
tention to other produce, or to the collecting of rubber.

There were also large patches of ananas, or pine-apples,
which plant is two well known to require description. This
fruit is often raised in these rosinhas, of great size. One which
we saw upon the table of the British Consul, soon after our land-
ing, weighed nineteen pounds, and was considered nothing ex-
traordinary, although, at that time, out of the season.

A number of large orange trees were always interesting to
us, inasmuch as, at every season, they clustered with ripe fruit,
not the shrivelled or sour specimens seen in New- York, but of
great size and luscious sweetness. Oranges, in this climate,
are to be considered rather as a necessity, than a luxury*
Their cooling nature renders them unspeakably grateful, and
they are, without doubt, an antidote to many diseases incident
to a torrid clime. Every one uses them unstintingly, and when
an old gentleman, upon the Upper Amazon, told us that he al-
ways settled his breakfeust with a dozen oranges, he described,
with little hjrperbole, the custom of the country.

There were also many lime trees ; and these resemble, in
general appearance, the orange, excepting that they are of
smaller growth. The acid of limes is more pleasant than
vinegar, and they are always used as a substitute for this upon

Digitized by




vhe table. They are much used in composing a drink, and
^ make the best of preserves.

J The most beanliful trees were the mango and the ochee,
^7 whose densely leaved tops much resemble each other. Their
leaves are very long and narrow, and of a dark, glossy green ;
{ but when young they are of several shades, dull white, pink,
and red, and the commingling of hues is very beautiful. The
mango is esteemed one of the finest fruits. It is the size of a
large lemon, and of a green color. Beneath the skin is a yel-
low pnlp, which surrounds a large stone. During our stay
mangoes were temporarily unpopular among the lower classes,
from a belief that to them was owing the appearance of a dis-
ease called the leprosy.

The ochee is smaller than the mango, and of a yellow color.
It contains a sweet, pleasant pulp.

Another interesting tree was the ing4, although for a very
I different reason than its beauty. It bears a profusion of small,
I white flowers, very fragrant ; and the attraction of humming-
birds, w^ho might, at any time, be seen rifling their sweets, in a
great variety of species. The fruit of the inga is a pod, of a
' foot or more in length, and an inch in diameter. It contains a
sweet, white pulp, imbedded in which are long seeds. The
paroquets are very fond of this pulp, and they come to the
trees in great flocks, clustering upon the pods, and tearing
them open with their strong beaks.

There were trees bearing another esteemed fruit, the alli-
gator pear, or mangaba. Of these there are two varieties, one,
the more common, green in color, and shaped like a crook-
7 necked squash, but of greatly reduced size. The other, con-
sidered the better species, is called the mangdba da Cayenne*
^^' and is of the ordinary pear shape, and of a purplish red color*
^' In the centre is a large stone, and the substance about this is
^"t soft and marrow-like. It is eaten with wine and sugar, and to
' our taste was the finest fruit in the province. It is said to be
the only fruit that cats will eat, and they are extremely fond
of it.

The biraba, or custard-apple, is no bad representative of
the delicacy of which its name is suggestive. It is about the

I Digitized by Google


size of a cocoa-nut, covered by a thin, rough skin, and contains
a white pulp, which is eaten with a spoon.

Here was growing a cactus, in size a tree ; and numerous
flowering shrubs, some known to us as green-house plants,
and others entirely new, were scattered over the premises.
Cape jessamines grew to large shrubs and filled the air with
fragrance. Oleanders shot up to a height of twenty feet,
loaded with flowers; and altheas, in like manner, presented
clusters of immense size and singular beauty. Here, also, was
a tree covered with large, white flowers, shaped like so many
butterflies ; and there were a host of others, of whioh we could
admire the beauty, although not knowing the names.

Digitized by



licenie of residence — Officials — ^Provincial goverament — Church establishment — Troopi
— Enionment of Indiana — ^Drilling recruits — Absence of inns — Foreigners — Citizens —
Manner of living^-PubHc ball— Mechanics — Obctmctions to labor— Apprentices and
lebocrf— Carrying bnrdens — Water jars— Rearing of children'-Food of lower classe*—
M&ndiooa and preparation of farinha— Tapioca— Fish— Beef— Vegetables— Fruits—
ftwoTas— Oocoa-nuts — Assai palms

Within the three days limited in our notification, we had
called upon the chief of police for a license of residence, which
was furnished us gratuitously. This officer was one of the
many examples that we met with, of the disregard paid to
color, in public or private hfe, throughout the country. He is
considered the second officer of the Provincial Gfovernment,
and, like the President, receives his appointment directly from
Rio Janeiro.

In passing our chattels through the custom-house, also, we
had not experienced the least difficulty or annoyance, the offi-
cers discharging their duties in the most gentlemanly manner.
And, at all times, in our intercourse with officers of the Govern-
ment, we found them extremely polite and obliging, and gene-
rally, they were men of intelligence and education.

The President, with three Vice-Presidents, constitute the
Executive of the Province. Assemblies of deputies, chosen by
the people, meet at stated seasons at Pard, to regulate provin-
cial matters. They have a greater license, in some respects,
than the corresponding branches of our State Governments,
such as the imposing of tariffs, and the like, but their acts are
referred to Rio Janeiro for confirmation.

The Judges of the various districts, who are also chiefs
of police, are appointed at Rio/ but the Justices of the Peace
are chosen by the people.

Digitized by



The church establishment of Par6 is not very large, whai
the wants of the whole province are considered; but, as by far
the larger portion of the padres never go beyond the city, thek
number seems disproportionate. One meets them at every
step, and probably five hundred is not an exaggeration. Ofi
these, many are novitiates in different stages of preparation,
and the grades are readily distinguished by their difierencei
of dress. Since convents have become unpopular, the old
race of friars have almost disappeared; still, a few are se^
and a small number of others are among the Indians of the
interior. The clergy are, of course, very efficient patrons of
the three-and-thirty holidays, besides divers festivals extrat*'
dinary, that diversify the Brazilian year.

Near the Ecclesiastical Seminary is the school for yoong
ladies, under the supervision of the sisters of some of the reli-
gious societies. Here a great number of young ladies from
various parts of the province receive education in the simpler
branches, and in what would be called " the finishing " of a
New- York boarding-school.

The Catholic is the established religion of the state, but i
all religions are tolerated. There is no other sect in Par^aiul
probably within the province, out of the city, preaching of any
other denomination was never heard.

The regular troops of the empire are collected in this pro-
vince in great strength, on accoxmt of the revolutionary spirit
of the people. Every morning they are paraded upon the
Largo da Palacio until eight o'clock, and then marched down
the Rua da Cadeira to the music of a fine band. They are
out upon every public occasion, taking part in every procession.
They are, moreover, the police of the city, and in discharge of
their duties, are seen scattered, throughout the day, along the
pier and streets, and guarding the doors of all public offices.
Night police, as well as day police, they take their stations, in
the early evening, about the city, and, at every hour, their loud
cries disturb the sleepers.

Upon Sundays, these troops are freed from duty, and the Na-
tional Guard take their places, on parade or at the sentry. This
Guard, one would suppose, formed a far more efficient force

Digitized by



than the regular army ; the one, composed, as it is, of native
Brazihans, the other, a heterogeneous compounding of white
and black, yellow, red, and brown. The Indian seems to pre-
dominate, however, and it might be questionable how far his
courage would carry him, once led into action.

Daring the last few years, the enrollment of Indians has
been carried to an unprecedented extent, through apprehension
of renewed disturbances. Since 1836, ten thousand young men
are said to have been carried to the south, to the incalculable
injury of the agricultural interest As might be supposed, all
this enlistment has not been voluntary. The police are con-
stantly upon the alert for recruits, and, the instant that a poor fel-
low sets foot within the city, he is spirited away, unless some
protecting white is there to intercede in his behalf. We frequent-
ly fell in with cottages in the vicinity of the city, whose only
occupants were women and children, the men having, in this
way, disappeared. Most of the market boats, also, are managed
by women, the men often stopping at some convenient place
above, and there awaiting the boat's return.

It is an amusing sight to watch these Indian recruits,
during their earlier drillings, upon the Largo; encumbered
with oppressive clothes, high leathern stocks beneath their
chins, and a wilderness of annoying straps about their bodies.
Their countenances are models of resignation, or of apathetic
indifference, when the drill-officer has his eye upon them ; but
when that eye is averted, the nervous twitching, and the half-
suppressed curses, with which they wipe the beaded sweat
from their brows, would be ludicrous enough, could one over-
come a feeling of pity at the predicament of the poor devils.

Free negroes are very apt to be caught in the same trap ;
and then, negroes and Indlans,^ together, spend their leisure
hours, off drill, in the lock-up ; until, between the principles of
honor therein imbibed, and the ardor of military glory excited,
they can be considered trustworthy, and suffered to go at
large. Most free negroes avoid this career of greatness, by
nominally still belonging to their old master, or some other
willing protector.

There are no inns, at Pari, for public accommodation.

Digitized by



The people from the country do not require them ; each
having friends in the city, or conveniences for living on board
his vessel. Strangers visiting the port are usually provided
with introductory letters to some of the citizens, and are re-
ceived with the most generous hospitality. There are various
caf(§s, where a good cup of coffee or chocolate may always be
obtained; but these are not very much patronized. Both
natives and foreigners, engaged in business, provide at their
own tables, for their clerks, or others connected with them in
business ; a system productive of mutual advantages.

A great proportion of the foreigners in the city, are from
the United States and Great Britain ; and these form among
themselves a delightful little society.

The people of the town are native born Brazilians and
Portuguese; often well educated, generally intelligent, and
always polite. Of the lower classes, very many are Portu-
guese or Moorish Jews, who obtain a livelihood by trafficking
with the smaller river craft, by adulterating produce, and by
various other expedients in which the people of that nation
are expert.

Most gentlemen residing in the city, have also estates in
the country, to which they, retire during summer. Their
mode of living is very simple, and in congeniality with the
clime. Two meals a day, are considered quite sufRcient ; and
late suppers are entirely avoided.

Most of the business of the day is transacted in the early
morning; and when the noon's heat is beating, "all," as they
say, " but Englishmen and dogs," are taking a siesta in their
hammocks. The cool evening, lovely and brilliant, calls out
every one ; and a round of pleasure encroaches far into the
night. Parties and balls are constantly being given ; and all
over the city is heard the light music of the guitar, and the i
sounds of the joyous dance. Upon the last Saturday evening
of each month, is a public subscription ball, and Para's
beauties are there, in all the fascination of flashing eyes, and
raven hair, and airy movements. Sometimes a theatrical com-
pany ventures into this remote region, and, for a while, the new
prima donna is all the rage.

Digitized by



The mecheuiics of the city are mostly Portuguese, and have
all the proverbial industry of their nation. A shoemaker, who
lived opposite us, used to be rather annoying in this respect;
pegging away at all hours of the night, and not sparing time
to breathe, even on Sundays.

Owing to the imperfection, or entire absence of machinery,
the labor of an artisan is far more toilsome than with us, and
he compensates the difference, by something more than pro-
portionate slowness. The cabinet maker has to saw his mate-
rials from the log, in his own shop, and two or more boys, la-
zily pulling away at a pit-saw, are always a part of his fix-
tures. So with other trades. Such a state of things would be
excessively annoying, any where else, but these people are ac-
customed to it, probably dream of nothing better, and are well
content to jog on in the safe and sure path, by which their an-
cestors, God rest them, moved forward to glory.

There is this deficiency, throughout the province, with re-
spect to every sort of labor-saving machinery ; and although,
now and then, some individual of extraordinary enterprise has
introduced improvements from other countries, and although
the government allows new patents of machinery to be entered
without a duty, yet the mass of proprietors know nothing of
Aem. The introduction of machinery would compensate, in a
great degree, the depressing scarcity of laborers, for want of
whom, this garden of the world lies desolate.

Very many of the apprentices in the shops are Indian boys,
and to facilitate the acquisition of trades by these, the govern-
ment supports a school, where, in addition to the common
branches of education, fifly Indian boys are instructed in vari-
ous trades. This institution owes its existence to President
Andrea, who seems to have had concentrated in him, more be-
nevolence and public spirit, than a score of those who preceded
or succeeded him in office. It is to him, that the city is indebt-
ed for the Rua da Mangabeiras, and this alone should immor-
talize a man in Pard.

The absence of horses and carts, together with the univer-
sal custom of carrying burdens upon the head, seem, at first, an
oddity to a stranger. In this manner, the heaviest as well as



Digitized by






the lightest, the most fragile as well as any other, travels with
equal safety to its destination. For the convenience of vessels,
there are two companies of blacks, each numbering thirty men,
who are regular carriers; and their noisy cries are heard
every morning, as in the full tide of some wild song, they trot
off beneath incredible burdens.

Every where, are seen about the streets, young women,
blacks or Indians, bearing upon their heads large trays of doces,
or sweetmeats and cakes, for sale. These things are made by
their mistresses, and are thus marketed. Nor do the first la-
dies of the city consider it beneath their dignity thus to traffic,
and we heard of some notable examples, where the money re^
ceived for the doces had accumulated to independent fortunes.
From similar large trays, other women are huckstering every
variety of vegetables or fruits ; and not unfrequently meets the
ear the cry of as-sy-ee, the last syllable prolonged to a shrill
scream. What assai may be. we shall soon explain.

In a morning walk, in any direction, one encounters scores
of blacks, men and women, bearing huge water jars to and
from the different wells, which are the supply of the city.
These jars are porous, and being placed in a current of air, thfi
water attains a dehghtful coolness. This custom was borrow-
ed by the early settlers from the Indians, and is universal. Ii
various parts of the house are smaller jars, called bilhas (bee|
yas), by the side of which stands a large tumbler, for the gen
eral convenience.

The habit of carrying burdens upon the head, contribute
to that remarkable straightness and perfection of form, ob
served in all these blacks and Indians. Malformation, or dis
tortion of any kind, is rarely encountered. This is doubtles
owing, in a great degree, to the manner of rearing children
Every where, are to be seen swarms of little boys and girls, un
restrained by any clothing whatever, and playing in the din
with goats and dogs. This exposure to the sun produces iti
natural effect, and these little people, blacks and whites, arc
burned into pretty nearly the same tint ; but they grow up with
vigor of constitution and beauty of form. The latter, howev^
er, is sometimes ludicrously modified by a great abdominal proi

Digitized by



trudence, the effect of constant stuffing with farinha. It is very
unusual to hear a child cry. The higher classes, in the city,
are more careful of their children ; but, in the country, the fash-
ion of slight investment prevails, and, at the Barra of the Rio
Negro, the litile son and heir of the chief official dignitary was
in full costume, with a pair of shoes and a cane.

The food of all the lower classes, throughout the province,
consists principally of fish and farinha. The former is the dried
and salted Periecu, oT the Amazon ; the latter, a preparation
I from the Mandioca root. This plant, botanically, is the Jatro-
pha Manihot, known in the West Indies as Cassava. The stalk
is tall and slender, and 4s divided into short joints, each one of
which, when placed in the ground, takes root, and becomes a

Online LibraryWilliam Henry EdwardsA voyage up the river Amazon: including a residence at Pará → online text (page 3 of 24)