Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, During the

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Title: Equinoctial Regions of America V2

Author: Alexander von Humboldt

Release Date: December, 2004 [EBook #7014]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on February 23, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English


Produced by Sue Asscher
















A tablon, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and
one-fifth: a legal acre has 1344 square toises, and 1.95 legal acre is
equal to one hectare.

A torta weighs three quarters of a pound, and three tortas cost
generally in the province of Caracas one silver rial, or one-eighth of
a piastre.

It is sufficient to mention, that the cubic foot contains 2,985,984
cubic lines.

Foot (old measure of France) about five feet three inches English


























The valleys of Aragua form a narrow basin between granitic and
calcareous mountains of unequal height. On the north, they are
separated by the Sierra Mariara from the sea-coast; and towards the
south, the chain of Guacimo and Yusma serves them as a rampart against
the heated air of the steppes. Groups of hills, high enough to
determine the course of the waters, close this basin on the east and
west like transverse dykes. We find these hills between the Tuy and La
Victoria, as well as on the road from Valencia to Nirgua, and at the
mountains of Torito.* (* The lofty mountains of Los Teques, where the
Tuy takes its source, may be looked upon as the eastern boundary of
the valleys of Aragua. The level of the ground continues, in fact, to
rise from La Victoria to the Hacienda de Tuy; but the river Tuy,
turning southward in the direction of the sierras of Guairaima and
Tiara has found an issue on the east; and it is more natural to
consider as the limits of the basin of Aragua a line drawn through the
sources of the streams flowing into the lake of Valencia. The charts
and sections I have traced of the road from Caracas to Nueva Valencia,
and from Porto Cabello to Villa de Cura, exhibit the whole of these
geological relations.) From this extraordinary configuration of the
land, the little rivers of the valleys of Aragua form a peculiar
system, and direct their course towards a basin closed on all sides.
These rivers do not bear their waters to the ocean; they are collected
in a lake; and subject to the peculiar influence of evaporation, they
lose themselves, if we may use the expression, in the atmosphere. On
the existence of rivers and lakes, the fertility of the soil and the
produce of cultivation in these valleys depend. The aspect of the
spot, and the experience of half a century, have proved that the level
of the waters is not invariable; the waste by evaporation, and the
increase from the waters running into the lake, do not uninterruptedly
balance each other. The lake being elevated one thousand feet above
the neighbouring steppes of Calabozo, and one thousand three hundred
and thirty-two feet above the level of the ocean, it has been
suspected that there are subterranean communications and filtrations.
The appearance of new islands, and the gradual retreat of the waters,
have led to the belief that the lake may perhaps, in time, become
entirely dry. An assemblage of physical circumstances so remarkable
was well fitted to fix my attention on those valleys where the wild
beauty of nature is embellished by agricultural industry, and the arts
of rising civilization.

The lake of Valencia, called Tacarigua by the Indians, exceeds in
magnitude the lake of Neufchatel in Switzerland; but its general form
has more resemblance to the lake of Geneva, which is nearly at the
same height above the level of the sea. As the slope of the ground in
the valleys of Aragua tends towards the south and the west, that part
of the basin still covered with water is the nearest to the southern
chain of the mountains of Guigue, of Yusma, and of Guacimo, which
stretch towards the high savannahs of Ocumare. The opposite banks of
the lake of Valencia display a singular contrast; those on the south
are desert, and almost uninhabited, and a screen of high mountains
gives them a gloomy and monotonous aspect. The northern shore on the
contrary, is cheerful, pastoral, and decked with the rich cultivation
of the sugar-cane, coffee-tree, and cotton. Paths bordered with
cestrums, azedaracs, and other shrubs always in flower, cross the
plain, and join the scattered farms. Every house is surrounded by
clumps of trees. The ceiba with its large yellow flowers* (* Carnes
tollendas, Bombax hibiscifolius.) gives a peculiar character to the
landscape, mingling its branches with those of the purple erythrina.
This mixture of vivid vegetable colours contrasts finely with the
uniform tint of an unclouded sky. In the season of drought, where the
burning soil is covered with an undulating vapour, artificial
irrigations preserve verdure and promote fertility. Here and there the
granite rock pierces through the cultivated ground. Enormous stony
masses rise abruptly in the midst of the valley. Bare and forked, they
nourish a few succulent plants, which prepare mould for future ages.
Often on the summit of these lonely hills may be seen a fig-tree or a
clusia with fleshy leaves, which has fixed its roots in the rock, and
towers over the landscape. With their dead and withered branches,
these trees look like signals erected on a steep cliff. The form of
these mounts unfolds the secret of their ancient origin; for when the
whole of this valley was filled with water, and the waves beat at the
foot of the peaks of Mariara (the Devil's Nook* (* El Rincon del
Diablo.)) and the chain of the coast, these rocky hills were shoals or

These features of a rich landscape, these contrasts between the two
banks of the lake of Valencia, often reminded me of the Pays de Vaud,
where the soil, everywhere cultivated, and everywhere fertile, offers
the husbandman, the shepherd, and the vine-dresser, the secure fruit
of their labours, while, on the opposite side, Chablais presents only
a mountainous and half-desert country. In these distant climes
surrounded by exotic productions, I loved to recall to mind the
enchanting descriptions with which the aspect of the Leman lake and
the rocks of La Meillerie inspired a great writer. Now, while in the
centre of civilized Europe, I endeavour in my turn to paint the scenes
of the New World, I do not imagine I present the reader with clearer
images, or more precise ideas, by comparing our landscapes with those
of the equinoctial regions. It cannot be too often repeated that
nature, in every zone, whether wild or cultivated, smiling or
majestic, has an individual character. The impressions which she
excites are infinitely varied, like the emotions produced by works of
genius, according to the age in which they were conceived, and the
diversity of language from which they in part derive their charm. We
must limit our comparisons merely to dimensions and external form. We
may institute a parallel between the colossal summit of Mont Blanc and
the Himalaya Mountains; the cascades of the Pyrenees and those of the
Cordilleras: but these comparisons, useful with respect to science,
fail to convey an idea of the characteristics of nature in the
temperate and torrid zones. On the banks of a lake, in a vast forest,
at the foot of summits covered with eternal snow, it is not the mere
magnitude of the objects which excites our admiration. That which
speaks to the soul, which causes such profound and varied emotions,
escapes our measurements as it does the forms of language. Those who
feel powerfully the charms of nature cannot venture on comparing one
with another, scenes totally different in character.

But it is not alone the picturesque beauties of the lake of Valencia
that have given celebrity to its banks. This basin presents several
other phenomena, and suggests questions, the solution of which is
interesting alike to physical science and to the well-being of the
inhabitants. What are the causes of the diminution of the waters of
the lake? Is this diminution more rapid now than in former ages? Can
we presume that an equilibrium between the waters flowing in and the
waters lost will be shortly re-established, or may we apprehend that
the lake will entirely disappear?

According to astronomical observations made at La Victoria, Hacienda
de Cura, Nueva Valencia, and Guigue, the length of the lake in its
present state from Cagua to Guayos, is ten leagues, or twenty-eight
thousand eight hundred toises. Its breadth is very unequal. If we
judge from the latitudes of the mouth of the Rio Cura and the village
of Guigue, it nowhere surpasses 2.3 leagues, or six thousand five
hundred toises; most commonly it is but four or five miles. The
dimensions, as deduced from my observations are much less than those
hitherto adopted by the natives. It might be thought that, to form a
precise idea of the progressive diminution of the waters, it would be
sufficient to compare the present dimensions of the lake with those
attributed to it by ancient chroniclers; by Oviedo for instance, in
his History of the Province of Venezuela, published about the year
1723. This writer in his emphatic style, assigns to "this inland sea,
this monstruoso cuerpo de la laguna de Valencia"* (* "Enormous body of
the lake of Valencia."), fourteen leagues in length and six in
breadth. He affirms that at a small distance from the shore the lead
finds no bottom; and that large floating islands cover the surface of
the waters, which are constantly agitated by the winds. No importance
can be attached to estimates which, without being founded on any
measurement, are expressed in leagues (leguas) reckoned in the
colonies at three thousand, five thousand, and six thousand six
hundred and fifty varas.* (* Seamen being the first, and for a long
time the only, persons who introduced into the Spanish colonies any
precise ideas on the astronomical position and distances of places,
the legua nautica of 6650 varas, or of 2854 toises (20 in a degree),
was originally used in Mexico and throughout South America; but this
legua nautica has been gradually reduced to one-half or one-third, on
account of the slowness of travelling across steep mountains, or dry
and burning plains. The common people measure only time directly; and
then, by arbitrary hypotheses, infer from the time the space of ground
travelled over. In the course of my geographical researches, I have
had frequent opportunities of examining the real value of these
leagues, by comparing the itinerary distances between points lying
under the same meridian with the difference of latitudes.) Oviedo, who
must so often have passed over the valleys of Aragua, asserts that the
town of Nueva Valencia del Rey was built in 1555, at the distance of
half a league from the lake; and that the proportion between the
length of the lake and its breadth, is as seven to three. At present,
the town of Valencia is separated from the lake by level ground of
more than two thousand seven hundred toises (which Oviedo would no
doubt have estimated as a space of a league and a half); and the
length of the basin of the lake is to its breadth as 10 to 2.3, or as
7 to 1.6. The appearance of the soil between Valencia and Guigue, the
little hills rising abruptly in the plain east of the Cano de Cambury,
some of which (el Islote and la Isla de la Negra or Caratapona) have
even preserved the name of islands, sufficiently prove that the waters
have retired considerably since the time of Oviedo. With respect to
the change in the general form of the lake, it appears to me
improbable that in the seventeenth century its breadth was nearly the
half of its length. The situation of the granite mountains of Mariara
and of Guigue, the slope of the ground which rises more rapidly
towards the north and south than towards the east and west, are alike
repugnant to this supposition.

In treating the long-discussed question of the diminution of the
waters, I conceive we must distinguish between the different periods
at which the sinking of their level has taken place. Wherever we
examine the valleys of rivers, or the basins of lakes, we see the
ancient shore at great distances. No doubt seems now to be
entertained, that our rivers and lakes have undergone immense
diminutions; but many geological facts remind us also, that these
great changes in the distribution of the waters have preceded all
historical times; and that for many thousand years most lakes have
attained a permanent equilibrium between the produce of the water
flowing in, and that of evaporation and filtration. Whenever we find
this equilibrium broken, it will be well rather to examine whether the
rupture be not owing to causes merely local, and of very recent date,
than to admit an uninterrupted diminution of the water. This reasoning
is conformable to the more circumspect method of modern science. At a
time when the physical history of the world, traced by the genius of
some eloquent writers, borrowed all its charms from the fictions of
imagination, the phenomenon of which we are treating would have been
adduced as a new proof of the contrast these writers sought to
establish between the two continents. To demonstrate that America rose
later than Asia and Europe from the bosom of the waters, the lake of
Tacarigua would have been described as one of those interior basins
which have not yet become dry by the effects of slow and gradual
evaporation. I have no doubt that, in very remote times, the whole
valley, from the foot of the mountains of Cocuyza to those of Torito
and Nirgua, and from La Sierra de Mariara to the chain of Guigue, of
Guacimo, and La Palma, was filled with water. Everywhere the form of
the promontories, and their steep declivities, seem to indicate the
shore of an alpine lake, similar to those of Styria and Tyrol. The
same little helicites, the same valvatae, which now live in the lake
of Valencia, are found in layers of three or four feet thick as far
inland as Turmero and La Concesion near La Victoria. These facts
undoubtedly prove a retreat of the waters; but nothing indicates that
this retreat has continued from a very remote period to our days. The
valleys of Aragua are among the portions of Venezuela most anciently
peopled; and yet there is no mention in Oviedo, or any other old
chronicler, of a sensible diminution of the lake. Must we suppose,
that this phenomenon escaped their observation, at a time when the
Indians far exceeded the white population, and when the banks of the
lake were less inhabited? Within half a century, and particularly
within these thirty years, the natural desiccation of this great basin
has excited general attention. We find vast tracts of land which were
formerly inundated, now dry, and already cultivated with plantains,
sugar-canes, or cotton. Wherever a hut is erected on the bank of the
lake, we see the shore receding from year to year. We discover
islands, which, in consequence of the retreat of the waters, are just
beginning to be joined to the continent, as for instance the rocky
island of Culebra, in the direction of Guigue; other islands already
form promontories, as the Morro, between Guigue and Nueva Valencia,
and La Cabrera, south-east of Mariara; others again are now rising in
the islands themselves like scattered hills. Among these last, so
easily recognised at a distance, some are only a quarter of a mile,
others a league from the present shore. I may cite as the most
remarkable three granite islands, thirty or forty toises high, on the
road from the Hacienda de Cura to Aguas Calientes; and at the western
extremity of the lake, the Serrito de Don Pedro, Islote, and
Caratapona. On visiting two islands entirely surrounded by water, we
found in the midst of brushwood, on small flats (four, six, and even
eight toises height above the surface of the lake,) fine sand mixed
with helicites, anciently deposited by the waters. (Isla de Cura and
Cabo Blanco. The promontory of Cabrera has been connected with the
shore ever since the year 1750 or 1760 by a little valley, which bears
the name of Portachuelo.) In each of these islands may be perceived
the most certain traces of the gradual sinking of the waters. But
still farther (and this accident is regarded by the inhabitants as a
marvellous phenomenon) in 1796 three new islands appeared to the east
of the island Caiguira, in the same direction as the islands Burro,
Otama, and Zorro. These new islands, called by the people Los nuevos
Penones, or Los Aparecidos,* (* Los Nuevos Penones, the New Rocks. Los
Aparecidos, the Unexpectedly-appeared.) form a kind of banks with
surfaces quite flat. They rose, in 1800, more than a foot above the
mean level of the water.

It has already been observed that the lake of Valencia, like the lakes
of the valley of Mexico, forms the centre of a little system of
rivers, none of which have any communication with the ocean. These
rivers, most of which deserve only the name of torrents, or brooks,*
are twelve or fourteen in number. (* The following are their names:
Rios de Aragua, Turmero, Maracay, Tapatapa, Agnes Calientes, Mariara,
Cura, Guacara, Guataparo, Valencia, Cano Grande de Cambury, etc.) The
inhabitants, little acquainted with the effects of evaporation, have
long imagined that the lake has a subterranean outlet, by which a
quantity of water runs out equal to that which flows in by the rivers.
Some suppose that this outlet communicates with grottos, supposed to
be at great depth; others believe that the water flows through an
oblique channel into the basin of the ocean. These bold hypotheses on
the communication between two neighbouring basins have presented
themselves in every zone to the imagination of the ignorant, as well
as to that of the learned; for the latter, without confessing it,
sometimes repeat popular opinions in scientific language. We hear of
subterranean gulfs and outlets in the New World, as on the shores of
the Caspian sea, though the lake of Tacarigua is two hundred and
twenty-two toises higher, and the Caspian sea fifty-four toises lower,
than the sea; and though it is well known, that fluids find the same
level, when they communicate by a lateral channel.

The changes which the destruction of forests, the clearing of plains,
and the cultivation of indigo, have produced within half a century in
the quantity of water flowing in on the one hand, and on the other the
evaporation of the soil, and the dryness of the atmosphere, present
causes sufficiently powerful to explain the progressive diminution of
the lake of Valencia. I cannot concur in the opinion of M. Depons*
(who visited these countries since I was there) "that to set the mind
at rest, and for the honour of science," a subterranean issue must be
admitted. (* In his Voyage a la Terre Ferme M. Depons says, "The small
extent of the surface of the lake renders impossible the supposition
that evaporation alone, however considerable within the tropics, could
remove as much water as the rivers furnish." In the sequel, the author
himself seems to abandon what he terms "this occult case, the
hypothesis of an aperture.") By felling the trees which cover the tops
and the sides of mountains, men in every climate prepare at once two
calamities for future generations; want of fuel and scarcity of water.
Trees, by the nature of their perspiration, and the radiation from
their leaves in a sky without clouds, surround themselves with an
atmosphere constantly cold and misty. They affect the copiousness of
springs, not, as was long believed, by a peculiar attraction for the
vapours diffused through the air, but because, by sheltering the soil
from the direct action of the sun, they diminish the evaporation of
water produced by rain. When forests are destroyed, as they are
everywhere in America by the European planters, with imprudent
precipitancy, the springs are entirely dried up, or become less
abundant. The beds of the rivers, remaining dry during a part of the
year, are converted into torrents whenever great rains fall on the
heights. As the sward and moss disappear with the brushwood from the
sides of the mountains, the waters falling in rain are no longer
impeded in their course; and instead of slowly augmenting the level of
the rivers by progressive filtrations, they furrow, during heavy
showers, the sides of the hills, bearing down the loosened soil, and
forming sudden and destructive inundations. Hence it results, that the
clearing of forests, the want of permanent springs, and the existence
of torrents, are three phenomena closely connected together. Countries
situated in opposite hemispheres, as, for example, Lombardy bordered
by the Alps, and Lower Peru inclosed between the Pacific and the
Cordillera of the Andes, afford striking proofs of the justness of
this assertion.

Till the middle of the last century, the mountains round the valleys
of Aragua were covered with forests. Great trees of the families of
mimosa, ceiba, and the fig-tree, shaded and spread coolness along the
banks of the lake. The plain, then thinly inhabited, was filled with
brushwood, interspersed with trunks of scattered trees and parasite
plants, enveloped with a thick sward, less capable of emitting radiant
caloric than the soil that is cultivated and consequently not
sheltered from the rays of the sun. With the destruction of the trees,
and the increase of the cultivation of sugar, indigo, and cotton, the
springs, and all the natural supplies of the lake of Valencia, have
diminished from year to year. It is difficult to form a just idea of
the enormous quantity of evaporation which takes place under the
torrid zone, in a valley surrounded with steep declivities, where a
regular breeze and descending currents of air are felt towards
evening, and the bottom of which is flat, and looks as if levelled by
the waters. It has been remarked, that the heat which prevails
throughout the year at Cura, Guacara, Nueva Valencia, and on the
borders of the lake, is the same as that felt at midsummer in Naples
and Sicily. The mean annual temperature of the valleys of Aragua is
nearly 25.5 degrees; my hygrometrical observations of the month of
February, taking the mean of day and night, gave 71.4 degrees of the
hair hygrometer. As the words great drought and great humidity have no
determinate signification, and air that would be called very dry in
the lower regions of the tropics would be regarded as humid in Europe,
we can judge of these relations between climates only by comparing
spots situated in the same zone. Now at Cumana, where it sometimes
does not rain during a whole year, and where I had the means of
collecting a great number of hygrometric observations made at
different hours of the day and night, the mean humidity of the air is
86 degrees; corresponding to the mean temperature of 27.7 degrees.
Taking into account the influence of the rainy months, that is to say,
estimating the difference observed in other parts of South America
between the mean humidity of the dry months and that of the whole
year; an annual mean humidity is obtained, for the valleys of Aragua,
at farthest of 74 degrees, the temperature being 25.5 degrees. In this
air, so hot, and at the same time so little humid, the quantity of
water evaporated is enormous. The theory of Dalton estimates, under
the conditions just stated, for the thickness of the sheet of water
evaporated in an hour's time, 0.36 mill., or 3.8 lines in twenty-four
hours. Assuming for the temperate zone, for instance at Paris, the
mean temperature to be 10.6 degrees, and the mean humidity 82 degrees,
we find, according to the same formulae, 0.10 mill., an hour, and 1
line for twenty-four hours. If we prefer substituting for the
uncertainty of these theoretical deductions the direct results of
observation, we may recollect that in Paris, and at Montmorency, the
mean annual evaporation was found by Sedileau and Cotte, to be from 32
in. 1 line to 38 in. 4 lines. Two able engineers in the south of
France, Messrs. Clausade and Pin, found, that in subtracting the
effects of filtrations, the waters of the canal of Languedoc, and the
basin of Saint Ferreol lose every year from 0.758 met. to 0.812 met.,
or from 336 to 360 lines. M. de Prony found nearly similar results in
the Pontine marshes. The whole of these experiments, made in the
latitudes of 41 and 49 degrees, and at 10.5 and 16 degrees of mean
temperature, indicate a mean evaporation of one line, or one and
three-tenths a day. In the torrid zone, in the West India Islands for
instance, the effect of evaporation is three times as much, according
to Le Gaux, and double according to Cassan. At Cumana, in a place
where the atmosphere is far more loaded with humidity than in the
valley of Aragua, I have often seen evaporate during twelve hours, in
the sun, 8.8 mill., in the shade 3.4 mill.; and I believe, that the
annual produce of evaporation in the rivers near Cumana is not less
than one hundred and thirty inches. Experiments of this kind are
extremely delicate, but what I have stated will suffice to demonstrate
how great must be the quantity of vapour that rises from the lake of
Valencia, and from the surrounding country, the waters of which flow
into the lake. I shall have occasion elsewhere to resume this subject;
for, in a work which displays the great laws of nature in different
zones, we must endeavour to solve the problem of the mean tension of
the vapours contained in the atmosphere in different latitudes, and at
different heights above the surface of the ocean.

A great number of local circumstances cause the produce of evaporation
to vary; it changes in proportion as more or less shade covers the
basin of the waters, with their state of motion or repose, with their
depth, and the nature and colour of their bottom; but in general
evaporation depends only on three circumstances, the temperature, the
tension of the vapours contained in the atmosphere, and the resistance
which the air, more or less dense, more or less agitated, opposes to
the diffusion of vapour. The quantity of water that evaporates in a
given spot, everything else being equal, is proportionate to the
difference between the quantity of vapour which the ambient air can
contain when saturated, and the quantity which it actually contains.
Hence it follows that the evaporation is not so great in the torrid
zone as might be expected from the enormous augmentation of
temperature; because, in those ardent climates, the air is habitually
very humid.

Since the increase of agricultural industry in the valleys of Aragua,
the little rivers which run into the lake of Valencia can no longer be
regarded as positive supplies during the six months succeeding
December. They remain dried up in the lower part of their course,
because the planters of indigo, coffee, and sugar-canes, have made
frequent drainings (azequias), in order to water the ground by
trenches. We may observe also, that a pretty considerable river, the
Rio Pao, which rises at the entrance of the Llanos, at the foot of the
range of hills called La Galera, heretofore mingled its waters with
those of the lake, by uniting with the Cano de Cambury, on the road
from the town of Nueva Valencia to Guigue. The course of this river
was from south to north. At the end of the seventeenth century, the
proprietor of a neighbouring plantation dug at the back of the hill a
new bed for the Rio Pao. He turned the river; and, after having
employed part of the water for the irrigation of his fields, he caused
the rest to flow at a venture southward, following the declivity of
the Llanos. In this new southern direction the Rio Pao, mingled with
three other rivers, the Tinaco, the Guanarito, and the Chilua, falls
into the Portuguesa, which is a branch of the Apure. It is a
remarkable phenomenon, that by a particular position of the ground,
and the lowering of the ridge of division to south-west, the Rio Pao
separates itself from the little system of interior rivers to which it
originally belonged, and for a century past has communicated, through
the channel of the Apure and the Orinoco, with the ocean. What has
been here effected on a small scale by the hand of man, nature often
performs, either by progressively elevating the level of the soil, or
by those falls of the ground occasioned by violent earthquakes. It is
probable, that in the lapse of ages, several rivers of Soudan, and of
New Holland, which are now lost in the sands, or in inland basins,
will open for themselves a course to the shores of the ocean. We
cannot at least doubt, that in both continents there are systems of
interior rivers, which may be considered as not entirely developed;
and which communicate with each other, either in the time of great
risings, or by permanent bifurcations.

The Rio Pao has scooped itself out a bed so deep and broad, that in
the season of rains, when the Cano Grande de Cambury inundates all the
land to the north-west of Guigue, the waters of this Cano, and those
of the lake of Valencia, flow back into the Rio Pao itself; so that
this river, instead of adding water to the lake, tends rather to carry
it away. We see something similar in North America, where geographers
have represented on their maps an imaginary chain of mountains,
between the great lakes of Canada and the country of the Miamis. At
the time of floods, the waters flowing into the lakes communicate with
those which run into the Mississippi; and it is practicable to proceed
by boats from the sources of the river St. Mary to the Wabash, as well
as from the Chicago to the Illinois. These analogous facts appear to
me well worthy of the attention of hydrographers.

The land that surrounds the lake of Valencia being entirely flat and
even, a diminution of a few inches in the level of the water exposes
to view a vast extent of ground covered with fertile mud and organic
remains.* (* This I observed daily in the Lake of Mexico.) In
proportion as the lake retires, cultivation advances towards the new
shore. These natural desiccations, so important to agriculture, have
been considerable during the last ten years, in which America has
suffered from great droughts. Instead of marking the sinuosities of
the present banks of the lake, I have advised the rich landholders in
these countries to fix columns of granite in the basin itself, in
order to observe from year to year the mean height of the waters. The
Marquis del Toro has undertaken to put this design into execution,
employing the fine granite of the Sierra de Mariara, and establishing
limnometers, on a bottom of gneiss rock, so common in the lake of

It is impossible to anticipate the limits, more or less narrow, to
which this basin of water will one day be confined, when an
equilibrium between the streams flowing in and the produce of
evaporation and filtration, shall be completely established. The idea
very generally spread, that the lake will soon entirely disappear,
seems to me chimerical. If in consequence of great earthquakes, or
other causes equally mysterious, ten very humid years should succeed
to long droughts; if the mountains should again become clothed with
forests, and great trees overshadow the shore and the plains of
Aragua, we should more probably see the volume of the waters augment,
and menace that beautiful cultivation which now trenches on the basin
of the lake.

While some of the cultivators of the valleys of Aragua fear the total
disappearance of the lake, and others its return to the banks it has
deserted, we hear the question gravely discussed at Caracas, whether
it would not be advisable, in order to give greater extent to
agriculture, to conduct the waters of the lake into the Llanos, by
digging a canal towards the Rio Pao. The possibility* of this
enterprise cannot be denied, particularly by having recourse to
tunnels, or subterranean canals. (The dividing ridge, namely, that
which divides the waters between the valleys of Aragua and the Llanos,
lowers so much towards the west of Guigue, as we have already
observed, that there are ravines which conduct the waters of the Cano
de Cambury, the Rio Valencia, and the Guataparo, in the time of
floods, to the Rio Pao; but it would be easier to open a navigable
canal from the lake of Valencia to the Orinoco, by the Pao, the
Portuguesa, and the Apure, than to dig a draining canal level with the
bottom of the lake. This bottom, according to the sounding, and my
barometric measurements, is 40 toises less than 222, or 182 above the
surface of the ocean. On the road from Guigue to the Llanos, by the
table-land of La Villa de Cura, I found, to the south of the dividing
ridge, and on its southern declivity, no point of level corresponding
to the 182 toises, except near San Juan. The absolute height of this
village is 194 toises. But, I repeat that, farther towards the west,
in the country between the Cano de Cambury and the sources of the Rio
Pao, which I was not able to visit, the point of level of the bottom
of the lake is much further north.) The progressive retreat of the
waters has given birth to the beautiful and luxuriant plains of
Maracay, Cura, Mocundo, Guigue, and Santa Cruz del Escoval, planted
with tobacco, sugar-canes, coffee, indigo, and cacao; but how can it
be doubted for a moment that the lake alone spreads fertility over
this country? If deprived of the enormous mass of vapour which the
surface of the waters sends forth daily into the atmosphere, the
valleys of Aragua would become as dry and barren as the surrounding

The mean depth of the lake is from twelve to fifteen fathoms; the
deepest parts are not, as is generally admitted, eighty, but
thirty-five or forty deep. Such is the result of soundings made with
the greatest care by Don Antonio Manzano. When we reflect on the vast
depths of all the lakes of Switzerland, which, notwithstanding their
position in high valleys, almost reach the level of the Mediterranean,
it appears surprising that greater cavities are not found at the
bottom of the lake of Valencia, which is also an Alpine lake. The
deepest places are between the rocky island of Burro and the point of
Cana Fistula, and opposite the high mountains of Mariara. But in
general the southern part of the lake is deeper than the northern: nor
must we forget that, if all the shores be now low, the southern part
of the basin is the nearest to a chain of mountains with abrupt
declivities; and we know that even the sea is generally deepest where
the coast is elevated, rocky, or perpendicular.

The temperature of the lake at the surface during my abode in the
valleys of Aragua, in the month of February, was constantly from 23 to
23.7 degrees, consequently a little below the mean temperature of the
air. This may be from the effect of evaporation, which carries off
caloric from the air and the water; or because a great mass of water
does not follow with an equal rapidity the changes in the temperature
of the atmosphere, and the lake receives streams which rise from
several cold springs in the neighbouring mountains. I have to regret
that, notwithstanding its small depth, I could not determine the
temperature of the water at thirty or forty fathoms. I was not
provided with the thermometrical sounding apparatus which I had used
in the Alpine lakes of Salzburg, and in the Caribbean Sea. The
experiments of Saussure prove that, on both sides of the Alps, the
lakes which are from one hundred and ninety to two hundred and
seventy-four toises of absolute elevation* (* This is the difference
between the absolute elevations of the lakes of Geneva and Thun.)
have, in the middle of winter, at nine hundred, at six hundred, and
sometimes even at one hundred and fifty feet of depth, a uniform
temperature from 4.3 to 6 degrees: but these experiments have not yet
been repeated in lakes situated under the torrid zone. The strata of
cold water in Switzerland are of an enormous thickness. They have been
found so near the surface in the lakes of Geneva and Bienne, that the
decrement of heat in the water was one centesimal degree for ten or
fifteen feet; that is to say, eight times more rapid than in the
ocean, and forty-eight times more rapid than in the atmosphere. In the
temperate zone, where the heat of the atmosphere sinks to the freezing
point, and far lower, the bottom of a lake, even were it not
surrounded by glaciers and mountains covered with eternal snow, must
contain particles of water which, having during winter acquired at the
surface the maximum of their density, between 3.4 and 4.4 degrees,
have consequently fallen to the greatest depth. Other particles, the
temperature of which is +0.5 degrees, far from placing themselves
below the stratum at 4 degrees, can only find their hydrostatic
equilibrium above that stratum. They will descend lower only when
their temperature is augmented 3 or 4 degrees by the contact of strata
less cold. If water in cooling continued to condense uniformly to the
freezing point, there would be found, in very deep lakes and basins
having no communication with each other (whatever the latitude of the
place), a stratum of water, the temperature of which would be nearly
equal to the maximum of refrigeration above the freezing point, which
the lower regions of the ambient atmosphere annually attain. Hence it
is probable, that, in the plains of the torrid zone, or in the valleys
but little elevated, the mean heat of which is from 25.5 to 27
degrees, the temperature of the bottom of the lakes can never be below
21 or 22 degrees. If in the same zone the ocean contain at depths of
seven or eight hundred fathoms, water the temperature of which is at 7
degrees, that is to say, twelve or thirteen degrees colder than the
maximum of the heat* of the equinoctial atmosphere over the sea, I
think it must be considered as a direct proof of a submarine current,
carrying the waters of the pole towards the equator. (* It is almost
superfluous to observe that I am considering here only that part of
the atmosphere lying on the ocean between 10 degrees north and 10
degrees south latitude. Towards the northern limits of the torrid
zone, in latitude 23 degrees, whither the north winds bring with an
extreme rapidity the cold air of Canada, the thermometer falls at sea
as low as 16 degrees, and even lower.) We will not here solve the
delicate problem, as to the manner in which, within the tropics and in
the temperate zone, (for example, in the Caribbean Sea and in the
lakes of Switzerland,) these inferior strata of water, cooled to 4 or
7 degrees, act upon the temperature of the stony strata of the globe
which they cover; and how these same strata, the primitive temperature
of which is, within the tropics, 27 degrees, and at the lake of Geneva
10 degrees, react upon the half-frozen waters at the bottom of the
lakes, and of the equinoctial ocean. These questions are of the
highest importance, both with regard to the economy of animals that
live habitually at the bottom of fresh and salt waters, and to the
theory of the distribution of heat in lands surrounded by vast and
deep seas.

The lake of Valencia is full of islands, which embellish the scenery
by the picturesque form of their rocks, and the beauty of the
vegetation with which they are covered: an advantage which this
tropical lake possesses over those of the Alps. The islands are
fifteen in number, distributed in three groups;* without reckoning
Morro and Cabrera, which are already joined to the shore. (* The
position of these islands is as follows: northward, near the shore,
the Isla de Cura; on the south-east, Burro, Horno, Otama, Sorro,
Caiguira, Nuevos Penones, or the Aparecidos; on the north-west, Cabo
Blanco, or Isla de Aves, and Chamberg; on the south-west, Brucha and
Culebra. In the centre of the lake rise, like shoals or small detached
rocks, Vagre, Fraile, Penasco, and Pan de Azucar.) They are partly
cultivated, and extremely fertile on account of the vapours that rise
from the lake. Burro, the largest of these islands, is two miles in
length, and is inhabited by some families of mestizos, who rear goats.
These simple people seldom visit the shore of Mocundo. To them the
lake appears of immense extent; they have plantains, cassava, milk,
and a little fish. A hut constructed of reeds; hammocks woven from the
cotton which the neighbouring fields produce; a large stone on which
the fire is made; the ligneous fruit of the tutuma (the calabash) in
which they draw water, constitute their domestic establishment. An old
mestizo who offered us some goat's milk had a beautiful daughter. We
learned from our guide, that solitude had rendered him as mistrustful
as he might perhaps have been made by the society of men. The day
before our arrival, some hunters had visited the island. They were
overtaken by the shades of night; and preferred sleeping in the open
air to returning to Mocundo. This news spread alarm throughout the
island. The father obliged the young girl to climb up a very lofty
zamang or acacia, which grew in the plain at some distance from the
hut, while he stretched himself at the foot of the tree, and did not
permit his daughter to descend till the hunters had departed.

The lake is in general well stocked with fish; though it furnishes
only three kinds, the flesh of which is soft and insipid, the guavina,
the vagre, and the sardina. The two last descend into the lake with
the streams that flow into it. The guavina, of which I made a drawing
on the spot, is 20 inches long and 3.5 broad. It is perhaps a new
species of the genus erythrina of Gronovius. It has large silvery
scales edged with green. This fish is extremely voracious, and
destroys other kinds. The fishermen assured us that a small crocodile,
the bava,* which often approached us when we were bathing, contributes
also to the destruction of the fish. (* The bava, or bavilla, is very
common at Bordones, near Cumana. See volume 1. The name of bava,
baveuse, has misled M. Depons; he takes this reptile for a fish of our
seas, the Blennius pholis. Voyage a la Terre Ferme. The Blennius
pholis, smooth blenny, is called by the French baveuse (slaverer), in
Spanish, baba.) We never could succeed in procuring this reptile so as
to examine it closely: it generally attains only three or four feet in
length. It is said to be very harmless; its habits however, as well as
its form, much resemble those of the alligator (Crocodilus acutus). It
swims in such a manner as to show only the point of its snout, and the
extremity of its tail; and places itself at mid-day on the bare beach.
It is certainly neither a monitor (the real monitors living only in
the old continent,) nor the sauvegarde of Seba (Lacerta teguixin,)
which dives and does not swim. It is somewhat remarkable that the lake
of Valencia, and the whole system of small rivers flowing into it,
have no large alligators, though this dangerous animal abounds a few
leagues off in the streams which flow either into the Apure or the
Orinoco, or immediately into the Caribbean Sea between Porto Cabello
and La Guayra.

In the islands that rise like bastions in the midst of the waters, and
wherever the rocky bottom of the lake is visible, I recognised a
uniform direction in the strata of gneiss. This direction is nearly
that of the chains of mountains on the north and south of the lake. In
the hills of Cabo Blanco there are found among the gneiss, angular
masses of opaque quartz, slightly translucid on the edges, and varying
from grey to deep black. This quartz passes sometimes into hornstein,
and sometimes into kieselschiefer (schistose jasper). I do not think
it constitutes a vein. The waters of the lake* decompose the gneiss by
erosion in a very extraordinary manner. (* The water of the lake is
not salt, as is asserted at Caracas. It may be drunk without being
filtered. On evaporation it leaves a very small residuum of carbonate
of lime, and perhaps a little nitrate of potash. It is surprising that
an inland lake should not be richer in alkaline and earthy salts,
acquired from the neighbouring soils. I have found parts of it porous,
almost cellular, and split in the form of cauliflowers, fixed on
gneiss perfectly compact. Perhaps the action ceases with the movement
of the waves, and the alternate contact of air and water.

The island of Chamberg is remarkable for its height. It is a rock of
gneiss, with two summits in the form of a saddle, and raised two
hundred feet above the surface of the water. The slope of this rock is
barren, and affords only nourishment for a few plants of clusia with
large white flowers. But the view of the lake and of the richly
cultivated neighbouring valleys is beautiful, and their aspect is
wonderful after sunset, when thousands of aquatic birds, herons,
flamingoes, and wild ducks cross the lake to roost in the islands, and
the broad zone of mountains which surrounds the horizon is covered
with fire. The inhabitants, as we have already mentioned, burn the
meadows in order to produce fresher and finer grass. Gramineous plants
abound, especially at the summit of the chain; and those vast
conflagrations extend sometimes the length of a thousand toises, and
appear like streams of lava overflowing the ridge of the mountains.
When reposing on the banks of the lake to enjoy the soft freshness of
the air in one of those beautiful evenings peculiar to the tropics, it
is delightful to contemplate in the waves as they beat the shore, the
reflection of the red fires that illumine the horizon.

Among the plants which grow on the rocky islands of the lake of
Valencia, many have been believed to be peculiar to those spots,
because till now they have not been discovered elsewhere. Such are the
papaw-trees of the lake; and the tomato* of the island of Cura. (* The
tomatoes are cultivated, as well as the papaw-tree of the lake, in the
Botanical Garden of Berlin, to which I had sent some seeds.) The
latter differs from our Solanum lycopersicum; the fruit is round and
small, but has a fine flavour; it is now cultivated at La Victoria, at
Nueva Valencia, and everywhere in the valleys of Aragua. The
papaw-tree of the lake (papaya de la laguna) abounds also in the
island of Cura and at Cabo Blanco; its trunk shoots higher than that
of the common papaw (Carica papaya), but its fruit is only half as
large, perfectly spherical, without projecting ribs, and four or five
inches in diameter. When cut open it is found quite filled with seeds,
and without those hollow places which occur constantly in the common
papaw. The taste of this fruit, of which I have often eaten, is
extremely sweet.* (* The people of the country attribute to it an
astringent quality, and call it tapaculo.) I know not whether it be a
variety of the Carica microcarpa, described by Jacquin.

The environs of the lake are insalubrious only in times of great
drought, when the waters in their retreat leave a muddy sediment
exposed to the rays of the sun. The banks, shaded by tufts of
Coccoloba barbadensis, and decorated with fine liliaceous plants,* (*
Pancratium undulatum, Amaryllis nervosa.) remind us, by the appearance
of the aquatic vegetation, of the marshy shores of our lakes in
Europe. We find there, pondweed (potamogeton), chara, and cats'-tail
three feet high, which it is difficult not to confound with the Typha
angustifolia of our marshes. It is only after a careful examination,
that we recognise each of these plants for distinct species,* (*
Potamogeton tenuifolium, Chara compressa, Typha tenuifolia.) peculiar
to the new continent. How many plants of the straits of Magellan, of
Chile, and the Cordilleras of Quito have formerly been confounded with
the productions of the northern temperate zone, owing to their analogy
in form and appearance.

The inhabitants of the valleys of Aragua often inquire why the
southern shore of the lake, particularly the south-west part towards
los Aguacotis, is generally more shaded, and exhibits fresher verdure
than the northern side. We saw, in the month of February, many trees
stripped of their foliage, near the Hacienda de Cura, at Mocundo, and
at Guacara; while to the south-east of Valencia everything presaged
the approach of the rains. I believe that in the early part of the
year, when the sun has southern declination, the hills around
Valencia, Guacara, and Cura are scorched by the heat of the solar
rays, while the southern shore receives, along with the breeze when it
enters the valley by the Abra de Porto Cabello, an atmosphere which
has crossed the lake, and is loaded with aqueous vapour. On this
southern shore, near Guaruto, are situated the finest plantations of
tobacco in the whole province.

Among the rivers flowing into the lake of Valencia some owe their
origin to thermal springs, and deserve particular attention. These
springs gush out at three points of the granitic Cordillera of the
coast; near Onoto, between Turmero and Maracay; near Mariara,
north-east of the Hacienda de Cura; and near Las Trincheras, on the
road from Nueva Valencia to Porto Cabello. I could examine with care
only the physical and geological relations of the thermal waters of
Mariara and Las Trincheras. In going up the small river Cura towards
its source, the mountains of Mariara are seen advancing into the plain
in the form of a vast amphitheatre, composed of perpendicular rocks,
crowned by peaks with rugged summits. The central point of the
amphitheatre bears the strange name of the Devil's Nook (Rincon del
Diablo). The range stretching to the east is called El Chaparro; that
to the west, Las Viruelas. These ruin-like rocks command the plain;
they are composed of a coarse-grained granite, nearly porphyritic, the
yellowish white feldspar crystals of which are more than an inch and a
half long. Mica is rare in them, and is of a fine silvery lustre.
Nothing can be more picturesque and solemn than the aspect of this
group of mountains, half covered with vegetation. The Peak of
Calavera, which unites the Rincon del Diablo to the Chaparro, is
visible from afar. In it the granite is separated by perpendicular
fissures into prismatic masses. It would seem as if the primitive rock
were crowned with columns of basalt. In the rainy season, a
considerable sheet of water rushes down like a cascade from these
cliffs. The mountains connected on the east with the Rincon del
Diablo, are much less lofty, and contain, like the promontory of La
Cabrera, and the little detached hills in the plain, gneiss and
mica-slate, including garnets.

In these lower mountains, two or three miles north-east of Mariara, we
find the ravine of hot waters called Quebrada de Aguas Calientes. This
ravine, running north-west 75 degrees, contains several small basins.
Of these the two uppermost, which have no communication with each
other, are only eight inches in diameter; the three lower, from two to
three feet. Their depth varies from three to fifteen inches. The
temperature of these different funnels (pozos) is from 56 to 59
degrees; and what is remarkable, the lower funnels are hotter than the
upper, though the difference of the level is only seven or eight
inches. The hot waters, collected together, form a little rivulet,
called the Rio de Aguas Calientes, which, thirty feet lower, has a
temperature of only 48 degrees. In seasons of great drought, the time
at which we visited the ravine, the whole body of the thermal waters
forms a section of only twenty-six square inches. This is considerably
augmented in the rainy season; the rivulet is then transformed into a
torrent, and its heat diminishes for it appears that the hot springs
themselves are subject only to imperceptible variations. All these
springs are slightly impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen gas. The
fetid smell, peculiar to this gas, can be perceived only by
approaching very near the springs. In one of these wells only, the
temperature of which is 56.2 degrees, bubbles of air are evolved at
nearly regular intervals of two or three minutes. I observed that
these bubbles constantly rose from the same points, which are four in
number; and that it was not possible to change the places from which
the gas is emitted, by stirring the bottom of the basin with a stick.
These places correspond no doubt to holes or fissures on the gneiss;
and indeed when the bubbles rise from one of the apertures, the
emission of gas follows instantly from the other three. I could not
succeed in inflaming the small quantities of gas that rise above the
thermal waters, or those I collected in a glass phial held over the
springs, an operation that excited in me a nausea, caused less by the
smell of the gas, than by the excessive heat prevailing in this
ravine. Is this sulphuretted hydrogen mixed with a great proportion of
carbonic acid or atmospheric air? I am doubtful of the first of these
mixtures, though so common in thermal waters; for example at Aix la
Chapelle, Enghien, and Bareges. The gas collected in the tube of
Fontana's eudiometer had been shaken for a long time with water. The
small basins are covered with a light film of sulphur, deposited by
the sulphuretted hydrogen in its slow combustion in contact with the
atmospheric oxygen. A few plants near the springs were encrusted with
sulphur. This deposit is scarcely visible when the water of Mariara is
suffered to cool in an open vessel; no doubt because the quantity of
disengaged gas is very small, and is not renewed. The water, when
cold, gives no precipitate with a solution of nitrate of copper; it is
destitute of flavour, and very drinkable. If it contain any saline
substances, for example, the sulphates of soda or magnesia, their
quantities must be very insignificant. Being almost destitute of
chemical tests,* (* A small case, containing acetate of lead, nitrate
of silver, alcohol, prussiate of potash, etc., had been left by
mistake at Cumana. I evaporated some of the water of Mariara, and it
yielded only a very small residuum, which, digested with nitric acid,
appeared to contain only a little silica and extractive vegetable
matter.) we contented ourselves with filling at the spring two
bottles, which were sent, along with the nourishing milk of the tree
called palo de vaca, to MM. Fourcroy and Vauquelin, by the way of
Porto Cabello and the Havannah. This purity in hot waters issuing
immediately from granite mountains is in Europe, as well as in the New
Continent, a most curious phenomenon.* (* Warm springs equally pure
are found issuing from the granites of Portugal, and those of Cantal.
In Italy, the Pisciarelli of the lake Agnano have a temperature equal
to 93 degrees. Are these pure waters produced by condensed vapours?)
How can we explain the origin of the sulphuretted hydrogen? It cannot
proceed from the decomposition of sulphurets of iron, or pyritic
strata. Is it owing to sulphurets of calcium, of magnesium, or other
earthy metalloids, contained in the interior of our planet, under its
rocky and oxidated crust?

In the ravine of the hot waters of Mariara, amidst little funnels, the
temperature of which rises from 56 to 59 degrees, two species of
aquatic plants vegetate; the one is membranaceous, and contains
bubbles of air; the other has parallel fibres. The first much
resembles the Ulva labyrinthiformis of Vandelli, which the thermal
waters of Europe furnish. At the island of Amsterdam, tufts of
lycopodium and marchantia have been seen in places where the heat of
the soil was far greater: such is the effect of an habitual stimulus
on the organs of plants. The waters of Mariara contain no aquatic
insects. Frogs are found in them, which, being probably chased by
serpents, have leaped into the funnels, and there perished.

South of the ravine, in the plain extending towards the shore of the
lake, another sulphureous spring gushes out, less hot and less
impregnated with gas. The crevice whence this water issues is six
toises higher than the funnel just described. The thermometer did not
rise in the crevice above 42 degrees. The water is collected in a
basin surrounded by large trees; it is nearly circular, from fifteen
to eighteen feet diameter, and three feet deep. The slaves throw
themselves into this bath at the end of the day, when covered with
dust, after having worked in the neighbouring fields of indigo and
sugar-cane. Though the water of this bath (bano) is habitually from 12
to 14 degrees hotter than the air, the negroes call it refreshing;
because in the torrid zone this term is used for whatever restores
strength, calms the irritation of the nerves, or causes a feeling of
comfort. We ourselves experienced the salutary effects of the bath.
Having slung our hammocks on the trees round the basin, we passed a
whole day in this charming spot, which abounds in plants. We found
near the bano of Mariara the volador, or gyrocarpus. The winged fruits
of this large tree turn like a fly-wheel, when they fall from the
stalk. On shaking the branches of the volador, we saw the air filled
with its fruits, the simultaneous fall of which presents the most
singular spectacle. The two membranaceous and striated wings are
turned so as to meet the air, in falling, at an angle of 45 degrees.
Fortunately the fruits we gathered were at their maturity. We sent
some to Europe, and they have germinated in the gardens of Berlin,
Paris, and Malmaison. The numerous plants of the volador, now seen in
hot-houses, owe their origin to the only tree of the kind found near
Mariara. The geographical distribution of the different species of
gyrocarpus, which Mr. Brown considers as one of the laurineae, is very
singular. Jacquin saw one species near Carthagena in America.* (* The
Gyrocarpus Jacquini of Gartner, or Gyrocarpus americanus of
Willdenouw.) This is the same which we met with again in Mexico, near
Zumpango, on the road from Acapulco to the capital.* (* The natives of
Mexico called it quitlacoctli. I saw some of its young leaves with
three and five lobes; the full-grown leaves are in the form of a
heart, and always with three lobes. We never met with the volador in
flower.) Another species, which grows on the mountains of Coromandel,*
(* This is the Gyrocarpus asiaticus of Willdenouw.) has been described
by Roxburgh; the third and fourth* grow in the southern hemisphere, on
the coasts of Australia. (* Gyrocarpus sphenopterus, and G. rugosus.)

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

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

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

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

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

It is this connexion between the Canarians and the inhabitants of
Venezuela, that has given rise to the introduction of camels into
those provinces. The Marquis del Toro caused three to be brought from
Lancerote. The expense of conveyance was very considerable, owing to
the space which these animals occupy on board merchant-vessels, and
the great quantity of water they require during a long sea-voyage. A
camel, bought for thirty piastres, costs between eight and nine
hundred before it reaches the coast of Caracas. We saw four of these
animals at Mocundo; three of which had been bred in America. Two
others had died of the bite of the coral, a venomous serpent very
common on the banks of the lake. These camels have hitherto been
employed only in the conveyance of the sugarcanes to the mill. The
males, stronger than the females, carry from forty to fifty arrobas. A
wealthy landholder in the province of Varinas, encouraged by the
example of the Marquis del Toro, has allotted a sum of 15,000 piastres
for the purpose of bringing fourteen or fifteen camels at once from
the Canary Islands. It is presumed these beasts of burden may be
employed in the conveyance of merchandise across the burning plains of
Casanare, from the Apure and Calabozo, which in the season of drought
resemble the deserts of Africa. How advantageous it would have been
had the Conquistadores, from the beginning of the sixteenth century,
peopled America with camels, as they have peopled it with horned
cattle, horses, and mules. Wherever there are immense distances to
cross in uninhabited lands; wherever the construction of canals
becomes difficult (as in the isthmus of Panama, on the table-land of
Mexico, and in the deserts that separate the kingdom of Quito from
Peru, and Peru from Chile), camels would be of the highest importance,
to facilitate inland commerce. It seems the more surprising, that
their introduction was not encouraged by the government at the
beginning of the conquest, as, long after the taking of Grenada,
camels, for which the Moors had a great predilection, were still very
common in the south of Spain. A Biscayan, Juan de Reinaga, carried
some of these animals at his own expense to Peru. Father Acosta saw
them at the foot of the Andes, about the end of the sixteenth century;
but little care being taken of them, they scarcely ever bred, and the
race soon became extinct. In those times of oppression and cruelty,
which have been described as the era of Spanish glory, the
commendatories (encomenderos) let out the Indians to travellers like
beasts of burden. They were assembled by hundreds, either to carry
merchandise across the Cordilleras, or to follow the armies in their
expeditions of discovery and pillage. The Indians endured this service
more patiently, because, owing to the almost total want of domestic
animals, they had long been constrained to perform it, though in a
less inhuman manner, under the government of their own chiefs. The
introduction of camels attempted by Juan de Reinaga spread an alarm
among the encomenderos, who were, not by law, but in fact, lords of
the Indian villages. The court listened to the complaints of the
encomenderos; and in consequence America was deprived of one of the
means which would have most facilitated inland communication, and the
exchange of productions. Now, however, there is no reason why the
introduction of camels should not be attempted as a general measure.
Some hundreds of these useful animals, spread over the vast surface of
America, in hot and barren places, would in a few years have a
powerful influence on the public prosperity. Provinces separated by
steppes would then appear to be brought nearer to each other; several
kinds of inland merchandize would diminish in price on the coast; and
by increasing the number of camels, above all the species called
hedjin, or the ship of the desert, a new life would be given to the
industry and commerce of the New World.

On the evening of the 22nd we continued our journey from Mocundo by
Los Guayos to the city of Nueva Valencia. We passed a little forest of
palm-trees, which resembled, by their appearance, and their leaves
spread like a fan, the Chamaerops humilis of the coast of Barbary. The
trunk, however, rises to twenty-four and sometimes thirty feet high.
It is probably a new species of the genus corypha; and is called in
the country palma de sombrero, the footstalks of the leaves being
employed in weaving hats resembling our straw hats. This grove of
palm-trees, the withered foliage of which rustles at the least breath
of air--the camels feeding in the plain--the undulating motion of the
vapours on a soil scorched by the ardour of the sun, give the
landscape an African aspect. The aridity of the land augments as the
traveller approaches the town, after passing the western extremity of
the lake. It is a clayey soil, which has been levelled and abandoned
by the waters. The neighbouring hills, called Los Morros de Valencia,
are composed of white tufa, a very recent limestone formation,
immediately covering the gneiss. It is again found at Victoria, and on
several other points along the chain of the coast. The whiteness of
this tufa, which reflects the rays of the sun, contributes greatly to
the excessive heat felt in this place. Everything seems smitten with
sterility; scarcely are a few plants of cacao found on the banks of
the Rio de Valencia; the rest of the plain is bare, and destitute of
vegetation. This appearance of sterility is here attributed, as it is
everywhere in the valleys of Aragua, to the cultivation of indigo;
which, according to the planters, is, of all plants, that which most
exhausts (cansa) the ground. The real physical causes of this
phenomenon would be an interesting inquiry, since, like the effects of
fallowing land, and of a rotation of crops, it is far from being
sufficiently understood. I shall only observe in general, that the
complaints of the increasing sterility of cultivated land become more
frequent between the tropics, in proportion as they are near the
period of their first breaking-up. In a region almost destitute of
herbs, where every plant has a ligneous stem, and tends to raise
itself as a shrub, the virgin soil remains shaded either by great
trees, or by bushes; and under this tufted shade it preserves
everywhere coolness and humidity. However active the vegetation of the
tropics may appear, the number of roots that penetrate into the earth,
is not so great in an uncultivated soil; while the plants are nearer
to each other in lands subjected to cultivation, and covered with
indigo, sugar-canes, or cassava. The trees and shrubs, loaded with
branches and leaves, draw a great part of their nourishment from the
ambient air; and the virgin soil augments its fertility by the
decomposition of the vegetable substances which progressively
accumulate. It is not so in the fields covered with indigo, or other
herbaceous plants; where the rays of the sun penetrate freely into the
earth, and by the accelerated combustion of the hydrurets of carbon
and other acidifiable principles, destroy the germs of fecundity.
These effects strike the imagination of the planters the more
forcibly, as in lands newly inhabited they compare the fertility of a
soil which has been abandoned to itself during thousands of years,
with the produce of ploughed fields. The Spanish colonies on the
continent, and the great islands of Porto-Rico and Cuba, possess
remarkable advantages with respect to the produce of agriculture over
the lesser West India islands. The former, from their extent, the
variety of their scenery, and their small relative population, still
bear all the characters of a new soil; while at Barbadoes, Tobago, St.
Lucia, the Virgin Islands, and the French part of St. Domingo, it may
be perceived that long cultivation has begun to exhaust the soil. If
in the valleys of Aragua, instead of abandoning the indigo grounds,
and leaving them fallow, they were covered during several years, not
with corn, but with other alimentary plants and forage; if among these
plants such as belong to different families were preferred, and which
shade the soil by their large leaves, the amelioration of the fields
would be gradually accomplished, and they would be restored to a part
of their former fertility.

The city of Nueva Valencia occupies a considerable extent of ground,
but its population scarcely amounts to six or seven thousand souls.
The streets are very broad, the market place, (plaza mayor,) is of
vast dimensions; and, the houses being low, the disproportion between
the population of the town, and the space that it occupies, is still
greater than at Caracas. Many of the whites, (especially the poorest,)
forsake their houses, and live the greater part of the year in their
little plantations of indigo and cotton, where they can venture to
work with their own hands; which, according to the inveterate
prejudices of that country, would be a disgrace to them in the town.

Nueva Valencia, founded in 1555 under the government of Villacinda, by
Alonzo Diaz Moreno, is twelve years older than Caracas. Valencia was
at first only a dependency of Burburata; but this latter town is
nothing now but a place of embarkation for mules. It is regretted, and
perhaps justly, that Valencia has not become the capital of the
country. Its situation in a plain, on the banks of a lake, recalls to
mind the position of Mexico. When we reflect on the easy communication
afforded by the valleys of Aragua with the Llanos and the rivers that
flow into the Orinoco; when we recognize the possibility of opening an
inland navigation, by the Rio Pao and the Portuguesa, as far as the
mouths of the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Amazon, it may be
conceived that the capital of the vast provinces of Venezuela would
have been better placed near the fine harbour of Porto Cabello,
beneath a pure and serene sky, than near the unsheltered road of La
Guayra, in a temperate but constantly foggy valley. Near the kingdom
of New Grenada, and situate between the fertile corn-lands of La
Victoria and Barquesimeto, the city of Valencia ought to have
prospered; but, notwithstanding these advantages, it has been unable
to maintain the contest with Caracas.

Only those who have seen the myriads of ants, that infest the
countries within the torrid zone, can form an idea of the destruction
and the sinking of the ground occasioned by these insects. They abound
to such a degree on the site of Valencia, that their excavations
resemble subterranean canals, which are filled with water in the time
of the rains, and become very dangerous to the buildings. Here
recourse has not been had to the extraordinary means employed at the
beginning of the sixteenth century in the island of St. Domingo, when
troops of ants ravaged the fine plains of La Vega, and the rich
possessions of the order of St. Francis. The monks, after having in
vain burnt the larvae of the ants, and had recourse to fumigations,
advised the inhabitants to choose by lot a saint, who would act as a
mediator against the plague of the ants.* (* Un abogado contra los
harmigos.) The honour of the choice fell on St. Saturnin; and the ants
disappeared as soon as the first festival of this saint was
celebrated. Incredulity has made great progress since the time of the
conquest; and it was only on the back of the Cordilleras that I found
a small chapel, destined, according to its inscription, for prayers to
be addressed to Heaven for the destruction of the termites.

Valencia affords some historical remembrances; but these, like
everything connected with the colonies, have no remote date, and
recall to mind either civil discords or sanguinary conflicts with the
savages. Lopez de Aguirre, whose crimes and adventures form some of
the most dramatic episodes of the history of the conquest, proceeded
in 1561, from Peru, by the river Amazon to the island of Margareta;
and thence, by the port of Burburata, into the valleys of Aragua. On
his entrance into Valencia, which proudly entitles itself the City of
the King, he proclaimed the independence of country, and the
deposition of Philip II. The inhabitants withdrew to the islands of
the lake of Tacarigua, taking with them all the boats from the shore,
to be more secure in their retreat. In consequence of this stratagem,
Aguirre could exercise his cruelties only on his own people. From
Valencia he addressed to the king of Spain, a remarkable letter, in
which he boasts alternately of his crimes and his piety; at the same
time giving advice to the king on the government of the colonies, and
the system of missions. Surrounded by savage Indians, navigating on a
great sea of fresh water, as he calls the Amazon, he is alarmed at the
heresies of Martin Luther, and the increasing influence of schismatics
in Europe.*

(* The following are some remarkable passages in the letter from
Aguirre to the king of Spain.

"King Philip, native of Spain, son of Charles the Invincible! I, Lopez
de Aguirre, thy vassal, an old Christian, of poor but noble parents,
and a native of the town of Onate in Biscay, passed over young to
Peru, to labour lance in hand. I rendered thee great services in the
conquest of India. I fought for thy glory, without demanding pay of
thy officers, as is proved by the books of thy treasury. I firmly
believe, Christian King and Lord, that, very ungrateful to me and my
companions, all those who write to thee from this land [America],
deceive thee much, because thou seest things from too far off. I
recommend to thee to be more just toward the good vassals whom thou
hast in this country: for I and mine, weary of the cruelties and
injustice which thy viceroys, thy governors, and thy judges, exercise
in thy name, are resolved to obey thee no more. We regard ourselves no
longer as Spaniards. We wage a cruel war against thee, because we will
not endure the oppression of thy ministers; who, to give places to
their nephews and their children, dispose of our lives, our
reputation, and our fortune. I am lame in the left foot from two shots
of an arquebuss, which I received in the valley of Coquimbo, fighting
under the orders of thy marshal, Alonzo de Alvarado, against Francis
Hernandez Giron, then a rebel, as I am at present, and shall be
always; for since thy viceroy, the Marquis de Canete, a cowardly,
ambitious, and effeminate man, has hanged our most valiant warriors, I
care no more for thy pardon than for the books of Martin Luther. It is
not well in thee, King of Spain, to be ungrateful toward thy vassals;
for it was whilst thy father, the emperor Charles, remained quietly in
Castile, that they procured for thee so many kingdoms and vast
countries. Remember, King Philip, that thou hast no right to draw
revenues from these provinces, the conquest of which has been without
danger to thee, but inasmuch as thou recompensest those who have
rendered thee such great services. I am certain that few kings go to
heaven. Therefore we regard ourselves as very happy to be here in the
Indies, preserving in all their purity the commandments of God, and of
the Roman Church; and we intend, though sinners during life, to become
one day martyrs to the glory of God. On going out of the river Amazon,
we landed in an island called La Margareta. We there received news
from Spain of the great faction and machination (maquina) of the
Lutherans. This news alarmed us extremely; we found among us one of
that faction; his name was Monteverde. I had him cut to pieces, as was
just: for, believe me, Senor, wherever I am, people live according to
the law. But the corruption of morals among the monks is so great in
this land that it is necessary to chastise it severely. There is not
an ecclesiastic here who does not think himself higher than the
governor of a province. I beg of thee, great King, not to believe what
the monks tell thee down yonder in Spain. They are always talking of
the sacrifices they make, as well as of the hard and bitter life they
are forced to lead in America: while they occupy the richest lands,
and the Indians hunt and fish for them every day. If they shed tears
before thy throne, it is that thou mayest send them hither to govern
provinces. Dost thou know what sort of life they lead here? Given up
to luxury, acquiring possessions, selling the sacraments, being at
once ambitious, violent, and gluttonous; such is the life they lead in
America. The faith of the Indians suffer by such bad examples. If thou
dost not change all this, O King of Spain, thy government will not be

"What a misfortune that the Emperor, thy father, should have conquered
Germany at such a price, and spent, on that conquest, the money we
procured for him in these very Indies! In the year 1559 the Marquis de
Canete sent to the Amazon, Pedro de Ursua, a Navarrese, or rather a
Frenchman: we sailed on the largest rivers of Peru till we came to a
gulf of fresh water. We had already gone three hundred leagues when we
killed that bad and ambitious captain. We chose a caballero of
Seville, Fernando de Guzman, for king: and we swore fealty to him, as
is done to thyself. I was named quarter-master-general: and because I
did not consent to all he willed, he wanted to kill me. But I killed
this new king, the captain of his guards, his lieutenant-general, his
chaplain, a woman, a knight of the order of Rhodes, two ensigns, and
five or six domestics of the pretended king. I then resolved to punish
thy ministers and thy auditors (counsellors of the audiencia). I named
captains and sergeants: these again wanted to kill me, but I had them
all hanged. In the midst of these adventures we navigated for eleven
months, till we reached the mouth of the river. We sailed more than
fifteen hundred leagues. God knows how we got through that great mass
of water. I advise thee, O great King, never to send Spanish fleets
into that accursed river. God preserve thee in his holy keeping."

This letter was given by Aguirre to the vicar of the island of
Margareta, Pedro de Contreras, in order to be transmitted to King
Philip II. Fray Pedro Simon, Provincial of the Franciscans in New
Grenada, saw several manuscript copies of it both in America and in
Spain. It was printed, for the first time, in 1723, in the History of
the Province of Venezuela, by Oviedo, volume 1 page 206. Complaints no
less violent, on the conduct of the monks of the 16th century, were
addressed directly to the pope by the Milanese traveller, Girolamo

Lopez de Aguirre, or as he is still called by the common people, the
Tyrant, was killed at Barquesimeto, after having been abandoned by his
own men. At the moment when he fell, he plunged a dagger into the
bosom of his only daughter, "that she might not have to blush before
the Spaniards at the name of the daughter of a traitor." The soul of
the tyrant (such is the belief of the natives) wanders in the
savannahs, like a flame that flies the approach of men.* (* See volume
1 chapter 1.4.)

The second historical event connected with the name of Valencia is the
great incursion made by the Caribs of the Orinoco in 1578 and 1580.
That cannibal horde went up the banks of the Guarico, crossing the
plains or llanos. They were happily repulsed by the valour of Garcia
Gonzales, one of the captains whose names are still most revered in
those provinces. It is gratifying to recollect, that the descendants
of those very Caribs now live in the missions as peaceable husbandmen,
and that no savage nation of Guiana dares to cross the plains which
separate the region of the forests from that of cultivated land. The
Cordillera of the coast is intersected by several ravines, very
uniformly directed from south-east to north-west. This phenomenon is
general from the Quebrada of Tocume, between Petares and Caracas, as
far as Porto Cabello. It would seem as if the impulsion had everywhere
come from the south-east; and this fact is the more striking, as the
strata of gneiss and mica-slate in the Cordillera of the coast are
generally directed from the south-west to the north-east. Most of
these ravines penetrate into the mountains at their southern
declivity, without crossing them entirely. But there is an opening
(abra) on the meridian of Nueva Valencia, which leads towards the
coast, and by which a cooling sea-breeze penetrates every evening into
the valleys of Aragua. This breeze rises regularly two or three hours
after sunset.

By this abra, the farm of Barbula, and an eastern branch of the
ravine, a new road is being constructed from Valencia to Porto
Cabello. It will be so short, that it will require only four hours to
reach the port; and the traveller will be able to go and return in the
same day from the coast to the valleys of Aragua. In order to examine
this road, we set out on the 26th of February in the evening for the
farm of Barbula.

On the morning of the 27th we visited the hot springs of La Trinchera,
three leagues from Valencia. The ravine is very large, and the descent
almost continual from the banks of the lake to the sea-coast. La
Trinchera takes its name from some fortifications of earth, thrown up
in 1677 by the French buccaneers, who sacked the town of Valencia. The
hot springs (and this is a remarkable geological fact,) do not issue
on the south side of the mountains, like those of Mariara, Onoto, and
the Brigantine; but they issue from the chain itself almost at its
northern declivity. They are much more abundant than any we had till
then seen, forming a rivulet which, in times of the greatest drought,
is two feet deep and eighteen wide. The temperature of the water,
measured with great care, was 90.3 degrees of the centigrade
thermometer. Next to the springs of Urijino, in Japan, which are
asserted to be pure water at 100 degrees of temperature, the waters of
the Trinchera of Porto Cabello appear to be the hottest in the world.
We breakfasted near the spring; eggs plunged into the water were
boiled in less than four minutes. These waters, strongly charged with
sulphuretted hydrogen, gush out from the back of a hill rising one
hundred and fifty feet above the bottom of the ravine, and tending
from south-south-east to north-north-west. The rock from which the
springs gush, is a real coarse-grained granite, resembling that of the
Rincon del Diablo, in the mountains of Mariara. Wherever the waters
evaporate in the air, they form sediments and incrustations of
carbonate of lime; possibly they traverse strata of primitive
limestone, so common in the mica-slate and gneiss of the coasts of
Caracas. We were surprised at the luxuriant vegetation that surrounds
the basin; mimosas with slender pinnate leaves, clusias, and
fig-trees, have pushed their roots into the bottom of a pool, the
temperature of which is 85 degrees; and the branches of these trees
extended over the surface of the water, at two or three inches
distance. The foliage of the mimosas, though constantly enveloped in
the hot vapours, displayed the most beautiful verdure. An arum, with a
woody stem, and with large sagittate leaves, rose in the very middle
of a pool the temperature of which was 70 degrees. Plants of the same
species vegetate in other parts of those mountains at the brink of
torrents, the temperature of which is not 18 degrees. What is still
more singular, forty feet distant from the point whence the springs
gush out at a temperature of 90 degrees, other springs are found
perfectly cold. They all follow for some time a parallel direction;
and the natives showed us that, by digging a hole between the two
rivulets, they could procure a bath of any given temperature they
pleased. It seems remarkable, that in the hottest as well as the
coldest climates, people display the same predilection for heat. On
the introduction of Christianity into Iceland, the inhabitants would
be baptized only in the hot springs of Hecla: and in the torrid zone,
in the plains, as well as on the Cordilleras, the natives flock from
all parts to the thermal waters. The sick, who come to La Trinchera to
use vapour-baths, form a sort of frame-work over the spring with
branches of trees and very slender reeds. They stretch themselves
naked on this frame, which appeared to me to possess little strength,
and to be dangerous of access. The Rio de Aguas Calientes runs towards
the north-east, and becomes, near the coast, a considerable river,
swarming with great crocodiles, and contributing, by its inundations,
to the insalubrity of the shore.

We descended towards Porto Cabello, having constantly the river of hot
water on our right. The road is extremely picturesque, and the waters
roll down on the shelves of rock. We might have fancied we were gazing
on the cascades of the Reuss, that flows down Mount St. Gothard; but
what a contrast in the vigour and richness of the vegetation! The
white trunks of the cecropia rise majestically amid bignonias and
melastomas. They do not disappear till we are within a hundred toises
above the level of the ocean. A small thorny palm-tree extends also to
this limit; the slender pinnate leaves of which look as if they had
been curled toward the edges. This tree is very common in these
mountains; but not having seen either its fruit or its flowers, we are
ignorant whether it be the piritu palm-tree of the Caribbees, or the
Cocos aculeata of Jacquin.

The rock on this road presents a geological phenomenon, the more
remarkable as the existence of real stratified granite has long been
disputed. Between La Trinchera and the Hato de Cambury a
coarse-grained granite appears, which, from the disposition of the
spangles of mica, collected in small groups, scarcely admits of
confounding with gneiss, or with rocks of a schistose texture. This
granite, divided into ledges of two or three feet thick, is directed
52 degrees north-east, and slopes to the north-west regularly at an
angle of from 30 or 40 degrees. The feldspar, crystallized in prisms
with four unequal sides, about an inch long, passes through every
variety of tint from a flesh-red to yellowish white. The mica, united
in hexagonal plates, is black, and sometimes green. The quartz
predominates in the mass; and is generally of a milky white. I
observed neither hornblende, black schorl, nor rutile titanite, in
this granite. In some ledges we recognised round masses, of a blackish
gray, very quartzose, and almost destitute of mica. They are from one
to two inches diameter; and are found in every zone, in all granite
mountains. These are not imbedded fragments, as at Greiffenstein in
Saxony, but aggregations of particles which seem to have been
subjected to partial attractions. I could not follow the line of
junction of the gneiss and granitic formations. According to angles
taken in the valleys of Aragua, the gneiss appears to descend below
the granite, which must consequently be of a more recent formation.
The appearance of a stratified granite excited my attention the more,
because, having had the direction of the mines of Fichtelberg in
Franconia for several years, I was accustomed to see granites divided
into ledges of three or four feet thick, but little inclined, and
forming masses like towers, or old ruins, at the summit of the highest
mountains.* (* At Ochsenkopf, at Rudolphstein, at Epprechtstein, at
Luxburg, and at Schneeberg. The dip of the strata of these granites of
Fichtelberg is generally only from 6 to 10 degrees, rarely (at
Schneeberg) 18 degrees. According to the dips I observed in the
neighbouring strata of gneiss and mica-slate, I should think that the
granite of Fichtelberg is very ancient, and serves as a basis for
other formations; but the strata of grunstein, and the disseminated
tin-ore which it contains, may lead us to doubt its great antiquity,
from the analogy of the granites of Saxony containing tin.)

The heat became stifling as we approached the coast. A reddish vapour
veiled the horizon. It was near sunset, and the breeze was not yet
stirring. We rested in the lonely farms known under the names of the
Hato de Cambury and the house of the Canarian (Casa del Isleno). The
river of hot water, along the banks of which we passed, became deeper.
A crocodile, more than nine feet long, lay dead on the strand. We
wished to examine its teeth, and the inside of its mouth; but having
been exposed to the sun for several weeks, it exhaled a smell so fetid
that we were obliged to relinquish our design and remount our horses.
When we arrived at the level of the sea, the road turned eastward, and
crossed a barren shore a league and a half broad, resembling that of
Cumana. We there found some scattered cactuses, a sesuvium, a few
plants of Coccoloba uvifera, and along the coast some avicennias and
mangroves. We forded the Guayguaza and the Rio Estevan, which, by
their frequent overflowing, form great pools of stagnant water. Small
rocks of meandrites, madrepores, and other corals, either ramified or
with a rounded surface, rise in this vast plain, and seem to attest
the recent retreat of the sea. But these masses, which are the
habitations of polypi, are only fragments imbedded in a breccia with a
calcareous cement. I say a breccia, because we must not confound the
fresh and white corallites of this very recent littoral formation,
with the corallites blended in the mass of transition-rocks,
grauwacke, and black limestone. We were astonished to find in this
uninhabited spot a large Parkinsonia aculeata loaded with flowers. Our
botanical works indicate this tree as peculiar to the New World; but
during five years we saw it only twice in a wild state, once in the
plains of the Rio Guayguaza, and once in the llanos of Cumana, thirty
leagues from the coast, near la Villa del Pao, but there was reason to
believe that this latter place had once been a conuco, or cultivated
enclosure. Everywhere else on the continent of America we saw the
Parkinsonia, like the Plumeria, only in the gardens of the Indians.

At Porto Cabello, as at La Guayra, it is disputed whether the port
lies east or west of the town, with which the communications are the
most frequent. The inhabitants believe that Porto Cabello is
north-north-west of Nueva Valencia; and my observations give a
longitude of three or four minutes more towards the west.

We were received with the utmost kindness in the house of a French
physician, M. Juliac, who had studied medicine at Montpelier. His
small house contained a collection of things the most various, but
which were all calculated to interest travellers. We found works of
literature and natural history; notes on meteorology; skins of the
jaguar and of large aquatic serpents; live animals, monkeys,
armadilloes, and birds. Our host was principal surgeon to the royal
hospital of Porto Cabello, and was celebrated in the country for his
skilful treatment of the yellow fever. During a period of seven years
he had seen six or eight thousand persons enter the hospitals,
attacked by this cruel malady. He had observed the ravages that the
epidemic caused in Admiral Ariztizabal's fleet, in 1793. That fleet
lost nearly a third of its men; for the sailors were almost all
unseasoned Europeans, and held unrestrained intercourse with the
shore. M. Juliac had heretofore treated the sick as was commonly
practised in Terra Firma, and in the island, by bleeding, aperient
medicines, and acid drinks. In this treatment no attempt was made to
raise the vital powers by the action of stimulants, so that, in
attempting to allay the fever, the languor and debility were
augmented. In the hospitals, where the sick were crowded, the
mortality was often thirty-three per cent among the white Creoles; and
sixty-five in a hundred among the Europeans recently disembarked.
Since a stimulant treatment, the use of opium, of benzoin, and of
alcoholic draughts, has been substituted for the old debilitating
method, the mortality has considerably diminished. It was believed to
be reduced to twenty in a hundred among Europeans, and ten among
Creoles;* even when black vomiting, and haemorrhage from the nose,
ears, and gums, indicated a high degree of exacerbation in the malady.
(* I have treated in another work of the proportions of mortality in
the yellow fever. (Nouvelle Espagne volume 2 pages 777, 785, and 867.)
At Cadiz the average mortality was, in 1800, twenty per cent; at
Seville, in 1801, it amounted to sixty per cent. At Vera Cruz the
mortality does not exceed twelve or fifteen per cent, when the sick
can be properly attended. In the civil hospitals of Paris the number
of deaths, one year with another, is from fourteen to eighteen per
cent; but it is asserted that a great number of patients enter the
hospitals almost dying, or at very advanced time of life.) I relate
faithfully what was then given as the general result of observation:
but I think, in these numerical comparisons, it must not be forgotten,
that, notwithstanding appearances, the epidemics of several successive
years do not resemble each other; and that, in order to decide on the
use of fortifying or debilitating remedies, (if indeed this difference
exist in an absolute sense,) we must distinguish between the various
periods of the malady.

The climate of Porto Cabello is less ardent than that of La Guayra.
The breeze there is stronger, more frequent, and more regular. The
houses do not lean against rocks that absorb the rays of the sun
during the day, and emit caloric at night, and the air can circulate
more freely between the coast and the mountains of Ilaria. The causes
of the insalubrity of the atmosphere must be sought in the shores that
extend to the east, as far as the eye can reach, towards the Punta de
Tucasos, near the fine port of Chichiribiche. There are situated the
salt-works; and there, at the beginning of the rainy season, tertian
fevers prevail, and easily degenerate into asthenic fevers. It is
affirmed that the mestizoes who are employed in the salt-works are
more tawny, and have a yellower skin, when they have suffered several
successive years from those fevers, which are called the malady of the
coast. The poor fishermen, who dwell on this shore, are of opinion
that it is not the inundations of the sea, and the retreat of the
salt-water, which render the lands covered with mangroves so
unhealthful;* (* In the West India Islands all the dreadful maladies
which prevail during the wintry season, have been for a long time
attributed to the south winds. These winds convey the emanations of
the mouths of the Orinoco and of the small rivers of Terra Firma
toward the high latitudes.) they believe that the insalubrity of the
air is owing to the fresh water, that is, to the overflowings of the
Guayguaza and Estevan, the swell of which is so great and sudden in
the months of October and November. The banks of the Rio Estevan have
been less insalubrious since little plantations of maize and plantains
have been established; and, by raising and hardening the ground, the
river has been confined within narrower limits. A plan is formed of
giving another issue to the Rio San Estevan, and thus to render the
environs of Porto Cabello more wholesome. A canal is to lead the
waters toward that part of the coast which is opposite the island of

The salt-works of Porto Cabello somewhat resemble those of the
peninsula of Araya, near Cumana. The earth, however, which they
lixivate by collecting the rain-water into small basins, contains less
salt. It is questioned here, as at Cumana, whether the ground be
impregnated with saline particles because it has been for ages covered
at intervals with sea-water evaporated by the heat of the sun, or
whether the soil be muriatiferous, as in a mine very poor in native
salt. I had not leisure to examine this plain with the same attention
as the peninsula of Araya. Besides, does not this problem reduce
itself to the simple question, whether the salt be owing to new or
very ancient inundations? The labouring at the salt-works of Porto
Cabello being extremely unhealthy, the poorest men alone engage in it.
They collect the salt in little stores, and afterwards sell it to the
shopkeepers in the town.

During our abode at Porto Cabello, the current on the coast, generally
directed towards the west,* ran from west to east. This upward current
(corriente por arriba), is very frequent during two or three months of
the year, from September to November. It is believed to be owing to
some north-west winds that have blown between Jamaica and Cape St.
Antony in the island of Cuba. (* The wrecks of the Spanish ships,
burnt at the island of Trinidad, at the time of its occupation by the
English in 1797, were carried by the general or rotary current to
Punta Brava, near Porto Cabello. This general current toward the east,
from the coasts of Paria to the isthmus of Panama and the western
extremity of the island of Cuba, was the subject of a violent dispute
between Don Diego Columbus, Oviedo, and the pilot Andres, in the
sixteenth century.)

The military defence of the coasts of Terra Firma rests on six points:
the castle of San Antonio at Cumana; the Morro of Nueva Barcelona; the
fortifications of La Guayra, (mounting one hundred and thirty-four
guns); Porto Cabello; fort San Carlos, (at the mouth of the lake of
Maracaybo); and Carthagena. Porto Cabello is, next to Carthagena, the
most important fortified place. The town of Porto Cabello is quite
modern, and the port is one of the finest in the world. Art has had
scarcely anything to add to the advantages which the nature of the
spot presents. A neck of land stretches first towards the north, and
then towards the west. Its western extremity is opposite to a range of
islands connected by bridges, and so close together that they might be
taken for another neck of land. These islands are all composed of a
calcareous breccia of extremely recent formation, and analagous to
that on the coast of Cumana, and near the castle of Araya. It is a
conglomerate, containing fragments of madrepores and other corals
cemented by a limestone basis and grains of sand. We had already seen
this conglomerate near the Rio Guayguaza. By a singular disposition of
the ground the port resembles a basin or a little inland lake, the
southern extremity of which is filled with little islands covered with
mangroves. The opening of the port towards the west contributes much
to the smoothness of the water.* (* It is disputed at Porto Cabello
whether the port takes its name from the tranquillity of its waters,
"which would not move a hair (cabello)," or (which is more probable)
derived from Antonio Cabello, one of the fishermen with whom the
smugglers of Curacoa had formed a connexion at the period when the
first hamlet was constructed on this half-desert coast.) One vessel
only can enter at a time; but the largest ships of the line can anchor
very near land to take in water. There is no other danger in entering
the harbour than the reefs of Punta Brava, opposite which a battery of
eight guns has been erected. Towards the west and south-west we see
the fort, which is a regular pentagon with five bastions, the battery
of the reef, and the fortifications that surround the ancient town,
founded on an island of a trapezoidal form. A bridge and the fortified
gate of the Staccado join the old to the new town; the latter is
already larger than the former, though considered only as its suburb.
The bottom of the basin or lake which forms the harbour of Porto
Cabello, turns behind this suburb to the south-west. It is a marshy
ground filled with noisome and stagnant water. The town, which has at
present nearly nine thousand inhabitants, owes its origin to an
illicit commerce, attracted to these shores by the proximity of the
town of Burburata, which was founded in 1549. It is only since the
administration of the Biscayans, and of the company of Guipuzcoa, that
Porto Cabello, which was but a hamlet, has been converted into a
well-fortified town. The vessels of La Guayra, which is less a port
than a bad open roadstead, come to Porto Cabello to be caulked and

The real defence of the harbour consists in the low batteries on the
neck of land at Punta Brava, and on the reef; but from ignorance of
this principle, a new fort, the Mirador of Solano* has been
constructed at a great expense, on the mountains commanding the suburb
towards the south. (* The Mirador is situate eastward of the Vigia
Alta, and south-east of the battery of the salt-works and the
powder-mill.) More than ten thousand mules are annually exported from
Porto Cabello. It is curious enough to see these animals embarked;
they are thrown down with ropes, and then hoisted on board the vessels
by means of a machine resembling a crane. Ranged in two files, the
mules with difficulty keep their footing during the rolling and
pitching of the ship; and in order to frighten and render them more
docile, a drum is beaten during a great part of the day and night. We
may guess what quiet a passenger enjoys, who has the courage to embark
for Jamaica in a schooner laden with mules.

We left Porto Cabello on the first of March, at sunrise. We saw with
surprise the great number of boats that were laden with fruit to be
sold at the market. It reminded me of a fine morning at Venice. The
town presents in general, on the side towards the sea, a cheerful and
agreeable aspect. Mountains covered with vegetation, and crowned with
peaks called Las Tetas de Ilaria, which, from their outline would be
taken for rocks of a trap-formation, form the background of the
landscape. Near the coast all is bare, white, and strongly illumined,
while the screen of mountains is clothed with trees of thick foliage
that project their vast shadows upon the brown and rocky ground. On
going out of the town we visited an aqueduct that had been just
finished. It is five thousand varas long, and conveys the waters of
the Rio Estevan by a trench to the town. This work has cost more than
thirty thousand piastres; but its waters gush out in every street.

We returned from Porto Cabello to the valleys of Aragua, and stopped
at the Farm of Barbula, near which, a new road to Valencia is in the
course of construction. We had heard, several weeks before, of a tree,
the sap of which is a nourishing milk. It is called the cow-tree; and
we were assured that the negroes of the farm, who drink plentifully of
this vegetable milk, consider it a wholesome aliment. All the milky
juices of plants being acrid, bitter, and more or less poisonous, this
account appeared to us very extraordinary; but we found by experience
during our stay at Barbula, that the virtues of this tree had not been
exaggerated. This fine tree rises like the broad-leaved star-apple.*
(* Chrysophyllum cainito.) Its oblong and pointed leaves, rough and
alternate, are marked by lateral ribs, prominent at the lower surface,
and parallel. Some of them are ten inches long. We did not see the
flower: the fruit is somewhat fleshy, and contains one and sometimes
two nuts. When incisions are made in the trunk of this tree, it yields
abundance of a glutinous milk, tolerably thick, devoid of all
acridity, and of an agreeable and balmy smell. It was offered to us in
the shell of a calabash. We drank considerable quantities of it in the
evening before we went to bed, and very early in the morning, without
feeling the least injurious effect. The viscosity of this milk alone
renders it a little disagreeable. The negroes and the free people who
work in the plantations drink it, dipping into it their bread of maize
or cassava. The overseer of the farm told us that the negroes grow
sensibly fatter during the season when the palo de vaca furnishes them
with most milk. This juice, exposed to the air, presents at its
surface (perhaps in consequence of the absorption of the atmospheric
oxygen) membranes of a strongly animalized substance, yellowish,
stringy, and resembling cheese. These membranes, separated from the
rest of the more aqueous liquid, are elastic, almost like caoutchouc;
but they undergo, in time, the same phenomena of putrefaction as
gelatine. The people call the coagulum that separates by the contact
of the air, cheese. This coagulum grows sour in the space of five or
six days, as I observed in the small portions which I carried to Nueva
Valencia. The milk contained in a stopped phial, had deposited a
little coagulum; and, far from becoming fetid, it exhaled constantly a
balsamic odour. The fresh juice mixed with cold water was scarcely
coagulated at all; but on the contact of nitric acid the separation of
the viscous membranes took place. We sent two bottles of this milk to
M. Fourcroy at Paris: in one it was in its natural state, and in the
other, mixed with a certain quantity of carbonate of soda. The French
consul residing in the island of St. Thomas, undertook to convey them
to him.

The extraordinary tree of which we have been speaking appears to be
peculiar to the Cordillera of the coast, particularly from Barbula to
the lake of Maracaybo. Some stocks of it exist near the village of San
Mateo; and, according to M. Bredemeyer, whose travels have so much
enriched the fine conservatories of Schonbrunn and Vienna, in the
valley of Caucagua, three days journey east of Caracas. This
naturalist found, like us, that the vegetable milk of the palo de vaco
had an agreeable taste and an aromatic smell. At Caucagua, the natives
call the tree that furnishes this nourishing juice, the milk-tree
(arbol del leche). They profess to recognize, from the thickness and
colour of the foliage, the trunks that yield the most juice; as the
herdsman distinguishes, from external signs, a good milch-cow. No
botanist has hitherto known the existence of this plant. It seems,
according to M. Kunth, to belong to the sapota family. Long after my
return to Europe, I found in the Description of the East Indies by
Laet, a Dutch traveller, a passage that seems to have some relation to
the cow-tree. "There exist trees," says Laet,* "in the province of
Cumana, the sap of which much resembles curdled milk, and affords a
salubrious nourishment." (* "Inter arbores quae sponte hic passim
nascuntur, memorantur a scriptoribus Hispanis quaedam quae lacteum
quemdam liquorem fundunt, qui durus admodum evadit instar gummi, et
suavem odorem de se fundit; aliae quae liquorem quemdam edunt, instar
lactis coagulati, qui in cibis ab ipsis usurpatur sine noxa." (Among
the trees growing here, it is remarked by Spanish writers that there
are some which pour out a milky juice which soon grows solid, like
gum, affording a pleasant odour; and also others that give out a
liquid which coagulates like cheese, and which they eat at meals
without any ill effects). Descriptio Indiarum Occidentalium, lib. 18.)

Amidst the great number of curious phenomena which I have observed in
the course of my travels, I confess there are few that have made so
powerful an impression on me as the aspect of the cow-tree. Whatever
relates to milk or to corn, inspires an interest which is not merely
that of the physical knowledge of things, but is connected with
another order of ideas and sentiments. We can scarcely conceive how
the human race could exist without farinaceous substances, and without
that nourishing juice which the breast of the mother contains, and
which is appropriated to the long feebleness of the infant. The
amylaceous matter of corn, the object of religious veneration among so
many nations, ancient and modern, is diffused in the seeds, and
deposited in the roots of vegetables; milk, which serves as an
aliment, appears to us exclusively the produce of animal organization.
Such are the impressions we have received in our earliest infancy:
such is also the source of that astonishment created by the aspect of
the tree just described. It is not here the solemn shades of forests,
the majestic course of rivers, the mountains wrapped in eternal snow,
that excite our emotion. A few drops of vegetable juice recall to our
minds all the powerfulness and the fecundity of nature. On the barren
flank of a rock grows a tree with coriaceous and dry leaves. Its large
woody roots can scarcely penetrate into the stone. For several months
of the year not a single shower moistens its foliage. Its branches
appear dead and dried; but when the trunk is pierced there flows from
it a sweet and nourishing milk. It is at the rising of the sun that
this vegetable fountain is most abundant. The negroes and natives are
then seen hastening from all quarters, furnished with large bowls to
receive the milk, which grows yellow, and thickens at its surface.
Some empty their bowls under the tree itself; others carry the juice
home to their children.

In examining the physical properties of animal and vegetable products,
science displays them as closely linked together; but it strips them
of what is marvellous, and perhaps, therefore, of a part of their
charms. Nothing appears isolated; the chemical principles that were
believed to be peculiar to animals are found in plants; a common chain
links together all organic nature.

Long before chemists had recognized small portions of wax in the
pollen of flowers, the varnish of leaves, and the whitish dust of our
plums and grapes, the inhabitants of the Andes of Quindiu made tapers
with the thick layer of wax that covers the trunk of a palm-tree.* (*
Coroxylon andicola.) It is but a few years since we discovered, in
Europe, caseum, the basis of cheese, in the emulsion of almonds; yet
for ages past, in the mountains of the coast of Venezuela, the milk of
a tree, and the cheese separated from that vegetable milk, have been
considered as a salutary aliment. How are we to account for this
singular course in the development of knowledge? How have the
unlearned inhabitants of one hemisphere become cognizant of a fact
which, in the other, so long escaped the sagacity of the scientific?
It is because a small number of elements and principles differently
combined are spread through several families of plants; it is because
the genera and species of these natural families are not equally
distributed in the torrid, the frigid, and the temperate zones; it is
that tribes, excited by want, and deriving almost all their
subsistence from the vegetable kingdom, discover nutritive principles,
farinaceous and alimentary substances, wherever nature has deposited
them in the sap, the bark, the roots, or the fruits of vegetables.
That amylaceous fecula which the seeds of the cereal plants furnish in
all its purity, is found united with an acrid and sometimes even
poisonous juice, in the roots of the arums, the Tacca pinnatifida, and
the Jatropha manihot. The savage of America, like the savage of the
South Sea islands, has learned to dulcify the fecula, by pressing and
separating it from its juice. In the milk of plants, and in the milky
emulsions, matter extremely nourishing, albumen, caseum, and sugar,
are found mixed with caoutchouc and with deleterious and caustic
principles, such as morphine and hydrocyanic acid.* (* Opium contains
morphine, caoutchouc, etc.) These mixtures vary not only in the
different families, but also in the species which belong to the same
genus. Sometimes it is morphine or the narcotic principle, that
characterises the vegetable milk, as in some papaverous plants;
sometimes it is caoutchouc, as in the hevea and the castilloa;
sometimes albumen and caseum, as in the cow-tree.

The lactescent plants belong chiefly to the three families of the
euphorbiaceae, the urticeae, and the apocineae.* (* After these three
great families follow the papaveraceae, the chicoraceae, the
lobeliaceae, the campanulaceae, the sapoteae, and the cucurbitaceae.
The hydrocyanic acid is peculiar to the group of rosaceo-amygdalaceae.
In the monocotyledonous plants there is no milky juice; but the
perisperm of the palms, which yields such sweet and agreeable milky
emulsions, contains, no doubt, caseum. Of what nature is the milk of
mushrooms?) Since, on examining the distribution of vegetable forms
over the globe, we find that those three families are more numerous in
species in the low regions of the tropics, we must thence conclude,
that a very elevated temperature contributes to the elaboration of the
milky juices, to the formation of caoutchouc, albumen, and caseous
matter. The sap of the palo de vaca furnishes unquestionably the most
striking example of a vegetable milk in which the acrid and
deleterious principle is not united with albumen, caseum, and
caoutchouc: the genera euphorbia and asclepias, however, though
generally known for their caustic properties, already present us with
a few species, the juice of which is sweet and harmless. Such are the
Tabayba dulce of the Canary Islands, which we have already mentioned,*
(* Euphorbia balsamifera. The milky juice of the Cactus mamillaris is
equally sweet.) and the Asclepias lactifera of Ceylon. Burman relates
that, in the latter country, when cow's milk is wanting, the milk of
this asclepias is used; and that the ailments commonly prepared with
animal milk are boiled with its leaves. It may be possible, as
Decandolle has well observed, that the natives employ only the juice
that flows from the young plant, at a period when the acrid principle
is not yet developed. In fact, the first shoots of the apocyneous
plants are eaten in several countries.

I have endeavoured by these comparisons to bring into consideration,
under a more general point of view, the milky juices that circulate in
vegetables; and the milky emulsions that the fruits of the
amygdalaceous plants and palms yield. I may be permitted to add the
result of some experiments which I attempted to make on the juice of
the Carica papaya during my stay in the valleys of Aragua, though I
was then almost destitute of chemical tests. The juice has been since
examined by Vauquelin, and this celebrated chemist has very clearly
recognized the albumen and caseous matter; he compares the milky sap
to a substance strongly animalized--to the blood of animals; but his
researches were confined to a fermented juice and a coagulum of a
fetid smell, formed during the passage from the Mauritius to France.
He has expressed a wish that some traveller would examine the milk of
the papaw-tree just as it flows from the stem or the fruit.

The younger the fruit of the carica, the more milk it yields: it is
even found in the germen scarcely fecundated. In proportion as the
fruit ripens, the milk becomes less abundant, and more aqueous. Less
of that animal matter which is coagulable by acids and by the
absorption of atmospheric oxygen, is found in it. As the whole fruit
is viscous,* (* The same viscosity is also remarked in the fresh milk
of the palo de vaca. It is no doubt occasioned by the caoutchouc,
which is not yet separated, and which forms one mass with the albumen
and the caseum, as the butter and the caseum in animal milk. The juice
of a euphorbiaceous plant (Sapium aucuparium), which also yields
caoutchouc, is so glutinous that it is used to catch parrots.) it
might be supposed that, as it grows larger, the coagulable matter is
deposed in the organs, and forms a part of the pulp, or the fleshy
substance. When nitric acid, diluted with four parts of water, is
added drop by drop to the milk expressed from a very young fruit, a
very extraordinary phenomenon appears. At the centre of each drop a
gelatinous pellicle is formed, divided by greyish streaks. These
streaks are simply the juice rendered more aqueous, owing to the
contact of the acid having deprived it of the albumen. At the same
time, the centre of the pellicles becomes opaque, and of the colour of
the yolk of an egg; they enlarge as if by the prolongation of
divergent fibres. The whole liquid assumes at first the appearance of
an agate with milky clouds; and it seems as if organic membranes were
forming under the eye of the observer. When the coagulum extends to
the whole mass, the yellow spots again disappear. By agitation it
becomes granulous like soft cheese.* (* The substance which falls down
in grumous and filamentous clots is not pure caoutchouc, but perhaps a
mixture of this substance with caseum and albumen. Acids precipitate
the caoutchouc from the milky juice of the euphorbiums, fig-trees, and
hevea; they precipitate the caseum from the milk of animals. A white
coagulum was formed in phials closely stopped, containing the milk of
the hevea, and preserved among our collections, during our journey to
the Orinoco. It is perhaps the development of a vegetable acid which
then furnishes oxygen to the albumen. The formation of the coagulum of
the hevea, or of real caoutchouc, is nevertheless much more rapid in
contact with the air. The absorption of atmospheric oxygen is not in
the least necessary to the production of butter which exists already
formed in the milk of animals; but I believe it cannot be doubted
that, in the milk of plants, this absorption produces the pellicles of
caoutchouc, of coagulated albumen, and of caseum, which are
successively formed in vessels exposed to the open air.) The yellow
colour reappears on adding a few more drops of nitric acid. The acid
acts in this instance as the oxygen of the atmosphere at a temperature
from 27 to 35 degrees; for the white coagulum grows yellow in two or
three minutes, when exposed to the sun. After a few hours the yellow
colour turns to brown, no doubt because the carbon is set more free
progressively as the hydrogen, with which it was combined, is burnt.
The coagulum formed by the acid becomes viscous, and acquires that
smell of wax which I have observed in treating muscular flesh and
mushrooms (morels) with nitric acid. According to the fine experiments
of Mr. Hatchett, the albumen may be supposed to pass partly to the
state of gelatine. The coagulum of the papaw-tree, when newly
prepared, being thrown into water, softens, dissolves in part, and
gives a yellowish tint to the fluid. The milk, placed in contact with
water only, forms also membranes. In an instant a tremulous jelly is
precipitated, resembling starch. This phenomenon is particularly
striking if the water employed be heated to 40 or 60 degrees. The
jelly condenses in proportion as more water is poured upon it. It
preserves a long time its whiteness, only growing yellow by the
contact of a few drops of nitric acid. Guided by the experiments of
Fourcroy and Vauquelin on the juice of the hevea, I mixed a solution
of carbonate of soda with the milk of the papaw. No clot is formed,
even when pure water is poured on a mixture of the milk with the
alkaline solution. The membranes appear only when, by adding an acid,
the soda is neutralized, and the acid is in excess. I made the
coagulum formed by nitric acid, the juice of lemons, or hot water,
likewise disappear by mixing it with carbonate of soda. The sap again
becomes milky and liquid, as in its primitive state; but this
experiment succeeds only when the coagulum has been recently formed.

On comparing the milky juices of the papaw, the cow-tree, and the
hevea, there appears a striking analogy between the juices which
abound in caseous matter, and those in which caoutchouc prevails. All
the white and newly prepared caoutchouc, as well as the waterproof
cloaks, manufactured in Spanish America by placing a layer of milk of
hevea between two pieces of cloth, exhale an animal and nauseating
smell. This seems to indicate that the caoutchouc, in coagulating,
carries with it the caseum, which is perhaps only an altered albumen.

The produce of the bread-fruit tree can no more be considered as bread
than plantains before the state of maturity, or the tuberous and
amylaceous roots of the cassava, the dioscorea, the Convolvulus
batatas, and the potato. The milk of the cow-tree contains, on the
contrary, a caseous matter, like the milk of mammiferous animals.
Advancing to more general considerations, we may regard, with M.
Gay-Lussac, the caoutchouc as the oily part--the butter of vegetable
milk. We find in the milk of plants caseum and caoutchouc; in the milk
of animals, caseum and butter. The proportions of the two albuminous
and oily principles differ in the various species of animals and of
lactescent plants. In these last they are most frequently mixed with
other substances hurtful as food; but of which the separation might
perhaps be obtained by chemical processes. A vegetable milk becomes
nourishing when it is destitute of acrid and narcotic principles; and
abounds less in caoutchouc than in caseous matter.*

(* The milk of the lactescent agarics has not been separately
analysed; it contains an acrid principle in the Agaricus piperatus,
and in other species it is sweet and harmless. The experiments of MM.
Braconnot, Bouillon-Lagrange, and Vauquelin (Annales de Chimie, volume
46, volume 51, volume 79, volume 80, volume 85, have pointed out a
great quantity of albumen in the substance of the Agaricus deliciosus,
an edible mushroom. It is this albumen contained in their juice which
renders them so hard when boiled. It has been proved that morels
(Morchella esculenta) can be converted into sebaceous and adipocerous
matter, capable of being used in the fabrication of soap. (De
Candolle, sur les Proprietes medicinales des Plantes.) Saccharine
matter has also been found in mushrooms by Gunther. It is in the
family of the fungi, more especially in the clavariae, phalli,
helvetiae, the merulii, and the small gymnopae which display
themselves in a few hours after a storm of rain, that organic nature
produces with most rapidity the greatest variety of chemical
principles--sugar, albumen, adipocire, acetate of potash, fat,
ozmazome, the aromatic principles, etc. It would be interesting to
examine, besides the milk of the lactescent fungi, those species
which, when cut in pieces, change their colour on the contact of
atmospheric air.

Though we have referred the palo de vaca to the family of the sapotas,
we have nevertheless found in it a great resemblance to some plants of
the urticeous kind, especially to the fig-tree, because of its
terminal stipulae in the shape of a horn; and to the brosimum, on
account of the structure of its fruit. M. Kunth would even have
preferred this last classification; if the description of the fruit,
made on the spot, and the nature of the milk, which is acrid in the
urticeae, and sweet in the sapotas, did not seem to confirm our
conjecture. Bredemeyer saw, like us, the fruit, and not the flower of
the cow tree. He asserts that he observed [sometimes?] two seeds,
lying one against the other, as in the alligator pear-tree (Laurus
persea). Perhaps this botanist had the intention of expressing the
same conformation of the nucleus that Swartz indicates in the
description of the brosimum--"nucleus bilobus aut bipartibilis." We
have mentioned the places where this remarkable tree grows: it will be
easy for botanical travellers to procure the flower of the palo de
vaca and to remove the doubts which still remain, of the family to
which it belongs.)

Whilst the palo de vaca manifests the immense fecundity and the bounty
of nature in the torrid zone, it also reminds us of the numerous
causes which favour in those fine climates the careless indolence of
man. Mungo Park has made known the butter-tree of Bambarra, which M.
De Candolle suspects to be of the family of sapotas, as well as our
milk-tree. The plantain, the sago-tree, and the mauritia of the
Orinoco, are as much bread-trees as the rema of the South Sea. The
fruits of the crescentia and the lecythis serve as vessels for
containing food, while the spathes of the palms, and the bark of
trees, furnish caps and garments without a seam. The knots, or rather
the interior cells of the trunks of bamboos, supply ladders, and
facilitate in a thousand ways the construction of a hut, and the
fabrication of chairs, beds, and other articles of furniture that
compose the wealth of a savage household. In the midst of this lavish
vegetation, so varied in its productions, it requires very powerful
motives to excite man to labour, to rouse him from his lethargy, and
to unfold his intellectual faculties.

Cacao and cotton are cultivated at Barbula. We there found, what is
very rare in that country, two large cylindrical machines for
separating the cotton from its seed; one put in motion by an hydraulic
wheel, and the other by a wheel turned by mules. The overseer of the
farm, who had constructed these machines, was a native of Merida. He
was acquainted with the road that leads from Nueva Valencia, by the
way of Guanare and Misagual, to Varinas; and thence by the ravine of
Collejones, to the Paramo de Mucuchies and the mountains of Merida
covered with eternal snows. The notions he gave us of the time
requisite for going from Valencia by Varinas to the Sierra Nevada, and
thence by the port of Torunos, and the Rio Santo Domingo, to San
Fernando de Apure, were of infinite value to us. It can scarcely be
imagined in Europe, how difficult it is to obtain accurate information
in a country where the communications are so rare; and where distances
are diminished or exaggerated according to the desire that may be felt
to encourage the traveller, or to deter him from his purpose. I had
resolved to visit the eastern extremity of the Cordilleras of New
Grenada, where they lose themselves in the paramos of Timotes and
Niquitao. I learned at Barbula, that this excursion would retard our
arrival at the Orinoco thirty-five days. This delay appeared to us so
much the longer, as the rains were expected to begin sooner than
usual. We had the hope of examining afterwards a great number of
mountains covered with perpetual snow, at Quito, Peru, and Mexico; and
it appeared to me still more prudent to relinquish our project of
visiting the mountains of Merida, since by so doing we might miss the
real object of our journey, that of ascertaining by astronomical
observations the point of communication between the Orinoco, the Rio
Negro, and the river Amazon. We returned in consequence from Barbula
to Guacara, to take leave of the family of the Marquis del Toro, and
pass three days more on the borders of the lake.

It was the carnival season, and all was gaiety. The sports in which
the people indulge, and which are called carnes tollendas,* assume
occasionally somewhat of a savage character. (* Or "farewell to
flesh." The word carnival has the same meaning, these sports being
always held just before the commencement of Lent.) Some led an ass
loaded with water, and, where-ever they found a window open, inundated
the apartment within by means of a pump. Others carried bags filled
with hairs of picapica;* (* Dolichos pruriens (cowage).) and blew the
hair, which causes a great irritation of the skin, into the faces of
those who passed by.

From Guacara we returned to Nueva Valencia. We found there a few
French emigrants, the only ones we saw during five years passed in the
Spanish colonies. Notwithstanding the ties of blood which unite the
royal families of France and Spain, even French priests were not
permitted to take refuge in that part of the New World, where man with
such facility finds food and shelter. Beyond the Atlantic, the United
States of America afford the only asylum to misfortune. A government,
strong because it is free, confiding because it is just, has nothing
to fear in giving refuge to the proscribed.

We have endeavoured above to give some notions of the state of the
cultivation of indigo, cotton, and sugar, in the province of Caracas.
Before we quit the valley of Aragua and its neighbouring coast, it
remains for us to speak of the cacao-plantations, which have at all
times been considered as the principal source of the prosperity of
those countries. The province of Caracas,* (* The province, not the
capitania-general, consequently not including the cacao plantations of
Cumana, the province of Barcelona, of Maracaybo, of Varinas, and of
Spanish Guiana.) at the end of the eighteenth century, produced
annually a hundred and fifty thousand fanegas, of which a hundred
thousand were consumed in Spain, and thirty thousand in the province.
Estimating a fanega of cacao at only twenty-five piastres for the
price given at Cadiz, we find that the total value of the exportation
of cacao, by the six ports of the Capitania General of Caracas,
amounts to four million eight hundred thousand piastres. So important
an object of commerce merits a careful discussion; and I flatter
myself, that, from the great number of materials I have collected on
all the branches of colonial agriculture, I shall be able to add
something to the information published by M. Depons, in his valuable
work on the provinces of Venezuela.

The tree which produces the cacao is not at present found wild in the
forests of Terra Firma to the north of the Orinoco; we began to find
it only beyond the cataracts of Ature and Maypure. It abounds
particularly near the banks of the Ventuari, and on the Upper Orinoco,
between the Padamo and the Gehette. This scarcity of wild cacao-trees
in South America, north of the latitude of 6 degrees, is a very
curious phenomenon of botanical geography, and yet little known. This
phenomenon appears the more surprising, as, according to the annual
produce of the harvest, the number of trees in full bearing in the
cacao-plantations of Caracas, Nueva Barcelona, Venezuela, Varinas, and
Maracaybo, is estimated at more than sixteen millions. The wild
cacao-tree has many branches, and is covered with a tufted and dark
foliage. It bears a very small fruit, like that variety which the
ancient Mexicans called tlalcacahuatl. Transplanted into the conucos
of the Indians of Cassiquiare and the Rio Negro, the wild tree
preserves for several generations that force of vegetable life, which
makes it bear fruit in the fourth year; while, in the province of
Caracas, the harvest begins only the sixth, seventh, or eighth year.
It is later in the inland parts than on the coasts and in the valley
of Guapo. We met with no tribe on the Orinoco that prepared a beverage
with the seeds of the cacao-tree. The savages suck the pulp of the
pod, and throw away the seeds, which are often found in heaps where
they have passed the night. Though chorote, which is a very weak
infusion of cacao, is considered on the coast to be a very ancient
beverage, no historical fact proves that chocolate, or any preparation
whatever of cacao, was known to the natives of Venezuela before the
arrival of the Spaniards. It appears to me more probable that the
cacao-plantations of Caracas were suggested by those of Mexico and
Guatimala; and that the Spaniards inhabiting Terra Firma learned the
cultivation of the cacao-tree, sheltered in its youth by the foliage
of the erythrina and plantain;* (This process of the Mexican
cultivators, practised on the coast of Caracas, is described in the
memoirs known under the title of "Relazione di certo Gentiluomo del
Signor Cortez, Conquistadore del Messico." (Ramusio, tome 2 page
134).) the fabrication of cakes of chocolatl, and the use of the
liquid of the same name, in course of their communications with
Mexico, Guatimala, and Nicaragua.

Down to the sixteenth century travellers differed in opinion
respecting the chocolatl. Benzoni plainly says that it is a drink
"fitter for hogs than men."* (* Benzoni, Istoria del Mondo Nuovo, 1572
page 104.) The Jesuit Acosta asserts, that "the Spaniards who inhabit
America are fond of chocolate to excess; but that it requires to be
accustomed to that black beverage not to be disgusted at the mere
sight of its froth, which swims on it like yeast on a fermented
liquor." He adds, "the cacao is a prejudice (una supersticion) of the
Mexicans, as the coca is a prejudice of the Peruvians." These opinions
remind us of Madame de Sevigne's prediction respecting the use of
coffee. Fernando Cortez and his page, the gentilhombre del gran
Conquistador, whose memoirs were published by Ramusio, on the
contrary, highly praise chocolate, not only as an agreeable drink,
though prepared cold,* but in particular as a nutritious substance. (*
Father Gili has very clearly shown, from two passages in Torquemada
(Monarquia Indiana, lib. 14) that the Mexicans prepared the infusion
cold, and that the Spaniards introduced the custom of preparing
chocolate by boiling water with the paste of cacao.) "He who has drunk
one cup," says the page of Fernando Cortez, "can travel a whole day
without any other food, especially in very hot climates; for chocolate
is by its nature cold and refreshing." We shall not subscribe to the
latter part of this assertion; but we shall soon have occasion, in our
voyage on the Orinoco, and our excursions towards the summit of the
Cordilleras, to celebrate the salutary properties of chocolate. It is
easily conveyed and readily employed: as an aliment it contains a
large quantity of nutritive and stimulating particles in a small
compass. It has been said with truth, that in the East, rice, gum, and
ghee (clarified butter), assist man in crossing the deserts; and so,
in the New World, chocolate and the flour of maize, have rendered
accessible to the traveller the table-lands of the Andes, and vast
uninhabited forests.

The cacao harvest is extremely variable. The tree vegetates with such
vigour that flowers spring out even from the roots, wherever the earth
leaves them uncovered. It suffers from the north-east winds, even when
they lower the temperature only a few degrees. The heavy showers that
fall irregularly after the rainy season, during the winter months,
from December to March, are also very hurtful to the cacao-tree. The
proprietor of a plantation of fifty thousand trees often loses the
value of more than four or five thousand piastres in cacao in one
hour. Great humidity is favourable to the tree only when it augments
progressively, and is for a long time uninterrupted. If, in the season
of drought, the leaves and the young fruit be wetted by a violent
shower, the fruit falls from the stem; for it appears that the vessels
which absorb water break from being rendered turgid. Besides, the
cacao-harvest is one of the most uncertain, on account of the fatal
effects of inclement seasons, and the great number of worms, insects,
birds, and quadrupeds,* (* Parrots, monkeys, agoutis, squirrels, and
stags.) which devour the pod of the cacao-tree; and this branch of
agriculture has the disadvantage of obliging the new planter to wait
eight or ten years for the fruit of his labours, and of yielding after
all an article of very difficult preservation.

The finest plantations of cacao are found in the province of Caracas,
along the coast, between Caravalleda and the mouth of the Rio Tocuyo,
in the valleys of Caucagua, Capaya, Curiepe, and Guapo; and in those
of Cupira, between cape Conare and cape Unare, near Aroa,
Barquesimeto, Guigue, and Uritucu. The cacao that grows on the banks
of the Uritucu, at the entrance of the llanos, in the jurisdiction of
San Sebastian de las Reyes, is considered to be of the finest quality.
Next to the cacao of Uritucu comes that of Guigue, of Caucagua, of
Capaya, and of Cupira. The merchants of Cadiz assign the first rank to
the cacao of Caracas, immediately after that of Socomusco; and its
price is generally from thirty to forty per cent higher than that of

It is only since the middle of the seventeenth century, when the
Dutch, tranquil possessors of the island of Curacoa, awakened, by
their smuggling, the agricultural industry of the inhabitants of the
neighbouring coasts, that cacao has become an object of exportation in
the province of Caracas. We are ignorant of everything that passed in
those countries before the establishment of the Biscay Company of
Guipuzcoa, in 1728. No precise statistical data have reached us: we
only know that the exportation of cacao from Caracas scarcely
amounted, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, to thirty
thousand fanegas a-year. From 1730 to 1748, the company sent to Spain
eight hundred and fifty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight
fanegas, which make, on an average, forty-seven thousand seven hundred
fanegas a-year; the price of the fanega fell, in 1732, to forty-five
piastres, when it had before kept at eighty piastres. In 1763 the
cultivation had so much augmented, that the exportation rose to eighty
thousand six hundred and fifty-nine fanegas.

In an official document, taken from the papers of the minister of
finance, the annual produce (la cosecha) of the province of Caracas is
estimated at a hundred and thirty-five thousand fanegas of cacao;
thirty-three thousand of which are for home consumption, ten thousand
for other Spanish colonies, seventy-seven thousand for the
mother-country, fifteen thousand for the illicit commerce with the
French, English, Dutch, and Danish colonies. From 1789 to 1793, the
importation of cacao from Caracas into Spain was, on an average,
seventy-seven thousand seven hundred and nineteen fanegas a-year, of
which sixty-five thousand seven hundred and sixty-six were consumed in
the country, and eleven thousand nine hundred and fifty-three exported
to France, Italy, and Germany.

The late wars have had much more fatal effects on the cacao trade of
Caracas than on that of Guayaquil. On account of the increase of
price, less cacao of the first quality has been consumed in Europe.
Instead of mixing, as was done formerly for common chocolate, one
quarter of the cacao of Caracas, with three-quarters of that of
Guayaquil, the latter has been employed pure in Spain. We must here
remark, that a great deal of cacao of an inferior quality, such as
that of Maranon, the Rio Negro, Honduras, and the island of St. Lucia,
bears the name, in commerce, of Guayaquil cacao. The exportation from
that port amounts only to sixty thousand fanegas; consequently it is
two-thirds less than that of the ports of the Capitania-General of

Though the plantations of cacao have augmented in the provinces of
Cumana, Barcelona, and Maracaybo, in proportion as they have
diminished in the province of Caracas, it is still believed that, in
general, this ancient branch of agricultural industry gradually
declines. In many parts coffee and cotton-trees progressively take
place of the cacao, of which the lingering harvests weary the patience
of the cultivator. It is also asserted, that the new plantations of
cacao are less productive than the old; the trees do not acquire the
same vigour, and yield later and less abundant fruit. The soil is
still said to be exhausted; but probably it is rather the atmosphere
that is changed by the progress of clearing and cultivation. The air
that reposes on a virgin soil covered with forests is loaded with
humidity and those gaseous mixtures that serve for the nutriment of
plants, and arise from the decomposition of organic substances. When a
country has been long subjected to cultivation, it is not the
proportions between the azote and oxygen that vary. The constituent
bases of the atmosphere remain unaltered; but it no longer contains,
in a state of suspension, those binary and ternary mixtures of carbon,
hydrogen, and nitrogen, which a virgin soil exhales, and which are
regarded as a source of fecundity. The air, purer and less charged
with miasmata and heterogeneous emanations, becomes at the same time
drier. The elasticity of the vapours undergoes a sensible diminution.
On land long cleared, and consequently little favourable to the
cultivation of the cacao-tree (as, for instance, in the West India
Islands), the fruit is almost as small as that of the wild cacao-tree.
It is on the banks of the Upper Orinoco, after having crossed the
Llanos, that we find the true country of the cacao-tree; thick
forests, in which, on a virgin soil, and surrounded by an atmosphere
continually humid, the trees furnish, from the fourth year, abundant
crops. Wherever the soil is not exhausted, the fruit has become by
cultivation larger and bitter, but also later.

On seeing the produce of cacao gradually diminish in Terra Firma, it
may be inquired, whether the consumption will diminish in the same
proportion in Spain, Italy, and the rest of Europe; or whether it be
not probable, that by the destruction of the cacao plantations, the
price will augment sufficiently to rouse anew the industry of the
cultivator. This latter opinion is generally admitted by those who
deplore, at Caracas, the diminution of so ancient and profitable a
branch of commerce. In proportion as civilization extends towards the
humid forests of the interior, the banks of the Orinoco and the
Amazon, or towards the valleys that furrow the eastern declivity of
the Andes, the new planters will find lands and an atmosphere equally
favourable to the culture of the cacao-tree.

The Spaniards, in general, dislike a mixture of vanilla with the
cacao, as irritating the nervous system; the fruit, therefore, of that
orchideous plant is entirely neglected in the province of Caracas,
though abundant crops of it might be gathered on the moist and
feverish coast between Porto Cabello and Ocumare; especially at
Turiamo, where the fruits of the Epidendrum vanilla attain the length
of eleven or twelve inches. The English and the Anglo-Americans often
seek to make purchases of vanilla at the port of La Guayra, but the
merchants procure with difficulty a very small quantity. In the
valleys that descend from the chain of the coast towards the Caribbean
Sea, in the province of Truxillo, as well as in the Missions of
Guiana, near the cataracts of the Orinoco, a great quantity of vanilla
might be collected; the produce of which would be still more abundant,
if, according to the practice of the Mexicans, the plant were
disengaged, from time to time, from the creeping plants by which it is
entwined and stifled.

The hot and fertile valleys of the Cordillera of the coast of
Venezuela occupy a tract of land which, on the west, towards the lake
of Maracaybo, displays a remarkable variety of scenery. I shall
exhibit in one view, to close this chapter, the facts I have been able
to collect respecting the quality of the soil and the metallic riches
of the districts of Aroa, of Barquesimeto, and of Carora.

From the Sierra Nevada of Merida, and the paramos of Niquitao, Bocono,
and Las Rosas,* (Many travellers, who were monks, have asserted that
the little Paramo de Las Rosas, the height of which appears to be more
than 1,600 toises, is covered with rosemary, and the red and white
roses of Europe grow wild there. These roses are gathered to decorate
the altars in the neighbouring villages on the festivals of the
church. By what accident has our Rosa centifolia become wild in this
country, while we nowhere found it in the Andes of Quito and Peru? Can
it really be the rose-tree of our garden?) which contain the valuable
bark-tree, the eastern Cordillera of New Granada* (* The bark exported
from the port of Maracaybo does not come from the territory of
Venezuela, but from the mountains of Pamplona in New Grenada, being
brought down the Rio de San Faustino, that flows into the lake of
Maracaybo. (Pombo, Noticias sobre las Quinas, 1814 page 65.) Some is
collected near Merida, in the ravine of Viscucucuy.) decreases in
height so rapidly, that, between the ninth and tenth degrees of
latitude, it forms only a chain of little mountains, which, stretching
to the north-east by the Altar and Torito, separates the rivers that
join the Apure and the Orinoco from those numerous rivers that flow
either into the Caribbean Sea or the lake of Maracaybo. On this
dividing ridge are built the towns of Nirgua, San Felipe el Fuerte,
Barquesimeto, and Tocuyo. The first three are in a very hot climate;
but Tocuyo enjoys great coolness, and we heard with surprise, that,
beneath so fine a sky, the inhabitants have a strong propensity to
suicide. The ground rises towards the south; for Truxillo, the lake of
Urao, from which carbonate of soda is extracted, and La Grita, all to
the east of the Cordillera, though no farther distant, are four or
five hundred toises high.

On examining the law which the primitive strata of the Cordillera of
the coast follow in their dip, we believe we recognize one of the
causes of the extreme humidity of the land bounded by this Cordillera
and the ocean. The dip of the strata is most frequently to the
north-west; so that the waters flow in that direction on the ledges of
rock; and form, as we have stated above, that multitude of torrents
and rivers, the inundations of which become so fatal to the health of
the inhabitants, from cape Codera as far as the lake of Maracaybo.

Among the rivers which descend north-east toward the coast of Porto
Cabello, and La Punta de Hicacos, the most remarkable are those of
Tocuyo, Aroa, and Yaracuy. Were it not for the miasmata which infect
the atmosphere, the valleys of Aroa and of Yaracuy would perhaps be
more populous than those of Aragua. Navigable rivers would even give
the former the advantage of facilitating the exportation of their own
crops of sugar and cacao, and that of the productions of the
neighbouring lands; as the wheat of Quibor, the cattle of Monai, and
the copper of Aroa. The mines from which this copper is extracted, are
in a lateral valley, opening into that of Aroa; and which is less hot,
and less unhealthy, than the ravines nearer the sea. In the latter the
Indians have their gold-washings, and the soil conceals rich
copper-ores, which no one has yet attempted to extract. The ancient
mines of Aroa, after having been long neglected, have been wrought
anew by the care of Don Antonio Henriquez, whom we met at San Fernando
on the borders of the Apure. The total produce of metallic copper is
twelve or fifteen hundred quintals a year. This copper, known at Cadiz
by the name of Caracas copper, is of excellent quality. It is even
preferred to that of Sweden, and of Coquimbo in Chile. Part of the
copper of Aroa is employed for making bells, which are cast on the
spot. Some ores of silver have been recently discovered between Aroa
and Nirgua, near Guanita, in the mountain of San Pablo. Grains of gold
are found in all the mountainous lands between the Rio Yaracuy, the
town of San Felipe, Nirgua, and Barquesimeto; particularly in the Rio
de Santa Cruz, in which the Indian gold-gatherers have sometimes found
lumps of the value of four or five piastres. Do the neighbouring rocks
of mica-slate and gneiss contain veins? or is the gold disseminated
here, as in the granites of Guadarama in Spain, and of the Fichtelberg
in Franconia, throughout the whole mass of the rock? Possibly the
waters, in filtering through it, bring together the disseminated
grains of gold; in which case every attempt to work the rock would be
useless. In the Savana de la Miel, near the town of Barquesimeto, a
shaft has been sunk in a black shining slate resembling ampelite. The
minerals extracted from this shaft, which were sent to me at Caracas,
were quartz, non-auriferous pyrites, and carbonated lead, crystallized
in needles of a silky lustre.

In the early times of the conquest the working of the mines of Nirgua
and of Buria* was begun, notwithstanding the incursions of the warlike
nation of the Giraharas. (* The valley of Buria, and the little river
of the same name, communicate with the valley of the Rio Coxede, or
the Rio de Barquesimeto.) In this very district the accumulation of
negro slaves in 1553 gave rise to an event bearing some analogy to the
insurrection in St. Domingo. A negro slave excited an insurrection
among the miners of the Real de San Felipe de Buria. He retired into
the woods, and founded, with two hundred of his companions, a town,
where he was proclaimed king. Miguel, this new king, was a friend to
pomp and parade. He caused his wife Guiomar, to assume the title of
queen; and, according to Oviedo, he appointed ministers and
counsellors of state, officers of the royal household, and even a
negro bishop. He soon after ventured to attack the neighbouring town
of Nueva Segovia de Barquesimeto; but, being repulsed by Diego de
Losada, he perished in the conflict. This African monarchy was
succeeded at Nirgua by a republic of Zamboes, the descendants of
negroes and Indians. The whole municipality (cabildo) is composed of
men of colour to whom the king of Spain has given the title of "his
faithful and loyal subjects, the Zamboes of Nirgua." Few families of
Whites will inhabit a country where the system of government is so
adverse to their pretensions; and the little town is called in
derision La republica de Zambos y Mulatos.

If the hot valleys of Aroa, of Yaracuy, and of the Rio Tocuyo,
celebrated for their excellent timber, be rendered feverish by
luxuriance of vegetation, and extreme atmospheric humidity, it is
different in the savannahs of Monai and Carora. These Llanos are
separated by the mountainous tract of Tocuyo and Nirgua from the great
plains of La Portuguesa and Calabozo. It is very extraordinary to see
barren savannahs loaded with miasmata. No marshy ground is found
there, but several phenomena indicate a disengagement of hydrogen.* (*
What is that luminous phenomenon known under the name of the Lantern
(farol) of Maracaybo, which is perceived every night toward the
seaside as well as in the inland parts, at Merida for example, where
M. Palacios observed it during two years? The distance, greater than
40 leagues, at which the light is observed, has led to the supposition
that it might be owing to the effects of a thunderstorm, or of
electrical explosions which might daily take place in a pass in the
mountains. It is asserted that, on approaching the farol, the rolling
of thunder is heard. Others vaguely allege that it is an air-volcano,
and that asphaltic soils, like those of Mena, cause these inflammable
exhalations which are so constant in their appearance. The phenomenon
is observed on a mountainous and uninhabited spot, on the borders of
the Rio Catatumbo, near the junction with the Rio Sulia. The situation
of the farol is such that, being nearly in the meridian of the opening
(boca) of the lake of Maracaybo, navigators are guided by it as by a
lighthouse.) When travellers, who are not acquainted with natural
inflammable gases, are shown the Cueva del Serrito de Monai, the
people of the country love to frighten them by setting fire to the
gaseous combination which is constantly accumulated in the upper part
of the cavern. May we attribute the insalubrity of the atmosphere to
the same causes as those which operate in the plains between Tivoli
and Rome, namely, disengagements of sulphuretted hydrogen?* (* Don
Carlos del Pozo has discovered in this district, at the bottom of the
Quebrada de Moroturo, a stratum of clayey earth, black, strongly
soiling the fingers, emitting a powerful smell of sulphur, and
inflaming spontaneously when slightly moistened and exposed for a long
time to the rays of the tropical sun. The detonation of this muddy
substance is very violent.) Possibly, also, the mountainous lands,
near the llanos of Monai, may have a baneful influence on the
surrounding plains. The south-easterly winds may convey to them the
putrid exhalations that rise from the ravine of Villegas, and from La
Sienega de Cabra, between Carora and Carache. I am desirous of
collecting every circumstance having a relation to the salubrity of
the air; for, in a matter so obscure, it is only by the comparison of
a great number of phenomena, that we can hope to discover the truth.

The barren yet feverish savannahs, extending from Barquesimeto to the
eastern shore of the lake of Maracaybo, are partly covered with
cactus; but the good silvester-cochineal, known by the vague name of
grana de Carora, comes from a more temperate region, between Carora
and Truxillo, and particularly from the valley of the Rio Mucuju,* to
the east of Merida. (* This little river descends from the Paramo de
los Conejos, and flows into the Rio Albarregas.) The inhabitants
altogether neglect this production, so much sought for in commerce.



The chain of mountains, bordering the lake of Tacarigua towards the
south, forms in some sort the northern shore of the great basin of the
Llanos or savannahs of Caracas. To descend from the valleys of Aragua
into these savannahs, it is necessary to cross the mountains of Guigue
and of Tucutunemo. From a peopled country embellished by cultivation,
we plunge into a vast solitude. Accustomed to the aspect of rocks, and
to the shade of valleys, the traveller beholds with astonishment these
savannahs without trees, these immense plains, which seem to ascend to
the horizon.

Before I trace the scenery of the Llanos, or of the region of
pasturage, I will briefly describe the road we took from Nueva
Valencia, by Villa de Cura and San Juan, to the little village of
Ortiz, at the entrance of the steppes. We left the valleys of Aragua
on the 6th of March before sunrise. We passed over a plain richly
cultivated, keeping along the south-west side of the lake of Valencia,
and crossing the ground left uncovered by the waters of the lake. We
were never weary of admiring the fertility of the soil, covered with
calabashes, water-melons, and plantains. The rising of the sun was
announced by the distant noise of the howling monkeys. Approaching a
group of trees, which rise in the midst of the plain, between those
parts which were anciently the islets of Don Pedro and La Negra, we
saw numerous bands of araguatos moving as in procession and very
slowly, from one tree to another. A male was followed by a great
number of females; several of the latter carrying their young on their
shoulders. The howling monkeys, which live in society in different
parts of America, everywhere resemble each other in their manners,
though the species are not always the same. The uniformity with which
the araguatos* (* Simia ursina.) perform their movements is extremely
striking. Whenever the branches of neighbouring trees do not touch
each other, the male who leads the party suspends himself by the
callous and prehensile part of his tail; and, letting fall the rest of
his body, swings himself till in one of his oscillations he reaches
the neighbouring branch. The whole file performs the same movements on
the same spot. It is almost superfluous to add how dubious is the
assertion of Ulloa, and so many otherwise well-informed travellers,
according to whom, the marimondos,* (* Simia belzebuth.) the
araguatos, and other monkeys with a prehensile tail, form a sort of
chain, in order to reach the opposite side of a river.* (* Ulloa has
not hesitated to represent in an engraving this extraordinary feat of
the monkeys with a prehensile tail.--See Viage a la America
Meridional, Madrid 1748.) We had opportunities, during five years, of
observing thousands of these animals; and for this very reason we
place no confidence in statements possibly invented by the Europeans
themselves, though repeated by the Indians of the Missions, as if they
had been transmitted to them by their fathers. Man, the most remote
from civilization, enjoys the astonishment he excites in recounting
the marvels of his country. He says he has seen what he imagines may
have been seen by others. Every savage is a hunter, and the stories of
hunters borrow from the imagination in proportion as the animals, of
which they boast the artifices, are endowed with a high degree of
intelligence. Hence arise the fictions of which foxes, monkeys, crows,
and the condor of the Andes, have been the subjects in both

The araguatos are accused of sometimes abandoning their young, that
they may be lighter for flight when pursued by the Indian hunters. It
is said that mothers have been seen removing their young from their
shoulders, and throwing them down to the foot of the tree. I am
inclined to believe that a movement merely accidental has been
mistaken for one premeditated. The Indians have a dislike and a
predilection for certain races of monkeys; they love the viuditas, the
titis, and generally all the little sagoins; while the araguatos, on
account of their mournful aspect, and their uniform howling, are at
once detested and abused. In reflecting on the causes that may
facilitate the propagation of sound in the air during the night, I
thought it important to determine with precision the distance at
which, especially in damp and stormy weather, the howling of a band of
araguatos is heard. I believe I obtained proof of its being
distinguished at eight hundred toises distance. The monkeys which are
furnished with four hands cannot make excursions in the Llanos; and it
is easy, amidst vast plains covered with grass, to recognize a
solitary group of trees, whence the noise proceeds, and which is
inhabited by howling monkeys. Now, by approaching or withdrawing from
this group of trees, the maximum of the distance may be measured, at
which the howling is heard. These distances appeared to me sometimes
one-third greater during the night, especially when the weather was
cloudy, very hot, and humid.

The Indians pretend that when the araguatos fill the forests with
their howling, there is always one that chaunts as leader of the
chorus. The observation is pretty accurate. During a long interval one
solitary and strong voice is generally distinguished, till its place
is taken by another voice of a different pitch. We may observe from
time to time the same instinct of imitation among frogs, and almost
all animals which live together and exert their voices in union. The
Missionaries further assert, that, when a female among the araguatos
is on the point of bringing forth, the choir suspends its howlings
till the moment of the birth of the young. I could not myself judge of
the accuracy of this assertion; but I do not believe it to be entirely
unfounded. I have observed that, when an extraordinary incident, the
moans for instance of a wounded araguato, fixed the attention of the
band, the howlings were for some minutes suspended. Our guides assured
us gravely, that, to cure an asthma, it is sufficient to drink out of
the bony drum of the hyoidal bone of the araguato. This animal having
so extraordinary a volume of voice, it is supposed that its larynx
must necessarily impart to the water poured into it the virtue of
curing affections of the lungs. Such is the science of the vulgar,
which sometimes resembles that of the ancients.

We passed the night at the village of Guigue, the latitude of which I
found by observations of Canopus to be 10 degrees 4 minutes 11
seconds. The village, surrounded with the richest cultivation, is only
a thousand toises distant from the lake of Tacarigua. We lodged with
an old sergeant, a native of Murcia, a man of a very original
character. To prove to us that he had studied among the Jesuits, he
recited the history of the creation of the world in Latin. He knew the
names of Augustus, Tiberius, and Diocletian; and while enjoying the
agreeable coolness of the nights in an enclosure planted with bananas,
he employed himself in reading all that related to the courts of the
Roman emperors. He inquired of us with earnestness for a remedy for
the gout, from which he suffered severely. "I know," said he, "a Zambo
of Valencia, a famous curioso, who could cure me; but the Zambo would
expect to be treated with attentions which I cannot pay to a man of
his colour, and I prefer remaining as I am."

On leaving Guigue we began to ascend the chain of mountains, extending
on the south of the lake towards Guacimo and La Palma. From the top of
a table-land, at three hundred and twenty toises of elevation, we saw
for the last time the valleys of Aragua. The gneiss appeared
uncovered, presenting the same direction of strata, and the same dip
towards the north-west. Veins of quartz, that traverse the gneiss, are
auriferous; and hence the neighbouring ravine bears the name of
Quebrada del Oro. We heard with surprise at every step the name of
"ravine of gold," in a country where only one single mine of copper is
wrought. We travelled five leagues to the village of Maria Magdalena,
and two leagues more to the Villa de Cura. It was Sunday, and at the
village of Maria Magdalena the inhabitants were assembled before the
church. They wanted to force our muleteers to stop and hear mass. We
resolved to remain; but, after a long altercation, the muleteers
pursued their way. I may observe, that this is the only dispute in
which we became engaged from such a cause. Very erroneous ideas are
formed in Europe of the intolerance, and even of the religious fervour
of the Spanish colonists.

San Luis de Cura, or, as it is commonly called, the Villa de Cura,
lies in a very barren valley, running north-west and south-east, and
elevated, according to my barometrical observations, two hundred and
sixty-six toises above the level of the ocean. The country, with the
exception of some fruit-trees, is almost destitute of vegetation. The
dryness of the plateau is the greater, because (and this circumstance
is rather extraordinary in a country of primitive rocks) several
rivers lose themselves in crevices in the ground. The Rio de Las
Minas, north of the Villa de Cura, is lost in a rock, again appears,
and then is ingulphed anew without reaching the lake of Valencia,
towards which it flows. Cura resembles a village more than a town. We
lodged with a family who had excited the resentment of government
during the revolution at Caracas in 1797. One of the sons, after
having languished in a dungeon, had been sent to the Havannah, to be
imprisoned in a strong fortress. With what joy his mother heard that
after our return from the Orinoco, we should visit the Havannah! She
entrusted me with five piastres, "the whole fruit of her savings." I
earnestly wished to return them to her; but I feared to wound her
delicacy, and give pain to a mother, who felt a pleasure in the
privations she imposed on herself.

All the society of the town was assembled in the evening, to admire in
a magic lantern views of the great capitals of Europe. We were shown
the palace of the Tuileries, and the statue of the Elector at Berlin.

An apothecary who had been ruined by an unhappy propensity for working
mines, accompanied us in our excursion to the Serro de Chacao, very
rich in auriferous pyrites. We continued to descend the southern
declivity of the Cordillera of the coast, in which the plains of
Aragua form a longitudinal valley. We passed a part of the night of
the 11th of March at the village of San Juan, remarkable for its
thermal waters, and the singular form of two neighbouring mountains,
called the Morros of San Juan. They form slender peaks, which rise
from a wall of rocks with a very extensive base. The wall is
perpendicular, and resembles the Devil's Wall, which surrounds a part
of the group of mountains in the Hartz.* (* Die Teufels Mauer near
Wernigerode in Germany.) These peaks, when seen from afar in the
Llanos, strike the imagination of the inhabitants of the plain, who
are not accustomed to the least unequal ground, and the height of the
peaks is singularly exaggerated by them. They were described to us as
being in the middle of the steppes (which they in reality bound on the
north) far beyond a range of hills called La Galera. Judging from
angles taken at the distance of two miles, these hills are scarcely
more than a hundred and fifty-six toises higher than the village of
San Juan, and three hundred and fifty toises above the level of the
Llanos. The thermal waters glide out at the foot of these hills, which
are formed of transition-limestone. The waters are impregnated with
sulphuretted hydrogen, like those of Mariara, and form a little pool
or lagoon, in which the thermometer rose only to 31.3 degrees. I
found, on the night of the 9th of March, by very satisfactory
observations of the stars, the latitude of Villa de Cura to be 10
degrees 2 minutes 47 seconds.

The Villa de Cura is celebrated in the country for the miracles of an
image of the Virgin, known by the name of Nuestra Senora de los
Valencianos. This image was found in a ravine by an Indian, about the
middle of the eighteenth century, when it became the object of a
contest between the towns of Cura and San Sebastian de los Reyes. The
vicars of the latter town asserting that the Virgin had made her first
appearance on the territory of their parish, the Bishop of Caracas, in
order to put an end to the scandal of this long dispute, caused the
image to be placed in the archives of his bishopric, and kept it
thirty years under seal. It was not restored to the inhabitants of
Cura till 1802.

After having bathed in the cool and limpid water of the little river
of San Juan, the bottom of which is of basaltic grunstein, we
continued our journey at two in the morning, by Ortiz and Parapara, to
the Mesa de Paja. The road to the Llanos being at that time infested
with robbers, several travellers joined us so as to form a sort of
caravan. We proceeded down hill during six or seven hours; and we
skirted the Cerro de Flores, near which the road turns off, leading to
the great village of San Jose de Tisnao. We passed the farms of Luque
and Juncalito, to enter the valleys which, on account of the bad road,
and the blue colour of the slates, bear the names of Malpaso and
Piedras Azules.

This ground is the ancient shore of the great basin of the steppes,
and it furnishes an interesting subject of research to the geologist.
We there find trap-formations, probably more recent than the veins of
diabasis near the town of Caracas, which seem to belong to the rocks
of igneous formation. They are not long and narrow streams as in
Auvergne, but large sheets, streams that appear like real strata. The
lithoid masses here cover, if we may use the expression, the shore of
the ancient interior sea; everything subject to destruction, such as
the liquid dejections, and the scoriae filled with bubbles, has been
carried away. These phenomena are particularly worthy of attention on
account of the close affinities observed between the phonolites and
the amygdaloids, which, containing pyroxenes and
hornblende-grunsteins, form strata in a transition-slate. The better
to convey an idea of the whole situation and superposition of these
rocks, we will name the formations as they occur in a profile drawn
from north to south.

We find at first, in the Sierra de Mariara, which belongs to the
northern branch of the Cordillera of the coast, a coarse-grained
granite; then, in the valleys of Aragua, on the borders of the lake,
and in the islands, it contains, as in the southern branch of the
chain of the coast, gneiss and mica-slate. These last-named rocks are
auriferous in the Quebrada del Oro, near Guigue; and between Villa de
Cura and the Morros de San Juan, in the mountain of Chacao. The gold
is contained in pyrites, which are found sometimes disseminated almost
imperceptibly in the whole mass of the gneiss,* and sometimes united
in small veins of quartz. (* The four metals, which are found
disseminated in the granite rocks, as if they were of contemporaneous
formation, are gold, tin, titanium, and cobalt.) Most of the torrents
that traverse the mountains bear along with them grains of gold. The
poor inhabitants of Villa de Cura and San Juan have sometimes gained
thirty piastres a-day by washing the sand; but most commonly, in spite
of their industry, they do not in a week find particles of gold of the
value of two piastres. Here, however, as in every place where native
gold and auriferous pyrites are disseminated in the rock, or by the
destruction of the rocks, are deposited in alluvial lands, the people
conceive the most exaggerated ideas of the metallic riches of the
soil. But the success of the workings, which depends less on the
abundance of the ore in a vast space of land than on its accumulation
in one point, has not justified these favourable prepossessions. The
mountain of Chacao, bordered by the ravine of Tucutunemo, rises seven
hundred feet above the village of San Juan. It is formed of gneiss,
which, especially in the superior strata, passes into mica-slate. We
saw the remains of an ancient mine, known by the name of Real de Santa
Barbara. The works were directed to a stratum of cellular quartz,*
full of polyhedric cavities, mixed with iron-ore, containing
auriferous pyrites and small grains of gold, sometimes, it is said,
visible to the naked eye. (* This stratum of quartz, and the gneiss in
which it is contained, lie hor 8 of the Freyberg compass, and dip 70
degrees to the south-west. At a hundred toises distance from the
auriferous quartz, the gneiss resumes its ordinary situation, hor 3 to
4, with 60 degrees dip to the north-west. A few strata of gneiss
abound in silvery mica, and contain, instead of garnets, an immense
quantity of small octohedrons of pyrites. This silvery gneiss
resembles that of the famous mine of Himmelsfurst, in Saxony.) It
appears that the gneiss of the Cerro de Chacao also furnishes another
metallic deposit, a mixture of copper and silver-ores. This deposit
has been the object of works attempted with great ignorance by some
Mexican miners under the superintendance of M. Avalo. The gallery*
directed to the north-east, is only twenty-five toises long. (* La
Cueva de los Mexicanos.) We there found some fine specimens of blue
carbonated copper mingled with sulphate of barytes and quartz; but we
could not ourselves judge whether the ore contained any argentiferous
fahlerz, and whether it occurred in a stratum, or, as the apothecary
who was our guide asserted, in real veins. This much is certain, that
the attempt at working the mine cost more than twelve thousand
piastres in two years. It would no doubt have been more prudent to
have resumed the works on the auriferous stratum of the Real de Santa

The zone of gneiss just mentioned is, in the coast-chain from the sea
to the Villa de Cura, ten leagues broad. In this great extent of land,
gneiss and mica-slate are found exclusively, and they constitute one
formation.* (* This formation, which we shall call gneiss-mica-slate,
is peculiar to the chain of the coast of Caracas. Five formations must
be distinguished, as MM. von Buch and Raumer have so ably demonstrated
in their excellent papers on Landeck and the Riesengebirge, namely,
granite, granite-gneiss, gneiss, gneiss-mica-slate, and mica-slate.
Geologists whose researches have been confined to a small tract of
land, having confounded these formations which nature has separated in
several countries in the most distinct manner, have admitted that the
gneiss and mica-slate alternate everywhere in superimposed beds, or
furnish insensible transitions from one rock to the other. These
transitions and alternating superpositions take place no doubt in
formations of granite-gneiss and gneiss-mica-slate; but because these
phenomena are observed in one region, it does not follow that in other
regions we may not find very distinct circumscribed formations of
granite, gneiss, and mica-slate. The same considerations may be
applied to the formations of serpentine, which are sometimes isolated,
and sometimes belong to the eurite, mica-slate, and grunstein.) Beyond
the town of Villa de Cura and the Cerro de Chacao the aspect of the
country presents greater geognostic variety. There are still eight
leagues of declivity from the table-land of Cura to the entry of the
Llanos; and on the southern slope of the mountains of the coast, four
different formations of rock cover the gneiss. We shall first give the
description of the different strata, without grouping them

On the south of the Cerro de Chacao, between the ravine of Tucutunemo
and Piedras Negras, the gneiss is concealed beneath a formation of
serpentine, of which the composition varies in the different
superimposed strata. Sometimes it is very pure, very homogeneous, of a
dusky olive-green, and of a conchoidal fracture: sometimes it is
veined, mixed with bluish steatite, of an unequal fracture, and
containing spangles of mica. In both these states I could not discover
in it either garnets, hornblende, or diallage. Advancing farther to
the south (and we always passed over this ground in that direction)
the green of the serpentine grows deeper, and feldspar and hornblende
are recognised in it: it is difficult to determine whether it passes
into diabasis or alternates with it. There is, however, no doubt of
its containing veins of copper-ore.* (* One of these veins, on which
two shafts have been sunk, was directed hor. 2.1, and dipped 80
degrees east. The strata of the serpentine, where it is stratified
with some regularity, run hor. 8, and dip almost perpendicularly. I
found malachite disseminated in this serpentine, where it passes into
grunstein.) At the foot of this mountain two fine springs gush out
from the serpentine. Near the village of San Juan, the granular
diabasis appears alone uncovered, and takes a greenish black hue. The
feldspar intimately mixed with the mass, may be separated into
distinct crystals. The mica is very rare, and there is no quartz. The
mass assumes at the surface a yellowish crust like dolerite and

In the midst of this tract of trap-formation, the Morros of San Juan
rise like two castles in ruins. They appear linked to the mornes of
St. Sebastian, and to La Galera which bounds the Llanos like a rocky
wall. The Morros of San Juan are formed of limestone of a crystalline
texture; sometimes very compact, sometimes spongy, of a greenish-grey,
shining, composed of small grains, and mixed with scattered spangles
of mica. This limestone yields a strong effervescence with acids. I
could not find in it any vestige of organized bodies. It contains in
subordinate strata, masses of hardened clay of a blackish blue, and
carburetted. These masses are fissile, very heavy, and loaded with
iron; their streak is whitish, and they produce no effervescence with
acids. They assume at their surface, by their decomposition in the
air, a yellow colour. We seem to recognize in these argillaceous
strata a tendency either to the transition-slates, or to the
kieselschiefer (schistose jasper), which everywhere characterise the
black transition-limestones. When in fragments, they might be taken at
first sight for basalt or hornblende.* (* I had an opportunity of
examining again, with the greatest care, the rocks of San Juan, of
Chacao, of Parapara, and of Calabozo, during my stay at Mexico, where,
conjointly with M. del Rio, one of the most distinguished pupils of
the school of Freyberg, I formed a geognostical collection for the
Colegio de Mineria of New Spain.) Another white limestone, compact,
and containing some fragments of shells, backs the Morros de San Juan.
I could not see the line of junction of these two limestones, or that
of the calcareous formation and the diabasis.

The transverse valley which descends from Piedras Negras and the
village of San Juan, towards Parapara and the Llanos, is filled with
trap-rocks, displaying close affinity with the formation of green
slates, which they cover. Sometimes we seem to see serpentine,
sometimes grunstein, and sometimes dolerite and basalt. The
arrangement of these problematical masses is not less extraordinary.
Between San Juan, Malpaso, and Piedras Azules, they form strata
parallel to each other; and dipping regularly northward at an angle of
40 or 50 degrees, they cover even the green slates in concordant
stratification. Lower down, towards Parapara and Ortiz, where the
amygdaloids and phonolites are connected with the grunstein,
everything assumes a basaltic aspect. Balls of grunstein heaped one
upon another, form those rounded cones, which are found so frequently
in the Mittelgebirge in Bohemia, near Bilin, the country of
phonolites. The following is the result of my partial observations.

The grunstein, which at first alternated with strata of serpentine, or
was connected with that rock by insensible transitions, is seen alone,
sometimes in strata considerably inclined, and sometimes in balls with
concentric strata, imbedded in strata of the same substance. It lies,
near Malpaso, on green slates, steatitic, mingled with hornblende,
destitute of mica and grains of quartz, dipping, like the grunsteins,
45 degrees toward the north, and directed, like them, 75 degrees

A great sterility prevails where these green slates predominate, no
doubt on account of the magnesia they contain, which (as is proved by
the magnesian-limestone of England*) is very hurtful to vegetation. (*
Magnesian limestone is of a straw-yellow colour, and contains
madrepores: it lies beneath red marl, or muriatiferous red sandstone.)
The dip of the green slates continues the same; but by degrees the
direction of their strata becomes parallel to the general direction of
the primitive rocks of the chain of the coast. At Piedras Azules these
slates, mingled with hornblende, cover in concordant stratification a
blackish-blue slate, very fissile, and traversed by small veins of
quartz. The green slates include some strata of grunstein, and even
contain balls of that substance. I nowhere saw the green slates
alternate with the black slates of the ravine of Piedras Azules: at
the line of junction these two slates appear rather to pass one into
the other, the green slates becoming of a pearl-grey in proportion as
they lose their hornblende.

Farther south, towards Parapara and Ortiz, the slates disappear. They
are concealed under a trap-formation more varied in its aspect. The
soil becomes more fertile; the rocky masses alternate with strata of
clay, which appear to be produced by the decomposition of the
grunsteins, the amygdaloids, and the phonolites.

The grunstein, which farther north was less granulous, and passed into
serpentine, here assumes a very different character. It contains balls
of mandelstein, or amygdaloid, eight or ten inches in diameter. These
balls, sometimes a little flattened, are divided into concentric
layers: this is the effect of decomposition. Their nucleus is almost
as hard as basalt, and they are intermingled with little cavities,
owing to bubbles of gas, filled with green earth, and crystals of
pyroxene and mesotype. Their basis is greyish blue, rather soft, and
showing small white spots which, by the regular form they present, I
should conceive to be decomposed feldspar. M. von Buch examined with a
powerful lens the species we brought. He discovered that each crystal
of pyroxene, enveloped in the earthy mass, is separated from it by
fissures parallel to the sides of the crystal. These fissures seem to
be the effect of a contraction which the mass or basis of the
mandelstein has undergone. I sometimes saw these balls of mandelstein
arranged in strata, and separated from each other by beds of grunstein
of ten or fourteen inches thick; sometimes (and this situation is most
common) the balls of mandelstein, two or three feet in diameter, are
found in heaps, and form little mounts with rounded summits, like
spheroidal basalt. The clay which separates these amygdaloid
concretions arises from the decomposition of their crust. They acquire
by the contact of the air a very thin coating of yellow ochre.

South-west of the village of Parapara rises the little Cerro de
Flores, which is discerned from afar in the steppes. Almost at its
foot, and in the midst of the mandelstein tract we have just been
describing, a porphyritic phonolite, a mass of compact feldspar of a
greenish grey, or mountain-green, containing long crystals of vitreous
feldspar, appears exposed. It is the real porphyrschiefer of Werner;
and it would be difficult to distinguish, in a collection of stones,
the phonolite of Parapara from that of Bilin, in Bohemia. It does not,
however, here form rocks in grotesque shapes, but little hills covered
with tabular blocks, large plates extremely sonorous, translucid on
the edges, and wounding the hands when broken.

Such are the successions of rocks, which I described on the spot as I
progressively found them, from the lake of Tacarigua to the entrance
of the steppes. Few places in Europe display a geological arrangement
so well worthy of being studied. We saw there in succession six
formations: namely, mica-slate-gneiss, green transition-slate, black
transition-limestone, serpentine and grunstein, amygdaloid (with
pyroxene), and phonolite.

I must observe, in the first place, that the substance just described
under the name of grunstein, in every respect resembles that which
forms layers in the mica-slate of Cabo Blanco, and veins near Caracas.
It differs only by containing neither quartz, garnets, nor pyrites.
The close relations we observed near the Cerro de Chacao, between the
grunstein and the serpentine, cannot surprise these geologists who
have studied the mountains of Franconia and Silesia. Near Zobtenberg*
(* Between Tampadel and Silsterwiz.) a serpentine rock alternates also
with gabbro. In the district of Glatz the fissures of the gabbro are
filled with a steatite of a greenish white colour, and the rock which
was long thought to belong to the grunsteins* is a close mixture of
feldspar and diallage. (* In the mountains of Bareuth, in Franconia,
so abundant in grunstein and serpentine, these formations are not
connected together. The serpentine there belongs rather to the
schistose hornblende (hornblendschiefer), as in the island of Cuba.
Near Guanaxuato, in Mexico, I saw it alternating with syenite. These
phenomena of serpentine rocks forming layers in eurite (weisstein), in
schistose hornblende, in gabbro, and in syenite, are so much the more
remarkable, as the great mass of garnetiferous serpentines, which are
found in the mountains of gneiss and mica-slate, form little distinct
mounts, masses not covered by other formations. It is not the same in
the mixtures of serpentine and granulated limestone.)

The grunsteins of Tucutunemo, which we consider as constituting the
same formation as the serpentine rock, contain veins of malachite and
copper-pyrites. These same metalliferous combinations are found also
in Franconia, in the grunsteins of the mountains of Steben and
Lichtenberg. With respect to the green slates of Malpaso, which have
all the characters of transition-slates, they are identical with those
which M. von Buch has so well described, near Schonau, in Silesia.
They contain beds of grunstein, like the slates of the mountains of
Steben just mentioned.* (* On advancing into the adit for draining the
Friedrich-Wilhelmstollen mine, which I caused to be begun in 1794,
near Steben, and which is yet only 340 toises long, there have
successively been found, in the transition-slate subordinate strata of
pure and porphyritic grunstein, strata, of Lydian stone and ampelite
(alaunschiefer), and strata of fine-grained grunstein. All these
strata characterise the transition-slates.) The black limestone of the
Morros de San Juan is also a transition-limestone. It forms perhaps a
subordinate stratum in the slates of Malpaso. This situation would be
analogous to what is observed in several parts of Switzerland.* (* For
Instance, at the Glyshorn, at the Col de Balme, etc.) The slaty zone,
the centre of which is the ravine of Piedras Azules, appears divided
into two formations. On some points we think we observe one passing
into the other.

The grunsteins, which begin again to the south of these slates, appear
to me to differ little from those found north of the ravine of Piedras
Azules. I did not see there any pyroxene; but on the very spot I
recognized a number of crystals in the amygdaloid, which appears so
strongly linked to the grunstein that they alternate several times.

The geologist may consider his task as fulfilled when he has traced
with accuracy the positions of the diverse strata; and has pointed out
the analogies traceable between these positions and what has been
observed in other countries. But how can he avoid being tempted to go
back to the origin of so many different substances, and to inquire how
far the dominion of fire has extended in the mountains that bound the
great basin of the steppes? In researches on the position of rocks we
have generally to complain of not sufficiently perceiving the
connection between the masses, which we believe to be superimposed on
one another. Here the difficulty seems to arise from the too intimate
and too numerous relations observed in rocks that are thought not to
belong to the same family.

The phonolite (or leucostine compacte of Cordier) is pretty generally
regarded by all who have at once examined burning and extinguished
volcanoes, as a flow of lithoid lava. I found no real basalt or
dolerite; but the presence of pyroxene in the amygdaloid of Parapara
leaves little doubt of the igneous origin of those spheroidal masses,
fissured, and full of cavities. Balls of this amygdaloid are enclosed
in the grunstein; and this grunstein alternates on one side with a
green slate, on the other with the serpentine of Tucutunemo. Here,
then, is a connexion sufficiently close established between the
phonolites and the green slates, between the pyroxenic amygdaloids and
the serpentines containing copper-ores, between volcanic substances
and others that are included under the vague name of transition-traps.
All these masses are destitute of quartz like the real
trap-porphyries, or volcanic trachytes. This phenomenon is the more
remarkable, as the grunsteins which are called primitive almost always
contain quartz in Europe. The most general dip of the slates of
Piedras Azules, of the grunsteins of Parapara, and of the pyroxenic
amygdaloids embedded in strata of grunstein, does not follow the slope
of the ground from north to south, but is pretty regular towards the
north. The strata incline towards the chain of the coast, as
substances which had not been in fusion might be supposed to do. Can
we admit that so many alternating rocks, imbedded one in the other,
have a common origin? The nature of the phonolites, which are lithoid
lavas with a feldspar basis, and the nature of the green slates
intermixed with hornblende, oppose this opinion. In this state of
things we may choose between two solutions of the problem in question.
In one of these solutions the phonolite of the Cerro de Flores is to
be regarded as the sole volcanic production of the tract; and we are
forced to unite the pyroxenic amygdaloids with the rest of the
grunsteins, in one single formation, that which is so common in the
transition-mountains of Europe, considered hitherto as not volcanic.
In the other solution of the problem, the masses of phonolite,
amygdaloid, and grunstein, which are found in the south of the ravine
of Piedras Azules, are separated from the grunsteins and serpentine
rocks that cover the declivity of the mountains north of the ravine.
In the present state of knowledge I find difficulties almost equally
great in adopting either of these suppositions; but I have no doubt
that, when the real grunsteins (not the hornblende-grunsteins)
contained in the gneiss and mica-slates, shall have been more
attentively examined in other places; when the basalts (with pyroxene)
forming strata in primitive rocks* (* For instance, at Krobsdorf, in
Silesia, a stratum of basalt has been recognized in the mica-slate by
two celebrated geologists, MM. von Buch and Raumer. (Vom Granite des
Riesengebirges, 1813.) and the diabases and amygdaloids in the
transition mountains, shall have been carefully studied; when the
texture of the masses shall have been subjected to a kind of
mechanical analysis, and the hornblendes better distinguished from the
pyroxenes,* (* The grunsteins or diabases of the Fichtelgebirge, in
Franconia, which belong to the transition-slate, sometimes contain
pyroxenes.) and the grunsteins from the dolerites; a great number of
phenomena which now appear isolated and obscure, will be ranged under
general laws. The phonolite and other rocks of igneous origin at
Parapara are so much the more interesting, as they indicate ancient
eruptions in a granite zone; as they belong to the shore of the basin
of the steppes, as the basalts of Harutsh belong to the shore of the
desert of Sahara; and lastly, as they are the only rocks of the kind
we observed in the mountains of the Capitania-General of Caracas,
which are also destitute of trachytes or trap-porphyry, basalts, and
volcanic productions.* (* From the Rio Negro to the coasts of Cumana
and Caracas, to the east of the mountains of Merida, which we did not

The southern declivity of the western chain is tolerably steep; the
steppes, according to my barometrical measurements, being a thousand
feet lower than the bottom of the basin of Aragua. From the extensive
table-land of the Villa de Cura we descended towards the banks of the
Rio Tucutunemo, which has hollowed for itself, in a serpentine rock, a
longitudinal valley running from east to west, at nearly the same
level as La Victoria. A transverse valley, lying generally north and
south, led us into the Llanos, by the villages of Parapara and Ortiz.
It grows very narrow in several parts. Basins, the bottoms of which
are perfectly horizontal, communicate together by narrow passes with
steep declivities. They were, no doubt, formerly small lakes, which,
owing to the accumulation of the waters, or some more violent
catastrophe, have broken down the dykes by which they were separated.
This phenomenon is found in both continents, wherever we examine the
longitudinal valleys forming the passages of the Andes, the Alps,* (*
For example, the road from the valley of Ursern to the Hospice of St.
Gothard, and thence to Airolo.) or the Pyrenees. It is probable, that
the irruption of the waters towards the Llanos have given, by
extraordinary rents, the form of ruins to the Morros of San Juan and
of San Sebastian. The volcanic tract of Parapara and Ortis is now only
30 or 40 toises above the Llanos. The eruptions consequently took
place at the lowest point of the granitic chain.

In the Mesa de Paja, in the ninth degree of latitude, we entered the
basin of the Llanos. The sun was almost at its zenith; the earth,
wherever it appeared sterile and destitute of vegetation, was at the
temperature of 48 or 50 degrees.* (* A thermometer, placed in the
sand, rose to 38.4 and 40 degrees Reaumur.) Not a breath of air was
felt at the height at which we were on our mules; yet, in the midst of
this apparent calm, whirls of dust incessantly arose, driven on by
those small currents of air which glide only over the surface of the
ground, and are occasioned by the difference of temperature between
the naked sand and the spots covered with grass. These sand-winds
augment the suffocating heat of the air. Every grain of quartz, hotter
than the surrounding air, radiates heat in every direction; and it is
difficult to observe the temperature of the atmosphere, owing to these
particles of sand striking against the bulb of the thermometer. All
around us the plains seemed to ascend to the sky, and the vast and
profound solitude appeared like an ocean covered with sea-weed.
According to the unequal mass of vapours diffused through the
atmosphere, and the variable decrement in the temperature of the
different strata of air, the horizon in some parts was clear and
distinct; in other parts it appeared undulating, sinuous, and as if
striped. The earth there was confounded with the sky. Through the dry
mist and strata of vapour the trunks of palm-trees were seen from
afar, stripped of their foliage and their verdant summits, and looking
like the masts of a ship descried upon the horizon.

There is something awful, as well as sad and gloomy, in the uniform
aspect of these steppes. Everything seems motionless; scarcely does a
small cloud, passing across the zenith, and denoting the approach of
the rainy season, cast its shadow on the earth. I know not whether the
first aspect of the Llanos excite less astonishment than that of the
chain of the Andes. Mountainous countries, whatever may be the
absolute elevation of the highest summits, have an analogous
physiognomy; but we accustom ourselves with difficulty to the view of
the Llanos of Venezuela and Casanare, to that of the Pampas of Buenos
Ayres and of Chaco, which recal to mind incessantly, and during
journeys of twenty or thirty days, the smooth surface of the ocean. I
had seen the plains or llanos of La Mancha in Spain, and the heaths
(ericeta) that extend from the extremity of Jutland, through Luneburg
and Westphalia, to Belgium. These last are really steppes, and, during
several ages, only small portions of them have yielded to cultivation;
but the plains of the west and north of Europe present only a feeble
image of the immense llanos of South America. It is in the south-east
of our continent, in Hungary, between the Danube and the Theiss; in
Russia, between the Borysthenes, the Don, and the Volga, that we find
those vast pastures, which seem to have been levelled by a long abode
of the waters, and which meet the horizon on every side. The plains of
Hungary, where I traversed them on the frontiers of Germany, between
Presburg and Oedenburg, strike the imagination of the traveller by the
constant mirage; but their greatest extent is more to the east,
between Czegled, Debreczin, and Tittel. There they present the
appearance of a vast ocean of verdure, having only two outlets, one
near Gran and Waitzen, the other between Belgrade and Widdin.

The different quarters of the world have been supposed to be
characterized by the remark, that Europe has its heaths, Asia its
steppes, Africa its deserts, and America its savannahs; but by this
distinction, contrasts are established that are not founded either on
the nature of things, or the genius of languages. The existence of a
heath always supposes an association of plants of the family of
ericae; the steppes of Asia are not everywhere covered with saline
plants; the savannahs of Venezuela furnish not only the gramina, but
with them small herbaceous mimosas, legumina, and other dicotyledonous
plants. The plains of Songaria, those which extend between the Don and
the Volga, and the puszta of Hungary, are real savannahs, pasturages
abounding in grasses;* (* These vast steppes of Hungary are elevated
only thirty or forty toises above the level of the sea, which is more
than eighty leagues distant from them. See Wahlenberg's Flora
Carpathianica. Baron Podmanitzky, an Hungarian nobleman, highly
distinguished for his knowledge of the physical sciences, caused the
level of these plains to be taken, to facilitate the formation of a
canal then projected between the Danube and the Theiss. He found the
line of division, or the convexity of the ground, which slopes on each
side towards the beds of the two rivers, to be only thirteen toises
above the height of the Danube. The widely extended pastures, which
reach in every direction to the horizon, are called in the country,
Puszta, and, over a distance of many leagues, are without any human
habitation. Plains of this kind, intermingled with marshes and sandy
tracts, are found on the western side of the Theiss, between Czegled,
Csaba, Komloss, and Szarwass; and on the eastern side, between
Debreczin, Karczag, and Szoboszlo. The area of these plains of the
interior basin of Hungary has been estimated, by a pretty accurate
calculation, to be between two thousand five hundred and three
thousand square leagues (twenty to a degree). Between Czegled,
Szolnok, and Ketskemet, the plain resembles a sea of sand.) while the
savannahs to the east and west of the Rocky Mountains and of New
Mexico produce chenopodiums containing carbonate and muriate of soda.
Asia has real deserts destitute of vegetation, in Arabia, in Gobi, and
in Persia. Since we have become better acquainted with the deserts in
the interior of Africa, so long and so vaguely confounded together
under the name of desert of Sahara (Zahra); it has been observed, that
in this continent, towards the east, savannahs and pastures are found,
as in Arabia, situated in the midst of naked and barren tracts. It is
these deserts, covered with gravel and destitute of plants, which are
almost entirely wanting in the New World. I saw them only in that part
of Peru, between Amotape and Coquimbo, on the shores of the Pacific.
These are called by the Spaniards, not llanos, but the desiertos of
Sechura and Atacamez. This solitary tract is not broad, but it is four
hundred and forty leagues long. The rock pierces everywhere through
the quicksands. No drop of rain ever falls on it; and, like the desert
of Sahara, north of Timbuctoo, the Peruvian desert affords, near
Huaura, a rich mine of native salt. Everywhere else, in the New World,
there are plains desert because not inhabited, but no real deserts.*
(* We are almost tempted, however, to give the name of desert to that
vast and sandy table-land of Brazil, the Campos dos Parecis, which
gives birth to the rivers Tapajos, Paraguay, and Madeira, and which
reaches the summit of the highest mountains. Almost destitute of
vegetation, it reminds us of Gobi, in Mongolia.)

The same phenomena are repeated in the most distant regions; and,
instead of designating those vast treeless plains in accordance with
the nature of the plants they produce, it seems natural to class them
into deserts, steppes, or savannahs; into bare lands without any
appearance of vegetation, and lands covered with gramina or small
plants of the dicotyledonous tribe. The savannahs of America,
especially those of the temperate zone, have in many works been
designated by the French term prairies; but this appears to me little
applicable to pastures which are often very dry, though covered with
grass of four or five feet in height. The Llanos and the Pampas of
South America are really steppes. They are covered with beautiful
verdure in the rainy season, but in the time of great drought they
assume the aspect of a desert. The grass is then reduced to powder;
the earth cracks; the alligators and the great serpents remain buried
in the dried mud, till awakened from their long lethargy by the first
showers of spring. These phenomena are observed on barren tracts of
fifty or sixty leagues in length, wherever the savannahs are not
traversed by rivers; for on the borders of rivulets, and around little
pools of stagnant water, the traveller finds at certain distances,
even during the period of the great droughts, thickets of mauritia, a
palm, the leaves of which spread out like a fan, and preserve a
brilliant verdure.

The steppes of Asia are all beyond the tropics, and form very elevated
table-lands. America also has savannahs of considerable extent on the
backs of the mountains of Mexico, Peru, and Quito; but its most
extensive steppes, the Llanos of Cumana, Caracas, and Meta, are little
raised above the level of the ocean, and all belong to the equinoctial
zone. These circumstances give them a peculiar character. They have
not, like the steppes of southern Asia, and the deserts of Persia,
those lakes without issue, those small systems of rivers which lose
themselves either in the sands, or by subterranean filtrations. The
Llanos of America incline to the east and south; and their running
waters are branches of the Orinoco.

The course of these rivers once led me to believe, that the plains
formed table-lands, raised at least from one hundred to one hundred
and fifty toises above the level of the ocean. I supposed that the
deserts of interior Africa were also at a considerable height; and
that they rose one above another as in tiers, from the coast to the
interior of the continent. No barometer has yet been carried into the
Sahara. With respect to the Llanos of America, I found by barometric
heights observed at Calabozo, at the Villa del Pao, and at the mouth
of the Meta, that their height is only forty or fifty toises above the
level of the sea. The fall of the rivers is extremely gentle, often
nearly imperceptible; and therefore the least wind, or the swelling of
the Orinoco, causes a reflux in those rivers that flow into it. The
Indians believe themselves to be descending during a whole day, when
navigating from the mouths of these rivers to their sources. The
descending waters are separated from those that flow back by a great
body of stagnant water, in which, the equilibrium being disturbed,
whirlpools are formed very dangerous for boats.

The chief characteristic of the savannahs or steppes of South America
is the absolute want of hills and inequalities--the perfect level of
every part of the soil. Accordingly the Spanish conquerors, who first
penetrated from Coro to the banks of the Apure, did not call them
deserts or savannahs, or meadows, but plains (llanos). Often within a
distance of thirty square leagues there is not an eminence of a foot
high. This resemblance to the surface of the sea strikes the
imagination most powerfully where the plains are altogether destitute
of palm-trees; and where the mountains of the shore and of the Orinoco
are so distant that they cannot be seen, as in the Mesa de Pavones. A
person would be tempted there to take the altitude of the sun with a
quadrant, if the horizon of the land were not constantly misty on
account of the variable effects of refraction. This equality of
surface is still more perfect in the meridian of Calabozo, than
towards the east, between Cari, La Villa del Pao, and Nueva Barcelona;
but it extends without interruption from the mouths of the Orinoco to
La Villa de Araure and to Ospinos, on a parallel of a hundred and
eighty leagues in length; and from San Carlos to the savannahs of
Caqueat, on a meridian of two hundred leagues. It particularly
characterises the New Continent, as it does the low steppes of Asia,
between the Borysthenes and the Volga, between the Irtish and the Obi.
The deserts of central Africa, of Arabia, Syria, and Persia, Gobi, and
Casna, present, on the contrary, many inequalities, ranges of hills,
ravines without water, and rocks which pierce the sands.

The Llanos, however, notwithstanding the apparent uniformity of their
surface, present two kinds of inequalities, which cannot escape the
observation of the traveller. The first is known by the name of banks
(bancos); they are in reality shoals in the basin of the steppes,
fractured strata of sandstone, or compact limestone, standing four or
five feet higher than the rest of the plain. These banks are sometimes
three or four leagues in length; they are entirely smooth, with a
horizontal surface; their existence is perceived only by examining
their margins. The second species of inequality can be recognised only
by geodesical or barometric levellings, or by the course of rivers. It
is called a mesa or table, and is composed of small flats, or rather
convex eminences, that rise insensibly to the height of a few toises.
Such are, towards the east, in the province of Cumana, on the north of
the Villa de la Merced and Candelaria, the Mesas of Amana, of Guanipa,
and of Jonoro, the direction of which is south-west and north-east;
and which, in spite of their inconsiderable elevation, divide the
waters between the Orinoco and the northern coast of Terra Firma. The
convexity of the savannah alone occasions this partition: we there
find the dividing of the waters (divortia aquarum* (* "C. Manlium
prope jugis [Tauri] ad divortia aquarum castra posuisse." Livy lib. 38
c. 75.)), as in Poland, where, far from the Carpathian mountains, the
plain itself divides the waters between the Baltic and the Black Sea.
Geographers, who suppose the existence of a chain of mountains
wherever there is a line of division, have not failed to mark one in
the maps, at the sources of the Rio Neveri, the Unare, the Guarapiche,
and the Pao. Thus the priests of Mongol race, according to ancient and
superstitious custom, erect oboes, or little mounds of stone, on every
point where the rivers flow in an opposite direction.

The uniform landscape of the Llanos; the extremely small number of
their inhabitants; the fatigue of travelling beneath a burning sky,
and an atmosphere darkened by dust; the view of that horizon, which
seems for ever to fly before us; those lonely trunks of palm-trees,
which have all the same aspect, and which we despair of reaching,
because they are confounded with other trunks that rise by degrees on
the visual horizon; all these causes combine to make the steppes
appear far more extensive than they are in reality. The planters who
inhabit the southern declivity of the chain of the coast see the
steppes extend towards the south, as far as the eye can reach, like an
ocean of verdure. They know that from the Delta of the Orinoco to the
province of Varinas, and thence, by traversing the banks of the Meta,
the Guaviare, and the Caguan, they can advance three hundred and
eighty leagues* (* This is the distance from Timbuctoo to the northern
coast of Africa.) into the plains, first from east to west, and then
from north-east to south-east beyond the Equator, to the foot of the
Andes of Pasto. They know by the accounts of travellers the Pampas of
Buenos Ayres, which are also Llanos covered with fine grass, destitute
of trees, and filled with oxen and horses become wild. They suppose
that, according to the greater part of our maps of America, this
continent has only one chain of mountains, that of the Andes, which
stretches from south to north; and they form a vague idea of the
contiguity of all the plains from the Orinoco and the Apure to the Rio
de la Plata and the Straits of Magellan.

Without stopping here to give a mineralogical description of the
transverse chains which divide America from east to west, it will be
sufficient to notice the general structure of a continent, the
extremities of which, though situated in climates little analogous,
nevertheless present several features of resemblance. In order to have
an exact idea of the plains, their configuration, and their limits, we
must know the chains of mountains that form their boundaries. We have
already described the Cordillera of the coast, of which the highest
summit is the Silla de Caraccas, and which is linked by the Paramo de
las Rosas to the Nevada de Merida, and the Andes of New Grenada. We
have seen that, in the tenth degree of north latitude, it stretches
from Quibor and Barquesimeto as far as the point of Paria. A second
chain of mountains, or rather a less elevated but much larger group,
extends between the parallels of 3 and 7 degrees from the mouths of
the Guaviare and the Meta to the sources of the Orinoco, the Marony,
and the Essequibo, towards French and Dutch Guiana. I call this chain
the Cordillera of Parime, or of the great cataracts of the Orinoco. It
may be followed for a length of two hundred and fifty leagues; but it
is less a chain, than a collection of granitic mountains, separated by
small plains, without being everywhere disposed in lines. The group of
the mountains of Parime narrows considerably between the sources of
the Orinoco and the mountains of Demerara, in the Sierras of
Quimiropaca and Pacaraimo, which divide the waters between the Carony
and the Rio Parime, or Rio de Aguas Blancas. This is the scene of the
expeditions which were undertaken in search of El Dorado, and the
great city of Manoa, the Timbuctoo of the New Continent. The
Cordillera of Parime does not join the Andes of New Grenada, but is
separated from them by a space eighty leagues broad. If we suppose it
to have been destroyed in this space by some great revolution of the
globe (which is scarcely probable) we must admit that it anciently
branched off from the Andes between Santa Fe de Bogota and Pamplona.
This remark serves to fix more easily in the memory of the reader the
geographical position of a Cordillera till now very imperfectly known.
A third chain of mountains unites in 16 and 18 degrees south latitude
(by Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the Serranias of Aguapehy, and the famous
Campos dos Parecis) the Andes of Peru, to the mountains of Brazil. It
is the Cordillera of Chiquitos which widens in the Capitania de Minas
Geraes, and divides the rivers flowing into the Amazon from those of
the Rio de la Plata,* (* There is only a portage or carrying-place of
5322 bracas between the Guapore (a branch of the Marmore and of the
Madeira), and the Rio Aguapehy (a branch of the Jaura and of the
Paraguay).) not only in the interior of the country, in the meridian
of Villa Boa, but also at a few leagues from the coast, between Rio
Janeiro and Bahia.* (* The Cordillera of Chiquitos and of Brazil
stretches toward the south-east, in the government of the Rio Grande,
beyond the latitude of 30 degrees south.)

These three transverse chains, or rather these three groups of
mountains stretching from west to east, within the limits of the
torrid zone, are separated by tracts entirely level, the plains of
Caracas, or of the Lower Orinoco; the plains of the Amazon and the Rio
Negro; and the plains of Buenos Ayres, or of La Plata. I use the term
plains, because the Lower Orinoco and the Amazon, far from flowing in
a valley, form but a little furrow in the midst of a vast level. The
two basins, placed at the extremities of South America, are savannahs
or steppes, pasturage without trees; the intermediate basin, which
receives the equatorial rains during the whole year, is almost
entirely one vast forest, through which no other roads are known save
the rivers. The strong vegetation which conceals the soil, renders
also the uniformity of its level less perceptible; and the plains of
Caracas and La Plata bear no other name. The three basins we have just
described are called, in the language of the colonists, the Llanos of
Varinas and of Caracas, the bosques or selvas (forests) of the Amazon,
and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres. The trees not only for the most part
cover the plains of the Amazon, from the Cordillera de Chiquitos, as
far as that of Parime; they also crown these two chains of mountains,
which rarely attain the height of the Pyrenees.* (* We must except the
most western part of the Cordillera of Chiquitos, between Cochabamba
and Santa Cruz de la Sierra where the summits are covered with snow;
but this colossal group almost belongs to the Andes de la Paz, of
which it forms a promontory or spur, directed toward the east.) On
this account, the vast plains of the Amazon, the Madeira, and the Rio
Negro, are not so distinctly bounded as the Llanos of Caracas, and the
Pampas of Buenos Ayres. As the region of forests comprises at once the
plains and the mountains, it extends from 18 degrees south to 7 and 8
degrees north,* (* To the west, in consequence of the Llanos of Manso,
and the Pampas de Huanacos, the forests do not extend generally beyond
the parallels of 18 or 19 degrees south latitude; but to the east, in
Brazil (in the capitanias of San Pablo and Rio Grande) as well as in
Paraguay, on the borders of the Parana, they advance as far as 25
degrees south.) and occupies an extent of near a hundred and twenty
thousand square leagues. This forest of South America, for in fact
there is only one, is six times larger than France. It is known to
Europeans only on the shores of a few rivers, by which it is
traversed; and has its openings, the extent of which is in proportion
to that of the forests. We shall soon skirt the marshy savannahs,
between the Upper Orinoco, the Conorichite, and the Cassiquiare, in
the latitude of 3 and 4 degrees. There are other openings, or as they
are called, clear savannahs,* (* Savannas limpias, that is to say,
clear of trees.) in the same parallel, between the sources of the Mao
and the Rio de Aguas Blancas, south of the Sierra de Pacaraima. These
last savannahs, which are inhabited by Caribs, and nomad Macusis, lie
near the frontiers of Dutch and French Guiana.

Having noticed the geological constitution of South America, we shall
now mark its principal features. The western coasts are bordered by an
enormous wall of mountains, rich in precious metals wherever volcanic
fire has not pierced through the eternal snow. This is the Cordillera
of the Andes. Summits of trap-porphyry rise beyond three thousand
three hundred toises, and the mean height of the chain* is one
thousand eight hundred and fifty toises. (* In New Grenada, Quito, and
Peru, according to measurements taken by Bouguer, La Condamine, and
myself.) It stretches in the direction of a meridian, and sends into
each hemisphere a lateral branch, in the latitudes of 10 degrees
north, and 16 and 18 degrees south. The first of these two branches,
that of the coast of Caracas, is of considerable length, and forms in
fact a chain. The second branch, the Cordillera of Chiquitos and of
the sources of the Guapore, is very rich in gold, and widens toward
the east, in Brazil, into vast tablelands, having a mild and temperate
climate. Between these two transverse chains, contiguous to the Andes,
an isolated group of granitic mountains is situated, from 3 to 7
degrees north latitude; which also runs parallel to the Equator, but,
not passing the meridian of 71 degrees, terminates abruptly towards
the west, and is not united to the Andes of New Grenada. These three
transverse chains have no active volcanoes; we know not whether the
most southern, like the two others, be destitute of trachytes or
trap-porphyry. None of their summits enter the limit of perpetual
snow; and the mean height of the Cordillera of La Parime, and of the
littoral chain of Caracas, does not reach six hundred toises, though
some of its summits rise fourteen hundred toises above the level of
the sea.* (* We do not reckon here, as belonging to the chain of the
coast, the Nevados and Paramos of Merida and of Truxillo, which are a
prolongation of the Andes of New Grenada.) The three transverse chains
are separated by plains entirely closed towards the west, and open
towards the east and south-east. When we reflect on their small
elevation above the surface of the ocean, we are tempted to consider
them as gulfs stretching in the direction of the current of rotation.
If, from the effect of some peculiar attraction, the waters of the
Atlantic were to rise fifty toises at the mouth of the Orinoco, and
two hundred toises at the mouth of the Amazon, the flood would
submerge more than the half of South America. The eastern declivity,
or the foot of the Andes, now six hundred leagues distant from the
coast of Brazil, would become a shore beaten by the waves. This
consideration is the result of a barometric measurement, taken in the
province of Jaen de Bracamoros, where the river Amazon issues from the
Cordilleras. I found the mean height of this immense river only one
hundred and ninety-four toises above the present level of the
Atlantic. The intermediate plains, however, covered with forests, are
still five times higher than the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, and the
grass-covered Llanos of Caracas and the Meta.

Those Llanos which form the basin of the Orinoco, and which we crossed
twice in one year, in the months of March and July, communicate with
the basin of the Amazon and the Rio Negro, bounded on one side by the
Cordillera of Chiquitos, and on the other by the mountains of Parime.
The opening which is left between the latter and the Andes of New
Grenada, occasions this communication. The aspect of the country here
reminds us, but on a much larger scale, of the plains of Lombardy,
which also are only fifty or sixty toises above the level of the
ocean; and are directed first from La Brenta to Turin, east and west;
and then from Turin to Coni, north and south. If we were authorized,
from other geological facts, to regard the three great plains of the
Lower Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio de la Plata as basins of
ancient lakes,* (* In Siberia, the great steppes between the Irtish
and the Obi, especially that of Baraba, full of salt lakes (Tchabakly,
Tchany, Karasouk, and Topolony), appear to have been, according to the
Chinese traditions, even within historical times, an inland sea.) we
should imagine we perceived in the plains of the Rio Vichada and the
Meta, a channel by which the waters of the upper lake (those of the
plains of the Amazon) forced their way towards the lower basin, (that
of the Llanos of Caracas,) separating the Cordillera of La Parime from
that of the Andes. This channel is a kind of land-strait. The ground,
which is perfectly level between the Guaviare, the Meta, and the
Apure, displays no vestige of a violent irruption of the waters; but
on the edge of the Cordillera of Parime, between the latitudes of 4
and 7 degrees, the Orinoco, flowing in a westerly direction from its
source to the mouth of the Guaviare, has forced its way through the
rocks, directing its course from south to north. All the great
cataracts, as we shall soon see, are within the latitudes just named.
When the river has reached the mouth of the Apure in that very low
ground where the slope towards the north is met by the counter-slope
towards the south-east, that is to say, by the inclination of the
plains which rise imperceptibly towards the mountains of Caracas, the
river turns anew and flows eastward. It appeared to me, that it was
proper to fix the attention of the reader on these singular inflexions
of the Orinoco because, belonging at once to two basins, its course
marks, in some sort, even on the most imperfect maps, the direction of
that part of the plains intervening between New Grenada and the
western border of the mountains of La Parime.

The Llanos or steppes of the Lower Orinoco and of the Meta, like the
deserts of Africa, bear different names in different parts. From the
mouths of the Dragon the Llanos of Cumana, of Barcelona, and of
Caracas or Venezuela,* follow, running from east to west. (* The
following are subdivisions of these three great Llanos, as I marked
them down on the spot. The Llanos of Cumana and New Andalusia include
those of Maturin and Terecen, of Amana, Guanipa, Jonoro, and Cari. The
Llanos of Nueva Barcelona comprise those of Aragua, Pariaguan, and
Villa del Pao. We distinguish in the Llanos of Caracas those of
Chaguaramas, Uritucu, Calabozo or Guarico, La Portuguesa, San Carlos,
and Araure.) Where the steppes turn towards the south and
south-south-west, from the latitude of 8 degrees, between the
meridians of 70 and 73 degrees, we find from north to south, the
Llanos of Varinas, Casanare, the Meta, Guaviare, Caguau, and Caqueta.*
(* The inhabitants of these plains distinguish as subdivisions, from
the Rio Portuguesa to Caqueta, the Llanos of Guanare, Bocono, Nutrius
or the Apure, Palmerito near Quintero, Guardalito and Arauca, the
Meta, Apiay near the port of Pachaquiaro, Vichada, Guaviare, Arriari,
Inirida, the Rio Hacha, and Caguan. The limits between the savannahs
and the forests, in the plains that extend from the sources of the Rio
Negro to Putumayo, are not sufficiently known.) The plains of Varinas
contain some few monuments of the industry of a nation that has
disappeared. Between Mijagual and the Cano de la Hacha, we find some
real tumuli, called in the country the Serillos de los Indios. They
are hillocks in the shape of cones, artificially formed of earth, and
probably contain bones, like the tumuli in the steppes of Asia. A fine
road is also discovered near Hato de la Calzada, between Varinas and
Canagua, five leagues long, made before the conquest, in the most
remote times, by the natives. It is a causeway of earth fifteen feet
high, crossing a plain often overflowed. Did nations farther advanced
in civilization descend from the mountains of Truxillo and Merido to
the plains of the Rio Apure? The Indians whom we now find between this
river and the Meta, are in too rude a state to think of making roads
or raising tumuli.

I calculated the area of these Llanos from the Caqueta to the Apure,
and from the Apure to the Delta of the Orinoco, and found it to be
seventeen thousand square leagues twenty to a degree. The part running
from north to south is almost double that which stretches from east to
west, between the Lower Orinoco and the littoral chain of Caracas. The
Pampas on the north and north-west of Buenos Ayres, between this city
and Cordova, Jujuy, and the Tucuman, are of nearly the same extent as
the Llanos; but the Pampas stretch still farther on to the length of
18 degrees southward; and the land they occupy is so vast, that they
produce palm-trees at one of their extremities, while the other,
equally low and level, is covered with eternal frost.

The Llanos of America, where they extend in the direction of a
parallel of the equator, are three-fourths narrower then the great
desert of Africa. This circumstance is very important in a region
where the winds constantly blow from east to west. The farther the
plains stretch in this direction, the more ardent is their climate.
The great ocean of sand in Africa communicates by Yemen* with Gedrosia
and Beloochistan, as far as the right bank of the Indus. (* We cannot
be surprised that the Arabic should be richer than any other language
of the East in words expressing the ideas of desert, uninhabited
plains, and plains covered with gramina. I could give a list of
thirty-five of these words, which the Arabian authors employ without
always distinguishing them by the shades of meaning which each
separate word expresses. Makadh and kaah indicate, in preference,
plains; bakaak, a table-land; kafr, mikfar, smlis, mahk, and habaucer,
a naked desert, covered with sand and gravel; tanufah, a steppe. Zahra
means at once a naked desert and a savannah. The word steppe, or step,
is Russian, and not Tartarian. In the Turco-Tartar dialect a heath is
called tala or tschol. The word gobi, which Europeans have corrupted
into cobi, signifies in the Mongol tongue a naked desert. It is
equivalent to the scha-mo or khan-hai of the Chinese. A steppe, or
plain covered with herbs, is in Mongol, kudah; in Chinese, kouana.) It
is from the effect of winds that have passed over the deserts situated
to the east, that the little basin of the Red Sea, surrounded by
plains which send forth from all sides radiant caloric, is one of the
hottest regions of the globe. The unfortunate captain Tuckey relates,*
(* Expedition to explore the river Zahir, 1818.) that the centigrade
thermometer keeps there generally in the night at 34 degrees, and by
day from 40 to 44 degrees. We shall soon see that, even in the
westernmost part of the steppes of Caracas, we seldom found the
temperature of the air, in the shade, above 37 degrees.

These physical considerations on the steppes of the New World are
linked with others more interesting, inasmuch as they are connected
with the history of our species. The great sea of sand in Africa, the
deserts without water, are frequented only by caravans, that take
fifty days to traverse them.* (* This is the maximum of the time,
according to Major Rennell, Travels of Mungo Park volume 2.)
Separating the Negro race from the Moors, and the Berber and Kabyle
tribes, the Sahara is inhabited only in the oases. It affords
pasturage only in the eastern part, where, from the effect of the
trade-winds, the layer of sand being less thick, the springs appear at
the surface of the earth. In America, the steppes, less vast, less
scorching, fertilized by fine rivers, present fewer obstacles to the
intercourse of nations. The Llanos separate the chain of the coast of
Caracas and the Andes of New Grenada from the region of forests; from
that woody region of the Orinoco which, from the first discovery of
America, has been inhabited by nations more rude, and farther removed
from civilization, than the inhabitants of the coast, and still more
than the mountaineers of the Cordilleras. The steppes, however, were
no more heretofore the rampart of civilization than they are now the
rampart of the liberty of the hordes that live in the forests. They
have not hindered the nations of the Lower Orinoco from going up the
little rivers and making incursions to the north and the west. If,
according to the various distribution of animals on the globe, the
pastoral life could have existed in the New World--if, before the
arrival of the Spaniards, the Llanos and the Pampas had been filled
with those numerous herds of cows and horses that graze there,
Columbus would have found the human race in a state quite different.
Pastoral nations living on milk and cheese, real nomad races, would
have spread themselves over those vast plains which communicate with
each other. They would have been seen at the period of great droughts,
and even at that of inundations, fighting for the possession of
pastures; subjugating one another mutually; and, united by the common
tie of manners, language, and worship, they would have risen to that
state of demi-civilization which we observe with surprise in the
nations of the Mongol and Tartar race. America would then, like the
centre of Asia, have had its conquerors, who, ascending from the
plains to the tablelands of the Cordilleras, and abandoning a
wandering life, would have subdued the civilized nations of Peru and
New Grenada, overturned the throne of the Incas and of the Zaque,* and
substituted for the despotism which is the fruit of theocracy, that
despotism which arises from the patriarchal government of a pastoral
people. (* The Zaque was the secular chief of Cundinamarca. His power
was shared with the high priest (lama) of Iraca.) In the New World the
human race has not experienced these great moral and political
changes, because the steppes, though more fertile than those of Asia,
have remained without herds; because none of the animals that furnish
milk in abundance are natives of the plains of South America; and
because, in the progressive unfolding of American civilization, the
intermediate link is wanting that connects the hunting with the
agricultural nations.

We have thought proper to bring together these general notions on the
plains of the New Continent, and the contrast they exhibit to the
deserts of Africa and the fertile steppes of Asia, in order to give
some interest to the narrative of a journey across lands of so
monotonous an aspect. Having now accomplished this task, I shall trace
the route by which we proceeded from the volcanic mountains of
Parapara and the northern side of the Llanos, to the banks of the
Apure, in the province of Varinas.

After having passed two nights on horseback, and sought in vain, by
day, for some shelter from the heat of the sun beneath the tufts of
the moriche palm-trees, we arrived before night at the little Hato del
Cayman,* (* The Farm of the Alligator.) called also La Guadaloupe. It
was a solitary house in the steppes, surrounded by a few small huts,
covered with reeds and skins. The cattle, oxen, horses, and mules are
not penned, but wander freely over an extent of several square
leagues. There is nowhere any enclosure; men, naked to the waist and
armed with a lance, ride over the savannahs to inspect the animals;
bringing back those that wander too far from the pastures of the farm,
and branding all that do not already bear the mark of their
proprietor. These mulattos, who are known by the name of peones
llaneros, are partly freed-men and partly slaves. They are constantly
exposed to the burning heat of the tropical sun. Their food is meat,
dried in the air, and a little salted; and of this even their horses
sometimes partake. Being always in the saddle, they fancy they cannot
make the slightest excursion on foot. We found an old negro slave, who
managed the farm in the absence of his master. He told us of herds
composed of several thousand cows, that were grazing in the steppes;
yet we asked in vain for a bowl of milk. We were offered, in a
calabash, some yellow, muddy, and fetid water, drawn from a
neighbouring pool. The indolence of the inhabitants of the Llanos is
such that they do not dig wells, though they know that almost
everywhere, at ten feet deep, fine springs are found in a stratum of
conglomerate, or red sandstone. After suffering during one half of the
year from the effect of inundations, they quietly resign themselves,
during the other half; to the most distressing deprivation of water.
The old negro advised us to cover the cup with a linen cloth, and
drink as through a filter, that we might not be incommoded by the
smell, and might swallow less of the yellowish mud suspended in the
water. We did not then think that we should afterwards be forced,
during whole months, to have recourse to this expedient. The waters of
the Orinoco are always loaded with earthy particles; they are even
putrid, where dead bodies of alligators are found in the creeks, lying
on banks of sand, or half-buried in the mud.

No sooner were our instruments unloaded and safely placed, than our
mules were set at liberty to go, as they say here, para buscar agua,
that is, "to search for water." There are little pools round the farm,
which the animals find, guided by their instinct, by the view of some
scattered tufts of mauritia, and by the sensation of humid coolness,
caused by little currents of air amid an atmosphere which to us
appears calm and tranquil. When the pools of water are far distant,
and the people of the farm are too lazy to lead the cattle to these
natural watering-places, they confine them during five or six hours in
a very hot stable before they let them loose. Excess of thirst then
augments their sagacity, sharpening as it were their senses and their
instinct. No sooner is the stable opened, than the horses and mules,
especially the latter (for the penetration of these animals exceeds
the intelligence of the horses), rush into the savannahs. With
upraised tails and heads thrown back they run against the wind,
stopping from time to time as if exploring space; they follow less the
impressions of sight than of smell; and at length announce, by
prolonged neighings, that there is water in the direction of their
course. All these movements are executed more promptly, and with
readier success, by horses born in the Llanos, and which have long
enjoyed their liberty, than by those that come from the coast, and
descend from domestic horses. In animals, for the most part, as in
man, the quickness of the senses is diminished by long subjection, and
by the habits that arise from a fixed abode and the progress of

We followed our mules in search of one of those pools, whence the
muddy water had been drawn, that so ill quenched our thirst. We were
covered with dust, and tanned by the sandy wind, which burns the skin
even more than the rays of the sun. We longed impatiently to take a
bath, but we found only a great pool of feculent water, surrounded
with palm-trees. The water was turbid, though, to our great
astonishment, a little cooler than the air. Accustomed during our long
journey to bathe whenever we had an opportunity, often several times
in one day, we hastened to plunge into the pool. We had scarcely begun
to enjoy the coolness of the bath, when a noise which we heard on the
opposite bank, made us leave the water precipitately. It was an
alligator plunging into the mud.

We were only at the distance of a quarter of a league from the farm,
yet we continued walking more than an hour without reaching it. We
perceived too late that we had taken a wrong direction. Having left it
at the decline of day, before the stars were visible, we had gone
forward into the plain at hazard. We were, as usual, provided with a
compass, and it might have been easy for us to steer our course from
the position of Canopus and the Southern Cross; but unfortunately we
were uncertain whether, on leaving the farm, we had gone towards the
east or the south. We attempted to return to the spot where we had
bathed, and we again walked three quarters of an hour without finding
the pool. We sometimes thought we saw fire on the horizon; but it was
the light of the rising stars enlarged by the vapours. After having
wandered a long time in the savannah, we resolved to seat ourselves
beneath the trunk of a palm-tree, in a spot perfectly dry, surrounded
by short grass; for the fear of water-snakes is always greater than
that of jaguars among Europeans recently disembarked. We could not
flatter ourselves that our guides, of whom we knew the insuperable
indolence, would come in search of us in the savannah before they had
prepared their food and finished their repast. Whilst somewhat
perplexed by the uncertainty of our situation, we were agreeably
affected by hearing from afar the sound of a horse advancing towards
us. The rider was an Indian, armed with a lance, who had just made the
rodeo, or round, in order to collect the cattle within a determinate
space of ground. The sight of two white men, who said they had lost
their way, led him at first to suspect some trick. We found it
difficult to inspire him with confidence; he at last consented to
guide us to the farm of the Cayman, but without slackening the gentle
trot of his horse. Our guides assured us that "they had already begun
to be uneasy about us;" and, to justify this inquietude, they gave a
long enumeration of persons who, having lost themselves in the Llanos,
had been found nearly exhausted. It may be supposed that the danger is
imminent only to those who lose themselves far from any habitation, or
who, having been stripped by robbers, as has happened of late years,
have been fastened by the body and hands to the trunk of a palm-tree.

In order to escape as much as possible from the heat of the day, we
set off at two in the morning, with the hope of reaching Calabozo
before noon, a small but busy trading-town, situated in the midst of
the Llanos. The aspect of the country was still the same. There was no
moonlight; but the great masses of nebulae that spot the southern sky
enlighten, as they set, a part of the terrestrial horizon. The solemn
spectacle of the starry vault, seen in its immense expanse--the cool
breeze which blows over the plain during the night--the waving motion
of the grass, wherever it has attained any height; everything recalled
to our minds the surface of the ocean. The illusion was augmented when
the disk of the sun appearing on the horizon, repeated its image by
the effects of refraction, and, soon losing its flattened form,
ascended rapidly and straight towards the zenith.

Sunrise in the plains is the coolest moment of the day; but this
change of temperature does not make a very lively impression on the
organs. We did not find the thermometer in general sink below 27.5;
while near Acapulco, at Mexico, and in places equally low, the
temperature at noon is often 32, and at sunrise only 17 or 18 degrees.
The level surface of the ground in the Llanos, which, during the day,
is never in the shade, absorbs so much heat that, notwithstanding the
nocturnal radiation toward a sky without clouds, the earth and air
have not time to cool very sensibly from midnight to sunrise.

In proportion as the sun rose towards the zenith, and the earth and
the strata of superincumbent air took different temperatures, the
phenomenon of the mirage displayed itself in its numerous
modifications. This phenomenon is so common in every zone, that I
mention it only because we stopped to measure with some precision the
breadth of the aerial distance between the horizon and the suspended
object. There was a constant suspension, without inversion. The little
currents of air that swept the surface of the soil had so variable a
temperature that, in a drove of wild oxen, one part appeared with the
legs raised above the surface of the ground, while the other rested on
it. The aerial distance was, according to the distance of the animal,
from 3 to 4 minutes. Where tufts of the moriche palm were found
growing in long ranges, the extremities of these green rows were
suspended like the capes which were, for so long a time, the subject
of my observations at Cumana. A well-informed person assured us, that
he had seen, between Calabozo and Uritucu, the image of an animal
inverted, without there being any direct image. Niebuhr made a similar
observation in Arabia. We several times thought we saw on the horizon
the figures of tumuli and towers, which disappeared at intervals,
without our being able to discern the real shape of the objects. They
were perhaps hillocks, or small eminences, situated beyond the
ordinary visual horizon. I need not mention those tracts destitute of
vegetation, which appear like large lakes with an undulating surface.
This phenomenon, observed in very remote times, has occasioned the
mirage to receive in Sanscrit the expressive name of desire of the
antelope. We admire the frequent allusions in the Indian, Persian, and
Arabic poets, to the magical effects of terrestrial refraction. It was
scarcely known to the Greeks and Romans. Proud of the riches of their
soil, and the mild temperature of the air, they would have felt no
envy of this poetry of the desert. It had its birth in Asia; and the
oriental poets found its source in the nature of the country they
inhabited. They were inspired with the aspect of those vast solitudes,
interposed like arms of the sea or gulfs, between lands which nature
had adorned with her most luxuriant fertility.

The plain assumes at sunrise a more animated aspect. The cattle, which
had reposed during the night along the pools, or beneath clumps of
mauritias and rhopalas, were now collected in herds; and these
solitudes became peopled with horses, mules, and oxen, that live here
free, rather than wild, without settled habitations, and disdaining
the care and protection of man. In these hot climates, the oxen,
though of Spanish breed, like those of the cold table-lands of Quito,
are of a gentle disposition. A traveller runs no risk of being
attacked or pursued, as we often were in our excursions on the back of
the Cordilleras, where the climate is rude, the aspect of the country
more wild, and food less abundant. As we approached Calabozo, we saw
herds of roebucks browsing peacefully in the midst of horses and oxen.
They are called matacani; their flesh is good; they are a little
larger than our roes, and resemble deer with a very sleek skin, of a
fawn-colour, spotted with white. Their horns appear to me to have
single points. They had little fear of the presence of man: and in
herds of thirty or forty we observed several that were entirely white.
This variety, common enough among the large stags of the cold climates
of the Andes, surprised us in these low and burning plains. I have
since learned, that even the jaguar, in the hot regions of Paraguay,
sometimes affords albino varieties, the skin of which is of such
uniform whiteness that the spots or rings can be distinguished only in
the sunshine. The number of matacani, or little deer,* (* They are
called in the country Venados de tierras calientes (deer of the warm
lands.)) is so considerable in the Llanos, that a trade might be
carried on with their skins.* (* This trade is carried on, but on a
very limited scale, at Carora and at Barquesimeto.) A skilful hunter
could easily kill more than twenty in a day; but such is the indolence
of the inhabitants, that often they will not give themselves the
trouble of taking the skin. The same indifference is evinced in the
chase of the jaguar, a skin of which fetches only one piastre in the
steppes of Varinas, while at Cadiz it costs four or five.

The steppes that we traversed are principally covered with grasses of
the genera Killingia, Cenchrus, and Paspalum.* (* Killingia
monocephala, K. odorata, Cenchrus pilosus, Vilfa tenacissima,
Andropogon plumosum, Panicum micranthum, Poa repens, Paspalum
leptostachyum, P. conjugatum, Aristida recurvata. (Nova Genera et
Species Plantarum, volume 1 pages 84 to 243.) At this season, near
Calabozo and San Jerome del Pirital, these grasses scarcely attain the
height of nine or ten inches. Near the banks of the Apure and the
Portuguesa they rise to four feet in height, so that the jaguar can
conceal himself among them, to spring upon the mules and horses that
cross the plain. Mingled with these gramina some plants of the
dicotyledonous class are found; as turneras, malvaceae, and, what is
very remarkable, little mimosas with irritable leaves,* called by the
Spaniards dormideras. (* The sensitive-plant Mimosa dormiens.) The
same breed of cows, which fatten in Europe on sainfoin and clover,
find excellent nourishment in the herbaceous sensitive plants. The
pastures where these shrubs particularly abound are sold at a higher
price than others. To the east, in the llanos of Cari and Barcelona,
the cypura and the craniolaria,* (* Cypura graminea, Craniolaria
annua, the scorzonera of the natives.) the beautiful white flower of
which is from six to eight inches long, rise solitarily amid the
gramina. The pastures are richest not only around the rivers subject
to inundations, but also wherever the trunks of palm-trees are near
each other. The least fertile spots are those destitute of trees; and
attempts to cultivate them would be nearly fruitless. We cannot
attribute this difference to the shelter afforded by the palm-trees,
in preventing the solar rays from drying and burning up the soil. I
have seen, it is true, trees of this family, in the forests of the
Orinoco, spreading a tufted foliage; but we cannot say much for the
shade of the palm-tree of the llanos, the palma de cobija,* (* The
roofing palm-tree Corypha tectorum.) which has but a few folded and
palmate leaves, like those of the chamaerops, and of which the
lower-most are constantly withered. We were surprised to see that
almost all these trunks of the corypha were nearly of the same size,
namely, from twenty to twenty-four feet high, and from eight to ten
inches diameter at the foot. Nature has produced few species of
palm-trees in such prodigious numbers. Amidst thousands of trunks
loaded with olive-shaped fruits we found about one hundred without
fruit. May we suppose that there are some trees with flowers purely
monoecious, mingled with others furnished with hermaphrodite flowers?

The Llaneros, or inhabitants of the plains, believe that all these
trees, though so low, are many centuries old. Their growth is almost
imperceptible, being scarcely to be noticed in the lapse of twenty or
thirty years. The wood of the palma de cobija is excellent for
building. It is so hard, that it is difficult to drive a nail into it.
The leaves, folded like a fan, are employed to cover the roofs of the
huts scattered through the Llanos; and these roofs last more than
twenty years. The leaves are fixed by bending the extremity of the
footstalks, which have been beaten beforehand between two stones, so
that they may bend without breaking.

Beside the solitary trunks of this palm-tree, we find dispersed here
and there in the steppes a few clumps, real groves (palmares), in
which the corypha is intermingled with a tree of the proteaceous
family, called chaparro by the natives. It is a new species of
rhopala,* (* Resembling the Embothrium, of which we found no species
in South America. The embothriums are represented in American
vegetation by the genera Lomatia and Oreocallis.) with hard and
resonant leaves. The little groves of rhopala are called chaparales;
and it may be supposed that, in a vast plain, where only two or three
species of trees are to be found, the chaparro, which affords shade,
is considered a highly valuable plant. The corypha spreads through the
Llanos of Caracas from Mesa de Peja as far as Guayaval; farther north
and north-west, near Guanare and San Carlos, its place is taken by
another species of the same genus, with leaves alike palmate but
larger. It is called the royal palm of the plains (palma real de los
Llanos).* (* This palm-tree of the plains must not be confounded with
the palma real of Caracas and of Curiepe, with pinnate leaves.) Other
palm-trees rise south of Guayaval, especially the piritu with pinnate
leaves,* (* Perhaps an Aiphanes.) and the moriche (Mauritia flexuosa),
celebrated by Father Gumilla under the name of arbol de la vida, or
tree of life. It is the sago-tree of America, furnishing flour, wine,
thread for weaving hammocks, baskets, nets, and clothing. Its fruit,
of the form of the cones of the pine, and covered with scales,
perfectly resembles that of the Calamus rotang. It has somewhat the
taste of the apple. When arrived at its maturity it is yellow within
and red without. The araguato monkeys eat it with avidity; and the
nation of the Guaraounos, whose whole existence, it may be said, is
closely linked with that of the moriche palm-tree, produce from it a
fermented liquor, slightly acid, and extremely refreshing. This
palm-tree, with its large shining leaves, folded like a fan, preserves
a beautiful verdure at the period of the greatest drought. The mere
sight of it produces an agreeable sensation of coolness, and when
loaded with scaly fruit, it contrasts singularly with the mournful
aspect of the palma de cobija, the foliage of which is always grey and
covered with dust. The Llaneros believe that the former attracts the
vapours in the air;* (* If the head of the moriche were better
furnished with leaves than it generally is, we might perhaps admit
that the soil round the tree preserves its humidity through the
influence of the shade.) and that for this reason, water is constantly
found at its foot, when dug for to a certain depth. The effect is
confounded with the cause. The moriche grows best in moist places; and
it may rather be said that the water attracts the tree. The natives of
the Orinoco, by analogous reasoning, admit, that the great serpents
contribute to preserve humidity in a province. "You would look in vain
for water-serpents," said an old Indian of Javita to us gravely,
"where there are no marshes; because the water ceases to collect when
you imprudently kill the serpents that attract it."

We suffered greatly from the heat in crossing the Mesa de Calabozo.
The temperature of the air augmented sensibly every time that the wind
began to blow. The air was loaded with dust; and during these gusts
the thermometer rose to 40 or 41 degrees. We went slowly forward, for
it would have been dangerous to leave the mules that carried our
instruments. Our guides advised us to fill our hats with the leaves of
the rhopala, to diminish the action of the solar rays on the hair and
the crown of the head. We found relief from this expedient, which was
particularly agreeable, when we could procure the thick leaves of the
pothos or some other similar plant.

It is impossible to cross these burning plains, without inquiring
whether they have always been in the same state; or whether they have
been stripped of their vegetation by some revolution of nature. The
stratum of mould now found on them is in fact very thin. The natives
believe that the palmares and the chaparales (the little groves of
palm-trees and rhopala) were more frequent and more extensive before
the arrival of the Spaniards. Since the Llanos have been inhabited and
peopled with cattle become wild, the savannah is often set on fire, in
order to ameliorate the pasturage. Groups of scattered trees are
accidentally destroyed with the grasses. The plains were no doubt less
bare in the fifteenth century, than they now are; yet the first
Conquistadores, who came from Coro, described them then as savannahs,
where nothing could be perceived but the sky and the turf, generally
destitute of trees, and difficult to traverse on account of the
reverberation of heat from the soil. Why does not the great forest of
the Orinoco extend to the north, on the left bank of that river? Why
does it not fill that vast space that reaches as far as the Cordillera
of the coast, and which is fertilized by numerous rivers? These
questions are connected with all that relates to the history of our
planet. If, indulging in geological reveries, we suppose that the
steppes of America, and the desert of Sahara, have been stripped of
their vegetation by an irruption of the ocean, or that they formed
originally the bottom of an inland sea, we may conceive that thousands
of years have not sufficed for the trees and shrubs to advance from
the borders of the forests, from the skirts of the plains either naked
or covered with turf, toward the centre, and darken so vast a space
with their shade. It is more difficult to explain the origin of bare
savannahs, encircled by forests, than to recognize the causes that
maintain forests and savannahs within their ancient limits, like
continents and seas.

We found the most cordial hospitality at Calabozo, in the house of the
superintendent of the royal plantations, Don Miguel Cousin. The town,
situated between the banks of the Guarico and the Uritucu, contained
at this period only five thousand inhabitants; but everything denoted
increasing prosperity. The wealth of most of the inhabitants consists
in herds, under the management of farmers, who are called hateros,
from the word hato, which signifies in Spanish a house or farm placed
in the midst of pastures. The scattered population of the Llanos being
accumulated on certain points, principally around towns, Calabozo
reckons already five villages or missions in its environs. It is
computed, that 98,000 head of cattle wander in the pastures nearest to
the town. It is very difficult to form an exact idea of the herds
contained in the Llanos of Caracas, Barcelona, Cumana, and Spanish
Guiana. M. Depons, who lived in the town of Caracas longer than I, and
whose statistical statements are generally accurate, reckons in those
vast plains, from the mouths of the Orinoco to the lake of Maracaybo,
1,200,000 oxen, 180,000 horses, and 90,000 mules. He estimates the
produce of these herds at 5,000,000 francs; adding to the value of the
exportation the price of the hides consumed in the country. There
exist, it is believed, in the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, 12,000,000 cows,
and 3,000,000 horses, without comprising in this enumeration the
cattle that have no acknowledged proprietor.

I shall not hazard any general estimates, which from their nature are
too uncertain; but shall only observe that, in the Llanos of Caracas,
the proprietors of the great hatos are entirely ignorant of the number
of the cattle they possess. They only know that of the young cattle,
which are branded every year with a letter or mark peculiar to each
herd. The richest proprietors mark as many as 14,000 head every year;
and sell to the number of five or six thousand. According to official
documents, the exportation of hides from the whole capitania-general
of Caracas amounted annually to 174,000 skins of oxen, and 11,500 of
goats. When we reflect, that these documents are taken from the books
of the custom-houses, where no mention is made of the fraudulent
dealings in hides, we are tempted to believe that the estimate of
1,200,000 oxen wandering in the Llanos, from the Rio Carony and the
Guarapiche to the lake of Maracaybo, is much underrated. The port of
La Guayra alone exported annually from 1789 to 1792, 70,000 or 80,000
hides, entered in the custom-house books, scarcely one-fifth of which
was sent to Spain. The exportation from Buenos Ayres, at the end of
the eighteenth century, was, according to Don Felix de Azara, 800,000
skins. The hides of Caracas are preferred in the Peninsula to those of
Buenos Ayres; because the latter, on account of a longer passage,
undergo a loss of twelve per cent in the tanning. The southern part of
the savannahs, commonly called the Upper Plains (Llanos de arriba), is
very productive in mules and oxen; but the pasturage being in general
less good, these animals are obliged to be sent to other plains to be
fattened before they are sold. The Llano de Monai, and all the Lower
Plains (Llanos de abaxo), abound less in herds, but the pastures are
so fertile, that they furnish meat of an excellent quality for the
supply of the coast. The mules, which are not fit for labour before
the fifth year, are purchased on the spot at the price of fourteen or
eighteen piastres. The horses of the Llanos, descending from the fine
Spanish breed, are not very large; they are generally of a uniform
colour, brown bay, like most of the wild animals. Suffering
alternately from drought and floods, tormented by the stings of
insects and the bites of the large bats, they lead a sorry life. After
having enjoyed for some months the care of man, their good qualities
are developed. Here there are no sheep: we saw flocks only on the
table-land of Quito.

The hatos of oxen have suffered considerably of late from troops of
marauders, who roam over the steppes killing the animals merely to
take their hides. This robbery has increased since the trade of the
Lower Orinoco has become more flourishing. For half a century, the
banks of that great river, from the mouth of the Apure as far as
Angostura, were known only to the missionary-monks. The exportation of
cattle took place from the ports of the northern coast only, namely
from Cumana, Barcelona, Burburata, and Porto Cabello. This dependence
on the coast is now much diminished. The southern part of the plains
has established an internal communication with the Lower Orinoco; and
this trade is the more brisk, as those who devote themselves to it
easily escape the trammels of the prohibitory laws.

The greatest herds of cattle in the Llanos of Caracas are those of the
hatos of Merecure, La Cruz, Belen, Alta Gracia, and Pavon. The Spanish
cattle came from Coro and Tocuyo into the plains. History has
preserved the name of the colonist who first conceived the idea of
peopling these pasturages, inhabited only by deer, and a large species
of cavy.* (* The thick-nosed tapir, or river cavy (Cavia capybara),
called chiguire in those countries.) Christoval Rodriguez sent the
first horned cattle into the Llanos, about the year 1548. He was an
inhabitant of the town of Tocuyo, and had long resided in New Grenada.

When we hear of the innumerable quantity of oxen, horses, and mules,
that are spread over the plains of America, we seem generally to
forget that in civilized Europe, on lands of much less extent, there
exist, in agricultural countries, quantities no less prodigious.
France, according to M. Peuchet, feeds 6,000,000 large horned cattle,
of which 3,500,000 are oxen employed in drawing the plough. In the
Austrian monarchy, the number of oxen, cows, and calves, has been
estimated at 13,400,000 head. Paris alone consumes annually 155,000
horned cattle. Germany receives 150,000 oxen yearly from Hungary.
Domestic animals, collected in small herds, are considered by
agricultural nations as a secondary object in the riches of the state.
Accordingly they strike the imagination much less than those wandering
droves of oxen and horses which alone fill the uncultivated tracts of
the New World. Civilization and social order favour alike the progress
of population, and the multiplication of animals useful to man.

We found at Calabozo, in the midst of the Llanos, an electrical
machine with large plates, electrophori, batteries, electrometers; an
apparatus nearly as complete as our first scientific men in Europe
possess. All these articles had not been purchased in the United
States; they were the work of a man who had never seen any instrument,
who had no person to consult, and who was acquainted with the
phenomena of electricity only by reading the treatise of De Lafond,
and Franklin's Memoirs. Senor Carlos del Pozo, the name of this
enlightened and ingenious man, had begun to make cylindrical
electrical machines, by employing large glass jars, after having cut
off the necks. It was only within a few years he had been able to
procure, by way of Philadelphia, two plates, to construct a plate
machine, and to obtain more considerable effects. It is easy to judge
what difficulties Senor Pozo had to encounter, since the first works
upon electricity had fallen into his hands, and that he had the
courage to resolve to procure himself, by his own industry, all that
he had seen described in his books. Till now he had enjoyed only the
astonishment and admiration produced by his experiments on persons
destitute of all information, and who had never quitted the solitude
of the Llanos; our abode at Calabozo gave him a satisfaction
altogether new. It may be supposed that he set some value on the
opinions of two travellers who could compare his apparatus with those
constructed in Europe. I had brought with me electrometers mounted
with straw, pith-balls, and gold-leaf; also a small Leyden jar which
could be charged by friction according to the method of Ingenhousz,
and which served for my physiological experiments. Senor del Pozo
could not contain his joy on seeing for the first time instruments
which he had not made, yet which appeared to be copied from his own.
We also showed him the effect of the contact of heterogeneous metals
on the nerves of frogs. The name of Galvani and Volta had not
previously been heard in those vast solitudes.

Next to his electrical apparatus, the work of the industry and
intelligence of an inhabitant of the Llanos, nothing at Calabozo
excited in us so great an interest as the gymnoti, which are animated
electrical apparatuses. I was impatient, from the time of my arrival
at Cumana, to procure electrical eels. We had been promised them
often, but our hopes had always been disappointed. Money loses its
value as you withdraw from the coast; and how is the imperturbable
apathy of the ignorant people to be vanquished, when they are not
excited by the desire of gain?

The Spaniards confound all electric fishes under the name of
tembladores.* (* Literally "tremblers," or "producers of trembling.")
There are some of these in the Caribbean Sea, on the coast of Cumana.
The Guayquerie Indians, who are the most skilful and active fishermen
in those parts, brought us a fish, which, they said, benumbed their
hands. This fish ascends the little river Manzanares. It is a new
species of ray, the lateral spots of which are scarcely visible, and
which much resembles the torpedo. The torpedos, which are furnished
with an electric organ externally visible, on account of the
transparency of the skin, form a genus or subgenus different from the
rays properly so called.* (* Cuvier, Regne Animal volume 2. The
Mediterranean contains, according to M. Risso, four species of
electrical torpedos, all formerly confounded under the name of Raia
torpedo; these are Torpedo narke, T. unimaculata, T. galvanii, and T.
marmorata. The torpedo of the Cape of Good Hope, the subject of the
recent experiments of Mr. Todd, is, no doubt, a nondescript species.)
The torpedo of Cumana was very lively, very energetic in its muscular
movements, and yet the electric shocks it gave us were extremely
feeble. They became stronger on galvanizing the animal by the contact
of zinc and gold. Other tembladores, real gymnoti or electric eels,
inhabit the Rio Colorado, the Guarapiche, and several little streams
which traverse the Missions of the Chayma Indians. They abound also in
the large rivers of America, the Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Meta;
but the force of the currents and the depth of the water, prevent them
from being caught by the Indians. They see these fish less frequently
than they feel shocks from them when swimming or bathing in the river.
In the Llanos, particularly in the environs of Calabozo, between the
farms of Morichal and the Upper and Lower Missions, the basins of
stagnant water and the confluents of the Orinoco (the Rio Guarico and
the canos Rastro, Berito, and Paloma) are filled with electric eels.
We at first wished to make our experiments in the house we inhabited
at Calabozo; but the dread of the shocks caused by the gymnoti is so
great, and so exaggerated among the common people, that during three
days we could not obtain one, though they are easily caught, and we
had promised the Indians two piastres for every strong and vigorous
fish. This fear of the Indians is the more extraordinary, as they do
not attempt to adopt precautions in which they profess to have great
confidence. When interrogated on the effect of the tembladores, they
never fail to tell the Whites, that they may be touched with impunity
while you are chewing tobacco. This supposed influence of tobacco on
animal electricity is as general on the continent of South America, as
the belief among mariners of the effect of garlic and tallow on the
magnetic needle.

Impatient of waiting, and having obtained very uncertain results from
an electric eel which had been brought to us alive, but much
enfeebled, we repaired to the Cano de Bera, to make our experiments in
the open air, and at the edge of the water. We set off on the 19th of
March, at a very early hour, for the village of Rastro; thence we were
conducted by the Indians to a stream, which, in the time of drought,
forms a basin of muddy water, surrounded by fine trees,* (* Amyris
lateriflora, A. coriacea, Laurus pichurin. Myroxylon secundum,
Malpighia reticulata.) the clusia, the amyris, and the mimosa with
fragrant flowers. To catch the gymnoti with nets is very difficult, on
account of the extreme agility of the fish, which bury themselves in
the mud. We would not employ the barbasco, that is to say, the roots
of the Piscidea erithyrna, the Jacquinia armillaris, and some species
of phyllanthus, which thrown into the pool, intoxicate or benumb the
eels. These methods have the effect of enfeebling the gymnoti. The
Indians therefore told us that they would "fish with horses,"
(embarbascar con caballos.* (* Meaning to excite the fish by horses.))
We found it difficult to form an idea of this extraordinary manner of
fishing; but we soon saw our guides return from the savannah, which
they had been scouring for wild horses and mules. They brought about
thirty with them, which they forced to enter the pool.

The extraordinary noise caused by the horses' hoofs, makes the fish
issue from the mud, and excites them to the attack. These yellowish
and livid eels, resembling large aquatic serpents, swim on the surface
of the water, and crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules. A
contest between animals of so different an organization presents a
very striking spectacle. The Indians, provided with harpoons and long
slender reeds, surround the pool closely; and some climb up the trees,
the branches of which extend horizontally over the surface of the
water. By their wild cries, and the length of their reeds, they
prevent the horses from running away and reaching the bank of the
pool. The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by the
repeated discharge of their electric batteries. For a long interval
they seem likely to prove victorious. Several horses sink beneath the
violence of the invisible strokes which they receive from all sides,
in organs the most essential to life; and stunned by the force and
frequency of the shocks, they disappear under the water. Others,
panting, with mane erect, and haggard eyes expressing anguish and
dismay, raise themselves, and endeavour to flee from the storm by
which they are overtaken. They are driven back by the Indians into the
middle of the water; but a small number succeed in eluding the active
vigilance of the fishermen. These regain the shore, stumbling at every
step, and stretch themselves on the sand, exhausted with fatigue, and
with limbs benumbed by the electric shocks of the gymnoti.

In less than five minutes two of our horses were drowned. The eel
being five feet long, and pressing itself against the belly of the
horses, makes a discharge along the whole extent of its electric
organ. It attacks at once the heart, the intestines, and the caeliac
fold of the abdominal nerves. It is natural that the effect felt by
the horses should be more powerful than that produced upon man by the
touch of the same fish at only one of his extremities. The horses are
probably not killed, but only stunned. They are drowned from the
impossibility of rising amid the prolonged struggle between the other
horses and the eels.

We had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by killing
successively all the animals engaged; but by degrees the impetuosity
of this unequal combat diminished, and the wearied gymnoti dispersed.
They require a long rest, and abundant nourishment, to repair the
galvanic force which they have lost.* (* The Indians assured us that
when the horses are made to run two days successively into the same
pool, none are killed the second day. See, on the fishing for gymnoti
Views of Nature Bohn's edition page 18.) The mules and horses appear
less frightened; their manes are no longer bristled, and their eyes
express less dread. The gymnoti approach timidly the edge of the
marsh, where they are taken by means of small harpoons fastened to
long cords. When the cords are very dry the Indians feel no shock in
raising the fish into the air. In a few minutes we had five large
eels, most of which were but slightly wounded. Some others were taken,
by the same means, towards evening.

The temperature of the waters in which the gymnoti habitually live, is
from 26 to 27 degrees. Their electric force diminishes it is said, in
colder waters; and it is remarkable that, in general, animals endowed
with electromotive organs, the effects of which are sensible to man,
are not found in the air, but in a fluid that is a conductor of
electricity. The gymnotus is the largest of electrical fishes. I
measured some that were from five feet to five feet three inches long;
and the Indians assert that they have seen them still larger. We found
that a fish of three feet ten inches long weighed twelve pounds. The
transverse diameter of the body, without reckoning the anal fin, which
is elongated in the form of a keel, was three inches and a half. The
gymnoti of the Cano de Bera are of a fine olive-green. The under part
of the head is yellow mingled with red. Two rows of small yellow spots
are placed symmetrically along the back, from the head to the end of
the tail. Every spot contains an excretory aperture. In consequence,
the skin of the animal is constantly covered with a mucous matter,
which, as Volta has proved, conducts electricity twenty or thirty
times better than pure water. It is in general somewhat remarkable,
that no electric fish yet discovered in the different parts of the
world, is covered with scales.* (* We yet know with certainty only
seven electric fishes; Torpedo narke, Risso, T. unimaculata, T.
marmorata, T. galvanii, Silurus electricus, Tetraodon electricus,
Gymnotus electricus. It appears uncertain whether the Trichiurus
indicus has electrical properties or not. See Cuvier's Regne Animal
volume 2. But the genus Torpedo, very different from that of the rays
properly so called, has numerous species in the equatorial seas; and
it is probable that there exist several gymnoti specifically
different. The Indians mentioned to us a black and very powerful
species, inhabiting the marshes of the Apure, which never attains a
length of more than two feet, but which we were not able to procure.
The raton of the Rio de la Magdalena, which I have described under the
name of Gymnotus aequilabiatus (Observations de Zoologie volume 1)
forms a particular sub-genus. This is a Carapa, not scaly, and without
an electric organ. This organ is also entirely wanting in the
Brazilian Carapo, and in all the rays which were carefully examined by

The gymnoti, like our eels, are fond of swallowing and breathing air
on the surface of the water; but we must not thence conclude that the
fish would perish if it could not come up to breathe the air. The
European eel will creep during the night upon the grass; but I have
seen a very vigorous gymnotus that had sprung out of the water, die on
the ground. M. Provencal and myself have proved by our researches on
the respiration of fishes, that their humid bronchiae perform the
double function of decomposing the atmospheric air, and of
appropriating the oxygen contained in water. They do not suspend their
respiration in the air; but they absorb the oxygen like a reptile
furnished with lungs. It is known that carp may be fattened by being
fed, out of the water, if their gills are wet from time to time with
humid moss, to prevent them from becoming dry. Fish separate their
gill-covers wider in oxygen gas than in water. Their temperature
however, does not rise; and they live the same length of time in pure
vital air, and in a mixture of ninety parts nitrogen and ten oxygen.
We found that tench placed under inverted jars filled with air, absorb
half a cubic centimetre of oxygen in an hour. This action takes place
in the gills only; for fishes on which a collar of cork has been
fastened, and leaving their head out of the jar filled with air, do
not act upon the oxygen by the rest of their body.

The swimming-bladder of the gymnotus is two feet five inches long in a
fish of three feet ten inches.* (* Cuvier has shown that in the
Gymnotus electricus there exists, besides the large swimming-bladder,
another situated before it, and much smaller. It looks like the
bifurcated swimming-bladder in the Gymnotus aequilabiatus.) It is
separated by a mass of fat from the external skin; and rests upon the
electric organs, which occupy more than two-thirds of the animal's
body. The same vessels which penetrate between the plates or leaves of
these organs, and which cover them with blood when they are cut
transversely, also send out numerous branches to the exterior surface
of the air-bladder. I found in a hundred parts of the air of the
swimming-bladder four of oxygen and ninety-six of nitrogen. The
medullary substance of the brain displays but a feeble analogy with
the albuminous and gelatinous matter of the electric organs. But these
two substances have in common the great quantity of arterial blood
which they receive, and which is deoxidated in them. We may again
remark, on this occasion, that an extreme activity in the functions of
the brain causes the blood to flow more abundantly towards the head,
as the energy of the movement of the muscles accelerates the
deoxidation of the arterial blood. What a contrast between the
multitude and the diameter of the blood-vessels of the gymnotus, and
the small space occupied by its muscular system! This contrast reminds
the observer, that three functions of animal life, which appear in
other respects sufficiently distinct--the functions of the brain,
those of the electrical organ, and those of the muscles, all require
the afflux and concourse of arterial or oxygenated blood.

It would be temerity to expose ourselves to the first shocks of a very
large and strongly irritated gymnotus. If by chance a stroke be
received before the fish is wounded or wearied by long pursuit, the
pain and numbness are so violent that it is impossible to describe the
nature of the feeling they excite. I do not remember having ever
received from the discharge of a large Leyden jar, a more dreadful
shock than that which I experienced by imprudently placing both my
feet on a gymnotus just taken out of the water. I was affected during
the rest of the day with a violent pain in the knees, and in almost
every joint. To be aware of the difference that exists between the
sensation produced by the Voltaic battery and an electric fish, the
latter should be touched when they are in a state of extreme weakness.
The gymnoti and the torpedos then cause a twitching of the muscles,
which is propagated from the part that rests on the electric organs,
as far as the elbow. We seem to feel, at every stroke, an internal
vibration, which lasts two or three seconds, and is followed by a
painful numbness. Accordingly, the Tamanac Indians call the gymnotus,
in their expressive language, arimna, which means something that
deprives of motion.

The sensation caused by the feeble shocks of an electric eel appeared
to me analogous to that painful twitching with which I have been
seized at each contact of two heterogeneous metals applied to wounds
which I had made on my back by means of cantharides. This difference
of sensation between the effects of electric fishes and those of a
Voltaic battery or a Leyden jar feebly charged has struck every
observer; there is, however, nothing in this contrary to the
supposition of the identity of electricity and the galvanic action of
fishes. The electricity may be the same; but its effects will be
variously modified by the disposition of the electrical apparatus, by
the intensity of the fluid, by the rapidity of the current, and by the
particular mode of action.

In Dutch Guiana, at Demerara for instance, electric eels were formerly
employed to cure paralytic affections. At a time when the physicians
of Europe had great confidence in the effects of electricity, a
surgeon of Essequibo, named Van der Lott, published in Holland a
treatise on the medical properties of the gymnotus. These electric
remedies are practised among the savages of America, as they were
among the Greeks. We are told by Scribonius Largus, Galen, and
Dioscorides, that torpedos cure the headache and the gout. I did not
hear of this mode of treatment in the Spanish colonies which I
visited; and I can assert that, after having made experiments during
four hours successively with gymnoti, M. Bonpland and myself felt,
till the next day, a debility in the muscles, a pain in the joints,
and a general uneasiness, the effect of a strong irritation of the
nervous system.

The gymnotus is neither a charged conductor, nor a battery, nor an
electromotive apparatus, the shock of which is received every time
they are touched with one hand, or when both hands are applied to form
a conducting circle between the opposite poles. The electric action of
the fish depends entirely on its will; because it does not keep its
electric organs always charged, or whether by the secretion of some
fluid, or by any other means alike mysterious to us, it be capable of
directing the action of its organs to an external object. We often
tried, both insulated and otherwise, to touch the fish, without
feeling the least shock. When M. Bonpland held it by the head, or by
the middle of the body, while I held it by the tail, and, standing on
the moist ground, did not take each other's hand, one of us received
shocks, which the other did not feel. It depends upon the gymnotus to
direct its action towards the point where it finds itself most
strongly irritated. The discharge is then made at one point only, and
not at the neighbouring points. If two persons touch the belly of the
fish with their fingers, at an inch distance, and press it
simultaneously, sometimes one, sometimes the other, will receive the
shock. In the same manner, when one insulated person holds the tail of
a vigorous gymnotus, and another pinches the gills or pectoral fin, it
is often the first only by whom the shock is received. It did not
appear to us that these differences could be attributed to the dryness
or moisture of our hands, or to their unequal conducting power. The
gymnotus seemed to direct its strokes sometimes from the whole surface
of its body, sometimes from one point only. This effect indicates less
a partial discharge of the organ composed of an innumerable quantity
of layers, than the faculty which the animal possesses, (perhaps by
the instantaneous secretion of a fluid spread through the cellular
membrane,) of establishing the communication between its organs and
the skin only, in a very limited space.

Nothing proves more strongly the faculty, which the gymnotus
possesses, of darting and directing its stroke at will, than the
observations made at Philadelphia and Stockholm,* on gymnoti rendered
extremely tame. (* By MM. Williamson and Fahlberg. The following
account is given by the latter gentleman. "The gymnotus sent from
Surinam to M. Norderling, at Stockholm, lived more than four months in
a state of perfect health. It was twenty-seven inches long; and the
shocks it gave were so violent, especially in the open air, that I
found scarcely any means of protecting myself by non-conductors, in
transporting the fish from one place to another. Its stomach being
very small, it ate little at a time, but fed often. It approached
living fish, first sending them from afar a shock, the energy of which
was proportionate to the size of the prey. The gymnotus seldom failed
in its aim; one single stroke was almost always sufficient to overcome
the resistance which the strata of water, more or less thick according
to the distance, opposed to the electrical current. When very much
pressed by hunger, it sometimes directed the shocks against the person
who daily brought its food of boiled meat. Persons afflicted with
rheumatism came to touch it in hopes of being cured. They took it at
once by the neck and tail the shocks were in this case stronger than
when touched with one hand only. It almost entirely lost its
electrical power a short time before its death.") When they had been
made to fast a long time, they killed small fishes put into the tub.
They acted from a distance; that is to say, their electrical shock
passed through a very thick stratum of water. We need not be surprised
that what was observed in Sweden, on a single gymnotus only, we could
not perceive in a great number of individuals in their native country.
The electric action of animals being a vital action, and subject to
their will, it does not depend solely on their state of health and
vigour. A gymnotus that has been kept a long time in captivity,
accustoms itself to the imprisonment to which it is reduced; it
resumes by degrees the same habits in the tub, which it had in the
rivers and marshes. An electrical eel was brought to me at Calabozo:
it had been taken in a net, and consequently having no wound. It ate
meat, and terribly frightened the little tortoises and frogs which,
not aware of their danger, placed themselves on its back. The frogs
did not receive the stroke till the moment when they touched the body
of the gymnotus. When they recovered, they leaped out of the tub; and
when replaced near the fish, they were frightened at the mere sight of
it. We then observed nothing that indicated an action at a distance;
but our gymnotus, recently taken, was not yet sufficiently tame to
attack and devour frogs. On approaching the finger, or the metallic
points, very close to the electric organs, no shock was felt. Perhaps
the animal did not perceive the proximity of a foreign body; or, if it
did, we must suppose that in the commencement of its captivity,
timidity prevented it from darting forth its energetic strokes except
when strongly irritated by an immediate contact. The gymnotus being
immersed in water, I placed my hand, both armed and unarmed with
metal, within a very small distance from the electric organs; yet the
strata of water transmitted no shock, while M. Bonpland irritated the
animal strongly by an immediate contact, and received some very
violent shocks. Had we placed a very delicate electroscope in the
contiguous strata of water, it might possibly have been influenced at
the moment when the gymnotus seemed to direct its stroke elsewhere.
Prepared frogs, placed immediately on the body of a torpedo,
experience, according to Galvani, a strong contraction at every
discharge of the fish.

The electrical organ of the gymnoti acts only under the immediate
influence of the brain and the heart. On cutting a very vigorous fish
through the middle of the body, the fore part alone gave shocks. These
are equally strong in whatever part of the body the fish is touched;
it is most disposed, however, to emit them when the pectoral fin, the
electrical organ, the lips, the eyes, or the gills, are pinched.
Sometimes the animal struggles violently with a person holding it by
the tail, without communicating the least shock. Nor did I feel any
when I made a slight incision near the pectoral fin of the fish, and
galvanized the wound by the contact of two pieces of zinc and silver.
The gymnotus bent itself convulsively, and raised its head out of the
water, as if terrified by a sensation altogether new; but I felt no
vibration in the hands which held the two metals. The most violent
muscular movements are not always accompanied by electric discharges.

The action of the fish on the human organs is transmitted and
intercepted by the same bodies that transmit and intercept the
electrical current of a conductor charged by a Leyden jar, or Voltaic
battery. Some anomalies, which we thought we observed, are easily
explained, when we recollect that even metals (as is proved from their
ignition when exposed to the action of the battery) present a slight
obstacle to the passage of electricity; and that a bad conductor
annihilates the effect, on our organs, of a feeble electric charge,
whilst it transmits to us the effect of a very strong one. The
repulsive force which zinc and silver exercise together being far
superior to that of gold and silver, I have found that when a frog,
prepared and armed with silver, is galvanized under water, the
conducting arc of zinc produces contraction as soon as one of its
extremities approaches the muscles within three lines distance; while
an arc of gold does not excite the organs, when the stratum of water
between the gold and the muscles is more than half a line thick. In
the same manner, by employing a conducting arc composed of two pieces
of zinc and silver soldered together endways; and resting, as before,
one of the extremities of the metallic circuit on the femoral nerve,
it is necessary, in order to produce contractions, to bring the other
extremity of the conductor nearer and nearer to the muscles, in
proportion as the irritability of the organs diminishes. Toward the
end of the experiment the slightest stratum of water prevents the
passage of the electrical current, and it is only by the immediate
contact of the arc with the muscles, that the contractions take place.
These effects are, however, dependent on three variable circumstances;
the energy of the electromotive apparatus, the conductibility of the
medium, and the irritability of the organs which receive the
impressions: it is because experiments have not been sufficiently
multiplied with a view to these three variable elements, that, in the
action of electric eels and torpedos, accidental circumstances have
been taken for absolute conditions, without which the electric shocks
are not felt.

In wounded gymnoti, which give feeble but very equal shocks, these
shocks appeared to us constantly stronger on touching the body of the
fish with a hand armed with metal, than with the naked hand. They are
stronger also, when, instead of touching the fish with one hand,
naked, or armed with metal, we press it at once with both hands,
either naked or armed. These differences become sensible only when one
has gymnoti enough at disposal to be able to choose the weakest; and
when the extreme equality of the electric discharges admits of
distinguishing between the sensations felt alternately by the hand
naked or armed with a metal, by one or both hands naked, and by one or
both hands armed with metal. It is also in the case only of small
shocks, feeble and uniform, that they are more sensible on touching
the gymnotus with one hand (without forming a chain) with zinc, than
with copper or iron.

Resinous substances, glass, very dry wood, horn, and even bones, which
are generally believed to be good conductors, prevent the action of
the gymnoti from being transmitted to man. I was surprised at not
feeling the least shock on pressing wet sticks of sealing-wax against
the organs of the fish, while the same animal gave me the most violent
strokes, when excited by means of a metallic rod. M. Bonpland received
shocks, when carrying a gymnotus on two cords of the fibres of the
palm-tree, which appeared to us extremely dry. A strong discharge
makes its way through very imperfect conductors. Perhaps also the
obstacle which the conductor presents renders the discharge more
painful. I touched the gymnotus with a wet pot of brown clay, without
effect; yet I received violent shocks when I carried the gymnotus in
the same pot, because the contact was greater.

When two persons, insulated or otherwise, hold each other's hands, and
only one of these persons touches the fish with the hand, either naked
or armed with metal, the shock is most commonly felt by both at once.
However, it sometimes happens that, in the most severe shocks, the
person who comes into immediate contact with the fish alone feels
them. When the gymnotus is exhausted, or in a very reduced state of
excitability, and will no longer emit strokes on being irritated with
one hand, the shocks are felt in a very vivid manner, on forming the
chain, and employing both hands. Even then, however, the electric
shock takes place only at the will of the animal. Two persons, one of
whom holds the tail, and the other the head, cannot, by joining hands
and forming a chain, force the gymnotus to dart his stroke.

Though employing the most delicate electrometers in various ways,
insulating them on a plate of glass, and receiving very strong shocks
which passed through the electrometer, I could never discover any
phenomenon of attraction or repulsion. The same observation was made
by M. Fahlberg at Stockholm. That philosopher, however, has seen an
electric spark, as Walsh and Ingenhousz had before him, in London, by
placing the gymnotus in the air, and interrupting the conducting chain
by two gold leaves pasted upon glass, and a line distant from each
other. No person, on the contrary, has ever perceived a spark issue
from the body of the fish itself. We irritated it for a long time
during the night, at Calabozo, in perfect darkness, without observing
any luminous appearance. Having placed four gymnoti, of unequal
strength, in such a manner as to receive the shocks of the most
vigorous fish by contact, that is to say, by touching only one of the
other fishes, I did not observe that these last were agitated at the
moment when the current passed their bodies. Perhaps the current did
not penetrate below the humid surface of the skin. We will not,
however, conclude from this, that the gymnoti are insensible to
electricity; and that they cannot fight with each other at the bottom
of the pools. Their nervous system must be subject to the same agents
as the nerves of other animals. I have indeed seen, that, on laying
open their nerves, they undergo muscular contractions at the mere
contact of two opposite metals; and M. Fahlberg, of Stockholm, found
that his gymnotus was convulsively agitated when placed in a copper
vessel, and feeble discharges from a Leyden jar passed through its

After the experiments I had made on gymnoti, it became highly
interesting to me, on my return to Europe, to ascertain with precision
the various circumstances in which another electric fish, the torpedo
of our seas, gives or does not give shocks. Though this fish had been
examined by numerous men of science, I found all that had been
published on its electrical effects extremely vague. It has been very
arbitrarily supposed, that this fish acts like a Leyden jar, which may
be discharged at will, by touching it with both hands; and this
supposition appears to have led into error observers who have devoted
themselves to researches of this kind. M. Gay-Lussac and myself,
during our journey to Italy, made a great number of experiments on
torpedos taken in the gulf of Naples. These experiments furnish many
results somewhat different from those I collected on the gymnoti. It
is probable that the cause of these anomalies is owing rather to the
inequality of electric power in the two fishes, than to the different
disposition of their organs.

Though the power of the torpedo cannot be compared with that of the
gymnotus, it is sufficient to cause very painful sensations. A person
accustomed to electric shocks can with difficulty hold in his hands a
torpedo of twelve or fourteen inches, and in possession of all its
vigour. When the torpedo gives only very feeble strokes under water,
they become more sensible if the animal be raised above the surface. I
have often observed the same phenomenon in experimenting on frogs.

The torpedo moves the pectoral fins convulsively every time it emits a
stroke; and this stroke is more or less painful, according as the
immediate contact takes place by a greater or less surface. We
observed that the gymnotus gives the strongest shocks without making
any movement with the eyes, head, or fins.* (* The anal fin of the
gymnoti only has a sensible motion when these fishes are excited under
the belly, where the electric organ is placed.) Is this difference
caused by the position of the electric organ, which is not double in
the gymnoti? or does the movement of the pectoral fins of the torpedo
directly prove that the fish restores the electrical equilibrium by
its own skin, discharges itself by its own body, and that we generally
feel only the effect of a lateral shock?

We cannot discharge at will either a torpedo or a gymnotus, as we
discharge at will a Leyden jar or a Voltaic battery. A shock is not
always felt, even on touching the electric fish with both hands. We
must irritate it to make it give the shock. This action in the
torpedos, as well as in the gymnoti, is a vital action; it depends on
the will only of the animal, which perhaps does not always keep its
electric organs charged, or does not always employ the action of its
nerves to establish the chain between the positive and negative poles.
It is certain that the torpedo gives a long series of shocks with
astonishing celerity; whether it is that the plates or laminae of its
organs are not wholly exhausted, or that the fish recharges them

The electric stroke is felt, when the animal is disposed to give it,
whether we touch with a single finger only one of the surfaces of the
organs, or apply both hands to the two surfaces, the superior and
inferior, at once. In either case it is altogether indifferent whether
the person who touches the fish with one finger or both hands be
insulated or not. All that has been said on the necessity of a
communication with the damp ground to establish a circuit, is founded
on inaccurate observations.

M. Gay-Lussac made the important observation that when an insulated
person touches the torpedo with one finger, it is indispensible that
the contact be direct. The fish may with impunity be touched with a
key, or any other metallic instrument; no shock is felt when a
conducting or non-conducting body is interposed between the finger and
the electrical organ of the torpedo. This circumstance proves a great
difference between the torpedo and the gymnotus, the latter giving his
strokes through an iron rod several feet long.

When the torpedo is placed on a metallic plate of very little
thickness, so that the plate touches the inferior surface of the
organs, the hand that supports the plate never feels any shock, though
another insulated person may excite the animal, and the convulsive
movement of the pectoral fins may denote the strongest and most
reiterated discharges.

If, on the contrary, a person support the torpedo placed upon a
metallic plate, with the left hand, as in the foregoing experiment,
and the same person touch the superior surface of the electrical organ
with the right hand, a strong shock is then felt in both arms. The
sensation is the same when the fish is placed between two metallic
plates, the edges of which do not touch, and the person applies both
hands at once to these plates. The interposition of one metallic plate
prevents the communication if that plate be touched with one hand
only, while the interposition of two metallic plates does not prevent
the shock when both hands are applied. In the latter case it cannot be
doubted that the circulation of the fluid is established by the two

If, in this situation of the fish between two plates, there exist any
immediate communication between the edges of these two plates, no
shock takes place. The chain between the two surfaces of the electric
organ is then formed by the plates, and the new communication,
established by the contact of the two hands with the two plates,
remains without effect. We carried the torpedo with impunity between
two plates of metal, and felt the strokes it gave only at the instant
when they ceased to touch each other at the edges.

Nothing in the torpedo or in the gymnotus indicates that the animal
modifies the electrical state of the bodies by which it is surrounded.
The most delicate electrometer is no way affected in whatever manner
it is employed, whether bringing it near the organs or insulating the
fish, covering it with a metallic plate, and causing the plate to
communicate by a conducting wire with the condenser of Volta. We were
at great pains to vary the experiments by which we sought to render
the electrical tension of the torpedo sensible; but they were
constantly without effect, and perfectly confirmed what M. Bonpland
and myself had observed respecting the gymnoti, during our abode in
South America.

Electrical fishes, when very vigorous, act with equal energy under
water and in the air. This observation led us to examine the
conducting property of water; and we found that, when several persons
form the chain between the superior and inferior surface of the organs
of the torpedo, the shock is felt only when these persons join hands.
The action is not intercepted if two persons, who support the torpedo
with their right hands, instead of taking one another by the left
hand, plunge each a metallic point into a drop of water placed on an
insulating substance. On substituting flame for the drop of water, the
communication is interrupted, and is only re-established, as in the
gymnotus, when the two points immediately touch each other in the
interior of the flame.

We are, doubtless, very far from having discovered all the secrets of
the electrical action of fishes which is modified by the influence of
the brain and the nerves; but the experiments we have just described
are sufficient to prove that these fishes act by a concealed
electricity, and by electromotive organs of a peculiar construction,
which are recharged with extreme rapidity. Volta admits that the
discharges of the opposite electricities in the torpedos and the
gymnoti are made by their own skin, and that when we touch them with
one hand only, or by means of a metallic point, we feel the effect of
a lateral shock, the electrical current not being directed solely the
shortest way. When a Leyden jar is placed on a wet woollen cloth
(which is a bad conductor), and the jar is discharged in such a manner
that the cloth makes part of the chain, prepared frogs, placed at
different distances, indicate by their contractions that the current
spreads itself over the whole cloth in a thousand different ways.
According to this analogy, the most violent shock given by the
gymnotus at a distance would be but a feeble part of the stroke which
re-establishes the equilibrium in the interior of the fish.* (* The
heterogeneous poles of the double electrical organs must exist in each
organ. Mr. Todd has recently proved, by experiments made on torpedos
at the Cape of Good Hope, that the animal continues to give violent
shocks when one of these organs is extirpated. On the contrary, all
electrical action is stopped (and this point, as elucidated by
Galvani, is of the greatest importance) if injury be inflicted on the
brain, or if the nerves which supply the plates of the electrical
organs be divided. In the latter case, the nerves being cut, and the
brain left untouched, the torpedo continues to live, and perform every
muscular movement. A fish, exhausted by too numerous electrical
discharges, suffered much more than another fish deprived, by dividing
the nerves, of any communication between the brain and the
electromotive apparatus. Philosophical Transactions 1816.) As the
gymnotus directs its stroke wherever it pleases, it must also be
admitted that the discharge is not made by the whole skin at once, but
that the animal, excited perhaps by the motion of a fluid poured into
one part of the cellular membrane, establishes at will the
communication between its organs and some particular part of the skin.
It may be conceived that a lateral stroke, out of the direct current,
must become imperceptible under the two conditions of a very weak
discharge, or a very great obstacle presented by the nature and length
of the conductor. Notwithstanding these considerations, it appears to
me very surprising that shocks of the torpedo, strong in appearance,
are not propagated to the hand when a very thin plate of metal is
interposed between it and the fish.

Schilling declared that the gymnotus approached the magnet
involuntarily. We tried in a thousand ways this supposed influence of
the magnet on the electrical organs, without having ever observed any
sensible effect. The fish no more approached the magnet, than a bar of
iron not magnetic. Iron-filings, thrown on its back, remained

The gymnoti, which are objects of curiosity and of the deepest
interest to the philosophers of Europe, are at once dreaded and
detested by the natives. They furnish, indeed, in their muscular
flesh, pretty good aliment; but the electric organ fills the greater
part of their body, and this organ is slimy, and disagreeable to the
taste; it is accordingly separated with care from the rest of the eel.
The presence of gymnoti is also considered as the principal cause of
the want of fish in the ponds and pools of the Llanos. They, however,
kill many more than they devour: and the Indians told us, that when
young alligators and gymnoti are caught at the same time in very
strong nets, the latter never show the slightest trace of a wound,
because they disable the young alligators before they are attacked by
them. All the inhabitants of the waters dread the society of the
gymnoti. Lizards, tortoises, and frogs, seek pools where they are
secure from the electric action. It became necessary to change the
direction of a road near Uritucu, because the electric eels were so
numerous in one river, that they every year killed a great number of
mules, as they forded the water with their burdens.

Though in the present state of our knowledge we may flatter ourselves
with having thrown some light on the extraordinary effects of electric
fishes, yet a vast number of physical and physiological researches
still remain to be made. The brilliant results which chemistry has
obtained by means of the Voltaic battery, have occupied all observers,
and turned attention for some time from the examinations of the
phenomena of vitality. Let us hope that these phenomena, the most
awful and the most mysterious of all, will in their turn occupy the
earnest attention of natural philosophers. This hope will be easily
realized if they succeed in procuring anew living gymnoti in some one
of the great capitals of Europe. The discoveries that will be made on
the electromotive apparatus of these fish, much more energetic, and
more easy of preservation, than the torpedos,* will extend to all the
phenomena of muscular motion subject to volition. (* In order to
investigate the phenomena of the living electromotive apparatus in its
greatest simplicity, and not to mistake for general conditions
circumstances which depend on the degree of energy of the electric
organs, it is necessary to perform the experiments on those electrical
fishes most easily tamed. If the gymnoti were not known, we might
suppose, from the observations made on torpedos, that fishes cannot
give their shocks from a distance through very thick strata of water,
or through a bar of iron, without forming a circuit. Mr. Williamson
has felt strong shocks when he held only one hand in the water, and
this hand, without touching the gymnotus, was placed between it and
the small fish towards which the stroke was directed from ten or
fifteen inches distance. Philosophical Transactions volume 65 pages 99
and 108. When the gymnotus was enfeebled by bad health, the lateral
shock was imperceptible; and in order to feel the shock, it was
necessary to form a chain, and touch the fish with both hands at once.
Cavendish, in his ingenious experiments on an artificial torpedo, had
well remarked these differences, depending on the greater or less
energy of the charge. Philosophical Transactions 1776 page 212.) It
will perhaps be found that, in most animals, every contraction of the
muscular fibre is preceded by a discharge from the nerve into the
muscle; and that the mere simple contact of heterogeneous substances
is a source of movement and of life in all organized beings. Did an
ingenious and lively people, the Arabians, guess from remote
antiquity, that the same force which inflames the vault of Heaven in
storms, is the living and invisible weapon of inhabitants of the
waters? It is said, that the electric fish of the Nile bears a name in
Egypt, that signifies thunder.* (* It appears, however, that a
distinction is to be made between rahd, thunder, and rahadh, the
electrical fish; and that this latter word means simply that which
causes trembling.)

We left the town of Calabozo on the 24th of March, highly satisfied
with our stay, and the experiments we had made on an object so worthy
of the attention of physiologists. I had besides obtained some good
observations of the stars; and discovered with surprise, that the
errors of maps amounted here also to a quarter of a degree of
latitude. No person had taken an observation before me on this spot;
and geographers, magnifying as usual the distance from the coast to
the islands, have carried back beyond measure all the localities
towards the south.

As we advanced into the southern part of the Llanos, we found the
ground more dusty, more destitute of herbage, and more cracked by the
effect of long drought. The palm-trees disappeared by degrees. The
thermometer kept, from eleven in the morning till sunset, at 34 or 35
degrees. The calmer the air appeared at eight or ten feet high, the
more we were enveloped in those whirlwinds of dust, caused by the
little currents of air that sweep the ground. About four o'clock in
the afternoon, we found a young Indian girl stretched upon the
savannah. She was almost in a state of nudity, and appeared to be
about twelve or thirteen years of age. Exhausted with fatigue and
thirst, her eyes, nostrils, and mouth filled with dust, she breathed
with a rattling in her throat, and was unable to answer our questions.
A pitcher, overturned, and half filled with sand, was lying at her
side. Happily one of our mules was laden with water; and we roused the
girl from her lethargic state by bathing her face, and forcing her to
drink a few drops of wine. She was at first alarmed on seeing herself
surrounded by so many persons; but by degrees she took courage, and
conversed with our guides. She judged, from the position of the sun,
that she must have remained during several hours in that state of
lethargy. We could not prevail on her to mount one of our beasts of
burden, and she would not return to Uritucu. She had been in service
at a neighbouring farm; and she had been discharged, because at the
end of a long sickness she was less able to work than before. Our
menaces and prayers were alike fruitless; insensible to suffering,
like the rest of her race, she persisted in her resolution of going to
one of the Indian Missions near the city of Calabozo. We removed the
sand from her pitcher, and filled it with water. She resumed her way
along the steppe, before we had remounted our horses, and was soon
separated from us by a cloud of dust. During the night we forded the
Rio Uritucu, which abounds with a breed of crocodiles remarkable for
their ferocity. We were advised to prevent our dogs from going to
drink in the rivers, for it often happens that the crocodiles of
Uritucu come out of the water, and pursue dogs upon the shore. This
intrepidity is so much the more striking, as at eight leagues
distance, the crocodiles of the Rio Tisnao are extremely timid, and
little dangerous. The manners of animals vary in the same species
according to local circumstances difficult to be determined. We were
shown a hut, or rather a kind of shed, in which our host of Calabozo,
Don Miguel Cousin, had witnessed a very extraordinary scene. Sleeping
with one of his friends on a bench or couch covered with leather, Don
Miguel was awakened early in the morning by a violent shaking and a
horrible noise. Clods of earth were thrown into the middle of the hut.
Presently a young crocodile two or three feet long issued from under
the bed, darted at a dog which lay on the threshold of the door, and,
missing him in the impetuosity of his spring, ran towards the beach to
gain the river. On examining the spot where the barbacoa, or couch,
was placed, the cause of this strange adventure was easily discovered.
The ground was disturbed to a considerable depth. It was dried mud,
which had covered the crocodile in that state of lethargy, or
summer-sleep, in which many of the species lie during the absence of
the rains in the Llanos. The noise of men and horses, perhaps the
smell of the dog, had aroused the crocodile. The hut being built at
the edge of the pool, and inundated during part of the year, the
crocodile had no doubt entered, at the time of the inundation of the
savannahs, by the same opening at which it was seen to go out. The
Indians often find enormous boas, which they call uji, or
water-serpents,* in the same lethargic state. (* Culebra de agua,
named by the common people traga-venado, the swallower of stags. The
word uji belongs to the Tamanac language.) To reanimate them, they
must be irritated, or wetted with water. Boas are killed, and immersed
in the streams, to obtain, by means of putrefaction, the tendinous
parts of the dorsal muscles, of which excellent guitar-strings are
made at Calabozo, preferable to those furnished by the intestines of
the alouate monkeys.

The drought and heat of the Llanos act like cold upon animals and
plants. Beyond the tropics the trees lose their leaves in a very dry
air. Reptiles, particularly crocodiles and boas, having very indolent
habits, leave with reluctance the basins in which they have found
water at the period of great inundations. In proportion as the pools
become dry, these animals penetrate into the mud, to seek that degree
of humidity which gives flexibility to their skin and integuments. In
this state of repose they are seized with stupefaction; but possibly
they preserve a communication with the external air; and, however
little that communication may be, it possibly suffices to keep up the
respiration of an animal of the saurian family, provided with enormous
pulmonary sacs, exerting no muscular motion, and in which almost all
the vital functions are suspended. It is probable that the mean
temperature of the dried mud, exposed to the solar rays, is more than
40 degrees. When the north of Egypt, where the coolest month does not
fall below 13.4 degrees, was inhabited by crocodiles, they were often
found torpid with cold. They were subject to a winter-sleep, like the
European frog, lizard, sand-martin, and marmot. If the hibernal
lethargy be observed, both in cold-blooded and in hot-blooded animals,
we shall be less surprised to learn, that these two classes furnish
alike examples of a summer-sleep. In the same manner as the crocodiles
of South America, the tanrecs, or Madagascar hedgehogs, in the midst
of the torrid zone, pass three months of the year in lethargy.

On the 25th of March we traversed the smoothest part of the steppes of
Caracas, the Mesa de Pavones. It is entirely destitute of the corypha
and moriche palm-trees. As far as the eye can reach, not a single
object fifteen inches high can be discovered. The air was clear, and
the sky of a very deep blue; but the horizon reflected a livid and
yellowish light, caused no doubt by the quantity of sand suspended in
the atmosphere. We met some large herds of cattle, and with them
flocks of birds of a black colour with an olive shade. They are of the
genus Crotophaga,* and follow the cattle. (* The Spanish colonists
call the Crotophaga ani, zamurito (little carrion vulture--Vultur aura
minuta), or garapatero, the eater of garaparas, insects of the Acarus
family.) We had often seen them perched on the backs of cows, seeking
for gadflies and other insects. Like many birds of these desert
places, they fear so little the approach of man, that children often
catch them in their hands. In the valleys of Aragua, where they are
very common, we have seen them perch upon the hammocks on which we
were reposing, in open day.

We discover, between Calabozo, Uritucu, and the Mesa de Pavones,
wherever there are excavations of some feet deep, the geological
constitution of the Llanos. A formation of red sandstone (ancient
conglomerate) covers an extent of several thousand square leagues. We
shall find it again in the vast plains of the Amazon, on the eastern
boundary of the province of Jaen de Bracamoros. This prodigious
extension of red sandstone in the low grounds stretching along the
east of the Andes, is one of the most striking phenomena I observed
during my examination of rocks in the equinoctial regions.

The red sandstone of the Llanos of Caracas lies in a concave position,
between the primitive mountains of the shore and of Parime. On the
north it is backed by the transition-slates,* (* At Malpaso and
Piedras Azules.) and on the south it rests immediately on the granites
of the Orinoco. We observed in it rounded fragments of quartz
(kieselschiefer), and Lydian stone, cemented by an olive-brown
ferruginous clay. The cement is sometimes of so bright a red that the
people of the country take it for cinnabar. We met a Capuchin monk at
Calabozo, who was in vain attempting to extract mercury from this red
sandstone. In the Mesa de Paja this rock contains strata of another
quartzose sandstone, very fine-grained; more to the south it contains
masses of brown iron, and fragments of petrified trees of the
monocotyledonous family, but we did not see in it any shells. The red
sandstone, called by the Llaneros, the stone of the reefs (piedra de
arrecifes), is everywhere covered with a stratum of clay. This clay,
dried and hardened in the sun, splits into separate prismatic pieces
with five or six sides. Does it belong to the trap-formation of
Parapara? It becomes thicker, and mixed with sand, as we approach the
Rio Apure; for near Calabozo it is one toise thick, near the mission
of Guayaval five toises, which may lead to the belief that the strata
of red sandstone dips towards the south. We gathered in the Mesa de
Pavones little nodules of blue iron-ore disseminated in the clay.

A dense whitish-gray limestone, with a smooth fracture, somewhat
analogous to that of Caripe, and consequently to that of Jura, lies on
the red sandstone between Tisnao and Calabozo.* (* Does this formation
of secondary limestone of the Llanos contain galena? It has been found
in strata of black marl, at Barbacoa, between Truxillo and
Barquesimeto, north-west of the Llanos.) In several other places, for
instance in the Mesa de San Diego, and between Ortiz and the Mesa de
Paja,* (* Also near Cachipe and San Joacquim, in the Llanos of
Barcelona.) we find above the limestone lamellar gypsum alternating
with strata of marl. Considerable quantities of this gypsum are sent
to the city of Caracas,* which is situated amidst primitive mountains.
(* This trade is carried on at Parapara. A load of eight arrobas sells
at Caracas for twenty-four piastres.)

This gypsum generally forms only small beds, and is mixed with a great
deal of fibrous gypsum. Is it of the same formation as that of Guire,
on the coast of Paria, which contains sulphur? or do the masses of
this latter substance, found in the valley of Buen Pastor and on the
banks of the Orinoco, belong, with the argillaceous gypsum of the
Llanos, to a secondary formation much more recent.

These questions are very interesting in the study of the relative
antiquity of rocks, which is the principal basis of geology. I know
not of any salt-deposits in the Llanos. Horned cattle prosper here
without those famous bareros, or muriatiferous lands, which abound in
the Pampas of Buenos Ayres.* (* Known in North America under the name
of salt-licks.)

After having wandered for a long time, and without any traces of a
road, in the desert savannahs of the Mesa de Pavones, we were
agreeably surprised when we came to a solitary farm, the Hato de Alta
Gracia, surrounded with gardens and basins of limpid water. Hedges of
bead-trees encircled groups of icacoes laden with fruit. Farther on we
passed the night near the small village of San Geronymo del Guayaval,
founded by Capuchin missionaries. It is situated near the banks of the
Rio Guarico, which falls into the Apure. I visited the missionary, who
had no other habitation than his church, not having yet built a house.
He was a young man, and he received us in the most obliging manner,
giving us all the information we desired. His village, or to use the
word established among the monks, his Mission, was not easy to govern.
The founder, who had not hesitated to establish for his own profit a
pulperia, in other words, to sell bananas and guarapo in the church
itself, had shown himself to be not very nice in the choice of the new
colonists. Many marauders of the Llanos had settled at Guayaval,
because the inhabitants of a Mission are exempt from the authority of
secular law. Here, as in Australia, it cannot be expected that good
colonists will be formed before the second or third generation.

We passed the Guarico, and encamped in the savannahs south of
Guayaval. Enormous bats, no doubt of the tribe of Phyllostomas,
hovered as usual over our hammocks during a great part of the night.
Every moment they seemed to be about to fasten on our faces. Early in
the morning we pursued our way over low grounds, often inundated. In
the season of rains, a boat may be navigated, as on a lake, between
the Guarico and the Apure. We arrived on the 27th of March at the
Villa de San Fernando, the capital of the Mission of the Capuchins in
the province of Varinas. This was the termination of our journey over
the Llanos; for we passed the three months of April, May, and June on
the rivers.



Till the second half of the eighteenth century the names of the great
rivers Apure, Arauca, and Meta were scarcely known in Europe:
certainly less than they had been in the two preceding centuries, when
the valiant Felipe de Urre and the conquerors of Tocuyo traversed the
Llanos, to seek, beyond the Apure, the great legendary city of El
Dorado, and the rich country of the Omeguas, the Timbuctoo of the New
Continent. Such daring expeditions could not be carried out without
all the apparatus of war; and the weapons, which had been destined for
the defence of the new colonists, were employed without intermission
against the unhappy natives. When more peaceful times succeeded to
those of violence and public calamity, two powerful Indian tribes, the
Cabres and the Caribs of the Orinoco, made themselves masters of the
country which the Conquistadores had ceased to ravage. None but poor
monks were then permitted to advance to the south of the steppes.
Beyond the Uritucu an unknown world opened to the Spanish colonists;
and the descendants of those intrepid warriors who had extended their
conquests from Peru to the coasts of New Grenada and the mouth of the
Amazon, knew not the roads that lead from Coro to the Rio Meta. The
shore of Venezuela remained a separate country; and the slow conquests
of the Jesuit missionaries were successful only by skirting the banks
of the Orinoco. These fathers had already penetrated beyond the great
cataracts of Atures and Maypures, when the Andalusian Capuchins had
scarcely reached the plains of Calabozo, from the coast and the
valleys of Aragua. It would be difficult to explain these contrasts by
the system according to which the different monastic orders are
governed; for the aspect of the country contributes powerfully to the
more or less rapid progress of the Missions. They extend but slowly
into the interior of the land, over mountains, or in steppes, wherever
they do not follow the course of a particular river. It will scarcely
be believed, that the Villa de Fernando de Apure, only fifty leagues
distant in a direct line from that part of the coast of Caracas which
has been longest inhabited, was founded at no earlier a date than
1789. We were shown a parchment, full of fine paintings, containing
the privileges of this little town. The parchment was sent from Madrid
at the solicitation of the monks, whilst yet only a few huts of reeds
were to be seen around a great cross raised in the centre of the
hamlet. The missionaries and the secular governments being alike
interested in exaggerating in Europe what they have done to augment
the culture and population of the provinces beyond the sea, it often
happens that names of towns and villages are placed on the list of new
conquests, long before their foundation.

The situation of San Fernando, on a large navigable river, near the
mouth of another river which traverses the whole province of Varinas,
is extremely advantageous for trade. Every production of that
province, hides, cacao, cotton, and the indigo of Mijagual, which is
of the first quality, passes through this town towards the mouths of
the Orinoco. During the season of rains large vessels go from
Angostura as far as San Fernando de Apure, and by the Rio Santo
Domingo as far as Torunos, the port of the town of Varinas. At that
period the inundations of the rivers, which form a labyrinth of
branches between the Apure, the Arauca, the Capanaparo, and the
Sinaruco, cover a country of nearly four hundred square leagues. At
this point, the Orinoco, turned aside from its course, not by
neighbouring mountains, but by the rising of counterslopes, runs
eastward instead of following its previous direction in the line of
the meridian. Considering the surface of the globe as a polyhedron,
formed of planes variously inclined, we may conceive by the mere
inspection of the maps, that the intersection of these slopes, rising
towards the north, the west, and south,* between San Fernando de
Apure, Caycara, and the mouth of the Meta, must cause a considerable
depression. (* The risings towards the north and west are connected
with two lines of ridges, the mountains of Villa de Cura and of
Merida. The third slope, running from north to south, is that of the
land-strait between the Andes and the chain of Parime. It determines
the general inclination of the Orinoco, from the mouth of the Guaviare
to that of the Apure.) The savannahs in this basin are covered with
twelve or fourteen feet of water, and present, at the period of rains,
the aspect of a great lake. The farms and villages which seem as if
situated on shoals, scarcely rise two or three feet above the surface
of the water. Everything here calls to mind the inundations of Lower
Egypt, and the lake of Xarayes, heretofore so celebrated among
geographers, though it exists only during some months of the year. The
swellings of the rivers Apure, Meta, and Orinoco, are also periodical.
In the rainy season, the horses that wander in the savannah, and have
not time to reach the rising grounds of the Llanos, perish by
hundreds. The mares are seen, followed by their colts,* swimming
during a part of the day to feed upon the grass, the tops of which
alone wave above the waters. (The colts are drowned everywhere in
large numbers, because they are sooner tired of swimming, and strive
to follow the mares in places where the latter alone can touch the
ground.) In this state they are pursued by the crocodiles, and it is
by no means uncommon to find the prints of the teeth of these
carnivorous reptiles on their thighs. The carcases of horses, mules,
and cows, attract an innumerable quantity of vultures. The zamuros are
the ibisis of this country, and they render the same service to the
inhabitants of the Llanos as the Vultur percnopterus to the
inhabitants of Egypt.

We cannot reflect on the effects of these inundations without admiring
the prodigious pliability of the organization of the animals which man
has subjected to his sway. In Greenland the dog eats the refuse of the
fisheries; and when fish are wanting, feeds on seaweed. The ass and
the horse, originally natives of the cold and barren plains of Upper
Asia, follow man to the New World, return to the wild state, and lead
a restless and weary life in the burning climates of the tropics.
Pressed alternately by excess of drought and of humidity, they
sometimes seek a pool in the midst of a bare and dusty plain, to
quench their thirst; and at other times flee from water, and the
overflowing rivers, as menaced by an enemy that threatens them on all
sides. Tormented during the day by gadflies and mosquitos, the horses,
mules, and cows find themselves attacked at night by enormous bats,
which fasten on their backs, and cause wounds that become dangerous,
because they are filled with acaridae and other hurtful insects. In
the time of great drought the mules gnaw even the thorny cactus* in
order to imbibe its cooling juice, and draw it forth as from a
vegetable fountain. (* The asses are particularly adroit in extracting
the moisture contained in the Cactus melocatus. They push aside the
thorns with their hoofs; but sometimes lame themselves in performing
this feat.) During the great inundations these same animals lead an
amphibious life, surrounded by crocodiles, water-serpents, and
manatees. Yet, such are the immutable laws of nature, that their races
are preserved in the struggle with the elements, and amid so many
sufferings and dangers. When the waters retire, and the rivers return
again into their beds, the savannah is overspread with a beautiful
scented grass; and the animals of Europe and Upper Asia seem to enjoy,
as in their native climes, the renewed vegetation of spring.

During the time of great floods, the inhabitants of these countries,
to avoid the force of the currents, and the danger arising from the
trunks of trees which these currents bring down, instead of ascending
the beds of rivers in their boats, cross the savannahs. To go from San
Fernando to the villages of San Juan de Payara, San Raphael de
Atamaica, or San Francisco de Capanaparo, they direct their course due
south, as if they were crossing a single river of twenty leagues
broad. The junctions of the Guarico, the Apure, the Cabullare, and the
Arauca with the Orinoco, form, at a hundred and sixty leagues from the
coast of Guiana, a kind of interior Delta, of which hydrography
furnishes few examples in the Old World. According to the height of
the mercury in the barometer, the waters of the Apure have only a fall
of thirty-four toises from San Fernando to the sea. The fall from the
mouths of the Osage and the Missouri to the bar of the Mississippi is
not more considerable. The savannahs of Lower Louisiana everywhere
remind us of the savannahs of the Lower Orinoco.

During our stay of three days in the little town of San Fernando, we
lodged with the Capuchin missionary, who lived much at his ease. We
were recommended to him by the bishop of Caracas, and he showed us the
most obliging attention. He consulted me on the works that had been
undertaken to prevent the flood from undermining the shore on which
the town was built. The flowing of the Portuguesa into the Apure gives
the latter an impulse towards south-east; and, instead of procuring a
freer course for the river, attempts were made to confine it by dykes
and piers. It was easy to predict that these would be rapidly
destroyed by the swell of the waters, the shore having been weakened
by taking away the earth from behind the dyke to employ it in these
hydraulic constructions.

San Fernando is celebrated for the excessive heat which prevails there
the greater part of the year; and before I begin the recital of our
long navigation on the rivers, I shall relate some facts calculated to
throw light on the meteorology of the tropics. We went, provided with
thermometers, to the flat shores covered with white sand which border
the river Apure. At two in the afternoon I found the sand, wherever it
was exposed to the sun, at 52.5 degrees. The instrument, raised
eighteen inches above the sand, marked 42.8 degrees, and at six feet
high 38.7 degrees. The temperature of the air under the shade of a
ceiba was 36.2 degrees. These observations were made during a dead
calm. As soon as the wind began to blow, the temperature of the air
rose 3 degrees higher, yet we were not enveloped by a wind of sand,
but the strata of air had been in contact with a soil more strongly
heated, or through which whirlwinds of sand had passed. This western
part of the Llanos is the hottest, because it receives air that has
already crossed the rest of the barren steppe. The same difference has
been observed between the eastern and western parts of the deserts of
Africa, where the trade-winds blow.

The heat augments sensibly in the Llanos during the rainy season,
particularly in the month of July, when the sky is cloudy, and
reflects the radiant heat toward the earth. During this season the
breeze entirely ceases; and, according to good thermometrical
observations made by M. Pozo, the thermometer rises in the shade to 39
and 39.5 degrees, though kept at the distance of more than fifteen
feet from the ground. As we approached the banks of the Portuguesa,
the Apure, and the Apurito, the air became cooler from the evaporation
of so considerable a mass of water. This effect is more especially
perceptible at sunset. During the day the shores of the rivers,
covered with white sand, reflect the heat in an insupportable degree,
even more than the yellowish brown clayey grounds of Calabozo and

On the 28th of March I was on the shore at sunrise to measure the
breadth of the Apure, which is two hundred and six toises. The thunder
rolled in all directions around. It was the first storm and the first
rain of the season. The river was swelled by the easterly wind; but it
soon became calm, and then some great cetacea, much resembling the
porpoises of our seas, began to play in long files on the surface of
the water. The slow and indolent crocodiles seem to dread the
neighbourhood of these animals, so noisy and impetuous in their
evolutions, for we saw them dive whenever they approached. It is a
very extraordinary phenomenon to find cetacea at such a distance from
the coast. The Spaniards of the Missions designate them, as they do
the porpoises of the ocean, by the name of toninas. The Tamanacs call
them orinucna. They are three or four feet long; and bending their
back, and pressing with their tail on the inferior strata of the
water, they expose to view a part of the back and of the dorsal fin. I
did not succeed in obtaining any, though I often engaged Indians to
shoot at them with their arrows. Father Gili asserts that the Gumanos
eat their flesh. Are these cetacea peculiar to the great rivers of
South America, like the manatee, which, according to Cuvier, is also a
fresh water cetaceous animal? or must we admit that they go up from
the sea against the current, as the beluga sometimes does in the
rivers of Asia? What would lead me to doubt this last supposition is,
that we saw toninas above the great cataracts of the Orinoco, in the
Rio Atabapo. Did they penetrate into the centre of equinoctial America
from the mouth of the Amazon, by the communication of that river with
the Rio Negro, the Cassiquiare, and the Orinoco? They are found here
at all seasons, and nothing seems to denote that they make periodical
migrations like salmon.

While the thunder rolled around us, the sky displayed only scattered
clouds, that advanced slowly toward the zenith, and in an opposite
direction. The hygrometer of Deluc was at 53 degrees, the centigrade
thermometer 23.7 degrees, and Saussure's hygrometer 87.5 degrees. The
electrometer gave no sign of electricity. As the storm gathered, the
blue of the sky changed at first to deep azure and then to grey. The
vesicular vapour became visible, and the thermometer rose three
degrees, as is almost always the case, within the tropics, from a
cloudy sky which reflects the radiant heat of the soil. A heavy rain
fell. Being sufficiently habituated to the climate not to fear the
effect of tropical rains, we remained on the shore to observe the
electrometer. I held it more than twenty minutes in my hand, six feet
above the ground, and observed that in general the pith-balls
separated only a few seconds before the lightning was seen. The
separation was four lines. The electric charge remained the same
during several minutes; and having time to determine the nature of the
electricity, by approaching a stick of sealing-wax, I saw here what I
had often observed on the ridge of the Andes during a storm, that the
electricity of the atmosphere was first positive, then nil, and then
negative. These oscillations from positive to negative were often
repeated. Yet the electrometer constantly denoted, a little before the
lightning, only E., or positive E., and never negative E. Towards the
end of the storm the west wind blew very strongly. The clouds
dispersed, and the thermometer sunk to 22 degrees on account of the
evaporation from the soil, and the freer radiation towards the sky.

I have entered into these details on the electric charge of the
atmosphere because travellers in general confine themselves to the
description of the impressions produced on a European newly arrived by
the solemn spectacle of a tropical storm. In a country where the year
is divided into great seasons of drought and wet, or, as the Indians
say in their expressive language, of sun* (* In the Maypure dialect
camoti, properly the heat [of the sun]. The Tamanacs call the season
of drought uamu, the time of grasshoppers.) and rain* (* In the
Tamanac language canepo. The year is designated, among several
nations, by the name of one of the two seasons. The Maypures say, so
many suns, (or rather so many heats;) the Tamanacs, so many rains.),
it is highly interesting to follow the progress of meteorological
phenomena in the transition from one season to another. We had already
observed, in the valleys of Aragua from the 18th and 19th of February,
clouds forming at the commencement of the night. In the beginning of
the month of March the accumulation of the vesicular vapours, visible
to the eye, and with them signs of atmospheric electricity, augmented
daily. We saw flashes of heat-lightning to the south; and the
electrometer of Volta constantly displayed, at sunset, positive
electricity. The pith balls, unexcited during the day, separated to
the width of three or four lines at the commencement of the night,
which is triple what I generally observed in Europe, with the same
instrument, in calm weather. Upon the whole, from the 26th of May, the
electrical equilibrium of the atmosphere seemed disturbed. During
whole hours the electricity was nil, then it became very strong, and
soon after was again imperceptible. The hygrometer of Deluc continued
to indicate great dryness (from 33 to 35 degrees), and yet the
atmosphere appeared no longer the same. Amidst these perpetual
variations of the electric state of the air, the trees, divested of
their foliage, already began to unfold new leaves, and seemed to feel
the approach of spring.

The variations which we have just described are not peculiar to one
year. Everything in the equinoctial zone has a wonderful uniformity of
succession, because the active powers of nature limit and balance each
other, according to laws that are easily recognized. I shall here note
the progress of atmospherical phenomena in the islands to the east of
the Cordilleras of Merida and of New Grenada, in the Llanos of
Venezuela and the Rio Meta, from four to ten degrees of north
latitude, wherever the rains are constant from May to October, and
comprehending consequently the periods of the greatest heats, which
occur in July and August.* (* The maximum of the heat is not felt on
the coast, at Cumana, at La Guayra, and in the neighbouring island of
Margareta, before the month of September; and the rains, if the name
can be given to a few drops that fall at intervals, are observed only
in the months of October and November.)

Nothing can equal the clearness of the atmosphere from the month of
December to that of February. The sky is then constantly without
clouds; and if one should appear, it is a phenomenon that engages the
whole attention of the inhabitants. A breeze from the east, and from
east-north-east, blows with violence. As it brings with it air always
of the same temperature, the vapours cannot become visible by cooling.

About the end of February and the beginning of March, the blue of the
sky is less intense, the hygrometer indicates by degrees greater
humidity, the stars are sometimes veiled by a slight stratum of
vapour, and their light is no longer steady and planetary; they are
seen twinkling from time to time when at 20 degrees above the horizon.
The breeze at this period becomes less strong, less regular, and is
often interrupted by dead calms. The clouds accumulate towards
south-south-east, appearing like distant mountains, with outlines
strongly marked. From time to time they detach themselves from the
horizon, and traverse the vault of the sky with a rapidity which
little corresponds with the feeble wind prevailing in the lower strata
of the air. At the end of March, the southern region of the atmosphere
is illumined by small electric explosions. They are like
phosphorescent gleams, circumscribed by vapour. The breeze then shifts
from time to time, and for several hours together, to the west and
south-west. This is a certain sign of the approach of the rainy
season, which begins at the Orinoco about the end of April. The blue
sky disappears, and a grey tint spreads uniformly over it. At the same
time the heat of the atmosphere progressively increases; and soon the
heavens are no longer obscured by clouds, but by condensed vapours.
The plaintive cry of the howling apes begins to be heard before
sunrise. The atmospheric electricity, which, during the season of
drought, from December to March, had been constantly, in the day-time,
from 1.7 to 2 lines, becomes extremely variable from the month of
March. It appears nil during whole days; and then for some hours the
pith-balls diverge three or four lines. The atmosphere, which is
generally, in the torrid as well as in the temperate zone, in a state
of positive electricity, passes alternately, for eight or ten minutes,
to the negative state. The season of rains is that of storms; and yet
a great number of experiments made during three years, prove to me
that it is precisely in this season of storms we find the smallest
degree of electric tension in the lower regions of the atmosphere. Are
storms the effect of this unequal charge of the different
superincumbent strata of air? What prevents the electricity from
descending towards the earth, in air which becomes more humid after
the month of March? The electricity at this period, instead of being
diffused throughout the whole atmosphere, appears accumulated on the
exterior envelope, at the surface of the clouds. According to M.
Gay-Lussac it is the formation of the cloud itself that carries the
fluid toward its surface. The storm rises in the plains two hours
after the sun has passed the meridian; consequently a short time after
the moment of the maximum of diurnal heat within the tropics. It is
extremely rare in the islands to hear thunder during the night, or in
the morning. Storms at night are peculiar to certain valleys of
rivers, having a peculiar climate.

What then are the causes of this rupture of the equilibrium in the
electric tension of the air? of this continual condensation of the
vapours into water? of this interruption of the breezes? of this
commencement and duration of the rainy seasons? I doubt whether
electricity has any influence on the formation of vapours. It is
rather the formation of these vapours that augments and modifies the
electrical tension. North and south of the equator, storms or great
explosions take place at the same time in the temperate and in the
equinoctial zone. Is there an action propagated through the great
aerial ocean from the temperate zone towards the tropics? How can it
be conceived, that in that zone where the sun rises constantly to so
great a height above the horizon, its passage through the zenith can
have so powerful an influence on the meteorological variations? I am
of opinion that no local cause determines the commencement of the
rains within the tropics; and that a more intimate knowledge of the
higher currents of air will elucidate these problems, so complicated
in appearance. We can observe only what passes in the lower strata of
the atmosphere. The Andes are scarcely inhabited beyond the height of
two thousand toises; and at that height the proximity of the soil, and
the masses of mountains, which form the shoals of the aerial ocean,
have a sensible influence on the ambient air. What we observe on the
table-land of Antisana is not what we should find at the same height
in a balloon, hovering over the Llanos or the surface of the ocean.

We have just seen that the season of rains and storms in the northern
equinoctial zone coincides with the passage of the sun through the
zenith of the place,* (* These passages take place, in the fifth and
tenth degrees of north latitude between the 3rd and the 16th of April,
and between the 27th of August and the 8th of September.) with the
cessation of the north-east breezes, and with the frequency of calms
and bendavales, which are stormy winds from south-east and south-west,
accompanied by a cloudy sky. I believe that, in reflecting on the
general laws of the equilibrium of the gaseous masses constituting our
atmosphere, we may find, in the interruption of the current that blows
from an homonymous pole, in the want of the renewal of air in the
torrid zone, and in the continued action of an ascending humid
current, a very simple cause of the coincidence of these phenomena.
While the north-easterly breeze blows with all its violence north of
the equator, it prevents the atmosphere which covers the equinoctial
lands and seas from saturating itself with moisture. The hot and moist
air of the torrid zone rises aloft, and flows off again towards the
poles; while inferior polar currents, bringing drier and colder
strata, are every instant taking the place of the columns of ascending
air. By this constant action of two opposite currents, the humidity,
far from being accumulated in the equatorial region, is carried
towards the cold and temperate regions. During this season of breezes,
which is that when the sun is in the southern signs, the sky in the
northern equinoctial zone is constantly serene. The vesicular vapours
are not condensed, because the air, unceasingly renewed, is far from
the point of saturation. In proportion as the sun, entering the
northern signs, rises towards the zenith, the breeze from the
north-east moderates, and by degrees entirely ceases. The difference
of temperature between the tropics and the temperate northern zone is
then the least possible. It is the summer of the boreal pole; and, if
the mean temperature of the winter, between 42 and 52 degrees of north
latitude, be from 20 to 26 degrees of the centigrade thermometer less
than the equatorial heat, the difference in summer is scarcely from 4
to 6 degrees. The sun being in the zenith, and the breeze having
ceased, the causes which produce humidity, and accumulate it in the
northern equinoctial zone, become at once more active. The column of
air reposing on this zone, is saturated with vapours, because it is no
longer renewed by the polar current. Clouds form in this air saturated
and cooled by the combined effects of radiation and the dilatation of
the ascending air. This air augments its capacity for heat in
proportion as it rarefies. With the formation and collection of the
vesicular vapours, electricity accumulates in the higher regions of
the atmosphere. The precipitation of the vapours is continual during
the day; but it generally ceases at night, and frequently even before
sunset. The showers are regularly more violent, and accompanied with
electric explosions, a short time after the maximum of the diurnal
heat. This state of things remains unchanged, till the sun enters into
the southern signs. This is the commencement of cold in the northern
temperate zone. The current from the north-pole is then
re-established, because the difference between the heat of the
equinoctial and temperate regions augments daily. The north-east
breeze blows with violence, the air of the tropics is renewed, and can
no longer attain the degree of saturation. The rains consequently
cease, the vesicular vapour is dissolved, and the sky resumes its
clearness and its azure tint. Electrical explosions are no longer
heard, doubtless because electricity no longer comes in contact with
the groups of vesicular vapours in the high regions of the air, I had
almost said the coating of clouds, on which the fluid can accumulate.

We have here considered the cessation of the breezes as the principal
cause of the equatorial rains. These rains in each hemisphere last
only as long as the sun has its declination in that hemisphere. It is
necessary to observe, that the absence of the breeze is not always
succeeded by a dead calm; but that the calm is often interrupted,
particularly along the western coast of America, by bendavales, or
south-west and south-east winds. This phenomenon seems to demonstrate
that the columns of humid air which rise in the northern equatorial
zone, sometimes flow off toward the south pole. In fact, the countries
situated in the torrid zone, both north and south of the equator,
furnish, during their summer, while the sun is passing through their
zenith, the maximum of difference of temperature with the air of the
opposite pole. The southern temperate zone has its winter, while it
rains on the north of the equator; and while a mean heat prevails from
5 to 6 degrees greater than in the time of drought, when the sun is
lower.* (* From the equator to 10 degrees of north latitude the mean
temperatures of the summer and winter months scarcely differ 2 or 3
degrees; but at the limits of the torrid zone, toward the tropic of
Cancer, the difference amounts to 8 or 9 degrees.) The continuation of
the rains, while the bendavales blow, proves that the currents from
the remoter pole do not act in the northern equinoctial zone like the
currents of the nearer pole, on account of the greater humidity of the
southern polar current. The air, wafted by this current, comes from a
hemisphere consisting almost entirely of water. It traverses all the
southern equatorial zone to reach the parallel of 8 degrees north
latitude; and is consequently less dry, less cold, less adapted to act
as a counter-current to renew the equinoctial air and prevent its
saturation, than the northern polar current, or the breeze from the
north-east.* (* In the two temperate zones the air loses its
transparency every time that the wind blows from the opposite pole,
that is to say, from the pole that has not the same denomination as
the hemisphere in which the wind blows.) We may suppose that the
bendavales are impetuous winds which, on some coasts, for instance on
that of Guatimala, (because they are not the effect of a regular and
progressive descent of the air of the tropics towards the south pole,
but they alternate with calms), are accompanied by electrical
explosions, and are in fact squalls, that indicate a reflux, an abrupt
and instantaneous rupture, of equilibrium in the aerial ocean.

We have here discussed one of the most important phenomena of the
meteorology of the tropics, considered in its most general view. In
the same manner as the limits of the trade-winds do not form circles
parallel with the equator, the action of the polar currents is
variously felt in different meridians. The chains of mountains and the
coasts in the same hemisphere have often opposite seasons. There are
several examples of these anomalies; but, in order to discover the
laws of nature, we must know, before we examine into the causes of
local perturbations, the average state of the atmosphere, and the
constant type of its variations.

The aspect of the sky, the progress of the electricity, and the shower
of the 28th of March, announced the commencement of the rainy season;
we were still advised, however, to go from San Fernando de Apure by
San Francisco de Capanaparo, the Rio Sinaruco, and the Hato de San
Antonio, to the village of the Ottomacs, recently founded near the
banks of the Meta, and to embark on the Orinoco a little above
Carichana. This way by land lies across an unhealthy and feverish
country. An old farmer named Francisco Sanchez obligingly offered to
conduct us. His dress denoted the great simplicity of manners
prevailing in those distant countries. He had acquired a fortune of
more than 100,000 piastres, and yet he mounted on horseback with his
feet bare, and wearing large silver spurs. We knew by the experience
of several weeks the dull uniformity of the vegetation of the Llanos,
and preferred the longer road, which leads by the Rio Apure to the
Orinoco. We chose one of those very large canoes called lanchas by the
Spaniards. A pilot and four Indians were sufficient to manage it. They
constructed, near the stern, in the space of a few hours, a cabin
covered with palm-leaves, sufficiently spacious to contain a table and
benches. These were made of ox-hides, strained tight, and nailed to
frames of brazil-wood. I mention these minute circumstances, to prove
that our accommodations on the Rio Apure were far different from those
to which we were afterwards reduced in the narrow boats of the
Orinoco. We loaded the canoe with provision for a month. Fowls, eggs,
plantains, cassava, and cacao, are found in abundance at San Fernando.
The good Capuchin, Fray Jose Maria de Malaga, gave us sherry wine,
oranges, and tamarinds, to make cooling beverages. We could easily
foresee that a roof constructed of palm-tree leaves would become
excessively hot on a large river, where we were almost always exposed
to the perpendicular rays of the sun. The Indians relied less on the
provision we had purchased, than on their hooks and nets. We took also
some fire-arms, which we found in general use as far as the cataracts;
but farther south the great humidity of the air prevents the
missionaries from using them. The Rio Apure abounds in fish, manatees,
and turtles, the eggs of which afford an aliment more nutritious than
agreeable to the taste. Its banks are inhabited by an innumerable
quantity of birds, among which the pauxi and the guacharaca, which may
be called the turkeys and pheasants of those countries, are found to
be the most useful. Their flesh appeared to be harder and less white
than that of the gallinaceous tribe in Europe, because they use much
more muscular exercise. We did not forget to add to our provision,
fishing-tackle, fire-arms, and a few casks of brandy, to serve as a
medium of barter with the Indians of the Orinoco.

We departed from San Fernando on the 30th of March, at four in the
afternoon. The weather was extremely hot; the thermometer rising in
the shade to 34 degrees, though the breeze blew very strongly from the
south-east. Owing to this contrary wind we could not set our sails. We
were accompanied, in the whole of this voyage on the Apure, the
Orinoco, and the Rio Negro, by the brother-in-law of the governor of
the province of Varinas, Don Nicolas Soto, who had recently arrived
from Cadiz. Desirous of visiting countries so calculated to excite the
curiosity of a European, he did not hesitate to confine himself with
us during seventy-four days in a narrow boat infested with mosquitos.
His amiable disposition and gay temper often helped to make us forget
the sufferings of a voyage which was not wholly exempt from danger. We
passed the mouth of the Apurito, and coasted the island of the same
name, formed by the Apure and the Guarico. This island is in fact only
a very low spot of ground, bordered by two great rivers, both of
which, at a little distance from each other, fall into the Orinoco,
after having formed a junction below San Fernando by the first
bifurcation of the Apure. The Isla del Apurito is twenty-two leagues
in length, and two or three leagues in breadth. It is divided by the
Cano de la Tigrera and the Cano del Manati into three parts, the two
extremes of which bear the names of Isla de Blanco and Isla de los
Garzitas. The right bank of the Apure, below the Apurito, is somewhat
better cultivated than the left bank, where the Yaruros, or Japuin
Indians, have constructed a few huts with reeds and stalks of
palm-leaves. These people, who live by hunting and fishing, are very
skilful in killing jaguars. It is they who principally carry the
skins, known in Europe by the name of tiger-skins, to the Spanish
villages. Some of these Indians have been baptized, but they never
visit the Christian churches. They are considered as savages because
they choose to remain independent. Other tribes of Yaruros live under
the rule of the missionaries, in the village of Achaguas, situated
south of the Rio Payara. The individuals of this nation, whom I had an
opportunity of seeing at the Orinoco, have a stern expression of
countenance; and some features in their physiognomy, erroneously
called Tartarian, belong to branches of the Mongol race, the eye very
long, the cheekbones high, but the nose prominent throughout its whole
length. They are taller, browner, and less thick-set than the Chayma
Indians. The missionaries praise the intellectual character of the
Yaruros, who were formerly a powerful and numerous nation on the banks
of the Orinoco, especially in the environs of Cuycara, below the mouth
of the Guarico. We passed the night at Diamante, a small
sugar-plantation formed opposite the island of the same name.

During the whole of my voyage from San Fernando to San Carlos del Rio
Negro, and thence to the town of Angostura, I noted down day by day,
either in the boat or where we disembarked at night, all that appeared
to me worthy of observation. Violent rains, and the prodigious
quantity of mosquitos with which the air is filled on the banks of the
Orinoco and the Cassiquiare, necessarily occasioned some
interruptions; but I supplied the omission by notes taken a few days
after. I here subjoin some extracts from my journal. Whatever is
written while the objects we describe are before our eyes bears a
character of truth and individuality which gives attraction to things
the least important.

On the 31st March a contrary wind obliged us to remain on shore till
noon. We saw a part of some cane-fields laid waste by the effect of a
conflagration which had spread from a neighbouring forest. The
wandering Indians everywhere set fire to the forest where they have
encamped at night; and during the season of drought, vast provinces
would be the prey of these conflagrations if the extreme hardness of
the wood did not prevent the trees from being entirely consumed. We
found trunks of desmanthus and mahogany which were scarcely charred
two inches deep.

Having passed the Diamante we entered a land inhabited only by tigers,
crocodiles, and chiguires; the latter are a large species of the genus
Cavia of Linnaeus. We saw flocks of birds, crowded so closely together
as to appear against the sky like a dark cloud which every instant
changed its form. The river widens by degrees. One of its banks is
generally barren and sandy from the effect of inundations; the other
is higher, and covered with lofty trees. In some parts the river is
bordered by forests on each side, and forms a straight canal a hundred
and fifty toises broad. The manner in which the trees are disposed is
very remarkable. We first find bushes of sauso,* (* Hermesia
castaneifolia. This is a new genus, approaching the alchornea of
Swartz.) forming a kind of hedge four feet high, and appearing as if
they had been clipped by the hand of man. A copse of cedar,
brazilletto, and lignum-vitae, rises behind this hedge. Palm-trees are
rare; we saw only a few scattered trunks of the thorny piritu and
corozo. The large quadrupeds of those regions, the jaguars, tapirs,
and peccaries, have made openings in the hedge of sauso which we have
just described. Through these the wild animals pass when they come to
drink at the river. As they fear but little the approach of a boat, we
had the pleasure of viewing them as they paced slowly along the shore
till they disappeared in the forest, which they entered by one of the
narrow passes left at intervals between the bushes. These scenes,
which were often repeated, had ever for me a peculiar attraction. The
pleasure they excite is not owing solely to the interest which the
naturalist takes in the objects of his study, it is connected with a
feeling common to all men who have been brought up in the habits of
civilization. You find yourself in a new world, in the midst of
untamed and savage nature. Now the jaguar--the beautiful panther of
America--appears upon the shore; and now the hocco,* (* Ceyx alector,
the peacock-pheasant; C. pauxi, the cashew-bird.) with its black
plumage and tufted head, moves slowly along the sausos. Animals of the
most different classes succeed each other. "Esse como en el Paradiso,"
"It is just as it was in Paradise," said our pilot, an old Indian of
the Missions. Everything, indeed, in these regions recalls to mind the
state of the primitive world with its innocence and felicity. But in
carefully observing the manners of animals among themselves, we see
that they mutually avoid and fear each other. The golden age has
ceased; and in this Paradise of the American forests, as well as
everywhere else, sad and long experience has taught all beings that
benignity is seldom found in alliance with strength.

When the shore is of considerable breadth, the hedge of sauso remains
at a distance from the river. In the intermediate space we see
crocodiles, sometimes to the number of eight or ten, stretched on the
sand. Motionless, with their jaws wide open, they repose by each
other, without displaying any of those marks of affection observed in
other animals living in society. The troop separates as soon as they
quit the shore. It is, however, probably composed of one male only,
and many females; for as M. Descourtils, who has so much studied the
crocodiles of St. Domingo, observed to me, the males are rare, because
they kill one another in fighting during the season of their loves.
These monstrous creatures are so numerous, that throughout the whole
course of the river we had almost at every instant five or six in
view. Yet at this period the swelling of the Rio Apure was scarcely
perceived; and consequently hundreds of crocodiles were still buried
in the mud of the savannahs. About four in the afternoon we stopped to
measure a dead crocodile which had been cast ashore. It was only
sixteen feet eight inches long; some days after M. Bonpland found
another, a male, twenty-two feet three inches long. In every zone, in
America as in Egypt, this animal attains the same size. The species so
abundant in the Apure, the Orinoco,* (* It is the arua of the Tamanac
Indians, the amana of the Maypure Indians, the Crocodilus acutus of
Cuvier.) and the Rio de la Magdalena, is not a cayman, but a real
crocodile, analogous to that of the Nile, having feet dentated at the
external edges. When it is recollected that the male enters the age of
puberty only at ten years, and that its length is then eight feet, we
may presume that the crocodile measured by M. Bonpland was at least
twenty-eight years old. The Indians told us, that at San Fernando
scarcely a year passes, without two or three grown-up persons,
particularly women who fetch water from the river, being drowned by
these carnivorous reptiles. They related to us the history of a young
girl of Uritucu, who by singular intrepidity and presence of mind,
saved herself from the jaws of a crocodile. When she felt herself
seized, she sought the eyes of the animal, and plunged her fingers
into them with such violence, that the pain forced the crocodile to
let her go, after having bitten off the lower part of her left arm.
The girl, notwithstanding the enormous quantity of blood she lost,
reached the shore, swimming with the hand that still remained to her.
In those desert countries, where man is ever wrestling with nature,
discourse daily turns on the best means that may be employed to escape
from a tiger, a boa, or a crocodile; every one prepares himself in
some sort for the dangers that may await him. "I knew," said the young
girl of Uritucu coolly, "that the cayman lets go his hold, if you push
your fingers into his eyes." Long after my return to Europe, I learned
that in the interior of Africa the negroes know and practise the same
means of defence. Who does not recollect, with lively interest, Isaac,
the guide of the unfortunate Mungo Park, who was seized twice by a
crocodile, and twice escaped from the jaws of the monster, having
succeeded in thrusting his fingers into the creature's eyes while
under water. The African Isaac, and the young American girl, owed
their safety to the same presence of mind, and the same combination of

The movements of the crocodile of the Apure are sudden and rapid when
it attacks any object; but it moves with the slowness of a salamander,
when not excited by rage or hunger. The animal in running makes a
rustling noise, which seems to proceed from the rubbing of the scales
of its skin one against another. In this movement it bends its back,
and appears higher on its legs than when at rest. We often heard this
rattling of the scales very near us on the shore; but it is not true,
as the Indians pretend, that, like the armadillo, the old crocodiles
"can erect their scales, and every part of their armour." The motion
of these animals is no doubt generally in a straight line, or rather
like that of an arrow, supposing it to change its direction at certain
distances. However, notwithstanding the little apparatus of false
ribs, which connects the vertebrae of the neck, and seems to impede
the lateral movement, crocodiles can turn easily when they please. I
often saw young ones biting their tails; and other observers have seen
the same action in crocodiles at their full growth. If their movements
almost always appear to be straight forward, it is because, like our
small lizards, they move by starts. Crocodiles are excellent swimmers;
they go with facility against the most rapid current. It appeared to
me, however, that in descending the river, they had some difficulty in
turning quickly about. A large dog, which had accompanied us in our
journey from Caracas to the Rio Negro, was one day pursued in swimming
by an enormous crocodile. The latter had nearly reached its prey, when
the dog escaped by turning round suddenly and swimming against the
current. The crocodile performed the same movement, but much more
slowly than the dog, which succeeded in gaining the shore.

The crocodiles of the Apure find abundant food in the chiguires
(thick-nosed tapirs),* which live fifty or sixty together in troops on
the banks of the river. (* Cavia capybara, Linn. The word chiguire
belongs to the language of the Palenkas and the Cumanagotos. The
Spaniards call this animal guardatinaja; the Caribs, capigua; the
Tamanacs, cappiva; and the Maypures, chiato. According to Azara, it is
known at Buenos Ayres by the Indian names of capiygua and capiguara.
These various denominations show a striking analogy between the
languages of the Orinoco and those of the Rio de la Plata.) These
animals, as large as our pigs, have no weapons of defence; they swim
somewhat better than they run: yet they become the prey of the
crocodiles in the water, and of the tigers on land. It is difficult to
conceive, how, being thus persecuted by two powerful enemies, they
become so numerous; but they breed with the same rapidity as the
little cavies or guinea-pigs, which come to us from Brazil.

We stopped below the mouth of the Cano de la Tigrera, in a sinuosity
called la Vuelta del Joval, to measure the velocity of the water at
its surface. It was not more than 3.2 feet* in a second, which gives
2.56 feet for the mean velocity. (* In order to measure the velocity
of the surface of a river, I generally measured on the beach a base of
250 feet, and observed with the chronometer the time that a floating
body, abandoned to the current, required to reach this distance.) The
height of the barometer indicated barely a slope of seventeen inches
in a mile of nine hundred and fifty toises. The velocity is the
simultaneous effect of the slope of the ground, and the accumulation
of the waters by the swelling of the upper parts of the river. We were
again surrounded by chiguires, which swim like dogs, raising their
heads and necks above the water. We saw with surprise a large
crocodile on the opposite shore, motionless, and sleeping in the midst
of these nibbling animals. It awoke at the approach of our canoe, and
went into the water slowly, without frightening the chiguires. Our
Indians accounted for this indifference by the stupidity of the
animals, but it is more probable that the chiguires know by long
experience, that the crocodile of the Apure and the Orinoco does not
attack upon land, unless he finds the object he would seize
immediately in his way, at the instant when he throws himself into the

Near the Joval nature assumes an awful and extremely wild aspect. We
there saw the largest jaguar we had ever met with. The natives
themselves were astonished at its prodigious length, which surpassed
that of any Bengal tiger I had ever seen in the museums of Europe. The
animal lay stretched beneath the shade of a large zamang.* (* A
species of mimosa.) It had just killed a chiguire, but had not yet
touched its prey, on which it kept one of its paws. The zamuro
vultures were assembled in great numbers to devour the remains of the
jaguar's repast. They presented the most curious spectacle, by a
singular mixture of boldness and timidity. They advanced within the
distance of two feet from the animal, but at the least movement he
made they drew back. In order to observe more nearly the manners of
these creatures, we went into the little skiff that accompanied our
canoe. Tigers very rarely attack boats by swimming to them; and never
but when their ferocity is heightened by a long privation of food. The
noise of our oars led the animal to rise slowly, and hide itself
behind the sauso bushes that bordered the shore. The vultures tried to
profit by this moment of absence to devour the chiguire; but the
tiger, notwithstanding the proximity of our boat, leaped into the
midst of them, and in a fit of rage, expressed by his gait and the
movement of his tail, carried off his prey to the forest. The Indians
regretted that they were not provided with their lances, in order to
go on shore and attack the tiger. They are accustomed to this weapon,
and were right in not trusting to our fire-arms. In so excessively
damp an atmosphere muskets often miss fire.

Continuing to descend the river, we met with the great herd of
chiguires which the tiger had put to flight, and from which he had
selected his prey. These animals saw us land very unconcernedly; some
of them were seated, and gazed upon us, moving the upper lip like
rabbits. They seemed not to be afraid of man, but the sight of our dog
put them to flight. Their hind legs being longer than their fore legs,
their pace is a slight gallop, but with so little swiftness that we
succeeded in catching two of them. The chiguire, which swims with the
greatest agility, utters a short moan in running, as if its
respiration were impeded. It is the largest of the family of rodentia
or gnawing animals. It defends itself only at the last extremity, when
it is surrounded and wounded. Having great strength in its grinding
teeth,* particularly the hinder ones, which are pretty long, it can
tear the paw of a tiger, or the leg of a horse, with its bite. (* We
counted eighteen on each side. On the hind feet, at the upper end of
the metatarsus, there is a callosity three inches long and three
quarters of an inch broad, destitute of hair. The animal, when seated,
rests upon this part. No tail is visible externally; but on putting
aside the hair we discover a tubercle, a mass of naked and wrinkled
flesh, of a conical figure, and half an inch long.) Its flesh has a
musky smell somewhat disagreeable; yet hams are made of it in this
country, a circumstance which almost justifies the name of water-hog,
given to the chiguire by some of the older naturalists. The missionary
monks do not hesitate to eat these hams during Lent. According to
their zoological classification they place the armadillo, the
thick-nosed tapir, and the manatee, near the tortoises; the first,
because it is covered with a hard armour like a sort of shell; and the
others because they are amphibious. The chiguires are found in such
numbers on the banks of the rivers Santo Domingo, Apure, and Arauca,
in the marshes and in the inundated savannahs* of the Llanos, that the
pasturages suffer from them. (* Near Uritucu, in the Cano del Ravanal,
we saw a flock of eighty or one hundred of these animals.) They browze
the grass which fattens the horses best, and which bears the name of
chiguirero, or chiguire-grass. They feed also upon fish; and we saw
with surprise, that, when scared by the approach of a boat, the animal
in diving remains eight or ten minutes under water.

We passed the night as usual, in the open air, though in a plantation,
the proprietor of which employed himself in hunting tigers. He wore
scarcely any clothing, and was of a dark brown complexion like a
Zambo. This did not prevent his classing himself amongst the Whites.
He called his wife and his daughter, who were as naked as himself,
Dona Isabella and Dona Manuela. Without having ever quitted the banks
of the Apure, he took a lively interest in the news of
Madrid--enquiring eagerly respecting those never-ending wars, and
everything down yonder (todas las cosas de alla). He knew, he said,
that the king was soon to come and visit the grandees of the country
of Caracas, but he added with some pleasantry, as the people of the
court can eat only wheaten bread, they will never pass beyond the town
of Victoria, and we shall not see them here. I had brought with me a
chiguire, which I had intended to have roasted; but our host assured
us, that such Indian game was not food fit for nos otros caballeros
blancos, (white gentlemen like ourselves and him). Accordingly he
offered us some venison, which he had killed the day before with an
arrow, for he had neither powder nor fire-arms.

We supposed that a small wood of plantain-trees concealed from us the
hut of the farm; but this man, so proud of his nobility and the colour
of his skin, had not taken the trouble of constructing even an ajoupa,
or hut of palm-leaves. He invited us to have our hammocks hung near
his own, between two trees; and he assured us, with an air of
complacency, that, if we came up the river in the rainy season, we
should find him beneath a roof (baxo techo). We soon had reason to
complain of a system of philosophy which is indulgent to indolence,
and renders a man indifferent to the conveniences of life. A furious
wind arose after midnight, lightnings flashed over the horizon,
thunder rolled, and we were wet to the skin. During this storm a
whimsical incident served to amuse us for a moment. Dona Isabella's
cat had perched upon the tamarind-tree, at the foot of which we lay.
It fell into the hammock of one of our companions, who, being hurt by
the claws of the cat, and suddenly aroused from a profound sleep,
imagined he was attacked by some wild beast of the forest. We ran to
him on hearing his cries, and had some trouble to convince him of his
error. While it rained in torrents on our hammocks and on our
instruments which we had brought ashore, Don Ignacio congratulated us
on our good fortune in not sleeping on the strand, but finding
ourselves in his domain, among whites and persons of respectability
(entre gente blanca y de trato). Wet as we were, we could not easily
persuade ourselves of the advantages of our situation, and we listened
with some impatience to the long narrative our host gave us of his
pretended expedition to the Rio Meta, of the valour he had displayed
in a sanguinary combat with the Guahibo Indians, and "the services
that he had rendered to God and his king, in carrying away Indian
children (los Indiecitos) from their parents, to distribute them in
the Missions." We were struck with the singularity of finding in that
vast solitude a man believing himself to be of European race and
knowing no other shelter than the shade of a tree, and yet having all
the vain pretensions, hereditary prejudices, and errors of
long-standing civilization!

On the 1st of April, at sunrise, we quitted Senor Don Ignacio and
Senora Dona Isabella his wife. The weather was cooler, for the
thermometer (which generally kept up in the daytime to 30 or 35
degrees) had sunk to 24 degrees. The temperature of the river was
little changed: it continued constantly at 26 or 27 degrees. The
current carried with it an enormous number of trunks of trees. It
might be imagined that on ground entirely smooth, and where the eye
cannot distinguish the least hill, the river would have formed by the
force of its current a channel in a straight line; but a glance at the
map, which I traced by the compass, will prove the contrary. The two
banks, worn by the waters, do not furnish an equal resistance; and
almost imperceptible inequalities of the level suffice to produce
great sinuosities. Yet below the Joval, where the bed of the river
enlarges a little, it forms a channel that appears perfectly straight,
and is shaded on each side by very tall trees. This part of the river
is called Cano Rico. I found it to be one hundred and thirty-six
toises broad. We passed a low island, inhabited by thousands of
flamingos, rose-coloured spoonbills, herons, and moorhens, which
displayed plumage of the most various colours. These birds were so
close together that they seemed to be unable to stir. The island they
frequent is called Isla de Aves, or Bird Island. Lower down we passed
the point where the Rio Arichuna, an arm of the Apure, branches off to
the Cabulare, carrying away a considerable body of its waters. We
stopped, on the right bank, at a little Indian mission, inhabited by
the tribe of the Guamos, called the village of Santa Barbara de

The Guamos* are a race of Indians very difficult to fix on a settled
spot. (* Father Gili observes that their Indian name is Uamu and Pau,
and that they originally dwelt on the Upper Apure.) They have great
similarity of manners with the Achaguas, the Guajibos,* (* Their
Indian name is Guahiva.) and the Ottomacs, partaking their disregard
of cleanliness, their spirit of vengeance, and their taste for
wandering; but their language differs essentially. The greater part of
these four tribes live by fishing and hunting, in plains often
inundated, situated between the Apure, the Meta, and the Guaviare. The
nature of these regions seems to invite the natives to a wandering
life. On entering the mountains of the Cataracts of the Orinoco, we
shall soon find, among the Piraoas, the Macos, and the Maquiritaras,
milder manners, a love of agriculture, and great cleanliness in the
interior of their huts. On mountain ridges, in the midst of
impenetrable forests, man is compelled to fix himself; and cultivate a
small spot of land. This cultivation requires little care; while, in a
country where there are no other roads than rivers, the life of the
hunter is laborious and difficult. The Guamos of the mission of Santa
Barbara could not furnish us with the provision we wanted. They
cultivate only a little cassava. They appeared hospitable; and when we
entered their huts, they offered us dried fish, and water cooled in
porous vessels.

Beyond the Vuelta del Cochino Roto, in a spot where the river has
scooped itself a new bed, we passed the night on a bare and very
extensive strand. The forest being impenetrable, we had the greatest
difficulty to find dry wood to light fires, near which the Indians
believe themselves in safety from the nocturnal attacks of the tiger.
Our own experience seems to bear testimony in favour of this opinion;
but Azara asserts that, in his time, a tiger in Paraguay carried off a
man who was seated near a fire lighted in the savannah.

The night was calm and serene, and there was a beautiful moonlight.
The crocodiles, stretched along the shore, placed themselves in such a
manner as to be able to see the fire. We thought we observed that its
blaze attracted them, as it attracts fishes, crayfish, and other
inhabitants of the water. The Indians showed us the tracks of three
tigers in the sand, two of which were very young. A female had no
doubt conducted her little ones to drink at the river. Finding no tree
on the strand, we stuck our oars in the ground, and to these we
fastened our hammocks. Everything passed tranquilly till eleven at
night; and then a noise so terrific arose in the neighbouring forest,
that it was almost impossible to close our eyes. Amid the cries of so
many wild beasts howling at once, the Indians discriminated such only
as were at intervals heard separately. These were the little soft
cries of the sapajous, the moans of the alouate apes, the howlings of
the jaguar and couguar, the peccary, and the sloth, and the cries of
the curassao, the parraka, and other gallinaceous birds. When the
jaguars approached the skirt of the forest, our dog, which till then
had never ceased barking, began to howl and seek for shelter beneath
our hammocks. Sometimes, after a long silence, the cry of the tiger
came from the tops of the trees; and then it was followed by the sharp
and long whistling of the monkeys, which appeared to flee from the
danger that threatened them. We heard the same noises repeated, during
the course of whole months, whenever the forest approached the bed of
the river. The security evinced by the Indians inspires confidence in
the minds of travellers, who readily persuade themselves that the
tigers are afraid of fire, and that they do not attack a man lying in
his hammock. These attacks are in fact extremely rare; and, during a
long abode in South America, I remember only one example, of a
llanero, who was found mutilated in his hammock opposite the island of

When the natives are interrogated on the causes of the tremendous
noise made by the beasts of the forest at certain hours of the night,
the answer is, "They are keeping the feast of the full moon."

I believe this agitation is most frequently the effect of some
conflict that has arisen in the depths of the forest. The jaguars, for
instance, pursue the peccaries and the tapirs, which, having no
defence but in their numbers, flee in close troops, and break down the
bushes they find in their way. Terrified at this struggle, the timid
and mistrustful monkeys answer, from the tops of the trees, the cries
of the large animals. They awaken the birds that live in society, and
by degrees the whole assembly is in commotion. It is not always in a
fine moonlight, but more particularly at the time of a storm and
violent showers, that this tumult takes place among the wild beasts.
"May Heaven grant them a quiet night and repose, and us also!" said
the monk who accompanied us to the Rio Negro, when, sinking with
fatigue, he assisted in arranging our accommodations for the night. It
was indeed strange, to find no silence in the solitude of woods. In
the inns of Spain we dread the sound of guitars from the next
apartment; on the Orinoco, where the traveller's resting-place is the
open beach, or beneath the shelter of a solitary tree, his slumbers
are disturbed by a serenade from the forest.

We set sail before sunrise, on the 2nd of April. The morning was
beautiful and cool, according to the feelings of those who are
accustomed to the heat of these climates. The thermometer rose only to
28 degrees in the air, but the dry and white sand of the beach,
notwithstanding its radiation towards a cloudless sky, retained a
temperature of 36 degrees. The porpoises (toninas) ploughed the river
in long files. The shore was covered with fishing-birds. Some of these
perched on the floating wood as it passed down the river, and
surprised the fish that preferred the middle of the stream. Our canoe
was aground several times during the morning. These shocks are
sufficiently violent to split a light bark. We struck on the points of
several large trees, which remain for years in an oblique position,
sunk in the mud. These trees descend from Sarare, at the period of
great inundations, and they so fill the bed of the river, that canoes
in going up find it difficult sometimes to make their way over the
shoals, or wherever there are eddies. We reached a spot near the
island of Carizales, where we saw trunks of the locust-tree, of an
enormous size, above the surface of the water. They were covered with
a species of plotus, nearly resembling the anhinga, or white bellied
darter. These birds perch in files, like pheasants and parrakas, and
they remain for hours entirely motionless, with their beaks raised
toward the sky.

Below the island of Carizales we observed a diminution of the waters
of the river, at which we were the more surprised, as, after the
bifurcation at la Boca de Arichuna, there is no branch, no natural
drain, which takes away water from the Apure. The loss is solely the
effect of evaporation, and of filtration on a sandy and wet shore.
Some idea of the magnitude of these effects may be formed, from the
fact that we found the heat of the dry sands, at different hours of
the day, from 36 to 52 degrees, and that of sands covered with three
or four inches of water 32 degrees. The beds of rivers are heated as
far as the depth to which the solar rays can penetrate without
undergoing too great an extinction in their passage through the
superincumbent strata of water. Besides, filtration extends in a
lateral direction far beyond the bed of the river. The shore, which
appears dry to us, imbibes water as far up as to the level of the
surface of the river. We saw water gush out at the distance of fifty
toises from the shore, every time that the Indians struck their oars
into the ground. Now these sands, wet below, but dry above, and
exposed to the solar rays, act like sponges, and lose the infiltrated
water every instant by evaporation. The vapour that is emitted,
traverses the upper stratum of sand strongly heated, and becomes
sensible to the eye when the air cools towards evening. As the beach
dries, it draws from the river new portions of water; and it may be
easily conceived that this continual alternation of vaporization and
lateral absorption must cause an immense loss, difficult to submit to
exact calculation. The increase of these losses would be in proportion
to the length of the course of the rivers, if from their source to
their mouth they were equally surrounded by a flat shore; but these
shores being formed by deposits from the water, and the water having
less velocity in proportion as it is more remote from its source,
throwing down more sediment in the lower than in the upper part of its
course, many rivers in hot climates undergo a diminution in the
quantity of their water, as they approach their outlets. Mr. Barrow
observed these curious effects of sands in the southern part of
Africa, on the banks of the Orange River. They have also become the
subject of a very important discussion, in the various hypotheses that
have been formed respecting the course of the Niger.* (* Geographers
supposed, for a long period, that the Niger was entirely absorbed by
the sands, and evaporated by the heat of the tropical sun, as no
embouchure could be found on the western coast of Africa to meet the
requirements of so enormous a river. It was discovered, however, by
the Landers, in 1830, that it does really flow into the Atlantic; yet
the cause mentioned above is so powerful, that of all the numerous
branches into which it separates at its mouth, only one (the Nun
River) is navigable even for light ships, and for half the year even
those are unable to enter.)

Near the Vuelta de Basilio, where we landed to collect plants, we saw
on the top of a tree two beautiful little monkeys, black as jet, of
the size of the sai, with prehensile tails. Their physiognomy and
their movements sufficiently showed that they were neither the quato
(Simia beelzebub) nor the chamek, nor any of the Ateles. Our Indians
themselves had never seen any that resembled them. Monkeys, especially
those living in troops, make long emigrations at certain periods, and
consequently it happens that at the beginning of the rainy seasons the
natives discover round their huts different kinds which they have not
before observed. On this same bank our guides showed us a nest of
young iguanas only four inches long. It was difficult to distinguish
them from common lizards. There was no distinguishing mark yet formed
but the dewlap below the throat. The dorsal spines, the large erect
scales, all those appendages that render the iguana so remarkable when
it attains its full growth, were scarcely traceable.

The flesh of this animal of the saurian family appeared to us to have
an agreeable taste in every country where the climate is very dry; we
even found it so at periods when we were not in want of other food. It
is extremely white, and next to the flesh of the armadillo, one of the
best kinds of food to be found in the huts of the natives.

It rained toward evening, and before the rain fell, swallows, exactly
resembling our own, skimmed over the surface of the water. We saw also
a flock of paroquets pursued by little goshawks without crests. The
piercing cries of these paroquets contrasted singularly with the
whistling of the birds of prey. We passed the night in the open air,
upon the beach, near the island of Carizales. There were several
Indian huts in the neighbourhood, surrounded with plantations. Our
pilot assured us beforehand that we should not hear the cries of the
jaguar, which, when not extremely pressed by hunger, withdraws from
places where he does not reign unmolested. "Men put him out of humour"
(los hombres lo enfadan), say the people in the Missions. A pleasant
and simple expression, that marks a well-observed fact.

Since our departure from San Fernando we had not met a single boat on
this fine river. Everything denoted the most profound solitude. On the
morning of the 3rd of April our Indians caught with a hook the fish
known in the country by the name of caribe,* (* Caribe in the Spanish
language signifies cannibal.) or caribito, because no other fish has
such a thirst for blood. It attacks bathers and swimmers, from whom it
often bites away considerable pieces of flesh. The Indians dread
extremely these caribes; and several of them showed us the scars of
deep wounds in the calf of the leg and in the thigh, made by these
little animals. They swim at the bottom of rivers; but if a few drops
of blood be shed on the water, they rise by thousands to the surface,
so that if a person be only slightly bitten, it is difficult for him
to get out of the water without receiving a severer wound. When we
reflect on the numbers of these fish, the largest and most voracious
of which are only four or five inches long, on the triangular form of
their sharp and cutting teeth, and on the amplitude of their
retractile mouths, we need not be surprised at the fear which the
caribe excites in the inhabitants of the banks of the Apure and the
Orinoco. In places where the river was very limpid, where not a fish
appeared, we threw into the water little morsels of raw flesh, and in
a few minutes a perfect cloud of caribes had come to dispute their
prey. The belly of this fish has a cutting edge, indented like a saw,
a characteristic which may be also traced in the serra-salmes, the
myletes, and the pristigastres. The presence of a second adipous
dorsal fin, and the form of the teeth, covered by lips distant from
each other, and largest in the lower jaw, place the caribe among the
serra-salmes. Its mouth is much wider than that of the myletes of
Cuvier. Its body, toward the back, is ash-coloured with a tint of
green, but the belly, the gill-covers, and the pectoral, anal, and
ventral fins, are of a fine orange hue. Three species are known in the
Orinoco, and are distinguished by their size. The intermediate appears
to be identical with the medium species of the piraya, or piranha, of
Marcgrav.* (* Salmo rhombeus, Linn.) The caribito has a very agreeable
flavour. As no one dares to bathe where it is found, it may be
considered as one of the greatest scourges of those climates, in which
the sting of the mosquitos and the general irritation of the skin
render the use of baths so necessary.

We stopped at noon in a desert spot called Algodonal. I left my
companions while they drew the boat ashore and were occupied in
preparing our dinner. I went along the beach to get a near view of a
group of crocodiles sleeping in the sun, and lying in such a manner as
to have their tails, which were furnished with broad plates, resting
on one another. Some little herons,* white as snow, walked along their
backs, and even upon their heads, as if passing over trunks of trees.
(* Garzon chico. It is believed, in Upper Egypt, that herons have an
affection for crocodiles, because they take advantage in fishing of
the terror that monstrous animal causes among the fishes, which he
drives from the bottom to the surface of the water; but on the banks
of the Nile, the heron keeps prudently at some distance from the
crocodile.) The crocodiles were of a greenish grey, half covered with
dried mud; from their colour and immobility they might have been taken
for statues of bronze. This excursion had nearly proved fatal to me. I
had kept my eyes constantly turned towards the river; but, whilst
picking up some spangles of mica agglomerated together in the sand, I
discovered the recent footsteps of a tiger, easily distinguishable
from their form and size. The animal had gone towards the forest, and
turning my eyes on that side, I found myself within eighty paces of a
jaguar that was lying under the thick foliage of a ceiba. No tiger had
ever appeared to me so large.

There are accidents in life against which we may seek in vain to
fortify our reason. I was extremely alarmed, yet sufficiently master
of myself and of my motions to enable me to follow the advice which
the Indians had so often given us as to how we ought to act in such
cases. I continued to walk on without running, avoided moving my arms,
and I thought I observed that the jaguar's attention was fixed on a
herd of capybaras which was crossing the river. I then began to
return, making a large circuit toward the edge of the water. As the
distance increased, I thought I might accelerate my pace. How often
was I tempted to look back in order to assure myself that I was not
pursued! Happily I yielded very tardily to this desire. The jaguar had
remained motionless. These enormous cats with spotted robes are so
well fed in countries abounding in capybaras, pecaries, and deer, that
they rarely attack men. I arrived at the boat out of breath, and
related my adventure to the Indians. They appeared very little
interested by my story; yet, after having loaded our guns, they
accompanied us to the ceiba beneath which the jaguar had lain. He was
there no longer, and it would have been imprudent to have pursued him
into the forest, where we must have dispersed, or advanced in single
file, amidst the intertwining lianas.

In the evening we passed the mouth of the Cano del Manati, thus named
on account of the immense quantity of manatees caught there every
year. This herbivorous animal of the cetaceous family, is called by
the Indians apcia and avia,* and it attains here generally ten or
twelve feet in length. (* The first of these words belongs to the
Tamanac language, and the second to the Ottomac. Father Gili proves,
in opposition to Oviedo, that manati (fish with hands) is not Spanish,
but belongs to the languages of Hayti (St. Domingo) and the Maypures.
I believe also that, according to the genius of the Spanish tongue,
the animal would have been called manudo or manon, but not manati.) It
usually weighs from five hundred to eight hundred pounds, but it is
asserted that one has been taken of eight thousand pounds weight. The
manatee abounds in the Orinoco below the cataracts, in the Rio Meta,
and in the Apure, between the two islands of Carizales and Conserva.
We found no vestiges of nails on the external surface or the edges of
the fins, which are quite smooth; but little rudiments of nails appear
at the third phalanx, when the skin of the fins is taken off. We
dissected one of these animals, which was nine feet long, at
Carichana, a Mission of the Orinoco. The upper lip was four inches
longer than the lower one. It was covered with a very fine skin, and
served as a proboscis. The inside of the mouth, which has a sensible
warmth in an animal newly killed, presented a very singular
conformation. The tongue was almost motionless; but in front of the
tongue there was a fleshy excrescence in each jaw, and a cavity lined
with a very hard skin, into which the excrescence fitted. The manatee
eats such quantities of grass, that we have found its stomach, which
is divided into several cavities, and its intestines, (one hundred and
eight feet long,) filled with it. On opening the animal at the back,
we were struck with the magnitude, form, and situation of its lungs.
They have very large cells, and resemble immense swimming-bladders.
They are three feet long. Filled with air, they have a bulk of more
than a thousand cubic inches. I was surprised to see that, possessing
such considerable receptacles for air, the manatee comes so often to
the surface of the water to breathe. Its flesh is very savoury,
though, from what prejudice I know not, it is considered unwholesome
and apt to produce fever. It appeared to me to resemble pork rather
than beef. It is most esteemed by the Guamos and the Ottomacs; and
these two nations are particularly expert in catching the manatee. Its
flesh, when salted and dried in the sun, can be preserved a whole
year; and, as the clergy regard this mammiferous animal as a fish, it
is much sought during Lent. The vital principal is singularly strong
in the manatee; it is tied after being harpooned, but is not killed
till it has been taken into the canoe. This is effected, when the
animal is very large, in the middle of the river, by filling the canoe
two-thirds with water, sliding it under the animal, and then baling
out the water by means of a calabash. This fishery is most easy after
great inundations, when the manatee has passed from the great rivers
into the lakes and surrounding marshes, and the waters diminish
rapidly. At the period when the Jesuits governed the Missions of the
Lower Orinoco, they assembled every year at Cabruta, below the mouth
of the Apure, to have a grand fishing for manatees, with the Indians
of their Missions, at the foot of the mountain now called El
Capuchino. The fat of the animal, known by the name of manatee-butter
(manteca de manati,) is used for lamps in the churches; and is also
employed in preparing food. It has not the fetid smell of whale-oil,
or that of the other cetaceous animals which spout water. The hide of
the manati, which is more than an inch and a half thick, is cut into
slips, and serves, like thongs of ox-leather, to supply the place of
cordage in the Llanos. When immersed in water, it has the defect of
undergoing a slight degree of putrefaction. Whips are made of it in
the Spanish colonies. Hence the words latigo and manati are
synonymous. These whips of manatee-leather are a cruel instrument of
punishment for the unhappy slaves, and even for the Indians of the
Missions, though, according to the laws, the latter ought to be
treated like freemen.

We passed the night opposite the island of Conserva. In skirting the
forest we were surprised by the sight of an enormous trunk of a tree
seventy feet high, and thickly set with branching thorns. It is called
by the natives barba de tigre. It was perhaps a tree of the
berberideous family.* (* We found, on the banks of the Apure, Ammania
apurensis, Cordia cordifolia, C. grandiflora, Mollugo sperguloides,
Myosotis lithospermoides, Spermacocce diffusa, Coronilla occidentalis,
Bignonia apurensis, Pisonia pubescens, Ruellia viscosa, some new
species of Jussieua, and a new genus of the composite family,
approximating to Rolandra, the Trichospira menthoides of M. Kunth.)
The Indians had kindled fires at the edge of the water. We again
perceived that their light attracted the crocodiles, and even the
porpoises (toninas), the noise of which interrupted our sleep, till
the fire was extinguished. A female jaguar approached our station
whilst taking her young one to drink at the river. The Indians
succeeded in chasing her away, but we heard for a long time the cries
of the little jaguar, which mewed like a young cat. Soon after, our
great dog was bitten, or, as the Indians say, stung, at the point of
the nose, by some enormous bats that hovered around our hammocks.
These bats had long tails, like the Molosses: I believe, however, that
they were Phyllostomes, the tongue of which, furnished with papillae,
is an organ of suction, and is capable of being considerably
elongated. The dog's wound was very small and round; and though he
uttered a plaintive cry when he felt himself bitten, it was not from
pain, but because he was frightened at the sight of the bats, which
came out from beneath our hammocks. These accidents are much more rare
than is believed even in the country itself. In the course of several
years, notwithstanding we slept so often in the open air, in climates
where vampire-bats,* (* Verspertilio spectrum.) and other analogous
species are so common, we were never wounded. Besides, the puncture is
no-way dangerous, and in general causes so little pain, that it often
does not awaken the person till after the bat has withdrawn.

The 4th of April was the last day we passed on the Rio Apure. The
vegetation of its banks became more and more uniform. During several
days, and particularly since we had left the Mission of Arichuna, we
had suffered cruelly from the stings of insects, which covered our
faces and hands. They were not mosquitos, which have the appearance of
little flies, or of the genus Simulium, but zancudos, which are really
gnats, though very different from our European species.* (* M.
Latreille has discovered that the mosquitos of South Carolina are of
the genus Simulium (Atractocera meigen.) These insects appear only
after sunset. Their proboscis is so long that, when they fix on the
lower surface of a hammock, they pierce through it and the thickest
garments with their sting.

We had intended to pass the night at the Vuelta del Palmito, but the
number of jaguars at that part of the Apure is so great, that our
Indians found two hidden behind the trunk of a locust-tree, at the
moment when they were going to sling our hammocks. We were advised to
re-embark, and take our station in the island of Apurito, near its
junction with the Orinoco. That portion of the island belongs to the
province of Caracas, while the right banks of the Apure and the
Orinoco form a part, the one of the province of Varinas, the other of
Spanish Guiana. We found no trees to which we could suspend our
hammocks, and were obliged to sleep on ox-hides spread on the ground.
The boats were too narrow and too full of zancudos to permit us to
pass the night in them.

In the place where we had landed our instruments, the banks being
steep, we saw new proofs of the indolence of the gallinaceous birds of
the tropics. The curassaos and cashew-birds* have the habit of going
down several times a day to the river to allay their thirst. (* The
latter (Crax pauxi) is less common than the former.) They drink a
great deal, and at short intervals. A vast number of these birds had
joined, near our station, a flock of parraka pheasants. They had great
difficulty in climbing up the steep banks; they attempted it several
times without using their wings. We drove them before us, as if we had
been driving sheep. The zamuro vultures raise themselves from the
ground with great reluctance.

We were singularly struck at the small quantity of water which the Rio
Apure furnishes at this season to the Orinoco. The Apure, which,
according to my measurements, was still one hundred and thirty-six
toises broad at the Cano Rico, was only sixty or eighty at its mouth.*
(* Not quite so broad as the Seine at the Pont Royal, opposite the
palace of the Tuileries, and a little more than half the width of the
Thames at Westminster Bridge.) Its depth here was only three or four
toises. It loses, no doubt, a part of its waters by the Rio Arichuna
and the Cano del Manati, two branches of the Apure that flow into the
Payara and the Guarico; but its greatest loss appears to be caused by
filtrations on the beach, of which we have before spoken. The velocity
of the Apure near its mouth was only 3.2 feet per second; so that I
could easily have calculated the whole quantity of the water if I had
taken, by a series of proximate soundings, the whole dimensions of the
transverse section.

We touched several times on shoals before we entered the Orinoco. The
ground gained from the water is immense towards the confluence of the
two rivers. We were obliged to be towed along by the bank. What a
contrast between this state of the river immediately before the
entrance of the rainy season, when all the effects of dryness of the
air and of evaporation have attained their maximum, and that autumnal
state when the Apure, like an arm of the sea, covers the savannahs as
far as the eye can reach! We discerned towards the south the lonely
hills of Coruato; while to the east the granite rocks of Curiquima,
the Sugar Loaf of Caycara, and the mountains of the Tyrant* (Cerros
del Tirano) began to rise on the horizon. (* This name alludes, no
doubt, to the expedition of Antonio Sedeno. The port of Caycara,
opposite Cabruta, still bears the name of that Conquistador.) It was
not without emotion that we beheld for the first time, after long
expectation, the waters of the Orinoco, at a point so distant from the



On leaving the Rio Apure we found ourselves in a country presenting a
totally different aspect. An immense plain of water stretched before
us like a lake, as far as we could see. White-topped waves rose to the
height of several feet, from the conflict of the breeze and the
current. The air resounded no longer with the piercing cries of
herons, flamingos, and spoonbills, crossing in long files from one
shore to the other. Our eyes sought in vain those waterfowls, the
habits of which vary in each tribe. All nature appeared less animated.
Scarcely could we discover in the hollows of the waves a few large
crocodiles, cutting obliquely, by the help of their long tails, the
surface of the agitated waters. The horizon was bounded by a zone of
forests, which nowhere reached so far as the bed of the river. A vast
beach, constantly parched by the heat of the sun, desert and bare as
the shores of the sea, resembled at a distance, from the effect of the
mirage, pools of stagnant water. These sandy shores, far from fixing
the limits of the river, render them uncertain, by enlarging or
contracting them alternately, according to the variable action of the
solar rays.

In these scattered features of the landscape, in this character of
solitude and of greatness, we recognize the course of the Orinoco, one
of the most majestic rivers of the New World. The water, like the
land, displays everywhere a characteristic and peculiar aspect. The
bed of the Orinoco resembles not the bed of the Meta, the Guaviare,
the Rio Negro, or the Amazon. These differences do not depend
altogether on the breadth or the velocity of the current; they are
connected with a multitude of impressions which it is easier to
perceive upon the spot than to define with precision. Thus, the mere
form of the waves, the tint of the waters, the aspect of the sky and
the clouds, would lead an experienced navigator to guess whether he
were in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, or in the equinoctial part
of the Pacific.

The wind blew fresh from east-north-east. Its direction was favourable
for sailing up the Orinoco, towards the Mission of Encaramada; but our
canoes were so ill calculated to resist the shocks of the waves, that,
from the violence of the motion, those who suffered habitually at sea
were equally incommoded on the river. The short, broken waves are
caused by the conflict of the waters at the junction of the two
rivers. This conflict is very violent, but far from being so dangerous
as Father Gumilla describes. We passed the Punta Curiquima, which is
an isolated mass of quartzose granite, a small promontory composed of
rounded blocks. There, on the right bank of the Orinoco, Father
Rotella founded, in the time of the Jesuits, a Mission of the Palenka
and Viriviri or Guire Indians. But during inundations, the rock
Curiquima and the village at its foot were entirely surrounded by
water; and this serious inconvenience, together with the sufferings of
the missionaries and Indians from the innumerable quantity of
mosquitos and niguas,* led them to forsake this humid spot. (* The
chego (Pulex penetrans) which penetrates under the nails of the toe in
men and monkeys, and there deposits its eggs.) It is now entirely
deserted, while opposite to it, on the right bank of the river, the
little mountains of Coruato are the retreat of wandering Indians,
expelled either from the Missions, or from tribes that are not subject
to the government of the monks.

Struck with the extreme breadth of the Orinoco, between the mouth of
the Apure and the rock Curiquima, I ascertained it by means of a base
measured twice on the western beach. The bed of the Orinoco, at low
water, was 1906 toises broad; but this breadth increases to 5517
toises, when, in the rainy season, the rock Curiquima, and the farm of
Capuchino near the hill of Pocopocori, become islands. The swelling of
the Orinoco is augmented by the impulse of the waters of the Apure,
which, far from forming, like other rivers, an acute angle with the
upper part of that into which it flows, meets it at right angles.

We first proceeded south-west, as far as the shore inhabited by the
Guaricoto Indians on the left bank of the Orinoco, and then we
advanced straight toward the south. The river is so broad that the
mountains of Encaramada appear to rise from the water, as if seen
above the horizon of the sea. They form a continued chain from east to
west. These mountains are composed of enormous blocks of granite,
cleft and piled one upon another. Their division into blocks is the
effect of decomposition. What contributes above all to embellish the
scene at Encaramada is the luxuriance of vegetation that covers the
sides of the rocks, leaving bare only their rounded summits. They look
like ancient ruins rising in the midst of a forest. The mountain
immediately at the back of the Mission, the Tepupano* of the Tamanac
Indians is terminated by three enormous granitic cylinders, two of
which are inclined, while the third, though worn at its base, and more
than eighty feet high, has preserved a vertical position. (*
Tepu-pano, place of stones, in which we recognize tepu stone, rock, as
in tepu-iri, mountain. We here perceive that Lesgian Oigour-Tartar
root tep, stone (found in America among the Americans, in teptl; among
the Caribs, in tebou; among the Tamanacs, in tepuiri); a striking
analogy between the languages of Caucasus and Upper Asia and those of
the banks of the Orinoco.) This rock, which calls to mind the form of
the Schnarcher in the Hartz mountains, or that of the Organs of
Actopan in Mexico,* composed formerly a part of the rounded summit of
the mountain. (* In Captain Tuckey's Voyage on the river Congo, we
find represented a granitic rock, Taddi Enzazi, which bears a striking
resemblance to the mountain of Encaramada.) In every climate,
unstratified granite separates by decomposition into blocks of
prismatic, cylindric, or columnar figures.

Opposite the shore of the Guaricotos, we drew near another heap of
rocks, which is very low, and three or four toises long. It rises in
the midst of the plain, and has less resemblance to a tumulus than to
those masses of granitic stone, which in North Holland and Germany
bear the name of hunenbette, beds (or tombs) of heroes. The shore, at
this part of the Orinoco, is no longer of pure and quartzose sand; but
is composed of clay and spangles of mica, deposited in very thin
strata, and generally at an inclination of forty or fifty degrees. It
looks like decomposed mica-slate. This change in the geological
configuration of the shore extends far beyond the mouth of the Apure.
We had begun to observe it in this latter river as far off as
Algodonal and the Cano del Manati. The spangles of mica come, no
doubt, from the granite mountains of Curiquima and Encaramada; since
further north-east we find only quartzose sand, sandstone, compact
limestone, and gypsum. Alluvial earth carried successively from south
to north need not surprise us in the Orinoco; but to what shall we
attribute the same phenomenon in the bed of the Apure, seven leagues
west of its mouth? In the present state of things, notwithstanding the
swellings of the Orinoco, the waters of the Apure never retrograde so
far; and, to explain this phenomenon, we are forced to admit that the
micaceous strata were deposited at a time when the whole of the very
low country lying between Caycara, Algodonal, and the mountains of
Encaramada, formed the basin of an inland lake.

We stopped some time at the port of Encaramada, which is a sort of
embarcadero, a place where boats assemble. A rock of forty or fifty
feet high forms the shore. It is composed of blocks of granite, heaped
one upon another, as at the Schneeberg in Franconia, and in almost all
the granitic mountains of Europe. Some of these detached masses have a
spheroidal form; they are not balls with concentric layers, but merely
rounded blocks, nuclei separated from their envelopes by the effect of
decomposition. This granite is of a greyish lead-colour, often black,
as if covered with oxide of manganese; but this colour does not
penetrate one fifth of a line into the rock, which is of a reddish
white colour within, coarse-grained, and destitute of hornblende.

The Indian names of the Mission of San Luis del Encaramada, are Guaja
and Caramana.* (* All the Missions of South America have names
composed of two words, the first of which is necessarily the name of a
saint, the patron of the church, and the second an Indian name, that
of the nation, or the spot where the establishment is placed. Thus we
say, San Jose de Maypures, Santa Cruz de Cachipo, San Juan Nepomuceno
de los Atures, etc. These compound names appear only in official
documents; the Inhabitants adopt but one of the two names, and
generally, provided it be sonorous, the Indian. As the names of saints
are several times repeated in neighbouring places, great confusion in
geography arises from these repetitions. The names of San Juan, San
Diego, and San Pedro, are scattered in our maps as if by chance. It is
pretended that the Mission of Guaja affords a very rare example of the
composition of two Spanish words. The word Encaramada means things
raised one upon another, from encaramar, to raise up. It is derived
from the figure of Tepupano and the neighbouring rocks: perhaps it is
only an Indian word caramana, in which, as in manati, a Spanish
signification was believed to be discovered.) This small village was
founded in 1749 by Father Gili, the Jesuit, author of the Storia dell'
Orinoco, published at Rome. This missionary, learned in the Indian
tongues, lived in these solitudes during eighteen years, till the
expulsion of the Jesuits. To form a precise idea of the savage state
of these countries it must be recollected that Father Gili speaks of
Carichana,* which is forty leagues from Encaramada, as of a spot far
distant; and that he never advanced so far as the first cataract in
the river of which he ventured to undertake the description. (* Saggio
di Storia Americana volume 1 page 122.)

In the port of Encaramada we met with some Caribs of Panapana. A
cacique was going up the Orinoco in his canoe, to join in the famous
fishing of turtles' eggs. His canoe was rounded toward the bottom like
a bongo, and followed by a smaller boat called a curiara. He was
seated beneath a sort of tent, constructed, like the sail, of
palm-leaves. His cold and silent gravity, the respect with which he
was treated by his attendants, everything denoted him to be a person
of importance. He was equipped, however, in the same manner as his
Indians. They were all equally naked, armed with bows and arrows, and
painted with onoto, which is the colouring fecula of the Bixa
orellana. The chief, the domestics, the furniture, the boat, and the
sail, were all painted red. These Caribs are men of an almost athletic
stature; they appeared to us much taller than any Indians we had
hitherto seen. Their smooth and thick hair, cut short on the forehead
like that of choristers, their eyebrows painted black, their look at
once gloomy and animated, gave a singular expression to their
countenances. Having till then seen only the skulls of some Caribs of
the West India Islands preserved in the collections of Europe, we were
surprised to find that these Indians, who were of pure race, had
foreheads much more rounded than they are described. The women, who
were very tall, and disgusting from their want of cleanliness, carried
their infants on their backs. The thighs and legs of the infants were
bound at certain distances by broad strips of cotton cloth, and the
flesh, strongly compressed beneath the ligatures, was swelled in the
interstices. It is generally to be observed, that the Caribs are as
attentive to their exterior and their ornaments, as it is possible for
men to be, who are naked and painted red. They attach great importance
to certain configurations of the body; and a mother would be accused
of culpable indifference toward her children, if she did not employ
artificial means to shape the calf of the leg after the fashion of the
country. As none of our Indians of Apure understood the Caribbee
language, we could obtain no information from the cacique of Panama
respecting the encampments that are made at this season in several
islands of the Orinoco for collecting turtles' eggs.

Near Encaramada a very long island divides the river into two
branches. We passed the night in a rocky creek, opposite the mouth of
the Rio Cabullare, which is formed by the Payara and the Atamaica, and
is sometimes considered as one of the branches of the Apure, because
it communicates with that river by the Rio Arichuna. The evening was
beautiful. The moon illumined the tops of the granite rocks. The heat
was so uniformly distributed, that, notwithstanding the humidity of
the air, no twinkling of the stars was observable, even at four or
five degrees above the horizon. The light of the planets was
singularly dimmed; and if, on account of the smallness of the apparent
diameter of Jupiter, I had not suspected some error in the
observation, I should say, that here, for the first time, we thought
we distinguished the disk of Jupiter with the naked eye. Towards
midnight, the north-east wind became extremely violent. It brought no
clouds, but the vault of the sky was covered more and more with
vapours. Strong gusts were felt, and made us fear for the safety of
our canoe. During this whole day we had seen very few crocodiles, but
all of an extraordinary size, from twenty to twenty-four feet. The
Indians assured us that the young crocodiles prefer the marshes, and
the rivers that are less broad, and less deep. They crowd together
particularly in the Canos, and we may say of them, what Abdallatif
says of the crocodiles of the Nile,* "that they swarm like worms in
the shallow waters of the river, and in the shelter of uninhabited
islands." (* Description de l'Egypte translated by De Sacy.)

On the 6th of April, whilst continuing to ascend the Orinoco, first
southward and then to south-west, we perceived the southern side of
the Serrania, or chain of the mountains of Encaramada. The part
nearest the river is only one hundred and forty or one hundred and
sixty toises high; but from its abrupt declivities, its situation in
the midst of a savannah, and its rocky summits, cut into shapeless
prisms, the Serrania appears singularly elevated. Its greatest breadth
is only three leagues. According to information given me by the
Indians of the Pareka nation, it is considerably wider toward the
east. The summits of Encaramada form the northernmost link of a group
of mountains which border the right bank of the Orinoco, between the
latitudes of 5 degrees and 7 degrees 30 minutes from the mouth of the
Rio Zama to that of the Cabullare. The different links into which this
group is divided are separated by little grassy plains. They do not
preserve a direction perfectly parallel to each other; for the most
northern stretch from west to east, and the most southern from
north-west to south-east. This change of direction sufficiently
explains the increase of breadth observed in the Cordillera of Parime
towards the east, between the sources of the Orinoco and of the Rio
Paruspa. On penetrating beyond the great cataracts of Atures and of
Maypures, we shall see seven principal links, those of Encaramada or
Sacuina, of Chaviripa, of Baraguan, of Carichana, of Uniama, of
Calitamini, and of Sipapo, successively appear. This sketch may serve
to give a general idea of the geological configuration of the ground.
We recognize everywhere on the globe a tendency toward regular forms,
in those mountains that appear the most irregularly grouped. Every
link appears, in a transverse section, like a distinct summit, to
those who navigate the Orinoco; but this division is merely in
appearance. The regularity in the direction and separation of the
links seems to diminish in proportion as we advance towards the east.
The mountains of Encaramada join those of Mato, which give birth to
the Rio Asiveru or Cuchivero; those of Chaviripe are prolonged by the
granite chain of the Corosal, of Amoco, and of Murcielago, towards the
sources of the Erevato and the Ventuari.

It was across these mountains, which are inhabited by Indians of
gentle character, employed in agriculture,* (* The Mapoyes, Parecas,
Javaranas, and Curacicanas, who possess fine plantations (conucos) in
the savannahs by which these forests are bounded.) that, at the time
of the expedition for settling boundaries, General Iturriaga took some
horned cattle for the supply of the new town of San Fernando de
Atabapo. The inhabitants of Encaramada then showed the Spanish
soldiers the way by the Rio Manapiari,* which falls into the Ventuari.
(* Between Encaramada and the Rio Manapiare, Don Miguel Sanchez, chief
of this little expedition, crossed the Rio Guainaima, which flows into
the Cuchivero. Sanchez died, from the fatigue of this journey, on the
borders of the Ventuari.) By descending these two rivers, the Orinoco
and the Atabapo may be reached without passing the great cataracts,
which present almost insurmountable obstacles to the conveyance of
cattle. The spirit of enterprise which had so eminently distinguished
the Castilians at the period of the discovery of America, was again
roused for a time in the middle of the eighteenth century, when
Ferdinand VI was desirous of knowing the true limits of his vast
possessions; and in the forests of Guiana, that land of fiction and
fabulous tradition, the wily Indians revived the chimerical idea of
the wealth of El Dorado, which had so much occupied the imagination of
the first conquerors.

Amidst the mountains of Encaramada, which, like most coarse-grained
granite rocks, are destitute of metallic veins, we cannot help
inquiring whence came those grains of gold which Juan Martinez* (* The
companion of Diego Ordaz.) and Raleigh profess to have seen in such
abundance in the hands of the Indians of the Orinoco. From what I
observed in that part of America, I am led to think that gold, like
tin,* is sometimes disseminated in an almost imperceptible manner in
the very mass of granite rocks, without our being able to perceive
that there is a ramification and an intertwining of small veins. (*
Thus tin is found in granite of recent formation, at Geyer; in
hyalomicte or graisen, at Zinnwald; and in syenitic porphyry, at
Altenberg, in Saxony, as well as near Naila, in the Fichtelgebirge. I
have also seen, in the Upper Palatinate, micaceous iron, and black
earthy cobalt, far from any kind of vein, disseminated in a granite
destitute of mica, as magnetic iron-sand is in volcanic rocks.) Not
long ago the Indians of Encaramada found in the Quebrada del Tigre* (*
The Tiger-ravine.) a piece of native gold two lines in diameter. It
was rounded, and appeared to have been washed along by the waters.
This discovery excited the attention of the missionaries much more
than of the natives; it was followed by no other of the same kind.

I cannot quit this first link of the mountains of Encaramada without
recalling to mind a fact that was not unknown to Father Gili, and
which was often mentioned to me during our abode in the Missions of
the Orinoco. The natives of those countries have retained the belief
that, "at the time of the great waters, when their fathers were forced
to have recourse to boats, to escape the general inundation, the waves
of the sea beat against the rocks of Encaramada." This belief is not
confined to one nation singly, the Tamanacs; it makes part of a system
of historical tradition, of which we find scattered notions among the
Maypures of the great cataracts; among the Indians of the Rio Erevato,
which runs into the Caura; and among almost all the tribes of the
Upper Orinoco. When the Tamanacs are asked how the human race survived
this great deluge, the age of water, of the Mexicans, they say, a man
and a woman saved themselves on a high mountain, called Tamanacu,
situated on the banks of the Asiveru; and casting behind them, over
their heads, the fruits of the mauritia palm-tree, they saw the seeds
contained in those fruits produce men and women, who repeopled the
earth. Thus we find in all its simplicity, among nations now in a
savage state, a tradition which the Greeks embellished with all the
charms of imagination! A few leagues from Encaramada, a rock, called
Tepu-mereme, or the painted rock, rises in the midst of the savannah.
Upon it are traced representations of animals, and symbolic figures
resembling those we saw in going down the Orinoco, at a small distance
below Encaramada, near the town Caycara. Similar rocks in Africa are
called by travellers fetish stones. I shall not make use of this term,
because fetishism does not prevail among the natives of the Orinoco;
and the figures of stars, of the sun, of tigers, and of crocodiles,
which we found traced upon the rocks in spots now uninhabited,
appeared to me in no way to denote the objects of worship of those
nations. Between the banks of the Cassiquiare and the Orinoco, between
Encaramada, the Capuchino, and Caycara, these hieroglyphic figures are
often seen at great heights, on rocky cliffs which could be accessible
only by constructing very lofty scaffolds. When the natives are asked
how those figures could have been sculptured, they answer with a
smile, as if relating a fact of which only a white man could be
ignorant, that "at the period of the great waters, their fathers went
to that height in boats."

These ancient traditions of the human race, which we find dispersed
over the whole surface of the globe, like the relics of a vast
shipwreck, are highly interesting in the philosophical study of our
own species. Like certain families of the vegetable kingdom, which,
notwithstanding the diversity of climates and the influence of
heights, retain the impression of a common type, the traditions of
nations respecting the origin of the world, display everywhere the
same physiognomy, and preserve features of resemblance that fill us
with astonishment. How many different tongues, belonging to branches
that appear totally distinct, transmit to us the same facts! The
traditions concerning races that have been destroyed, and the renewal
of nature, scarcely vary in reality, though every nation gives them a
local colouring. In the great continents, as in the smallest islands
of the Pacific Ocean, it is always on the loftiest and nearest
mountain that the remains of the human race have been saved; and this
event appears the more recent, in proportion as the nations are
uncultivated, and as the knowledge they have of their own existence
has no very remote date. After having studied with attention the
Mexican monuments anterior to the discovery of the New World; after
having penetrated into the forests of the Orinoco, and observed the
diminutive size of the European establishments, their solitude, and
the state of the tribes that have remained independent; we cannot
allow ourselves to attribute the analogies just cited to the influence
exercised by the missionaries, and by Christianity, on the national
traditions. Nor is it more probable, that the discovery of sea-shells
on the summit of mountains gave birth, among the nations of the
Orinoco, to the tradition of some great inundation which extinguished
for a time the germs of organic life on our globe. The country that
extends from the right bank of the Orinoco to the Cassiquiare and the
Rio Negro, is a country of primitive rocks. I saw there one small
formation of sandstone or conglomerate; but no secondary limestone,
and no trace of petrifactions.

A fresh north-east breeze carried us full-sail towards the Boca de la
Tortuga. We landed, at eleven in the morning, on an island which the
Indians of the Missions of Uruana considered as their property, and
which lies in the middle of the river. This island is celebrated for
the turtle fishery, or, as they say here, the cosecha, the harvest [of
eggs,] that takes place annually. We here found an assemblage of
Indians, encamped under huts made of palm-leaves. This encampment
contained more than three hundred persons. Accustomed, since we had
left San Fernando de Apure, to see only desert shores, we were
singularly struck by the bustle that prevailed here. We found, besides
the Guamos and the Ottomacs of Uruana, who are both considered as
savage races, Caribs and other Indians of the Lower Orinoco. Every
tribe was separately encamped, and was distinguished by the pigments
with which their skins were painted. Some white men were seen amidst
this tumultuous assemblage, chiefly pulperos, or little traders of
Angostura, who had come up the river to purchase turtle oil from the
natives. The missionary of Uruana, a native of Alcala, came to meet
us, and he was extremely astonished at seeing us. After having admired
our instruments, he gave us an exaggerated picture of the sufferings
to which we should be necessarily exposed in ascending the Orinoco
beyond the cataracts. The object of our journey appeared to him very
mysterious. "How is it possible to believe," said he, "that you have
left your country, to come and be devoured by mosquitos on this river,
and to measure lands that are not your own?" We were happily furnished
with recommendations from the Superior of the Franciscan Missions, and
the brother-in-law of the governor of Varinas, who accompanied us,
soon dissipated the doubts to which our dress, our accent, and our
arrival in this sandy island, had given rise among the Whites. The
missionary invited us to partake a frugal repast of fish and
plantains. He told us that he had come to encamp with the Indians
during the time of the harvest of eggs, "to celebrate mass every
morning in the open air, to procure the oil necessary for the
church-lamps, and especially to govern this mixed republic (republica
de Indios y Castellanos) in which every one wished to profit singly by
what God had granted to all."

We made the tour of the island, accompanied by the missionary and by a
pulpero, who boasted of having, for ten successive years, visited the
camp of the Indians, and attended the turtle-fishery. We were on a
plain of sand perfectly smooth; and were told that, as far as we could
see along the beach, turtles' eggs were concealed under a layer of
earth. The missionary carried a long pole in his hand. He showed us,
that by means of this pole, the extent of the stratum of eggs could be
determined as accurately as the miner determines the limits of a bed
of marl, of bog iron-ore, or of coal. On thrusting the rod
perpendicularly into the ground, the sudden want of resistance shows
that the cavity or layer of loose earth containing the eggs, has been
reached. We saw that the stratum is generally spread with so much
uniformity, that the pole finds it everywhere in a radius of ten
toises around any given spot. Here they talk continually of square
perches of eggs; it is like a mining-country, divided into lots, and
worked with the greatest regularity. The stratum of eggs, however, is
far from covering the whole island: they are not found wherever the
ground rises abruptly, because the turtle cannot mount heights. I
related to my guides the emphatic description of Father Gumilla, who
asserts, that the shores of the Orinoco contain fewer grains of sand
than the river contains turtles; and that these animals would prevent
vessels from advancing, if men and tigers did not annually destroy so
great a number.* (* "It would be as difficult to count the grains of
sand on the shores of the Orinoco, as to count the immense number of
tortoises which inhabit its margins and waters. Were it not for the
vast consumption of tortoises and their eggs, the river Orinoco,
despite its great magnitude, would be unnavigable, for vessels would
be impeded by the enormous multitude of the tortoises." Gumilla,
Orinoco Illustrata volume 1 pages 331 to 336.) "Son cuentos de
frailes," "they are monkish legends," said the pulpero of Angostura,
in a low voice; for the only travellers in this country being the
missionaries, they here call monks' stories, what we call travellers'
tales, in Europe.

The Indians assured us that, in going up the Orinoco from its mouth to
its junction with the Apure, not one island or one beach is to be
found, where eggs can be collected in abundance. The great turtle
(arrau* (* This word belongs to the Maypure language, and must not be
confounded with arua, which means a crocodile, among the Tamanacs,
neighbours of the Maypures. The Ottomacs call the turtle of Uruana,
achea; the Tamanacs, peje.)) dreads places inhabited by men, or much
frequented by boats. It is a timid and mistrustful animal, raising
only its head above the water, and hiding itself at the least noise.
The shores where almost all the turtles of the Orinoco appear to
assemble annually, are situated between the junction of the Orinoco
with the Apure, and the great cataracts; that is to say, between
Cabruta and the Mission of Atures. There are found the three famous
fisheries; those of Encaramada, or Boca del Cabullare; of Cucuruparu,
or Boca de la Tortuga; and of Pararuma, a little below Carichana. It
seems that the arrau does not pass beyond the cataracts; and we were
assured, that only the turtles called terekay, (in Spanish terecayas,)
are found above Atures and Maypures.

The arrau, called by the Spaniards of the Missions simply tortuga, is
an animal whose existence is of great importance to the nations on the
Lower Orinoco. It is a large freshwater tortoise, with palmate and
membraneous feet; the head very flat, with two fleshy and
acutely-pointed appendages under the chin; five claws to the fore
feet, and four to the hind feet, which are furrowed underneath. The
upper shell has five central, eight lateral, and twenty-four marginal
plates. The colour is darkish grey above, and orange beneath. The feet
are yellow, and very long. There is a deep furrow between the eyes.
The claws are very strong and crooked. The anus is placed at the
distance of one-fifth from the extremity of the tail. The full-grown
animal weighs from forty to fifty pounds. Its eggs are much larger
than those of pigeons, and less elongated than the eggs of the
terekay. They are covered with a calcareous crust, and, it is said,
they have sufficient firmness for the children of the Ottomac Indians,
who are great players at ball, to throw them into the air from one to
another. If the arrau inhabited the bed of the river above the
cataracts, the Indians of the Upper Orinoco would not travel so far to
procure the flesh and the eggs of this tortoise. Yet, formerly, whole
tribes from the Atabapo and the Cassiquiare have been known to pass
the cataracts, in order to take part in the fishery at Uruana.

The terekay is less than the arrau. It is in general only fourteen
inches in diameter. The number of plates in the upper shell is the
same, but they are somewhat differently arranged. I counted three in
the centre of the disk, and five hexagonal on each side. The margins
contain twenty-four, all quadrangular, and much curved. The upper
shell is of a black colour inclining to green; the feet and claws are
like those of the arrau. The whole animal is of an olive-green, but it
has two spots of red mixed with yellow on the top of the head. The
throat is also yellow, and furnished with a prickly appendage. The
terekays do not assemble in numerous societies like the arraus, to lay
their eggs in common, and deposit them upon the same shore. The eggs
of the terekay have an agreeable taste, and are much sought after by
the inhabitants of Spanish Guiana. They are found in the Upper
Orinoco, as well as below the cataracts, and even in the Apure, the
Uritucu, the Guarico, and the small rivers that traverse the Llanos of
Caracas. The form of the feet and head, the appendages of the chin and
throat, and the position of the anus, seem to indicate that the arrau,
and probably the terekay also, belong to a new subdivision of the
tortoises, that may be separated from the emydes. The period at which
the large arrau tortoise lays its eggs coincides with the period of
the lowest waters. The Orinoco beginning to increase from the vernal
equinox, the lowest flats are found uncovered from the end of January
till the 20th or 25th of March. The arrau tortoises collect in troops
in the month of January, then issue from the water, and warm
themselves in the sun, reposing on the sands. The Indians believe that
great heat is indispensable to the health of the animal, and that its
exposure to the sun favours the laying of the eggs. The arraus are
found on the beach a great part of the day during the whole month of
February. At the beginning of March the straggling troops assemble,
and swim towards the small number of islands on which they habitually
deposit their eggs. It is probable that the same tortoise returns
every year to the same locality. At this period, a few days before
they lay their eggs, thousands of these animals may be seen ranged in
long files, on the borders of the islands of Cucuruparu, Uruana, and
Pararuma, stretching out their necks and holding their heads above
water, to see whether they have anything to dread. The Indians, who
are anxious that the bands when assembled should not separate, that
the tortoises should not disperse, and that the laying of the eggs
should be performed tranquilly, place sentinels at certain distances
along the shore. The people who pass in boats are told to keep in the
middle of the river, and not frighten the tortoises by cries. The
laying of the eggs takes place always during the night, and it begins
soon after sunset. With its hind feet, which are very long, and
furnished with crooked claws, the animal digs a hole of three feet in
diameter and two in depth. These tortoises feel so pressing a desire
to lay their eggs, that some of them descend into holes that have been
dug by others, but which are not yet covered with earth. There they
deposit a new layer of eggs on that which has been recently laid. In
this tumultuous movement an immense number of eggs are broken. The
missionary showed us, by removing the sand in several places, that
this loss probably amounts to a fifth of the whole quantity. The yolk
of the broken eggs contributes, in drying, to cement the sand; and we
found very large concretions of grains of quartz and broken shells.
The number of animals working on the beach during the night is so
considerable, that day surprises many of them before the laying of
their eggs is terminated. They are then urged on by the double
necessity of depositing their eggs, and closing the holes they have
dug, that they may not be perceived by the jaguars. The tortoises that
thus remain too late are insensible to their own danger. They work in
the presence of the Indians, who visit the beach at a very early hour,
and who call them mad tortoises. Notwithstanding the rapidity of their
movements, they are then easily caught with the hand.

The three encampments formed by the Indians, in the places indicated
above, begin about the end of March or commencement of April. The
gathering of the eggs is conducted in a uniform manner, and with that
regularity which characterises all monastic institutions. Before the
arrival of the missionaries on the banks of the river, the Indians
profited much less from a production which nature has supplied in such
abundance. Every tribe searched the beach in its own way; and an
immense number of eggs were uselessly broken, because they were not
dug up with precaution, and more eggs were uncovered than could be
carried away. It was like a mine worked by unskilful hands. The
Jesuits have the merit of having reduced this operation to regularity;
and though the Franciscan monks, who succeeded the Jesuits in the
Missions of the Orinoco, boast of having followed the example of their
predecessors, they unhappily do not effect all that prudence requires.
The Jesuits did not suffer the whole beach to be searched; they left a
part untouched, from the fear of seeing the breed of tortoises, if not
destroyed, at least considerably diminished. The whole beach is now
dug up without reserve; and accordingly it seems to be perceived that
the gathering is less productive from year to year.

When the camp is formed, the missionary of Uruana names his
lieutenant, or commissary, who divides the ground where the eggs are
found into different portions, according to the number of the Indian
tribes who take part in the gathering. They are all Indians of
Missions, as naked and rude as the Indians of the woods; though they
are called reducidos and neofitos, because they go to church at the
sound of the bell, and have learned to kneel down during the
consecration of the host.

The lieutenant (commissionado del Padre) begins his operations by
sounding. He examines by means of a long wooden pole or a cane of
bamboo, how far the stratum of eggs extends. This stratum, according
to our measurements, extended to the distance of one hundred and
twenty feet from the shore. Its average depth is three feet. The
commissionado places marks to indicate the point where each tribe
should stop in its labours. We were surprised to hear this harvest of
eggs estimated like the produce of a well-cultivated field. An area
accurately measured of one hundred and twenty feet long, and thirty
feet wide, has been known to yield one hundred jars of oil, valued at
about forty pounds sterling. The Indians remove the earth with their
hands; they place the eggs they have collected in small baskets, carry
them to their encampment, and throw them into long troughs of wood
filled with water. In these troughs the eggs, broken and stirred with
shovels, remain exposed to the sun till the oily part, which swims on
the surface, has time to inspissate. As fast as this collects on the
surface of the water, it is taken off and boiled over a quick fire.
This animal oil, called tortoise butter (manteca de tortugas* (* The
Tamanac Indians give it the name of carapa; the Maypures call it
timi.)) keeps the better, it is said, in proportion as it has
undergone a strong ebullition. When well prepared, it is limpid,
inodorous, and scarcely yellow. The missionaries compare it to the
best olive oil, and it is used not merely for burning in lamps, but
for cooking. It is not easy, however, to procure oil of turtles' eggs
quite pure. It has generally a putrid smell, owing to the mixture of
eggs in which the young are already formed.

I acquired some general statistical notions on the spot, by consulting
the missionary of Uruana, his lieutenant, and the traders of
Angostura. The shore of Uruana furnishes one thousand botijas, or jars
of oil, annually. The price of each jar at Angostura varies from two
piastres to two and a half. We may admit that the total produce of the
three shores, where the cosecha, or gathering of eggs, is annually
made, is five thousand botijas. Now as two hundred eggs yield oil
enough to fill a bottle (limeta), it requires five thousand eggs for a
jar or botija of oil. Estimating at one hundred, or one hundred and
sixteen, the number of eggs that one tortoise produces, and reckoning
that one third of these is broken at the time of laying, particularly
by the mad tortoises, we may presume that, to obtain annually five
thousand jars of oil, three hundred and thirty thousand arrau
tortoises, the weight of which amounts to one hundred and sixty-five
thousand quintals, must lay thirty-three millions of eggs on the three
shores where this harvest is gathered. The results of these
calculations are much below the truth. Many tortoises lay only sixty
or seventy eggs; and a great number of these animals are devoured by
jaguars at the moment they emerge from the water. The Indians bring
away a great number of eggs to eat them dried in the sun; and they
break a considerable number through carelessness during the gathering.
The number of eggs that are hatched before the people can dig them up
is so prodigious, that near the encampment of Uruana I saw the whole
shore of the Orinoco swarming with little tortoises an inch in
diameter, escaping with difficulty from the pursuit of the Indian
children. If to these considerations be added, that all the arraus do
not assemble on the three shores of the encampments; and that there
are many which lay their eggs in solitude, and some weeks later,*
between the mouth of the Orinoco and the confluence of the Apure; we
must admit that the number of turtles which annually deposit their
eggs on the banks of the Lower Orinoco, is near a million. (* The
arraus, which lay their eggs before the beginning of March, (for in
the same species the more or less frequent basking in the sun, the
food, and the peculiar organization of each individual, occasion
differences,) come out of the water with the terekays, which lay in
January and February. Father Gumilla believes them to be arraus that
were not able to lay their eggs the preceding year. It is difficult to
find the eggs of the terekays, because these animals, far from
collecting in thousands on the same beach, deposit their eggs as they
are scattered about.) This number is very great for so large an
animal. In general large animals multiply less considerably than the
smaller ones.

The labour of collecting the eggs, and preparing the oil, occupies
three weeks. It is at this period only that the missionaries have any
communication with the coast and the civilized neighbouring countries.
The Franciscan monks who live south of the cataracts, come to the
harvest of eggs less to procure oil, than to see, as they say, white
faces; and to learn whether the king inhabits the Escurial or San
Ildefonso, whether convents are still suppressed in France, and above
all, whether the Turks continue to keep quiet. On these subjects, (the
only ones interesting to a monk of the Orinoco), the small traders of
Angostura, who visit the encampments, can give, unfortunately, no very
exact information. But in these distant countries no doubt is ever
entertained of the news brought by a white man from the capital. The
profit of the traders in oil amounts to seventy or eighty per cent;
for the Indians sell it them at the price of a piastre a jar or
botija, and the expense of carriage is not more than two-fifths of a
piastre per jar. The Indians bring away also a considerable quantity
of eggs dried in the sun, or slightly boiled. Our rowers had baskets
or little bags of cotton-cloth filled with these eggs. Their taste is
not disagreeable, when well preserved. We were shown large shells of
turtles, which had been destroyed by the jaguars. These animals follow
the arraus towards those places on the beach where the eggs are laid.
They surprise the arraus on the sand; and, in order to devour them at
their ease, turn them in such a manner that the under shell is
uppermost. In this situation the turtles cannot rise; and as the
jaguar turns many more than he can eat in one night, the Indians often
avail themselves of his cunning and avidity.

When we reflect on the difficulty experienced by the naturalist in
getting out the body of the turtle without separating the upper and
under shells, we cannot sufficiently wonder at the suppleness of the
tiger's paw, which is able to remove the double armour of the arrau,
as if the adhering parts of the muscles had been cut by a surgical
instrument. The jaguar pursues the turtle into the water when it is
not very deep. It even digs up the eggs; and together with the
crocodile, the heron, and the galinazo vulture, is the most cruel
enemy of the little turtles recently hatched. The island of Pararuma
had been so much infested with crocodiles the preceding year, during
the egg-harvest, that the Indians in one night caught eighteen, of
twelve or fifteen feet long, by means of curved pieces of iron, baited
with the flesh of the manatee. Besides the beasts of the forests we
have just named, the wild Indians also very much diminish the quantity
of the oil. Warned by the first slight rains, which they call
turtle-rains (peje canepori* (* In the Tamanac language, from peje, a
tortoise, and canepo, rain.)), they hasten to the banks of the
Orinoco, and kill the turtles with poisoned arrows, whilst, with
upraised heads and paws extended, the animals are warming themselves
in the sun.

Though the little turtles (tortuguillos) may have burst the shells of
their eggs during the day, they are never seen to come out of the
ground but at night. The Indians assert that the young animal fears
the heat of the sun. They tried also to show us, that when the
tortuguillo is carried in a bag to a distance from the shore, and
placed in such a manner that its tail is turned to the river, it takes
without hesitation the shortest way to the water. I confess, that this
experiment, of which Father Gumilla speaks, does not always succeed
equally well: yet in general it does appear that at great distances
from the shore, and even in an island, these little animals feel with
extreme delicacy in what direction the most humid air prevails.

Reflecting on the almost uninterrupted layer of eggs that extends
along the beach, and on the thousands of little turtles that seek the
water as soon as they are hatched, it is difficult to admit that the
many turtles which have made their nests in the same spot, can
distinguish their own young, and lead them, like the crocodiles, to
the lakes in the vicinity of the Orinoco. It is certain, however, that
the animal passes the first years of its life in pools where the water
is shallow, and does not return to the bed of the great river till it
is full-grown. How then do the tortuguillos find these pools? Are they
led thither by female turtles, which adopt the young as by chance? The
crocodiles, less numerous, deposit their eggs in separate holes; and,
in this family of saurians, the female returns about the time when the
incubation is terminated, calls her young, which answer to her voice,
and often assists them to get out of the ground. The arrau tortoise,
no doubt, like the crocodile, knows the spot where she has made her
nest; but, not daring to return to the beach on which the Indians have
formed their encampment, how can she distinguish her own young from
those which do not belong to her? On the other hand, the Ottomac
Indians declare that, at the period of inundation, they have met with
female turtles followed by a great number of young ones. These were
perhaps arraus whose eggs had been deposited on a desert beach to
which they could return. Males are extremely rare among these animals.
Scarcely is one male found among several hundred females. The cause of
this disparity cannot be the same as with the crocodiles, which fight
in the coupling season.

Our pilot had anchored at the Playa de huevos, to purchase some
provisions, our store having begun to run short. We found there fresh
meat, Angostura rice, and even biscuit made of wheat-flour. Our
Indians filled the boat with little live turtles, and eggs dried in
the sun, for their own use. Having taken leave of the missionary of
Uruana, who had treated us with great kindness, we set sail about four
in the afternoon. The wind was fresh, and blew in squalls. Since we
had entered the mountainous part of the country, we had discovered
that our canoe carried sail very badly; but the master was desirous of
showing the Indians who were assembled on the beach, that, by going
close to the wind, he could reach, at one single tack, the middle of
the river. At the very moment when he was boasting of his dexterity,
and the boldness of his manoeuvre, the force of the wind upon the sail
became so great that we were on the point of going down. One side of
the boat was under water, which rushed in with such violence that it
was soon up to our knees. It washed over a little table at which I was
writing at the stern of the boat. I had some difficulty to save my
journal, and in an instant we saw our books, papers, and dried plants,
all afloat. M. Bonpland was lying asleep in the middle of the canoe.
Awakened by the entrance of the water and the cries of the Indians, he
understood the danger of our situation, whilst he maintained that
coolness which he always displayed in the most difficult
circumstances. The lee-side righting itself from time to time during
the squall, he did not consider the boat as lost. He thought that,
were we even forced to abandon it, we might save ourselves by
swimming, since there was no crocodile in sight. Amidst this
uncertainty the cordage of the sail suddenly gave way. The same gust
of wind, that had thrown us on our beam, served also to right us. We
laboured to bale the water out of the boat with calabashes, the sail
was again set, and in less than half an hour we were in a state to
proceed. The wind now abated a little. Squalls alternating with dead
calms are common in that part of the Orinoco which is bordered by
mountains. They are very dangerous for boats deeply laden, and without
decks. We had escaped as if by miracle. To the reproaches that were
heaped on our pilot for having kept too near the wind, he replied with
the phlegmatic coolness peculiar to the Indians, observing "that the
whites would find sun enough on those banks to dry their papers." We
lost only one book--the first volume of the Genera Plantarum of
Schreber--which had fallen overboard. At nightfall we landed on a
barren island in the middle of the river, near the Mission of Uruana.
We supped in a clear moonlight, seating ourselves on some large
turtle-shells that were found scattered about the beach. What
satisfaction we felt on finding ourselves thus comfortably landed! We
figured to ourselves the situation of a man who had been saved alone
from shipwreck, wandering on these desert shores, meeting at every
step with other rivers which fall into the Orinoco, and which it is
dangerous to pass by swimming, on account of the multitude of
crocodiles and caribe fishes. We pictured to ourselves such a man,
alive to the most tender affections of the soul, ignorant of the fate
of his companions, and thinking more of them than of himself. If we
love to indulge such melancholy meditations, it is because, when just
escaped from danger, we seem to feel as it were the necessity of
strong emotions. Our minds were full of what we had just witnessed.
There are periods in life when, without being discouraged, the future
appears more uncertain. It was only three days since we had entered
the Orinoco, and there yet remained three months for us to navigate
rivers encumbered with rocks, and in boats smaller than that in which
we had so nearly perished.

The night was intensely hot. We lay upon skins spread on the ground,
there being no trees to which we could fasten our hammocks. The
torments of the mosquitos increased every day; and we were surprised
to find that on this spot our fires did not prevent the approach of
the jaguars. They swam across the arm of the river that separated us
from the mainland. Towards morning we heard their cries very near.
They had come to the island where we passed the night. The Indians
told us that, during the collecting of the turtles' eggs, tigers are
always more frequent in those regions, and display at that period the
greatest intrepidity.

On the following day, the 7th, we passed, on our right, the mouth of
the great Rio Arauca, celebrated for the immense number of birds that
frequent it; and, on our left, the Mission of Uruana, commonly called
La Concepcion de Urbana. This small village, which contains five
hundred souls, was founded by the Jesuits, about the year 1748, by the
union of the Ottomac and Cavere Indians. It lies at the foot of a
mountain composed of detached blocks of granite, which, I believe,
bears the name of Saraguaca. Masses of rock, separated one from the
other by the effect of decomposition, form caverns, in which we find
indubitable proofs of the ancient civilization of the natives.
Hieroglyphic figures, and even characters in regular lines, are seen
sculptured on their sides; though I doubt whether they bear any
analogy to alphabetic writing. We visited the Mission of Uruana on our
return from the Rio Negro, and saw with our own eyes those heaps of
earth which the Ottomacs eat, and which have become the subject of
such lively discussion in Europe.* (* This earth is a greasy kind of
clay, which, in seasons of scarcity, the natives use to assuage the
cravings of hunger; it having been proved by their experience as well
as by physiological researches, that want of food can be more easily
borne by filling the cavity of the stomach with some substance, even
although it may be in itself very nearly or totally innutritious. The
Indian hunters of North America, for the same purpose, tie boards
tightly across the abdomen; and most savage races are found to have
recourse to expedients that answer the same end.)

On measuring the breadth of the Orinoco between the islands called
Isla de Uruana and Isla de la Manteca, we found it, during the high
waters, 2674 toises, which make nearly four nautical miles. This is
eight times the breadth of the Nile at Manfalout and Syout, yet we
were at the distance of a hundred and ninety-four leagues from the
mouth of the Orinoco.

The temperature of the water at its surface was 27.8 degrees of the
centigrade thermometer, near Uruana. That of the river Zaire, or
Congo, in Africa, at an equal distance from the equator, was found by
Captain Tuckey, in the months of July and August, to be only from 23.9
to 25.6 degrees.

The western bank of the Orinoco remains low farther than the mouth of
the Meta; while from the Mission of Uruana the mountains approach the
eastern bank more and more. As the strength of the current increases
in proportion as the river grows narrower, the progress of our boat
became much slower. We continued to ascend the Orinoco under sail, but
the high and woody grounds deprived us of the wind. At other times the
narrow passes between the mountains by which we sailed, sent us
violent gusts, but of short duration. The number of crocodiles
increased below the junction of the Rio Arauca, particularly opposite
the great lake of Capanaparo, which communicates with the Orinoco, as
the Laguna de Cabullarito communicates at the same time with the
Orinoco and the Rio Arauca. The Indians told us that the crocodiles
came from the inlands, where they had been buried in the dried mud of
the savannahs. As soon as the first showers arouse them from their
lethargy, they crowd together in troops, and hasten toward the river,
there to disperse again. Here, in the equinoctial zone, it is the
increase of humidity that recalls them to life; while in Georgia and
Florida, in the temperate zone, it is the augmentation of heat that
rouses these animals from a state of nervous and muscular debility,
during which the active powers of respiration are suspended or
singularly diminished. The season of great drought, improperly called
the summer of the torrid zone, corresponds with the winter of the
temperate zone; and it is a curious physiological phenomenon to
observe the alligators of North America plunged into a winter-sleep by
excess of cold, at the same period when the crocodiles of the Llanos
begin their siesta or summer-sleep. If it were probable that these
animals of the same family had heretofore inhabited the same northern
country, we might suppose that, in advancing towards the equator, they
feel the want of repose after having exercised their muscles for seven
or eight months, and that they retain under a new sky the habits which
appear to be essentially linked with their organization.

Having passed the mouths of the channels communicating with the lake
of Capanaparo, we entered a part of the Orinoco, where the bed of the
river is narrowed by the mountains of Baraguan. It is a kind of
strait, reaching nearly to the confluence of the Rio Suapure. From
these granite mountains the natives heretofore gave the name of
Baraguan to that part of the Orinoco comprised between the mouths of
the Arauca and the Atabapo. Among savage nations great rivers bear
different denominations in the different portions of their course. The
Passage of Baraguan presents a picturesque scene. The granite rocks
are perpendicular. They form a range of mountains lying north-west and
south-east; and the river cutting this dyke nearly at a right angle,
the summits of the mountains appear like separate peaks. Their
elevation in general does not surpass one hundred and twenty toises;
but their situation in the midst of a small plain, their steep
declivities, and their flanks destitute of vegetation, give them a
majestic character. They are composed of enormous masses of granite of
a parallelopipedal figure, but rounded at the edges, and heaped one
upon another. The blocks are often eighty feet long, and twenty or
thirty broad. They would seem to have been piled up by some external
force, if the proximity of a rock identical in its composition, not
separated into blocks but filled with veins, did not prove that the
parallelopipedal form is owing solely to the action of the atmosphere.
These veins, two or three inches thick, are distinguished by a
fine-grained quartz-granite crossing a coarse-grained granite almost
porphyritic, and abounding in fine crystals of red feldspar. I sought
in vain, in the Cordillera of Baraguan, for hornblende, and those
steatitic masses that characterise several granites of the Higher Alps
in Switzerland.

We landed in the middle of the strait of Baraguan to measure its
breadth. The rocks project so much towards the river that I measured
with difficulty a base of eighty toises. I found the river eight
hundred and eighty-nine toises broad. In order to conceive how this
passage bears the name of a strait, we must recollect that the breadth
of the river from Uruana to the junction of the Meta is in general
from 1500 to 2500 toises. In this place, which is extremely hot and
barren, I measured two granite summits, much rounded: one was only a
hundred and ten, and the other eighty-five, toises. There are higher
summits in the interior of the group, but in general these mountains,
of so wild an aspect, have not the elevation that is assigned to them
by the missionaries.

We looked in vain for plants in the clefts of the rocks, which are as
steep as walls, and furnish some traces of stratification. We found
only an old trunk of aubletia* (* Aubletia tiburba.), with large
apple-shaped fruit, and a new species of the family of the apocyneae.*
(* Allamanda salicifolia.) All the stones were covered with an
innumerable quantity of iguanas and geckos with spreading and
membranous fingers. These lizards, motionless, with heads raised, and
mouths open, seemed to suck in the heated air. The thermometer placed
against the rock rose to 50.2 degrees. The soil appeared to undulate,
from the effect of mirage, without a breath of wind being felt. The
sun was near the zenith, and its dazzling light, reflected from the
surface of the river, contrasted with the reddish vapours that
enveloped every surrounding object. How vivid is the impression
produced by the calm of nature, at noon, in these burning climates!
The beasts of the forests retire to the thickets; the birds hide
themselves beneath the foliage of the trees, or in the crevices of the
rocks. Yet, amidst this apparent silence, when we lend an attentive
ear to the most feeble sounds transmitted through the air, we hear a
dull vibration, a continual murmur, a hum of insects, filling, if we
may use the expression, all the lower strata of the air. Nothing is
better fitted to make man feel the extent and power of organic life.
Myriads of insects creep upon the soil, and flutter round the plants
parched by the heat of the sun. A confused noise issues from every
bush, from the decayed trunks of trees, from the clefts of the rocks,
and from the ground undermined by lizards, millepedes, and cecilias.
These are so many voices proclaiming to us that all nature breathes;
and that, under a thousand different forms, life is diffused
throughout the cracked and dusty soil, as well as in the bosom of the
waters, and in the air that circulates around us.

The sensations which I here recall to mind are not unknown to those
who, without having advanced to the equator, have visited Italy,
Spain, or Egypt. That contrast of motion and silence, that aspect of
nature at once calm and animated, strikes the imagination of the
traveller when he enters the basin of the Mediterranean, within the
zone of olives, dwarf palms, and date-trees.

We passed the night on the eastern bank of the Orinoco, at the foot of
a granitic hill. Near this desert spot was formerly seated the Mission
of San Regis. We could have wished to find a spring in the Baraguan,
for the water of the river had a smell of musk, and a sweetish taste
extremely disagreeable. In the Orinoco, as well as in the Apure, we
are struck with the difference observable in the various parts of the
river near the most barren shore. The water is sometimes very
drinkable, and sometimes seems to be loaded with a slimy matter. "It
is the bark (meaning the coriaceous covering) of the putrefied cayman
that is the cause," say the natives. "The more aged the cayman, the
more bitter is his bark." I have no doubt that the carcasses of these
large reptiles, those of the manatees, which weigh five hundred
pounds, and the presence of the porpoises (toninas) with their
mucilaginous skin, may contaminate the water, especially in the
creeks, where the river has little velocity. Yet the spots where we
found the most fetid water, were not always those where dead animals
were accumulated on the beach. When, in such burning climates, where
we are constantly tormented by thirst, we are reduced to drink the
water of a river at the temperature of 27 or 28 degrees, we cannot
help wishing at least that water so hot, and so loaded with sand,
should be free from smell.

On the 8th of April we passed the mouths of the Suapure or Sivapuri,
and the Caripo, on the east, and the outlet of the Sinaruco on the
west. This last river is, next to the Rio Arauca, the most
considerable between the Apure and the Meta. The Suapure, full of
little cascades, is celebrated among the Indians for the quantity of
wild honey obtained from the forests in its neighbourhood. The
melipones there suspend their enormous hives to the branches of trees.
Father Gili, in 1766, made an excursion on the Suapure, and on the
Turiva, which falls into it. He there found tribes of the nation of
Areverians. We passed the night a little below the island Macapina.

Early on the following morning we arrived at the beach of Pararuma,
where we found an encampment of Indians similar to that we had seen at
the Boca de la Tortuga. They had assembled to search the sands, for
collecting the turtles' eggs, and extracting the oil; but they had
unfortunately made a mistake of several days. The young turtles had
come out of their shells before the Indians had formed their camp; and
consequently the crocodiles and the garzes, a species of large white
herons, availed themselves of the delay. These animals, alike fond of
the flesh of the young turtles, devour an innumerable quantity. They
fish during the night, for the tortuguillos do not come out of the
earth to gain the neighbouring river till after the evening twilight.
The zamuro vultures are too indolent to hunt after sunset. They stalk
along the shores in the daytime, and alight in the midst of the Indian
encampment to steal provisions; but they often find no other means of
satisfying their voracity than by attacking young crocodiles of seven
or eight inches long, either on land or in water of little depth. It
is curious to see the address with which these little animals defend
themselves for a time against the vultures. As soon as they perceive
the enemy, they raise themselves on their fore paws, bend their backs,
and lift up their heads, opening their wide jaws. They turn
continually, though slowly, toward their assailant to show him their
teeth, which, even when the animal has but recently issued from the
egg, are very long and sharp. Often while the attention of a young
crocodile is wholly engaged by one of the zamuros, another seizes the
favourable opportunity for an unforeseen attack. He pounces on the
crocodile, grasps him by the neck, and bears him off to the higher
regions of the air. We had an opportunity of observing this manoeuvre
during several mornings, at Mompex, on the banks of the Magdalena,
where we had collected more than forty very young crocodiles, in a
spacious court surrounded by a wall.

We found among the Indians assembled at Pararuma some white men, who
had come from Angostura to purchase the tortoise-butter. After having
wearied us for a long time with their complaints of the bad harvest,
and the mischief done by the tigers among the turtles, at the time of
laying their eggs, they conducted us beneath an ajoupa, that rose in
the centre of the Indian camp. We here found the missionary-monks of
Carichana and the Cataracts seated on the ground, playing at cards,
and smoking tobacco in long pipes. Their ample blue garments, their
shaven heads, and their long beards, might have led us to mistake them
for natives of the East. These poor priests received us in the kindest
manner, giving us every information necessary for the continuation of
our voyage. They had suffered from tertian fever for some months; and
their pale and emaciated aspect easily convinced us that the countries
we were about to visit were not without danger to the health of

The Indian pilot, who had brought us from San Fernando de Apure as far
as the shore of Pararuma, was unacquainted with the passage of the
rapids* (* Little cascades, chorros raudalitos.) of the Orinoco, and
would not undertake to conduct our bark any farther. We were obliged
to conform to his will. Happily for us, the missionary of Carichana
consented to sell us a fine canoe at a very moderate price: and Father
Bernardo Zea, missionary of the Atures and Maypures near the great
cataracts, offered, though still unwell, to accompany us as far as the
frontiers of Brazil. The number of natives who can assist in guiding
boats through the Raudales is so inconsiderable that, but for the
presence of the monk, we should have risked spending whole weeks in
these humid and unhealthy regions. On the banks of the Orinoco, the
forests of the Rio Negro are considered as delicious spots. The air is
indeed cooler and more healthful. The river is free from crocodiles;
one may bathe without apprehension, and by night as well as by day
there is less torment from the sting of insects than on the Orinoco.
Father Zea hoped to reestablish his health by visiting the Missions of
Rio Negro. He talked of those places with that enthusiasm which is
felt in all the colonies of South America for everything far off.

The assemblage of Indians at Pararuma again excited in us that
interest, which everywhere attaches man in a cultivated state to the
study of man in a savage condition, and the successive development of
his intellectual faculties. How difficult to recognize in this infancy
of society, in this assemblage of dull, silent, inanimate Indians, the
primitive character of our species! Human nature does not here
manifest those features of artless simplicity, of which poets in every
language have drawn such enchanting pictures. The savage of the
Orinoco appeared to us to be as hideous as the savage of the
Mississippi, described by that philosophical traveller Volney, who so
well knew how to paint man in different climates. We are eager to
persuade ourselves that these natives, crouching before the fire, or
seated on large turtle-shells, their bodies covered with earth and
grease, their eyes stupidly fixed for whole hours on the beverage they
are preparing, far from being the primitive type of our species, are a
degenerate race, the feeble remains of nations who, after having been
long dispersed in the forests, are replunged into barbarism.

Red paint being in some sort the only clothing of the Indians, two
kinds may be distinguished among them, according as they are more or
less affluent. The common decoration of the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and
the Jaruros, is onoto,* (* Properly anoto. This word belongs to the
Tamanac Indians. The Maypures call it majepa. The Spanish missionaries
say onotarse, to rub the skin with anato.) called by the Spaniards
achote, and by the planters of Cayenne, rocou. It is the colouring
matter extracted from the pulp of the Bixa orellana.* (* The word
bixa, adopted by botanists, is derived from the ancient language of
Haiti (the island of St. Domingo). Rocou, the term commonly used by
the French, is derived from the Brazilian word, urucu.) The Indian
women prepare the anato by throwing the seeds of the plant into a tub
filled with water. They beat this water for an hour, and then leave it
to deposit the colouring fecula, which is of an intense brick-red.
After having separated the water, they take out the fecula, dry it
between their hands, knead it with oil of turtles' eggs, and form it
into round cakes of three or four ounces weight. When turtle oil is
wanting, some tribes mix with the anato the fat of the crocodile.

Another pigment, much more valuable, is extracted from a plant of the
family of the bignoniae, which M. Bonpland has made known by the name
of Bignonia chica. It climbs up and clings to the tallest trees by the
aid of tendrils. Its bilabiate flowers are an inch long, of a fine
violet colour, and disposed by twos or threes. The bipinnate leaves
become reddish in drying. The fruit is a pod, filled with winged
seeds, and is two feet long. This plant grows spontaneously, and in
great abundance, near Maypures; and in going up the Orinoco, beyond
the mouth of the Guaviare, from Santa Barbara to the lofty mountain of
Duida, particularly near Esmeralda. We also found it on the banks of
the Cassiquiare. The red pigment of chica is not obtained from the
fruit, like the onoto, but from the leaves macerated in water. The
colouring matter separates in the form of a light powder. It is
collected, without being mixed with turtle-oil, into little lumps
eight or nine inches long, and from two to three high, rounded at the
edges. These lumps, when heated, emit an agreeable smell of benzoin.
When the chica is subjected to distillation, it yields no sensible
traces of ammonia. It is not, like indigo, a substance combined with
azote. It dissolves slightly in sulphuric and muriatic acids, and even
in alkalis. Ground with oil, the chica furnishes a red colour that has
a tint of lake. Applied to wool, it might be confounded with
madder-red. There is no doubt but that the chica, unknown in Europe
before our travels, may be employed usefully in the arts. The nations
on the Orinoco, by whom this pigment is best prepared, are the
Salivas, the Guipunaves,* (* Or Guaypunaves; they call themselves
Uipunavi.) the Caveres, and the Piraoas. The processes of infusion and
maceration are in general very common among all the nations on the
Orinoco. Thus the Maypures carry on a trade of barter with the little
loaves of puruma, which is a vegetable fecula, dried in the manner of
indigo, and yielding a very permanent yellow colour. The chemistry of
the savage is reduced to the preparation of pigments, that of poisons,
and the dulcification of the amylaceous roots, which the aroides and
the euphorbiaceous plants afford.

Most of the missionaries of the Upper and Lower Orinoco permit the
Indians of their Missions to paint their skins. It is painful to add,
that some of them speculate on this barbarous practice of the natives.
In their huts, pompously called conventos,* (* In the Missions, the
priest's house bears the name of the convent.) I have often seen
stores of chica, which they sold as high as four francs the cake. To
form a just idea of the extravagance of the decoration of these naked
Indians, I must observe, that a man of large stature gains with
difficulty enough by the labour of a fortnight, to procure in exchange
the chica necessary to paint himself red. Thus as we say, in temperate
climates, of a poor man, "he has not enough to clothe himself," you
hear the Indians of the Orinoco say, "that man is so poor, that he has
not enough to paint half his body." The little trade in chica is
carried on chiefly with the tribes of the Lower Orinoco, whose country
does not produce the plant which furnishes this much-valued substance.
The Caribs and the Ottomacs paint only the head and the hair with
chica, but the Salives possess this pigment in sufficient abundance to
cover their whole bodies. When the missionaries send on their own
account small cargoes of cacao, tobacco, and chiquichiqui* (* Ropes
made with the petioles of a palm-tree with pinnate leaves.) from the
Rio Negro to Angostura, they always add some cakes of chica, as being
articles of merchandise in great request.

The custom of painting is not equally ancient among all the tribes of
the Orinoco. It has increased since the time when the powerful nation
of the Caribs made frequent incursions into those countries. The
victors and the vanquished were alike naked; and to please the
conqueror it was necessary to paint like him, and to assume his
colour. The influence of the Caribs has now ceased, and they remain
circumscribed between the rivers Carony, Cuyuni, and Paraguamuzi; but
the Caribbean fashion of painting the whole body is still preserved.
The custom has survived the conquest.

Does the use of the anato and chica derive its origin from the desire
of pleasing, and the taste for ornament, so common among the most
savage nations? or must we suppose it to be founded on the
observation, that these colouring and oily matters with which the skin
is plastered, preserve it from the sting of the mosquitos? I have
often heard this question discussed in Europe; but in the Missions of
the Orinoco, and wherever, within the tropics, the air is filled with
venomous insects, the inquiry would appear absurd. The Carib and the
Salive, who are painted red, are not less cruelly tormented by the
mosquitos and the zancudos, than the Indians whose bodies are
plastered with no colour. The sting of the insect causes no swelling
in either; and scarcely ever produces those little pustules which
occasion such smarting and itching to Europeans recently arrived. But
the native and the White suffer equally from the sting, till the
insect has withdrawn its sucker from the skin. After a thousand
useless essays, M. Bonpland and myself tried the expedient of rubbing
our hands and arms with the fat of the crocodile, and the oil of
turtle-eggs, but we never felt the least relief, and were stung as
before. I know that the Laplanders boast of oil and fat as the most
useful preservatives; but the insects of Scandinavia are not of the
same species as those of the Orinoco. The smoke of tobacco drives away
our gnats, while it is employed in vain against the zancudos. If the
application of fat and astringent* substances preserved the
inhabitants of these countries from the torment of insects, as Father
Gumilla alleges, why has not the custom of painting the skin become
general on these shores? (* The pulp of the anato, and even the chica,
are astringent and slightly purgative.) Why do so many naked natives
paint only the face, though living in the neighbourhood of those who
paint the whole body?* (* The Caribs, the Salives, the Tamanacs, and
the Maypures.)

We are struck with the observation, that the Indians of the Orinoco,
like the natives of North America, prefer the substances that yield a
red colour to every other. Is this predilection founded on the
facility with which the savage procures ochreous earths, or the
colouring fecula of anato and of chica? I doubt this much. Indigo
grows wild in a great part of equinoctial America. This plant, like so
many other leguminous plants, would have furnished the natives
abundantly with pigments to colour themselves blue like the ancient
Britons.* (* The half-clad nations of the temperate zone often paint
their skin of the same colour as that with which their clothes are
dyed.) Yet we see no American tribe painted with indigo. It appears to
me probable, as I have already hinted above, that the preference given
by the Americans to the red colour is generally founded on the
tendency which nations feel to attribute the idea of beauty to
whatever characterises their national physiognomy. Men whose skin is
naturally of a brownish red, love a red colour. If they be born with a
forehead little raised, and the head flat, they endeavour to depress
the foreheads of their children. If they be distinguished from other
nations by a thin beard, they try to eradicate the few hairs that
nature has given them. They think themselves embellished in proportion
as they heighten the characteristic marks of their race, or of their
national conformation.

We were surprised to see, that, in the camp of Pararuma, the women far
advanced in years were more occupied with their ornaments than the
youngest women. We saw an Indian female of the nation of the Ottomacs
employing two of her daughters in the operation of rubbing her hair
with the oil of turtles' eggs, and painting her back with anato and
caruto. The ornament consisted of a sort of lattice-work formed of
black lines crossing each other on a red ground. Each little square
had a black dot in the centre. It was a work of incredible patience.
We returned from a very long herborization, and the painting was not
half finished. This research of ornament seems the more singular when
we reflect that the figures and marks are not produced by the process
of tattooing, but that paintings executed with so much care are
effaced,* if the Indian exposes himself imprudently to a heavy shower.
(* The black and caustic pigment of the caruto (Genipa americana)
however, resists a long time the action of water, as we found with
regret, having one day, in sport with the Indians, caused our faces to
be marked with spots and strokes of caruto. When we returned to
Angostura, in the midst of Europeans, these marks were still visible.)
There are some nations who paint only to celebrate festivals; others
are covered with colour during the whole year: and the latter consider
the use of anato as so indispensable, that both men and women would
perhaps be less ashamed to present themselves without a guayaco* than
destitute of paint. (* A word of the Caribbean language. The perizoma
of the Indians of the Orinoco is rather a band than an apron.) These
guayucos of the Orinoco are partly bark of trees, and partly
cotton-cloth. Those of the men are broader than those worn by the
women, who, the missionaries say, have in general a less lively
feeling of modesty. A similar observation was made by Christopher
Columbus. May we not attribute this in difference, this want of
delicacy in women belonging to nations of which the manners are not
much depraved, to that rude state of slavery to which the sex is
reduced in South America by male injustice and tyranny?

When we speak in Europe of a native of Guiana, we figure to ourselves
a man whose head and waist are decorated with the fine feathers of the
macaw, the toucan, and the humming-bird. Our painters and sculptors
have long since regarded these ornaments as the characteristic marks
of an American. We were surprised at not finding in the Chayma
Missions, in the encampments of Uruana and of Pararuma (I might almost
say on all the shores of the Orinoco and the Cassiquiare) those fine
plumes, those feathered aprons, which are so often brought by
travellers from Cayenne and Demerara. These tribes for the most part,
even those whose intellectual faculties are most expanded, who
cultivate alimentary plants, and know how to weave cotton, are
altogether as naked,* as poor, and as destitute of ornaments as the
natives of New Holland. (* For instance, the Macos and the Piraoas.
The Caribs must be excepted, whose perizoma is a cotton cloth, so
broad that it might cover the shoulders.) The excessive heat of the
air, the profuse perspiration in which the body is bathed at every
hour of the day and a great part of the night, render the use of
clothes insupportable. Their objects of ornament, and particularly
their plumes of feathers, are reserved for dances and solemn
festivals. The plumes worn by the Guipunaves* are the most celebrated;
being composed of the fine feathers of manakins and parrots. (* These
came originally from the banks of the Inirida, one of the rivers that
fall into the Guaviare.)

The Indians are not always satisfied with one colour uniformly spread;
they sometimes imitate, in the most whimsical manner, in painting
their skin, the form of European garments. We saw some at Pararuma,
who were painted with blue jackets and black buttons. The missionaries
related to us that the Guaynaves of the Rio Caura are accustomed to
stain themselves red with anato, and to make broad transverse stripes
on the body, on which they stick spangles of silvery mica. Seen at a
distance, these naked men appear to be dressed in laced clothes. If
painted nations had been examined with the same attention as those who
are clothed, it would have been perceived that the most fertile
imagination, and the most mutable caprice, have created the fashions
of painting, as well as those of garments.

Painting and tattooing are not restrained, in either the New or the
Old World, to one race or one zone only. These ornaments are most
common among the Malays and American races; but in the time of the
Romans they were also employed by the white race in the north of
Europe. As the most picturesque garments and modes of dress are found
in the Grecian Archipelago and western Asia, so the type of beauty in
painting and tattooing is displayed by the islanders of the Pacific.
Some clothed nations still paint their hands, their nails, and their
faces. It would seem that painting is then confined to those parts of
the body that remain uncovered; and while rouge, which recalls to mind
the savage state of man, is disappearing by degrees in Europe, in some
towns of the province of Peru the ladies think they embellish their
delicate skins by covering them with colouring vegetable matter,
starch, white-of-egg, and flour. After having lived a long time among
men painted with anato and chica, we are singularly struck with these
remains of ancient barbarism retained amidst all the usages of

The encampment at Pararuma afforded us an opportunity of examining
several animals in their natural state, which, till then, we had seen
only in the collections of Europe. These little animals form a branch
of commerce for the missionaries. They exchange tobacco, the resin
called mani, the pigment of chica, gallitos (rock-manakins), orange
monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and other species of monkeys in great
request on the coast, for cloth, nails, hatchets, fishhooks, and pins.
The productions of the Orinoco are bought at a low price from the
Indians, who live in dependence on the monks; and these same Indians
purchase fishing and gardening implements from the monks at a very
high price, with the money they have gained at the egg-harvest. We
ourselves bought several animals, which we kept with us throughout the
rest of our passage on the river, and studied their manners.

The gallitos, or rock-manakins, are sold at Pararuma in pretty little
cages made of the footstalks of palm-leaves. These birds are
infinitely more rare on the banks of the Orinoco, and in the north and
west of equinoctial America, than in French Guiana. They have hitherto
been found only near the Mission of Encaramada, and in the Raudales or
cataracts of Maypures. I say expressly IN the cataracts, because the
gallitos choose for their habitual dwelling the hollows of the little
granitic rocks that cross the Orinoco and form such numerous cascades.
We sometimes saw them appear in the morning in the midst of the foam
of the river, calling their females, and fighting in the manner of our
cocks, folding the double moveable crest that decorates the crown of
the head. As the Indians very rarely take the full-grown gallitos, and
those males only are valued in Europe, which from the third year have
beautiful saffron-coloured plumage, purchasers should be on their
guard not to confound young females with young males. Both the male
and female gallitos are of an olive-brown; but the pollo, or young
male, is distinguishable at the earliest age, by its size and its
yellow feet. After the third year the plumage of the males assumes a
beautiful saffron tint; but the female remains always of a dull dusky
brown colour, with yellow only on the wing-coverts and tips of the
wings.* (* Especially the part which ornithologists call the carpus.)
To preserve in our collections the fine tint of the plumage of a male
and full-grown rock-manakin, it must not be exposed to the light. This
tint grows pale more easy than in the other genera of the passerine
order. The young males, as in most other birds, have the plumage or
livery of their mother. I am surprised to see that so skilful a
naturalist as Le Vaillant can doubt whether the females always remain
of a dusky olive tint.* (* Oiseaux de Paradis volume 2 page 61.) The
Indians of the Raudales all assured me that they had never seen a
saffron-coloured female.

Among the monkeys, brought by the Indians to the fair of Pararuma, we
distinguished several varieties of the sai,* (* Simia capucina the
capuchin monkey.) belonging to the little groups of creeping monkeys
called matchi in the Spanish colonies; marimondes* (* Simia
belzebuth.), or ateles with a red belly; titis, and viuditas. The last
two species particularly attracted our attention, and we purchased
them to send to Europe.

The titi of the Orinoco (Simia sciurea), well-known in our
collections, is called bititeni by the Maypure Indians. It is very
common on the south of the cataracts. Its face is white; and a little
spot of bluish-black covers the mouth and the point of the nose. The
titis of the most elegant form, and the most beautiful colour (with
hair of a golden yellow), come from the banks of the Cassiquiare.
Those that are taken on the shores of the Guaviare are large and
difficult to tame. No other monkey has so much the physiognomy of a
child as the titi; there is the same expression of innocence, the same
playful smile, the same rapidity in the transition from joy to sorrow.
Its large eyes are instantly filled with tears, when it is seized with
fear. It is extremely fond of insects, particularly of spiders. The
sagacity of this little animal is so great, that one of those we
brought in our boat to Angostura distinguished perfectly the different
plates annexed to Cuvier's Tableau elementaire d'Histoire naturelle.
The engravings of this work are not coloured; yet the titi advanced
rapidly its little hand in the hope of catching a grasshopper or a
wasp, every time that we showed it the eleventh plate, on which these
insects are represented. It remained perfectly indifferent when it was
shown engravings of skeletons or heads of mammiferous animals.* (* I
may observe, that I have never heard of an instance in which a
picture, representing, in the greatest perfection, hares or deer of
their natural size, has made the least impression even on sporting
dogs, the intelligence of which appears the most improved. Is there
any authenticated instance of a dog having recognized a full length
picture of his master? In all these cases, the sight is not assisted
by the smell.) When several of these little monkeys, shut up in the
same cage, are exposed to the rain, and the habitual temperature of
the air sinks suddenly two or three degrees, they twist their tail
(which, however, is not prehensile) round their neck, and intertwine
their arms and legs to warm one another. The Indian hunters told us,
that in the forests they often met groups of ten or twelve of these
animals, whilst others sent forth lamentable cries, because they
wished to enter amid the group to find warmth and shelter. By shooting
arrows dipped in weak poison at one of these groups, a great number of
young monkeys are taken alive at once. The titi in falling remains
clinging to its mother, and if it be not wounded by the fall, it does
not quit the shoulder or the neck of the dead animal. Most of those
that are found alive in the huts of the Indians have been thus taken
from the dead bodies of their mothers. Those that are full grown, when
cured of a slight wound, commonly die before they can accustom
themselves to a domestic state. The titis are in general delicate and
timid little animals. It is very difficult to convey them from the
Missions of the Orinoco to the coast of Caracas, or of Cumana. They
become melancholy and dejected in proportion as they quit the region
of the forests, and enter the Llanos. This change cannot be attributed
to the slight elevation of the temperature; it seems rather to depend
on a greater intensity of light, a less degree of humidity, and some
chemical property of the air of the coast.

The saimiri, or titi of the Orinoco, the atele, the sajou, and other
quadrumanous animals long known in Europe, form a striking contrast,
both in their gait and habits, with the macavahu, called by the
missionaries viudita, or widow in mourning. The hair of this little
animal is soft, glossy, and of a fine black. Its face is covered with
a mask of a square form and a whitish colour tinged with blue. This
mask contains the eyes, nose, and mouth. The ears have a rim: they are
small, very pretty, and almost bare. The neck of the widow presents in
front a white band, an inch broad, and forming a semicircle. The feet,
or rather the hinder hands, are black like the rest of the body; but
the fore paws are white without, and of a glossy black within. In
these marks, or white spots, the missionaries think they recognize the
veil, the neckerchief, and the gloves of a widow in mourning. The
character of this little monkey, which sits up on its hinder
extremities only when eating, is but little indicated in its
appearance. It has a wild and timid air; it often refuses the food
offered to it, even when tormented by a ravenous appetite. It has
little inclination for the society of other monkeys. The sight of the
smallest saimiri puts it to flight. Its eye denotes great vivacity. We
have seen it remain whole hours motionless without sleeping, and
attentive to everything that was passing around. But this wildness and
timidity are merely apparent. The viudita, when alone, and left to
itself, becomes furious at the sight of a bird. It then climbs and
runs with astonishing rapidity; darts upon its prey like a cat; and
kills whatever it can seize. This rare and delicate monkey is found on
the right bank of the Orinoco, in the granite mountains which rise
behind the Mission of Santa Barbara. It inhabits also the banks of the
Guaviare, near San Fernando de Atabapo.

The viudita accompanied us on our whole voyage on the Cassiquiare and
the Rio Negro, passing the cataracts twice. In studying the manners of
animals, it is a great advantage to observe them during several months
in the open air, and not in houses, where they lose all their natural

The new canoe intended for us was, like all Indian boats, a trunk of a
tree hollowed out partly by the hatchet and partly by fire. It was
forty feet long, and three broad. Three persons could not sit in it
side by side. These canoes are so crank, and they require, from their
instability, a cargo so equally distributed, that when you want to
rise for an instant, you must warn the rowers to lean to the opposite
side. Without this precaution the water would necessarily enter the
side pressed down. It is difficult to form an idea of the
inconveniences that are suffered in such wretched vessels.

The missionary from the cataracts made the preparations for our voyage
with greater energy than we wished. Lest there might not be a
sufficient number of the Maco and Guahibe Indians, who are acquainted
with the labyrinth of small channels and cascades of which the
Raudales or cataracts are composed, two Indians were, during the
night, placed in the cepo--a sort of stocks in which they were made to
lie with their legs between two pieces of wood, notched and fastened
together by a chain with a padlock. Early in the morning we were
awakened by the cries of a young man, mercilessly beaten with a whip
of manatee skin. His name was Zerepe, a very intelligent young Indian,
who proved highly useful to us in the sequel, but who now refused to
accompany us. He was born in the Mission of Atures; but his father was
a Maco, and his mother a native of the nation of the Maypures. He had
returned to the woods (al monte), and having lived some years with the
unsubdued Indians, he had thus acquired the knowledge of several
languages, and the missionary employed him as an interpreter. We
obtained with difficulty the pardon of this young man. "Without these
acts of severity," we were told, "you would want for everything. The
Indians of the Raudales and the Upper Orinoco are a stronger and more
laborious race than the inhabitants of the Lower Orinoco. They know
that they are much sought after at Angostura. If left to their own
will, they would all go down the river to sell their productions, and
live in full liberty among the whites. The Missions would be totally

These reasons, I confess, appeared to me more specious than sound.
Man, in order to enjoy the advantages of a social state, must no doubt
sacrifice a part of his natural rights, and his original independence;
but, if the sacrifice imposed on him be not compensated by the
benefits of civilization, the savage, wise in his simplicity, retains
the wish of returning to the forests that gave him birth. It is
because the Indian of the woods is treated like a person in a state of
villanage in the greater part of the Missions, because he enjoys not
the fruit of his labours, that the Christian establishments on the
Orinoco remain deserts. A government founded on the ruins of the
liberty of the natives extinguishes the intellectual faculties, or
stops their progress.

To say that the savage, like the child, can be governed only by force,
is merely to establish false analogies. The Indians of the Orinoco
have something infantine in the expression of their joy, and the quick
succession of their emotions, but they are not great children; they
are as little so as the poor labourers in the east of Europe, whom the
barbarism of our feudal institutions has held in the rudest state. To
consider the employment of force as the first and sole means of the
civilization of the savage, is a principle as far from being true in
the education of nations as in the education of youth. Whatever may be
the state of weakness or degradation in our species, no faculty is
entirely annihilated. The human understanding exhibits only different
degrees of strength and development. The savage, like the child,
compares the present with the past; he directs his actions, not
according to blind instinct, but motives of interest. Reason can
everywhere enlighten reason; and its progress will be retarded in
proportion as the men who are called upon to bring up youth, or govern
nations, substitute constraint and force for that moral influence
which can alone unfold the rising faculties, calm the irritated
passions, and give stability to social order.

We could not set sail before ten on the morning of the 10th. To gain
something in breadth in our new canoe, a sort of lattice-work had been
constructed on the stern with branches of trees, that extended on each
side beyond the gunwale. Unfortunately, the toldo or roof of leaves,
that covered this lattice-work, was so low that we were obliged to lie
down, without seeing anything, or, if seated, to sit nearly double.
The necessity of carrying the canoe across the rapids, and even from
one river to another; and the fear of giving too much hold to the
wind, by making the toldo higher, render this construction necessary
for vessels that go up towards the Rio Negro. The toldo was intended
to cover four persons, lying on the deck or lattice-work of
brush-wood; but our legs reached far beyond it, and when it rained
half our bodies were wet. Our couches consisted of ox-hides or
tiger-skins, spread upon branches of trees, which were painfully felt
through so thin a covering. The fore part of the boat was filled with
Indian rowers, furnished with paddles, three feet long, in the form of
spoons. They were all naked, seated two by two, and they kept time in
rowing with a surprising uniformity, singing songs of a sad and
monotonous character. The small cages containing our birds and our
monkeys, the number of which augmented as we advanced, were hung some
to the toldo and others to the bow of the boat. This was our
travelling menagerie. Notwithstanding the frequent losses occasioned
by accidents, and above all by the fatal effects of exposure to the
sun, we had fourteen of these little animals alive at our return from
the Cassiquiare. Naturalists, who wish to collect and bring living
animals to Europe, might cause boats to be constructed expressly for
this purpose at Angostura, or at Grand Para, the two capitals situated
on the banks of the Orinoco and the Amazon, the fore-deck of which
boats might be fitted up with two rows of cages sheltered from the
rays of the sun. Every night, when we established our watch, our
collection of animals and our instruments occupied the centre; around
these were placed first our hammocks, then the hammocks of the
Indians; and on the outside were the fires which are thought
indispensable against the attacks of the jaguar. About sunrise the
monkeys in our cages answered the cries of the monkeys of the forest.
These communications between animals of the same species sympathizing
with one another, though unseen, one party enjoying that liberty which
the other regrets, have something melancholy and affecting.

In a canoe not three feet wide, and so incumbered, there remained no
other place for the dried plants, trunks, a sextant, a dipping-needle,
and the meteorological instruments, than the space below the
lattice-work of branches, on which we were compelled to remain
stretched the greater part of the day. If we wished to take the least
object out of a trunk, or to use an instrument, it was necessary to
row ashore and land. To these inconveniences were joined the torment
of the mosquitos which swarmed under the toldo, and the heat radiated
from the leaves of the palm-trees, the upper surface of which was
continually exposed to the solar rays. We attempted every instant, but
always without success, to amend our situation. While one of us hid
himself under a sheet to ward off the insects, the other insisted on
having green wood lighted beneath the toldo, in the hope of driving
away the mosquitos by the smoke. The painful sensations of the eyes,
and the increase of heat, already stifling, rendered both these
contrivances alike impracticable. With some gaiety of temper, with
feelings of mutual good-will, and with a vivid taste for the majestic
grandeur of these vast valleys of rivers, travellers easily support
evils that become habitual.

Our Indians showed us, on the right bank of the river, the place which
was formerly the site of the Mission of Pararuma, founded by the
Jesuits about the year 1733. The mortality occasioned by the smallpox
among the Salive Indians was the principal cause of the dissolution of
the mission. The few inhabitants who survived this cruel epidemic,
removed to the village of Carichana. It was at Pararuma, that,
according to the testimony of Father Roman, hail was seen to fall
during a great storm, about the middle of the last century. This is
almost the only instance of it I know in a plain that is nearly on a
level with the sea; for hail falls generally, between the tropics,
only at three hundred toises of elevation. If it form at an equal
height over plains and table-lands, we must suppose that it melts as
it falls, in passing through the lowest strata of the atmosphere, the
mean temperature of which is from 27.5 to 24 degrees of the centigrade
thermometer. I acknowledge it is very difficult to explain, in the
present state of meteorology, why it hails at Philadelphia, at Rome,
and at Montpelier, during the hottest months, the mean temperature of
which attains 25 or 26 degrees; while the same phenomenon is not
observed at Cumana, at La Guayra, and in general, in the equatorial
plains. In the United States, and in the south of Europe, the heat of
the plains (from 40 to 43 degrees latitude) is nearly the same as
within the tropics; and according to my researches the decrement of
caloric equally varies but little. If then the absence of hail within
the torrid zone, at the level of the sea, be produced by the melting
of the hailstones in crossing the lower strata of the air, we must
suppose that these hail-stones, at the moment of their formation, are
larger in the temperate than in the torrid zone. We yet know so little
of the conditions under which water congeals in a stormy cloud in our
climates, that we cannot judge whether the same conditions be
fulfilled on the equator above the plains. The clouds in which we hear
the rattling of the hailstones against one another before they fall,
and which move horizontally, have always appeared to me of little
elevation; and at these small heights we may conceive that
extraordinary refrigerations are caused by the dilatation of the
ascending air, of which the capacity for caloric augments; by currents
of cold air coming from a higher latitude, and above all, according to
M. Gay Lussac, by the radiation from the upper surface of the clouds.
I shall have occasion to return to this subject when speaking of the
different forms under which hail and hoar-frost appear on the Andes,
at two thousand and two thousand six hundred toises of height; and
when examining the question whether we may consider the stratum of
clouds that envelops the mountains as a horizontal continuation of the
stratum which we see immediately above us in the plains.

The Orinoco, full of islands, begins to divide itself into several
branches, of which the most western remain dry during the months of
January and February. The total breadth of the river exceeds two
thousand five hundred or three thousand toises. We perceived to the
East, opposite the island of Javanavo, the mouth of the Cano Aujacoa.
Between this Cano and the Rio Paruasi or Paruati, the country becomes
more and more woody. A solitary rock, of extremely picturesque aspect,
rises in the midst of a forest of palm-trees, not far from the
Orinoco. It is a pillar of granite, a prismatic mass, the bare and
steep sides of which attain nearly two hundred feet in height. Its
point, which overtops the highest trees of the forest, is terminated
by a shelf of rock with a horizontal and smooth surface. Other trees
crown this summit, which the missionaries call the peak, or Mogote de
Cocuyza. This monument of nature, in its simple grandeur recalls to
mind the Cyclopean remains of antiquity. Its strongly-marked outlines,
and the group of trees and shrubs by which it is crowned, stand out
from the azure of the sky. It seems a forest rising above a forest.

Further on, near the mouth of the Paruasi, the Orinoco narrows. On the
east is perceived a mountain with a bare top, projecting like a
promontory. It is nearly three hundred feet high, and served as a
fortress for the Jesuits. They had constructed there a small fort,
with three batteries of cannon, and it was constantly occupied by a
military detachment. We saw the cannon dismounted, and half-buried in
the sand, at Carichana and at Atures. This fort of the Jesuits has
been destroyed since the dissolution of their society; but the place
is still called El Castillo. I find it set down, in a manuscript map,
lately completed at Caracas by a member of the secular clergy, under
the denomination of Trinchera del despotismo monacal.* (*
Intrenchmnent of monachal despotism.)

The garrison which the Jesuits maintained on this rock, was not
intended merely to protect the Missions against the incursions of the
Caribs: it was employed also in an offensive war, or, as they say
here, in the conquest of souls (conquista de almas). The soldiers,
excited by the allurement of gain, made military incursions (entradas)
into the lands of the independent Indians. They killed all those who
dared to make any resistance, burnt their huts, destroyed their
plantations, and carried away the women, children, and old men, as
prisoners. These prisoners were divided among the Missions of the
Meta, the Rio Negro, and the Upper Orinoco. The most distant places
were chosen, that they might not be tempted to return to their native
country. This violent manner of conquering souls, though prohibited by
the Spanish laws, was tolerated by the civil governors, and vaunted by
the superiors of the society, as beneficial to religion, and the
aggrandizement of the Missions. "The voice of the Gospel is heard
only," said a Jesuit of the Orinoco, very candidly, in the Cartas
Edifiantes, "where the Indians have heard also the sound of fire-arms
(el eco de la polvora). Mildness is a very slow measure. By chastising
the natives, we facilitate their conversion." These principles, which
degrade humanity, were certainly not common to all the members of a
society which, in the New World, and wherever education has remained
exclusively in the hands of monks, has rendered service to letters and
civilization. But the entradas, the spiritual conquests with the
assistance of bayonets, was an inherent vice in a system, that tended
to the rapid aggrandizement of the Missions. It is pleasing to find
that the same system is not followed by the Franciscan, Dominican, and
Augustinian monks who now govern a vast portion of South America; and
who, by the mildness or harshness of their manners, exert a powerful
influence over the fate of so many thousands of natives. Military
incursions are almost entirely abolished; and when they do take place,
they are disavowed by the superiors of the orders. We will not decide
at present, whether this amelioration of the monachal system be owing
to want of activity and cold indolence; or whether it must be
attributed, as we would wish to believe, to the progress of knowledge,
and to feelings more elevated, and more conformable to the true spirit
of Christianity.

Beyond the mouth of the Rio Paruasi, the Orinoco again narrows. Full
of little islands and masses of granite rock, it presents rapids, or
small cascades (remolinos), which at first sight may alarm the
traveller by the continual eddies of the water, but which at no season
of the year are dangerous for boats. A range of shoals, that crosses
almost the whole river, bears the name of the Raudal de Marimara. We
passed it without difficulty by a narrow channel, in which the water
seems to boil up as it issues out impetuously* (* These places are
called chorreros in the Spanish colonies.) below the Piedra de
Marimara, a compact mass of granite eighty feet high, and three
hundred feet in circumference, without fissures, or any trace of
stratification. The river penetrates far into the land, and forms
spacious bays in the rocks. One of these bays, inclosed between two
promontories destitute of vegetation, is called the Port of
Carichana.* (* Piedra y puerto de Carichana.) The spot has a very wild
aspect. In the evening the rocky coasts project their vast shadows
over the surface of the river. The waters appear black from reflecting
the image of these granitic masses, which, in the colour of their
external surface, sometimes resemble coal, and sometimes lead-ore. We
passed the night in the small village of Carichana, where we were
received at the priest's house, or convento. It was nearly a fortnight
since we had slept under a roof.

To avoid the effects of the inundations, often so fatal to health, the
Mission of Carichana has been established at three quarters of a
league from the river. The Indians in this Mission are of the nation
of the Salives, and they have a disagreeable and nasal pronunciation.
Their language, of which the Jesuit Anisson has composed a grammar
still in manuscript, is, with the Caribbean, the Tamanac, the Maypure,
the Ottomac, the Guahive, and the Jaruro, one of the mother-tongues
most general on the Orinoco. Father Gili thinks that the Ature, the
Piraoa, and the Quaqua or Mapoye, are only dialects of the Salive. My
journey was much too rapid to enable me to judge of the accuracy of
this opinion; but we shall soon see that, in the village of Ature,
celebrated on account of its situation near the great cataracts,
neither the Salive nor the Ature is now spoken, but the language of
the Maypures. In the Salive of Carichana, man is called cocco; woman,
gnacu; water, cagua; fire, eyussa; the earth, seke; the sky, mumeseke
(earth on high); the jaguar, impii; the crocodile, cuipoo; maize,
giomu; the plantain, paratuna; cassava, peibe. I may here mention one
of those descriptive compounds that seem to characterise the infancy
of language, though they are retained in some very perfect idioms.*
(See volume 1 chapter 1.9.) Thus, as in the Biscayan, thunder is
called the noise of the cloud (odotsa); the sun bears the name, in the
Salive dialect, of mume-seke-cocco, the man (cocco) of the earth
(seke) above (mume).

The most ancient abode of the Salive nation appears to have been on
the western banks of the Orinoco, between the Rio Vichada* and the
Guaviare, and also between the Meta and the Rio Paute. (* The Salive
mission, on the Rio Vichada, was destroyed by the Caribs.) Salives are
now found not only at Carichana, but in the Missions of the province
of Casanre, at Cabapuna, Guanapalo, Cabiuna, and Macuco. They are a
social, mild, almost timid people; and more easy, I will not say to
civilize, but to subdue, than the other tribes on the Orinoco. To
escape from the dominion of the Caribs, the Salives willingly joined
the first Missions of the Jesuits. Accordingly these fathers
everywhere in their writings praise the docility and intelligence of
that people. The Salives have a great taste for music: in the most
remote times they had trumpets of baked earth, four or five feet long,
with several large globular cavities communicating with one another by
narrow pipes. These trumpets send forth most dismal sounds. The
Jesuits have cultivated with success the natural taste of the Salives
for instrumental music; and even since the destruction of the society,
the missionaries of Rio Meta have continued at San Miguel de Macuco a
fine church choir, and musical instruction for the Indian youth. Very
lately a traveller was surprised to see the natives playing on the
violin, the violoncello, the triangle, the guitar, and the flute.

We found among these Salive Indians, at Carichana, a white woman, the
sister of a Jesuit of New Grenada. It is difficult to define the
satisfaction that is felt when, in the midst of nations of whose
language we are ignorant, we meet with a being with whom we can
converse without an interpreter. Every mission has at least two
interpreters (lenguarazes). They are Indians, a little less stupid
than the rest, through whose medium the missionaries of the Orinoco,
who now very rarely give themselves the trouble of studying the idioms
of the country, communicate with the neophytes. These interpreters
attended us in all our herborizations; but they rather understand than
speak Castilian. With their indolent indifference, they answer us by
chance, but always with an officious smile, "Yes, Father; no, Father,"
to every question addressed to them.

The vexation that arises from such a style of conversation continued
for months may easily be conceived, when you wish to be enlightened
upon objects in which you take the most lively interest. We were often
forced to employ several interpreters at a time, and several
successive translators, in order to communicate with the natives.* (*
To form a just idea of the perplexity of these communications by
interpreters, we may recollect that, in the expedition of Lewis and
Clarke to the river Columbia, in order to converse with the Chopunnish
Indians, Captain Lewis addressed one of his men in English; that man
translated the question into French to Chaboneau; Chaboneau translated
it to his Indian wife in Minnetaree; the woman translated it into
Shoshonee to a prisoner; and the prisoner translated it into
Chopunnish. It may be feared that the sense of the question was a
little altered by these successive translations.)

"After leaving my Mission," said the good monk of Uruana, "you will
travel like mutes." This prediction was nearly accomplished; and, not
to lose the advantage we might derive from intercourse even with the
rudest Indians, we sometimes preferred the language of signs. When a
native perceives that you will not employ an interpreter; when you
interrogate him directly, showing him the objects; he rouses himself
from his habitual apathy, and manifests an extraordinary capacity to
make himself comprehended. He varies his signs, pronounces his words
slowly, and repeats them without being desired. The consequence
conferred upon him, in suffering yourself to be instructed by him,
flatters his self-love. This facility in making himself comprehended
is particularly remarkable in the independent Indian. It cannot be
doubted that direct intercourse with the natives is more instructive
and more certain than the communication by interpreters, provided the
questions be simplified, and repeated to several individuals under
different forms. The variety of idioms spoken on the banks of the
Meta, the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio Negro, is so
prodigious, that a traveller, however great may be his talent for
languages, can never hope to learn enough to make himself understood
along the navigable rivers, from Angostura to the small fort of San
Carlos del Rio Negro. In Peru and Quito it is sufficient to know the
Quichua, or the Inca language; in Chile, the Araucan; and in Paraguay,
the Guarany; in order to be understood by most of the population. But
it is different in the Missions of Spanish Guiana, where nations of
various races are mingled in the village. It is not even sufficient to
have learned the Caribee or Carina, the Guamo, the Guahive, the
Jaruro, the Ottomac, the Maypure, the Salive, the Marivitan, the
Maquiritare, and the Guaica, ten dialects, of which there exist only
imperfect grammars, and which have less affinity with each other than
the Greek, German, and Persian languages.

The environs of the Mission of Carichana appeared to us to be
delightful. The little village is situated in one of those plains
covered with grass that separate all the links of the granitic
mountains, from Encaramada to beyond the Cataracts of Maypures. The
line of the forests is seen only in the distance. The horizon is
everywhere bounded by mountains, partly wooded and of a dark tint,
partly bare, with rocky summits gilded by the beams of the setting
sun. What gives a peculiar character to the scenery of this country
are banks of rock (laxas) nearly destitute of vegetation, and often
more than eight hundred feet in circumference, yet scarcely rising a
few inches above the surrounding savannahs. They now make a part of
the plain. We ask ourselves with surprise, whether some extraordinary
revolutions may have carried away the earth and plants; or whether the
granite nucleus of our planet shows itself bare, because the germs of
life are not yet developed on all its points. The same phenomenon
seems to be found also in the desert of Shamo, which separates
Mongolia from China. Those banks of solitary rock in the desert are
called tsy. I think they would be real table-lands, if the surrounding
plains were stripped of the sand and mould that cover them, and which
the waters have accumulated in the lowest places. On these stony flats
of Carichana we observed with interest the rising vegetation in the
different degrees of its development. We there found lichens cleaving
the rock, and collected in crusts more or less thick; little portions
of sand nourishing succulent plants; and lastly layers of black mould
deposited in the hollows, formed from the decay of roots and leaves,
and shaded by tufts of evergreen shrubs.

At the distance of two or three leagues from the Mission, we find, in
these plains intersected by granitic hills, a vegetation no less rich
than varied. On comparing the site of Carichana with that of all the
villages above the Great Cataracts, we are surprised at the facility
with which we traverse the country, without following the banks of the
rivers, or being stopped by the thickness of the forests. M. Bonpland
made several excursions on horseback, which furnished him with a rich
harvest of plants. I shall mention only the paraguatan, a magnificent
species of the macrocnemum, the bark of which yields a red dye;* (*
Macrocnemum tinctorium.) the guaricamo, with a poisonous root;* (*
Ityania coccidea.) the Jacaranda obtusifolia; and the serrape, or
jape* (* Dipterix odorata, Willd. or Baryosma tongo of Gaertner. The
jape furnishes Carichana with excellent timber.) of the Salive
Indians, which is the Coumarouna of Aublet, so celebrated throughout
Terra Firma for its aromatic fruit. This fruit, which at Caracas is
placed among linen, as in Europe it is in snuff, under the name of
tonca, or Tonquin bean, is regarded as poisonous. It is a false
notion, very general in the province of Cumana, that the excellent
liqueur fabricated at Martinique owes its peculiar flavour to the
jape. In the Missions it is called simaruba; a name that may occasion
serious mistakes, the true simaruba being a febrifuge species of the
Quassia genus, found in Spanish Guiana only in the valley of Rio
Caura, where the Paudacot Indians give it the name of achecchari.

I found the dip of the magnetic needle, in the great square at
Carichana, 33.7 degrees (new division). The intensity of the magnetic
action was expressed by two hundred and twenty-seven oscillations in
ten minutes of time; an increase of force that would seem to indicate
some local attraction. Yet the blocks of the granite, blackened by the
waters of the Orinoco, have no perceptible action upon the needle.

The river had risen several inches during the day on the 10th of
April; this phenomenon surprised the natives so much the more, as the
first swellings are almost imperceptible, and are usually followed in
the month of April by a fall for some days. The Orinoco was already
three feet higher than the level of the lowest waters. The natives
showed us on a granite wall the traces of the great rise of the waters
of late years. We found them to be forty-two feet high, which is
double the mean rise of the Nile. But this measure was taken in a
place where the bed of the Orinoco is singularly hemmed in by rocks,
and I could only notice the marks shown me by the natives. It may
easily be conceived that the effect and the height of the increase
differs according to the profile of the river, the nature of the banks
more or less elevated, the number of rivers flowing in that collect
the pluvial waters, and the length of ground passed over. It is an
unquestionable fact that at Carichana, at San Borja, at Atures, and at
Maypures, wherever the river has forced its way through the mountains,
you see at a hundred, sometimes at a hundred and thirty feet, above
the highest present swell of the river, black bands and erosions, that
indicate the ancient levels of the waters. Is then this river, which
appears to us so grand and so majestic, only the feeble remains of
those immense currents of fresh water which heretofore traversed the
country at the east of the Andes, like arms of inland seas? What must
have been the state of those low countries of Guiana that now undergo
the effects of annual inundations? What immense numbers of crocodiles,
manatees, and boas must have inhabited these vast spaces of land,
converted alternately into marshes of stagnant water, and into barren
and fissured plains! The more peaceful world which we inhabit has then
succeeded to a world of tumult. The bones of mastodons and American
elephants are found dispersed on the table-lands of the Andes. The
megatherium inhabited the plains of Uruguay. On digging deep into the
ground, in high valleys, where neither palm-trees nor arborescent
ferns can grow, strata of coal are discovered, that still show
vestiges of gigantic monocotyledonous plants.

There was a remote period then, in which the classes of plants were
otherwise distributed, when the animals were larger, and the rivers
broader and of greater depth. There end those records of nature, that
it is in our power to consult. We are ignorant whether the human race,
which at the time of the discovery of America scarcely formed a few
feeble tribes on the east of the Cordilleras, had already descended
into the plains; or whether the ancient tradition of the great waters,
which is found among the nations of the Orinoco, the Erevato, and the
Caura, belong to other climates, whence it has been propagated to this
part of the New Continent.

On the 11th of April, we left Carichana at two in the afternoon, and
found the course of the river more and more encumbered by blocks of
granite rocks. We passed on the west the Cano Orupe, and then the
great rock known by the name of Piedra del Tigre. The river is there
so deep, that no bottom can be found with a line of twenty-two
fathoms. Towards evening the weather became cloudy and gloomy. The
proximity of the storm was marked by squalls alternating with dead
calms. The rain was violent, and the roof of foliage, under which we
lay, afforded but little shelter. Happily these showers drove away the
mosquitos, at least for some time. We found ourselves before the
cataract of Cariven, and the impulse of the waters was so strong, that
we had great difficulty in gaining the land. We were continually
driven back to the middle of the current. At length two Salive
Indians, excellent swimmers, leaped into the water, and having drawn
the boat to shore by means of a rope, made it fast to the Piedra de
Carichana Vieja, a shelf of bare rock, on which we passed the night.
The thunder continued to roll during a part of the night; the swell of
the river became considerable; and we were several times afraid that
our frail bark would be driven from the shore by the impetuosity of
the waves.

The granitic rock on which we lay is one of those, where travellers on
the Orinoco have heard from time to time, towards sunrise,
subterraneous sounds, resembling those of the organ. The missionaries
call these stones laxas de musica. "It is witchcraft (cosa de
bruxas)," said our young Indian pilot, who could speak Spanish. We
never ourselves heard these mysterious sounds, either at Carichana
Vieja, or in the Upper Orinoco; but from information given us by
witnesses worthy of belief, the existence of a phenomenon that seems
to depend on a certain state of the atmosphere, cannot be denied. The
shelves of rock are full of very narrow and deep crevices. They are
heated during the day to 48 or 50 degrees. I several times found their
temperature at the surface, during the night, at 39 degrees, the
surrounding atmosphere being at 28 degrees. It may easily be
conceived, that the difference of temperature between the subterranean
and the external air attains its maximum about sunrise, or at that
moment which is at the same time farthest from the period of the
maximum of the heat of the preceding day. May not these organ-like
sounds, which are heard when a person lays his ear in contact with the
stone, be the effect of a current of air that issues out through the
crevices? Does not the impulse of the air against the elastic spangles
of mica that intercept the crevices, contribute to modify the sounds?
May we not admit that the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, in passing
incessantly up and down the Nile, had made the same observation on
some rock of the Thebaid; and that the music of the rocks there led to
the jugglery of the priests in the statue of Memnon? Perhaps, when,
"the rosy-fingered Aurora rendered her son, the glorious Memnon,
vocal,"* (* These are the words of an inscription, which attests that
sounds were heard on the 13th of the month Pachon, in the tenth year
of the reign of Antoninus. See Monuments de l'Egypte Ancienne.) the
voice was that of a man hidden beneath the pedestal of the statue; but
the observation of the natives of the Orinoco, which we relate, seems
to explain in a natural manner what gave rise to the Egyptian belief
of a stone that poured forth sounds at sunrise.

Almost at the same period at which I communicated these conjectures to
some of the learned of Europe, three French travellers, MM. Jomard,
Jollois, and Devilliers, were led to analogous ideas. They heard, at
sunrise, in a monument of granite, at the centre of the spot on which
stands the palace of Karnak, a noise resembling that of a string
breaking. Now this comparison is precisely that which the ancients
employed in speaking of the voice of Memnon. The French travellers
thought, like me, that the passage of rarefied air through the
fissures of a sonorous stone might have suggested to the Egyptian
priests the invention of the juggleries of the Memnomium.

We left the rock at four in the morning. The missionary had told us
that we should have great difficulty in passing the rapids and the
mouth of the Meta. The Indians rowed twelve hours and a half without
intermission, and during all that time, they took no other nourishment
than cassava and plantains. When we consider the difficulty of
overcoming the force of the current, and of passing the cataracts;
when we reflect on the constant employment of the muscular powers
during a navigation of two months; we are equally surprised at the
constitutional vigour and the abstinence of the Indians of the Orinoco
and the Amazon. Amylaceous and saccharine substances, sometimes fish
and the fat of turtles' eggs, supply the place of food drawn from the
first two classes of the animal kingdom, those of quadrupeds and

We found the bed of the river, to the length of six hundred toises,
full of granite rocks. Here is what is called the Raudal de Cariven.
We passed through channels that were not five feet broad. Our canoe
was sometimes jammed between two blocks of granite. We sought to avoid
these passages, into which the waters rushed with a fearful noise; but
there is really little danger, in a canoe steered by a good Indian
pilot. When the current is too violent to be resisted the rowers leap
into the water, and fasten a rope to the point of a rock, to warp the
boat along. This manoeuvre is very tedious; and we sometimes availed
ourselves of it, to climb the rocks among which we were entangled.
They are of all dimensions, rounded, very black, glossy like lead, and
destitute of vegetation. It is an extraordinary phenomenon to see the
waters of one of the largest rivers on the globe in some sort
disappear. We perceived, even far from the shore, those immense blocks
of granite, rising from the ground, and leaning one against another.
The intervening channels in the rapids are more than twenty-five
fathoms deep; and are the more difficult to be observed, as the rocks
are often narrow toward their bases, and form vaults suspended over
the surface of the river. We perceived no crocodiles in the raudal;
these animals seem to shun the noise of cataracts.

From Cabruta to the mouth of the Rio Sinaruco, a distance of nearly
two degrees of latitude, the left bank of the Orinoco is entirely
uninhabited; but to the west of the Raudal de Cariven an enterprising
man, Don Felix Relinchon, had assembled some Jaruro and Ottomac
Indians in a small village. It is an attempt at civilization, on which
the monks have had no direct influence. It is superfluous to add, that
Don Felix lives at open war with the missionaries on the right bank of
the Orinoco.

Proceeding up the river we arrived, at nine in the morning, before the
mouth of the Meta, opposite the spot where the Mission of Santa
Teresa, founded by the Jesuits, was heretofore situated.

Next to the Guaviare, the Meta is the most considerable river that
flows into the Orinoco. It may be compared to the Danube, not for the
length of its course, but for the volume of its waters. Its mean depth
is thirty-six feet, and it sometimes reaches eighty-four. The union of
these two rivers presents a very impressive spectacle. Lonely rocks
rise on the eastern bank. Blocks of granite, piled upon one another,
appear from afar like castles in ruins. Vast sandy shores keep the
skirting of the forest at a distance from the river; but we discover
amid them, in the horizon, solitary palm-trees, backed by the sky, and
crowning the tops of the mountains. We passed two hours on a large
rock, standing in the middle of the Orinoco, and called the Piedra de
la Paciencia, or the Stone of Patience, because the canoes, in going
up, are sometimes detained there two days, to extricate themselves
from the whirlpool caused by this rock.

The Rio Meta, which traverses the vast plains of Casanare, and which
is navigable as far as the foot of the Andes of New Grenada, will one
day be of great political importance to the inhabitants of Guiana and
Venezuela. From the Golfo Triste and the Boca del Drago a small fleet
may go up the Orinoco and the Meta to within fifteen or twenty leagues
of Santa Fe de Bogota. The flour of New Grenada may be conveyed the
same way. The Meta is like a canal of communication between countries
placed in the same latitude, but differing in their productions as
much as France and Senegal. The Meta has its source in the union of
two rivers which descend from the paramos of Chingasa and Suma Paz.
The first is the Rio Negro, which, lower down, receives the
Pachaquiaro; the second is the Rio de Aguas Blancas, or Umadea. The
junction takes place near the port of Marayal. It is only eight or ten
leagues from the Passo de la Cabulla, where you quit the Rio Negro, to
the capital of Santa Fe. From the villages of Xiramena and Cabullaro
to those of Guanapalo and Santa Rosalia de Cabapuna, a distance of
sixty leagues, the banks of the Meta are more inhabited than those of
the Orinoco. We find in this space fourteen Christian settlements, in
part very populous; but from the mouths of the rivers Pauto and
Casanare, for a space of more than fifty leagues, the Meta is infested
by the Guahibos, a race of savages.* (* I find the word written
Guajibos, Guahivos, and Guagivos. They call themselves Gua-iva.)

The navigation of this river was much more active in the time of the
Jesuits, and particularly during the expedition of Iturriaga, in 1756,
than it is at present. Missionaries of the same order then governed
the banks of the Meta and of the Orinoco. The villages of Macuco,
Zurimena, and Casimena, were founded by the Jesuits, as well as those
of Uruana, Encaramada, and Carichana.

These Fathers had conceived the project of forming a series of
Missions from the junction of the Casanare with the Meta to that of
the Meta with the Orinoco. A narrow zone of cultivated land would have
crossed the vast steppes that separate the forests of Guiana from the
Andes of New Grenada.

At the period of the harvest of turtles' eggs, not only the flour of
Santa Fe descended the river, but the salt of Chita,* (* East of
Labranza Grande, and the north-west of Pore, now the capital of the
province of Casanare.) the cotton cloth of San Gil, and the printed
counterpanes of Socorro. To give some security to the little traders
who devoted themselves to this inland commerce, attacks were made from
time to time from the castillo or fort of Carichana, on the Guahibos.

To keep these Guahibos in awe, the Capuchin missionaries, who
succeeded the Jesuits in the government of the Missions of the
Orinoco, formed the project of founding a city at the mouth of the
Meta, under the name of the Villa de San Carlos. Indolence, and the
dread of tertian fevers, have prevented the execution of this project;
and all that has ever existed of the city of San Carlos, is a coat of
arms painted on fine parchment, with an enormous cross erected on the
bank of the Meta. The Guahibos, who, it is said, are some thousands in
number, have become so insolent, that, at the time of our passage by
Carichana, they sent word to the missionary that they would come on
rafts, and burn his village. These rafts (valzas), which we had an
opportunity of seeing, are scarcely three feet broad, and twelve feet
long. They carry only two or three Indians; but fifteen or sixteen of
these rafts are fastened to each other with the stems of the
paullinia, the dolichos, and other creeping plants. It is difficult to
conceive how these small craft remain tied together in passing the
rapids. Many fugitives from the villages of the Casanare and the Apure
have joined the Guahibos, and taught them the practice of eating beef,
and preparing hides. The farms of San Vicente, Rubio, and San Antonio,
have lost great numbers of their horned cattle by the incursions of
the Indians, who also prevent travellers, as far as the junction of
the Casanare, from sleeping on the shore in going up the Meta. It
often happens, while the waters are low, that the traders of New
Grenada, some of whom still visit the encampment of Pararuma, are
killed by the poisoned arrows of the Guahibos.

From the mouth of the Meta, the Orinoco appeared to us to be freer of
shoals and rocks. We navigated in a channel five hundred toises broad.
The Indians remained rowing in the boat, without towing or pushing it
forward with their arms, and wearying us with their wild cries. We
passed the Canos of Uita and Endava on the west. It was night when we
reached the Raudal de Tabaje. The Indians would not hazard passing the
cataract; and we slept on a very incommodious spot, on the shelf of a
rock, with a slope of more than eighteen degrees, and of which the
crevices sheltered a swarm of bats. We heard the cries of the jaguar
very near us during the whole night. They were answered by our great
dog in lengthened howlings. I waited the appearance of the stars in
vain: the sky was exceedingly black; and the hoarse sounds of the
cascades of the Orinoco mingled with the rolling of the distant

Early in the morning of the 13th April we passed the rapids of Tabaje,
and again disembarked. Father Zea, who accompanied us, desired to
perform mass in the new Mission of San Borja, established two years
before. We there found six houses inhabited by uncatechised Guahibos.
They differ in nothing from the wild Indians. Their eyes, which are
large and black, have more vivacity than those of the Indians who
inhabit the ancient missions. We in vain offered them brandy; they
would not even taste it. The faces of all the young girls were marked
with round black spots; like the patches by which the ladies of Europe
formerly imagined they set off the whiteness of their skins. The
bodies of the Guahibos were not painted. Several of them had beards,
of which they seemed proud; and, taking us by the chin, showed us by
signs, that they were made like us. Their shape was in general
slender. I was again struck, as I had been among the Salives and the
Macos, with the little uniformity of features to be found among the
Indians of the Orinoco. Their look is sad and gloomy; but neither
stern nor ferocious. Without having any notion of the practices of the
Christian religion, they behaved with the utmost decency at church.
The Indians love to exhibit themselves; and will submit temporarily to
any restraint or subjection, provided they are sure of drawing
attention. At the moment of the consecration, they made signs to one
another, to indicate beforehand that the priest was going to raise the
chalice to his lips. With the exception of this gesture, they remained
motionless and in imperturbable apathy.

The interest with which we examined these poor savages became perhaps
the cause of the destruction of the mission. Some among them, who
preferred a wandering life to the labours of agriculture, persuaded
the rest to return to the plains of the Meta. They told them, that the
white men would come back to San Borja, to take them away in the
boats, and sell them as poitos, or slaves, at Angostura. The Guahibos
awaited the news of our return from the Rio Negro by the Cassiquiare;
and when they heard that we were arrived at the first great cataract,
that of Atures, they all deserted, and fled to the savannahs that
border the Orinoco on the west. The Jesuit Fathers had already formed
a mission on this spot, and bearing the same name. No tribe is more
difficult to fix to the soil than the Guahibos. They would rather feed
on stale fish, scolopendras, and worms, than cultivate a little spot
of ground. The other Indians say, that a Guahibo eats everything that
exists, both on and under the ground.

In ascending the Orinoco more to the south, the heat, far from
increasing, became more bearable. The air in the day was at 26 or 27.5
degrees; and at night, at 23.7. The water of the Orinoco retained its
habitual temperature of 27.7 degrees. The torment of the mosquitos
augmented severely, notwithstanding the decrease of heat. We never
suffered so much from them as at San Borja. We could neither speak nor
uncover our faces without having our mouths and noses filled with
insects. We were surprised not to find the thermometer at 35 or 36
degrees; the extreme irritation of the skin made us believe that the
air was scorching. We passed the night on the beach of Guaripo. The
fear of the little caribe fish prevented us from bathing. The
crocodiles we had met with this day were all of an extraordinary size,
from twenty-two to twenty-four feet.

Our sufferings from the zancudos made us depart at five o'clock on the
morning of the 14th. There are fewer insects in the strata of air
lying immediately on the river, than near the edge of the forests. We
stopped to breakfast at the island of Guachaco, or Vachaco, where the
granite is immediately covered by a formation of sandstone, or
conglomerate. This sandstone contains fragments of quartz, and even of
feldspar, cemented by indurated clay. It exhibits little veins of
brown iron-ore, which separate in laminae, or plates, of one line in
thickness. We had already found these plates on the shores between
Encaramada and Baraguan, where the missionaries had sometimes taken
them for an ore of gold, and sometimes for tin. It is probable, that
this secondary formation occupied formerly a larger space. Having
passed the mouth of the Rio Parueni, beyond which the Maco Indians
dwell, we spent the night on the island of Panumana. I could with
difficulty take the altitudes of Canopus, in order to fix the
longitude of the point, near which the river suddenly turns towards
the west. The island of Panumana is rich in plants. We there again
found those shelves of bare rock, those tufts of melastomas, those
thickets of small shrubs, the blended scenery of which had charmed us
in the plains of Carichana. The mountains of the Great Cataracts
bounded the horizon towards the south-east. In proportion as we
advanced, the shores of the Orinoco exhibited a more imposing and
picturesque aspect.



The river of the Orinoco, in running from south to north, is crossed
by a chain of granitic mountains. Twice confined in its course, it
turbulently breaks on the rocks, that form steps and transverse dykes.
Nothing can be grander than the aspect of this spot. Neither the fall
of the Tequendama, near Santa Fe de Bogota, nor the magnificent scenes
of the Cordilleras, could weaken the impression produced upon my mind
by the first view of the rapids of Atures and of Maypures. When the
spectator is so stationed that the eye can at once take in the long
succession of cataracts, the immense sheet of foam and vapours
illumined by the rays of the setting sun, the whole river seems as it
were suspended over its bed.

Scenes so astonishing must for ages have fixed the attention of the
inhabitants of the New World. When Diego de Todaz, Alfonzo de Herrera,
and the intrepid Raleigh, anchored at the mouth of the Orinoco, they
were informed by the Indians of the Great Cataracts, which they
themselves had never visited, and which they even confounded with
cascades farther to the east. Whatever obstacles the force of
vegetation under the torrid zone may throw in the way of intercourse
among nations, all that relates to the course of great rivers acquires
a celebrity which extends to vast distances. The Orinoco, the Amazon,
and the Uruguay, traverse, like inland arms of seas, in different
directions, a land covered with forests, and inhabited by tribes, part
of whom are cannibals. It is not yet two hundred years since
civilization and the light of a more humane religion have pursued
their way along the banks of these ancient canals traced by the hand
of nature; long, however, before the introduction of agriculture,
before communications for the purposes of barter were established
among these scattered and often hostile tribes, the knowledge of
extraordinary phenomena, of falls of water, of volcanic fires, and of
snows resisting all the ardent heat of summer, was propagated by a
thousand fortuitous circumstances. Three hundred leagues from the
coast, in the centre of South America, among nations whose excursions
do not extend to three days' journey, we find an idea of the ocean,
and words that denote a mass of salt water extending as far as the eye
can discern. Various events, which repeatedly occur in savage life,
contribute to enlarge these conceptions. In consequence of the petty
wars between neighbouring tribes, a prisoner is brought into a strange
country, and treated as a poito or mero, that is to say, as a slave.
After being often sold, he is dragged to new wars, escapes, and
returns home; he relates what he has seen, and what he has heard from
those whose tongue he has been compelled to learn. As on discovering a
coast, we hear of great inland animals, so, on entering the valley of
a vast river, we are surprised to find that savages, who are strangers
to navigation, have acquired a knowledge of distant things. In the
infant state of society, the exchange of ideas precedes, to a certain
point, the exchange of productions.

The two great cataracts of the Orinoco, the celebrity of which is so
far-spread and so ancient, are formed by the passage of the river
across the mountains of Parima. They are called by the natives Mapara
and Quittuna; but the missionaries have substituted for these names
those of Atures and Maypures, after the names of the tribes which were
first assembled together in the nearest villages. On the coast of
Caracas, the two Great Cataracts are denoted by the simple appellation
of the two Raudales, or rapids; a denomination which implies that the
other falls of water, even the rapids of Camiseta and of Carichana,
are not considered as worthy of attention when compared with the
cataracts of Atures and Maypures.

These last, situated between five and six degrees of north latitude,
and a hundred leagues west of the Cordilleras of New Grenada, in the
meridian of Porto Cabello, are only twelve leagues distant from each
other. It is surprising that their existence was not known to
D'Anville, who, in his fine map of South America, marks the
inconsiderable cascades of Marimara and San Borja, by the names of the
rapids of Carichana and Tabaje. The Great Cataracts divide the
Christian establishments of Spanish Guiana into two unequal parts.
Those situated between the Raudal of Atures and the mouth of the river
are called the Missions of the Lower Orinoco; the Missions of the
Upper Orinoco comprehend the villages between the Raudal of Maypures
and the mountains of Duida. The course of the Lower Orinoco, if we
estimate the sinuosities at one-third of the distance in a direct
line, is two hundred and sixty nautical leagues: the course of the
Upper Orinoco, supposing its sources to be three degrees east of
Duida, includes one hundred and sixty-seven leagues.

Beyond the Great Cataracts an unknown land begins. The country is
partly mountainous and partly flat, receiving at once the confluents
of the Amazon and the Orinoco. From the facility of its communications
with the Rio Negro and Grand Para, it appears to belong still more to
Brazil than to the Spanish colonies. None of the missionaries who have
described the Orinoco before me, neither Father Gumilla, Gili, nor
Caulin, had passed the Raudal of Maypures. We found but three
Christian establishments above the Great Cataracts, along the shores
of the Orinoco, in an extent of more than a hundred leagues; and these
three establishments contained scarcely six or eight white persons,
that is to say, persons of European race. We cannot be surprised that
such a desert region should have been at all times the land of fable
and fairy visions. There, according to the statements of certain
missionaries, are found races of men, some of whom have an eye in the
centre of the forehead, whilst others have dogs' heads, and mouths
below their stomachs. There they pretend to have found all that the
ancients relate of the Garamantes, of the Arimaspes, and of the
Hyperboreans. It would be an error to suppose that these simple and
often rustic missionaries had themselves invented all these
exaggerated fictions; they derived them in great part from the
recitals of the Indians. A fondness for narration prevails in the
Missions, as it does at sea, in the East, and in every place where the
mind seeks amusement. A missionary, from his vocation, is not inclined
to scepticism; he imprints on his memory what the natives have so
often repeated to him; and, when returned to Europe, and restored to
the civilized world, he finds a pleasure in creating astonishment by a
recital of facts which he thinks he has collected, and by an animated
description of remote things. These stories, which the Spanish
colonists call tales of travellers and of monks (cuentos de viageros y
frailes), increase in improbability in proportion as you increase your
distance from the forests of the Orinoco, and approach the coasts
inhabited by the whites. When, at Cumana, Nueva Barcelona, and other
seaports which have frequent communication with the Missions, you
betray any sign of incredulity, you are reduced to silence by these
few words: The fathers have seen it, but far above the Great Cataracts
(mas arriba de los Raudales).

On the 15th of April, we left the island of Panumana at four in the
morning, two hours before sunrise. The sky was in great part obscured,
and lightnings flashed over dense clouds at more than forty degrees of
elevation. We were surprised at not hearing thunder; but possibly this
was owing to the prodigious height of the storm? It appears to us,
that in Europe the electric flashes without thunder, vaguely called
heat-lightning, are seen generally nearer the horizon. Under a cloudy
sky, that sent back the radiant caloric of the soil, the heat was
stifling; not a breath of wind agitated the foliage of the trees. The
jaguars, as usual, had crossed the arm of the Orinoco by which we were
separated from the shore, and we heard their cries extremely near.
During the night the Indians had advised us to quit our station in the
open air, and retire to a deserted hut belonging to the conucos of the
inhabitants of Atures. They had taken care to barricade the opening
with planks, a precaution which seemed to us superfluous; but near the
Cataracts tigers are very numerous, and two years before, in these
very conucos of Panumana, an Indian returning to his hut, towards the
close of the rainy season, found a tigress settled in it with her two
young. These animals had inhabited the dwelling for several months;
they were dislodged from it with difficulty, and it was only after an
obstinate combat that the former master regained possession of his
dwelling. The jaguars are fond of retiring to deserted ruins, and I
believe it is more prudent in general for a solitary traveller to
encamp in the open air, between two fires, than to seek shelter in
uninhabited huts.

On quitting the island of Panumana, we perceived on the western bank
of the river the fires of an encampment of Guahibo savages. The
missionary who accompanied us caused a few musket-shots to be fired in
the air, which he said would intimidate them, and shew that we were in
a state to defend ourselves. The savages most likely had no canoes,
and were not desirous of troubling us in the middle of the river. We
passed at sunrise the mouth of the Rio Anaveni, which descends from
the eastern mountains. On its banks, now deserted, Father Olmos had
established, in the time of the Jesuits, a small village of Japuins or
Jaruros. The heat was so excessive that we rested a long time in a
woody spot, to fish with a hook and line, and it was not without some
trouble that we carried away all the fish we had caught. We did not
arrive till very late at the foot of the Great Cataract, in a bay
called the lower harbour (puerto de abaxo); and we followed, not
without difficulty, in a dark night, the narrow path that leads to the
Mission of Atures, a league distant from the river. We crossed a plain
covered with large blocks of granite.

The little village of San Juan Nepomuceno de los Atures was founded by
the Jesuit Francisco Gonzales, in 1748. In going up the river this is
the last of the Christian missions that owe their origin to the order
of St. Ignatius. The more southern establishments, those of Atabapo,
of Cassiquiare, and of Rio Negro, were formed by the fathers of the
Observance of St. Francis. The Orinoco appears to have flowed
heretofore where the village of Atures now stands, and the flat
savannah that surrounds the village no doubt formed part of the river.
I saw to the east of the mission a succession of rocks, which seemed
to have been the ancient shore of the Orinoco. In the lapse of ages
the river has been impelled westward, in consequence of the
accumulations of earth, which occur more frequently on the side of the
eastern mountains, that are furrowed by torrents. The cataract bears
the name of Mapara,* as we have mentioned above (* I am ignorant of
the etymology of this word, which I believe means only a fall of
water. Gili translates into Maypure a small cascade (raudalito) by
uccamatisi mapara canacapatirri. Should we not spell this word
matpara? mat being a radical of the Maypure tongue, and meaning bad
(Hervas, Saggio N. 29). The radical par (para) is found among American
tribes more than five hundred leagues distant from each other, the
Caribs, Maypures, Brazilians, and Peruvians, in the words sea, rain,
water, lake. We must not confound mapara with mapaja; this last word
signifies, in Maypure and Tamanac, the papaw or melon-tree, no doubt
on account of the sweetness of its fruit, for mapa means in the
Maypure, as well as in the Peruvian and Omagua tongues, the honey of
bees. The Tamanacs call a cascade, or raudal, in general uatapurutpe;
the Maypures, uca.); while the name of the village is derived from
that of the nation of Atures, now believed to be extinct. I find on
the maps of the seventeenth century, Island and Cataract of Athule;
which is the word Atures written according to the pronunciation of the
Tamanacs, who confound, like so many other people, the consonants l
and r. This mountainous region was so little known in Europe, even in
the middle of the eighteenth century, that D'Anville, in the first
edition of his South America, makes a branch issue from the Orinoco,
near Salto de los Atures, and fall into the Amazon, to which branch he
gives the name of Rio Negro.

Early maps, as well as Father Gumilla's work, place the Mission in
latitude 1 degree 30 minutes. Abbe Gili gives it 3 degrees 50 minutes.
I found, by meridian altitudes of Canopus and a of the Southern Cross,
5 degrees 38 minutes 4 seconds for the latitude; and by the
chronometer 4 hours 41 minutes 17 seconds of longitude west of the
meridian of Paris.

We found this small Mission in the most deplorable state. It
contained, even at the time of the expedition of Solano, commonly
called the expedition of the boundaries, three hundred and twenty
Indians. This number had diminished, at the time of our passage by the
Cataracts, to forty-seven; and the missionary assured us that this
diminution became from year to year more sensible. He showed us, that
in the space of thirty-two months only one marriage had been entered
in the registers of the parish church. Two others had been contracted
by uncatechised natives, and celebrated before the Indian Gobernador.
At the first foundation of the Mission, the Atures, Maypures,
Meyepures, Abanis, and Quirupas, had been assembled together. Instead
of these tribes we found only Guahibos, and a few families of the
nation of Macos. The Atures have almost entirely disappeared; they are
no longer known, except by the tombs in the cavern of Ataruipe, which
recall to mind the sepulchres of the Guanches at Teneriffe. We learned
on the spot, that the Atures, as well as the Quaquas, and the Macos or
Piaroas, belong to the great stock of the Salive nations; while the
Maypures, the Abanis, the Parenis, and the Guaypunaves, are of the
same race as the Cabres or Caveres, celebrated for their long wars
with the Caribs. In this labyrinth of petty nations, divided from one
another as the nations of Latium, Asia Minor, and Sogdiana, formerly
were, we can trace no general relations but by following the analogy
of tongues. These are the only monuments that have reached us from the
early ages of the world; the only monuments, which, not being fixed to
the soil, are at once moveable and lasting, and have as it were
traversed time and space. They owe their duration, and the extent they
occupy, much less to conquering and polished nations, than to those
wandering and half-savage tribes, who, fleeing before a powerful
enemy, carried along with them in their extreme wretchedness only
their wives, their children, and the languages of their fathers.

Between the latitudes of 4 and 8 degrees, the Orinoco not only
separates the great forest of the Parime from the bare savannahs of
the Apure, Meta, and Guaviare, but also forms the boundary between
tribes of very different manners. To the westward, over treeless
plains, wander the Guahibos, the Chiricoas, and the Guamos; nations,
proud of their savage independence, whom it is difficult to fix to the
soil, or habituate to regular labour. The Spanish missionaries
characterise them well by the name of Indios andantes (errant or
vagabond Indians), because they are perpetually moving from place to
place. To the east of the Orinoco, between the neighbouring sources of
the Caura, Cataniapo, and Ventuari, live the Macos, the Salives, the
Curacicanas, Parecas, and Maquiritares, mild, tranquil tribes,
addicted to agriculture, and easily subjected to the discipline of the
Missions. The Indian of the plains differs from the Indian of the
forests in language as well as manners and mental disposition; both
have an idiom abounding in spirited and bold terms; but the language
of the former is harsher, more concise, and more impassioned; that of
the latter, softer, more diffuse, and fuller of ambiguous expressions.

The Mission of Atures, like most of the Missions of the Orinoco,
situated between the mouths of the Apure and the Atabapo, is composed
of both the classes of tribes we have just described. We there find
the Indians of the forests, and the Indians heretofore nomadic*
(Indios monteros and Indios llaneros, or andantes). (* I employ the
word nomadic as synonymous with wandering, and not in its primitive
signification. The wandering nations of America (those of the
indigenous tribes, it is to be understood) are never shepherds; they
live by fishing and hunting, on the fruit of a few trees, the
farinaceous pith of palm-trees, etc.) We visited with the missionary
the huts of Macos, whom the Spaniards call Piraoas, and those of the
Guahibos. The first indicated more love of order, cleanliness, and
ease. The independent Macos (I do not designate them by the name of
savages) have their rochelas, or fixed dwellings, two or three days'
journey east of Atures, toward the sources of the little river
Cataniapo. They are very numerous. Like most of the natives of the
woods, they cultivate, not maize, but cassava; and they live in great
harmony with the Christian Indians of the mission. The harmony was
established and wisely cultivated by the Franciscan monk, Bernardo
Zea. This alcalde of the reduced Macos quitted the village of Atures
for a few months every year, to live in the plantations which he
possessed in the midst of the forests near the hamlet of the
independent Macos. In consequence of this peaceful intercourse, many
of the Indios monteros came and established themselves some time ago
in the mission. They asked eagerly for knives, fishing hooks, and
those coloured glass beads, which, notwithstanding the positive
prohibition of the priests, were employed not as necklaces, but as
ornaments of the guayuco (perizoma). Having obtained what they sought,
they returned to the woods, weary of the regulations of the mission.
Epidemic fevers, which prevailed with violence at the entrance of the
rainy season, contributed greatly to this unexpected flight. In 1799
the mortality was very considerable at Carichana, on the banks of the
Meta, and at the Raudal of Atures. The Indian of the forest conceives
a horror of the life of the civilized man, when, I will not say any
misfortune befalls his family settled in the mission, but merely any
disagreeable or unforeseen accident. Natives, who were neophytes, have
been known to desert for ever the Christian establishments, on account
of a great drought; as if this calamity would not have reached them
equally in their plantations, had they remained in their primitive

The fevers which prevail during a great part of the year in the
villages of Atures and Maypures, around the two Great Cataracts of the
Orinoco, render these spots highly dangerous to European travellers.
They are caused by violent heats, in combination with the excessive
humidity of the air, bad nutriment, and, if we may believe the
natives, the pestilent exhalations rising from the bare rocks of the
Raudales. These fevers of the Orinoco appeared to us to resemble those
which prevail every year between New Barcelona, La Guayra, and Porto
Cabello, in the vicinity of the sea; and which often degenerate into
adynamic fevers. "I have had my little fever (mi calenturita) only
eight months," said the good missionary of the Atures, who accompanied
us to the Rio Negro; speaking of it as of an habitual evil, easy to be
borne. The fits were violent, but of short duration. He was sometimes
seized with them when lying along in the boat under a shelter of
branches of trees, sometimes when exposed to the burning rays of the
sun on an open beach. These tertian agues are attended with great
debility of the muscular system; yet we find poor ecclesiastics on the
Orinoco, who endure for several years these calenturitas, or
tercianas: their effects are not so fatal as those which are
experienced from fevers of much shorter duration in temperate

I have just alluded to the noxious influence on the salubrity of the
atmosphere, which is attributed by the natives, and even the
missionaries, to the bare rocks. This opinion is the more worthy of
attention, as it is connected with a physical phenomenon lately
observed in different parts of the globe, and not yet sufficiently
explained. Among the cataracts, and wherever the Orinoco, between the
Missions of Carichana and of Santa Barbara, periodically washes the
granitic rocks, they become smooth, black, and as if coated with
plumbago. The colouring matter does not penetrate the stone, which is
coarse-grained granite, containing a few solitary crystals of
hornblende. Taking a general view of the primitive formation of
Atures, we perceive, that, like the granite of Syene in Egypt, it is a
granite with hornblende, and not a real syenite formation. Many of the
layers are entirely destitute of hornblende. The black crust is 0.3 of
a line in thickness; it is found chiefly on the quartzose parts. The
crystals of feldspar sometimes preserve externally their reddish-white
colour, and rise above the black crust. On breaking the stone with a
hammer, the inside is found to be white, and without any trace of
decomposition. These enormous stony masses appear sometimes in rhombs,
sometimes under those hemispheric forms, peculiar to granitic rocks
when they separate in blocks. They give the landscape a singularly
gloomy aspect; their colour being in strong contrast with that of the
foam of the river which covers them, and of the vegetation by which
they are surrounded. The Indians say, that the rocks are burnt (or
carbonized) by the rays of the sun. We saw them not only in the bed of
the Orinoco, but in some spots as far as five hundred toises from its
present shore, on heights which the waters now never reach even in
their greatest swellings.

What is this brownish black crust, which gives these rocks, when they
have a globular form, the appearance of meteoric stones? What idea can
we form of the action of the water, which produces a deposit, or a
change of colour, so extraordinary? We must observe, in the first
place, that this phenomenon does not belong to the cataracts of the
Orinoco alone, but is found in both hemispheres. At my return from
Mexico in 1807, when I showed the granites of Atures and Maypures to
M. Roziere, who had travelled over the valley of Egypt, the coasts of
the Red Sea, and Mount Sinai, this learned geologist pointed out to me
that the primitive rocks of the little cataracts of Syene display,
like the rocks of the Orinoco, a glossy surface, of a blackish-grey,
or almost leaden colour, and of which some of the fragments seem
coated with tar. Recently, in the unfortunate expedition of Captain
Tuckey, the English naturalists were struck with the same appearance
in the yellalas (rapids and shoals) that obstruct the river Congo or
Zaire. Dr. Koenig has placed in the British Museum, beside the
syenites of the Congo, the granites of Atures, taken from a series of
rocks which were presented by M. Bonpland and myself to the
illustrious president of the Royal Society of London. "These
fragments," says Mr. Koenig, "alike resemble meteoric stones; in both
rocks, those of the Orinoco and of Africa, the black crust is
composed, according to the analysis of Mr. Children, of the oxide of
iron and manganese." Some experiments made at Mexico, conjointly with
Senor del Rio, led me to think that the rocks of Atures, which blacken
the paper in which they are wrapped,* contain, besides oxide of
manganese, carbon, and supercarburetted iron. (* I remarked the same
phenomenon from spongy grains of platina one or two lines in length,
collected at the stream-works of Taddo, in the province of Choco.
Having been wrapped up in white paper during a journey of several
months, they left a black stain, like that of plumbago or
supercarburetted iron.) At the Orinoco, granitic masses of forty or
fifty feet thick are uniformly coated with these oxides; and, however
thin these crusts may appear, they must nevertheless contain pretty
considerable quantities of iron and manganese, since they occupy a
space of above a league square.

It must be observed that all these phenomena of coloration have
hitherto appeared in the torrid zone only, in rivers that have
periodical overflowings, of which the habitual temperature is from
twenty-four to twenty-eight centesimal degrees, and which flow, not
over gritstone or calcareous rocks, but over granite, gneiss, and
hornblende rocks. Quartz and feldspar scarcely contain five or six
thousandths of oxide of iron and of manganese; but in mica and
hornblende these oxides, and particularly that of iron, amount,
according to Klaproth and Herrmann, to fifteen or twenty parts in a
hundred. The hornblende contains also some carbon, like the Lydian
stone and kieselschiefer. Now, if these black crusts were formed by a
slow decomposition of the granitic rock, under the double influence of
humidity and the tropical sun, how is it to be conceived that these
oxides are spread so uniformly over the whole surface of the stony
masses, and are not more abundant round a crystal of mica or
hornblende than on the feldspar and milky quartz? The ferruginous
sandstones, granites, and marbles, that become cinereous and sometimes
brown in damp air, have an aspect altogether different. In reflecting
upon the lustre and equal thickness of the crusts, we are rather
inclined to think that this matter is deposited by the Orinoco, and
that the water has penetrated even into the clefts of the rocks.
Adopting this hypothesis, it may be asked whether the river holds the
oxides suspended like sand and other earthy substances, or whether
they are found in a state of chemical solution. The first supposition
is less admissible, on account of the homogeneity of the crusts, which
contain neither grains of sand, nor spangles of mica, mixed with the
oxides. We must then recur to the idea of a chemical solution; and
this idea is no way at variance with the phenomena daily observable in
our laboratories. The waters of great rivers contain carbonic acid;
and, were they even entirely pure, they would still be capable, in
very great volumes, of dissolving some portions of oxide, or those
metallic hydrates which are regarded as the least soluble. The mud of
the Nile, which is the sediment of the matters which the river holds
suspended, is destitute of manganese; but it contains, according to
the analysis of M. Regnault, six parts in a hundred of oxide of iron;
and its colour, at first black, changes to yellowish brown by
desiccation and the contact of air. The mud consequently is not the
cause of the black crusts on the rocks of Syene. Berzelius, who, at my
request, examined these crusts, recognized in them, as in those of the
granites of the Orinoco and River Congo, the union of iron and
manganese. That celebrated chemist was of opinion that the rivers do
not take up these oxides from the soil over which they flow, but that
they derive them from their subterranean sources, and deposit them on
the rocks in the manner of cementation, by the action of particular
affinities, perhaps by that of the potash of the feldspar. A long
residence at the cataracts of the Orinoco, the Nile, and the Rio
Congo, and an examination of the circumstances attendant on this
phenomenon of coloration, could alone lead to the complete solution of
the problem we have discussed. Is this phenomenon independent of the
nature of the rocks? I shall content myself with observing, in
general, that neither the granitic masses remote from the ancient bed
of the Orinoco, but exposed during the rainy season to the
alternations of heat and moisture, nor the granitic rocks bathed by
the brownish waters of the Rio Negro, assume the appearance of
meteoric stones. The Indians say, that the rocks are black only where
the waters are white. They ought, perhaps, to add, where the waters
acquire great swiftness, and strike with force against the rocks of
the banks. Cementation seems to explain why the crusts augment so
little in thickness.

I know not whether it be an error, but in the Missions of the Orinoco,
the neighbourhood of bare rocks, and especially of the masses that
have crusts of carbon, oxide of iron, and manganese, are considered
injurious to health. In the torrid zone, still more than in others,
the people multiply pathogenic causes at will. They are afraid to
sleep in the open air, if forced to expose the face to the rays of the
full moon. They also think it dangerous to sleep on granite near the
river; and many examples are cited of persons, who, after having
passed the night on these black and naked rocks, have awakened in the
morning with a strong paroxysm of fever. Without entirely lending
faith to the assertions of the missionaries and natives, we generally
avoided the laxas negras, and stretched ourselves on the beach covered
with white sand, when we found no tree from which to suspend our
hammocks. At Carichana, the village is intended to be destroyed, and
its place changed, merely to remove it from the black rocks, or from a
site where, for a space of more than ten thousand square toises, banks
of bare granite form the surface. From similar motives, which must
appear very chimerical to the naturalists of Europe, the Jesuits Olmo,
Forneri, and Mellis, removed a village of Jaruros to three different
spots, between the Raudal of Tabaje and the Rio Anaveni. I merely
state these facts as they were related to me, because we are almost
wholly ignorant of the nature of the gaseous mixtures which cause the
insalubrity of the atmosphere. Can it be admitted that, under the
influence of excessive heat and of constant humidity, the black crusts
of the granitic rocks are capable of acting upon the ambient air, and
producing miasmata with a triple basis of carbon, azote, and hydrogen?
This I doubt. The granites of the Orinoco, it is true, often contain
hornblende; and those who are accustomed to practical labour in mines
are not ignorant that the most noxious exhalations rise from galleries
wrought in syenitic and hornblende rocks: but in an atmosphere renewed
every instant by the action of little currents of air, the effect
cannot be the same as in a mine.

It is probably dangerous to sleep on the laxas negras, only because
these rocks retain a very elevated temperature during the night. I
have found their temperature in the day at 48 degrees, the air in the
shade being at 29.7 degrees; during the night the thermometer on the
rock indicated 36 degrees, the air being at 26 degrees. When the
accumulation of heat in the stony masses has reached a stationary
degree, these masses become at the same hours nearly of the same
temperature. What they have acquired more in the day they lose at
night by radiation, the force of which depends on the state of the
surface of the radiating body, the interior arrangement of its
particles, and, above all, on the clearness of the sky, that is, on
the transparency of the atmosphere and the absence of clouds. When the
declination of the sun varies very little, this luminary adds daily
nearly the same quantities of heat, and the rocks are not hotter at
the end than in the middle of summer. There is a certain maximum which
they cannot pass, because they do not change the state of their
surface, their density, or their capacity for caloric. On the shores
of the Orinoco, on getting out of one's hammock during the night, and
touching with the bare feet the rocky surface of the ground, the
sensation of heat experienced is very remarkable. I observed pretty
constantly, in putting the bulb of the thermometer in contact with the
ledges of bare rocks, that the laxas negras are hotter during the day
than the reddish-white granites at a distance from the river; but the
latter cool during the night less rapidly than the former. It may be
easily conceived that the emission and loss of caloric is more rapid
in masses with black crusts than in those which abound in laminae of
silvery mica. When walking between the hours of one and three in the
afternoon, at Carichana, Atures, or Maypures, among those blocks of
stone destitute of vegetable mould, and piled up to great heights, one
feels a sensation of suffocation, as if standing before the opening of
a furnace. The winds, if ever felt in those woody regions, far from
bringing coolness, appear more heated when they have passed over beds
of stone, and heaps of rounded blocks of granite. This augmentation of
heat adds to the insalubrity of the climate.

Among the causes of the depopulation of the Raudales, I have not
reckoned the small-pox, that malady which in other parts of America
makes such cruel ravages that the natives, seized with dismay, burn
their huts, kill their children, and renounce every kind of society.
This scourge is almost unknown on the banks of the Orinoco, and should
it penetrate thither, it is to be hoped that its effects may be
immediately counteracted by vaccination, the blessings of which are
daily felt along the coasts of Terra Firma. The causes which
depopulate the Christian settlements are, the repugnance of the
Indians for the regulations of the missions, insalubrity of climate,
bad nourishment, want of care in the diseases of children, and the
guilty practice of preventing pregnancy by the use of deleterious
herbs. Among the barbarous people of Guiana, as well as those of the
half-civilized islands of the South Sea, young wives are fearful of
becoming mothers. If they have children, their offspring are exposed
not only to the dangers of savage life, but also to other dangers
arising from the strangest popular prejudices. When twins are born,
false notions of propriety and family honour require that one of them
should be destroyed. To bring twins into the world, say the Indians,
is to be exposed to public scorn; it is to resemble rats, opossums,
and the vilest animals, which bring forth a great number of young at a
time. Nay, more, they affirm that two children born at the same time
cannot belong to the same father. This is an axiom of physiology among
the Salives; and in every zone, and in different states of society,
when the vulgar seize upon an axiom, they adhere to it with more
stedfastness than the better-informed men by whom it was first
hazarded. To avoid the disturbance of conjugal tranquillity, the old
female relations of the mother take care, that when twins are born one
of them shall disappear. If a new-born infant, though not a twin, have
any physical deformity, the father instantly puts it to death. They
will have none but robust and well-made children, for deformities
indicate some influence of the evil spirit Ioloquiamo, or the bird
Tikitiki, the enemy of the human race. Sometimes children of a feeble
constitution undergo the same fate. When the father is asked what is
become of one of his sons, he will pretend that he has lost him by a
natural death. He will disavow an action that appears to him
blameable, but not criminal. "The poor boy," he will tell you, "could
not follow us; we must have waited for him every moment; he has not
been seen again; he did not come to sleep where we passed the night."
Such is the candour and simplicity of manners--such the boasted
happiness--of man in the state of nature! He kills his son to escape
the ridicule of having twins, or to avoid journeying more slowly; in
fact, to avoid a little inconvenience.

These acts of cruelty, I confess, are less frequent than they are
believed to be; yet they occur even in the Missions, during the time
when the Indians leave the village, to retire to the conucos of the
neighbouring forests. It would be erroneous to attribute these actions
to the state of polygamy in which the uncatechized Indians live.
Polygamy no doubt diminishes the domestic happiness and internal union
of families; but this practice, sanctioned by Ismaelism, does not
prevent the people of the east from loving their children with
tenderness. Among the Indians of the Orinoco, the father returns home
only to eat, or to sleep in his hammock; he lavishes no caresses on
his infants, or on his wives, whose office it is to serve him.
Parental affection begins to display itself only when the son has
become strong enough to take a part in hunting, fishing, and the
agricultural labours of the plantations.

While our boat was unloading, we examined closely, wherever the shore
could be approached, the terrific spectacle of a great river narrowed
and reduced as it were to foam. I shall endeavour to paint, not the
sensations we felt, but the aspect of a spot so celebrated among the
scenes of the New World. The more imposing and majestic the objects we
describe, the more essential it becomes to seize them in their
smallest details, to fix the outline of the picture we would present
to the imagination of the reader, and to describe with simplicity what
characterises the great and imperishable monuments of nature.

The navigation of the Orinoco from its mouth as far as the confluence
of the Anaveni, an extent of 260 leagues, is not impeded. There are
shoals and eddies near Muitaco, in a cove that bears the name of the
Mouth of Hell (Boca del Infierno); and there are rapids (raudalitos)
near Carichana and San Borja; but in all these places the river is
never entirely barred, as a channel is left by which boats can pass up
and down.

In all this navigation of the Lower Orinoco travellers experience no
other danger than that of the natural rafts formed by trees, which are
uprooted by the river, and swept along in its great floods. Woe to the
canoes that during the night strike against these rafts of wood
interwoven with lianas! Covered with aquatic plants, they resemble
here, as in the Mississippi, floating meadows, the chinampas or
floating gardens of the Mexican lakes. The Indians, when they wish to
surprise a tribe of their enemies, bring together several canoes,
fasten them to each other with cords, and cover them with grass and
branches, to imitate this assemblage of trunks of trees, which the
Orinoco sweeps along in its middle current. The Caribs are accused of
having heretofore excelled in the use of this artifice; at present the
Spanish smugglers in the neighbourhood of Angostura have recourse to
the same expedient to escape the vigilance of the custom-house

After proceeding up the Orinoco beyond the Rio Anaveni, we find,
between the mountains of Uniana and Sipapu, the Great Cataracts of
Mapara and Quittuna, or, as they are more commonly called by the
missionaries, the Raudales of Atures and Maypures. These bars, which
extend from one bank to the other, present in general a similar
aspect: they are composed of innumerable islands, dikes of rock, and
blocks of granite piled on one another and covered with palm-trees.
But, notwithstanding a uniformity of aspect, each of these cataracts
preserves an individual character. The first, the Atures, is most
easily passable when the waters are low. The Indians prefer crossing
the second, the Maypures, at the time of great floods. Beyond the
Maypures and the mouth of the Cano Cameji, the Orinoco is again
unobstructed for the length of more than one hundred and sixty-seven
leagues, or nearly to its source; that is to say, as far as the
Raudalito of Guaharibos, east of the Cano Chiguire and the lofty
mountains of Yumariquin.

Having visited the basins of the two rivers Orinoco and Amazon, I was
singularly struck by the differences they display in their course of
unequal extent. The falls of the Amazon, which is nearly nine hundred
and eighty nautical leagues (twenty to a degree) in length, are pretty
near its source in the first sixth of its total length, and
five-sixths of its course are entirely free. We find the great falls
of the Orinoco on a point far more unfavourable to navigation; if not
at the half, at least much beyond the first third of its length. In
both rivers it is neither the mountains, nor the different stages of
flat lands lying over one another, whence they take their origin, that
cause the cataracts; they are produced by other mountains, other
ledges which, after a long and tranquil course, the rivers have to
pass over, precipitating themselves from step to step.

The Amazon does not pierce its way through the principal chain of the
Andes, as was affirmed at a period when it was gratuitously supposed
that, wherever mountains are divided into parallel chains, the
intermedial or central ridge must be more elevated than the others.
This great river rises (and this is a point of some importance to
geology) eastward of the western chain, which alone in this latitude
merits the denomination of the high chain of the Andes. It is formed
by the junction of the river Aguamiros with the Rio Chavinillo, which
issues from the lake Llauricocha in a longitudinal valley bounded by
the western and the intermedial chain of the Andes. To form an
accurate idea of these hydrographical relations, it must be borne in
mind that a division into three chains takes place in the colossal
group or knot of the mountains of Pasco and Huanuco. The western
chain, which is the loftiest, and takes the name of the Cordillera
Real de Nieve, directs its course (between Huary and Caxatamba,
Guamachuco and Luema, Micuipampa and Guangamarca) by the Nevados of
Viuda, Pelagatos, Moyopata, and Huaylillas, and by the Paramos of
Guamani and Guaringa, towards the town of Loxa. The intermedial chain
separates the waters of the Upper Maranon from those of the Guallaga,
and over a long space reaches only the small elevation of a thousand
toises; it enters the region of perpetual snow to the south of Huanuco
in the Cordillera of Sasaguanca. It stretches at first northward by
Huacrachuco, Chachapoyas, Moyobamba, and the Paramo of Piscoguannuna;
then it progressively lowers toward Peca, Copallin, and the Mission of
Santiago, at the eastern extremity of the province of Jaen de
Bracamoros. The third, or easternmost chain, skirts the right bank of
the Rio Guallaga, and loses itself in the seventh degree of latitude.
So long as the Amazon flows from south to north in the longitudinal
valley, between two chains of unequal height (that is, from the farms
of Quivilla and Guancaybamba, where the river is crossed on wooden
bridges, as far as the confluence of the Rio Chinchipe), there are
neither bars, nor any obstacle whatever to the navigation of boats.
The falls of water begin only where the Amazon turns toward the east,
crossing the intermedial chain of the Andes, which widens considerably
toward the north. It meets with the first rocks of red sandstone, or
ancient conglomerate, between Tambillo and the Pongo of Rentema (near
which I measured the breadth, depth, and swiftness of the waters), and
it leaves the rocks of red sandstone east of the famous strait of
Manseriche, near the Pongo of Tayuchuc, where the hills rise no higher
than forty or fifty toises above the level of its waters. The river
does not reach the most easterly chain, which bounds the Pampas del
Sacramento. From the hills of Tayuchuc as far as Grand Para, during a
course of more than seven hundred and fifty leagues, the navigation is
free from obstacles. It results from this rapid sketch, that, if the
Maranon had not to pass over the hilly country between Santiago and
Tomependa (which belongs to the central chain of the Andes) it would
be navigable from its mouth as far as Pumpo, near Piscobamba in the
province of Conchucos, forty-three leagues north of its source.

We have just seen that, in the Orinoco, as in the Amazon, the great
cataracts are not found near the sources of the rivers. After a
tranquil course of more than one hundred and sixty leagues from the
little Raudal of Guaharibos, east of Esmeralda, as far as the
mountains of Sipapu, the river, augmented by the waters of the Jao,
the Ventuari, the Atabapo, and the Guaviare, suddenly changes its
primitive direction from east to west, and runs from south to north:
then, in crossing the land-strait* in the plains of Meta, (* This
strait, which I have several times mentioned, is formed by the
Cordilleras of the Andes of New Granada, and the Cordillera of
Parima.) meets the advanced buttresses of the Cordillera of Parima.
This obstacle causes cataracts far more considerable, and presents
greater impediments to navigation, than all the Pongos of the Upper
Maranon, because they are proportionally nearer to the mouth of the
river. These geographical details serve to prove, in the instances of
the two greatest rivers of the New World, first, that it cannot be
ascertained in an absolute manner that, beyond a certain number of
toises, or a certain height above the level of the sea, rivers are not
navigable; secondly, that the rapids are not always occasioned, as
several treatises of general topography affirm, by the height of the
first obstacles, by the first lines of ridges which the waters have to
surmount near their sources.

The most northern of the great cataracts of the Orinoco is the only
one bounded on each side by lofty mountains. The left bank of the
river is generally lower, but it makes part of a plane which rises
again west of Atures, towards the Peak of Uniana, a pyramid nearly
three thousand feet high, and placed on a wall of rock with steep
slopes. The situation of this solitary peak in the plain contributes
to render its aspect more imposing and majestic. Near the Mission, in
the country which surrounds the cataract, the aspect of the landscape
varies at every step. Within a small space we find all that is most
rude and gloomy in nature, united with an open country and lovely
pastoral scenery. In the physical, as in the moral world, the contrast
of effects, the comparison of what is powerful and menacing with what
is soft and peaceful, is a never-failing source of our pleasures and
our emotions.

I shall here repeat some scattered features of a picture which I
traced in another work shortly after my return to Europe.* (* Views of
Nature page 153 Bohn's edition.) The savannahs of Atures, covered with
slender plants and grasses, are really meadows resembling those of
Europe. They are never inundated by the rivers, and seem as if waiting
to be ploughed by the hand of man. Notwithstanding their extent, these
savannahs do not exhibit the monotony of our plains; they surround
groups of rocks and blocks of granite piled on one another. On the
very borders of these plains and this open country, glens are seen
scarcely lighted by the rays of the setting sun, and hollows where the
humid soil, loaded with arums, heliconias, and lianas, manifests at
every step the wild fecundity of nature. Everywhere, just rising above
the earth, appear those shelves of granite completely bare, which we
saw at Carichana, and which I have already described. Where springs
gush from the bosom of these rocks, verrucarias, psoras, and lichens
are fixed on the decomposed granite, and have there accumulated mould.
Little euphorbias, peperomias, and other succulent plants, have taken
the place of the cryptogamous tribes; and evergreen shrubs, rhexias,
and purple-flowered melastomas, form verdant isles amid desert and
rocky plains. The distribution of these spots, the clusters of small
trees with coriaceous and shining leaves scattered in the savannahs,
the limpid rills that dig channels across the rocks, and wind
alternately through fertile places and over bare shelves of granite,
all call to mind the most lovely and picturesque plantations and
pleasure-grounds of Europe. We seem to recognise the industry of man,
and the traces of cultivation, amid this wild scenery.

The lofty mountains that bound the horizon on every side, contribute
also, by their forms and the nature of their vegetation, to give an
extraordinary character to the landscape. The average height of these
mountains is not more than seven or eight hundred feet above the
surrounding plains. Their summits are rounded, as for the most part in
granitic mountains, and covered with thick forests of the
laurel-tribe. Clusters of palm-trees,* (* El cucurito.) the leaves of
which, curled like feathers, rise majestically at an angle of seventy
degrees, are dispersed amid trees with horizontal branches; and their
bare trunks, like columns of a hundred or a hundred and twenty feet
high, shoot up into the air, and when seen in distinct relief against
the azure vault of the sky, they resemble a forest planted upon
another forest. When, as the moon was going down behind the mountains
of Uniana, her reddish disc was hidden behind the pinnated foliage of
the palm-trees, and again appeared in the aerial zone that separates
the two forests, I thought myself transported for a few moments to the
hermitage which Bernardin de Saint-Pierre has described as one of the
most delicious scenes of the Isle of Bourbon, and I felt how much the
aspect of the plants and their groupings resembled each other in the
two worlds. In describing a small spot of land in an island of the
Indian Ocean, the inimitable author of Paul and Virginia has sketched
the vast picture of the landscape of the tropics. He knew how to paint
nature, not because he had studied it scientifically, but because he
felt it in all its harmonious analogies of forms, colours, and
interior powers.

East of the Atures, near these rounded mountains crowned, as it were,
by two superimposed forests of laurels and palms, other mountains of a
very different aspect arise. Their ridge is bristled with pointed
rocks, towering like pillars above the summits of the trees and
shrubs. These effects are common to all granitic table-lands, at the
Harz, in the metalliferous mountains of Bohemia, in Galicia, on the
limit of the two Castiles, or wherever a granite of new formation
appears above the ground. The rocks, which are at distances from each
other, are composed of blocks piled together, or divided into regular
and horizontal beds. On the summits of those situated near the
Orinoco, flamingos, soldados,* (* The soldado (soldier) is a large
species of heron.) and other fishing-birds perch, and look like men
posted as sentinels. This resemblance is so striking, that the
inhabitants of Angostura, soon after the foundation of their city,
were one day alarmed by the sudden appearance of soldados and garzas,
on a mountain towards the south. They believed they were menaced with
an attack of Indios monteros (wild Indians called mountaineers); and
the people were not perfectly tranquilized, till they saw the birds
soaring in the air, and continuing their migration towards the mouths
of the Orinoco.

The fine vegetation of the mountains spreads over the plains, wherever
the rock is covered with mould, We generally find that this black
mould, mixed with fibrous vegetable matter, is separated from the
granitic rock by a layer of white sand. The missionary assured us that
verdure of perpetual freshness prevails in the vicinity of the
cataracts, produced by the quantity of vapour which the river, broken
into torrents and cascades for the length of three or four thousand
toises, diffuses in the air.

We had not heard thunder more than once or twice at Atures, and the
vegetation everywhere displayed that vigorous aspect, that brilliancy
of colour, seen on the coast only at the end of the rainy season. The
old trees were decorated with beautiful orchideas,* (* Cymbidium
violaceum, Habenaria angustifolia, etc.) yellow bannisterias,
blue-flowered bignonias, peperomias, arums, and pothoses. A single
trunk displays a greater variety of vegetable forms than are contained
within an extensive space of ground in our countries. Close to the
parasite plants peculiar to very hot climates we observed, not without
surprise, in the centre of the torrid zone, and near the level of the
sea, mosses resembling in every respect those of Europe. We gathered,
near the Great Cataract of Atures, that fine specimen of Grimmia* with
fontinalis leaves, which has so much fixed the attention of botanists.
(* Grimmia fontinaloides. See Hooker's Musci Exotici, 1818 tab. 2. The
learned author of the Monography of the Jungermanniae (Mr. Jackson
Hooker), with noble disinterestedness, published at his own expense,
in London, the whole collection of cryptogamous plants, brought by
Bonpland and Humboldt from the equinoctial regions of America.) It is
suspended to the branches of the loftiest trees. Of the phaenerogamous
plants, those which prevail in the woody spots are the mimosa, ficus,
and laurinea. This fact is the more characteristic as, according to
the observations of Mr. Brown, the laurineae appear to be almost
entirely wanting on the opposite continent, in the equinoctial part of
Africa. Plants that love humidity adorn the scenery surrounding the
cataracts. We there find in the plains groups of heliconias and other
scitamineae with large and glossy leaves, bamboos, and the three
palm-trees, the murichi, jagua, and vadgiai, each of which forms a
separate group. The murichi, or mauritia with scaly fruits, is the
celebrated sago-tree of the Guaraon Indians. It has palmate leaves,
and has no relation to the palm-trees with pinnate and curled leaves;
to the jagua, which appears to be a species of the cocoa-tree; or to
the vadgiai or cucurito, which may be assimilated to the fine species
Oreodoxa. The cucurito, which is the palm most prevalent around the
cataracts of the Atures and Maypures, is remarkable for its
stateliness. Its leaves, or rather its palms, crown a trunk of eighty
or one hundred feet high; their direction is almost perpendicular when
young, as well as at their full growth, the points only being
incurvated. They look like plumes of the most soft and verdant green.
The cucurito, the pirijao, the fruit of which resembles the apricot,
the Oreodoxa regia or palma real of the island of Cuba, and the
ceroxylon of the high Andes, are the most majestic of all the
palm-trees we saw in the New World. As we advance toward the temperate
zone, the plants of this family decrease in size and beauty. What a
difference between the species we have just mentioned, and the
date-tree of the East, which unfortunately has become to the landscape
painters of Europe the type of a group of palm-trees!

It is not suprising that persons who have travelled only in the north
of Africa, in Sicily, or in Spain, cannot conceive that, of all large
trees, the palm is the most grand and beautiful in form. Incomplete
analogies prevent Europeans from having a just idea of the aspect of
the torrid zone. All the world knows, for instance, that this zone is
embellished by the contrasts exhibited in the foliage of the trees,
and particularly by the great number of those with pinnate leaves. The
ash, the service-tree, the inga, the acacia of the United States, the
gleditsia, the tamarind, the mimosa, the desmanthus, have all pinnate
leaves, with foliolae more or less long, slender, tough, and shining.
But can a group of ash-trees, of service-trees, or of sumach, recall
the picturesque effect of tamarinds or mimosas, when the azure of the
sky appears through their small, slender, and delicately pinnated
leaves? These considerations are more important than they may at first
seem. The forms of plants determine the physiognomy of nature; and
this physiognomy influences the moral dispositions of nations. Every
type comprehends species, which, while exhibiting the same general
appearance, differ in the varied development of the similar organs.
The palm-trees, the scitamineae, the malvaceae, the trees with pinnate
leaves, do not all display the same picturesque beauties; and
generally the most beautiful species of each type, in plants as in
animals, belong to the equinoctial zone.

The proteaceae,* (* Rhopalas, which characterise the vegetation of the
Llanos.) crotons, agaves, and the great tribe of the cactuses, which
inhabit exclusively the New World, disappear gradually, as we ascend
the Orinoco above the Apure and the Meta. It is, however, the shade
and humidity, rather than the distance from the coast, which oppose
the migration of the cactuses southward. We found forests of them
mingled with crotons, covering a great space of arid land to the east
of the Andes, in the province of Bracamoros, towards the Upper
Maranon. The arborescent ferns seem to fail entirely near the
cataracts of the Orinoco; we found no species as far as San Fernando
de Atabapo, that is, to the confluence of the Orinoco and the

Having now examined the vicinity of the Atures, it remains for me to
speak of the rapids themselves, which occur in a part of the valley
where the bed of the river, deeply ingulfed, has almost inaccessible
banks. It was only in a very few spots that we could enter the Orinoco
to bathe, between the two cataracts, in coves where the waters have
eddies of little velocity. Persons who have dwelt in the Alps, the
Pyrenees, or even the Cordilleras, so celebrated for the fractures and
the vestiges of destruction which they display at every step, can
scarcely picture to themselves, from a mere narration, the state of
the bed of the river. It is traversed, in an extent of more than five
miles, by innumerable dikes of rock, forming so many natural dams, so
many barriers resembling those of the Dnieper, which the ancients
designated by the name of phragmoi. The space between the rocky dikes
of the Orinoco is filled with islands of different dimensions; some
hilly, divided into several peaks, and two or three hundred toises in
length, others small, low, and like mere shoals. These islands divide
the river into a number of torrents, which boil up as they break
against the rocks. The jaguas and cucuritos with plumy leaves, with
which all the islands are covered, seem like groves of palm-trees
rising from the foamy surface of the waters. The Indians, whose task
it is to pass the boats empty over the raudales, distinguish every
shelf, and every rock, by a particular name. On entering from the
south you find first the Leap of the Toucan (Salto del Piapoco); and
between the islands of Avaguri and Javariveni is the Raudal of
Javariveni, where, on our return from Rio Negro, we passed some hours
amid the rapids, waiting for our boat. A great part of the river
appeared dry. Blocks of granite are heaped together, as in the
moraines which the glaciers of Switzerland drive before them. The
river is ingulfed in caverns; and in one of these caverns we heard the
water roll at once over our heads and beneath our feet. The Orinoco
seems divided into a multitude of arms or torrents, each of which
seeks to force a passage through the rocks. We were struck with the
little water to be seen in the bed of the river, the frequency of
subterraneous falls, and the tumult of the waters breaking on the
rocks in foam.

Cuncta fremunt undis; ac multo murmure montis
Spumeus invictis canescit fluctibus amnis.*
(* Lucan, Pharsalia lib 10 v 132.)

Having passed the Raudal of Javariveni (I name here only the principal
falls) we come to the Raudal of Canucari, formed by a ledge of rocks
uniting the islands of Surupamana and Uirapuri. When the dikes, or
natural dams, are only two or three feet high, the Indians venture to
descend them in boats. In going up the river, they swim on before, and
if, after many vain efforts, they succeed in fixing a rope to one of
the points of rock that crown the dike, they then, by means of that
rope, draw the bark to the top of the raudal. The bark, during this
arduous task, often fills with water; at other times it is stove
against the rocks, and the Indians, their bodies bruised and bleeding,
extricate themselves with difficulty from the whirlpools, and reach,
by swimming, the nearest island. When the steps or rocky barriers are
very high, and entirely bar the river, light boats are carried on
shore, and with the help of branches of trees placed under them to
serve as rollers, they are drawn as far as the place where the river
again becomes navigable. This operation is seldom necessary when the
water is high. We cannot speak of the cataracts of the Orinoco without
recalling to mind the manner heretofore employed for descending the
cataracts of the Nile, of which Seneca has left us a description
probably more poetical than accurate. I shall cite the passage, which
traces with fidelity what may be seen every day at Atures, Maypures,
and in some pongos of the Amazon. "Two men embark in a small boat; one
steers, and the other empties it as it fills with water. Long buffeted
by the rapids, the whirlpools, and the contrary currents, they pass
through the narrowest channels, avoid the shoals, and rush down the
whole river, guiding the course of the boat in its accelerated fall."
(Nat. Quaest. lib 4 cap 2 edit. Elzev. tome 2 page 609.)

In hydrographic descriptions of countries, the vague names of
cataracts, cascades, falls, and rapids,* (* The corresponding terms in
use among the people of South America, are saltos, chorros, pongos,
cachoeiras, and raudales.) denoting those tumultuous movements of
water which arise from very different circumstances, are generally
confounded with one another. Sometimes a whole river precipitating
itself from a great height, and by one single fall, renders navigation
impossible. Such is the majestic fall of the Rio Tequendama, which I
have represented in my Views of the Cordilleras; such are the falls of
Niagara and of the Rhine, much less remarkable for their elevation,
than for the mass of water they contain. Sometimes stony dikes of
small height succeed each other at great distances, and form distinct
falls; such are the cachoeiras of the Rio Negro and the Rio Madeira,
the saltos of the Rio Cauca, and the greater part of the pongos that
are found in the Upper Maranon, from the confluence of the Chinchipe
to the village of San Borja. The highest and most formidable of these
pongos, which are descended on rafts, that of Mayasi, is however only
three feet in height. Sometimes small rocky dikes are so near each
other that they form for several miles an uninterrupted succession of
cascades and whirlpools (chorros and remolinos); these are properly
what are called rapids (raudales). Such are the yellalas, or rapids of
the River Zaire,* or Congo, which Captain Tuckey has recently made
known to us (* Voyage to explore the River Zaire, 1818, pages 152,
327, 340. What the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia call chellal
in the Nile, is called yellala in the River Congo. This analogy
between words signifying rapids is remarkable, on account of the
enormous distance of the yellalas of the Congo from the chellal and
djenadel of the Nile. Did the word chellal penetrate with the Moors
into the west of Africa? If, with Burckhardt, we consider the origin
of this word as Arabic (Travels in Nubia, 1819), it must be derived
from the root challa, to disperse, which forms chelil, water falling
through a narrow channel.); the rapids of the Orange River in Africa,
above Pella; and the falls of the Missouri, which are four leagues in
length, where the river issues from the Rocky Mountains. Such also are
the cataracts of Atures and Maypures; the only cataracts which,
situated in the equinoctial region of the New World, are adorned with
the noble growth of palm-trees. At all seasons they exhibit the aspect
of cascades, and present the greatest obstacles to the navigation of
the Orinoco, while the rapids of the Ohio and of Upper Egypt are
scarcely visible at the period of floods. A solitary cataract, like
Niagara, or the cascade of Terni, affords a grand but single picture,
varying only as the observer changes his place. Rapids, on the
contrary, especially when adorned with large trees, embellish a
landscape during a length of several leagues. Sometimes the tumultuous
movement of the waters is caused only by extraordinary contractions of
the beds of the rivers. Such is the angostura of Carare, in the river
Magdalena, a strait that impedes communication between Santa Fe de
Bogota and the coast of Carthagena; and such is the pongo of
Manseriche, in the Upper Maranon.

The Orinoco, the Rio Negro, and almost all the confluents of the
Amazon and the Maranon, have falls or rapids, either because they
cross the mountains where they take rise, or because they meet other
mountains in their course. If the Amazon, from the pongo of Manseriche
(or, to speak with more precision, from the pongo of Tayuchuc) as far
as its mouth, a space of more than seven hundred and fifty leagues,
exhibit no tumultuous movement of the waters, the river owes this
advantage to the uniform direction of its course. It flows from west
to east in a vast plain, forming a longitudinal valley between the
mountains of Parima and the great mass of the mountains of Brazil.

I was surprised to find by actual measurement that the rapids of the
Orinoco, the roar of which is heard at the distance of more than a
league, and which are so eminently picturesque from the varied
appearance of the waters, the palm-trees and the rocks, have not
probably, on their whole length, a height of more than twenty-eight
feet perpendicular. In reflecting on this, we find that it is a great
deal for rapids, while it would be very little for a single cataract.
The Yellalas of the Rio Congo, in the contracted part of the river
from Banza Noki as far as Banza Inga, furnish, between the upper and
lower levels, a much more considerable difference; but Mr. Barrow
observes, that among the great number of these rapids there is one
fall, which alone is thirty feet high. On the other hand, the famous
pongos of the river Amazon, so dangerous to go up, the falls of
Rentema, of Escurrebragas, and of Mayasi, are but a few feet in
perpendicular height. Those who are engaged in hydraulic works know
the effect that a bar of eighteen or twenty inches' height produces in
a great river. The whirling and tumultuous movement of the water does
not depend solely on the greatness of partial falls; what determines
the force and impetuosity is the nearness of these falls, the
steepness of the rocky ledges, the returning sheets of water which
strike against and surmount each other, the form of the islands and
shoals, the direction of the counter-currents, and the contraction and
sinuosity of the channels through which the waters force a passage
between two adjacent levels. In two rivers equally large, that of
which the falls have least height may sometimes present the greatest
dangers and the most impetuous movements.

It is probable that the river Orinoco loses part of its waters in the
cataracts, not only by increased evaporation, caused by the dispersion
of minute drops in the atmosphere, but still more by filtrations into
the subterraneous cavities. These losses, however, are not very
perceptible when we compare the mass of waters entering into the
raudal with that which issues out near the mouth of the Rio Anaveni.
It was by a similar comparison that the existence of subterraneous
cavities in the yellalas or rapids of the river Congo was discovered.
The pongo of Manseriche, which ought rather to be called a strait than
a fall, ingulfs, in a manner not yet sufficiently explored, a part of
the waters and all the floating wood of the Upper Maranon.

The spectator, seated on the bank of the Orinoco, with his eyes fixed
on those rocky dikes, is naturally led to inquire whether, in the
lapse of ages, the falls change their form or height. I am not much
inclined to believe in such effects of the shock of water against
blocks of granite, and in the erosion of siliceous matter. The holes
narrowed toward the bottom, the funnels that are discovered in the
raudales, as well as near so many other cascades in Europe, are owing
only to the friction of the sand, and the movement of quartz pebbles.
We saw many such, whirled perpetually by the current at the bottom of
the funnels, and contributing to enlarge them in every direction. The
pongos of the river Amazon are easily destroyed, because the rocky
dikes are not granite, but a conglomerate, or red sandstone with large
fragments. A part of the pongo of Rentama was broken down eighty years
ago, and the course of the waters being interrupted by a new bar, the
bed of the river remained dry for some hours, to the great
astonishment of the inhabitants of the village of Payaya, seven
leagues below the pongo. The Indians of Atures assert (and in this
their testimony is contrary to the opinion of Caulin) that the rocks
of the raudal preserve the same aspect; but that the partial torrents
into which the great river divides itself as it passes through the
heaped blocks of granite, change their direction, and carry sometimes
more, sometimes less water towards one or the other bank; but the
causes of these changes may be very remote from the cataracts, for in
the rivers that spread life over the surface of the globe, as in the
arteries by which it is diffused through organized bodies, all the
movements are propagated to great distances. Oscillations, that at
first seem partial, react on the whole liquid mass contained in the
trunk as well as in its numerous ramifications.

Some of the Missionaries in their writings have alleged that the
inhabitants of Atures and Maypures have been struck with deafness by
the noise of the Great Cataracts, but this is untrue. When the noise
is heard in the plain that surrounds the mission, at the distance of
more than a league, you seem to be near a coast skirted by reefs and
breakers. The noise is three times as loud by night as by day, and
gives an inexpressible charm to these solitary scenes. What can be the
cause of this increased intensity of sound, in a desert where nothing
seems to interrupt the silence of nature? The velocity of the
propagation of sound, far from augmenting, decreases with the lowering
of the temperature. The intensity diminishes in air agitated by a wind
which is contrary to the direction of the sound; it diminishes also by
dilatation of the air, and is weaker in the higher than in the lower
regions of the atmosphere, where the number of particles of air in
motion is greater in the same radius. The intensity is the same in dry
air, and in air mingled with vapours; but it is feebler in carbonic
acid gas than in mixtures of azote and oxygen. From these facts, which
are all we know with any certainty, it is difficult to explain a
phenomenon observed near every cascade in Europe, and which, long
before our arrival in the village of Atures, had struck the missionary
and the Indians.

It may be thought that, even in places not inhabited by man, the hum
of insects, the song of birds, the rustling of leaves agitated by the
feeblest winds, occasion during the day a confused noise, which we
perceive the less because it is uniform, and constantly strikes the
ear. Now this noise, however slightly perceptible it may be, may
diminish the intensity of a louder noise; and this diminution may
cease if during the calm of the night the song of birds, the hum of
insects, and the action of the wind upon the leaves be interrupted.
But this reasoning, even admitting its justness, can scarcely be
applied to the forests of the Orinoco, where the air is constantly
filled by an innumerable quantity of mosquitos, where the hum of
insects is much louder by night than by day, and where the breeze, if
ever it be felt, blows only after sunset.

I rather think that the presence of the sun acts upon the propagation
and intensity of sound by the obstacles met in currents of air of
different density, and by the partial undulations of the atmosphere
arising from the unequal heating of different parts of the soil. In
calm air, whether dry or mingled with vesicular vapours equally
distributed, sound-waves are propagated without difficulty. But when
the air is crossed in every direction by small currents of hotter air,
the sonorous undulation is divided into two undulations where the
density of the medium changes abruptly; partial echoes are formed that
weaken the sound, because one of the streams comes back upon itself;
and those divisions of undulations take place of which M. Poisson has
developed the theory with great sagacity.* (* Annales de Chimie tome 7
page 293.) It is not therefore the movement of the particles of air
from below to above in the ascending current, or the small oblique
currents that we consider as opposing by a shock the propagation of
the sonorous undulations. A shock given to the surface of a liquid
will form circles around the centre of percussion, even when the
liquid is agitated. Several kinds of undulations may cross each other
in water, as in air, without being disturbed in their propagation:
little movements may, as it were, ride over each other, and the real
cause of the less intensity of sound during the day appears to be the
interpretation of homogeneity in the elastic medium. During the day
there is a sudden interruption of density wherever small streamlets of
air of a high temperature rise over parts of the soil unequally
heated. The sonorous undulations are divided, as the rays of light are
refracted and form the mirage wherever strata of air of unequal
density are contiguous. The propagation of sound is altered when a
stratum of hydrogen gas is made to rise in a tube closed at one end
above a stratum of atmospheric air; and M. Biot has well explained, by
the interposition of bubbles of carbonic acid gas, why a glass filled
with champagne is not sonorous so long as that gas is evolved, and
passing through the strata of the liquid.

In support of these ideas, I might almost rest on the authority of an
ancient philosopher, whom the moderns do not esteem in proportion to
his merits, though the most distinguished zoologists have long
rendered ample justice to the sagacity of his observations. "Why,"
says Aristotle in his curious book of Problems, "why is sound better
heard during the night? Because there is more calmness on account of
the absence of caloric (of the hottest).* (* I have placed in a
parenthesis, a literal version of the term employed by Aristotle, to
express in reality what we now term the matter of heat. Theodore of
Gaza, in his Latin translation, expresses in the shape of a doubt what
Aristotle positively asserts. I may here remark, that, notwithstanding
the imperfect state of science among the ancients, the works of the
Stagirite contain more ingenious observations than those of many later
philosophers. It is in vain we look in Aristoxenes (De Musica), in
Theophylactus Simocatta (De Quaestionibus physicis), or in the 5th
Book of the Quest. Nat. of Seneca, for an explanation of the nocturnal
augmentation of sound.) This absence renders every thing calmer, for
the sun is the principle of all movement." Aristotle had no doubt a
vague presentiment of the cause of the phenomenon; but he attributes
to the motion of the atmosphere, and the shock of the particles of
air, that which seems to be rather owing to abrupt changes of density
in the contiguous strata of air.

On the 16th of April, towards evening, we received tidings that in
less than six hours our boat had passed the rapids, and had arrived in
good condition in a cove called el Puerto de arriba, or the Port of
the Expedition. We were shown in the little church of Atures some
remains of the ancient wealth of the Jesuits. A silver lamp of
considerable weight lay on the ground half-buried in the sand. Such an
object, it is true, would nowhere tempt the cupidity of a savage; yet
I may here remark, to the honor of the natives of the Orinoco, that
they are not addicted to stealing, like the less savage tribes of the
islands in the Pacific. The former have a great respect for property;
they do not even attempt to steal provision, hooks, or hatchets. At
Maypures and Atures, locks on doors are unknown: they will be
introduced only when whites and men of mixed race establish themselves
in the missions.

The Indians of Atures are mild and moderate, and accustomed, from the
effects of their idleness, to the greatest privations. Formerly, being
excited to labour by the Jesuits, they did not want for food. The
fathers cultivated maize, French beans (frijoles), and other European
vegetables; they even planted sweet oranges and tamarinds round the
villages; and they possessed twenty or thirty thousand head of cows
and horses, in the savannahs of Atures and Carichana. They had at
their service a great number of slaves and servants (peones), to tend
their herds. Nothing is now cultivated but a little cassava, and a few
plantains. Such however is the fertility of the soil, that at Atures I
counted on a single branch of a musa one hundred and eight fruits,
four or five of which would almost have sufficed for a man's daily
food. The culture of maize is entirely neglected, and the horses and
cows have entirely disappeared. Near the raudal, a part of the village
still bears the name of Passo del ganado (ford of the cattle), while
the descendants of those very Indians whom the Jesuits had assembled
in a mission, speak of horned cattle as of animals of a race now lost.
In going up the Orinoco, toward San Carlos del Rio Negro, we saw the
last cow at Carichana. The Fathers of the Observance, who now govern
these vast countries, did not immediately succeed the Jesuits. During
an interregnum of eighteen years, the missions were visited only from
time to time, and by Capuchin monks. The agents of the secular
government, under the title of Royal Commissioners, managed the hatos
or farms of the Jesuits with culpable negligence. They killed the
cattle for the sake of selling the hides. Many heifers were devoured
by the jaguars, and a great number perished in consequence of wounds
made by the bats of the raudales, which, though smaller, are far
bolder than the bats of the Llanos. At the time of the expedition of
the boundaries, horses from Encaramada, Carichana, and Atures, were
conveyed as far as San Jose de Maravitanos, where, on the banks of the
Rio Negro, the Portuguese could only procure them, after a long
passage, and of a very inferior quality, by the rivers Amazon and
Grand Para. Since the year 1795, the cattle of the Jesuits have
entirely disappeared. There now remain as monuments of the ancient
cultivation of these countries, and the active industry of the first
missionaries, only a few trunks of the orange and tamarind, in the
savannahs, surrounded by wild trees.

The tigers, or jaguars, which are less dangerous for the cattle than
the bats, come into the village at Atures, and devour the swine of the
poor Indians. The missionary related to us a striking instance of the
familiarity of these animals, usually so ferocious. Some months before
our arrival, a jaguar, which was thought to be young, though of a
large size, had wounded a child in playing with him. The facts of this
case, which were verified to us on the spot, are not without interest
in the history of the manners of animals. Two Indian children, a boy
and a girl, about eight and nine years of age, were seated on the
grass near the village of Atures, in the middle of a savannah, which
we several times traversed. At two o'clock in the afternoon, a jaguar
issued from the forest, and approached the children, bounding around
them; sometimes he hid himself in the high grass, sometimes he sprang
forward, his back bent, his head hung down, in the manner of our cats.
The little boy, ignorant of his danger, seemed to be sensible of it
only when the jaguar with one of his paws gave him some blows on the
head. These blows, at first slight, became ruder and ruder; the claws
of the jaguar wounded the child, and the blood flowed freely. The
little girl then took a branch of a tree, struck the animal, and it
fled from her. The Indians ran up at the cries of the children, and
saw the jaguar, which then bounded off without making the least show
of resistance.

The little boy was brought to us, who appeared lively and intelligent.
The claw of the jaguar had torn away the skin from the lower part of
the forehead, and there was a second scar at the top of the head. This
was a singular fit of playfulness in an animal which, though not
difficult to be tamed in our menageries, nevertheless shows itself
always wild and ferocious in its natural state. If we admit that,
being sure of its prey, it played with the little Indian as our cats
play with birds whose wings have been clipped, how shall we explain
the patience of a jaguar of large size, which finds itself attacked by
a girl? If the jaguar were not pressed by hunger, why did it approach
the children at all? There is something mysterious in the affections
and hatreds of animals. We have known lions kill three or four dogs
that were put into their den, and instantly caress a fifth, which,
less timid, took the king of animals by the mane. These are instincts
of which we know not the secret.

We have mentioned that domestic pigs are attacked by the jaguars.
There are in these countries, besides the common swine of European
race, several species of peccaries, or pigs with lumbar glands, two of
which only are known to the naturalists of Europe. The Indians call
the little peccary (Dicotiles torquatus, Cuv.), in the Maypure tongue,
chacharo; while they give the name of apida to a species of pig which
they say has no pouch, is larger, and of a dark brown colour, with the
belly and lower jaw white. The chacharo, reared in the houses, becomes
tame like our sheep and goats. It reminds us, by the gentleness of its
manners, of the curious analogies which anatomists have observed
between the peccaries and the ruminating animals. The apida, which is
domesticated like our swine in Europe, wanders in large herds composed
of several hundreds. The presence of these herds is announced from
afar, not only by their hoarse gruntings, but above all by the
impetuosity with which they break down the shrubs in their way. M.
Bonpland, in an herborizing excursion, warned by his Indian guide to
hide himself behind the trunk of a tree, saw a number of these
peccaries (cochinos or puercos del monte) pass close by him. The herd
marched in a close body, the males proceeding first; and each sow was
accompanied by her young. The flesh of the chacharo is flabby, and not
very agreeable; it affords, however, a plentiful nourishment to the
natives, who kill these animals with small lances tied to cords. We
were assured at Atures, that the tiger dreads being surrounded in the
forests by these herds of wild pigs; and that, to avoid being stifled,
he tries to save himself by climbing up a tree. Is this a hunter's
tale, or a fact that has really been observed? In several parts of
America the hunters believe in the existence of a javali, or native
boar with tusks curved outwardly. I never saw one, but this animal is
mentioned in the works of the Spanish missionaries, a source too much
neglected by zoologists; for amidst much incorrectness and
extravagance, they contain many curious local observations.

Among the monkeys which we saw at the mission of the Atures, we found
one new species, of the tribe of sais and sajous, which the Creoles
vulgarly call machis. It is the Guvapavi with grey hair and a bluish
face. It has the orbits of the eyes and the forehead as white as snow,
a peculiarity which at first sight distinguishes it from the Simia
capucina, the Simia apella, the Simia trepida, and the other weeping
monkeys hitherto so confusedly described. This little animal is as
gentle as it is ugly. A monkey of this species, which was kept in the
courtyard of the missionary, would frequently mount on the back of a
pig, and in this manner traverse the savannahs. We have also seen it
upon the back of a large cat, which had been brought up with it in
Father Zea's house.

It was among the cataracts that we began to hear of the hairy man of
the woods, called salvaje, that carries off women, constructs huts,
and sometimes eats human flesh. The Tamanacs call it achi, and the
Maypures vasitri, or great devil. The natives and the missionaries
have no doubt of the existence of this man-shaped monkey, of which
they entertain a singular dread. Father Gili gravely relates the
history of a lady in the town of San Carlos, in the Llanos of
Venezuela, who much praised the gentle character and attentions of the
man of the woods. She is stated to have lived several years with one
in great domestic harmony, and only requested some hunters to take her
back, because she and her children (a little hairy also) were weary of
living far from the church and the sacraments. The same author,
notwithstanding his credulity, acknowledges that he never knew an
Indian who asserted positively that he had seen the salvaje with his
own eyes. This wild legend, which the missionaries, the European
planters, and the negroes of Africa, have no doubt embellished with
many features taken from the description of the manners of the
orang-otang,* the gibbon, the jocko or chimpanzee, and the pongo,
followed us, during five years, from the northern to the southern
hemisphere. (* Simia satyrus. We must not believe, notwithstanding the
assertions of almost all zoological writers, that the word orang-otang
is applied exclusively in the Malay language to the Simia satyrus of
Borneo. This expression, on the contrary, means any very large monkey,
that resembles man in figure. Marsden's History of Sumatra 3rd edition
page 117. Modern zoologists have arbitrarily appropriated provincial
names to certain species; and by continuing to prefer these names,
strangely disfigured in their orthography, to the Latin systematic
names, the confusion of the nomenclature has been increased.) We were
everywhere blamed, in the most cultivated class of society, for being
the only persons to doubt the existence of the great anthropomorphous
monkey of America. There are certain regions where this belief is
particularly prevalent among the people; such are the banks of the
Upper Orinoco, the valley of Upar near the lake of Maracaybo, the
mountains of Santa Martha and of Merida, the provinces of Quixos, and
the banks of the Amazon near Tomependa. In all these places, so
distant one from the other, it is asserted that the salvaje is easily
recognized by the traces of its feet, the toes of which are turned
backward. But if there exist a monkey of a large size in the New
Continent, how has it happened that for three centuries no man worthy
of belief has been able to procure the skin of one? Several hypotheses
present themselves to the mind, in order to explain the source of so
ancient an error or belief. Has the famous capuchin monkey of
Esmeralda (Simia chiropotes), with its long canine teeth, and
physiognomy much more like man's* (* The whole of the features--the
expression of the physiognomy; but not the forehead.) than that of the
orang-otang, given rise to the fable of the salvaje? It is not so
large indeed as the coaita (Simia paniscus); but when seen at the top
of a tree, and the head only visible, it might easily be taken for a
human being. It may be also (and this opinion appears to me the most
probable) that the man of the woods was one of those large bears, the
footsteps of which resemble those of a man, and which are believed in
every country to attack women. The animal killed in my time at the
foot of the mountains of Merida, and sent, by the name of salvaje, to
Colonel Ungaro, the governor of the province of Varinas, was in fact a
bear with black and smooth fur. Our fellow-traveller, Don Nicolas
Soto, had examined it closely. Did the strange idea of a plantigrade
animal, the toes of which are placed as if it walked backward, take
its origin from the habit of the real savages of the woods, the
Indians of the weakest and most timid tribes, of deceiving their
enemies, when they enter a forest, or cross a sandy shore, by covering
the traces of their feet with sand, or walking backward?

Though I have expressed my doubts of the existence of an unknown
species of large monkey in a continent which appears entirely
destitute of quadrumanous animals of the family of the orangs,
cynocephali, mandrils, and pongos; yet it should be remembered that
almost all matters of popular belief, even those most absurd in
appearance, rest on real facts, but facts ill observed. In treating
them with disdain, the traces of a discovery may often be lost, in
natural philosophy as well as in zoology. We will not then admit, with
a Spanish author, that the fable of the man of the woods was invented
by the artifice of Indian women, who pretended to have been carried
off, when they had been long absent unknown to their husbands.
Travellers who may hereafter visit the missions of the Orinoco will do
well to follow up our researches on the salvaje or great devil of the
woods; and examine whether it be some unknown species of bear, or some
very rare monkey analogous to the Simia chiropotes, or Simia satanas,
which may have given rise to such singular tales.

After having spent two days near the cataract of Atures, we were not
sorry when our boat was reladen, and we were enabled to leave a spot
where the temperature of the air is generally by day twenty-nine
degrees, and by night twenty-six degrees, of the centigrade
thermometer. This temperature seemed to us to be still much more
elevated, from the feeling of heat which we experienced. The want of
concordance between the instruments and the sensations must be
attributed to the continual irritation of the skin excited by the
mosquitos. An atmosphere filled with venomous insects always appears
to be more heated than it is in reality. We were horribly tormented in
the day by mosquitos and the jejen, a small venomous fly (simulium),
and at night by the zancudos, a large species of gnat, dreaded even by
the natives. Our hands began to swell considerably, and this swelling
increased daily till our arrival on the banks of the Temi. The means
that are employed to escape from these little plagues are very
extraordinary. The good missionary Bernardo Zea, who passed his life
tormented by mosquitos, had constructed near the church, on a
scaffolding of trunks of palm-trees, a small apartment, in which we
breathed more freely. To this we went up in the evening, by means of a
ladder, to dry our plants and write our journal. The missionary had
justly observed, that the insects abounded more particularly in the
lowest strata of the atmosphere, that which reaches from the ground to
the height of twelve or fifteen feet. At Maypures the Indians quit the
village at night, to go and sleep on the little islets in the midst of
the cataracts. There they enjoy some rest; the mosquitoes appearing to
shun air loaded with vapours. We found everywhere fewer in the middle
of the river than near its banks; and thus less is suffered in
descending the Orinoco than in going up in a boat.

Persons who have not navigated the great rivers of equinoctial
America, for instance, the Orinoco and the Magdalena, can scarcely
conceive how, at every instant, without intermission, you may be
tormented by insects flying in the air; and how the multitude of these
little animals may render vast regions almost uninhabitable. Whatever
fortitude be exercised to endure pain without complaint, whatever
interest may be felt in the objects of scientific research, it is
impossible not to be constantly disturbed by the mosquitos, zancudos,
jejens, and tempraneros, that cover the face and hands, pierce the
clothes with their long needle-formed suckers, and getting into the
mouth and nostrils, occasion coughing and sneezing whenever any
attempt is made to speak in the open air. In the missions of the
Orinoco, in the villages on the banks of the river, surrounded by
immense forests, the plaga de las moscas, or the plague of the
mosquitos, affords an inexhaustible subject of conversation. When two
persons meet in the morning, the first questions they address to each
other are: How did you find the zancudos during the night? How are we
to-day for the mosquitos?* (* Que le han parecido los zancudos de
noche? Como stamos hoy de mosquitos?) These questions remind us of a
Chinese form of politeness, which indicates the ancient state of the
country where it took birth. Salutations were made heretofore in the
Celestial empire in the following words, vou-to-hou, Have you been
incommoded in the night by the serpents?

The geographical distribution of the insects of the family of tipulae
presents very remarkable phenomena. It does not appear to depend
solely on heat of climate, excess of humidity, or the thickness of
forests, but on local circumstances that are difficult to
characterise. It may be observed that the plague of mosquitos and
zancudos is not so general in the torrid zone as is commonly believed.
On the table-lands elevated more than four hundred toises above the
level of the ocean, in the very dry plains remote from the beds of
great rivers (for instance, at Cumana and Calabozo), there are not
sensibly more gnats than in the most populous parts of Europe. They
are perceived to augment enormously at Nueva Barcelona, and more to
the west, on the coast that extends towards Cape Codera. Between the
little harbour of Higuerote and the mouth of the Rio Unare, the
wretched inhabitants are accustomed to stretch themselves on the
ground, and pass the night buried in the sand three or four inches
deep, leaving out the head only, which they cover with a handkerchief.
You suffer from the sting of insects, but in a manner easy to bear, in
descending the Orinoco from Cabruta towards Angostura, and in going up
from Cabruta towards Uruana, between the latitudes of 7 and 8 degrees.
But beyond the mouth of the Rio Arauca, after having passed the strait
of Baraguan, the scene suddenly changes. From this spot the traveller
may bid farewell to repose. If he have any poetical remembrance of
Dante, he may easily imagine he has entered the citta dolente, and he
will seem to read on the granite rocks of Baraguan these lines of the

Noi sem venuti al luogo, ov' i' t'ho detto
Che tu vedrai le genti dolorose.

The lower strata of air, from the surface of the ground to the height
of fifteen or twenty feet, are absolutely filled with venomous
insects. If in an obscure spot, for instance in the grottos of the
cataracts formed by superincumbent blocks of granite, you direct your
eyes toward the opening enlightened by the sun, you see clouds of
mosquitos more or less thick. At the mission of San Borja, the
suffering from mosquitos is greater than at Carichana; but in the
Raudales, at Atures, and above all at Maypures, this suffering may be
said to attain its maximum. I doubt whether there be a country upon
earth where man is exposed to more cruel torments in the rainy season.
Having passed the fifth degree of latitude, you are somewhat less
stung; but on the Upper Orinoco the stings are more painful, because
the heat and the absolute want of wind render the air more burning and
more irritating in its contact with the skin.

"How comfortable must people be in the moon!" said a Salive Indian to
Father Gumilla; "she looks so beautiful and so clear, that she must be
free from mosquitos." These words, which denote the infancy of a
people, are very remarkable. The satellite of the earth appears to all
savage nations the abode of the blessed, the country of abundance. The
Esquimaux, who counts among his riches a plank or trunk of a tree,
thrown by the currents on a coast destitute of vegetation, sees in the
moon plains covered with forests; the Indian of the forests of Orinoco
there beholds open savannahs, where the inhabitants are never stung by

After proceeding further to the south, where the system of
yellowish-brown waters commences,* (* Generally called black waters,
aguas negras.) on the banks of the Atabapo, the Tuni, the Tuamini, and
the Rio Negro, we enjoyed an unexpected repose. These rivers, like the
Orinoco, cross thick forests, but the tipulary insects, as well as the
crocodiles, shun the proximity of the black waters. Possibly these
waters, which are a little colder, and chemically different from the
white waters, are adverse to the larvae of tipulary insects and gnats,
which may be considered as real aquatic animals. Some small rivers,
the colour of which is deep blue, or yellowish-brown (as the Toparo,
the Mataveni, and the Zama), are exceptions to the almost general rule
of the absence of mosquitos over the black waters. These three rivers
swarm with them; and the Indians themselves fixed our attention on the
problematic causes of this phenomenon. In going down the Rio Negro, we
breathed freely at Maroa, Daripe, and San Carlos, villages situated on
the boundaries of Brazil. But this improvement of our situation was of
short continuance; our sufferings recommenced as soon as we entered
the Cassiquiare. At Esmeralda, at the eastern extremity of the Upper
Orinoco, where ends the known world of the Spaniards, the clouds of
mosquitos are almost as thick as at the Great Cataracts. At Mandavaca
we found an old missionary, who told us with an air of sadness, that
he had had his twenty years of mosquitos in America*. (* "Yo tengo mis
veinte anos de mosquitos.") He desired us to look at his legs, that we
might be able to tell one day, beyond sea (por alla), what the poor
monks suffer in the forests of Cassiquiare. Every sting leaving a
small darkish brown point, his legs were so speckled that it was
difficult to recognize the whiteness of his skin through the spots of
coagulated blood. If the insects of the genus Simulium abound in the
Cassiquiare, which has white waters, the culices or zancudos are so
much the more rare; you scarcely find any there; while on the rivers
of black waters, in the Atabapo and the Rio, there are generally some
zancudos and no mosquitos.

I have just shown, from my own observations, how much the geographical
distribution of venomous insects varies in this labyrinth of rivers
with white and black waters. It were to be wished that a learned
entomologist could study on the spot the specific differences of these
noxious insects,* which in the torrid zone, in spite of their minute
size, act an important point in the economy of nature. (* The mosquito
bovo or tenbiguai; the melero, which always settles upon the eyes; the
tempranero, or putchiki; the jejen; the gnat rivau, the great zancudo,
or matchaki; the cafafi, etc.) What appeared to us very remarkable,
and is a fact known to all the missionaries, is, that the different
species do not associate together, and that at different hours of the
day you are stung by distinct species. Every time that the scene
changes, and, to use the simple expression of the missionaries, other
insects mount guard, you have a few minutes, often a quarter of an
hour, of repose. The insects that disappear have not their places
instantly supplied by their successors. From half-past-six in the
morning till five in the afternoon, the air is filled with mosquitos;
which have not, as some travellers have stated, the form of our
gnats,* (* Culex pipiens. This difference between mosquito (little
fly, simulium) and zancudo (gnat, culex) exists in all the Spanish
colonies. The word zancudo signifies long legs, qui tiene las zancas
largas. The mosquitos of the Orinoco are the moustiques; the zancudos
are the maringouins of French travellers.) but that of a small fly.
They are simuliums of the family Nemocera of the system of Latreille.
Their sting is as painful as that of the genus Stomox. It leaves a
little reddish brown spot, which is extravased and coagulated blood,
where their proboscis has pierced the skin. An hour before sunset a
species of small gnats, called tempraneros,* because they appear also
at sunrise, take the place of the mosquitos. (* Which appear at an
early hour (temprano). Some persons say, that the zancudo is the same
as the tempranero, which returns at night, after hiding itself for
some time. I have doubts of this identity of the species; the pain
caused by the sting of the two insects appeared to me different.)
Their presence scarcely lasts an hour and a half; they disappear
between six and seven in the evening, or, as they say here, after the
Angelus (a la oracion). After a few minutes' repose, you feel yourself
stung by zancudos, another species of gnat with very long legs. The
zancudo, the proboscis of which contains a sharp-pointed sucker,
causes the most acute pain, and a swelling that remains several weeks.
Its hum resembles that of the European gnat, but is louder and more
prolonged. The Indians pretend to distinguish the zancudos and the
tempraneros by their song; the latter are real twilight insects, while
the zancudos are most frequently nocturnal insects, and disappear
toward sunrise.

In our way from Carthagena to Santa Fe de Bogota, we observed that
between Mompox and Honda, in the valley of the Rio Magdalena, the
zancudos darkened the air from eight in the evening till midnight;
that towards midnight they diminished in number, and were hidden for
three or four hours; and lastly that they returned in crowds, about
four in the morning. What is the cause of these alternations of motion
and rest? Are these animals fatigued by long flight? It is rare on the
Orinoco to see real gnats by day; while at the Rio Magdalena we were
stung night and day, except from noon till about two o'clock. The
zancudos of the two rivers are no doubt of different species.

We have seen that the insects of the tropics everywhere follow a
certain standard in the periods at which they alternately arrive and
disappear. At fixed and invariable hours, in the same season, and the
same latitude, the air is peopled with new inhabitants, and in a zone
where the barometer becomes a clock,* (* By the extreme regularity of
the horary variations of the atmospheric pressure.) where everything
proceeds with such admirable regularity, we might guess blindfold the
hour of the day or night, by the hum of the insects, and by their
stings, the pain of which differs according to the nature of the
poison that each species deposits in the wound.

At a period when the geography of animals and of plants had not yet
been studied, the analogous species of different climates were often
confounded. It was believed that the pines and ranunculuses, the
stags, the rats, and the tipulary insects of the north of Europe, were
to be found in Japan, on the ridge of the Andes, and at the Straits of
Magellan. Justly celebrated naturalists have thought that the zancudo
of the torrid zone was the gnat of our marshes, become more vigorous,
more voracious, and more noxious, under the influence of a burning
climate. This is a very erroneous opinion. I carefully examined and
described upon the spot those zancudos, the stings of which are most
tormenting. In the rivers Magdalena and Guayaquil alone there are five
distinct species.

The culices of South America have generally the wings, corslet, and
legs of an azure colour, ringed and variegated with a mixture of spots
of metallic lustre. Here as in Europe, the males, which are
distinguished by their feathered antennae, are extremely rare; you are
seldom stung except by females. The preponderance of this sex explains
the immense increase of the species, each female laying several
hundred eggs. In going up one of the great rivers of America, it is
observed, that the appearance of a new species of culex denotes the
proximity of a new stream flowing in. I shall mention an instance of
this curious phenomenon. The Culex lineatus, which belongs to the Cano
Tamalamec, is only perceived in the valley of the Rio Grande de la
Magdalena, at a league north of the junction of the two rivers; it
goes up, but scarcely ever descends the Rio Grande. It is thus, that,
on a principal vein, the appearance of a new substance in the gangue
indicates to the miner the neighbourhood of a secondary vein that
joins the first.

On recapitulating the observations here recorded, we see, that within
the tropics, the mosquitos and zancudos do not rise on the slope of
the Cordilleras* toward the temperate region, where the mean heat is
below 19 or 20 degrees (* The culex pipiens of Europe does not, like
the culex of the torrid zone, shun mountainous places. Giesecke
suffered from these insects in Greenland, at Disco, in latitude 70
degrees. They are found in Lapland in summer, at three or four hundred
toises high, and at a temperature of 11 or 12 degrees.); and that,
with few exceptions, they shun the black waters, and dry and unwooded
spots.* (* Trifling modifications in the waters, or in the air, often
appear to prevent the development of the mosquitos. Mr. Bowdich
remarks that there are none at Coomassie, in the kingdom of the
Ashantees, though the town is surrounded by marshes, and though the
thermometer keeps up between seventeen and twenty-eight centesimal
degrees, day and night.) The atmosphere swarms with them much more in
the Upper than in the Lower Orinoco, because in the former the river
is surrounded with thick forests on its banks, and the skirts of the
forests are not separated from the river by a barren and extensive
beach. The mosquitos diminish on the New Continent with the diminution
of the water, and the destruction of the woods; but the effects of
these changes are as slow as the progress of cultivation. The towns of
Angostura, Nueva Barcelona, and Mompox, where from the want of police,
the streets, the great squares, and the interior of court-yards are
overgrown with brushwood, are sadly celebrated for the abundance of

People born in the country, whether whites, mulattoes, negroes, or
Indians, all suffer from the sting of these insects. But as cold does
not render the north of Europe uninhabitable, so the mosquitos do not
prevent men from dwelling in the countries where they abound, provided
that, by their situation and government, they afford resources for
agriculture and industry. The inhabitants pass their lives in
complaining of the insufferable torment of the mosquitos, yet,
notwithstanding these continual complaints, they seek, and even with a
sort of predilection, the commercial towns of Mompox, Santa Marta, and
Rio de la Hacha. Such is the force of habit in evils which we suffer
every hour of the day, that the three missions of San Borja, Atures,
and Esmeralda, where, to make use of an hyperbolical expression of the
monks, there are more mosquitos than air,* (* Mas moscas que aire.)
would no doubt become flourishing towns, if the Orinoco afforded
planters the same advantages for the exchange of produce, as the Ohio
and the Lower Mississippi.

It is a curious fact, that the whites born in the torrid zone may walk
barefoot with impunity, in the same apartment where a European
recently landed is exposed to the attack of the nigua or chegoe (Pulex
penetrans). This animal, almost invisible to the eye, gets under the
toe-nails, and there acquires the size of a small pea, by the quick
increase of its eggs, which are placed in a bag under the belly of the
insect. The nigua therefore distinguishes what the most delicate
chemical analysis could not distinguish, the cellular membrane and
blood of a European from those of a creole white. The mosquitos, on
the contrary, attack equally the natives and the Europeans; but the
effects of the sting are different in the two races of men. The same
venomous liquid, deposited in the skin of a copper-coloured man of
Indian race, and in that of a white man newly landed, causes no
swelling in the former, while in the latter it produces hard blisters,
greatly inflamed, and painful for several days; so different is the
action on the epidermis, according to the degree of irritability of
the organs in different races and different individuals!

I shall here recite several facts, which prove that the Indians, and
in general all the people of colour, at the moment of being stung,
suffer like the whites, although perhaps with less intensity of pain.
In the day-time, and even when labouring at the oar, the natives, in
order to chase the insects, are continually giving one another smart
slaps with the palm of the hand. They even strike themselves and their
comrades mechanically during their sleep. The violence of their blows
reminds one of the Persian tale of the bear that tried to kill with
his paw the insects on the forehead of his sleeping master. Near
Maypures we saw some young Indians seated in a circle and rubbing
cruelly each others' backs with the bark of trees dried at the fire.
Indian women were occupied, with a degree of patience of which the
copper-coloured race alone are capable, in extracting, by means of a
sharp bone, the little mass of coagulated blood that forms the centre
of every sting, and gives the skin a speckled appearance. One of the
most barbarous nations of the Orinoco, that of the Ottomacs, is
acquainted with the use of mosquito-curtains (mosquiteros) woven from
the fibres of the moriche palm-tree. At Higuerote, on the coast of
Caracas, the copper-coloured people sleep buried in the sand. In the
villages of the Rio Magdalena the Indians often invited us to stretch
ourselves as they did on ox-skins, near the church, in the middle of
the plaza grande, where they had assembled all the cows in the
neighbourhood. The proximity of cattle gives some repose to man. The
Indians of the Upper Orinoco and the Cassiquiare, seeing that M.
Bonpland could not prepare his herbal, owing to the continual torment
of the mosquitos, invited him to enter their ovens (hornitos). Thus
they call little chambers, without doors or windows, into which they
creep horizontally through a very low opening. When they have driven
away the insects by means of a fire of wet brushwood, which emits a
great deal of smoke, they close the opening of the oven. The absence
of the mosquitos is purchased dearly enough by the excessive heat of
the stagnated air, and the smoke of a torch of copal, which lights the
oven during your stay in it. M. Bonpland, with courage and patience
well worthy of praise, dried hundreds of plants, shut up in these
hornitos of the Indians.

These precautions of the Indians sufficiently prove that,
notwithstanding the different organization of the epidermis, the
copper-coloured man, like the white man, suffers from the stings of
insects; but the former seems to feel less pain, and the sting is not
followed by those swellings which, during several weeks, heighten the
irritability of the skin, and throw persons of a delicate constitution
into that feverish state which always accompanies eruptive maladies.
Whites born in equinoctial America, and Europeans who have long
sojourned in the Missions, on the borders of forests and great rivers,
suffer much more than the Indians, but infinitely less than Europeans
newly arrived. It is not, therefore, as some travellers assert, the
thickness of the skin that renders the sting more or less painful at
the moment when it is received; nor is it owing to the particular
organization of the integuments, that in the Indians the sting is
followed by less of swelling and inflammatory symptoms; it is on the
nervous irritability of the epidermis that the acuteness and duration
of the pain depend. This irritability is augmented by very warm
clothing, by the use of alcoholic liquors, by the habit of scratching
the wounds, and lastly, (and this physiological observation is the
result of my own experience,) that of baths repeated at too short
intervals. In places where the absence of crocodiles permits people to
enter a river, M. Bonpland and myself observed that the immoderate use
of baths, while it moderated the pain of old stings of zancudos,
rendered us more sensible to new stings. By bathing more than twice a
day, the skin is brought into a state of nervous irritability, of
which no idea can be formed in Europe. It would seem as if all feeling
were carried toward the integuments.

As the mosquitos and gnats pass two-thirds of their lives in the
water, it is not surprising that these noxious insects become less
numerous in proportion as you recede from the banks of the great
rivers which intersect the forests. They seem to prefer the spots
where their metamorphosis took place, and where they go to deposit
their eggs. In fact the wild Indians (Indios monteros) experience the
greater difficulty in accustoming themselves to the life of the
missions, as they suffer in the Christian establishments a torment
which they scarcely know in their own inland dwellings. The natives at
Maypures, Atures, and Esmeralda, have been seen fleeing to the woods,
or, as they say, al monte, solely from the dread of mosquitos.
Unfortunately, all the Missions of the Orinoco have been established
too near the banks of the river. At Esmeralda the inhabitants assured
us that if the village were situated in one of the five plains
surrounding the high mountains of Duida and Maraguaca, they should
breathe freely, and enjoy some repose. The great cloud of mosquitos
(la nube de moscas) to use the expression of the monks, is suspended
only over the Orinoco and its tributary streams, and is dissipated in
proportion as you remove from the rivers. We should form a very
inaccurate idea of Guiana and Brazil, were we to judge of that great
forest four hundred leagues wide, lying between the sources of the
Madeira and the Lower Orinoco, from the valleys of the rivers by which
it is crossed.

I learned that the little insects of the family of the nemocerae
migrate from time to time like the alouate monkeys, which live in
society. In certain spots, at the commencement of the rainy season,
different species appear, the sting of which has not yet been felt. We
were informed at the Rio Magdalena, that at Simiti no other culex than
the jejen was formerly known; and it was then possible to enjoy a
tranquil night's rest, for the jejen is not a nocturnal insect. Since
the year 1801, the great blue-winged gnat (Culex cyanopterus) has
appeared in such numbers, that the poor inhabitants of Simiti know not
how to procure an undisturbed sleep. In the marshy channels (esteros)
of the isle of Baru, near Carthagena, is found a little white fly
called cafafi. It is scarcely visible to the naked eye, and causes
very painful swellings. The toldos or cottons used for
mosquito-curtains, are wetted to prevent the cafafi penetrating
through the interstices left by the crossing threads. This insect,
happily rare elsewhere, goes up in January, by the channel (dique) of
Mahates, as far as Morales. When we went to this village in the month
of May, we found there cimuliae and zancudos, but no jejens.

The insects most troublesome at Orinoco, or as the Creoles say, the
most ferocious (los mas feroces), are those of the great cataracts of
Esmeralda and Mandavaca. On the Rio Magdalena the Culex cyanopterus is
dreaded, particularly at Mompox, Chiloa, and Tamalameca. At these
places this insect is larger and stronger, and its legs blacker. It is
difficult to avoid smiling on hearing the missionaries dispute about
the size and voracity of the mosquitos at different parts of the same
river. In a region the inhabitants of which are ignorant of all that
is passing in the rest of the world, this is the favourite subject of
conversation. "How I pity your situation!" said the missionary of the
Raudales to the missionary of Cassiquiare, at our departure; "you are
alone, like me, in this country of tigers and monkeys; with you fish
is still more rare, and the heat more violent; but as for my mosquitos
(mias moscas) I can boast that with one of mine I would beat three of

This voracity of insects in certain spots, the fury with which they
attack man,* (* This voracity, this appetite for blood, seems
surprising in little insects, that live on vegetable juices, and in a
country almost entirely uninhabited. "What would these animals eat, if
we did not pass this way?" say the Creoles, in going through countries
where there are only crocodiles covered with a scaly skin, and hairy
monkeys.) the activity of the venom varying in the same species, are
very remarkable facts; which find their analogy, however, in the
classes of large animals. The crocodile of Angostura pursues men,
while at Nueva Barcelona you may bathe tranquilly in the Rio Neveri
amidst these carnivorous reptiles. The jaguars of Maturin, Cumanacoa,
and the isthmus of Panama, are timid in comparison of those of the
Upper Orinoco. The Indians well know that the monkeys of some valleys
are easily tamed, while others of the same species, caught elsewhere,
will rather die of hunger than submit to slavery.* (* I might have
added the example of the scorpion of Cumana, which it is very
difficult to distinguish from that of the island of Trinidad, Jamaica,
Carthagena, and Guayaquil; yet the former is not more to be feared
than the Scorpio europaeus (of the south of France), while the latter
produces consequences far more alarming than the Scorpio occitanus (of
Spain and Barbary). At Carthagena and Guayaquil, the sting of the
scorpion (alacran) instantly causes the loss of speech. Sometimes a
singular torpor of the tongue is observed for fifteen or sixteen
hours. The patient, when stung in the legs, stammers as if he had been
struck with apoplexy.)

The common people in America have framed systems respecting the
salubrity of climates and pathological phenomena, as well as the
learned of Europe; and their systems, like ours, are diametrically
opposed to each other, according to the provinces into which the New
Continent is divided. At the Rio Magdalena the frequency of mosquitos
is regarded as troublesome, but salutary. These animals, say the
inhabitants, give us slight bleedings, and preserve us, in a country
excessively hot, from the scarlet fever, and other inflammatory
diseases. But at the Orinoco, the banks of which are very
insalubrious, the sick blame the mosquitos for all their sufferings.
It is unnecessary to refute the fallacy of the popular belief that the
action of the mosquitos is salutary by its local bleedings. In Europe
the inhabitants of marshy countries are not ignorant that the insects
irritate the epidermis, and stimulate its functions by the venom which
they deposit in the wounds they make. Far from diminishing the
inflammatory state of the skin, the stings increase it.

The frequency of gnats and mosquitos characterises unhealthy climates
only so far as the development and multiplication of these insects
depend on the same causes that give rise to miasmata. These noxious
animals love a fertile soil covered with plants, stagnant waters, and
a humid air never agitated by the wind; they prefer to an open country
those shades, that softened day, that tempered degree of light, heat,
and moisture which, while it favours the action of chemical
affinities, accelerates the putrefaction of organised substances. May
not the mosquitos themselves increase the insalubrity of the
atmosphere? When we reflect that to the height of three or four toises
a cubic foot of air is often peopled by a million of winged insects,*
(* It is sufficient to mention, that the cubic foot contains 2,985,984
cubic lines.) which contain a caustic and venomous liquid; when we
recollect that several species of culex are 1.8 lines long from the
head to the extremity of the corslet (without reckoning the legs);
lastly, when we consider that in this swarm of mosquitos and gnats,
diffused in the atmosphere like smoke, there is a great number of dead
insects raised by the force of the ascending air, or by that of the
lateral currents which are caused by the unequal heating of the soil,
we are led to inquire whether the presence of so many animal
substances in the air must not occasion particular miasmata. I think
that these substances act on the atmosphere differently from sand and
dust; but it will be prudent to affirm nothing positively on this
subject. Chemistry has not yet unveiled the numerous mysteries of the
insalubrity of the air; it has only taught us that we are ignorant of
many things with which a few years ago we believed we were acquainted.

Daily experience appears in a certain degree to prove the fact that at
the Orinoco, Cassiquiare, Rio Caura, and wherever the air is very
unhealthy, the sting of the mosquito augments the disposition of the
organs to receive the impression of miasmata. When you are exposed day
and night, during whole months, to the torment of insects, the
continual irritation of the skin causes febrile commotions; and, from
the sympathy existing between the dermoid and the gastric systems,
injures the functions of the stomach. Digestion first becomes
difficult, the cutaneous inflammation excites profuse perspirations,
an unquenchable thirst succeeds, and, in persons of a feeble
constitution, increasing impatience is succeeded by depression of
mind, during which all the pathogenic causes act with increased
violence. It is neither the dangers of navigating in small boats, the
savage Indians, nor the serpents, crocodiles, or jaguars, that make
Spaniards dread a voyage on the Orinoco; it is, as they say with
simplicity, "el sudar y las moscas," (the perspiration and the flies).
We have reason to believe that mankind, as they change the surface of
the soil, will succeed in altering by degrees the constitution of the
atmosphere. The insects will diminish when the old trees of the forest
have disappeared; when, in those countries now desert, the rivers are
seen bordered with cottages, and the plains covered with pastures and

Whoever has lived long in countries infested by mosquitos will be
convinced, as we were, that there exists no remedy for the torment of
these insects. The Indians, covered with anoto, bolar earth, or turtle
oil, are not protected from their attacks. It is doubtful whether the
painting even relieves: it certainly does not prevent the evil.
Europeans, recently arrived at the Orinoco, the Rio Magdalena, the
river Guayaquil, or Rio Chagres (I mention the four rivers where the
insects are most to be dreaded) at first obtain some relief by
covering their faces and hands, but they soon feel it difficult to
endure the heat, are weary of being condemned to complete inactivity,
and finish with leaving the face and hands uncovered. Persons who
would renounce all kind of occupation during the navigation of these
rivers, might bring some particular garment from Europe in the form of
a bag, under which they could remain covered, opening it only every
half-hour. This bag should be distended by whalebone hoops, for a
close mask and gloves would be perfectly insupportable. Sleeping on
the ground, on skins, or in hammocks, we could not make use of
mosquito-curtains (toldos) while on the Orinoco. The toldo is useful
only where it forms a tent so well closed around the bed that there is
not the smallest opening by which a gnat can pass. This is difficult
to accomplish; and often when you succeed (for instance, in going up
the Rio Magdalena, where you travel with some degree of convenience),
you are forced, in order to avoid being suffocated by the heat, to
come out from beneath your toldo, and walk about in the open air. A
feeble wind, smoke, and powerful smells, scarcely afford any relief in
places where the insects are very numerous and very voracious. It is
erroneously affirmed that these little animals fly from the peculiar
smell emitted by the crocodile. We were fear fully stung at Bataillez,
in the road from Carthagena to Honda, while we were dissecting a
crocodile eleven feet long, the smell of which infested all the
surrounding atmosphere. The Indians much commend the fumes of burnt
cow-dung. When the wind is very strong, and accompanied by rain, the
mosquitos disappear for some time: they sting most cruelly at the
approach of a storm, particularly when the electric explosions are not
followed by heavy showers.

Anything waved about the head and the hands contributes to chase away
the insects. "The more you stir yourself, the less you will be stung,"
say the missionaries. The zancudo makes a buzzing before it settles;
but, when it has assumed confidence, when it has once begun to fix its
sucker, and distend itself, you may touch its wings without its being
frightened. It remains the whole time with its two hind legs raised;
and, if left to suck to satiety, no swelling takes place, and no pain
is left behind. We often repeated this experiment on ourselves in the
valley of the Rio Magdalena. It may be asked whether the insect
deposits the stimulating liquid only at the moment of its flight, when
it is driven away, or whether it draws the liquid up again when left
to suck undisturbed. I incline to this latter opinion; for on quietly
presenting the back of my hand to the Culex cyanopterus, I observed
that the pain, though violent in the beginning, diminishes in
proportion as the insect continues to suck, and ceases altogether when
it voluntarily flies away. I also wounded my skin with a pin, and
rubbed the pricks with bruised mosquitos, and no swelling ensued. The
irritating liquid, in which chemists have not yet recognized any acid
properties, is contained, as in the ant and other hymenopterous
insects, in particular glands; and is probably too much diluted, and
consequently too much weakened, if the skin be rubbed with the whole
of the bruised insect.

I have thrown together at the close of this chapter all we learned
during the course of our travels on phenomena which naturalists have
hitherto singularly neglected, though they exercise a great influence
on the welfare of the inhabitants, the salubrity of the climate, and
the establishment of new colonies on the rivers of equinoctial
America. I might justly have incurred the charge of having treated
this subject too much in detail, were it not connected with general
physiological views. Our imagination is struck only by what is great;
but the lover of natural philosophy should reflect equally on little
things. We have just seen that winged insects, collected in society,
and concealing in their sucker a liquid that irritates the skin, are
capable of rendering vast countries almost uninhabitable. Other
insects equally small, the termites (comejen),* (* Literally, the
eaters or the devourers.) create obstacles to the progress of
civilization, in several hot and temperate parts of the equinoctial
zone, that are difficult to be surmounted. They devour paper,
pasteboard, and parchment with frightful rapidity, utterly destroying
records and libraries. Whole provinces of Spanish America do not
possess one written document that dates a hundred years back. What
improvement can the civilization of nations acquire if nothing link
the present with the past; if the depositories of human knowledge must
be repeatedly renewed; if the records of genius and reason cannot be
transmitted to posterity?

In proportion as you ascend the table-land of the Andes these evils
disappear. Man breathes a fresh and pure air. Insects no more disturb
the labours of the day or the slumbers of the night. Documents can be
collected in archives without our having to complain of the voracity
of the termites. Mosquitos are no longer feared at a height of two
hundred toises; and the termites, still very frequent at three hundred
toises of elevation,* (* There are some at Popayan (height 910 toises;
mean temperature 18.7 degrees), but they are species that gnaw wood
only.) become very rare at Mexico, Santa Fe de Bogota, and Quito. In
these great capitals, situated on the back of the Cordilleras, we find
libraries and archives, augmented from day to day by the enlightened
zeal of the inhabitants. These circumstances, combined with others,
insure a moral preponderance to the Alpine region over the lower
regions of the torrid zone. If we admit, agreeably to the ancient
traditions collected in both the old and new worlds, that at the time
of the catastrophe which preceded the renewal of our species, man
descended from the mountains into the plains, we may admit, with still
greater confidence, that these mountains, the cradle of so many
various nations, will for ever remain the centre of human civilization
in the torrid zone. From these fertile and temperate table-lands, from
these islets scattered in the aerial ocean, knowledge and the
blessings of social institutions will be spread over those vast
forests extending along the foot of the Andes, now inhabited only by
savage tribes whom the very wealth of nature has retained in indolence
and barbarism.



We directed our course to the Puerto de arriba, above the cataract of
Atures, opposite the mouth of the Rio Cataniapo, where our boat was to
be ready for us. In the narrow path that leads to the embarcadero we
beheld for the last time the peak of Uniana. It appeared like a cloud
rising above the horizon of the plains. The Guahibos wander at the
foot of the mountains, and extend their course as far as the banks of
the Vichada. We were shown at a distance, on the right of the river,
the rocks that surround the cavern of Ataruipe; but we had not time to
visit that cemetery of the destroyed tribe of the Atures. Father Zea
had repeatedly described to us this extraordinary cavern, the
skeletons painted with anoto, the large vases of baked earth, in which
the bones of separate families appear to be collected; and many other
curious objects, which we proposed to examine on our return from the
Rio Negro. "You will scarcely believe," said the missionaries, "that
these skeletons, these painted vases, things which we believed were
unknown to the rest of the world, have brought trouble upon me and my
neighbour, the missionary of Carichana. You have seen the misery in
which I live in the raudales. Though devoured by mosquitos, and often
in want of plantains and cassava, yet I have found envious people even
in this country! A white man, who inhabits the pastures between the
Meta and the Apure, denounced me recently in the Audencia of Caracas,
as concealing a treasure I had discovered, jointly with the missionary
of Carichana, amid the tombs of the Indians. It is asserted that the
Jesuits of Santa Fe de Bogota were apprised beforehand of the
destruction of their company; and that, in order to save the riches
they possessed in money and precious vases, they sent them, either by
the Rio Meta or the Vichada, to the Orinoco, with orders to have them
hidden in the islets amid the raudales. These treasures I am supposed
to have appropriated unknown to my superiors. The Audencia of Caracas
brought a complaint before the governor of Guiana, and we were ordered
to appear in person. We uselessly performed a journey of one hundred
and fifty leagues; and, although we declared that we had found in the
cavern only human bones, and dried bats and polecats, commissioners
were gravely nominated to come hither and search on the spot for the
supposed treasures of the Jesuits. We shall wait long for these
commissioners. When they have gone up the Orinoco as far as San Borja,
the fear of the mosquitos will prevent them from going farther. The
cloud of flies which envelopes us in the raudales is a good defence."

The account given by the missionary was entirely conformable to what
we afterwards learned at Angostura from the governor himself.
Fortuitous circumstances had given rise to the strangest suspicions.
In the caverns where the mummies and skeletons of the nation of the
Atures are found, even in the midst of the cataracts, and in the most
inaccessible islets, the Indians long ago discovered boxes bound with
iron, containing various European tools, remnants of clothes,
rosaries, and glass trinkets. These objects are thought to have
belonged to Portuguese traders of the Rio Negro and Grand Para, who,
before the establishment of the Jesuits on the banks of the Orinoco,
went up to Atures by the portages and interior communications of
rivers, to trade with the natives. It is supposed that these men sunk
beneath the epidemic maladies so common in the raudales, and that
their chests became the property of the Indians, the wealthiest of
whom were usually buried with all they possessed most valuable during
their lives. From these very uncertain traditions the tale of hidden
treasures has been fabricated. As in the Andes of Quito every ruined
building, not excepting the foundations of the pyramids erected by the
French savans for the measurement of the meridian, is regarded as Inga
pilca,* that is, the work of the Inca (* Pilca (properly in Quichua
pirca), wall of the Inca.); so on the Orinoco every hidden treasure
can belong only to the Jesuits, an order which, no doubt, governed the
missions better than the Capuchins and the monks of the Observance,
but whose riches and success in the civilization of the Indians have
been much exaggerated. When the Jesuits of Santa Fe were arrested,
those heaps of piastres, those emeralds of Muzo, those bars of gold of
Choco, which the enemies of the company supposed they possessed, were
not found in their dwellings. I can cite a respectable testimony,
which proves incontestibly, that the viceroy of New Granada had not
warned the Jesuits of Santa Fe of the danger with which they were
menaced. Don Vicente Orosco, an engineer officer in the Spanish army,
related to me that, being arrived at Angostura, with Don Manuel
Centurion, to arrest the missionaries of Carichana, he met an Indian
boat that was going down the Rio Meta. The boat being manned with
Indians who could speak none of the tongues of the country, gave rise
to suspicions. After useless researches, a bottle was at length
discovered, containing a letter, in which the Superior of the company
residing at Santa Fe informed the missionaries of the Orinoco of the
persecutions to which the Jesuits were exposed in New Grenada. This
letter recommended no measure of precaution; it was short, without
ambiguity, and respectful towards the government, whose orders were
executed with useless and unreasonable severity.

Eight Indians of Atures had conducted our boat through the raudales,
and seemed well satisfied with the slight recompence we gave them.
They gain little by this employment; and in order to give a just idea
of the poverty and want of commerce in the missions of the Orinoco, I
shall observe that during three years, with the exception of the boats
sent annually to Angostura by the commander of San Carlos de Rio
Negro, to fetch the pay of the soldiers, the missionary had seen but
five canoes of the Upper Orinoco pass the cataract, which were bound
for the harvest of turtles' eggs, and eight boats laden with

About eleven on the morning of the 17th of April we reached our boat.
Father Zea caused to be embarked, with our instruments, the small
store of provisions he had been able to procure for the voyage, on
which he was to accompany us; these provisions consisted of a few
bunches of plantains, some cassava, and fowls. Leaving the
embarcadero, we immediately passed the mouth of the Cataniapo, a small
river, the banks of which are inhabited by the Macos, or Piaroas, who
belong to the great family of the Salive nations.

Besides the Piaroas of Cataniapo, who pierce their ears, and wear as
ear-ornaments the teeth of caymans and peccaries, three other tribes
of Macos are known: one, on the Ventuari, above the Rio Mariata; the
second, on the Padamo, north of the mountains of Maraguaca; and the
third, near the Guaharibos, towards the sources of the Orinoco, above
the Rio Gehette. This last tribe bears the name of Macos-Macos. I
collected the following words from a young Maco of the banks of the
Cataniapo, whom we met near the embarcadero, and who wore in his ears,
instead of a tusk of the peccary, a large wooden cylinder.* (* This
custom is observed among the Cabres, the Maypures, and the Pevas of
the Amazon. These last, described by La Condamine, stretch their ears
by weights of a considerable size.)

Plantain, Paruru (in Tamanac also, paruru).
Cassava, Elente (in Maco, cahig).
Maize, Niarne.
The sun, Jama (in Salive, mume-seke-cocco).
The moon, Jama (in Salive, vexio).
Water, Ahia (in Salive, cagua).
One, Nianti.
Two, Tajus.
Three, Percotahuja.
Four, Imontegroa.

The young man could not reckon as far as five, which certainly is no
proof that the word five does not exist in the Maco tongue. I know not
whether this tongue be a dialect of the Salive, as is pretty generally
asserted; for idioms derived from one another, sometimes furnish words
utterly different for the most common and most important things.* (*
The great family of the Esthonian (or Tschoudi) languages, and of the
Samoiede languages, affords numerous examples of these differences.)
But in discussions on mother-tongues and derivative languages, it is
not the sounds, the roots only, that are decisive; but rather the
interior structure and grammatical forms. In the American idioms,
which are notwithstanding rich, the moon is commonly enough called the
sun of night or even the sun of sleep; but the moon and sun very
rarely bear the same name, as among the Macos. I know only a few
examples in the most northerly part of America, among the Woccons, the
Ojibbeways, the Muskogulges, and the Mohawks.* (* Nipia-kisathwa in
the Shawanese (the idiom of Canada), from nippi, to sleep, and
kisathwa, the sun.) Our missionary asserted that jama, in Maco,
indicated at the same time the Supreme Being, and the great orbs of
night and day; while many other American tongues, for instance the
Tamanac, and the Caribbee, have distinct words to denote God, the
Moon, and the Sun. We shall soon see how anxious the missionaries of
the Orinoco are not to employ, in their translations of the prayers of
the church, the native words which denote the Divinity, the Creator
(Amanene), the Great Spirit who animates all nature. They choose
rather to Indianize the Spanish word Dios, converting it, according to
the differences of pronunciation, and the genius of the different
dialects, into Dioso, Tiosu, or Piosu.

When we again embarked on the Orinoco, we found the river free from
shoals. After a few hours we passed the Raudal of Garcita, the rapids
of which are easy of ascent, when the waters are high. To the eastward
is seen a small chain of mountains called the chain of Cumadaminari,
consisting of gneiss, and not of stratified granite. We were struck
with a succession of great holes at more than one hundred and eighty
feet above the present level of the Orinoco, yet which,
notwithstanding, appear to be the effects of the erosion of the
waters. We shall see hereafter, that this phenomenon occurs again
nearly at the same height, both in the rocks that border the cataracts
of Maypures, and fifty leagues to the east, near the mouth of the Rio
Jao. We slept in the open air, on the left bank of the river, below
the island of Tomo. The night was beautiful and serene, but the
torment of the mosquitos was so great near the ground, that I could
not succeed in levelling the artificial horizon; consequently I lost
the opportunity of making an observation.

On the 18th we set out at three in the morning, to be more sure of
arriving before the close of the day at the cataract known by the name
of the Raudal de los Guahibos. We stopped at the mouth of the Rio
Tomo. The Indians went on shore, to prepare their food, and take some
repose. When we reached the foot of the raudal, it was near five in
the afternoon. It was extremely difficult to go up the current against
a mass of water, precipitated from a bank of gneiss several feet high.
An Indian threw himself into the water, to reach, by swimming, the
rock that divides the cataract into two parts. A rope was fastened to
the point of this rock, and when the canoe was hauled near enough, our
instruments, our dry plants, and the provision we had collected at
Atures, were landed in the raudal itself. We remarked with surprise,
that the natural damn over which the river is precipitated, presents a
dry space of considerable extent; where we stopped to see the boat go

The rock of gneiss exhibits circular holes, the largest of which are
four feet deep, and eighteen inches wide. These funnels contain quartz
pebbles, and appear to have been formed by the friction of masses
rolled along by the impulse of the waters. Our situation, in the midst
of the cataract, was singular enough, but unattended by the smallest
danger. The missionary, who accompanied us, had his fever-fit on him.
In order to quench the thirst by which he was tormented, the idea
suggested itself to us of preparing a refreshing beverage for him in
one of the excavations of the rock. We had taken on board at Atures an
Indian basket called a mapire, filled with sugar, limes, and those
grenadillas, or fruits of the passion-flower, to which the Spaniards
give the name of parchas. As we were absolutely destitute of large
vessels for holding and mixing liquids, we poured the water of the
river, by means of a calabash, into one of the holes of the rock: to
this we added sugar and lime-juice. In a few minutes we had an
excellent beverage, which is almost a refinement of luxury, in that
wild spot; but our wants rendered us every day more and more

After an hour of expectation, we saw the boat arrive above the raudal,
and we were soon ready to depart. After quitting the rock, our passage
was not exempt from danger. The river is eight hundred toises broad,
and must be crossed obliquely, above the cataract, at the point where
the waters, impelled by the slope of their bed, rush with extreme
violence toward the ledge from which they are precipitated. We were
overtaken by a storm, accompanied happily by no wind, but the rain
fell in torrents. After rowing for twenty minutes, the pilot declared
that, far from gaining upon the current, we were again approaching the
raudal. These moments of uncertainty appeared to us very long: the
Indians spoke only in whispers, as they do always when they think
their situation perilous. They redoubled their efforts, and we arrived
at nightfall, without any accident, in the port of Maypures.

Storms within the tropics are as short as they are violent. The
lightning had fallen twice near our boat, and had no doubt struck the
surface of the water. I mention this phenomenon, because it is pretty
generally believed in those countries that the clouds, the surface of
which is charged with electricity, are at so great a height that the
lightning reaches the ground more rarely than in Europe. The night was
extremely dark, and we could not in less than two hours reach the
village of Maypures. We were wet to the skin. In proportion as the
rain ceased, the zancudos reappeared, with that voracity which
tipulary insects always display immediately after a storm. My
fellow-travellers were uncertain whether it would be best to stop in
the port or proceed on our way on foot, in spite of the darkness of
the night. Father Zea was determined to reach his home. He had given
directions for the construction of a large house of two stories, which
was to be begun by the Indians of the mission. "You will there find,"
said he gravely, "the same conveniences as in the open air; I have
neither a bench nor a table, but you will not suffer so much from the
flies, which are less troublesome in the mission than on the banks of
the river." We followed the counsel if the missionary, who caused
torches of copal to be lighted. These torches are tubes made of bark,
three inches in diameter, and filled with copal resin. We walked at
first over beds of rock, which were bare and slippery, and then we
entered a thick grove of palm trees. We were twice obliged to pass a
stream on trunks of trees hewn down. The torches had already ceased to
give light. Being formed on a strange principle, the woody substance
which resembles the wick surrounding the resin, they emit more smoke
than light, and are easily extinguished. The Indian pilot, who
expressed himself with some facility in Spanish, told us of snakes,
water-serpents, and tigers, by which we might be attacked. Such
conversations may be expected as matters of course, by persons who
travel at night with the natives. By intimidating the European
traveller, the Indians imagine they render themselves more necessary,
and gain the confidence of the stranger. The rudest inhabitant of the
missions fully understands the deceptions which everywhere arise from
the relations between men of unequal fortune and civilization. Under
the absolute and sometimes vexatious government of the monks, the
Indian seeks to ameliorate his condition by those little artifices
which are the weapons of physical and intellectual weakness.

Having arrived during the night at San Jose de Maypures we were
forcibly struck by the solitude of the place; the Indians were plunged
in profound sleep, and nothing was heard but the cries of nocturnal
birds, and the distant sound of the cataract. In the calm of the
night, amid the deep repose of nature, the monotonous sound of a fall
of water has in it something sad and solemn. We remained three days at
Maypures, a small village founded by Don Jose Solano at the time of
the expedition of the boundaries, the situation of which is more
picturesque, it might be said still more admirable, than that of

The raudal of Maypures, called by the Indians Quituna, is formed, as
all cataracts are, by the resistance which the river encounters in its
way across a ridge of rocks, or a chain of mountains. The lofty
mountains of Cunavami and Calitamini, between the sources of the
rivers Cataniapo and Ventuari, stretch toward the west in a chain of
granitic hills. From this chain flow three small rivers, which embrace
in some sort the cataract of Maypures. There are, on the eastern bank,
the Sanariapo, and on the western, the Cameji and the Toparo. Opposite
the village of Maypures, the mountains fall back in an arch, and, like
a rocky coast, form a gulf open to the south-east. The irruption of
the river is effected between the mouths of the Toparo and the
Sanariapo, at the western extremity of this majestic amphitheatre.

The waters of the Orinoco now roll at the foot of the eastern chain of
the mountains, and have receded from the west, where, in a deep
valley, the ancient shore is easily recognized. A savannah, scarcely
raised thirty feet above the mean level of the river, extends from
this valley as far as the cataracts. There the small church of
Maypures has been constructed. It is built of trunks of palm-trees,
and is surrounded by seven or eight huts. The dry valley, which runs
in a straight line from south to north, from the Cameji to the Toparo,
is filled with granitic and solitary mounds, all resembling those
found in the shape of islands and shoals in the present bed of the
river. I was struck with this analogy of form, on comparing the rocks
of Keri and Oco, situated in the deserted bed of the river, west of
Maypures, with the islets of Ouivitari and Caminitamini, which rise
like old castles amid the cataracts to the east of the mission. The
geological aspect of these scenes, the insular form of the elevations
farthest from the present shore of the Orinoco, the cavities which the
waves appear to have hollowed in the rock Oco, and which are precisely
on the same level (twenty-five or thirty toises high) as the
excavations perceived opposite to them in the isle of Ouivitari; all
these appearances prove that the whole of this bay, now dry, was
formerly covered by water. Those waters probably formed a lake, the
northern dike preventing their running out: but, when this dike was
broken down, the savannah that surrounds the mission appeared at first
like a very low island, bounded by two arms of the same river. It may
be supposed that the Orinoco continued for some time to fill the
ravine, which we shall call the valley of Keri, because it contains
the rock of that name; and that the waters retired wholly toward the
eastern chain, leaving dry the western arm of the river, only as they
gradually diminished. Coloured stripes, which no doubt owe their black
tint to the oxides of iron and manganese, seem to justify this
conjecture. They are found on all the stones, far from the mission,
and indicate the former abode of the waters. In going up the river,
all merchandise is discharged at the confluence of the Rio Toparo and
the Orinoco. The boats are entrusted to the natives, who have so
perfect a knowledge of the raudal, that they have a particular name
for every step. They conduct the boats as far as the mouth of the
Cameji, where the danger is considered as past.

I will here describe the cataract of Quituna or Maypures as it
appeared at the two periods when I examined it, in going down and up
the river. It is formed, like that of Mapara or Atures, by an
archipelago of islands, which, to the length of three thousand toises,
fill the bed of the river, and by rocky dikes, which join the islands
together. The most remarkable of these dikes, or natural dams, are
Purimarimi, Manimi, and the Leap of the Sardine (Salto de la Sardina).
I name them in the order in which I saw them in succession from south
to north. The last of these three stages is near nine feet high, and
forms by its breadth a magnificent cascade. I must here repeat,
however, that the turbulent shock of the precipitated and broken
waters depends not so much on the absolute height of each step or
dike, as upon the multitude of counter-currents, the grouping of the
islands and shoals, that lie at the foot of the raudalitos or partial
cascades, and the contraction of the channels, which often do not
leave a free navigable passage of twenty or thirty feet. The eastern
part of the cataract of Maypures is much more dangerous than the
western; and therefore the Indian pilots prefer the left bank of the
river to conduct the boats down or up. Unfortunately, in the season of
low waters, this bank remains partly dry, and recourse must be had to
the process of portage; that is, the boats are obliged to be dragged
on cylinders, or round logs.

To command a comprehensive view of these stupendous scenes, the
spectator must be stationed on the little mountain of Manimi, a
granitic ridge, which rises from the savannah, north of the church of
the mission, and is itself only a continuation of the ridges of which
the raudalito of Manimi is composed. We often visited this mountain,
for we were never weary of gazing on this astonishing spectacle. From
the summit of the rock is descried a sheet of foam, extending the
length of a whole mile. Enormous masses of stone, black as iron, issue
from its bosom. Some are paps grouped in pairs, like basaltic hills;
others resemble towers, fortified castles, and ruined buildings. Their
gloomy tint contrasts with the silvery splendour of the foam. Every
rock, every islet is covered with vigorous trees, collected in
clusters. At the foot of those paps, far as the eye can reach, a thick
vapour is suspended over the river, and through this whitish fog the
tops of the lofty palm-trees shoot up. What name shall we give to
these majestic plants? I suppose them to be the vadgiai, a new species
of the genus Oreodoxa, the trunk of which is more than eighty feet
high. The feathery leaves of this palm-tree have a brilliant lustre,
and rise almost straight toward the sky. At every hour of the day the
sheet of foam displays different aspects. Sometimes the hilly islands
and the palm-trees project their broad shadows; sometimes the rays of
the setting sun are refracted in the cloud that hangs over the
cataract, and coloured arcs are formed which vanish and appear

Such is the character of the landscape discovered from the top of the
mountain of Manimi, which no traveller has yet described. I do not
hesitate to repeat, that neither time, nor the view of the
Cordilleras, nor any abode in the temperate valleys of Mexico, has
effaced from my mind the powerful impression of the aspect of the
cataracts. When I read a description of those places in India that are
embellished by running waters and a vigorous vegetation, my
imagination retraces a sea of foam and palm-trees, the tops of which
rise above a stratum of vapour. The majestic scenes of nature, like
the sublime works of poetry and the arts, leave remembrances that are
incessantly awakening, and which, through the whole of life, mingle
with all our feelings of what is grand and beautiful.

The calm of the atmosphere, and the tumultuous movement of the waters,
produce a contrast peculiar to this zone. Here no breath of wind ever
agitates the foliage, no cloud veils the splendour of the azure vault
of heaven; a great mass of light is diffused in the air, on the earth
strewn with plants with glossy leaves, and on the bed of the river,
which extends as far as the eye can reach. This appearance surprises
the traveller born in the north of Europe. The idea of wild scenery,
of a torrent rushing from rock to rock, is linked in his imagination
with that of a climate where the noise of the tempest is mingled with
the sound of the cataract; and where, in a gloomy and misty day,
sweeping clouds seem to descend into the valley, and to rest upon the
tops of the pines. The landscape of the tropics in the low regions of
the continents has a peculiar physiognomy, something of greatness and
repose, which it preserves even where one of the elements is
struggling with invincible obstacles. Near the equator, hurricanes and
tempests belong to islands only, to deserts destitute of plants, and
to those spots where parts of the atmosphere repose upon surfaces from
which the radiation of heat is very unequal.

The mountain of Manimi forms the eastern limit of a plain which
furnishes for the history of vegetation, that is, for its progressive
development in bare and desert places, the same phenomena which we
have described above in speaking of the raudal of Atures. During the
rainy season, the waters heap vegetable earth upon the granitic rock,
the bare shelves of which extend horizontally. These islands of mould,
decorated with beautiful and odoriferous plants, resemble the blocks
of granite covered with flowers, which the inhabitants of the Alps
call gardens or courtils, and which pierce the glaciers of

In a place where we had bathed the day before, at the foot of the rock
of Manimi, the Indians killed a serpent seven feet and a half long.
The Macos called it a camudu. Its back displayed, upon a yellow
ground, transverse bands, partly black, and partly inclining to a
brown green: under the belly the bands were blue, and united in
rhombic spots. This animal, which is not venomous, is said by the
natives to attain more than fifteen feet in length. I thought at
first, that the camudu was a boa; but I saw with surprise, that the
scales beneath the tail were divided into two rows. It was therefore a
viper (coluber); perhaps a python of the New Continent: I say perhaps,
for great naturalists appear to admit that all the pythons belong to
the Old, and all the boas to the New World. As the boa of Pliny was a
serpent of Africa and of the south of Europe, it would have been well
if the boas of America had been named pythons, and the pythons of
India been called boas. The first notions of an enormous reptile
capable of seizing man, and even the great quadrupeds, came to us from
India and the coast of Guinea. However indifferent names may be, we
can scarcely admit the idea, that the hemisphere in which Virgil
described the agonies of Laocoon (a fable which the Greeks of Asia
borrowed from much more southern nations) does not possess the
boa-constrictor. I will not augment the confusion of zoological
nomenclature by proposing new changes, and shall confine myself to
observing that at least the missionaries and the latinized Indians of
the missions, if not the planters of Guiana, clearly distinguish the
traga-venados (real boas, with simple anal plates) from the culebras
de agua, or water-snakes, like the camudu (pythons with double anal
scales). The traga-venados have no transverse bands on the back, but a
chain of rhombic or hexagonal spots. Some species prefer the driest
places; others love the water, as the pythons, or culebras de agua.

Advancing towards the west, we find the hills or islets in the
deserted branch of the Orinoco crowned with the same palm-trees that
rise on the rocks of the cataracts. One of these hills, called Keri,
is celebrated in the country on account of a white spot which shines
from afar, and in which the natives profess to see the image of the
full moon. I could not climb this steep rock, but I believe the white
spot to be a large nodule of quartz, formed by the union of several of
those veins so common in granites passing into gneiss. Opposite Keri,
or the Rock of the Moon, on the twin mountain Ouivitari, which is an
islet in the midst of the cataracts, the Indians point out with
mysterious awe a similar white spot. It has the form of a disc; and
they say this is the image of the sun (Camosi). Perhaps the
geographical situation of these two objects has contributed to their
having received these names. Keri is on the side of the setting,
Camosi on that of the rising sun. Languages being the most ancient
historical monuments of nations, some learned men have been singularly
struck by the analogy between the American word camosi and camosch,
which seems to have signified originally, the sun, in one of the
Semitic dialects. This analogy has given rise to hypotheses which
appear to me at least very problematical. The god of the Moabites,
Chemosh, or Camosch, who has so wearied the patience of the learned;
Apollo Chomens, cited by Strabo and by Ammianus Marcellinus;
Belphegor; Amun or Hamon; and Adonis: all, without doubt, represent
the sun in the winter solstice; but what can we conclude from a
solitary and fortuitous resemblance of sounds in languages that have
nothing besides in common?

The Maypure tongue is still spoken at Atures, although the mission is
inhabited only by Guahibos and Macos. At Maypures the Guareken and
Pareni tongues only are now spoken. From the Rio Anaveni, which falls
into the Orinoco north of Atures, as far as beyond Jao, and to the
mouth of the Guaviare (between the fourth and sixth degrees of
latitude), we everywhere find rivers, the termination of which, veni,*
(* Anaveni, Mataveni, Maraveni, etc.) recalls to mind the extent to
which the Maypure tongue heretofore prevailed. Veni, or weni,
signifies water, or a river. The words camosi and keri, which we have
just cited, are of the idiom of the Pareni Indians,* (* Or Parenas,
who must not be confounded either with the Paravenes of the Rio Caura
(Caulin page 69), or with the Parecas, whose language belongs to the
great family of the Tamanac tongues. A young Indian of Maypures, who
called himself a Paragini, answered my questions almost in the same
words that M. Bonpland heard from a Pareni. I have indicated the
differences in the table, see below.) who, I think I have heard from
the natives, lived originally on the banks of the Mataveni.* (* South
of the Rio Zama. We slept in the open air near the mouth of the
Mataveni on the 28th day of May, in our return from the Rio Negro.)
The Abbe Gili considers the Pareni as a simple dialect of the Maypure.
This question cannot be solved by a comparison of the roots merely.
Being totally ignorant of the grammatical structure of the Pareni, I
can raise but feeble doubts against the opinion of the Italian
missionary. The Pareni is perhaps a mixture of two tongues that belong
to different families; like the Maquiritari, which is composed of the
Maypure and the Caribbee; or, to cite an example better known, the
modern Persian, which is allied at the same time to the Sanscrit and
to the Semitic tongues. The following are Pareni words, which I
carefully compared with Maypure words.*




COLUMN 3 : MAYPURE WORD. (* The words of the Maypure language have
been taken from the works of Gili and Hervas. I collected the words
placed between parentheses from a young Maco Indian, who understood
the Maypure language.)

The sun : Camosi : Kie (Kiepurig).
The moon : Keri : Kejapi (Cagijapi).
A star : Ouipo : Urrupu.
The devil : Amethami : Vasuri.
Water : Oneui (ut) : Oueni.
Fire : Casi : Catti.
Lightning : Eno : Eno-ima.* (* I am ignorant of what ima signifies in
this compound word. Eno means in Maypure the sky and thunder. Ina
signifies mother.)
The head : Ossipo : Nuchibucu.* (* The syllables no and nu, joined to
the words that designate parts of the body, might have been
suppressed; they answer to the possessive pronoun my.)
The hair : Nomao.
The eyes : Nopurizi : Nupuriki.
The nose : Nosivi : Nukirri.
The mouth : Nonoma : Nunumacu.
The teeth : Nasi : Nati.
The tongue : Notate : Nuare.
The ear : Notasine : Nuakini.
The cheek : Nocaco.
The neck : Nono : Noinu.
The arm : Nocano : Nuana.
The hand : Nucavi : Nucapi.
The breast : Notoroni.
The back : Notoli.
The thigh : Nocazo.
The nipples : Nocini.
The foot : Nocizi : Nukii.
The toes : Nociziriani.
The calf of the leg : Nocavua.
A crocodile : Cazuiti : Amana.
A fish : Cimasi : Timaki.
Maize : Cana : Jomuki.
Plantain : Paratana (Teot)* : Arata.
(* We may be surprised to find the word teot denote the eminently
nutritive substance that supplies the place of corn (the gift of a
beneficent divinity), and on which the subsistence of man within the
tropics depends. I may here mention, that the word Teo, or Teot, which
in Aztec signifies God (Teotl, properly Teo, for tl is only a
termination), is found in the language of the Betoi of the Rio Meta.
The name of the moon, in this language so remarkable for the
complication of its grammatical structure, is Teo-ro. The name of the
sun is Teo-umasoi. The particle ro designates a woman, umasoi a man.
Among the Betoi, the Maypures, and so many other nations of both
continents, the moon is believed to be the wife of the sun. But what
is this root Teo? It appears to me very doubtful, that Teo-ro should
signify God-woman, for Memelu is the name of the All-powerful Being in
the Betoi langnage.)
Cacao : Cacavua* (* Has this word been introduced from a communication
with Europeans? It is almost identical with the Mexican (Aztec) word
Tobacco : Jema : Jema.
Pimento : (Pumake).
Mimosa inga : (Caraba).
Cecropia peltata : (Jocovi).
Agaric : (Cajuli).
Agaric : Puziana (Pagiana) : Papeta (Popetas).
Agaric : Sinapa (Achinafe) : Avanume (Avanome).
Agaric : Meteuba (Meuteufafa) : Apekiva (Pejiiveji).
Agaric : Puriana vacavi : (Jaliva).
Agaric : Puriana vacavi uschanite.
Agaric : Puriassima vacavi : (Javiji).

This comparison seems to prove that the analogies observed in the
roots of the Pareni and the Maypure tongues are not to be neglected;
they are, however, scarcely more frequent than those that have been
observed between the Maypure of the Upper Orinoco and the language of
the Moxos, which is spoken on the banks of the Marmora, from 15 to 20
degrees of south latitude. The Parenis have in their pronunciation the
English th, or tsa of the Arabians, as I clearly heard in the word
Amethami (devil, evil spirit). I need not again notice the origin of
the word camosi. Solitary resemblances of sounds are as little proof
of communication between nations as the dissimilitude of a few roots
furnishes evidence against the affiliation of the German from the
Persian and the Greek. It is remarkable, however, that the names of
the sun and moon are sometimes found to be identical in languages, the
grammatical construction of which is entirely different; I may cite as
examples the Guarany and the Omagua,* languages of nations formerly
very powerful. (* Sun and Moon, in Guarany, Quarasi and Jasi; in
Omagua, Huarassi and Jase. I shall give, farther on, these same words
in the principal languages of the old and new worlds. See note below.)
It may be conceived that, with the worship of the stars and of the
powers of nature, words which have a relation to these objects might
pass from one idiom to another. I showed the constellation of the
Southern Cross to a Pareni Indian, who covered the lantern while I was
taking the circum-meridian heights of the stars; and he called it
Bahumehi, a name which the caribe fish, or serra salme, also bears in
Pareni. He was ignorant of the name of the belt of Orion; but a
Poignave Indian,* who knew the constellations better, assured me that
in his tongue the belt of Orion bore the name of Fuebot; he called the
moon Zenquerot. (* At the Orinoco the Puignaves, or Poignaves, are
distinguished from the Guipunaves (Uipunavi). The latter, on account
of their language, are considered as belonging to the Maypure and
Cabre nations; yet water is called in Poignave, as well as in Maypure,
oueni.) These two words have a very peculiar character for words of
American origin. As the names of the constellations may have been
transmitted to immense distances from one nation to another, these
Poignave words have fixed the attention of the learned, who have
imagined they recognize the Phoenician and Moabite tongues in the word
camosi of the Pareni. Fuebot and zenquerot seem to remind us of the
Phoenician words mot (clay), ardod (oak-tree), ephod, etc. But what
can we conclude from simple terminations which are most frequently
foreign to the roots? In Hebrew the feminine plurals terminate also in
oth. I noted entire phrases in Poignave; but the young man whom I
interrogated spoke so quick that I could not seize the division of the
words, and should have mixed them confusedly together had I attempted
to write them down.* (* For a curious example of this, see the speech
of Artabanes in Aristophanes (Acharn. act 1 scene 3) where a Greek has
attempted to give a Persian oration. See also Gibbon's Roman Empire
chapter 53 note 54, for a curious example of the way in which foreign
languages have been disfigured when it has been attempted to represent
them in a totally different tongue.)

The Mission near the raudal of Maypures was very considerable in the
time of the Jesuits, when it reckoned six hundred inhabitants, among
whom were several families of whites. Under the government of the
Fathers of the Observance the population was reduced to less than
sixty. It must be observed that in this part of South America
cultivation has been diminishing for half a century, while beyond the
forests, in the provinces near the sea, we find villages that contain
from two or three thousand Indians. The inhabitants of Maypures are a
mild, temperate people, and distinguished by great cleanliness. The
savages of the Orinoco for the most part have not that inordinate
fondness for strong liquors which prevails in North America. It is
true that the Ottomacs, the Jaruros, the Achaguas, and the Caribs, are
often intoxicated by the immoderate use of chiza and many other
fermented liquors, which they know how to prepare with cassava, maize,
and the saccharine fruit of the palm-tree; but travellers have as
usual generalized what belongs only to the manners of some tribes. We
were frequently unable to prevail upon the Guahibos, or the
Maco-Piroas, to taste brandy while they were labouring for us, and
seemed exhausted by fatigue. It will require a longer residence of
Europeans in these countries to spread there the vices that are
already common among the Indians on the coast. In the huts of the
natives of Maypures we found an appearance of order and neatness,
rarely met with in the houses of the missionaries.

These natives cultivate plantains and cassava, but no maize. Cassava,
made into thin cakes, is the bread of the country. Like the greater
part of the Indians of the Orinoco, the inhabitants of Maypures have
beverages which may be considered nourishing; one of these, much
celebrated in that country, is furnished by a palm-tree which grows
wild in the vicinity of the mission on the banks of the Auvana. This
tree is the seje: I estimated the number of flowers on one cluster at
forty-four thousand; and that of the fruit, of which the greater part
fall without ripening, at eight thousand. The fruit is a small fleshy
drupe. It is immersed for a few minutes in boiling water, to separate
the kernel from the parenchymatous part of the sarcocarp, which has a
sweet taste, and is pounded and bruised in a large vessel filled with
water. The infusion yields a yellowish liquor, which tastes like milk
of almonds. Sometimes papelon (unrefined sugar) is added. The
missionary told us that the natives become visibly fatter during the
two or three months in which they drink this seje, into which they dip
their cakes of cassava. The piaches, or Indian jugglers, go into the
forests, and sound the botuto (the sacred trumpet) under the seje
palm-trees, to force the tree, they say, to yield an ample produce the
following year. The people pay for this operation, as the Mongols, the
Arabs, and nations still nearer to us, pay the chamans, the marabouts,
and other classes of priests, to drive away the white ants and the
locusts by mystic words or prayers, or to procure a cessation of
continued rain, and invert the order of the seasons.

"I have a manufacture of pottery in my village," said Father Zea, when
accompanying us on a visit to an Indian family, who were occupied in
baking, by a fire of brushwood, in the open air, large earthen
vessels, two feet and a half high. This branch of manufacture is
peculiar to the various tribes of the great family of Maypures, and
they appear to have followed it from time immemorial. In every part of
the forests, far from any human habitation, on digging the earth,
fragments of pottery and delf are found. The taste for this kind of
manufacture seems to have been common heretofore to the natives of
both North and South America. To the north of Mexico, on the banks of
the Rio Gila, among the ruins of an Aztec city; in the United States,
near the tumuli of the Miamis; in Florida, and in every place where
any traces of ancient civilization are found, the soil covers
fragments of painted pottery; and the extreme resemblance of the
ornaments they display is striking. Savage nations, and those
civilized people* (* The Hindoos, the Tibetians, the Chinese, the
ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Peruvians; with whom the tendency
toward civilization in a body has prevented the free development of
the faculties of individuals.) who are condemned by their political
and religious institutions always to imitate themselves, strive, as if
by instinct, to perpetuate the same forms, to preserve a peculiar type
or style, and to follow the methods and processes which were employed
by their ancestors. In North America, fragments of delf ware have been
discovered in places where there exist lines of fortification, and the
walls of towns constructed by some unknown nation, now entirely
extinct. The paintings on these fragments have a great similitude to
those which are executed in our days on earthenware by the natives of
Louisiana and Florida. Thus too, the Indians of Maypures often painted
before our eyes the same ornaments as those we had observed in the
cavern of Ataruipe, on the vases containing human bones. They were
grecques, meanders, and figures of crocodiles, of monkeys, and of a
large quadruped which I could not recognize, though it had always the
same squat form. I might hazard the hypothesis that it belongs to
another country, and that the type had been brought thither in the
great migration of the American nations from the north-west to the
south and south-east; but I am rather inclined to believe that the
figure is intended to represent a tapir, and that the deformed image
of a native animal has become by degrees one of the types that has
been preserved.

The Maypures execute with the greatest skill grecques, or ornaments
formed by straight lines variously combined, similar to those that we
find on the vases of Magna Grecia, on the Mexican edifices at Mitla,
and in the works of so many nations who, without communication with
each other, find alike a sensible pleasure in the symmetric repetition
of the same forms. Arabesques, meanders, and grecques, please our
eyes, because the elements of which their series is composed, follow
in rhythmic order. The eye finds in this order, in the periodical
return of the same forms, what the ear distinguishes in the cadenced
succession of sounds and concords. Can we then admit a doubt that the
feeling of rhythm manifests itself in man at the first dawn of
civilization, and in the rudest essays of poetry and song?

Among the natives of Maypures, the making of pottery is an occupation
principally confined to the women. They purify the clay by repeated
washings, form it into cylinders, and mould the largest vases with
their hands. The American Indian is unacquainted with the potter's
wheel, which was familiar to the nations of the east in the remotest
antiquity. We may be surprised that the missionaries have not
introduced this simple and useful machine among the natives of the
Orinoco, yet we must recollect that three centuries have not sufficed
to make it known among the Indians of the peninsula of Araya, opposite
the port of Cumana. The colours used by the Maypures are the oxides of
iron and manganese, and particularly the yellow and red ochres that
are found in the hollows of sandstone. Sometimes the fecula of the
Bignonia chica is employed, after the pottery has been exposed to a
feeble fire. This painting is covered with a varnish of algarobo,
which is the transparent resin of the Hymenaea courbaril. The large
vessels in which the chiza is preserved are called ciamacu, the
smallest bear the name of mucra, from which word the Spaniards of the
coast have framed murcura. Not only the Maypures, but also the
Guaypunaves, the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and even the Guamos, are
distinguished at the Orinoco as makers of painted pottery, and this
manufacture extended formerly towards the banks of the Amazon.
Orellana was struck with the painted ornaments on the ware of the
Omaguas, who in his time were a populous commercial nation.

The following facts throw some light on the history of American
civilization. In the United States, west of the Allegheny mountains,
particularly between the Ohio and the great lakes of Canada, on
digging the earth, fragments of painted pottery, mingled with brass
tools, are constantly found. This mixture may well surprise us in a
country where, on the first arrival of Europeans, the natives were
ignorant of the use of metals. In the forests of South America, which
extend from the equator as far as the eighth degree of north latitude,
from the foot of the Andes to the Atlantic, this painted pottery is
discovered in the most desert places, but it is found accompanied by
hatchets of jade and other hard stones, skilfully perforated. No
metallic tools or ornaments have ever been discovered; though in the
mountains on the shore, and at the back of the Cordilleras, the art of
melting gold and copper, and of mixing the latter metal with tin to
make cutting instruments, was known. How can we account for these
contrasts between the temperate and the torrid zone? The Incas of Peru
had pushed their conquests and their religious wars as far as the
banks of the Napo and the Amazon, where their language extended over a
small space of land; but the civilization of the Peruvians, of the
inhabitants of Quito, and of the Muyscas of New Grenada, never appears
to have had any sensible influence on the moral state of the nations
of Guiana. It must be observed further, that in North America, between
the Ohio, Miami, and the Lakes, an unknown people, whom systematic
authors would make the descendants of the Toltecs and Aztecs,
constructed walls of earth and sometimes of stone without mortar,*
from ten to fifteen feet high, and seven or eight thousand feet long.
(* Of siliceous limestone, at Pique, on the Great Miami; of sandstone
at Creek Point, ten leagues from Chillakothe, where the wall is
fifteen hundred toises long.) These singular circumvallations
sometimes enclosed a hundred and fifty acres of ground. In the plains
of the Orinoco, as in those of Marietta, the Miami, and the Ohio, the
centre of an ancient civilization is found in the west on the back of
the mountains; but the Orinoco, and the countries lying between that
great river and the Amazon, appear never to have been inhabited by
nations whose constructions have resisted the ravages of time. Though
symbolical figures are found engraved on the hardest rocks, yet
further south than eight degrees of latitude, no tumulus, no
circumvallation, no dike of earth similar to those that exist farther
north in the plains of Varinas and Canagua, has been found. Such is
the contrast that may be observed between the eastern parts of North
and South America, those parts which extend from the table-land of
Cundinamarca* (* This is the ancient name of the empire of the Zaques,
founded by Bochica or Idacanzas, the high priest of Iraca, in New
Grenada.) and the mountains of Cayenne towards the Atlantic, and those
which stretch from the Andes of New Spain towards the Alleghenies.
Nations advanced in civilization, of which we discover traces on the
banks of lake Teguyo and in the Casas grandes of the Rio Gila, might
have sent some tribes eastward into the open countries of the Missouri
and the Ohio, where the climate differs little from that of New
Mexico; but in South America, where the great flux of nations has
continued from north to south, those who had long enjoyed the mild
temperature of the back of the equinoctial Cordilleras no doubt
dreaded a descent into burning plains bristled with forests, and
inundated by the periodical swellings of rivers. It is easy to
conceive how much the force of vegetation, and the nature of the soil
and climate, within the torrid zone, embarrassed the natives in regard
to migration in numerous bodies, prevented settlements requiring an
extensive space, and perpetuated the misery and barbarism of solitary

The feeble civilization introduced in our days by the Spanish monks
pursues a retrograde course. Father Gili relates that, at the time of
the expedition to the boundaries, agriculture began to make some
progress on the banks of the Orinoco; and that cattle, especially
goats, had multiplied considerably at Maypures. We found no goats,
either in the mission or in any other village of the Orinoco; they had
all been devoured by the tigers. The black and white breeds of pigs
only, the latter of which are called French pigs (puercos franceses),
because they are believed to have come from the Caribbee Islands, have
resisted the pursuit of wild beasts. We saw with much pleasure
guacamayas, or tame macaws, round the huts of the Indians, and flying
to the fields like our pigeons. This bird is the largest and most
majestic species of parrot with naked cheeks that we found in our
travels. It is called in Marativitan, cahuei. Including the tail, it
is two feet three inches long. We had observed it also on the banks of
the Atabapo, the Temi, and the Rio Negro. The flesh of the cahuei,
which is frequently eaten, is black and somewhat tough. These macaws,
whose plumage glows with vivid tints of purple, blue, and yellow, are
a great ornament to the Indian farm-yards; they do not yield in beauty
to the peacock, the golden pheasant, the pauxi, or the alector. The
practice of rearing parrots, birds of a family so different from the
gallinaceous tribes, was remarked by Columbus. When he discovered
America he saw macaws, or large parrots, which served as food to the
natives of the Caribbee Islands, instead of fowls.

A majestic tree, more than sixty feet high, which the planters call
fruta de burro, grows in the vicinity of the little village of
Maypures. It is a new species of the unona, and has the stateliness of
the Uvaria zeylanica of Aublet. Its branches are straight, and rise in
a pyramid, nearly like the poplar of the Mississippi, erroneously
called the Lombardy poplar. The tree is celebrated for its aromatic
fruit, the infusion of which is a powerful febrifuge. The poor
missionaries of the Orinoco, who are afflicted with tertian fevers
during a great part of the year, seldom travel without a little bag
filled with frutas de burro. I have already observed that between the
tropics, the use of aromatics, for instance very strong coffee, the
Croton cascarilla, or the pericarp of the Unona xylopioides, is
generally preferred to that of the astringent bark of cinchona, or of
Bonplandia trifolatia, which is the Angostura bark. The people of
America have the most inveterate prejudice against the employment of
different kinds of cinchona; and in the very countries where this
valuable remedy grows, they try (to use their own phrase) to cut off
the fever, by infusions of Scoparia dulcis, and hot lemonade prepared
with sugar and the small wild lime, the rind of which is equally oily
and aromatic.

The weather was unfavourable for astronomical observations. I
obtained, however, on the 20th of April, a good series of
corresponding altitudes of the sun, according to which the chronometer
gave 70 degrees 37 minutes 33 seconds for the longitude of the mission
of Maypures; the latitude was found, by a star observed towards the
north, to be 5 degrees 13 minutes 57 seconds; and by a star observed
towards the south, 5 degrees 13 minutes 7 seconds. The error of the
most recent maps is half a degree of longitude and half a degree of
latitude. It would be difficult to relate the trouble and torments
which these nocturnal observations cost us. Nowhere is a denser cloud
of mosquitos to be found. It formed, as it were, a particular stratum
some feet above the ground, and it thickened as we brought lights to
illumine our artificial horizon. The inhabitants of Maypures, for the
most part, quit the village to sleep in the islets amid the cataracts,
where the number of insects is less; others make a fire of brushwood
in their huts, and suspend their hammocks in the midst of the smoke.

We spent two days and a half in the little village of Maypures, on the
banks of the great Upper Cataract, and on the 21st April we embarked
in the canoe we had obtained from the missionary of Carichana. It was
much damaged by the shoals it had struck against, and the carelessness
of the Indians; but still greater dangers awaited it. It was to be
dragged over land, across an isthmus of thirty-six thousand feet; from
the Rio Tuamini to the Rio Negro, to go up by the Cassiquiare to the
Orinoco, and to repass the two raudales.

When the traveller has passed the Great Cataracts, he feels as if he
were in a new world, and had overstepped the barriers which nature
seems to have raised between the civilized countries of the coast and
the savage and unknown interior. Towards the east, in the bluish
distance, we saw for the last time the high chain of the Cunavami
mountains. Its long, horizontal ridge reminded us of the Mesa of the
Brigantine, near Cumana; but it terminates by a truncated summit. The
Peak of Calitamini (the name given to this summit) glows at sunset as
with a reddish fire. This appearance is every day the same. No one
ever approached this mountain, the height of which does not exceed six
hundred toises. I believe this splendour, commonly reddish but
sometimes silvery, to be a reflection produced by large plates of
talc, or by gneiss passing into mica-slate. The whole of this country
contains granitic rocks, on which here and there, in little plains, an
argillaceous grit-stone immediately reposes, containing fragments of
quartz and of brown iron-ore.

In going to the embarcadero, we caught on the trunk of a hevea* (* One
of those trees whose milk yields caoutchouc.) a new species of
tree-frog, remarkable for its beautiful colours; it had a yellow
belly, the back and head of a fine velvety purple, and a very narrow
stripe of white from the point of the nose to the hinder extremities.
This frog was two inches long, and allied to the Rana tinctoria, the
blood of which, it is asserted, introduced into the skin of a parrot,
in places where the feathers have been plucked out, occasions the
growth of frizzled feathers of a yellow or red colour. The Indians
showed us on the way, what is no doubt very curious in that country,
traces of cartwheels in the rock. They spoke, as of an unknown animal,
of those beasts with large horns, which, at the time of the expedition
to the boundaries, drew the boats through the valley of Keri, from the
Rio Toparo to the Rio Cameji, to avoid the cataracts, and save the
trouble of unloading the merchandize. I believe these poor inhabitants
of Maypures would now be as much astonished at the sight of an ox of
the Spanish breed, as the Romans were at the sight of the Lucanian
oxen, as they called the elephants of the army of Pyrrhus.

We embarked at Puerto de Arriba, and passed the Raudal de Cameji with
some difficulty. This passage is reputed to be dangerous when the
water is very high; but we found the surface of the river beyond the
raudal as smooth as glass. We passed the night in a rocky island
called Piedra Raton, which is three-quarters of a league long, and
displays that singular aspect of rising vegetation, those clusters of
shrubs, scattered over a bare and rocky soil, of which we have often

On the 22nd of April we departed an hour and a half before sunrise.
The morning was humid but delicious; not a breath of wind was felt;
for south of Atures and Maypures a perpetual calm prevails. On the
banks of the Rio Negro and the Cassiquiare, at the foot of Cerro
Duida, and at the mission of Santa Barbara, we never heard that
rustling of the leaves which has such a peculiar charm in very hot
climates. The windings of rivers, the shelter of mountains, the
thickness of the forests, and the almost continual rains, at one or
two degrees of latitude north of the equator, contribute no doubt to
this phenomenon, which is peculiar to the missions of the Orinoco.

In that part of the valley of the Amazon which is south of the
equator, but at the same distance from it, as the places just
mentioned, a strong wind always rises two hours after mid-day. This
wind blows constantly against the stream, and is felt only in the bed
of the river. Below San Borja it is an easterly wind; at Tomependa I
found it between north and north-north-east; it is still the same
breeze, the wind of the rotation of the globe, but modified by slight
local circumstances. By favour of this general breeze you may go up
the Amazon under sail, from Grand Para as far as Tefe, a distance of
seven hundred and fifty leagues. In the province of Jaen de
Bracamoros, at the foot of the western declivity of the Cordilleras,
this Atlantic breeze rises sometimes to a tempest.

It is highly probable that the great salubrity of the Amazon is owing
to this constant breeze. In the stagnant air of the Upper Orinoco the
chemical affinities act more powerfully, and more deleterious miasmata
are formed. The insalubrity of the climate would be the same on the
woody banks of the Amazon, if that river, running like the Niger from
west to east, did not follow in its immense length the same direction,
which is that of the trade-winds. The valley of the Amazon is closed
only at its western extremity, where it approaches the Cordilleras of
the Andes. Towards the east, where the sea-breeze strikes the New
Continent, the shore is raised but a few feet above the level of the
Atlantic. The Upper Orinoco first runs from east to west, and then
from north to south. Where its course is nearly parallel to that of
the Amazon, a very hilly country (the group of the mountains of Parima
and of Dutch and French Guiana) separates it from the Atlantic, and
prevents the wind of rotation from reaching Esmeralda. This wind
begins to be powerfully felt only from the confluence of the Apure,
where the Lower Orinoco runs from west to east in a vast plain open
towards the Atlantic, and therefore the climate of this part of the
river is less noxious than that of the Upper Orinoco.

In order to add a third point of comparison, I may mention the valley
of the Rio Magdalena, which, like the Amazon, has one direction only,
but unfortunately, instead of being that of the breeze, it is from
south to north. Situated in the region of the trade-winds, the Rio
Magdalena has the stagnant air of the Upper Orinoco. From the canal of
Mahates as far as Honda, particularly south of the town of Mompox, we
never felt the wind blow but at the approach of the evening storms.
When, on the contrary, you proceed up the river beyond Honda, you find
the atmosphere often agitated. The strong winds that are ingulfed in
the valley of Neiva are noted for their excessive heat. We may be at
first surprised to perceive that the calm ceases as we approach the
lofty mountains in the upper course of the river, but this
astonishment ends when we recollect that the dry and burning winds of
the Llanos de Neiva are the effect of descending currents. The columns
of cold air rush from the top of the Nevados of Quindiu and of
Guanacas into the valley, driving before them the lower strata of the
atmosphere. Everywhere the unequal heating of the soil, and the
proximity of mountains covered with perpetual snow, cause partial
currents within the tropics, as well as in the temperate zone. The
violent winds of Neiva are not the effect of a repercussion of the
trade-winds; they rise where those winds cannot penetrate; and if the
mountains of the Upper Orinoco, the tops of which are generally
crowned with trees, were more elevated, they would produce the same
impetuous movements in the atmosphere as we observe in the Cordilleras
of Peru, of Abyssinia, and of Thibet. The intimate connection that
exists between the direction of rivers, the height and disposition of
the adjacent mountains, the movements of the atmosphere, and the
salubrity of the climate, are subjects well worthy of attention. The
study of the surface and the inequalities of the soil would indeed be
irksome and useless were it not connected with more general

At the distance of six miles from the island of Piedra Raton we
passed, first, on the east, the mouth of the Rio Sipapo, called Tipapu
by the Indians; and then, on the west, the mouth of the Rio Vichada.
Near the latter are some rocks covered by the water, that form a small
cascade or raudalito. The Rio Sipapo, which Father Gili went up in
1757, and which he says is twice as broad as the Tiber, comes from a
considerable chain of mountains, which in its southern part bears the
name of the river, and joins the group of Calitamini and of Cunavami.
Next to the Peak of Duida, which rises above the mission of Esmeralda,
the Cerros of Sipapo appeared to me the most lofty of the whole
Cordillera of Parima. They form an immense wall of rocks, shooting up
abruptly from the plain, its craggy ridge of running from
south-south-east to north-north-west. I believe these crags, these
indentations, which equally occur in the sandstone of Montserrat in
Catalonia,* (* From them the name of Montserrat is derived, Monte
Serrato signifying a mountain ridged or jagged like a saw.) are owing
to blocks of granite heaped together. The Cerros de Sipapo wear a
different aspect every hour of the day. At sunrise the thick
vegetation with which these mountains are clothed is tinged with that
dark green inclining to brown, which is peculiar to a region where
trees with coriaceous leaves prevail. Broad and strong shadows are
projected on the neighbouring plain, and form a contrast with the
vivid light diffused over the ground, in the air, and on the surface
of the waters. But towards noon, when the sun reaches its zenith,
these strong shadows gradually disappear, and the whole group is
veiled by an aerial vapour of a much deeper azure than that of the
lower regions of the celestial vault. These vapours, circulating
around the rocky ridge, soften its outline, temper the effects of the
light, and give the landscape that aspect of calmness and repose which
in nature, as in the works of Claude Lorraine and Poussin, arises from
the harmony of forms and colours.

Cruzero, the powerful chief of the Guaypunaves, long resided behind
the mountains of Sipapo, after having quitted with his warlike horde
the plains between the Rio Inirida and the Chamochiquini. The Indians
told us that the forests which cover the Sipapo abound in the climbing
plant called vehuco de maimure. This species of liana is celebrated
among the Indians, and serves for making baskets and weaving mats. The
forests of Sipapo are altogether unknown, and there the missionaries
place the nation of the Rayas,* whose mouths are believed to be in
their navels.

(* Rays, on account of the pretended analogy with the fish of this
name, the mouth of which seems as if forced downwards below the body.
This singular legend has been spread far and wide over the earth.
Shakespeare has described Othello as recounting marvellous tales:

"of cannibals that do each other eat:
Of Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.")

An old Indian, whom we met at Carichana, and who boasted of having
often eaten human flesh, had seen these acephali "with his own eyes."
These absurd fables are spread as far as the Llanos, where you are not
always permitted to doubt the existence of the Raya Indians. In every
zone intolerance accompanies credulity; and it might be said that the
fictions of ancient geographers had passed from one hemisphere to the
other, did we not know that the most fantastic productions of the
imagination, like the works of nature, furnish everywhere a certain
analogy of aspect and of form.

We landed at the mouth of the Rio Vichada or Visata to examine the
plants of that part of the country. The scenery is very singular. The
forest is thin, and an innumerable quantity of small rocks rise from
the plain. These form massy prisms, ruined pillars, and solitary
towers fifteen or twenty feet high. Some are shaded by the trees of
the forest, others have their summits crowned with palms. These rocks
are of granite passing into gneiss. At the confluence of the Vichada
the rocks of granite, and what is still more remarkable, the soil
itself, are covered with moss and lichens. These latter resemble the
Cladonia pyxidata and the Lichen rangiferinus, so common in the north
of Europe. We could scarcely persuade ourselves that we were elevated
less than one hundred toises above the level of the sea, in the fifth
degree of latitude, in the centre of the torrid zone, which has so
long been thought to be destitute of cryptogamous plants. The mean
temperature of this shady and humid spot probably exceeds twenty-six
degrees of the centigrade thermometer. Reflecting on the small
quantity of rain which had hitherto fallen, we were surprised at the
beautiful verdure of the forests. This peculiarity characterises the
valley of the Upper Orinoco; on the coast of Caracas, and in the
Llanos, the trees in winter (in the season called summer in South
America, north of the equator) are stripped of their leaves, and the
ground is covered only with yellow and withered grass. Between the
solitary rocks just described arise some high plants of columnar
cactus (Cactus septemangularis), a very rare appearance south of the
cataracts of Atures and Maypures.

Amid this picturesque scene M. Bonpland was fortunate enough to find
several specimens of Laurus cinnamomoides, a very aromatic species of
cinnamon, known at the Orinoco by the names of varimacu and of
canelilla.* (* The diminutive of the Spanish word canela, which
signifies cinnamon.) This valuable production is found also in the
valley of the Rio Caura, as well as near Esmeralda, and eastward of
the Great Cataracts. The Jesuit Francisco de Olmo appears to have been
the first who discovered the canelilla, which he did in the country of
the Piaroas, near the sources of the Cataniapo. The missionary Gili,
who did not advance so far as the regions I am now describing, seems
to confound the varimacu, or guarimacu, with the myristica, or
nutmeg-tree of America. These barks and aromatic fruits, the cinnamon,
the nutmeg, the Myrtus pimenta, and the Laurus pucheri, would have
become important objects of trade, if Europe, at the period of the
discovery of the New World, had not already been accustomed to the
spices and aromatics of India. The cinnamon of the Orinoco, and that
of the Andaquies missions, are, however, less aromatic than the
cinnamon of Ceylon, and would still be so even if dried and prepared
by similar processes.

Every hemisphere produces plants of a different species; and it is not
by the diversity of climates that we can attempt to explain why
equinoctial Africa has no laurels, and the New World no heaths; why
calceolariae are found wild only in the southern hemisphere; why the
birds of the East Indies glow with colours less splendid than those of
the hot parts of America; finally, why the tiger is peculiar to Asia,
and the ornithorynchus to Australia. In the vegetable as well as in
the animal kingdom, the causes of the distribution of the species are
among the mysteries which natural philosophy cannot solve. The
attempts made to explain the distribution of various species on the
globe by the sole influence of climate, take their date from a period
when physical geography was still in its infancy; when, recurring
incessantly to pretended contrasts between the two worlds, it was
imagined that the whole of Africa and of America resembled the deserts
of Egypt and the marshes of Cayenne. At present, when men judge of the
state of things not from one type arbitrarily chosen, but from
positive knowledge, it is ascertained that the two continents, in
their immense extent, contain countries that are altogether analogous.
There are regions of America as barren and burning as the interior of
Africa. Those islands which produce the spices of India are scarcely
remarkable for their dryness; and it is not on account of the humidity
of the climate, as has been affirmed in recent works, that the New
Continent is deprived of those fine species of lauriniae and
myristicae, which are found united in one little corner of the earth
in the archipelago of India. For some years past cinnamon has been
cultivated with success in several parts of the New Continent; and a
zone that produces the coumarouna, the vanilla, the pucheri, the
pine-apple, the pimento, the balsam of tolu, the Myroxylon peruvianum,
the croton, the citroma, the pejoa, the incienso of the Silla of
Caracas, the quereme, the pancratium, and so many majestic liliaceous
plants, cannot be considered as destitute of aromatics. Besides, a dry
air favours the development of the aromatic or exciting properties,
only in certain species of plants. The most inveterate poisons are
produced in the most humid zone of America; and it is precisely under
the influence of the long rains of the tropics that the American
pimento (Capsicum baccatum), the fruit of which is often as caustic
and fiery as Indian pepper, vegetates best. From all these
considerations it follows, first, that the New Continent possesses
spices, aromatics, and very active vegetable poisons, peculiar to
itself, and differing specifically from those of the Old World;
secondly, that the primitive distribution of species in the torrid
zone cannot be explained by the influence of climate solely, or by the
distribution of temperature, which we observe in the present state of
our planet; but that this difference of climates leads us to perceive
why a given type of organization develops itself more vigorously in
such or such local circumstances. We can conceive that a small number
of the families of plants, for instance the musaceae and the palms,
cannot belong to very cold regions, on account of their internal
structure, and the importance of certain organs; but we cannot explain
why no one of the family of the Melastomaceae vegetates north of the
parallel of the thirtieth degree of latitude, or why no rose-tree
belongs to the southern hemisphere. Analogy of climates is often found
in the two continents, without identity of productions.

The Rio Vichada, which has a small raudal at its confluence with the
Orinoco, appeared to me, next to the Meta and the Guaviare, to be the
most considerable river coming from the west. During the last forty
years no European has navigated the Vichada. I could learn nothing of
its sources; they rise, I believe, with those of the Tomo, in the
plains that extend to the south of Casimena. Fugitive Indians of Santa
Rosalia de Cabapuna, a village situate on the banks of the Meta, have
arrived even recently, by the Rio Vichada, at the cataract of
Maypures; which sufficiently proves that the sources of this river are
not very distant from the Meta. Father Gumilla has preserved the names
of several German and Spanish Jesuits, who in 1734 fell victims to
their zeal for religion, by the hands of the Caribs on the now desert
banks of the Vichada.

Having passed the Cano Pirajavi on the east, and then a small river on
the west, which issues, as the Indians say, from a lake called Nao, we
rested for the night on the shore of the Orinoco, at the mouth of the
Zama, a very considerable river, but as little known as the Vichada.
Notwithstanding the black waters of the Zama, we suffered greatly from
insects. The night was beautiful, without a breath of wind in the
lower regions of the atmosphere, but towards two in the morning we saw
thick clouds crossing the zenith rapidly from east to west. When,
declining toward the horizon, they traversed the great nebulae of
Sagittarius and the Ship, they appeared of a dark blue. The light of
the nebulae is never more splendid than when they are in part covered
by sweeping clouds. We observe the same phenomenon in Europe in the
Milky Way, in the aurora borealis when it beams with a silvery light;
and at the rising and setting of the sun in that part of the sky that
is whitened* from causes which philosophers have not yet sufficiently
explained. (* The dawn: in French aube (alba, albente coelo.))

The vast tract of country lying between the Meta, the Vichada, and the
Guaviare, is altogether unknown a league from the banks; but it is
believed to be inhabited by wild Indians of the tribe of Chiricoas,
who fortunately build no boats. Formerly, when the Caribs, and their
enemies the Cabres, traversed these regions with their little fleets
of rafts and canoes, it would have been imprudent to have passed the
night near the mouth of a river running from the west. The little
settlements of the Europeans having now caused the independent Indians
to retire from the banks of the Upper Orinoco, the solitude of these
regions is such, that from Carichana to Javita, and from Esmeralda to
San Fernando de Atabapo, during a course of one hundred and eighty
leagues, we did not meet a single boat.

At the mouth of the Rio Zama we approach a class of rivers, that
merits great attention. The Zama, the Mataveni, the Atabapo, the
Tuamini, the Temi, and the Guainia, are aguas negras, that is, their
waters, seen in a large body, appear brown like coffee, or of a
greenish black. These waters, notwithstanding, are most beautiful,
clear, and agreeable to the taste. I have observed above, that the
crocodiles, and, if not the zancudos, at least the mosquitos,
generally shun the black waters. The people assert too, that these
waters do not colour the rocks; and that the white rivers have black
borders, while the black rivers have white. In fact, the shores of the
Guainia, known to Europeans by the name of the Rio Negro, frequently
exhibit masses of quartz issuing from granite, and of a dazzling
whiteness. The waters of the Mataveni, when examined in a glass, are
pretty white; those of the Atabapo retain a slight tinge of
yellowish-brown. When the least breath of wind agitates the surface of
these black rivers they appear of a fine grass-green, like the lakes
of Switzerland. In the shade, the Zama, the Atabapo, and the Guainia,
are as dark as coffee-grounds. These phenomena are so striking, that
the Indians everywhere distinguish the waters by the terms black and
white. The former have often served me for an artificial horizon; they
reflect the image of the stars with admirable clearness.

The colour of the waters of springs, rivers, and lakes, ranks among
those physical problems which it is difficult, if not impossible, to
solve by direct experiments. The tints of reflected light are
generally very different from the tints of transmitted light;
particularly when the transmission takes place through a great portion
of fluid. If there were no absorption of rays, the transmitted light
would be of a colour corresponding with that of the reflected light;
and in general we judge imperfectly of transmitted light, by filling
with water a shallow glass with a narrow aperture. In a river, the
colour of the reflected light comes to us always from the interior
strata of the fluid, and not from the upper stratum.

Some celebrated naturalists, who have examined the purest waters of
the glaciers, and those which flow from mountains covered with
perpetual snow, where the earth is destitute of the relics of
vegetation, have thought that the proper colour of water might be
blue, or green. Nothing, in fact, proves, that water is by nature
white; and we must always admit the presence of a colouring principle,
when water viewed by reflection is coloured. In the rivers that
contain a colouring principle, that principle is generally so little
in quantity, that it eludes all chemical research. The tints of the
ocean seem often to depend neither on the nature of the bottom, nor on
the reflection of the sky on the clouds. Sir Humphrey Davy was of
opinion that the tints of different seas may very likely be owing to
different proportions of iodine.

On consulting the geographers of antiquity, we find that the Greeks
had noticed the blue waters of Thermopylae, the red waters of Joppa,
and the black waters of the hot-baths of Astyra, opposite Lesbos. Some
rivers, the Rhone for instance, near Geneva, have a decidedly blue
colour. It is said, that the snow-waters of the Alps are sometimes of
a dark emerald green. Several lakes of Savoy and of Peru have a brown
colour approaching black. Most of these phenomena of coloration are
observed in waters that are believed to be the purest; and it is
rather from reasonings founded on analogy, than from any direct
analysis, that we may throw any light on so uncertain a matter. In the
vast system of rivers near the mouth of the Rio Zama, a fact which
appears to me remarkable is, that the black waters are principally
restricted to the equatorial regions. They begin about five degrees of
north latitude; and abound thence to beyond the equator as far as
about two degrees of south latitude. The mouth of the Rio Negro is
indeed in the latitude of 3 degrees 9 minutes; but in this interval
the black and white waters are so singularly mingled in the forests
and the savannahs, that we know not to what cause the coloration must
be attributed. The waters of the Cassiquiare, which fall into the Rio
Negro, are as white as those of the Orinoco, from which it issues. Of
two tributary streams of the Cassiquiare very near each other, the
Siapa and the Pacimony, one is white, the other black.

When the Indians are interrogated respecting the causes of these
strange colorations, they answer, as questions in natural philosophy
or physiology are sometimes answered in Europe, by repeating the fact
in other terms. If you address yourself to the missionaries, they
reply, as if they had the most convincing proofs of the fact, that the
waters are coloured by washing the roots of the sarsaparilla. The
Smilaceae no doubt abound on the banks of the Rio Negro, the Pacimony,
and the Cababury; their roots, macerated in the water, yield an
extractive matter, that is brown, bitter, and mucilaginous; but how
many tufts of smilax have we seen in places, where the waters were
entirely white. In the marshy forest which we traversed, to convey our
canoe from the Rio Tuamini to the Cano Pimichin and the Rio Negro,
why, in the same soil, did we ford alternately rivulets of black and
white water? Why did we find no river white near its springs, and
black in the lower part of its course? I know not whether the Rio
Negro preserves its yellowish brown colour as far as its mouth,
notwithstanding the great quantity of white water it receives from the
Cassiquiare and the Rio Blanco.

Although, on account of the abundance of rain, vegetation is more
vigorous close to the equator than eight or ten degrees north or
south, it cannot be affirmed, that the rivers with black waters rise
principally in the most shady and thickest forests. On the contrary, a
great number of the aguas negras come from the open savannahs that
extend from the Meta beyond the Guaviare towards the Caqueta. In a
journey which I made with Senor Montufar from the port of Guayaquil to
the Bodegas de Babaojo, at the period of the great inundations, I was
struck by the analogy of colour displayed by the vast savannahs of the
Invernadero del Garzal and of the Lagartero, as well as by the Rio
Negro and the Atabapo. These savannahs, partly inundated during three
months, are composed of paspalum, eriochloa, and several species of
cyperaceae. We sailed on waters that were from four to five feet deep;
their temperature was by day from 33 to 34 degrees of the centigrade
thermometer; they exhaled a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, to
which no doubt some rotten plants of arum and heliconia, that swam on
the surface of the pools, contributed. The waters of the Lagartero
were of a golden yellow by transmitted, and coffee-brown by reflected
light. They are no doubt coloured by a carburet of hydrogen. An
analogous phenomenon is observed in the dunghill-waters prepared by
our gardeners, and in the waters that issue from bogs. May we not also
admit, that it is a mixture of carbon and hydrogen, an extractive
vegetable matter, that colours the black rivers, the Atabapo, the
Zama, the Mataveni, and the Guainia? The frequency of the equatorial
rains contributes no doubt to this coloration by filtration through a
thick mass of grasses. I suggest these ideas only in the form of a
doubt. The colouring principle seems to be in little abundance; for I
observed that the waters of the Guainia or Rio Negro, when subjected
to ebullition, do not become brown like other fluids charged with
carburets of hydrogen.

It is also very remarkable, that this phenomenon of black waters,
which might be supposed to belong only to the low regions of the
torrid zone, is found also, though rarely, on the table-lands of the
Andes. The town of Cuenca in the kingdom of Quito, is surrounded by
three small rivers, the Machangara, the Rio del Matadero, and the
Yanuncai; of which the two former are white, and the waters of the
last are black (aguas negras). These waters, like those of the
Atabapo, are of a coffee-colour by reflection, and pale yellow by
transmission. They are very clear, and the inhabitants of Cuenca, who
drink them in preference to any other, attribute their colour to the
sarsaparilla, which it is said grows abundantly on the banks of the
Rio Yanuncai.

We left the mouth of the Zama at five in the morning of the 23rd of
April. The river continued to be skirted on both sides by a thick
forest. The mountains on the east seemed gradually to retire farther
back. We passed first the mouth of the Rio Mataveni, and afterward an
islet of a very singular form; a square granitic rock that rises in
the middle of the water. It is called by the missionaries El
Castillito, or the Little Castle. Black bands seem to indicate, that
the highest swellings of the Orinoco do not rise at this place above
eight feet; and that the great swellings observed lower down are owing
to the tributary streams which flow into it north of the raudales of
Atures and Maypures. We passed the night on the right bank opposite
the mouth of the Rio Siucurivapu, near a rock called Aricagua. During
the night an innumerable quantity of bats issued from the clefts of
the rock, and hovered around our hammocks.

On the 24th a violent rain obliged us early to return to our boat. We
departed at two o'clock, after having lost some books, which we could
not find in the darkness of the night, on the rock of Aricagua. The
river runs straight from south to north; its banks are low, and shaded
on both sides by thick forests. We passed the mouths of the Ucata, the
Arapa, and the Caranaveni. About four in the afternoon we landed at
the Conucos de Siquita, the Indian plantations of the mission of San
Fernando. The good people wished to detain us among them, but we
continued to go up against the current, which ran at the rate of five
feet a second, according to a measurement I made by observing the time
that a floating body took to go down a given distance. We entered the
mouth of the Guaviare on a dark night, passed the point where the Rio
Atabapo joins the Guaviare, and arrived at the mission after midnight.
We were lodged as usual at the Convent, that is, in the house of the
missionary, who, though much surprised at our unexpected visit,
nevertheless received us with the kindest hospitality.


If, in the philosophical study of the structure of languages, the
analogy of a few roots acquires value only when they can be
geographically connected together, neither is the want of resemblance
in roots any very strong proof against the common origin of nations.
In the different dialects of the Totonac language (that of one of the
most ancient tribes of Mexico) the sun and the moon have names which
custom has rendered entirely different. This difference is found among
the Caribs between the language of men and women; a phenomenon that
probably arises from the circumstance that, among prisoners, men were
oftener put to death than women. Females introduced by degrees words
of a foreign language into the Caribbee; and, as the girls followed
the occupations of the women much more than the boys, a language was
formed peculiar to the women. I shall record in this note the names of
the sun and moon in a great number of American and Asiatic idioms,
again reminding the reader of the uncertainty of all judgments founded
merely on the comparison of solitary words.






Eastern Esquimaux (Greenland) : Ajut, kaumat, sakanach : Anningat,
kaumei, tatcok.

Western Esquimaux (Kadjak) : Tschingugak, madschak : Igaluk, tangeik.

Ojibbeway : Kissis : Debicot.

Delaware : Natatane : Keyshocof.

Nootka : Opulszthl : Omulszthl.

Otomi : Hindi : Zana.

Aztec or Mexican : Tonatiuh : Meztli.

Cora : Taica : Maitsaca.

Huasteca : Aquicha : Aytz.

Muysca : Zuhe (sua) : Chia.

Yaruro : ditto : Goppe.

Caribbee and Tamanac : Veiou (hueiou) : Nouno (nonum).

Maypure : Kie : Kejapi.

Lule : Inni : Allit.

Vilela : Olo : Copi.

Moxo : Sachi : Cohe.

Chiquito : Suus : Copi.

Guarani : Quarasi : Jasi.

Tupi (Brasil) : Coaracy : Iacy.

Peruvian (Quichua) : Inti : Quilla.

Araucan (Chili) : Antu : Cuyen.


Mongol : Nara (naran) : Sara (saran).

Mantchou : Choun : Bia.

Tschaghatai : Koun : Ay.

Ossete (of Caucasus) : Khourr : Mai.

Tibetan : Niyma : Rdjawa.

Chinese : Jy : Yue.

Japanese : Fi : Tsouki.

Sanscrit : Surya, aryama, mitra, aditya, arka, hamsa : Tschandra,
tschandrama, soma, masi.

Persian : Chor, chorschid, afitab : Mah.

Zend : Houere.

Pehlvi : Schemschia, zabzoba, kokma : Kokma.

Phoenician : Schemesih.

Hebrew : Schemesch : Yarea.

Aramean or Chaldean : Schimscha : Yarha.

Syrian : Schemscho : Yarho.

Arabic : Schams : Kamar.

Ethiopian : Tzabay : Warha.

The American words are written according to the Spanish orthography. I
would not change the orthography of the Nootka word onulszth, taken
from Cook's Voyages, to show how much Volney's idea of introducing an
uniform notation of sounds is worthy of attention, if not applied to
the languages of the East written without vowels. In onulszth there
are four signs for one single consonant. We have already seen that
American nations, speaking languages of a very different structure,
call the sun by the same name; that the moon is sometimes called
sleeping sun, sun of night, light of night; and that sometimes the two
orbs have the same denomination. These examples are taken from the
Guarany, the Omagua, Shawanese, Miami, Maco, and Ojibbeway idioms.
Thus in the Old World, the sun and moon are denoted in Arabic by
niryn, the luminaries; thus, in Persian, the most common words, afitab
and chorschid, are compounds. By the migration of tribes from Asia to
America, and from America to Asia, a certain number of roots have
passed from one language into others; and these roots have been
transported, like the fragments of a shipwreck, far from the coast,
into the islands. (Sun, in New England, kone; in Tschagatai, koun; in
Yakout, kouini. Star, in Huastec, ot; in Mongol, oddon; in Aztec,
citlal, citl; in Persian, sitareh. House, in Aztec, calli; in Wogoul,
kualla or kolla. Water, in Aztec, atel (itels, a river, in Vilela); in
Mongol, Tscheremiss, and Tschouvass, atl, atelch, etel, or idel.
Stone, in Caribbee, tebou; in the Lesgian of Caucasus, teb; in Aztec,
tepetl; in Turkish, tepe. Food, in Quichua, micunnan; in Malay,
macannon. Boat, in Haitian, canoa; in Ayno, cahani; in Greenlandish,
kayak; in Turkish, kayik; in Samoyiede, kayouk; in the Germanic
tongues, kahn.) But we must distinguish from these foreign elements
what belongs fundamentally to the American idioms themselves. Such is
the effect of time, and communication among nations, that the mixture
with an heterogenous language has not only an influence upon roots,
but most frequently ends by modifying and denaturalizing grammatical
forms. "When a language resists a regular analysis," observes William
von Humboldt, in his considerations on the Mexican, Cora, Totonac, and
Tarahumar tongues, "we may suspect some mixture, some foreign
influence; for the faculties of man, which are, as we may say,
reflected in the structure of languages, and in their grammatical
forms, act constantly in a regular and uniform manner."



During the night, we had left, almost unperceived, the waters of the
Orinoco; and at sunrise found ourselves as if transported to a new
country, on the banks of a river the name of which we had scarcely
ever heard pronounced, and which was to conduct us, by the portage of
Pimichin, to the Rio Negro, on the frontiers of Brazil. "You will go
up," said the president of the missions, who resides at San Fernando,
"first the Atabapo, then the Temi, and finally, the Tuamini. When the
force of the current of black waters hinders you from advancing, you
will be conducted out of the bed of the river through forests, which
you will find inundated. Two monks only are settled in those desert
places, between the Orinoco and the Rio Negro; but at Javita you will
be furnished with the means of having your canoe drawn over land in
the course of four days to Cano Pimichin. If it be not broken to
pieces you will descend the Rio Negro without any obstacle (from
north-west to south-east) as far as the little fort of San Carlos; you
will go up the Cassiquiare (from south to north), and then return to
San Fernando in a month, descending the Upper Orinoco from east to
west." Such was the plan traced for our passage, and we carried it
into effect without danger, though not without some suffering, in the
space of thirty-three days. The Orinoco runs from its source, or at
least from Esmeralda, as far as San Fernando de Atabapo, from east to
west; from San Fernando, (where the junction of the Guaviare and the
Atabapo takes place,) as far as the mouth of the Rio Apure, it flows
from south to north, forming the Great Cataracts; and from the mouth
of the Apure as far as Angostura and the coast of the Atlantic its
direction is from west to east. In the first part of its course, where
the river flows from east to west, it forms that celebrated
bifurcation so often disputed by geographers, of which I was the first
enabled to determine the situation by astronomical observations. One
arm of the Orinoco, (the Cassiquiare,) running from north to south,
falls into the Guainia, or Rio Negro, which, in its turn, joins the
Maranon, or river Amazon. The most natural way, therefore, to go from
Angostura to Grand Para, would be to ascend the Orinoco as far as
Esmeralda, and then to go down the Cassiquiare, the Rio Negro, and the
Amazon; but, as the Rio Negro in the upper part of its course
approaches very near the sources of some rivers that fall into the
Orinoco near San Fernando de Atabapo (where the Orinoco abruptly
changes its direction from east to west to take that from south to
north), the passage up that part of the river between San Fernando and
Esmeralda, in order to reach the Rio Negro, may be avoided. Leaving
the Orinoco near the mission of San Fernando, the traveller proceeds
up the little black rivers (the Atabapo, the Temi, and the Tuamini),
and the boats are carried across an isthmus six thousand toises broad,
to the banks of a stream (the Cano Pimichin) which flows into the Rio
Negro. This was the course which we took.

The road from San Carlos to San Fernando de Atabapo is far more
disagreeable, and is half as long again by the Cassiquiare as by
Javita and the Cano Pimichin. In this region I determined, by means of
a chronometer by Berthoud, and by the meridional heights of stars, the
situation of San Balthasar de Atabapo, Javita, San Carlos del Rio
Negro, the rock Culimacavi, and Esmeralda. When no roads exist save
tortuous and intertwining rivers, when little villages are hidden amid
thick forests, and when, in a country entirely flat, no mountain, no
elevated object is visible from two points at once, it is only in the
sky that we can read where we are upon the earth.

San Fernando de Atabapo stands near the confluence of three great
rivers; the Orinoco, the Guaviare, and the Atabapo. Its situation is
similar to that of Saint Louis or of New Madrid, at the junction of
the Mississippi with the Missouri and the Ohio. In proportion as the
activity of commerce increases in these countries traversed by immense
rivers, the towns situated at their confluence will necessarily become
bustling ports, depots of merchandise, and centre points of
civilization. Father Gumilla confesses, that in his time no person had
any knowledge of the course of the Orinoco above the mouth of the

D'Anville, in the first edition of his great map of South America,
laid down the Rio Negro as an arm of the Orinoco, that branched off
from the principal body of the river between the mouths of the Meta
and the Vichada, near the cataract of Atures. That great geographer
was entirely ignorant of the existence of the Cassiquiare and the
Atabapo; and he makes the Orinoco or Rio Paragua, the Japura, and the
Putumayo, take their rise from three branchings of the Caqueta. The
expedition of the boundaries, commanded by Iturriaga and Solano,
corrected these errors. Solano, who was the geographical engineer of
this expedition, advanced in 1756 as far as the mouth of the Guaviare,
after having passed the Great Cataracts. He found that, to continue to
go up the Orinoco, he must direct his course towards the east; and
that the river received, at the point of its great inflection, in
latitude 4 degrees 4 minutes, the waters of the Guaviare, which two
miles higher had received those of the Atabapo. Interested in
approaching the Portuguese possessions as near as possible, Solano
resolved to proceed onward to the south. At the confluence of the
Atabapo and the Guaviare he found an Indian settlement of the warlike
nation of the Guaypunaves. He gained their favour by presents, and
with their aid founded the mission of San Fernando, to which he gave
the appellation of villa, or town.

To make known the political importance of this Mission, we must
recollect what was at that period the balance of power between the
petty Indian tribes of Guiana. The banks of the Lower Orinoco had been
long ensanguined by the obstinate struggle between two powerful
nations, the Cabres and the Caribs. The latter, whose principal abode
since the close of the seventeenth century has been between the
sources of the Carony, the Essequibo, the Orinoco, and the Rio Parima,
once not only held sway as far as the Great Cataracts, but made
incursions also into the Upper Orinoco, employing portages between the
Paruspa* (* The Rio Paruspa falls into the Rio Paragua, and the latter
into the Rio Carony, which is one of the tributary streams of the
Lower Orinoco. There is also an ancient portage of the Caribs between
the Paruspa and the Rio Chavaro, which flows into the Rio Caura above
the mouth of the Erevato. In going up the Erevato you reach the
savannahs that are traversed by the Rio Manipiare above the tributary
streams of the Ventuari. The Caribs in their distant excursions
sometimes passed from the Rio Caura to the Ventuari, thence to the
Padamo, and then by the Upper Orinoco to the Atacavi, which, westward
of Manuteso, takes the name of the Atabapo.) and the Caura, the
Erevato and the Ventuari, the Conorichite and the Atacavi. None knew
better than the Caribs the intertwinings of the rivers, the proximity
of the tributary streams, and the roads by which distances might be
diminished. The Caribs had vanquished and almost exterminated the
Cabres. Having made themselves masters of the Lower Orinoco, they met
with resistance from the Guaypunaves, who had founded their dominion
on the Upper Orinoco; and who, together with the Cabres, the
Manitivitanos, and the Parenis, are the greatest cannibals of these
countries. They originally inhabited the banks of the great river
Inirida, at its confluence with the Chamochiquini, and the hilly
country of Mabicore. About the year 1744, their chief, or as the
natives call him, their king (apoto), was named Macapu. He was a man
no less distinguished by his intelligence than his valour; had led a
part of the nation to the banks of the Atabapo; and when the Jesuit
Roman made his memorable expedition from the Orinoco to the Rio Negro,
Macapu suffered that missionary to take with him some families of the
Guaypunaves to settle them at Uruana, and near the cataract of
Maypures. This people are connected by their language with the great
branch of the Maypure nations. They are more industrious, we might
also say more civilized, than the other nations of the Upper Orinoco.
The missionaries relate, that the Guaypunaves, at the time of their
sway in those countries, were generally clothed, and had considerable
villages. After the death of Macapu, the command devolved on another
warrior, Cuseru, called by the Spaniards El capitan Cusero. He
established lines of defence on the banks of the Inirida, with a kind
of little fort, constructed of earth and timber. The piles were more
than sixteen feet high, and surrounded both the house of the apoto and
a magazine of bows and arrows. These structures, remarkable in a
country in other respects so wild, have been described by Father

The Marepizanas and the Manitivitanos were the preponderant nations on
the banks of the Rio Negro. The former had for its chiefs, about the
year 1750, two warriors called Imu and Cajamu. The king of the
Manitivitanos was Cocuy, famous for his cruelty. The chiefs of the
Guaypunaves and the Manitivitanos fought with small bodies of two or
three hundred men; but in their protracted struggles they destroyed
the missions, in some of which the poor monks had only fifteen or
twenty Spanish soldiers at their disposal. When the expedition of
Iturriaga and Solano arrived at the Orinoco, the missions had no
longer to fear the incursions of the Caribs. Cuseru, the chief of the
Guaypunaves, had fixed his dwelling behind the granitic mountains of
Sipapo. He was the friend of the Jesuits; but other nations of the
Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro, led by Imu, Cajamu, and Cocuy,
penetrated from time to time to the north of the Great Cataracts. They
had other motives for fighting than that of hatred; they hunted men,
as was formerly the custom of the Caribs, and is still the practice in
Africa. Sometimes they furnished slaves (poitos) to the Dutch (in
their language, Paranaquiri--inhabitants of the sea); sometimes they
sold them to the Portuguese (Iaranavi--sons of musicians).* (* The
savage tribes designate every commercial nation of Europe by surnames,
the origin of which appears altogether accidental. The Spaniards were
called clothed men, Pongheme or Uavemi, by way of distinction.) In
America, as in Africa, the cupidity of the Europeans has produced the
same evils, by exciting the natives to make war, in order to procure
slaves. Everywhere the contact of nations, widely different from each
other in the scale of civilization, leads to the abuse of physical
strength, and of intellectual preponderance. The Phoenicians and
Carthaginians formerly sought slaves in Europe. Europe now presses in
her turn both on the countries whence she gathered the first germs of
science, and on those where she now almost involuntarily spreads them
by carrying thither the produce of her industry.

I have faithfully recorded what I could collect on the state of these
countries, where the vanquished nations have become gradually extinct,
leaving no other signs of their existence than a few words of their
language, mixed with that of the conquerors. In the north, beyond the
cataracts, the preponderant nations were at first the Caribs and the
Cabres; towards the south, on the Upper Orinoco, the Guaypunaves; and
on the Rio Negro, the Marepizanos and the Manitivitanos. The long
resistance which the Cabres, united under a valiant chief, had made to
the Caribs, became fatal to the latter subsequently to the year 1720.
They at first vanquished their enemies near the mouth of the Rio
Caura; and a great number of Caribs perished in a precipitate flight,
between the rapids of Torno and the Isla del Infierno. The prisoners
were devoured; and, by one of those refinements of cunning and cruelty
which are common to the savage nations of both North and South
America, the Cabres spared the life of one Carib, whom they forced to
climb up a tree to witness this barbarous spectacle, and carry back
the tidings to the vanquished. The triumph of Tep, the chief of the
Cabres, was but of short duration. The Caribs returned in such great
numbers that only a feeble remnant of the Cabres was left on the banks
of the Cuchivero.

Cocuy and Cuseru were carrying on a war of extermination on the Upper
Orinoco when Solano arrived at the mouth of the Guaviare. The former
had embraced the cause of the Portuguese; the latter was a friend of
the Jesuits, and gave them warning whenever the Manitivitanos were
marching against the christian establishments of Atures and Carichana.
Cuseru became a christian only a few days before his death; but in
battle he had for some time worn on his left hip a crucifix, given him
by the missionaries, and which he believed rendered him invulnerable.
We were told an anecdote that paints the violence of his character. He
had married the daughter of an Indian chief of the Rio Temi. In a
paroxysm of rage against his father-in-law, he declared to his wife
that he was going to fight against him. She reminded him of the
courage and singular strength of her father; when Cuseru, without
uttering a single word, took a poisoned arrow, and plunged it into her
bosom. The arrival of a small body of Spaniards in 1756, under the
order of Solano, awakened suspicion in this chief of the Guaypunaves.
He was on the point of attempting a contest with them, when the
Jesuits made him sensible that it would be his interest to remain at
peace with the Christians. Whilst dining at the table of the Spanish
general, Cuseru was allured by promises, and the prediction of the
approaching fall of his enemies. From being a king he became the mayor
of a village; and consented to settle with his people at the new
mission of San Fernando de Atabapo. Such is most frequently the end of
those chiefs whom travellers and missionaries style Indian princes.
"In my mission," says the honest father Gili "I had five reyecillos,
or petty kings, those of the Tamanacs, the Avarigotes, the Parecas,
the Quaquas, and the Maypures. At church I placed them in file on the
same bench; but I took care to give the first place to Monaiti, king
of the Tamanacs, because he had helped me to found the village; and he
seemed quite proud of this precedency."

When Cuseru, the chief of the Guaypunaves, saw the Spanish troops pass
the cataracts, he advised Don Jose Solano to wait a whole year before
he formed a settlement on the Atabapo; predicting the misfortunes
which were not slow to arrive. "Let me labour with my people in
clearing the ground," said Cuseru to the Jesuits; I will plant
cassava, and you will find hereafter wherewith to feed all these men."
Solano, impatient to advance, refused to listen to the counsel of the
Indian chief, and the new inhabitants of San Fernando had to suffer
all the evils of scarcity. Canoes were sent at a great expense to New
Grenada, by the Meta and the Vichada, in search of flour. The
provision arrived too late, and many Spaniards and Indians perished of
those diseases which are produced in every climate by want and moral

Some traces of cultivation are still found at San Fernando. Every
Indian has a small plantation of cacao-trees, which produce abundantly
in the fifth year; but they cease to bear fruit sooner than in the
valleys of Aragua. There are some savannahs and good pasturage round
San Fernando, but hardly seven or eight cows are to be found, the
remains of a considerable herd which was brought into these countries
at the expedition for settling the boundaries. The Indians are a
little more civilized here than in the rest of the missions, and we
found to our surprise a blacksmith of the native race.

In the mission of San Fernando, a tree which gives a peculiar
physiognomy to the landscape, is the piritu or pirijao palm. Its
trunk, armed with thorns, is more than sixty feet high; its leaves are
pinnated, very thin, undulated, and frizzled towards the points. The
fruits of this tree are very extraordinary; every cluster contains
from fifty to eighty; they are yellow like apples, grow purple in
proportion as they ripen, two or three inches thick, and generally,
from abortion, without a kernel. Among the eighty or ninety species of
palm-trees peculiar to the New Continent, which I have enumerated in
the Nova Genera Plantarum Aequinoctialum, there are none in which the
sarcocarp is developed in a manner so extraordinary. The fruit of the
pirijao furnishes a farinaceous substance, as yellow as the yolk of an
egg, slightly saccharine, and extremely nutritious. It is eaten like
plantains or potatoes, boiled or roasted in the ashes, and affords a
wholesome and agreeable aliment. The Indians and the missionaries are
unwearied in their praises of this noble palm-tree, which might be
called the peach-palm. We found it cultivated in abundance at San
Fernando, San Balthasar, Santa Barbara, and wherever we advanced
towards the south or the east along the banks of the Atabapo and the
Upper Orinoco. In those wild regions we are involuntarily reminded of
the assertion of Linnaeus, that the country of palm-trees was the
first abode of our species, and that man is essentially palmivorous.*
(* Homo HABITAT intra tropicos, vescitur palmis, lotophagus;
HOSPITATUR extra tropicos sub novercante Cerere, carnivorus. Man
DWELLS NATURALLY within the tropics, and lives on the fruits of the
palm-tree; he EXISTS in other parts of the world, and there makes
shift to feed on corn and flesh. Syst. Nat. volume 1 page 24.) On
examining the provision accumulated in the huts of the Indians, we
perceive that their subsistence during several months of the year
depends as much on the farinaceous fruit of the pirijao, as on the
cassava and plantain. The tree bears fruit but once a year, but to the
amount of three clusters, consequently from one hundred and fifty to
two hundred fruits.

San Fernando de Atabapo, San Carlos, and San Francisco Solano, are the
most considerable settlements among the missions of the Upper Orinoco.
At San Fernando, as well as in the neighbouring villages of San
Balthasar and Javita, the abodes of the priests are neatly-built
houses, covered by lianas, and surrounded by gardens. The tall trunks
of the pirijao palms were the most beautiful ornaments of these
plantations. In our walks, the president of the mission gave us an
animated account of his incursions on the Rio Guaviare. He related to
us how much these journeys, undertaken "for the conquest of souls;"
are desired by the Indians of the missions. All, even women and old
men, take part in them. Under the pretext of recovering neophytes who
have deserted the village, children above eight or ten years of age
are carried off, and distributed among the Indians of the missions as
serfs, or poitos. According to the astronomical observations I took on
the banks of the Atabapo, and on the western declivity of the
Cordillera of the Andes, near the Paramo de la suma Paz, the distance
is one hundred and seven leagues only from San Fernando to the first
villages of the provinces of Caguan and San Juan de los Llanos. I was
assured also by some Indians, who dwelt formerly to the west of the
island of Amanaveni, beyond the confluence of the Rio Supavi, that
going in a boat on the Guaviare (in the manner of the savages) beyond
the strait (angostura) and the principal cataract, they met, at three
days' distance, bearded and clothed men, who came in search of the
eggs of the terekay turtle. This meeting alarmed the Indians so much,
that they fled precipitately, redescending the Guaviare. It is
probable, that these bearded white men came from the villages of Aroma
and San Martin, the Rio Guaviare being formed by the union of the
rivers Ariari and Guayavero. We must not be surprised that the
missionaries of the Orinoco and the Atabapo little suspect how near
they live to the missionaries of Mocoa, Rio Fragua, and Caguan. In
these desert countries, the real distances can be known only by
observations of the longitude. It was in consequence of astronomical
data, and the information I gathered in the convents of Popayan and of
Pasto, to the west of the Cordillera of the Andes, that I formed an
accurate idea of the respective situations of the christian
settlements on the Atabapo, the Guayavero, and the Caqueta.* (* The
Caqueta bears, lower down, the name of the Yupura.)

Everything changes on entering the Rio Atabapo; the constitution of
the atmosphere, the colour of the waters, and the form of the trees
that cover the shore. You no longer suffer during the day the torment
of mosquitos; and the long-legged gnats (zancudos) become rare during
the night. Beyond the mission of San Fernando these nocturnal insects
disappear altogether. The water of the Orinoco is turbid, and loaded
with earthy matter; and in the coves, from the accumulation of dead
crocodiles and other putrescent substances, it diffuses a musky and
faint smell. We were sometimes obliged to strain this water through a
linen cloth before we drank it. The water of the Atabapo, on the
contrary, is pure, agreeable to the taste, without any trace of smell,
brownish by reflected, and of a pale yellow by transmitted light. The
people call it light, in opposition to the heavy and turbid waters of
the Orinoco. Its temperature is generally two degrees, and when you
approach the mouth of the Rio Temi, three degrees, cooler than the
temperature of the Upper Orinoco. After having been compelled during a
whole year to drink water at 27 or 28 degrees, a lowering of a few
degrees in the temperature produces a very agreeable sensation. I
think this lowering of the temperature may be attributed to the river
being less broad, and without the sandy beach, the heat of which, at
the Orinoco, is by day more than 50 degrees, and also to the thick
shade of the forests which are traversed by the Atabapo, the Temi, the
Tuamini, and the Guainia, or Rio Negro.

The extreme purity of the black waters is proved by their limpidity,
their transparency, and the clearness with which they reflect the
images and colours of surrounding objects. The smallest fish are
visible in them at a depth of twenty or thirty feet; and most commonly
the bottom of the river may be distinguished, which is not a yellowish
or brownish mud, like the colour of the water, but a quartzose and
granitic sand of dazzling whiteness. Nothing can be compared to the
beauty of the banks of the Atabapo. Loaded with plants, among which
rise the palms with feathery leaves; the banks are reflected in the
waters, and this reflex verdure seems to have the same vivid hue as
that which clothes the real vegetation. The surface of the fluid is
homogeneous, smooth, and destitute of that mixture of suspended sand
and decomposed organic matter, which roughens and streaks the surface
of less limpid rivers.

On quitting the Orinoco, several small rapids must be passed, but
without any appearance of danger. Amid these raudalitos, according to
the opinion of the missionaries, the Rio Atabapo falls into the
Orinoco. I am however disposed to think that the Atabapo falls into
the Guaviare. The Rio Guaviare, which is much wider than the Atabapo,
has white waters, and in the aspect of its banks, its fishing-birds,
its fish, and the great crocodiles which live in it, resembles the
Orinoco much more than that part of the Atabapo which comes from the
Esmeralda. When a river springs from the junction of two other rivers,
nearly alike in size, it is difficult to judge which of the two
confluent streams must be regarded as its source. The Indians of San
Fernando affirm that the Orinoco rises from two rivers, the Guaviare
and the Rio Paragua. They give this latter name to the Upper Orinoco,
from San Fernando and Santa Barbara to beyond the Esmeralda, and they
say that the Cassiquiare is not an arm of the Orinoco, but of the Rio
Paragua. It matters but little whether or not the name of Orinoco be
given to the Rio Paragua, provided we trace the course of these rivers
as it is in nature, and do not separate by a chain of mountains, (as
was done previously to my travels,) rivers that communicate together,
and form one system. When we would give the name of a large river to
one of the two branches by which it is formed, it should be applied to
that branch which furnishes most water. Now, at the two seasons of the
year when I saw the Guaviare and the Upper Orinoco or Rio Paragua
(between the Esmeralda and San Fernando), it appeared to me that the
latter was not so large as the Guaviare. Similar doubts have been
entertained by geographers respecting the junction of the Upper
Mississippi with the Missouri and the Ohio, the junction of the
Maranon with the Guallaga and the Ucayale, and the junction of the
Indus with the Chunab (Hydaspes of Cashmere) and the Gurra, or
Sutlej.* (* The Hydaspes is properly a tributary stream of the Chunab
or Acesines. The Sutlej or Hysudrus forms, together with the Beyah or
*** Gurra. These are the beautiful regions of the *** celebrated from
the time of Alexander to the ***) To avoid embroiling farther a
nomenclature of rivers so arbitrarily fixed, I will not propose new
denominations. I shall continue, with Father Caulin and the Spanish
geographers, to call the river Esmeralda the Orinoco, or Upper
Orinoco; but I must observe that if the Orinoco, from San Fernando de
Atabapo as far as the delta which it forms opposite the island of
Trinidad, were regarded as the continuance of the Rio Guaviare, and if
that part of the Upper Orinoco between the Esmeralda and the mission
of San Fernando were considered a tributary stream, the Orinoco would
preserve, from the savannahs of San Juan de los Llanos and the eastern
declivity of the Andes to its mouth, a more uniform and natural
direction, that from south-west to north-east.

The Rio Paragua, or that part of the Orinoco east of the mouth of the
Guaviare, has clearer, more transparent, and purer water than the part
of the Orinoco below San Fernando. The waters of the Guaviare, on the
contrary, are white and turbid; they have the same taste, according to
the Indians (whose organs of sense are extremely delicate and well
practised), as the waters of the Orinoco near the Great Cataracts.
"Bring me the waters of three or four great rivers of these
countries," an old Indian of the mission of Javita said to us; "on
tasting each of them I will tell you, without fear of mistake, whence
it was taken; whether it comes from a white or black river; the
Orinoco or the Atabapo, the Paragua or the Guaviare." The great
crocodiles and porpoises (toninas) which are alike common in the Rio
Guaviare and the Lower Orinoco, are entirely wanting, as we were told,
in the Rio Paragua (or Upper Orinoco, between San Fernando and the
Esmeralda). These are very remarkable differences in the nature of the
waters, and the distribution of animals. The Indians do not fail to
mention them, when they would prove to travellers that the Upper
Orinoco, to the east of San Fernando, is a distinct river which falls
into the Orinoco, and that the real origin of the latter must be
sought in the sources of the Guaviare.

The astronomical observations made in the night of the 25th of April
did not give me the latitude with satisfactory precision. The latitude
of the mission of San Fernando appeared to me to be 4 degrees 2
minutes 48 seconds. In Father Caulin's map, founded on the
observations of Solano made in 1756, it is 4 degrees 1 minute. This
agreement proves the justness of a result which, however, I could only
deduce from altitudes considerably distant from the meridian. A good
observation of the stars at Guapasoso gave me 4 degrees 2 minutes for
San Fernando de Atabapo. I was able to fix the longitude with much
more precision in my way to the Rio Negro, and in returning from that
river. It is 70 degrees 30 minutes 46 seconds (or 4 degrees 0 minutes
west of the meridian of Cumana).

On the 26th of April we advanced only two or three leagues, and passed
the night on a rock near the Indian plantations or conucos of
Guapasoso. The river losing itself by its inundations in the forests,
and its real banks being unseen, the traveller can venture to land
only where a rock or a small table-land rises above the water. The
granite of those countries, owing to the position of the thin laminae
of black mica, sometimes resembles graphic granite; but most
frequently (and this determines the age of its formation) it passes
into a real gneiss. Its beds, very regularly stratified, run from
south-west to north-east, as in the Cordillera on the shore of
Caracas. The dip of the granite-gneiss is 70 degrees north-west. It is
traversed by an infinite number of veins of quartz, which are
singularly transparent, and three or four, and sometimes fifteen
inches thick. I found no cavity (druse), no crystallized substance,
not even rock-crystal; and no trace of pyrites, or any other metallic
substance. I enter into these particulars on account of the chimerical
ideas that have been spread ever since the sixteenth century, after
the voyages of Berreo and Raleigh,* "on the immense riches of the
great and fine empire of Guiana." (* Raleigh's work bears the high
sounding title of The Discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful
Empire of Guiana, London 1596. See also Raleghi admiranda Descriptio
Regni Guianae, auri abundantissimi, Hondius Noribergae 1599.)

The river Atabapo presents throughout a peculiar aspect; you see
nothing of its real banks formed by flat lands eight or ten feet high;
they are concealed by a row of palms, and small trees with slender
trunks, the roots of which are bathed by the waters. There are many
crocodiles from the point where you quit the Orinoco to the mission of
San Fernando, and their presence indicates that this part of the river
belongs to the Rio Guaviare and not to the Atabapo. In the real bed of
the latter river, above the mission of San Fernando, there are no
crocodiles: we find there some bavas, a great many fresh-water
dolphins, but no manatees. We also seek in vain on these banks for the
thick-nosed tapir, the araguato, or great howling monkey, the zamuro,
or Vultur aura, and the crested pheasant, known by the name of
guacharaca. Enormous water-snakes, in shape resembling the boa, are
unfortunately very common, and are dangerous to Indians who bathe. We
saw them almost from the first day we embarked, swimming by the side
of our canoe; they were at most twelve or fourteen feet long. The
jaguars of the banks of the Atabapo and the Temi are large and well
fed; they are said, however, to be less daring than the jaguars of the

The night of the 27th was beautiful; dark clouds passed from time to
time over the zenith with extreme rapidity. Not a breath of wind was
felt in the lower strata of the atmosphere; the breeze was at the
height of a thousand toises. I dwell upon this peculiarity; for the
movement we saw was not produced by the counter-currents (from west to
east) which are sometimes thought to be observed in the torrid zone on
the loftiest mountains of the Cordilleras; it was the effect of a real
breeze, an east wind. We left the conucos of Guapasoso at two o'clock;
and continued to ascend the river toward the south, finding it (or
rather that part of its bed which is free from trees) growing more and
more narrow. It began to rain toward sunrise. In these forests, which
are less inhabited by animals than those of the Orinoco, we no longer
heard the howlings of the monkeys. The dolphins, or toninas, sported
by the side of our boat. According to the relation of Mr. Colebrooke,
the Delphinus gangeticus, which is the fresh-water porpoise of the Old
World, in like manner accompanies the boats that go up towards
Benares; but from Benares to the point where the Ganges receives the
salt waters is only two hundred leagues, while from the Atabapo to the
mouth of the Orinoco is more than three hundred and twenty.

About noon we passed the mouth of the little river Ipurichapano on the
east, and afterwards the granitic rock, known by the name of Piedra
del Tigre. Between the fourth and fifth degrees of latitude, a little
to the south of the mountains of Sipapo, we reach the southern
extremity of that chain of cataracts, which I proposed, in a memoir
published in 1800, to call the Chain of Parima. At 4 degrees 20
minutes it stretches from the right bank of the Orinoco toward the
east and east-south-east. The whole of the land extending from the
mountains of the Parima towards the river Amazon, which is traversed
by the Atabapo, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio Negro, is an immense
plain, covered partly with forests, and partly with grass. Small rocks
rise here and there like castles. We regretted that we had not stopped
to rest near the Piedra del Tigre; for on going up the Atabapo we had
great difficulty to find a spot of dry ground, open and spacious
enough to light a fire, and place our instrument and our hammocks.

On the 28th of April, it rained hard after sunset, and we were afraid
that our collections would be damaged. The poor missionary had his fit
of tertian fever, and besought us to re-embark immediately after
midnight. We passed at day-break the Piedra and the Raudalitos* (* The
rock and little cascades.) of Guarinuma. The rock is on the east bank;
it is a shelf of granite, covered with psora, cladonia, and other
lichens. I could have fancied myself transported to the north of
Europe, to the ridge of the mountains of gneiss and granite between
Freiberg and Marienberg in Saxony. The cladonias appeared to me to be
identical with the Lichen rangiferinus, the L. pixidatus, and the L.
polymorphus of Linnaeus. After having passed the rapids of Guarinuma,
the Indians showed us in the middle of the forest, on our right, the
ruins of the mission of Mendaxari, which has been long abandoned. On
the east bank of the river, near the little rock of Kemarumo, in the
midst of Indian plantations, a gigantic bombax* (* Bombax ceiba.)
attracted our curiosity. We landed to measure it; the height was
nearly one hundred and twenty feet, and the diameter between fourteen
and fifteen. This enormous specimen of vegetation surprised us the
more, as we had till then seen on the banks of the Atabapo only small
trees with slender trunks, which from afar resembled young
cherry-trees. The Indians assured that these small trees do not form a
very extensive group. They are checked in their growth by the
inundations of the river; while the dry grounds near the Atabapo, the
Temi, and the Tuamini, furnish excellent timber for building. These
forests do not stretch indefinitely to the east and west, toward the
Cassiquiare and the Guaviare; they are bounded by the open savannahs
of Manuteso, and the Rio Inirida. We found it difficult in the evening
to stem the current, and we passed the night in a wood a little above
Mendaxari; which is another granitic rock traversed by a stratum of
quartz. We found in it a group of fine crystals of black schorl.

On the 29th, the air was cooler. We had no zancudos, but the sky was
constantly clouded, and without stars. I began to regret the Lower
Orinoco. We still advanced but slowly from the force of the current,
and we stopped a great part of the day to seek for plants. It was
night when we arrived at the mission of San Balthasar, or, as the
monks style it, the mission of la divina Pastora de Balthasar de
Atabapo. We were lodged with a Catalonian missionary, a lively and
agreeable man, who displayed in these wild countries the activity that
characterises his nation. He had planted a garden, where the fig-tree
of Europe was found in company with the persea, and the lemon-tree
with the mammee. The village was built with that regularity which, in
the north of Germany, and in protestant America, we find in the
hamlets of the Moravian brethren; and the Indian plantations seemed
better cultivated than elsewhere. Here we saw for the first time that
white and fungous substance which I have made known by the name of
dapicho and zapis.* (* These two words belong to the Poimisano and
Paragini tongues.) We immediately perceived that it was analogous to
india-rubber; but, as the Indians made us understand by signs, that it
was found underground, we were inclined to think, till we arrived at
the mission of Javita, that the dapicho was a fossil caoutchouc,
though different from the elastic bitumen of Derbyshire. A Pomisano
Indian, seated by the fire in the hut of the missionary, was employed
in reducing the dapicho into black caoutchouc. He had spitted several
bits on a slender stick, and was roasting them like meat. The dapicho
blackens in proportion as it grows soft, and becomes elastic. The
resinous and aromatic smell which filled the hut, seemed to indicate
that this coloration is the effect of the decomposition of a carburet
of hydrogen, and that the carbon appears in proportion as the hydrogen
burns at a low heat. The Indian beat the softened and blackened mass
with a piece of brazil-wood, formed at one end like a club; he then
kneaded the dapicho into balls of three or four inches in diameter,
and let it cool. These balls exactly resemble the caoutchouc of the
shops, but their surface remains in general slightly viscous. They are
used at San Balthasar in the Indian game of tennis, which is
celebrated among the inhabitants of Uruana and Encaramada; they are
also cut into cylinders, to be used as corks, and are far preferable
to those made of the bark of the cork-tree.

This use of caoutchouc appeared to us the more worthy notice, as we
had been often embarrassed by the want of European corks. The great
utility of cork is fully understood in countries where trade has not
supplied this bark in plenty. Equinoctial America nowhere produces,
not even on the back of the Andes, an oak resembling the Quercus
suber; and neither the light wood of the bombax, the ochroma, and
other malvaceous plants, nor the rhachis of maize, of which the
natives make use, can well supply the place of our corks. The
missionary showed us, before the Casa de los Solteros (the house where
the young unmarried men reside), a drum, which was a hollow cylinder
of wood, two feet long and eighteen inches thick. This drum was beaten
with great masses of dapicho, which served as drumsticks; it had
openings which could be stopped by the hand at will, to vary the
sounds, and was fixed on two light supports. Savage notions love noisy
music; the drum and the botuto, or trumpet of baked earth, in which a
tube of three or four feet long communicates with several barrels, are
indispensable instruments among the Indians for their grand pieces of

The night of the 30th of April was sufficiently fine for observing the
meridian heights of x of the Southern Cross, and the two large stars
in the feet of the Centaur. I found the latitude of San Balthasar 3
degrees 14 minutes 23 seconds. Horary angles of the sun gave 70
degrees 14 minutes 21 seconds for the longitude by the chronometer.
The dip of the magnetic needle was 27.8 degrees (cent div). We left
the mission at a late hour in the morning, and continued to go up the
Atabapo for five miles; then, instead of following that river to its
source in the east, where it bears the name of Atacavi, we entered the
Rio Temi. Before we reached its confluence, a granitic eminence on the
western bank, near the mouth of the Guasacavi, fixed our attention: it
is called Piedra de la Guahiba (Rock of the Guahiba woman), or the
Piedra de la Madre (Mother's Rock.) We inquired the cause of so
singular a denomination. Father Zea could not satisfy our curiosity;
but some weeks after, another missionary, one of the predecessors of
that ecclesiastic, whom we found settled at San Fernando as president
of the missions, related to us an event which excited in our minds the
most painful feelings. If, in these solitary scenes, man scarcely
leaves behind him any trace of his existence, it is doubly humiliating
for a European to see perpetuated by so imperishable a monument of
nature as a rock, the remembrance of the moral degradation of our
species, and the contrast between the virtue of a savage, and the
barbarism of civilized man!

In 1797 the missionary of San Fernando had led his Indians to the
banks of the Rio Guaviare, on one of those hostile incursions which
are prohibited alike by religion and the Spanish laws. They found in
an Indian hut a Guahiba woman with her three children (two of whom
were still infants), occupied in preparing the flour of cassava.
Resistance was impossible; the father was gone to fish, and the mother
tried in vain to flee with her children. Scarcely had she reached the
savannah when she was seized by the Indians of the mission, who hunt
human beings, like the Whites and the Negroes in Africa. The mother
and her children were bound, and dragged to the bank of the river. The
monk, seated in his boat, waited the issue of an expedition of which
he shared not the danger. Had the mother made too violent a resistance
the Indians would have killed her, for everything is permitted for the
sake of the conquest of souls (la conquista espirituel), and it is
particularly desirable to capture children, who may be treated in the
Mission as poitos, or slaves of the Christians. The prisoners were
carried to San Fernando, in the hope that the mother would be unable
to find her way back to her home by land. Separated from her other
children who had accompanied their father on the day in which she had
been carried off, the unhappy woman showed signs of the deepest
despair. She attempted to take back to her home the children who had
been seized by the missionary; and she fled with them repeatedly from
the village of San Fernando. But the Indians never failed to recapture
her; and the missionary, after having caused her to be mercilessly
beaten, took the cruel resolution of separating the mother from the
two children who had been carried off with her. She was conveyed alone
to the missions of the Rio Negro, going up the Atabapo. Slightly
bound, she was seated at the bow of the boat, ignorant of the fate
that awaited her; but she judged by the direction of the sun, that she
was removing farther and farther from her hut and her native country.
She succeeded in breaking her bonds, threw herself into the water, and
swam to the left bank of the Atabapo. The current carried her to a
shelf of rock, which bears her name to this day. She landed and took
shelter in the woods, but the president of the missions ordered the
Indians to row to the shore, and follow the traces of the Guahiba. In
the evening she was brought back. Stretched upon the rock (la Piedra
de la Madre) a cruel punishment was inflicted on her with those straps
of manatee leather, which serve for whips in that country, and with
which the alcaldes are always furnished. This unhappy woman, her hands
tied behind her back with strong stalks of mavacure, was then dragged
to the mission of Javita.

She was there thrown into one of the caravanserais, called las Casas
del Rey. It was the rainy season, and the night was profoundly dark.
Forests till then believed to be impenetrable separated the mission of
Javita from that of San Fernando, which was twenty-five leagues
distant in a straight line. No other route is known than that by the
rivers; no man ever attempted to go by land from one village to
another. But such difficulties could not deter a mother, separated
from her children. The Guahiba was carelessly guarded in the
caravanserai. Her arms being wounded, the Indians of Javita had
loosened her bonds, unknown to the missionary and the alcaldes. Having
succeeded by the help of her teeth in breaking them entirely, she
disappeared during the night; and at the fourth sunrise was seen at
the mission of San Fernando, hovering around the hut where her
children were confined. "What that woman performed," added the
missionary, who gave us this sad narrative, "the most robust Indian
would not have ventured to undertake!" She traversed the woods at a
season when the sky is constantly covered with clouds, and the sun
during whole days appears but for a few minutes. Did the course of the
waters direct her way? The inundations of the rivers forced her to go
far from the banks of the main stream, through the midst of woods
where the movement of the water is almost imperceptible. How often
must she have been stopped by the thorny lianas, that form a network
around the trunks they entwine! How often must she have swum across
the rivulets that run into the Atabapo! This unfortunate woman was
asked how she had sustained herself during four days. She said that,
exhausted with fatigue, she could find no other nourishment than those
great black ants called vachacos, which climb the trees in long bands,
to suspend on them their resinous nests. We pressed the missionary to
tell us whether the Guahiba had peacefully enjoyed the happiness of
remaining with her children; and if any repentance had followed this
excess of cruelty. He would not satisfy our curiosity; but at our
return from the Rio Negro we learned that the Indian mother was again
separated from her children, and sent to one of the missions of the
Upper Orinoco. There she died, refusing all kind of nourishment, as
savages frequently do in great calamities.

Such is the remembrance annexed to this fatal rock, the Piedra de la
Madre. In this relation of my travels I feel no desire to dwell on
pictures of individual suffering--evils which are frequent wherever
there are masters and slaves, civilized Europeans living with people
in a state of barbarism, and priests exercising the plenitude of
arbitrary power over men ignorant and without defence. In describing
the countries through which I passed, I generally confine myself to
pointing out what is imperfect, or fatal to humanity, in their civil
or religious institutions. If I have dwelt longer on the Rock of the
Guahiba, it was to record an affecting instance of maternal tenderness
in a race of people so long calumniated; and because I thought some
benefit might accrue from publishing a fact, which I had from the
monks of San Francisco, and which proves how much the system of the
missions calls for the care of the legislator.

Above the mouth of the Guasucavi we entered the Rio Temi, the course
of which is from south to north. Had we continued to ascend the
Atabapo, we should have turned to east-south-east, going farther from
the banks of the Guainia or Rio Negro. The Temi is only eighty or
ninety toises broad, but in any other country than Guiana it would be
a considerable river. The country exhibits the uniform aspect of
forests covering ground perfectly flat. The fine pirijao palm, with
its fruit like peaches, and a new species of bache, or mauritia, its
trunk bristled with thorns, rise amid smaller trees, the vegetation of
which appears to be retarded by the continuance of the inundations.
The Mauritia aculeata is called by the Indians juria or cauvaja; its
leaves are in the form of a fan, and they bend towards the ground. At
the centre of every leaf, no doubt from the effect of some disease of
the parenchyma, concentric circles of alternate blue and yellow
appear, the yellow prevailing towards the middle. We were singularly
struck by this appearance; the leaves, coloured like the peacock's
tail, are supported by short and very thick trunks. The thorns are not
slender and long like those of the corozo and other thorny palm-trees;
but on the contrary, very woody, short, and broad at the base, like
the thorns of the Hura crepitans. On the banks of the Atabapo and the
Temi, this palm-tree is distributed in groups of twelve or fifteen
stems, close together, and looking as if they rose from the same root.
These trees resemble in their appearance, form, and scarcity of
leaves, the fan-palms and palmettos of the Old World. We remarked that
some plants of the juria were entirely destitute of fruit, and others
exhibited a considerable quantity; this circumstance seems to indicate
a palm-tree of separate sexes.

Wherever the Rio Temi forms coves, the forest is inundated to the
extent of more than half a square league. To avoid the sinuosities of
the river and shorten the passage, the navigation is here performed in
a very extraordinary manner. The Indians made us leave the bed of the
river; and we proceeded southward across the forest, through paths
(sendas), that is, through open channels of four or five feet broad.
The depth of the water seldom exceeds half a fathom. These sendas are
formed in the inundated forest like paths on dry ground. The Indians,
in going from one mission to another, pass with their boats as much as
possible by the same way; but the communications not being frequent,
the force of vegetation sometimes produces unexpected obstacles. An
Indian, furnished with a machete (a great knife, the blade of which is
fourteen inches long), stood at the head of our boat, employed
continually in chopping off the branches that crossed each other from
the two sides of the channel. In the thickest part of the forest we
were astonished by an extraordinary noise. On beating the bushes, a
shoal of toninas (fresh-water dolphins) four feet long, surrounded our
boat. These animals had concealed themselves beneath the branches of a
fromager, or Bombax ceiba. They fled across the forest, throwing out
those spouts of compressed air and water which have given them in
every language the name of blowers. How singular was this spectacle in
an inland spot, three or four hundred leagues from the mouths of the
Orinoco and the Amazon! I am aware that the pleuronectes (dabs) of the
Atlantic go up the Loire as far as Orleans; but I am, nevertheless, of
opinion that the dolphins of the Temi, like those of the Ganges, and
like the skate (raia) of the Orinoco, are of a species essentially
different from the dolphins and skates of the ocean. In the immense
rivers of South America, and the great lakes of North America, nature
seems to repeat several pelagic forms. The Nile has no porpoises:*
those of the sea go up the Delta no farther than Biana and Metonbis
towards Selamoun. (* Those dolphins that enter the mouth of the Nile,
did not escape the observation of the ancients. In a bust in syenite,
preserved in the museum at Paris, the sculptor has represented them
half concealed in the undulatory beard of the god of the river.)

At five in the evening we regained with some difficulty the bed of the
river. Our canoe remained fast for some minutes between two trunks of
trees; and it was no sooner disengaged than we reached a spot where
several paths, or small channels, crossed each other, so that the
pilot was puzzled to distinguish the most open path. We navigated
through a forest so thick that we could guide ourselves neither by the
sun nor by the stars. We were again struck during this day by the want
of arborescent ferns in that country; they diminish visibly from the
sixth degree of north latitude, while the palm-trees augment
prodigiously towards the equator. Fern-trees belong to a climate less
hot, and a soil but little mountainous. It is only where there are
mountains that these majestic plants descend towards the plains; they
seem to avoid perfectly flat grounds, as those through which run the
Cassiquiare, the Temi, Inirida, and the Rio Negro. We passed in the
night near a rock, called the Piedra de Astor by the missionaries. The
ground from the mouth of the Guaviare constantly displays the same
geological formation. It is a vast granitic plain, in which from
league to league the rock pierces the soil, and forms, not hillocks,
but small masses, that resemble pillars or ruined buildings.

On the 1st of May the Indians chose to depart long before sunrise. We
were stirring before them, however, because I waited (though vainly)
for a star ready to pass the meridian. In those humid regions covered
with forests, the nights became more obscure in proportion as we drew
nearer to the Rio Negro and the interior of Brazil. We remained in the
bed of the river till daybreak, being afraid of losing ourselves among
the trees. At sunrise we again entered the inundated forest, to avoid
the force of the current. On reaching the junction of the Temi with
another little river, the Tuamini, the waters of which are equally
black, we proceeded along the latter to the south-west. This direction
led us near the mission of Javita, which is founded on the banks of
the Tuamini; and at this christian settlement we were to find the aid
necessary for transporting our canoe by land to the Rio Negro. We did
not arrive at San Antonio de Javita till near eleven in the morning.
An accident, unimportant in itself, but which shows the excessive
timidity of the little sagoins detained us some time at the mouth of
the Tuamini. The noise of the blowers had frightened our monkeys, and
one of them fell into the water. Animals of this species, perhaps on
account of their extreme meagreness, swim badly; and consequently it
was saved with some difficulty.

At Javita we had the pleasure of finding a very intelligent and
obliging monk, at whose mission we were forced to remain four or five
days, the time required for transporting our boat across the portage
of Pimichin. This delay enabled us to visit the surrounding country,
as also to relieve ourselves from an annoyance which we had suffered
for two days. We felt an extraordinary irritation on the joints of our
fingers, and on the backs of our hands. The missionary told us it was
caused by the aradores,* (* Literally the ploughers.) which get under
the skin. We could distinguish with a lens nothing but streaks, or
parallel and whitish furrows. It is the form of these furrows, that
has obtained for the insect the name of ploughman. A mulatto woman was
sent for, who professed to be thoroughly acquainted with all the
little insects that burrow in the human skin; the chego, the nuche,
the coya, and the arador; she was the curandera, or surgeon of the
place. She promised to extirpate, one by one, the insects which caused
this smarting irritation. Having heated at a lamp the point a little
bit of hard wood, she dug with it into the furrows that marked the
skin. After long examination, she announced with the pedantic gravity
peculiar to the mulatto race, that an arador was found. I saw a little
round bag, which I suspected to be the egg of an acarus. I was to find
relief when the mulatto woman had succeeded in taking out three or
four of these aradores. Having the skin of both hands filled with
acari, I had not the patience to wait the end of an operation, which
had already lasted till late at night. The next day an Indian of
Javita cured us radically, and with surprising promptitude. He brought
us the branch of a shrub, called uzao, with small leaves like those of
cassia, very coriaceous and glossy. He made a cold infusion of the
bark of this shrub, which had a bluish colour, and the taste of
liquorice. When beaten, it yields a great deal of froth. The
irritation of the aradores ceased by using simple lotions of this
uzao-water. We could not find this shrub in flower, or bearing fruit;
it appears to belong to the family of the leguminous plants, the
chemical properties of which are singularly varied. We dreaded so much
the sufferings to which we had been exposed, that we constantly kept
some branches of the uzao in our boat, till we reached San Carlos.
This shrub grows in abundance on the banks of the Pimichin. Why has no
remedy been discovered for the irritation produced by the sting of the
zancudos, as well as for that occasioned by the aradores or
microscopic acari?

In 1755, before the expedition for fixing the boundaries, better known
by the name of the expedition of Solano, the whole country between the
missions of Javita and San Balthasar was regarded as dependent on
Brazil. The Portuguese had advanced from the Rio Negro, by the portage
of the Cano Pimichin, as far as the banks of the Temi. An Indian chief
of the name of Javita, celebrated for his courage and his spirit of
enterprise, was the ally of the Portuguese. He pushed his hostile
incursions from the Rio Jupura, or Caqueta, one of the great tributary
streams of the Amazon, by the rivers Uaupe and Xie, as far as the
black waters of the Temi and the Tuamini, a distance of more than a
hundred leagues. He was furnished with letters patent, which
authorised him to bring the Indians from the forest, for the conquest
of souls. He availed himself amply of this permission; but his
incursions had an object which was not altogether spiritual, that of
making slaves to sell to the Portuguese. When Solano, the second chief
of the expedition of the boundaries, arrived at San Fernando de
Atabapo, he had Javita seized, in one of his incursions to the banks
of the Temi. He treated him with gentleness, and succeeded in gaining
him over to the interests of the Spanish government by promises that
were not fulfilled. The Portuguese, who had already formed some stable
settlements in these countries, were driven back as far as the lower
part of the Rio Negro; and the mission of San Antonio, of which the
more usual name is Javita, so called after its Indian founder, was
removed farther north of the sources of the Tuamini, to the spot where
it is now established. This captain, Javita, was still living, at an
advanced age, when we proceeded to the Rio Negro. He was an Indian of
great vigour of mind and body. He spoke Spanish with facility, and
preserved a certain influence over the neighbouring nations. As he
attended us in all our herborizations, we obtained from his own mouth
information so much the more useful, as the missionaries have great
confidence in his veracity. He assured us that in his youth he had
seen almost all the Indian tribes that inhabit the vast regions
between the Upper Orinoco, the Rio Negro, the Inirida, and the Jupura,
eat human flesh. The Daricavanas, the Puchirinavis, and the
Manitivitanos, appeared to him to be the greatest cannibals among
them. He believes that this abominable practice is with them the
effect of a system of vengeance; they eat only enemies who are made
prisoners in battle. The instances where, by a refinement of cruelty,
the Indian eats his nearest relations, his wife, or an unfaithful
mistress, are extremely rare. The strange custom of the Scythians and
Massagetes, the Capanaguas of the Rio Ucayale, and the ancient
inhabitants of the West Indian Islands, of honouring the dead by
eating a part of their remains, is unknown on the banks of the
Orinoco. In both continents this trait of manners belongs only to
nations that hold in horror the flesh of a prisoner. The Indian of
Hayti (Saint Domingo) would think himself wanting in regard to the
memory of a relation, if he did not throw into his drink a small
portion of the body of the deceased, after having dried it like one of
the mummies of the Guanches, and reduced it to powder. This gives us
just occasion to repeat with an eastern poet, "of all animals man is
the most fantastic in his manners, and the most disorderly in his

The climate of the mission of San Antonio de Javita is extremely
rainy. When you have passed the latitude of three degrees north, and
approach the equator, you have seldom an opportunity of observing the
sun or the stars. It rains almost the whole year, and the sky is
constantly cloudy. As the breeze is not felt in these immense forests
of Guiana, and the refluent polar currents do not penetrate them, the
column of air which reposes on this wooded zone is not renewed by
dryer strata. It is saturated with vapours which are condensed into
equatorial rains. The missionary assured us that it often rains here
four or five months without cessation.

The temperature of Javita is cooler than that of Maypures, but
considerably hotter than that of the Guainia or Rio Negro. The
centigrade thermometer kept up in the day to twenty-six or
twenty-seven degrees; and in the night to twenty-one degrees.

From the 30th of April to the 11th of May, I had not been able to see
any star in the meridian so as to determine the latitude of places. I
watched whole nights in order to make use of the method of double
altitudes; but all my efforts were useless. The fogs of the north of
Europe are not more constant than those of the equatorial regions of
Guiana. On the 4th of May, I saw the sun for some minutes; and found
by the chronometer and the horary angles the longitude of Javita to be
70 degrees 22 minutes, or 1 degree 15 minutes farther west than the
longitude of the junction of the Apure with the Orinoco. This result
is interesting for laying down on our maps the unknown country lying
between the Xie and the sources of the Issana, situated on the same
meridian with the mission of Javita.

The Indians of Javita, whose number amounts to one hundred and sixty,
now belong for the most part to the nations of the Poimisanos, the
Echinavis, and the Paraganis. They are employed in the construction of
boats, formed of the trunks of sassafras, a large species of laurel,
hollowed by means of fire and the hatchet. These trees are more than
one hundred feet high; the wood is yellow, resinous, almost
incorruptible in water, and has a very agreeable smell. We saw them at
San Fernando, at Javita, and more particularly at Esmeralda, where
most of the canoes of the Orinoco are constructed, because the
adjacent forests furnish the largest trunks of sassafras.

The forest between Javita and the Cano Pimichin, contains an immense
quantity of gigantic trees, ocoteas, and laurels, the Amasonia
arborea,* (* This is a new species of the genus taligalea of Aublet.
On the same spot grow the Bignonia magnoliaefolia, B. jasminifolia,
Solanum topiro, Justicia pectoralis, Faramea cymosa, Piper javitense,
Scleria hirtella, Echites javitensis, Lindsea javitensis, and that
curious plant of the family of the verbenaceae, which I have dedicated
to the illustrious Leopold von Buch, in whose early labours I
participated.) the Retiniphyllum secundiflorum, the curvana, the
jacio, the iacifate, of which the wood is red like the brazilletto,
the guamufate, with its fine leaves of calophyllum from seven to eight
inches long, the Amyris carana, and the mani. All these trees (with
the exception of our new genus Retiniphyllum) were more than one
hundred or one hundred and ten feet high. As their trunks throw out
branches only toward the summit, we had some trouble in procuring both
leaves and flowers. The latter were frequently strewed upon the ground
at the foot of the trees; but, the plants of different families being
grouped together in these forests, and every tree being covered with
lianas, we could not, with any degree of confidence, rely on the
authority of the natives, when they assured us that a flower belonged
to such or such a tree. Amid these riches of nature heborizations
caused us more chagrin than satisfaction. What we could gather
appeared to us of little interest, compared to what we could not
reach. It rained unceasingly during several months, and M. Bonpland
lost the greater part of the specimens which he had been compelled to
dry by artificial heat. Our Indians distinguished the leaves better
than the corollae or the fruit. Occupied in seeking timber for canoes,
they are inattentive to flowers. "All those great trees bear neither
flowers nor fruits," they repeated unceasingly. Like the botanists of
antiquity, they denied what they had not taken the trouble to observe.
They were tired with our questions, and exhausted our patience in

We have already mentioned that the same chemical properties being
sometimes found in the same organs of different families of plants,
these families supply each other's places in various climates. Several
species of palms* furnish the inhabitants of equinoctial America and
Africa with the oil which we derive from the olive. (* In Africa, the
elais or maba; in America the cocoa-tree. In the cocoa-tree it is the
perisperm; and in the elais (as in the olive, and the oleineae in
general) it is the sarcocarp, or the pulp of the pericarp, that yields
oil. This difference, observed in the same family, appears to me very
remarkable, though it is in no way contradictory to the results
obtained by De Candolle in his ingenious researches on the chemical
properties of plants. If our Alfonsia oleifera belong to the genus
Elais (as Brown, with great reason believes), it follows, that in the
same genus the oil is found in the sarcocarp and in the perisperm.)
What the coniferae are to the temperate zone, the terebinthaceae and
the guttiferae are to the torrid. In the forests of those burning
climates, (where there is neither pine, thuya, taxodium, nor even a
podocarpus,) resins, balsams, and aromatic gums, are furnished by the
maronobea, the icica, and the amyris. The collecting of these gummy
and resinous substances is a trade in the village of Javita. The most
celebrated resin bears the name of mani; and of this we saw masses of
several hundred-weight, resembling colophony and mastic. The tree
called mani by the Paraginis, which M. Bonpland believes to be the
Moronobaea coccinea, furnishes but a small quantity of the substance
employed in the trade with Angostura. The greatest part comes from the
mararo or caragna, which is an amyris. It is remarkable enough, that
the name mani, which Aublet heard among the Galibis* of Cayenne, was
again heard by us at Javita, three hundred leagues distant from French
Guiana. (* The Galibis or Caribis (the r has been changed into l, as
often happens) are of the great stock of the Carib nations. The
products useful in commerce and in domestic life have received the
same denomination in every part of America which this warlike and
commercial people have overrun.) The moronobaea or symphonia of Javita
yields a yellow resin; the caragna, a resin strongly odoriferous, and
white as snow; the latter becomes yellow where it is adherent to the
internal part of old bark.

We went every day to see how our canoe advanced on the portages.
Twenty-three Indians were employed in dragging it by land, placing
branches of trees to serve as rollers. In this manner a small boat
proceeds in a day or a day and a half, from the waters of the Tuamini
to those of the Cano Pimichin, which flow into the Rio Negro. Our
canoe being very large, and having to pass the cataracts a second
time, it was necessary to avoid with particular care any friction on
the bottom; consequently the passage occupied more than four days. It
is only since 1795 that a road has been traced through the forest. By
substituting a canal for this portage, as I proposed to the ministry
of king Charles IV, the communication between the Rio Negro and
Angostura, between the Spanish Orinoco and the Portuguese possessions
on the Amazon, would be singularly facilitated.

In this forest we at length obtained precise information respecting
the pretended fossil caoutchouc, called dapicho by the Indians. The
old chief Javita led us to the brink of a rivulet which runs into the
Tuamini; and showed us that, after digging two or three feet deep, in
a marshy soil, this substance was found between the roots of two trees
known by the name of the jacio and the curvana. The first is the hevea
of Aublet, or siphonia of the modern botanists, known to furnish the
caoutchouc of commerce in Cayenne and Grand Para; the second has
pinnate leaves, and its juice is milky, but very thin, and almost
destitute of viscosity. The dapicho appears to be the result of an
extravasation of the sap from the roots. This extravasation takes
place more especially when the trees have attained a great age, and
the interior of the trunk begins to decay. The bark and alburnum
crack; and thus is effected naturally, what the art of man performs
for the purpose of collecting the milky juices of the hevea, the
castilloa, and the caoutchouc fig-tree. Aublet relates, that the
Galibis and the Garipons of Cayenne begin by making a deep incision at
the foot of the trunk, so as to penetrate into the wood; soon after
they join with this horizontal notch others both perpendicular and
oblique, reaching from the top of the trunk nearly to the roots. All
these incisions conduct the milky juice towards one point, where the
vase of clay is placed, in which the caoutchouc is to be deposited. We
saw the Indians of Carichana operate nearly in the same manner.

If, as I suppose, the accumulation and overflowing of the milk in the
jacio and the curvana be a pathological phenomenon, it must sometimes
take place at the extremity of the longest roots, for we found masses
of dapicho two feet in diameter and four inches thick, eight feet
distant from the trunks. Sometimes the Indians dig in vain at the foot
of dead trees; at other times the dapicho is found beneath the hevea
or jacio still green. The substance is white, corky, fragile, and
resembles by its laminated structure and undulating edge, the Boletus
ignarius. The dapicho perhaps takes a long time to form; it is
probably a juice thickened by a particular disposition of the
vegetable organs, diffused and coagulated in a humid soil secluded
from the contact of light; it is caoutchouc in a particular state, I
may almost say an etiolated caoutchouc. The humidity of the soil seems
to account for the undulating form of the edges of the dapicho, and
its division into layers.

I often observed in Peru, that on pouring slowly the milky juice of
the hevea, or the sap of the carica, into a large quantity of water,
the coagulum forms undulating outlines. The dapicho is certainly not
peculiar to the forest that extends from Javita to Pimichin, although
that is the only spot where it has hitherto been found. I have no
doubt, that on digging in French Guiana beneath the roots and the old
trunks of the hevea, those enormous masses of corky caoutchouc,* which
I have just described, would from time to time be found. (* Thus, at
five or six inches depth, between the roots of the Hymenea courbaril,
masses of the resin anime (erroneously called copal) are discovered,
and are sometimes mistaken for amber in inland places. This phenomenon
seems to throw some light on the origin of those large masses of amber
which are picked up from time to time on the coast of Prussia.) As it
is observed in Europe, that at the fall of the leaf the sap is
conveyed towards the root, it would be curious to examine whether,
within the tropics, the milky juices of the urticeae, the
euphorbiaceae, and the apocyneae, descend also at certain seasons.
Notwithstanding a great equality of temperature, the trees of the
torrid zone follow a cycle of vegetation; they undergo changes
periodically returning. The existence of the dapicho is more
interesting to physiology than to vegetable chemistry. A
yellowish-white caoutchouc is now to be found in the shops, which may
be easily distinguished from the dapicho, because it is neither dry
like cork, nor friable, but extremely elastic, glossy, and soapy. I
lately saw considerable quantities of it in London. This caoutchouc,
white, and greasy to the touch, is prepared in the East Indies. It
exhales that animal and fetid smell which I have attributed in another
place to a mixture of caseum and albumen.* (* The pellicles deposited
by the milk of hevea, in contact with the atmospheric oxygen, become
brown on exposure to the sun. If the dapicho grow black as it is
softened before the fire, it is owing to a slight combustion, to a
change in the proportion of its elements. I am surprised that some
chemists consider the black caoutchouc of commerce, as being mixed
with soot, blackened by the smoke to which it has been exposed.) When
we reflect on the immense variety of plants in the equinoctial regions
that are capable of furnishing caoutchouc, it is to be regretted that
this substance, so eminently useful, is not found among us at a lower
price. Without cultivating trees with a milky sap, a sufficient
quantity of caoutchouc might be collected in the missions of the
Orinoco alone for the consumption of civilized Europe.* (* We saw in
Guiana, besides the jacio and the curvana, two other trees that yield
caoutchouc in abundance; on the banks of the Atabapo the guamaqui with
jatropha leaves, and at Maypures the cime.) In the kingdom of New
Grenada some successful attempts have been made to make boots and
shoes of this substance without a seam. Among the American nations,
the Omaguas of the Amazon best understand how to manufacture

Four days had passed, and our canoe had not yet arrived at the
landing-place of the Rio Pimichin. "You want for nothing in my
mission," said Father Cereso; "you have plantains and fish; at night
you are not stung by mosquitos; and the longer you stay, the better
chance you will have of seeing the stars of my country. If your boat
be destroyed in the portage, we will give you another; and I shall
have had the satisfaction of passing some weeks con gente blanca y de
razon." ("With white and rational people." European self-love usually
opposes the gente de razon to the gente parda, or coloured people.)
Notwithstanding our impatience, we listened with interest to the
information given us by the worthy missionary. It confirmed all we had
already heard of the moral state of the natives of those countries.
They live, distributed in hordes of forty or fifty, under a family
government; and they recognise a common chief (apoto, sibierene) only
at times when they make war against their neighbours. The mistrust of
these hordes towards one another is increased by the circumstance that
those who live in the nearest neighbourhood speak languages altogether
different. In the open plains, in the countries with savannahs, the
tribes are fond of choosing their habitations from an affinity of
origin, and a resemblance of manners and idioms. On the table-land of
Tartary, as in North America, great families of nations have been
seen, formed into several columns, extending their migrations across
countries thinly-wooded, and easily traversed. Such were the journeys
of the Toltec and Aztec race in the high plains of Mexico, from the
sixth to the eleventh century of our era; such probably was also the
movement of nations by which the petty tribes of Canada were grouped
together. As the immense country between the equator and the eighth
degree of north latitude forms one continuous forest, the hordes were
there dispersed by following the branchings of the rivers, and the
nature of the land compelled them to become more or less
agriculturists. Such is the labyrinth of these rivers, that families
settled themselves without knowing what race of men lived nearest the
spot. In Spanish Guiana a mountain, or a forest half a league broad,
sometimes separates hordes who could not meet in less than two days by
navigating rivers. In open countries, or in a state of advanced
civilization, communication by rivers contributes powerfully to
generalize languages, manners, and political institutions; but in the
impenetrable forests of the torrid zone, as in the first rude
condition of our species, rivers increase the dismemberment of great
nations, favour the transition of dialects into languages that appear
to us radically distinct, and keep up national hatred and mistrust.
Between the banks of the Caura and the Padamo everything bears the
stamp of disunion and weakness. Men avoid, because they do not
understand, each other; they mutually hate, because they mutually

When we examine attentively this wild part of America, we fancy
ourselves transported to those primitive times when the earth was
peopled by degrees, and we seem to be present at the birth of human
societies. In the old world we see that pastoral life has prepared the
hunting nations for agriculture. In the New World we seek in vain
these progressive developments of civilization, these intervals of
repose, these stages in the life of nations. The luxury of vegetation
embarrasses the Indians in the chase; and in their rivers, resembling
arms of the sea, the depth of the waters prevents fishing during whole
months. Those species of ruminating animals, that constitute the
wealth of the nations of the Old World, are wanting in the New. The
bison and the musk-ox have never been reduced to a domestic state; the
breeding of llamas and guanacos has not created the habits of pastoral
life. In the temperate zone, on the banks of the Missouri, as well as
on the tableland of New Mexico, the American is a hunter; but in the
torrid zone, in the forests of Guiana, he cultivates cassava,
plantains, and sometimes maize. Such is the admirable fertility of
nature, that the field of the native is a little spot of land, to
clear which requires only setting fire to the brambles; and putting a
few seeds or slips into the ground is all the husbandry it demands. If
we go back in thought to the most remote ages, in these thick forests
we must always figure to ourselves nations deriving the greater part
of their nourishment from the earth; but, as this earth produces
abundance in a small space, and almost without toil, we may also
imagine these nations often changing their dwellings along the banks
of the same river. Even now the native of the Orinoco travels with his
seeds; and transports his farm (conuco) as the Arab transports his
tent, and changes his pasturage. The number of cultivated plants found
wild amid the woods, proves the nomad habits of an agricultural
people. Can we be surprised, that by these habits they lose almost all
the advantages that result in the temperate zone from stationary
culture, from the growth of corn, which requires extensive lands and
the most assiduous labour?

The nations of the Upper Orinoco, the Atabapo, and the Inirida, like
the ancient Germans and the Persians, have no other worship than that
of the powers of nature. They call the good principle Cachimana; it is
the Manitou, the Great Spirit, that regulates the seasons, and favours
the harvests. Along with Cachimana there is an evil principle,
Iolokiamo, less powerful, but more artful, and in particular more
active. The Indians of the forest, when they occasionally visit the
missions, conceive with difficulty the idea of a temple or an image.
"These good people," said the missionary, "like only processions in
the open air. When I last celebrated the festival of San Antonio, the
patron of my village, the Indians of Inirida were present at mass.
'Your God,' said they to me, 'keeps himself shut up in a house, as if
he were old and infirm; ours is in the forest, in the fields, and on
the mountains of Sipapu, whence the rains come.'" Among the more
numerous, and on this account less barbarous tribes, religious
societies of a singular kind are formed. Some old Indians pretend to
be better instructed than others on points regarding divinity; and to
them is confided the famous botuto, of which I have spoken, and which
is sounded under the palm-trees that they may bear abundance of fruit.
On the banks of the Orinoco there exists no idol, as among all the
nations who have remained faithful to the first worship of nature, but
the botuto, the sacred trumpet, is an object of veneration. To be
initiated into the mysteries of the botuto, it is requisite to be of
pure morals, and to have lived single. The initiated are subjected to
flagellations, fastings, and other painful exercises. There are but a
small number of these sacred trumpets. The most anciently celebrated
is that upon a hill near the confluence of the Tomo and the Guainia.
It is pretended, that it is heard at once on the banks of the Tuamini,
and at the mission of San Miguel de Davipe, a distance of ten leagues.
Father Cereso assured us, that the Indians speak of the botuto of Tomo
as an object of worship common to many surrounding tribes. Fruit and
intoxicating liquors are placed beside the sacred trumpet. Sometimes
the Great Spirit himself makes the botuto resound; sometimes he is
content to manifest his will through him to whom the keeping of the
instrument is entrusted. These juggleries being very ancient (from the
fathers of our fathers, say the Indians), we must not be surprised
that some unbelievers are already to be found; but they express their
disbelief of the mysteries of the botuto only in whispers. Women are
not permitted to see this marvellous instrument; and are excluded from
all the ceremonies of this worship. If a woman have the misfortune to
see the trumpet, she is put to death without mercy. The missionary
related to us, that in 1798 he was happy enough to save a young girl,
whom a jealous and vindictive lover accused of having followed, from a
motive of curiosity, the Indians who sounded the botuto in the
plantations. "They would not have murdered her publicly," said father
Cesero, "but how was she to be protected from the fanaticism of the
natives, in a country where it is so easy to give poison? The young
girl told me of her fears, and I sent her to one of the missions of
the Lower Orinoco." If the people of Guiana had remained masters of
that vast country; if, without having been impeded by Christian
settlements, they could follow freely the development of their
barbarous institutions; the worship of the botuto would no doubt
become of some political importance. That mysterious society of the
initiated, those guardians of the sacred trumpet, would be transformed
into a ruling caste of priests, and the oracle of Tomo would gradually
form a link between the bordering nations.

In the evening of the 4th of May we were informed, that an Indian, who
had assisted in dragging our bark over the portage of Pimichin, had
been stung by a viper. He was a tall strong man, and was brought to
the mission in a very alarming state. He had dropped down senseless;
and nausea, vertigo, and congestions in the head, had succeeded the
fainting. The liana called vejeco de guaco,* which M. Mutis has
rendered so celebrated, and which is the most certain remedy for the
bite of venomous serpents, is yet unknown in these countries. (* This
is a mikania, which was confounded for some time in Europe with the
ayapana. De Candolle thinks that the guaco may be the Eupatorium
satureiaefolium of Lamarck; but this Eupatorium differs by its lineary
leaves, while the Mikania guaco has triangular, oval, and very large
leaves.) A number of Indians hastened to the hut of the sick man, and
he was cured by an infusion of raiz de mato. We cannot indicate with
certainty what plant furnishes this antidote; but I am inclined to
think, that the raiz de mato is an apocynea, perhaps the Cerbera
thevetia, called by the inhabitants of Cumana lingua de mato or
contra-culebra, and which they also use against the bite of serpents.
A genus nearly allied to the cerbera* (* Ophioxylon serpentinum.) is
employed in India for the same purpose. It is common enough to find in
the same family of plants vegetable poisons, and antidotes against the
venom of reptiles. Many tonics and narcotics are antidotes more or
less active; and we find these in families very different* from each
other, in the aristolochiae, the apocyneae, the gentianae, the
polygalae, the solaneae, the compositae, the malvaceae, the
drymyrhizeae, and, which is still more surprising, even in the
palm-trees. (* I shall mention as examples of these nine families;
Aristolochia anguicida, Cerbera thevetia, Ophoiorhiza mungos, Polygala
senega, Nicotiana tabacum, (One of the remedies most used in Spanish
America). Mikanua guaco, Hibiscus abelmoschus (the seeds of which are
very active), Lanpujum rumphii, and Kunthia montana (Cana de la

In the hut of the Indian who had been so dangerously bitten by the
viper, we found balls two or three inches in diameter, of an earthy
and impure salt called chivi, which is prepared with great care by the
natives. At Maypures a conferva is burnt, which is left by the Orinoco
on the neighbouring rocks, when, after high swellings, it again enters
its bed. At Javita a salt is fabricated by the incineration of the
spadix and fruit of the palm-tree seje or chimu. This fine palm-tree,
which abounds on the banks of the Auvana, near the cataract of
Guarinumo, and between Javita and the Cano Pimichin, appears to be a
new species of cocoa-tree. It may be recollected, that the fluid
contained in the fruit of the common cocoa-tree is often saline, even
when the tree grows far from the sea shore. At Madagascar salt is
extracted from the sap of a palm-tree called ciro. Besides the spadix
and the fruit of the seje palm, the Indians of Javita lixiviate also
the ashes of the famous liana called cupana, which is a new species of
the genus paullinia, consequently a very different plant from the
cupania of Linnaeus. I may here mention, that a missionary seldom
travels without being provided with some prepared seeds of the cupana.
This preparation requires great care. The Indians scrape the seeds,
mix them with flour of cassava, envelope the mass in plantain leaves,
and set it to ferment in water, till it acquires a saffron-yellow
colour. This yellow paste dried in the sun, and diluted in water, is
taken in the morning as a kind of tea. The beverage is bitter and
stomachic, but it appeared to me to have a very disagreeable taste.

On the banks of the Niger, and in a great part of the interior of
Africa, where salt is extremely rare, it is said of a rich man, "he is
so fortunate as to eat salt at his meals." This good fortune is not
too common in the interior of Guiana. The whites only, particularly
the soldiers of the little fort of San Carlos, know how to procure
pure salt, either from the coast of Caracas, or from Chita* by the Rio
Meta. (* North of Morocote, at the eastern declivity of the Cordillera
of New Grenada. The salt of the coasts, which the Indians call
yuquira, costs two piastres the almuda at San Carlos.) Here, as
throughout America, the Indians eat little meat, and consume scarcely
any salt. The chivi of Javita is a mixture of muriate of potash and of
soda, of caustic lime, and of several other earthy salts. The Indians
dissolve a few particles in water, fill with this solution a leaf of
heliconia folded in a conical form, and let drop a little, as from the
extremity of a filter, on their food.

On the 5th of May we set off, to follow on foot our canoe, which had
at length arrived, by the portage, at the Cano Pimichin. We had to
ford a great number of streams; and these passages require some
caution on account of the vipers with which the marshes abound. The
Indians pointed out to us on the moist clay the traces of the little
black bears so common on the banks of the Temi. They differ at least
in size from the Ursus americanus. The missionaries call them osso
carnicero, to distinguish them from the osso palmero or tamanoir
(Myrmecophaga jubata), and from the osso hormigero, or anteater
(tamandua). The flesh of these animals is good to eat; the first two
defend themselves by rising on their hind feet. The tamanoir of Buffon
is called uaraca by the Indians; it is irascible and courageous, which
is extraordinary in an animal without teeth. We found, as we advanced,
some vistas in the forest, which appeared to us the richer, as it
became more accessible. We here gathered some new species of coffee
(the American tribe, with flowers in panicles, forms probably a
particular genus); the Galega piscatorum, of which the Indians make
use, as they do of jacquinia, and of a composite plant of the Rio
Temi, as a kind of barbasco, to intoxicate fish; and finally, the
liana, known in those countries by the name of vejuco de mavacure,
which yields the famous curare poison. It is neither a phyllanthus,
nor a coriaria, as M. Willdenouw conjectured, but, as M. Kunth's
researches show, very probably a strychnos. We shall have occasion,
farther on, to speak of this venomous substance, which is an important
object of trade among the savages.

The trees of the forest of Pimichin have the gigantic height of from
eighty to a hundred and twenty feet. In these burning climates the
laurineae and amyris* (* The great white and red cedars of these
countries are not the Cedrela odorata, but the Amyris altissima, which
is an icica of Aublet.) furnish that fine timber for building, which,
on the north-west coast of America, on mountains where the thermometer
falls in winter to 20 degrees centigrade below zero, we find in the
family of the coniferae. Such, in every zone, and in all the families
of American plants, is the prodigious force of vegetation, that, in
the latitude of fifty-seven degrees north, on the same isothermal line
with St. Petersburgh and the Orkneys, the Pinus canadensis displays
trunks one hundred and fifty feet high, and six feet in diameter.* (*
Langsdorf informs us that the inhabitants of Norfolk Sound make boats
of a single trunk, fifty feet long, four feet and a half broad, and
three high at the sides. They contain thirty persons. These boats
remind us of the canoes of the Rio Chagres in the isthmus of Panama,
in the torrid zone. The Populus balsamifera also attains an immense
height, on the mountains that border Norfolk Sound.) Towards night we
arrived at a small farm, in the puerto or landing place of Pimichin.
We were shown a cross near the road, which marked the spot where a
poor capuchin missionary had been killed by wasps. I state this on the
authority of the monks of Javita and the Indians. They talk much in
these countries of wasps and venomous ants, but we saw neither one nor
the other of these insects. It is well known that in the torrid zone
slight stings often cause fits of fever almost as violent as those
that with us accompany severe organic injuries. The death of this poor
monk was probably the effect of fatigue and damp, rather than of the
venom contained in the stings of wasps, which the Indians dread
extremely. We must not confound the wasps of Javita with the melipones
bees, called by the Spaniards angelitos (little angels) which covered
our faces and hands on the summit of the Silla de Caracas.

The landing place of Pimichin is surrounded by a small plantation of
cacao-trees; they are very vigorous, and here, as on the banks of the
Atabapo and the Guainia, they are loaded with flowers and fruits at
all seasons. They begin to bear from the fourth year; on the coast of
Caracas they do not bear till the sixth or eighth year. The soil of
these countries is sandy, wherever it is not marshy; but the light
lands of the Tuamini and Pimichin are extremely productive.* (* At
Javita, an extent of fifty feet square, planted with Jatropha manihot
(yucca) yields in two years, in the worst soil, a harvest of six
tortas of cassava: the same extent on a middling soil yields in
fourteen months a produce of nine tortas. In an excellent soil, around
clumps of mauritia, there is every year from fifty feet square a
produce of thirteen or fourteen tortas. A torta weighs three quarters
of a pound, and three tortas cost generally in the province of Caracas
one silver rial, or one-eighth of a piastre. These statements appear
to me to be of some importance, when we wish to compare the nutritive
matter which man can obtain from the same extent of soil, by covering
it, in different climates, with bread-trees, plantains, jatropha,
maize, potatoes, rice, and corn. The tardiness of the harvest of
jatropha has, I believe, a beneficial influence on the manners of the
natives, by fixing them to the soil, and compelling them to sojourn
long on the same spot.) Around the conucos of Pimichin grows, in its
wild state, the igua, a tree resembling the Caryocar nuciferum which
is cultivated in Dutch and French Guiana, and which, with the
almendron of Mariquita (Caryocar amygdaliferum), the juvia of the
Esmeralda (Bertholletia excelsa), and the Geoffroea of the Amazon,
yields the finest almonds of all South America. No commercial
advantage is here made of the igua; but I saw vessels arrive on the
coast of Terra Firma, that came from Demerara laden with the fruit of
the Caryocar tomentosum, which is the Pekea tuberculosa of Aublet.
These trees reach a hundred feet in height, and present, by the beauty
of their corolla, and the multitude of their stamens, a magnificent
appearance. I should weary the reader by continuing the enumeration of
the vegetable wonders which these vast forests contain. Their variety
depends on the coexistence of such a great number of families in a
small space of ground, on the stimulating power of light and heat, and
on the perfect elaboration of the juices that circulate in these
gigantic plants.

We passed the night in a hut lately abandoned by an Indian family, who
had left behind them their fishing-tackle, pottery, nets made of the
petioles of palm-trees; in short, all that composes the household
furniture of that careless race of men, little attached to property. A
great store of mani (a mixture of the resin of the moronoboea and the
Amyris carana) was accumulated round the house. This is used by the
Indians here, as at Cayenne, to pitch their canoes, and fix the bony
spines of the ray at the points of their arrows. We found in the same
place jars filled with a vegetable milk, which serves as a varnish,
and is celebrated in the missions by the name of leche para pintar
(milk for painting). They coat with this viscous juice those articles
of furniture to which they wish to give a fine white colour. It
thickens by the contact of the air, without growing yellow, and it
appears singularly glossy. We have already mentioned that the
caoutchouc is the oily part, the butter of all vegetable milk. It is,
no doubt, a particular modification of caoutchouc that forms this
coagulum, this white and glossy skin, that seems as if covered with
copal varnish. If different colours could be given to this milky
varnish, a very expeditious method would be found of painting and
varnishing our carriages by one process. The more we study vegetable
chemistry in the torrid zone, the more we shall discover, in remote
spots, and half-prepared in the organs of plants, products which we
believe belong only to the animal kingdom, or which we obtain by
processes which are often tedious and difficult. Already we have found
the wax that coats the palm-tree of the Andes of Quindiu, the silk of
the palm-tree of Mocoa, the nourishing milk of the palo de vaca, the
butter-tree of Africa, and the caseous substances obtained from the
almost animalized sap of the Carica papaya. These discoveries will be
multiplied, when, as the political state of the world seems now to
indicate, European civilization shall flow in a great measure toward
the equinoctial regions of the New Continent.

The marshy tract between Javita and the embarcadero of Pimichin is
infested with great numbers of vipers. Before we took possession of
the deserted hut, the Indians killed two great mapanare serpents.* (*
This name is given in the Spanish colonies to very different species.
The Coluber mapanare of the province of Caracas has one hundred and
forty-two ventral plates, and thirty-eight double caudal scales. The
Coluber mapanare of the Rio Magdalena has two hundred and eight
ventral plates, and sixty-four double caudal scales.) These grow to
four or five feet long. They appeared to me to be the same species as
those I saw in the Rio Magdalena. This serpent is a beautiful animal,
but extremely venomous, white on the belly, and spotted with brown and
red on the back. As the inside of the hut was filled with grass, and
we were lying on the ground, there being no means of suspending our
hammocks, we were not without inquietude during the night. In the
morning a large viper was found on lifting the jaguar-skin upon which
one of our domestics had slept. The Indians say that these reptiles,
slow in their movements when they are not pursued, creep near a man
because they are fond of heat. In fact, on the banks of the Magdalena
a serpent entered the bed of one of our fellow-travellers, and
remained there a part of the night, without injuring him. Without
wishing to take up the defence of vipers and rattlesnakes, I believe
it may be affirmed that, if these venomous animals had such a
disposition for offence as is supposed, the human species would
certainly not have withstood their numbers in some parts of America;
for instance, on the banks of the Orinoco and the humid mountains of

We embarked on the 8th of May at sunrise, after having carefully
examined the bottom of our canoe. It had become thinner, but had
received no crack in the portage. We reckoned that it would still bear
the voyage of three hundred leagues, which we had yet to perform, in
going down the Rio Negro, ascending the Cassiquiare, and redescending
the Orinoco as far as Angostura. The Pimichin, which is called a
rivulet (cano) is tolerably broad; but small trees that love the water
narrow the bed so much that there remains open a channel of only
fifteen or twenty toises. Next to the Rio Chagres this river is one of
the most celebrated in America for the number of its windings: it is
said to have eighty-five, which greatly lengthen it. They often form
right angles, and occur every two or three leagues. To determine the
difference of longitude between the landing-place and the point where
we were to enter the Rio Negro, I took by the compass the course of
the Cano Pimichin, and noted the time during which we followed the
same direction. The velocity of the current was only 2.4 feet in a
second; but our canoe made by rowing 4.6 feet. The embarcadero of the
Pimichin appeared to me to be eleven thousand toises west of its
mouth, and 0 degrees 2 minutes west of the mission of Javita. This
Cano is navigable during the whole year, and has but one raudal, which
is somewhat difficult to go up; its banks are low, but rocky. After
having followed the windings of the Pimichin for four hours and a half
we at length entered the Rio Negro.

The morning was cool and beautiful. We had now been confined
thirty-six days in a narrow boat, so unsteady that it would have been
overset by any person rising imprudently from his seat, without
warning the rowers. We had suffered severely from the sting of
insects, but we had withstood the insalubrity of the climate; we had
passed without accident the great number of waterfalls and bars, which
impede the navigation of the rivers, and often render it more
dangerous than long voyages by sea. After all we had endured, it may
be conceived that we felt no little satisfaction in having reached the
tributary streams of the Amazon, having passed the isthmus that
separates two great systems of rivers, and in being sure of having
fulfilled the most important object of our journey, namely, to
determine astronomically the course of that arm of the Orinoco which
falls into the Rio Negro, and of which the existence has been
alternately proved and denied during half a century. In proportion as
we draw near to an object we have long had in view, its interest seems
to augment. The uninhabited banks of the Cassiquiare, covered with
forests, without memorials of times past, then occupied my
imagination, as do now the banks of the Euphrates, or the Oxus,
celebrated in the annals of civilized nations. In that interior part
of the New Continent one may almost accustom oneself to regard men as
not being essential to the order of nature. The earth is loaded with
plants, and nothing impedes their free development. An immense layer
of mould manifests the uninterrupted action of organic powers.
Crocodiles and boas are masters of the river; the jaguar, the peccary,
the dante, and the monkeys traverse the forest without fear and
without danger; there they dwell as in an ancient inheritance. This
aspect of animated nature, in which man is nothing, has something in
it strange and sad. To this we reconcile ourselves with difficulty on
the ocean, and amid the sands of Africa; though in scenes where
nothing recalls to mind our fields, our woods, and our streams, we are
less astonished at the vast solitude through which we pass. Here, in a
fertile country, adorned with eternal verdure, we seek in vain the
traces of the power of man; we seem to be transported into a world
different from that which gave us birth. These impressions are the
more powerful in proportion as they are of long duration. A soldier,
who had spent his whole life in the missions of the Upper Orinoco,
slept with us on the bank of the river. He was an intelligent man,
who, during a calm and serene night, pressed me with questions on the
magnitude of the stars, on the inhabitants of the moon, on a thousand
subjects of which I was as ignorant as himself. Being unable by my
answers to satisfy his curiosity, he said to me in a firm tone of the
most positive conviction: "with respect to men, I believe there are no
more up there than you would have found if you had gone by land from
Javita to Cassiquiare. I think I see in the stars, as here, a plain
covered with grass, and a forest (mucho monte) traversed by a river."
In citing these words I paint the impression produced by the
monotonous aspect of those solitary regions. May this monotony not be
found to extend to the journal of our navigation, and weary the reader
accustomed to the description of the scenes and historical memorials
of the old continent!



The Rio Negro, compared to the Amazon, the Rio de la Plata, or the
Orinoco, is but a river of the second order. Its possession has been
for ages of great political importance to the Spanish Government,
because it is capable of furnishing a rival power, Portugal, with an
easy passage into the missions of Guiana, and thereby disturbing the
Capitania general of Caracas in its southern limits. Three hundred
years have been spent in vain territorial disputes. According to the
difference of times, and the degree of civilization among the natives,
resource has been had sometimes to the authority of the Pope, and
sometimes the support of astronomy; and the disputants being generally
more interested in prolonging than in terminating the struggle, the
nautical sciences and the geography of the New Continent, have alone
gained by this interminable litigation. When the affairs of Paraguay,
and the possession of the colony of Del Sacramento, became of great
importance to the courts of Madrid and Lisbon, commissioners of the
boundaries were sent to the Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio Plata.

The little that was known, up to the end of the last century, of the
astronomical geography of the interior of the New Continent, was owing
to these estimable and laborious men, the French and Spanish
academicians, who measured a meridian line at Quito, and to officers
who went from Valparaiso to Buenos Ayres to join the expedition of
Malaspina. Those persons who know the inaccuracy of the maps of South
America, and have seen those uncultivated lands between the Jupura and
the Rio Negro, the Madeira and the Ucayale, the Rio Branco and the
coasts of Cayenne, which up to our own days have been gravely disputed
in Europe, can be not a little surprised at the perseverance with
which the possession of a few square leagues is litigated. These
disputed grounds are generally separated from the cultivated part of
the colonies by deserts, the extent of which is unknown. In the
celebrated conferences of Puente de Caya the question was agitated,
whether, in fixing the line of demarcation three hundred and seventy
Spanish leagues to the west of the Cape Verde Islands, the pope meant
that the first meridian should be reckoned from the centre of the
island of St. Nicholas, or (as the court of Portugal asserted) from
the western extremity of the little island of St. Antonio. In the year
1754, the time of the expedition of Iturriaga and Solano, negociations
were entered into respecting the possession of the then desert banks
of the Tuamini, and of a marshy tract which we crossed in one evening
going from Javita to Cano Pimichin. The Spanish commissioners very
recently would have placed the divisional line at the point where the
Apoporis falls into the Jupura, while the Portuguese astronomers
carried it back as far as Salto Grande.

The Rio Negro and the Jupuro are two tributary streams of the Amazon,
and may be compared in length to the Danube. The upper parts belong to
the Spaniards, while the lower are occupied by the Portuguese. The
Christian settlements are very numerous from Mocoa to the mouth of the
Caguan; while on the Lower Jupura the Portuguese have founded only a
few villages. On the Rio Negro, on the contrary, the Spaniards have
not been able to rival their neighbours. Steppes and forests nearly
desert separate, at a distance of one hundred and sixty leagues, the
cultivated part of the coast from the four missions of Marsa, Tomo,
Davipe, and San Carlos, which are all that the Spanish Franciscans
could establish along the Rio Negro. Among the Portuguese of Brazil
the military system, that of presides and capitanes pobladores, has
prevailed over the government of the missionaries. Grand Para is no
doubt far distant from the mouth of the Rio Negro: but the facility of
navigation on the Amazon, which runs like an immense canal in one
direction from west to east, has enabled the Portuguese population to
extend itself rapidly along the river. The banks of the Lower Maranon,
from Vistoza as far as Serpa, as well as those of the Rio Negro from
Fort da Bara to San Jose da Maravitanos, are embellished by rich
cultivation, and by a great number of large villages and towns.

These local considerations are combined with others, suggested by the
moral position of nations. The north-west coast of America furnishes
to this day no other stable settlements but Russian and Spanish
colonies. Before the inhabitants of the United States, in their
progressive movement from east to west, could reach the shore between
the latitude 41 and 50 degrees, which long separated the Spanish monks
and the Siberian hunters,* the latter had established themselves south
of the Columbia River. (* The hunters connected with military posts,
and dependent on the Russian Company, of which the principal
shareholders live at Irkutsk. In 1804 the little fortress (krepost) at
the bay of Jakutal was still six hundred leagues distant from the most
northern Mexican possessions.) Thus in New California the Franciscan
missionaries, men estimable for their morals, and their agricultural
activity, learnt with astonishment, that Greek priests had arrived in
their neighbourhood; and that two nations, who inhabit the eastern and
western extremities of Europe, were become neighbours on a coast of
America opposite to China. In Guiana circumstances were very
different: the Spaniards found on their frontiers those very
Portuguese, who, by their language, and their municipal institutions,
form with them one of the most noble remains of Roman Europe; but whom
mistrust, founded on unequal strength, and too great proximity, has
converted into an often hostile, and always rival power.

If two nations adjacent to each other in Europe, the Spaniards and the
Portuguese, have alike become neighbours in the New Continent, they
are indebted for that circumstance to the spirit of enterprise and
active courage which both displayed at the period of their military
glory and political greatness. The Castilian language is now spoken in
North and South America throughout an extent of more than one thousand
nine hundred leagues in length; if, however, we consider South America
apart, we there find the Portuguese language spread over a larger
space of ground, and spoken by a smaller number of individuals than
the Castilian. It would seem as if the bond that so closely connects
the fine languages of Camoens and Lope de Vega, had served only to
separate two nations, who have become neighbours against their will.
National hatred is not modified solely by a diversity of origin, of
manners, and of progress in civilization; whenever it is powerful, it
must be considered as the effect of geographical situation, and the
conflicting interests thence resulting. Nations detest each other the
less, in proportion as they are distant; and when, their languages
being radically different, they do not even attempt to combine
together. Travellers who have passed through New California, the
interior provinces of Mexico, and the northern frontiers of Brazil,
have been struck by these shades in the moral dispositions of
bordering nations.

When I was in the Spanish Rio Negro, the divergent politics of the
courts of Lisbon and Madrid had augmented that system of mistrust
which, even in calmer times, the commanders of petty neighbouring
forts love to encourage. Boats went up from Barcelos as far as the
Spanish missions, but the communications were of rare occurrence. A
commandant with sixteen or eighteen soldiers wearied the garrison by
measures of safety, which were dictated by the important state of
affairs; if he were attacked, he hoped to surround the enemy. When we
spoke of the indifference with which the Portuguese government
doubtless regarded the four little villages founded by the monks of
Saint Francisco, on the Upper Guainia, the inhabitants were hurt by
the motives which we alleged with the view to give them confidence. A
people who have preserved in vigour, through the revolutions of ages,
a national hatred, like occasions of giving it vent. The mind delights
in everything impassioned, in the consciousness of an energetic
feeling, in the affections, and in rival hatreds that are founded on
antiquated prejudices. Whatever constitutes the individuality of
nations flows from the mother-country to the most remote colonies; and
national antipathies are not effaced where the influence of the same
languages ceases. We know, from the interesting narrative of
Krusenstern's voyage, that the hatred of two fugitive sailors, one a
Frenchman and the other an Englishman, was the cause of a long war
between the inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands. On the banks of the
Amazon and the Rio Negro, the Indians of the neighbouring Portuguese
and Spanish villages detest each other. These poor people speak only
the native tongues; they are ignorant of what passes on the other bank
of the ocean, beyond the great salt-pool; but the gowns of their
missionaries are of a different colour, and this displeases them

I have stopped to paint the effects of national animosities, which
wise statesmen have endeavoured to calm, but have been unable entirely
to set at rest. This rivalry has contributed to the imperfection of
the geographical knowledge hitherto obtained respecting the tributary
rivers of the Amazon. When the communications of the natives are
impeded, and one nation is established near the mouth, and another in
the upper part of the same river, it is difficult for persons who
attempt to construct maps to acquire precise information. The
periodical inundations, and still more the portages, by which boats
are passed from one stream to another, the sources of which are in the
same neighbourhood, have led to erroneous ideas of the bifurcations
and branchings of rivers. The Indians of the Portuguese missions, for
instance, enter (as I was informed upon the spot) the Spanish Rio
Negro on one side by the Rio Guainia and the Rio Tomo; and the Upper
Orinoco on the other, by the portages between the Cababuri, the
Pacimoni, the Idapa, and the Macava, to gather the aromatic seeds of
the puchero laurel beyond the Esmeralda. The Indians, I repeat, are
excellent geographers; they outflank the enemy, notwithstanding the
limits traced upon the maps, in spite of the forts and the
estacamentos; and when the missionaries see them arrive from such
distances, and in different seasons, they begin to frame hypotheses of
supposed communications of rivers. Each party has an interest in
concealing what it knows with certainty; and that love of the
mysterious, so general among the ignorant, contributes to perpetuate
the doubt. It may also be observed that the various Indian nations,
who frequent this labyrinth of rivers, give them names entirely
different; and that these names are disguised and lengthened by
terminations that signify water, great water, and current. How often
have I been perplexed by the necessity of settling the synonyms of
rivers, when I have sent for the most intelligent natives, to
interrogate them, through an interpreter, respecting the number of
tributary streams, the sources of the rivers, and the portages. Three
or four languages being spoken in the same mission, it is difficult to
make the witnesses agree. Our maps are loaded with names arbitrarily
shortened or perverted. To examine how far they may be accurate, we
must be guided by the geographical situation of the confluent rivers,
I might almost say by a certain etymological tact. The Rio Uaupe, or
Uapes of the Portuguese maps, is the Guapue of the Spanish maps, and
the Ucayari of the natives. The Anava of the old geographers is the
Anauahu of Arrowsmith, and the Uanauhau or Guanauhu of the Indians.
The desire of leaving no void in the maps, in order to give them an
appearance of accuracy, has caused rivers to be created, to which
names have been applied that have not been recognized as synonymous.
It is only lately that travellers in America, in Persia, and in the
Indies, have felt the importance of being correct in the denomination
of places. When we read the travels of Sir Walter Raleigh, it is
difficult indeed to recognise in the lake of Mrecabo, the laguna of
Maracaybo, and in the Marquis Paraco the name of Pizarro, the
destroyer of the empire of the Incas.

The great tributary streams of the Amazon are designated by the
missionaries by different names in their upper and lower course. The
Iza is called, higher up, Putumayo, the Jupura towards its source
bears the name of Caqueta. The researches made in the missions of the
Andaquies on the real origin of the Rio Negro have been the more
fruitless because the Indian name of the river was unknown. I heard it
called Guainia at Javita, Maroa, and San Carlos. Southey, in his
history of Brazil, says expressly that the Rio Negro, in the lower
part of its course, is called Guiani, or Curana, by the natives; in
the upper part, Ueneya. It is the word Gueneya, instead of Guainia;
for the Indians of those countries say indifferently Guaranacua or
Ouaranacua, Guarapo or Uarapo.

The sources of the Rio Negro have long been an object of contention
among geographers. The interest we feel in this question is not merely
that which attaches to the origin of all great rivers, but is
connected with a crowd of other questions, that comprehend the
supposed bifurcations of the Caqueta, the communications between the
Rio Negro and the Orinoco, and the local fable of El Dorado, formerly
called Enim, or the empire of the Grand Paytiti. When we study with
care the ancient maps of these countries, and the history of their
geographical errors, we see how by degrees the fable of El Dorado has
been transported towards the west with the sources of the Orinoco. It
was at first fixed on the eastern declivity of the Andes, to the
south-west of the Rio Negro. The valiant Philip de Urre sought for the
great city of Manoa by traversing the Guaviare. Even now the Indians
of San Jose de Maravitanos relate that, on sailing to the north-east
for fifteen days, on the Guape or Uaupe, you reach a famous laguna de
oro, surrounded by mountains, and so large that the opposite shore
cannot be discerned. A ferocious nation, the Guanes, do not permit the
collecting of the gold of a sandy plain that surrounds the lake.
Father Acunha places the lake Manoa, or Yenefiti, between the Jupura
and the Rio Negro. Some Manoa Indians brought Father Fritz, in 1687,
several slips of beaten gold. This nation, the name of which is still
known on the banks of the Urarira, between Lamalongo and Moreira,
dwelt on the Yurubesh. La Condamine is right in saying that this
Mesopotamia, between the Caqueta, the Rio Negro, the Yurubesh, and the
Iquiare, was the first scene of El Dorado. But where shall we find the
names of Yurubesh and Iquiare, given by the Fathers Acunha and Fritz?
I think I recognise them in the rivers Urubaxi and Iguari,* on some
manuscript Portuguese maps which I possess. (* It may be written
Urubaji. The j and the x were the same as the German ch to Father
Fritz. The Urubaxi, or Hyurubaxi (Yurubesh), falls into the Rio Negro
near Santa Isabella; the Iguari (Iquiare?) runs into the Issana, which
is also a tributary of the Rio Negro.) I have long and assiduously
studied the geography of South America, north of the Amazon, from
ancient maps and unpublished materials. Desirous that my work should
preserve the character of a scientific performance, I ought not to
hesitate about treating of subjects on which I flatter myself that I
can throw some light; namely, on the questions respecting the sources
of the Rio Negro and the Orinoco, the communication between these
rivers and the Amazon, and the problem of the auriferous soil, which
has cost the inhabitants of the New World so much suffering and so
much blood.

In the distribution of the waters circulating on the surface of the
globe, as well as in the structure of organic bodies, nature has
pursued a much less complicated plan than has been believed by those
who have suffered themselves to be guided by vague conceptions and a
taste for the marvellous. We find, too, that all anomalies, all the
exceptions to the laws of hydrography, which the interior of America
displays, are merely apparent; that the course of running waters
furnishes phenomena equally extraordinary in the old world, but that
these phenomena, from their littleness, have less struck the
imagination of travellers. When immense rivers may be considered as
composed of several parallel furrows of unequal depth; when these
rivers are not enclosed in valleys; and when the interior of the great
continent is as flat as the shores of the sea with us; the
ramifications, the bifurcations, and the interlacings in the form of
net-work, must be infinitely multiplied. From what we know of the
equilibrium of the seas, I cannot think that the New World issued from
the waters later than the Old, and that organic life is there younger,
or more recent; but without admitting oppositions between the two
hemispheres of the same planet, we may conceive that in the hemisphere
most abundant in waters the different systems of rivers required more
time to separate themselves from one another, and establish their
complete independence. The deposits of mud, which are formed wherever
the running waters lose somewhat of their swiftness, contribute, no
doubt, to raise the beds of the great confluent streams, and augment
their inundations; but at length these deposits entirely obstruct the
branches of the rivers and the narrow channels that connect the
neighbouring streams. The substances washed down by rain-waters form
by their accumulation new bars, isthmuses of deposited earth, and
points of division that did not before exist. It hence results that
these natural channels of communication are by degrees divided into
two tributary streams, and from the effect of a transverse rising,
acquire two opposite slopes; a part of their waters is turned back
towards the principal recipient, and a buttress rises between the two
parallel basins, which occasions all traces of their ancient
communication to disappear. From this period the bifurcations no
longer connect different systems of rivers; and, where they continue
to take place at the time of great inundations, we see that the waters
diverge from the principal recipient only to enter it again after a
longer or shorter circuit. The limits, which at first appeared vague
and uncertain, begin to be fixed; and in the lapse of ages, from the
action of whatever is moveable on the surface of the globe, from that
of the waters, the deposits, and the sands, the basins of rivers
separate, as great lakes are subdivided, and as inland seas lose their
ancient communications.* (* The geological constitution of the soil
seems to indicate that, notwithstanding the actual difference of level
in their waters, the Black Sea, the Caspian, and lake Aral,
communicated with each other in an era anterior to historic times. The
overflowing of the Aral into the Caspian Sea seems even to be partly
of a more recent date, and independent of the bifurcation of the Gihon
(Oxus), on which one of the most learned geographers of our day, M.
Ritter, has thrown new light.)

The certainty acquired by geographers since the sixteenth century, of
the existence of several bifurcations, and the mutual dependence of
various systems of rivers in South America, have led them to admit an
intimate connection between the five great tributary streams of the
Orinoco and the Amazon; the Guaviare, the Inirida, the Rio Negro, the
Caqueta or Hyapura, and the Putumayo or Iza.

The Meta, the Guaviare, the Caqueta, and the Putumayo, are the only
great rivers that rise immediately from the eastern declivity of the
Andes of Santa Fe, Popayan, and Pasto. The Vichada, the Zama, the
Inirida, the Rio Negro, the Uaupe, and the Apoporis, which are marked
in our maps as extending westward as far as the mountains, take rise
at a great distance from them, either in the savannahs between the
Meta and the Guaviare, or in the mountainous country which, according
to the information given me by the natives, begins at four or five
days' journey westward of the missions of Javita and Maroa, and
extends through the Sierra Tuhuny, beyond the Xie, towards the banks
of the Issana.

It is remarkable that this ridge of the Cordilleras, which contains
the sources of so many majestic rivers (the Meta, the Guaviare, the
Caqueta, and the Putumayo), is as little covered with snow as the
mountains of Abyssinia from which flow the waters of the Blue Nile;
but, on the contrary, on going up the tributary streams which furrow
the plains, a volcano as found still in activity, before you reach the
Cordillera of the Andes. This phenomenon was discovered by the
Franciscan monks, who go down from Ceja by the Rio Fragua to Caqueta.
A solitary hill, emitting smoke night and day, is found on the
north-east of the mission of Santa Rosa, and west of the Puerto del
Pescado. This is the effect of a lateral action of the volcanoes of
Popayan and Pasto; as Guacamayo and Sangay, situated also at the foot
of the eastern declivity of the Andes, are the effect of a lateral
action produced by the system of the volcanoes of Quito. After having
closely inspected the banks of the Orinoco and the Rio Negro, where
the granite everywhere pierces the soil; when we reflect on the total
absence of volcanoes in Brazil, Guiana, on the coast of Venezuela, and
perhaps in all that part of the continent lying eastward of the Andes;
we contemplate with interest the three burning volcanoes situated near
the sources of the Caqueta, the Napo, and the Rio de Macas or Morona.

The little group of mountains with which we became acquainted at the
sources of the Guainia, is remarkable from its being isolated in the
plain that extends to the south-west of the Orinoco. Its situation
with regard to longitude might lead to the belief that it stretches
into a ridge, which forms first the strait (angostura) of the
Guaviare, and then the great cataracts (saltos, cachoeiras) of the
Uaupe and the Jupura. Does this ground, composed probably of primitive
rocks, like that which I examined more to the east, contain
disseminated gold? Are there any gold-washings more to the south,
toward the Uaupe, on the Iquiare (Iguiari, Iguari), and on the
Yurubesh (Yurubach, Urubaxi)? It was there that Philip von Huten first
sought El Dorado, and with a handful of men fought the battle of
Omaguas, so celebrated in the sixteenth century. In separating what is
fabulous from the narratives of the Conquistadores, we cannot fail to
recognize in the names preserved on the same spots a certain basis of
historic truth. We follow the expedition of Huten beyond the Guaviare
and the Caqeta; we find in the Guaypes, governed by the cacique of
Macatoa, the inhabitants of the river of Uaupe, which also bears the
name of Guape, or Guapue; we call to mind, that Father Acunha calls
the Iquiari (Quiquiare) a gold river; and that fifty years later
Father Fritz, a missionary of great veracity, received, in the mission
of Yurimaguas, the Manaos (Manoas), adorned with plates of beaten
gold, coming from the country between the Uaupe and the Caqueta, or
Jupura. The rivers that rise on the eastern declivity of the Andes
(for instance the Napo) carry along with them a great deal of gold,
even when their sources are found in trachytic soils. Why may there
not be an alluvial auriferous soil to the east of the Cordilleras, as
there is to the west, in the Sonoro, at Choco, and at Barbacoas? I am
far from wishing to exaggerate the riches of this soil; but I do not
think myself authorized to deny the existence of precious metals in
the primitive mountains of Guiana, merely because in our journey
through that country we saw no metallic veins. It is somewhat
remarkable that the natives of the Orinoco have a name in their
languages for gold (carucuru in Caribbee, caricuri in Tamanac, cavitta
in Maypure), while the word they use to denote silver, prata, is
manifestly borrowed from the Spanish.* (* The Parecas say, instead of
prata, rata. It is the Castilian word plata ill-pronounced. Near the
Yurubesh there is another inconsiderable tributary stream of the Rio
Negro, the Curicur-iari. It is easy to recognize in this name the
Caribbee word carucur, gold. The Caribs extended their incursions from
the mouth of the Orinoco south-west toward the Rio Negro; and it was
this restless people who carried the fable of El Dorado, by the same
way, but in an opposite direction (from south-west to north-east),
from the Mesopotamia between the Rio Negro and the Jupura to the
sources of the Rio Branco.) The notions collected by Acunha, Father
Fritz, and La Condamine, on the gold-washings south and north of the
river Uaupe, agree with what I learnt of the auriferous soil of those
countries. However great we may suppose the communications that took
place between the nations of the Orinoco before the arrival of
Europeans, they certainly did not draw their gold from the eastern
declivity of the Cordilleras. This declivity is poor in mines,
particularly in mines anciently worked; it is almost entirely composed
of volcanic rocks in the provinces of Popayan, Pasto, and Quito. The
gold of Guiana probably came from the country east of the Andes. In
our days a lump of gold has been found in a ravine near the mission of
Encaramada, and we must not be surprised if, since Europeans settled
in these wild spots, we hear less of the plates of gold, gold-dust,
and amulets of jade-stone, which could heretofore be obtained from the
Caribs and other wandering nations by barter. The precious metals,
never very abundant on the banks of the Orinoco, the Rio Negro, and
the Amazon, disappeared almost entirely when the system of the
missions caused the distant communications between the natives to

The banks of the Upper Guainia in general abound much less in
fishing-birds than those of Cassiquiare, the Meta, and the Arauca,
where ornithologists would find sufficient to enrich immensely the
collections of Europe. This scarcity of animals arises, no doubt, from
the want of shoals and flat shores, as well as from the quality of the
black waters, which (on account of their very purity) furnish less
aliment to aquatic insects and fish. However, the Indians of these
countries, during two periods of the year, feed on birds of passage,
which repose in their long migrations on the waters of the Rio Negro.
When the Orinoco begins to swell* after the vernal equinox, an
innumerable quantity of ducks (patos careteros) remove from the eighth
to the third degree of north latitude, to the first and fourth degree
of south latitude, towards the south-south-east. (* The swellings of
the Nile take place much later than those of the Orinoco; after the
summer solstice, below Syene; and at Cairo in the beginning of July.
The Nile begins to sink near that city generally about the 15th of
October, and continues sinking till the 20th of May.) These animals
then abandon the valley of the Orinoco, no doubt because the
increasing depth of waters, and the inundations of the shores, prevent
them from catching fish, insects, and aquatic worms. They are killed
by thousands in their passage across the Rio Negro. When they go
towards the equator they are very fat and savoury; but in the month of
September, when the Orinoco decreases and returns into its bed, the
ducks, warned either by the voices of the most experienced birds of
passage, or by that internal feeling which, not knowing how to define,
we call instinct, return from the Amazon and the Rio Branco towards
the north. At this period they are too lean to tempt the appetite of
the Indians of the Rio Negro, and escape pursuit more easily from
being accompanied by a species of herons (gavanes) which are excellent
eating. Thus the Indians eat ducks in March, and herons in September.
We could not learn what becomes of the gavanes during the swellings of
the Orinoco, and why they do not accompany the patos careteros in
their migration from the Orinoco to the Rio Branco. These regular
migrations of birds from one part of the tropics towards another, in a
zone which is during the whole year of the same temperature, are very
extraordinary phenomena. The southern coasts of the West India Islands
receive also every year, at the period of the inundations of the great
rivers of Terra Firma, numerous flights of the fishing-birds of the
Orinoco, and of its tributary streams. We must presume that the
variations of drought and humidity in the equinoctial zone have the
same influence as the great changes of temperature in our climates, on
the habits of animals. The heat of summer, and the pursuit of insects,
call the humming-birds into the northern parts of the United States,
and into Canada as far as the parallels of Paris and Berlin: in the
same manner a greater facility for fishing draws the web-footed and
long-legged birds from the north to the south, from the Orinoco
towards the Amazon. Nothing is more marvellous, and nothing is yet
known less clearly in a geographical point of view, than the
direction, extent, and term of the migrations of birds.

After having entered the Rio Negro by the Pimichin, and passed the
small cataract at the confluence of the two rivers, we discovered, at
the distance of a quarter of a league, the mission of Maroa. This
village, containing one hundred and fifty Indians, presented an
appearance of ease and prosperity. We purchased some fine specimens of
the toucan alive; a courageous bird, the intelligence of which is
developed like that of our domestic ravens. We passed on the right,
above Maroa, first the mouth of the Aquio* (Aqui, Aaqui, Ake, of the
most recent maps.), then that of the Tomo.* (* Tomui, Temujo, Tomon.)
On the banks of the latter river dwell the Cheruvichahenas, some
families of whom I have seen at San Francisco Solano. The Tomo lies
near the Rio Guaicia (Xie), and the mission of Tomo receives by that
way fugitive Indians from the Lower Guainia. We did not enter the
mission, but Father Zea related to us with a smile, that the Indians
of Tomo and Maroa had been one day in full insurrection, because an
attempt was made to force them to dance the famous dance of the
devils. The missionary had taken a fancy to have the ceremonies by
which the piaches (who are at once priests, physicians, and conjurors)
evoke the evil spirit Iolokiamo, represented in a burlesque manner. He
thought that the dance of the devils would be an excellent means of
proving to the neophytes that Iolokiamo had no longer any power over
them. Some young Indians, confiding in the promises of the missionary,
consented to act the devils, and were already decorated with black and
yellow plumes, and jaguar-skins with long sweeping tails. The place
where the church stands was surrounded by the soldiers who are
distributed in the missions, in order to add more effect to the
counsels of the monks; and those Indians who were not entirely
satisfied with respect to the consequences of the dance, and the
impotency of the evil spirit, were brought to the festivity. The
oldest and most timid of the Indians, however, imbued all the rest
with a superstitious dread; all resolved to flee al monte, and the
missionary adjourned his project of turning into derision the demon of
the natives. What extravagant ideas may sometimes enter the
imagination of an idle monk, who passes his life in the forests, far
from everything that can recall human civilization to his mind. The
violence with which the attempt was made to execute in public at Tomo
the mysterious dance of the devils is the more strange, as all the
books written by the missionaries relate the efforts they have used to
prevent the funereal dances, the dances of the sacred trumpet, and
that ancient dance of serpents, the Queti, in which these wily animals
are represented as issuing from the forests, and coming to drink with
the men in order to deceive them, and carry off the women.

After two hours' navigation from the mouth of the Tomo we arrived at
the little mission of San Miguel de Davipe, founded in 1775, not by
monks, but by a lieutenant of militia, Don Francisco Bobadilla. The
missionary of the place, Father Morillo, with whom we spent some
hours, received us with great hospitality. He even offered us Madeira
wine, but, as an object of luxury, we should have preferred wheaten
bread. The want of bread becomes more sensibly felt in length of time
than that of a strong liquor. The Portuguese of the Amazon carry small
quantities of Madeira wine, from time to time, to the Rio Negro; and
the word madera, signifying wood in the Castilian language, the monks,
who are not much versed in the study of geography, had a scruple of
celebrating mass with Madeira wine, which they took for a fermented
liquor extracted from the trunk of some tree, like palm-wine; and
requested the guardian of the missions to decide, whether the vino de
madera were wine from grapes, or the juice of a tree. At the beginning
of the conquest, the question was agitated, whether it were allowable
for the priests, in celebrating mass, to use any fermented liquor
analogous to grape-wine. The question, as might have been foreseen,
was decided in the negative.

At Davipe we bought some provisions, among which were fowls and a pig.
This purchase greatly interested our Indians, who had been a long
while deprived of meat. They pressed us to depart, in order to reach
the island of Dapa, where the pig was to be killed and roasted during
the night. We had scarcely time to examine in the convent (convento)
the great stores of mani resin, and cordage of the chiquichiqui palm,
which deserves to be more known in Europe. This cordage is extremely
light; it floats upon the water, and is more durable in the navigation
of rivers than ropes of hemp. It must be preserved at sea by being
often wetted, and little exposed to the heat of the tropical sun. Don
Antonio Santos, celebrated in the country for his journey in search of
lake Parima, taught the Indians of the Spanish Rio Negro to make use
of the petioles of the chiquichiqui, a palm-tree with pinnate leaves,
of which we saw neither the flowers nor the fruit. This officer is the
only white man who ever came from Angostura to Grand Para, passing by
land from the sources of the Rio Carony to those of the Rio Branco. He
had studied the mode of fabricating ropes from the chiquichiqui in the
Portuguese colonies; and, on his return from the Amazon, he introduced
this branch of industry into the missions of Guiana. It were to be
wished that extensive rope-walks could be established on the banks of
the Rio Negro and the Cassiquiare, in order to make these cables an
article of trade with Europe. A small quantity is already exported
from Angostura to the West Indies; and it costs from fifty to sixty
per cent less than cordage of hemp. Young palm-trees only being
employed, they must be planted and carefully cultivated.

A little above the mission of Davipe, the Rio Negro receives a branch
of the Cassiquiare, the existence of which is a very remarkable
phenomenon in the history of the branchings of rivers. This branch
issues from the Cassiquiare, north of Vasiva, bearing the name of the
Itinivini; and, after flowing for the length of twenty-five leagues
through a flat and almost uninhabited country, it falls into the Rio
Negro under the name of the Rio Conorichite. It appeared to me to be
more than one hundred and twenty toises broad near its mouth. Although
the current of the Conorichite is very rapid, this natural canal
abridges by three days the passage from Davipe to Esmeralda. We cannot
be surprised at a double communication between the Cassiquiare and the
Rio Negro when we recollect that so many of the rivers of America
form, as it were, deltas at their confluence with other rivers. Thus
the Rio Branco and the Rio Jupura enter by a great number of branches
into the Rio Negro and the Amazon. At the confluence of the Jupura
there is a much more extraordinary phenomenon. Before this river joins
the Amazon, the latter, which is the principal recipient, sends off
three branches called Uaranapu, Manhama, and Avateparana, to the
Jupura, which is but a tributary stream. The Portuguese astronomer,
Ribeiro, has proved this important fact. The Amazon gives waters to
the Jupura itself, before it receives that tributary stream.

The Rio Conorichite, or Itinivini, formerly facilitated the trade in
slaves carried on by the Portuguese in the Spanish territory. The
slave-traders went up by the Cassiquiare and the Cano Mee to
Conorichite; and thence dragged their canoes by a portage to the
rochelas of Manuteso, in order to enter the Atabapo. This abominable
trade lasted till about the year 1756; when the expedition of Solano,
and the establishment of the missions on the banks of the Rio Negro,
put an end to it. Old laws of Charles V and Philip III* (* 26 January
1523 and 10 October 1618.) had forbidden under the most severe
penalties (such as the being rendered incapable of civil employment,
and a fine of two thousand piastres), the conversion of the natives to
the faith by violent means, and sending armed men against them; but
notwithstanding these wise and humane laws, the Rio Negro, in the
middle of the last century, was no further interesting in European
politics, than as it facilitated the entradas, or hostile incursions,
and favoured the purchase of slaves. The Caribs, a trading and warlike
people, received from the Portuguese and the Dutch, knives,
fish-hooks, small mirrors, and all sorts of glass beads. They excited
the Indian chiefs to make war against each other, bought their
prisoners, and carried off, themselves, by stratagem or force, all
whom they found in their way. These incursions of the Caribs
comprehended an immense extent of land; they went from the banks of
the Essequibo and the Carony, by the Rupunuri and the Paraguamuzi on
one side, directly south towards the Rio Branco; and on the other, to
the south-west, following the portages between the Rio Paragua, the
Caura, and the Ventuario. The Caribs, when they arrived amid the
numerous tribes of the Upper Orinoco, divided themselves into several
bands, in order to reach, by the Cassiquiare, the Cababury, the
Itinivini, and the Atabapo, on a great many points at once, the banks
of the Guiainia or Rio Negro, and carry on the slave-trade with the
Portuguese. Thus the unhappy natives, before they came into immediate
contact with the Europeans, suffered from their proximity. The same
causes produce everywhere the same effects. The barbarous trade which
civilized nations have carried on, and still partially continue, on
the coast of Africa, extends its fatal influence even to regions where
the existence of white men is unknown.

Having quitted the mouth of the Conorichite and the mission of Davipe,
we reached at sunset the island of Dapa, lying in the middle of the
river, and very picturesquely situated. We were astonished to find on
this spot some cultivated ground, and on the top of a small hill an
Indian hut. Four natives were seated round a fire of brushwood, and
they were eating a sort of white paste with black spots, which much
excited our curiosity. These black spots proved to be vachacos, large
ants, the hinder parts of which resemble a lump of grease. They had
been dried, and blackened by smoke. We saw several bags of them
suspended above the fire. These good people paid but little attention
to us; yet there were more than fourteen persons in this confined hut,
lying naked in hammocks hung one above another. When Father Zea
arrived, he was received with great demonstrations of joy. The
military are in greater numbers on the banks of the Rio Negro than on
those of the Orinoco, owing to the necessity of guarding the
frontiers; and wherever soldiers and monks dispute for power over the
Indians, the latter are most attached to the monks. Two young women
came down from their hammocks, to prepare for us cakes of cassava. In
answer to some enquiries which we put to them through an interpreter,
they answered that cassava grew poorly on the island, but that it was
a good land for ants, and food was not wanting. In fact, these
vachacos furnish subsistence to the Indians of the Rio Negro and the
Guainia. They do not eat the ants as a luxury, but because, according
to the expression of the missionaries, the fat of ants (the white part
of the abdomen) is a very substantial food. When the cakes of cassava
were prepared, Father Zea, whose fever seemed rather to sharpen than
to enfeeble his appetite, ordered a little bag to be brought to him
filled with smoked vachacos. He mixed these bruised insects with flour
of cassava, which he pressed us to taste. It somewhat resembled rancid
butter mixed with crumb of bread. The cassava had not an acid taste,
but some remains of European prejudices prevented our joining in the
praises bestowed by the good missionary on what he called an excellent
ant paste.

The violence of the rain obliged us to sleep in this crowded hut. The
Indians slept only from eight till two in the morning; the rest of the
time they employed in conversing in their hammocks, and preparing
their bitter beverage of cupana. They threw fresh fuel on the fire,
and complained of cold, although the temperature of the air was at 21
degrees. This custom of being awake, and even on foot, four or five
hours before sunrise, is general among the Indians of Guiana. When, in
the entradas, an attempt is made to surprise the natives, the hours
chosen are those of the first sleep, from nine till midnight.

We left the island of Dapa long before daybreak; and notwithstanding
the rapidity of the current, and the activity of our rowers, our
passage to the fort of San Carlos del Rio Negro occupied twelve hours.
We passed, on the left, the mouth of the Cassiquiare, and, on the
right, the small island of Cumarai. The fort is believed in the
country to be on the equatorial line; but, according to the
observations which I made at the rocks of Culimacari, it is in 1
degree 54 minutes 11 seconds.

We lodged at San Carlos with the commander of the fort, a lieutenant
of militia. From a gallery in the upper part of the house we enjoyed a
delightful view of three islands of great length, and covered with
thick vegetation. The river runs in a straight line from north to
south, as if its bed had been dug by the hand of man. The sky being
constantly cloudy gives these countries a solemn and gloomy character.
We found in the village a few juvia-trees which furnish the triangular
nuts called in Europe the almonds of the Amazon, or Brazil-nuts. We
have made it known by the name of Bertholletia excelsa. The trees
attain after eight years' growth the height of thirty feet.

The military establishment of this frontier consisted of seventeen
soldiers, ten of whom were detached for the security of the
neighbouring missions. Owing to the extreme humidity of the air there
are not four muskets in a condition to be fired. The Portuguese have
from twenty-five to thirty men, better clothed and armed, at the
little fort of San Jose de Maravitanos. We found in the mission of San
Carlos but one garita,* a square house, constructed with unbaked
bricks, and containing six field-pieces. (* This word literally
signifies a sentry-box; but it is here employed in the sense of
store-house or arsenal.) The little fort, or, as they think proper to
call it here, the Castillo de San Felipe, is situated opposite San
Carlos, on the western bank of the Rio Negro.

The banks of the Upper Guainia will be more productive when, by the
destruction of the forests, the excessive humidity of the air and the
soil shall be diminished. In their present state of culture maize
scarcely grows, and the tobacco, which is of the finest quality, and
much celebrated on the coast of Caracas, is well cultivated only on
spots amid old ruins, remains of the huts of the pueblo viejo (old
town). Indigo grows wild near the villages of Maroa, Davipe, and Tomo.
Under a different system from that which we found existing in these
countries, the Rio Negro will produce indigo, coffee, cacao, maize,
and rice, in abundance.

The passage from the mouth of the Rio Negro to Grand Para occupying
only twenty or twenty-five days, it would not have taken us much more
time to have gone down the Amazon as far as the coast of Brazil, than
to return by the Cassiquiare and the Orinoco to the northern coast of
Caracas. We were informed at San Carlos that, on account of political
circumstances, it was difficult at that moment to pass from the
Spanish to the Portuguese settlements; but we did not know till after
our return to Europe the extent of the danger to which we should have
been exposed in proceeding as far as Barcellos. It was known at
Brazil, possibly through the medium of the newspapers, that I was
going to visit the missions of the Rio Negro, and examine the natural
canal which unites two great systems of rivers. In those desert
forests instruments had been seen only in the hands of the
commissioners of the boundaries; and at that time the subaltern agents
of the Portuguese government could not conceive how a man of sense
could expose himself to the fatigues of a long journey, to measure
lands that did not belong to him. Orders had been issued to seize my
person, my instruments, and, above all, those registers of
astronomical observations, so dangerous to the safety of states. We
were to be conducted by way of the Amazon to Grand Para, and thence
sent back to Lisbon. But fortunately for me, the government at Lisbon,
on being informed of the zeal of its subaltern agents, instantly gave
orders that I should not be disturbed in my operations; but that on
the contrary they should be encouraged, if I traversed any part of the
Portuguese possessions.

In going down the Guainia, or Rio Negro, you pass on the right the
Cano Maliapo, and on the left the Canos Dariba and Eny. At five
leagues distance, nearly in 1 degree 38 minutes of north latitude, is
the island of San Josef. A little below that island, in a spot where
there are a great number of orange-trees now growing wild, the
traveller is shown a small rock, two hundred feet high, with a cavern
called by the missionaries the Glorieta de Cocuy. This summer-house
(for such is the signification of the word glorieta in Spanish)
recalls remembrances that are not the most agreeable. It was here that
Cocuy, the chief of the Manitivitanos,* had his harem of women, and
where he devoured the finest and fattest. (* At San Carlos there is
still preserved an instrument of music, a kind of large drum,
ornamented with very rude Indian paintings, which relate to the
exploits of Cocuy.) The tradition of the harem and the orgies of Cocuy
is more current in the Lower Orinoco than on the banks of the Guainia.
At San Carlos the very idea that the chief of the Manitivitanos could
be guilty of cannibalism is indignantly rejected.

The Portuguese government has established many settlements even in
this remote part of Brazil. Below the Glorieta, in the Portuguese
territory, there are eleven villages in an extent of twenty-five
leagues. I know of nineteen more as far as the mouth of the Rio Negro,
beside the six towns of Thomare, Moreira (near the Rio Demenene, or
Uaraca, where dwelt anciently the Guiana Indians), Barcellos, San
Miguel del Rio Branco, near the river of the same name (so well known
in the fictions of El Dorado), Moura, and Villa de Rio Negro. The
banks of this tributary stream of the Amazon alone are consequently
ten times more thickly peopled than all the shores of the Upper and
Lower Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, the Atabapo, and the Spanish Rio

Among the tributary streams which the Rio Negro receives from the
north, three are particularly deserving of attention, because on
account of their branchings, their portages, and the situation of
their sources, they are connected with the often-discussed problem of
the origin of the Orinoco. The most southern of these tributary
streams are the Rio Branco,* which was long believed to issue
conjointly with the Orinoco from lake Parime (* The Portuguese name,
Rio Branco, signifies White Water. Rio Parime is a Caribbean name,
signifying Great Water. These names having also been applied to
different tributary streams, have caused many errors in geography. The
great Rio Branco, or Parime, often mentioned in this work, is formed
by the Urariquera and the Tacutu, and flows, between Carvoeyro and
Villa de Moura, into the Rio Negro. It is the Quecuene of the natives;
and forms at its confluence with the Rio Negro a very narrow delta,
between the principal trunk and the Amayauhau, which is a little
branch more to the west.), and the Rio Padaviri, which communicates by
a portage with the Mavaca, and consequently with the Upper Orinoco, to
the east of the mission of Esmeralda. We shall have occasion to speak
of the Rio Branco and the Padaviri, when we arrive in that mission; it
suffices here to pause at the third tributary stream of the Rio Negro,
the Cababury, the interbranchings of which with the Cassiquiare are
alike important in their connexion with hydrography, and with the
trade in sarsaparilla.

The lofty mountains of the Parime, which border the northern bank of
the Orinoco in the upper part of its course above Esmeralda, send off
a chain towards the south, of which the Cerro de Unturan forms one of
the principal summits. This mountainous country, of small extent but
rich in vegetable productions, above all, in the mavacure liana,
employed in preparing the wourali poison, in almond-trees (the juvia,
or Bertholletia excelsa), in aromatic pucheries, and in wild
cacao-trees, forms a point of division between the waters that flow to
the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio Negro. The tributary streams
on the north, or those of the Orinoco, are the Mavaca and the
Daracapo; those on the west, or of the Cassiquiare, are the Idapa and
the Pacimoni; and those on the south, or of the Rio Negro, are the
Padaviri and the Cababuri. The latter is divided near its source into
two branches, the westernmost of which is known by the name of Baria.
The Indians of the mission of San Francisco Solano gave us the most
minute description of its course. It affords the very rare example of
a branch by which an inferior tributary stream, instead of receiving
the waters of the superior stream, sends to it a part of its own
waters in a direction opposite to that of the principal recipient.

The Cababuri runs into the Rio Negro near the mission of Nossa Senhora
das Caldas; but the rivers Ya and Dimity, which are higher tributary
streams, communicate also with the Cababuri; so that, from the little
fort of San Gabriel de Cachoeiras as far as San Antonio de Castanheira
the Indians of the Portuguese possessions can enter the territory of
the Spanish missions by the Baria and the Pacimoni.

The chief object of these incursions is the collection of sarsaparilla
and the aromatic seeds of the puchery-laurel (Laurus pichurim). The
sarsaparilla of these countries is celebrated at Grand Para,
Angostura, Cumana, Nueva Barcelona, and in other parts of Terra Firma,
by the name of zarza del Rio Negro. It is much preferred to the zarza
of the Province of Caracas, or of the mountains of Merida; it is dried
with great care, and exposed purposely to smoke, in order that it may
become blacker. This liana grows in profusion on the humid declivities
of the mountains of Unturan and Achivaquery. Decandolle is right in
suspecting that different species of smilax are gathered under the
name of sarsaparilla. We found twelve new species, among which the
Smilax siphylitica of the Cassiquaire, and the Smilax officinalis of
the river Magdalena, are most esteemed on account of their diuretic
properties. The quantity of sarsaparilla employed in the Spanish
colonies as a domestic medicine is very considerable. We see by the
works of Clusius, that at the beginning of the Conquista, Europe
obtained this salutary medicament from the Mexican coast of Honduras
and the port of Guayaquil. The trade in zarza is now more active in
those ports which have interior communications with the Orinoco, the
Rio Negro, and the Amazon.

The trials made in several botanical gardens of Europe prove that the
Smilax glauca of Virginia, which it is pretended is the S.
sarsaparilla of Linnaeus, may be cultivated in the open air, wherever
the mean winter temperature rises above six or seven degrees of the
centigrade thermometer*: but those species that possess the most
active virtues belong exclusively to the torrid zone, and require a
much higher degree of heat. (* The winter temperature at London and
Paris is 4.2 and 3.7; at Montpelier, 6.7; at Rome, 7.7 degrees. In
that part of Mexico, and the Terra Firma, where we saw the most active
species of the sarsaparilla growing (that which supplies the trade of
the Spanish and Portuguese colonies), the temperature is from twenty
to twenty-six degrees. The roots of another family of monocotyledons
(of some cyperaceae) possess also diaphoretic and resolvent
properties. The Carex arenaria, the C. hirta, etc. furnish the German
sarsaparilla of druggists. According to Clusius, Europe received the
first sarsaparilla from Yucatan, and the island of Puna, opposite
Guayaquil.) In reading the works of Clusius, it can scarcely be
conceived why our writers on the Materia Medica persist in considering
a plant of the United States as the most ancient type of the officinal
species of the genus smilax.

We found in the possession of the Indians of the Rio Negro some of
those green stones, known by the name of Amazon stones, because the
natives pretend, according to an ancient tradition, that they come
from the country of the women without husbands (Cougnantainsecouima),
or women living alone (Aikeambenano*). (* This word is of the Tamanac
language; these women are the sole Donne of the Italian missionaries.)
We were told at San Carlos, and in the neighbouring villages, that the
sources of the Orinoco, which we found east of the Esmeralda, and in
the missions of the Carony and at Angostura, that the sources of the
Rio Branco are the native spots of the green stones. These statements
confirm the report of an old soldier of the garrison of Cayenne
(mentioned by La Condamine), who affirmed that those mineral
substances were obtained from the country of women, west of the rapids
of the Oyapoc. The Indians who inhabit the fort of Topayos on the
Amazon five degrees east of the mouth of the Rio Negro, possessed
formerly a great number of these stones. Had they received them from
the north, that is, from the country pointed out by the Indians of the
Rio Negro, which extends from the mountains of Cayenne towards the
sources of the Essequibo, the Carony, the Orinoco, the Parime, and the
Rio Trombetas? or did they come from the south by the Rio Topayos,
which descends from the vast table-land of the Campos Parecis?
Superstition attaches great importance to these mineral substances:
they are worn suspended from the neck as amulets, because, according
to popular belief, they preserve the wearer from nervous complaints,
fevers, and the stings of venomous serpents. They have consequently
been for ages an article of trade among the natives, both north and
south of the Orinoco. The Caribs, who may be considered as the
Bucharians of the New World, made them known along the coasts of
Guiana; and the same stones, like money in circulation, passed
successively from nation to nation in opposite directions: their
quantity is perhaps not augmented, and the spot which produces them is
probably unknown rather than concealed. In the midst of enlightened
Europe, on occasion of a warm contest respecting native bark, a few
years ago, the green stones of the Orinoco were gravely proposed as a
powerful febrifuge. After this appeal to the credulity of Europeans,
we cannot be surprised to learn that the Spanish planters share the
predilection of the Indians for these amulets, and that they are sold
at a very considerable price. The form given to them most frequently
is that of the Babylonian cylinders,* longitudinally perforated, and
loaded with inscriptions and figures. (The price of a cylinder two
inches long is from twelve to fifteen piastres.) But this is not the
work of the Indians of our days, the natives of the Orinoco and the
Amazon, whom we find in the last degree of barbarism. The Amazon
stones, like the perforated and sculptured emeralds, found in the
Cordilleras of New Grenada and Quito, are vestiges of anterior
civilization. The present inhabitants of those countries, particularly
in the hot region, so little comprehend the possibility of cutting
hard stones (the emerald, jade, compact feldspar and rock-crystal),
that they imagine the green stone is soft when taken out of the earth,
and that it hardens after having been moulded by the hand.

The natural soil of the Amazon-stone is not in the valley of the river
Amazon. It does not derive its name from the river, but like the river
itself, the stone has been named after a nation of warlike women, whom
Father Acunha, and Oviedo, in his letter to cardinal Bembo, compare to
the Amazons of the ancient world. What we see in our cabinets under
the false denomination of Amazon-stone, is neither jade, nor compact
feldspar, but a common feldspar of an apple-green colour, that comes
from the Ural mountains and on lake Onega in Russia, but which I never
saw in the granitic mountains of Guiana. Sometimes also this very rare
and hard Amazon-stone is confounded with the hatchet-nephrite
(beilstein)* of Werner, which has much less tenacity. (* Punamustein
(jade axinien). The stone hatchets found in America, for instance in
Mexico, are not of beilstein, but of compact feldspar.) The substance
which I obtained from the hands of the Indians, belongs to the
saussurite,* (* Jade of Saussure, according to the system of
Brongniart; tenacious jade, and compact tenacious feldspar of Hauy;
some varieties of the variolithe of Werner.) to the real jade, which
resembles compact feldspar, and which forms one of the constituent
parts of the verde de Corsica, or gabbro.* (* Euphotide of Hauy, or
schillerfels, of Raumer.) It takes a fine polish, and passes from
apple-green to emerald-green; it is translucent at the edges,
extremely tenacious, and in a high degree sonorous. These Amazon
stones were formerly cut by the natives into very thin plates,
perforated at the centre, and suspended by a thread, and these plates
yield an almost metallic sound if struck by another hard body.* (* M.
Brongniart, to whom I showed these plates on my return to Europe, very
justly compared these jades of Parime to the sonorous stones employed
by the Chinese in their musical instruments called king.) This fact
confirms the connection which we find, notwithstanding the difference
of fracture and of specific gravity between the saussurite and the
siliceous basis of the porphyrschiefer, which is the phonolite
(klingstein). I have already observed, that, as it is very rare to
find in America nephrite, jade, or compact feldspar, in its native
place, we may well be astonished at the quantity of hatchets which are
everywhere discovered in digging the earth, from the banks of the Ohio
as far as Chile. We saw in the mountains of Upper Orinoco, or of
Parime, only granular granites containing a little hornblende,
granites passing into gneiss, and schistoid hornblendes. Has nature
repeated on the east of Esmeralda, between the sources of the Carony,
the Essequibo, the Orinoco, and the Rio Branco, the
transition-formation of Tucutunemo reposing on mica-schist? Does the
Amazon-stone come from the rocks of euphotide, which form the last
member of the series of primitive rocks?

We find among the inhabitants of both hemispheres, at the first dawn
of civilization, a peculiar predilection for certain stones; not only
those which, from their hardness, may be useful to man as cutting
instruments, but also for mineral substances, which, on account of
their colour and their natural form, are believed to bear some
relation to the organic functions, and even to the propensities of the
soul. This ancient worship of stones, these benign virtues attributed
to jade and haematite, belong to the savages of America as well as to
the inhabitants of the forests of Thrace. The human race, when in an
uncultivated state, believes itself to have sprung from the ground;
and feels as if it were enchained to the earth, and the substances
contained in her bosom. The powers of nature, and still more those
which destroy than those which preserve, are the first objects of its
worship. It is not solely in the tempest, in the sound that precedes
the earthquake, in the fire that feeds the volcano, that these powers
are manifested; the inanimate rock; stones, by their lustre and
hardness; mountains, by their mass and their solitude; act upon the
untaught mind with a force which, in a state of advanced civilization,
can no longer be conceived. This worship of stones, when once
established, is preserved amidst more modern forms of worship; and
what was at first the object of religious homage, becomes a source of
superstitious confidence. Divine stones are transformed into amulets,
which are believed to preserve the wearer from every ill, mental and
corporeal. Although a distance of five hundred leagues separates the
banks of the Amazon and the Orinoco from the Mexican table-land;
although history records no fact that connects the savage nations of
Guiana with the civilized nations of Anahuac, the monk Bernard de
Sahagun, at the beginning of the conquest, found preserved as relics
at Cholula, certain green stones which had belonged to Quetzalcohuatl.
This mysterious personage is the Mexican Buddha; he appeared in the
time of the Toltecs, founded the first religious associations, and
established a government similar to that of Meroe and of Japan.

The history of the jade, or the green stones of Guiana, is intimately
connected with that of the warlike women whom the travellers of the
sixteenth century named the Amazons of the New World. La Condamine has
produced many testimonies in favour of this tradition. Since my return
from the Orinoco and the river Amazon, I have often been asked, at
Paris, whether I embraced the opinion of that learned man, or
believed, like several of his contemporaries, that he undertook the
defence of the Cougnantainsecouima (the independent women who received
men into their society only in the month of April), merely to fix, in
a public sitting of the Academy, the attention of an audience somewhat
eager for novelties. I may take this opportunity of expressing my
opinion on a tradition which has so romantic an appearance; and I am
farther led to do this as La Condamine asserts that the Amazons of the
Rio Cayame* crossed the Maranon to establish themselves on the Rio
Negro. (* Orellana, arriving at the Maranon by the Rio Coca and the
Napo, fought with the Amazons, as it appears, between the mouth of the
Rio Negro and that of the Xingu. La Condamine asserts that in the
seventeenth century they passed the Maranon between Tefe and the mouth
of the Rio Puruz, near the Cano Cuchivara, which is a western branch
of the Puruz. These women therefore came from the banks of the Rio
Cayame, or Cayambe, consequently from the unknown country which
extends south of the Maranon, between the Ucayale and the Madeira.
Raleigh also places them on the south of the Maranon, but in the
province of Topayos, and on the river of the same name. He says they
were rich in golden vessels, which they had acquired in exchange for
the famous green stones, or piedras hijadas. (Raleigh means, no doubt,
piedros del higado, stones that cure diseases of the liver.) It is
remarkable enough that, one hundred and forty-eight years after, La
Condamine still found those green stones (divine stones), which differ
neither in colour nor in hardness from oriental jade, in greater
numbers among the Indians who live near the mouth of the Rio Topayos,
than elsewhere. The Indians said that they inherited these stones,
which cure the nephritic colic and epilepsy, from their fathers, who
received them from the women without husbands.) A taste for the
marvellous, and a wish to invest the descriptions of the New Continent
with some of the colouring of classic antiquity, no doubt contributed
to give great importance to the first narratives of Orellana. In
perusing the works of Vespucci, Fernando Columbus, Geraldini, Oviedo,
and Pietro Martyr, we recognize this tendency of the writers of the
sixteenth century to find among the newly discovered nations all that
the Greeks have related to us of the first age of the world, and of
the manners of the barbarous Scythians and Africans. But if Oviedo, in
addressing his letters to cardinal Bembo, thought fit to flatter the
taste of a man so familiar with the study of antiquity, Sir Walter
Raleigh had a less poetic aim. He sought to fix the attention of Queen
Elizabeth on the great empire of Guiana, the conquest of which he
proposed. He gave a description of the rising of that gilded king (el
dorado),* whose chamberlains, furnished with long tubes, blew powdered
gold every morning over his body, after having rubbed it over with
aromatic oils: but nothing could be better adapted to strike the
imagination of queen Elizabeth, than the warlike republic of women
without husbands, who resisted the Castilian heroes. (* The term el
dorado, which signifies the gilded, was not originally the name of the
country. The territory subsequently distinguished by that appellation
was at first known as the country of el Rey Dorado, the Gilded King.)
Such were the motives which prompted exaggeration on the part of those
writers who have given most reputation to the Amazons of America; but
these motives do not, I think, suffice for entirely rejecting a
tradition, which is spread among various nations having no
communications one with another.

Thirty years after La Condamine visited Quito, a Portuguese
astronomer, Ribeiro, who has traversed the Amazon, and the tributary
streams which run into that river on the northern side, has confirmed
on the spot all that the learned Frenchman had advanced. He found the
same traditions among the Indians; and he collected them with the
greater impartiality as he did not himself believe that the Amazons
formed a separate horde. Not knowing any of the tongues spoken on the
Orinoco and the Rio Negro, I could learn nothing certain respecting
the popular traditions of the women without husbands, or the origin of
the green stones, which are believed to be intimately connected with
them. I shall, however, quote a modern testimony of some weight, that
of Father Gili. "Upon inquiring," says this well-informed missionary,
"of a Quaqua Indian, what nations inhabited the Rio Cuchivero, he named
to me the Achirigotos, the Pajuros, and the Aikeambenanos.* (* In
Italian, Acchirecolti, Pajuri, and Aicheam-benano.) Being well
acquainted," pursues he, "with the Tamanac tongue, I instantly
comprehended the sense of this last word, which is a compound, and
signifies women living alone. The Indian confirmed my observation, and
related that the Aikeambenanos were a community of women, who
manufactured blow-tubes* (* Long tubes made from a hollow cane, which
the natives use to propel their poisoned arrows.), and other weapons
of war. They admit, once a year, the men of the neighbouring nation of
Vokearos into their society, and send them back with presents. All the
male children born in this horde of women are killed in their
infancy." This history seems framed on the traditions which circulate
among the Indians of the Maranon, and among the Caribs; yet the Quaqua
Indian, of whom Father Gili speaks, was ignorant of the Castilian
language; he had never had any communication with white men; and
certainly knew not, that south of the Orinoco there existed another
river, called the river of the Aikeambenanos, or Amazons.

What must we conclude from this narration of the old missionary of
Encaramada? Not that there are Amazons on the banks of the Cuchivero,
but that women in different parts of America, wearied of the state of
slavery in which they were held by the men, united themselves
together; that the desire of preserving their independence rendered
them warriors; and that they received visits from a neighbouring and
friendly horde. This society of women may have acquired some power in
one part of Guiana. The Caribs of the continent held intercourse with
those of the islands; and no doubt in this way the traditions of the
Maranon and the Orinoco were propagated toward the north. Before the
voyage of Orellana, Christopher Columbus imagined he had found the
Amazons in the Caribbee Islands. This great man was told, that the
small island of Madanino (Montserrat) was inhabited by warlike women,
who lived the greater part of the year separate from men. At other
times also, the conquistadores imagined that the women, who defended
their huts in the absence of their husbands, were republics of
Amazons; and, by an error less excusable, formed a like supposition
respecting the religious congregations, the convents of Mexican
virgins, who, far from admitting men at any season of the year into
their society, lived according to the austere rule of Quetzalcohuatl.
Such was the disposition of men's minds, that in the long succession
of travellers, who crowded on each other in their discoveries and in
narrations of the marvels of the New World, every one readily declared
he had seen what his predecessors had announced.

We passed three nights at San Carlos del Rio Negro. I count the
nights, because I watched during the greater part of them, in the hope
of seizing the moment of the passage of some star over the meridian.
That I might have nothing to reproach myself with, I kept the
instruments always ready for an observation. I could not even obtain
double altitudes, to calculate the latitude by the method of Douwes.
What a contrast between two parts of the same zone; between the sky of
Cumana, where the air is constantly pure as in Persia and Arabia, and
the sky of the Rio Negro, veiled like that of the Feroe islands,
without sun, or moon or stars!

On the 10th of May, our canoe being ready before sunrise, we embarked
to go up the Rio Negro as far as the mouth of the Cassiquiare, and to
devote ourselves to researches on the real course of that river, which
unites the Orinoco to the Amazon. The morning was fine; but, in
proportion as the heat augmented, the sky became obscured. The air is
so saturated by water in these forests, that the vesicular vapours
become visible on the least increase of evaporation at the surface of
the earth. The breeze being never felt, the humid strata are not
displaced and renewed by dryer air. We were every day more grieved at
the aspect of the cloudy sky. M. Bonpland was losing by this excessive
humidity the plants he had collected; and I, for my part, was afraid
lest I should again find the fogs of the Rio Negro in the valley of
the Cassiquiare. No one in these missions for half a century past had
doubted the existence of communication between two great systems of
rivers; the important point of our voyage was confined therefore to
fixing by astronomical observations the course of the Cassiquiare, and
particularly the point of its entrance into the Rio Negro, and that of
the bifurcation of the Orinoco. Without a sight of the sun and the
stars this object would be frustrated, and we should have exposed
ourselves in vain to long and painful privations. Our fellow
travellers would have returned by the shortest way, that of the
Pimichin and the small rivers; but M. Bonpland preferred, like me,
persisting in the plan of the voyage, which we had traced for
ourselves in passing the Great Cataracts. We had already travelled one
hundred and eighty leagues in a boat from San Fernando de Apure to San
Carlos, on the Rio Apure, the Orinoco, the Atabapo, the Temi, the
Tuamini, and the Rio Negro. In again entering the Orinoco by the
Cassiquiare we had to navigate three hundred and twenty leagues, from
San Carlos to Angostura. By this way we had to struggle against the
currents during ten days; the rest was to be performed by going down
the stream of the Orinoco. It would have been blamable to have
suffered ourselves to be discouraged by the fear of a cloudy sky, and
by the mosquitos of the Cassiquiare. Our Indian pilot, who had been
recently at Mandavaca, promised us the sun, and those great stars that
eat the clouds, as soon as we should have left the black waters of the
Guaviare. We therefore carried out our first project of returning to
San Fernando de Atabapo by the Cassiquiare; and, fortunately for our
researches, the prediction of the Indian was verified. The white
waters brought us by degrees a more serene sky, stars, mosquitos, and

We passed between the islands of Zaruma and Mini, or Mibita, covered
with thick vegetation; and, after having ascended the rapids of the
Piedra de Uinumane, we entered the Rio Cassiquiare at the distance of
eight miles from the small fort of San Carlos. The Piedra, or granitic
rock which forms the little cataract, attracted our attention on
account of the numerous veins of quartz by which it is traversed.
These veins are several inches broad, and their masses proved that
their date and formation are very different. I saw distinctly that,
wherever they crossed each other, the veins containing mica and black
schorl traversed and drove out of their direction those which
contained only white quartz and feldspar. According to the theory of
Werner, the black veins were consequently of a more recent formation
than the white. Being a disciple of the school of Freyberg, I could
not but pause with satisfaction at the rock of Uinumane, to observe
the same phenomena near the equator, which I had so often seen in the
mountains of my own country. I confess that the theory which considers
veins as clefts filled from above with various substances, pleases me
somewhat less now than it did at that period; but these modes of
intersection and driving aside, observed in the stony and metallic
veins, do not the less merit the attention of travellers as being one
of the most general and constant of geological phenomena. On the east
of Javita, all along the Cassiquiare, and particularly in the
mountains of Duida, the number of veins in the granite increases.
These veins are full of holes and druses; and their frequency seems to
indicate that the granite of these countries is not of very ancient

We found some lichens on the rock Uinumane, opposite the island of
Chamanare, at the edge of the rapids; and as the Cassiquiare near its
mouth turns abruptly from east to south-west, we saw for the first
time this majestic branch of the Orinoco in all its breadth. It much
resembles the Rio Negro in the general aspect of the landscape. The
trees of the forest, as in the basin of the latter river, advance as
far as the beach, and there form a thick coppice; but the Cassiquiare
has white waters, and more frequently changes its direction. Its
breadth, near the rapids of Uinumane, almost surpasses that of the Rio
Negro. I found it everywhere from two hundred and fifty to two hundred
and eighty toises, as far as above Vasiva. Before we passed the island
of Garigave, we perceived to the north-east, almost at the horizon, a
little hill with a hemispheric summit; the form which in every zone
characterises mountains of granite. Continually surrounded by vast
plains, the solitary rocks and hills excite the attention of the
traveller. Contiguous mountains are only found more to the east,
towards the sources of the Pacimoni, Siapa, and Mavaca. Having arrived
on the south of the Raudal of Caravine, we perceived that the
Cassiquiare, by the windings of its course, again approached San
Carlos. The distance from this fort to the mission of San Francisco
Solano, where we slept, is only two leagues and a half by land, but it
is reckoned seven or eight by the river. I passed a part of the night
in the open air, waiting vainly for stars. The air was misty,
notwithstanding the aguas blancas, which were to lead us beneath an
ever-starry sky.

The mission of San Francisco Solano, situated on the left bank of the
Cassiquiare, was founded, as were most of the Christian settlements
south of the Great Cataracts of the Orinoco, not by monks, but by
military authority. At the time of the expedition of the boundaries,
villages were built in proportion as a subteniente, or a corporal,
advanced with his troops. Part of the natives, in order to preserve
their independence, retired without a struggle; others, of whom the
most powerful chiefs had been gained, joined the missions. Where there
was no church, they contented themselves with erecting a great cross
of red wood, close to which they constructed a casa fuerte, or
block-house, the walls of which were formed of large beams resting
horizontally upon each other. This house had two stories; in the upper
story two cannon of small calibre were placed; and two soldiers lived
on the ground-floor, and were served by an Indian family. Those of the
natives with whom they were at peace cultivated spots of land round
the casa fuerte. The soldiers called them together by the sound of the
horn, or a botuto of baked earth, whenever any hostile attack was
dreaded. Such were the pretended nineteen Christian settlements
founded by Don Antonio Santos in the way from Esmeralda to the
Erevato. Military posts, which had no influence on the civilization of
the natives, figured on the maps, and in the works of the
missionaries, as villages (pueblos) and reducciones apostolicas.* (*
Signifying apostolic conquests or conversions.) The preponderance of
the military was maintained on the banks of the Orinoco till 1785,
when the system of the monks of San Francisco began. The small number
of missions founded, or rather re-established, since that period, owe
their existence to the Fathers of the Observance; for the soldiers now
distributed among the missions are dependent on the missionaries, or
at least are reputed to be so, according to the pretensions of the
ecclesiastical hierarchy.

The Indians whom we found at San Francisco Solano were of two nations;
Pacimonales and Cheruvichahenas. The latter being descended from a
considerable tribe settled on the Rio Tomo, near the Manivas of the
Upper Guainia, I tried to gather from them some ideas respecting the
upper course and the sources of the Rio Negro; but the interpreter
whom I employed could not make them comprehend my questions. Their
continually-repeated answer was, that the sources of the Rio Negro and
the Inirida were as near to each other as "two fingers of the hand."
In one of the huts of the Pacimonales we purchased two fine large
birds, a toucan (piapoco) and an ana, a species of macaw, seventeen
inches long, having the whole body of a purple colour. We had already
in our canoe seven parrots, two manakins (pipa), a motmot, two guans,
or pavas de monte, two manaviris (cercoleptes or Viverra
caudivolvula), and eight monkeys, namely, two ateles,* (* Marimonda of
the Great Cataracts, Simia belzebuth, Brisson.) two titis,* (* Simia
sciurea, the saimiri of Buffon.) one viudita,* (* Simia lugens.) two
douroucoulis or nocturnal monkeys,* (* Cusiensi, or Simia trivirgata.)
and a short-tailed cacajao. (* Simia melanocephala, mono feo. These
last three species are new.) Father Zea whispered some complaints at
the daily augmentation of this ambulatory collection. The toucan
resembles the raven in manners and intelligence. It is a courageous
animal, but easily tamed. Its long and stout beak serves to defend it
at a distance. It makes itself master of the house, steals whatever it
can come at, and loves to bathe often and fish on the banks of the
river. The toucan we had bought was very young; yet it took delight,
during the whole voyage, in teasing the cusicusis, or nocturnal
monkeys, which are melancholy and irritable. I did not observe what
has been related in some works of natural history, that the toucan is
forced, from the structure of its beak, to swallow its food by
throwing it up into the air. It raises it indeed with some difficulty
from the ground, but, having once seized it with the point of its
enormous beak, it has only to lift it up by throwing back its head,
and holding it perpendicularly whilst in the act of swallowing. This
bird makes extraordinary gestures when preparing to drink. The monks
say that it makes the sign of the cross upon the water; and this
popular belief has obtained for the toucan, from the creoles, the
singular name of diostede.* (* Dios te de, God gives it thee.)

Most of our animals were confined in small wicker cages; others ran at
full liberty in all parts of the boat. At the approach of rain the
macaws sent forth noisy cries, the toucan wanted to reach the shore to
fish, and the little monkeys (the titis) went in search of Father Zea,
to take shelter in the large sleeves of his Franciscan habit. These
incidents sometimes amused us so much that we forgot the torment of
the mosquitos. At night we placed a leather case (petaca), containing
our provisions, in the centre; then our instruments, and the cages of
our animals; our hammocks were suspended around the cages, and beyond
were those of the Indians. The exterior circle was formed by the fires
which are lighted to keep off the jaguars. Such was the order of our
encampment on the banks of the Cassiquiare. The Indians often spoke to
us of a little nocturnal animal, with a long nose, which surprises the
young parrots in their nests, and in eating makes use of its hands
like the monkeys and the maniveris, or kinkajous. They call it the
guachi; it is, no doubt, a coati, perhaps the Viverra nasua, which I
saw wild in Mexico. The missionaries gravely prohibit the natives from
eating the flesh of the guachi, to which, according to far-spread
superstitious ideas, they attribute the same stimulating qualities
which the people of the East believe to exist in the skink, and the
Americans in the flesh of the alligator.

On the 11th of May, we left the mission of San Francisco Solano at a
late hour, to make but a short day's journey. The uniform stratum of
vapours began to be divided into clouds with distinct outlines: and
there was a light east wind in the upper regions of the air. We
recognized in these signs an approaching change of the weather; and
were unwilling to go far from the mouth of the Cassiquiare, in the
hope of observing during the following night the passage of some star
over the meridian. We descried the Cano Daquiapo to the south, the
Guachaparu to the north, and a few miles further, the rapids of
Cananivacari. The velocity of the current being 6.3 feet in a second,
we had to struggle against the turbulent waves of the Raudal. We went
on shore, and M. Bonpland discovered within a few steps of the beach a
majestic almendron, or Bertholletia excelsa. The Indians assured us,
that the existence of this valuable plant of the banks of the
Cassiquiare was unknown at San Francisco Solano, Vasiva, and
Esmeralda. They did not think that the tree we saw, which was more
than sixty feet high, had been sown by some passing traveller.
Experiments made at San Carlos have shown how rare it is to succeed in
causing the bertholletia to germinate, on account of its ligneous
pericarp, and the oil contained in its nut which so readily becomes
rancid. Perhaps this tree denoted the existence of a forest of
bertholletia in the inland country on the east and north-east. We
know, at least, with certainty, that this fine tree grows wild in the
third degree of latitude, in the Cerro de Guanaya. The plants that
live in society have seldom marked limits, and it happens, that before
we reach a palmar or a pinar,* (* Two Spanish words, which, according
to a Latin form, denote a forest of palm-trees, palmetum, and of
pines, pinetum.) we find solitary palm-trees and pines. They are
somewhat like colonists that have advanced in the midst of a country
peopled with different vegetable productions.

Four miles distant from the rapids of Cunanivacari, rocks of the
strangest form rise in the plains. First appears a narrow wall eighty
feet high, and perpendicular; and at the southern extremity of this
wall are two turrets, the courses of which are of granite, and nearly
horizontal. The grouping of the rocks of Guanari is so symmetrical
that they might be taken for the ruins of an ancient edifice. Are they
the remains of islets in the midst of an inland sea, that covered the
flat ground between the Sierra Parime and the Parecis mountains?* (*
The Sierra de la Parime, or of the Upper Orinoco, and the Sierra (or
Campos) dos Parecis, are part of the mountains of Matto Grosso, and
form the northern back of the Sierra de Chiquitos. I here name the two
chains of mountains running from east to west, and bordering the
plains or basins of the Cassiquiare, the Rio Negro, and the Amazon,
between 5 degrees 30 minutes north, and 14 degrees south latitude.) or
have these walls of rock, these turrets of granite, been upheaved by
the elastic forces that still act in the interior of our planet? We
may be permitted to meditate a little on the origin of mountains,
after having seen the position of the Mexican volcanoes, and of
trachyte summits on an elongated crevice; having found in the Andes of
South America primitive and volcanic rocks in a straight line in the
same chain; and when we recollect the island, three miles in
circumference, and of a great height, which in modern times issued
from the depths of the ocean near Oonalaska.

The banks of the Cassiquiare are adorned with the chiriva palm-tree
with pinnate leaves, silvery on the under part. The rest of the forest
furnishes only trees with large, coriaceous, glossy leaves, that have
plain edges. This peculiar physiognomy* of the vegetation of the
Guainia, the Tuamini, and the Cassiquiare, is owing to the
preponderance of the families of the guttiferae, the sapotae, and the
laurineae, in the equatorial regions. (* This physiognomy struck us
forcibly, in the vast forests of Spanish Guiana, only between the
second and third degrees of north latitude.) The serenity of the sky
promising us a fine night, we resolved, at five in the evening, to
rest near the Piedra de Culimacari, a solitary granite rock, like all
those which I have described between the Atabapo and the Cassiquiare.
We found by the bearings of the sinuosities of the river, that this
rock is nearly in the latitude of the mission of San Francisco Solano.
In those desert countries, where man has hitherto left only fugitive
traces of his existence, I constantly endeavoured to make my
observations near the mouth of a river, or at the foot of a rock
distinguishable by its form. Such points only as are immutable by
their nature can serve for the basis of geographical maps. I obtained,
in the night of the 10th of May, a good observation of latitude by
alpha of the Southern Cross; the longitude was determined, but with
less precision, by the chronometer, taking the altitudes of the two
beautiful stars which shine in the feet of the Centaur. This
observation made known to us at the same time, with sufficient
precision for the purposes of geography, the positions of the mouth of
the Pacimoni, of the fortress of San Carlos, and of the junction of
the Cassiquiare with the Rio Negro. The rock of Culimacari is
precisely in latitude 2 degrees 0 minutes 42 seconds, and probably in
longitude 69 degrees 33 minutes 50 seconds.

Satisfied with our observations, we left the rock of Culimacari at
half past one on the morning of the 12th. The torment of mosquitos, to
which we were exposed, augmented in proportion as we withdrew from the
Rio Negro. There are no zancudos in the valley of Cassiquiare, but the
simulia, and all the other insects of the tipulary family, are the
more numerous and venomous. Having still eight nights to pass in the
open air in this damp and unhealthy climate, before we could reach the
mission of Esmeralda, our pilot sought to arrange our passage in such
a manner as might enable us to enjoy the hospitality of the missionary
of Mandavaca, and some shelter in the village of Vasiva. We went up
with difficulty against the current, which was nine feet, and in some
places (where I measured it with precision) eleven feet eight inches
in a second, that is, almost eight miles an hour. Our resting-place
was probably not farther than three leagues in a right line from the
mission of Mandavaca; yet, though we had no reason to complain of
inactivity on the part of our rowers, we were fourteen hours in making
this short passage.

Towards sunrise we passed the mouth of the Rio Pacimoni, a river which
I mentioned when speaking of the trade in sarsaparilla, and which (by
means of the Baria) intertwines in so remarkable a way with the
Cababuri. The Pacimoni rises in a hilly ground, from the confluence of
three small rivers,* not marked on the maps of the missionaries. (*
The Rios Guajavaca, Moreje, and Cachevaynery.) Its waters are black,
but less so than those of the lake of Vasiva, which also communicates
with the Cassiquiare. Between those two tributary streams coming from
the east, lies the mouth of the Rio Idapa, the waters of which are
white. I shall not recur again to the difficulty of explaining this
coexistence of rivers differently coloured, within a small extent of
territory, but shall merely observe, that at the mouth of the
Pacimoni, and on the borders of the lake Vasiva, we were again struck
with the purity and extreme transparency of the brown waters. Ancient
Arabian travellers have observed, that the Alpine branch of the Nile,
which joins the Bahr el Abiad near Halfaja, has green waters, which
are so transparent, that the fish may be seen at the bottom of the

We passed some turbulent rapids before we reached the mission of
Mandavaca. The village, which bears also the name of Quirabuena,
contains only sixty natives. The state of the Christian settlements is
in general so miserable that, in the whole course of the Cassiquiare,
on a length of fifty leagues, not two hundred inhabitants are found.
The banks of this river were indeed more peopled before the arrival of
the missionaries; the Indians have withdrawn into the woods, toward
the east; for the western plains are almost deserted. The natives
subsist during a part of the year on those large ants of which I have
spoken above. These insects are much esteemed here, as spiders are in
the southern hemisphere, where the savages of Australia deem them
delicious. We found at Mandavaca the good old missionary, who had
already spent twenty years of mosquitos in the bosques del
Cassiquiare, and whose legs were so spotted by the stings of insects,
that the colour of the skin could scarcely be perceived. He talked to
us of his solitude, and of the sad necessity which often compelled him
to leave the most atrocious crimes unpunished in the two missions of
Mandavaca and Vasiva. In the latter place, an Indian alcalde had, a
few years before, eaten one of his wives, after having taken her to
his conuco,* (* A hut surrounded with cultivated ground; a sort of
country-house, which the natives prefer to residing in the missions.)
and fattened her by good feeding. The cannibalism of the nations of
Guiana is never caused by the want of subsistence, or by the
superstitions of their religion, as in the islands of the South Sea;
but is generally the effect of the vengeance of a conqueror, and (as
the missionaries say) "of a vitiated appetite." Victory over a hostile
tribe is celebrated by a repast, in which some parts of the body of a
prisoner are devoured. Sometimes a defenceless family is surprised in
the night; or an enemy, who is met with by chance in the woods, is
killed by a poisoned arrow. The body is cut to pieces, and carried as
a trophy to the hut. It is civilization only, that has made man feel
the unity of the human race; which has revealed to him, as we may say,
the ties of consanguinity, by which he is linked to beings to whose
language and manners he is a stranger. Savages know only their own
family; and a tribe appears to them but a more numerous assemblage of
relations. When those who inhabit the missions see Indians of the
forest, who are unknown to them, arrive, they make use of an
expression, which has struck us by its simple candour: they are, no
doubt, my relations; I understand them when they speak to me. But
these very savages detest all who are not of their family, or their
tribe; and hunt the Indians of a neighbouring tribe, who live at war
with their own, as we hunt game. They know the duties of family ties
and of relationship, but not those of humanity, which require the
feeling of a common tie with beings framed like ourselves. No emotion
of pity prompts them to spare the wives or children of a hostile race;
and the latter are devoured in preference, at the repast given at the
conclusion of a battle or warlike incursion.

The hatred which savages for the most part feel for men who speak
another idiom, and appear to them to be of an inferior race, is
sometimes rekindled in the missions, after having long slumbered. A
short time before our arrival at Esmeralda, an Indian, born in the
forest* behind the Duida, travelled alone with another Indian, who,
after having been made prisoner by the Spaniards on the banks of the
Ventuario, lived peaceably in the village, or, as it is expressed
here, within the sound of the bell (debaxo de la campana.) (* En el
monte. The Indians born in the missions are distinguished from those
born in the woods. The word monte signifies more frequently, in the
colonies, a forest (bosque) than a mountain, and this circumstance has
led to great errors in our maps, on which chains of mountains
(sierras) are figured, where there are only thick forests, (monte
espeso.)) The latter could only walk slowly, because he was suffering
from one of those fevers to which the natives are subject, when they
arrive in the missions, and abruptly change their diet. Wearied by his
delay, his fellow-traveller killed him, and hid the body behind a
copse of thick trees, near Esmeralda. This crime, like many others
among the Indians, would have remained unknown, if the murderer had
not made preparations for a feast on the following day. He tried to
induce his children, born in the mission and become Christians, to go
with him for some parts of the dead body. They had much difficulty in
persuading him to desist from his purpose; and the soldier who was
posted at Esmeralda, learned from the domestic squabble caused by this
event, what the Indians would have concealed from his knowledge.

It is known that cannibalism and the practice of human sacrifices,
with which it is often connected, are found to exist in all parts of
the globe, and among people of very different races;* but what strikes
us more in the study of history is to see human sacrifices retained in
a state of civilization somewhat advanced; and that the nations who
hold it a point of honour to devour their prisoners are not always the
rudest and most ferocious. (* Some casual instances of children
carried off by the negroes in the island of Cuba have led to the
belief, in the Spanish colonies, that there are tribes of cannibals in
Africa. This opinion, though supported by some travellers, is not
borne out by the researches of Mr. Barrow on the interior of that
country. Superstitious practices may have given rise to imputations
perhaps as unjust as those of which Jewish families were the victims
in the ages of intolerance and persecution.) The painful facts have
not escaped the observation of those missionaries who are sufficiently
enlightened to reflect on the manners of the surrounding tribes. The
Cabres, the Guipunaves, and the Caribs, have always been more powerful
and more civilized than the other hordes of the Orinoco; and yet the
two former are as much addicted to anthropophagy as the latter are
repugnant to it. We must carefully distinguish the different branches
into which the great family of the Caribbee nations is divided. These
branches are as numerous as those of the Mongols, and the western
Tartars, or Turcomans. The Caribs of the continent, those who inhabit
the plains between the Lower Orinoco, the Rio Branco, the Essequibo,
and the sources of the Oyapoc, hold in horror the practice of
devouring their enemies. This barbarous custom,* at the first
discovery of America, existed only among the Caribs of the West
Indies. (* See Geraldini Itinerarium page 186 and the eloquent tract
of cardinal Bembo on the discoveries of Columbus. "Insularum partem
homines incolebant feri trucesque, qui puerorum et virorum carnibus,
quos aliis in insulus bello aut latrociniis cepissent, vescebantur; a
feminis abstinebant; Canibales appellati." "Some of the islands are
inhabited by a cruel and savage race, called cannibals, who eat the
flesh of men and boys, and captives and slaves of the male sex,
abstaining from that of females." Hist. Venet. 1551. The custom of
sparing the lives of female prisoners confirms what I have previously
said of the language of the women. Does the word cannibal, applied to
the Caribs of the West India Islands, belong to the language of this
archipelago (that of Haiti)? or must we seek for it in an idiom of
Florida, which some traditions indicate as the first country of the
Caribs?) It is they who have rendered the names of cannibals,
Caribbees, and anthropophagi, synonymous; it was their cruelties that
prompted the law promulgated in 1504, by which the Spaniards were
permitted to make a slave of every individual of an American nation
which could be proved to be of Caribbee origin. I believe, however,
that the anthropophagy of the inhabitants of the West India Islands
was much exaggerated by early travellers, whose stories Herrera, a
grave and judicious historian, has not disdained to repeat in his
Decades historicas. He has even credited that extraordinary event
which led the Caribs to renounce this barbarous custom. The natives of
a little island devoured a Dominican monk whom they had carried off
from the coast of Porto Rico; they all fell sick, and would never
again eat monk or layman.

If the Caribs of the Orinoco, since the commencement of the sixteenth
century, have differed in their manners from those of the West India
Islands; if they are unjustly accused of anthropophagy; it is
difficult to attribute this difference to any superiority of their
social state. The strangest contrasts are found blended in this
mixture of nations, some of whom live only upon fish, monkeys, and
ants; while others are more or less cultivators of the ground, more or
less occupied in making and painting pottery, or weaving hammocks or
cotton cloth. Several of the latter tribes have preserved inhuman
customs altogether unknown to the former. "You cannot imagine," said
the old missionary of Mandavaca, "the perversity of this Indian race
(familia de Indios). You receive men of a new tribe into the village;
they appear to be mild, good, and laborious; but suffer them to take
part in an incursion (entrada) to bring in the natives, and you can
scarcely prevent them from murdering all they meet, and hiding some
portions of the dead bodies." In reflecting on the manners of these
Indians, we are almost horrified at that combination of sentiments
which seem to exclude each other; that faculty of nations to become
but partially humanized; that preponderance of customs, prejudices,
and traditions, over the natural affections of the heart. We had a
fugitive Indian from the Guaisia in our canoe, who had become
sufficiently civilized in a few weeks to be useful to us in placing
the instruments necessary for our observations at night. He was no
less mild than intelligent, and we had some desire of taking him into
our service. What was our horror when, talking to him by means of an
interpreter, we learned, that the flesh of the marimonde monkeys,
though blacker, appeared to him to have the taste of human flesh. He
told us that his relations (that is, the people of his tribe)
preferred the inside of the hands in man, as in bears. This assertion
was accompanied with gestures of savage gratification. We inquired of
this young man, so calm and so affectionate in the little services
which he rendered us, whether he still felt sometimes a desire to eat
of a Cheruvichahena. He answered, without discomposure, that, living
in the mission, he would only eat what he saw was eaten by the Padres.
Reproaches addressed to the natives on the abominable practice which
we here discuss, produce no effect; it is as if a Brahmin, travelling
in Europe, were to reproach us with the habit of feeding on the flesh
of animals. In the eyes of the Indian of the Guaisia, the
Cheruvichahena was a being entirely different from himself; and one
whom he thought it was no more unjust to kill than the jaguars of the
forest. It was merely from a sense of propriety that, whilst he
remained in the mission, he would only eat the same food as the
Fathers. The natives, if they return to their tribe (al monte), or
find themselves pressed by hunger, soon resume their old habits of
anthropophagy. And why should we be so much astonished at this
inconstancy in the tribes of the Orinoco, when we are reminded, by
terrible and well-ascertained examples, of what has passed among
civilized nations in times of great scarcity? In Egypt, in the
thirteenth century, the habit of eating human flesh pervaded all
classes of society; extraordinary snares were spread for physicians in
particular. They were called to attend persons who pretended to be
sick, but who were only hungry; and it was not in order to be
consulted, but devoured. An historian of great veracity, Abd-allatif,
has related how a practice, which at first inspired dread and horror,
soon occasioned not even the slightest surprise.* (* "When the poor
began to eat human flesh, the horror and astonishment caused by
repasts so dreadful were such that these crimes furnished the
never-ceasing subject of every conversation. But at length the people
became so accustomed to it, and conceived such a taste for this
detestable food, that people of wealth and respectability were found
to use it as their ordinary food, to eat it by way of a treat, and
even to lay in a stock of it. This flesh was prepared in different
ways, and the practice being once introduced, spread into the
provinces, so that instances of it were found in every part of Egypt.
It then no longer caused any surprise; the horror it had at first
inspired vanished; and it was mentioned as an indifferent and ordinary
thing. This mania of devouring one another became so common among the
poor, that the greater part perished in this manner. These wretches
employed all sorts of artifices, to seize men by surprise, or decoy
them into their houses under false pretences. This happened to three
physicians among those who visited me; and a bookseller who sold me
books, an old and very corpulent man, fell into their snares, and
escaped with great difficulty. All the facts which we relate as
eye-witnesses fell under our observation accidentally, for we
generally avoided witnessing spectacles which inspired us with so much
horror." Account of Egypt by Abd-allatif, physician of Bagdad,
translated into French by De Sacy pages 360 to 374.)

Although the Indians of the Cassiquiare readily return to their
barbarous habits, they evince, whilst in the missions, intelligence,
some love of labour, and, in particular, a great facility in learning
the Spanish language. The villages being, for the most part, inhabited
by three or four tribes, who do not understand each other, a foreign
idiom, which is at the same time that of the civil power, the language
of the missionary, affords the advantage of more general means of
communication. I heard a Poinave Indian conversing in Spanish with a
Guahibo, though both had come from their forests within three months.
They uttered a phrase every quarter of an hour, prepared with
difficulty, and in which the gerund of the verb, no doubt according to
the grammatical turn of their own languages, was constantly employed.
"When I seeing Padre, Padre to me saying;"* (* "Quando io mirando
Padre, Padre me diciendo.") instead of, "when I saw the missionary, he
said to me." I have mentioned in another place, how wise it appeared
to me in the Jesuits to generalize one of the languages of civilized
America, for instance that of the Peruvians,* (* The Quichua or Inca
language, Lengua del Inga.) and instruct the Indians in an idiom which
is foreign to them in its roots, but not in its structure and
grammatical forms. This was following the system which the Incas, or
king-priests of Peru had employed for ages, in order to humanize the
barbarous nations of the Upper Maranon, and maintain them under their
domination; a system somewhat more reasonable than that of making the
natives of America speak Latin, as was gravely proposed in a
provincial concilio at Mexico.

We were told that the Indians of the Cassiquiare and the Rio Negro are
preferred on the Lower Orinoco, and especially at Angostura, to the
inhabitants of the other missions, on account of their intelligence
and activity. Those of Mandavaca are celebrated among the tribes of
their own race for the preparation of the curare poison, which does
not yield in strength to the curare of Esmeralda. Unhappily the
natives devote themselves to this employment more than to agriculture.
Yet the soil on the banks of the Cassiquiare is excellent. We find
there a granitic sand, of a blackish-brown colour, which is covered in
the forests with thick layers of rich earth, and on the banks of the
river with clay almost impermeable to water. The soil of the
Cassiquiare appears more fertile than that of the valley of the Rio
Negro, where maize does not prosper. Rice, beans, cotton, sugar, and
indigo yield rich harvests, wherever their cultivation has been
tried.* (* M. Bonpland found at Mandavaca, in the huts of the natives,
a plant with tuberous roots, exactly like cassava (yucca). It is
called cumapana, and is cooked by being baked on the ashes. It grows
spontaneously on the banks of the Cassiquiare.) We saw wild indigo
around the missions of San Miguel de Davipe, San Carlos, and
Mandavaca. No doubt can exist that several nations of America,
particularly the Mexicans, long before the conquest, employed real
indigo in their hieroglyphic paintings; and that small cakes of this
substance were sold at the great market of Tenochtitlan. But a
colouring matter, chemically identical, may be extracted from plants
belonging to neighbouring genera; and I should not at present venture
to affirm that the native indigoferae of America do not furnish some
generic difference from the Indigofera anil, and the Indigofera
argentea of the Old World. In the coffee-trees of both hemispheres
this difference has been observed.

Here, as at the Rio Negro, the humidity of the air, and the consequent
abundance of insects, are obstacles almost invincible to new
cultivation. Everywhere you meet with those large ants that march in
close bands, and direct their attacks the more readily on cultivated
plants, because they are herbaceous and succulent, whilst the forests
of these countries afford only plants with woody stalks. If a
missionary wishes to cultivate salad, or any culinary plant of Europe,
he is compelled as it were to suspend his garden in the air. He fills
an old boat with good mould, and, having sown the seed, suspends it
four feet above the ground with cords of the chiquichiqui palm-tree;
but most frequently places it on a slight scaffolding. This protects
the young plants from weeds, worms, and those ants which pursue their
migration in a right line, and, not knowing what vegetates above them,
seldom turn from their course to climb up stakes that are stripped of
their bark. I mention this circumstance to prove how difficult, within
the tropics, on the banks of great rivers, are the first attempts of
man to appropriate to himself a little spot of earth in that vast
domain of nature, invaded by animals, and covered by spontaneous

During the night of the 13th of May, I obtained some observations of
the stars, unfortunately the last at the Cassiquiare. The latitude of
Mandavaca is 2 degrees 4 minutes 7 seconds; its longitude, according
to the chronometer, 69 degrees 27 minutes. I found the magnetic dip
25.25 degrees (cent div), showing that it had increased considerably
from the fort of San Carlos. Yet the surrounding rocks are of the same
granite, mixed with a little hornblende, which we had found at Javita,
and which assumes a syenitic aspect. We left Mandavaca at half-past
two in the morning. After six hours' voyage, we passed on the east the
mouth of the Idapa, or Siapa, which rises on the mountain of Uuturan,
and furnishes near its sources a portage to the Rio Mavaca, one of the
tributary streams of the Orinoco. This river has white waters, and is
not more than half as broad as the Pacimoni, the waters of which are
black. Its upper course has been strangely misrepresented on maps. I
shall have occasion hereafter to mention the hypotheses that have
given rise to these errors, in speaking of the source of the Orinoco.

We stopped near the raudal of Cunuri. The noise of the little cataract
augmented sensibly during the night, and our Indians asserted that it
was a certain presage of rain. I recollected that the mountaineers of
the Alps have great confidence in the same prognostic.* (* "It is
going to rain, because we hear the murmur of the torrents nearer," say
the mountaineers of the Alps, like those of the Andes. The cause of
the phenomenon is a modification of the atmosphere, which has an
influence at once on the sonorous and on the luminous undulations. The
prognostic drawn from the increase and the intensity of sound is
intimately connected with the prognostic drawn from a less extinction
of light. The mountaineers predict a change of weather, when, the air
being calm, the Alps covered with perpetual snow seem on a sudden to
be nearer the observer, and their outlines are marked with great
distinctness on the azure sky. What is it that causes the want of
homogeneity in the vertical strata of the atmosphere to disappear
instantaneously?) It fell before sunrise, and the araguato monkeys had
warned us, by their lengthened howlings, of the approaching rain, long
before the noise of the cataract increased.

On the 14th, the mosquitos, and especially the ants, drove us from the
shore before two in the morning. We had hitherto been of opinion that
the ants did not crawl along the cords by which the hammocks are
usually suspended: whether we were correct in this supposition, or
whether the ants fell on us from the tops of the trees, I cannot say;
but certain it is that we had great difficulty to keep ourselves free
from these troublesome insects. The river became narrower as we
advanced, and the banks were so marshy, that it was not without much
labour M. Bonpland could get to a Carolinea princeps loaded with large
purple flowers. This tree is the most beautiful ornament of these
forests, and of those of the Rio Negro. We examined repeatedly, during
this day, the temperature of the Cassiquiare. The water at the surface
of the river was only 24 degrees (when the air was at 25.6 degrees.)
This is nearly the temperature of the Rio Negro, but four or five
degrees below that of the Orinoco. After having passed on the west the
mouth of the Cano Caterico, which has black waters of extraordinary
transparency, we left the bed of the river, to land at an island on
which the mission of Vasiva is established. The lake which surrounds
this mission is a league broad, and communicates by three outlets with
the Cassiquiare. The surrounding country abounds in marshes which
generate fever. The lake, the waters of which appear yellow by
transmitted light, is dry in the season of great heat, and the Indians
themselves are unable to resist the miasmata rising from the mud. The
complete absence of wind contributes to render the climate of this
country more pernicious.

From the 14th to the 21st of May we slept constantly in the open air;
but I cannot indicate the spots where we halted. These regions are so
wild, and so little frequented, that with the exception of a few
rivers, the Indians were ignorant of the names of all the objects
which I set by the compass. No observation of a star helped me to fix
the latitude within the space of a degree. After having passed the
point where the Itinivini separates from the Cassiquiare, to take its
course to the west towards the granitic hills of Daripabo, we found
the marshy banks of the river covered with bamboos. These arborescent
gramina rise to the height of twenty feet; their stem is constantly
arched towards the summit. It is a new species of Bambusa with very
broad leaves. M. Bonpland fortunately found one in flower; a
circumstance I mention, because the genera Nastus and Bambusa had
before been very imperfectly distinguished, and nothing is more rare
in the New World, than to see these gigantic gramina in flower. N.
Mutis herborised during twenty years in a country where the Bambusa
guadua forms marshy forests several leagues broad, without having ever
been able to procure the flowers. We sent that learned naturalist the
first ears of Bambusa from the temperate valleys of Popayan. It is
strange that the parts of fructification should develop themselves so
rarely in a plant which is indigenous, and which vegetates with such
extraordinary rigour, from the level of the sea to the height of nine
hundred toises, that is, to a subalpine region the climate of which,
between the tropics, resembles that of the south of Spain. The Bambusa
latifolia seems to be peculiar to the basins of the Upper Orinoco, the
Cassiquiare, and the Amazon; it is a social plant, like all the
gramina of the family of the nastoides; but in that part of Spanish
Guiana which we traversed it does not grow in those large masses which
the Spanish Americans call guadales, or forests of bamboos.

Our first resting-place above Vasiva was easily arranged. We found a
little nook of dry ground, free from shrubs, to the south of the Cano
Curamuni, in a spot where we saw some capuchin monkeys.* (* Simia
chiropotes.) They were recognizable by their black beards and their
gloomy and sullen air, and were walking slowly on the horizontal
branches of a genipa. During the five following nights our passage was
the more troublesome in proportion as we approached the bifurcation of
the Orinoco. The luxuriance of the vegetation increases in a manner of
which it is difficult even for those acquainted with the aspect of the
forests between the tropics, to form an idea. There is no longer a
bank: a palisade of tufted trees forms the margin of the river. You
see a canal two hundred toises broad, bordered by two enormous walls,
clothed with lianas and foliage. We often tried to land, but without
success. Towards sunset we sailed along for an hour seeking to
discover, not an opening (since none exists), but a spot less wooded,
where our Indians by means of the hatchet and manual labour, could
clear space enough for a resting-place for twelve or thirteen persons.
It was impossible to pass the night in the canoe; the mosquitos, which
tormented us during the day, accumulated toward evening beneath the
toldo covered with palm-leaves, which served to shelter us from the
rain. Our hands and faces had never before been so much swelled.
Father Zea, who had till then boasted of having in his missions of the
cataracts the largest and fiercest (las mas feroces) mosquitos, at
length gradually acknowledged that the sting of the insects of the
Cassiquiare was the most painful he had ever felt. We experienced
great difficulty, amid a thick forest, in finding wood to make a fire,
the branches of the trees in those equatorial regions where it always
rains, being so full of sap, that they will scarcely burn. There being
no bare shore, it is hardly possible to procure old wood, which the
Indians call wood baked in the sun. However, fire was necessary to us
only as a defence against the beasts of the forest; for we had such a
scarcity of provision that we had little need of fuel for the purpose
of preparing our food.

On the 18th of May, towards evening, we discovered a spot where wild
cacao-trees were growing on the bank of the river. The nut of these
cacaos is small and bitter; the Indians of the forest suck the pulp,
and throw away the nut, which is picked up by the Indians of the
missions, and sold to persons who are not very nice in the preparation
of their chocolate. "This is the Puerto del Cacao" (Cacao Port), said
the pilot; "it is here our Padres sleep, when they go to Esmeralda to
buy sarbacans* (* The bamboo tubes furnished by the Arundinaria, used
for projecting the poisoned arrows of the natives. See Views of Nature
page 180.) and juvias ( Brazil nuts). Not five boats, however, pass
annually by the Cassiquiare; and since we left Maypures (a whole month
previously), we had not met one living soul on the rivers we
navigated, except in the immediate neighbourhood of the missions. To
the south of lake Duractumuni we slept in a forest of palm-trees. It
rained violently, but the pothoses, arums, and lianas, furnished so
thick a natural trellis, that we were sheltered as under a vault of
foliage. The Indians whose hammocks were placed on the edge of the
river, interwove the heliconias and other musaceae, so as to form a
kind of roof over them. Our fires lighted up, to the height of fifty
or sixty feet, the palm-trees, the lianas loaded with flowers, and the
columns of white smoke, which ascended in a straight line toward the
sky. The whole exhibited a magnificent spectacle; but to have enjoyed
it fully, we should have breathed an air clear of insects.

The most depressing of all physical sufferings are those which are
uniform in their duration, and can be combated only by long patience.
It is probable, that in the exhalations of the forests of the
Cassiquiare M. Bonpland imbibed the seeds of a severe malady, under
which he nearly sunk on our arrival at Angostura. Happily for him and
for me, nothing led us to presage the danger with which he was
menaced. The view of the river, and the hum of the insects, were a
little monotonous; but some remains of our natural cheerfulness
enabled us to find sources of relief during our wearisome passage. We
discovered, that by eating small portions of dry cacao ground without
sugar, and drinking a large quantity of the river water, we succeeded
in appeasing our appetite for several hours. The ants and the
mosquitos troubled us more than the humidity and the want of food.
Notwithstanding the privations to which we were exposed during our
excursions in the Cordilleras, the navigation from Mandavaca to
Esmeralda has always appeared to us the most painful part of our
travels in America. I advise those who are not very desirous of seeing
the great bifurcation of the Orinoco, to take the way of the Atabapo
in preference to that of the Cassiquiare.

Above the Cano Duractumuni, the Cassiquiare pursues a uniform
direction from north-east to south-west. We were surprised to see how
much the high steep banks of the Cassiquiare had been undermined on
each side by the sudden risings of the water. Uprooted trees formed as
it were natural rafts; and being half-buried in the mud, they were
extremely dangerous for canoes. We passed the night of the 20th of
May, the last of our passage on the Cassiquiare, near the point of the
bifurcation of the Orinoco. We had some hope of being able to make an
astronomical observation, as falling-stars of remarkable magnitude
were visible through the vapours that veiled the sky; whence we
concluded that the stratum of vapours must be very thin, since meteors
of this kind have scarcely ever been seen below a cloud. Those we now
beheld shot towards the north, and succeeded each other at almost
equal intervals. The Indians, who seldom ennoble by their expressions
the wanderings of the imagination, name the falling-stars the urine;
and the dew the spittle of the stars. The clouds thickened anew, and
we discerned neither the meteors, nor the real stars, for which we had
impatiently waited during several days.

We had been told, that we should find the insects at Esmeralda still
more cruel and voracious than in the branch of the Orinoco which we
were going up; nevertheless we indulged the hope of at length sleeping
in a spot that was inhabited, and of taking some exercise in
herbalizing. This anticipation was, however, disturbed at our last
resting-place on the Cassiquiare. Whilst we were sleeping on the edge
of the forest, we were warned by the Indians, in the middle of the
night, that they heard very near us the cries of a jaguar. These
cries, they alleged, came from the top of some neighbouring trees.
Such is the thickness of the forests in these regions, that scarcely
any animals are to be found there but such as climb trees; as, for
instance, the monkeys, animals of the weasel tribe, jaguars, and other
species of the genus Felis.

As our fires burnt brightly, we paid little attention to the cries of
the jaguars. They had been attracted by the smell and noise of our
dog. This animal (which was of the mastiff breed) began at first to
bark; and when the tiger drew nearer, to howl, hiding himself below
our hammocks. how great was our grief, when in the morning, at the
moment of re-embarking, the Indians informed us that the dog had
disappeared! There could be no doubt that it had been carried off by
the jaguars.* (* See Views of Nature page 195.) Perhaps, when their
cries had ceased, it had wandered from the fires on the side of the
beach; and possibly we had not heard its moans, as we were in a
profound sleep. We have often heard the inhabitants of the banks of
the Orinoco and the Rio Magdalena affirm, that the oldest jaguars will
carry off animals from the midst of a halting-place, cunningly
grasping them by the neck so as to prevent their cries. We waited part
of the morning, in the hope that our dog had only strayed. Three days
after we came back to the same place; we heard again the cries of the
jaguars, for these animals have a predilection for particular spots;
but all our search was vain. The dog, which had accompanied us from
Caracas, and had so often in swimming escaped the pursuit of the
crocodiles,* had been devoured in the forest. (* Ibid page 198.)

On the 21st May, we again entered the bed of the Orinoco, three
leagues below the mission of Esmeralda. It was now a month since we
had left that river near the mouth of the Guaviare. We had still to
proceed seven hundred and fifty miles* (* Of nine hundred and fifty
toises each, or two hundred and fifty nautical leagues.) before
reaching Angostura, but we should go with the stream; and this
consideration lessened our discouragement. In descending great rivers,
the rowers take the middle of the current, where there are few
mosquitos; but in ascending, they are obliged, in order to avail
themselves of the dead waters and counter-currents, to sail near the
shore, where the proximity of the forests, and the remains of organic
substances accumulated on the beach, harbour the tipulary insects. The
point of the celebrated bifurcation of the Orinoco has a very imposing
aspect. Lofty granitic mountains rise on the northern bank; and amidst
them are discovered at a distance the Maraguaca and the Duida. There
are no mountains on the left bank of the Orinoco, west or east of the
bifurcation, till opposite the mouth of the Tamatama. On that spot
stands the rock Guaraco, which is said to throw out flames from time
to time in the rainy season. When the Orinoco is no longer bounded by
mountains towards the south, and when it reaches the opening of a
valley, or rather a depression of the ground, which terminates at the
Rio Negro, it divides itself into two branches. The principal branch
(the Rio Paragua of the Indians) continues its course west-north-west,
turning round the group of the mountains of Parime; the other branch
forming the communication with the Amazon runs into plains, the
general slope of which is southward, but of which the partial planes
incline, in the Cassiquiare, to south-west, and in the basin of the
Rio Negro, south-east. A phenomenon so strange in appearance, which I
verified on the spot, merits particular attention; the more especially
as it may throw some light on analogous facts, which are supposed to
have been observed in the interior of Africa.

The existence of a communication of the Orinoco with the Amazon by the
Rio Negro, and a bifurcation of the Caqueta, was believed by Sanson,
and rejected by Father Fritz and by Blaeuw: it was marked in the first
maps of De l'Isle, but abandoned by that celebrated geographer towards
the end of his days. Those who had mistaken the mode of this
communication hastened to deny the communication itself. It is in fact
well worthy of remark that, at the time when the Portuguese went up
most frequently by the Amazon, the Rio Negro, and the Cassiquiare, and
when Father Gumilla's letters were carried (by the natural
interbranching of the rivers) from the lower Orinoco to Grand Para,
that very missionary made every effort to spread the opinion through
Europe that the basins of the Orinoco and the Amazon are perfectly
separate. He asserts that, having several times gone up the former of
these rivers as far as the Raudal of Tabaje, situate in the latitude
of 1 degree 4 minutes, he never saw a river flow in or out that could
be taken for the Rio Negro. He adds further, that a great Cordillera,
which stretches from east to west, prevents the mingling of the
waters, and renders all discussion on the supposed communication of
the two rivers useless. The errors of Father Gumilla arose from his
firm persuasion that he had reached the parallel of 1 degree 4 minutes
on the Orinoco. He was in error by more than 5 degrees 10 minutes of
latitude; for I found, by observation, at the mission of Atures,
thirteen leagues south of the rapids of Tabaje, the latitude to be 5
degrees 37 minutes 34 seconds. Gumilla having gone but little above
the confluence of the Meta, it is not surprising that he had no
knowledge of the bifurcation of the Orinoco, which is found by the
sinuosities of the river to be one hundred and twenty leagues distant
from the Raudal of Tabaje.

La Condamine, during his memorable navigation on the river Amazon in
1743, carefully collected a great number of proofs of this
communication of the rivers, denied by the Spanish Jesuit. The most
decisive proof then appeared to him to be the unsuspected testimony of
a Cauriacani Indian woman with whom he had conversed, and who had come
in a boat from the banks of the Orinoco (from the mission of Pararuma)
to Grand Para. Before the return of La Condamine to his own country,
the voyage of Father Manuel Roman, and the fortuitous meeting of the
missionaries of the Orinoco and the Amazon, left no doubt of this
fact, the knowledge of which was first obtained by Acunha.

The incursions undertaken from the middle of the seventeenth century,
to procure slaves, had gradually led the Portuguese from the Rio
Negro, by the Cassiquiare, to the bed of a great river, which they did
not know to be the Upper Orinoco. A flying camp, composed of the troop
of ransomers,* favoured this inhuman commerce. (* Tropa de rescate;
from rescatar, to redeem.) After having excited the natives to make
war, they ransomed the prisoners; and, to give an appearance of equity
to the traffic, monks accompanied the troop of ransomers to examine
whether those who sold the slaves had a right to do so, by having made
them prisoners in open war. From the year 1737 these visits of the
Portuguese to the Upper Orinoco became very frequent. The desire of
exchanging slaves (poitos) for hatchets, fish-hooks, and glass
trinkets, induced the Indian tribes to make war upon one another. The
Guipunaves, led on by their valiant and cruel chief Macapu, descended
from the banks of the Inirida towards the confluence of the Atabapo
and the Orinoco. "They sold," says the missionary Gili, "the slaves
whom they did not eat."* (* "I Guipunavi avventizj abitatori dell'
Alto Orinoco, recavan de' danni incredibili alle vicine mansuete
nazioni; altre mangiondone, altre conducendone schiave ne' Portoghesi
dominj." "The Guipunaves, at their first arrival on the Upper Orinoco,
inflicted incredible injuries on the other peaceable tribes who dwelt
near them, devouring some, and selling others as slaves to the
Portuguese." Gili tome 1 page 31.) The Jesuits of the Lower Orinoco
became uneasy at this state of things, and the superior of the Spanish
missions, Father Roman, the intimate friend of Gumilla, took the
courageous resolution of crossing the Great Cataracts, and visiting
the Guipunaves, without being escorted by Spanish soldiers. He left
Carichana the 4th of February, 1744; and having arrived at the
confluence of the Guaviare, the Atabapo, and the Orinoco, where the
last mentioned river suddenly changes its previous course from east to
west, to a direction from south to north, he saw from afar a canoe as
large as his own, and filled with men in European dresses. He caused a
crucifix to be placed at the bow of his boat in sign of peace,
according to the custom of the missionaries when they navigate in a
country unknown to them. The whites, who were Portuguese slave-traders
of the Rio Negro, recognized with marks of joy the habit of the order
of St. Ignatius. They heard with astonishment that the river on which
this meeting took place was the Orinoco; and they brought Father Roman
by the Cassiquiare to the Brazilian settlements on the Rio Negro. The
superior of the Spanish missions was forced to remain near the flying
camp of the troop of ransomers till the arrival of the Portuguese
Jesuit Avogadri, who had gone upon business to Grand Para. Father
Manuel Roman returned with his Salive Indians by the same way, that of
the Cassiquiare and the Upper Orinoco, to Pararuma,* a little to the
north of Carichana, after an absence of seven months. (* On the 15th
of October, 1774. La Condamine quitted the town of Grand Para December
the 29th, 1743; it follows, from a comparison of the dates, that the
Indian woman of Pararuma, carried off by the Portuguese, and to whom
the French traveller had spoken, had not come with Father Roman, as
was erroneously affirmed. The appearance of this woman on the banks of
the Amazon is interesting with respect to the researches lately made
on the mixture of races and languages: it proves the enormous
distances through which the individuals of one tribe are compelled to
carry on intercourse with those of another.) He was the first white
man who went from the Rio Negro, consequently from the basin of the
Amazon, without passing his boats over any portage, to the basin of
the Lower Orinoco.

The tidings of this extraordinary passage spread with such rapidity
that La Condamine was able to announce it* at a public sitting of the
Academy, seven months after the return of Father Roman to Pararuma. (*
The intelligence was communicated to him by Father John Ferreyro,
rector of the college of Jesuits at Para. Voyage a l'Amazone page 120.
Mem. de l'Acad. 1745 page 450. Caulin page 79. See also, in the work
of Gili, the fifth chapter of the first book, published in 1780, with
the title: Della scoperta delle communicazione dell' Orinoco col
Maragnone.) "The communication between the Orinoco and the Amazon,"
said he, "recently averred, may pass so much the more for a discovery
in geography, as, although the junction of these two rivers is marked
on the old maps (according to the information given by Acunha), it had
been suppressed by all the modern geographers in their new maps, as if
in concert. This is not the first time that what is positive fact has
been thought fabulous, that the spirit of criticism has been pushed
too far, and that this communication has been treated as chimerical by
those who ought to have been better informed." Since the voyage of
Father Roman in 1774, no person in Spanish Guiana, or on the coasts of
Cumana and Caracas, has admitted a doubt of the existence of the
Cassiquiare and the bifurcation of the Orinoco. Father Gumilla
himself; whom Bouguer met at Carthagena, confessed that he had been
deceived; and he read to Father Gili, a short time before his death, a
supplement to his history of the Orinoco, intended for a new edition,
in which he recounts pleasantly the manner in which he had been
undeceived. The expedition of the boundaries, under Iturriaga and
Solano, completed in detail the knowledge of the geography of the
Upper Orinoco, and the intertwinings of this river with the Rio Negro.
Solano established himself in 1756 at the confluence of the Atabapo;
and from that time the Spanish and Portuguese commissioners often
passed in their canoes, by the Cassiquiare, from the Lower Orinoco to
the Rio Negro, to visit each other at their head-quarters of Cabruta*
and Mariva. (* General Iturriaga, confined by illness, first at
Muitaco, or Real Corona, and afterward at Cabruta, received a visit in
1760 from the Portuguese colonel Don Gabriel de Souza y Figueira, who
came from Grand Para, having made a voyage of nearly nine hundred
leagues in his boat. The Swedish botanist, Loefling, who was chosen to
accompany the expedition of the boundaries at the expense of the
Spanish government, so greatly multiplied in his ardent imagination
the branchings of the great rivers of South America, that he appeared
well persuaded of being able to navigate, by the Rio Negro and the
Amazon, to the Rio de la Plata. (Iter page 131.)) Since the year 1767,
two or three canoes come annually from the fort of San Carlos, by the
bifurcation of the Orinoco to Angostura, to fetch salt and the pay of
the troops. These passages, from one basin of a river to another, by
the natural canal of the Cassiquiare, excite no more attention in the
colonists at present than the arrival of boats that descend the Loire
by the canal of Orleans, awakens on the banks of the Seine.

Although, since the journey of Father Roman, in 1744, precise notions
have been acquired in the Spanish possessions in America, both of the
direction of the Upper Orinoco from east to west, and of the manner of
its communication with the Rio Negro, this knowledge did not reach
Europe till a much later period. In 1750, La Condamine and D'Anville*
were still of opinion that the Orinoco was a branch of the Caqueta
coming from the south-east, and that the Rio Negro issued immediately
from it. (* See the classical memoir of this great geographer in the
Journal des Savans, March 1750 page 184. "One fact," says D'Anville,
"which cannot be considered as equivocal, after the proofs with which
we have been recently furnished, is the communication of the Rio Negro
with the Orinoco; but we must not hesitate to admit, that we are not
yet sufficiently informed of the manner in which this communication
takes place." I was surprised to see in a very rare map, which I found
at Rome (Provincia Quitensis Soc. Jesu in America, auctore Carolo
Brentano et Nicolao de la Torre; Romae 1745) that seven years after
the discovery of Father Roman, the Jesuits of Quito were ignorant of
the existence of the Cassiquiare. The Rio Negro is figured in this map
as a branch of the Orinoco.) It was only in the second edition of his
South America, that D'Anville (without renouncing that
intercommunication of the Caqueta, by means of the Iniricha (Inirida),
with the Orinoco and the Rio Negro) describes the Orinoco as taking
its rise at the east, near the sources of the Rio Branco, and marks
the Rio Cassiquiare as bearing the waters of the Upper Orinoco to the
Rio Negro. It is probable that this indefatigable and learned writer
had obtained information on the manner of the bifurcation from his
frequent communications with the missionaries,* who were then the only
geographers of the most inland parts of the continents. (* According
to the Annals of Berredo, it would appear, that as early as the year
1739, the military incursions from the Rio Negro to the Cassiquiare
had confirmed the Portuguese Jesuits in the opinion that there was a
communication between the Amazon and the Orinoco. Southey's Brazils
volume 1 page 658.)

Had the nations of the lower region of equinoctial America
participated in the civilization spread over the cold and alpine
region, that immense Mesopotamia between the Orinoco and the Amazon
would have favoured the development of their industry, animated their
commerce, and accelerated the progress of social order. We see
everywhere in the old world the influence of locality on the dawning
civilization of nations. The island of Meroe between the Astaboras and
the Nile, the Punjab of the Indus, the Douab of the Ganges, and the
Mesopotamia of the Euphrates, furnish examples that are justly
celebrated in the annals of the human race. But the feeble tribes that
wander in the savannahs and the woods of eastern America, have
profited little by the advantages of their soil, and the
interbranchings of their rivers. The distant incursions of the Caribs,
who went up the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio Negro, to carry
off slaves and exercise pillage, compelled some rude tribes to rouse
themselves from their indolence, and form associations for their
common defence; the little good, however, which these wars with the
Caribs (the Bedouins of the rivers of Guiana) produced, was but slight
compensation for the evils that followed in their train, by rendering
the tribes more ferocious, and diminishing their population. We cannot
doubt, that the physical aspect of Greece, intersected by small chains
of mountains, and mediterranean gulfs, contributed, at the dawn of
civilization, to the intellectual development of the Greeks. But the
operation of this influence of climate, and of the configuration of
the soil, is felt in all its force only among a race of men who,
endowed with a happy organization of the mental faculties, are
susceptible of exterior impulse. In studying the history of our
species, we see, at certain distances, these foci of ancient
civilization dispersed over the globe like luminous points; and we are
struck by the inequality of improvement in nations inhabiting
analogous climates, and whose native soil appears equally favoured by
the most precious gifts of nature.

Since my departure from the banks of the Orinoco and the Amazon, a new
era has unfolded itself in the social state of the nations of the
West. The fury of civil discussions has been succeeded by the
blessings of peace, and a freer development of the arts of industry.
The bifurcations of the Orinoco, the isthmus of Tuamini, so easy to be
made passable by an artificial canal, will ere long fix the attention
of commercial Europe. The Cassiquiare, as broad as the Rhine, and the
course of which is one hundred and eighty miles in length, will no
longer form uselessly a navigable canal between two basins of rivers
which have a surface of one hundred and ninety thousand square
leagues. The grain of New Grenada will be carried to the banks of the
Rio Negro; boats will descend from the sources of the Napo and the
Ucuyabe, from the Andes of Quito and of Upper Peru, to the mouths of
the Orinoco, a distance which equals that from Timbuctoo to
Marseilles. A country nine or ten times larger than Spain, and
enriched with the most varied productions, is navigable in every
direction by the medium of the natural canal of the Cassiquiare, and
the bifurcation of the rivers. This phenomenon, which will one day be
so important for the political connections of nations, unquestionably
deserves to be carefully examined.



Opposite to the point where the Orinoco forms its bifurcation, the
granitic group of Duida rises in an amphitheatre on the right bank of
the river. This mountain, which the missionaries call a volcano, is
nearly eight thousand feet high. It is perpendicular on the south and
west, and has an aspect of solemn grandeur. Its summit is bare and
stony, but, wherever its less steep declivities are covered with mould
vast forests appear suspended on its flanks. At the foot of Duida is
the mission of Esmeralda, a little hamlet with eighty inhabitants,
surrounded by a lovely plain, intersected by rills of black but limpid
water. This plain is adorned with clumps of the mauritia palm, the
sago-tree of America. Nearer the mountain, the distance of which from
the cross of the mission I found to be seven thousand three hundred
toises, the marshy plain changes to a savannah, and spends itself
along the lower region of the Cordillera. Large pine-apples are there
found of a delicious flavour; that species of bromelia always grows
solitary among the gramina, like our Colchicum autumnale, while the B.
karatas, another species of the same genus, is a social plant, like
our whortleberries and heaths. The pine-apples of Esmeralda are
cultivated throughout Guiana. There are certain spots in America, as
in Europe, where different fruits attain their highest perfection. The
sapota-plum (achra) should be eaten at the Island of Margareta or at
Cumana: the chirimoya (very different from the custard-apple and
sweet-sop of the West India Islands) at Loxa in Peru; the grenadilla,
or parcha, at Caracas; and the pine-apple at Esmeralda, or in the
island of Cuba. The pine-apple forms the ornament of the fields near
the Havannah, where it is planted in parallel rows; on the sides of
the Duida it embellishes the turf of the savannahs, lifting its yellow
fruit, crowned with a tuft of silvery leaves, above the setaria, the
paspalum, and a few cyperaceae. This plant, which the Indians of the
Orinoco call ana-curua, has been propagated since the sixteenth
century in the interior of China,* and some English travellers found
it recently, together with other plants indubitably American (maize,
cassava, tobacco, and pimento), on the banks of the River Congo, in
Africa. (* No doubt remains of the American origin of the Bromelia
ananas. See Cayley's Life of Raleigh volume 1 page 61. Gili volume 1
pages 210 and 336. Robert Brown, Geogr. Observ. on the Plants of the
River Congo 1818 page 50.)

There is no missionary at Esmeralda; the monk appointed to celebrate
mass in that hamlet is settled at Santa Barbara, more than fifty
leagues distant; and he visits this spot but five or six times in a
year. We were cordially received by an old officer, who took us for
Catalonian shopkeepers, and who supposed that trade had led to the
missions. On seeing packages of paper intended for drying our plants,
he smiled at our simple ignorance. "You come," said he, "to a country
where this kind of merchandise has no sale; we write little here; and
the dried leaves of maize, the platano (plantain-tree), and the vijaho
(heliconia), serve us, like paper in Europe, to wrap up needles,
fish-hooks, and other little articles of which we are careful." This
old officer united in his person the civil and ecclesiastical
authority. He taught the children, I will not say the Catechism, but
the Rosary; he rang the bells to amuse himself; and impelled by ardent
zeal for the service of the church, he sometimes used his chorister's
wand in a manner not very agreeable to the natives.

Notwithstanding the small extent of the mission, three Indian
languages are spoken at Esmeralda; the Idapimanare, the Catarapenno,
and the Maquiritan. The last of these prevails on the Upper Orinoco,
from the confluence of the Ventuari as far as that of the Padamo (*
The Arivirianos of the banks of the Ventuari speak a dialect of the
language of the Maquiritares. The latter live, jointly with a tribe of
the Macos, in the savannahs that are by the Padamo. They are so
numerous, that they have even given their name to this tributary
stream of the Orinoco.); the Caribbee prevails on the Lower Orinoco;
the Ottomac, near the confluence of the Apure, at the Great Cataracts;
and the Maravitan, on the banks of the Rio Negro. These are the five
or six languages most generally spoken. We were surprised to find at
Esmeralda many zambos, mulattos, and copper-coloured people, who
called themselves Spaniards (Espanoles) and who fancy they are white,
because they are not so red as the Indians. These people live in the
most absolute misery; they have for the most part been sent hither in
banishment (desterrados). Solano, in his haste to found colonies in
the interior of the country, in order to guard its entrance against
the Portuguese, assembled in the Llanos, and as far as the island of
Margareta, vagabonds and malefactors, whom justice had vainly pursued,
and made them go up the Orinoco to join the unhappy I