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Title: Prowling about Panama
Author: Miller, George A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prowling about Panama" ***

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Copyright, 1919, by



CHAPTER                                     PAGE

        FOREWORD                              11

I.      WHERE THE PROWLING IS GOOD            13

II.     THE TRAIL OF THE PIRATES              26

III.    PICTURESQUE PANAMA                    41

IV.     A CITY OF GHOSTS                      55

V.      THE SPELL OF THE JUNGLE               65

VI.     LIFE AT THE BOTTOM                    76

VII.    THE INTERIOR                          93

VIII.   ECONOMIC WASTE                       109

IX.     PANAMA AND PROGRESS                  122

X.      KNOWING OUR NEIGHBORS                144

XI.     THE FAMILY TREE                      160

XII.    LATIN-AMERICAN HEART                 178

XIII.   THE CARIBBEAN WORLD                  193

XIV.    THE PANAMA CANAL                     214

XV.     PROWLING INTO THE FUTURE             235



The Faithful Mule is the Ship of the Jungle                14

The Homeward Way at Nightfall                              15

An Empire in the Making                                    19

A Few Good Roads on the Zone                               21

Church at Nata, Oldest Inhabited Town in New World,
    Founded 1520                                           24

The Jungle is the Place for Picnics                        27

Even Farm Cabins Are Picturesque in Costa Rica             30

Ruins of Old Panama, the Most Romantic Spot in the New
    World                                                  33

Indian Woman at the Fountain                               36

Baths--Wholesale and Retail                                43

Convent Door                                               46

Official Lottery in Bishop's House, Panama                 48

Ruin of Famous Flat-Arch Church                            52

Eighth-Grade Room, Panama                                  53

Convent Garden                                             56

Romantic Old Convents Survive                              58

Ruined Tower at Old Panama                                 60

Costa Rica Trapiche, or Sugar Mill                         62

Papaya Trees                                               66

Bananas and Sugar Cane                                     68

Cacao Pods                                                 70

Proposed Location for Rest Cure                            73

Picturesque Jungle Towns                                   78

Tortillas are Staple                                       80

Jungle Folk                                                81

"The Cotter's Saturday Night"                              82

Church Bells of Arraijan, Cast 1722                        85

First-Grade Room, Panama                                   89

The Beautiful Savanas of Costa Rica                        95

Shipping Costa Rica Vegetables to Panama                   99

Good Pineapples Grow Here                                 103

Dead Timber in Gatun Lake Now Covered with Orchids        105

Interior Meat Market                                      111

The Flavor of Old Spain                                   112

Taking the Rest Cure                                      113

The Oxen Stage of Agriculture                             115

Wayside Sellers of Fruit                                  117

The House Beside the Road                                 118

Wireless at Darien                                        123

Farm Grist Mill, Costa Rica                               126

Happy Kindergartners, Panama                              129

Young Costa Rica is Enterprising                          131

Wooden Sugar Mill and Its Maker                           133

Public Market, David                                      137

Indian Boy Goes to School                                 145

Washday in Costa Rica                                     147

Riverside Plantation                                      151

Jungle Products                                           154

San Blas Indian Chief                                     161

No Race Suicide Here                                      162

Jungle Guide                                              164

One Use for a Head                                        165

Beggars and Cathedrals                                    167

Far from the Madding Crowd                                169

Seawall Church and School, Panama                         171

Mandy Did Her Share                                       173

The Canal Digger                                          173

The Town Pump, Interior Village                           175

Wayside Cemetery in the Jungle                            176

Coconuts--So Good and So High                             180

Boiling "Dulce"--Crude Sugar                              183

Washing by the River                                      189

Costa Rica Farm House                                     194

Bananas Thirty Feet High                                  197

San Blas Indians Have "Poker Faces"                       198

Where Styles Molest No More                               201

Chinese Always Start a School                             205

"Schooldays"                                              205

Three in a Row                                            212

Mother, Home, and--the Simple Life                        212

Construction Days in Culebra-Gailard Cut                  217

Gatun Spillway, Key to the Canal                          224

Cristobal Streets                                         227

Fat Cattle of Coclé                                       228

Enchanted Islands in Gatun Lake                           231

Panama Public Water Works, Interior Country               237

A Jungle Cathedral                                        242

Shoe-bills Are Small                                      248


The fine art of prowling may be achieved, but is more often a gift of
those to the manner born. Professional globe-trotters are not prowlers.
They are often the victims of their own sense of superiority. Personally
conducted tours are little help to real prowling, and professional guides
reduce the sight-seer to a machine for receiving "canned" information with
gaping mouth, while with his free hand he extracts tips from his reluctant

Prowling is an instinct, a sixth sense of locations and values. The
prowler must have intuition and imagination and perseverance and
historical perspective, but with these he must have something else--that
inner vision that finds values in everything human. The expert explorer
will find something interesting in Sahara, but almost any prowler will
have a rare time in Panama.

Probably no spot in the New World has served as the location of so many
kinds of events and interests as this narrow neck of land between two
continents. Brief histories of it have been well written, and the visitor
should by all means read at least one of them. It remains for some seer
yet to tell worthily the story of the four centuries that link the last
discovery of the world's greatest explorer with the final achievement of
the world's most skillful builders.

Panama furnishes an epitome of history. Nearly everything that has ever
happened anywhere in the world has had some counterpart or parallel in
Panama, and of the coming results of the new forces now released on the
Isthmus time alone can be the measure.

This book makes no claims to consistency. Where contradictory
characteristics abound and motives are much mixed, both sides may be
faithfully set forth, but to reconcile them is a difficult matter. There
will be no unified and consistent life on the Isthmus until the advancing
civilization now there outgrows some of its present traits.

Can one tell the truth about Panama and return to the Isthmus? That
remains to be proven. Much depends on the spirit of the prowler. As well
ask whether one can tell the truth about Chicago and be welcome to that
metropolis. Probably Chicago would pay no attention to the comment, but
Panama might take enough interest to notice.

This is not a guidebook. Heaven forbid! It is merely a few notes of a
prowler who found Panama interesting.



Panama is the great American curiosity shop. The first city founded by
explorers in the New World, the oldest town in America inhabited by white
men, the most conglomerate mixture of humanity on earth are in Panama. The
bloodiest tale of modern history, the most romantic story of American
exploration, the greatest engineering achievement of man all center in

If there be any interest in congested and sweltering humanity, any concern
for the problems of social uplift and personal reaction, Panama is the
laboratory for study. The cleanest and healthiest towns on earth are on
the Canal Zone, and the last word in shiftlessness and inefficiency is
also here. Superstition and science, rascality and rhapsody, efficiency
and squalor, graft and honor, all mixed and mingled--this is Panama.
Jungle and plain, valley and coast, tropic heat and mountain paradise,
fever-swamps and ideal sanitation, engineering success and life in the
primitive open--these too are in Panama.

Strange and mysterious traces are still found of the days when the gold of
Peru was carried across the Isthmus on pack trains. Later the gold-seekers
of California fought their way along the route of the present Canal and
found ships on the west coast for the mines of Eldorado. If any survivors
still live, they can tell stirring tales of the days when it was well
worth a life to carry gold to Aspinwall.


It all began with Columbus himself when he sailed into Almirante Bay and
thought that he had found in Chiriqui Lagoon the long-sought passage to
India. What he really found, what was to follow his discovery, he could
not have dreamed, adventurer that he was! Almirante (Admiral), Cristobal
(Christopher), and Colon (Columbus) remain to-day to remind us of the
illustrious explorer who first set foot on Panama. But Columbus gave us
Panama, and never knew! It was Balboa who first saw the waters of the wide
Pacific from the summits of the Isthmian hills. It was Pizarro who packed
across the fifty miles of jungle the timbers of the ships which he put
together on the beach of the Pacific and with which he discovered Peru,
after indescribable hardships and repeated attempts to find the "hill of


On the Pacific side of the Isthmus was founded Old Panama, the first city
of the New World, where to-day majestic ruins stand, a fitting shrine for
the reverent pilgrim. And between Old Panama and Porto Bello stretches the
famous Paved Trail of Las Cruces.

Along this trail lurked the trouble-hunters and makers of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. For two hundred years the tinkle of the bells
of the gold-laden pack mules was never silent. On this jungle path, when
stolen gold was carried by the sackful, trouble was certain to follow. The
big trail was a pathway of blood, robbery, and intrigue. All the worst
passions and performances of depraved men turned loose and ran riot for a
century and a half. These were the days when life was raw and rough at

To-day the old trail is covered with palms and decorated with orchids.
Occasional stones trace the outline of the ancient highway. Where the
drunken and ribald song of the muleteer rose about the camp-fire at night,
canaries and parrakeets now chatter and sing. The soft caress of the
jungle breeze whispers no tales of the days when the trail could be traced
by the bleaching bones that lined the right-of-way. The jungle is nature's
great blotter for the sins, sorrows, and sufferings of an age now
forgotten--but it all happened in Panama.

Panama is not all jungle. To the westward stretch great savannas, between
the mountains and the sea; miles and miles of smooth and level country
open, fair and well watered, only waiting for the tickle of American
cultivation to laugh a crop. It makes a real estate man's fingers itch;
but that is another story. Where a little cultivation has been
inadvertently perpetrated on the land, tall sugar cane, luscious fruits,
and toothsome vegetables attest the quality of the soil and the climate.

Frequent rivers, numerous inlets on the coast line, occasional interesting
native towns, old churches, impossible "roads," meandering trails,
scattered herds of fat cattle, a few sugar mills, numerous trapiches (cane
grinders), fenced patreros (pastures), and everywhere the mixed-blood
natives--this is Panama in the western provinces.

Panama westward is not all a flat country, however. Eleven thousand feet
into the sky rises the Chiriqui volcano, and a little farther west in the
same range stands Pico Blanco (White Top), at about the same height.
Thrown across the slopes of these lofty summits and half way up lies a
great and beautiful country, with a climate such as might have been
coveted for the site of Eden. Cool, comfortable, and salubrious is this
garden of the gods. In all the so-called temperate zone no land yet
discovered offers three hundred and fifty days per year of comfort and
health. To be sure, vacation pilgrims from the warmer coast country
sometimes make mention of cold feet upon first reaching this Mecca in the
mountains, but nobody finds fault on that account. Most of them like it.

Chiriqui is a garden spot. Wide ranges of fertile soil, gentle slopes
rolling back against the mountain ranges, good harbors along the coast,
and occasional plantations with American improvements, mark the country as
the coming granary of the Republic. Rolling slopes and blossoming fields,
with a background of the never-failing come-and-go of the lights and
shades on the face of the mountains, form a picture not to be forgotten.
Always the summits and the clouds seem to be playing leapfrog in the sky,
and the whole upper world, looking down on the puny traveler, seems ever
trying to say something and never quite uttering its meaning. And he who
looks and listens finds himself trying to say it for them, and never can
he find the word. Perhaps some poetic soul will yet look upon these
heights and tell us what it is they are muttering.

The coast line of western Panama is a fascinating shore. Like enchanted
islands rise bits of forest out of the sea and any of them might be the
castle site of the lord of the main.

In and out between their wooded shores the steamer winds its way till it
dodges in through some narrow "boca" to find a tortuous channel leading to
a landing place, that must always be approached at the whim of the tide.
Whether there be a thousand islands or not, no one knows; but I have stood
on the steamer deck and counted fifty in sight at a time, while other
fifties rose up to meet us as those nearby dropped astern. Here and there
some lonely light blinks its vigil through the night, and the swells of
the Pacific break in fantastic sea-ghosts against the rocky cliffs.


Navigation of these waters is not a science, it is an art. The captains of
these coast craft know every tree and rock and river mouth for four
hundred miles, and make their way through tortuous channels by markings
that no landsman can see. There is one grizzled navigator, said to be
unable to read or write, who knows every marking on the coast for six
hundred miles, and in the long years of service has never made a mistake
or met with an accident. Possibly his success might be due to the fact
that what he does not know does not confuse him. His mental horizon may
not be very distant, but at least he escapes a lot of worry about things
that he (and you and I) cannot control. When the tides have a rise and
fall of eighteen feet, and all harbors are but shallow river mouths, the
negotiation of the coast ports becomes a matter requiring much accuracy of

The old trail across the Isthmus is the Mecca of many pilgrims who by some
searching find its scattered stones amid the riotous jungle. The later
trail was opened after the city of Panama was moved to its present site.
It began at Colon, followed the Chagres River to the present site of
Gamboa, and then wound its ways over the low summit of the hills down to
the new Panama and terminated at the "Nun's Beach," where now stand a
Protestant church and school. Here the pack trains were unloaded and the
high tides carried the rafts and lighters out to the ships waiting in the
little harbor.

The dark days of Panama were the days after the gold trade failed. Even
the gold of Peru was not inexhaustible, and the trade across the Isthmus
could not stand continued centuries of robbery and murder. It had to end
some time, and end it did; and when the end came all the Isthmus lapsed
into a slough of despond and lethargy of inertia. For a century and a half
Panama was as forgotten as the Catacombs.

But Panama went her way, whether anybody cared or not. The people left on
the Isthmus were the racial remnants of the mixture of mankind that had
found its way back and forth for two centuries, and they were fairly able
to take care of themselves. The rich forests and fertile soil would bear
fruit and food enough to sustain life whether anyone worked or not, and
the result was not the development of a virile race of men. How could it
be? Probably few spots on earth have had less incentive to develop hardy
and enterprising character than the Isthmus of Panama.


The prowler about Panama will find a wide variety of interests and
inspirations. Whatever his peculiar, personal fad he can find it
somewhere. Then he can prowl to his heart's content.

If he prefers the sea, there are fifteen hundred miles of coast line to
explore with something new to every mile. Or he can launch out a bit, and
in a day's time make his way to the famous Pearl Islands, where are life
and industry so distinct that weeks mays be spent in studying the
development of a civilization, insular and unique. The coast of Darien has
boundless possibilities for the explorer; and the San Blas Islands would
keep the ethnologist busy for months. For an enchanted inland sea the
Chiriqui Lagoon is unsurpassed.

If historical romance is desired, the prowling is certainly abundant; and
if the prowler is a lover of nature, wild and luxuriant, rioting in
marvelous and indescribable forms of overflowing life, he has but to equip
himself for jungle travel, and he will find wonders by the mile, and
fantastic nature piled mountains high and chasms deep. If it is mountains,
they are here in scenic beauty unsurpassed. If the explorer is a student
of human nature and cares to attempt the unscrambling of this blend of
blood that flows in swarthy faces, he will be busy here for a lifetime.
And if none of these will do, and the curious landsman will have nothing
short of the exploring of vast unchristened wildernesses where no human
foot has ever trod, and where strange and dangerous forms of unclassified
life wander at will through the overgrown forests, he will find it--and
doubtless he will find much more of it than he wants before he gets back
to civilization.

If it is promotion schemes and development projects, then here at least is
a commodious place to put them. Here, in agricultural and colonizing
schemes, somebody will yet get rich--and other somebodies poor.

If the prowler's interest is primarily social, and he would browse about
one of the most interesting cities in America, let him come to Panama.
Ancient Spanish streets, scrupulously clean--can these be found anywhere
else? Side by side, over and under, the sixteenth and twentieth centuries
run together.

And what makes Panama to-day the crossroad of the world? For him who in
the love of engineering skill holds communion with high human achievement,
and prefers to prowl around the locks and docks, and study the marvelous
successes and adaptations and devices of the latest and greatest feat of
brain and hand, this is the very center of the earth. No man with a soul
for the poetry of mechanics can stand in a control house of one of the
locks and see the enormous gates swing back at the movement of a finger
without feeling that man, with all his limitations, has yet in his being
some image of the Creator. To see an ocean giant rise up slowly in the
teeth of gravitation and slip through the gates on to the higher level, is
to wonder whether the portals that look so gloomy to us may not, after
all, be not exits but entrances to a new and higher level of life. What a
text! The ship does not rise by straining but by resting in a narrow
place. And no ship ever yet got through the locks without a pilot. The
whole process is as silent as the forces of eternity. There is a lot more,
and it bears no copyright. Help yourself.


And for the prowler in the region of philosophy, what a place! What
changes in the geography and commerce and industry and policies and
politics of mankind must follow this last achievement on the historical
Isthmus of Panama, "quien sabe?" ("who knows?") None but the Omniscient.
Trade routes and bank exchanges, commercial dealings and national programs
will all be affected by this three-hundred-foot wide highway of water. If
but some power the gift would give us to come back a century hence and see
what will be doing then!

What social and moral transformations will be wrought in the coming years
by the release of spiritual forces through the new religious life and free
faith brought to Panama with the coming of the Canal? Out of the
soul-bondage of a system of superstition and ignorance will come a new
human consciousness of the worthiness of life and the high privilege of
living. Whether it is to prowl or prophesy, the material is abundant, and
the pilgrim will find rare material a-plenty all about him. Panama is
perplexing and peculiar, but he who finds the key to the riddle will be
kept busy.

Perhaps the amateur explorer has a penchant for old churches. Here they
are. Seven of them, with a couple of first-class ruins thrown in. The rich
monasteries of Peru and Mexico are missing, but for that there is a
reason. Every bit of treasure was stolen as fast as accumulated. Yes, if
unmolested in the past, Panama would be a mine for the antiquarian to-day.
But any active imagination, even on half-time shift, can find here
material for romances, warranted to interest every member of the family,
at reduced prices, if paid for in advance. From the Flat-Arch Church to
the ruins of Old Panama it is good prowling all the way.



The present conglomerate of humanity living on the Isthmus of Panama is
the racial remainder of some very much mixed social history. Here were
enacted some of the most stirring stories and tempestuous times in
American history. In 1453 the Eastern Roman Empire fell before the
assaults of the Turks and closed the land routes to India. Nearly forty
years later Columbus set sail in his great effort to find a westward
passage for the commerce of Europe. In this he failed, but on his fourth
and final voyage discovered the Isthmus of Panama and landed on the shores
of the Chiriqui Lagoon, supposing that the beautiful inland sea must be
the long-sought passage westward. Here the town of Almirante still bears
his name. At Porto Bello and Saint Christopher Bay he made brief stops and
returned to Spain having no idea of the character of the isthmus that he
had discovered.

On November 3, 1903, exactly four hundred years from the day that Columbus
set foot on the soil of Panama, the Republic of Panama declared its
sovereign independence and began its national life as one of the family of
American nations.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Caribbean main was overrun
by as unscrupulous and bloodthirsty a set of pirates as ever sailed any
sea. Even without these rascals there would have been trouble enough, and
with them the story is sufficiently lurid for the most melodramatic taste.


One name stands out above his fellows. The intrepid navigator who first
saw the waters of the Pacific set forth at the age of twenty-three as an
adventurer, and after various experiences embarked as a stowaway for his
second voyage. By personal persuasion he became the partner of his master,
and after founding a colony in Darien sent Señor Endico back to Spain in
irons for his pains.

This left Balboa supreme, with the whole Castilla de Oro (Castle of Gold)
country before him for exploration. He at once sent Pizarro to examine the
interior and gathered the scattered fugitives from former expeditions. The
combined forces took the field against the Indians. When they reached the
domain of Comagre, the most powerful chief of the country, peace was made.
This chief was a real aristocrat with mummied ancestors clothed in gold
and pearls, and he gave to Balboa four thousand ounces of gold, sixty
wives, and offered to show him the way to a country beyond the dim
mountains where a powerful people lived in magnificence and sailed ships
of solid gold. He also entertained his distinguished visitor with tales of
a temple of gold called Dabaibe, forty leagues farther than Darien, and
said that the mother of the sun, moon, and stars lived there.

Balboa's imagination was stirred by these stories and he prepared an
expedition of discovery. No temple of gold was found, but internal
dissensions and Indian attacks disturbed the peace of the colony.
Reenforcements arrived, and with them the title of captain-general.

Balboa now set out on what was to be the most famous event of his life. He
had been promised the sight of a great ocean to the south, after he had
climbed certain mountains. Various Indian oppositions developed, but on
the 26th of September, 1513, at about ten o'clock in the morning, Balboa
and his men, from the top of a high mountain, saw for the first time the
waters of the vast Pacific. The priest of the expedition, named Andreas de
Vara, chanted a _Te Deum_, with the entire company on their knees. A cross
was raised, and the names of the Spanish rulers carved on the surrounding

After meeting several Indian tribes the descent was made to the shore, and
Balboa waded knee deep into the surf and, waving the banner of Spain,
proclaimed that the new-found ocean and all land bordering thereon should
be the property of his sovereign.

For a long time this new ocean was known as the South Sea, and Balboa at
once set about exploring the vicinity. The Pearl Islands were located,
taken possession of, and named. A later expedition by a less difficult
route crossed the Isthmus of Panama and conquered the Indians on the Pearl
Islands, bringing back plentiful tribute of fine pearls from the subdued

The year following, in 1514, arrived the black villain of the story in the
person of Pedrarias, sent out from Spain as governor of Darien. This
disturber brought with him two thousand men. Balboa built a fleet of ships
on the Atlantic side, took them to pieces, carried them on the backs of
Indians across the Isthmus, put them together again, launched them in the
waters of the Pacific, and proceeded to explore the coast eastward from
Panama. On his return from this trip Balboa was arrested by Pedrarias on a
trumped-up charge of treason, and in the forty-second year of his life was
beheaded, while declaring his entire innocency of all treachery. Balboa
was a product of his age, and of faults he possessed a-plenty, but as one
of the great explorers of history his end was a sad reward for the
distinguished services that he rendered to the world.


In 1515 an expedition crossed the Isthmus and camped near the hut of a
poor fisherman at a point called by the natives Panama. For this name
several explanations are given, one of them being that there were many
shellfish at this place. The meaning of the name is now lost, but in 1519
the city of Panama was founded at this point by Pedrarias. Two years
later, by order of the Spanish crown, the bishopric, government, and
colonists of the Isthmus were transferred from the Atlantic side at Darien
to Old Panama.

History now began in earnest by the Pacific. In 1525 a priest celebrated
in the cathedral at Old Panama solemn mass with two other men, Pizzarro
and Almagro, the rite being a solemn vow to conquer all countries lying to
the south. For this purpose an expedition was soon organized and sailed
away along the west coast of South America. This expedition met with
varying fortunes, but in time discovered the long-sought Peru with its
splendid temples and golden treasures.

The first regular trail across the Isthmus led from Nombre de Dios to Old
Panama, crossing the Chagres River at Cruces. Later small boats sailed
from Nombre de Dios to the mouth of the Chagres and made their way up to
Cruces, where their cargoes were transferred to the backs of horses for
the rest of the journey to Panama. Later Nombre de Dios was abandoned for
Porto Bello, because of the very good harbor at the latter place. The old
trail was "paved" with stones for a part of the way, and the relics of
this old road may still be found in a few places amid the tangled growths
of the jungle.

With the conquest of Peru and the discovery of gold in Darien, Old Panama
came rapidly to its own and soon became a city of great importance, being
for the time the richest city in New Spain. All the gold of Peru and the
rich west coast was brought to Panama to be sorted and packed across the
Isthmus, thence to be sent to Spain. Porto Bello became a rich town and
maintained great annual fairs up to the time of its destruction by
Morgan's pirates.

The century and a half between the establishment of Old Panama as the
chief city of the Isthmus and its destruction in 1671 supplied one of the
tempestuous periods of history. It was on the Isthmus of Panama that the
American slave trade began and was continued for three hundred years. The
native Indians were so destroyed by the brutality and greed of the Spanish
conquerors that the expedient of importing black men from Africa was
devised in order to secure a labor supply for the country. Here arises the
historical precedent for the use of West Indian labor in the digging of
the American Canal.

The best account of the sacking and destruction of Old Panama is that
written by John Esquemeling and published seven years after the event, of
which he was an eyewitness, being a member of the pirates' band. The
detailed account of this event, with the general pillaging of the Isthmus
by the English buccaneers, has been narrated with much exactness and great


Stories of the great wealth of Old Panama in the day of its glory are not
hard to find. With the complete destruction of all this magnificence, the
present city was founded with due ceremonies in 1673 and much stone was
transported from the old city and built into the new. The cathedral was
soon built and stands to-day as solid as when first erected. The queen of
Spain sent detailed instructions for the building of the city, and among
other things directed that a safe wall for defense should be provided.
This was so well done that some of it still stands, an interesting relic
of the vigor and thoroughness of the civilization that produced it. Many
years passed in building these walls, and they were said to have cost ten
millions of dollars, most of which came from Peru. The story is told of a
Spanish king, who stood one day looking out of his palace window. When
asked what he was looking for he replied, "I am looking for those costly
walls of Panama; they should be visible even from here." A little
knowledge of the business methods of those days may throw some light on
the whys and wherefores of the high cost of the old walls.

Twenty-six years after the founding of the present city of Panama an
effort was made to establish an English colony in Darien, but fever and
discouragement aided the Spanish in ending the venture.

The eighteenth century is a monotonous one in Panama annals, marked mainly
by frequent encounters between the Spaniards and the Indians. Several
piratical expeditions ended in the scattering and murdering of the pirates
and restoration of Spanish sovereignty.

When the great movement in South America for political independence swept
as far north as Colombia, and the decisive battle of Boyaca was fought in
1819, Panama was very strongly held by Spain as a place of maintenance for
her armies, and the city was at all times in a good state of defense. In
this same year, however, the first junta was formed for the purpose of
bringing about independence from Spain, and sentiment in favor of the
revolution grew very rapidly. Early in 1821 General Murgeon arrived with
the promise of high reward if he could compose the difficulties in Panama
and save the Isthmus to Spain. This he saw to be impossible, and after
having appointed José de Fabrega as coloner, he left for Quito. Fabrega,
being Isthmian born, cast his lot with the revolutionists and on November
28th, 1821, a large and enthusiastic crowd assembled with representatives
from all military and ecclesiastical organizations, and Panama was
declared to be forever free from Spanish dominion. A few loyal troops,
seeing their helpless position, laid down their arms, and the change of
government was effected without the shedding of a drop of blood--something
new in Panamanian affairs. Simon Bolivar sent over help for the
independents, but found the work done before his men arrived.

After this political upheaval Panama slept on, and would still be dormant
to-day but for the discovery of gold in California in 1849. With a six
months' overland journey between the gold-hungry men of the Eastern States
and the gold-filled mountains of the West, the Isthmus suddenly came into
prominence as an easier way of reaching California. For seven or eight
years after the finding of gold not less than forty millions of dollars of
gold, twelve millions in silver, and twenty-five thousand passengers were
transported across the Isthmus annually. In 1853 the high-water mark was
reached, when sixty-six millions of dollars of gold were carried across to
the Atlantic side and shipped to New York.

This sudden development of the pack train business brought to the Isthmus
a horde of Chileans, Peruvians, Indians, and mixed breeds, among whom were
the inevitable plunderers and spoilers. The trail was again marked by
blood and treachery. Many an unhappy pilgrim lost his riches, and not a
few lost their lives on the way. At last the authorities were aroused to
the necessity of making safe this highway suddenly become so important to
the world.


The year of the first gold rush saw the organization of the Panama
Railroad Company. In 1846 three American business men organized under the
present name and secured a concession from New Granada for forty-nine
years with such conditions that no ship canal could be constructed across
the Isthmus without the consent of the railroad company. When the name of
New Granada was changed to that of Colombia, the time was extended to
ninety-nine years. This concession in time came to be very valuable, and
the French Canal Company found it necessary to buy out the Panama Railroad
in order to secure control of the exclusive right of way across the
Isthmus. Later, when the United States acquired the control of the French
possessions in Panama, the Panama Railroad became one of the most valuable
assets on the list. By conditions of the concession, this road was bound
to pay to Colombia the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per
year. After various transfers and deals this still holds in the form of
the obligation of the Panama Canal to pay this sum annually to the
Republic of Panama.

The story of the early construction days of the Panama Railroad are as
exciting as those of the Morgan Pirates, with a far better outcome. Labor
troubles were many and bitter, and it became necessary to hold men in jail
until they were willing to work. The attractions of the California gold
fields were too much for the cupidity of men who saw daily pack trains
loaded with gold from the Eldorado of the Northwest passing their wretched
hovels and taunting them with visions of easy riches. But the work
proceeded, and after interminable troubles with the black swamp between
Aspinwall (Colon) and Gatun, the road was finished as far as Gatun in the
year 1850. In 1855 the line was finished to Panama and the romantic career
of the most prosperous short railroad in the world was well under way.

Charges for freight and passenger travel were enormous in the early days
of the road. The fare was fifty cents per mile, with all baggage extra.
Freight was carried across the Isthmus for twenty-five cents per pound,
but so terrible were the old pack-train conditions that the travelers of
that day were more than willing to pay such prices for the luxury of
crossing the Isthmus by the railroad.

At last the Colombian government took up the matter and the passenger rate
was reduced. Ten cents per pound continued to be the freight charge for
years. The road made vast profits, and by a combination of rates with the
steamship companies maintained a monopoly of travel. A few years after the
completion of the railroad the pack-train men and outlaws, deprived of
their plunder by the road, became very active as brigands, and on one
occasion perpetrated a riot that cost sixteen Americans their lives and
brought the United States and Colombia to the verge of open rupture.

As far back as 1515 a German named Schoner drew a map of the American
continents with a clear line for a canal through the Isthmus. In 1581 an
actual survey was made for a canal, but nothing was done about it. In 1620
Diego de Mercado submitted a long report to Philip II, but the monarch
turned it down, saying that since God had joined the continents together,
it would be impious to try to separate them, and a death penalty was
decreed for anyone so rash as to try to undo the works of God in this way.
In 1827 an engineer was sent by Simon Bolivar, president of the New
Granada federation, and a report was made commending the project of a
combined rail and water route. In 1838 a French company aroused so much
enthusiasm in the canal project that an expert was sent by the French
government to look the ground over. He reported that a sea-level canal
could be dug without going deeper than thirty-seven feet, but the idea was
again abandoned. Two American investigations were made in 1866 and 1875,
and about this time much interest was aroused in the then new Nicaragua

The popularity of the Suez Canal, successfully completed in 1869, led
directly to the DeLesseps organization of the Panama Canal Company.
Agitation began in 1875 and in the year following a right of way was
secured, but with the Panama Railroad concession standing in the way.

The story of the work of the French Company, the New Canal Company, and
the final completion of the work by the United States government, is told

Now that the trail of the sixteenth-century pirates has become the most
famous inland waterway of the world, we can read with complacency the
story of the wretched times during which the Isthmus was the scene of
constant strife. Verily, Panama was not a very good place for sightseeing
in those days. The prowlers of the infested jungles and blood-stained
trails were not such as we would select as traveling companions to-day. If
any modern prowler becomes despondent and is tempted to complain that the
former days were better than these, let him read the story of Old Panama,
and then consider conditions as they are on the Isthmus and the Zone
to-day, and he will find food for reflection.



A Panamanian cart loaded with English tea biscuit, drawn by an old
American army mule, driven by a Hindoo wearing a turban, drove up in front
of a Chinese shop. The Jamaican clerk, aided by the San Blas errand boy,
came out to supervise the unloading. The mule wriggled about out of
position, a Spanish policeman came along and everybody got out and
"cussed" the mule.

That is Panama, every day. Across the street is an Italian lace shop run
by a Jew. Next door is a printery, operated by a Costa Rican. Just beyond
is a French laundry conducted by a man from Switzerland, and on the next
corner is a beautiful Chinese store where they sell everything from Japan.
Cloisonné and lacquer and curious carvings, silks, embroideries,
scientific instruments--they are all here. You can buy Canton linen,
Hongkong brass, Nikko carvings, Hindoo embroidery, German cutlery, French
microscopes, Canadian flour, New York apples, and California grapes all
within a block. And the products of Central and South America are all

The street in front of the shops is full of Panamanians, Peruvians,
Ecuadorians, Chileans, Colombians, and San Blas Indians, besides some
representatives of every country of North and South America, Europe, Asia,
and Africa. Canal Zone Americans walk past Yankee business men, and native
police crowd the mestizos off the sidewalk.

Panama is a jitney town, and the honk of the never-silent horn punctuates
the clang and dash of the trolleys and automobiles down a fifteen-foot
street in a mad race to see which can get through first. Overhanging roofs
nearly touch above blooming orchids and talking birds that scream across
the narrow streets. Gloomy interiors and stumbling stairways lead up to
spacious apartments and breezy balconies. Above are occasional
roof-gardens. All the rooms have high ceilings, all the streets are paved,
and all the kids wear clothes--sometimes.

There is no possible human shade or tint that is absent here. The
Anglo-Saxons are white, more or less. The Jamaicans are black, mostly. The
Panamanian is most often a soft and pleasing brown, done in a number of
wholly unmatchable tints. And the natives from these many sunny countries
round about are of every known color-tone, from chrome yellow to Paris
green. This is the human kaleidoscope of the earth: shake it up and you
will get a different result every time.

You may not like it, but you can never truthfully say that Panama is not
interesting--all the time.

The streets are clean. Daily sweepers and nightly garbage men take care of
that. The sidewalks are narrow, of course. Perhaps these two-foot
sidewalks account in part for the innate courtesy of the Latin mind. One
must be either polite or profane when he makes his way along these little
ledges, often two or three feet above the street. A portable stepladder
would help some.


Some of these houses are old, very old. A few are new; most of them have
stood here one or two hundred years. There are many three stories high, a
few boast of four stories, but the most of them have but two. Third
stories are popular because of the breezes that blow and make life

Plazas are small, but parked and well kept, and they are used as only
Latin-Americans know how to use a plaza. The little ones are garden-spot
oases in the deserts of bare walls and wide eaves. Santa Ana Plaza is the
heart of the city, and there is no hour of the day or night that there are
not people there. If you really wish to see the world go by, sit on the
stone bench at Santa Ana Plaza and look about you. If you stay long
enough, you may see anybody, from the latest naked brown baby to the last
chosen president of any country you may name.

Sitting in the plaza is a business by itself in this country. The North
American uses a park as a short cut, cross-corners, to get somewhere. But
with the tropic citizen, the plaza is an end in itself. He is not going
anywhere, he is just sitting in the plaza. He may not even be called a
bench-warmer--the bench is already warm. He is sitting in the plaza--that
is all.

The band-night parade in Santa Ana Plaza is an institution. Around the
central garden they saunter, to the swing of the very good music from the
central pavilion. The outer walk is wide, and so is the parade. Clockwise
walks the inner circle, three abreast, all young men. In the opposite
direction saunter the young women, also in threes. 'Round and 'round they
go, talking, laughing, listening, looking, lingering, while the band plays
on. It is a good band too. And not the least of the exhibit is the clothes
the women wear. In matter of graceful and apparently comfortable costumes
the Panamanian girls need apologize to none of their northern sisters. Who
is to blame the boys if they keep on walking around for the sake of seeing
the seeable, especially when she may be quite worth watching? Every added
turn means one look more. It is all very dignified and proper, but human
nature is the same old composition in every land, and the blood in the
heart runs red, no matter what the tint or tan without. In a land where
the customs of chaperonage are exceeding strict, and no young woman is
supposed to be left alone with any young man for the briefest moment, it
is easy to see why the band nights in the plaza are popular. Ostensibly
the young women, after the manner of their kind, have no interest in the
young men, but just the same, their soft brown eyes have the same old way
of wandering at the right moment; it is the same old trick and it works in
the same old way.

The cathedral plaza is rather a different matter. Here gather the elite,
in numbers on concert nights, and more or less on other fair evenings. The
grown-ups sit about on the benches and the children run and play,
care-free and comfortable. Well-dressed and content, these are the best of
the old native stock that used to live "inside" the walls of Panama that
the Spanish king thought he should be able to see. There are usually a few
Americans with the crowd, and it is a peaceful and restful family scene.
Were it not for the incessant clatter of the trolleys and jitneys the
place would be a good rest-cure. But as matters now stand, there is too
much pandemonium for any permanent peace.

[Illustration: CONVENT DOOR]

Out at the point of the seawall, near Chiriqui Prison, stands an old stone
sentry box. It appears to belong to the prison now, but there was a time
when the outlook from that point on the bay of Panama was the viewpoint of
Panamanian life as it faced the Pacific and marked the place of departure
for shores unknown. It is prosaic enough now to stand beside the little
old stone tower and watch a big liner leave the canal and throw back its
smoke-plume as it steams out to sea, having left the Atlantic Ocean seven
hours before. Gone with the days of the explorers and pirates are the
mystery and menace of it all. The sentry box meant something then. Its
lone occupant scanned anxiously the horizon for the sail that might mean
fresh plunders, news from the world beyond, bountiful booty or stolen
treasure, or perchance a fight to the finish with other pirates as
unscrupulous as the villains on shore. Now the children gather there at
sunset to play, care-free on the high wall overlooking the Gulf of Panama.

Old Spanish houses are built with the yard inside. It is delightfully
intimate and cozy, but not very democratic. Green and clean and cool are
these little parked "interiors" of the better houses. Some of the common
patios are dirty and disheveled, and the worst of them are better left
alone, but the American Health Department looks after the sanitation of
them all.

Chino (Chinese) shops sell everything, but, aside from the fine stores on
Central Avenue, are mostly devoted to native trade. Out in the interior
the Chinese storekeepers transact practically all the business of the
country. Wherever there are two or three families gathered together, there
the Chinese storekeeper is sure to appear, ready to harvest any small or
large coins that may be in circulation.

There were at one time about five hundred saloons of all sorts in Panama,
This number has been greatly reduced with hope of complete extinction,
owing to the exigencies of the near-by American soldiers on the Canal
Zone. The monthly payroll of the Zone is a stream of gold, and it is a
case of losing that gold or cleaning up Panama. Military orders and
voluntary boycotts made Panama a lonesome town for the latter part of


There is the official lottery, suspiciously located. To be sure, the
bishop does not personally supervise the drawings, and perhaps he does not
get anything out of it, but no one who knows Panama claims such to be the
case. When did the hierarchy ever oppose a gambling game that promised
profit for the cause? Gaunt, hungry-looking cripples and pobres hang about
the corners selling lottery tickets. Evidently, none of the profits come
to these unfortunates.

Panama City has its neighborhoods like any other Old-World town. "Inside"
the old wall includes the original fortified town on the little peninsula
jutting into the bay. Here live officials, professional and business men.
Beyond this lies the town that overflowed the wall and now reaches down to
the park in front of the Tivoli Hotel. This is the barrio of Santa Ana.
Caledonia and Guachapali and San Miguel lie across the railway and serve
to fill in the space between the Spanish town and the Exposition grounds.
A mile and a half beyond the palaces of the exposition lies Bella Vista,
beautiful for situation and rivaling Southern California for its real
estate enterprise. Over toward the Canal is Chorilla between the Cemetery
and Ancon Hill. At the end of the five-cent car fare on the line to the
savanas is the famous--or infamous--bull ring. Who said that bullfights
had been abandoned? Not much. Between bullfights and prize fights the
season is not allowed to drag, and it must be admitted that the number of
American patrons of these brutalizing contests is not to the credit of the

The open market where the fishermen come ashore is one of the show places
of Panama. Pangas and chingas and craft of every sort, except the modern
kind, bring in on high tide cargoes of bananas, coconuts, charcoal,
camotes, rice, sugar, syrup, rum, papayas, mangoes, lonzones, chiotes,
poultry, pigs, ivory nuts and a score of fruits and vegetables unnamable
by the uninitiated. When the tide recedes the boats lie high, if not very
dry, and the unloading proceeds apace. It is an interesting and lively
scene, and the bicker and barter go on by the hour.

Hard by is the big native market, resort of housekeepers and servants in
search of commissary bargains. This one is fairly clean and is the morning
recreation of thousands of shoppers.

Panama has its theaters, of the sort to be expected. One of the movie
houses compares well with the best anywhere, and most of the others are in
good condition. The national theater is a credit to the country and forms
a section of the national palace. On the Canal Zone the clubhouses,
sometimes called Y. M. C. A.'s, put on several picture shows a week in
commendable effort to supply recreation to their patrons.

The architecture of the old churches is a bit disappointing to travelers
who have seen the splendid buildings of other Latin lands. The Cathedral
has two modern towers, a clock in one of them, and the twelve apostles in
life size on the façade. The Jesuit Church by the Malecon is very old and
rather interesting. Recently a new concrete tower has been added, of
striking appearance, but not closely in conformity with the architecture
of the church. This church contains a famous old painting of purgatory and
heaven, and down below, the flames of the lost. It is notable that in the
place of purgatory are bishops, priests, and kings. There are ten people
in heaven, and ten in purgatory, and of each ten three are women.
Query--Where did the painter think that the women belong? It is an
interesting question, especially for the women.

The big Merced Church on Central Avenue has a curious and interesting
little street chapel on the corner of the sidewalk, and here are arranged
curious exhibitions at Christmas and Easter. I saw here the ancient
village of Bethlehem, with the inn and manger and oxen; but there were
also a miniature lake with a steamboat, and a grocery wagon delivering
goods to the ancient Bethlehemites. The stores bore advertisements of
patent breakfast foods.

No place can be truly romantic until it possesses some good ruins, and
Panama claims distinction in the old Flat-Arch Church near the palace. The
interior is now used as a garage, and no one but the tourist seems to
think the place of any interest. Two blocks away stands the façade of the
fine old stone church that has been a ruin now for years. The interior is
now a stable, and the old walls of the college have been used for the
construction of a modern cheap tenement house. The stone front of the old
wall stands as a fine example of the architecture and building of 1751,
when the church was finished.

The San Filipi Neri Church, at the corner of Avenida B and Fourth Streets,
is made from stone carried in from Old Panama. This church is said to have
the most beautiful interior in the city, but, as it is very rarely opened
to the street, the visitor will have to accept the statement without
opportunity to judge for himself.


The savanas lie northeast of Panama and beyond the ruins of Old Panama.
The rolling slopes of green and the growing number of villas will make
this strip of country valuable and famous before long.

Of Panama's hotels not much need to be said, except that they are good of
their kind. Latin hotel standards are different from those of North
America, but good judges of hotel life have pronounced those of Panama to
be quite endurable.

There are always two or three daily papers in Panama and an indefinite
number of weeklies. An immemorial custom exists by which when any citizen
has anything on his mind that he feels he should unload to the profit or
otherwise of the public, a printed pronunciamento is issued and circulated
about the streets by boys, handed out freely to everybody in sight. This
really effective method is sometimes used for important matters of state.


The educational system is modeled upon the best Latin-American standards,
with primary schools of four grades throughout the Republic. Provincial
centers have schools with two, and in a few cases four years more. The
National Institute, at the foot of Ancon Hill, maintains a normal school
for men and a liceo which grants the degree of Bachelor of Arts upon the
completion of about the equivalent of the American college freshman year.
The young women are given a normal course in the Women's Normal School at
the Exposition grounds. There is no coeducation above the primary grades.
The Agricultural Experimental Farm and School, abandoned as an experiment
station, is used as a reform school.

Taboga Island lies off shore and furnishes a point of much interest. It is
the week-end Mecca of the Zone people and also of many of the Panamanians.
There are a good American hotel, several fair native hotels, good fishing,
tramping, an interesting native village, a healthful climate, and a fine
view--and all within ten miles of Panama.

If the prowler is looking for real adventure, he can seek for it on Gocos
Island, three hundred miles south of Panama. Here are said to lie hidden
somewhere ten millions of dollars' worth of treasure, stolen from Callao
and other points between 1820 and 1830. Harvey Montmorency wrote it up in
a book entitled On the Track of the Treasure, and so well did he tell the
story that four large expeditions have been organized and sent to find it.
One man is said to have found a little gold for his pains, but the others
went home poorer than they came. And if these are too easy destinations,
there lie the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Peru, said to contain
many possibilities, of many kinds. Peru is supposed to have the islands on
the market, and anybody with the money can purchase one, all his own.



No one has ever satisfactorily explained the existence of ghosts in an
enlightened world, but I have a theory that they survive because they
render a real service. They lend interest to life and at least keep us
from forgetting the super (or sub) natural.

Likewise ruins have high value as a link with the past, and with neither
ruins nor ghosts life would become a very flat affair. And if ever a spot,
by history, tradition, situation, and present condition, was marked for
rendezvous purposes by all the tribe that gibber and squeak and wander at
night in the dark of the moon, that place is Old Panama.

The history of Old Panama has been told, and well told, by other writers.
Read it there, and read it before you see the place. Many pilgrims go out
there, poke about among the ruins for a quarter of an hour, and exclaim,
"Is this all?" Without the story the most appreciative pilgrim will miss
the flavor of the place, but without a little romantic appreciation both
the story and the ruins will fall short of revealing all that the place
has to give.

The old town site was a hopeless jungle until the National Institute,
under the leadership of Dr. Dexter, cleared away the brush and laid bare
the traces of streets and buildings. To-day the place is in good condition
and one may wander about at will and dream to his heart's content. It is
no place for joy rides, and the roadhouse is a blot on the place, but
there are people still who see nothing but a refreshment counter and
worthless stone heaps.

[Illustration: CONVENT GARDEN]

One of the favorite amusements of tourists and other people used to be
that of digging for treasure at Old Panama. No one ever found anything of
value, but it made a fine story to tell upon return to the States. "When I
was digging for treasure in Old Panama"--just say it and see what a flavor
it has. It is most probable that if the ruins were located in a cooler
climate, there would have been a great deal more digging. Under a tropic
sun, however, it takes considerable bait to induce anyone to indulge in
such vigorous exercise.

The treasure idea is easy to locate. Peruvian gold was all brought up to
Panama and stored in warehouses until it could be packed across to Porto
Bello. There were endless fighting and plots and schemes and robberies and
murders connected with the gold trade. Many a man lost his gold, and many
a man his life. And, in consequence, some of the gold was also lost in the
mêlée. What more natural, then, than to look about for this lost treasure
in the place where most of it was stored?

Now, there may be millions of dollars' worth of old gold somewhere about
Old Panama. The only difficulty is that no one ever yet has been able to
find any of it. The probability is that no gold was ever left there long
enough to be very much lost, and the men who did the fighting also took
care of the gold. But that does not prevent any one from "digging for
treasure in Old Panama" if he wants to do so.

Nevertheless, there is treasure in Old Panama, and it is to be had for the
digging. But the digging will be, not amid the rocks, but into the history
of the place. And the digger will find rare nuggets for his pains. Balboa,
Pizarro, Pedrarias laid out this town, and set the pace for the wild and
unprincipled years that followed. And Henry Morgan, adventurer, pirate,
and general rascal, ended the story as it was begun--in crime and blood.


Accounts of the construction and character of the old city represent it to
have been builded with much magnificence. All the woods used in building
were of the fine native mahoganies, and there were hangings, tapestries,
and paintings in the sumptuous houses of the men who became enormously
rich from the traffic of the times. Returning ships from Europe brought
luxuries as well as necessities, and the gold trade people maintained
regular fleets of ships and put Panama in close touch with the life of the
age. There are described two large churches, a cathedral, a "hospital,"
over two thousand large houses, and several very large establishments for
the care of the great number of pack animals used on the trail. Large
quantities of gold, silver, pearls, and gems of various sorts were in
evidence. In the day of its glory Panama was a veritable Arabian Nights
city, with some two hundred warehouses for the storing of stolen treasure.

The story of the destruction of the old city is one of shocking cruelty
and lust, and merely furnishes the last chapter of the same tale of crime
that marks the history of the Isthmus from the finding of the Peruvian
gold to the days when the murderous pillages of rival pirates finally
destroyed the commerce of the Isthmus and left Panama little more than a
memory of former glories. The burning of Old Panama marks the turning
point in Isthmian history and closes forever the days of conquest. About
this time the vast supply of Peruvian gold became exhausted, and between
the failure of loot and the destruction of trade by brigandage the Isthmus
fell into neglect and was nearly lost sight of by the world for two
hundred years.

Anyone who knows the story of the place will find the ruins fascinating
because they show a construction of the days when men built strong walls
because nothing else would stand the strain of the lives they lived. Some
of the walls stand as firm and strong to-day as they did three and a half
centuries ago, and unless removed by the hand of man they will stand here
a thousand years hence. And when a wall stands for centuries in this
tropic climate of disintegration it is a wall to remember.


Most conspicuous stands the old church tower, splendid and defiant amid
the wreckage about its feet. Straight and strong it lifts its lofty head
above the treetops, and, viewed from any angle, is a majestic figure.
There is no construction in modern Panama to-day that may be compared to
the grand dignity of that sentinel tower. Like some old prophet, amid the
ruins of a wayward people, the tower raises its head and stands in mute
but noble witness to the reality of the things that endure. For the tower
was honestly built, and therefore stands. Against its solid walls, builded
from their rock foundation straight upward, the ravages of time have made
but little impress.

The tower was part of the cathedral, and the cathedral was one of three or
four great churches. Of at least two others well-preserved ruins still
remain, and are well worth careful study. The reddish-brown coloring of
the old walls and the vine-covered stone help furnish endless temptations
for the artist, but no one has yet given adequate expression to the
splendid possibilities of these ruins.

Still more interesting vistas open to the mind's eye of the student with a
constructive imagination. There were churches many and large and beautiful
in Old Panama. And there were pirates wild and wicked and hated in Old
Panama. Who "ran the town"? The pirates or the priests? What relations
existed between the two? And if there were churches of such great beauty
and strength, why were there also the terrible pirates? What were the
churches doing that they did not bring about a better city?

These are hard questions, but to anyone who knows conditions to-day, and
who knows that conditions to-day are better than they were in Old Panama,
the answer is not far to seek. The hungry and helpless peons did not give
the money to build those costly churches, though they doubtless did the
hard work of construction. And if the pirates were good givers--and they
doubtless were, under promise and threat--then they also influenced the
general scheme of things in Old Panama. In short, the churches of Old
Panama did not make a very good town of it.

What a story Jack London could have written here! It is too bad that he
did not find Old Panama before it was too late. Not only the ruins, but
the vista of royal palms along the beach, with the little
red-white-and-blue crabs scurrying about at high tide, unite to raise a
sense of romance that starts the wheels of fancy revolving in one's brain.
All one needs is a "long, low, rakish black craft in the offing,"--there
it is now, the very thing, a big chinga, fifty feet long with four sails
and twenty-five men on board, luffing and tacking about into the little
bay just around the point. Pirates or fishermen--don't inquire too
closely; either will do, and both are useful in romance.


In one of the churches are some old graves, where some natives have been
buried, partly for convenience and perhaps partly from sentiment. Fine old
walls stand earthquake-cracked, but still strong. Of roofs there are, of
course, none. And back of the church are still intact the foundations of a
house said to have been the house of the governor, and the vaulted arches
of the old cellar storehouse are still intact. A native lives in a shanty
near by, and he greets the visitor, not with the information that might
make him useful and get him a tip, but with the vacant optimism of those
who feel that somehow something is coming to them whether they earn it or

As for the natives, none of them know anything about the place. The few
that live there are of the sort that would camp under the nose of the
sphinx and never look up into his face. But the reader of this can well
spend a half day amid the most fruitful prowling anywhere in Panama. He
may gaze at the splendid tower till the broken walls about it rise again,
and the old tiled roof once more covers the worshiping congregations
within, and the drone of mass and the fragrance of incense again ascend
before the high altar. And down the old street, with its one-story houses,
once more wind the pack trains and muleteers and men and women and
children. There is excitement everywhere, and commotion and cursing, and
everybody runs down to the beach. And if you will turn about and gaze out
to sea, you will see there a curious craft with freakish sails, and when
it drops anchor and the boat pulls ashore, you will see old Almagro
himself step out on the sands sword in hand, and with rough and profane
commands, take charge of the unloading of his golden cargo. There will be
wild times in Old Panama to-night, for the pack trains have returned from
Porto Bello with a cargo of rum, and the sailors from Peru have been long
at sea, detained by unfavorable winds, and, like sailors of other times
and climes, they are thirsty. Out from the church door comes the tonsured
priest; he shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders, and makes his way down
to where the great Almagro stands, a commanding figure amid the confusion.
For the commander has the gold, and, like all explorers of his time, he
will be in need of a proper blessing by the priest; and the padre, being
human, can use a little of the gold.

But while you gaze and dream, "dear reader," the vision fades and "the
tumult and the shouting dies," and there stand the ruins, and there swings
the sweep of the tropic sea, and you are again in the twentieth century, a
little richer in mental imagery for your short excursion back into the

Which is to say that dreaming is easy at Old Panama. Try it yourself.



What the desert is to Arizona and the ice to Alaska the jungle is to
tropical America. He who has never traveled through a tropical jungle on a
trusty mule has missed something out of his life. He should go back and
begin over again.

The jungle is much maligned and often misinterpreted. The jungle has a
place in the agricultural life of the tropics, but it has also a place in
the æsthetic and moral life of mankind. Here at last there is room, and
the starved and stunted life may relax its struggle and strain and expand
under the luxuriance and exuberance of a world where all the forces of
life overflow and run riot in a thousand fantastic forms of energy and
growth. Like the uncharted vastness of the polar sea and the unbounded,
shimmering mirage of the wide desert, here at last there is plenty and to
spare. When a man has stinted and economized all his life on a New England
hillside amid stones and stumps, the jungle takes the load off his soul
and sets him free in a universe of new and untested dimensions.

The jungle is misunderstood. There are jungles unworthy of the name, but
these vast Panamanian hothouses are a different matter. They are not the
bottomless morasses of deadly snakes and poisonous vapors. Since men have
learned how to live in the tropics these terrors have largely retreated to
the highly colored accounts of tropical travelers who took one look and
fled--to write a book of timely warning to the uninitiated. These jungles
are not the haunts of hidden horrors and poisoned arrows. Ferocious
tree-dwellers may inhabit the unknown recesses of the upper Amazon, but
they do not live in the jungles of Central America and Panama.

[Illustration: PAPAYA TREES]

It takes just three conditions to make a good jungle, and these three are
all present in this fascinating country. Moisture, temperature, and soil;
mix them in the right proportions and you can produce a jungle at the
North Pole, but nowhere can the mixture be located except in the tropics.
When one remembers the painstaking toil expended on the rocky fields of
northern New York and then turns to a land where the problem is not to
encourage but to prevent growth, one wonders how it happened that our
ancestors blundered into an environment reeking with difficulties when
they might have had all this overflow of abundance for the taking.

There are several brands of jungle, to be sure, and distinct differences
of kind may be located easily. The jungle of the overflowed level river
land is a very different formation from that which climbs over the rolling
hills and up the mountain slopes. But everywhere there is the same
reckless riot of power and life. Fantastic growths are here just because
there is so much growing to do and so much energy back of the roots that
there are not conventional forms of life enough to go around and life
boils over in every conceivable absurdity of form and habit. This is no
place for a niggard. But it is a splendid antidote for smallness of soul
and for that dried-up-ness that settles down like a pall upon the spirits
of men who never in their lives have had enough of anything or breathed an
atmosphere of abundance.

It must be a petrified soul that can resist this wanton abandon of
vegetable life. How a man can spend three days in this full-blown
exhibition of vital energy at work in the vegetable world and ever be
small again is more than can be readily understood.

Here is a world where no one ever need cry for more; there is too much
already. After a few days of it one longs to get out in the open, to see a
barren spot somewhere just to rest the surfeited soul a bit. It's all for
the asking; in fact, there is no chance to ask; it is poured out of the
horn of nature's plenty, and all the color and charm and fantasy and music
and laughter and glory of it are piled in wild profusion a hundred feet
high, and you cannot get away if you will. Nature at least has a chance to
show what she can really do, and it is yours for the looking.


What makes up a jungle? Well, that's hard to say. There are mighty trees
of cedar and mahogany and a hundred lesser breeds, lifting their heads
into the tropic sky. There are palms and giant ferns of course. There are
wonderful purple and magenta and crimson-topped trees, whose glaring flat
colors fairly shriek at you like the bedlam of a paint box let loose on
the sky. Sturdy lignum vitæ trees stand conscious of their high value and
rare qualities. Ferns in profusion, vast, variegated and immense, line the
banks of streams and hide in the shadows of the great trees. Orchids, of
course, winding streams strewn with the flowers and foliage of the dense
mass overhead, entrancing water streets and winding Venetian tunnels
through forests so thick that the sun never penetrates the shadowed
fastnesses below. There are paraqueets, parrots, singing canaries,
alligators, bananas, bamboos, singing winds, warbling bluebirds,
blackbirds that can render a tune, purples and blues and crimsons and
browns, all poured out and mixed together without stint. It is fascinating
for a few hours, but after a time you get overloaded and are ready to cry
"Enough." It's great, but a little stupefying till one gets used to it.

The jungle of the mountains is essentially different from and more
interesting than that of the level swamps. Both are largely uninhabited,
for men naturally like to have a little outlook both for their lives and
about their habitations.

But the growth is about equally dense, provided the soil and moisture are
right for the production of real jungle. From Puerto Limon to Almirante is
about one hundred and twenty miles overland, and there was a time when
practically every mile of this distance was untouched jungle. The United
Fruit Company has conquered most of it, until there is now but a day's
journey on horseback through the connecting link between the two railroad
terminal points at Estrella and the Talamanca Valley. The one hundred
miles of rails run almost entirely through the endless fields of bananas.
But once this was all primitive wilderness; that is, we think it was, but
some of the superintendents of this clearing and planting work say that
they have discovered numerous evidences that there was a time in ages past
when practically all of this vast area was under some sort of cultivation.

[Illustration: CACAO PODS]

There would be a railroad now across the gap of twenty miles but for the
fact that this gap includes a mountain range with rushing rivers and
steeps, gorges and almost impenetrable forests. Occasional travelers cross
this range by the aid of sturdy mules, but there is yet nothing that could
by any strain of language be called a trail. There is simply a "blaze"
through the forest and occasional marks where some floundering traveler
has preceded the venturesome explorer through the depths of some yawning

I crossed this range on a day when the sun was shining overhead, but only
two or three times did its rays fall upon the "trail." The overhead growth
was so thick that there was nothing but dense shadow below. A hundred and
fifty feet these immense trees rose into the air, carrying upward with
them festoons of hanging vines, swinging rattan, and clinging orchids.
Curious enough are some of these trees, with their winding external
buttresses and thin flanges thrown out to brace against the winds. Banyan
trees reach out their long arms and drop their fingers down into the soil
and take root and continue until the tree literally "stalks" its way
across the mountain side. There are rubber trees and cedar trees and
mahogany trees and prickly poisoned trees that are the terror of the
natives, and trees bearing all manner of jungle fruits and flowers and
swarming with chattering birds and creeping things. Rattan "ropes" an inch
in diameter and two hundred feet long trip the unwary traveler, and it is
useless to try to break them. They are like steel cables. Wild birds are
plentiful, occasional baboons bark and bray, and the mountain streams
splash and plunge their way through the ferns and flowers. The Estrella
River forms the highway for several miles, and its rocky torrent must be
forded a score of times.

He who has never tried to travel this "road" has a new experience in
store. There are hillsides that are all but perpendicular, which would not
be so bad, but they are a mixture of clay and soapstone and moisture, and
it is practically impossible to stand erect without holding on to nearby
saplings. How a laden mule can navigate such a causeway of destruction is
a mystery to be explained only by people who understand mules. And I rode
a mule whose mastery of the art of trail-navigation left nothing to be
learned. In the ignorance of my novitiate I alighted before the first
precipitous descent to which we came. The mule, with the conservatism born
of experience, took his time to make the descent, and I essayed to go
before and show him how to do it. He watched me with intense interest,
while I gingerly approached the edge of the slippery declivity and started
down. As a descent it was a complete success. At the second step I slipped
on the wet clay and went rolling and coasting to the bottom, whither I
arrived in record time, plastered from head to foot with the raw material
of which pottery is made. I struggled to my feet and looked up at the
mule. He still regarded me intently, and I think that he winked, at least
his ear did. Then he deliberately put his front feet over the edge,
gathered in his hind feet, and with all fours together, sat down and
gracefully slid to the bottom of the hill. He arrived right side up at the
bottom, munching a mouthful of grass, which he seized in passing on the
way down, and turned to look at me with an expression that needed no
interpreter. And I took the hint and stayed on his back most of the day.

After a solid day of this dense growth where we could not see more than a
stone's throw at any time it was with a distinct sense of relief that we
caught sight of daylight at last through an opening ahead and came upon
the fringes of the Talamanca plantation.


The Talamanca Valley is something quite worth while in itself. Years ago
it was inhabited by Spanish refugees who fled back from the bloody attacks
of the ravenous Caribbean pirates of the sixteenth century. Their little
plantations were not large and the land was not cleared very thoroughly,
but they shifted their planting places until much of the present area was
covered sooner or later with platanas. The view of this valley from the
hillside is surpassingly beautiful. Thirty miles long, ten miles wide, and
surrounded by mountains and forests, the whole floor of the valley is one
vast, waving, level field of bananas, and there are few things better to
look upon than a valley level full of banana tops. From twenty to forty
feet high they stand, and their long, shady corridors are like the aisles
of some great series of cathedral chapels, waiting for worshipers within.
Through the middle of the valley runs the stream of the upper Sexola River
with its three tributaries and their bluffs. The Changuanola Railway,
which is the name under which the United Fruit Company moved its bananas
and its men in this great plantation, runs the length of the valley, and
the line of rails is punctuated by the white cabins of the black employees
and the houses and offices of the plantation superintendents and foremen.

Dominating the whole valley stands old Pico Blanco, or White Top. There is
no snow at the summit, but there is nearly always a white cloud cap there,
hence the name. This noble mountain is the interest and admiration of all
dwellers in the valley. Its top lists eleven thousand feet above the sea.
It is not as high as Pike's Peak nor Shasta, but it towers well up toward
the level of Fujiyama, and beside it Mount Washington looks like a pigmy
and the Adirondacks are mere foothills. Back in the cañons and forests of
the mountain range live the curious Talamanca Indians, whose tribal
customs indicate a close affinity between their ancestors and those of the
famous Indians of Quirigua.

The difference between the jungle and the dividend-paying plantation is
one of organization, capital, administration, and toil. Add these to the
jungle and you have the plantation. Take them away from the plantation and
in a very short time the jungle is again supreme. Crowding around the
corners, peeping over the edges, and creeping ever onward, the jungle
pushes its jealous way behind the footprints of the men who essay to
conquer its wild ways. But once defeated, the jungle becomes a slave
bearing costly burdens for its master--man.



"Forty years ago I took a bath, and the next day I felt chilly, and

"Never mind forty years ago. What is the matter this morning, and why have
you come to me for medicine?" chants the seasoned employer of plantation

"That is what I was telling you, señor. Forty years ago I took a bath, and
the next day I felt chilly, and then I thought that I had made a mistake,
and so I went--"

"Now, see here. I have no interest nor curiosity about forty years ago.
What is the matter with you now?"

"Be patient, señor. This is important, and I will tell you all. Forty
years ago--" and after devious dodgings the tale terminates in a case of
fever or indigestion, or mayhap only plain drunk.

It is ever thus with the tropic tao, or peon, or ignorante, or whatever
may be called the people who have grown up with the soil and have risen
not any above it. The petty official who hears complaints in any tropic
land listens to marvelous reminiscences through deep jungles of
imaginative memory before reaching present facts.

"Twenty-five years ago I had the toothache, and then the next week I had a
bad dream, and after that I had no suerte [luck] at all, until one saint's
day I drank rum and ate rice, and the rice make me sick--" is merely the
opening chapter.

Every employer of tropic labor must be judge and jury for a docket of
petty cases that have to be adjusted if the wheels of industry are not to
be paralyzed in their work. Newcomers at this business of sitting in the
seat of judgment hear marvelous stories of oppression and outrage, in
which the accuser is always innocent--and always alone, if possible. But
experience breeds disillusionment and skepticism deep and wide, and soon
the amateur Solomon learns to distrust every story, most of all the first
one told. For, after the plaintiff has sworn that he is telling the truth,
or may all the saints strike him dead, and has unrolled his woes in
orderly sequence, he stands with critical eye, watching to see what
impression his art has made upon the puzzled personage of power.

And when the adjuster of affairs scorns the tale and says, "Get out with
you. I don't believe a word of that stuff," the beggar bows and smiles a
deprecating smile and begins all over again with a revised version of the
case, which bears very little resemblance to the first story, and again
stands back to observe what better success he may hope for this time. And
there appears to be no end to the ready versions and variations of the
woes of the downtrodden exponent of virtue whose humble bearing seems to
exude virtue from every protruding bare spot through his rags. "Last
Wednesday morning, I got up, and--would you believe it?--there was nothing
in the house. There was no yucca [counting off on his fingers],
no plantanas, no huevos, no carne, no mais, no azucar, no
arroz--absolutamente nada. Yes, it was last Wednesday--no, no, señor, I am
a liar--it was last Tuesday morning. And, señor, my children were hungry,
and I remembered that there was nothing--" and so on the story goes to its
climax in the claim that a certain party, not present, owes the complainer
fifty cents for real or imaginary value bestowed, and will the owner
please collect the fifty cents for the starving children?


And if this tale is unsatisfactory, comes immediately a fresh version to
the effect that it is another man who owes a dollar because he tramped
across some young corn and spoiled the crop.

It is this fertility of imagination that makes up for any sort of accurate
information. To the American the amazing thing about these people is that
they know so little about their own very interesting country. The American
must know in order to boom his town, but the tropic native has no idea of
booming his town. There is no fun in booming, there is nothing to boom,
and a boomed town would be always stirring about or starting something,
and would be a nuisance anyway.

I stood in a village, quaint and curious, and wondered how old it might
be. The bells hanging to a cross beam in front of the old church bore
figures on their rims--1722, they said; and they looked it, every inch--or

Came the young curate of the parish, a good-looking and intelligent
native, who talked a little with us pleasantly, and lured us into the old
church, where he immediately improved the occasion by getting the
collection basket and holding it under our noses. "It is a special saint's
day," he explained.

"How many people live here?"

He could not tell.

"How old is the church?" we wanted to know, thinking to get a morsel of
information for our crumb of contribution.

He did not know. The question was entirely new to him. He had been born in
the town, and later showed us with pride the house in which himself, his
mother, and his grandmother had been born, but as to the number of
inhabitants or the age of the church it had never occurred to him to

But presently inspiration came to his aid. There was an ancient woman
still living at more than a hundred years; surely she would know the
answer to some of these curious questions.


We called on the old woman. She was nothing but bones and parchment,
sitting with her chin on her knees on a small platform of slats which she
had not left for over two years. She claimed one hundred and two years,
which was undoubtedly correct, as baptismal records are usually accurately
kept. She certainly looked the part. The studiante sat down on the "bed,"
placed his hand kindly on the old woman's shoulder, and told her that
though she was blind there were three strangers who had come to see her
and congratulate her on her great age. She was pleased and said so, but
her mind was as feeble as her body, and there was little that she could
say. When asked as to the date of the "blessing" of the church, she said,
"O yes, certainly I can name it--it was on Saint John's day."

"That's fine," enthused the curate. "Now, what year was it, grandma?"

"Ah, that is another matter. I can't tell you now, but if you will come
to-morrow, I may be able to remember it then."

[Illustration: JUNGLE FOLK]

We left the next morning, of course, without the date of the dedication
day, but what information was lacking on this point was amply made up in
information concerning the population. We asked seven people the question
and received seven different answers, ranging from three hundred to five
thousand. We counted a hundred odd houses, indicating six or seven hundred
people, but no one there had any idea or any interest in the matter. What
difference did it make anyway?

The town of Nata, eighty miles west of Panama, was founded in 1520, one
year after the founding of Old Panama, and one hundred years before the
Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Old Panama has been a ruin for two and
one half centuries, leaving Nata as the oldest inhabited town in the New
World--no small distinction.


I asked the leading official if he knew how old the town was, and he said
that he understood that it was "very old." When I suggested that it was
the oldest town in America he nodded politely and talked of something
else. I called on the priest, an intelligent and friendly man, who also
understood that the town "was very old," but its priority of claim to the
oldest living municipal inhabitant of the Americas had little interest for
him. He talked on, complaining bitterly of the bad morals of the people
and the small financial proceeds which the parish yielded its spiritual

It is easy to disparage any people, especially if they speak a different
language from your own. Most of the things said against the illiterate
natives of any country are true, but the trouble is that they are only a
small fraction of the truth.

A large employer of native labor, who took pride in treating his men well
and paying them promptly, complained to me that he never could keep steady
labor on his place for the reason that the men earned enough in one week
to keep them drunk for the next fortnight, and hence worked only one week
out of three, leaving their families to starve or shift for themselves as
best they might. And he told the truth.

But he did not tell it all. This same employer distilled the rum on his
own place and regarded it as a paying business. When other employers
raised the price for labor and produce he refused to do so on the ground
that the more they had the worse off they were. On the surface it might
seem to be true.

But these same laborers, even saving all possible margin of wages, could
not have lived in anything like comfort on sixty-five cents per day. Most
of them never see a newspaper, and could scarcely read, and not at all
understand it if they did see it. There is not an item of news, a trace of
historical knowledge or perspective, a gleam of scientific understanding,
a moving picture show, or a lecture on any subject, or a musical program,
nor any one of the thousand things that add interest and widen the horizon
of life--none of these things ever enter the remotest areas of his
consciousness. He lives in the flat, narrow confines of a life so small,
so cramped, so possessed by superstition and terror and ill will that he
is not many removes from the cattle with which he works. When this man
would celebrate his saint's day he gets drunk, organizes a bull fight, and
gives vent to every low impulse of his nature.

Is it any wonder? The only tingle of interest that touches his soul comes
from adventures in the realm of unfaithfulness and drunkenness. How many
of the rest of us would do any better if born and bred in the mire of his
social inheritance?

There is such a thing as moral hookworm. Saint Paul called it by another
term, but its symptoms are unchanged. The unshod soul, shuffling through
the mire of degradation, acquires from the lower stratum of his
environment the infection of a spiritual destitution that lowers moral
vitality to the minimum.

How comes this benumbed conscience and depraved practice! What is the
matter that the average of legitimacy for all Central America is thirty
per cent of the total population, while the seventy per cent are born of
unmarried parents?

It is not for lack of churches. Every town has its church, and the church
is invariably the best building in the town. It stands on the plaza,
commanding, central, and usually more or less beautiful. One can scarcely
get out of sight of a church tower in any thickly settled, level country.
And the churches are large enough to contain almost the whole population
of the town, at least by taking them in several installments at mass


It is not for want of priests. There are priests in every town, and most
of them carry out pretty faithfully the routine of ecclesiastical
observances that make up the day's program. Black gowns, tonsured heads,
and beads and rosaries are seen everywhere, and the padre is usually the
most influential man in the town.

It is not for want of religion. Every house of any pretensions has its
holy pictures, often its crucifix, and usually its rosary. Women in
numbers attend mass and go to confession.

It is not for want of opportunity on the part of priests or church. It is
not because of "church competition." Here we have a unity complete and

For three hundred and ninety-eight years the priests and their church have
had sole, exclusive, and continuous occupation of Nata, the oldest town in
America. I was probably the first Protestant missionary who ever walked
the streets of the place. Here in the oldest town, with the longest
occupation and the undisturbed opportunity, should be found a fair chance
with these people.

And what has it done? The open-minded and friendly priest complained
bitterly of the fact that in his parish only five per cent of his people
were born of married parents. Ninety-five per cent were registered on his
books as "Naturales." The year before he had administered over three
hundred baptisms and had celebrated only three marriages. "I can't get
them to marry," he groaned. "Practically speaking, almost no one is

Is Nata worse than other towns? Possibly so, but it must be remembered
that the "church" has had a longer chance there than in any other city in
all America, and perhaps when the other towns have been exposed for the
same length of time to the system, they will show equally advanced

There is this thing to be said about the characteristic attitude of the
average priest toward his people: he always despises them. In many lands I
have found this to be true. Discouraged by the failure of his system to
produce spiritual life, or even good morals, he complains bitterly that
the people are indifferent, careless, negligent, immoral, unfaithful, and,
not least of vices, they are poor pay. If they are these things, no one
knows it better than the man who hears their secret confessions. And that
this man should come to a chronic attitude of distrust toward the products
of his own spiritual husbandry is one of the severest indictments against
the system that produces indifference on the part of the people and
cynicism in the heart of the priest.

What was the church doing to remedy this situation with its deadly
monotony, its superstition, ignorance, and immorality?

The church was maintaining its round of formulas, saints' days, masses,
confessions, baptisms, funerals for-what-the-traffic-would-bear. Showy
processions and occasional celebrations were the circus and movie for the
people. And on the confession of the troubled priest himself, there was no
moral result. Out of the dead past stood a mummied memory of the once
living church, and its mumbled incantations had no power to make the dry
bones live.

The only power that seems able to stir new life in the old mausoleum is
the advent of a vigorous Protestant work. In rage and bitterness the
powers bestir themselves and begin to defame and persecute their
disturbers, and in the end, they inevitably give some attention to
reviving their own decaying program.

How can a man be well when he is one hundred dollars away from a doctor?
With four doctors located among two hundred thousand people scattered over
a radius of forty by a hundred miles, and all fees exorbitantly high, what
is a poor man to do when illness overtakes his household? What is he to
do? Why, nothing at all, except await the end, either of his illness or of
both infirmity and himself. What the missionary needs is no less Bibles
than castor oil and quinine and iodine. I think that I would begin with a
moving-picture program and a clinic, and when a little physical health
appeared, and some sort of interest began to loosen the rusty hinges
before what occupies the mental space, I would begin to talk of something
to make life worth living. It was the way of the Master to heal and teach
and arouse, and the whole program of missionary work might be founded on
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more
abundantly." That is the key to the process. These people are not bad;
they are crippled. They are not vicious; they are lifeless. They are not
rebels: they are very much untaught, backward children.


The system of public schools is growing apace, but it has a tremendous
task, small support from the parents, and often open opposition from the
priests. In one town a citizen remarked that on examination day at the
close of the term not a single pupil came to school, but that it made no
difference, as they were all promoted and would live just as long whether
they were promoted or not. (How I would have enjoyed that, as a boy!) In
another town the supervisor had criticized unfavorably the people for
certain careless habits, whereupon the teachers took offense, all resigned
and closed the schools. The secretary of education siding with the
supervisor, all schools remained closed, and the children were happy.

There is one safety valve left for people in such lives, and that is the
world-old prerogative of talk. In the long evenings, by the roadsides, on
the street corners, over the balconies flows an endless stream of talk.
Prattle and chatter and gossip and slander flow on and make up the only
scenarios the people know. Most of it is harmless. Some of it is aimless,
and all of it is fruitless of anything except to save the mind from utter

They were chattering away in the evening, three or four women seeming
unconscious of me, a traveler stopping for the night. One subject held
undivided attention for much time--What shall we cook for breakfast? And
from that it was but a step to that eternal solace of feminine
conversation--the shortcomings of men in general and husbands in
particular. One of the animated declaimers arose, struck a dramatic
attitude, and said, "To expect that any man should be of any use about the
house is impossible," and the eloquent shrug of her shoulders underscored
the remark. In vain I broke in and protested that in the United States it
often happened that the men were successfully commandeered and detailed to
the work of kitchen police, but the only reply was an arched eyebrow and
another shrug. "Tell that to the marines," was what she meant.

There are two measures of quantity. Either it is "No hay sufficiente"
("There are not enough") or "Hay bastante, bastante" ("Plenty, plenty").
The population of the next town is one or the other of these measures. The
distance to the river, the crops, the number of children in the family,
the tale of the years that is told--it is all one thing or the other. And
the standard, in contrast with the artificial measures of a high
civilization, is at least true to life. Either there is enough or there is
not enough--that is about as close a distinction as the day's experience
affords. For that matter, all the rest of us are on one side or the other
of the same cleaving line of necessity.

That everybody should blame everybody else for whatever may happen to be
the matter is the most natural thing in the world. Whom shall we blame if
not some one else?

It is the fault of the officials that the country is poor. It is the fault
of the large landowner that there is no development. It is the fault of
the municipalities that the towns are not better kept, it is because of
the officials that justice is not better administered. It is the fault of
the Canal Zone that the good days are gone forever, and it is the fault of
the American government that there are certain restrictions on native
tendencies to move forward by the backward jerks of revolution. A Costa
Rican once said to me, "This war in Europe amounts to nothing; but if we
could get up a good old-fashioned revolution, I would be on the job

The virtues of these people are a surprising list, considering their scant
opportunities. They are kindly in dealing with foreigners who show
themselves friendly. They do not as a rule abuse their children, which the
West Indian is apt to do if he is of the baser sort. The native is
hospitable and courteous and always willing to oblige, provided he knows
what to say or do. To be sure, the inventory of his information is
disappointing, even concerning such subjects as the distance to the next
town and the market value of rice, but he will tell all he knows and share
what rice he has. Traveling through the country alone, I have been shown
every kindness and entertained with the best that was to be had, and often
sent on my way without being allowed to pay for what I had received. "Do
you think I would take money from a guest?" protested a hospitable host
with whom I had spent the night and who had fed my horses, the guide, and
myself, and had entertained us all evening with discussion of many



We had reached the town of Anton the day before, and I had sent the guide
back with the horses and purposed to make my way alone. The morning was
fresh and balmy, as befitted the dry season, even if a night spent on an
antiquated cot in a room next to that occupied by a man with a racking
cough and a rooster with a clarion voice, were not a perfect repose. The
_rapport_ between the fowl and the afflicted was complete: when one of
them broke the silence, the other immediately took up the refrain. At
breakfast I suggested to the good wife of the host that I had heard that
if a board were placed above a rooster's head so that he could not stretch
upward, he would not crow. She was all solicitude at once at the
suggestion that the noisy cock had disturbed my slumbers, and I had to
protest my indifference to such serenades.

Down the street I found a little store where the owner had a horse or two
to hire upon occasion. Thirty minutes of bicker and I was astride a wiry
little native pony to which a bridle was unknown, and out through the
stately palms and luxurious bananas I made my way to the open country
eastward. The river was thronged with horses led to water, and women busy
with their domestic laundry. It was quaint and picturesque. In some such
manner might the ancient Egyptians have gone about their morning tasks. I
have seen exactly the same procedure in the Philippines and by the rivers
of southern China.

A mile or two from the town the trail mounted a rolling hillock and I
pinched myself to remember that I was not in New Mexico. Straight ahead
rolled the almost level llanos for miles until they were lost in the hills
by Chame, and the purples and pinks of the six-thousand-feet summits were
like a frame for a picture whose southern limits were in the glint of the
blue summer sea. It was a picture and a promise. For two hours the nervous
little pony followed the trail across the smooth plains and frequent
streams. If ever a land was spread out as a challenge to the plow and
seeder, here it was.

I sought a colonization site, where I had heard of a dozen plucky
Americans who were undertaking a plantation on cooperative lines. At last
I found it in the midst of as fine a tract of land as lies beneath the
tropic skies. An old-fashioned farm dinner made life worth living after
native "chow" for days. Modern tractors, plows, a ton of cotton seed, and
other signs of enterprise did much to make the place seem like somewhere
in the great Southwest. But the enterprising Americans were harboring no
delusions regarding the nature of their undertaking. They meant business
and had counted the cost.


An American on the Canal Zone invested his savings in land in the
interior, and during the vacation built a good wire fence. On his second
visit the fence was totally destroyed by ax, fire, and wire-cutters. The
owner appealed to the local alcalde, a brother of the provincial governor.
He demanded redress for his wrongs. The judge heard his story, and then,
striking a dramatic attitude, smote his breast, and exclaimed, "If these
my friends had not done this thing, I should have done it myself." Which
was to say, no foreigners need apply in those parts. It is probable that
this outrage could not occur under present conditions.

"The Panama politician thinks that all the republic begins in Las Bovedas
and ends in Las Semanas," remarked a plantation owner of the interior

Whether this is true or not, few people realize or know anything of the
splendid country that lies back of the Canal Zone and out of reach of the
flitting traveler. To the average Canal Zone employee all Panama begins at
dock seven and ends in the Administration Building. And for the tourist
who comes to do the Canal in a day, of course, everything begins with the
Washington Hotel and ends with the Tivoli.

But Panama is something vastly more significant than a couple of
slow-service, high-priced hotels. The Isthmian Republic is an empire in
possibilities, entirely apart from the Canal Zone, though the development
of the latent riches of the country is most vitally related to the Canal
enterprise. And the rich belt of land that binds together two continents
is something very much larger than the interesting little city that bears
the name of Panama.

Back of the ten-mile strip controlled by the United States stretches a
land abounding in natural resources which make it potentially a factor of
agricultural and economic importance. To the uninformed citizen of the
United States and other countries the Republic of Panama is a mere
shoestring tying together the two continents, lest the pair become
separated and one of them lost. We look at the Isthmus in contrast with
the two vast continents that lie to the northwest and southeast, and the
connecting link appears small. Panama suffers from comparison with its big

Compared with well-known and important insular holdings in the Caribbean
group, Panama assumes entirely different proportions. Panama is two thirds
as large as Cuba and has one third of Cuba's population. Panama is about
the size of Portugal, is four times as large as Salvador, seven and one
half times as large as Jamaica, and nine times the size of Porto Rico.
Panama is as large as all New England except Maine, and nearly equals the
combined area of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia.

There are interior areas of well-watered, rich soil that equal whole
States in size and yet are entirely unknown to many residents of the Canal
Zone. The Chiriqui Province has a coast line of one hundred and
thirty-three miles and contains as much land as Delaware, Rhode Island,
and Long Island combined. The rich agricultural region in the provinces of
Coclé, Veraguas, Los Santos, and Herrera is as large as the State of
Connecticut. The region east of Panama City reaching out to Chepo is as
large as Rhode Island, and in the Darien country is an area almost
unknown, but abounding in rich resources which would cover the map of New
Jersey with a good margin.

It is supposed that no one lives in this large territory except the
Americans on the Canal Zone and inhabitants of the two cities of Panama
and Colon. This is also indicative of ignorance. The Republic of Panama
has two thirds as many people as Paraguay or Jamaica, and, as previously
stated, one third as many as Cuba, as many as Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho
combined, or is about equal to Utah, Nevada, and Arizona put together.

On the basis of resources and soil and climate and accessibility to
market, Panama can support a population many times her present numbers.
Her capacity for supporting population from her own products is larger
than that of most of the States of the Union, acre for acre. Panama's
resources are as good as those of Jamaica or Porto Rico or Cuba. On the
basis of Jamaican population there should be six and one half million
people in Panama, and if the number of people per square mile were equal
to that of precipitous Porto Rico, we would have a population in Panama of
ten and one half million, which is more than live west of a north and
south line drawn through Denver, Colorado.

That no such population lives to-day in Panama is due to political causes
more than any other factor. The population of Porto Rico has nearly
doubled since American occupation exchanged the old regime for the new.
The barren deserts of the great Southwest are becoming fertile and
populous regions because the people who are possessing the land have a
fair chance, and know that they will be assured a market for their produce
and security for their lives and property. Given political security,
monetary stability, market accessibility, and assurance of economic
cooperation on the part of the government, there are no immediate limits
to the population that Panama may support in comfort.


Political stability for the government of Panama is assured by the
relations which exist between the United States and the Isthmian Republic,
a condition which exists in no other Spanish-American republic. The
proximity of the Canal assures a world market. The climate and soil and
water supply nature has provided with lavish hand. Sanitation and hygiene
have become exact sciences, and the matter of retaining good health in the
tropics is no longer a problem. There is still good land to be had on
favorable terms, but the supply will soon be controlled by monopolists who
are seizing the present opportunity to load up their future bank accounts,
while war conditions produce a general depression of the world's
development forces.

The present interior population includes three distinct classes of people.
The original Indian stock still exists, pure and often wild, in the high
mountains and remote regions of the country. These Indians are beginning
to emerge from their fastnesses and get acquainted with their neighbors,
now that they are sure of police protection when they come out. But their
number is small and they are a negligible factor in the totals.

The West Indians are an importation, and while they are easily adapted to
the climate and form the staple of labor supply for the Canal, they are
not the Panamanians and never will be except as they mix with the native
stock and shade off the colors that exist in such confusion. The Negroes
and Panamanians are much more distinct in the interior than about the Zone
with its terminal cities, where the remnants of humanity have been stirred
together for four hundred years. West Indian populations exist in
predominance only on the plantations of the United Fruit Company, where
they supply the labor for the operation of these vast enterprises.

The Panamanian is the predominant man in the interior country. He is not
black, nor is he entirely white, but he has straight hair and features
that indicate that he is a descendant of the original Indian stock, mixed
with the Spanish conquerors who overran the country in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries.

Probably the Panamanian has had less opportunity for advancement than the
people of any other country in America. He has had no chance for national
life or political self-expression. He has been the victim of the most
vigorous and long-continued era of piracy and plunder that the New World
has experienced. He has suffered from bad leadership when he has had any
leadership at all. He has been exploited by everybody who came to the
Isthmus. From the days of Morgan down to the formation of the present
Republic, under American protection and guarantee of peace within and
without, this native has been the outcast of the world and the national
goat of the American flock of nations. He has been kept in ignorance and
superstition by the exclusive control of a system of religious oppression
and subjection, and if by chance he happened to acquire anything worth
getting, somebody was always ready to take it away from him.

This native supplies the labor for such enterprises as have been launched
in the fertile western regions of Panama. With anything like good
treatment he gives a return for his wages, and if he has a chance to
acquire sound health, an intelligent outlook on life, and a share in the
results of his labors, he can be made over into a good citizen. He is not
a bad citizen now, but he is very much undeveloped.

The products of this great interior region are many and their proceeds in
the world's markets are profitable. Present prices make large
opportunities for investment, and a reorganization of marketing facilities
will mark the beginning of an era of prosperity for Panama. The list of
products now being raised in and exported from Panama is a surprisingly
long one, and the total of returns from these commodities would give a
western real estate promoter material for many prospectuses and promises.

The chief products of the country at present are bananas, lumber, rice,
sugar, cacao, meat, citrus fruits, corn, coffee, and coconuts. But there
are a hundred other products, many of which indicate large returns if
produced and marketed on a commercial scale. Rubber, ivory, nuts, hides,
beans, pineapples, potatoes, yams, yucca, cotton, tobacco, plantain, a
long list of fruits and vegetables of high value, and a number of minerals
are but a few of the useful commodities now being supplied to the markets
of the Canal Zone and the world from the interior country of Panama.
Nearly every vegetable that grows in the temperate climate does well in
Panama. Some of the native fruits, such as papayas, mangoes, and alligator
pears, are of delicious flavor and high value. The waters of Panama abound
in vast quantities of fish, and there is supply for a number of fish
canneries. Live stock thrives and is produced in considerable numbers in
the provinces of Coclé and Chiriqui. The Canal Zone is now being used as a
farming enterprise and stock grazing range by the administration of the
Zone with the intention of making the Zone area self-supporting in meat
and fruit and vegetables.


With an average import trade of ten millions and an export of more than
half that amount, Panama is even to-day a factor in the world's markets.
It must be said that the largest item on the import list is that of goods
shipped to the Zone, and that the chief export is bananas shipped from
Almirante, but these items indicate large possibilities in further
developments of territories as yet untouched.

The interior of Panama includes three general types of country, very
different in climate and produce. The high mountains are a large area of
country, much of which is fertile soil clear to the peaks, and all of
which on the northern slopes is covered with jungle and forest. These
wooded slopes are wet with abundant rainfall, and luxuriant foliage of
tropical forms bewilders the traveler with illusions of fantastic
creations of nature run mad over the earth. These mountainous parts are
for the most part uninhabited, except by the more or less wild Indians,
who live apart much as they were living four hundred years ago. No white
men have tried to maintain themselves in these regions, and in some
districts it is said that a white man's life is unsafe overnight. Tropical
beasts and reptiles and birds abound among the weird forms of vegetation
that seem to be perpetrating grotesque jokes on the bewildered visitor to
the regions beyond the realm of civilized habitations. There are as yet no
efforts made to establish towns or plantations in this country. Yet if
cleared and cultivated, these regions are capable of supporting a
population as dense as that of Porto Rico, where the steep hills and rocky
peaks are covered with a population of over three hundred per square mile.

The jungle lands of Panama are elsewhere described, and where there is a
jungle there are always rich land and abundant water, sometimes too much
water and need of drainage. The Canal Zone is mainly jungle land, and
where it has been cleared for cultivation excellent results are attained.
The cost of clearing this jungle is not so great as would appear from the
fact that for bananas and many other forms of crop the trees and brush are
cut down and after a time burned, and no further effort is made to clear
the land except about four cleanings per year with a machette. Anything
like plowing is un-thought of for bananas and some other leading crops.
Even sugar is often planted and left to shift for itself, under native
methods, which are subject, of course, to improvement.


The third class of land in Panama is the level or rolling prairie land
known as savanas or llanos. These lands lie for the most part in the
valleys back of Bocas del Toro and along the southern, or Pacific, coast
of the country. From Chame to Cape Mala a belt of level country sweeps
around the Parita Bay. From ten to forty miles back of the coast rise the
high mountains, and this fertile strip of country averages about thirty
miles in width and is over a hundred miles long. Rolling country extends
on west of this plain, but the plain itself contains enough good farming
land to feed several millions of people. It is watered and drained by
frequent rivers which cut across from the mountains to the sea every three
or four miles and furnish every facility for cultivation. Most of this
level country is first-grade soil and is adapted to the growing of almost
any of the products of this tropical land. The general appearance of this
open country suggests New Mexico or Southern California much more than any
land below the tropic of Cancer. Its numerous towns and occasional good
roads suggest a newly opened territory in the west, where there are
abundant opportunities for growing up with the country. The newcomer is
apt to be deceived into thinking that all things are now ready and all he
has to do is to move in.

In the extreme western part of Panama lies the great Chiriqui Province
with its best-developed region in the entire Republic. Here are great
cattle ranches, sugar fields, rice plantings, cotton farms, cornfields,
and here are American companies working to develop modern civilized
conditions. Here is the Chiriqui Railroad between Pedrogal and Boquette,
with a branch running westward. More interest has centered in this region
than in any other part of Panama, and if the proposed railroad from Panama
to David is ever built, the whole southern slope of western Panama will
suddenly appear on the map of the world's granaries.

Road-building presents no unusual difficulties in this region such as
confronted the Americans in the Philippines when they built the Benguet
road up from Dagupan. Rainfall is high, but the country is comparatively
level and well drained, and in many of these western provinces a graded
dirt road has kept in good condition for ten years without repairs. During
the dry season it is now possible to travel by coche over much of this

The climate of this interior country is dryer and cooler than that of
Panama, which lies in the jungle area. In the dry season, which is also
the windy season, and lasts in western Panama from mid-December to late in
April, health conditions are excellent, and with proper precautions they
are good all the year around. Needless to remark, the natives take no
precautions whatever.

Good drinking water can be secured by sinking properly located wells, and
this water shows freedom from minerals of a deleterious nature. There are
seaports for coast vessels at almost every river mouth, and roads lead
back from these to the interior towns.

There is a fascination about travel through these interiors. But the trip
must be made during the dry season. We left a large town one morning,
paused on a hilltop to take a picture, which included a troop of cavalry
out on a practice march. It was late, and the three of us departed at good
speed, soon outdistancing the soldiers. Two days later a chance traveler
informed us that the military men were anxious to interview travelers who
had broken the rules with a camera and then vanished from sight. We passed
the encampment on our way back, hung about town two hours, and proceeded.
That night a solitary mounted soldier paused by our camp and remarked,
"I'll bet you are the fellows they are hunting." We suggested that we were
waiting to be found. Two weeks later, a secret service man called and
inquired as to our business on that trip. Which is to say that Panama's
interior is a roomy place in which a man might easily lose himself or find
an empire. A good government, an infusion of energy, and a supply of
capital will make a rich land of nature's great virgin farm.



If it is true that South America is the victim of a bad start, it may also
be said that Panama is the net result of a continuous and consistent
follow-up campaign of wholesale demoralization through a long period of

Beginnings are apt to be determinative, and when reenforced by continuous
applications of similar influences, are sure to set a stamp on a long
period of civilization. Three centuries of rule or misrule make a
considerable impression on any people. There is something more than
climate to be taken into account in the search for causes of the present
conditions in Panama.

The entire colonial program of Spain differed radically from that of the
English in Canada or the United States in Hawaii or the Philippines. The
leading motive of the conquistadores was the love of gold. Plunder,
rapine, and devastation followed in the trail of the adventurers who
fought their way across Panama and conquered Peru. Missionary zeal there
was, but so mixed were the motives of these early heralds of the cross
that the occasional man of pure and peaceful methods was often supplanted
by the monk who used all means that he might make "Christians" of men who
had no alternative but to be baptized or destroyed outright. "Better be
dead than be damned," thought the energetic priests. Never was a dastardly
deed wrought by the conqueror but there was a priest at hand with heaven's
blessing on the crime. If this is doubted, read the unchallenged
Prescott's Conquest of Peru.

Spanish colonial policies had small regard for the rights or development
of the conquered. It was one of the viceroys of Mexico who said, "Let the
people of these dominions learn, once for all, that they were born to be
silent and obey, and not to discuss nor have opinions in political

The native village of the far interior country, away from the main roads
and untouched by uplifting influences, exhibits the situation at its
worst; but even so, these same villages exhibit a better condition than do
the wretched Indian huts of the high Andes farther south. The population
of these distant barrios on the Isthmus can hardly be classified on
distinct lines; every symptom is accounted for and every unfavorable trait
explained by historical factors and social forces that have combined to
make remote Panama what it is to-day. There can be no radical change in
these conditions until some new program of social uplift, educational
progress, and spiritual life is introduced to cause a fresh reaction and
begin a new life.

The ignorant native hears an intolerable burden of superstition. His
contact with the form of church life that exists in these towns is mainly
expressed in the celebration of occasional fiestas and the payment of fees
for services rendered, and supposed in some way to benefit the contributor
or his dead relatives. If "the test of a religion is its results upon a
people," then the impartial observer must draw his own conclusions.


That these interior towns are intensely conservative is to be expected.
How could it be otherwise than that the methods of the fathers should be
good enough for the sons? If human progress is not the result of dominant
inner forces resident in human nature, but comes from the application of
external stimuli, then the Panamanian may have some excuse for his
situation, in a social history that has afforded little incentive for
exercise of enterprise or industry.


If the far interior of Panama is to be judged by present industrial
efficiency, the case is lost before the trial begins. General absence of
everything that marks a high grade of living emphasizes the failure of the
status quo. Incompetence, bad management, childishness cry aloud from
rotting buildings, rusting machinery, neglected plantings, impassable
"roads," and impossible officials. Streets knee-deep in mire, mud-floored
houses, through which pigs wander at will, shiftlessness, dirt,
insanitation are the register of the wet season in interior Panama. The
outstanding church building is often itself dirty and disheveled.
Sidewalks exist only as balconies for individual houses, and vary in
height at the caprice of the builder, making the middle of the street the
only convenient highway for the passers-by.

The bulk of this out-of-the way business is handled by the ever-present
Chino with his little tienda. If there is no Chinese store in the town, it
is because the town is too poor to support one. Business involves effort
and industry, both distasteful to the native, but breath-of-life to the

Inspection of some native towns creates the impression that everybody just
sits around all day. Along the streets the people lounge the idle hours
away. Hundreds of young men lie about, rocking in chairs, lying in
hammocks, hanging about corners. Women slowly move about their household
duties, but the men are experts at the rest cure, and scarcely move at
all. Once a young man gets a pair of shoes and a necktie, his industrial
career abruptly terminates, and thenceforth he toils not, neither does he
spin. He has arrived and is content.

[Illustration: TAKING THE REST CURE]

Lack of energy brings inevitable localization of all interest and action.
Most of the people have never been any distance from home and have no
desire to travel. Travel means exertion of some kind. I asked a guide to
go one day further than the first-day trip for which I had hired him, and
he returned an embarrassed and deprecating smile, as if I had asked him to
go to the French front. It was too far from home.

It is impossible to get information worth anything about the country. "How
many people live in this town?" brings one of two answers. Either it is,
"I do not know," or it is "Bastante" ("Plenty"). "How far is it to Los
Santos?" brings something like, "Señor, when the sun is there [pointing]
you set out on your journey, and when it is over there, you will arrive."

We crossed a well-traveled road.

"Where does this road lead?"

"To the port, señor."

"And where does the other end of it go?"

"To San Pedro, señor."

"How far is it to the port?"

"The same distance as to San Pedro."

"And how far is that?"

"Bastante lejo, señor" ("Plenty far, sir").

Cultivation of crops is unknown. When the brush and trees are cleared the
stumps are left about two feet high; it is easier to do the chopping at
that point than lower down. After the fallen growth has sufficiently dried
out it is burned off and the stumpy field usually planted to corn. This
corn is allowed to shift for itself until ripe, and after the stalks have
rotted awhile the land may have an application of grass seed and be used
for pasture, in hope that the stock will wear down the stumps until it
becomes at last possible to perform an athletic feat, called for want of a
more accurate term, "plowing." I saw four oxen all pulling in different
directions, while a plow occasionally disturbed the weedy surface of the
ground and turned up irregular lumps of hard soil. The proprietor looked
on with pride and asked if I had ever plowed. I had. Did I plow like that?
I did not. When this plowing has been acted out, and some sort of
clod-breaking has taken place, sugar cane is planted, and the work of
cultivation is ended. For a dozen years the cane will produce annual crops
of more or less value without any attention whatever other than the
cutting of the cane when ready for the mill.


An interior road is an experience. A road is a route of travel along which
various persons make their way as best they are able, under such
conditions of weather and impassability as happen to exist. In the dry
season some of these tracks wear down to a condition in which a cart can
be coaxed over the right-of-way. In wet weather nearly all the native
thoroughfares are wholly impassable except for sturdy oxen, which plow
their way through the mud and sinkholes with deliberation born of long

The man at the bottom of the scale is not to blame for his situation. He
is the victim of a system that has made it exceedingly unwise for him to
do anything other than what he does.

Poverty is the only protection of the people. For nearly two centuries
pillage, plunder, piracy, and murder were the record of the Isthmus. Every
buccaneer who sailed the Spanish main seems to have made a business of
taking a chance at the Isthmus. It was open season for every kind of crook
work that the minds of men could invent. Most of this activity was
confined to the trade route in the middle of the Isthmus, but the
influence and terror of this bloody age extended both ways as far as the
country was inhabited. The common people were exploited, plundered,
murdered, enslaved, and beaten at every turn.

Only a fool would work when to work meant that his head was marked for
immediate oppression. If he forgot himself and got hold of anything of
value, some one was ready to take it away from him without delay; and if
he objected, he lost both his property and his head.

The social dregs that strayed to Panama or stayed in Panama in those lurid
days were men without character, conscience, or capacity for industry,
other than in their favorite occupation of despoiling some one else.

These pirates and plunderers are gone, but they have left their tracks and
traces in the civilization of the Isthmus. The common people to-day are
mild and submissive; no other type could survive. It is possible to exist
in dire poverty and pass the time without land or property, and that is
the only kind of existence that holds any promise of peace to the man at
the bottom.


There have been efforts on the part of the leaders of Isthmian life to
inaugurate a new era and bring about improvements. These efforts have been
spasmodic and usually complicated by political considerations. Large
appropriations have been made for roads, public buildings, machinery,
schools, and mills, but while the money has been expended, it has gone
like water in a sandy desert, and graft and inefficiency have swallowed up
the funds with little or no results.

It has been supposed that appropriations for bridges, public markets, or
good roads would in some way take the place of industry and thrift and
bring good times. Half-finished markets rear their ghastly skeletons in
town centers. Rusting road-rollers stand idle, decaying machines lie
neglected, and half-finished public works are covered with cobwebs. Nobody
notices, no one cares, and nothing is done.


A railroad was built with the evident idea that it would bring prosperity
to a section of naturally rich country, but a railroad without crops is
useless, and crops without labor are impossible, and labor without
adequate returns is worth still less than it costs. The economic structure
rests on the man at the bottom, and when this human foundation is the prey
and target of every one above him the result can be nothing other than
general distress and inefficiency.

In some sections of the interior, as in the provinces of Coclé and Chitré,
meat cattle of good quality are raised. Shipping facilities to the Panama
market are very good. There is no regular inspection, but the cattle are
uniformly healthy and in good condition. The cattle-raising end of the
trade is all right, but the market is a different matter. The cattle
buyers in Panama are organized into what is known as the meat trust, and
these buyers hold the sellers in subjection. Prices are kept down to the
lowest possible basis, and monopolistic methods so well known in North
America are in full swing.

Individual holders of interior ranchos have made earnest efforts to
produce foodstuffs and introduce definite reforms into the methods of
farming, but such persons have usually served as fearful examples to their
neighbors. In an industrial system in which the one method of the man at
the top is to keep his eyes open and whenever he finds anyone who has by
chance or industry accumulated something, take it away from him--this does
not stimulate long hours and speeding-up on the part of the men who do the

When the United States took over the Canal Zone and paid the purchase
price to the new Republic of Panama, a good appropriation was made to the
interior provinces for the building of a system of highways as the first
step in a general improvement of the country. Most of the provinces have
little to show for this expenditure of money. In one province reports were
received that the money was being handed out in petty grafting operations
and for political purposes and that no road was being built to speak of.
An American engineer was sent to investigate. He reported the facts and
was later put in charge of the "work." He reorganized the entire
construction force, and at the expense of less than twenty thousand
dollars built a road which has stood without repairs for a dozen years,
and is in good condition to-day under heavy usage. But the reorganization
pulled down on the engineer's head the wrath of the entire officialism of
the province, and finally the men higher up in authority denounced the
American for upsetting the smooth-working system at their expense. He had
committed the unpardonable error of using the money to get results and
build the road for which it was appropriated.

This is interior Panama at its worst. There are Americans who have
invested their money and their personal supervision in the development
enterprises in Chiriqui, and they are hopeful of better things. There are
officials who are genuinely anxious to see a better age begin. And the day
will come when this fair land will make men rich by the abundance of its
products and the certainty of large returns upon development work done
under favorable conditions. But the conditions do not yet exist in any
stable form.

All of this is Panama at its worst, and forms but the background of
contrast for the picture of the fine possibilities that lie in the soil,
and in the unreleased resources of a human stock that has never had a fair
chance. Once separated from hookworm and superstition, given an industrial
education, and assured competent leadership and certain returns for toil,
and the lot of the Panamanian is no more incurable than that of any other
victims of a bad system.



The coat of arms of the Republic of Panama bears the inscription, "The
repudiation of war and homage to the arts which flourish in peace and
labor." Under the existing treaty with the United States the first part of
this excellent motto is guaranteed. Panama is a providential Republic and
presents some of the finest possibilities of the American tropics. The
educated Panamanians have not been slow to proclaim these rich resources,
but no large advance has been realized yet. The government of Panama has
been friendly to promotion plans and development projects, and has
undertaken some ambitious enterprises on its own initiative, but the
results have been on the whole disappointing.

American business men who have lived in Panama feel that no permanent
success can be assured to such undertakings without the backing of the
United States government. The officials of Panama naturally do not look
with enthusiasm upon this idea and prefer to keep development enterprises
within their own jurisdiction. And serious effort has certainly been made
by the Panamanian government to support some of the enterprises projected
by native and foreign capitalists.

[Illustration: WIRELESS AT DARIEN]

The causes of economic backwardness and social conservatism are not
difficult to locate and describe. From the cruel savagery of Pizarro and
Balboa to the model communities of the Canal Zone is a far step. In the
past seventy-five years the city of Panama has passed through a thousand
years of social evolution, and in five years after Panama became an
independent and sovereign nation the city was transformed, the government
reorganized, and something like twentieth-century conditions replaced the
filth and disease and squalor of the old days.

The prowler in social history will find plenty of material here. By all
the precedents of progress Panama should have been prosperous centuries
ago. While other cities of coming metropolitan centers were yet barren
wastes and sleeping wildernesses Panama was on the highway of the world.
When New York and San Francisco and Chicago were inhabited by birds and
squirrels Panama was known everywhere. Panama had a century the start of
all North America and was the pawn of kings and the gateway of empire
before the Pilgrims landed in New England. If there be any advantage in an
early start, Panama should have led us all in the race for a commanding
position in the New World.

There is much in location. A single foot on Broadway is worth more than a
farm in the desert. Great cities have great positions on the map, and
Panama began with a situation to which the world simply had to come. A
dozen different solutions of the transportation problem presented by the
Isthmian power and navigation were proposed, but it always came back to
Panama. Here is the narrowest part of the connecting link of the
continents, and here is the lowest point in the continental backbone.
Without lifting her hand or voice, Panama had but to dream and wait till
the world should come and pour into her lap the commerce and progress of
the modern age. To-day Panama is on the direct line of travel between
almost any two great cities at opposite ends of the earth. Melbourne and
London, New York and Buenos Ayres, Port au Spain and Honolulu--draw the
lines, and they all pass through Panama.

It is an accepted axiom of unthinking people that gold and prosperity are
synonymous. If this were true, Panama should be the most prosperous and
progressive of all cities of the earth to-day. More gold has been carried
through her streets, and stored in her warehouses, and handled by her
people, than in any other city of the Americas. The Peru of the Conquest
was lined and lacquered with gold. The palaces of the Incas and the
Temples of the Sun were plastered and burnished with gold; and for a
century this gold was loaded into European ships, taken to Panama and
packed across the Isthmus and then reshipped to Europe to fill the coffers
of profligate kings and bolster up the fortunes of fallen states. All of
it came through Panama; and if much of it did not remain there, it was not
due to conscientious scruples on the part of the Panamanians. If a stream
of gold could bring progress, Panama should have led the world for three
hundred years.

Probably the modern Republic of Panama is one of the very few endowed
governments in the world. The purchase price of the Canal Zone, invested
in New York real estate, yields an annual revenue which forms a part of
the government budget. The annual payment of $250,000 by the Canal Zone
also helps. Since the beginning of the French Canal enterprise a
considerable part of the monthly payrolls of the Canal builders has found
its way into the till of the merchants in Colon and Panama, and these
terminal cities have largely lived on the Canal Zone trade. Certainly,
Panama has even to-day some peculiar financial advantages--and if these
could bring prosperity, Panama should be prosperous.


When the California gold rush began in 1848 Panama awoke from her century
and a half of slumber and trouble began afresh. Again there was gold on
the Isthmus, and again there was crime. Hundreds of ships discharged their
cargoes and passengers on one side of the Isthmus, and the trip across was
one not to be forgotten.

Now that the world has once more had to fight out the old battle of free
institutions, it is worth while to remember that the oldest independent
nation of the modern world is Panama; and that the first of the Spanish
colonies to achieve freedom from the misgovernment of the old country was
this same little nation on the Isthmus. Tired of the kind of supervision
which she had been undergoing from Europe, in 1826 Panama revolted, set up
political housekeeping for herself, until she was later merged with the
free New Granada--the modern Colombia.

If political independence has anything to do with advancement, then Panama
should be very advanced indeed, for she led all her neighbors in achieving
national separateness. The independence movement that swept over the
western world a century ago affected Panama profoundly, and the microbe of
political freedom soon produced a well-developed case of revolution--and
the revolution was a success. Four score years afterward Panama again
established her independence without the shedding of a drop of blood. If a
spirit of independence can make a people prosperous, then Panama and
prosperity should mean the same thing.

Panama has some peculiar political advantages to-day. Where other nations
maintain their political sovereignty and internal peace at the cost of
huge sums of money and by means of armies and battleships, Panama is
spared this enormous drain upon her resources and men and money, and finds
her political independence guaranteed against all the nations of the
earth. Likewise she is sure of internal peace and is the only really
war-tight, revolution-proof country in Latin-America. By the treaty
entered into between Panama and the United States, in return for the Canal
Zone and other concessions, the United States guarantees the independence
of Panama and agrees to step in at any time when it may be necessary and
maintain order throughout the Isthmus. The Panamanians are not
enthusiastic over this situation, and some of the politicos inwardly
resent very bitterly an arrangement which makes impossible their chosen
profession of agitators and revolutionary leaders.

There are people who tell us that the basis of national progress is
economic and commercial. Given a land with all large resources, we shall
perforce have a progressive people. Measured by this standard, Panama
should lead all the rest. Her thirteen hundred miles of coast bound a
narrow empire, but an empire of wonderful possibilities. Her inexhaustible
soil, her frequent rivers, her rich jungles, her broad savanas, her high
mountains and dense forests, her mines and climate and rainfall, and a
world market right at her doors--all that nature could do to lay the
foundations of material wealth seems to have been done here.

If so-called modern science and engineering skill can bring prosperity,
then the Isthmus of Panama includes the site of the world's last
achievement in engineering, sanitation, and organized efficiency. Health
conditions on the Canal Zone are better than in many cities of the United
States. General Gorgas said that there were three causes for which the
Americans left Panama in the old days: yellow fever, malaria, and cold
feet, and that of the three the last caused more desertions than the other
two combined. It is worth noting that the first two mentioned have now
vanished entirely, and it but remains to find a preventive for frigid
pedal extremities to make the tropics a white man's land.


Panama and Colon to-day are clean and healthful. Even the tropical buzzard
that hovers over every town and crossroad in this mid-America world has
disappeared from these cities--starved to death. The American Board of
Health looks after the garbage cans and backyards and drains, and woe be
unto the unhappy mosquito that inadvertently wanders into this forbidden
territory. The entire country is now free from yellow fever, and while
there is some malaria in the lowlands during the wet season, health
conditions are far better than might be supposed.

The question of climate raises visions of burning days and sleepless
nights. To people who have never lived in the tropics any lurid tale is
plausible. But these tales of torment do not come from dwellers in the
tropics, but from overheated imaginations of writers of fiction who find
the tropics a rich field, because most of their readers know nothing of
the subject. There are more comfortable days in Panama, per year, than in
New York. There is rarely a night when one cannot sleep in comfort. If
there were nothing the matter but the climate, there would be no reason
for shunning Panama.

By all the rules of the great game of getting rich, Panama ought to be
both prosperous and progressive. Seemingly every chance has come her way.

Yet the visitor does not find Panama as a whole either rich or energetic.
The terminal cities, Panama and Colon, have lived pretty well off the
proceeds of the Canal Zone, but the great interior country is sparsely
inhabited by people who are neither prosperous nor progressive. Poverty,
indolence, and dirt abound throughout the provinces. Education is
attempted, and the present system, when perfected, will afford fairly good
rudimentary training, but as now conducted it is a promise as well as a
performance. With a high illiteracy the people of Panama cannot be said to
live on a lofty intellectual plane. Not one man in a thousand makes the
slightest attempt to improve the country, or takes the least interest in
what the world is doing.


In the capital city are educated and refined men, both prosperous and
progressive. Their activities are divided among business enterprises,
professional callings, and political activity. Very few of these men are
interested in development projects to any extent. Agriculture as a basis
of national wealth has little place in their thinking, unless somebody
else can be induced to attend to the agriculture while they themselves
take care of the wealth. Working on a farm is all right for ignorantes and
peons, but has no interest for a gentleman. The development of natural
resources is not interesting unless it affords a percentage of some sort,
to be earned without effort. The unfortunate fact is that such modern
conditions as exist in Panama to-day have largely been brought to her
ready-made, which may be why she does not take more interest in them.

The question of morals and marriage laws is one which had better be let
alone unless the prowler is prepared to find some very unpleasant things.
All children are baptized, and, as before explained, the baptisms are
registered and classified either as "Legítimo" or "Natural"--the latter,
of course, being illegitimate. Only thirty per cent of the births of the
Republic as a whole, are born of married parents. The reasons for this are
not so simple as may at first appear. Panama has to-day a civil marriage
law, but unless a man has abundant leisure, endless patience, and can
afford to hire a lawyer or two, he had better be married somewhere else.
Evidently, influences were brought to bear upon the framers of the civil
law which induced them to overload it with requirements that make it
exceedingly unpopular. No voice of protest is raised against this
scandalous moral situation on the part of the priests of the established
church, who merely shrug their shoulders and shake their heads and say,
"What can you do about it?" Certainly, they themselves do nothing at all
except to ignore the situation.

There have been physical factors that have militated against the progress
of Panama. While the climate is comfortable, most of the time it lacks
stimulus. There is no "kick" in it. Without occasional respites in a
higher altitude and cooler atmosphere, the man from the north loses his
driving power and his wife sometimes gets a case of nerves. Four hundred
years of it will take the energy out of any man; and many of the present
inhabitants of interior Panama appear to have lived here for about that
length of time. For the development of high human efficiency it is
required in a climate that it be something more than comfortable. It
should at times be uncomfortable, and occasionally exasperating.


The workers of the Rockefeller Foundation have found eighty per cent of
the people of the provinces afflicted with hookworm. Highly commendable is
the work done by these representatives of the Institute, but so long as
the common people know nothing of sanitation, clean and pure food, present
conditions will continue. And physical "hookworm" is accompanied by a
similar mental condition. There is a moral hookworm throughout the
country, and life slumps down to a hand-to-mouth drag from one day to the
next. Both physical and mental conditions are better in the cities, of
course, but there is still room for a moral prophylactic.

There are social forces which have largely accounted for this result.
Possibly no place in the world shows more mixed blood than Panama. Shades
and colors and tints and tones there are, and blends indescribable and
also impossible to analyze or trace. The artists tell us that the
combination of the primary colors with white results in a tint, while
blending a primary color with black gives a shade. Well, most of these
tones are shades, for the same scientific reason as that mentioned by the
artist. From the Caribbean world has come its contribution of the West
Indian Negroes, with consequent shady result.

The social results of this mixture are various and distressing, but well
understood by anyone who has lived in the interior of Panama. Even the
cities are affected in the same way. Social standing, political
availability, and personal influence are largely determined by the degree
of whiteness--or darkness--that prevails in the skin. And the general
desire of the ignorant and unmoral native of the interior to "lighten up
the breed" has led to a moral situation that bodes no good for the
away-from-home white man who may be living for a longer or shorter time in
the up-country provinces.

Any aggressive North American, especially if he be from the West, looks
upon the splendid areas of land, the fine rivers, the dense forests, and
the other untouched resources of this rich country with amazement, and
begins to plan development projects and dream of organizing syndicates,
but the native loses no sleep over such vain imaginings. If he dreams at
all, it is of his food if he be poor, and of politics if he be rich.
Development in the North American sense is a disgrace, and no job for a
gentleman. The smooth savanas may lie there untouched till kingdom come,
for all he cares. The only interest in life is political manipulation. Law
and politics are the two occupations most esteemed, and Panama is not
different from other countries in the frequent association of these two

Whence comes this emphasis on political activity, to the neglect of
commerce and agriculture? It comes from Europe with the early inheritance
of the first settlements and rulers of this Latin world. For them any form
of physical work was dire disgrace. "These two hands have never done an
hour's work" was a boast and badge of quality. The climate of the tropics
made this philosophy of life easy to accept and follow, and what the
leaders lived the followers did faithfully keep and perform. Of course
somebody had to do a little work and raise a few vegetables and cattle,
but the game was to find the unfortunate worker and then take away from
him the product of his toil. Thus the getter lived without work and taught
the loser the uselessness of further exercise.

By way of clearness these conditions are here described in their worst and
final form. Bad as they are, they are not the whole truth. It takes more
than mixed blood and hookworm and snobbishness to account for the present
social conditions of Central America.

If moral conditions in Panama to-day are not ideal, it is not due to any
absence of church or lack of religion. With the explorers and conquerors
of the sixteenth century came the missionaries and priests. Crosses were
set up, bells were hung, masses were said, and everywhere the elaborate
ritual of the Spanish church was maintained. Whole villages were
"converted," baptized, and labeled as good Catholics in a day's time.
Massive and beautiful churches were soon built in centers of population,
and every village has its church, often representing nearly as much value
as half of the houses of the town combined.

From the beginning until the coming of the North American to finish the
Canal the Roman Church has had exclusive and uninterrupted occupation of
this entire territory. There has been no competition, and there have been
no interferences with her moral and spiritual leadership.

[Illustration: PUBLIC MARKET, DAVID]

But in spite of this situation, or perhaps because of it, moral conditions
are what they are in Panama to-day. Out of the closed Bible and the bound
consciences of this system have come social incapacity and intellectual
helplessness in all the fields of human activity. Most of Latin-America
has not yet learned that the intellect, like the nation, cannot exist half
slave and half free. Only free consciences can guide free citizens to the
founding of free political institutions and social activities. A
successful democracy can never be reared upon a foundation of superstition
and spiritual despotism. More than all other factors this moral blight and
spiritual dry-rot is what is the matter with Panama. The moral and
spiritual climate of a people has more to do with the growth or
destruction of a spirit of progress than do thermometers and telephones
and declarations of independence. Until the spirit of a Panamanian becomes
a free spirit and he is permitted to think and worship after the dictates
of a free conscience, Panama can never become a progressive nation.

Highly favored among the nations of the earth, this little country affords
a strategic opportunity for the setting up of a national experiment in
development and progress. If this undertaking is to succeed, there must be
added to the large economic, social, and strategic resources of the
country the element of a free spirit and an enlightened conscience. Out of
these will come a sense of the dignity of labor, the worth-whileness of
education, and the development of the now dormant resources of this
beautiful land.

The problem of progress in Panama is inevitably linked with that of
Protestantism. Work was begun by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Colon
under Bishop William Taylor, and a strong West Indian congregation was
gathered. This was later turned over to the Wesleyan Methodists, who
maintain considerable work among the West Indians of the Caribbean
Islands. With the purchase of the Canal Zone by the United States, the
Methodists began to plan for work in Panama and eventually established a
Spanish church and school at the head of Central Avenue, opposite the
national palace. But no serious effort was made by this denomination to
meet and master the problems that arose from exclusive Protestant
occupation of the Spanish-speaking section of the field until the time of
the noted Panama Congress in February, 1916. Here met representatives of
the Protestant movement in all Latin-America, and general principles of
comity and cooperation were established and adopted. Under this working
agreement, the Spanish work in the Republic of Panama was assigned to the
Methodists as a unit of responsibility. To this area Costa Rica was later
added. West Indian work was not included in this survey, and it is to be
hoped that some similar representative and authoritative body may yet
undertake to bring order and comity out of the unorganized, though
friendly, confusion of West Indian denominational programs now existent.

The Pan-Denominational Congress of 1916 made definite the responsibility
for Spanish work in Panama, and the denomination now in charge of this
field is working on a program somewhat adequate to the strategic
importance of the very conspicuous location beside the Canal Zone. When
fully realized and in operation, this program of work will wield a wide
influence in the Spanish-American world. A large factor in this new
program has been the interest and enthusiasm of the young people of the
California Conference Epworth League, who have done much to make possible
an enlargement of the work undertaken.

Too much praise cannot be given to the earnest and efficient missionaries
who founded and have maintained this mission. The Seawall Church has
already sent out its influences to the ends of the earth. The standards
and results attained in Panama College, so far as that institution has
been developed, have exerted a strong influence on the educational and
moral life of the city and of the republic. The work in 1919 included a
Spanish base at the Seawall location, with its church and school, and
American congregation, a West Indian school and church in Guachapali, a
Spanish mission Sunday school and evangelistic service in the school
building kindly loaned by the Wesleyans, a Spanish mission school and
preaching service in Guachapali, a West Indian Sunday school and service
at Red Tank, and a Chinese mission near the market. Present plans for
future expansion include, in addition to the work now under way at David,
an adequate program of interior education and evangelization, an
industrial and agricultural school, a strong institution church in Panama,
an institution of higher education, and adequate work in Colon.

This mission shares with the Northern Baptist Convention and the Northern
Presbyterian Church denominational responsibility for most of Central
America. The Baptists have work in Honduras, Salvador, and the
Presbyterians in Guatemala and in Colombia, further south. The Methodists
complete the chain by the occupation of Panama and Costa Rica, in which
latter republic work was begun in the latter months of 1917. Costa Rica
presents an attractive field with its good climate, fertile country,
Spanish-speaking population of intelligence, and large capacity for
progress. The new mission met with success from the start and promises
rapid growth.

The three denominations named are working together in complete harmony and
have developed a unified program of Christian education for Central
America, as the beginnings of further coordination of effort. There is no
overlapping, no competition, and, above all, no overcrowding, in this
promising but sparsely occupied field. The Protestant denominational front
on this field is well unified.

There are several independent missions working in this field, some of
which do not find it in their purposes to unite in any general movement,
and none of which place emphasis on education. Chief among these is the
Central America Mission which maintains workers in all the republics of
Central America who confine themselves largely to evangelistic effort.

All of the Central republics have constitutional religious liberty, and
the work of Protestantism is officially welcome everywhere. Of petty
persecutions and ecclesiastical opposition there are numerous examples.
The spirit of the Inquisition still smolders beneath the surface, but the
new spirit of world-democracy makes more and more grotesque and futile the
intolerance and bigotry of the Dark Ages.

Protestantism in Latin-America has been in the van of every movement
toward progress and has contributed much toward the foundations of the new
era. Without the Protestant movement, the present state of advance would
be impossible. To-day Protestantism is in the anomalous position of being
inadequate in equipment and manpower to meet the situation created or to
supply the demands arising everywhere for adequate expression of free
institutions. The lump is large and the leaven has been small, but the
contagion of liberty and the awakening of conscience demand an adequate
equipment and program.

There is promise of a new and worthy approach in the large purposes of the
great denominations to undertake in adequate manner a program of
world-reconstruction made imperative by the close of the great war. The
collapse of all but moral and spiritual forces as a guarantee of peace
renders all former alignments obsolete and forces the church to new
methods and more comprehensive undertakings. It is now resolved to go up
and possess this goodly land on the mere borders of which we have lingered
for nearly a century. The coming generation will see a reorganization and
reconstruction of the Protestant program in Latin-America, and before the
end of the twentieth century this mighty continent will have attained a
noble citizenship in the neighborhood of great races.



Whatever the cause or results, the fact stands that we are not well
acquainted with our nearest national neighbors. Like the modern
city-dweller, we know least about those who live nearest. The North
American knows more about the other side of the world than he does about
those who live on the same continent with him. Neither the North American
nor his southern neighbor has treated the other fairly.

Many of us have not yet discovered that there be any Latin-American. Some
one lives south of the line, of course, but that fact has made little
impression on our minds. In our mental geography the American world shades
off into a hazy and troubled region southward about which we have known
little and cared less. Our geographical studies have helped us but little.
It is possible to know every physical fact about a country without knowing
the hearts of the people.

It is an anomaly that we know less about our Latin neighbors than we do of
Europe or Asia. By historical ties and constant reminders of commerce and
immigration we are aware of our transatlantic cousins. We have discovered
the Far East and have some interest therein, even though it be the
interest pertaining to a museum or a menagerie. But until very recently
neither immigration, commerce, nor curiosity has stirred us to
acquaintance with our continental neighbors.


This ignorance is part of our general antebellum attitude toward all the
world lying south and east. In fact, we never bothered much with anybody
outside of the United States. Over a century we lived on, secure in the
idea that we were immune from European militaristic contagion and
all-sufficient unto ourselves. The rest of the world might perchance sink
into the sea, but we would go on blissfully without it. Our "free
institutions" were self-sufficient and all-inclusive. And because we were
able to compose our own troubles and keep out of other peoples' quarrels,
more or less, we assumed that we were automatically superior to the rest
of the world, "of course."

We of the United States have been likened unto a householder living on a
plot of ground rich enough to support his family. Resolving not to become
entangled in neighborhood alliances, he constructed a hundred-foot wall
about his property and lived securely within. The right-hand neighbor
might be an anarchist and the man on the left a cannibal. If the man in
the rear were a polygamist and the dweller across the street had a habit
of using firearms indiscriminately it mattered nothing to the
householder--so long as the wall held. But it came to pass that an
earthquake destroyed that wall, and the said exclusive citizen suddenly
found himself out on the street with his neighbors. And behold, it
mattered much what sort of neighbors they were. There was nothing to do
but get acquainted and help make the neighborhood a decent place in which
to live.

Since the world war has battered down the wall with which we sought to
separate ourselves from other nations, we have nothing left but to
recognize and accept our place in the national neighborhood and do our
share to make it decent.

The Latin-American has been at a disadvantage in the character of the
continent in which he lives. South America is a land for promoters,
organizers of industry, hardy pioneers of production, engineers, planters,
and rugged explorers of commercial frontiers. The poetic and artistic
temperament of the Latin has suffered an unfair criticism because of the
ill adaptation of his temperament to his environment. Sunny Italy and
picturesque France and vine-clad Spain were more to his tastes and
abilities. That he has done as well as he has speaks much for his
adaptability to a situation better suited to a more executive type of
character. Give him a chance in his own best environment and he shows
capacity of high achievement.


Probably the two most arrogant travelers have been the Englishman and the
American, but our British cousins have assumed their superiority with
silent contempt, while the newly rich America globe-trotters have vaunted
their ignorance from the piazzas of every tourist hotel and upon the
steamer decks of every sea. It is really not strange that we failed to
notice the very considerable and important populations of countries lying
at our doors.

The North Americans are not travelers. Few of us do go anywhere, and fewer
still know how to travel successfully. The poorest traveler in the world
is the society tourist who goes about trying to reproduce home conditions
in a foreign land. So far as possible he escapes the life and message of
the country in which he sojourns and returns with little else but tales of
social functions, a la American, and comparative accounts of expenses at
tourist hotels. From the first day out he isolates and fortifies himself
against the very things that travel alone can give. He brings home a few
trinkets made to sell, some cocksure criticisms of customs, people, and
missionaries, and a swelled head. But he has been abroad--save the mark!

Travel is a specific for provincialism, but it must be real travel and not
imitation home-swagger. Intelligent and sympathetic travel breaks up the
hardening strata of thought, pushes back the narrowing horizon, loosens
the set fibers of the soul, and is the surest cure yet known for mental
arterial sclerosis. The right kind of travel shifts the viewpoint,
readjusts life forces, and shakes up the provincialism of the man with the
"township horizon." And when the disturbed atoms of character reassemble
it is in a different mode and with a new cycle.

It is to be said that the South American has not taken much interest in
us. Since he has made out to get along without us, he cannot be very
important. The Oriental has shown some desire to move into our basement,
or at least the woodshed or the washhouse, and we have discovered him. The
European has shown his good taste by coming over and moving right in with
us, and in time we cannot distinguish him from ourselves. But the South
American has gone his way, and in the main has minded his own affairs, and
therefore cannot amount to much. If he were a social problem, we would
know him better. If he had a penchant for the police force or an itch for
office among us, we would cultivate his acquaintance, and perhaps invite
him to call.

During the past two decades the once despised Chinese have become popular
among us. Their utter difference from ourselves, their solid human
qualities, their marvelous vitality, their commercial solidarity, their
response to the stimuli of the modern world, their astonishing
versatility, their wonderful national history--these and a hundred other
things stir our imagination, and we have rather suddenly discovered that
we like the Chinese--especially at a distance.

We are well aware of Japan, not so much through any perceptions of our own
as through Japan's insistence upon attention. We can on short notice make
out a rather comprehensive list of Japanese characteristics, and, in
truth, we find Japan interesting. The marvelous energy of her people, her
high ambitions, her Oriental viewpoint, her great commercial and military
successes, her artistic setting, her marvelous skill of hand, and, not
least, her abundant interest in our own affairs--these and other items
make it quite the thing to be interested in Japan. But who cares anything
about a lot of dirty peons? They are not in good form.

But this interest in the Orient is more curiosity than it is race
sympathy. There is a great gulf fixed between the yellow man and the
white, and racially that gulf can never be bridged. The occasional
marriages between the East and West need no comment; they tell their own
story. Neither China nor Japan can ever become American in any racial
sense. When Chinese and Japanese come to America for any but educational
and temporary purposes, they set up Chinatown and little Japan wherever
they go. American character is a most complicated composite of many races,
but from Tokyo to Bombay there is no Oriental factor that will blend with
the mixture of races that makes up America.

Our Oriental interest is confined to the races that have impressed
themselves upon our imagination. The Philippines, in spite of our national
relation to the islands, do not seem to us very real nor very important.
They will soon be keeping house for themselves, and then we shall forget
them except as an interesting historical incident. And as for India, that
is British, and about all we know is that the Hindu wears a turban,
maintains a very undemocratic caste, exists in unaccountable numbers, is
subject to annoying and frequent famines, and on the whole is a rather
helpless lot, except as some bearded fakir entertains companies of badly
balanced American society women with hyperbolated essence of sublimated


But the Latin-American is blood of our blood, kin of our kind, and lives
on the same continental street, which is why we are so little interested
in him. He is neither quaint, curious, nor crazy. He is not good for
first-page headlines except when he breaks out in revolution or forgets
our Monroe Doctrine. There is no fixed gulf of difference between him and
us, and in the final fusing of American character he must contribute a
large part.

To ignore the Latin-American is to be convicted of historical ignorance.
From Dante to the great South American leaders and scholars of to-day the
Latin races have been neither sleeping nor idle. During the last five
hundred years more than one half of Western history has been made by Latin
races. It was a Latin who discovered America. Another first sailed around
the globe. Latin peoples explored, conquered, and settled both Western
continents, and gave a language which has become the permanent speech of
two thirds of the Western world. To call the roll of artists, painters,
sculptors, poets, dramatists, novelists, musicians, explorers,
missionaries, and scientists for the past five centuries is to prove that
a majority of the names mentioned in the world's illustrious hall of fame
are from Latin races. To mention Curé, Pasteur, and Marconi is to remind
us of the scientific progress of modern Latin minds, and to speak of
France and Italy as pioneers in democracy is to keep within the facts. It
was in Italy that Browning and Tennyson and George Eliot and a host of
other writers found inspiration and material to feed the fires of genius.

Whatever may be said of the modern degeneracy of the dominant religious
system of Latin-American countries, it is true that the sixteenth century
saw in Spain one of the most virile and comprehensive missionary movements
of all history. Never before nor since have missionary efforts been
projected on so vast a scale or by so powerful procedure. Monks and
priests went out and established the cross and the confessional through
the Western world and in the islands of the sea, and, whatever else we may
say, there can be no disparagement of the permanency of the results of
these conquests. The Latin world is still dominantly Roman in its
religious life, and shows very positive preferences for the religion of
the conquistadores. To give a language and a religion to two thirds of the
American continents is not the work of weaklings nor of degenerates.

This Latin neighbor of ours not only lives on the same street but he lives
in a bigger and better house than ours. To the "lick-all-creation" type of
Fourth-of-July American this is rank heresy, but facts have little regard
for fireworks. With twenty-eight per cent of the population of the
Americas, the Latin holds sixty-five per cent of the territory and fully
the same proportion of natural resources. His soil, his rivers, his
mountains, his harbors, his mines are as good as ours, and he has more of
them. In the western hemisphere he controls the longest rivers, the
highest mountains, the largest area of habitable land, the longest
seacoast, and the entire inexhaustible fertility of the tropics. His
untouched and uncharted natural resources are beyond computation. His
estate is second to none in the entire world, and he could spare enough
for the crowded millions of India or the swarming islands of Japan and
never miss it. All of this we would have discovered sooner but for the
world war, which focused all attention on the main issue and postponed the
direct results of the successful completion of the Panama Canal. With a
normal supply of shipping, the west coast alone of South America would
keep the Canal busy much of the time and affect American markets

[Illustration: JUNGLE PRODUCTS]

In material achievements our neighbor has not been idle, though some of
his attempts have resulted in failure or fiasco. He has built great and
beautiful cities, he has constructed long and difficult railroads over
tortuous mountain systems, he has developed huge industries and organized
big commercial enterprises. He has produced a civilization in keeping with
his character, artistic, homogeneous, progressive, and on a high
intellectual plane. His libraries, theaters, and public buildings are a
credit to his taste and skill, and his churches are massive and stately as
the rock-ribbed mountains that tie together the whole system from El Paso
to Patagonia.

We have heard more or less of a Pan-Americanism, but we have never taken
it seriously. As subject for diplomatic papers, magazine articles, and
after-dinner oratory the all-America idea has been a refuge of
word-venders. But so long as the bulk of South American trade was with
Europe our brand of fraternal talk was harmless--also helpless; and the
reason for our failure to do business with South America has not been
entirely the neglect of our shippers. The larger exports of South America
have all been to Europe, and with ships loaded both ways the American
exporter was hopelessly handicapped in his effort to secure favorable
freight rates. When American salesmen tried to compete with German and
French and Spanish exporters they always failed to secure freight rates
that gave them an even chance.

For years American manufacturers ignored the Orient and lagged far behind
European dealers in the same class of goods, to their own large loss. The
same neglect has produced the same result in South America. Germany
pursued a very different policy. Without trumpet or flag Germany sent her
agents to practically every Latin-American center and seaport, and there
the unostentatious German proceeded to control as much business as
possible, and generally get hold of the situation. Often he took unto
himself a wife of the country, but never for one day did he forget that he
was a representative of the Vaterland. His house, his furniture, his
methods, his ideas were one hundred per cent German. An American ship
doctor went ashore from a German liner in a small South American seaport
and stumbled upon the inevitable German man of business. He was invited
home to dinner and shown through the house with much pride by the
half-German children. One after the other, furniture, books, pictures,
clothing even were exhibited and with every article was repeated the
formula, "Es war in Deutschland gemacht." It was a great game, and it was
working along smoothly until things slipped in Europe, and now the end no
man can see. But there is going to be a great chance for American capital
and enterprise and business energy in the years when German energy will be
needed at home.

In one of the Central American republics an American, while present at a
social function, remarked casually to a friend that in his opinion the
cure for the political upheavals of that country would be in the polite
but firm intervention of the United States. A German business man,
overhearing the remark, hastily interposed, "Not at all, sir; that is what
Germany is in this country for." With a concerted and well-considered
policy of business extension in South American countries Germany deserved
the commercial advantages that she had gained in the twenty-five years
preceding the war period.

When questioned as to the remarkable success of the German commercial
propaganda, South American leaders rarely fail to mention the fact that
the German business man in Latin lands invariably speak the language of
the country. Catalogues are issued in Spanish or Portuguese, as local
conditions require. Measures, technical terms, and methods of handling
goods are all adapted to local usage, and the South American merchant is
considered and consulted in all the mechanism of exchange and handling of
goods. Contrasted with North American ignorance of conditions and ignoring
of language and custom, it is not strange that Europe has controlled the
trade of Latin-America.

In view of all that is involved of national development, international
entanglements, commercial expansion, and racial affinity, it would seem to
be about time that we become acquainted with our neighbors, or, rather, in
our neighborhood. If we are going to live on this great American highway,
it may be well to be on good terms with the rest of the folks.

Aside from commercial and linguistic considerations, there are four
reasons for our ignorance of the lands and people south of the United

1. The American people are not well acquainted with any other people on
earth. Geographical isolation has had much to do with this, and racial
self-sufficiency has had still more effect upon our lack-of-thinking about
our neighbors. Had South and Central American countries been pouring
millions of immigrants into our cities, we would know something about
them, but the Latin has had no need to immigrate, since he has more room
in his own house than he could find in ours.

2. American travel abroad has been practically all to Europe, with an
increasing number who have seen something of the Far East. And it is
impossible to be anything but densely ignorant of any people whose faces
we have never seen, whose country we have never visited, whose history we
have ignored, and whose language we cannot understand. No real interest is
possible without knowledge, and the main trouble between the American and
his neighbors is plain ignorance.

3. The war with Spain in 1898 resulted in much indifferent prejudice on
our part against everything Spanish. Spain was not prepared for the blow
that fell upon her, and perhaps her colonial system deserved the
destruction that was administered, but we came out of the war with a more
or less good-natured contempt for anything and everything that savored of
Spain. We escaped with little or no spirit of hatred or lust of conquest,
but we marked down the Latin world at bargain prices--and then let Europe
walk away with the bargain. As a matter of fact, Spain has little to do
with the American situation. Spain herself in the past fifteen years has
made rapid strides forward, but in the average American mind anything
Spanish cannot be very efficient.

4. Our Monroe Doctrine has begotten a certain arrogance of attitude toward
all our southern neighbors. Our attention has been called southward only
when revolution or anarchy or European interference has compelled us to
take a hand for our own ultimate self-protection. It is only when our
neighbors have failed to keep the peace and have threatened to carry their
quarrels into our yard, or have been in danger of being beaten up by
European military police, that we have taken the trouble to notice them.
From this situation it was inevitable that an attitude of patronage should
arise, and patronage is not a basis of national cooperation or mutual



When came this Latin-American? Is he a mystery, a complex, or a racial
conundrum defying analysis and baffling understanding? So many people have
said. Others have reported a something impossible to name or describe
about this man from the southlands--all of which is nonsense. There are
few human mysteries when once we have the key. Any people may be
understood if we know their racial origin, social history, and
reaction-power. Such knowledge usually explains these so-called race

As North Americans we are ourselves the present product of social forces
that have driven us for centuries past. With a northern European race
origin we have been mixed in many molds and infused with many tinctures
till we emerge a new blend of blood. This new and vigorous stock shows a
reaction-power that has made much of educational, scientific, and material
opportunities, but, after all, these traits themselves are largely the
result of the social stimuli of the past five hundred years. Had our
ancestors in the sixteenth century removed to Spain, we should all now be
Spanish dons.

If we could know the social, religious, intellectual, domestic,
industrial, and political environment of a people, we could account for
ninety per cent of race characteristics. And this social history measures,
not only potent forces and compelling sanctions, but itself in turn
registers reactive power and character values.


The Latin-American has no cause to apologize nor explain when we inquire
into his racial antecedents. Out of the remote ages of antiquity a branch
of the human family moved westward, and on the Italian peninsula developed
a civilization and founded a city that in time dominated the world. The
lust of conquest and the intoxication of power debauched the rulers of
Rome, but the rising Christian Church took over the scepter, and for
fifteen hundred years Rome dominated the civilization of the world.
Fundamentally, there was no difference between the blood of southern and
western Europe, and but for the corrupt and demoralizing influence of the
papacy and its trailing blight upon the human spirit Rome might still have
been the dominant power of European civilization. The abuses that
compelled the Reformation also vitiated the Latin spirit. The wakening
life of the sixteenth century shifted the center westward but the blight
of papal despotism kept the Latin races from their full share in the
developments and democracy of the modern age. And now that the Teutonic
peoples of the north have become the victims of the most deadly despotism
that the world has yet produced, it is possible that the center and motive
of progressive thought in continental Europe may again swing to the
southern peoples.

[Illustration: NO RACE SUICIDE HERE]

No one can trace the splendid march of the Latin races through the
conquests and explorations and discoveries of the later fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries and then read the record of achievements down to the
present time and still maintain that there is anything decadent about the
Latin races. Had the Roman yoke been broken from the Latin neck as it was
from the Teuton, we should have had a very different tale to tell, and the
dominant civilization of the twentieth century might have been Latin
instead of Saxon.

A closer examination of the social factors that have dominated the
Latin-American world and produced the present composite result on the
western hemisphere reveals three decisive factors that have in combination
produced our neighbors.

All Latin-America reflects a European background. Nearly all relations of
life are defined in European terms. Out of the more or less subconscious
inheritance and ideals of European origin arise the sanctions of social
relations. Ideals of politics, business, education, home life, social
customs, and religion all come from this fountain of associations. The
church in South America is the church in southern Europe. The collegio is
not the North American college, but the European school which grants a
Bachelor of Arts degree at what corresponds to the end of the freshman
year in an American college. South American "republics" have their "prime
ministers," and the electorate is on the European basis. The presidents of
some of these republics exercise more arbitrary power than the king of
England or the entire executive of the United States. They are European
"presidents." Revolution is not the incurable habit of the "people" but
the profession of a few adventurers who oppress and afflict the
long-suffering and usually silent populace. This is not saying that
revolution is a characteristic of European political procedure, but that
the forms of representative government imposed upon the ideals of
dictatorship and monarchy produced the curious mixture of revolutionary
political progress known as a South or Central American "republic." South
American democracy is a hybrid product of European ideals and American
forms of government. Naturally enough, it is neither one thing nor the
other, and will not be anything very different until new forces are
brought to bear upon the political life of the Latin people.

[Illustration: JUNGLE GUIDE]

A second factor in the making of the Latin-American is his isolation for
three hundred years from the currents of Western economic and political
life. Practically all our North American stock of ideas and social
sanctions has been developed since the Pilgrims landed in New England. The
great basic impulse that sent men and women westward in search of
religious liberty has persisted and widened and developed a homogeneous
system of political ideal that has become the unquestioned background of
our whole political system. From free consciences have come free
institutions, free schools, free votes, and as long as it lasted, free
land, unrestricted economic opportunity, and a welcome to the world. Upon
this foundation have been reared American independence, modern democracy,
higher education, the feminist movement, scientific advance, and American

[Illustration: ONE USE FOR A HEAD]

Certain influences from this stream have affected Latin-American life. The
nomenclature of South American politics is that of the United States, and
many constitutions contain provision for every modern practice. But these
model constitutions are like a beautiful and costly piano imported into a
home where no one knows how to use it. It takes a democratic spirit to get
democracy out of a democratic constitution. The best piano yields only
discord, and the most advanced constitution does not prevent revolution if
there be no musicians or statesmen to play and administer. People living
beside the stream of democratic progress have caught the names and forms
drifting on the current, but only those people have advanced with the
current who have not been tied to the shore by moral and intellectual

The influence of geographical nearness is slight beside that of historical
background and social relations. Mexico is much closer to Spain than to
the United States. After twenty years of successful administration of the
Philippines on the most colossal scale of national benevolence that the
world has ever seen, nearly all the Filipinos who had reached maturity in
1898 are still Spanish at heart and out of sympathy with American ideals
and administration. If the United States can hold the islands until every
person who was ten years old or over in 1898 is thoroughly dead and safely
buried, there will be a chance for some form of democracy, but the
old-time leaders will retain so long as they live the ideals derived from
three hundred years of Spanish administration.

If there are in the mountains of the South isolated neighborhoods that
have been passed by in the current of modern American progress, and are
to-day practically ignorant of all that makes up American life, even
though surrounded on all sides by the march of a virile and restless race,
what must be the results of the isolation from this stream of North
American development, of the whole Latin-American race, while maintaining
close and vital connections with European standards and ideals?

But Latin Americanism can never be explained merely by its European
background and its isolation from the progress of North America. The
keynote to the present product in Latin lands is to be found in that
system of religious despotism that has checked the free growth of every
people whose life it has dominated.


Jesuitism is what is the matter with the civilization southward. We have
had Romanism and Jesuitism in the United States, but people who have never
seen any form of these forces except that which has developed in the free
air of North America have much to learn. Romanism checked and balanced by
a virile Protestantism and a democratic political life is an altogether
different institution from Romanism dominant, degenerate, and intolerant.
The latter becomes the religion of the bound Bible, the chained spirit,
and the crippled conscience. It is the center of spiritual infection and
the microbe of moral weakness. No land has ever advanced under its
leadership. Like a blight on the human spirit, it has cast its spell of
ignorance and superstition over the millions of men and women who have had
no other ethical code or spiritual leadership.

It has been claimed that the rigors of New England winters had something
to do with the sturdy New England conscience. But the Pilgrims brought
their consciences with them, and the climate came near exterminating the
colony. If the Pilgrims had landed in Cuba and the Spanish in Boston,
civilization might be very different to-day. If rigorous climates produce
vigorous men, how is it that some of the most terrible of men sailed the
Caribbean sea and devastated the whole mid-American world, while the
northern coasts of the Atlantic never saw a pirate's sail? The tropical
zephyrs of the Bay of Panama never softened the tempers or dispositions of
the bloodthirsty men who came near exterminating whole populations and
left a trail of blood and terror behind them. And these same
unconscionable scoundrels used to attend mass and plant wooden crosses
wherever they went.

The effort to account for South American civilization by climate falls to
pieces before the splendid and bracing altitudes of the Andes, the ideal
conditions of Argentine, Uruguay, and Chile, and the delightful regions of
the higher elevations of Central America. There is nothing inherently
demoralizing in the climate of lands inhabited by the Latin peoples in
America, but there is something distinctly vitiating in the moral miasma
breathed by these peoples for three hundred years. If cold climates
produced inflexible consciences, the Eskimos ought to be the most
conscientious people on earth. But the moral climate of Jesuitism has
produced a uniform effect everywhere that it has supplied the soil for


It is impossible to grow liberty of life, apart from its natural soil and
necessary nourishment. If we are to have free institutions, we must first
have free men. We cannot have a stream of water without a flowing
fountain, nor ripe fruit without a living tree. Political liberty is
impossible without moral freedom, and it is idle to expect independence of
political action without the established right to think for oneself. When
consciences are forced into fixed and prescribed molds it is useless to
ask that men turn about and practice the principles of a free democracy.
Majority rule is meaningless where the confessional dominates the
consciences of men. If we apply these factors in the social history and
life of the Latin-American to the traits of his development most subject
to criticism, we find much illumination. Out of all the discussion three
items emerge, each significant and each closely related to the factors
just mentioned.

The Latin mind is given to an idealism that reaches out for large things
but often stops short of large actual realization. Out of this tendency
grow weak initiative and superficial standards. As evidence of this
characteristic may be cited the tendency in education to stress the
superficial and showy features of the curriculum, leaving in the
background the foundations and essentials of the intellectual life.
Anything that makes a good appearance is given place over the less
spectacular realities. In architecture, a florid ornamentation is
achieved, even at the expense of good plaster and proper surface stone,
later with the resultant unsightliness.


Deductive processes of thought are much in evidence. In outlining a plan
of provincial government, or a system of national education, the paper
plans will include every needed feature of a complete and theoretical
system, without much regard for the local needs and actual conditions
under which the full scheme is to be realized, which in all probability it
will never be. To have projected and announced a grand undertaking in any
department of human life is as important as to have accomplished
something. It is the grand-piano constitution and the one-finger
administration. It is not hard to find automobile undertakings and
wheelbarrow accomplishments.

Now, all this is not cause for railing accusation but for thoughtful
analysis. And the dominant cause is not far to seek. Where effort to
translate ideals into realities is met by a barrier of official
indifference, it is not strange if men give their time to dreaming rather
than actualizing their visions. Where belief and conduct are prescribed
and commercialism dominates the moral lives of men, it is easy to see that
initiative is crippled at its source. Where a people is divested of
responsibility for the final outcome and taught to pay the price and
"believe or be damned," it is a rash spirit that will try to do more than
dream dreams and write books and project utopias. Without the incentive of
encouragement to produce practical results, no real efficiency has ever
appeared among any people. There are accusations of moral duplicity among
Latin-American peoples. More serious and fundamental than impotent
idealism, this defect registers itself in perversion of public trust, in
the degradation of public office to the uses of private gain, in
deception, graft, and greed. Promises are easy, but performances are
delayed until the would-be enterprising citizen gives up in despair.

In regard to this two things are to be said. In the first place, our own
records as a people will not bear any too close inspection. Aside from
race riots and labor disturbances, our Civil War furnishes our only
revolution, except the one that produced the original United States. But
when it comes to political prostitution of public office and the invention
of grafting schemes, large and small, our own history does not give us
much ground for boasting. And many a "revolution" has caused less
bloodshed than a North American labor row.

[Illustration: MANDY DID HER SHARE]

Further, so far as there is a difference between the conduct of the North
and South, the explanation is not far to seek. Once admit the validity of
the principle that it is right to do wrong for a good end, and a whole
stream of moral duplicity is turned loose in public and private life.
Jesuitism will account for almost any moral lapse in a land where all
thinking has come under the spell of a creed in which the end justifies
the means.

[Illustration: THE CANAL DIGGER]

Let this principle be ever so carefully guarded and proscribed, so long as
human nature remains what it is, where personal interests are at stake the
individual is going to be his own final judge of the value of the end for
which the means are devised. And on the basis of every man adapting means
to his own ends we have moral chaos.

Much has been said of the personal immorality of many people of these
southern lands. That the Latin-American is in any whit behind his northern
neighbor in the integrity of his personal and domestic life remains to be
proven. That his deflections from the straight and narrow path are much
less concealed and by him are regarded as of small account is to be
conceded. Here, again, the cause is not far to seek. With a sacerdotal
example loose and irresponsible, it would be strange indeed if the men of
South America showed a higher personal chastity than their spiritual
leaders and moral guides.

The third accusation brought against our neighbors is that of political
undemocracy. Government by revolution is said to be the rule, and an
election in which the "outs" win a victory over the "ins" is practically
unknown. Victorious majorities are governed in size only by the discretion
of the dominant power, and the Latin mind seems a stranger to the
fundamental principle of accepting a majority decision as binding until
the next election.

To accept gracefully a majority decision against himself or his party is
an art slowly acquired by any politician. On the playgrounds we see this
trait; in amateur clubs and literary societies we find it; in the arena of
political strife it does its worst and results in a state of affairs in
which revolution becomes the general substitute for elections.

I stood one day on the campus of a Christian college in a Latin republic.
The young men were playing baseball, and they were playing it well. I
discovered that baseball was a regular part of their curriculum, that they
were required to play so many games per week, and that they received
credit for the games, provided they were played according to rules. When I
inquired as to the reason for this I was informed by the efficient
director of the school that baseball was in his opinion one of the most
important subjects in the course. "There are two things that we can teach
through baseball better than any other way. One is team work--a fellow
can't play the game alone; and the other is the art of accepting defeat
gracefully. Half of the boys must be defeated every day, which is an
invaluable drill for them."


Even as we discussed the matter, a tall fellow got into a dispute with the
umpire, and after a dramatic flourish swung his arms in the air and
shouted, "No juego mas" ("I will play no more").

"There--do you hear that?" remarked the director. "That is what we are
trying to cure."

As far as my observation has gone, nobody except the educational
missionary is trying very hard to cure this most unfortunate trait in an
otherwise very fine character.


Here, again, it is not difficult to trace this stream to its sources. We
understand much better since 1914 whence came this political peculiarity.
The ideals of European politics have been transferred across the Atlantic
and their fruits on foreign soil have not been tempered by the vigor of
free institutions grown strong in the processes of centuries. If
Central-American republics are only constitutional monarchies in which the
monarch governs the constitution, there is very good reason for the
anomaly. If it is true that there is not a single republic on American
soil south of "the line," then it is to be said that there never can be
such a republic until Latin-America ceases to think in terms of European
history and Jesuitism is broken from its hold on the moral consciousness
of the men who make and unmake republics in the Latin world. Successful
republics have been developed in that turbulent but onmoving stream of
Western and modern ideals that has found its most complete expression in
the United States, but which has also tinctured the thinking and
influenced the political processes of practically every country on earth
except Prussia. We ourselves are not perfect yet, and it behooves us to
withhold the stones from our neighbors until we can show a clean record.
We will have some distance to go before democracy is a finished product,
and it will be a good plan to take the neighbors along with us.



Much misunderstanding has been due to faulty methods of approach to our
southern neighbor. Political diplomacy, commercial competition, and
military displays will never get to the core of this international apple.
The Latin-American is a man of heart, and until we recognize this fact we
shall fail to understand him. Sympathy and courtesy will avail more than
battleships and boycotts. This man is a born diplomat and has high
intellectual development, but the deep and dominant motives of his life
are his friendships and affections.

If we know the ruling motives of men and races, we may avoid nearly all
the misunderstandings and incriminating accusations that arise when we
occupy different points of view, but matters look very different when we
get at them from the viewpoint of the other man.

Seeming contradictions dissolve and weaknesses appear as unsuccessful
aspirations. Our complaints of low initiative become more reserved when we
remember that spiritual slavery is a certain antidote for the pioneering
spirit. The presence of a high though fruitless idealism amid
insurmountable difficulties attests a virile and buoyant spirit, captive
and caged. Where toil has been treated with contempt for ages nothing
short of economic helplessness can follow.

As for financial faithlessness, who shall throw the first stone? If once
we begin to justify the means by the end, commercial life is going to
suffer. If we begin to complain about the insecurity of political
institutions, we need to remember that democracy is one of the first and
finest fruits of a free mind and heart. And we have not yet ourselves
arrived sufficiently to do any boasting.

To know our Latin-Americans as personal friends is to attain a new
viewpoint on the whole Pan-American problem. We may not blind our eyes to
their defects more than to our own--there are plenty of both; but
understanding brings explanation of many things, and if we know all and
understand fully, we may come to a different verdict. The southern man far
surpasses us in certain traits of which we have taken small account and in
which we are racially deficient. When given free opportunity, satisfactory
response appears to the stimuli of democracy and initiative.

To know personally the Spanish-American is to become aware of his keen
intuitions, his high personal charm, his strong sympathies, his
constructive imagination, and his hearty idealism; and whatever else he
may be, he is loyal to his friends and their interests. He may not be so
intent on doing something, but he has time for social graces and arts, and
possesses an innate refinement and grace of character that we take pride
in having neglected.


The Latin at his best is the racial goal of South America. Who cares to be
judged by the social leavings of his own country? The South American best
is intelligent, refined, and faithful to trusts. His mental processes are
touched with a constructive imagination that finds high expression in his
abundant art and literature. With a nervous, artistic, and sensitive
temperament, he responds quickly to friendly approaches and stands ready
to do his full share in social obligations.

That peons and ignorantes are not thus described is only to say that the
tramps and social unacceptables of any country are not to be classed with
the intellectuals and social leaders.

The personal equation is apt to be decisive in South America. Commercial
travelers learn this to their profit or loss, as they adopt or disdain the
ruling motives of the men with whom they deal. It may do very well in some
cities of the United States for the breezy commercial traveler to display
his samples, deliver his oration, and give the merchant three minutes to
take or leave the best goods on earth. Such methods in Spanish countries
means no business at all. Selling goods in South America is a social
function in which are involved members of the family and, incidentally,
some very pleasant hours. Any sort of make-believe is useless. Unless a
man really likes the people he had better abandon any plans to do business
with them. He may get on in Chicago, but in Bogota he will be very

When a man sells goods on talk he may dispose of inferior qualities
occasionally, and trust that he can talk enough faster next time to make
up for his loss of standing; but when goods are sold on friendship a
single mistake in quality means ruptured relations and the end of
commercial confidence. And where friendship furnishes the basis of
business the buyer will protect the seller in return for uniform good
treatment on his part. Like all other racial customs, when once it is
understood the system is not so unreasonable as at first appears.

An Englishman traveling in South America told me that on one occasion he
sold a large bill of goods on credit to a man who proved to be a rascal.
As the time for the return of the salesman and the payment for the goods
drew near the buyer tried to sell out his entire stock at half price, with
the intention of leaving the country with the money. But all the other
merchants were friends of the salesman and refused to take advantage of
the situation, to the loss of their friend. They preferred to lose their
own profits.

Business in Latin-America is a personal matter. If a deal goes wrong,
somebody is responsible. North American business has a large impersonal
element, and the man who makes a bad bargain usually feels that he had
himself largely to blame. The joke is on him, and he will exercise more
shrewdness next time. But the southern merchant views the case
differently, and it behooves the salesman to handle only goods that will
move to the profit of the buyer.

When once this basis of friendly confidence is well set up it is easy to
consummate large transactions with very little preliminary investigation.
The capitalist is more interested in knowing what his trusted friend
thinks than in getting data upon which to base his own conclusions.


National ambassadors and Christian missionaries soon learn what the
business man found out long ago: that there is only one road to successful
relations with these people and that is the way of the heart. Neither
minister nor missionary nor merchant can succeed unless he genuinely likes
the people with whom he is dealing. Any missionary who is afflicted with a
sense of superiority had better look up the sailing dates of any steamer
line connecting with the United States.

In meeting strangers the right kind of a letter of introduction has high
value. Let the letter be from a personal friend, and the homes and hearts
are opened in a way that surprises the more coldly formal man from the
north. It is a cheering and heartening experience to present a good letter
to a fine family and be received with a cordiality and genuine hospitality
that leaves no doubt as to the honest motives of the hosts.

But how are we to find the road to the heart of any people unless we can
speak to them in their own tongue in which they were born? The interpreter
does very well for trivial and formal matters, but who wants to use an
interpreter in his own family? Here is where the "United Stateser" gets
into trouble. As a linguist he does not shine; in fact, he is barely
visible in a good light. He considers it beneath him to take the trouble
to learn anyone's language. Why should he? He can speak English already.
If anyone has anything to say to him, let him say it in English; and if he
cannot speak English, then surely he can have nothing worth saying. It is
a ready formula, but it fails to reach the hearts of men who do not happen
to have been born in the United States.

The Latin is a better linguist than his neighbor to the north. Nearly all
the better class people speak some English, though they are very modest
about the matter. Practically all of them speak two or more languages. But
even if they do surpass us in speech and can use some English, we are not
excused from acquiring a working knowledge of the language of the people
with whom we are to deal. The increasing development of Spanish teaching
in North American schools is one of the most helpful signs of the times.

Nowhere does the innate courtesy of the Latin-American shine more than in
his bearing toward the novice who tries to learn his language. We of the
United States are wont to laugh at the linguistic struggles of the
stranger within our gates, but not so with the South American. He is a
gentleman, and will take immense pains to assist anyone who makes an
effort to talk to him. He seems to regard it as a compliment that anyone
should try to use his language. Any faltering effort will receive
immediate encouragement.

A volume could be written about the comical blunders of North American
tyros in language learning. A hundred or two garbled words, vigorous
guessing and violent arm action make up the linguistic equipment of some
would-be "interpreters." Mixed English, Spanish, jerks, and profanity will
do wonders where there is nothing else, but as substitutes for language
they are far from ideal. Classic is the story of one of these interpreters
who struggled in vain to deliver the meaning of his friend to a native,
and at last gave up in disgust, regretting that he "ever learned the
blamed language anyway."

Spanish is possibly as easy to learn as any language other than that of
one's native land. Aside from its complicated verb and annoying gender, it
has few difficulties that need cause acute distress. But the score of
"easy methods" without teachers are to be avoided. There is no easy way to
learn a language. It takes work, hard work, and a lot of it to learn a
second language. But it can be done, and to acquire a new medium of
expression, even in middle life, is an experience not to be taken lightly.
It is above all things interesting. It comes at last to this: the only way
to speak, write, or read Spanish effectively is to learn it. Short cuts
bring short results.

And the only road to a worthwhile understanding of the Latin-American is
that of a sympathetic personal acquaintance and genuine friendship. It is
a matter of heart more than of head, and unless the North American has a
heart himself he had better acquire one or abandon his efforts to deal
with the Latin-American.

To the traveler from the Orient Latin-America is easy to know. There is
much in Spanish ceremonial, love of life and color and rhythm, the innate
chivalry and politeness, so often absent from the direct processes of the
North American, to suggest the peculiar charm of the Orient at its best.
The ornateness of architecture appears in the East and West in nearly
equal measure. When it comes to elaborate speeches and flattering
expressions, not even the honorifics of ceremonial Japan have much
advantage over the gracious and complimentary extravagances of the

It was at a school entertainment that the director, who spoke excellent
Spanish, was unavoidably absent, and the writer was pressed into service
at the last moment to explain some stereopticon views and make a few
announcements. The language was that of a tyro and must have afforded
material for much amusement to the cultured parents of the school
children. But no one laughed, and as a reporter for a Spanish paper
chanced to be on hand, the morning edition stated that the entertainment
was a high success and that the views were described in the choicest of
classic Spanish while the announcements were delivered with a diction of
the purest and highest type. It was the conventional manner of describing
any public event.

This temperament leads to oratory as rivers run to the sea. Given a few
ideas for a start, and any educated Latin will deliver an extempore
oration that suggests weeks of careful preparation. Rounded periods and
classic expression mark every polished phrase.

Probably the most perplexing and annoying thing about the North American
in the eyes of his southern neighbor is our incessant hurry and rush. We
may be millionaires in money but we are hopelessly bankrupt in time. And
the South American is both millionaire and philanthropist in time. He
always has a surplus and is willing to use it--and his friend's too. Some
of our hurrying about is regarded as a great joke. Clayton Sedgwick Cooper
quotes a Bengalese of Calcutta as regarding a certain Englishman as "one
of the uncomfortable works of God." Such are we of the United States in
the eyes of our southern friends.

The formalities of social life are of vast importance to the Panamanian,
and they are also important to the North American who wishes to transact
any sort of business with officials and educated men of any class. Dress
suits and high hats are not to be despised if one is to get on in the
capital city. Neither are business and politics to be separated if any
business is to be done.

During 1918 the death of President Valdez within a month of the
constitutional date of the national election created a situation in which
the election board was controlled by one political party and the police
department by the other, spelling inevitable trouble. Military authorities
on the Canal Zone took a hand and sent over a troop of cavalry to police
the city during the election week. At sight of the soldiers panic
possessed many women and children, who had been told that the Americans,
if they came, would shoot down all persons on the street without warning.
A few hours convinced the populace of the error of this widely circulated
report, and the election passed peacefully, the party in office winning.

Panamanian officials are uniformly courteous, kindly, and will go to any
reasonable length to grant any proper request, especially if it comes from
a friend. I have called on various men in high authority many times on
diverse matters and have never failed to be received cordially and given
the best of personal treatment. It has occasionally happened, however,
that after leaving the official I tried to recall just what he had stated
or agreed to do, and had difficulty in finding anything definite.

[Illustration: WASHING BY THE RIVER]

Perhaps Latin character reaches its highest level in family life. The
women of the Latin race are noted for natural grace and comeliness, and in
their own homes they give themselves to their husbands and children with a
devotion to which some of the club women of northern lands are strangers,
as well as their families. Motherhood is a high calling before which all
else must give way. The open life of the northern family, with its easy
conventions and free hospitality, is largely unknown, but a close and
intimate family life is built up essentially stronger in some features
than anything found further north. The Spanish home is a very select and
secluded affair, into the charmed circle of which only the most intimate
friends may enter.

This wife and mother usually knows nothing of her husband's affairs, and
has little freedom of the streets or public places. There is none of that
comradeship in business interests often found in the States between
husband and wife.

The señoritas, or young women, of these homes are decidedly feminine. They
make much of cosmetics, but they do at least spare us the assorted colors
of the hair dyer's art. And they do not make a holy show of themselves on
the street, with loud manners and conspicuous costumes, as if to attract
attention of all passers-by. It must be said that some of the better class
young women of these countries are "stunning lookers," and are always
attractive and well bred, but with limited educational advantages they are
apt to be shallow conversationalists. Many of the men prefer them that
way. For a woman to know too much about business and politics detracts
from her distinctly feminine charm in the eyes of these Spanish men. What
religious devotion exists in these countries is found among the women, who
usually go regularly to mass and confession.

Strictest chaperonage is maintained over young women, no girl being
permitted for a moment to be alone with a young man, a system that would
make slow headway in North America. And the women are long suffering with
their husbands, from whom they endure conduct that would break up almost
any North American home.

The Panamanian woman has none of the boldness of the new woman of
Argentine, nor the ultra-timidity of Peruvian seclusion. She knows the
value of balconies and lace shawls and effective coiffures, and it must be
said that in spite of rigorous supervision and never-failing modesty of
demeanor, she has a charm and a "come-hither" in her eye that has won the
heart of many a North American.

The possibilities of the Latin race are perhaps best measured by the
occasional rare characters that break through the bonds of convention and
precedent and attain an altitude of gracious nobility unsurpassed anywhere
on earth. Occasional products of missionary schools show results in
character and efficiency that indicate clearly the latent capacity for a
something in which the brusque Saxon is too often deficient.

The "Christ of the Andes" was set up on the boundary line between
Argentine and Chile as a suggestion of the only basis of permanent peace
in the life and teachings of the Prince of Peace. This famous statue was
the result of the work of a woman, the Señora de Costa, president of the
Christian Mothers' League of Buenos Ayres. Cast of old Spanish cannon, and
installed in its lofty elevation of thirteen thousand feet in the Andes,
the monument was dedicated March 13, 1914, as much a memorial to the work
of a Latin-American woman as a testimonial to the peaceful intentions of
the two nations.

There is a Spanish word, not exactly translatable into English, which may
be taken as the key to Latin character at its best. It is the word
"simpático," which means something more than "sympathetic." A man is
_simpático_ when he is gracious and open-hearted and likable and
considerate of other folks' feelings. There ought to be a course in
_simpático_ for every prospective missionary and business man in the
United States who has any intention of dealing with the Latin-American.



Readers of Robinson Crusoe associate the Caribbean Sea with piracy and
rum, but usually have few other ideas on the subject. Most people of the
United States have scarcely so much as heard that there be any Caribbean
world except that it is somewhere in the tropics.

To be sure, the Caribbean Sea has a way of impressing itself upon those
who sail its troubled tides. Perhaps the shades of the villains who used
to cross these waters on their murderous expeditions still linger to raise
the adverse winds and toss the seasick passenger in his misery. Certain it
is that very few travelers have any affection for the seven hundred miles
of salt water between the Mosquito Coast and the islands so notorious in
the sixteenth century.

It is with something of surprise, then, that the prowler about Panama
learns of a homogeneous population living on the chain of islands that
begins below Porto Rico and swings downward in a graceful curve to the tip
of the South American coast. These Lesser Antilles mark the eastern
boundaries of the famous, or _in_famous, Caribbean Sea. Though small in
size, their considerable numbers and large populations make them
important. If they are not so well known now, at least they have the
distinction of having been discovered by Columbus when he set out to find
a way to the East Indies and discovered the West Indies instead.

[Illustration: COSTA RICA FARM HOME]

The political complexion of these islands varies greatly. Government is
shared by Spain, France, England, and the United States, and the languages
spoken conform to the governing power. The purchase of the Danish West
Indies has given the United States a permanent and prominent influence in
the group.

No account of matters Panamanian could omit reference to the people of
this West Indian world. From the beginning of Panama's history Caribbean
adventurers have crossed the sea in any craft that would float, and have
played a large part in the restless events of the Isthmus. West Indian
influence and blood were mingled with the history of the Isthmus for four
hundred years, and in these last days it has been the West Indian who
furnished the labor that dug the Panama Canal, and who still contributes
the brawn and perspiration for the work of the Canal Zone. Twenty-five
thousand of these people live on or near the Zone and are employed by its
government, and probably as many more live near by and mingle with the
native life of Panama. All through the interior there are always some West

Without the West Indian the digging of the Canal would not have been
impossible, but would have been much more difficult. Chinese coolies would
have cost more to import and could hardly have worked for less money.
Considering the cost of living on the Canal Zone, the West Indian has
furnished some of the cheapest labor in the world. In construction days
the nine or ten cents an hour wage was more than the black man had
received at home, but his living expenses on the Zone were very much
higher than on the Caribbean Islands. The wage scale of the West Indian on
the Canal Zone has been revised and increased several times by the
American government in an effort to keep pace with the rising cost of
living; but it must be said that the laborer's wage of about thirty
dollars a month, with from three dollars to six dollars deducted for the
rent of two rooms, does not afford a very sumptuous living for a man and
his family. The "silver" man on the Zone pays the same price for his food
and clothes as does the "gold" white man who receives twenty-five per cent
higher wages than is paid for the same work in the States, and in addition
has a furnished apartment or cottage free of rent cost. The men on the
"gold" rate complain of the high cost of living. What they would do if
reduced to one sixth of their present wages they do not stop to consider.
It is not a pleasant subject to face, but it is hoped that the wages of
the West Indian may be lifted to the point where he can at least buy food
enough to keep him in good physical condition.

The West Indies furnishes the plantation labor of Panama and Costa Rica,
without which there would be little plantation work done. In the hot and
humid banana groves he endures the temperature and handles the huge banana
bunches as though born for the job, as perhaps he is. Out from Almirante
and Puerto Limon range the tracks of the plantation railroads through
hundreds of miles of banana forests, where the black man supplies the
labor for the largest farms in the world. Forty or fifty thousand of these
people live on and about the plantations of the Atlantic coast and without
them the largest agricultural enterprise ever carried on under one
management would collapse.

The West Indian on the Isthmus is not the West Indian at home. He may live
and die on the mainland, but he thinks in terms of the islands from which
he came. Like the American Negro, he is of African descent, but his
African origin is so remote that no trace of it remains in his
consciousness, though it is evident in his psychology. Most of the West
Indians about the Canal Zone dream of returning to the islands again.

These people of the Caribbean world have a decided race consciousness, and
in their thinking and living are a world unto themselves. Separate and
distinct from the Greater Antilles and the mainland, they know very little
of the continental life and customs, and any attempt to classify them with
American Negroes or Europeans raises a set of social problems difficult to


To the North American the mental processes of the West Indian are a
psychological jungle in which the explorer is soon lost. Perhaps no one
has yet essayed to really understand this man, and those who have tried to
analyze him maintain that he does not understand himself. Certain it is
that he does not trouble himself with any self-analysis. He has enough
other things to occupy his attention. With the psychological background of
his remote African ancestors, his race characteristics have changed very
little since the days when his forefathers were forcibly torn from their
native land and deported into savage slavery.


The social sanctions of the West Indian are rigid and well established.
The list of forbidden things is long and complex, and of signs, and dreams
and portents, strange and powerful, there seems no end. Numerous negatives
appear in his social and personal creed, and he who violates these
prohibitions must be a courageous soul. To introduce any original, new
idea into this scheme of things is a difficult task, and is apt to arouse
a whole chain of reactions, complex and mysterious. This man will follow
literally any able leadership, but the leader must go in the direction of
the established currents of opinion or he will have a hard time of it.

The West Indian has a religious capacity that impresses the visitor as a
remarkable aptitude for things sacred. Such, indeed, it is. And the
religious life of the earnest and conscientious members of this race
exhibits a fine type of devotion and sacrifice. As might be expected,
there is free expression of emotional experience, but on the whole those
who are truly religious match their songs by their deeds and their
testimonies by their lives. Practically nothing is known on the Isthmus of
anything bordering on hysteria. When it comes to familiarity with the
English Bible the average church member will put to shame his white
friend, and in interpretation of scripture some very unique and
interesting efforts are produced.

In matters of doctrine most of these people are rigid immersionists. The
women invariably wear their hats in church, on the ground that Saint Paul
commanded such observance, but they ignore the exhortation of the same
apostle that the women keep silence in the churches. All special occasions
possess thrilling interest, and almost any West Indian will go hungry to
get good clothes. How they manage to dress as well as they do on the
incomes they receive is a mystery that has not yet been solved.

An experienced missionary among these people says that practically every
West Indian at some time in his life is a member of some church. If this
is true, many of the West Indians in Panama are backsliders, as a majority
are not at present showing any interest in Christian observances or moral
living. Possibly many of those who are genuinely devout and consistently
Christian establish a membership in several different churches, one after
the other. Tiring of one church, discontented with the pastor, or
encountering personal difficulties with other members, it is easy and
convenient to join some other congregation, and of split-ups and
break-offs there seems no end. Nearly every church on the Isthmus has had
its deflections and divisions, and anything like the modern movement
toward unity and cooperation of the Christian program is a _terra
incognita_ to this enthusiastic individualist.

A surprising thing is the capacity for financial self-sacrifice of the
West Indian. Out of the pennies that he receives as wages he contributes
liberally to the support of his church and for the education of his
children. Nearly all West Indian churches on and near the Canal Zone are
self-supporting, and nearly all West Indian schools are maintained from
tuition fees. If these people were to receive good wages, they would not
only wear good clothes but would contribute to community enterprises and
keep their children in school as long as possible. That the more dissolute
members of the community would spend their money for rum is no reason for
depriving the laborer of his hire.


Living without adequate means of recreation or possibilities of culture or
wide information, life is nevertheless saved from deadly monotony by the
exercise of the high gifts of controversy. When it comes to a straight,
head-on wrangle the West Indian shines in a glory all his own. Not even a
loquacious Oriental can surpass his powers of abuse and lordly contempt
for his adversary. If words were bullets, the whole population would
perish in twenty-four hours, innocent and guilty together. To the
uninitiated bystander it seems that an empire is being lost, but the
old-timers cease to heed the quarreling and go their way indifferent to
the social safety valve of these greatest natural controversialists of the
tropic world. A young woman on the train in Costa Rica left her seat to
speak to a friend and another girl slipped in next to the window. When the
visitor returned the program began. Back and forth flew claims, charges
and counter-charges as to the ownership of the seat. With indescribable
scorn the usurper said, "Do you want a seat in my lap?" which provoked
"Ah, now I see how you was raised."

"Indeed, and you have no manners at all, it is plain to be seen."

Back and forth the duel rages until the first claimant sought another
seat, saying, "I certainly does respect myself too highly to sit by the
likes of you."

The combat closed thus: "When I look upon you I know what you is, for I
can read your face."

All of which falls flat without the wholly inimitable accent of the
Jamaican dialect.

This accent of the British subject in the West Indies is a dialect so
peculiar that it defies the most skillful impersonators. Somehow only
those to the manner born seem able to acquire or imitate the strong
combination of London cockney and African rhythm. The more intelligent and
better-educated people speak intelligibly, but it is common to hear
alleged English that is almost impossible to understand. There is not the
slightest resemblance to the traditional dialect of the Southern Negro,
and as for expressing it in cold type there is no alphabet on earth that
can represent the sounds and inflections produced.

The West Indian in Panama has a certain economic efficiency on the level
to which he has been trained, otherwise he would not have been brought to
the Zone by tens of thousands and retained there through the years of
Canal construction on into the present period of operation and
maintenance. Under a boss this man is faithful and efficient, provided the
task assigned him is within the scope of his training and ability. And
however slow or inaccurate he may be, he can hardly help earning the wages
that he receives. And if he did not work at all, the patience with which
he endures the frequent abuse and cursings of the impatient gang bosses
ought to be worth something. Certainly, the reader of this would not take
what is handed out to the West Indian for ten times his wages. It is true
that he is not strong on independent judgment, and that when left to his
own counsel he may do some strange things and perhaps very little of
anything. But how is a man to develop judgment who has never borne

Deep down in the heart of this man is slowly rising a resentment against
the economic conditions he finds on the Zone, and in many cases silent and
dangerous hate is gradually filling the hearts of the unorganized and
helpless "silver" men. Unless conditions are improved the time may come
when this resentment may flare up in a useless and hopeless protest. But
it is more likely that the wage scale will be readjusted from time to time
and the explosion forestalled. Occasionally some of these people get away
to the United States, but none of them ever return. For them the
patriarchal Canal Zone offers no attractions compared with the free
competition of the States. It is maintained by officials of the Zone that
the wage scale is as high as available funds will warrant; that if the
West Indian had any more money, it would do him no good, and that the
increases in wages already granted have fully kept pace with the rise in
the cost of living.

In matters of personal morals the West Indian is accused of loose
matrimonial practices. A priest said to me one day that if two
commandments--the seventh and eighth--could be omitted from the Ten, the
West Indian would get along all right. This slander is not deserved; but
investigation into facts reveals that the morals of the West Indians are
but little better than those of Panama. Concubinage is widely practiced,
with a system of financial support; but no more so than everywhere else in
the tropics except on the Canal Zone, where moral conditions are
exceptionally good. The remark of the priest may have been due to the fact
that most of the West Indians are Protestants.

Some characteristics of rare merit and interest occasionally arise among
these people. They do not sing as well as their northern cousins, but they
produce orators of no mean ability. Earnest, consistent, faithful,
affectionate, and original in expression, the best of these people afford
promise of what may be expected when better conditions bring large


[Illustration: "SCHOOLDAYS"]

Like other races not long exposed to civilization, the children of these
people show surprising precocity. They give excellent account of
themselves in primary schools, and in performances at public
entertainments they are letter-perfect. Fifty numbers on a program and
never a slip or a failure throughout, and not a complaint or criticism
except that it was a little short. One large church established a record
by producing a Christmas program containing one hundred and eight numbers.
Through the primary years these youngsters sometimes surpass their white
friends, but the economic pressure of living conditions crowds them nearly
all out of school at the end of the fourth or fifth grade. Once they get a
groundwork in the three "Rs" they are considered well educated for life.

As may be expected, the birth rate is high, but large families are rare
because of the distressing and unnecessary high rate of infant mortality.
How could it be otherwise when a whole family lives in one room on
twenty-five dollars a month with food at New York prices?

That the Jamaicans are a gregarious folk is to be expected. The social
instinct is always strong in any people of African descent. Canal Zone
bosses complain that their employees prefer to leave the clean and
sanitary quarters of the Zone and live in the Guachapali and San Miguel
districts of Panama and in Colon, where they are crowded together in a way
that would prove fatal to a white man. The constant company and crowded
conditions do not trouble the West Indians, whereas the rigid restrictions
of the silver quarters of the Zone he often finds objectionable.

What the West Indian most needs is a fair chance. He is cursed and
disparaged on every hand. He is to blame for being ragged and unwashed,
but when he goes hungry and dresses up, then he is a hopeless spendthrift
and a fraudulent dude. It is useless to pay him fair wages because he
would spend the money. Unscrupulous landlords are allowed to extort
enormous rents for wretched quarters in Panama and Colon, because, if the
Jamaican did not spend his money that way, he would pay it out for
something else. He is looked down upon as not being highly educated, and
it is claimed that the more he knows the worse off he is. No matter what
happens he is to blame. If the cholera should appear in Panama, or the
Gold Hill should slide into the Canal, the West Indian would be the guilty
party. Surely, he is worth his wages merely as a target for the verbal
explosions of his boss. Some men would have difficulty in holding their
jobs were it not for the timely assistance of this "goat" of the Zone.
Living conditions in Caledonia and Guachapali would give the New York East
Side something to think about. Rooms ten or twelve feet square are rented
out to families who usually stretch a curtain across the middle, sleep
huddled together in the rear at night, and live in the front of the "flat"
the rest of the time. From some primitive prejudice comes a violent
dislike of fresh air, especially at night, when every room is as nearly as
possible hermetically sealed. In a tropical temperature no one has yet
explained how the inmates live till morning.

Naked children swarm in the streets. At first the visitor is properly
shocked, but soon ceases to notice these ebony cherubs. In time, however,
one does get tired of it. Along the sidewalks and in the doorsteps the
evening hours are turned into neighborhood debating societies and
wrangling clubs, and between the arguments and disputes, and the always
nearby street meeting, there is never a dull moment. That is why they
prefer living there to the quiet and monotonous life in the silver town on
the Zone.

Religious gatherings on the street are a marked feature of the night life
of this part of the city. Torchlights and crowds, vigorous singing and
enthusiastic exhortations mark the visible features of the efforts of
these earnest persuaders of their neighbors to flee from the wrath to
come. If street demonstrations were confined to religious meetings, all
might be well. While ever-present canteenas dispense cheap and deadly rum
there will always be people who will go hungry and ragged to buy
"firewater," and with one or two drinks aboard the West Indian becomes a
very talkative and quarrelsome person. Often have I seen sidewalks
spattered with blood, and a common sight is that of a couple of policemen
leading away a gory victim or culprit.

So scanty is the food ration of these people that the general custom
prevails of eating very little during the day and then making a feast at
night of whatever food can be secured. The Methodist missionary school in
this district established a soup line at noon for the feeding of hungry
babies who came to the school without their breakfast and had nothing at
home to eat at noon. Any sort of "learning" under such circumstances was

Three or four things must be supplied if the West Indian is to rise above
his present level. He needs living wages, he needs intelligent and
responsible leadership; he needs a better education, and he needs a
broader social basis and a wider horizon for his circle of life.

There are a few lawyers and doctors and teachers of this race, and there
are a number of preachers, who consider themselves to be the
intellectuals, but there is no concert of purpose or plan for progress
among these people. Each man is intent upon exalting his own personal
prominence, or furthering the interests of the little group to which he
belongs. West Indian life at present is segregated into little cliques and
rings, represented by churches, lodges, dancing clubs, and other
organizations. So far no common cause has united any of these factors in
any program of progress. So intent are they upon individual emphasis that
any thought of the social whole seems almost impossible. Several efforts
have been made to unite in a common program of service the different
churches in a given community, but so far small success has attended these
worthy plans.

Perhaps more than almost anything else the West Indian needs racial
self-respect. He is humble enough before his boss, and if well treated is
loyal and faithful; but for his own kind he has little appreciation. "I
will never work for my own color," boasted a proud cook one day. And one
of the most difficult problems of the missionary grows out of the fact
that the West Indians generally despise each other. To arouse leadership
and stimulate ambition among a people who look down upon themselves is a
big task. The individual man will have to get his mind on something
besides his effort to exalt himself above all his fellows before any great
progress can be made. The fundamental trouble with the West Indian is that
he looks up to those whom he considers his superiors and looks down upon
everybody else. It seems difficult for him to look across or on a level,
and recognize other people as being on the same plane with himself.

The educational equipment of these people needs to be extended beyond the
present mere elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Some
intellectual window into the great world out beyond the Caribbean Sea must
be provided if there is to be deliverance from the superstition and
iron-bound customs that have held them fast for ten thousand years.

What the West Indian needs is not more vigorous swaying of congregations
nor more loudly shouting enthusiasts, but a program of Christian living
that will enlarge the boundaries of life and push back the horizons of
interest. Debating societies, reading courses, study clubs, extension
lectures, night schools, vocational training, good moving picture
programs--all of these will do much to break the spell of the past and
introduce new ideas where they will take root and bear harvest. Here is a
fertile field for a Christian settlement, but the settlement worker should
be a resident of the community. One difficulty with the mission work now
conducted is that it is done from the top down, and from the outside in.
Any attempt toward higher education will need some endowment. It is a
tragedy that these people, out of their wretched poverty, are compelled to
pay tuition fees for the meager education that their children receive.
Some of the plans now being formulated for a broader work in these
communities deserve every encouragement and support.

It is greatly to the credit of the West Indian that he nearly always
manages in some way to send his children to school, cost what it may.
Considering his opportunities, he does well. If the American people were
suddenly asked to pay one or two dollars a month for each child sent to
school, there would be educational revolution.

It is the intention of the Canal Zone government to house its employees on
the Zone as soon as quarters can be provided, but this will require some
time. As all "silver" employees are charged a monthly rent for these
quarters, the project is a business matter for the Zone. Twelve families
are usually quartered in one two-story house, two rooms and a porch
section to the family, with two wash rooms and sanitary quarters for the
whole house. At five dollars per month rent for each family, the house
yields an income of eight hundred and forty dollars per year. In a
building of about the same size four white families would be quartered
rent free.

[Illustration: THREE IN A ROW]


There is abundant opportunity in the Republic of Panama for the
organization of agricultural colonization schemes. Good land is plentiful.
Families could be placed on the land without much housing expense, and if
food could be supplied them for a few months, self-support would soon be
established. Some philanthropist might render valuable service and open up
new opportunities for a large number of these people by placing them out
on the land where each family could have its own house and where better
conditions prevail. A colony of one thousand souls grouped about a central
church and school and store would afford new hope and better living to
these dwellers in the crowded tenements.

What may be the future of the West Indian on the Isthmus is not yet
clearly established, and the Canal Zone authorities have heretofore
regarded the "silver" men as more of a temporary necessity than permanent
residents. As industrial conditions on the Zone become more stable,
however, it appears that there always will be needed a large labor force
with a minimum of about twenty thousand people; and unless some new factor
appears or is imported, the West Indian is going to supply this labor
demand for years to come. This being the case, the laborer is worthy of
his hire and should be paid a fair wage for what he does. And the
missionaries and social workers who are interested in the welfare of these
people need a coordinated and unified program of religious and educational
advance. So long as the present disjointed and unconnected methods are
followed, scattering and sometimes inharmonious results will appear.

So long as there is work for a laborer in Panama, so long the Caribbean
man will be found here in such numbers as may be needed, and so long as he
is here he at least deserves good treatment.



Probably most pilgrims to Panama think of the Canal as the outstanding
feature of the American tropics, and in one way such it is. The traveler
will probably want to see the Canal first, and he will find it well worthy
of preferential position.

The story of construction days and engineering problems has been ably told
elsewhere and does not belong here. Every intelligent traveler will secure
some good account of the work and read it as something that every man
should know. It is the romance de luxe of engineering achievement. The
author of the Arabian Nights Tales would have dug the Canal by the sweep
of a wand, or the rubbing of an old lamp, but the American method is
vastly more interesting and is much more likely to remain in working
order. Aladdin's engineering feats had a way of failing to stay put, if
the wrong man got hold of the lamp, but the present Canal shows no signs
of disappearing overnight.

Before war conditions put a wall around everything, seeing the Canal was
one of the pleasantest and easiest of touring tasks. All was in plain
view, or could readily be found by asking, and most of the men on duty
thought it a pleasure to answer questions. Of camera fiends and sketchers
and notebook makers there were aplenty. But the war stopped all that for a
time. Anybody could look at the Canal from almost any point along its
survey, but the locks and docks were strictly private affairs. There are
statistics in abundance to be had for the asking concerning the Big Ditch.
Experts take pleasure in supplying us with entertainment by compiling and
translating figures into interesting statements. For instance, enough
excavating was done on the Canal to dig a tunnel fourteen feet in diameter
through the center of the earth, eight thousand miles of boring. It takes
a little time to comprehend the meaning of a tunnel from Valparaiso,
Chile, to Peking, China, or straight through from the north pole to the
southern tip of the world.

Enough concrete was used to build a wall four feet thick and twenty-five
feet high clear around the State of Delaware. Probably by walking the two
hundred and sixty-six miles represented by this wall, one might understand
the amount of concrete involved in the Canal construction.

The enormous size of the locks can only be understood by walking their
length through the underground tunnels and passageways in which is located
the marvelous machinery of their operation. To stand on the floor of a dry
lock and look up at a lock gate eighty feet high, seven feet thick and
sixty-five feet wide is an impressive experience, but to see a pair of
such gates swing open and shut at the touch of the finger is something to
be remembered. The emergency dams look like a steel girder bridge, which,
indeed, they are, and provide against accidents by as ingenious a piece of
mechanism as the entire system affords. Enormous iron chains with
hydraulic springs are stretched across the entrance to the locks to stop
any reckless ship which might otherwise strike the gates. The Gatun Dam
alone may be classed as one of the world's greatest achievements.

The builders of the Canal may be pardoned for taking pride in the fact
that the entire construction cost, down to the present day--three years
after the opening of the Canal--is still within the original estimate of
$375,000,000, which figure included the $40,000,000 paid to the French for
the work of the earlier construction. This means that the cost of the
Canal was a little less than four dollars apiece for every inhabitant of
the United States. The national prestige alone gained by the successful
completion of the work has repaid this four-dollar investment many times
over. Before the European war $400,000,000 seemed like a good deal of
money. To-day we think of it as a very small sum.

It is easy to find numerous compilations of figures which astonish and
perplex us, even though they do help us to understand the magnitude of the
work. And nothing is more disappointing than to try to understand the
Canal by looking at it from any point along the bank. You can't see the
Canal for the water! It is no different from a great Western irrigating
ditch and looks like any quiet river. There are no marks of effort or
strain anywhere, and when one looks about on the verdant and peaceful
landscape he half believes that the tales of the stirring times back in
construction days must have been dreams.


Culebra Cut looks like the Hudson palisades, and Gatun Lake is like any
other beautiful inland sea in a rolling country. The famous Gatun Dam is
merely a dyke at the end of the lake and the marvelous spillway is only a
picturesque waterfall in the middle of a dam. As for the locks, they are
big concrete chambers looking very much like a paved street on top and
revealing nothing of the complicated mechanism below; and the germ-proof
towns are like any other spotlessly clean villages with screened houses,
and show nothing to cause us astonishment.

Any superficial view of the Canal is disappointing. It is like trying to
understand a deep mine by looking at the mouth of the shaft. The channel
is full of water, the machinery is out of sight, the great achievements of
sanitation have been largely removals of materials, microbes, and
conditions that have left no trace behind to tell their tale. In one way
it is a negative result.

The idea of the Canal across the Isthmus is nearly as old as the discovery
of the Isthmus by white men, but it remained for the intrepid builder of
the Suez Canal to really undertake in earnest the project of a waterway
between the two oceans. DeLesseps was both engineer and promoter and never
really understood the size of his project. He had succeeded at Suez, but
that was a farmer's ditch beside the Culebra Cut and the Gatun Dam, and
the famous engineer was a very old man when he began on the Panama
project. The high prestige of his name brought him money on a stock
investment basis, and when unprincipled schemers got control of the
company the crash and scandal were immense. DeLesseps himself became
insane as the result of the worry and disgrace and died in a hospital.

The French attempt began on January 1, 1880, with a great deal of oratory
and champagne, also the official blessing of the Bishop of Panama, which
seems to have been something of a Jonah on the enterprise.

In striking contrast was the beginning of the American work when a few men
climbed out of a boat into water waist-deep and began cutting down jungle

The actual construction and excavation work begun on the Isthmus by the
French was of a very high order, and much of it was used by the Americans.
The two causes which defeated the French were reckless financing at home
and tropical diseases on the Isthmus. So bad did the disease conditions
become that in the fall months of 1884 fifty-five thousand people died,
and in the single month of September, 1885, the total rate reached the
high-water mark of one hundred and seventy-seven per thousand of
population. The total of lives lost on the enterprise will never be known,
but is far greater than that of many wars which have received a
conspicuous notice on the historical page. The collapse of the DeLesseps
undertaking was followed by the organization of the New Canal Company,
upon which followed a chapter of bargainings and treaties and negotiations
and bickerings with the object of selling out the rights and holdings of
the company to the highest bidder. In all of these the Panama Railroad
figured very largely, and the Republic of Colombia kept a watchful eye on
the main chance for herself.

The story of President Roosevelt's large part in the American undertaking
of the independence of Panama and the organization of the American effort
is one of the romances of American history. On November 18, 1903,
Washington recognized the new Republic of Panama, and later paid
$10,000,000 for the Canal Zone and entered into a treaty guaranteeing the
peace and perpetuity of the Isthmian Republic. Thus ended a half-century
of riot and revolution and rebellion which was stated to have included
fifty-three revolutions in fifty-seven years. Relations between the early
officials on the Canal Zone and the rulers of Panama were not ideal; some
of the Americans seemed to have had a real genius for offending the finer
sensibilities of the natives.

The beginning of the American attempt is not a chapter of which anybody is
very proud. The effort to dig the Canal from Washington under a mass of
red tape which tied the hands of the men on the Isthmus proved an
impossible undertaking. The President succeeded in effecting a
reorganization which helped some, but not until all red tape was cut and
Army engineers were put in charge, was anything like real efficiency
obtained. Three great engineers were connected with the work--Wallace,
Stevens, and Goethals--and to each of these belongs credit for the very
high order of work done. While the man who finished the job bears the
outstanding name in connection with the Canal, without exception the
engineers who worked under the first two men speak in the highest terms of
the work that they accomplished.

No snapshot résumé of the building days, nor tourist instantaneous
exposure of visits can reveal, nor appreciate, the big problems that
confronted the engineers. It all looks easy enough now, but it was very
different then.

Good health on the Canal Zone seems a very simple matter now, and such it
is; but when the doctors and sanitary engineers began work it was an
exceedingly serious situation that they undertook to cure, and without
their work there could be no Canal to-day. The complete elimination of the
last case of yellow fever has made entirely harmless the mosquito carriers
where they occasionally appear on the Isthmus. The best test of the work
of the Sanitary Department is the fact that the Zone and terminal cities
have remained clean and that there is no indication of relapse. Before
work could begin, a whole system of transportation had to be organized, a
steamer line put into operation, and an immense purchasing department
gotten into working order. Before men could be brought to the Isthmus to
do the work some provision had to be made for housing and feeding, and the
question of materials, supplies, food, fuel, recreation, and education was
no small matter.

To dig the Canal required not only engineers and officials, but an army of
common laborers, and the labor question was not easy. The Panamanian might
have dug the Canal, but he did not do it; he did not want to do it, and
the probability is that he never could have done it. Employers on the Zone
refused to hire Panamanians for Canal work.

Chinese coolies might have been imported from Canton or Amoy, but Panama
is a long way from southern China and still further from India, and no
intelligent man ever seriously proposed importing Hindus. If enough
Panamanian Indians could have been found, they might have done the work,
but the native Indian is a very uncertain and fragmentary factor of life
on the Isthmus.

At this juncture the West Indian filled the breach and supplied the labor
for the job. Up to forty-five thousand of them were employed at one time,
and with the ebb and flow of the human tide between the Isthmus and the
Caribbean Islands several times that number came to the Isthmus. Somebody
else _might_ have supplied the labor, but the fact is West Indian _did_ do
the work, and at least deserves proper recognition therefor.

The problems of suitable construction machinery were in a way simple.
Given a definite task, it remained to devise mechanical means to meet the
conditions. In practice, however, the case was not so simple as this
sounds, and some very difficult knots were untangled before the work was
well under way. Some of the old French machinery was used clear through
the construction period, but the jungle was sown with scrap iron of the
old French equipment that has only recently been removed.

The electrical and mechanical equipment for the operation of the locks is
a marvel of adaptation and invention and nothing short of a technical
description can do the subject justice. To see the locks in operation is
to wonder at the mechanical contrivances which seem almost intelligent,
and some of the design work is the result of real genius.

Of engineering problems, proper, it is better to let the engineer speak
with intelligence, but any layman can stand on Gold Hill and by vigorous
use of the imagination see something of the tremendous work that has been
done since the first shovelful of earth was turned on that New Year's Day
in 1880. Whether the French engineers anticipated landslides at Culebra is
not clear, but the American engineers knew from the start that the porous
soil would cave in more or less at that point. What it actually did do
surpassed the expectations of those who surveyed the work. When the banks
began to cave north of Gold Hill the surrounding country got the idea and
followed suit so fast that it looked as though the ten-mile strip would
all be needed.


I spent a day in the big cut in January, 1917, and noted the rapid crumble
of the historic bank at this troubled point. The following night the
channel filled up for a length of eight hundred feet and shipping was
suspended. Then the dredgers went at it hammer and tongs, and in three
days and nights they had cleared a channel through that enormous mass of
material and on the fourth day ships were again passing in safety. It was
a fine illustration of the way dirt was made to fly in the old days.

Some otherwise intelligent people have utterly failed to comprehend the
size of the task involved in the mere digging of the Canal. One high
official advocated the cure of slides by digging back a mile on each side
of the bank. Verily, he knew not what he said, and a member of Congress on
visiting the Canal reported that he was still in favor of a sea-level
route. Competent engineers assured him that to construct a sea-level canal
from ocean to ocean would require at least fifty years of continuous
labor. The wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt's ideas has been forever
vindicated by experience. Some practical man has said that no man can know
how great is the task of making the earth until he tries to move a little
of it. The congressman needed a little pick-and-shovel experience.

Administrative problems are not especially acute on the Zone, but the
completed task gives room for a world of appreciation of the general
efficiency with which the whole work was carried out, and the
smooth-running machinery of the executive to-day attests the thoroughness
with which the departmental system was organized and initiated by the men
whose names will always be associated with the work. The task of operating
the Canal to-day would not be very great, nor would it require a very
large army of employees, but without any preconceived plan various related
industries to the number of six or seven have grown up about the Canal
administration and operation, and the Canal Zone government to-day is
doing a number of things never contemplated in the original plans. The
routing of ships is directly connected with the coal supply, and a great
coaling plant stands at Cristobal. A large cold storage plant makes
possible the supplying of refrigerated goods to shipping countries. While
the trans-shipping business at Colon is yet in its infancy, the docks
there are already a very considerable factor in Canal activities.
Sanitation and public health, of course, require a trained force of
specialists. The Canal employees must eat, and the commissary hotel and
restaurant are a very important branch of the service. The quartermaster
looks after the housing problem, and where there are five thousand
Americans, most of them living with families, the educational problem
necessitates a department by itself. The Balboa Docks employ hundreds of
men at high wages.

In connection with the food problem come the large farming operations
conducted on the Canal Zone. An army of laborers is employed, and the
proceeds of the plantations and poultry yards is sold through the
commissary's stores.

From the beginning much attention has been paid to the social life and
recreation needs of these exiles from home. A chain of government
clubhouses runs across the Isthmus, one in each town, where reading rooms,
games, gymnasiums, refreshment counters, discussion clubs, concerts,
dances, cigar stores, and motion-picture programs are provided for young
and old. During the dry season baseball is widely indulged in and plays an
important part in the social and recreational life of the Zone.


Next to the "spotless town" features of the Zone the visitor is impressed
by the smooth-running system through which everything is done. There may
be officials who are grouchy and will not take time to answer questions,
but I have never met one. The routine of operation and maintenance has
succeeded the drive of construction days when Governor Goethals
established the famous open house on Sunday morning and received anybody
who had anything to say to him. The last black laborer could see the
governor if he wished, and many of them did so. The public-be-hanged
attitude of occasional small executives in the States is delightfully
absent. The machinery of administration outwardly works as smoothly as do
the great gates of the locks. On the inner circle there are, of course,
problems and sometimes personalities, but they rarely escape from the
closets where ghosts are supposed to remain.

[Illustration: FAT CATTLE OF COCLÉ]

When the visitor begins to look about and beyond the Canal he becomes
aware of the conquered wilderness. Where once was dense and impassable
jungle now sweep smooth and verdant hills. One-time fever swamps are now
drained meadows, and the never-failing drip from the sanitary oil barrel
induces a very high mortality among the mosquitoes. Broad acres of rich
jungle lands have been cleared and are now model farms. Over the
grassgrown hills wander thousands of fat cattle, increasing in number
every year. The jungle of the Canal Zone is a very tame and conquered
jungle. The real article lies beyond the line where there is plenty.

It was once thought that the best thing to do with the jungle was to let
it run wild after its kind, as a barrier to invasion. A little
experimenting proved that an army could cut its way through the jungle so
fast that the brush was nothing more than a screen for the advance of the

If the visitor stays long enough and gets close enough, he will learn of
things which might have been done differently on a second trial, but
regulation and adjustment have pretty well cleared up the points in
question, and, taking it all through, the Canal is as satisfactory and
complete a job as the world has ever seen.

The Americans who live on the Zone are an interesting social experiment
without knowing it. They form one of the unique communities of the world.
Somebody has said that the Zone situation is described by the word
"suburban," but that does not express it. Every man lives in a
government-furnished house, rent free. Free also is his electric light and
a ration of fuel for cooking. Ice is so cheap that it is practically free.
He buys everything that he eats and wears in the commissary's stores,
where goods are sold to him at cost. So they are--at what they cost _him_.
Prices now do not differ materially from retail figures in the States on
the same goods. If housekeeping tires, there are the commissary
restaurants, clean and wholesome, always available for good meals at
reasonable prices. Good schools are furnished free, of course, for the
children. There is a free dispensary where all minor ailments are treated
and medicine furnished free. The government hospitals are among the best
in the world, and employees' rates are less than the cost of living at
home. The Zone man is under Civil Service rules, receives a generous
vacation, with a steamer rate to New York so low that it covers little
more than his meals en route. The scale of his wages is based on an
increase of twenty per cent over the pay for the same class of service in
the United States. Cheap household service abounds and is about as
satisfactory as household service is anywhere. If he is lonesome, the
government clubhouse, with its community life, good recreation, and
well-stocked reading room, is always open to him practically without cost;
and if he gets tired of the Zone, there is always Panama and the interior
country with its never-failing places of interest and exploration.

Here are all the advantages of the socialized state and no workingmen or
clerks in all the world are so well paid, or taken care of, as these
Americans on the Zone. It is a fine, efficient piece of provision for the
men who do the work. Therefore the Zone dweller should be a satisfied and
happy man, dreading nothing but the day when he must return to the States.


In practice, however, the American on the Canal Zone is not so contented
as the external features of his lot would lead one to suppose. There is an
undercurrent of petty complaint, directed at everything in general, and
indicative of a state of mind as much as of actual evils existent. These
complaints are the results of too much community life without room for
individual ownership or initiative. The followers of Bellamy should come
to the Zone and stay long enough to get a few pointers.

The trouble is that there is necessarily much of uniformity of housing,
commissary, social, and living conditions. The American people are, after
all, strong individualists, and every man likes to have something that is
distinctively his own.

When people work all day together, play ball together till meal time, all
eat the same things at the same price from the same store, on exactly
similar tables, with identical dishes; when they go to the movies together
and walk home down the same street together and sleep in houses and beds
all alike, they sometimes develop cases of nerves.

On the testimony of one of the efficient medical men of the Zone a lot of
nervousness disappeared when war work absorbed the attention and energies
of the patriotic Americans, who enthusiastically devoted their spare time
to various forms of win-the-war industry.

The problem of raising children on the Zone is admittedly beset with
difficulties. Health conditions are good enough, but many people are prone
to regard life on the Zone as a general vacation from the standards and
disciplines of the homeland, and children are often allowed to do very
much as they please. Many families employ a servant, and there is no
economic need for children doing any useful act of work. An unusual degree
of irresponsibility results. "It will be time enough to correct them when
we get back to the States," is a common remark.

Of course there are many families where the highest ideals are earnestly
maintained, and no more faithful fathers and mothers may be found anywhere
than here in this colony of voluntary exiles. But American life on the
Canal Zone is at present apt to be regarded more as a vacation experience
than as a serious attempt to face the whole problem of living.

Moral and religious safeguards are not absent. The early plan of providing
government-paid chaplains ended with construction days, and under the
leadership of a group of farsighted laymen the Union Church of the Canal
Zone was organized in February, 1914. All Protestant denominations except
two now cooperate with this piece of ecclesiastical statesmanship. A
centralized organization maintains work in all the civilian "gold" towns
along the Canal, employing four pastors, who must be ordained men of
evangelical churches. This Union Church does not regard itself as a
denomination but as a federation for Christian service. No attempt is made
to establish a doctrinal position, and members are not asked to sever
their relations with their home churches. The excellent results attained
under this management speak volumes for the wisdom of the plan and the
earnestness and ability of the men who have fostered the enterprise from
the start. The Union Church has devoted its benevolent moneys to opening a
mission station at David in Western Panama, in cooperation with the Panama
Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Morally, the Canal Zone is as clean as any place on earth. The improvement
of moral conditions in Colon and Panama has done much to make the lives of
Americans wholesome and to decrease the dangers to childhood that have
existed in the past. There will always be Americans on the Canal Zone, and
a few of them will exercise the great American prerogative of speaking
their minds, but most of them will be better off here than at any other
time in their lives.



Many prophets have taken in hand to tell us what the Panama Canal is to
bring forth in its commercial, social, political, geographical, and
educational results for the world. Probably no world-event has ever had so
much advance advertising as this much written-up achievement. Great as is
the Canal, it came near being outshone in brilliancy by the publicity
material sent out by journalists who found the subject to be profitable

In the main, the prophets were right. The world war postponed the arrival
of some of the promised results, but it also enlarged the importance of
the Canal and assured more extensive and far-reaching effects than could
have been prophesied before the war began. It is now certain that we are
to have a new and more closely united America than was formerly possible,
and that the drawing together of the two Americas has been greatly
accelerated by the world vindication of democracy. In this closer
brotherhood of all Americans the Canal will play a large and important

Just how far the stream of influences will flow cannot be told, but it is
within the moderate possibilities to say that every country in the world
will be affected by the changes due to the new waterway. The French
originators of the first project saw an opportunity for commercial
investment and hoped to make good dividends from the venture. They did not
much concern themselves with by-products. The Americans who planned and
pushed and persevered until the work was again begun were thinking of
commercial and naval results, evident enough, but they could not have
foreseen the far consequences to follow, nor could they have known that on
the Canal Zone five or six related industries were to spring up under
management of the Canal Commission. It is now about as difficult to
predict the world-wide effects of the Canal factor as it would have been
in 1903 to foresee the related industries of the present situation.

Shortening of trade routes is the first and obvious consideration.
Everything else grows out of the elimination of distances by the Canal
cut-off. It requires no prophetic gift to take the figures from any good
map and ascertain that from New York to San Francisco via Magellan is
13,135 miles, whereas via Panama it is 5,262--a saving of 7,873 miles, or
a month of steady steaming. Between New York and Honolulu there is a
saving of 6,610 miles; and Yokohama is 2,768 miles nearer New York via
Panama than by the Suez route. The list of distances saved may be
indefinitely extended.


If there were no results other than the saving of a week or a month of
steamer time, the Canal would be cheap at several times its price. But
these changes in steamer schedules and prices introduce an entirely new
set of reactions into the commercial and social world, and this is where
the interesting problems arise. Left to herself, nature tends to establish
a balance of flora or fauna in any locality. Introduce a new plant or
animal or microbe and all sorts of readjustments begin at once, and before
a new balance is established almost anything may happen. Commerce finds
its level in much the same way and by the same law. Introduce a radical
disturbance, like the Panama short-cut, and everything begins to happen.
Add the direct and indirect results of the war with its weakening of
German influence and strengthening of inter-American interests, and we may
have practically a new world before a new balance is established.

Commercial interests naturally forge to the front in any discussion of
canal results. So ably have these matters been discussed by experts that
any repetition of figures and industries here would be beyond the scope of
this work.

It must be understood that the world war rendered obsolete our former
ideas regarding trade between the United States and Spanish-America.
Whether the extensive German political-commercial machine that covered all
Latin-America can regain its prestige in fifty years to come remains to be
seen, but it is certain that for a generation following the defeat of
Germany by the free nations of the world North America will have a
magnificent opportunity to enter South American trade on very advantageous
terms. And the great bulk of the west-coast trade will pass through the
Canal on its way to Gulf and Atlantic ports, as well as to Europe.

The completion of the Panama Canal may be set down as the date of the
discovery of Latin-America by the people of the United States. Previous to
that date the North Americans were aware enough of the Monroe Doctrine,
but almost unaware of the lives and interests of the nations living south
of the Rio Grande River. With the opening of the Canal the North Americans
began thinking south, and so far as the process has gone it has been very
informing. Once the war is out of the way, the process will be greatly
accelerated. With uninterrupted commercial conditions, five years of the
expanded life due to the Canal will be about equal to sending the whole
people back to school for a year. The cultural and geographical values of
this new zone of thinking have hardly been felt as yet, but now that the
attention of the world is released from the battlefields of Europe and the
enormous social and financial problems arising from the expense of making
the world decent once for all, the tide of interest is again turning
southward along the shores of our own great oceans to the mighty events
that await us there.

Spanish-America has twelve republics and eight thousand miles of coast
line on the Pacific ocean. The United States has a Pacific Coast of about
fifteen hundred miles. The eight thousand miles marks the western
boundaries of lands enormously rich in things that the world needs, but
exceedingly poor in finished products or adequate growth. Probably no
country on earth shows a wider margin to-day between present raw resources
and possible high developments than these same twelve Spanish-speaking
countries. The only analogy that bears on the case is that of the rapid
and extensive advancement of the Pacific States after the completion of
the transcontinental railroads. There is reason to believe that a similar
record of progress awaits the west coast of South America.

The combined foreign trade of the west-coast republics before the war
reached the very respectable total of nearly one billion of gold dollars
in a single year. There are commercial prophets who believe that within
ten years from the completion of demobilization this volume of trade may
be doubled. This means new markets, new industries, new development of
mines, markets, manufactures, and agriculture, new colonization projects
and a score of other unpredictable results. No less an authority than Mr.
John L. Barrett says, "I believe that the Panama Canal will initiate in
all South American countries a genuine movement which will have a most
important bearing on the commerce and civilization of the world."

An immense amount of iron lies buried in the mountains of the west coast.
Not much has ever been done about it. But enormous quantities of ore have
been destroyed by the processes of war, and South American iron may come
to high values sooner than its owners have supposed.

It is only recently that consideration has been given to the idea of
establishing in connection with the Canal a great commercial
trans-shipping point. Colon is yet a little town, mostly West Indian
to-day, but already the Cristobal docks are piled high with South American
products awaiting reshipment. The proposed establishment of a free port at
Colon may yet result in a western Hongkong where the commerce of the seven
seas comes together to be distributed to the five continents. Whatever
might have been the results had there been no war, it is now sure that
everything that happens in South America has henceforth a very definite
significance for the United States. Whether we like it or not, we are out
of our exclusive dooryard and will have to take our place on the great
national street named America and play the game with our neighbors.

For decades past Central America has been an unknown land to the United
States. We have contentedly supposed that the only crop was that of
revolutions and the only resources a few jungle fruits. But at last we are
discovering Central America, and some of us are astonished to there find
vast areas, fertile soils, varied and valuable products, intelligent
peoples, a volume of commerce and climate fit for Eden. We knew little and
cared less about Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and
Panama; and since the bulk of trade of these lands was with Europe, they
paid little attention to us. Why should they do otherwise?

The presence of the United States on the Isthmus of Panama introduces a
new factor into the American tropics. It looks very small and
insignificant, that little ten-mile strip with the influence in Panamanian
affairs, but how far the North American influence is going to reach out
beyond the Zone limits cannot be known. Everybody is watching the results
for revolution-proof, permanently peaceful Panama, and there are other
countries not far away where there are people who are praying for
something like it, or just-as-good, for themselves. Doubtless their
prayers will not be answered directly but the influence of this leaven may
work out into a wide circle and instigate movements that we have not
counted upon.

[Illustration: A JUNGLE CATHEDRAL]

But the largest factor in the new American situation grows out of the new
world-emphasis on the Golden Rule. At last the world understands as never
before how finally determinative is the moral and spiritual factor in all
human progress. We may never know just how much the world had paid to
clear away the rubbish of autocracy and found the new age on the principle
of a square deal for great and small; but the deed is done, and henceforth
the one compelling sanction in all life must be the essential principle
for which the Allies have spent their treasure and spilled their blood.
The new internationalism will underlie all further development of
relations between the two Americas, which opens a new world of social
discovery and growth as fascinating as that which Columbus found in the
physical surface of the globe.

The greater results of the closer fellowship of North and South America
will be registered in the realms of mind and spirit. Trade balances and
stock dividends there will be, but back of and beyond these will rise the
new American spirit, uniting the finest courtesy and artistic temperament
of the Latin with the practical initiative and efficient vigor of the
blend of blood in the United States. There is no gulf, great or small,
fixed between the two races. Each has something that the other needs, and
close fellowship will result in new race sympathy and mutual advantage.

To ignore this basis of development is to forget that cold commercialism
will in time chill the fervor of friendships and alienate the growing
sympathy of nations. If we are to have no interest in our neighbors other
than the profits we may make from their trade, we will soon cease to be
friends and become bitter rivals at the big game of getting all we can.

It takes two to play the game of reciprocal commercial success. If we
succeed on the great international chess board, it will be not by shrewd
defeat of our friends but by the coming to maturity of a high sense of
honor and fair play on both sides. It is not one of us against the other,
but both of us together against the normal difficulties of growth and

One of the native leaders of Latin-American life has explained that South
America was unfortunate in the character of the founders of her national
institutions. Adventurers, explorers for gain, greedy conquistadores made
the beginnings here, and the moral foundations were laid by religious
leaders who traveled with pirates and plunderers and officially blessed
their every act of crime. And from the beginning until now the type of
religion that has prevailed in Latin-America has not assisted in the
building up of free institutions, nor has it produced a high morality
among the people.

The South American struggle for self-government and free ideals has been a
long, bloody, and heroic grapple with the reactionary and despotic forces
brought over from mediæval Europe. Men like San Martin and Bolivar deserve
high honor for their work in breaking the bondage that held all life
helpless. One by one the colonies threw off their political yokes and
became republics, every one of them, in theory, modeled after the United
States. The passion of the South American patriot has been home-rule, but,
unfortunately, home-rule has not always meant self-government. That is
quite a different matter. The overthrow of European despotisms was
followed by innumerable internal revolutions. Panama had no monopoly on
internal dissensions, and makes no claim that her fifty-three revolutions
in fifty-seven years is the high-water mark of insurrections for South or
Central America.

In short, the mere overthrow of a despotic government does not assure
stable political institutions nor efficient administration of public
affairs. Good government by popular sovereignty is something far more
fundamental than a matter of printed constitutions or shouting "Viva
independencia!" in the plazas. Without moral responsibility and free
consciences there can never be a successful democracy on earth.

Free institutions and free consciences are winning out in South America,
but it is in spite of the established church and not because of it. It is
not politically a question of religion that we are discussing; it is a
matter of organized, crafty, and unscrupulous opposition to every movement
that makes for the development of democracy in South America. And since
the establishment of a better understanding and closer fellowship between
the two continents depends upon this very basis of free and morally
responsible social and political leaders, the question is most vital.
Everywhere there are a few intelligent, earnest men working away patiently
and steadily at the problem of making South America democratic by making
her people free to adopt with intelligence democratic institutions. One by
one the nations have declared for freedom of worship and conscience, and,
last of all, Peru, robbed and despoiled Peru of the conquest,
priest-ridden and fanatical Peru, threw off the galling yoke of spiritual
bondage and divorced church and state. It seems simple enough to read
about it here, but at every step of the way the old church left unturned
no stone of bigotry and intrigue and prejudice that could oppose the
coming of the modern age to Peru.

The supreme tragedy of South American life has been that the light that
has been in her has been darkness. The spiritual leaders of the people
have themselves opposed all progress toward the light. Until a spiritual
leadership arises that will at least support aggressive and progressive
movements toward freedom and democracy and moral uplift, slow progress
will be made. And this matter concerns the whole American world. These are
now our next-door neighbors, and their children will yet be playing in our

The surprising thing is that so much has already been accomplished with a
millstone tied about the neck of all progressive movements. No finer
tribute could be paid to the high ideals and large possibilities of South
American character than a recital of the results accomplished by her
intellectual and moral leaders in the face of enormous handicaps.

The thinking minds of these southern republics are almost without a
religion to-day. Long since have they ceased to give even passive assent
to the demands of the commercial hierarchy that claims spiritual monopoly
over the souls of man. Technical outward conformity to the requirements of
the church may be a political advantage or a domestic convenience, but as
a principle of life and foundation for thought the intellectuals are
frankly agnostic. Man after man, when once confidence is gained, will
state that they do not believe in the claims of the church, and usually
have ceased to believe in anything at all--and these are the leaders of
the intellectual life of the nations with which we are to deal. And what
are they to do? No adequate substitute do they know, and until an open
Bible and a living Christ take the place of the mummery and the crucifix
we cannot denounce their course. Their intellectual nonconformity is to
their credit.

The final problem is that of developing people fit to live with, not
mental and moral slaves under the dominance of superstition and
intolerance. Back of the cry for wider and richer trade routes is the need
of responsible men with whom we may transact business. More than shorter
shipping line, we need better shippers, north and south. Underneath vast
projects of material advancement lie all the social and industrial
problems of labor and wages and exchange and credits and fidelity to
contracts and personal honor. And above all this is the need of honesty
and efficiency and a personal faith in a living God who knows and cares
and takes account of what we do, of what we are, and is not to be bought
off by a check or an incantation.

[Illustration: SHOE-BILLS ARE SMALL]

What the bigger American world needs is bigger and better Americans, Latin
and Saxon. If the influences released by the Panama Canal help to produce
these citizens of the larger horizon, one of the greatest services
possible will be rendered to humanity. But the larger horizon is
conditioned upon a larger hope that flows from the mountain of the more
abundant life. And the Americans of the northland need the broader basis
and vision and character as much as their southern neighbors.

What really has the Panama Canal to do with all this? Much every way, but
chiefly as a key for the unlocking of the long-closed doors and the
releasing of long-latent forces of international relations in trade and in
social and spiritual life. Should a great working example of educational
and social and spiritual life be established at Panama by some concerted
action of united Protestantism, the influence of the principles there
promulgated by progressive and devout men would extend over a very wide
range of Latin life. The procession that now passes through Panama will be
doubled and trebled in the coming decades, and what is planted here will
spread everywhere. "I saw it so done in Panama," may become the precedent
for almost anything new, whether good or bad.

The influence of such institutions in the City of Panama will be more
far-reaching than if located on the Canal Zone. The Zone is wholly North
American; Panama is thoroughly Latin. The institutions of the Zone are
those of the United States and are looked on somewhat askance by Latin
visitors. It is all very great and imposing, but it is so radically
different in spirit and method, that points of close contact are hard to
establish. Panama is a different matter. Whatever is done there by
Spanish-speaking people will be visited and viewed with sympathetic
interest and appreciation.

The heart of living faith that is to impress its throb on this blood
stream of Latin life must not be an imported made-in-the-States
institution, or it will be but an ineffectual flutter. Likewise it must be
something more comprehensive than the traditional schedule of occasional
gatherings of the faithful, important as these will be. To do this work
there needs be an interpretation of the Christian message that will relate
itself to a very wide circle of human life and interests. Through native
leadership and examples must be spoken a message that will compel
attention and challenge the minds as well as the hearts of men. A living
interpretation of a spiritual passion, a social service program with a
heart in it, an educational work that will not only teach the curriculum
but develop moral character, and intellectual propaganda of good
literature, a physical gospel of health and exercise, a recreational life
clean and wholesome, a personal moral standard of the New Testament
grade--these are what are needed in Panama and, broadly speaking,
everywhere else in Latin-America. Once established here they will be felt
over a wide reach of the southern world.

There is a lot of cheap and easy optimism that maintains that all will yet
be well in some indefinite way. Some hopeful tourists have visited Panama
and taken the trip about South America, apparently seeing nothing but the
rainbow of promise everywhere. And these happy pilgrims have written
books, assuring us with a maximum of glittering generalities that right is
everywhere driving out wrong and that all will soon be well. Other writers
assume this attitude consciously, out of regard for the interests that pay
their expenses on the trip. Some people write in glowing terms from
motives of consideration for the feelings of their South American friends.
Would that we might tell only the bright sight of the story! It would be
far more pleasant.

But, after all, the facts are the irreducible minimum upon which to build
all successful programs of reconstruction. Only when we reach the inner
and deeper springs of life and character can we hope to open fountains of
living waters for the desert of the human heart in bondage. Really to know
Latin-America is to believe in its high and fine possibilities. What
Latin-America needs is a fair chance.

The end of the last great despotism of earth has left democracy a
triumphant political principle in human government. Henceforth no nation
may hope to keep step with the advance of mankind unless its political
procedures are essentially democratic. And while South America has long
had the form of democracy, it now becomes essential that her republics
develop the working reality of effective self-government. To do this two
things are indispensable. The successful democracy must be intelligent and
must find a moral foundation in the free consciences and minds of
self-disciplined citizens. Spiritual despotisms and religious
superstitions never did and never will eventuate in a capacity for
democracy. Only men who are intelligently free can exercise the functions
of free governments.

The only working basis of democracy, in short, is that system of religious
ideals which has uniformly supported popular education, championed the
rights of the oppressed, advocated self-government, welcomed
investigation, and maintained freedom of conscience as of higher value
than iron-bound uniformity to prescribed standards. It requires but a
cursory glance at the record of history to know that no working democracy
has ever survived the opposition of an ecclesiastical hierarchy that has
remained the bitter foe of progress for a thousand years.

There is more hope for Panama in the little Protestant chapel down by the
Malecon and the efficient and modern school maintained there by the force
of missionaries with their progressive ideals than in all the pageantry
and glitter of a system of repression and despotism that the world is
rapidly outgrowing. The religious Hun will take his place with the deposed
political despot who proposed to destroy the liberties of mankind. The
most urgent need of the mission work in Panama just now is that of trained
and efficient Latin leadership. No people can be effectively lifted from

A century ago nearly the whole of the southern world was in the throes of
political readjustment. Self-government and political freedom were the
watchwords and everywhere strong men arose and devoted their lives to the
task of breaking from the necks of the people the political yokes under
which they had staggered for two and one half centuries.

To-day in Latin-America the second great struggle for freedom is under
way. Bound minds and consciences, superstitions and moral
despotisms--these are the stumbling-stones across the pathway of progress.
All over Latin-America men are rising and enlisting their hearts and minds
in the struggle for free consciences and independent judgment in the
things of the Spirit. Nearly all these countries achieved political
independence within a few years. When the climax came it was comparatively
sudden, and it may be that the breaking of the chains of moral and
spiritual despotisms will likewise be a shorter struggle than now seems
possible. Once again the clock is striking, and who knows but the end of
political despotism in all the earth may mark the rapid approach of
spiritual democracy and highest liberty in all America!

Heroic has been the long struggle in Latin-America for self-government.
Splendid is the fight being made to-day for larger liberty. If
Pan-Americanism means anything at all, it means a social foundation in
honor and intelligence and brotherhood. It is time to address ourselves to
the great unfinished task begun by those intrepid pioneers. The Canal is
finished and the task of construction is done, but the end of construction
is the beginning of empire-building for the larger task yet incomplete.

Transcriber's Note: All apparent printer's errors retained. Formatting
transcribed as close as possible to original book.

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