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Title: Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, During the Year 1799-1804 — Volume 3
Author: Humboldt, Alexander von, 1769-1859, Bonpland, Aimé, 1773-1858
Language: English
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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.

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The longitudes mentioned in the text refer always to the meridian of
the Observatory of Paris.

The real is about 6 1/2 English pence.

The agrarian measure, called caballeria, is eighteen cordels, (each
cordel includes twenty-four varas) or 432 square varas; consequently,
as 1 vara = 0.835m., according to Rodriguez, a caballeria is 186,624
square varas, or 130,118 square metres, or thirty-two and two-tenths
English acres.

20 leagues to a degree.

5000 varas = 4150 metres.

3403 square toises = 1.29 hectare.

An acre = 4044 square metres.

Five hundred acres = fifteen and a half caballerias.

Sugar-houses are thought to be very considerable that yield 2000 cases
annually, or 32,000 arrobas (nearly 368,000 kilogrammes.)

An arroba of 25 Spanish pounds = 11.49 kilogrammes.

A quintal = 45.97 kilogrammes.

A tarea of wood = one hundred and sixty cubic feet.

























I shall commence this chapter by a description of Spanish Guiana
(Provincia de la Guyana), which is a part of the ancient Capitania
general of Caracas. Since the end of the sixteenth century three towns
have successively borne the name of St. Thomas of Guiana. The first
was situated opposite to the island of Faxardo, at the confluence of
the Carony and the Orinoco, and was destroyed* by the Dutch, under the
command of Captain Adrian Janson, in 1579. (* The first of the voyages
undertaken at Raleigh's expense was in 1595; the second, that of
Laurence Keymis, in 1596; the third, described by Thomas Masham, in
1597; and the fourth, in 1617. The first and last only were performed
by Raleigh in person. This celebrated man was beheaded on October the
29th, 1618. It is therefore the second town of Santo Tomas, now called
Vieja Guyana, which existed in the time of Raleigh.) The second,
founded by Antonio de Berrio in 1591, near twelve leagues east of the
mouth of the Carony, made a courageous resistance to Sir Walter
Raleigh, whom the Spanish writers of the conquest know only by the
name of the pirate Reali. The third town, now the capital of the
province, is fifty leagues west of the confluence of the Carony. It
was begun in 1764, under the Governor Don Joacquin Moreno de Mendoza,
and is distinguished in the public documents from the second town,
vulgarly called the fortress (el castillo, las fortalezas), or Old
Guayana (Vieja Guayana), by the name of Santo Thome de la Nueva
Guayana. This name being very long, that of Angostura* (the strait)
has been commonly substituted for it. (* Europe has learnt the
existence of the town of Angostura by the trade carried on by the
Catalonians in the Carony bark, which is the beneficial bark of the
Bonplanda trifoliata. This bark, coming from Nueva Guiana, was called
corteza or cascarilla del Angostura (Cortex Angosturae). Botanists so
little guessed the origin of this geographical denomination that they
began by writing Augustura, and then Augusta.)

Angostura, the longitude and latitude of which I have already
indicated from astronomical observations, stands at the foot of a hill
of amphibolic schist* bare of vegetation. (* Hornblendschiefer.) The
streets are regular, and for the most part parallel with the course of
the river. Several of the houses are built on the bare rock; and here,
as at Carichana, and in many other parts of the missions, the action
of black and strong strata, when strongly heated by the rays of the
sun upon the atmosphere, is considered injurious to health. I think
the small pools of stagnant water (lagunas y anegadizos), which extend
behind the town in the direction of south-east, are more to be feared.
The houses of Angostura are lofty and convenient; they are for the
most part built of stone; which proves that the inhabitants have but
little dread of earthquakes. But unhappily this security is not
founded on induction from any precise data. It is true that the shore
of Nueva Andalusia sometimes undergoes very violent shocks, without
the commotion being propagated across the Llanos. The fatal
catastrophe of Cumana, on the 4th of February, 1797, was not felt at
Angostura; but in the great earthquake of 1766, which destroyed the
same city, the granitic soil of the two banks of the Orinoco was
agitated as far as the Raudales of Atures and Maypures. South of these
Raudales shocks are sometimes felt, which are confined to the basin of
the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro. They appear to depend on a
volcanic focus distant from that of the Caribbee Islands. We were told
by the missionaries at Javita and San Fernando de Atabapo that in 1798
violent earthquakes took place between the Guaviare and the Rio Negro,
which were not propagated on the north towards Maypures. We cannot be
sufficiently attentive to whatever relates to the simultaneity of the
oscillations, and to the independence of the movements in contiguous
ground. Everything seems to prove that the propagation of the
commotion is not superficial, but depends on very deep crevices that
terminate in different centres of action.

The scenery around the town of Angostura is little varied; but the
view of the river, which forms a vast canal, stretching from
south-west to north-east, is singularly majestic.

When the waters are high, the river inundates the quays; and it
sometimes happens that, even in the town, imprudent persons become the
prey of crocodiles. I shall transcribe from my journal a fact that
took place during M. Bonpland's illness. A Guaykeri Indian, from the
island of La Margareta, was anchoring his canoe in a cove where there
were not three feet of water. A very fierce crocodile, which
habitually haunted that spot, seized him by the leg, and withdrew from
the shore, remaining on the surface of the water. The cries of the
Indian drew together a crowd of spectators. This unfortunate man was
first seen seeking, with astonishing presence of mind, for a knife
which he had in his pocket. Not being able to find it, he seized the
head of the crocodile and thrust his fingers into its eyes. No man in
the hot regions of America is ignorant that this carnivorous reptile,
covered with a buckler of hard and dry scales, is extremely sensitive
in the only parts of his body which are soft and unprotected, such as
the eyes, the hollow underneath the shoulders, the nostrils, and
beneath the lower jaw, where there are two glands of musk. The
Guaykeri Indian was less fortunate than the negro of Mungo Park, and
the girl of Uritucu, whom I mentioned in a former part of this work,
for the crocodile did not open its jaws and lose hold of its prey. The
animal, overcome by pain, plunged to the bottom of the river, and,
after having drowned the Indian, came up to the surface of the water,
dragging the dead body to an island opposite the port. A great number
of the inhabitants of Angostura witnessed this melancholy spectacle.

The crocodile, owing to the structure of its larynx, of the hyoidal
bone, and of the folds of its tongue, can seize, though not swallow,
its prey under water; thus when a man disappears, the animal is
usually perceived some hours after devouring its prey on a
neighbouring beach. The number of individuals who perish annually, the
victims of their own imprudence and of the ferocity of these reptiles,
is much greater than is believed in Europe. It is particularly so in
villages where the neighbouring grounds are often inundated. The same
crocodiles remain long in the same places. They become from year to
year more daring, especially, as the Indians assert, if they have once
tasted of human flesh. These animals are so wary, that they are killed
with difficulty. A ball does not pierce their skin; and the shot is
only mortal when it penetrates the throat or a part beneath the
shoulder. The Indians, who know little of the use of fire-arms, attack
the crocodile with lances, after the animal has been caught with large
pointed iron hooks, baited with pieces of meat, and fastened by a
chain to the trunk of a tree. They do not approach the animal till it
has struggled a long time to disengage itself from the iron fixed in
the upper jaw. There is little probability that a country in which a
labyrinth of rivers without number brings every day new bands of
crocodiles from the eastern back of the Andes, by the Meta and the
Apure, toward the coast of Spanish Guiana, should ever be delivered
from these reptiles. All that will be gained by civilization will be
to render them more timid and more easily put to flight.

Affecting instances are related of African slaves, who have exposed
their lives to save those of their masters, who had fallen into the
jaws of a crocodile. A few years ago, between Uritucu and the Mission
de Abaxo, a negro, hearing the cries of his master, flew to the spot,
armed with a long knife (machete), and plunged into the river. He
forced the crocodile, by putting out his eyes, to let go his prey and
to plunge under the water. The slave bore his expiring master to the
shore; but all succour was unavailing to restore him to life. He had
died of suffocation, for his wounds were not deep. The crocodile, like
the dog, appears not to close its jaws firmly while swimming.

The inhabitants of the banks of the Orinoco and its tributary streams
discourse continually on the dangers to which they are exposed. They
have marked the manners of the crocodile, as the torero has studied
the manners of the bull. When they are assailed, they put in practice,
with that presence of mind and that resignation which characterize the
Indians, the Zamboes, and copper-coloured men in general, the counsels
they have heard from their infancy. In countries where nature is so
powerful and so terrible, man is constantly prepared for danger. We
have mentioned before the answer of the young Indian girl, who
delivered herself from the jaws of the crocodile: "I knew he would let
me go if I thrust my fingers into his eyes." This girl belonged to the
indigent class of the people, in whom the habits of physical want
augment energy of character; but how can we avoid being surprised to
observe in the countries convulsed by terrible earthquakes, on the
table-land of the province of Quito, women belonging to the highest
classes of society display in the moment of peril, the same calm, the
same reflecting intrepidity? I shall mention one example only in
support of this assertion. On the 4th of February, 1797, when 35,000
Indians perished in the space of a few minutes, a young mother saved
herself and her children, crying out to them to extend their arms at
the moment when the cracked ground was ready to swallow them up. When
this courageous woman heard the astonishment that was expressed at a
presence of mind so extraordinary, she answered, with great
simplicity, "I had been told in my infancy: if the earthquake surprise
you in a house, place yourself under a doorway that communicates from
one apartment to another; if you be in the open air and feel the
ground opening beneath you, extend both your arms, and try to support
yourself on the edge of the crevice." Thus, in savage regions or in
countries exposed to frequent convulsions, man is prepared to struggle
with the beasts of the forest, to deliver himself from the jaws of the
crocodile, and to escape from the conflict of the elements.

The town of Angostura, in the early years of its foundation, had no
direct communication with the mother-country. The inhabitants were
contented with carrying on a trifling contraband trade in dried meat
and tobacco with the West India Islands, and with the Dutch colony of
Essequibo, by the Rio Carony. Neither wine, oil, nor flour, three
articles of importation the most sought after, was received directly
from Spain. Some merchants, in 1771, sent the first schooner to Cadiz;
and since that period a direct exchange of commodities with the ports
of Andalusia and Catalonia has become extremely active. The population
of Angostura,* after having been a long time languishing, has much
increased since 1785. (* Angostura, or Santo Thome de la Nueva
Guayana, in 1768, had only 500 inhabitants. Caulin page 63. They were
numbered in 1780 and the result was 1513 (455 Whites, 449 Blacks, 363
Mulattoes and Zamboes, and 246 Indians). The population in the year
1789 rose to 4590; and in 1800 to 6600 souls. Official Lists
manuscript. The capital of the English colony of Demerara, the town of
Stabroek, the name of which is scarcely known in Europe, is only fifty
leagues distant, south-east of the mouths of the Orinoco. It contains,
according to Bolingbroke, nearly 10,000 inhabitants.) At the time of
my abode in Guiana, however, it was far from being equal to that of
Stabroek, the nearest English town. The mouths of the Orinoco have an
advantage over every other part in Terra Firma. They afford the most
prompt communications with the Peninsula. The voyage from Cadiz to
Punta Barima is performed sometimes in eighteen or twenty days. The
return to Europe takes from thirty to thirty-five days. These mouths
being placed to windward of all the islands, the vessels of Angostura
can maintain a more advantageous commerce with the West Indies than La
Guayra and Porto Cabello. The merchants of Caracas, therefore, have
been always jealous of the progress of industry in Spanish Guiana; and
Caracas having been hitherto the seat of the supreme government, the
port of Angostura has been treated with still less favour than the
ports of Cumana and Nueva Barcelona. With respect to the inland trade,
the most active is that of the province of Varinas, which sends mules,
cacao, indigo, cotton, and sugar to Angostura; and in return receives
generos, that is, the products of the manufacturing industry of
Europe. I have seen long boats (lanchas) set off, the cargoes of which
were valued at eight or ten thousand piastres. These boats went first
up the Orinoco to Cabruta; then along the Apure to San Vicente; and
finally, on the Rio Santo Domingo, as far as Torunos, which is the
port of Varinas Nuevas. The little town of San Fernando de Apure, of
which I have already given a description, is the magazine of this
river-trade, which might become more considerable by the introduction
of steamboats.

I have now described the country through which we passed during a
voyage of five hundred leagues; it remains for me to make known the
small space of three degrees fifty-two minutes of longitude, that
separates the present capital from the mouth of the Orinoco. Exact
knowledge of the delta and the course of the Rio Carony is at once
interesting to hydrography and to European commerce.

When a vessel coming from sea would enter the principal mouth of the
Orinoco, the Boca de Navios, it should make the land at the Punta
Barima. The right or southern bank is the highest: the granitic rock
pierces the marshy soil at a small distance in the interior, between
the Cano Barima, the Aquire, and the Cuyuni. The left, or northern
bank of the Orinoco, which stretches along the delta towards the Boca
de Mariusas and the Punta Baxa, is very low, and is distinguishable at
a distance only by the clumps of moriche palm-trees which embellish
the passage. This is the sago-tree* of the country (* The nutritious
fecula or medullary flour of the sago-trees is found principally in a
group of palms which M. Kunth has distinguished by the name of
calameae. It is collected, however, in the Indian Archipelago, as an
article of trade, from the trunks of the Cycas revoluta, the Phoenix
farinifera, the Corypha umbraculifera, and the Caryota urens.
(Ainslie, Materia Medica of Hindostan, Madras 1813.)) The quantity of
nutritious matter which the real sago-tree of Asia affords (Sagus
Rumphii, or Metroxylon sagu, Roxb.) exceeds that which is furnished by
any other plant useful to man. One trunk of a tree in its fifteenth
year sometimes yields six hundred pounds weight of sago, or meal (for
the word sago signifies meal in the dialect of Amboyna). Mr. Crawfurd,
who resided a long time in the Indian Archipelago, calculates that an
English acre could contain four hundred and thirty-five sago-trees,
which would yield one hundred and twenty thousand five hundred pounds
avoirdupois of fecula, or more than eight thousand pounds yearly.
History of the Indian Archipelago volume 1 pages 387 and 393. This
produce is triple that of corn, and double that of potatoes in France.
But the plantain produces, on the same surface of land, still more
alimentary substance than the sago-tree.); it yields the flour of
which the yuruma bread is made; and far from being a palm-tree of the
shore, like the Chamaerops humilis, the common cocoa-tree, and the
lodoicea of Commerson, is found as a palm-tree of the marshes as far
as the sources of the Orinoco.* (* I dwell much on these divisions of
the great and fine families of palms according to the distribution of
the species: first, in dry places, or inland plains, Corypha tectorum;
second, on the sea-coast, Chamaerops humilis, Cocos nucifera, Corypha
maritima, Lodoicea seychellarum, Labill.; third, in the fresh-water
marshes, Sagus Rumphii, Mauritia flexuosa; and 4th, in the alpine
regions, between seven and fifteen hundred toises high, Ceroxylon
andicola, Oreodoxa frigida, Kunthia montana. This last group of palmae
montanae, which rises in the Andes of Guanacas nearly to the limit of
perpetual snow, was, I believe, entirely unknown before our travels in
America. (Nov. Gen. volume 1 page 317; Semanario de Santa Fe de Bogota
1819 Number 21 page 163.) In the season of inundations these clumps of
mauritia, with their leaves in the form of a fan, have the appearance
of a forest rising from the bosom of the waters. The navigator, in
proceeding along the channels of the delta of the Orinoco at night,
sees with surprise the summit of the palm-trees illumined by large
fires. These are the habitations of the Guaraons (Tivitivas and
Waraweties of Raleigh* (* The Indian name of the tribe of Uaraus
(Guaraunos of the Spaniards) may be recognized in the Warawety
(Ouarauoty) of Raleigh, one of the branches of the Tivitivas. See
Discovery of Guiana, 1576 page 90 and the sketch of the habitations of
the Guaraons, in Raleghi brevis Descrip. Guianae, 1594 tab 4.)), which
are suspended from the trunks of trees. These tribes hang up mats in
the air, which they fill with earth, and kindle, on a layer of moist
clay, the fire necessary for their household wants. They have owed
their liberty and their political independence for ages to the quaking
and swampy soil, which they pass over in the time of drought, and on
which they alone know how to walk in security to their solitude in the
delta of the Orinoco; to their abode on the trees where religious
enthusiasm will probably never lead any American stylites.* (* This
sect was founded by Simeon Sisanites, a native of Syria. He passed
thirty-seven years in mystic contemplation, on five pillars, the last
of which was thirty-six cubits high. The sancti columnares attempted
to establish their aerial cloisters in the country of Treves, in
Germany; but the bishops opposed these extravagant and perilous
enterprises. Mosheim, Instit. Hist. Eccles page 192. See Humboldt's
Views of Nature (Bohn) pages 13 and 136.) I have already mentioned in
another place that the mauritia palm-tree, the tree of life of the
missionaries, not only affords the Guaraons a safe dwelling during the
risings of the Orinoco, but that its shelly fruit, its farinaceous
pith, its juice, abounding in saccharine matter, and the fibres of its
petioles, furnish them with food, wine,* and thread proper for making
cords and weaving hammocks. (* The use of this moriche wine however is
not very common. The Guaraons prefer in general a beverage of
fermented honey.) These customs of the Indians of the delta of the
Orinoco were found formerly in the Gulf of Darien (Uraba), and in the
greater part of the inundated lands between the Guarapiche and the
mouths of the Amazon. It is curious to observe in the lowest degree of
human civilization the existence of a whole tribe depending on one
single species of palm-tree, similar to those insects which feed on
one and the same flower, or on one and the same part of a plant.

The navigation of the river, whether vessels arrive by the Boca de
Navios, or risk entering the labyrinth of the bocas chicas, requires
various precautions, according as the waters are high or low. The
regularity of these periodical risings of the Orinoco has been long an
object of admiration to travellers, as the overflowings of the Nile
furnished the philosophers of antiquity with a problem difficult to
solve. The Orinoco and the Nile, contrary to the direction of the
Ganges, the Indus, the Rio de la Plata, and the Euphrates, flow alike
from the south toward the north; but the sources of the Orinoco are
five or six degrees nearer to the equator than those of the Nile.
Observing every day the accidental variations of the atmosphere, we
find it difficult to persuade ourselves that in a great space of time
the effects of these variations mutually compensate each other: that
in a long succession of years the averages of the temperature of the
humidity, and of the barometric pressure, differ so little from month
to month; and that nature, notwithstanding the multitude of partial
perturbations, follows a constant type in the series of meteorological
phenomena. Great rivers unite in one receptacle the waters which a
surface of several thousand square leagues receives. However unequal
may be the quantity of rain that falls during several successive
years, in such or such a valley, the swellings of rivers that have a
very long course are little affected by these local variations. The
swellings represent the average of the humidity that reigns in the
whole basin; they follow annually the same progression because their
commencement and their duration depend also on the mean of the
periods, apparently extremely variable, of the beginning and end of
the rains in the different latitudes through which the principal trunk
and its various tributary streams flow. Hence it follows that the
periodical oscillations of rivers are, like the equality of
temperature of caverns and springs, a sensible indication of the
regular distribution of humidity and heat, which takes place from year
to year on a considerable extent of land. They strike the imagination
of the vulgar; as order everywhere astonishes, when we cannot easily
ascend to first causes. Rivers that belong entirely to the torrid zone
display in their periodical movements that wonderful regularity which
is peculiar to a region where the same wind brings almost always
strata of air of the same temperature; and where the change of the sun
in its declination causes every year at the same period a rupture of
equilibrium in the electric intensity, in the cessation of the
breezes, and the commencement of the season of rains. The Orinoco, the
Rio Magdalena, and the Congo or Zaire are the only great rivers of the
equinoctial region of the globe, which, rising near the equator, have
their mouths in a much higher latitude, though still within the
tropics. The Nile and the Rio de la Plata direct their course, in the
two opposite hemispheres, from the torrid zone towards the temperate.*
(* In Asia, the Ganges, the Burrampooter, and the majestic rivers of
Indo-China direct their course towards the equator. The former flow
from the temperate to the torrid zone. This circumstance of courses
pursuing opposite directions (towards the equator, and towards the
temperate climates) has an influence on the period and the height of
the risings, on the nature and variety of the productions on the banks
of the rivers, on the less or greater activity of trade; and, I may
add, from what we know of the nations of Egypt, Merce, and India, on
the progress of civilization along the valleys of the rivers.)

As long as, confounding the Rio Paragua of Esmeralda with the Rio
Guaviare, the sources of the Orinoco were sought towards the
south-west, on the eastern back of the Andes, the risings of this
river were attributed to a periodical melting of the snows. This
reasoning was as far from the truth as that in which the Nile was
formerly supposed to be swelled by the waters of the snows of
Abyssinia. The Cordilleras of New Grenada, near which the western
tributary streams of the Orinoco, the Guaviare, the Meta, and the
Apure take their rise, enter no more into the limit of perpetual
snows, with the sole exception of the Paramos of Chita and Mucuchies,
than the Alps of Abyssinia. Snowy mountains are much more rare in the
torrid zone than is generally admitted; and the melting of the snows,
which is not copious there at any season, does not at all increase at
the time of the inundations of the Orinoco.

The cause of the periodical swellings of the Orinoco acts equally on
all the rivers that take rise in the torrid zone. After the vernal
equinox, the cessation of the breezes announces the season of rains.
The increase of the rivers (which may be considered as natural
pluviometers) is in proportion to the quantity of water that falls in
the different regions. This quantity, in the centre of the forests of
the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro, appeared to me to exceed 90 or
100 inches annually. Such of the natives, therefore, as have lived
beneath the misty sky of the Esmeralda and the Atabapo, know, without
the smallest notion of natural philosophy, what Eudoxus and
Eratosthenes knew heretofore,* that the inundations of the great
rivers are owing solely to the equatorial rains. (* Strabo lib. 17
page 789. Diod. Sic. lib. l c. 5.) The following is the usual progress
of the oscillations of the Orinoco. Immediately after the vernal
equinox (the people say on the 25th of March) the commencement of the
rising is perceived. It is at first only an inch in twenty-four hours;
sometimes the river again sinks in April; it attains its maximum in
July; remains at the same level from the end of July till the 25th of
August; and then decreases progressively, but more slowly than it
increased. It is at its minimum in January and February. In both
worlds the rivers of the northern torrid zone attain the greatest
height nearly at the same period. The Ganges, the Niger, and the
Gambia reach the maximum, like the Orinoco, in the month of August.*
(* Nearly forty or fifty days after the summer solstice.) The Nile is
two months later, either on account of some local circumstances in the
climate of Abyssinia, or of the length of its course, from the country
of Berber, or 17.5 degrees of latitude, to the bifurcation of the
delta. The Arabian geographers assert that in Sennaar and in Abyssinia
the Nile begins to swell in the month of April (nearly as the
Orinoco); the rise, however, does not become sensible at Cairo till
toward the summer solstice; and the water attains its greatest height
at the end of the month of September.* (* Nearly eighty or ninety days
after the summer solstice.) The river keeps at the same level till the
middle of October; and is at its minimum in April and May, a period
when the rivers of Guiana begin to swell anew. It may be seen from
this rapid statement, that, notwithstanding the retardation caused by
the form of the natural channels, and by local climatic circumstances,
the great phenomenon of the oscillations of the rivers of the torrid
zone is everywhere the same. In the two zodiacs vulgarly called the
Tartar and Chaldean, or Egyptian (in the zodiac which contains the
sign of the Rat, an in that which contains those of the Fishes and
Aquarius), particular constellations are consecrated to the periodical
overflowings of the rivers. Real cycles, divisions of time, have been
gradually transformed into divisions of space; but the generality of
the physical phenomena of the risings seems to prove that the zodiac
which has been transmitted to us by the Greeks, and which, by the
precession of the equinoxes, becomes an historical monument of high
antiquity, may have taken birth far from Thebes, and from the sacred
valley of the Nile. In the zodiacs of the New World--in the Mexican,
for instance, of which we discover the vestiges in the signs of the
days, and the periodical series which they compose--there are also
signs of rain and of inundation corresponding to the Chou (Rat) of the
Chinese* and Thibetan cycle of Tse, and to the Fishes and Aquarius of
the dodecatemorion. (* The figure of water itself is often substituted
for that of the Rat (Arvicola) in the Tartar zodiac. The Rat takes the
place of Aquarius. Gaubil, Obs. Mathem. volume 3 page 33.) These two
Mexican signs are Water (Atl) and Cipactli, the sea-monster furnished
with a horn. This animal is at once the Antelope-fish of the Hindoos,
the Capricorn of our zodiac, the Deucalion of the Greeks, and the Noah
(Coxcox) of the Azteks.* (* Coxcox bears also the denomination of
Teo-Cipactli, in which the root god or divine is added to the name of
the sign Cipactli. It is the man of the Fourth Age; who, at the fourth
destruction of the world (the last renovation of nature), saved
himself with his wife, and reached the mountain of Colhuacan.
According to the commentator Germanicus, Deucalion was placed in
Aquarius; but the three signs of the Fishes, Aquarius and Capricorn
(the Antelope-fish) were heretofore intimately linked together. The
animal, which, after having long inhabited the waters, takes the form
of an antelope, and climbs the mountains, reminds people, whose
restless imagination seizes the most remote similitudes, of the
ancient traditions of Menou, of Noah, and of those Deucalions
celebrated among the Scythians and the Thessalians. As the Tartarian
and Mexican zodiacs contain the signs of the Monkey and the Tiger,
they, no doubt, originated in the torrid zone. With the Muyscas,
inhabitants of New Grenada, the first sign, as in eastern Asia, was
that of water, figured by a Frog. It is also remarkable that the
astrological worship of the Muyscas came to the table-land of Bogota
from the eastern side, from the plains of San Juan, which extend
toward the Guaviare and the Orinoco.) Thus we find the general results
of comparative hydrography in the astrological monuments, the
divisions of time and the religious traditions of nations the most
remote from each other in their situation and in their degree of
intellectual advancement.

As the equatorial rains take place in the flat country when the sun
passes through the zenith of the place, that is, when its declination
becomes homonymous with the zone comprised between the equator and one
of the tropics, the waters of the Amazon sink, while those of the
Orinoco rise perceptibly. In a very judicious discussion on the origin
of the Rio Congo,* (* Voyage to the Zaire page 17.) the attention of
philosophers has been already called to the modifications which the
periods of the risings must undergo in the course of a river, the
sources and the mouth of which are not on the same side of the
equinoctial line.* (* Among the rivers of America this is the case
with the Rio Negro, the Rio Branco, and the Jupura.) The hydraulic
systems of the Orinoco and the Amazon furnish a combination of
circumstances still more extraordinary. They are united by the Rio
Negro and the Cassiquiare, a branch of the Orinoco; it is a navigable
line, between two great basins of rivers, that is crossed by the
equator. The river Amazon, according to the information which I
obtained on its banks, is much less regular in the periods of its
oscillations than the Orinoco; it generally begins, however, to
increase in December, and attains its maximum of height in March.* (*
Nearly seventy or eighty days after our winter solstice, which is the
summer solstice of the southern hemisphere.) It sinks from the month
of May, and is at its minimum of height in the months of July and
August, at the time when the Lower Orinoco inundates all the
surrounding land. As no river of America can cross the equator from
south to north, on account of the general configuration of the ground,
the risings of the Orinoco have an influence on the Amazon; but those
of the Amazon do not alter the progress of the oscillations of the
Orinoco. It results from these data, that in the two basins of the
Amazon and the Orinoco, the concave and convex summits of the curve of
progressive increase and decrease correspond very regularly with each
other, since they exhibit the difference of six months, which results
from the situation of the rivers in opposite hemispheres. The
commencement of the risings only is less tardy in the Orinoco. This
river increases sensibly as soon as the sun has crossed the equator;
in the Amazon, on the contrary, the risings do not commence till two
months after the equinox. It is known that in the forests north of the
line the rains are earlier than in the less woody plains of the
southern torrid zone. To this local cause is joined another, which
acts perhaps equally on the tardy swellings of the Nile. The Amazon
receives a great part of its waters from the Cordillera of the Andes,
where the seasons, as everywhere among mountains, follow a peculiar
type, most frequently opposite to that of the low regions.

The law of the increase and decrease of the Orinoco is more difficult
to determine with respect to space, or to the magnitude of the
oscillations, than with regard to time, or the period of the maxima
and minima. Having been able to measure but imperfectly the risings of
the river, I report, not without hesitation, estimates that differ
much from each other.* (* Tuckey, Maritime Geogr. volume 4 page 309.
Hippisley, Expedition to the Orinoco page 38. Gumilla volume 1 pages
56 to 59. Depons volume 3 page 301. The greatest height of the rise of
the Mississippi is, at Natchez, fifty-five English feet. This river
(the largest perhaps of the whole temperate zone) is at its maximum
from February to May; at its minimum in August and September.
Ellicott, Journal of an Expedition to the Ohio.) Foreign pilots admit
ninety feet for the ordinary rise in the Lower Orinoco. M. Depons, who
has in general collected very accurate notions during his stay at
Caracas, fixes it at thirteen fathoms. The heights naturally vary
according to the breadth of the bed and the number of tributary
streams which the principal trunk receives.

The people believe that every five years the Orinoco rises three feet
higher than common; but the idea of this cycle does not rest on any
precise measures. We know by the testimony of antiquity, that the
oscillations of the Nile have been sensibly the same with respect to
their height and duration for thousands of years; which is a proof,
well worthy of attention, that the mean state of the humidity and the
temperature does not vary in that vast basin. Will this constancy in
physical phenomena, this equilibrium of the elements, be preserved in
the New World also after some ages of cultivation? I think we may
reply in the affirmative; for the united efforts of man cannot fail to
have an influence on the general causes on which the climate of Guiana

According to the barometric height of San Fernando de Apure, I find
from that town to the Boca de Navios the slope of the Apure and the
Lower Orinoco to be three inches and a quarter to a nautical mile of
nine hundred and fifty toises.* (* The Apure itself has a slope of
thirteen inches to the mile.) We may be surprised at the strength of
the current in a slope so little perceptible; but I shall remind the
reader on this occasion, that, according to measurements made by order
of Mr. Hastings, the Ganges was found, in a course of sixty miles
(comprising the windings,) to have also only four inches fall to a
mile; that the mean swiftness of this river is, in the seasons of
drought, three miles an hour, and in those of rains six or eight
miles. The strength of the current, therefore, in the Ganges as in the
Orinoco, depends less on the slope of the bed, than on the
accumulation of the higher waters, caused by the abundance of the
rains, and the number of tributary streams. European colonists have
already been settled for two hundred and fifty years on the banks of
the Orinoco; and during this long period of time, according to a
tradition which has been propagated from generation to generation, the
periodical oscillations of the river (the time of the beginning of the
rising, and that when it attains its maximum) have never been retarded
more than twelve or fifteen days.

When vessels that draw a good deal of water sail up toward Angostura
in the months of January and February, by favour of the sea-breeze and
the tide, they run the risk of taking the ground. The navigable
channel often changes its breadth and direction; no buoy, however, has
yet been laid down, to indicate any deposit of earth formed in the bed
of the river, where the waters have lost their original velocity.
There exists on the south of Cape Barima, as well by the river of this
name as by the Rio Moroca and several estuaries (esteres) a
communication with the English colony of Essequibo. Small vessels can
penetrate into the interior as far as the Rio Poumaron, on which are
the ancient settlements of Zealand and Middleburg. Heretofore this
communication interested the government of Caracas only on account of
the facility it furnished to an illicit trade; but since Berbice,
Demerara, and Essequibo have fallen into the hands of a more powerful
neighbour, it fixes the attention of the Spanish Americans as being
connected with the security of their frontiers. Rivers which have a
course parallel to the coast, and are nowhere farther distant from it
than five or six nautical miles, characterize the whole of the shore
between the Orinoco and the Amazon.

Ten leagues distant from Cape Barima, the great bed of the Orinoco is
divided for the first time into two branches of two thousand toises in
breadth. They are known by the Indian names of Zacupana and Imataca.
The first, which is the northernmost, communicates on the west of the
islands Congrejos and del Burro with the bocas chicas of Lauran,
Nuina, and Mariusas. As the Isla del Burro disappears in the time of
great inundations, it is unhappily not suited to fortifications. The
southern bank of the brazo Imataca is cut by a labyrinth of little
channels, into which the Rio Imataca and the Rio Aquire flow. A long
series of little granitic hills rises in the fertile savannahs between
the Imataca and the Cuyuni; it is a prolongation of the Cordilleras of
Parima, which, bounding the horizon south of Angostura, forms the
celebrated cataracts of the Rio Caroni, and approaches the Orinoco
like a projecting cape near the little fort of Vieja Guyana. The
populous missions of the Caribbee and Guiana Indians, governed by the
Catalonian Capuchins, lie near the sources of the Imataca and the
Aquire. The easternmost of these missions are those of Miamu, Camamu,
and Palmar, situate in a hilly country, which extends towards
Tupuquen, Santa Maria, and the Villa de Upata. Going up the Rio
Aquire, and directing your course across the pastures towards the
south, you reach the mission of Belem de Tumeremo, and thence the
confluence of the Curumu with the Rio Cuyuni, where the Spanish post
or destacamento de Cuyuni was formerly established. I enter into this
topographical detail because the Rio Cuyuni, or Cuduvini, runs
parallel to the Orinoco from west to east, through an extent of 2.5 or
3 degrees of longitude,* and furnishes an excellent natural boundary
between the territory of Caracas and that of English Guiana. (*
Including the Rio Juruam, one of the principal branches of the Cuyuni.
The Dutch military post is five leagues west of the union of Cuyuni
with the Essequibo, where the former river receives the Mazuruni.)

The two great branches of the Orinoco, the Zacupana and the Imataca,
remain separate for fourteen leagues: on going up farther, the waters
of the river are found united* in a single channel extremely broad. (*
At this point of union are found two villages of Guaraons. They also
bear the names of Imataca and Zacupana.) This channel is near eight
leagues long; at its western extremity a second bifurcation appears;
and as the summit of the delta is in the northern branch of the
bifurcated river, this part of the Orinoco is highly important for the
military defence of the country. All the channels* that terminate in
the bocas chicas, rise from the same point of the trunk of the
Orinoco. (* Cano de Manamo grande, Cano de Manamo chico, Cano
Pedernales, Cano Macareo, Cano Cutupiti, Cano Macuona, Cano grande de
Mariusas, etc. The last three branches form by their union the sinuous
channel called the Vuelta del Torno.) The branch (Cano Manamo) that
separates from it near the village of San Rafael has no ramification
till after a course of three or four leagues; and by placing a small
fort above the island of Chaguanes, Angostura might be defended
against an enemy that should attempt to penetrate by one of the bocas
chicas. In my time the station of the gun-boats was east of San
Rafael, near the northern bank of the Orinoco. This is the point which
vessels must pass in sailing up toward Angostura by the northern
channel, that of San Rafael, which is the broadest but the most

Six leagues above the point where the Orinoco sends off a branch to
the bocas chicas is placed an ancient fort (los Castillos de la Vieja
or Antigua Guayana,) the first construction of which goes back to the
sixteenth century. In this spot the bed of the river is studded with
rocky islands; and it is asserted that its breadth is nearly six
hundred and fifty toises. The town is almost destroyed, but the
fortifications subsist, and are well worthy the attention of the
government of Terra Firma. There is a magnificent view from the
battery established on a bluff north-west of the ancient town, which,
at the period of great inundations, is entirely surrounded with water.
Pools that communicate with the Orinoco form natural basins, adapted
for the reception of vessels that want repairs.

After having passed the little forts of Vieja Guayana, the bed of the
Orinoco again widens. The state of cultivation of the country on the
two banks affords a striking contrast. On the north is seen the desert
part of the province of Cumana, steppes (Llanos) destitute of
habitations, and extending beyond the sources of the Rio Mamo, toward
the tableland or mesa of Guanipa. On the south we find three populous
villages belonging to the missions of Carony, namely, San Miguel de
Uriala, San Felix and San Joaquin. The last of these villages, situate
on the banks of the Carony, immediately below the great cataract, is
considered as the embarcadero of the Catalonian missions. On
navigating more to the east, between the mouth of the Carony and
Angostura, the pilot should avoid the rocks of Guarampo, the sandbank
of Mamo, and the Piedra del Rosario. From the numerous materials which
I brought home, and from astronomical discussions, the principal
results of which I have indicated above, I have constructed a map of
the country bounded by the delta of the Orinoco, the Carony, and the
Cuyuni. This part of Guiana, from its proximity to the coast, will
some day offer the greatest attraction to European settlers.

The whole population of this vast province in its present state is,
with the exception of a few Spanish parishes, scattered on the banks
of the Lower Orinoco, and subject to two monastic governments.
Estimating the number of the inhabitants of Guiana, who do not live in
savage independence, at thirty-five thousand, we find nearly
twenty-four thousand settled in the missions, and thus withdrawn as it
were from the direct influence of the secular arm. At the period of my
voyage, the territory of the Observantin monks of St. Francis
contained seven thousand three hundred inhabitants, and that of the
Capuchinos Catalanes seventeen thousand; an astonishing disproportion,
when we reflect on the smallness of the latter territory compared to
the vast banks of the Upper Orinoco, the Atabapo, the Cassiquiare and
the Rio Negro. It results from these statements that nearly two-thirds
of the population of a province of sixteen thousand eight hundred
square leagues are found concentrated between the Rio Imataca and the
town of Santo Thome del Angostura, on a space of ground only
fifty-five leagues in length, and thirty in breadth. Both of these
monastic governments are equally inaccessible to Whites, and form
status in statu. The first, that of the Observantins, I have described
from my own observations; it remains for me to record here the notions
I could procure respecting the second of these governments, that of
the Catalonian Capuchins. Fatal civil dissensions and epidemic fevers
have of late years diminished the long-increasing prosperity of the
missions of the Carony; but, notwithstanding these losses, the region
which we are going to examine is still highly interesting with respect
to political economy.

The missions of the Catalonian Capuchins, which in 1804 contained at
least sixty thousand head of cattle grazing in the savannahs, extend
from the eastern banks of the Carony and the Paragua as far as the
banks of the Imataca, the Curumu, and the Cuyuni; at the south-east
they border on English Guiana, or the colony of Essequibo; and toward
the south, in going up the desert banks of the Paragua and the
Paraguamasi, and crossing the Cordillera of Pacaraimo, they touch the
Portuguese settlements on the Rio Branco. The whole of this country is
open, full of fine savannahs, and no way resembling that through which
we passed on the Upper Orinoco. The forests become impenetrable only
on advancing toward the south; on the north are meadows intersected
with woody hills. The most picturesque scenes lie near the falls of
the Carony, and in that chain of mountains, two hundred and fifty
toises high, which separates the tributary streams of the Orinoco from
those of the Cuyuni. There are situate the Villa de Upata,* the
capital of the missions, Santa Maria, and Cupapui. (* Founded in 1762.
Population in 1797, 657 souls; in 1803, 769 souls. The most populous
villages of these missions, Alta Gracia, Cupapui, Santa Rosa de Cura,
and Guri, had between 600 and 900 inhabitants in 1797; but in 1818
epidemic fevers diminished the population more than a third. In some
missions these diseases have swept away nearly half of the
inhabitants.) Small table-lands afford a healthy and temperate
climate. Cacao, rice, cotton, indigo, and sugar grow in abundance
wherever a virgin soil, covered with a thick coat of grasses, is
subjected to cultivation. The first Christian settlements in those
countries are not, I believe, of an earlier date than 1721. The
elements of which the present population is composed are the three
Indian races of the Guayanos, the Caribs and the Guaycas. The last are
a people of mountaineers and are far from being so diminutive in size
as the Guaycas whom we found at Esmeralda. It is difficult to fix them
to the soil; and the three most modern missions in which they have
been collected, those of Cura, Curucuy, and Arechica, are already
destroyed. The Guayanos, who early in the sixteenth century gave their
name to the whole of that vast province, are less intelligent but
milder; and more easy, if not to civilize, at least to subjugate, than
the Caribs. Their language appears to belong to the great branch of
the Caribbee and Tamanac tongues. It displays the same analogies of
roots and grammatical forms, which are observed between the Sanscrit,
the Persian, the Greek, and the German. It is not easy to fix the
forms of what is indefinite by its nature; and to agree on the
differences which should be admitted between dialects, derivative
languages and mother-tongues. The Jesuits of Paraguay have made known
to us another tribe of Guayanos* in the southern hemisphere, living in
the thick forests of Parana. (* They are also called Guananas, or
Gualachas.) Though it cannot be denied in general that in consequence
of distant migrations,* (* Like the celebrated migrations of the
Omaguas, or Omeguas.) the nations that are settled north and south of
the Amazon have had communications with each other, I will not decide
whether the Guayanos of Parana and of Uruguay exhibit any other
relation to those of Carony, than that of an homonomy, which is
perhaps only accidental.

The most considerable Christian settlements are now concentrated
between the mountains of Santa Maria, the mission of San Miguel and
the eastern bank of the Carony, from San Buenaventura as far as Guri
and the embarcadero of San Joaquin; a space of ground which has not
more than four hundred and sixty square leagues of surface. The
savannahs to the east and south are almost uninhabited; we find there
only the solitary missions of Belem, Tumuremo, Tupuquen, Puedpa, and
Santa Clara. It were to be wished that the spots preferred for
cultivation were distant from the rivers where the land is higher and
the air more favourable to health. The Rio Carony, the waters of
which, of an admirable clearness, are not well stocked with fish, is
free from shoals from the Villa de Barceloneta, a little above the
confluence of the Paragua, as far as the village of Guri. Farther
north it winds between innumerable islands and rocks; and only the
small boats of the Caribs venture to navigate amid these raudales, or
rapids of the Carony. Happily the river is often divided into several
branches; and consequently that can be chosen which, according to the
height of the waters, presents the fewest whirlpools and shoals. The
great fall, celebrated for the picturesque beauty of its situation, is
a little above the village of Aguacaqua, or Carony, which in my time
had a population of seven hundred Indians. This cascade is said to be
from fifteen to twenty feet high; but the bar does not cross the whole
bed of the river, which is more than three hundred feet broad. When
the population is more extended toward the east, it will avail itself
of the course of the small rivers Imataca and Aquire, the navigation
of which is pretty free from danger. The monks, who like to keep
themselves isolated, in order to withdraw from the eye of the secular
power, have been hitherto unwilling to settle on the banks of the
Orinoco. It is, however, by this river only, or by the Cuyuni and the
Essequibo, that the missions of Carony can export their productions.
The latter way has not yet been tried, though several Christian
settlements* are formed on one of the principal tributary streams of
the Cuyuni, the Rio Juruario. (* Guacipati, Tupuquen, Angel de la
Custodia, and Cura, where the military post of the frontiers was
stationed in 1800, which had been anciently placed at the confluence
of the Cuyuni and the Curumu.) This stream furnishes, at the period of
the great swellings, the remarkable phenomenon of a bifurcation. It
communicates by the Juraricuima and the Aurapa with the Rio Carony; so
that the land comprised between the Orinoco, the sea, the Cuyuni, and
the Carony, becomes a real island. Formidable rapids impede the
navigation of the Upper Cuyuni; and hence of late an attempt has been
made to open a road to the colony of Essequibo much more to the
south-east, in order to fall in with the Cuyuni much below the mouth
of the Curumu.

The whole of this southern territory is traversed by hordes of
independent Caribs; the feeble remains of that warlike people who were
so formidable to the missionaries till 1733 and 1735, at which period
the respectable bishop Gervais de Labrid,* (* Consecrated a bishop for
the four parts of the world (obispo para las quatro partes del mundo)
by pope Benedict XIII.) canon of the metropolitan chapter of Lyon,
Father Lopez, and several other ecclesiastics, perished by the hands
of the Caribs. These dangers, too frequent formerly, exist no longer,
either in the missions of Carony, or in those of the Orinoco; but the
independent Caribs continue, on account of their connection with the
Dutch colonists of Essequibo, an object of mistrust and hatred to the
government of Guiana. These tribes favour the contraband trade along
the coast, and by the channels or estuaries that join the Rio Barima
to the Rio Moroca; they carry off the cattle belonging to the
missionaries, and excite the Indians recently converted, and living
within the sound of the bell, to return to the forests. The free
hordes have everywhere a powerful interest in opposing the progress of
cultivation and the encroachments of the Whites. The Caribs and the
Aruacas procure fire-arms at Essequibo and Demerara; and when the
traffic of American slaves (poitos) was most active, adventurers of
Dutch origin took part in these incursions on the Paragua, the
Erevato, and the Ventuario. Man-hunting took place on these banks, as
heretofore (and probably still) on those of the Senegal and the
Gambia. In both worlds Europeans have employed the same artifices, and
committed the same atrocities, to maintain a trade that dishonours
humanity. The missionaries of the Carony and the Orinoco attribute all
the evils they suffer from the independent Caribs to the hatred of
their neighbours, the Calvinist preachers of Essequibo. Their works
are therefore filled with complaints of the secta diabolica de Calvino
y de Lutero, and against the heretics of Dutch Guiana, who also think
fit sometimes to go on missions, and spread the germs of social life
among the savages.

Of all the vegetable productions of those countries, that which the
industry of the Catalonian Capuchins has rendered the most celebrated
is the tree that furnishes the Cortex angosturae, which is erroneously
designated by the name of cinchona of Carony. We were fortunate enough
to make it first known as a new genus distinct from the cinchona, and
belonging to the family of meliaceae, or of zanthoxylus. This salutary
drug of South America was formerly attributed to the Brucea ferruginea
which grows in Abyssinia, to the Magnolia glauca, and to the Magnolia
plumieri. During the dangerous disease of M. Bonpland, M. Ravago sent
a confidential person to the missions of Carony, to procure for us, by
favour of the Capuchins of Upata, branches of the tree in flower which
we wished to be able to describe. We obtained very fine specimens, the
leaves of which, eighteen inches long, diffused an agreeable aromatic
smell. We soon perceived that the cuspare (the indigenous name of the
cascarilla or corteza del Angostura) forms a new genus; and on sending
the plants of the Orinoco to M. Willdenouw, I begged he would dedicate
this plant to M. Bonpland. The tree, known at present by the name of
Bonplandia trifoliata, grows at the distance of five or six leagues
from the eastern bank of the Carony, at the foot of the hills that
surround the missions Capapui, Upata and Alta Gracia. The Caribbee
Indians make use of an infusion of the bark of the cuspare, which they
consider as a strengthening remedy. M. Bonpland discovered the same
tree west of Cumana, in the gulf of Santa Fe, where it may become one
of the articles of exportation from New Andalusia.

The Catalonian monks prepare an extract of the Cortex angosturae which
they send to the convents of their province, and which deserves to be
better known in the north of Europe. It is to be hoped that the
febrifuge and anti-dysenteric bark of the bonplandia will continue to
be employed, notwithstanding the introduction of another, described by
the name of False Angostura bark, and often confounded with the
former. This false Angostura, or Angostura pseudo-ferruginea, comes,
it is said, from the Brucea antidysenterica; it acts powerfully on the
nerves, produces violent attacks of tetanus, and contains, according
to the experiments of Pelletier and Caventon, a peculiar alkaline
substance* analogous to morphine and strychnine. (* Brucine. M.
Pelletier has wisely avoided using the word angosturine, because it
might indicate a substance taken from the real Cortex angosturae, or
Bonplandia trifoliata. (Annales de Chimie volume 12 page 117.) We saw
at Peru the barks of two new species of weinmannia and wintera mixed
with those of cinchona; a mixture less dangerous, but still injurious,
on account of the superabundance of tannin and acrid matter contained
in the false cascarilla.) As the tree which yields the real Cortex
angosturae does not grow in great abundance, it is to be wished that
plantations of it were formed. The Catalonian monks are well fitted to
spread this kind of cultivation; they are more economical,
industrious, and active than the other missionaries. They have already
established tan-yards and cotton-spinning in a few villages; and if
they suffer the Indians henceforth to enjoy the fruit of their
labours, they will find great resources in the native population.
Concentered on a small space of land, these monks have the
consciousness of their political importance, and have from time to
time resisted the civil authority, and that of their bishop. The
governors who reside at Angostura have struggled against them with
very unequal success, according as the ministry of Madrid showed a
complaisant deference for the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or sought to
limit its power. In 1768 Don Manuel Centurion carried off twenty
thousand head of cattle from the missionaries, in order to distribute
them among the indigent inhabitants. This liberality, exerted in a
manner not very legal, produced very serious consequences. The
governor was disgraced on the complaint of the Catalonian monks though
he had considerably extended the territory of the missions toward the
south, and founded the Villa de Barceloneta, above the confluence of
the Carony with the Rio Paragua, and the Ciudad de Guirior, near the
union of the Rio Paragua and the Paraguamusi. From that period the
civil administration has carefully avoided all intervention in the
affairs of the Capuchins, whose opulence has been exaggerated like
that of the Jesuits of Paraguay.

The missions of the Carony, by the configuration of their soil* and
the mixture of savannahs and arable lands, unite the advantages of the
Llanos of Calabozo and the valleys of Aragua. (* It appears that the
little table-lands between the mountains of Upata, Cumanu, and
Tupuquen, are more than one hundred and fifty toises above the level
of the sea.) The real wealth of this country is founded on the care of
the herds and the cultivation of colonial produce. It were to be
wished that here, as in the fine and fertile province of Venezuela,
the inhabitants, faithful to the labours of the fields, would not
addict themselves too hastily to the research of mines. The example of
Germany and Mexico proves, no doubt, that the working of metals is not
at all incompatible with a flourishing state of agriculture; but,
according to popular traditions, the banks of the Carony lead to the
lake Dorado and the palace of the gilded man* (* El Dorado, that is,
el rey o hombre dorado. See volume 2.23.): and this lake, and this
palace, being a local fable, it might be dangerous to awaken
remembrances which begin gradually to be effaced. I was assured that
in 1760, the independent Caribs went to Cerro de Pajarcima, a mountain
to the south of Vieja Guayana, to submit the decomposed rock to the
action of washing. The gold-dust collected by this labour was put into
calabashes of the Crescentia cujete and sold to the Dutch at
Essequibo. Still more recently, some Mexican miners, who abused the
credulity of Don Jose Avalo, the intendant of Caracas, undertook a
very considerable work in the centre of the missions of the Rio
Carony, near the town of Upata, in the Cerros del Potrero and de
Chirica. They declared that the whole rock was auriferous;
stamping-mills, brocards, and smelting-furnaces were constructed.
After having expended very large sums, it was discovered that the
pyrites contained no trace whatever of gold. These essays, though
fruitless, served to renew the ancient idea that every shining rock in
Guiana is teeming with gold (una madre del oro). Not contented with
taking the mica-slate to the furnace, strata of amphibolic slates were
shown to me near Angostura, without any mixture of heterogeneous
substances, which had been worked under the whimsical name of black
ore of gold (oro negro).

This is the place to make known, in order to complete the description
of the Orinoco, the principal results of my researches on El Dorado,
the White Sea, or Laguna Parime, and the sources of the Orinoco, as
they are marked in the most recent maps. The idea of an auriferous
earth, eminently rich, has been connected, ever since the end of the
sixteenth century, with that of a great inland lake, which furnishes
at the same time waters to the Orinoco, the Rio Branco and the Rio
Essequibo. I believe, from a more accurate knowledge of the country, a
long and laborious study of the Spanish authors who treat of El
Dorado, and, above all, from comparing a great number of ancient maps,
arranged in chronological order, I have succeeded in discovering the
source of these errors. All fables have some real foundation; that of
El Dorado resembles those myths of antiquity, which, travelling from
country to country, have been successively adapted to different
localities. In the sciences, in order to distinguish truth from error,
it often suffices to retrace the history of opinions, and to follow
their successive developments. The discussion to which I shall devote
the end of this chapter is important, not only because it throws light
on the events of the Conquest, and that long series of disastrous
expeditions made in search of El Dorado, the last of which was in the
year 1775; it also furnishes, in addition to this simply historical
interest, another, more substantial and more generally felt, that of
rectifying the geography of South America, and of disembarrassing the
maps published in our days of those great lakes, and that strange
labyrinth of rivers, placed as if by chance between sixty and
sixty-six degrees of longitude. No man in Europe believes any longer
in the wealth of Guiana and the empire of the Grand Patiti. The town
of Manoa and its palaces covered with plates of massy gold have long
since disappeared; but the geographical apparatus serving to adorn the
fable of El Dorado, the lake Parima, which, similar to the lake of
Mexico, reflected the image of so many sumptuous edifices, has been
religiously preserved by geographers. In the space of three centuries,
the same traditions have been differently modified; from ignorance of
the American languages, rivers have been taken for lakes, and portages
for branches of rivers; one lake, the Cassipa, has been made to
advance five degrees of latitude toward the south, while another, the
Parima or Dorado, has been transported the distance of a hundred
leagues from the western to the eastern bank of the Rio Branco. From
these various changes, the problem we are going to solve has become
much more complicated than is generally supposed. The number of
geographers who discuss the basis of a map, with regard to the three
points of measures, of the comparison of descriptive works, and of the
etymological study* of names, is extremely small. (* I use this
expression, perhaps an improper one, to mark a species of philological
examination, to which the names of rivers, lakes, mountains, and
tribes, must be subjected, in order to discover their identity in a
great number of maps. The apparent diversity of names arises partly
from the difference of the dialects spoken by one and the same family
of people, partly from the imperfection of our European orthography,
and from the extreme negligence with which geographers copy one
another. We recognize with difficulty the Rio Uaupe in the Guaupe or
Guape; the Xie, in the Guaicia; the Raudal de Atures, in Athule; the
Caribbees, in the Calinas and Galibis; the Guaraunos or Uarau, in the
Oaraw-its; etc. It is, however, by similar mutations of letters, that
the Spaniards have made hijo of filius; hambre, of fames; and Felipo
de Urre, and even Utre, of the Conquistador Philip von Huten; that the
Tamanacs in America have substituted choraro for soldado; and the Jews
in China, Ialemeiohang for Jeremiah. Analogy and a certain
etymological tact must guide geographers in researches of this kind,
in which they would be exposed to serious errors, if they were not to
study at the same time the respective situations of the upper and
lower tributary streams of the same river. Our maps of America are
overloaded with names, for which rivers have been created. This desire
of compiling, of filling up vacancies, and of employing, without
investigation, heterogeneous materials, has given our maps of
countries the least visited an appearance of exactness, the falsity of
which is discovered when we arrive on the spot.) Almost all the maps
of South America which have appeared since the year 1775 are, in what
regards the interior of the country, comprised between the steppes of
Venezuela and the river of the Amazons, between the eastern back of
the Andes and the coast of Cayenne, a simple copy of the great Spanish
map of La Cruz Olmedilla. A line, indicating the extent of country
which Don Jose Solano boasted of having discovered and pacified by his
troops and emissaries, was taken for the road followed by that
officer, who never went beyond San Fernando de Atabapo, a village one
hundred and sixty leagues distant from the pretended lake Parima. The
study of the work of Father Caulin, who was the historiographer of the
expedition of Solano, and who states very clearly, from the testimony
of the Indians, how the name of the river Parima gave rise to the
fable of El Dorado, and of an inland sea, has been neglected. No use
either has been made of a map of the Orinoco, three years posterior to
that of La Cruz, and traced by Surville from the collection of true or
hypothetical materials preserved in the archives of the Despacho
universal de Indias. The progress of geography, as manifested on our
maps, is much slower than might be supposed from the number of useful
results which are found scattered in the works of different nations.
Astronomical observations and topographic information accumulate
during a long lapse of years, without being made use of; and from a
principle of stability and preservation, in other respects
praiseworthy, those who construct maps often choose rather to add
nothing, than to sacrifice a lake, a chain of mountains, or an
interbranching of rivers, which have figured there during ages.

The fabulous traditions of El Dorado and the lake Parima having been
diversely modified according to the aspect of the countries to which
they were to be adapted, we must distinguish what they contain that is
real from what is merely imaginary. To avoid entering here into minute
particulars, I shall begin first to call the attention of the reader
to those spots which have been, at various periods, the theatre of the
expeditions undertaken for the discovery of El Dorado. When we have
learnt to know the aspect of the country, and the local circumstances,
such as they can now be described, it will be easy to conceive how the
different hypotheses recorded on our maps have taken rise by degrees,
and have modified each other. To oppose an error, it is sufficient to
recall to mind the variable forms in which we have seen it appear at
different periods.

Till the middle of the eighteenth century, all that vast space of land
comprised between the mountains of French Guiana and the forests of
the Upper Orinoco, between the sources of the Carony and the River
Amazon (from 0 to 4 degrees of north latitude, and from 57 to 68
degrees of longitude), was so little known that geographers could
place in it lakes where they pleased, create communications between
rivers, and figure chains of mountains more or less lofty. They have
made full use of this liberty; and the situation of lakes, as well as
the course and branches of rivers, has been varied in so many ways
that it would not be surprising if among the great number of maps some
were found that trace the real state of things. The field of
hypotheses is now singularly narrowed. I have determined the longitude
of Esmeralda in the Upper Orinoco; more to the east amid the plains of
Parima (a land as unknown as Wangara and Dar-Saley, in Africa), a band
of twenty leagues broad has been travelled over from north to south
along the banks of the Rio Carony and the Rio Branco in the longitude
of sixty-three degrees. This is the perilous road which was taken by
Don Antonio Santos in going from Santo Thome del Angostura to Rio
Negro and the Amazon; by this road also the colonists of Surinam
communicated very recently with the inhabitants of Grand Para. This
road divides the terra incognita of Parima into two unequal portions;
and fixes limits at the same time to the sources of the Orinoco, which
it is no longer possible to carry back indefinitely toward the east,
without supposing that the bed of the Rio Branco, which flows from
north to south, is crossed by the bed of the Upper Orinoco, which
flows from east to west. If we follow the course of the Rio Branco, or
that strip of cultivated land which is dependent on the Capitania
General of Grand Para, we see lakes, partly imaginary and partly
enlarged by geographers, forming two distinct groups. The first of
these groups includes the lakes which they place between the Esmeralda
and the Rio Branco; and to the second belong those that are supposed
to lie between the Rio Branco and the mountains of Dutch and French
Guiana. It results from this sketch that the question whether there
exists a lake Parima on the east of the Rio Branco is altogether
foreign to the problem of the sources of the Orinoco.

Beside the country which we have just noticed (the Dorado de la
Parime, traversed by the Rio Branco), another part of America is
found, two hundred and sixty leagues toward the west, near the eastern
back of the Cordillera of the Andes, equally celebrated in the
expeditions to El Dorado. This is the Mesopotamia between the Caqueta,
the Rio Negro, the Uaupes, and the Yurubesh, of which I have already
given a particular account; it is the Dorado of the Omaguas which
contains Lake Manoa of Father Acunha, the Laguna de oro of the Guanes
and the auriferous land whence Father Fritz received plates of beaten
gold in his mission on the Amazon, toward the end of the seventeenth

The first and above all the most celebrated enterprises attempted in
search of El Dorado were directed toward the eastern back of the Andes
of New Grenada. Fired with the ideas which an Indian of Tacunga had
given of the wealth of the king or zaque of Cundirumarca, Sebastian de
Belalcazar, in 1535, sent his captains Anasco and Ampudia, to discover
the valley of El Dorado,* twelve days' journey from Guallabamba,
consequently in the mountains between Pasto and Popayan. (* El valle
del Dorado. Pineda relates: que mas adelante de la provincia de la
Canela se hallan tierras muy ricas, adonde andaban los hombres armados
de piecas y joyas de oro, y que no havia sierra, ni montana. [Beyond
the province of Canela there are found very rich countries (though
without mountains) in which the natives are adorned with trinkets and
plates of gold.] Herrera dec. 5 lib. 10 cap. 14 and dec. 6 lib. 8 cap.
6 Geogr. Blaviana volume 11 page 261. Southey tome 1 pages 78 and
373.) The information which Pedro de Anasco had obtained from the
natives, joined to that which was received subsequently (1536) by Diaz
de Pineda, who had discovered the provinces of Quixos and Canela,
between the Rio Napo and the Rio Pastaca, gave birth to the idea that
on the east of the Nevados of Tunguragua, Cayambe, and Popayan, were
vast plains, abounding in precious metals, and where the inhabitants
were covered with armour of massy gold. Gonzales Pizarro, in searching
for these treasures, discovered accidentally, in 1539, the
cinnamon-trees of America (Laurus cinnamomoides, Mut.); and Francisco
de Orellana went down the Napo, to reach the river Amazon. Since that
period expeditions were undertaken at the same time from Venezuela,
New Grenada, Quito, Peru, and even from Brazil and the Rio de la
Plata,* for the conquest of El Dorado. (* Nuno de Chaves went from the
Ciudad de la Asumpcion, situate on Rio Paraguay, to discover, in the
latitude of 24 degrees south, the vast empire of El Dorado, which was
everywhere supposed to lie on the eastern back of the Andes.) Those of
which the remembrance have been best preserved, and which have most
contributed to spread the fable of the riches of the Manaos, the
Omaguas, and the Guaypes, as well as the existence of the lagunas de
oro, and the town of the gilded king (Grand Patiti, Grand Moxo, Grand
Paru, or Enim), are the incursions made to the south of the Guaviare,
the Rio Fragua, and the Caqueta. Orellana, having found idols of massy
gold, had fixed men's ideas on an auriferous land between the Papamene
and the Guaviare. His narrative, and those of the voyages of Jorge de
Espira (George von Speier), Hernan Perez de Quesada, and Felipe de
Urre (Philip von Huten), undertaken in 1536, 1542, and 1545, furnish,
amid much exaggeration, proofs of very exact local knowledge.* (* We
may be surprised to see, that the expedition of Huten is passed over
in absolute silence by Herrera (dec. 7 lib. 10 cap. 7 volume 4 238).
Fray Pedro Simon gives the whole particulars of it, true or fabulous;
but he composed his work from materials that were unknown to Herrera.)
When these are examined merely in a geographical point of view, we
perceive the constant desire of the first conquistadores to reach the
land comprised between the sources of the Rio Negro, of the Uaupes
(Guape), and of the Jupura or Caqueta. This is the land which, in
order to distinguish it from El Dorado de la Parime, we have called El
Dorado des Omaguas.* (* In 1560 Pedro de Ursua even took the title of
Governador del Dorado y de Omagua. Fray Pedro Simon volume 6 chapter
10 page 430.) No doubt the whole country between the Amazon and the
Orinoco was vaguely known by the name of las Provincias del Dorado;
but in this vast extent of forests, savannahs, and mountains, the
progress of those who sought the great lake with auriferous banks, and
the town of the gilded king, was directed towards two points only, on
the north-east and south-west of the Rio Negro; that is, to Parima (or
the isthmus between the Carony, the Essequibo, and the Rio Branco),
and to the ancient abode of the Manaos, the inhabitants of the banks
of the Yurubesh. I have just mentioned the situation of the latter
spot, which is celebrated in the history of the conquest from 1535 to
1560; and it remains for me to speak of the configuration of the
country between the Spanish missions of the Rio Carony, and the
Portuguese missions of the Rio Branco or Parima. This is the country
lying near the Lower Orinoco, the Esmeralda, and French and Dutch
Guiana, on which, since the end of the sixteenth century, the
enterprises and exaggerated narratives of Raleigh have shed so bright
a splendour.

From the general disposition of the course of the Orinoco, directed
successively towards the west, the north, and the east, its mouth lies
almost in the same meridian as its sources: so that by proceeding from
Vieja Guyana to the south the traveller passes through the whole of
the country in which geographers have successively placed an inland
sea (Mar Blanco), and the different lakes which are connected with the
El Dorado de la Parime. We find first the Rio Carony, which is formed
by the union of two branches of almost equal magnitude, the Carony
properly so called, and the Rio Paragua. The missionaries of Piritu
call the latter river a lake (laguna): it is full of shoals, and
little cascades; but, passing through a country entirely flat, it is
subject at the same time to great inundations, and its real bed (su
verdadera caxa) can scarcely be discovered. The natives have given it
the name of Paragua or Parava, which means in the Caribbee language
sea, or great lake. These local circumstances and this denomination no
doubt have given rise to the idea of transforming the Rio Paragua, a
tributary stream of the Carony, into a lake called Cassipa, on account
of the Cassipagotos,* who lived in those countries. (* Raleigh pages
64 and 69. I always quote, when the contrary is not expressly said,
the original edition of 1596. Have these tribes of Cassipagtos,
Epuremei, and Orinoqueponi, so often mentioned by Raleigh,
disappeared? or did some misapprehension give rise to these
denominations? I am surprised to find the Indian words [of one of the
different Carib dialects?] Ezrabeta cassipuna aquerewana, translated
by Raleigh, the great princes or greatest commander. Since acarwana
certainly signifies a chief, or any person who commands (Raleigh pages
6 and 7), cassipuna perhaps means great, and lake Cassipa is
synonymous with great lake. In the same manner Cass-iquiare may be a
great river, for iquiare, like veni, is, an the north of the Amazon, a
termination common to all rivers. Goto, however, in Cassipa-goto, is a
Caribbee term denoting a tribe.) Raleigh gives this basin forty miles
in breadth; and, as all the lakes of Parima must have auriferous
sands, he does not fail to assert that in summer, when the waters
retire, pieces of gold of considerable weight are found there.

The sources of the tributary streams of the Carony, the Arui, and the
Caura (Caroli, Arvi, and Caora,* of the ancient geographers (*
D'Anville names the Rio Caura, Coari; and the Rio Arui, Aroay. I have
not been able hitherto to guess what is meant by the Aloica (Atoca,
Atoica of Raleigh), which issues from the lake Cassipa, between the
Caura and the Arui.)) being very near each other, this suggested the
idea of making all these rivers take their rise from the pretended
lake Cassipa.* (* Raleigh makes only the Carony and the Arui issue
from it (Hondius, Nieuwe Caerte van het wonderbare landt Guiana,
besocht door Sir Walter Raleigh, 1594 to 1596): but in later maps, for
instance that of Sanson, the Rio Caura issues also from Lake Cassipa.)
Sanson has so much enlarged this lake, that he gives it forty-two
leagues in length, and fifteen in breadth. The ancient geographers
placed opposite to each other, with very little hesitation, the
tributary streams of the two banks of a river; and they place the
mouth of the Carony, and lake Cassipa, which communicates by the
Carony with the Orinoco, sometimes* ABOVE the confluence of the Meta.
(* Sanson, Map for the Voyage of Acunha, 1680. Id. South America,
1659. Coronelli, Indes occidentales, 1689.) Thus it is carried back by
Hondius as far as the latitudes of 2 and 3 degrees, giving it the form
of a rectangle, the longest sides of which run from north to south.
This circumstance is worthy of remark, because, in assigning gradually
a more southern latitude to lake Cassipa, it has been detached from
the Carony and the Arui, and has taken the name of Parima. To follow
this metamorphosis in its progressive development, we must compare the
maps which have appeared since the voyage of Raleigh till now. La
Cruz, who has been copied by all the modern geographers, has preserved
the oblong form of the lake Cassipa for his lake Parima, although this
form is entirely different from that of the ancient lake Parima, or
Rupunuwini, of which the great axis was directed from east to west.
The ancient lake (that of Hondius, Sanson, and Coronelli) was also
surrounded by mountains, and gave birth to no river; while the lake
Parima of La Cruz and the modern geographers communicates with the
Upper Orinoco, as the Cassipa with the Lower Orinoco.

I have stated the origin of the fable of the lake Cassipa, and the
influence it has had on the opinion that the lake Parima is the source
of the Orinoco. Let us now examine what relates to this latter basin,
this pretended interior sea, called Rupunuwini by the geographers of
the sixteenth century. In the latitude of four degrees or four degrees
and a half (in which direction unfortunately, south of Santo Thome del
Angostura to the extent of eight degrees, no astronomical observation
has been made) is a long and narrow Cordillera, that of Pacaraimo,
Quimiropaca, and Ucucuamo; which, stretching from east to south-west,
unites the group of mountains of Parima to the mountains of Dutch and
French Guiana. It divides its waters between the Carony, the Rupunury
or Rupunuwini, and the Rio Branco, and consequently between the
valleys of the Lower Orinoco, the Essequibo, and the Rio Negro. On the
north-west of the Cordillera de Pacaraimo, which has been traversed
but by a small number of Europeans (by the German surgeon, Nicolas
Hortsmann, in 1739; by a Spanish officer, Don Antonio Santos, in 1775;
by the Portuguese colonel, Barata, in 1791; and by several English
settlers, in 1811), descend the Noeapra, the Paraguamusi, and the
Paragua, which fall into the Rio Carony; on the north-east, the
Rupunuwini, a tributary stream of the Rio Essequibo. Toward the south,
the Tacutu and the Urariquera form together the famous Rio Parima, or
Rio Branco.

This isthmus, between the branches of the Rio Essequibo and the Rio
Branco (that is, between the Rupunuwini on one side, and the Pirara,
the Mahu, and the Uraricuera or Rio Parima on the other), may be
considered as the classical soil of the Dorado of Parima. The rivers
at the foot of the mountains of Pacaraimo are subject to frequent
overflowings. Above Santa Rosa, the right bank of the Urariapara, a
tributary stream of the Uraricuera, is called el Valle de la
Inundacion. Great pools are also found between the Rio Parima and the
Xurumu. These are marked on the maps recently constructed in Brazil,
which furnish the most ample details of those countries. More to the
west, the Cano Pirara, a tributary stream of the Mahu, issues from a
lake covered with rushes. This is the lake Amucu described by Nicolas
Hortsmann, and respecting which some Portuguese of Barcelos, who had
visited the Rio Branco (Rio Parima or Rio Paravigiana), gave me
precise notions during my stay at San Carlos del Rio Negro. The lake
Amucu is several leagues broad, and contains two small islands, which
Santos heard called Islas Ipomucena. The Rupunuwini (Rupunury), on the
banks of which Hortsmann discovered rocks covered with hieroglyphical
figures, approaches very near this lake, but does not communicate with
it. The portage between the Rupunuwini and the Mahu is farther north,
where the mountain of Ucucuamo* rises, the natives still call the
mountain of gold. (* I follow the orthography of the manuscript
journal of Rodriguez; it is the Cerro Acuquamo of Caulin, or rather of
his commentator. Hist. corogr. page 176.) They advised Hortsmann to
seek round the Rio Mahu for a mine of silver (no doubt mica with large
plates), of diamonds, and emeralds. He found nothing but rocky
crystals. His account seems to prove that the whole length of the
mountains of the Upper Orinoco (Sierra Parima) toward the east, is
composed of granitic rocks, full of druses and open veins, the Peak of
Duida. Near these lands, which still enjoy a great celebrity for their
riches, on the western limits of Dutch Guiana, live the Macusis,
Aturajos, and Acuvajos. The traveller Santos found them stationed
between the Rupunuwini, the Mahu, and the chain of Pacaraimo. It is
the appearance of the micaceous rocks of the Ucucuamo, the name of the
Rio Parima, the inundations of the rivers Urariapara, Parima, and
Xurumu, and more especially the existence of the lake Amucu (near the
Rio Rupunuwini, and regarded as the principal source of the Rio
Parima), which have given rise to the fable of the White Sea and the
Dorado of Parima. All these circumstances (which have served on this
very account to corroborate the general opinion) are found united on a
space of ground which is eight or nine leagues broad from north to
south, and forty long from east to west. This direction, too, was
always assigned to the White Sea, by lengthening it in the direction
of the latitude, till the beginning of the sixteenth century. Now this
White Sea is nothing but the Rio Parima, which is called the White
River (Rio Branco, or Rio del Aguas blancas), and runs through and
inundates the whole of this land. The name of Rupunuwini is given to
the White Sea on the most ancient maps, which identifies the place of
the fable, since of all the tributary streams of the Rio Essequibo the
Rupunuwini is the nearest to the lake Amucu. Raleigh, in his first
voyage (1595), had formed no precise idea of the situation of El
Dorado and the lake Parima, which he believed to be salt, and which he
calls another Caspian Sea. It was not till the second voyage (1596),
performed equally at the expense of Raleigh, that Laurence Keymis
fixed so well the localities of El Dorado, that he appears to me to
have no doubt of the identity of the Parima de Manao with the lake
Amucu, and with the isthmus between the Rupunuwini (a tributary stream
of the Essequibo) and the Rio Parima or Rio Branco. "The Indians,"
says Keymis, "go up the Dessekebe [Essequibo] in twenty days, towards
the south. To mark the greatness of this river, they call it the
brother of the Orinoco. After twenty days' navigating they convey
their canoes by a portage of one day, from the river Dessekebe to a
lake, which the Jaos call Roponowini, and the Caribbees Parime. This
lake is as large as a sea; it is covered with an infinite number of
canoes; and I suppose" [the Indians then had told him nothing of this]
"that this lake is no other than that which contains the town of
Manoa."* (* Cayley's Life of Raleigh volume 1 pages 159, 236 and 283.
Masham in the third voyage of Raleigh (1596) repeats these accounts of
the Lake Rupunuwini.) Hondius has given a curious plate of this
portage; and, as the mouth of the Carony was then supposed to be in
latitude 4 degrees (instead of 8 degrees 8 minutes), the portage of
Parima was placed close to the equator. At the same period the Viapoco
(Oyapoc) and the Rio Cayenne (Maroni?) were made to issue from this
lake Parima. The same name being given by the Caribs to the western
branch of the Rio Branco has perhaps contributed as much to the
imaginary enlargement of the lake Amucu, as the inundations of the
various tributary streams of the Uraricuera, from the confluence of
the Tacutu to the Valle de la Inundacion.

We have shown above that the Spaniards took the Rio Paragua, or
Parava, which falls into the Carony, for a lake, because the word
parava signifies sea, lake, river. Parima seems also to denote vaguely
great water; for the root par is found in the Carib words that
designate rivers, pools, lakes, and the ocean.* (* In Persian the root
water (ab) is found also in lake (abdan). For other etymologies of the
words Parima and Manoa see Gili volume 1 pages 81 and 141; and Gumilla
volume 1 page 403.) In Arabic and in Persian, bahr and deria are also
applied at the same time to the sea, to lakes, and to rivers; and this
practice, common to many nations in both worlds, has, on our ancient
maps, converted lakes into rivers and rivers into lakes. In support of
what I here advance, I shall appeal to very respectable testimony,
that of Father Caulin. "When I inquired of the Indians," says this
missionary, who sojourned longer than I on the banks of the Lower
Orinoco, "what Parima was, they answered that it was nothing more than
a river that issued from a chain of mountains, the opposite side of
which furnished waters to the Essequibo." Caulin, knowing nothing of
lake Amucu, attributes the erroneous opinion of the existence of an
inland sea solely to the inundations of the plains (a las inundaciones
dilatadas por los bajos del pais). According to him, the mistakes of
geographers arise from the vexatious circumstance of all the rivers of
Guiana having different names at their mouths and near their sources.
"I have no doubt," he adds, "that one of the upper branches of the Rio
Branco is that very Rio Parima which the Spaniards have taken for a
lake (a quien suponian laguna)." Such are the opinions which the
historiographer of the Expedition of the Boundaries had formed on the
spot. He could not expect that La Cruz and Surville, mingling old
hypotheses with accurate ideas, would reproduce on their maps the Mar
Dorado or Mar Blanco. Thus, notwithstanding the numerous proofs which
I have furnished since my return from America, of the non-existence of
an inland sea the origin of the Orinoco, a map has been published in
my name,* on which the Laguna Parima figures anew. (* Carte de
l'Amerique, dressee sur les Observations de M. de Humboldt, par Fried.
Vienna 1818.)

From the whole of these statements it follows, first, that the Laguna
Rupunuwini, or Parima of the voyage of Raleigh and of the maps of
Hondius, is an imaginary lake, formed by the lake Amucu* (* This is
the lake Amaca of Surville and La Cruz. By a singular mistake, the
name of this lake is transformed to a village on Arrowsmith's map.)
and the tributary streams of the Uraricuera, which often overflow
their banks; secondly, that the Laguna Parime of Surville's map is the
lake Amucu, which gives rise to the Rio Pirara and (conjointly with
the Mahu, the Tacutu, the Uraricuera, or Rio Parima, properly so
called) to the Rio Branco; thirdly, that the Laguna Parime of La Cruz
is an imaginary swelling of the Rio Parime (confounded with the
Orinoco) below the junction of the Mahu with the Xurumu. The distance
from the mouth of the Mahu to that of the Tacutu is scarcely 0 degrees
40 minutes; La Cruz enlarges it to 7 degrees of latitude. He calls the
upper part of the Rio Branco (that which receives the Mahu) Orinoco or
Purumu. There can be no doubt of its being the Xurumu, one of the
tributary streams of the Tacutu, which is well known to the
inhabitants of the neighbouring fort of San Joaquim. All the names
that figure in the fable of El Dorado are found in the tributary
streams of the Rio Branco. Slight local circumstances, joined to the
remembrances of the salt lake of Mexico, more especially of the
celebrated lake Manoa in the Dorado des Omaguas, have served to
complete a picture created by the imagination of Raleigh and his two
lieutenants, Keymis and Masham. The inundations of the Rio Branco, I
conceive, may be compared at the utmost to those of the Red River of
Louisiana, between Nachitoches and Cados, but not to the Laguna de los
Xarayes, which is a temporary swelling of the Rio Paraguay.* (*
Southey volume 1 page 130. These periodical overflowings of the Rio
Paraguay have long acted the same part in the southern hemisphere, as
lake Parima has been made to perform in the northern. Hondius and
Sanson have made the Rio de la Plata, the Rio Topajos (a tributary
stream of the Amazon), the Rio Tocantines, and the Rio de San
Francisco, issue from the Laguna de los Xarayes.)

We have now examined a White Sea,* (* That of D'Anville and La Cruz,
and of the greater part of the modern maps.) which the principal of
the Rio Branco is made to traverse; and another,* (* The lake of
Surville, which takes the place of lake Amucu.) which is placed on the
east of this river, and communicates with it by the Cano Pirara. A
third lake* (* The lake which Surville calls Laguna tenida hasta ahora
or La una Parime.) is figured on the west of the Rio Branco,
respecting which I found recently some curious details in the
manuscript journal of the surgeon Hortsmann. "At the distance of two
days' journey below the confluence of the Mahu (Tacutu) with the Rio
Parima (Uraricuera) a lake is found on top of a mountain. This lake is
stocked with the same fish as the Rio Parima; but the waters of the
former are black, and those of the latter white." May not Surville,
from a vague notion of this basin, have imagined, in his map prefixed
to Father Caulin's work, an Alpine lake of ten leagues in length, near
which, towards the east, rise at the same time the Orinoco, and the
Rio Idapa, a tributary stream of the Rio Negro? However vague may be
the account of the surgeon of Hildesheim, it is impossible to admit
that the mountain, which has a lake at its summit, is to the north of
the parallel of 2 degrees 30 minutes: and this latitude coincides
nearly with that of the Cerro Unturan. Hence it follows that the
Alpine lake of Hortsmann, which has escaped the attention of
D'Anville, and which is perhaps situate amid a group of mountains,
lies north-east of the portage from the Idapa to the Mavaca, and
south-east of the Orinoco, where it goes up above Esmeralda.

Most of the historians who have treated of the first ages of the
conquest seem persuaded that the name provincias or pais del Dorado
denoted originally every region abounding in gold. Forgetting the
precise etymology of the word El Dorado (the gilded), they have not
perceived that this tradition is a local fable, as were almost all the
ancient fables of the Greeks, the Hindoos, and the Persians. The
history of the gilded man belongs originally to the Andes of New
Grenada, and particularly to the plains in the vicinity of their
eastern side: we see it progressively advance, as I observed above,
three hundred leagues toward the east-north-east, from the sources of
the Caqueta to those of the Rio Branco and the Essequibo. Gold was
sought in different parts of South America before 1536, without the
word El Dorado having been ever pronounced, and without the belief of
the existence of any other centre of civilization and wealth, than the
empire of the Inca of Cuzco. Countries which now do not furnish
commerce with the smallest quantities of the precious metals, the
coast of Paria, Terra Firma (Castillo del Oro), the mountains of Santa
Marta, and the isthmus of Darien, then enjoyed the same celebrity
which has been more recently acquired by the auriferous lands of
Sonora, Choco, and Brazil.

Diego de Ordaz (1531) and Alonzo de Herrera (1535) directed their
journeys of discovery along the banks of the Lower Orinoco. The former
is the famous Conquistador of Mexico, who boasted that he had taken
sulphur out of the crater of the Peak of Popocatepetl, and whom the
emperor Charles V permitted to wear a burning volcano on his armorial
bearings. Ordaz, named Adelantado of all the country which he could
conquer between Brazil and the coast of Venezuela, which was then
called the country of the German Company of Welsers (Belzares) of
Augsburg, began his expedition by the mouth of the Maranon. He there
saw, in the hands of the natives, "emeralds as big as a man's fist."
They were, no doubt, pieces of that saussurite jade, or compact
feldspar, which we brought home from the Orinoco, and which La
Condamine found in abundance at the mouth of the Rio Topayos. The
Indians related to Diego de Ordaz that on going up during a certain
number of suns toward the west, he would find a large rock (pena) of
green stone; but before they reached this pretended mountain of
emerald (rocks of euphotide?) a shipwreck put an end to all farther
discovery. The Spaniards saved themselves with difficulty in two small
vessels. They hastened to get out of the mouth of the Amazon; and the
currents, which in those parts run with violence to the north-west,
led Ordaz to the coast of Paria where, in the territory of the cacique
Yuripari (Uriapari, Viapari), Sedeno had constructed the Casa fuerte
de Paria. This post being very near the mouth of the Orinoco, the
Mexican Conquistador resolved to attempt an expedition on this great
river. He sojourned first at Carao (Caroa, Carora), a large Indian
village, which appears to me to have been a little to the east of the
confluence of the Carony; he then went up the Cabruta (Cabuta,
Cabritu), and to the mouth of the Meta (Metacuyu), where he found
great difficulty in passing his boats through the Raudal of Cariven.
The Aruacas, whom Ordaz employed as guides, advised him to go up the
Meta; where, on advancing towards the west, they asserted he would
find men clothed, and gold in abundance. Ordaz pursued in preference
the navigation of the Orinoco, but the cataracts of Tabaje (perhaps
even those of the Atures) compelled him to terminate his discoveries.

It is worthy of remark that in this voyage, far anterior to that of
Orellana, and consequently the greatest which the Spaniards had then
performed on a river of the New World, the name of the Orinoco was for
the first time heard. Ordaz, the leader of the expedition, affirms
that the river, from its mouth as far as the confluence of the Meta,
is called Uriaparia, but that above this confluence it bears the name
of Orinucu. This word (formed analogously with the words Tamanacu,
Otomacu, Sinarucu) is, in fact, of the Tamanac tongue; and, as the
Tamanacs dwell south-east of Encaramada, it is natural that the
conquistadores heard the actual name of the river only on drawing near
the Rio Meta.* (* Gili volume 3 page 381. The following are the most
ancient names of the Orinoco, known to the natives near its mouth, and
which historians give us altered by the double fault of pronunciation
and orthography; Yuyapari, Yjupari, Huriaparia, Urapari, Viapari, Rio
de Paria. The Tamanac word Orinucu was disfigured by the Dutch pilots
into Worinoque. The Otomacs say Joga-apurura (great river); the Cabres
and Guaypunabis, Paragua, Bazagua Parava, three words signifying great
water, river, sea. That part of the Orinoco between the Apure and the
Guaviare is often denoted by the name of Baraguan. A famous strait,
which we have described above, bears also this name, which is no doubt
a corruption of the word Paragua. Great rivers in every zone are
called by the dwellers on their banks the river, without any
particular denominations. If other names be added, they change in
every province. Thus the Rio Turiva, near the Encaramada, has five
names in the different parts of its course. The Upper Orinoco, or
Paragua, is called by the Maquiritares (near Esmeralda) Maraguaca, on
account of the lofty mountains of this name near Duida. Gili volume 1
pages 22 and 364. Caulin page 75. In most of the names of the rivers
of America we recognize the root water. Thus yacu in the Peruvian, and
veni in the Maypure tongues, signify water and river. In the Lule
dialect I find fo, water; foyavolto, a river; foysi, a lake; as in
Persian, ab is water; abi frat, the river Euphrates; abdan, a lake.
The root water is preserved in the derivatives.) On this last
tributary stream Diego de Ordaz received from the natives the first
idea of civilized nations who inhabited the table-lands of the Andes
of New Granada; of a very powerful prince with one eye (Indio tuerto),
and of animals less than stags, but fit for riding like Spanish
horses. Ordaz had no idea that these animals were llamas (ovejas del
Peru). Must we admit that llamas, which were used in the Andes to draw
the plough and as beasts of burden, but not for riding, were already
common on the north and east of Quito? I find that Orellana saw these
animals at the river Amazon, above the confluence of the Rio Negro,
consequently in a climate very different from that of the table-land
of the Andes. The table of an army of Omaguas mounted on llamas served
to embellish the account given by the fellow-travellers of Felipe de
Urre of their adventurous expedition to the Upper Caqueta. We cannot
be sufficiently attentive to these traditions, which seem to prove
that the domestic animals of Quito and Peru had already begun to
descend the Cordilleras, and spread themselves by degrees in the
eastern regions of South America.

Herrera, the treasurer of the expedition of Ordaz, was sent in 1553,
by the governor Geronimo de Ortal, to pursue the discovery of the
Orinoco and the Meta. He lost nearly thirteen months between Punta
Barina and the confluence of the Carony in constructing flat-bottomed
boats, and making the preparations indispensable for a long voyage. We
cannot read without astonishment the narrative of those daring
enterprises, in which three or four hundred horses were embarked to be
put ashore whenever cavalry could act on one of the banks. We find in
the expedition of Herrera the same stations which we already knew; the
fortress of Paria, the Indian village of Uriaparia (no doubt below
Imataca, on a point where the inundations of the delta prevented the
Spaniards from being able to procure firewood), Caroa, in the province
of Carora; the rivers Caranaca (Caura?) and Caxavana (Cuchivero?); the
village of Cabritu (Cabruta), and the Raudal near the mouth of the
Meta (probably the Raudal of Cariven and the Piedra de la Paciencia).
As the Rio Meta, on account of the proximity of its sources and of its
tributary streams to the auriferous Cordilleras of new Grenada
(Cundinamarca), enjoyed great celebrity, Herrera attempted to go up
this river. He there found nations more civilized than those of the
Orinoco, but that fed on the flesh of mute dogs. Herrera was killed in
battle by an arrow poisoned with the juice of curare (yierva); and
when dying named Alvaro de Ordaz his lieutenant, who led the remains
of the expedition (1535) to the fortress of Paria, after having lost
the few horses which had resisted a campaign of eighteen months.

Confused reports which were circulated of the wealth of the
inhabitants of the Meta, and the other tributary streams that descend
from the eastern side of the Cordilleras of New Grenada, engaged
successively Geronimo de Ortal, Nicolas Federmann, and Jorge de Espira
(George von Speier), in 1535 and 1536, to undertake expeditions by
land towards the south and south-west. From the promontory of Paria,
as far as Cabo de la Vela, little figures of molten gold had been
found in the hands of the natives, as early as the years 1498 and
1500. The principal markets for these amulets, which the women used as
ornaments, were the villages of Curiana (Coro) and Cauchieto (Near the
Rio la Hacha). The metal employed by the founders of Cauchieto came
from a mountainous country more to the south. It may be conceived that
the expeditions of Ordaz and Herrera served to increase the desire of
drawing nearer to those auriferous countries. George von Speier left
Coro (1535), and penetrated by the mountains of Merida to the banks of
the Apure and the Meta. He passed these two rivers near their sources,
where they have but little breadth. The Indians told him that, farther
on, white men wandered about the plains. Speier, who imagined that he
was not far from the banks of the Amazon, had no doubt that these
wandering Spaniards were men unfortunately shipwrecked in the
expedition of Ordaz. He crossed the savannahs of San Juan de los
Llanos, which were said to abound in gold; and made a long stay at an
Indian village called Pueblo de Nuestra Senora, and afterwards La
Fragua, south-east of the Paramo de la Suma Paz. I have been on the
western back of this group of mountains, at Fusagasuga, and there
heard that the plains by which they are skirted toward the east still
enjoy some celebrity for wealth among the natives. Speier found in the
populous village of La Fragua a Casa del Sol (temple of the sun), and
a convent of virgins similar to those of Peru and New Granada. Were
these the consequence of a migration of religious rites towards the
east? or must we admit that the plains of San Juan were their first
cradle? Tradition, indeed, records that Bochica, the legislator of New
Granada and high-priest of Iraca, had gone up from the plains of the
east to the table-land of Bogota. But Bochica being at once the
offspring and the symbol of the sun, his history may contain
allegories that are merely astrological. Speier, pursuing his way
toward the south, and crossing the two branches of the Guaviare, which
are the Ariare and the Guayavero (Guayare or Canicamare), arrived on
the banks of the great Rio Papamene or Caqueta. The resistance he met
with during a whole year in the province de los Choques, put an end,
in 1537, to this memorable expedition. Nicolas Federmann and Geronimo
de Ortal (1536), who went from Macarapana and the mouth of the Rio
Neveri, followed (1535) the traces of Jorge de Espira. The former
sought for gold in the Rio Grande de la Magdalena; the latter
endeavoured to discover a temple of the sun (Casa del Sol) on the
banks of the Meta. Ignorant of the idiom of the natives, they seemed
to see everywhere, at the foot of the Cordilleras, the reflexion of
the greatness of the temples of Iraca (Sogamozo), which was then the
centre of the civilization of Cundinamarca.

I have now examined, in a geographical point of view, the expeditions
on the Orinoco, and in a western and southern direction on the eastern
back of the Andes, before the tradition of El Dorado was spread among
the conquistadores. This tradition, as we have noticed above, had its
origin in the kingdom of Quito, where Luis Daza (1535) met with an
Indian of New Grenada who had been sent by his prince (no doubt the
zippa of Bogota, or the zaque of Tunja), to demand assistance from
Atahualpa, inca of Peru. This ambassador boasted, as is usual, the
wealth of his country; but what particularly fixed the attention of
the Spaniards who were assembled with Daza in the town of Tacunga
(Llactacunga), was the history of a lord who, his body covered with
powdered gold, went into a lake amid the mountains. This lake may have
been the Laguna de Totta, a little to the east of Sogamozo (Iraca) and
of Tunja (Hunca, the town of Huncahua), where two chiefs,
ecclesiastical and secular, of the empire of Cundinamarca, or
Cundirumarca, resided; but no historical remembrance being attached to
this mountain lake, I rather suppose that it was the sacred lake of
Guatavita, on the east of the mines of rock-salt of Zipaquira, into
which the gilded lord was made to enter. I saw on its banks the
remains of a staircase hewn in the rock, and serving for the
ceremonies of ablution. The Indians said that powder of gold and
golden vessels were thrown into this lake, as a sacrifice to the
adoratorio de Guatavita. Vestiges are still found of a breach which
was made by the Spaniards for the purpose of draining the lake. The
temple of the sun at Sogamozo being pretty near the northern coasts of
Terra Firma, the notions of the gilded man were soon applied to a
high-priest of the sect of Bochica, or Indacanzas, who every morning,
before he performed his sacrifice, caused powder of gold to be stuck
upon his hands and face, after they had been smeared with grease.
Other accounts, preserved in a letter of Oviedo addressed to the
celebrated cardinal Bembo, say that Gonzalo Pizarro, when he
discovered the province of cinnamon-trees, "sought at the same time a
great prince, noised in those countries, who was always covered with
powdered gold, so that from head to foot he resembled an image of gold
fashioned by the hand of a skilful workman (a una figura d'oro
lavorato di mano d'un buonissimo orefice). The powdered gold is fixed
to the body by means of an odoriferous resin; but, as this kind of
garment would be uneasy to him while he slept, the prince washes
himself every evening, and is gilded anew in the morning, which proves
that the empire of El Dorado is infinitely rich in mines." It seems
probable that there was something in the ceremonies of the worship
introduced by Bochica which gave rise to a tradition so generally
spread. The strangest customs are found in the New World. In Mexico
the sacrificers painted their bodies and wore a kind of cape, with
hanging sleeves of tanned human skin.

On the banks of the Caura, and in other wild parts of Guiana, where
painting the body is used instead of tattooing, the nations anoint
themselves with turtle-fat, and stick spangles of mica with a metallic
lustre, white as silver and red as copper, on their skin, so that at a
distance they seem to wear laced clothes. The fable of the gilded man
is, perhaps, founded on a similar custom; and, as there were two
sovereign princes in New Granada, the lama of Iraca and the secular
chief or zaque of Tunja, we cannot be surprised that the same ceremony
was attributed sometimes to the prince and sometimes to the
high-priest. It is more extraordinary that, as early as the year 1535,
the country of El Dorado was sought for on the east of the Andes.
Robertson is mistaken in admitting that Orellana received the first
notions of it (1540) on the banks of the Amazon. The history of Fray
Piedro Simon, founded on the memoirs of Queseda, the conqueror of
Cundirumarca, proves directly the contrary; and Gonzalo Diaz de
Pineda, as early as 1536, sought for the gilded man beyond the plains
of the province of Quixos. The ambassador of Bogota, whom Daza met
with in the kingdom of Quito, had spoken of a country situate toward
the east. Was this because the table-land of New Granada is not on the
north, but on the north-east of Quito? We may venture to say that the
tradition of a naked man covered with powdered gold must have belonged
originally to a hot region, and not to the cold table-lands of
Cundirumarca, where I often saw the thermometer sink below four or
five degrees; however, on account of the extraordinary configuration
of the country, the climate differs greatly at Guatavita, Tunja,
Iraca, and on the banks of the Sogamozo. Sometimes, also, religious
ceremonies are preserved which took rise in another zone; and the
Muyscas, according to ancient traditions, made Bochica, their first
legislator and the founder of their worship, arrive from the plains
situate to the east of the Cordilleras. I shall not decide whether
these traditions expressed an historical fact, or merely indicated, as
we have already observed in another place, that the first Lama, who
was the offspring and symbol of the sun, must necessarily have come
from the countries of the East. Be it as it may, it is not less
certain that the celebrity which the expeditions of Ordaz, Herrera,
and Speier had already given to the Orinoco, the Meta, and the
province of Papamene, situate between the sources of the Guaviare and
Caqueta, contributed to fix the fable of El Dorado near to the eastern
back of the Cordilleras.

The junction of three bodies of troops on the table-land of New
Granada spread through all that part of America occupied by the
Spaniards the news of an immensely rich and populous country which
remained to be conquered. Sebastian de Belalcazar marched from Quito
by way of Popayan (1536) to Bogota; Nicholas Federmann, coming from
Venezuela, arrived from the east by the plains of Meta. These two
captains found, already settled on the table-land of Cundirumarca, the
famous Adelantado Gonzalo Ximenez de Queseda, one of whose descendants
I saw near Zipaquira, with bare feet, attending cattle. The fortuitous
meeting of the three conquistadores, one of the most extraordinary and
dramatic events of the history of the conquest, took place in 1538.
Belalcazar's narratives inflamed the imagination of warriors eager for
adventurous enterprises; and the notions communicated to Luis Daza by
the Indian of Tacunga were compared with the confused ideas which
Ordaz had collected on the Meta respecting the treasures of a great
king with one eye (Indio tuerto), and a people clothed, who rode upon
llamas. An old soldier, Pedro de Limpias, who had accompanied
Federmann to the table-land of Bogota, carried the first news of El
Dorado to Coro, where the remembrance of the expedition of Speier
(1535 to 1537) to the Rio Papamene was still fresh. It was from this
same town of Coro that Felipe von Huten (Urre, Utre) undertook his
celebrated voyage to the province of the Omaguas, while Pizarro,
Orellana, and Hernan Perez de Quesada, brother of the Adelantado,
sought for the gold country at the Rio Napo, along the river of the
Amazons, and on the eastern chain of the Andes of New Grenada. The
natives, in order to get rid of their troublesome guests, continually
described Dorado as easy to be reached, and situate at no considerable
distance. It was like a phantom that seemed to flee before the
Spaniards, and to call on them unceasingly. It is in the nature of
man, wandering on the earth, to figure to himself happiness beyond the
region which he knows. El Dorado, similar to Atlas and the islands of
the Hesperides, disappeared by degrees from the domain of geography,
and entered that of mythological fictions.

I shall not here relate the numerous enterprises which were undertaken
for the conquest of this imaginary country. Unquestionably we are
indebted to them in great part for our knowledge of the interior of
America; they have been useful to geography, as errors and daring
hypotheses are often to the search of truth: but in the discussion on
which we are employed, it is incumbent on me to rest only upon those
facts which have had the most direct influence on the construction of
ancient and modern maps. Hernan Perez de Quesada, after the departure
of his brother the Adelantado for Europe, sought anew (1539) but this
time in the mountainous land north-east of Bogota, the temple of the
sun (Casa del Sol), of which Geronimo de Ortal had heard spoken in
1536 on the banks of the Meta. The worship of the sun introduced by
Bochica, and the celebrity of the sanctuary of Iraca, or Sogamozo,
gave rise to those confused reports of temples and idols of massy
gold; but on the mountains as in the plains, the traveller believed
himself to be always at a distance from them, because the reality
never corresponded with the chimerical dreams of the imagination.
Francisco de Orellana, after having vainly sought El Dorado with
Pizarro in the Provincia de los Canelos, and on the auriferous banks
of the Napo, went down (1540) the great river of the Amazon. He found
there, between the mouths of the Javari and the Rio de la Trinidad
(Yupura?) a province rich in gold, called Machiparo (Muchifaro), in
the vicinity of that of the Aomaguas, or Omaguas. These notions
contributed to carry El Dorado toward the south-east, for the names
Omaguas (Om-aguas, Aguas), Dit-Aguas, and Papamene, designated the
same country--that which Jorge de Espira had discovered in his
expedition to the Caqueta. The Omaguas, the Manaos or Manoas, and the
Guaypes (Uaupes or Guayupes) live in the plains on the north of the
Amazon. They are three powerful nations, the latter of which,
stretching toward the west along the banks of the Guape or Uaupe, had
been already mentioned in the voyages of Quesada and Huten. These two
conquistadores, alike celebrated in the history of America, reached by
different roads the llanos of San Juan, then called Valle de Nuestra
Senora. Hernan Perez de Quesada (1541) passed the Cordilleras of
Cundirumarca, probably between the Paramos of Chingasa and Suma Paz;
while Felipe de Huten, accompanied by Pedro de Limpias (the same who
had carried to Venezuela the first news of Dorado from the land of
Bogota), directed his course from north to south, by the road which
Speier had taken to the eastern side of the mountains. Huten left
Coro, the principal seat of the German factory or company of Welser,
when Henry Remboldt was its director. After having traversed (1541)
the plains of Casanare, the Meta, and the Caguan, he arrived at the
banks of the Upper Guaviare (Guayuare), a river which was long
believed to be the source of the Orinoco, and the mouth of which I saw
in passing by San Fernando de Atabapo to the Rio Negro. Not far from
the right bank of the Guaviare, Huten entered Macatoa, the city of the
Guapes. The people there were clothed, the fields appeared well
cultivated; everything denoted a degree of civilization unknown in the
hot region of America which extends to the east of the Cordilleras.
Speier, in his expedition to the Rio Caqueta and the province of
Papamene, had probably crossed the Guaviare far above Macatoa, before
the junction of the two branches of this river, the Ariari and the
Guayavero. Huten was told that on advancing more to the south-east he
would enter the territory of the great nation of the Omaguas, the
priest-king of which was called Quareca, and which possessed numerous
herds of llamas. These traces of cultivation--these ancient
resemblances to the table-land of Quito--appear to me very remarkable.
It has already been said above that Orellana saw llamas at the
dwelling of an Indian chief on the banks of the Amazon, and that Ordaz
had heard mention made of them in the plains of Meta.

I pause where ends the domain of geography and shall not follow Huten
in the description either of that town of immense extent, which he saw
from afar; or of the battle of the Omaguas, where thirty-nine
Spaniards (the names of fourteen are recorded in the annals of the
time) fought against fifteen thousand Indians. These false reports
contributed greatly to embellish the fable of El Dorado. The name of
the town of the Omaguas is not found in the narrative of Huten; but
the Manoas, from whom Father Fritz received, in the seventeenth
century, plates of beaten gold, in his mission of Yurim-Aguas, are
neighbours of the Omaguas. The name of Manoa subsequently passed from
the country of the Amazons to an imaginary town, placed in El Dorado
de la Parima. The celebrity attached to those countries between the
Caqueta (Papamene) and the Guaupe (one of the tributary streams of the
Rio Negro) excited Pedro de Ursua, in 1560, to that fatal expedition,
which ended by the revolt of the tyrant Aguirre. Ursua, in going down
the Caqueta to enter the river of the Amazons, heard of the province
of Caricuri. This denomination clearly indicates the country of gold;
for I find that this metal is called caricuri in the Tamanac, and
carucuru in the Caribbee. Is it a foreign word that denotes gold among
the nations of the Orinoco, as the words sugar and cotton are in our
European languages? This would prove that these nations learned to
know the precious metals among the foreign products which came to them
from the Cordilleras,* or from the plains at the eastern back of the
Andes. (* In Peruvian or Quichua (lengua del Inca) gold is called
cori, whence are derived chichicori, gold in powder, and corikoya,

We arrive now at the period when the fable of El Dorado was fixed in
the eastern part of Guiana, first at the pretended lake Cassipa (on
the banks of the Paragua, a tributary stream of the Carony), and
afterwards between the sources of the Rio Essequibo and the Rio
Branco. This circumstance has had the greatest influence on the state
of geography in those countries. Antonio de Berrio, son-in-law* (*
Properly casado con una sobrina. Fray Pedro Simon pages 597 and 608.
Harris Coll. volume 2 page 212. Laet page 652. Caulin page 175.
Raleigh calls Quesada Cemenes de Casada. He also confounds the periods
of the voyages of Ordaz (Ordace), Orellana (Oreliano), and Ursua. See
Empire of Guiana pages 13 to 20.) and sole heir of the great
Adelantado Gonzalo Ximenez de Quesada, passed the Cordilleras to the
east of Tunja,* (* No doubt between the Paramos of Chita and of
Zoraca, taking the road of Chire and Pore. Berrio told Raleigh that he
came from the Casanare to the Pato, from the Pato to the Meta, and
from the Meta to the Baraguan (Orinoco). We must not confound this Rio
Pato (a name connected no doubt with that of the ancient mission of
Patuto) with the Rio Paute.) embarked on the Rio Casanare, and went
down by this river, the Meta, and the Orinoco, to the island of
Trinidad. We scarcely know this voyage except by the narrative of
Raleigh; it appears to have preceded a few years the first foundation
of Vieja Guayana, which was in the year 1591. A few years later (1595)
Berrio caused his maese de campo, Domingo de Vera, to prepare in
Europe an expedition of two thousand men to go up the Orinoco, and
conquer El Dorado, which then began to be called the country of the
Manoa, and even the Laguna de la gran Manoa. Rich landholders sold
their farms, to take part in a crusade, to which twelve Observantin
monks, and ten secular ecclesiastics were annexed. The tales related
by one Martinez* (Juan Martin de Albujar?), who said he had been
abandoned in the expedition of Diego de Ordaz, and led from town to
town till he reached the capital of El Dorado, had inflamed the
imagination of Berrio. (* I believe I can demonstrate that the fable
of Juan Martinez, spread abroad by the narrative of Raleigh, was
founded on the adventures of Juan Martin de Albujar, well known to the
Spanish historians of the Conquest; and who, in the expedition of
Pedro de Silva (1570), fell into the hands of the Caribs of the Lower
Orinoco. This Albujar married an Indian woman and became a savage
himself, as happens sometimes in our own days on the western limits of
Canada and of the United States. After having long wandered with the
Caribs, the desire of rejoining the Whites led him by the Rio
Essequibo to the island of Trinidad. He made several excursions to
Santa Fe de Bogota, and at length settled at Carora. (Simon page 591).
I know not whether he died at Porto Rico; but it cannot be doubted
that it was he who learned from the Carib traders the name of the
Manoas [of Jurubesh]. As he lived on the banks of the Upper Carony and
reappeared by the Rio Essequibo, he may have contributed also to place
the lake Manoa at the isthmus of Rupunuwini. Raleigh makes his Juan
Martinez embark below Morequito, a village at the east of that
confluence of the Carony with the Orinoco. Thence he makes him dragged
by the Caribs from town to town, till he finds at Manoa a relation of
the inca Atabalipa (Atahualpa), whom he had known before at Caxamarca,
and who had fled before the Spaniards. It appears that Raleigh had
forgotten that the voyage of Ordaz (1531) was two years anterior to
the death of Atahualpa and the entire destruction of the empire of
Peru! He must have confounded the expedition of Ordaz with that of
Silva (1570), in which Juan Martin de Albuzar partook. The latter, who
related his tales at Santa Fe, at Venezuela, and perhaps at Porto
Rico, must have combined what he had heard from the Caribs with what
he had learned from the Spaniards respecting the town of the Omaguas
seen by Huten; of the gilded man who sacrificed in a lake, and of the
flight of the family of Atahualpa into the forests of Vilcabamba, and
the eastern Cordillera of the Andes. Garcilasso volume 2 page 194.) It
is difficult to distinguish what this conquistador had himself
observed in going down the Orinoco from what he said he had collected
in a pretended journal of Martinez, deposited at Porto Rico. It
appears that in general at that period the same ideas prevailed
respecting America as those which we have long entertained in regard
to Africa; it was imagined that more civilization would be found
towards the centre of the continent than on the coasts. Already Juan
Gonzalez, whom Diego de Ordaz had sent in 1531 to explore the banks of
the Orinoco, announced that "the farther you went up this river the
more you saw the population increase." Berrio mentions the
often-inundated province of Amapaja, between the confluence of the
Meta and the Cuchivero, where he found many little idols of molten
gold, similar to those which were fabricated at Cauchieto, east of
Coro. He believed this gold to be a product of the granitic soil that
covers the mountainous country between the Carichana, Uruana, and
Cuchivero. In fact the natives have recently found a mass of native
gold in the Quebrada del Tigre near the mission of Encaramada. Berrio
mentions on the east of the province of Amapaja the Rio Carony
(Caroly), which was said to issue from a great lake, because one of
the tributary streams of the Carony, the Rio Paragua (river of the
great water), had been taken for an inland sea, from ignorance of the
Indian languages. Several of the Spanish historians believed that this
lake, the source of the Carony, was the Grand Manoa of Berrio; but the
notions he communicated to Raleigh show that the Laguna de Manoa (del
Dorado, or de Parime) was supposed to be to the south of the Rio
Paragua, transformed into Laguna Cassipa. "Both these basins had
auriferous sands; but on the banks of the Cassipa was situate
Macureguarai (Margureguaira), the capital of the cacique of Aromaja,
and the first city of the imaginary empire of Guyana."

As these often-inundated lands have been at all times inhabited by
nations of Carib race, who carried on a very active inland trade with
the most distant regions, we must not be surprised that more gold was
found here in the hands of the Indians than elsewhere. The natives of
the coast did not employ this metal in the form of ornaments or
amulets only; but also as a medium of exchange. It is not
extraordinary, therefore, that gold has disappeared on the coast of
Paria, and among the nations of the Orinoco, their inland
communications have been impeded by the Europeans. The natives who
have remained independent are in our days, no doubt, more wretched,
more indolent, and in a ruder state, than they were before the
conquest. The king of Morequito, whose son Raleigh took to England,
had visited Cumana in 1594, to exchange a great quantity of images of
massy gold for iron tools, and European merchandise. The unexpected
appearance of an Indian chief augmented the celebrity of the riches of
the Orinoco. It was supposed that El Dorado must be near the country
from which the king of Morequito came; and as this country was often
inundated, and rivers vaguely called great seas, or great basins of
water, El Dorado must be on the banks of a lake. It was forgotten that
the gold brought by the Caribs and other trading people was as little
the produce of the soil as the diamonds of Brazil and India are the
produce of the regions of Europe, where they are most abundant. The
expedition of Berrio which had increased in number during the stay of
the vessels at Cumana, La Margareta, and the island of Trinidad,
proceeded by Morequito (near Vieja Guayana) towards the Rio Paragua, a
tributary stream of the Carony; but sickness, the ferocity of the
natives, and the want of subsistence, opposed invincible obstacles to
the progress of the Spaniards. They all perished; except about thirty,
who returned in a deplorable state to the post of Santo Thome.

These disasters did not calm the ardour displayed during the first
half of the 17th century in the search of El Dorado. The Governor of
the island of Trinidad, Antonio de Berrio, became the prisoner of Sir
Walter Raleigh in the celebrated incursion of that navigator, in 1595,
on the coast of Venezuela and at the mouths of the Orinoco. Raleigh
collected from Berrio, and from other prisoners made by Captain
Preston* at the taking of Caracas, all the information which had been
obtained at that period on the countries situate to the south of Vieya
Guayana. (* These prisoners belonged to the expedition of Berrio and
of Hernandez de Serpa. The English landed at Macuto (then Guayca
Macuto), whence a white man, Villalpando, led them by a mountain-path
between Cumbre and the Silla (perhaps passing over the ridge of
Galipano) to the town of Caracas. Simon page 594; Raleigh page 19.
Those only who are acquainted with the situation can be sensible how
difficult and daring this enterprise was.) He lent faith to the fables
invented by Juan Martin de Albujar, and entertained no doubt either of
the existence of the two lakes Cassipa and Rupunuwini, or of that of
the great empire of the Inca, which, after the death of Atahualpa, the
fugitive princes were supposed to have founded near the sources of the
Essequibo. We are not in possession of a map that was constructed by
Raleigh, and which he recommended to lord Charles Howard to keep
secret. The geographer Hondius has filled up this void; and has even
added to his map a table of longitudes and latitudes, among which
figure the laguna del Dorado, and the Ville Imperiale de Manoas.
Raleigh, when at anchor near the Punta del Gallo* in the island of
Trinidad (* The northern part of La Punta de Icacos, which is the
south-east cape of the island of Trinidad. Christopher Columbus cast
anchor there on August 3, 1498. A great confusion exists in the
denomination of the different capes of the island of Trinidad; and as
recently, since the expedition of Fidalgo and Churruca, the Spaniards
reckon the longitudes in South America west of La Punta de la Galera
(latitude 10 degrees 50 minutes, longitude 63 degrees 20 minutes), it
is important to fix the attention of geographers on this point.
Columbus called the south-east cape of the island Punta Galera, on
account of the form of a rock. From Punta de la Galera he sailed to
the west and landed at a low cape, which he calls Punta del Arenal;
this is our Punta de Icacos. In this passage, near a place (Punta de
la Playa) where he stopped to take in water (perhaps at the mouth of
the Rio Erin), he saw to the south, for the first time, the continent
of America, which he called Isla Santa. It was, therefore, the eastern
coast of the province of Cumana, to the east of the Cano Macareo, near
Punta Redonda, and not the mountainous coast of Paria (Isla de Gracia,
of Columbus), which was first discovered.), made his lieutenants
explore the mouths of the Orinoco, principally those of Capuri, Grand
Amana (Manamo Grande), and Macureo (Macareo). As his ships drew a
great deal of water, he found it difficult to enter the bocas chicas,
and was obliged to construct flat-bottomed barks. He remarked the
fires of the Tivitivas (Tibitibies), of the race of the Guaraon
Indians, on the tops of the mauritia palm-trees; and appears to have
first brought the fruit to Europe (fructum squamosum, similem palmae
pini). I am surprised, that he scarcely mentions the settlement, which
had been made by Berrio under the name of Santo Thome (la Vieja
Guayana.) This settlement however dates from 1591; and though,
according to Fray Pedro Simon, "religion and policy prohibited all
mercantile connection between Christians [Spaniards] and Heretics [the
Dutch and English]," there was then carried on at the end of the
sixteenth century, as in our days, an active contraband trade by the
mouths of the Orinoco. Raleigh passed the river Europa (Guarapo), and
"the plains of Saymas (Chaymas), which extend, keeping the same level,
as far as Cumana and Caracas;" he stopped at Morequito (perhaps a
little to the north of the site of the villa de Upata, in the missions
of the Carony), where an old cacique confirmed to him all the reveries
of Berrio on the irruption of foreign nations (Orejones and Epuremei)
into Guiana. The Raudales or cataracts of the Caroli (Carony), a river
which was at that period considered as the shortest way for reaching
the towns of Macureguarai and Manoa, situate on the banks of lake
Cassipa and of lake Rupunuwini or Dorado, put an end to this

Raleigh went scarcely the distance of sixty leagues along the Orinoco;
but he names the upper tributary streams, according to the vague
notions he had collected; the Cari, the Pao, the Apure (Capuri?) the
Guarico (Voari?) the Meta,* and even, "in the province of Baraguan,
the great cataract of Athule (Atures), which prevents all further
navigation." (* Raleigh distinguishes the Meta from the Beta, which
flows into the Baraguan (the Orinoco) conjointly with the Daune, near
Athule; as he distinguishes the Casanare, a tributary stream of the
Meta, and the Casnero, which comes from the south, and appears to be
the Rio Cuchivero. All above the confluence of the Apure was then very
confusedly known; and streams that flow into the tributary streams of
the Orinoco were considered as flowing into this river itself. The
Apure (Capuri) and Meta appeared long to be the same river on account
of their proximity, and the numerous branches by which the Arauca and
the Apure join each other. Is the name of Beta perchance connected
with that of the nation of Betoyes, of the plains of the Casanare and
the Meta? Hondius and the geographers who have followed him, with the
exception of De L'Isle (1700), and of Sanson (1656), place the
province of Amapaja erroneously to the east of the Orinoco. We see
clearly by the narrative of Raleigh (pages 26 and 72), that Amapaja is
the inundated country between the Meta and the Guarico. Where are the
rivers Dauney and Ubarro? The Guaviare appears to me to be the Goavar
of Raleigh.) Notwithstanding Raleigh's exaggeration, so little worthy
of a statesman, his narrative contains important materials for the
history of geography. The Orinoco above the confluence of the Apure
was at that period as little known to Europeans, as in our time the
course of the Niger below Sego. The names of several very remote
tributary streams were known, but not their situation; and when the
same name, differently pronounced, or not properly apprehended by the
ear, furnished different sounds, their number was multiplied. Other
errors had perhaps their source in the little interest which Antonio
de Berrio, the Spanish governor, felt in communicating true and
precise notions to Raleigh, who indeed complains of his prisoner, "as
being utterly unlearned, and not knowing the east from the west." I
shall not here discuss the point how far the belief of Raleigh, in all
he relates of inland seas similar to the Caspian sea; on "the imperial
and golden city of Manoa," and on the magnificent palaces built by the
emperor Inga of Guyana, in imitation of those of his ancestors at
Peru, was real or pretended. The learned historian of Brazil, Mr.
Southey, and the biographer of Raleigh, Sir G. Cayley, have recently
thrown much light on this subject. It seems to me difficult to doubt
of the extreme credulity of the chief of the expedition, and of his
lieutenants. We see Raleigh adapted everything to the hypotheses he
had previously formed. He was certainly deceived himself; but when he
sought to influence the imagination of queen Elizabeth, and execute
the projects of his own ambitious policy, he neglected none of the
artifices of flattery. He described to the Queen "the transports of
those barbarous nations at the sight of her picture;" he would have
"the name of the august virgin, who knows how to conquer empires,
reach as far as the country of the warlike women of the Orinoco and
the Amazon;" he asserts that "at the period when the Spaniards
overthrew the throne of Cuzco, an ancient prophecy was found, which
predicted that the dynasty of the Incas would one day owe its
restoration to Great Britain;" he advises that "on pretext of
defending the territory against external enemies, garrisons of three
or four thousand English should be placed in the towns of the Inca,
obliging this prince to pay a contribution annually to Queen Elizabeth
of three hundred thousand pounds sterling;" finally he adds, like a
man who foresees the future, that "all the vast countries of South
America will one day belong to the English nation."* (* "I showed them
her Majesty's picture, which the Casigui so admired and honoured, as
it had been easy to have brought them idolatrous thereof. And I
further remember that Berreo confessed to me and others (which I
protest before the majesty of God to be true), that there was found
among prophecies at Peru (at such a time as the empire was reduced to
the Spanish obedience) in their chiefest temple, among divers others
which foreshowed the losse of the said empyre, that from Inglatierra
those Ingas should be again in time to come restored. The Inga would
yield to her Majesty by composition many hundred thousand pounds
yearely as to defend him against all enemies abroad and defray the
expenses of a garrison of 3000 or 4000 soldiers. It seemeth to me that
this Empyre of Guiana is reserved for the English nation." (Raleigh
pages 7, 17, 51 and 100.)

The four voyages of Raleigh to the Lower Orinoco succeeded each other
from 1595 to 1617. After all these useless attempts the ardour of
research after El Dorado has greatly diminished. No expeditions have
since been formed by a numerous band of colonists; but some solitary
enterprises have been encouraged by the governors of the provinces.
The notions spread by the journeys of Father Acunha in 1688, and
Father Fritz in 1637, to the auriferous land of the Manoas of
Jurubesh, and to the Laguna de Ore, contributed to renew the ideas of
El Dorado in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies north and south of
the equator. At Cuenza, in the kingdom of Quito, I met with some men,
who were employed by the bishop Marfil to seek at the east of the
Cordilleras, in the plains of Macas, the ruins of the town of Logrono,
which was believed to be situate in a country rich in gold. We learn
by the journal of Hortsmann, which I have often quoted, that it was
supposed, in 1740, El Dorado might be reached from Dutch Guiana by
going up the Rio Essequibo. Don Manuel Centurion, the governor of
Santo Thome del Angostura, displayed an extreme ardour for reaching
the imaginary lake of Manoa. Arimuicaipi, an Indian of the nation of
the Ipurucotos, went down the Rio Carony, and by his false narrations
inflamed the imagination of the Spanish colonists. He showed them in
the southern sky the Clouds of Magellan, the whitish light of which he
said was the reflection of the argentiferous rocks situate in the
middle of the Laguna Parima. This was describing in a very poetical
manner the splendour of the micaceous and talcy slates of his country!
Another Indian chief, known among the Caribs of Essequibo by the name
El Capitan Jurado, vainly attempted to undeceive the governor
Centurion. Fruitless attempts were made by the Caura and the Rio
Paragua; and several hundred persons perished miserably in these rash
enterprises, from which, however, geography has derived some
advantages. Nicolas Rodriguez and Antonio Santos (1775 to 1780) were
employed by the Spanish governor. Santos, proceeding by the Carony,
the Paragua, the Paraguamusi, the Anocapra, and the mountains of
Pacaraymo and Quimiropaca, reached the Uraricuera and the Rio Branco.
I found some valuable information in the journals of these perilous

The maritime charts which the Florentine traveller, Amerigo Vespucci,*
constructed in the early years of the sixteenth century, as Piloto
mayor de la Casa de Contratacion of Seville, and in which he placed,
perhaps artfully, the words Tierra de Amerigo, have not reached our
times. (* He died in 1512, as Mr. Munoz has proved by the documents of
the archives of Simancas. Hist. del Nuevo Mundo volume 1 page 17.
Tiraboschi, Storia della Litteratura.) The most ancient monument we
possess of the geography of the New Continent,* is the map of the
world by John Ruysch, annexed to a Roman edition of Ptolemy in 1508.
(* See the learned researches of M. Walckenaer, in the Bibliographie
Universelle volume 6 page 209 article Buckinck. On the maps added to
Ptolemy in 1506 we find no trace of the discoveries of Columbus.) We
there find Yucatan and Honduras (the most southern part of Mexico)*
figured as an island, by the name of Culicar. (* No doubt the lands
between Uucatan, Cape Gracias a Dios, and Veragua, discovered by
Columbus (1502 and 1503), by Solis, and by Pincon (1506).) There is no
isthmus of Panama, but a passage, which permits of a direct navigation
from Europe to India. The great southern island (South America) bears
the name of Terra de Pareas, bounded by two rivers, the Rio Lareno and
the Rio Formoso. These Pareas are, no doubt, the inhabitants of Paria,
a name which Christopher Columbus had already heard in 1498, and which
was long applied to a great part of America. Bishop Geraldini says
clearly, in a letter addressed to Pope Leo X in 1516: Insula illa,
quae Europa et Asia est major, quam indocti Continentem Asiae
appellant, et alii Americam vel Pariam nuncupant [that island, larger
than Europe and Asia joined together, which the unlearned call the
continent of Asia, and others America or Paria].* (* Alexandri
Geraldini Itinerarium page 250.) I find in the map of the world of
1508 no trace whatever of the Orinoco. This river appears, for the
first time, by the name of Rio Dolce, on the celebrated map
constructed in 1529 by Diego Ribeyro, cosmographer of the emperor
Charles V, which was published, with a learned commentary, by M.
Sprengel, in 1795. Neither Columbus (1498) nor Alonzo de Ojeda,
accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci (1499), had seen the real mouth of the
Orinoco; they confounded it with the northern opening of the Gulf of
Paria, to which they attributed (by an exaggeration so common to the
navigators of that time, an immense volume of fresh water. It was
Vicente Yanez Pincon, who, after having discovered the mouth of the
Rio Maranon,* first saw, in 1500, that of the Orinoco. (* The name of
Maranon was known fifty-nine years before the expedition of Lopez de
Aguirre; the denomination of the river is therefore erroneously
attributed to the nickname of maranos (hogs), which this adventurer
gave his companions in going down the river Amazon. Was not this
vulgar jest rather an allusion to the Indian name of the river?) He
called this river Rio Dolce--a name which, since Ribeyro, was long
preserved on our maps, and which has sometimes been given erroneously
to the Maroni and to the Essequibo.

The great Lake Parima did not appear on our maps* till after the first
voyage of Raleigh. (* I find no trace of it on a very rare map,
dedicated to Richard Hakluyt, and constructed on the meridian of
Toledo. Novus Orbis, Paris 1587. In this map, published before the
voyage of Quiros, a group of Islands is marked (Infortunatae Insulae)
where the Friendly Islands actually are. Ortelius (1570) already knew
them. Were they islands seen by Magellan?) It was Jodocus Hondius who,
as early as the year 1599, fixed the ideas of geographers and figured
the interior of Spanish Guiana as a country well known. He transformed
the isthmus between the Rio Branco and the Rio Rupunuwini (one of the
tributary streams of the Essequibo) into the lake Rupunuwini, Parima,
or Dorado, two hundred leagues long, and forty broad, and bounded by
the latitudes of 1 degree 45 minutes south, and 2 degrees north. This
inland sea, larger than the Caspian, is sometimes traced in the midst
of a mountainous country, without communication with any river;* (*
See, for instance, Hondius, Nieuwe Caerte van het goudrycke landt
Guiana, 1599; and Sanson's Map of America, in 1656 and 1669.) and
sometimes the Rio Oyapok (Waiapago, Japoc, Viapoco) and the Rio de
Cayana are made to issue from it.* (* Brasilia et Caribaua, auct.
Hondio et Huelsen 1599.) The first of these rivers, confounded in the
eighth article of the treaty of Utrecht with the Rio de Vicente Pincon
(Rio Calsoene of D'Anville), has been, even down to the late congress
of Vienna, the subject of interminable discussions between the French
and Portuguese diplomatists.* (* I have treated this question in a
Memoire sur la fixation des limites de La Guyane Francaise, written at
the desire of the Portuguese government during the negotiations of
Paris in 1817. (See Schoell, Archives polit. or Pieces inedites volume
1 pages 48 to 58.) Ribeyro, in his celebrated map of the world of
1529, places the Rio de Vicente Pincon south of the Amazon, near the
Gulf of Maranhao. This navigator landed at this spot, after having
been at Cape Saint Augustin, and before he reached the mouth of the
Amazon. Herrera dec. I page 107. The narrative of Gomara, Hist. Nat.
1553 page 48, is very confused in a geographical point of view.) The
second is an imaginary prolongation either of the Tonnegrande or of
the Oyac (Wia?). The inland sea (Laguna Parime) was at first placed in
such a manner that its western extremity coincided with the meridian
of the confluence of the Apure and the Orinoco. By degrees it was
advanced toward the east,* the western extremity being found to the
south of the mouth of the Orinoco. (* Compare the maps of 1599 with
those of Sanson (1656) and of Blaeuw (1633).) This change produced
others in the respective situations of the lakes Parima and Cassipa,
as well as in the direction of the course of the Orinoco. This great
river is represented as running from its delta as far as beyond the
Meta, from south to north, like the river Magdalena. The tributary
streams, therefore, which were made to issue from the lake Cassipa,
the Carony, the Arui, and the Caura, then took the direction of the
latitude, while in nature they follow that of a meridian. Beside the
lakes Parima and Cassipa, a third was traced upon the maps, from which
the Aprouague (Apurwaca) was made to issue. It was then a general
practice among geographers to attach all rivers to great lakes. By
this means Ortelius joined the Nile to the Zaire or Rio Congo, and the
Vistula to the Wolga and the Dnieper. North of Mexico, in the
pretended kingdoms of Quivira and Cibola, rendered celebrated by the
falsehoods of the monk Marcos de Niza, a great inland sea was
imagined, from which the Rio Colorado of California was made to
issue.* (* This is the Mexican Dorado, where it was pretended that
vessels had been found on the coasts [of New Albion?] loaded with the
merchandise of Catayo and China (Gomara, Hist. Gen. page 117), and
where Fray Marcos (like Huten in the country of the Omaguas) had seen
from afar the gilded roofs of a great town, one of the Siete Ciudades.
The inhabitants have great dogs, en los quales quando se mudan cargan
su menage. (Herrera dec. 6 pages 157 and 206.) Later discoveries,
however, leave no doubt that there existed a centre of civilization in
those countries.) A branch of the Rio Magdalena flowed to the Laguna
de Maracaybo; and the lake of Xarayes, near which a southern Dorado
was placed, communicated with the Amazon, the Miari* (Meary) (* As
this river flows into the gulf of Maranhao (so named because some
French colonists, Rifault, De Vaux, and Ravadiere, believed they were
opposite the mouth of the Maranon or Amazon), the ancient maps call
the Meary Maranon, or Maranham. See the maps of Hondius, and Paulo de
Forlani. Perhaps the idea that Pincon, to whom the discovery of the
real Maranon is due, had landed in these parts, since become
celebrated by the shipwreck of Ayres da Cunha, has also contributed to
this confusion. The Meary appears to me identical with the Rio de
Vicente Pincon of Diego Ribeyro, which is more than one hundred and
forty leagues from that of the modern geographers. At present the name
of Maranon has remained at the same time to the river of the Amazons,
and to a province much farther eastward, the capital of which is
Maranhao, or St. Louis de Maranon.) and the Rio de San Francisco.
These hydrographic reveries have for the most part disappeared; but
the lakes Cassipa and Dorado have been long simultaneously preserved
on our maps.

In following the history of geography we see the Cassipa, figured as a
rectangular parallelogram, enlarge by degrees at the expense of El
Dorado. While the latter is sometimes suppressed, no one ventures to
touch the former,* which is the Rio Paragua (a tributary stream of the
Caroni) enlarged by temporary inundations. (* Sanson, Course of the
Amazon, 1680; De L'Isle, Amerique Merid. 1700. D'Anville, first
edition of his America, 1748.) When D'Anville learned from the
expedition of Solano that the sources of the Orinoco, far from lying
to the west, on the back of the Andes of Pasto, came from the east,
from the mountains of Parima, he restored in the second edition of his
fine map of America (1760) the Laguna Parime, and very arbitrarily
made it to communicate with three rivers, the Orinoco, the Rio Branco,
and the Essequibo, by the Mazuruni and the Cujuni; assigning to it the
latitude from 3 to 4 degrees north, which had till then been given to
lake Cassipa.

I have now stated, as I announced above, the variable forms which
geographical errors have assumed at different periods. I have
explained what in the configuration of the soil, the course of the
rivers, the names of the tributary streams, and the multiplicity of
the portages, may have given rise to the hypothesis of an inland sea
in the centre of Guiana. However dry discussions of this nature may
appear, they ought not to be regarded as sterile and fruitless. They
show travellers what remains to be discovered; and make known the
degree of certainty which long-repeated assertions may claim. It is
with maps, as with those tables of astronomical positions which are
contained in our ephemerides, designed for the use of navigators: the
most heterogeneous materials have been employed in their construction
during a long space of time; and, without the aid of the history of
geography, we could scarcely hope to discover at some future day on
what authority every partial statement rests.

Before I resume the thread of my narrative, it remains for me to add a
few general reflections on the auriferous lands situate between the
Amazon and the Orinoco. We have just shown that the fable of El
Dorado, like the most celebrated fables of the nations of the ancient
world, has been applied progressively to different spots. We have seen
it advance from the south-west to the north-east, from the oriental
declivity of the Andes towards the plains of Rio Branco and the
Essequibo, an identical direction with that in which the Caribs for
ages conducted their warlike and mercantile expeditions. It may be
conceived that the gold of the Cordilleras might be conveyed from hand
to hand, through an infinite number of tribes, as far as the shore of
Guiana; since, long before the fur-trade had attracted English,
Russian, and American vessels to the north-west coast of America, iron
tools had been carried from New Mexico and Canada beyond the Rocky
Mountains. From an error in longitude, the traces of which we find in
all the maps of the 16th century, the auriferous mountains of Peru and
New Granada were supposed to be much nearer the mouths of the Orinoco
and the Amazon than they are in fact. Geographers have the habit of
augmenting and extending beyond measure countries that are recently
discovered. In the map of Peru, published at Verona by Paulo di
Forlani, the town of Quito is placed at the distance of 400 leagues
from the coast of the South Sea, on the meridian of Cumana; and the
Cordillera of the Andes there fills almost the whole surface of
Spanish, French, and Dutch Guiana. This erroneous opinion of the
breadth of the Andes has no doubt contributed to give so much
importance to the granitic plains that extend on their eastern side.
Unceasingly confounding the tributary streams of the Amazon with those
of the Orinoco, or (as the lieutenants of Raleigh called it, to
flatter their chief) the Rio Raleana, to the latter were attributed
all the traditions which had been collected respecting the Dorado of
Quixos, the Omaguas, and the Manoas.* (* The flight of Manco-Inca,
brother of Atahualpa, to the east of the Cordilleras, no doubt gave
rise to the tradition of the new empire of the Incas in Dorado. It was
forgotten that Caxamarca and Cuzco, two towns where the princes of
that unfortunate family were at the time of their emigration, are
situate to the south of the Amazon, in the latitudes seven degrees
eight minutes, and thirteen degrees twenty-one minutes south, and
consequently four hundred leagues south-west of the pretended town of
Manoa on the lake Parima (three degrees and a half north latitude). It
is probable that, from the extreme difficulty of penetration into the
plains east of the Andes, covered with forests, the fugitive princes
never went beyond the banks of the Beni. The following is what I
learnt with certainty respecting the emigration of the family of the
Inca, some sad vestiges of which I saw on passing by Caxamarca.
Manco-Inca, acknowledged as the legitimate successor of Atahualpa,
made war without success against the Spaniards. He retired at length
into the mountains and thick forests of Vilcabamba, which are
accessible either by Huamanga and Antahuaylla, or by the valley of
Yucay, north of Cuzco. Of the two Sons of Manco-Inca, the eldest,
Sayri-Tupac, surrendered himself to the Spaniards, upon the invitation
of the viceroy of Peru, Hurtado de Mendoza. He was received with great
pomp at Lima, was baptized there, and died peaceably in the fine
valley of Yucay. The youngest son of Manco-Inca, Tupac-Amaru, was
carried off by stratagem from the forests of Vilcabamba, and beheaded
on pretext of a conspiracy formed against the Spanish usurpers. At the
same period, thirty-five distant relations of the Inca Atahualpa were
seized, and conveyed to Lima, in order to remain under the inspection
of the Audiencia. (Garcilasso volume 2 pages 194, 480 and 501.) It is
interesting to inquire whether any other princes of the family of
Manco-Capac have remained in the forests of Vilcabamba, and if there
still exist any descendants of the Incas of Peru between the Apurimac
and the Beni. This supposition gave rise in 1741 to the famous
rebellion of the Chuncoes, and to that of the Amages and Campoes led
on by their chief, Juan Santos, called the false Atahualpa. The late
political events of Spain have liberated from prison the remains of
the family of Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, an artful and intrepid man,
who, under the name of the Inca Tupac-Amaru, attempted in 1781 that
restoration of the ancient dynasty which Raleigh had projected in the
time of Queen Elizabeth.) The geographer Hondius supposed that the
Andes of Loxa, celebrated for their forests of cinchona, were only
twenty leagues distant from the lake Parima, or the banks of the Rio
Branco. This proximity procured credit to the tidings of the flight of
the Inca into the forests of Guiana, and the removal of the treasures
of Cuzco to the easternmost parts of that country. No doubt in going
up towards the east, either by the Meta or by the Amazon, the
civilization of the natives, between the Puruz, the Jupura, and the
Iquiari, was observed to increase. They possessed amulets, little
idols of molten gold, and chairs, elegantly carved; but these traces
of dawning civilization are far distant from those cities and houses
of stone described by Raleigh and those who followed him. We have made
drawings of some ruins of great edifices east of the Cordilleras, when
going down from Loxa towards the Amazon, in the province of Jaen de
Bracamoros; and thus far the Incas had carried their arms, their
religion, and their arts. The inhabitants of the Orinoco were also,
before the conquest, when abandoned to themselves, somewhat more
civilized than the independent hordes of our days. They had populous
villages along the river, and a regular trade with more southern
nations; but nothing indicates that they ever constructed an edifice
of stone. We saw no vestige of any during the course of our journey.

Though the celebrity of the riches of Spanish Guiana is chiefly
assignable to the geographical situation of the country and the errors
of the old maps, we are not justified in denying the existence of any
auriferous land in the tract of country of eighty-two thousand square
leagues, which stretches between the Orinoco and the Amazon, on the
east of the Andes of Quito and New Granada. What I saw of this country
between the second and eighth degrees of latitude, and the sixty-sixth
and seventy-first degrees of longitude, is entirely composed of
granite, and of a gneiss passing into micaceous and talcous slate.
These rocks appear naked in the lofty mountains of Parima, as well as
in the plains of the Atabapo and the Cassiquiare. Granite predominates
there over the other rocks; and though, in both continents, the
granite of ancient formation is pretty generally destitute of
gold-ore, we cannot thence conclude that the granite of Parima
contains no vein, no stratum of auriferous quartz. On the east of the
Cassiquiare towards the sources of the Orinoco, we observed that the
number of these strata and these veins increased. The granite of these
countries, by its structure, its mixture of hornblende, and other
geological features alike important, appears to me to belong to a more
recent formation, perhaps posterior to the gneiss, and analogous to
the stanniferous granites, the hyalomictes, and the pegmatites. Now
the least ancient granites are also the least destitute of metals; and
several auriferous rivers and torrents in the Andes, in the Salzburg,
Fichtelgebirge, and the table-land of the two Castiles, lead us to
believe that these granites sometimes contain native gold, and
portions of auriferous pyrites and galena disseminated throughout the
whole rock, as is the case with tin and magnetic and micaceous iron.
The group of the mountains of Parima, several summits of which attain
the height of one thousand three hundred toises, was almost entirely
unknown before our visit to the Orinoco. This group, however, is a
hundred leagues long and eighty broad; and though wherever M. Bonpland
and I traversed this vast group of mountains, its structure seemed to
us extremely uniform, it would be wrong to affirm that it may not
contain very metalliferous transition rocks and mica-slates
superimposed on the granite.

I have already observed that the silvery lustre and frequency of mica
have contributed to give Guiana great celebrity for metallic wealth.
The peak of Calitamini, glowing every evening at sunset with a reddish
fire, still attracts the attention of the inhabitants of Maypures.
According to the fabulous stories of the natives, the islets of
mica-slate, situate in lake Amucu, augment by their reflection the
lustre of the nebulae of the southern sky. "Every mountain," says
Raleigh, "every stone in the forests of the Orinoco, shines like the
precious metals; if it be not gold, it is madre del oro (mother of
gold)." Raleigh asserts that he brought back gangues of auriferous
white quartz ("harde white sparr"); and to prove the richness of this
ore he gives an account of the assays that were made by the officers
of the mint at London.* (* Messrs. Westewood, Dimocke, and Bulmar.) I
have no reason to believe that the chemists of that time sought to
lead Queen Elizabeth into error, and I will not insult the memory of
Raleigh by supposing, like his contemporaries,* that the auriferous
quartz which he brought home had not been collected in America. (* See
the defence of Raleigh in the preface to the Discovery of Guiana, 1596
pages 2 to 4.) We cannot judge of things from which we are separated
by so long an interval of time. The gneiss of the littoral chain*
contains traces of the precious metals (* In the southern branch of
this chain which passes by Yusma, Villa de Cura and Ocumare,
particularly near Buria, Los Teques and Los Marietas.); and some
grains of gold have been found in the mountains of Parima, near the
mission of Encaramada. How can we infer the absolute sterility of the
primitive rocks of Guiana from testimony merely negative, from the
circumstance that during a journey of three months we saw no
auriferous vein appearing above the soil?

In order to bring together whatever may enlighten the government of
this country on a subject so long disputed, I will enter upon a few
more geological considerations. The mountains of Brazil,
notwithstanding the numerous traces of embedded ore which they display
between Saint Paul and Villa Rica, have furnished only stream-works of
gold. More than six-sevenths of the seventy-eight thousand marks
(52,000 pounds) of this metal, with which at the beginning of the 19th
century America annually supplied the commerce of Europe, have come,
not from the lofty Cordilleras of the Andes, but from the alluvial
lands on the east and west of the Cordilleras. These lands are raised
but little above the level of the sea, like those of Sonora in Mexico,
and of Choco and Barbacoas in New Granada; or they stretch along in
table-lands, as in the interior of Brazil.* (* The height of Villa
Rica is six hundred and thirty toises; but the great table-land of the
Capitania de Minas Geraes is only three hundred toises in height. See
the profile which Colonel d'Eschwege has published at Weimar, with an
indication of the rocks, in imitation of my profile of the Mexican
table-land.) Is it not probable that some other depositions of
auriferous earth extend toward the northern hemisphere, as far as the
banks of the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro, two rivers which form
but one basin with that of the Amazon? I observed, when speaking of El
Dorado de Canelas, the Omaguas and the Iquiare, that almost all the
rivers which flow from the west wash down gold in abundance, and very
far from the Cordilleras. From Loxa to Popayan these Cordilleras are
composed alternately of trachytes and primitive rocks. The plains of
Ramora, of Logrono, and of Macas (Sevilla del Oro), the great Rio Napo
with its tributary streams* (the Ansupi and the Coca, in the province
of Quixos (* The little rivers Cosanga, Quixos, and Papallacta or
Maspa, which form the Coca, rise on the eastern slope of the Nevado de
Antisana. The Rio Ansupi brings down the largest grains of gold: it
flows into the Napo, south of the Archidona, above the mouth of the
Misagualli. Between the Misagualli and the Rio Coca, in the province
of Avila, five other northern tributary streams of the Napo (the
Siguna, Munino, Suno, Guataracu, and Pucono) are known as being
singularly auriferous. These local details are taken from several
manuscript reports of the Governor of Quixos, from which I traced the
map of the countries east of the Antisana.)), the Caqueta de Mocoa as
far as the mouth of the Fragua, in fine, all the country comprised
between Jaen de Bracamoros and the Guaviare,* (* From Rio Santiago, a
tributary stream of the Upper Maranon, to the Llanos of Caguan and of
San Juan.) preserve their ancient celebrity for metallic wealth. More
to the east, between the sources of the Guainia (Rio Negro), the
Uaupes, the Iquiare, and the Yurubesh, we find a soil incontestably
auriferous. There Acunha and Father Fritz placed their Laguna del Oro;
and various accounts which I obtained at San Carlos from Portuguese
Americans explain perfectly what La Condamine has related of the
plates of beaten gold found in the hands of the natives. If we pass
from the Iquiare to the left bank of the Rio Negro, we enter a country
entirely unknown, between the Rio Branco, the sources of the
Essequibo, and the mountains of Portuguese Guiana. Acunha speaks of
the gold washed down by the northern tributary streams of the Lower
Maranon, such as the Rio Trombetas (Oriximina), the Curupatuba, and
the Ginipape (Rio de Paru). It appears to me a circumstance worthy of
attention that all these rivers descend from the same table-land, the
northern slope of which contains the lake Amucu, the Dorado of Raleigh
and the Dutch, and the isthmus between the Rupunuri (Rupunuwini) and
the Rio Mahu. There is no reason for denying the existence of
auriferous alluvial lands far from the Cordilleras of the Andes on the
north of the Amazon; as there are on the south in the mountains of
Brazil. The Caribs of the Carony, the Cuyuni and the Essequibo, have
practised on a small scale the washing of alluvial earth from the
remotest times.* (* "On the north of the confluence of the Curupatuba
and the Amazon," says Acunha, "is the mountain of Paraguaxo, which,
when illumined by the sun, glows with the most beautiful colours; and
thence from time to time issues a horrible noise (revienta con grandes
struenos)." Is there a volcanic phenomenon in this eastern part of the
New Continent? or is it the love of the marvellous, which has given
rise to the tradition of the bellowings (bramidos) of Paraguaxo? The
lustre emitted from the sides of the mountain recalls to mind what we
have mentioned above of the miraculous rocks of Calitamini, and the
island Ipomucena, in the imaginary Lake Dorado. In one of the Spanish
letters intercepted at sea by Captain George Popham, in 1594, it is
said, "Having inquired of the natives whence they obtained the
spangles and powder of gold, which we found in their huts, and which
they stick on their skin by means of some greasy substances, they told
us that in a certain plain they tore up the grass, and gathered the
earth in baskets, to subject it to the process of washing." Raleigh
page 109. Can this passage be explained by supposing that the Indians
sought thus laboriously, not for gold, but for spangles of mica, which
the natives of Rio Caura still employ as ornaments, when they paint
their bodies?) When we examine the structure of mountains and embrace
in one point of view an extensive surface of the globe, distances
disappear; and places the most remote insensibly draw near each other.
The basin of the Upper Orinoco, the Rio Negro, and the Amazon is
bounded by the mountains of Parime on the north, and by those of Minas
Geraes, and Matogrosso on the south. The opposite slopes of the same
valley often display an analogy in their geological relations.

I have described in this and the preceding volume the vast provinces
of Venezuela and Spanish Guiana. While examining their natural limits,
their climate, and their productions, I have discussed the influence
produced by the configuration of the soil on agriculture, commerce,
and the more or less rapid progress of society. I have successively
passed over the three regions that succeed each other from north to
south; from the Mediterranean of the West Indies to the forests of the
Upper Orinoco and of the Amazon. The fertile land of the shore, the
centre of agricultural riches, is succeeded by the Llanos, inhabited
by pastoral tribes. These Llanos are in their turn bordered by the
region of forests, the inhabitants of which enjoy, I will not say
liberty, which is always the result of civilization, but a sort of
savage independence. On the limit of these two latter zones the
struggle now exists which will decide the emancipation and future
prosperity of America. The changes which are preparing cannot efface
the individual character of each region; but the manners and condition
of the inhabitants will assume a more uniform colour. This
consideration perhaps adds interest to a tour made in the beginning of
the nineteenth century. We like to see, traced in the same picture,
the civilized nations of the sea-shore, and the feeble remains of the
natives of the Orinoco, who know no other worship than that of the
powers of nature; and who, like the ancient Germans, deify the
mysterious object which excites their simple admiration.* (* Deorum
nominibus appellant secretum illud, quod sola reverentia vident.
Tacitus Germania 9.)



Night had set in when we crossed for the last time the bed of the
Orinoco. We purposed to rest near the little fort San Rafael, and on
the following morning at daybreak to set out on our journey through
the plains of Venezuela. Nearly six weeks had elapsed since our
arrival at Angostura; and we earnestly wished to reach the coast, with
the view of finding, at Cumana, or at Nueva Barcelona, a vessel in
which we might embark for the island of Cuba, thence to proceed to
Mexico. After the sufferings to which we had been exposed during
several months, whilst sailing in small boats on rivers infested by
mosquitos, the idea of a sea voyage was not without its charms. We had
no idea of ever again returning to South America. Sacrificing the
Andes of Peru to the Archipelago of the Philippines (of which so
little is known), we adhered to our old plan of remaining a year in
New Spain, then proceeding in a galleon from Acapulco to Manila, and
returning to Europe by way of Bassora and Aleppo. We imagined that,
when we had once left the Spanish possessions in America, the fall of
that ministry which had procured for us so many advantages, could not
be prejudicial to the execution of our enterprise.

Our mules were in waiting for us on the left bank of the Orinoco. The
collection of plants, and the different geological series which we had
brought from the Esmeralda and Rio Negro, had greatly augmented our
baggage; and, as it would have been dangerous to lose sight of our
herbals, we expected to make a very slow journey across the Llanos.
The heat was excessive, owing to the reverberation of the soil, which
was almost everywhere destitute of vegetation; yet the centigrade
thermometer during the day (in the shade) was only from thirty to
thirty-four degrees, and during the night, from twenty-seven to
twenty-eight degrees. Here, therefore, as almost everywhere within the
tropics, it was less the absolute degree of heat than its duration
that affected our sensations. We spent thirteen days in crossing the
plains, resting a little in the Caribbee (Caraibes) missions and in
the little town of Pao. The eastern part of the Llanos through which
we passed, between Angostura and Nueva Barcelona, presents the same
wild aspect as the western part, through which we had passed from the
valleys of Aragua to San Fernando de Apure. In the season of drought,
(which is here called summer,) though the sun is in the southern
hemisphere, the breeze is felt with greater force in the Llanos of
Cumana, than in those of Caracas; because those vast plains, like the
cultivated fields of Lombardy, form an inland basin, open to the east,
and closed on the north, south and west by high chains of primitive
mountains. Unfortunately, we could not avail ourselves of this
refreshing breeze, of which the Llaneros, or the inhabitants of the
plains, speak with rapture. It was now the rainy season north of the
equator; and though it did not rain in the plains, the change in the
declination of the sun had for some time caused the action of the
polar currents to cease. In the equatorial regions, where the
traveller may direct his course by observing the direction of the
clouds, and where the oscillations of the mercury in the barometer
indicate the hour almost as well as a clock, everything is subject to
a regular and uniform rule. The cessation of the breezes, the
setting-in of the rainy season, and the frequency of electric
explosions, are phenomena which are found to be connected together by
immutable laws.

On entering the Llanos of Nueva Barcelona, we met with a Frenchman, at
whose house we passed the first night, and who received us with the
kindest hospitality. He was a native of Lyons, and he had left his
country at a very early age. He appeared extremely indifferent to all
that was passing beyond the Atlantic, or, as they say here,
disdainfully enough, when speaking of Europe, on the other side of the
great pool (al otro lado del charco). Our host was employed in joining
large pieces of wood by means of a kind of glue called guayca. This
substance, which is used by the carpenters of Angostura, resembles the
best animal glue. It is found perfectly prepared between the bark and
the alburnum of a creeper* of the family of the Combretaceae. (*
Combretum guayca.) It probably resembles in its chemical properties
birdlime, the vegetable principle obtained from the berries of the
mistletoe, and the internal bark of the holly. An astonishing
abundance of this glutinous matter issues from the twining branches of
the vejuco de guayca when they are cut. Thus we find within the
tropics a substance in a state of purity and deposited in peculiar
organs, which in the temperate zone can be procured only by artificial

We did not arrive until the third day at the Caribbee missions of
Cari. We observed that the ground was less cracked by the drought in
this country than in the Llanos of Calabozo. Some showers had revived
the vegetation. Small gramina and especially those herbaceous
sensitive-plants so useful in fattening half-wild cattle, formed a
thick turf. At great distances one from another, there arose a few
fan-palms (Corypha tectorum), rhopalas* (chaparro (* The Proteaceae
are not, like the Araucaria, an exclusively southern form. We found
the Rhopala complicata and the R. obovata, in 2 degrees 30 minutes,
and in 10 degrees of north latitude.)), and malpighias* with
coriaceous and glossy leaves. (* A neighbouring genus, Byrsonima
cocollobaefolia, B. laurifolia, near Matagorda, and B. ropalaefolia.)
The humid spots are recognized at a distance by groups of mauritia,
which are the sago-trees of those countries. Near the coast this
palm-tree constitutes the whole wealth of the Guaraon Indians; and it
is somewhat remarkable that we also found it one hundred and sixty
leagues farther south, in the midst of the forests of the Upper
Orinoco, in the savannahs that surround the granitic peak of Duida.*
(* The moriche, like the Sagus Rumphii, is a palm-tree of the marshes,
not a palm-tree of the coast, like the Chamaerops humilis, the common
cocoa-tree, and the lodoicea.) It was loaded at this season with
enormous clusters of red fruit, resembling fir-cones. Our monkeys were
extremely fond of this fruit, which has the taste of an over-ripe
apple. The monkeys were placed with our baggage on the backs of the
mules, and they made great efforts to reach the clusters that hung
over their heads. The plain was undulating from the effects of the
mirage; and when, after travelling for an hour, we reached the trunks
of the palm-trees, which appeared like masts in the horizon, we
observed with astonishment how many things are connected with the
existence of a single plant. The winds, losing their velocity when in
contact with the foliage and the branches, accumulate sand around the
trunk. The smell of the fruit and the brightness of the verdure
attract from afar the birds of passage, which love to perch on the
slender, arrow-like branches of the palm-tree. A soft murmuring is
heard around; and overpowered by the heat, and accustomed to the
melancholy silence of the plains, the traveller imagines he enjoys
some degree of coolness on hearing the slightest sound of the foliage.
If we examine the soil on the side opposite to the wind, we find it
remains humid long after the rainy season. Insects and worms,
everywhere else so rare in the Llanos, here assemble and multiply.
This one solitary and often stunted tree, which would not claim the
notice of the traveller amid the forests of the Orinoco, spreads life
around it in the desert.

On the 13th of July we arrived at the village of Cari, the first of
the Caribbee missions that are under the Observantin monks of the
college of Piritu. We lodged as usual at the convent, that is, with
the clergyman. Our host could scarcely comprehend how natives of the
north of Europe could arrive at his dwelling from the frontiers of
Brazil by the Rio Negro, and not by way of the coast of Cumana. He
behaved to us in the most affable manner, at the same time manifesting
that somewhat importunate curiosity which the appearance of a
stranger, not a Spaniard, always excites in South America. He
expressed his belief that the minerals we had collected must contain
gold; and that the plants, dried with so much care, must be medicinal.
Here, as in many parts of Europe, the sciences are thought worthy to
occupy the mind only so far as they confer some immediate and
practical benefit on society.

We found more than five hundred Caribs in the village of Cari; and saw
many others in the surrounding missions. It is curious to observe this
nomad people, recently attached to the soil, and differing from all
the other Indians in their physical and intellectual powers. They are
a very tall race of men, their height being from five feet six inches,
to five feet ten inches. According to a practice common in America,
the women are more sparingly clothed than the men. The former wear
only the guajuco, or perizoma, in the form of a band. The men have the
lower part of the body wrapped in a piece of blue cloth, so dark as to
be almost black. This drapery is so ample that, on the lowering of the
temperature towards evening, the Caribs throw it over their shoulders.
Their bodies tinged with onoto,* (* Rocou, obtained from the Bixa
orellana. This paint is called in the Carib tongue, bichet.) their
tall figures, of a reddish copper-colour, and their picturesque
drapery, when seen from a distance, relieved against the sky as a
background, resemble antique statues of bronze. The men cut their hair
in a very peculiar manner, very much in the style of the monks. A part
of the forehead is shaved, which makes it appear extremely high, and a
circular tuft of hair is left near the crown of the head. This
resemblance between the Caribs and the monks is not the result of
mission life. It is not caused, as had been erroneously supposed, by
the desire of the natives to imitate their masters, the Franciscan
monks. The tribes that have preserved their wild independence, between
the sources of the Carony and the Rio Branco, are distinguished by the
same cerquillo de frailes,* (* Circular tonsure of the friars.) which
the early Spanish historians at the time of the discovery of America
attributed to the nations of the Carib race. All the men of this race
whom we saw either during our voyage on the Lower Orinoco, or in the
missions of Piritu, differ from the other Indians not only in the
tallness of their stature, but also in the regularity of their
features. Their noses are smaller, and less flattened; the cheek-bones
are not so high; and their physiognomy has less of the Mongol
character. Their eyes, which are darker than those of the other hordes
of Guiana, denote intelligence, and it may even be said, the habit of
reflection. The Caribs have a gravity of manner, and a certain look of
sadness which is observable among most of the primitive inhabitants of
the New World. The expression of severity in their features is
heightened by the practice of dyeing their eyebrows with the juice of
caruto: they also lengthen their eyebrows, thereby giving them the
appearance of being joined together; and they often mark their faces
all over with black spots to give themselves a more fierce appearance.
The Carib women are less robust and good-looking than the men, On them
devolves almost the whole burden of domestic work, as well as much of
the out-door labour. They asked us eagerly for pins, which they stuck
under their lower lip, making the head of the pin penetrate deeply
into the skin. The young girls are painted red, and are almost naked.
Among the different nations of the old and the new worlds, the idea of
nudity is altogether relative. A woman in some parts of Asia is not
permitted to show the tips of her fingers; while an Indian of the
Carib race is far from considering herself unclothed if she wear round
her waist a guajuco two inches broad. Even this band is regarded as
less essential than the pigment which covers the skin. To go out of
the hut without being painted, would be to transgress all the rules of
Carib decency.

The Indians of the missions of Piritu especially attracted our
attention, because they belong to a nation which, by its daring, its
warlike enterprises, and its mercantile spirit has exercised great
influence over the vast country extending from the equator towards the
northern coast. Everywhere on the Orinoco we beheld traces of the
hostile incursions of the Caribs: incursions which heretofore extended
from the sources of the Carony and the Erevato as far as the banks of
the Ventuari, the Atacavi, and the Rio Negro. The Carib language is
consequently the most general in this part of the world; it has even
passed (like the language of the Lenni-Lenapes, or Algonkins, and the
Natchez or Muskoghees, on the west of the Allegheny mountains) to
tribes which have not a common origin.

When we survey that multitude of nations spread over North and South
America, eastward of the Cordilleras of the Andes, we fix our
attention particularly on those who, having long held dominion over
their neighbours, have acted an important part on the stage of the
world. It is the business of the historian to group facts, to
distinguish masses, to ascend to the common sources of many migrations
and popular movements. Great empires, the regular organization of a
sacerdotal hierarchy, and the culture which that organization favours
in the first ages of society, have existed only on the high mountains
of the western world. In Mexico we see a vast monarchy enclosing small
republics; at Cundinamarca and Peru we find pure theocracies.
Fortified towns, highways and large edifices of stone, an
extraordinary development of the feudal system, the separation of
castes, convents of men and women, religious congregations regulated
by discipline more or less severe, complicated divisions of time
connected with the calendars, the zodiacs, and the astrology of the
enlightened nations of Asia--all these phenomena in America belong to
one region only, the long and narrow Alpine band extending from the
thirtieth degree of north latitude to the twenty-fifth degree of
south. The migration of nations in the ancient world was from east to
west; the Basques or Iberians, the Celts, the Germans and the Pelasgi,
appeared in succession. In the New World similar migrations flowed
from north to south. Among the nations that inhabit the two
hemispheres, the direction of this movement followed that of the
mountains; but in the torrid zone the temperate table-lands of the
Cordilleras had greater influence on the destiny of mankind, than the
mountains of Asia and central Europe. As, properly speaking, only
civilized nations have a history, the history of the Americans is
necessarily no more than that of a small portion of the inhabitants of
the mountains. Profound obscurity envelops the vast country which
stretches from the eastern slope of the Cordilleras towards the
Atlantic; and for this very reason, whatever in that country relates
to the preponderance of one nation over others, to distant migrations,
to the physiognomical features which denote a foreign race, excite our
deepest interest.

Amidst the plains of North America, some powerful nation, which has
disappeared, constructed circular, square, and octagonal
fortifications; walls six thousand toises in length; tumuli from seven
to eight hundred feet in diameter, and one hundred and forty feet in
height, sometimes round, sometimes with several stories and containing
thousands of skeletons. These skeletons are the remains of men less
slender and more squat than the present inhabitants of those
countries. Other bones wrapped in fabrics resembling those of the
Sandwich and Feejee Islands are found in the natural grottoes of
Kentucky. What is become of those nations of Louisiana anterior to the
Lenni-Lenapes, the Shawanese, and perhaps even to the Sioux
(Nadowesses, Nahcotas) of the Missouri, who are strongly mongolised;
and who, it is believed, according to their own traditions, came from
the coast of Asia? In the plains of South America we find only a very
few hillocks of that kind called cerros hechos a mano;* (* Hills made
by the hand, or artificial hills.) and nowhere any works of
fortification analogous to those of the Ohio. However, on a vast space
of ground, at the Lower Orinoco, as well as on the banks of the
Cassiquiare and between the sources of the Essequibo and the Rio
Branco, there are rocks of granite covered with symbolic figures.
These sculptures denote that the extinct generations belonged to
nations different from those which now inhabit the same regions. There
seems to be no connection between the history of Mexico and that of
Cundinamarca and of Peru; but in the plains of the east a warlike and
long-dominant nation betrays in its features and its physical
constitution traces of a foreign origin. The Caribs preserve
traditions that seem to indicate ancient communications between North
and South America. Such a phenomenon deserves particular attention. If
it be true that savages are for the most part degenerate races,
remnants escaped from a common wreck, as their languages, their
cosmogonic fables, and numerous other indications seem to prove, it
becomes doubly important to examine the course by which these remnants
have been driven from one hemisphere to the other.

That fine race of people, the Caribs, now occupy only a small part of
the country which they inhabited at the time of the discovery of
America. The cruelties exercised by Europeans have entirely
exterminated them from the West Indian Islands and the coasts of
Darien; while under the government of the missions they have formed
populous villages in the provinces of New Barcelona and Spanish
Guiana. The Caribs who inhabit the Llanos of Piritu and the banks of
the Carony and the Cuyuni may be estimated at more than thirty-five
thousand. If we add to this number the independent Caribs who live
westward of the mountains of Cayenne and Pacaraymo, between the
sources of the Essequibo and the Rio Branco, we shall no doubt obtain
a total of forty thousand individuals of pure race, unmixed with any
other tribes of natives. Prior to my travels, the Caribs were
mentioned in many geographical works as an extinct race. Writers
unacquainted with the interior of the Spanish colonies of the
continent supposed that the small islands of Dominica, Guadaloupe, and
St. Vincent had been the principal abodes of that nation of which the
only vestiges now remaining throughout the whole of the eastern West
India Islands are skeletons petrified, or rather enveloped in a
limestone containing madrepores.* (* These skeletons were discovered
in 1805 by M. Cortez. They are encased in a formation of madrepore
breccia, which the negroes call God's masonry, and which, like the
travertin of Italy, envelops fragments of vases and other objects
created by human skill. M. Dauxion Lavaysse and Dr. Koenig first made
known in Europe this phenomenon which has greatly interested

The name of Caribs, which I find for the first time in a letter of
Peter Martyr d'Anghiera is derived from Calina and Caripuna, the l and
p being transferred into r and b. It is very remarkable that this
name, which Columbus heard pronounced by the people of Hayti, was
known to exist at the same time among the Caribs of the islands and
those of the continent. From the word Carina, or Calina, has been
formed Galibi (Caribi). This is the distinctive denomination of a
tribe in French Guiana,* who are of much more diminutive stature than
the inhabitants of Cari, but speaking one of the numerous dialects of
the Carib tongue. (* The Galibis (Calibitis), the Palicours, and the
Acoquouas, also cut their hair in the style of the monks; and apply
bandages to the legs of their children for the purpose of swelling the
muscles. They have the same predilection for green stones (saussurite)
which we observed among the Carib nations of the Orinoco. There exist,
besides, in French Guiana, twenty Indian tribes which are
distinguished from the Galibis though their language proves that they
have a common origin.) The inhabitants of the islands are called
Calinago in the language of the men; and in that of the women,
Callipinan. The difference in the language of the two sexes is more
striking among the people of the Carib race than among other American
nations (the Omaguas, the Guaranis, and the Chiquitos) where it
applies only to a limited number of ideas; for instance, the words
mother and child. It may be conceived that women, from their separate
way of life, frame particular terms which men do not adopt. Cicero
observes* that old forms of language are best preserved by women
because by their position in society they are less exposed to those
vicissitudes of life, changes of place and occupation which tend to
corrupt the primitive purity of language among men. (* Cicero, de
Orat. lib. 3 cap. 12 paragraph 45 ed. Verburg. Facilius enim mulieres
incorruptam antiquitatem conservant, quod multorum sermonis expertes
ea tenent semper, quae prima didicerunt.) But in the Carib nations the
contrast between the dialect of the two sexes is so great that to
explain it satisfactorily we must refer to another cause; and this may
perhaps be found in the barbarous custom, practised by those nations,
of killing their male prisoners, and carrying the wives of the
vanquished into captivity. When the Caribs made an irruption into the
archipelago of the West India Islands, they arrived there as a band of
warriors, not as colonists accompanied by their families. The language
of the female sex was formed by degrees, as the conquerors contracted
alliances with the foreign women; it was composed of new elements,
words distinct from the Carib words,* which in the interior of the
gynaeceums were transmitted from generation to generation, but on
which the structure, the combinations, the grammatical forms of the
language of the men exercised an influence. (* The following are
examples of the difference between the language of the men (m), and
the women (w); isle, oubao (m), acaera (w); man, ouekelli (m), eyeri
(w); but, irhen (m), atica (w).) There was then manifested in a small
community the peculiarity which we now find in the whole group of the
nations of the New Continent. The American languages, from Hudson's
Bay to the Straits of Magellan, are in general characterized by a
total disparity of words combined with a great analogy in their
structure. They are like different substances invested with analogous
forms. If we recollect that this phenomenon extends over one-half of
our planet, almost from pole to pole; if we consider the shades in the
grammatical forms (the genders applied to the three persons of the
verb, the reduplications, the frequentatives, the duals); it appears
highly astonishing to find a uniform tendency in the development of
intelligence and language among so considerable a portion of the human

We have just seen that the dialect of the Carib women in the West
India Islands contains the vestiges of a language that was extinct.
Some writers have imagined that this extinct language might be that of
the Ygneris, or primitive inhabitants of the Caribbee Islands; others
have traced in it some resemblance to the ancient idiom of Cuba, or to
those of the Arowaks, and the Apalachites in Florida: but these
hypotheses are all founded on a very imperfect knowledge of the idioms
which it has been attempted to compare one with another.

The Spanish writers of the sixteenth century inform us that the Carib
nations then extended over eighteen or nineteen degrees of latitude,
from the Virgin Islands east of Porto Rico, to the mouths of the
Amazon. Another prolongation toward the west, along the coast-chain of
Santa Marta and Venezuela, appears less certain. Gomara, however, and
the most ancient historians, give the name of Caribana, not, as it has
since been applied, to the country between the sources of the Orinoco
and the mountains of French Guiana,* (* This name is found in the map
of Hondius, of 1599, which accompanies the Latin edition of the
narrative of Raleigh's voyage. In the Dutch edition Nieuwe Caerte van
het goudrycke landt Guiana, the Llanos of Caracas, between the
mountains of Merida and the Rio Pao, bear the name of Caribana. We may
remark here, what we observe so often in the history of geography,
that the same denomination has spread by degrees from west to east.)
but to the marshy plains between the mouths of the Rio Atrato and the
Rio Sinu. I have visited those coasts in going from the Havannah to
Porto Bello; and I there learned that the cape which bounds the gulf
of Darien or Uraba on the east, still bears the name of Punta
Caribana. An opinion heretofore prevailed pretty generally that the
Caribs of the West India Islands derived their origin, and even their
name, from these warlike people of Darien. "From the eastern shore
springs Cape Uraba, which the natives call Caribana, whence the Caribs
of the island are said to have received their present name."* (* Inde
Vrabam ab orientali prehendit ora, quam appellant indigenae Caribana,
unde Caribes insulares originem habere nomenque retinere dicuntur.)
Thus Anghiera expresses himself in his Oceanica. He had been told by a
nephew of Amerigo Vespucci that thence, as far as the snowy mountains
of St. Marta, all the natives were e genere Caribium, vel Canibalium.
I do not deny that Caribs may have had a settlement near the gulf of
Darien, and that they may have been driven thither by the easterly
currents; but it also may have happened that the Spanish navigators,
little attentive to languages, gave the names Carib and Cannibal to
every race of people of tall stature and ferocious character. Still it
is by no means probable that the Caribs of the islands and of Parima
took to themselves the name of the region which they had originally
inhabited. On the east of the Andes and wherever civilization has not
yet penetrated, it is the people who have given names to the places
where they have settled.* (* These names of places can be perpetuated
only where the nations succeed immediately to each other, and where
the tradition is interrupted. Thus in the province of Quito many of
the summits of the Andes bear names which belong neither to the
Quichua (the language of Inca) nor to the ancient language of the
Paruays, governed by the Conchocando of Lican.) The words Caribs and
Cannibals appear significant; they are epithets referring to valour,
strength and even superior intelligence.* (* Vespucci says: Charaibi
magnae sapientiae viri.) It is worthy of remark that, at the arrival
of the Portuguese, the Brazilians gave to their magicians the name of
caraibes. We know that the Caribs of Parima were the most wandering
people of America; possibly some wily individuals of that nation
played the same part as the Chaldeans of the ancient continent. The
names of nations readily become affixed to particular professions; and
when, in the time of the Caesars, the superstitions of the East were
introduced into Italy, the Chaldeans no more came from the banks of
the Euphrates than our Gypsies (Egyptians or Bohemians) came from the
banks of the Nile or the Elbe.

When a continent and its adjacent islands are peopled by one and the
same race, we may choose between two hypotheses; supposing the
emigration to have taken place either from the islands to the
continent, or from the continent to the islands. The Iberians
(Basques) who were settled at the same time in Spain and in the
islands of the Mediterranean, afford an instance of this problem; as
do also the Malays who appear to be indigenous in the peninsula of
Malacca, and in the district of Menangkabao in the island of Sumatra.*
(* Crawfurd, Indian Archipelago volume 2 page 371. I make use of the
word indigenous (autocthoni) not to indicate a fact of creation, which
does not belong to history, but simply to denote that we are ignorant
of the autocthoni having been preceded by any other people.) The
archipelago of the large and small West India Islands forms a narrow
and broken neck of land, parallel with the isthmus of Panama, and
supposed by some geographers to join the peninsula of Florida to the
north-east extremity of South America. It is the eastern shore of an
inland sea which may be considered as a basin with several outlets.
This peculiar configuration of the land has served to support the
different systems of migration, by which it has been attempted to
explain the settlement of the nations of the Carib race in the islands
and on the neighbouring continent. The Caribs of the continent admit
that the small West India Islands were anciently inhabited by the
Arowaks,* a warlike nation, the great mass of which still inhabit the
insalubrious shores of Surinam and Berbice. (* Arouaques. The
missionary Quandt (Nachricht von Surinam, 1807 page 47) calls them
Arawackes.) They assert that the Arowaks, with the exception of the
women, were all exterminated by Caribs, who came from the mouths of
the Orinoco. In support of this tradition they refer to the traces of
analogy existing between the language of the Arowaks and that of the
Carib women; but it must be recollected that the Arowaks, though the
enemies of the Caribs, belonged to the same branch of people; and that
the same analogy exists between the Arowak and Carib languages as
between the Greek and the Persian, the German and the Sanscrit.
According to another tradition, the Caribs of the islands came from
the south, not as conquerors, but because they were expelled from
Guiana by the Arowaks, who originally ruled over all the neighbouring
nations. Finally, a third tradition, much more general and more
probable, represents the Caribs as having come from Florida, in North
America. Mr. Bristock, a traveller who has collected every particular
relating to these migrations from north to south, asserts that a tribe
of Confachites (Confachiqui* (* The province of Confachiqui, which in
1541 became subject to a woman, is celebrated by the expedition of
Hernando de Soto to Florida. Among the nations of the Huron tongue,
and the Attakapas, the supreme authority was also often exercised by
women.)) had long waged war against the Apalachites; that the latter,
having yielded to that tribe the fertile district of Amana, called
their new confederates Caribes (that is, valiant strangers); but that,
owing to a dispute respecting their religious rites, the
Confachite-Caribs were driven from Florida. They went first to the
Yucayas or Lucayes Islands (to Cigateo and the neighbouring islands);
thence to Ayay (Hayhay, now Santa Cruz), and to the lesser Caribbee
Islands; and lastly to the continent of South America.* (* Rochefort,
Hist. des Antilles volume 1 pages 326 to 353; Garcia page 322;
Robertson book 3 note 69. The conjecture of Father Gili that the
Caribs of the continent may have come from the islands at the time of
the first conquest of the Spaniards (Saggio volume 3 page 204), is at
variance with all the statements of the early historians.) It is
supposed that this event took place toward the year 1100 of our era.
In the course of this long migration the Caribs had not touched at the
larger islands; the inhabitants of which however also believed that
they came originally from Florida. The islanders of Cuba, Hayti, and
Boriken (Porto Rico) were, according to the uniform testimony of the
first conquistadores, entirely different from the Caribs; and at the
period of the discovery of America, the latter had already abandoned
the group of the lesser Lucayes Islands; an archipelago in which there
prevailed that variety of languages always found in lands peopled by
shipwrecked men and fugitives.* (* La gente de las islas Yucayas era
(1492) mas blanca y de major policia que la de Cuba y Haiti. Havia
mucha diversidad de lenguas. [The people of the Lucayes were (1492) of
fairer complexion and of more civilized manners than those of Cuba and
Hayti. They had a great diversity of languages.] Gomara, Hist. de Ind.
fol. 22.)

The dominion so long exercised by the Caribs over a great part of the
continent, joined to the remembrance of their ancient greatness, has
inspired them with a sentiment of dignity and national superiority
which is manifest in their manners and their discourse. "We alone are
a nation," say they proverbially; "the rest of mankind (oquili) are
made to serve us." This contempt of the Caribs for their enemies is so
strong that I saw a child of ten years of age foam with rage on being
called a Cabre or Cavere; though he had never in his life seen an
individual of that unfortunate race of people who gave their name to
the town of Cabruta (Cabritu); and who, after long resistance, were
almost entirely exterminated by the Caribs. Thus we find among half
savage hordes, as in the most civilized part of Europe, those
inveterate animosities which have caused the names of hostile nations
to pass into their respective languages as insulting appellations.

The missionary of the village of Cari led us into several Indian huts,
where extreme neatness and order prevailed. We observed with pain the
torments which the Carib mothers inflict on their infants for the
purpose not only of enlarging the calf of the leg, but also of raising
the flesh in alternate stripes from the ankle to the top of the thigh.
Narrow ligatures, consisting of bands of leather, or of woven cotton,
are fixed two or three inches apart from each other, and being
tightened more and more, the muscles between the bands become swollen.
The monks of the missions, though ignorant of the works or even of the
name of Rousseau, attempt to oppose this ancient system of physical
education: but in vain. Man when just issued from the woods and
supposed to be so simple in his manners, is far from being tractable
in his ideas of beauty and propriety. I observed, however, with
surprise, that the manner in which these poor children are bound, and
which seems to obstruct the circulation of the blood, does not operate
injuriously on their muscular movements. There is no race of men more
robust and swifter in running than the Caribs.

If the women labour to form the legs and thighs of their children so
as to produce what painters call undulating outlines, they abstain (at
least in the Llanos), from flattening the head by compressing it
between cushions and planks from the most tender age. This practice,
so common heretofore in the islands and among several tribes of the
Caribs of Parima and French Guiana, is not observed in the missions
which we visited. The men there have foreheads rounder than those of
the Chaymas, the Otomacs, the Macos, the Maravitans and most of the
inhabitants of the Orinoco. A systematizer would say that the form is
such as their intellectual faculties require. We were so much the more
struck by this fact as some of the skulls of Caribs engraved in
Europe, for works on anatomy, are distinguished from all other human
skulls by the extremely depressed forehead and acute facial angle. In
some osteological collections skulls supposed to be those of Caribs of
the island of St. Vincent are in fact skulls shaped by having been
pressed between planks. They have belonged to Zambos (black Caribs)
who are descended from Negroes and true Caribs.* (* These unfortunate
remnants of a nation heretofore powerful were banished in 1795 to the
Island of Rattam in the Bay of Honduras because they were accused by
the English Government of having connexions with the French. In 1760
an able minister, M. Lescallier, proposed to the Court of Versailles
to invite the Red and Black Caribs from St. Vincent to Guiana and to
employ them as free men in the cultivation of the land. I doubt
whether their number at that period amounted to six thousand, as the
island of St. Vincent contained in 1787 not more than fourteen
thousand inhabitants of all colours.) The barbarous habit of
flattening the forehead is practised by several nations,* of people
not of the same race; and it has been observed recently in North
America; but nothing is more vague than the conclusion that some
degree of conformity in customs and manners proves identity of origin.
(* For instance the Tapoyranas of Guiana (Barrere page 239), the
Solkeeks of Upper Louisiana (Walckenaer, Cosmos page 583). Los Indios
de Cumana, says Gomara (Hist. de Ind.), aprietan a los ninos la cabeca
muy blando, pero mucho, entre dos almohadillas de algodon para
ensancharlos la cara, que lo tienen por hermosura. Las donzellas traen
senogiles muy apretados par debaxo y encima de las rodillas, para que
los muslos y pantorillas engorden mucho. [The Indians of Cumana press
down the heads of young infants tightly between cushions stuffed with
cotton for the purpose of giving width to their faces, which they
regard as a beauty. The young girls wear very tight bandages round
their knees in order to give thickness to the thighs and calves of the
legs.]) On observing the spirit of order and submission which prevails
in the Carib missions, the traveller can scarcely persuade himself
that he is among cannibals. This American word, of somewhat doubtful
signification, is probably derived from the language of Hayti, or that
of Porto Rico; and it has passed into the languages of Europe, since
the end of the fifteenth century, as synonymous with that of
anthropophagi. "These newly discovered man-eaters, so greedy of human
flesh, are called Caribes or Cannibals,"* says Anghiera, in the third
decade of his Oceanica, dedicated to Pope Leo X. (* Edaces humanarum
carnium novi helluones anthropophagi, Caribes alias Canibales
appellati.) There can be little doubt that the Caribs of the islands,
when a conquering people, exercised cruelties upon the Ygneris, or
ancient inhabitants of the West Indies, who were weak and not very
warlike; but we must also admit that these cruelties were exaggerated
by the early travellers, who heard only the narratives of the old
enemies of the Caribs. It is not always the vanquished solely, who are
calumniated by their contemporaries; the insolence of the conquerors
is punished by the catalogue of their crimes being augmented.

All the missionaries of the Carony, the Lower Orinoco and the Llanos
del Cari whom we had an opportunity of consulting assured us that the
Caribs are perhaps the least anthropophagous nations of the New
Continent. They extend this remark even to the independent hordes who
wander on the east of the Esmeralda, between the sources of the Rio
Branco and the Essequibo. It may be conceived that the fury and
despair with which the unhappy Caribs defended themselves against the
Spaniards, when in 1504 a royal decree declared them slaves, may have
contributed to acquire for them a reputation for ferocity. The first
idea of attacking this nation and depriving it of liberty and of its
natural rights originated with Christopher Columbus, who was not in
all instances so humane as he is represented to have been.
Subsequently the licenciado Rodrigo de Figueroa was appointed by the
court, in 1520, to determine the tribes of South America, who were to
be regarded as of Carib race, or as cannibals; and those who were
Guatiaos,* that is, Indians of peace, and friends of the Castilians.
(* I had some trouble in discovering the origin of this denomination
which has become so important from the fatal decrees of Figueroa. The
Spanish historians often employ the word guatiao to designate a branch
of nations. To become a guatiao of any one seems to have signified, in
the language of Hayti, to conclude a treaty of friendship. In the West
India Islands, as well as in the archipelago of the South Sea, names
were exchanged in token of alliance. Juan de Esquivel (1502) se hice
guatiao del cacique Cotubanama; el qual desde adelante se llamo Juan
de Esquivel, porque era liga de perpetua amistad entre los Indios
trocarse los nombres: y trocados quedaban guatiaos, que era tanto coma
confederados y hermanos en armas. Ponce de Leon se hace guatiao con el
poderoso cacique Agueinaha." Herrera dec. 1 pages 129, 159 and 181.
[Juan de Esquivel (1502) became the guatiao of the cacique Cotubanama;
and thenceforth the latter called himself Juan de Esquivel, for among
the Indians the exchange of names was a bond of perpetual friendship.
Those who exchanged names became guaitaos, which meant the same as
confederates or brethren-in-arms. Ponce de Leon became guatiao with
the powerful cacique Agueinaha.] One of the Lucayes Islands, inhabited
by a mild and pacific people, was heretofore called Guatao; but we
will not insist on the etymology of this word, because the languages
of the Lucayes Islands differed from those of Hayti.) The ethnographic
document called El Auto de Figueroa is one of the most curious records
of the barbarism of the first conquistadores. Without any attention to
the analogy of languages, every nation that could be accused of having
devoured a prisoner after a battle was arbitrarily declared of Carib
race. The inhabitants of Uriapari (on the peninsula of Paria) were
named Caribs; the Urinacos (settled on the banks of the Lower Orinoco,
or Urinucu), Guatiaos. All the tribes designated by Figueroa as Caribs
were condemned to slavery; and might at will be sold, or exterminated
by war. In these sanguinary struggles, the Carib women, after the
death of their husbands, defended themselves with such desperation
that Anghiera says they were taken for tribes of Amazons. But amidst
the cruelties exercised on the Caribs, it is consolatory to find, that
there existed some courageous men who raised the voice of humanity and
justice. Some of the monks embraced an opinion different from that
which they had at first adopted. In an age when there could be no hope
of founding public liberty on civil institutions, an attempt was at
least made to defend individual liberty. "That is a most holy law (ley
sanctissima)," says Gomara, in 1551, "by which our emperor has
prohibited the reducing of the Indians to slavery. It is just that
men, who are all born free, should not become the slaves of one

During our abode in the Carib missions, we observed with surprise the
facility with which young Indians of eighteen years of age, when
appointed to the post of alguazil, would harangue the municipality for
whole hours in succession. Their tone of voice, their gravity of
deportment, the gestures which accompanied their speech, all denoted
an intelligent people capable of a high degree of civilization. A
Franciscan monk, who knew enough of the Carib language to preach in it
occasionally, pointed out to us that the long and harmonious periods
which occur in the discourses of the Indians are never confused or
obscure. Particular inflexions of the verb indicate beforehand the
nature of the object, whether it be animate or inanimate, singular or
plural. Little annexed forms (suffixes) mark the gradations of
sentiment; and here, as in every language formed by a free
development, clearness is the result of that regulating instinct which
characterises human intelligence in the various stages of barbarism
and cultivation. On holidays, after the celebration of mass, all the
inhabitants of the village assemble in front of the church. The young
girls place at the feet of the missionary faggots of wood, bunches of
plantains, and other provision of which he stands in need for his
household. At the same time the governador, the alguazil, and other
municipal officers, all of whom are Indians, exhort the natives to
labour, proclaim the occupations of the ensuing week, reprimand the
idle, and flog the untractable. Strokes of the cane are received with
the same insensibility as that with which they are given. It were
better if the priest did not impose these corporal punishments at the
instant of quitting the altar, and if he were not, in his sacerdotal
habits, the spectator of this chastisement of men and women; but this
abuse is inherent in the principle on which the strange government of
the missions is founded. The most arbitrary civil power is combined
with the authority exercised by the priest over the little community;
and, although the Caribs are not cannibals, and we would wish to see
them treated with mildness and indulgence, it may be conceived that
energetic measures are sometimes necessary to maintain tranquillity in
this rising society.

The difficulty of fixing the Caribs to the soil is the greater, as
they have been for ages in the habit of trading on the rivers. We have
already described this active people, at once commercial and warlike,
occupied in the traffic of slaves, and carrying merchandize from the
coasts of Dutch Guiana to the basin of the Amazon. The travelling
Caribs were the Bokharians of equinoctial America. The necessity of
counting the objects of their little trade, and transmitting
intelligence, led them to extend and improve the use of the quipos,
or, as they are called in the missions, the cordoncillos con necos
(cords with knots). These quipos or knotted cords are found in Canada,
in Mexico (where Boturini procured some from the Tlascaltecs), in
Peru, in the plains of Guiana, in central Asia, in China, and in
India. As rosaries, they have become objects of devotion in the hands
of the Christians of the East; as suampans, they have been employed in
the operations of manual arithmetic by the Chinese, the Tartars, and
the Russians. The independent Caribs who inhabit the little-known
country situated between the sources of the Orinoco and those of the
rivers Essequibo, Carony, and Parima, are divided into tribes; and,
like the nations of the Missouri, of Chili, and of ancient Germany,
form a political confederation. This system is most in accordance with
the spirit of liberty prevailing amongst those warlike hordes who see
no advantage in the ties of society but for common defence. The pride
of the Caribs leads them to withdraw themselves from every other
tribe; even from those to whom, by their language, they have some

They claim the same separation in the missions, which seldom prosper
when any attempt is made to associate them with other mixed
communities, that is, with villages where every hut is inhabited by a
family belonging to another nation and speaking another language. The
authority of the chiefs of the independent Caribs is hereditary in the
male line only, the children of sisters being excluded from the
succession. This law of succession which is founded on a system of
mistrust, denoting no great purity of manners, prevails in India;
among the Ashantees (in Africa); and among several tribes of the
savages of North America.* (* Among the Hurons (Wyandots) and the
Natchez the succession to the magistracy is continued by the women: it
is not the son who succeeds, but the son of the sister, or of the
nearest relation in the female line. This mode of succession is said
to be the most certain because the supreme power remains attached to
the blood of the last chief; it is a practice that insures legitimacy.
Ancient traces of this strange mode of succession, so common in Africa
and in the East Indies, exist in the dynasty of the kings of the West
India Islands.) The young chiefs and other youths who are desirous of
marrying, are subject to the most extraordinary fasts and penances,
and are required to take medicines prepared by the marirris or
piaches, called in the transalleghenian countries, war-physic. The
Carribbee marirris are at once priests, jugglers and physicians; they
transmit to their successors their doctrine, their artifices, and the
remedies they employ. The latter are accompanied by imposition of
hands, and certain gestures and mysterious practices, apparently
connected with the most anciently known processes of animal magnetism.
Though I had opportunities of seeing many persons who had closely
observed the confederated Caribs, I could not learn whether the
marirris belong to a particular caste. It is observed in North America
that, among the Shawanese,* (* People that came from Florida, or from
the south (shawaneu) to the north.) divided into several tribes, the
priests, who preside at the sacrifices, must be (as among the Hebrews)
of one particular tribe, that of the Mequachakes. Any facts that may
hereafter be discovered in America respecting the remains of a
sacerdotal caste appears to me calculated to excite great interest, on
account of those priest-kings of Peru, who styled themselves the
children of the Sun; and of those sun-kings among the Natchez, who
recall to mind the Heliades of the first eastern colony of Rhodes.

On quitting the mission of Cari, we had some difficulties to settle
with our Indian muleteers. They had discovered that we had brought
skeletons with us from the cavern of Ataruipe; and they were fully
persuaded that the beasts of burden which carried the bodies of their
old relations would perish on the journey.* (* See volume 2.24.) Every
precaution we had taken was useless; nothing escapes a Carib's
penetration and keen sense of smell, and it required all the authority
of the missionary to forward our passage. We had to cross the Rio Cari
in a boat, and the Rio de agua clara, by fording, or, it may almost be
said, by swimming. The quicksands of the bed of this river render the
passage very difficult at the season when the waters are high. The
strength of the current seems surprising in so flat a country; but the
rivers of the plains are precipitated, to quote a correct observation
of Pliny the younger,* "less by the declivity of their course than by
their abundance, and as it were by their own weight." (* Epist. lib. 8
ep. 8. Clitumnus non loci devexitate, sed ipsa sui copia et quasi
pondere impellitur.) We had two bad stations, one at Matagorda and the
other at Los Riecetos, before we reached the little town of Pao. We
beheld everywhere the same objects; small huts constructed of reeds,
and roofed with leather; men on horseback armed with lances, guarding
the herds; herds of cattle half wild, remarkable for their uniform
colour, and disputing the pasturage with horses and mules. No sheep or
goats are found on these immense plains. Sheep do not thrive well in
equinoctial America, except on table-lands above a thousand toises
high, where their fleece is long and sometimes very fine. In the
burning climate of the plains, where the wolves give place to jaguars,
these small ruminating animals, destitute of means of defence, and
slow in their movements, cannot be preserved in any considerable

We arrived on the 15th of July at the Fundacion, or Villa, del Pao,
founded in 1744, and situated very favourably for a commercial station
between Nueva Barcelona and Angostura. Its real name is El Concepcion
del Pao. Alcedo, La Cruz, Olmedilla, and many other geographers, have
mistaken the situation of this small town of the Llanos of Barcelona,
confounding it either with San Juan Bauptisto del Pao of the Llanos of
Caracas, or with El Valle del Pao de Zarate. Though the weather was
cloudy I succeeded in obtaining some heights of alpha Centauri,
serving to determine the latitude of the place; which is 8 degrees 37
minutes 57 seconds. Some altitudes of the sun gave me 67 degrees 8
minutes 12 seconds for the longitude, supposing Angostura to be 66
degrees 15 minutes 21 seconds. The astronomical determinations of
Calabozo and Concepcion del Pao are very important to the geography of
this country, where, in the midst of savannahs, fixed points are
altogether wanting. Some fruit-trees grow in the vicinity of Pao: they
are rarely seen in the Llanos. We even found some cocoa-trees, which
appeared very vigorous, notwithstanding the great distance of the sea.
I was the more struck with this fact because doubts have recently been
started respecting the veracity of travellers, who assert that they
have seen the cocoa-tree, which is a palm of the shore, at Timbuctoo,
in the centre of Africa. We several times saw cocoa-trees amid the
cultivated spots on the banks of the Rio Magdalena, more than a
hundred leagues from the coast.

Five days, which to us appeared very tedious, brought us from Villa
del Pao to the port of Nueva Barcelona. As we advanced the sky became
more serene, the soil more dusty, and the atmosphere more hot. The
heat from which we suffered is not entirely owing to the temperature
of the air, but is produced by the fine sand mingled with it; this
sand strikes against the face of the traveller, as it does against the
ball of the thermometer. I never observed the mercury rise in America,
amid a wind of sand, above 45.8 degrees centigrade. Captain Lyon, with
whom I had the pleasure of conversing on his return from Mourzouk,
appeared to me also inclined to think that the temperature of
fifty-two degrees, so often felt in Fezzan, is produced in great part
by the grains of quartz suspended in the atmosphere. Between Pao and
the village of Santa Cruz de Cachipo, founded in 1749, and inhabited
by five hundred Caribs, we passed the western elongation of the little
table-land, known by the name of Mesa de Amana. This table-land forms
a point of partition between the Orinoco, the Guarapiche, and the
coast of New Andalusia. Its height is so inconsiderable that it would
scarcely be an obstacle to the establishment of inland navigation in
this part of the Llanos. The Rio Mano however, which flows into the
Orinoco above the confluence of the Carony, and which D'Anville (I
know not on what authority) has marked in the first edition of his
great map as issuing from the lake of Valencia, and receiving the
waters of the Guayra, could never have served as a natural canal
between two basins of rivers. No bifurcation of this kind exists in
the Llano. A great number of Carib Indians, who now inhabit the
missions of Piritu, were formerly on the north and east of the
table-land of Amana, between Maturin, the mouth of the Rio Arco, and
the Guarapiche. The incursions of Don Joseph Careno, one of the most
enterprising governors of the province of Cumana, occasioned a general
migration of independent Caribs toward the banks of the Lower Orinoco
in 1720.

The whole of this vast plain consists of secondary formations which to
the southward rest immediately on the granitic mountains of the
Orinoco. On the north-west they are separated by a narrow band of
transition-rocks from the primitive mountains of the shore of Caracas.
This abundance of secondary rocks, covering without interruption a
space of more than seven thousand square leagues,* is a phenomenon the
more remarkable in that region of the globe, because in the whole of
the Sierra da la Parima, between the right bank of the Orinoco and the
Rio Negro, there is, as in Scandinavia, a total absence of secondary
formations. (* Reckoning only that part of the Llanos which is bounded
by the Rio Apure on the south, and by the Sierra Nevada de Merida and
the Parima de las Rosas on the west.) The red sandstone, containing
some vestiges of fossil wood (of the family of monocotyledons) is seen
everywhere in the plains of Calabozo: farther east it is overlaid by
calcareous and gypseous rocks which conceal it from the research of
the geologist. The marly gypsum, of which we collected specimens near
the Carib mission of Cachipo, appeared to me to belong to the same
formation as the gypsum of Ortiz. To class it according to the type of
European formations I would range it among the gypsums, often
muriatiferous, that cover the Alpine limestone or zechstein. Farther
north, in the direction of the mission of San Josef de Curataquiche,
M. Bonpland picked up in the plain some fine pieces of riband jasper,
or Egyptian pebbles. We did not see them in their native place
enchased in the rock, and cannot determine whether they belong to a
very recent conglomerate or to that limestone which we saw at the
Morro of Nueva Barcelona, and which is not transition limestone though
it contains beds of schistose jasper (kieselschiefer).

We rested on the night of the 16th of July in the Indian village of
Santa Cruz de Cachipo. This mission, founded in 1749 by several Carib
families who inhabited the inundated and unhealthy banks of the
Lagunetas de Auache, is opposite the confluence of the Zir Puruay with
the Orinoco. We lodged at the house of the missionary, Fray Jose de
las Piedras; and, on examining the registers of the parish, we saw how
rapidly the prosperity of the community has been advanced by his zeal
and intelligence. Since we had reached the middle of the plains, the
heat had increased to such a degree that we should have preferred
travelling no more during the day; but we were without arms and the
Llanos were then infested by large numbers of robbers who attacked and
murdered the whites who fell into their hands. Nothing can be worse
than the administration of justice in these colonies. We everywhere
found the prisons filled with malefactors on whom sentence is not
passed till after the lapse of seven or eight years. Nearly a third of
the prisoners succeed in making their escape; and the unpeopled
plains, filled with herds, furnish them with booty. They commit their
depredations on horseback in the manner of the Bedouins. The
insalubrity of the prisons would be attended with fatal results but
that these receptacles are cleared from time to time by the flight of
the prisoners. It also frequently happens that sentences of death,
tardily pronounced by the Audiencia of Caracas, cannot be executed for
want of a hangman. In these cases the barbarous custom is observed of
pardoning one criminal on condition of his hanging the others. Our
guides related to us that, a short time before our arrival on the
coast of Cumana, a Zambo, known for the great ferocity of his manners,
determined to screen himself from punishment by turning executioner.
The preparations for the execution however, shook his resolution; he
felt a horror of himself, and preferring death to the disgrace of thus
saving his life, he called again for his irons which had been struck
off. He did not long remain in prison, and he underwent his sentence
through the baseness of one of his accomplices. This awakening of a
sentiment of honour in the soul of a murderer is a psychologic
phenomenon worthy of reflection. The man who had so often shed the
blood of travellers in the plains recoiled at the idea of becoming the
passive instrument of justice in inflicting upon others a punishment
which he felt that he himself deserved.

If, even in the peaceful times when M. Bonpland and myself had the
good fortune to travel through North and South America, the Llanos
were the refuge of malefactors who had committed crimes in the
missions of the Orinoco, or who had escaped from the prisons on the
coast, how much worse must that state of things have been rendered by
discord during the continuance of that sanguinary struggle which has
terminated in conferring freedom and independence on those vast
regions! Our European wastes and heaths are but a feeble image of the
savannahs of the New Continent which for the space of eight or ten
thousand square leagues are smooth as the surface of the sea. The
immensity of their extent insures impunity to robbers, who conceal
themselves more effectually in the savannahs than in our mountains and
forests; and it is easy to conceive that even a European police would
not be very effective in regions where there are travellers and no
roads, herds and no herdsmen, and farms so solitary that
notwithstanding the powerful action of the mirage, a journey of
several days may be made without seeing one appear within the horizon.

Whilst traversing the Llanos of Caracas, New Barcelona, and Cumana,
which succeed each other from west to east, from the snowy mountains
of Merida to the Delta of the Orinoco, we feel anxious to know whether
these vast tracts of land are destined by nature to serve eternally
for pasture or whether they will at some future time be subject to the
plough and the spade. This question is the more important as the
Llanos, situated at the two extremities of South America, are
obstacles to the political union of the provinces they separate. They
prevent the agriculture of the coast of Venezuela from extending
towards Guiana and they impede that of Potosi from advancing in the
direction of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. The intermediate Llanos
preserve, together with pastoral life, somewhat of a rude and wild
character which separates and keeps them remote from the civilization
of countries anciently cultivated. Thus it has happened that in the
war of independence they have been the scene of struggle between the
hostile parties; and that the inhabitants of Calabozo have almost seen
the fate of the confederate provinces of Venezuela and Cundinamarca
decided before their walls. In assigning limits to the new states and
to their subdivisions, it is to be hoped there may not be cause
hereafter to repent having lost sight of the importance of the Llanos,
and the influence they may have on the disunion of communities which
important common interests should bring together. These plains would
serve as natural boundaries like the seas or the virgin forests of the
tropics, were it not that armies can cross them with greater facility,
as their innumerable troops of horses and mules and herds of oxen
furnish every means of conveyance and subsistence.

What we have seen of the power of man struggling against the force of
nature in Gaul, in Germany and recently (but still beyond the tropics)
in the United States, scarcely affords any just measure of what we may
expect from the progress of civilization in the torrid zone. Forests
disappear but very slowly by fire and the axe when the trunks of trees
are from eight to ten feet in diameter; when in falling they rest one
upon another, and the wood, moistened by almost continual rains, is
excessively hard. The planters who inhabit the Llanos or Pampas do not
generally admit the possibility of subjecting the soil to cultivation;
it is a problem not yet solved. Most of the savannahs of Venezuela
have not the same advantage as those of North America. The latter are
traversed longitudinally by three great rivers, the Missouri, the
Arkansas, and the Red River of Nachitoches; the savannahs of Araura,
Calabozo, and Pao are crossed in a transverse direction only by the
tributary streams of the Orinoco, the most westerly of which (the
Cari, the Pao, the Acaru, and the Manapire) have very little water in
the season of drought. These streams scarcely flow at all toward the
north; so that in the centre of the Llanos there remain vast tracts of
land called bancos and mesas* frightfully parched. (* The Spanish
words banco and mesa signify literally bench and table. In the Llanos
of South America little elevations rising slightly above the general
elevation of the plain are called bancos and mesas from their supposed
resemblance to benches and tables.) The eastern parts, fertilized by
the Portuguesa, the Masparro, and the Orivante, and by the tributary
streams of those three rivers, are most susceptible of cultivation.
The soil is sand mixed with clay, covering a bed of quartz pebbles.
The vegetable mould, the principal source of the nutrition of plants,
is everywhere extremely thin. It is scarcely augmented by the fall of
the leaves, which, in the forests of the torrid zone, is less
periodically regular than in temperate climates. During thousands of
years the Llanos have been destitute of trees and brushwood; a few
scattered palms in the savannah add little to that hydruret of carbon,
that extractive matter, which, according to the experiments of
Saussure, Davy, and Braconnot, gives fertility to the soil. The social
plants which almost exclusively predominate in the steppes, are
monocotyledons; and it is known how much grasses impoverish the soil
into which their fibrous roots penetrate. This action of the
killingias, paspalums and cenchri, which form the turf, is everywhere
the same; but where the rock is ready to pierce the earth this varies
according as it rests on red sandstone, or on compact limestone and
gypsum; it varies according as periodical inundations accumulate mud
on the lower grounds or as the shock of the waters carries away from
the small elevations the little soil that has covered them. Many
solitary cultivated spots already exist in the midst of the pastures
where running water and tufts of the mauritia palm have been found.
These farms, sown with maize, and planted with cassava, will multiply
considerably if trees and shrubs be augmented.

The aridity and excessive heat of the mesas do not depend solely on
the nature of their surface and the local reverberation of the soil;
their climate is modified by the adjacent regions; by the whole of the
Llano of which they form a part. In the deserts of Africa or Arabia,
in the Llanos of South America, in the vast heaths extending from the
extremity of Jutland to the mouth of the Scheldt, the stability of the
limits of the desert, the savannahs, and the downs, depends chiefly on
their immense extent and the nakedness these plains have acquired from
some revolution destructive of the ancient vegetation of our planet.
By their extent, their continuity, and their mass they oppose the
inroads of cultivation and preserve, like inland gulfs, the stability
of their boundaries. I will not enter upon the great question, whether
in the Sahara, that Mediterranean of moving sands, the germs of
organic life are increased in our days. In proportion as our
geographical knowledge has extended we have discovered in the eastern
part of the desert islets of verdure; oases covered with date-trees
crowd together in more numerous archipelagos, and open their ports to
the caravans; but we are ignorant whether the form of the oases have
not remained constantly the same since the time of Herodotus. Our
annals are too incomplete to enable us to follow Nature in her slow
and gradual progress. From these spaces entirely bare whence some
violent catastrophe has swept away the vegetable covering and the
mould; from those deserts of Syria and Africa which, by their
petrified wood, attest the changes they have undergone; let us turn to
the grass-covered Llanos and to the consideration of phenomena that
come nearer the circle of our daily observations. Respecting the
possibility of a more general cultivation of the steppes of America,
the colonists settled there, concur in the opinions I have deduced
from the climatic action of these steppes considered as surfaces, or
continuous masses. They have observed that downs enclosed within
cultivated and wooded land sooner yield to the labours of the
husbandman than soils alike circumscribed, but forming part of a vast
surface of the same nature. This observation is extremely just whether
in reference to soil covered with heath, as in the north of Europe;
with cistuses, mastic-trees, or palmettos, as in Spain; or with
cactuses, argemones, or brathys, as in equinoctial America. The more
space the association occupies the more resistance do the social
plants oppose to the labourer. With this general cause others are
combined in the Llanos of Venezuela; namely the action of the small
grasses which impoverish the soil; the total absence of trees and
brushwood; the sandy winds, the heat of which is increased by contact
with a surface absorbing the rays of the sun during twelve hours, and
unshaded except by the stalks of the aristides, chanchuses, and
paspalums. The progress observable on the vegetation of large trees
and the cultivation of dicotyledonous plants in the vicinity of towns,
(for instance around Calabozo and Pao) prove what may be gained upon
the Llano by attacking it in small portions, enclosing it by degrees,
and dividing it by coppices and canals of irrigation. Possibly the
influence of the winds which render the soil sterile might be
diminished by sowing on a large scale, for example, over fifteen or
twenty acres, the seeds of the psidium, the croton, the cassia, or the
tamarind, which prefer dry, open spots. I am far from believing that
the savannahs will ever disappear entirely; or that the Llanos, so
useful for pasturage and the trade in cattle, will ever be cultivated
like the valleys of Aragua or other parts near the coast of Caracas
and Cumana: but I am persuaded that in the lapse of ages a
considerable portion of these plains, under a government favourable to
industry, will lose the wild aspect which has characterized them since
the first conquest by Europeans.

After three days' journey we began to perceive the chain of the
mountains of Cumana, which separates the Llanos, or, as they are often
called here, the great sea of verdure,* from the coast of the
Caribbean Sea. (* Los Llanos son como un mar de yerbas--The Llanos are
like a vast sea of grass--is an observation often repeated in these
regions.) If the Bergantin be more than eight hundred toises high, it
may be seen supposing only an ordinary refraction of one fourteenth of
the arch, at the distance of twenty-seven nautical leagues; but the
state of the atmosphere long concealed from us the majestic view of
this curtain of mountains. It appeared at first like a fog-bank which
hid the stars near the pole at their rising and setting; gradually
this body of vapour seemed to augment and condense, to assume a bluish
tint, and become bounded by sinuous and fixed outlines. The same
effects which the mariner observes on approaching a new land present
themselves to the traveller on the borders of the Llano. The horizon
began to enlarge in some part and the vault of heaven seemed no longer
to rest at an equal distance on the grass-covered soil. A llanero, or
inhabitant of the Llanos, is happy only when, as expressed in the
simple phraseology of the country, he can see everywhere well around
him. What appears to European eyes a covered country, slightly
undulated by a few scattered hills, is to him a rugged region bristled
with mountains. After having passed several months in the thick
forests of the Orinoco, in places where one is accustomed, when at any
distance from the river, to see the stars only in the zenith, as
through the mouth of a well, a journey in the Llanos is peculiarly
agreeable and attractive. The traveller experiences new sensations;
and, like the Llanero, he enjoys the happiness of seeing well around
him. But this enjoyment, as we ourselves experienced, is not of long
duration. There is doubtless something solemn and imposing in the
aspect of a boundless horizon, whether viewed from the summits of the
Andes or the highest Alps, amid the expanse of the ocean or in the
vast plains of Venezuela and Tucuman. Infinity of space, as poets in
every language say, is reflected within ourselves; it is associated
with ideas of a superior order; it elevates the mind which delights in
the calm of solitary meditation. It is true, also, that every view of
unbounded space bears a peculiar character. The prospect surveyed from
a solitary peak varies according as the clouds reposing on the plain
extend in layers, are conglomerated in groups, or present to the
astonished eye, through broad openings, the habitations of man, the
labour of agriculture, or the verdant tint of the aerial ocean. An
immense sheet of water, animated by a thousand various beings even to
its utmost depths, changing perpetually in colour and aspect, moveable
at its surface like the element that agitates it, all charm the
imagination during long voyages by sea; but the dusty and creviced
Llano, throughout a great part of the year, has a depressing influence
on the mind by its unchanging monotony. When, after eight or ten days'
journey, the traveller becomes accustomed to the mirage and the
brilliant verdure of a few tufts of mauritia* (* The fan-palm, or
sago-tree of Guiana.) scattered from league to league, he feels the
want of more varied impressions. He loves again to behold the great
tropical trees, the wild rush of torrents or hills and valleys
cultivated by the hand of the labourer. If the deserts of Africa and
of the Llanos or savannahs of the New Continent filled a still greater
space than they actually occupy, nature would be deprived of many of
the beautiful products peculiar to the torrid zone.* (* In calculating
from maps on a very large scale I found the Llanos of Cumana,
Barcelona, and Caracas, from the delta of the Orinoco to the northern
bank of the Apure, 7200 square leagues; the Llanos between the Apure
and Putumayo, 21,000 leagues; the Pampas on the north-west of Buenos
Ayres, 40,000 square leagues; the Pampas south of the parallel of
Buenos Ayres, 37,000 square leagues. The total area of the Llanos of
South America, covered with gramina, is consequently 105,200 square
leagues, twenty leagues to an equatorial degree.) The heaths of the
north, the steppes of the Volga and the Don, are scarcely poorer in
species of plants and animals than are the twenty-eight thousand
square leagues of savannahs extending in a semicircle from north-east
to south-west, from the mouths of the Orinoco to the banks of the
Caqueta and the Putumayo, beneath the finest sky in the world, and in
the land of plantains and bread-fruit trees. The influence of the
equinoctial climate, everywhere else so vivifying, is not felt in
places where the great associations of gramina almost exclude every
other plant. Judging from the aspect of the soil we might have
believed ourselves to be in the temperate zone and even still farther
northward but that a few scattered palms, and at nightfall the fine
constellations of the southern sky (the Centaur, Canopus, and the
innumerable nebulae with which the Ship is resplendent), reminded us
that we were only eight degrees distant from the equator.

A phenomenon which fixed the attention of De Luc and which in these
latter years has furnished a subject of speculation to geologists,
occupied us much during our journey across the Llanos. I allude not to
those blocks of primitive rock which occur, as in the Jura, on the
slope of limestone mountains, but to those enormous blocks of granite
and syenite which, in limits very distinctly marked by nature, are
found scattered on the north of Holland, Germany and the countries of
the Baltic. It seems to be now proved that, distributed as in radii,
they came at the time of the ancient revolutions of our globe from the
Scandinavian peninsula southward; and that they did not primitively
belong to the granitic chains of the Harz and Erzgeberg, which they
approach without, however, reaching their foot.* (* Leopold von Buch,
Voyage en Norwege volume 1 page 30.) I was surprised at not seeing one
of these blocks in the Llanos of Venezuela, though these immense
plains are bounded on the south by the Sierra Parima, a group of
mountains entirely granitic and exhibiting in its denticulated and
often columnar peaks traces of the most violent destruction. Northward
the granitic chain of the Silla de Caracas and Porto Cabello are
separated from the Llanos by a screen of mountains that are schistose
between Villa de Cura and Parapara, and calcareous between the
Bergantin and Caripe. I was no less struck by this absence of blocks
on the banks of the Amazon. La Condamine affirms that from the Pongo
de Manseriche to the Strait of Pauxis not the smallest stone is to be
found. Now the basin of the Rio Negro and of the Amazon is also a
Llano, a plain like those of Venezuela and Buenos Ayres. The
difference consists only in the state of vegetation. The two Llanos
situated at the northern and southern extremities of South America are
covered with gramina; they are treeless savannahs; but the
intermediate Llano, that of the Amazon, exposed to almost continual
equatorial rains, is a thick forest. I do not remember having heard
that the Pampas of Buenos Ayres or the savannahs of the Missouri* and
New Mexico contain granitic blocks. (* Are there any isolated blocks
in North America northward of the great lakes?) The absence of this
phenomenon appears general in the New World as it probably also is in
Sahara, in Africa; for we must not confound the rocky masses that
pierce the soil in the midst of the desert, and of which travellers
often make mention, with mere scattered fragments. These facts seem to
prove that the blocks of Scandinavian granite which cover the sandy
countries on the south of the Baltic, and those of Westphalia and
Holland, must be traced to some local revolution. The ancient
conglomerate (red sandstone) which covers a great part of the Llanos
of Venezuela and of the basin of the Amazon contains no doubt
fragments of the same primitive rocks which constitute the
neighbouring mountains; but the convulsions of which these mountains
exhibit evident marks, do not appear to have been attended with
circumstances favourable to the removal of great blocks. This
geognostic phenomenon was to me the more unexpected since there exists
nowhere in the world so smooth a plain entirely granitic. Before my
departure from Europe I had observed with surprise that there were no
primitive blocks in Lombardy and in the great plain of Bavaria which
appears to be the bottom of an ancient lake, and which is situated two
hundred and fifty toises above the level of the ocean. It is bounded
on the north by the granites of the Upper Palatinate; and on the south
by Alpine limestone, transition-thonschiefer, and the mica-slates of
the Tyrol.

We arrived, on the 23rd of July, at the town of Nueva Barcelona, less
fatigued by the heat of the Llanos, to which we had been long
accustomed, than annoyed by the winds of sand which occasion painful
chaps in the skin. Seven months previously, in going from Cumana to
Caracas, we had rested a few hours at the Morro de Barcelona, a
fortified rock, which, near the village of Pozuelos, is joined to the
continent only by a neck of land. We were received with the kindest
hospitality in the house of Don Pedro Lavie, a wealthy merchant of
French extraction. This gentleman, who was accused of having given
refuge to the unfortunate Espana when a fugitive on these coasts in
1796, was arrested by order of the Audiencia, and conveyed as a
prisoner to Caracas. The friendship of the governor of Cumana and the
remembrance of the services he had rendered to the rising commerce of
those countries contributed to procure his liberty. We had endeavoured
to alleviate his captivity by visiting him in prison; and we had now
the satisfaction of finding him in the midst of his family. Illness
under which he was suffering had been aggravated by confinement; and
he sank into the grave without seeing the dawn of those days of
independence, which his friend Don Joseph Espana had predicted on the
scaffold prior to his execution. "I die," said that man, who was
formed for the accomplishment of grand projects, "I die an ignominious
death; but my fellow citizens will soon piously collect my ashes, and
my name will reappear with glory." These remarkable words were uttered
in the public square of Caracas, on the 8th of May, 1799.

In 1790 Nueva Barcelona contained scarcely ten thousand inhabitants,
and in 1800, its population was more than sixteen thousand. The town
was founded in 1637 by a Catalonian conquistador, named Juan Urpin. A
fruitless attempt was then made, to give the whole province the name
of New Catalonia. As our maps often mark two towns, Barcelona and
Cumanagoto, instead of one, and as the two names are considered as
synonymous, it may be well to explain the cause of this error.
Anciently, at the mouth of the Rio Neveri, there was an Indian town,
built in 1588 by Lucas Faxardo, and named San Cristoval de los
Cumanagotos. This town was peopled solely by natives who came from the
saltworks of Apaicuare. In 1637 Urpin founded, two leagues farther
inland, the Spanish town of Nueva Barcelona, which he peopled with
some of the inhabitants of Cumanagoto, together with some Catalonians.
For thirty-four years, disputes were incessantly arising between the
two neighbouring communities till in 1671, the governor Angulo
succeeded in persuading them to establish themselves on a third spot,
where the town of Barcelona now stands. According to my observations
it is situated in latitude 10 degrees 6 minutes 52 seconds.* (* These
observations were made on the Plaza Major. They are merely the result
of six circum-meridian heights of Canopus, taken all in one night. In
Las Memorias de Espinosa the latitude is stated to be 10 degrees 9
minutes 6 seconds. The result of M. Ferrer's observations made it 10
degrees 8 minutes 24 seconds.) The ancient town of Cumanagoto is
celebrated in the country for a miraculous image of the Virgin,* which
the Indians say was found in the hollow trunk of an old tutumo, or
calabash-tree (Crescentia cujete). (* La milagrosa imagen de Maria
Santissima del Socorro, also called La Virgen del Tutumo.) This image
was carried in procession to Nueva Barcelona; but whenever the clergy
were dissatisfied with the inhabitants of the new city, the Virgin
fled at night, and returned to the trunk of the tree at the mouth of
the river. This miracle did not cease till a fine convent (the college
of the Propaganda) was built, to receive the Franciscans. In a similar
case, the Bishop of Caracas caused the image of Our Lady de los
Valencianos to be placed in the archives of the bishopric, where she
remained thirty years under seal.

The climate of Barcelona is not so hot as that of Cumana but it is
extremely damp and somewhat unhealthy in the rainy season. M. Bonpland
had borne very well the irksome journey across the Llanos; and had
recovered his strength and activity. With respect to myself, I
suffered more at Barcelona than I did at Angostura, immediately after
our passage on the rivers. One of those extraordinary tropical rains
during which, at sunset, drops of enormous size fall at great
distances from one another, caused me to experience sensations which
seemed to threaten an attack of typhus, a disease then prevalent on
that coast. We remained nearly a month at Barcelona where we found our
friend Fray Juan Gonzales, of whom I have often spoken, and who had
traversed the Upper Orinoco before us. He expressed regret that we had
not been able to prolong our visit to that unknown country; and he
examined our plants and animals with that interest which must be felt
by even the most uninformed man for the productions of a region he has
long since visited. Fray Juan had resolved to go to Europe and to
accompany us as far as the island of Cuba. We were together for the
space of seven months, and his society was most agreeable: he was
cheerful, intelligent and obliging. How little did we anticipate the
sad fate that awaited him. He took charge of a part of our
collections; and a friend of his own confided to his care a child who
was to be conveyed to Spain for its education. Alas! the collection,
the child and the young ecclesiastic were all buried in the waves.

South-east of Nueva Barcelona, at the distance of two Leagues, there
rises a lofty chain of mountains, abutting on the Cerro del Bergantin,
which is visible at Cumana. This spot is known by the name of the hot
waters, (aguas calientes). When I felt my health sufficiently
restored, we made an excursion thither on a cool and misty morning.
The waters, which are loaded with sulphuretted hydrogen, issue from a
quartzose sandstone, lying on compact limestone, the same as that we
had examined at the Morro. We again found in this limestone
intercalated beds of black hornstein, passing into kieselschiefer. It
is not, however, a transition rock; by its position, its division into
small strata, its whiteness and its dull and conchoidal fractures
(with very flattened cavities), it rather approximates to the
limestone of Jura. The real kieselschiefer and Lydian-stone have not
been observed hitherto except in the transition-slates and limestones.
Is the sandstone whence the springs of the Bergantin issue of the same
formation as the sandstone of the Imposible and the Tumiriquiri? The
temperature of the thermal waters is only 43.2 degrees centigrade (the
atmosphere being 27). They flow first to the distance of forty toises
over the rocky surface of the ground; then they rush down into a
natural cavern; and finally they pierce through the limestone to issue
out at the foot of the mountain on the left bank of the little river
Narigual. The springs, while in contact with the oxygen of the
atmosphere, deposit a good deal of sulphur. I did not collect, as I
had done at Mariara, the bubbles of air that rise in jets from these
thermal waters. They no doubt contain a large quantity of nitrogen
because the sulphuretted hydrogen decomposes the mixture of oxygen and
nitrogen dissolved in the spring. The sulphurous waters of San Juan
which issue from calcareous rock, like those of the Bergantin, have
also a low temperature (31.3 degrees); while in the same region the
temperature of the sulphurous waters of Mariara and Las Trincheras
(near Porto Cabello), which gush immediately from gneiss-granite, is
58.9 degrees the former, and 90.4 degrees the latter. It would seem as
if the heat which these springs acquire in the interior of the globe
diminishes in proportion as they pass from primitive to secondary
superposed rocks.

Our excursion to the Aguas Calientes of Bergantin ended with a
vexatious accident. Our host had lent us one of his finest
saddle-horses. We were warned at the same time not to ford the little
river of Narigual. We passed over a sort of bridge, or rather some
trunks of trees laid closely together, and we made our horses swim,
holding their bridles. The horse I had ridden suddenly disappeared
after struggling for some time under water: all our endeavours to
discover the cause of this accident were fruitless. Our guides
conjectured that the animal's legs had been seized by the caymans
which are very numerous in those parts. My perplexity was extreme:
delicacy and the affluent circumstances of my host forbade me to think
of repairing his loss; and M. Lavie, more considerate of our situation
than sensible of his own misfortune, endeavoured to tranquillize us by
exaggerating the facility with which fine horses were procurable from
the neighbouring savannahs.

The crocodiles of the Rio Neveri are large and numerous, especially
near the mouth of the river; but in general they are less fierce than
the crocodiles of the Orinoco. These animals manifest in America the
same contrasts of ferocity as in Egypt and Nubia: this fact is obvious
when we compare with attention the narratives of Burckhardt and
Belzoni. The state of cultivation in different countries and the
amount of population in the proximity of rivers modify the habits of
these large saurians: they are timid when on dry ground and they flee
from man, even in the water, when they are not in want of food and
when they perceive any danger in attacking. The Indians of Nueva
Barcelona convey wood to market in a singular manner. Large logs of
zygophyllum and caesalpinia* are thrown into the river and carried
down by the stream, while the owners of the wood swim here and there
to float the pieces that are stopped by the windings of the banks. (*
The Lecythis ollaria, in the vicinity of Nueva Barcelona, furnishes
excellent timber. We saw trunks of this tree seventy feet high. Around
the town, beyond that arid zone of cactus which separates Nueva
Barcelona from the steppe, grow the Clerodendrum tenuifolium, the
Ionidium itubu, which resembles the Viola, and the Allionia violacea.)
This could not be done in the greater part of those American rivers in
which crocodiles are found. The town of Barcelona has not, like
Cumana, an Indian suburb; and the only natives who are seen there are
inhabitants of the neighbouring missions or of huts scattered in the
plain. Neither the one nor the other are of Carib race, but a mixture
of the Cumanagotos, Palenkas and Piritus; short, stunted, indolent and
addicted to drinking. Fermented cassava is here the favourite
beverage; the wine of the palm-tree, which is used on the Orinoco,
being almost unknown on the coast. It is curious to observe that men
in different zones, to satisfy the passion of inebriety, employ not
only all the families of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants,
but even the poisonous Agaric (Amanita muscaria) of which, with
disgusting economy, the Coriacs have learnt to drink the same juice
several times during five successive days.* (* Mr. Langsdor
(Wetterauisches Journal part 1 page 254) first made known this very
extraordinary physiological phenomenon, which I prefer describing in
Latin: Coriaecorum gens, in ora Asiae septentrioni opposita, potum
sibi excogitavit ex succo inebriante agarici muscarii. Qui succus
(aeque ut asparagorum), vel per humanum corpus transfusus, temulentiam
nihilominus facit. Quare gens misera et inops, quo rarius mentis sit
suae, propriam urinam bibit identidem: continuoque mingens rursusque
hauriens eundem succum (dicas, ne ulla in parte mundi desit ebrietas),
pauculis agaricis producere in diem quintum temulentiam potest.)

The packet boats (correos) from Corunna bound for the Havannah and
Mexico had been due three months; and it was believed they had been
taken by the English cruisers stationed on this coast. Anxious to
reach Cumana, in order to avail ourselves of the first opportunity
that might offer for our passage to Vera Cruz, we hired an open boat
called a lancha, a sort of craft employed habitually in the latitudes
east of Cape Codera where the sea is scarcely ever rough. Our lancha,
which was laden with cacao, carried on a contraband trade with the
island of Trinidad. For this reason the owner imagined we had nothing
to fear from the enemy's vessels, which then blockaded all the Spanish
ports. We embarked our collection of plants, our instruments and our
monkeys; and, the weather being delightful, we hoped to make a very
short passage from the mouth of the Rio Neveri to Cumana: but we had
scarcely reached the narrow channel between the continent and the
rocky isles of Borracha and the Chimanas, when to our great surprise
we came in sight of an armed boat, which, whilst hailing us from a
great distance, fired some musket-shot at us. The boat belonged to a
privateer of Halifax; and I recognized among the sailors a Prussian, a
native of Memel. I had found no opportunity, since my arrival in
America, of expressing myself in my native language, and I could have
wished to have spoken it on a less unpleasant occasion. Our
protestations were without effect: we were carried on board the
privateer, and the captain, affecting not to recognize the passports
delivered by the governor of Trinidad for the illicit trade, declared
us to be a lawful prize. Being a little in the habit of speaking
English, I entered into conversation with the captain, begging not to
be taken to Nova Scotia, but to be put on shore on the neighbouring
coast. While I endeavoured, in the cabin, to defend my own rights and
those of the owner of the lancha, I heard a noise on deck. Something
was whispered to the captain, who left us in consternation. Happily
for us, an English sloop of war, the Hawk, was cruising in those
parts, and had signalled the captain to bring to; but the signal not
being promptly answered, a gun was fired from the sloop and a
midshipman sent on board our vessel. He was a polite young man, and
gave me hopes that the lancha, which was laden with cacao, would be
given up, and that on the following day we might pursue our voyage. In
the meantime he invited me to accompany him on board the sloop,
assuring me that his commander, Captain Garnier, would furnish me with
better accommodation for the night than I should find in the vessel
from Halifax.

I accepted these obliging offers and was received with the utmost
kindness by Captain Garnier, who had made the voyage to the north-west
coast of America with Vancouver, and who appeared to be highly
interested in all I related to him respecting the great cataracts of
Atures and Maypures, the bifurcation of the Orinoco and its
communication with the Amazon. He introduced to me several of his
officers who had been with Lord Macartney in China. I had not, during
the space of a year, enjoyed the society of so many well-informed
persons. They had learned from the English newspapers the object of my
enterprise. I was treated with great confidence and the commander gave
me up his own state-room. They gave me at parting the astronomical
Ephemerides for those years which I had not been able to procure in
France or Spain. I am indebted to Captain Garnier for the observations
I was enabled to make on the satellites beyond the equator and I feel
it a duty to record here the gratitude I feel for his kindness. Coming
from the forests of Cassiquiare, and having been confined during whole
months to the narrow circle of missionary life, we felt a high
gratification at meeting for the first time with men who had sailed
round the world, and whose ideas were enlarged by so extensive and
varied a course. I quitted the English vessel with impressions which
are not yet effaced from my remembrance, and which rendered me more
than ever satisfied with the career on which I had entered.

We continued our passage on the following day; and were surprised at
the depth of the channels between the Caracas Islands, where the sloop
worked her way through them almost touching the rocks. How much do
these calcareous islets, of which the form and direction call to mind
the great catastrophe that separated from them the mainland, differ in
aspect from the volcanic archipelago on the north of Lanzerote where
the hills of basalt seem to have been heaved up from the bottom of the
sea! Numbers of pelicans and of flamingos, which fished in the nooks
or harassed the pelicans in order to seize their prey, indicated our
approach to the coast of Cumana. It is curious to observe at sunrise
how the sea-birds suddenly appear and animate the scene, reminding us,
in the most solitary regions, of the activity of our cities at the
dawn of day. At nine in the morning we reached the gulf of Cariaco
which serves as a roadstead to the town of Cumana. The hill, crowned
by the castle of San Antonio, stood out, prominent from its whiteness,
on the dark curtain of the inland mountains. We gazed with interest on
the shore, where we first gathered plants in America, and where, some
months later, M. Bonpland had been in such danger. Among the cactuses,
that rise in columns twenty feet high, appear the Indian huts of the
Guaykeries. Every part of the landscape was familiar to us; the forest
of cactus, the scattered huts and that enormous ceiba, beneath which
we loved to bathe at the approach of night. Our friends at Cumana came
out to meet us: men of all castes, whom our frequent herborizations
had brought into contact with us, expressed the greater joy at sight
of us, as a report that we had perished on the banks of the Orinoco
had been current for several months. These reports had their origin
either in the severe illness of M. Bonpland, or in the fact of our
boat having been nearly lost in a gale above the mission of Uruana.

We hastened to visit the governor, Don Vicente Emparan, whose
recommendations and constant solicitude had been so useful to us
during the long journey we had just terminated. He procured for us, in
the centre of the town, a house which, though perhaps too lofty in a
country exposed to violent earthquakes, was extremely useful for our
instruments. We enjoyed from its terraces a majestic view of the sea,
of the isthmus of Araya, and the archipelago of the islands of
Caracas, Picuita and Borracha. The port of Cumana was every day more
and more closely blockaded, and the vain expectation of the arrival of
Spanish packets detained us two months and a half longer. We were
often nearly tempted to go to the Danish islands which enjoyed a happy
neutrality; but we feared that, if we left the Spanish colonies, we
might find some obstacles to our return. With the ample freedom which
in a moment of favour had been granted to us, we did not consider it
prudent to hazard anything that might give umbrage to the local
authorities. We employed our time in completing the Flora of Cumana,
geologically examining the eastern part of the peninsula of Araya, and
observing many eclipses of satellites, which confirmed the longitude
of the place already obtained by other means. We also made experiments
on the extraordinary refractions, on evaporation and on atmospheric

The living animals which we had brought from the Orinoco were objects
of great curiosity to the inhabitants of Cumana. The capuchin of the
Esmeralda (Simia chiropotes), which so much resembles man in the
expression of its physiognomy; and the sleeping monkey (Simia
trivirgata), which is the type of a new group; had never yet been seen
on that coast. We destined them for the menagerie of the Jardin des
Plantes at Paris. The arrival of a French squadron which had failed in
an attack upon Curacao furnished us, unexpectedly, with an excellent
opportunity for sending them to Guadaloupe; and General Jeannet,
together with the commissary Bresseau, agent of the executive power at
the Antilles, promised to convey them. The monkeys and birds died at
Guadaloupe but fortunately the skin of the Simia chiropotes, the only
one in Europe, was sent a few years ago to the Jardin des Plantes,
where the couxio (Simia satanas) and the stentor or alouate of the
steppes of Caracas (Simia ursina) had been already received. The
arrival of so great a number of French military officers and the
manifestation of political and religious opinions not altogether
conformable with the interests of the governments of Europe excited
singular agitation in the population of Cumana. The governor treated
the French authorities with the forms of civility consistent with the
friendly relations subsisting at that period between France and Spain.
In the streets the coloured people crowded round the agent of the
French Directory, whose dress was rich and theatrical. White men, too,
with indiscreet curiosity, whenever they could make themselves
understood, made enquiries concerning the degree of influence granted
by the republic to the colonists in the government of Guadaloupe. The
king's officers doubled their zeal in furnishing provision for the
little squadron. Strangers, who boasted that they were free, appeared
to these people troublesome guests; and in a country of which the
growing prosperity depended on clandestine communication with the
islands, and on a freedom of trade forced from the ministry, the
European Spaniards extolled the wisdom of the old code of laws (leyes
de Indias) which permitted the entrance of foreign vessels into their
ports only in extreme cases of want or distress. These contrasts
between the restless desires of the colonists and the distrustful
apathy of the government, throw some light on the great political
events which, after long preparation, have separated Spain from her

We again passed a few agreeable days, from the third to the fifth of
November, at the peninsula of Araya, situated beyond the gulf of
Cariaco, opposite to Cumana.* (* I have already described the pearls
of Araya; its sulphurous deposits and submarine springs of liquid and
colourless petroleum. See volume 1.5.) We were informed that the
Indians carried to the town from time to time considerable quantities
of native alum, found in the neighbouring mountains. The specimens
shown to us sufficiently indicated that it was neither alunite,
similar to the rock of Tolfa and Piombino, nor those capillary and
silky salts of alkaline sulphate of alumina and magnesia that line the
clefts and cavities of rocks, but real masses of native alum, with a
conchoidal or imperfectly lamellar fracture. We were led to hope that
we should find the mine of alum (mina de alun) in the slaty cordillera
of Maniquarez, and so new a geological phenomenon was calculated to
rivet our attention. The priest Juan Gonzales, and the treasurer, Don
Manuel Navarete, who had been useful to us from our first arrival on
this coast, accompanied us in our little excursion. We disembarked
near Cape Caney and again visited the ancient salt-pit (which is
converted into a lake by the irruption of the sea), the fine ruins of
the castle of Araya and the calcareous mountain of the Barigon, which,
from its steepness on the western side is somewhat difficult of
access. Muriatiferous clay mixed with bitumen and lenticular gypsum
and sometimes passing to a darkish brown clay, devoid of salt, is a
formation widely spread through this peninsula, in the island of
Margareta and on the opposite continent, near the castle of San
Antonio de Cumana. Probably the existence of this formation has
contributed to produce those ruptures and rents in the ground which
strike the eye of the geologist when he stands on one of the eminences
of the peninsula of Araya. The cordillera of this peninsula, composed
of mica-slate and clay-slate, is separated on the north from the chain
of mountains of the island of Margareta (which are of a similar
composition) by the channel of Cubagua; and on the south it is
separated from the lofty calcareous chain of the continent, by the
gulf of Cariaco. The whole intermediate space appears to have been
heretofore filled with muriatiferous clay; and no doubt the continual
erosions of the ocean have removed this formation and converted the
plain, first into lakes, then into gulfs, and finally into navigable
channels. The account of what has passed in the most modern times at
the foot of the castle of Araya, the irruption of the sea into the
ancient salt-pit, the formation of the laguna de Chacopata and a lake,
four leagues in length, which cuts the island of Margareta nearly into
two parts, afford evident proofs of these successive erosions. In the
singular configuration of the coasts in the Morro of Chacopata; in the
little islands of the Caribbees, the Lobos and Tunal; in the great
island of Coche, and the capes of Carnero and Mangliers there still
seem to be apparent the remains of an isthmus which, stretching from
north to south, formerly joined the peninsula of Araya to the island
of Margareta. In that island a neck of very low land, three thousand
toises long, and less than two hundred toises broad, conceals on the
northern sides the two hilly groups, known by the names of La Vega de
San Juan and the Macanao. The Laguna Grande of Margareta has a very
narrow opening to the south and small boats pass by portage over the
neck of land or northern dyke. Though the waters on these shores seem
at present to recede from the continent it is nevertheless very
probable that in the lapse of ages, either by an earthquake or by a
sudden rising of the ocean, the long island of Margareta will be
divided into two rocky islands of a trapezoidal form.

The limestone of the Barigon, which is a part of the great formation
of sandstone or calcareous breccia of Cumana, is filled with fossil
shells in as perfect preservation as those of other tertiary
limestones in France and Italy. We detached some blocks containing
oysters eight inches in diameter, pectens, venuses, and lithophyte
polypi. I recommend to naturalists better versed in the knowledge of
fossils than I then was, to examine with care this mountainous coast
(which is easy of access to European vessels) in their way to Cumana,
Guayra or Curacao. It would be curious to discover whether any of
these shells and these species of petrified zoophytes still inhabit
the seas of the West Indies, as M. Bonpland conjectured, and as is the
case in the island of Timor and perhaps in Guadaloupe.

We sailed on the 4th of November, at one o'clock in the morning, in
search of the mine of native alum. I took with me the chronometer and
my large Dollond telescope, intending to observe at the Laguna Chica
(Small Lake), east of the village of Maniquarez, the immersion of the
first satellite of Jupiter; this design, however, was not
accomplished, contrary winds having prevented our arrival before
daylight. The spectacle of the phosphorescence of the ocean and the
sports of the porpoises which surrounded our canoe somewhat atoned for
this disappointment. We again passed those spots where springs of
petroleum gush from mica-slate at the bottom of the sea and the smell
of which is perceptible from a considerable distance. When it is
recollected that farther eastward, near Cariaco, the hot and submarine
waters are sufficiently abundant to change the temperature of the gulf
at its surface, we cannot doubt that the petroleum is the effect of
distillation at an immense depth, issuing from those primitive rocks
beneath which lies the focus of all volcanic commotion.

The Laguna Chica is a cove surrounded by perpendicular mountains, and
connected with the gulf of Cariaco only by a narrow channel
twenty-five fathoms deep. It seems, like the fine port of Acapulco, to
owe its existence to the effect of an earthquake. A beach shows that
the sea is here receding from the land, as on the opposite coast of
Cumana. The peninsula of Araya, which narrows between Cape Mero and
Cape las Minas to one thousand four hundred toises, is little more
than four thousand toises in breadth near the Laguna Chica, reckoning
from one sea to the other. We had to cross this distance in order to
find the native alum and to reach the cape called the Punta de
Chuparuparu. The road is difficult only because no path is traced; and
between precipices of some depth we were obliged to step over ridges
of bare rock, the strata of which are much inclined. The principal
point is nearly two hundred and twenty toises high; but the mountains,
as it often happens in a rocky isthmus, display very singular forms.
The Paps (tetas) of Chacopata and Cariaco, midway between the Laguna
Chica and the town of Cariaco, are peaks which appear isolated when
viewed from the platform of the castle of Cumana. The vegetable earth
in this country is only thirty toises above sea level. Sometimes there
is no rain for the space of fifteen months; if, however, a few drops
fall immediately after the flowering of the melons and gourds, they
yield fruit weighing from sixty to seventy pounds, notwithstanding the
apparent dryness of the air. I say apparent dryness, for my
hygrometric observations prove that the atmosphere of Cumana and Araya
contains nearly nine-tenths of the quantity of watery vapour necessary
to its perfect saturation. It is this air, at once hot and humid, that
nourishes those vegetable reservoirs, the cucurbitaceous plants, the
agaves and melocactuses half-buried in the sand. When we visited the
peninsula the preceding year there was a great scarcity of water; the
goats for want of grass died by hundreds. During our stay at the
Orinoco the order of the seasons seemed to be entirely changed. At
Araya, Cochen, and even in the island of Margareta it had rained
abundantly; and those showers were remembered by the inhabitants in
the same way as a fall of aerolites would be noted in the recollection
of the naturalists of Europe.

The Indian who was our guide scarcely knew in what direction we should
find the alum; he was ignorant of its real position. This ignorance of
localities characterises almost all the guides here, who are chosen
from among the most indolent class of the people. We wandered for
eight or nine hours among rocks totally bare of vegetation. The
mica-slate passes sometimes to clay-slate of a darkish grey. I was
again struck by the extreme regularity in the direction and
inclination of the strata. They run north 50 degrees east, inclining
from 60 to 70 degrees north-west. This is the general direction which
I had observed in the gneiss-granite of Caracas and the Orinoco, in
the hornblende-slates of Angostura, and even in the greater part of
the secondary rocks we had just examined. The beds, over a vast extent
of land, make the same angle with the meridian of the place; they
present a parallelism, which may be considered as one of the great
geologic laws capable of being verified by precise measures. Advancing
toward Cape Chuparuparu, the veins of quartz that cross the mica-slate
increase in size. We found some from one to two toises broad, full of
small fasciculated crystals of rutile titanite. We sought in vain for
cyanite, which we had discovered in some blocks near Maniquarez.
Farther on the mica-state presents not veins, but little beds of
graphite or carburetted iron. They are from two to three inches thick
and have precisely the same direction and inclination as the rock.
Graphite, in primitive soils, marks the first appearance of carbon on
the globe--that of carbon uncombined with hydrogen. It is anterior to
the period when the surface of the earth became covered with
monocotyledonous plants. From the summit of those wild mountains there
is a majestic view of the island of Margareta. Two groups of mountains
already mentioned, those of Macanao and La Vega de San Juan, rise from
the bosom of the waters. The capital of the island, La Asuncion, the
port of Pampatar, and the villages of Pueblo de la Mar, Pueblo del
Norte and San Juan belong to the second and most easterly of these
groups. The western group, the Macanao, is almost entirely
uninhabited. The isthmus that divides these large masses of mica-slate
was scarcely visible; its form appeared changed by the effect of the
mirage and we recognized the intermediate part, through which runs the
Laguna Grande, only by two small hills of a sugarloaf form, in the
meridian of the Punta de Piedras. Nearer we look down on the small
desert archipelago of the four Morros del Tunal, the Caribbee and the
Lobos Islands.

After much vain search we at length found, before we descended to the
northern coast of the peninsula of Araya, in a ravine of very
difficult access (Aroyo del Robalo), the mineral which had been shown
to us at Cumana. The mica-slate changed suddenly into carburetted and
shining clay-slate. It was an ampelite; and the waters (for there are
small springs in those parts, and some have recently been discovered
near the village of Maniquarez) were impregnated with yellow oxide of
iron and had a styptic taste. We found the sides of the neighbouring
rocks lined with capillary sulphate of alumina in effervescence; and
real beds, two inches thick, full of native alum, extending as far as
the eye could reach in the clay slate. The alum is greyish white,
somewhat dull on the surface and of an almost glassy lustre
internally. Its fracture is not fibrous but imperfectly conchoidal. It
is slightly translucent when its fragments are thin; and has a
sweetish and astringent taste without any bitter mixture. When on the
spot, I proposed to myself the question whether this alum, so pure,
and filling beds in the clay-slate without leaving the smallest void,
be of a formation contemporary with the rock, or whether it be of a
recent, and in some sort secondary, origin, like the muriate of soda,
found sometimes in small veins, where strongly concentrated springs
traverse beds of gypsum or clay. In these parts nothing seems to
indicate a process of formation likely to be renewed in our days. The
slaty rock exhibits no open cleft; and none is found parallel with the
direction of the slates. It may also be inquired whether this
aluminous slate be a transition-formation lying on the primitive
mica-slate of Araya, or whether it owe its origin merely to a change
of composition and texture in the beds of mica-slate. I lean to the
latter proposition; for the transition is progressive, and the
clay-slate (thonschiefer) and mica-slate appear to me to constitute
here but one formation. The presence of cyanite, rutile-titanite, and
garnets, and the absence of Lydian stone, and all fragmentary or
arenaceous rocks, seem to characterise the formation we describe as
primitive. It is asserted that even in Europe ampelite and green stone
are found, though rarely, in slates anterior to transition-slate.

When, in 1785, after an earthquake, a great rocky mass was broken off
in the Aroyo del Robalo, the Guaykeries of Los Serritos collected
fragments of alum five or six inches in diameter, extremely pure and
transparent. It was sold in my time at Cumana to the dyers and
tanners, at the price of two reals* per pound, while alum from Spain
cost twelve reals. (* The real is about 6 1/2 English pence.) This
difference of price was more the result of prejudice and of the
impediments to trade, than of the inferior quality of the alum of the
country, which is fit for use without undergoing any purification. It
is also found in the chain of mica-slate and clay-slate, on the
north-west coast of the island of Trinidad, at Margareta and near Cape
Chuparuparu, north of the Cerro del Distiladero.* (* Another place was
mentioned to us, west of Bordones, the Puerto Escondido. But that
coast appeared to me to be wholly calcareous; and I cannot conceive
where could be the situation of ampelite and native alum on this
point. Was it in the beds of slaty clay that alternate with the alpine
limestone of Cumanacoa? Fibrous alum is found in Europe only in
formations posterior to those of transition, in lignites and other
tertiary formations belonging to the lignites.) The Indians, who are
naturally addicted to concealment, are not inclined to make known the
spots whence they obtain native alum; but it must be abundant, for I
have seen very considerable quantities of it in their possession at a

South America at present receives its alum from Europe, as Europe in
its turn received it from the natives of Asia previous to the
fifteenth century. Mineralogists, before my travels, knew no
substances which, without addition, calcined or not calcined, could
directly yield alum (sulphate of alumina and potash), except rocks of
trachytic formation, and small veins traversing beds of lignite and
bituminous wood. Both these substances, so different in their origin,
contain all that constitutes alum, that is to say, alumina, sulphuric
acid and potash. The ores of Tolfa, Milo and Nipoligo; those of
Montione, in which silica does not accompany the alumina; the
siliceous breccia of Mont Dore, which contains sulphur in its
cavities; the alumiferous rocks of Parad and Beregh in Hungary, which
belong also to trachytic and pumice conglomerates, may no doubt be
traced to the penetration of sulphurous acid vapours. They are the
products of a feeble and prolonged volcanic action, as may be easily
ascertained in the solfataras of Puzzuoli and the Peak of Teneriffe.
The alumite of Tolfa, which, since my return to Europe, I have
examined on the spot, conjointly with Gay-Lussac, has, by its
oryctognostic characters and its chemical composition, a considerable
affinity to compact feldspar, which constitutes the basis of so many
trachytes and transition-porphyries. It is a siliciferous subsulphate
of alumina and potash, a compact feldspar, with the addition of
sulphuric acid completely formed in it. The waters circulating in
these alumiferous rocks of volcanic origin do not, however, deposit
masses of native alum, to yield which the rocks must be roasted. I
know not of any deposits analogous to those I brought from Cumana; for
the capillary and fibrous masses found in veins traversing beds of
lignites (as on the banks of the Egra, between Saatz and Commothau in
Bohemia), or efflorescing in cavities (as at Freienwalde in
Brandenburg, and at Segario in Sardinia), are impure salts, often
destitute of potash, and mixed with the sulphates of ammonia and
magnesia. A slow decomposition of the pyrites, which probably act as
so many little galvanic piles, renders the waters alumiferous, that
circulate across the bituminous lignites and carburetted clays. These
waters, in contact with carbonate of lime, even give rise to the
deposits of subsulphate of alumina (destitute of potash), found near
Halle, and formerly believed erroneously to be pure alumina belonging,
like the porcelain earth (kaolin) of Morl, to porphyry of red
sandstone. Analogous chemical actions may take place in primitive and
transition slates as well as in tertiary formations. All slates, and
this fact is very important, contain nearly five per cent of potash,
sulphuret of iron, peroxide of iron, carbon, etc. The contact of so
many moistened heterogeneous substances must necessarily lead them to
a change of state and composition. The efflorescent salts that
abundantly cover the aluminous slates of Robalo, show how much these
chemical effects are favoured by the high temperature of the climate;
but, I repeat, in a rock where there are no crevices, no vacuities
parallel to the direction and inclination of the strata, native alum,
semitransparent and of conchoidal fracture, completely filling its
place (its beds), must be regarded as of the same age with the rock in
which it is contained. The term contemporary formation is here taken
in the sense attached to it by geologists, in speaking of beds of
quartz in clay-slate, granular limestone in mica-slate or feldspar in

After having for a long time wandered over barren scenes amidst rocks
entirely devoid of vegetation, our eyes dwelt with pleasure on tufts
of malpighia and croton, which we found in descending toward the
coast. These arborescent crotons were of two new species,* very
remarkable for their form, and peculiar to the peninsula of Araya. (*
Croton argyrophyllus and C. marginatus.) We arrived too late at the
Laguna Chica to visit another rock situated farther east and
celebrated by the name of the Laguna Grande, or the Laguna del
Obispo.* (* Great Lake, or the Bishop's Lake.) We contented ourselves
with admiring it from the height of the mountains that command the
view; and, excepting the ports of Ferrol and Acapulco, there is
perhaps none presenting a more extraordinary configuration. It is an
inland gulf two miles and a half long from east to west, and one mile
broad. The rocks of mica-slate that form the entrance of the port
leave a free passage only two hundred and fifty toises broad. The
water is everywhere from fifteen to twenty-five fathoms deep. Probably
the government of Cumana will one day take advantage of the possession
of this inland gulf and of that of Mochima,* eight leagues east of the
bad road of Nueva Barcelona. (* This is a long narrow gulf, three
miles from north to south, similar to the fiords of Norway.) The
family of M. Navarete were waiting for us with impatience on the
beach; and, though our boat carried a large sail, we did not arrive at
Maniquarez before night.

We prolonged our stay at Cumana only a fortnight. Having lost all hope
of the arrival of a packet from Corunna, we availed ourselves of an
American vessel, laden at Nueva Barcelona with salt provision for the
island of Cuba. We had now passed sixteen months on this coast and in
the interior of Venezuela, and on the 16th of November we parted from
our friends at Cumana to make the passage for the third time across
the gulf of Cariaco to Nueva Barcelona. The night was cool and
delicious. It was not without emotion that we beheld for the last time
the disc of the moon illuminating the summit of the cocoa-trees that
surround the banks of the Manzanares. The breeze was strong and in
less than six hours we anchored near the Morro of Nueva Barcelona,
where the vessel which was to take us to the Havannah was ready to



Before I quit the coasts of Terra Firma and draw the attention of the
reader to the political importance of Cuba, the largest of the West
India Islands, I will collect into one point of view all those facts
which may lead to a just appreciation of the future relations of
commercial Europe with the united Provinces of Venezuela. When, soon
after my return to Germany, I published the Essai Politique sur la
Nouvelle-Espagne, I at the same time made known some of the facts I
had collected in relation to the territorial riches of South America.
This comparative view of the population, agriculture and commerce of
all the Spanish colonies was formed at a period when the progress of
civilization was restrained by the imperfection of social
institutions, the prohibitory system and other fatal errors in the
science of government. Since the time when I developed the immense
resources which the people of both North and South America might
derive from their own position and their relations with commercial
Europe and Asia, one of those great revolutions which from time to
time agitate the human race has changed the state of society in the
vast regions through which I travelled. The continental part of the
New World is at present in some sort divided between three nations of
European origin; one (and that the most powerful) is of Germanic race:
the two others belong by their language, their literature, and their
manners to Latin Europe. Those parts of the old world which advance
farthest westward, the Spanish Peninsula and the British Islands, are
those of which the colonies are most extensive; but four thousand
leagues of coast, inhabited solely by the descendants of Spaniards and
Portuguese, attest the superiority which in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries the peninsular nations had acquired, by their
maritime expeditions, over the navigators of other countries. It may
be fairly asserted that their languages, which prevail from California
to the Rio de la Plata and along the back of the Cordilleras, as well
as in the forests of the Amazon, are monuments of national glory that
will survive every political revolution.

The inhabitants of Spanish and Portuguese America form together a
population twice as numerous as the inhabitants of English race. The
French, Dutch, and Danish possessions of the new continent are of
small extent; but, to complete the general view of the nations which
may influence the destiny of the other hemisphere, we ought not to
forget the colonists of Scandinavian origin who are endeavouring to
form settlements from the peninsula of Alashka as far as California;
and the free Africans of Hayti who have verified the prediction made
by the Milanese traveller Benzoni in 1545. The situation of these
Africans in an island more than three times the size of Sicily, in the
middle of the West Indian Mediterranean, augments their political
importance. Every friend of humanity prays for the development of the
civilization which is advancing in so calm and unexpected a manner. As
yet Russian America is less like an agricultural colony than the
factories established by Europeans on the coast of Africa, to the
great misfortune of the natives; they contain only military posts,
stations of fishermen, and Siberian hunters. It is a curious
phenomenon to find the rites of the Greek Church established in one
part of America and to see two nations which inhabit the eastern and
western extremities of Europe (the Russians and the Spaniards) thus
bordering on each other on a continent on which they arrived by
opposite routes; but the almost savage state of the unpeopled coasts
of Ochotsk and Kamtschatka, the want of resources furnished by the
ports of Asia, and the barbarous system hitherto adopted in the
Scandinavian colonies of the New World, are circumstances which will
hold them long in infancy. Hence it follows that if in the researches
of political economy we are accustomed to survey masses only, we
cannot but admit that the American continent is divided, properly
speaking, between three great nations of English, Spanish, and
Portuguese race. The first of these three nations, the
Anglo-Americans, is, next to the English of Europe, that whose flag
waves over the greatest extent of sea. Without any distant colonies,
its commerce has acquired a growth attained in the old world by that
nation alone which communicated to North America its language, its
literature, its love of labour, its predilection for liberty, and a
portion of its civil institutions.

The English and Portuguese colonists have peopled only the coasts
which lie opposite to Europe; the Castilians, on the contrary, in the
earliest period of the conquest, crossed the chain of the Andes and
made settlements in the most western regions. There only, at Mexico,
Cundinamarca, Quito and Peru, they found traces of ancient
civilization, agricultural nations and flourishing empires. This
circumstance, together with the increase of the native mountain
population, the almost exclusive possession of great metallic wealth,
and the commercial relations established from the beginning of the
sixteenth century with the Indian archipelago, have given a peculiar
character to the Spanish possessions in equinoctial America. In the
East Indies, the people who fell into the hands of the English and
Portuguese settlers were wandering tribes or hunters. Far from forming
a portion of the agricultural and laborious population, as on the
tableland of Anahuac, at Guatimala and in Upper Peru, they generally
withdrew at the approach of the whites. The necessity of labour, the
preference given to the cultivation of the sugar-cane, indigo, and
cotton, the cupidity which often accompanies and degrades industry,
gave birth to that infamous slave-trade, the consequences of which
have been alike fatal to the old and the new world. Happily, in the
continental part of Spanish America, the number of African slaves is
so inconsiderable that, compared with the slave population of Brazil,
or with that of the southern part of the United States, it is found to
be in the proportion of one to fourteen. The whole of the Spanish
colonies, without excluding the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, have
not, over a surface which exceeds at least by one-fifth that of
Europe, as many negroes as the single state of Virginia. The Spanish
Americans, in the union of New Spain and Guatimala, present an
example, unique in the torrid zone, namely, a nation of eight millions
of inhabitants governed conformably with European institutions and
laws, cultivating sugar, cacao, wheat and grapes, and having scarcely
a slave brought from Africa.

The population of the New Continent as yet surpasses but little that
of France or Germany. It doubles in the United States in twenty-three
or twenty-five years; and at Mexico, even under the government of the
mother country, it doubles in forty or forty-five years. Without
indulging too flattering hopes of the future, it may be admitted that
in less than a century and a half the population of America will equal
that of Europe. This noble rivalry in civilization and the arts of
industry and commerce, far from impoverishing the old continent, as
has often been supposed it might at the expense of the new one, will
augment the wants of the consumer, the mass of productive labour, and
the activity of exchange. Doubtless, in consequence of the great
revolutions which human society undergoes, the public fortune, the
common patrimony of civilization, is found differently divided among
the nations of the old and the new world: but by degrees the
equilibrium is restored; and it is a fatal, I had almost said an
impious prejudice, to consider the growing prosperity of any other
part of our planet as a calamity to Europe. The independence of the
colonies will not contribute to isolate them from the old civilized
nations, but will rather bring all more closely together. Commerce
tends to unite countries which a jealous policy has long separated. It
is the nature of civilization to go forward without any tendency to
decline in the spot that gave it birth. Its progress from east to
west, from Asia to Europe, proves nothing against this axiom. A clear
light loses none of its brilliancy by being diffused over a wider
space. Intellectual cultivation, that fertile source of national
wealth, advances by degrees and extends without being displaced. Its
movement is not a migration: and though it may seem to be such in the
east, it is because barbarous hordes possessed themselves of Egypt,
Asia Minor, and of once free Greece, the forsaken cradle of the
civilization of our ancestors.

The barbarism of nations is the consequence of oppression exercised by
internal despotism or foreign conquest; and it is always accompanied
by progressive impoverishment, by a diminution of the public fortune.
Free and powerful institutions, adapted to the interests of all,
remove these dangers; and the growing civilization of the world, the
competition of labour and of trade, are not the ruin of states whose
welfare flows from a natural source. Productive and commercial Europe
will profit by the new order of things in Spanish America, as it would
profit from events that might put an end to barbarism in Greece, on
the northern coast of Africa and in other countries subject to Ottoman
tyranny. What most menaces the prosperity of the ancient continent is
the prolongation of those intestine struggles which check production
and diminish at the same time the number and wants of consumers. This
struggle, begun in Spanish America six years after my departure, is
drawing gradually to an end. We shall soon see both shores of the
Atlantic peopled by independent nations, ruled by different forms of
Government, but united by the remembrance of a common origin,
uniformity of language, and the wants which civilization creates. It
may be said that the immense progress of the art of navigation has
contracted the boundaries of the seas. The Atlantic already assumes
the form of a narrow channel which no more removes the New World from
the commercial states of Europe, than the Mediterranean, in the
infancy of navigation, removed the Greeks of Peloponnesus from those
of Ionia, Sicily, and the Cyrenaic region.

I have thought it right to enter into these general considerations on
the future connection of the two continents, before tracing the
political sketch of the provinces of Venezuela. These provinces,
governed till 1810 by a captain-general residing at Caracas, are now
united to the old viceroyalty of New Grenada, or Santa Fe, under the
name of the Republic of Columbia. I will not anticipate the
description which I shall have hereafter to give of New Grenada; but,
in order to render my observations on the statistics of Venezuela more
useful to those who would judge of the political importance of the
country and the advantages it may offer to the trade of Europe, even
in its present unadvanced state of cultivation, I will describe the
United Provinces of Venezuela in their relations with Cundinamarca, or
New Grenada, and as forming part of the new state of Columbia. M.
Bonpland and I passed nearly three years in the country which now
forms the territory of the republic of Columbia; sixteen months in
Venezuela and eighteen in New Grenada. We crossed the territory in its
whole extent; on one hand from the mountains of Paria as far as
Esmeralda on the Upper Orinoco, and San Carlo del Rio Negro, situated
near the frontiers of Brazil; and on the other, from Rio Sinu and
Carthagena as far as the snowy summits of Quito, the port of Guayaquil
on the coast of the Pacific, and the banks of the Amazon in the
province of Jaen de Bracamoros. So long a stay and an expedition of
one thousand three hundred leagues in the interior of the country, of
which more than six hundred and fifty were by water, have furnished me
with a pretty accurate knowledge of local circumstances.

I am aware that travellers, who have recently visited America, regard
its progress as far more rapid than my statistical researches seem to
indicate. For the year 1913 they promise one hundred and twelve
millions of inhabitants in Mexico, of which they believe that the
population is doubled every twenty-two years; and during the same
interval one hundred and forty millions in the United States. These
numbers, I confess, do not appear to me to be alarming from the
motives that may excite fear among the disciples of Malthus. It is
possible that some time or other, two or three hundred millions of men
may find subsistence in the vast extent of the new continent between
the lake of Nicaragua and lake Ontario. I admit that the United States
will contain above eighty millions of inhabitants a hundred years
hence, allowing a progressive change in the period of doubling from
twenty-five to thirty-five and forty years; but, notwithstanding the
elements of prosperity to be found in equinoctial America, I doubt
whether the increase of the population in Venezuela, Spanish Guiana,
New Grenada and Mexico can be in general so rapid as in the United
States. The latter, which are situated entirely in the temperate zone,
destitute of high chains of mountains, embrace an immense extent of
country easy of cultivation. The hordes of Indian hunters flee both
from the colonists, whom they abhor, and the methodist missionaries,
who oppose their taste for indolence and a vagabond life. The more
fertile land of Spanish America produces indeed on the same surface a
greater amount of nutritive substances. On the table lands of the
equinoctial regions wheat doubtless yields annually from twenty to
twenty-four for one; but Cordilleras furrowed by almost inaccessible
crevices, bare and arid steppes, forests that resist both the axe and
fire, and an atmosphere filled with venomous insects, will long
present powerful obstacles to agriculture and industry. The most
active and enterprising colonists cannot, in the mountainous districts
of Merida, Antioquia, and Los Pastos, in the llanos of Venezuela and
Guaviare, in the forests of the Rio Magdalena, the Orinoco, and the
province of Las Esmeraldas, west of Quito, extend their agricultural
conquests as they have done in the woody plains westward of the
Alleghenies, from the sources of the Ohio, the Tennessee and the
Alabama, as far as the banks of the Missouri and the Arkansas. Calling
to mind the account of my voyage on the Orinoco, it may be easy to
appreciate the obstacles which nature opposes to the efforts of man in
hot and humid climates. In Mexico, large extents of soil are destitute
of springs; rain seldom falls, and the want of navigable rivers
impedes communication. As the ancient native population is
agricultural, and had been so long before the arrival of the
Spaniards, the lands most easy of access and cultivation have already
their proprietors. Fertile tracts of country, at the disposal of the
first occupier, or ready to be sold in lots for the profit of the
state, are much less common than Europeans imagine. Hence it follows
that the progress of colonization cannot be everywhere as free and
rapid in Spanish America as it has hitherto been in the western
provinces of the United States. The population of that union is
composed wholly of whites, and of negros, who, having been torn from
their country, or born in the New World, have become the instruments
of the industry of the whites. In Mexico, Guatimala, Quito, and Peru,
on the contrary, there exist in our day more than five millions and a
half of natives of copper-coloured race, whose isolated position,
partly forced and partly voluntary, together with their attachment to
ancient habits, and their mistrustful inflexibility of character, will
long prevent their participation in the progress of the public
prosperity, notwithstanding the efforts employed to disindianize them.

I dwell on the differences between the free states of temperate and
equinoctial America, to show that the latter have to contend against
obstacles connected with their physical and moral position; and to
remind the reader that the countries embellished with the most varied
and precious productions of nature, are not always susceptible of an
easy, rapid, and uniformly extended cultivation. If we consider the
limits which the population may attain as depending solely on the
quantity of subsistence which the land is capable of producing, the
most simple calculations would prove the preponderance of the
communities established in the fine regions of the torrid zone; but
political economy, or the positive science of government, is
distrustful of ciphers and vain abstractions. We know that by the
multiplication of one family only, a continent previously desert may
reckon in the space of eight centuries more than eight millions of
inhabitants; and yet these estimates, founded on the hypothesis of a
continuous doubling in twenty-five or thirty years, are contradicted
by the history of every country already advanced in civilization. The
destinies which await the free states of Spanish America are too
glorious to require to be embellished by illusions and chimerical

Among the thirty-four million inhabitants spread over the vast surface
of continental America, in which estimate are comprised the savage
natives, we distinguish, according to the three preponderant races,
sixteen millions and a half in the possessions of the Spanish
Americans, ten millions in those of the Anglo-Americans, and nearly
four millions in those of the Portuguese Americans. The population of
these three great divisions is, at the present time, in the proportion
of 4, 2 1/2, 1; while the extent of surface over which the population
is spread is, as the numbers 1.5, 0.7, 1. The area of the United
States* is nearly one-fourth greater than that of Russia west of the
Ural mountains; and Spanish America is in the same proportion more
extensive than the whole of Europe. (* Notwithstanding the political
changes which have taken place in the South American colonies, I shall
throughout this work designate the country inhabited by the Spanish
Americans by the denomination of Spanish America. I call the country
of the Anglo-Americans the United States, without adding of North
America, although other United States exist in South America. It is
embarrassing to speak of nations who play a great part on the scene of
the world without having collective names. The term American can no
longer be applied solely to the citizens of the United States of North
America; and it were to be wished that the nomenclature of the
independent nations of the New Continent should be fixed in a manner
at once convenient, harmonious, and precise.) The United States
contain five-eighths of the proportion of the Spanish possessions, and
yet their area is not one-half so large. Brazil comprehends tracts of
country so desert toward the west that over an extent only a third
less than that of Spanish America its population is in the proportion
of one to four. The following table contains the results of an attempt
which I made, conjointly with M. Mathieu, member of the Academy of
Sciences, and of the Bureau des Longitudes, to estimate with precision
the extent of the surface of the various states of America. We made
use of maps on which the limits had been corrected according to the
statements published in my Recueil d'Observations Astronomiques. Our
scales were, generally speaking, so large that spaces from four to
five leagues square were not omitted. We observed this degree of
precision that we might not add the uncertainty of the measure of
triangles, trapeziums, and the sinuosities of the coasts, to the
uncertainty of geographical statements.





                                          Surface          Pop.

1. Possessions of the Spanish Americans : 371,380 : 16,785,000.

   Mexico or New Spain                  :  75,830 :  6,800,000.
   Guatemala                            :  16,740 :  1,600,000.
   Cuba and Porto Rico                  :   4,430 :    800,000.
   Columbia--Venezuela                  :  33,700 :    785,000.
   Columbia--New Grenada and Quito      :  58,250 :  2,000,000.
   Peru                                 :  41,420 :  1,400,000.
   Chili                                :  14,240 :  1,100,000.
   Buenos Ayres                         : 126,770 :  2,300,000.

2. Possessions of the Portuguese
   Americans (Brazil)                   : 256,990 :  4,000,000.

3. Possessions of the
   Anglo-Americans (United States)      : 174,300 : 10,220,000.

From the statistical researches which have been made in several
countries of Europe, important results have been obtained by a
comparison of the relative population of maritime and inland
provinces. In Spain these relations are to one another as nine to
five; in the United Provinces of Venezuela, and, above all, in the
ancient Capitania-General of Caracas, they are as thirty-five to one.
How powerful soever may be the influence of commerce on the prosperity
of states, and the intellectual development of nations, it would be
wrong to attribute in America, as we do in Europe, to that cause alone
the differences just mentioned. In Spain and Italy, if we except the
fertile plains of Lombardy, the inland districts are arid and
abounding in mountains or high table-lands: the meteorological
circumstances on which the fertility of the soil depends are not the
same in the lands bordering on the sea, as they are in the central
provinces. Colonization in America has generally begun on the coast,
and advanced slowly towards the interior; such is its progress in
Brazil and in Venezuela. It is only where the coast is unhealthy, as
in Mexico and New Grenada, or sandy and exempt from rain as in Peru,
that the population is concentrated on the mountains, and the
table-lands of the interior. These local circumstances are too often
overlooked in considerations on the future fate of the Spanish
colonies; they communicate a peculiar character to some of those
countries, the physical and moral analogies of which are less striking
than is commonly supposed. Considered with reference to the
distribution of the population, the two provinces of New Grenada and
Venezuela, which have been united in one political body, exhibit the
most complete contrast. Their capitals (and the position of capitals
always denotes where population is most concentrated) are at such
unequal distances from the trading coasts of the Caribbean Sea, that
the town of Caracas, to be placed on the same parallel with Santa-Fe
de Bogota, must be transplanted southward to the junction of the
Orinoco with the Guaviare, where the mission of San Fernando de
Atabapo is situated.

The republic of Columbia is, with Mexico and Guatemala, the only state
of Spanish America which occupies at once the coasts opposite to
Europe and to Asia. From Cape Paria to the western extremity of
Veragua is a distance of 400 sea leagues: and from Cape Burica to the
mouth of Rio Tumbez the distance is 260. The shore possessed by the
republic of Columbia consequently equals in length the line of coasts
extending from Cadiz to Dantzic, or from Ceuta to Jaffa. This immense
resource for national industry is combined with a degree of
cultivation of which the importance has not hitherto been sufficiently
acknowledged. The isthmus of Panama forms part of the territory of
Columbia, and that neck of land, if traversed by good roads and
stocked with camels, may one day serve as a portage for the commerce
of the world, even though the plains of Cupica, the bay of Mandinga or
the Rio Chagre should not afford the possibility of a canal for the
passage of vessels proceeding from Europe to China,* or from the
United States to the north-west coast of America. (* The old
vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres extended also along a small portion of
the South Sea coast.)

When considering the influence which the configuration of countries
(that is, the elevation and the form of coasts) exercises in every
district on the progress of civilization and the destiny of nations, I
have pointed out the disadvantages of those vast masses of triangular
continents, which, like Africa and the greater part of South America,
are destitute of gulfs and inland seas. It cannot be doubted that the
existence of the Mediterranean has been closely connected with the
first dawn of human cultivation among the nations of the west, and
that the articulated form of the land, the frequency of its
contractions and the concatenation of peninsulas favoured the
civilization of Greece, Italy, and perhaps of all Europe westward of
the meridian of the Propontis. In the New World the uninterruptedness
of the coasts and the monotony of their straight lines are most
remarkable in Chili and Peru. The shore of Columbia is more varied,
and its spacious gulfs, such as that of Paria, Cariaco, Maracaybo, and
Darien, were, at the time of the first discovery better peopled than
the rest and facilitated the interchange of productions. That shore
possesses an incalculable advantage in being washed by the Caribbean
Sea, a kind of inland sea with several outlets, and the only one
pertaining to the New Continent. This basin, whose various shores form
portions of the United States, of the republic of Columbia, of Mexico
and several maritime powers of Europe, gives birth to a peculiar and
exclusively American system of trade. The south-east of Asia with its
neighbouring archipelago and, above all, the state of the
Mediterranean in the time of the Phoenician and Greek colonies, prove
that the nearness of opposite coasts, not having the same productions
and not inhabited by nations of different races, exercises a happy
influence on commercial industry and intellectual cultivation. The
importance of the inland Caribbean Sea, bounded by Venezuela on the
south, will be further augmented by the progressive increase of
population on the banks of the Mississippi; for that river, the Rio
del Norte and the Magdalena are the only great navigable streams which
the Caribbean Sea receives. The depth of the American rivers, their
immense branches, and the use of steam-boats, everywhere facilitated
by the proximity of forests, will, to a certain extent, compensate for
the obstacles which the uniform line of the coasts and the general
configuration of the continent oppose to the progress of industry and

On comparing the extent of the territory with the absolute population,
we obtain the result of the connection of those two elements of public
prosperity, a connection that constitutes the relative population of
every state in the New World. We shall find to every square sea
league, in Mexico, 90; in the United States, 58; in the republic of
Columbia, 30; and in Brazil, 15 inhabitants; while Asiatic Russia
furnishes 11; the whole Russian Empire, 87; Sweden with Norway, 90;
European Russia, 320; Spain, 763; and France, 1778. But these
estimates of relative population, when applied to countries of immense
extent, and of which a great part is entirely uninhabited, merely
furnish mathematical abstractions of but little value. In countries
uniformly cultivated--in France, for example--the number of
inhabitants to the square league, calculated by separate departments,
is in general only a third, more or less, than the relative population
of the sum of all the departments. Even in Spain the deviations from
the average number rise, with few exceptions, only from half to
double. In America, on the contrary, it is only in the Atlantic
states, from South Carolina to New Hampshire, that the population
begins to spread with any uniformity. In that most civilized portion
of the New World, from 130 to 900 inhabitants are reckoned to the
square league, while the relative population on all the Atlantic
states, considered together, is 240. The extremes (North Carolina and
Massachusetts) are only in the relation of 1 to 7, nearly as in
France, where the extremes, in the departments of the Hautes Alpes and
the Cote-du-Nord are also in the relation of 1 to 6.7. The variations
from the average number, which we generally find restricted to narrow
limits in the civilized countries of Europe, exceed all measure in
Brazil, in the Spanish colonies and even in the confederation of the
United States, in its whole extent. We find in Mexico in some of the
intendencias, for example, La Sonora and Durango, from 9 to 15
inhabitants to the square league, while in others, on the central
table-land, there are more than 500. The relative population of the
country situated between the eastern bank of the Mississippi and the
Atlantic states is scarcely 47; while that of Connecticut, Rhode
island, and Massachusetts is more than 800. Westward of the
Mississippi as well as in the interior of Spanish Guiana there are not
two inhabitants to the square league over much larger extents of
territory than Switzerland or Belgium. The state of these countries is
like that of the Russian Empire, where the relative population of some
of the Asiatic governments (Irkutsk and Tobolsk) is to that of the
best cultivated European districts as 1 to 300.

The enormous difference existing, in countries newly cultivated,
between the extent of territory and the number of inhabitants, renders
these partial estimates necessary. When we learn that New Spain and
the United States, taking their entire extent at 75,000 and 174,000
square sea-leagues, give respectively 90 and 58 souls to each league,
we no more obtain a correct idea of that distribution of the
population on which the political power of nations depends, than we
should of the climate of a country, that is to say, of the
distribution of the heat in the different seasons, by the mere
knowledge of the mean temperature of the whole year. If we take from
the United States all their possessions west of the Mississippi, their
relative population would be 121 instead of 58 to the square league;
consequently much greater than that of New Spain. Taking from the
latter country the Provincias internas (north and north-east of Nueva
Galicia) we should find 190 instead of 90 souls to the square league.

The provinces of Caracas, Maracaybo, Cumana and Barcelona, that is,
the maritime provinces of the north, are the most populous of the old
Capitania-General of Caracas; but, in comparing this relative
population with that of New Spain, where the two intendencias of
Mexico and Puebla alone contain, on an extent scarcely equal to the
superficies of the province of Caracas, a greater population than that
of the whole republic of Columbia, we see that some Mexican
intendencias which, with respect to the concentration of their
culture, occupy but the seventh or eighth rank (Zacatecas and
Guadalajara), contain more inhabitants to the square league than the
province of Caracas. The average of the relative population of Cumana,
Barcelona, Caracas and Maracaybo, is fifty-six; and, as 6200 square
leagues, that is, one half of the extent of these four provinces are
almost desert Llanos, we find, in reckoning the superficies and the
scanty population of the plains, 102 inhabitants to the square league.
An analogous modification gives the province of Caracas alone a
relative population of 208, that is, only one-seventh less than that
of the Atlantic States of North America.

As in political economy numerical statements become instructive only
by a comparison with analogous facts I have carefully examined what,
in the present state of the two continents, might be considered as a
small relative population in Europe, and a very great relative
population in America. I have, however, chosen examples only from
among the provinces which have a continued surface of more than 600
square leagues in order to exclude the accidental accumulations of
population which occur around great cities; for instance, on the coast
of Brazil, in the valley of Mexico, on the table-lands of Santa Fe de
Bogota and Cuzco; or finally, in the smaller West India Islands
(Barbadoes, Martinique and St. Thomas) of which the relative
population is from 3000 to 4700 inhabitants to the square league, and
consequently equal to the most fertile parts of Holland, France and



The four least populous Governments of European Russia:
Archangel                                               :   10.
Olonez                                                  :   42.
Wologda and Astracan                                    :   52.
Finland                                                 :  106.

The least populous Province of Spain, that of Cuenca    :  311.

The Duchy of Luneburg (on account of the heaths)        :  550.

The least populous Department of Continental France     :  758.
(Hautes Alps)

Departments of France thinly peopled (the Creuse,       : 1300.
the Var and the Aude)


The central part of the Intendencias of                 : 1300.
Mexico and Puebla, above

In the United States, Massachusetts, but having
only 522 square leagues of surface                      :  900.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, together  :  840.

The whole Intendencia of Puebla                         :  540.

The whole Intendencia of Mexico                         :  460.

These two Mexican Intendencias together are nearly a third of the
superficial extent of France, with a suitable population (in 1823
nearly 2,800,000 souls) to prevent the towns of Mexico and Puebla from
having a sensible influence on the relative population.

Northern part of the Province of Caracas                :  208.
(without the Llanos)

This table shows that those parts of America which we now consider as
the most populous attain the relative population of the kingdom of
Navarre, of Galicia and the Asturias, which, next to the province of
Guipuscoa, and the kingdom of Valencia, reckon the greatest number of
inhabitants to the square league in all Spain; the maximum of America
is, however, below the relative population of the whole of France
(1778 to the square league), and would, in the latter country, be
considered as a very thin population. If, taking a survey of the whole
surface of America, we direct our attention to the Capitania-General
of Venezuela, we find that the most populous of its subdivisions, the
province of Caracas, considered as a whole, without excepting the
Llanos, has, as yet, only the relative population of Tennessee; and
that this province, without the Llanos, furnishes in its northern
part, or more than 1800 square leagues, the relative population of
South Carolina. Those 1800 square leagues, the centre of agriculture,
are twice as numerously peopled as Finland, but still a third less
than the province of Cuenca, which is the least populous of all Spain.
We cannot dwell on this result without a painful feeling. Such is the
state to which colonial politics and maladministration have, during
three centuries, reduced a country which, for natural wealth, may vie
with all that is most wonderful on earth. For a region equally desert,
we must look either to the frozen regions of the north, or westward of
the Allegheny mountains towards the forests of Tennessee, where the
first clearings have only begun within the last eighty years!

The most cultivated part of the province of Caracas, the basin of the
lake of Valencia, commonly called Los Valles de Aragua, contained in
1810 nearly 2000 inhabitants to the square league. Supposing a
relative population three times less, and taking off from the whole
surface of the Capitania-General nearly 24,000 square leagues as being
occupied by the Llanos and the forests of Guiana, and, therefore,
presenting great obstacles to agricultural labourers, we should still
obtain a population of six millions for the remaining 9700 square
leagues. Those who, like myself, have lived long within the tropics,
will find no exaggeration in these calculations; for I suppose for the
portion the most easily cultivated a relative population equal to that
in the intendencias of Puebla and Mexico,* full of barren mountains,
and extending towards the coast of the Pacific over regions almost
desert. (* These two Intendencias contain together 5520 square leagues
and a relative population of 508 inhabitants to the square
sea-league.) If the territories of Cumana, Barcelona, Caracas,
Maracaybo, Varinas and Guiana should be destined hereafter to enjoy
good provincial and municipal institutions as confederate states, they
will not require a century and a half to attain a population of six
millions of inhabitants. Venezuela, the eastern part of the republic
of Columbia, would not, even with nine millions, have a more
considerable population than Old Spain; and can it be doubted that
that part of Venezuela which is most fertile and easy of cultivation,
that is, the 10,000 square leagues remaining after deducting the
Llanos and the almost impenetrable forests between the Orinoco and the
Cassiquiare, could support in the fine climate of the tropics as many
inhabitants as 10,000 square leagues of Estramadura, the Castiles, and
other provinces of the table-land of Spain? These predictions are by
no means problematical, inasmuch as they are founded on physical
analogies and on the productive power of the soil; but before we can
indulge the hope that they will be actually accomplished, we must be
secure of another element less susceptible of calculation--that
national wisdom which subdues hostile passions, destroys the germs of
civil discord and gives stability to free and energetic institutions.

When we take a view of the soil of Venezuela and New Grenada we
perceive that no other country of Spanish America furnishes commerce
with such various and rich productions of the vegetable kingdom. If we
add the harvests of the province of Caracas to those of Guayaquil, we
find that the republic of Columbia alone can furnish nearly all the
cacao annually demanded by Europe. The union of Venezuela and New
Grenada has also placed in the hands of one people the greater part of
the quinquina exported from the New Continent. The temperate mountains
of Merida, Santa Fe, Popayan, Quito and Loxa produce the finest
qualities of this febrifugal bark hitherto known. I might swell the
list of these valuable productions by the coffee and indigo of
Caracas, so long esteemed in commerce; the sugar, cotton and flour of
Bogota; the ipecacuanha of the banks of the Magdelena; the tobacco of
Varinas; the Cortex Angosturae of Caroni; the balsam of the plains of
Tolu; the skins and dried provisions of the Llanos; the pearls of
Panama, Rio Hacha and Marguerita; and finally the gold of Popayan and
the platinum which is nowhere found in abundance but at Choco and
Barbacoa: but conformably with the plan I have adopted, I shall
confine myself to the old Capitania-General of Caracas.

Owing to a peculiar disposition of the soil in Venezuela the three
zones of agricultural, pastoral and hunting-life succeed each other
from north to south along the coast in the direction of the equator.
Advancing in that direction we may be said to traverse, in respect to
space, the different stages through which the human race has passed in
the lapse of ages, in its progress towards cultivation and in laying
the foundations of civilized society. The region of the coast is the
centre of agricultural industry; the region of the Llanos serves only
for the pasturage of the animals which Europe has given to America and
which live there in a half-wild state. Each of those regions includes
from seven to eight thousand square leagues; further south, between
the delta of the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare and the Rio Negro, lies a
vast extent of land as large as France, inhabited by hunting nations,
covered with thick forests and impassable swamps. The productions of
the vegetable kingdom belong to the zones at each extremity; the
intermediary savannahs, into which oxen, horses, and mules were
introduced about the year 1548, afford food for some millions of those
animals. At the time when I visited Venezuela the annual exportation
from thence to the West India Islands amounted to 30,000 mules,
174,000 ox-hides and 140,000 arrobas (of twenty-five pounds) of
tasajo,* or dried meat slightly salted. (* The back of the animal is
cut in slices of moderate thickness. An ox or cow of the weight of 25
arrobas produces only 4 to 5 arrobas of tasajo or tasso. In 1792 the
port of Barcelona alone exported 98,017 arrobas to the island of Cuba.
The average price is 14 reals and varies from 10 to 18 (the real is
worth about 6 1/2 pence English). M. Urquinasa estimates the total
exportation of Venezuela in 1809 at 200,000 arrobas of tasajo.) It is
not from the advancement of agriculture or the progressive
encroachments on the pastoral lands that the hatos (herds and flocks)
have diminished so considerably within twenty years; it is rather
owing to the disorders of every kind that have prevailed, and the want
of security for property. The impunity conceded to the skin-stealers
and the accumulation of marauders in the savannahs preceded that
destruction of cattle caused by the ravages of civil war and the
supplies required for troops. A very considerable number of goat-skins
is exported to the island of Marguerita, Punta Araya and Corolas;
sheep abound only in Carora and Tocuyo. The consumption of meat being
immense in this country the diminution of animals has a greater
influence here than in any other district on the well-being of the
inhabitants. The town of Caracas, of which the population in my time
was one-tenth of that of Paris, consumed more than one-half the
quantity of beef annually used in the capital of France.

I might add to the productions of the vegetable and animal kingdoms of
Venezuela the enumeration of the minerals, the working of which is
worthy the attention of the government; but having from my youth been
engaged in the practical labours of mines I know how vague and
uncertain are the judgments formed of the metallic wealth of a country
from the mere appearance of the rocks and of the veins in their beds.
The utility of such labours can be determined only by well directed
experiments by means of shafts or galleries. All that has been done in
researches of this kind, under the dominion of the mother-country, has
left the question wholly undecided and the most exaggerated ideas have
been recently spread through Europe concerning the riches of the mines
of Caracas. The common denomination of Columbia given to Venezuela and
New Grenada has doubtless contributed to foster those illusions. It
cannot be doubted that the gold-washings of New Grenada furnished, in
the last years of public tranquillity, more than 18,000 marks of gold;
that Choco and Barbacoa supply platinum in abundance; the valley of
Santa Rosa in the province of Antioquia, the Andes of Quindiu and
Gauzum near Cuenca, yield sulphuretted mercury; the table-land of
Bogota (near Zipaquira and Canoas), fossil-salt and pit-coal; but even
in New Grenada subterranean labours on the silver and gold veins have
hitherto been very rare. I am far, however, from wishing to discourage
the miners of those countries: I merely conceive that for the purpose
of proving to the old world the political importance of Venezuela, the
amazing territorial wealth of which is founded on agriculture and the
produce of pastoral life, it is not necessary to describe as
realities, or as the acquisitions of industry, what is, as yet,
founded solely on hopes and probabilities more or less uncertain. The
republic of Columbia also possesses on its coast, on the island of
Marguerita, on the Rio Hacha and in the gulf of Panama pearl fisheries
of ancient celebrity. In the present state of things, however, fishing
for these pearls is an object of as little importance as the
exportation of the metals of Venezuela. The existence of metallic
veins on several points of the coast cannot be doubted. Mines of gold
and silver were worked at the beginning of the conquest at Buria, near
Barquesimeto, in the province of Los Mariches, at Baruta, on the south
of Caracas, and at Real de Santa Barbara near the Villa de Cura.
Grains of gold are found in the whole mountainous territory between
Rio Yaracuy, the Villa de San Felipe and Nirgua, as well as between
Guigue and Los Moros de San Juan. M. Bonpland and myself, during our
long journey, saw nothing in the gneiss granite of Spanish Guiana to
confirm the old faith in the metallic wealth of that district; yet it
seems certain from several historical notices that there exist two
groups of auriferous alluvial land; one between the sources of the Rio
Negro, the Uaupes and the Iquiare; the other between the sources of
the Essequibo, the Caroni and the Rupunuri. Hitherto only one working
is found in Venezuela, that of Aroa: it furnished, in 1800, near 1500
quintals of copper of excellent quality. The green-stone rocks of the
transition mountains of Tucutunemo (between Villa de Cura and
Parapara) contain veins of malachite and copper pyrites. The
indications of both ochreous and magnetic iron in the coast-chain, the
native alum of Chuparipari, the salt of Araya, the kaolin of the
Silla, the jade of the Upper Orinoco, the petroleum of Buen-Pastor and
the sulphur of the eastern part of New Andalusia equally merit the
attention of the government.

It is easy to ascertain the existence of some mineral substances which
afford hopes of profitable working but it requires great
circumspection to decide whether the mineral be sufficiently abundant
and accessible to cover the expense.* (* In 1800 a day-labourer (peon)
employed in working the ground gained in the province of Caracas 15
sous, exclusive of his food. A man who hewed building timber in the
forests on the coast of Paria was paid at Cumana 45 to 50 sous a day,
without his food. A carpenter gained daily from 3 to 6 francs in New
Andalusia. Three cakes of cassava (the bread of the country), 21
inches in diameter, 1 1/2 lines thick, and 2 1/2 pounds weight, cost
at Caracas one half-real, or 6 1/2 sous. A man eats daily not less
than 2 sous' worth of cassava, that food being constantly mixed with
bananas, dried meat (tasajo) and panelon, or unrefined sugar.) Even in
the eastern part of South America gold and silver are found dispersed
in a manner that surprises the European geologist; but that
dispersion, together with the divided and entangled state of the veins
and the appearance of some metals only in masses, render the working
extremely expensive. The example of Mexico sufficiently proves that
the interest attached to the labours of the mines is not prejudicial
to agricultural pursuits, and that those two branches of industry may
simultaneously promote each other. The failure of the attempts made
under the intendant, Don Jose Avalo, must be attributed solely to the
ignorance of the persons employed by the Spanish government who
mistook mica and hornblende for metallic substances. If the government
would order the Capitania-General of Caracas to be carefully examined
during a series of years by men of science, well versed in geognosy
and chemistry, the most satisfactory results might be expected.

The description above given of the productions of Venezuela and the
development of its coast sufficiently shows the importance of the
commerce of that rich country. Even under the thraldom of the colonial
system, the value of the exported products of agriculture and of the
gold-washings amount to eleven or twelve millions of piastres in the
countries at present united under the denomination of the Republic of
Columbia. The exports of the Capitania-General of Caracas alone,
exclusive of the precious metals which are the objects of regular
working, was (with the contraband) from five to six millions of
piastres at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Cumana,
Barcelona, La Guayra, Porto Cabello and Maracaybo are the most
important parts of the coast; those that lie most eastward have the
advantage of an easier communication with the Virgin Islands,
Guadaloupe, Martinique and St. Vincent. Angostura, the real name of
which is Santo Tome de Nueva Guiana, may be considered as the port of
the rich province of Varinas. The majestic river on whose banks this
town is built, affords by its communications with the Apure, the Meta
and the Rio Negro the greatest advantages for trade with Europe.

The shores of Venezuela, from the beauty of their ports, the
tranquillity of the sea by which they are washed and the fine timber
that covers them, possess great advantages over the shores of the
United States. In no part of the world do we find firmer anchorage or
better positions for the establishment of ports. The sea of this coast
is constantly calm, like that which extends from Lima to Guayaquil.
The storms and hurricanes of the West Indies are never felt on the
Costa Firme; and when, after the sun has passed the meridian, thick
clouds charged with electricity accumulate on the mountains of the
coasts, a pilot accustomed to these latitudes knows that this
threatening aspect of the sky denotes only a squall. The
virgin-forests near the sea, in the eastern part of New Andalusia,
present valuable resources for the establishment of dockyards. The
wood of the mountains of Paria may vie with that of the island of
Cuba, Huasacualco, Guayaquil and San Blas. The Spanish Government at
the close of the last century fixed its attention on this important
object. Marine engineers were sent to mark the finest trunks of
Brazil-wood, mahogany, cedrela and laurinea between Angostura and the
mouth of the Orinoco, as well as on the banks of the Gulf of Paria,
commonly called the Golfo triste. It was not intended to establish
docks on that spot, but to hew the weighty timber into the forms
necessary for ship-building, and to transport it to Caraque, near
Cadiz. Though trees fit for masts are not found in this country, it
was nevertheless hoped that the execution of this project would
considerably diminish the importation of timber from Sweden and
Norway. The experiment of forming this establishment was tried in a
very unhealthy spot, the valley of Quebranta, near Guirie; I have
already adverted to the causes of its destruction. The insalubrity of
the place would, doubtless, have diminished in proportion as the
forest (el monte virgen) should have been removed from the dwellings
of the inhabitants. Mulattos, and not whites, ought to have been
employed in hewing the wood, and it should have been remembered that
the expense of the roads (arastraderos) for the transport of the
timber, when once laid out, would not have been the same, and that, by
the increase of the population, the price of day labour would
progressively have diminished. It is for ship-builders alone, who
determine the localities, to judge whether, in the present state of
things, the freight of merchant-vessels be not far too high to admit
of sending to Europe large quantities of roughly-hewn wood; but it
cannot be doubted that Venezuela possesses on its maritime coast, as
well as on the banks of the Orinoco, immense resources for
ship-building. The fine ships which have been launched from the
dockyards of the Havannah, Guayaquil and San Blas have, no doubt, cost
more than those constructed in Europe; but from the nature of tropical
wood they possess the advantages of hardness and amazing durability.

The great struggle during which Venezuela has fought for independence
has lasted more than twelve years. That period has been no less
fruitful than civil commotions usually are in heroic and generous
actions, guilty errors and violent passions. The sentiment of common
danger has strengthened the ties between men of various races who,
spread over the plains of Cumana or insulated on the table-land of
Cundinamarca, have a physical and moral organization as different as
the climates in which they live. The mother-country has several times
regained possession of some districts; but as revolutions are always
renewed with more violence when the evils that produce them can no
longer be remedied these conquests have been transitory. To facilitate
and give greater energy to the defence of this country the governments
have been concentrated, and a vast state has been formed, extending
from the mouth of the Orinoco to the other side of the Andes of
Riobamba and the banks of the Amazon. The Capitania-General of Caracas
has been united to the Vice-royalty of New Grenada, from which it was
only separated entirely in 1777. This union, which will always be
indispensable for external safety, this centralization of powers in a
country six times larger than Spain, has been prompted by political
views. The tranquil progress of the new government has justified the
wisdom of those views, and the Congress will find still fewer
obstacles in the execution of its beneficent projects for national
industry and civilization, in proportion as it can grant increased
liberty to the provinces, must render the people sensible to the
advantages of institutions which they have purchased at the price of
their blood. In every form of government, in republics as well as in
limited monarchies, improvements, to be salutary, must be progressive.
New Andalusia, Caracas, Cundinamarca, Popayan and Quito, are not
confederate states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Without
juntas, or provincial legislatures, all those countries are directly
subject to the congress and government of Columbia. In conformity with
the constitutional act, the intendants and governors of the
departments and provinces are nominated by the president of the
republic. It may be naturally supposed that such dependence has not
always been deemed favourable to the liberty if the communes, which
love to discuss their own local interests. The ancient kingdom of
Quito, for instance, is connected by the habits and language of its
mountainous inhabitants with Peru and New Grenada. If there were a
provincial junta, if the congress alone determined the taxes necessary
for the defence and general welfare of Columbia, the feeling of an
individual political existence would render the inhabitants less
interested in the choice of the spot which is the seat of the central
government. The same argument applies to New Andalusia or Guiana which
are governed by intendants named by the president. It may be said that
these provinces have hitherto been in a position differing but little
from those territories of the United States which have a population
below 60,000 souls. Peculiar circumstances, which cannot be justly
appreciated at such a distance, have doubtless rendered great
centralization necessary in the civil administration; every change
would be dangerous as long as the state has external enemies; but the
forms useful for defence are not always those which, after the
struggle, sufficiently favour individual liberty and the development
of public prosperity.

The powerful union of North America has long been insulated and
without contact with any states having analogous institutions.
Although the progress America is making from east to west is
considerably retarded near the right bank of the Mississippi, she will
advance without interruption towards the internal provinces of Mexico,
and will there find a European people of another race, other manners,
and a different religious faith. Will the feeble population of those
provinces, belonging to another dawning federation, resist; or will it
be absorbed by the torrent from the east and transformed into an
Anglo-American state, like the inhabitants of Lower Louisiana? The
future will soon solve this problem. On the other hand, Mexico is
separated from Columbia only by Guatimala, a country and extreme
fertility which has recently assumed the denomination of the republic
of Central America. The political divisions between Oaxaca and Chiapa,
Costa Rica and Veragua, are not founded either on the natural limits
or the manners and languages of the natives, but solely on the habit
of dependence on the Spanish chiefs who resided at Mexico, Guatimala
or Santa Fe de Bogota. It seems natural that Guatimala should one day
join the isthmuses of Veragua and Panama to the isthmus of Costa Rica;
and that Quito should connect New Grenada with Peru, as La Paz,
Charcas and Potosi link Peru with Buenos-Ayres. The intermediate parts
from Chiapa to the Cordilleras of Upper Peru form a passage from one
political association to another, like those transitory forms which
link together the various groups of the organic kingdom in nature. In
neighbouring monarchies the provinces that adjoin each other present
those striking demarcations which are the effect of great
centralization of power in federal republics, states situated at the
extremities of each system are some time before they acquire a stable
equilibrium. It would be almost a matter of indifference to the
provinces between Arkansas and the Rio del Norte whether they send
their deputies to Mexico or to Washington. Were Spanish America one
day to show a more uniform tendency towards the spirit of federalism,
which the example of the United States has created on several points,
there would result from the contact of so many systems or groups of
states, confederations variously graduated. I here only touch on the
relations that arise from this assemblage of colonies on an
uninterrupted line of 1600 leagues in length. We have seen in North
America, one of the old Atlantic states divided into two, and each
having a different representation. The separation of Maine and
Massachusetts in 1820 was effected in the most peaceable manner.
Schisms of this kind will, it may be feared, render such changes
turbulent. It may also be observed that the importance of the
geographical divisions of Spanish America, founded at the same time on
the relations of local position and the habits of several centuries,
have prevented the mother-country from retarding the separation of the
colonies by attempting to establish Spanish princes in the New World.
In order to rule such vast possessions it would have been requisite to
form six or seven centres of government; and that multiplicity of
centres was hostile to the establishment of new dynasties at the
period when they might still have been salutary to the mother country.

Bacon somewhere observes that it would be happy if nations would
always follow the example of time, the greatest of all innovators, but
who acts calmly and almost without being perceived. This happiness
does not belong to colonies when they reach the critical juncture of
emancipation; and least of all to Spanish America, engaged in the
struggle at first not to obtain complete independence, but to escape
from a foreign yoke. May these party agitations be succeeded by a
lasting tranquillity! May the germ of civil discord, disseminated
during three centuries to secure the dominion of the mother-country,
gradually perish; and may productive and commercial Europe be
convinced that to perpetuate the political agitations of the New World
would be to impoverish herself by diminishing the consumption of her
productions and losing a market which already yields more than seventy
millions of piastres. Many years must no doubt elapse before seventeen
millions of inhabitants, spread over a surface one-fifth greater than
the whole of Europe, will have found a stable equilibrium in governing
themselves. The most critical moment is that when nations, after long
oppression, find themselves suddenly at liberty to promote their own
prosperity. The Spanish Americans, it is unceasingly repeated, are not
sufficiently advanced in intellectual cultivation to be fitted for
free institutions. I remember that at a period not very remote, the
same reasoning was applied to other nations who were said to have made
too great an advance in civilization. Experience, no doubt, proves
that nations, like individuals, find that intellect and learning do
not always lead to happiness; but without denying the necessity of a
certain mass of knowledge and popular instruction for the stability of
republics or constitutional monarchies, we believe that stability
depends much less on the degree of intellectual improvement than on
the strength of the national character; on that balance of energy and
tranquillity of ardour and patience which maintains and perpetuates
new institutions; on the local circumstances in which a nation is
placed; and on the political relations of a country with neighbouring



We sailed from Nueva Barcelona on the 24th of November at nine o'clock
in the evening; and we doubled the small rocky island of Borachita.
The night was marked by coolness which characterizes the nights of the
tropics, and the agreeable effect of which can only be conceived by
comparing the nocturnal temperature, from 23 to 24 degrees centigrade,
with the mean temperature of the day, which in those latitudes is
generally, even on the coast, from 28 to 29 degrees. Next day, soon
after the observation of noon, we reached the meridian of the island
of Tortugas. It is destitute of vegetation; and like the little
islands of Coche and Cabagua is remarkable for its small elevation
above the level of the sea.

In the forenoon of the 26th we began to lose sight of the island of
Marguerita and I endeavoured to verify the height of the rocky group
of Macanao. It appeared under an angle of 0 degrees 16 minutes 35
seconds; which in a distance estimated at sixty miles would give the
mica-slate group of Macanao the elevation of about 660 toises, a
result which, in a zone where the terrestrial refractions are so
unchanging, leads me to think that the island was less distant than we
supposed. The dome of the Silla of Caracas, lying 62 degrees to the
south-west, long fixed our attention. At those times when the coast is
not loaded with vapours the Silla must be visible at sea, without
reckoning the effects of refraction, at thirty-three leagues distance.
During the 26th, and the three following days, the sea was covered
with a bluish film which, when examined by a compound microscope,
appeared formed of an innumerable quantity of filaments. We frequently
find these filaments in the Gulf-stream, and the Channel of Bahama, as
well as near the coast of Buenos Ayres. Some naturalists are of
opinion that they are vestiges of the eggs of mollusca: but they
appear to be more like fragments of fuci. The phosphorescence of
sea-water seems however to be augmented by their presence, especially
between 28 and 30 degrees of north latitude, which indicates an origin
of some sort of animal nature.

On the 27th we slowly approached the island of Orchila. Like all the
small islands in the vicinity of the fertile coast of the continent it
has never been inhabited. I found the latitude of the northern cape 11
degrees 51 minutes 44 seconds and the longitude of the eastern cape 68
degrees 26 minutes 5 seconds (supposing Nueva Barcelona to be 67
degrees 4 minutes 48 seconds). Opposite the western cape there is a
small rock against which the waves beat turbulently. Some angles taken
with the sextant gave, for the length of the island from east to west,
8.4 miles (950 toises); and for the breadth scarcely three miles. The
island of Orchila which, from its name, I figured to myself as a bare
rock covered with lichens, was at that period beautifully verdant. The
hills of gneiss were covered with grasses. It appears that the
geological constitution of Orchila resembles, on a small scale, that
of Marguerita. It consists of two groups of rocks joined by a neck of
land; it is an isthmus covered with sand which seems to have issued
from the floods by the successive lowering of the level of the sea.
The rocks, like all those which are perpendicular and insulated in the
middle of the sea, appear much more elevated than they really are, for
they scarcely exceed from 80 to 90 toises. The Punta rasa stretches to
the north-west and is lost, like a sandbank, below the waters. It is
dangerous for navigators, and so is likewise the Mogote which, at the
distance of two miles from the western cape, is surrounded by
breakers. On a very near examination of these rocks we saw the strata
of gneiss inclined towards the north-west and crossed by thick layers
of quartz. The destruction of these layers has doubtless created the
sands of the surrounding beach. Some clumps of trees shade the
valleys, the summits of the hills are crowned with fan-leaved
palm-trees; probably the palma de sombrero of the Llanos (Corypha
tectorum). Rain is not abundant in these countries; but probably some
springs might be found on the island of Orchila if sought for with the
same care as in the mica-slate rocks of Punta Araya. When we recollect
how many bare and rocky islands are inhabited and cultivated between
the 17th and 26th degrees of latitude in the archipelago of the Lesser
Antilles and Bahama islands, we are surprised to find those islands
desert which are near to the coast of Cumana, Barcelona and Caracas.
They would long have ceased to be so had they been under the dominion
of any other government than that to which they belong. Nothing can
engage men to circumscribe their industry within the narrow limits of
a small island when a neighbouring continent offers them greater

We perceived at sunset the two points of the Roca de afuera, rising
like towers in the midst of the ocean. A survey taken with the compass
placed the most easterly of the points or roques at 0 degrees 19
minutes west of the western cape of Orchila. The clouds continued long
accumulated over that island and showed its position from afar. The
influence of a small tract of land in condensing the vapours suspended
at an elevation of 800 toises is a very extraordinary phenomenon,
although familiar to all mariners. From this accumulation of clouds
the position of the lowest island may be recognized at a great

On the 29th November we still saw very distinctly, at sunrise, the
summit of the Silla of Caracas just rising above the horizon of the
sea. At noon everything denoted a change of weather in the direction
of the north: the atmosphere suddenly cooled to 12.6 degrees, while
the sea maintained a temperature of 25.6 degrees at its surface. At
the moment of the observation of noon the oscillations of the horizon,
crossed by streaks or black bands of very variable size, produced
changes of refraction from 3 to 4 degrees. The sea became rough in
very calm weather and everything announced a stormy passage between
Cayman Island and Cape St. Antonio. On the 30th the wind veered
suddenly to north-north-east and the surge rose to a considerable
height. Northward a darkish blue tint was observable on the sky, the
rolling of our small vessel was violent and we perceived amidst the
dashing of the waves two seas crossing each other, one the from north
and the other from north-north-east. Waterspouts were formed at the
distance of a mile and were carried rapidly from north-north-east to
north-north-west. Whenever the waterspout drew near us we felt the
wind grow sensibly cooler. Towards evening, owing to the carelessness
of our American cook, our deck took fire; but fortunately it was soon
extinguished. On the morning of the 1st of December the sea slowly
calmed and the breeze became steady from north-east. On the 2nd of
December we descried Cape Beata, in a spot where we had long observed
the clouds gathered together. According to the observations of
Acherner, which I obtained in the night, we were sixty-four miles
distant. During the night there was a very curious optical phenomenon,
which I shall not undertake to account for. At half-past midnight the
wind blew feebly from the east; the thermometer rose to 23.2 degrees,
the whalebone hygrometer was at 57 degrees. I had remained upon the
deck to observe the culmination of some stars. The full-moon was high
in the heavens. Suddenly, in the direction of the moon, 45 degrees
before its passage over the meridian, a great arch was formed tinged
with the prismatic colours, though not of a bright hue. The arch
appeared higher than the moon; this iris-band was near 2 degrees
broad, and its summit seemed to rise nearly from 80 to 85 degrees
above the horizon of the sea. The sky was singularly pure; there was
no appearance of rain; and what struck me most was that this
phenomenon, which perfectly resembled a lunar rainbow, was not in the
direction opposite to the moon. The arch remained stationary, or at
least appeared to do so, during eight or ten minutes; and at the
moment when I tried if it were possible to see it by reflection in the
mirror of the sextant, it began to move and descend, crossing
successively the Moon and Jupiter. It was 12 hours 54 minutes (mean
time) when the summit of the arch sank below the horizon. This
movement of an arch, coloured like the rainbow, filled with
astonishment the sailors who were on watch on the deck. They alleged,
as they do on the appearance of every extraordinary meteor, that it
denoted wind. M. Arago examined the sketch of this arch in my journal;
and he is of opinion that the image of the moon reflected in the
waters could not have given a halo of such great dimensions. The
rapidity of the movement is no small obstacle in the way of
explanation of a phenomenon well worthy of attention.

On the 3rd of December we felt some uneasiness on account of the
proximity of a small vessel supposed to be a pirate but which, as it
drew near, we recognized to be the Balandra del Frayle (the sloop of
the Monk). I was at a loss to conceive what so strange a denomination
meant. The bark belonged to a Franciscan missionary, a rich priest of
am Indian village in the savannahs (Llanos) of Barcelona, who had for
several years carried on a very lucrative contraband trade with the
Danish islands. M. Bonpland and several passengers saw in the night at
the distance of a quarter of a mile, with the wind, a small flame on
the surface of the ocean; it ran in the direction of south-west and
lighted up the atmosphere. No shock of earthquake was felt and there
was no change in the direction of the waves. Was it a phosphoric gleam
produced by a great accumulation of mollusca in a state of
putrefaction; or did this flame issue from the depth of the sea, as is
said to have been sometimes observable in latitudes agitated by
volcanoes? The latter supposition appears to me devoid of all
probability. The volcanic flame can only issue from the deep when the
rocky bed of the ocean is already heaved up so that the flames and
incandescent scoriae escape from the swelled and creviced part without
traversing the waters.

At half-past ten in the morning of the 4th of December we were in the
meridian of Cape Bacco (Punta Abacou) which I found in 76 degrees 7
minutes 50 seconds, or 9 degrees 3 minutes 2 seconds west of Nueva
Barcelona. Having attained the parallel of 17 degrees, the fear of
pirates made us prefer the direct passage across the bank of Vibora,
better known by the name of the Pedro Shoals. This bank occupies more
than two hundred and eighty square sea leagues and its configuration
strikes the eye of the geologist by its resemblance to that of
Jamaica, which is in its neighbourhood. It forms an island almost as
large as Porto Rico.

From the 5th of December, the pilots believed they took successively
the measurement at a distance of the island of Ranas (Morant Keys),
Cape Portland and Pedro Keys. They may probably have been deceived in
several of these distances, which were taken from the mast-head. I
have elsewhere noted these measurements, not with the view of opposing
them to those which have been made by able English navigators in these
frequented latitudes, but merely to connect, in the same system of
observations, the points I determined in the forests of the Orinoco
and in the archipelago of the West Indies. The milky colour of the
waters warned us that we were on the eastern part of the bank; the
centigrade thermometer which at a distance from the bank and on the
surface of the sea had for several days kept at 27 and 27.3 degrees
(the air being at 21.2 degrees) sank suddenly to 25.7 degrees. The
weather was bad from the 4th to the 6th of December: it rained fast;
thunder rolled at a distance, and the gusts of wind from the
north-north-east became more and more violent. We were during some
part of the night in a critical position; we heard before us the noise
of the breakers over which we had to pass, and we could ascertain
their direction by the phosphoric gleam reflected from the foam of the
sea. The scene resembled the Raudal of Garzita and other rapids which
we had seen in the bed of the Orinoco. We succeeded in changing our
course and in less than a quarter of an hour were out of danger. While
we traversed the bank of the Vibora from south-south-east to
north-north-west I repeatedly tried to ascertain the temperature of
the water on the surface of the sea. The cooling was less sensible on
the middle of the bank than on its edge, a circumstance which we
attributed to the currents that there mingle waters from different
latitudes. On the south of Pedro Keys the surface of the sea, at
twenty-five fathoms deep, was 26.4 and at fifteen fathoms deep 26.2
degrees. The temperature of the sea on the east of the bank had been
26.8 degrees. Some American pilots affirm that among the Bahama
Islands they often know, when seated in the cabin, that they are
passing over sand-banks; they allege that the lights are surrounded
with small coloured halos and that the air exhaled from the lungs is
visibly condensed. The latter circumstance appears very doubtful;
below 30 degrees of latitude the cooling produced by the waters of the
bank is not sufficiently considerable to cause this phenomenon. During
the time we passed on the bank of the Vibora the constitution of the
air was quite different from what it had been when we quitted it. The
rain was circumscribed by the limits of the bank of which we could
distinguish the form from afar by the mass of vapour with which it was

On the 9th of December, as we advanced towards the Cayman Islands,*
the north-east wind again blew with violence. (* Christopher Columbus
in 1503 named the Cayman Islands Penascales de las Tortugas on account
of the sea-tortoises which he saw swimming in those latitudes.) I
nevertheless obtained some altitudes of the sun at the moment when we
believed ourselves, though twelve miles distant, in the meridian of
the centre of the Great Cayman, which is covered with cocoa-trees.

The weather continued bad and the sea extremely rough. The wind at
length fell as we neared Cape St. Antonio. I found the northern
extremity of the cape 87 degrees 17 minutes 22 seconds, or 2 degrees
34 minutes 14 seconds eastward of the Morro of the Havannah: this is
the longitude now marked on the best charts. We were at the distance
of three miles from land but we were made aware of the proximity of
the island of Cuba by a delicious aromatic odour. The sailors affirm
that this odour is not perceived when they approach from Cape Catoche
on the barren coast of Mexico. As the weather grew clearer the
thermometer rose gradually in the shade to 27 degrees: we advanced
rapidly northward, carried on by a current from south-south-east, the
temperature of which rose at the surface of the water to 26.7 degrees;
while out of the current it was 24.6 degrees. We anchored in the port
of the Havannah on the 19th December after a passage of twenty-five
days in continuous bad weather.



Cuba owes its political importance to a variety of circumstances,
among which may be enumerated the extent of its surface, the fertility
of its soil, its naval establishments, and the nature of its
population, of which three-fifths are free men. All these advantages
are heightened by the admirable position of the Havannah. The northern
part of the Caribbean Sea, known by the name of the Gulf of Mexico,
forms a circular basin more than two hundred and fifty leagues in
diameter: it is a Mediterranean with two outlets. The island of Cuba,
or rather its coast between Cape St. Antonio and the town of Matanzas,
situated at the opening of the old channel, closes the Gulf of Mexico
on the south-east, leaving the ocean current known by the name of the
Gulf Stream, no other outlet on the south than a strait between Cape
St. Antonio and Cape Catoche; and no other on the north than the
channel of Bahama, between Bahia-Honda and the shoals of Florida. Near
the northern outlet, where the highways of so many nations may be said
to cross each other, lies the fine port of the Havannah, fortified at
once by nature and by art. The fleets which sail from this port and
which are partly constructed of the cedrela and the mahogany of the
island of Cuba, might, at the entrance of the Mexican Mediterranean,
menace the opposite coast, as the fleets that sail from Cadiz command
the Atlantic near the Pillars of Hercules. In the meridian of the
Havannah the Gulf of Mexico, the old channel, and the channel of
Bahama unite. The opposite direction of the currents and the violent
agitations of the atmosphere at the setting-in of winter impart a
peculiar character to these latitudes at the extreme limit of the
equinoctial zone.

The island of Cuba is the largest of the Antilles.* (* Its area is
little less in extent than that of England not including Wales.) Its
long and narrow form gives it a vast development of coast and places
it in proximity with Hayti and Jamaica, with the most southern
province of the United States (Florida) and the most easterly province
of the Mexican Confederation (Yucatan).* (* These places are brought
into communication one with another by a voyage of ten or twelve
days.) This circumstance claims serious attention when it is
considered that Jamaica, St. Domingo, Cuba and the southern parts of
the United States (from Louisiana to Virginia) contain nearly two
million eight hundred thousand Africans. Since the separation of St.
Domingo, the Floridas and New Spain from the mother-country, the
island of Cuba is connected only by similarity of religion, language
and manners with the neighbouring countries, which, during ages, were
subject to the same laws.

Florida forms the last link in that long chain, the northern extremity
of which reaches the basin of St. Lawrence and extends from the region
of palm-trees to that of the most rigorous winter. The inhabitant of
New England regards the increasing augmentation of the black
population, the preponderance of the slave states and the predilection
for the cultivation of colonial products as a public danger; and
earnestly wishes that the strait of Florida, the present limit of the
great American confederation, may never be passed but with the views
of free trade, founded on equal rights. If he fears events which may
place the Havannah under the dominion of a European power more
formidable than Spain, he is not the less desirous that the political
ties by which Louisiana, Pensacola and Saint Augustin of Florida were
heretofore united to the island of Cuba may for ever be broken.

The extreme sterility of the soil, joined to the want of inhabitants
and of cultivation, have at all times rendered the proximity of
Florida of small importance to the trade of the Havannah; but the case
is different on the coast of Mexico. The shores of that country,
stretching in a semicircle from the frequented ports of Tampico, Vera
Cruz, and Alvarado to Cape Catoche, almost touch, by the peninsula of
Yucatan, the western part of the island of Cuba. Commerce is extremely
active between the Havannah and the port of Campeachy; and it
increases, notwithstanding the new order of things in Mexico, because
the trade, equally illicit with a more distant coast, that of Caracas
or Columbia, employs but a small number of vessels. In such difficult
times the supply of salt meat (tasajo) for the slaves is more easily
obtained from Buenos Ayres and the plains of Merida than from those of
Cumana, Barcelona and Caracas. The island of Cuba and the archipelago
of the Philippines have for ages derived from New Spain the funds
necessary for their internal administration and for keeping up their
fortifications, arsenals and dockyards. The Havannah was the military
port of the New World; and, till 1808, annually received 1,800,000
piastres from the Mexican treasury. At Madrid it was long the custom
to consider the island of Cuba and the archipelago of the Philippines
as dependencies on Mexico, situated at very unequal distances east and
west of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, but linked to the Mexican metropolis
(then a European colony) by all the ties of commerce, mutual aid and
ancient sympathies. Increased internal wealth has rendered unnecessary
the pecuniary succour formerly furnished to Cuba from the Mexican
treasury. Of all the Spanish possessions that island has been most
prosperous: the port of the Havannah has, since the troubles of St.
Domingo, become one of the most important points of the commercial
world. A fortunate concurrence of political circumstances, joined to
the intelligence and commercial activity of the inhabitants, have
preserved to the Havannah the uninterrupted enjoyment of free
intercourse with foreign nations.

I twice visited this island, residing there on one occasion for three
months, and on the other for six weeks; and I enjoyed the confidence
of persons who, from their abilities and their position, were enabled
to furnish me with the best information. In company with M. Bonpland I
visited only the vicinity of the Havannah, the beautiful valley of
Guines and the coast between Batabano and the port of Trinidad. After
having succinctly described the aspect of this scenery and the
singular modifications of a climate so different from that of the
other islands, I will proceed to examine the general population of the
Island of Cuba; its area calculated from the most accurate sketch of
the coast; the objects of trade and the state of the public revenue.

The aspect of the Havannah, at the entrance of the port, is one of the
gayest and most picturesque on the shore of equinoctial America north
of the equator. This spot is celebrated by travellers of all nations.
It boasts not the luxuriant vegetation that adorns the banks of the
river Guayaquil nor the wild majesty of the rocky coast of Rio de
Janeiro; but the grace which in those climates embellishes the scenes
of cultivated nature is at the Havannah mingled with the majesty of
vegetable forms and the organic vigour that characterizes the torrid
zone. On entering the port of the Havannah you pass between the
fortress of the Morro (Castillo de los Santos Reyes) and the fort of
San Salvador de la Punta: the opening being only from one hundred and
seventy to two hundred toises wide. Having passed this narrow
entrance, leaving on the north the fine castle of San Carlos de la
Cabana and the Casa Blanca, we reach a basin in the form of a trefoil
of which the great axis, stretching from south-south-west to
north-north-east, is two miles and one-fifth long. This basin
communicates with three creeks, those of Regla, Guanavacoa and Atares;
in this last there are some springs of fresh water. The town of the
Havannah, surrounded by walls, forms a promontory bounded on the south
by the arsenal and on the north by the fort of La Punta. After passing
beyond some wrecks of vessels sunk in the shoals of La Luz, we no
longer find eight or ten, but five or six fathoms of water. The
castles of Santo Domingo de Atares and San Carlos del Principe defend
the town on the westward; they are distant from the interior wall, on
the land side, the one 660 toises, the other 1240. The intermediate
space is filled by the suburbs (arrabales or barrios extra muros) of
the Horcon, Jesu-Maria, Guadaloupe and Senor de la Salud, which from
year to year encroach on the Field of Mars (Campo de Marte). The great
edifices of the Havannah, the cathedral, the Casa del Govierno, the
house of the commandant of the marine, the Correo or General Post
Office and the factory of Tobacco are less remarkable for beauty than
for solidity of structure. The streets are for the most part narrow
and unpaved. Stones being brought from Vera Cruz, and very difficult
of transport, the idea was conceived a short time before my voyage of
joining great trunks of trees together, as is done in Germany and
Russia, when dykes are constructed across marshy places. This project
was soon abandoned and travellers newly arrived beheld with surprise
fine trunks of mahogany sunk in the mud of the Havannah. At the time
of my sojourn there few towns of Spanish America presented, owing to
the want of a good police, a more unpleasant aspect. People walked in
mud up to the knee; and the multitude of caleches or volantes (the
characteristic equipage of the Havannah) of carts loaded with casks of
sugar, and porters elbowing passengers, rendered walking most
disagreeable. The smell of tasajo often poisons the houses and the
winding streets. But it appears that of late the police has interposed
and that a manifest improvement has taken place in the cleanliness of
the streets; that the houses are more airy and that the Calle de los
Mercadores presents a fine appearance. Here, as in the oldest towns of
Europe. an ill-traced plan of streets can only be amended by slow

There are two fine public walks; one called the Alameda, between the
hospital of Santa Paula and the theatre, and the other between the
Castillo de la Punta and the Puerta de la Muralla, called the Paseo
extra muros; the latter is deliciously cool and is frequented by
carriages after sunset. It was begun by the Marquis de la Torre,
governor of the island, who gave the first impulse to the improvement
of the police and the municipal government. Don Luis de las Casas and
the Count de Santa Clara enlarged the plantations. Near the Campo de
Marte is the Botanical Garden which is well worthy to fix the
attention of the government; and another place fitted to excite at
once pity and indignation--the barracoon, in front of which the
wretched slaves are exposed for sale. A marble statue of Charles III
has been erected since my return to Europe, in the extra muros walk.
This spot was at first destined for a monument to Christopher Columbus
whose ashes, after the cession of the Spanish part of St. Domingo,
were brought to the island of Cuba.*

(* Columbus lies buried in the cathedral of the Havannah, close to the
wall near the high altar. On the tomb is the following inscription:

    O restos y Imagen del grande Colon;
    Mil siglos duran guardados en la Urna,
    Y en remembranca de nuestra Nacion.

    Oh relics and image of the great Colon (Columbus)
    A thousand ages are encompassed in thy Urn,
    And in the memory of our Nation.

His remains were first deposited at Valladolid and thence were removed
to Seville. In 1536 the bodies of Columbus and of his son Diego (El
Adelantado) were carried to St. Domingo and there interred in the
cathedral; but they were afterwards removed to the place where they
now repose.)

The same year the ashes of Fernando Cortez were transferred in Mexico
from one church to another: thus, at the close of the eighteenth
century, the remains of the two greatest men who promoted the conquest
of America were interred in new sepulchres.

The most majestic palm-tree of its tribe, the palma real, imparts a
peculiar character to the landscape in the vicinity of the Havannah;
it is the Oreodoxa regia of our description of American palm-trees.
Its tall trunk, slightly swelled towards the middle, grows to the
height of 60 or 80 feet; the upper part is glossy, of a delicate
green, newly formed by the closing and dilatation of the petioles,
contrasts with the rest, which is whitish and fendilated. It appears
like two columns, the one surmounting the other. The palma real of the
island of Cuba has feathery leaves rising perpendicularly towards the
sky, and curved only at the point. The form of this plant reminded us
of the vadgiai palm-tree which covers the rocks in the cataracts of
the Orinoco, balancing its long points over a mist of foam. Here, as
in every place where the population is concentrated, vegetation
diminishes. Those palm-trees round the Havannah and in the
amphitheatre of Regla on which I delighted to gaze are disappearing by
degrees. The marshy places which I saw covered with bamboos are
cultivated and drained. Civilization advances; and the soil, gradually
stripped of plants, scarcely offers any trace of its wild abundance.
From the Punta to San Lazaro, from Cabana to Regla and from Regla to
Atares the road is covered with houses, and those that surround the
bay are of light and elegant construction. The plan of these houses is
traced out by the owners, and they are ordered from the United States,
like pieces of furniture. When the yellow fever rages at the Havannah
the proprietors withdraw to those country houses and to the hills
between Regla and Guanavacoa to breathe a purer air. In the coolness
of night, when the boats cross the bay, and owing to the
phosphorescence of the water, leave behind them long tracks of light,
these romantic scenes afford charming and peaceful retreats for those
who wish to withdraw from the tumult of a populous city. To judge of
the progress of cultivation travellers should visit the small plots of
maize and other alimentary plants, the rows of pine-apples (ananas) in
the fields of Cruz de Piedra and the bishop's garden (Quinta del
Obispo) which of late is become a delicious spot.

The town of the Havannah, properly so called, surrounded by walls, is
only 900 toises long and 500 broad; yet more than 44,000 inhabitants,
of whom 26,000 are negroes and mulattoes, are crowded together in this
narrow space. A population nearly as considerable occupies the two
great suburbs of Jesu-Maria and La Salud.* (* Salud signifies Health.)
The latter place does not verify the name it bears; the temperature of
the air is indeed lower than in the city but the streets might have
been larger and better planned. Spanish engineers, who have been
waging war for thirty years past with the inhabitants of the suburbs
(arrabales), have convinced the government that the houses are too
near the fortifications, and that the enemy might establish himself
there with impunity. But the government has not courage to demolish
the suburbs and disperse a population of 28,000 inhabitants collected
in La Salud only. Since the great fire of 1802 that quarter has been
considerably enlarged; barracks were at first constructed, but by
degrees they have been converted into private houses. The defence of
the Havannah on the west is of the highest importance: so long as the
besieged are masters of the town, properly so called, and of the
southern part of the bay, the Morro and La Cabana, they are
impregnable because they can be provisioned by the Havannah, and the
losses of the garrison repaired. I have heard well-informed French
engineers observe that an enemy should begin his operations by taking
the town, in order to bombard the Cabana, a strong fortress, but where
the garrison, shut up in the casemates, could not long resist the
insalubrity of the climate. The English took the Morro without being
masters of the Havannah; but the Cabana and the Fort Number 4 which
commands the Morro did not then exist. The most important works on the
south and west are the Castillos de Atares y del Principe, and the
battery of Santa Clara.

We employed the months of December, January and February in making
observations in the vicinity of the Havannah and the fine plains of
Guines. We experienced, in the family of Senor Cuesta (who then formed
with Senor Santa Maria one of the greatest commercial houses in
America) and in the house of Count O'Reilly, the most generous
hospitality. We lived with the former and deposited our collections
and instruments in the spacious hotel of Count O'Reilly, where the
terraces favoured our astronomical observations. The longitude of the
Havannah was at this period more than one fifth of a degree
uncertain.* (* I also fixed, by direct observations, several positions
in the interior of the island of Cuba: namely Rio Blanco, a plantation
of Count Jaruco y Mopex; the Almirante, a plantation of the Countess
Buenavista; San Antonio de Beitia; the village of Managua; San Antonio
de Bareto; and the Fondadero, near the town of San Antonio de los
Banos.). It had been fixed by M. Espinosa, the learned director of the
Deposito hidrografico of Madrid, at 5 degrees 38 minutes 11 seconds,
in a table of positions which he communicated to me on leaving Madrid.
M. de Churruca fixed the Morro at 5 hours 39 minutes 1 second. I met
at the Havannah with one of the most able officers of the Spanish
navy, Captain Don Dionisio Galeano, who had taken a survey of the
coast of the strait of Magellan. We made observations together on a
series of eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter, of which the mean
result gave 5 hours 38 minutes 50 seconds. M. Oltmanns deduced in 1805
the whole of those observations which I marked for the Morro, at 5
hours 38 minutes 52.5 seconds--84 degrees 43 minutes 7.5 seconds west
of the meridian of Paris. This longitude was confirmed by fifteen
occultations of stars observed from 1809 to 1811 and calculated by M.
Ferrer: that excellent observer fixes the definitive result at 5
degrees 38 minutes 50.9 seconds. With respect to the magnetic dip I
found it by the compass of Borda (December 1800) 53 degrees 22 minutes
of the old sexagesimal division: twenty-two years before, according to
the very accurate observations made by Captain Sabine in his memorable
voyage to the coasts of Africa, America and Spitzbergen, the dip was
only 51 degrees 55 minutes; it had therefore diminished 1 degree 27

The island of Cuba being surrounded with shoals and breakers along
more than two-thirds of its length, and as ships keep out beyond those
dangers, the real shape of the island was for a long time unknown. Its
breadth, especially between the Havannah and the port of Batabano, has
been exaggerated; and it is only since the Deposito hidrografico of
Madrid published the observations of captain Don Jose del Rio, and
lieutenant Don Ventura de Barcaiztegui, that the area of the island of
Cuba could be calculated with any accuracy. Wishing to furnish in this
work the most accurate result that can be obtained in the present
state of our astronomical knowledge, I engaged M. Bauza to calculate
the area. He found, in June, 1835, the surface of the island of Cuba,
without the Isla dos Pinos, to be 3520 square sea leagues, and with
that island 3615. From this calculation, which has been twice
repeated, it results that the island of Cuba is one-seventh less than
has hitherto been believed; that it is 32/100 larger than Hayti, or
San Domingo; that its surface equals that of Portugal, and within
one-eighth that of England without Wales; and that if the whole
archipelago of the Antilles presents as great an area as the half of
Spain, the island of Cuba alone almost equals in surface the other
Great and Small Antilles. Its greatest length, from Cape San Antonio
to Point Maysi (in a direction from west-south-west to east-north-east
and from west-north-west to east-south-east) is 227 leagues; and its
greatest breadth (in the direction north and south), from Point
Maternillo to the mouth of the Magdalena, near Peak Tarquino, is 37
leagues. The mean breadth of the island, on four-fifths of its length,
between the Havannah and Puerto Principe, is 15 leagues. In the best
cultivated part, between the Havannah and Batabano, the isthmus is
only eight sea leagues. Among the great islands of the globe, that of
Java most resembles the island of Cuba in its form and area (4170
square leagues). Cuba has a circumference of coast of 520 leagues, of
which 280 belong to the south shore, between Cape San Antonio and
Punta Maysi.

The island of Cuba, over more than four-fifths of its surface, is
composed of low lands. The soil is covered with secondary and tertiary
formations, formed by some rocks of gneiss-granite, syenite and
euphotide. The knowledge obtained hitherto of the geologic
configuration of the country, is as unsatisfactory as what is known
respecting the relative age and nature of the soil. It is only
ascertained that the highest group of mountains lies at the
south-eastern extremity of the island, between Cape Cruz, Punta Maysi,
and Holguin. This mountainous part, called the Sierra or Las Montanas
del Cobre (the Copper Mountains), situated north-west of the town of
Santiago de Cuba, appears to be about 1200 toises in height. If this
calculation be correct, the summits of the Sierra would command those
of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and the peaks of La Selle and La
Hotte in the island of San Domingo. The Sierra of Tarquino, fifty
miles west of the town of Cuba, belongs to the same group as the
Copper Mountains. The island is crossed from east-south-east to
west-north-west by a chain of hills, which approach the southern coast
between the meridians of La Ciudad de Puerto Principe and the Villa
Clara; while, further to the westward towards Alvarez and Matanzas,
they stretch in the direction of the northern coast. Proceeding from
the mouth of the Rio Guaurabo to the Villa de la Trinidad, I saw on
the north-west, the Lomas de San Juan, which form needles or horns
more than 300 toises high, with their declivities sloping regularly to
the south. This calcareous group presents a majestic aspect, as seen
from the anchorage near the Cayo de Piedras. Xagua and Batabano are
low coasts; and I believe that, in general, west of the meridian of
Matanzas, there is no hill more than 200 toises high, with the
exception of the Pan de Guaixabon. The land in the interior of the
island is gently undulated, as in England; and it rises only from 45
to 50 toises above the level of the sea. The objects most visible at a
distance, and most celebrated by navigators, are the Pan de Matanzas,
a truncated cone which has the form of a small monument; the Arcos de
Canasi, which appear between Puerto Escondido and Jaruco, like small
segments of a circle; the Mesa de Mariel, the Tetas de Managua, and
the Pan de Guaixabon. This gradual slope of the limestone formations
of the island of Cuba towards the north and west indicates the
submarine connection of those rocks with the equally low lands of the
Bahama Islands, Florida and Yucatan.

Intellectual cultivation and improvement were so long restricted to
the Havannah and the neighbouring districts, that we cannot be
surprised at the ignorance prevailing among the inhabitants respecting
the geologic formation of the Copper Mountains. Don Francisco Ramirez,
a traveller versed in chemical and mineralogical science, informed me
that the western part of the island is granitic, and that he there
observed gneiss and primitive slate. Probably the alluvial deposits of
auriferous sand which were explored with much ardour* at the beginning
of the conquest, to the great misfortune of the natives came from
those granitic formations (* At Cubanacan, that is, in the interior of
the island, near Jagua and Trinidad, where the auriferous sands have
been washed by the waters as far as the limestone soil. Martyr
d'Anghiera, the most intelligent writer on the Conquest, says: "Cuba
is richer in gold than Hispaniola (San Domingo); and at the moment I
am writing, 180,000 castillanos of ore have been collected at Cuba."
Herrera estimates the tax called King's-fifth (quinto del Rey), in the
island of Cuba, at 6000 pesos, which indicates an annual product of
2000 marks of gold, at 22 carats; and consequently purer than the gold
of Sibao in San Domingo. In 1804 the mines of Mexico altogether
produced 7000 marks of gold; and those of Peru 3400. It is difficult,
in these calculations, to distinguish between the gold sent to Spain
by the first Conquistadores, that obtained by washings, and that which
had been accumulated for ages in the hands of the natives, who were
pillaged at will. Supposing that in the two islands of Cuba and San
Domingo (in Cubanacan and Cibao) the product of the washings was 3000
marks of gold, we find a quantity three times less than the gold
furnished annually (1790 to 1805) by the small province of Choco. In
this supposition of ancient wealth there is nothing improbable; and if
we are surprised at the scanty produce of the gold-washings attempted
in our days at Cuba and San Domingo, which were heretofore so
prolific, it must be recollected that at Brazil also the product of
the gold-washings has fallen, from 1760 to 1820, from 6600 gold
kilogrammes to less than 595. Lumps of gold weighing several pounds,
found in our days in Florida and North and South Carolina, prove the
primitive wealth of the whole basin of the Antilles from the island of
Cuba to the Appalachian chain. It is also natural that the product of
the gold-washings should diminish with greater rapidity than that of
the subterraneous working of the veins. The metals not being renewed
in the clefts of the veins (by sublimation) now accumulate in alluvial
soil by the course of the rivers where the table-lands are higher than
the level of the surrounding running waters. But in rocks with
metalliferous veins the miner does not at once know all he has to
work. He may chance to lengthen the labours, to go deep, and to cross
other accompanying veins. Alluvial soils are generally of small depth
where they are auriferous; they most frequently rest upon sterile
rocks. Their superficial position and uniformity of composition help
to the knowledge of their limits, and wherever workmen can be
collected, and where the waters for the washings abound, accelerate
the total working of the auriferous clay. These considerations,
suggested by the history of the Conquest, and by the science of
mining, may throw some light on the problem of the metallic wealth of
Hayti. In that island, as well as at Brazil, it would be more
profitable to attempt subterraneous workings (on veins) in primitive
and intermediary soils than to renew the gold-washings which were
abandoned in the ages of barbarism, rapine and carnage.); traces of
that sand are still found in the rivers Holguin and Escambray, known
in general in the vicinity of Villa-Clara, Santo Espiritu, Puerto del
Principe de Bayamo and the Bahia de Nipe. The abundance of copper
mentioned by the Conquistadores of the sixteenth century, at a period
when the Spaniards were more attentive than they have been in latter
times to the natural productions of America, may possibly be
attributed to the formations of amphibolic slate, transition
clay-slate mixed with diorite, and to euphotides analogous to those I
found in the mountains of Guanabacoa.

The central and western parts of the island contain two formations of
compact limestone; one of clayey sandstone and another of gypsum. The
former has, in its aspect and composition, some resemblance to the
Jura formation. It is white, or of a clear ochre-yellow, with a dull
fracture, sometimes conchoidal, sometimes smooth; divided into thin
layers, furnishing some balls of pyromac silex, often hollow (at Rio
Canimar two leagues east of Matanzas), and petrifications of pecten,
cardites, terebratules and madrepores.* (* I saw neither gryphites nor
ammonites of Jura limestone nor the nummulites and cerites of coarse
limestone.) I found no oolitic beds, but porous beds almost bulbous,
between the Potrero del Conde de Mopox, and the port of Batabano,
resembling the spongy beds of Jura limestone in Franconia, near
Dondorf, Pegnitz, and Tumbach. Yellowish cavernous strata, with
cavities from three to four inches in diameter, alternate with strata
altogether compact,* and poorer in petrifications. (* The western part
of the island has no deep ravines; and we recognize this alternation
in travelling from the Havannah to Batabano, the deepest beds
(inclined from 30 to 40 degrees north-east) appear as we advance.) The
chain of hills that borders the plain of Guines on the north and is
linked with the Lomas de Camua, and the Tetas de Managua, belongs to
the latter variety, which is reddish white, and almost of lithographic
nature, like the Jura limestone of Pappenheim. The compact and
cavernous beds contain nests of brown ochreous iron; possibly the red
earth (tierra colorada) so much sought for by the coffee planters
(haciendados) owes its origin to the decomposition of some superficial
beds of oxidated iron, mixed with silex and clay, or to a reddish
sandstone* (* Sandstone and ferruginous sand; iron-sand?) superposed
on limestone. The whole of this formation, which I shall designate by
the name of the limestone of Guines, to distinguish it from another
much more recent, forms, near Trinidad, in the Lomas of St. Juan,
steep declivities, resembling the mountains of limestone of Caripe, in
the vicinity of Cumana. They also contain great caverns, near Matanzas
and Jaruco, where I have not heard that any fossil bones have been
found. The frequency of caverns in which the pluvial waters
accumulate, and where small rivers disappear, sometimes causes a
sinking of the earth. I am of opinion that the gypsum of the island of
Cuba belongs not to tertiary but to secondary soil; it is worked in
several places on the east of Matanzas, at San Antonio de los Banos,
where it contains sulphur, and at the Cayos, opposite San Juan de los
Remedios. We must not confound with this limestone of Guines,
sometimes porous, sometimes compact, another formation so recent that
it seems to augment in our days. I allude to the calcareous
agglomerates, which I saw in the islands of Cayos that border the
coast between the Batabano and the bay of Xagua, principally south of
the Cienega de Zapata, Cayo Buenito, Cayo Flamenco and Cayo de
Piedras. The soundings prove that they are rocks rising abruptly from
a bottom of between twenty and thirty fathoms. Some are at the water's
edge, others one-fourth or one-fifth of a toise above the surface of
the sea. Angular fragments of madrepores, and cellularia from two to
three cubic inches, are found cemented by grains of quartzose sand.
The inequalities of the rocks are covered by mould, in which, by help
of a microscope, we only distinguish the detritus of shells and
corals. This tertiary formation no doubt belongs to that of the coast
of Cumana, Carthagena, and the Great Land of Guadaloupe, noticed in my
geognostic table of South America.* (* M. Moreau de Jonnes has well
distinguished, in his Histoire physique des Antilles Francoises,
between the Roche a ravets of Martinique and Hayti, which is porous,
filled with terebratulites, and other vestiges of sea-shells, somewhat
analogous to the limestone of Guines and the calcareous pelagic
sediment called at Guadaloupe Platine, or Maconne bon Dieu. In the
cayos of the island of Cuba, or Jardinillos del Rey y del Reyna, the
whole coral rock lying above the surface of the water appeared to me
to be fragmentary, that is, composed of broken blocks. It is, however,
probable, that in the depth it reposes on masses of polypi still
living.) MM. Chamiso and Guiamard have recently thrown great light on
the formation of the coral islands in the Pacific. At the foot of the
Castillo de in Punta, near the Havannah, on shelves of cavernous
rocks,* covered with verdant sea-weeds and living polypi, we find
enormous masses of madrepores and other lithophyte corals set in the
texture of those shelves. (* The surface of these shelves, blackened
and excavated by the waters, presents ramifications like the
cauliflower, as they are observed on the currents of lava. Is the
change of colour produced by the waters owing to the manganese which
we recognize by some dendrites? The sea, entering into the clefts of
the rocks, and in a cavern at the foot of the Castillo del Morro,
compresses the air and makes it issue with a tremendous noise. This
noise explains the phenomena of the baxos roncadores (snoring
bocabeoos), so well known to navigators who cross from Jamaica to the
mouth of Rio San Juan of Nicaragua, or to the island of San Andres.)
We are at first tempted to admit that the whole of this limestone
rock, which constitutes the principal portion of the island of Cuba,
may be traced to an uninterrupted operation of nature--to the action
of productive organic forces--an action which continues in our days in
the bosom of the ocean; but this apparent novelty of limestone
formations soon vanishes when we quit the shore, and recollect the
series of coral rocks which contain the formations of different ages,
the muschelkalk, the Jura limestone and coarse limestone. The same
coral rocks as those of the Castillo and La Punta are found in the
lofty inland mountains, accompanied with petrifications of bivalve
shells, very different from those now seen on the coasts of the
Antilles. Without positively assigning a determinate place in the
table of formations to the limestone of Guines, which is that of the
Castillo and La Punta, I have no doubt of the relative antiquity of
that rock with respect to the calcareous agglomerate of the Cayos,
situated south of Batabano, and east of the island of Pinos. The globe
has undergone great revolutions between the periods when these two
soils were formed; the one containing the great caverns of Matanzas,
the other daily augmenting by the agglutination of fragments of coral
and quartzose sand. On the south of the island of Cuba, the latter
soil seems to repose sometimes on the Jura limestone of Guines, as in
the Jardinillos, and sometimes (towards Cape Cruz) immediately over
primitive rocks. In the lesser Antilles the corals are covered with
volcanic productions. Several of the Cayos of the island of Cuba
contain fresh water; and I found this water very good in the middle of
the Cayo de Piedras. When we reflect on the extreme smallness of these
islands we can scarcely believe that the fresh-water wells are filled
with rain-water not evaporated. Do they prove a submarine
communication between the limestone of the coast with the limestone
serving as the basis of lithophyte polypi, and is the fresh water of
Cuba raised up by hydrostatic pressure across the coral rocks of
Cayos, as it is in the bay of Xagua, where, in the middle of the sea,
it forms springs frequented by the lamantins?

The secondary formations on the east of the Havannah are pierced in a
singular manner by syenitic and euphotide rocks united in groups. The
southern bottom of the bay as well as the northern part (the hills of
the Morro and the Cabana) are of Jura limestone; but on the eastern
bank of the two Ensenadas de Regla and Guanabacoa, the whole is
transition soil. Going from north to south, and first near Marimelena,
we find syenite consisting of a great quantity of hornblende, partly
decomposed, a little quartz, and a reddish-white feldspar seldom
crystallized. This fine syenite, the strata of which incline to the
north-west, alternates twice with serpentine. The layers of
intercalated serpentine are three toises thick. Farther south, towards
Regla and Guanabacoa, the syenite disappears, and the whole soil is
covered with serpentine, rising in hills from thirty to forty toises
high, and running from east to west. This rock is much fendillated,
externally of a bluish-grey, covered with dendrites of manganese, and
internally of leek and asparagus-green, crossed by small veins of
asbestos. It contains no garnet or amphibole, but metalloid diallage
disseminated in the mass. The serpentine is sometimes of an
esquillous, sometimes of a conchoidal fracture: this was the first
time I had found metalloid diallage within the tropics. Several blocks
of serpentine have magnetic poles; others are of such a homogeneous
texture, and have such a glossiness, that at a distance they may be
taken for pechstein (resinite). It were to be wished that these fine
masses were employed in the arts as they are in several parts of
Germany. In approaching Guanabacoa we find serpentine crossed by veins
between twelve and fourteen inches thick, and filled with fibrous
quartz, amethyst, and fine mammelonnes, and stalactiforme
chalcedonies; it is possible that chrysoprase may also one day be
found. Some copper pyrites appear among these veins accompanied, it is
said, by silvery-grey copper. I found no traces of this grey copper:
it is probably the metalloid diallage that has given the Cerro de
Guanabacoa the reputation of riches in gold and silver which it has
enjoyed for ages. In some places petroleum flows* from rents in the
serpentine. (* Does there exist in the Bay of the Havannah any other
source of petroleum than that of Guanabacoa, or must it be admitted
that the betun liquido, which in 1508 was employed by Sebastian de
Ocampo for the caulking of ships, is dried up? That spring, however,
fixed the attention of Ocampo on the port of the Havannah, where he
gave it the name of Puerto de Carenas. It is said that abundant
springs of petroleum are also found in the eastern part of the island
(Manantialis de betun y chapapote) between Holguin and Mayari, and on
the coast of Santiago de Cuba.) Springs of water are frequent; they
contain a little sulphuretted hydrogen, and deposit oxide of iron. The
Baths of Bareto are agreeable, but of nearly the same temperature as
the atmosphere. The geologic constitution of this group of serpentine
rocks, from its insulated position, its veins, its connection with
syenite and the fact of its rising up across shell-formations, merits
particular attention. Feldspar with a basis of souda (compact
feldspar) forms, with diallage, the euphotide and serpentine; with
pyroxene, dolerite and basalt; and with garnet, eclogyte. These five
rocks, dispersed over the whole globe, charged with oxidulated and
titanious iron, are probably of similar origin. It is easy to
distinguish two formations in the euphotide; one is destitute of
amphibole, even when it alternates with amphibolic rocks (Joria in
Piedmont, Regla in the island of Cuba) rich in pure serpentine, in
metalloid diallage and sometimes in jasper (Tuscany, Saxony); the
other, strongly charged with amphibole, often passing to diorite,* has
no jasper in layers, and sometimes contains rich veins of copper;
(Silesia, Mussinet in Piedmont, the Pyrenees, Parapara in Venezuela,
Copper Mountains of North America). (* On a serpentine that flows like
a penombre, veins of greenstone (diorite) near Lake Clunie in
Perthshire. See MacCulloch in Edinburgh Journal of Science 1824 July
pages 3 to 16. On a vein of serpentine, and the alterations it
produces on the banks of Carity, near West-Balloch in Forfarshire see
Charles Lyell l.c. volume 3 page 43.) It is the latter formation of
euphotide which, by its mixture with diorite, is itself linked with
hyperthenite, in which real beds of serpentine are sometimes developed
in Scotland and in Norway. No volcanic rocks of a more recent period
have hitherto been discovered in the island of Cuba; for instance,
neither trachytes, dolerites, nor basalts. I know not whether they are
found in the rest of the Great Antilles, of which the geologic
constitution differs essentially from that of the series of calcareous
and volcanic islands which stretch from Trinidad to the Virgin
Islands. Earthquakes, which are in general less fatal at Cuba than at
Porto Rico and Hayti, are most felt in the eastern part, between Cape
Maysi, Santiago de Cuba and La Ciudad de Puerto Principe. Perhaps
towards those regions the action of the crevice extends laterally,
which is believed to cross the neck of granitic land between
Port-au-Prince and Cape Tiburon and on which whole mountains were
overthrown in 1770.

The cavernous texture of the limestone formations (soboruco) just
described, the great inclination of the shelvings, the smallness of
the island, the nakedness of the plains and the proximity of the
mountains that form a lofty chain on the southern coast, may be
considered as among the principal causes of the want of rivers and the
drought which is felt, especially in the western part of Cuba. In this
respect, Hayti, Jamaica, and several of the Lesser Antilles, which
contain volcanic heights covered with forests, are more favoured by
nature. The lands most celebrated for their fertility are the
districts of Xagua, Trinidad, Matanzas and Mariel. The valley of
Guines owes its reputation to artificial irrigation (sanjas de riego).
Notwithstanding the want of great rivers and the unequal fertility of
the soil, the island of Cuba, by its undulated surface, its
continually renewed verdure, and the distribution of its vegetable
forms, presents at every step the most varied and beautiful landscape.
Two trees with large, tough, and glossy leaves, the Mammea and the
Calophyllum calaba, five species of palm-trees (the palma real, or
Oreodoxa regia, the common cocoa-tree, the Cocos crispa, the Corypha
miraguama and the C. maritima), and small shrubs constantly loaded
with flowers, decorate the hills and the savannahs. The Cecropia
peltata marks the humid spots. It would seem as if the whole island
had been originally a forest of palm, lemon, and wild orange trees.
The latter, which bear a small fruit, are probably anterior to the
arrival of Europeans,* who transported thither the agrumi of the
gardens; they rarely exceed the height of from ten to fifteen feet. (*
The best informed inhabitants of the island assert that the cultivated
orange-trees brought from Asia preserve the size and all the
properties of their fruits when they become wild. The Brazilians
affirm that the small bitter orange which bears the name of loranja do
terra and is found wild, far from the habitations of man, is of
American origin. Caldcleugh, Travels in South America.) The lemon and
orange trees are most frequently separate; and the new planters, in
clearing the ground by fire, distinguish the quality of the soil
according as it is covered with one or other of those groups of social
plants; they prefer the soil of the naranjal to that which produces
the small lemon. In a country where the making of sugar is not
sufficiently improved to admit of the employment of any other fuel
than the bagasse (dried sugar-cane) the progressive destruction of the
small woods is a positive calamity. The aridity of the soil augments
in proportion as it is stripped of the trees that sheltered it from
the heat of the sun; for the leaves, emitting heat under a sky always
serene, occasion, as the air cools, a precipitation of aqueous

Among the few rivers worthy of attention, the Rio Guines may be
noticed, the Rio Armendaris or Chorrera, of which the waters are led
to the Havannah by the Sanja de Antoneli; the Rio Canto on the north
of the town of Bayamo; the Rio Maximo which rises on the east of
Puerto Principe; the Rio Sagua Grande near Villa Clara; the Rio de las
Palmas which issues opposite Cayo Galiado; the small rivers of Jaruco
and Santa Cruz between Guanabo and Matanzas, navigable at the distance
of some miles from their mouths and favourable for the shipment of
sugar-casks; the Rio San Antonio which, like many others, is engulfed
in the caverns of limestone rocks; the Rio Guaurabo west of the port
of Trinidad; and the Rio Galafre in the fertile district of Filipinas,
which throws itself into the Laguna de Cortez. The most abundant
springs rise on the southern coast where, from Xagua to Punta de
Sabina, over a length of forty-six leagues, the soil is extremely
marshy. So great is the abundance of the waters which filter by the
clefts of the stratified rock that, from the effect of an hydrostatic
pressure, fresh water springs far from the coast, and amidst salt
water. The jurisdiction of the Havannah is not the most fertile part
of the island; and the few sugar-plantations that existed in the
vicinity of the capital are now converted into farms for cattle
(potreros) and fields of maize and forage, of which the profits are
considerable. The agriculturists of the island of Cuba distinguish two
kinds of earth, often mixed together like the squares of a
draught-board, black earth (negra o prieta), clayey and full of
moisture, and red earth (bermeja), more silicious and containing oxide
of iron. The tierra negra is generally preferred (on account of its
best preserving humidity) for the cultivation of the sugarcane, and
the tierra bermeja for coffee; but many sugar plantations are
established on the red soil.

The climate of the Havannah is in accordance with the extreme limits
of the torrid zone: it is a tropical climate, in which a more unequal
distribution of heat at different parts of the year denotes the
passage to the climates of the temperate zone. Calcutta (latitude 22
degrees 34 minutes north), Canton (latitude 23 degrees 8 minutes
north), Macao (latitude 22 degrees 12 minutes north), the Havannah
(latitude 23 degrees 9 minutes north) and Rio Janeiro (latitude 22
degrees 54 minutes south) are places which, from their position at the
level of the ocean near the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn,
consequently at an equal distance from the equator, afford great
facilities for the study of meteorology. This study can only advance
by the determination of certain numerical elements which are the
indispensable basis of the laws we seek to discover. The aspect of
vegetation being identical near the limits of the torrid zone and at
the equator, we are accustomed to confound vaguely the climates of two
zones comprised between 0 and 10 degrees, and between 15 and 23
degrees of latitude. The region of palm-trees, bananas and arborescent
gramina extends far beyond the two tropics: but it would be dangerous
to apply what has been observed at the extremity of the tropical zone
to what may take place in the plains near the equator. In order to
rectify those errors it is important that the mean temperature of the
year and months be well known, as also the thermometric oscillations
in different seasons at the parallel of the Havannah; and to prove by
an exact comparison with other points alike distant from the equator,
for instance, with Rio Janeiro and Macao, that the lowering of
temperature observed in the island of Cuba is owing to the irruption
and the stream of layers of cold air, borne from the temperate zones
towards the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The mean temperature of
the Havannah, according to four years of good observations, is 25.7
degrees (20.6 degrees R.), only 2 degrees centigrade above that of the
regions of America nearest the equator. The proximity of the sea
raises the mean temperature of the year on the coast; but in the
interior of the island, when the north winds penetrate with the same
force, and where the soil rises to the height of forty toises, the
mean temperature attains only 23 degrees (18.4 degrees R.) and does
not exceed that of Cairo and Lower Egypt. The difference between the
mean temperature of the hottest and coldest months rises to 12 degrees
in the interior of the island; at the Havannah and on the coast, to 8
degrees; at Cumana, to scarcely 3 degrees. The hottest months, July
and August, attain 28.8 degrees, at the island of Cuba, perhaps 29.5
degrees of mean temperature, as at the equator. The coldest months are
December and January; their mean temperature in the interior of the
island, is 17 degrees; at the Havannah, 21 degrees, that is, 5 to 8
degrees below the same months at the equator, yet still 3 degrees
above the hottest month at Paris.

It will be interesting to compare the climate of the Havannah with
that of Macao and Rio Janeiro; two places, one of which is near the
limit of the northern torrid zone, on the eastern coast of Asia; and
the other on the eastern coast of America, towards the extremity of
the southern torrid zone.

The climate of the Havannah, notwithstanding the frequency of the
north and north-west winds, is hotter than that of Macao and Rio
Janeiro. The former partakes of the cold which, owing to the frequency
of the west winds, is felt in winter along all the eastern coast of a
great continent. The proximity of spaces of land covered with
mountains and table-lands renders the distribution of heat in
different months of the year more unequal at Macao and Canton than in
an island bounded on the west and north by the hot waters of the
Gulf-stream. The winters are therefore much colder at Canton and Macao
than at the Havannah: yet the latitude of Macao is 1 degree more
southerly than that of the Havannah; and the latter town and Canton
are, within nearly a minute, on the same parallel. The thermometer at
Canton has sometimes almost reached the point zero; and by the effect
of reflection, ice has been found on the terraces of houses. Although
this great cold never lasts more than one day, the English merchants
residing at Canton like to make chimney-fires in their apartments from
November to January; while at the Havannah, the artificial warmth even
of a brazero is not required. Hail is frequent and the hail-stones are
extremely large in the Asiatic climate of Canton and Macao, while it
is scarcely seen once in fifteen years at the Havannah. In these three
places the thermometer sometimes keeps up for several hours between 0
and 4 degrees (centigrade); and yet (a circumstance which appears to
be very remarkable) snow has never been seen to fall; and
notwithstanding the great lowering of the temperature, the bananas and
the palm-trees are as beautiful around Canton, Macao and the Havannah
as in the plains nearest the equator.

In the island of Cuba the lowering of the temperature lasts only
during intervals of such short duration that in general neither the
banana, the sugar-cane nor other productions of the torrid zone suffer
much. We know how well plants of vigorous organization resist
temporary cold, and that the orange trees of Genoa survive the fall of
snow and endure cold which does not more than exceed 6 or 7 degrees
below freezing-point. As the vegetation of the island of Cuba bears
the character of the vegetation of the regions near the equator, we
are surprised to find even in the plains a vegetable form of the
temperate climates and mountains of the equatorial part of Mexico. I
have often directed the attention of botanists to this extraordinary
phenomenon in the geography of plants. The pine (Pinus occidentalis)
is not found in the Lesser Antilles; not even in Jamaica (between 17
3/4 and 18 1/2 degrees of latitude). It is only seen further north, in
the mountains of San Domingo, and in all that part of the island of
Cuba situated between 20 and 23 degrees of latitude. It attains a
height of from sixty to seventy feet; and it is remarkable that the
cahoba* (mahogany (* Swieteinia Mahogani, Linn.)) and the pine
vegetate at the island of Pinos in the same plains. We also find pines
in the south-eastern part of the island of Cuba, on the declivity of
the Copper Mountains where the soil is barren and sandy. The interior
table-land of Mexico is covered with the same species of coniferous
plants; at least the specimens brought by M. Bonpland and myself from
Acaguisotla, Nevado de Toluca and Cofre de Perote do not appear to
differ specifically from the Pinus occidentalis of the West India
Islands described by Schwartz. Now those pines which we see at sea
level in the island of Cuba, in 20 and 22 degrees of latitude, and
which belong only to the southern part of that island, do not descend
on the Mexican continent between the parallels of 17 1/2 and 19 1/2
degrees, below the elevation of 500 toises. I even observed that, on
the road from Perote to Xalapa in the eastern mountains opposite to
the island of Cuba, the limit of the pines is 935 toises; while in the
western mountains, between Chilpanzingo and Acapulco, near
Quasiniquilapa, two degrees further south, it is 580 toises and
perhaps on some points 450. These anomalies of stations are very rare
in the torrid zone and are probably less connected with the
temperature than with the nature of the soil. In the system of the
migration of plants we must suppose that the Pinus occidentalis of
Cuba came from Yucatan before the opening of the channel between Cape
Catoche and Cape San Antonio, and not from the United States, so rich
in coniferous plants; for in Florida the species of which we have here
traced the botanical geography has not been discovered.

About the end of April, M. Bonpland and myself, having completed the
observations we proposed to make at the northern extremity of the
torrid zone, were on the point of proceeding to Vera Cruz with the
squadron of Admiral Ariztizabal; but being misled by false
intelligence respecting the expedition of Captain Baudin, we were
induced to relinquish the project of passing through Mexico on our way
to the Philippine Islands. The public journals announced that two
French sloops, the Geographe and Naturaliste, had sailed for Cape
Horn; that they were to proceed along the coasts of Chili and Peru,
and thence to New Holland. This intelligence revived in my mind all
the projects I had formed during my stay in Paris, when I solicited
the Directory to hasten the departure of Captain Baudin. On leaving
Spain, I had promised to rejoin the expedition wherever I could reach
it. M. Bonpland and I resolved instantly to divide our herbals into
three portions, to avoid exposing to the risks of a long voyage the
objects we had obtained with so much difficulty on the banks of the
Orinoco, the Atabapo and the Rio Negro. We sent one collection by way
of England to Germany, another by way of Cadiz to France, and a third
remained at the Havannah. We had reason to congratulate ourselves on
this foresight: each collection contained nearly the same species, and
no precautions were neglected to have the cases, if taken by English
or French vessels, remitted to Sir Joseph Banks or to the professors
of natural history at the Museum at Paris. It happened fortunately
that the manuscripts which I at first intended to send with the
collection to Cadiz were not intrusted to our much esteemed friend and
fellow traveller, Fray Juan Gonzales, of the order of the Observance
of St. Francis, who had followed us to the Havannah with the view of
returning to Spain. He left the island of Cuba soon after us, but the
vessel in which he sailed foundered on the coast of Africa, and the
cargo and crew were all lost. By this event we lost some of the
duplicates of our herbals, and what was more important, all the
insects which M. Bonpland had with great difficulty collected during
our voyage to the Orinoco and the Rio Negro. By a singular fatality,
we remained two years in the Spanish colonies without receiving a
single letter from Europe; and those which arrived in the three
following years made no mention of what we had transmitted. The reader
may imagine my uneasiness for the fate of a journal which contained
astronomical observations and barometrical measurements, of which I
had not made any copy. After having visited New Grenada, Peru and
Mexico, and just when I was preparing to leave the New Continent, I
happened, at a public library of Philadelphia, to cast my eyes on a
scientific Publication, in which I found these words: "Arrival of M.
de Humboldt's manuscripts at his brother's house in Paris, by way of
Spain!" I could scarcely suppress an exclamation of joy.

While M. Bonpland laboured day and night to divide and put our
collections in order, a thousand obstacles arose to impede our
departure. There was no vessel in the port of the Havannah that would
convey us to Porto Bello or Carthagena. The persons I consulted seemed
to take pleasure in exaggerating the difficulties of the passage of
the isthmus, and the dangerous voyage from Panama to Guyaquil, and
from Guyaquil to Lima and Valparaiso. Not being able to find a passage
in any neutral vessel, I freighted a Catalonian sloop, lying at
Batabano, which was to be at my disposal to take me either to Porto
Bello or Carthagena, according as the gales of Saint Martha might
permit.* (* The gales of Saint Martha blow with great violence at that
season below latitude 12 degrees.) The prosperous state of commerce at
the Havannah and the multiplied connections of that city with the
ports of the Pacific would facilitate for me the means of procuring
funds for several years. General Don Gonzalo O'Farrill resided at that
time in my native country as minister of the court of Spain. I could
exchange my revenues in Prussia for a part of his at the island of
Cuba; and the family of Don Ygnacio O'Farrill y Herera, brother of the
general, concurred kindly in all that could favour my new projects. On
the 6th of March the vessel I had freighted was ready to receive us.
The road to Batabano led us once more by Guines to the plantation of
Rio Blanco, the property of Count Jaruco y Mopox.

The road from Rio Blanco to Batabano runs across an uncultivated
country, half covered with forests; in the open spots the indigo plant
and the cotton-tree grow wild. As the capsule of the Gossypium opens
at the season when the northern storms are most frequent, the down
that envelops the seed is swept from one side to the other; and the
gathering of the cotton, which is of a very fine quality, suffers
greatly. Several of our friends, among whom was Senor de Mendoza,
captain of the port of Valparaiso, and brother to the celebrated
astronomer who resided so long in London, accompanied us to Potrero de
Mopox. In herborizing further southward, we found a new palm-tree with
fan-leaves (Corypha maritima), having a free thread between the
interstices of the folioles. This Corypha covers a part of the
southern coast and takes the place of the majestic palma real and the
Cocos crispa of the northern coast. Porous limestone (of the Jura
formation) appeared from time to time in the plain.

Batabano was then a poor village and its church had been completed
only a few years previously. The Sienega begins at the distance of
half a league from the village; it is a tract of marshy soil,
extending from the Laguna de Cortez as far as the mouth of the Rio
Xagua, on a length of sixty leagues from west to east. At Batabano it
is believed that in those regions the sea continues to gain upon the
land, and that the oceanic irruption was particularly remarkable at
the period of the great upheaving which took place at the end of the
eighteenth century, when the tobacco mills disappeared, and the Rio
Chorrera changed its course. Nothing can be more gloomy than the
aspect of these marshes around Batabano. Not a shrub breaks the
monotony of the prospect: a few stunted trunks of palm-trees rise like
broken masts, amidst great tufts of Junceae and Irides. As we stayed
only one night at Batabano, I regretted much that I was unable to
obtain precise information relative to the two species of crocodiles
which infest the Sienega. The inhabitants give to one of these animals
the name of cayman, to the other that of crocodile; or, as they say
commonly in Spain, of cocodrilo. They assured us that the latter has
most agility, and measures most in height: his snout is more pointed
than that of the cayman, and they are never found together. The
crocodile is very courageous and is said to climb into boats when he
can find a support for his tail. He frequently wanders to the distance
of a league from the Rio Cauto and the marshy coast of Xagua to devour
the pigs on the islands. This animal is sometimes fifteen feet long,
and will, it is said, pursue a man on horseback, like the wolves in
Europe; while the animals exclusively called caymans at Batabano are
so timid that people bathe without apprehension in places where they
live in bands. These peculiarities, and the name of cocodrilo, given
at the island of Cuba, to the most dangerous of the carnivorous
reptiles, appear to me to indicate a different species from the great
animals of the Orinoco, Rio Magdalena and Saint Domingo. In other
parts of the Spanish American continent the settlers, deceived by the
exaggerated accounts of the ferocity of crocodiles in Egypt, allege
that the real crocodile is only found in the Nile. Zoologists have,
however, ascertained that there are in America caymans or alligators
with obtuse snouts, and legs not indented, and crocodiles with pointed
snouts and indented legs; and in the old continent, both crocodiles
and gaviales. The Crocodilus acutus of San Domingo, in which I cannot
hitherto specifically distinguish the crocodiles of the great rivers
of the Orinoco and the Magdalena, has, according to Cuvier, so great a
resemblance to the crocodile of the Nile,* that it required a minute
examination to prove that the rule laid down by Buffon relative to the
distribution of species between the tropical regions of the two
continents was correct. (* This striking analogy was ascertained by M.
Geoffroy de Saint Hilaire in 1803 when General Rochambeau sent a
crocodile from San Domingo to the Museum of Natural History at Paris.
M. Bonpland and myself had made drawings and detailed descriptions in
1801 and 1802 of the same species which inhabit the great rivers of
South America, during our passage on the Apure, the Orinoco and the
Magdalena. We committed the mistake so common to travellers, of not
sending them at once to Europe, together with some young specimens.)

On my second visit to the Havannah, in 1804, I could not return to the
Sienega of Batabano; and therefore I had the two species, called
caymans and crocodiles by the inhabitants, brought to me, at a great
expense. Two crocodiles arrived alive; the oldest was four feet three
inches long; they had been caught with great difficulty and were
conveyed, muzzled and bound, on a mule, for they were exceedingly
vigorous and fierce. In order to observe their habits and movements,*
we placed them in a great hall, where, by climbing on a very high
piece of furniture, we could see them attack great dogs. (* M.
Descourtils, who knows the habits of the crocodile better than any
other author who has written on that reptile, saw, like Dampier and
myself, the Crocodilus acutus often touch his tail with his mouth.)
Having seen much of crocodiles during six months, on the Orinoco, the
Rio Apure and the Magdalena, we were glad to have another opportunity
of observing their habits before our return to Europe. The animals
sent to us from Batabano had the snout nearly as sharp as the
crocodiles of the Orinoco and the Magdalena (Crocodilus acutus, Cuv.);
their colour was dark-green on the back, and white below the belly,
with yellow spots on the flanks. I counted, as in all the real
crocodiles, thirty-eight teeth in the upper jaw, and thirty in the
lower; in the former, the tenth and ninth; and in the latter, the
first and fourth, were the largest. In the description made by M.
Bonpland and myself on the spot, we have expressly marked that the
lower fourth tooth rises over the upper jaw. The posterior extremities
were palmated. These crocodiles of Batabano appeared to us to be
specifically identical with the Crocodilus acutus. It is true that the
accounts we heard of their habits did not quite agree with what we had
ourselves observed on the Orinoco; but carnivorous reptiles of the
same species are milder and more timid, or fiercer and more
courageous, in the same river, according to the nature of the
localities. The animal called the cayman, at Batabano, died on the
way, and was not brought to us, so that we could make no comparison of
the two species.* (* The four bags filled with musk (bolzas del
almizcle) are, in the crocodile of Batabano, exactly in the same
position as in that of the Rio Magdalena, beneath the lower jaw and
near the anus. I was much surprised at not perceiving the smell of
musk at the Havannah, three days after the death of the animal, in a
temperature of 30 degrees, while at Mompox, on the banks of the
Magdalena, living crocodiles infected our apartment. I have since
found that Dampier also remarked an absence of smell in the crocodile
of Cuba where the caymans spread a very strong smell of musk.) I have
no doubt that the crocodile with a sharp snout, and the alligator or
cayman with a snout like a pike,* (* Crocodilus acutus of San Domingo.
Alligator lucius of Florida and the Mississippi.) inhabit together,
but in distinct bands, the marshy coast between Xagua, the Surgidero
of Batabano, and the island of Pinos. In that island Dampier was
struck with the great difference between the caymans and the American
crocodiles. After having described, though not always with perfect
correctness, several of the characteristics which distinguish
crocodiles from caymans, he traces the geographical distribution of
those enormous saurians. "In the bay of Campeachy," he says, "I saw
only caymans or alligators; at the island of Great Cayman, there are
crocodiles and no alligators; at the island of Pinos, and in the
innumerable creeks of the coast of Cuba, there are both crocodiles and
caymans."* (* Dampier's Voyages and Descriptions, 1599.) To these
valuable observations of Dampier I may add that the real crocodile
(Crocodilus acutus) is found in the West India Islands nearest the
mainland, for instance, at the island of Trinidad; at Marguerita; and
also, probably, at Curacao, notwithstanding the want of fresh water.
It is observed, further south, in the Neveri, the Rio Magdalena, the
Apure and the Orinoco, as far as the confluence of the Cassiquiare
with the Rio Negro (latitude 2 degrees 2 minutes), consequently more
than four hundred leagues from Batabano. It would be interesting to
verify on the eastern coast of Mexico and Guatimala, between the
Mississippi and the Rio Chagres (in the isthmus of Panama), the limit
of the different species of carnivorous reptiles.

We set sail on the 9th of March, somewhat incommoded by the extreme
smallness of our vessel, which afforded us no sleeping-place but upon
deck. The cabin (camera de pozo) received no air or light but from
above; it was merely a hold for provisions, and it was with difficulty
that we could place our instruments in it. The thermometer kept up
constantly at 32 and 33 degrees (centesimal.) Luckily these
inconveniences lasted only twenty days. Our several voyages in the
canoes of the Orinoco, and a passage in an American vessel laden with
several thousand arrobas of salt meat dried in the sun had rendered us
not very fastidious.

The gulf of Batabano, bounded by a low and marshy coast, looks like a
vast desert. The fishing birds, which are generally at their post
whilst the small land birds, and the indolent vultures (Vultur aura.)
are at roost, are seen only in small numbers. The sea is of a
greenish-brown hue, as in some of the lakes of Switzerland; while the
air, owing to its extreme purity, had, at the moment the sun appeared
above the horizon, a cold tint of pale blue, similar to that which
landscape painters observe at the same hour in the south of Italy, and
which makes distant objects stand out in strong relief. Our sloop was
the only vessel in the gulf; for the roadstead of Batabano is scarcely
visited except by smugglers, or, as they are here politely called, the
traders (los tratantes). The projected canal of Guines will render
Batabano an important point of communication between the island of
Cuba and the coast of Venezuela. The port is within a bay bounded by
Punta Gorda on the east, and by Punta de Salinas on the west: but this
bay is itself only the upper or concave end of a great gulf measuring
nearly fourteen leagues from south to north, and along an extent of
fifty leagues (between the Laguna de Cortez and the Cayo de Piedras)
inclosed by an incalculable number of flats and chains of rocks. One
great island only, of which the superficies is more than four times
the dimensions of that of Martinique, with mountains crowned with
majestic pines, rises amidst this labyrinth. This is the island of
Pinos, called by Columbus El Evangelista, and by some mariners of the
sixteenth century, the Isla de Santa Maria. It is celebrated for its
mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) which is an important article of
commerce. We sailed east-south-east, taking the passage of Don
Cristoval, to reach the rocky island of Cayo de Piedras, and to clear
the archipelago, which the Spanish pilots, in the early times of the
conquest, designated by the names of Gardens and Bowers (Jardines y
Jardinillos). The Queen's Gardens, properly so called, are nearer Cape
Cruz, and are separated from the archipelago by an open sea
thirty-five leagues broad. Columbus gave them the name they bear, in
1494, when, on his second voyage, he struggled during fifty-eight days
with the winds and currents between the island of Pinos and the
eastern cape of Cuba. He describes the islands of this archipelago as
verdant, full of trees and pleasant* (verdes, llenos de arboledas, y
graciosos). (* There exists great geographical confusion, even at the
Havannah, in reference to the ancient denominations of the Jardines
del Rey and Jardines de la Reyna. In the description of the island of
Cuba, given in the Mercurio Americano, and in the Historia Natural de
la Isla de Cuba, published at the Havannah by Don Antonio Lopez Gomez,
the two groups are placed on the southern coast of the island. Lopez
says that the Jardines del Rey extend from the Laguna de Cortez to
Bahia de Xagua; but it is historically certain that the governor Diego
Velasquez gave his name to the western part of the chain of rocks of
the Old Channel, between Cayo Frances and Le Monillo, on the northern
coast of the island of Cuba. The Jardines de la Reyna, situated
between Cabo Cruz and the port of the Trinity, are in no manner
connected with the Jardines and Jardinillos of the Isla de Pinos.
Between the two groups of the chain of rocks are the flats (placeres)
of La Paz and Xagua.)

A part of these so-styled gardens is indeed beautiful; the voyager
sees the scene change every moment, and the verdure of some of the
islands appears the more lovely from its contrast with chains of
rocks, displaying only white and barren sands. The surface of these
sands, heated by the rays of the sun, seems to be undulating like the
surface of a liquid. The contact of layers of air of unequal
temperature produces the most varied phenomena of suspension and
mirage from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon. Even in
those desert places the sun animates the landscape, and gives mobility
to the sandy plain, to the trunks of trees, and to the rocks that
project into the sea like promontories. When the sun appears these
inert masses seem suspended in air; and on the neighbouring beach the
sands present the appearance of a sheet of water gently agitated by
the winds. A train of clouds suffices to seat the trunks of trees and
the suspended rocks again on the soil; to render the undulating
surface of the plains motionless; and to dissipate the charm which the
Arabian, Persian, and Hindoo poets have celebrated as "the sweet
illusions of the solitary desert."

We doubled Cape Matahambre very slowly. The chronometer of Louis
Berthoud having kept time accurately at the Havannah, I availed myself
of this occasion to determine, on this and the following days, the
positions of Cayo de Don Cristoval, Cayo Flamenco, Cayo de Diego Perez
and Cayo de Piedras. I also employed myself in examining the influence
which the changes at the bottom of the sea produce on its temperature
at the surface. Sheltered by so many islands, the surface is calm as a
lake of fresh water, and the layers of different depths being distinct
and separate, the smallest change indicated by the lead acts on the
thermometer. I was surprised to see that on the east of the little
Cayo de Don Cristoval the high banks are only distinguished by the
milky colour of the water, like the bank of Vibora, south of Jamaica,
and many other banks, the existence of which I ascertained by means of
the thermometer. The bottom of the rock of Batabano is a sand composed
of coral detritus; it nourishes sea-weeds which scarcely ever appear
on the surface: the water, as I have already observed, is greenish;
and the absence of the milky tint is, no doubt, owing to the perfect
calm which pervades those regions. Whenever the agitation is
propagated to a certain depth, a very fine sand, or a mass of
calcareous particles suspended in the water, renders it troubled and
milky. There are shallows, however, which are distinguished neither by
the colour nor by the low temperature of the waters; and I believe
that phenomenon depends on the nature of a hard and rocky bottom,
destitute of sand and corals; on the form and declivity of the
shelvings; the swiftness of the currents; and the absence of the
propagation of motion towards the lower layers of the water. The cold
frequently indicated by the thermometer, at the surface of the high
banks, must be traced to the molecules of water which, owing to the
rays of heat and the nocturnal cooling, fall from the surface to the
bottom, and are stopped in their fall by the high banks; and also to
the mingling of the layers of very deep water that rise on the
shelvings of the banks as on an inclined plane, to mix with the layers
of the surface.

Notwithstanding the small size of our bark and the boasted skill of
our pilot, we often ran aground. The bottom being soft, there was no
danger; but, nevertheless, at sunset, near the pass of Don Cristoval,
we preferred to lie at anchor. The first part of the night was
beautifully serene: we saw an incalculable number of falling-stars,
all following one direction, opposite to that from whence the wind
blew in the low regions of the atmosphere. The most absolute solitude
prevails in this spot, which, in the time of Columbus, was inhabited
and frequented by great numbers of fishermen. The inhabitants of Cuba
then employed a small fish to take the great sea turtles; they
fastened a long cord to the tail of the reves (the name given by the
Spaniards to that species of Echeneis*). (* To the sucet or guaican of
the natives of Cuba the Spaniards have given the characteristic name
of reves, that is, placed on its back, or reversed. In fact, at first
sight, the position of the back and the abdomen is confounded.
Anghiera says: Nostrates reversum appellant, quia versus venatur. I
examined a remora of the South Sea during the passage from Lima to
Acapulco. As he lived a long time out of the water, I tried
experiments on the weight he could carry before the blades of the disk
loosened from the plank to which the animal was fixed; but I lost that
part of my journal. It is doubtless the fear of danger that causes the
remora not to loose his hold when he feels that he is pulled by a cord
or by the hand of man. The sucet spoken of by Columbus and Martin
d'Anghiera was probably the Echeneis naucrates and not the Echeneis
remora.) The fisher-fish, formerly employed by the Cubans by means of
the flattened disc on his head, furnished with suckers, fixed himself
on the shell of the sea-turtle, which is so common in the narrow and
winding channels of the Jardinillos. "The reves," says Christopher
Columbus, "will sooner suffer himself to be cut in pieces than let go
the body to which he adheres." The Indians drew to the shore by the
same cord the fisher-fish and the turtle. When Gomara and the learned
secretary of the emperor Charles V, Peter Martyr d'Anghiera,
promulgated in Europe this fact which they had learnt from the
companions of Columbus, it was received as a traveller's tale. There
is indeed an air of the marvellous in the recital of d'Anghiera, which
begins in these words: Non aliter ac nos canibus gallicis per aequora
campi lepores insectamur, incolae [Cubae insulae] venatorio pisce
pisces alios capiebant. (Exactly as we follow hares with greyhounds in
the fields, so do the natives [of Cuba] take fishes with other fish
trained for that purpose). We now know, from the united testimony of
Rogers, Dampier and Commerson, that the artifice resorted to in the
Jardinillos to catch turtles is employed by the inhabitants of the
eastern coast of Africa, near Cape Natal, at Mozambique and at
Madagascar. In Egypt, at San Domingo and in the lakes of the valley of
Mexico, the method practised for catching ducks was as follows: men,
whose heads were covered with great calabashes pierced with holes, hid
themselves in the water, and seized the birds by the feet. The
Chinese, from the remotest antiquity, have employed the cormorant, a
bird of the pelican family, for fishing on the coast: rings are fixed
round the bird's neck to prevent him from swallowing his prey and
fishing for himself. In the lowest degree of civilization, the
sagacity of man is displayed in the stratagems of hunting and fishing:
nations who probably never had any communication with each other
furnish the most striking analogies in the means they employ in
exercising their empire over animals.

Three days elapsed before we could emerge from the labyrinth of
Jardines and Jardinillos. At night we lay at anchor; and in the day we
visited those islands or chains of rocks which were most easily
accessible. As we advanced eastward the sea became less calm and the
position of the shoals was marked by water of a milky colour. On the
boundary of a sort of gulf between Cayo Flamenco and Cayo de Piedras
we found that the temperature of the sea, at its surface, augmented
suddenly from 23.5 to 25.8 degrees centigrade. The geologic
constitution of the rocky islets that rise around the island of Pinos
fixed my attention the more earnestly as I had always rather doubted
of the existence of those huge masses of coral which are said to rise
from the abyss of the Pacific to the surface of the water. It appeared
to me more probable that these enormous masses had some primitive or
volcanic rock for a basis, to which they adhered at small depths. The
formation, partly compact and lithographic, partly bulbous, of the
limestone of Guines, had followed us as far as Batabano. It is
somewhat analogous to Jura limestone; and, judging from their external
aspect, the Cayman Islands are composed of the same rock. If the
mountains of the island of Pinos, which present at the same time (as
it is said by the first historians of the conquest) the pineta and
palmeta, be visible at the distance of twenty sea leagues, they must
attain a height of more than five hundred toises: I have been assured
that they also are formed of a limestone altogether similar to that of
Guines. From these facts I expected to find the same rock (Jura
limestone) in the Jardinillos: but I saw, in the chain of rocks that
rises generally five to six inches above the surface of the water,
only a fragmentary rock, in which angular pieces of madrepores are
cemented by quartzose sand. Sometimes the fragments form a mass of
from one to two cubic feet and the grains of quartz so disappear that
in several layers one might imagine that the polypi have remained on
the spot. The total mass of this chain of rocks appears to me a
limestone agglomerate, somewhat analogous to the earthy limestone of
the peninsula of Araya, near Cumana, but of much more recent
formation. The inequalities of this coral rock are covered by a
detritus of shells and madrepores. Whatever rises above the surface of
the water is composed of broken pieces, cemented by carbonate of lime,
in which grains of quartzose sand are set. Whether rocks formed by
polypi still living are found at great depth below this fragmentary
rock of coral or whether these polypi are raised on the Jura formation
are questions which I am unable to answer. Pilots believe that the sea
diminishes in these latitudes, because they see the chain of rocks
augment and rise, either by the earth which the waves heave up, or by
successive agglutinations. It is not impossible that the enlarging of
the channel of Bahama, by which the waters of the Gulf-stream issue,
may cause, in the lapse of ages, a slight lowering of the waters south
of Cuba, and especially in the gulf of Mexico, the centre of the great
current which runs along the shores of the United States, and casts
the fruits of tropical plants on the coast of Norway.* (* "The
Gulf-stream, between the Bahamas and Florida, is very little wider
than Behring's Strait; and yet the water rushing through this passage
is of sufficient force and quantity to put the whole Northern Atlantic
in motion, and to make its influence be felt in the distant strait of
Gibraltar and on the more distant coast of Africa." Quarterly Review
February 1818.) The configuration of the coast, the direction, the
force and the duration of certain winds and currents, the changes
which the barometric heights undergo through the variable predominance
of those winds, are causes, the concurrence of which may alter, in a
long space of time, and in circumscribed limits of extent and height,
the equilibrium of the seas.* (* I do not pretend to explain, by the
same causes, the great phenomena of the coast of Sweden, where the sea
has, on some points, the appearance of a very unequal lowering of from
three to five feet in one hundred years. The great geologist, Leopold
von Buch, has imparted new interest to these observations by examining
whether it be not rather some parts of the continent of Scandinavia
which insensibly heaves up. An analogous supposition was entertained
by the inhabitants of Dutch Guiana.) When the coast is so low that the
level of the soil, at a league within the island, does not change to
extent of a few inches, these swellings and diminution of the waters
strike the imagination of the inhabitants.

The Cayo bonito (Pretty Rock), which we first visited, fully merits
its name from the richness of its vegetation. Everything denotes that
it has been long above the surface of the ocean; and the central part
of the Cayo is not more depressed than the banks. On a layer of sand
and land shells, five to six inches thick, covered by a fragmentary
madreporic rock, rises a forest of mangroves (Rhizophora). From their
form and foliage they might at a distance be mistaken for laurel
trees. The Avicennia, the Batis, some small Euphorbia and grasses, by
the intertwining of their roots, fix the moving sands. But the
characteristic distinction of the Flora of these coral islands is the
magnificent Tournefortia gnaphalioides of Jacquin, with silvered
leaves, which we found here for the first time. This is a social plant
and is a shrub from four feet and a half to five feet high. Its
flowers emit an agreeable perfume; and it is the ornament of Cayo
Flamenco, Cayo Piedras and perhaps of the greater part of the low
lands of the Jardinillos. While we were employed in herborizing,* our
sailors were searching among the rocks for lobsters. (* We gathered
Cenchrus myosuroides, Euphorbia buxifolia, Batis maritima, Iresine
obtusifolia, Tournefortia gnaphalioides, Diomedea glabrata, Cakile
cubensis, Dolichos miniatus, Parthenium hysterophorus, etc. The
last-named plant, which we had previously found in the valley of
Caracas and on the temperate table-lands of Mexico, between 470 and
900 toises high, covers the fields of the island of Cuba. It is used
by the inhabitants for aromatic baths, and to drive away the fleas
which are so numerous in tropical climates. At Cumana the leaves of
several species of cassia are employed, on account of their smell,
against those annoying insects.) Disappointed at not finding them,
they avenged themselves by climbing on the mangroves and making a
dreadful slaughter of the young alcatras, grouped in pairs in their
nests. This name is given, in Spanish America, to the brown
swan-tailed pelican of Buffon. With the want of foresight peculiar to
the great pelagic birds, the alcatra builds his nest where several
branches of trees unite together. We counted four or five nests on the
same trunk of a mangrove. The young birds defended themselves
valiantly with their enormous beaks, which are six or seven inches
long; the old ones hovered over our heads, making hoarse and plaintive
cries. Blood streamed from the tops of the trees, for the sailors were
armed with great sticks and cutlasses (machetes). In vain we reproved
them for this cruelty. Condemned to long obedience in the solitude of
the seas, this class of men feel pleasure in exercising a cruel
tyranny over animals when occasion offers. The ground was covered with
wounded birds struggling in death. At our arrival a profound calm
prevailed in this secluded spot; now, everything seemed to say: Man
has passed this way.

The sky was veiled with reddish vapours, which however dispersed in
the direction of south-west; we hoped, but in vain, to discern the
heights of the island of Pinos. Those spots have a charm in which most
parts of the New World are wanting. They are associated with
recollections of the greatest names of the Spanish monarchy--those of
Christopher Columbus and of Hernan Cortez. It was on the southern
coast of the island of Cuba, between the bay of Xagua and the island
of Pinos, that the great Spanish Admiral, in his second voyage, saw,
with astonishment, "that mysterious king who spoke to his subjects
only by signs, and that group of men who wore long white tunics, like
the monks of La Merced, whilst the rest of the people were naked."
"Columbus in his fourth voyage found in the Jardinillos, great boats
filled with Mexican Indians, and laden with the rich productions and
merchandise of Yucatan." Misled by his ardent imagination, he thought
he had heard from those navigators, "that they came from a country
where the men were mounted on horses,* and wore crowns of gold on
their heads." (* Compare the Lettera rarissima di Christoforo Colombo,
di 7 di Julio, 1503; with the letter of Herrera, dated December 1.
Nothing can be more touching and pathetic than the expression of
melancholy which prevails in the letter of Columbus, written at
Jamaica, and addressed to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. I
recommend to the notice of those who wish to understand the character
of that extraordinary man, the recital of the nocturnal vision, in
which he imagined that he heard a celestial voice, in the midst of a
tempest, encouraging him by these words: Iddio maravigliosamente fece
sonar tuo nome nella terra. Le Indie que sono pa te del mondo cosi
ricca, te le ha date per tue; tu le hai repartite dove ti e piaciuto,
e ti dette potenzia per farlo. Delli ligamenti del mare Oceano che
erano serrati con catene cosi forte, ti dono le chiave, etc. [God
marvellously makes thy name resound throughout the world. The Indies,
which are so rich a portion of the world, he gives to thee for
thyself; thou mayest distribute them in the way thou pleasest, and God
gives thee power to do so. Of the shores of the Atlantic, which were
closed by such strong chains, he gives thee the key.] This fragment
has been handed down to us only in an ancient Italian tradition; for
the Spanish original mentioned in the Biblioteca Nautica of Don
Antonio Leon has not hitherto been found. I may add a few more lines,
characterized by great simplicity, written by the discoverer of the
New World: "Your Highness," says Columbus, "may believe me, the globe
of the earth is far from being so great as the vulgar admit. I was
seven years at your royal court, and during seven years was told that
my enterprise was a folly. Now that I have opened the way, tailors and
shoemakers ask the privilege of going to discover new lands.
Persecuted, forgotten as I am, I never think of Hispaniola and Paria
without my eyes being filled with tears. I was twenty years in the
service of your Highness; I have not a hair that is not white; and my
body is enfeebled. Heaven and earth now mourn for me; all who have
pity, truth, and justice, mourn for me (pianga adesso il cielo e
pianga per me la terra; pianga per me chi ha carita, verita,
giustizia)." Lettera rarissima pages 13, 19, 34, 37.) "Catayo (China),
the empire of the Great Khan, and the mouth of the Ganges," appeared
to him so near, that he hoped soon to employ two Arabian interpreters,
whom he had embarked at Cadiz, in going to America. Other remembrances
of the island of Pinos, and the surrounding Gardens, are connected
with the conquest of Mexico. When Hernan Cortes was preparing his
great expedition, he was wrecked with his Nave Capitana on one of the
flats of the Jardinillos. For the space of five days he was believed
to be lost, and the valiant Pedro de Alvarado sent (in November 1518)
from the port of Carenas* (the Havannah) three vessels in search of
him. (* At that period there were two settlements, one at Puerto de
Carenas in the ancient Indian province of the Havannah, and the
other--the most considerable--in the Villa de San Cristoval de Cuba.
These settlements were only united in 1519 when the Puerto de Carenas
took the name of San Cristoval de la Habana. "Cortes," says Herrera,
"paso a la Villa de San Cristoval que a la sazon estaba en la costa
del sur, y despues se paso a la Habana." [Cortes proceeded to the town
of San Cristoval, which at that time was on the sea-coast, and
afterwards he repaired to the Havannah.]) In February, 1519, Cortes
assembled his whole fleet near cape San Antonio, probably on the spot
which still bears the name of Ensenada de Cortes, west of Batabano and
opposite to the island of Pinos. From thence, believing he should
better escape the snares laid for him by the governor, Velasquez, he
passed almost clandestinely to the coast of Mexico. Strange
vicissitude of events! the empire of Montezuma was shaken by a handful
of men who, from the western extremity of the island of Cuba, landed
on the coast of Yucatan; and in our days, three centuries later,
Yucatan, now a part of the new confederation of the free states of
Mexico, has nearly menaced with conquest the western coast of Cuba.

On the morning of the 11th March we visited Cayo Flamenco. I found the
latitude 21 degrees 59 minutes 39 seconds. The centre of this island
is depressed and only fourteen inches above the surface of the sea.
The water here is brackish while in other cayos it is quite fresh. The
mariners of Cuba attribute this freshness of the water to the action
of the sands in filtering sea-water, the same cause which is assigned
for the freshness of the lagunes of Venice. But this supposition is
not justified by any chemical analogy. The cayos are composed of
rocks, and not of sands, and their smallness renders it extremely
improbable that the pluvial waters should unite in a permanent lake.
Perhaps the fresh water of this chain of rocks comes from the
neighbouring coast, from the mountains of Cuba, by the effect of
hydrostatic pressure. This would prove a prolongation of the strata of
Jura limestone below the sea and a superposition of coral rock on that
limestone.* (* Eruptions of fresh water in the sea, near Baiae,
Syracuse and Aradus (in Phenicia) were known to the ancients. Strabo
lib. 16 page 754. The coral islands that surround Radak, especially
the low island of Otdia, furnish also fresh water. Chamisso in
Kotzebue's Entdekkungs-Reise volume 3 page 108.)

It is too general a prejudice to consider every source of fresh or
salt water to be merely a local phenomenon: currents of water
circulate in the interior of lands between strata of rocks of a
particular density or nature, at immense distances, like the floods
that furrow the surface of the globe. The learned engineer, Don
Francisco Le Maur, informed me that in the bay of Xagua, half a degree
east of the Jardinillos, there issue in the middle of the sea, springs
of fresh water, two leagues and a half from the coast. These springs
gush up with such force that they cause an agitation of the water
often dangerous for small canoes. Vessels that are not going to Xagua
sometimes take in water from these ocean springs and the water is
fresher and colder in proportion to the depth whence it is drawn. The
manatees, guided by instinct, have discovered this region of fresh
waters; and the fishermen who like the flesh of these herbivorous
animals,* find them in abundance in the open sea. (* Possibly they
subsist upon sea-weed in the ocean, as we saw them feed, on the banks
of the Apure and the Orinoco, on several species of Panicum and
Oplismenus (camalote?). It appears common enough, on the coast of
Tabasco and Honduras, at the mouths of rivers, to find the manatees
swimming in the sea, as crocodiles do sometimes. Dampier distinguishes
between the fresh-water and the salt-water manatee. (Voyages and
Descr. volume 2) Among the Cayos de las doce leguas, east of Xagua,
some islands bear the name of Meganos del Manati.)

Half a mile east of Cayo Flamenco we passed close to two rocks on
which the waves break furiously. They are the Piedras de Diego Perez
(latitude 21 degrees 58 minutes 10 seconds.) The temperature of the
sea at its surface lowers at this point to 22.6 degrees centigrade,
the depth of the water being only about one fathom. In the evening we
went on shore at Cayo de Piedras; two rocks connected together by
breakers and lying in the direction of north-north-west to
south-south-east. On these rocks which form the eastern extremity of
the Jardinillos many vessels are lost, and they are almost destitute
of shrubs because shipwrecked crews cut them to make fire-signals. The
Cayo de Piedras is extremely precipitous on the side near the sea; and
towards the middle there is a small basin of fresh water. We found a
block of madrepore in the rock, measuring upwards of three cubic feet.
Doubtless this limestone formation, which at a distance resembles Jura
limestone, is a fragmentary rock. It would be well if this chain of
cayos which surrounds the island of Cuba were examined by geologists
with the view of determining what may be attributed to the animals
which still work at the bottom of the sea, and what belongs to the
real tertiary formations, the age of which may be traced back to the
date of the coarse limestone abounding in remains of lithophite coral.
In general, that which rises above the waters is only breccia, or
aggregate of madreporic fragments cemented by carbonate of lime,
broken shells, and sand. It is important to examine, in each of the
cayos, on what this breccia reposes; whether it covers edifices of
mollusca still living, or those secondary and tertiary rocks, which
judging from the remains of coral they contain, seem to be the product
of our days. The gypsum of the cayos opposite San Juan de los
Remedios, on the northern coast of the island of Cuba, merits great
attention. Its age is doubtless more remote than historic times, and
no geologist will believe that it is the work of the mollusca of our

From the Cayo de Piedras we could faintly discern in the direction of
east-north-east the lofty mountains that rise beyond the bay of Xagua.
During the night we again lay at anchor; and next day (12th March),
having passed between the northern cape of the Cayo de Piedras and the
island of Cuba, we entered a sea free from breakers. Its blue colour
(a dark indigo tint) and the heightening of the temperature proved how
much the depth of the water had augmented. We tried, under favour of
the variable winds on sea and shore, to steer eastward as far as the
port of La Trinidad so that we might be less opposed by the north-east
winds which then prevail in the open sea, in making the passage to
Carthagena, of which the meridian falls between Santiago de Cuba and
the bay of Guantanamo. Having passed the marshy coast of Camareos,* (*
Here the celebrated philanthropist Bartolomeo de las Casas obtained in
1514 from his friend Velasquez, the governor, a good repartimiente de
Indios (grant of land so called). But this he renounced in the same
year, from scruples of conscience, during a short stay at Jamaica.) we
arrived (latitude 21 degrees 50 minutes) in the meridian of the
entrance of the Bahia de Xagua. The longitude the chronometer gave me
at this point was almost identical with that since published (in 1821)
in the map of the Deposito hidrografico of Madrid.

The port of Xagua is one of the finest but least frequented of the
island. "There cannot be another such in the world," is the remark of
the Coronista major (Antonio de Herrera). The surveys and plans of
defence made by M. Le Maur, at the time of the commission of Count
Jaruco, prove that the anchorage of Xagua merits the celebrity it
acquired even in the first years of the conquest. The town consists
merely of a small group of houses and a fort (castillito.) On the east
of Xagua, the mountains (Cerros de San Juan) near the coast, assume an
aspect more and more majestic; not from their height, which does not
seem to exceed three hundred toises, but from their steepness and
general form. The coast, I was told, is so steep that a frigate may
approach the mouth of the Rio Guaurabo. When the temperature of the
air diminished at night to 23 degrees and the wind blew from the land
it brought that delicious odour of flowers and honey which
characterizes the shores of the island of Cuba.* (* Cuban wax, which
is a very important object of trade, is produced by the bees of Europe
(the species Apis, Latr.). Columbus says expressly that in his time
the inhabitants of Cuba did not collect wax. The great loaf of that
substance which he found in the island in his first voyage, and
presented to King Ferdinand in the celebrated audience of Barcelona,
was afterwards ascertained to have been brought thither by Mexican
barques from Yucatan. It is curious that the wax of melipones was the
first production of Mexico that fell into the hands of the Spaniards,
in the month of November, 1492.) We sailed along the coast keeping two
or three miles distant from land. On the 13th March a little before
sunset we were opposite the mouth of the Rio San Juan, so much dreaded
by navigators on account of the innumerable quantity of mosquitos and
zancudos which fill the atmosphere. It is like the opening of a
ravine, in which vessels of heavy burden might enter, but that a shoal
(placer) obstructs the passage. Some horary angles gave me the
longitude 82 degrees 40 minutes 50 seconds for this port which is
frequented by the smugglers of Jamaica and the corsairs of Providence
Island. The mountains that command the port scarcely rise to 230
toises. I passed a great part of the night on deck. The coast was
dreary and desolate. Not a light announced a fisherman's hut. There is
no village between Batabano and Trinidad, a distance of fifty leagues;
scarcely are there more than two or three corrales or farm yards,
containing hogs or cows. Yet, in the time of Columbus, this territory
was inhabited along the shore. When the ground is dug to make wells,
or when torrents furrow the surface of the earth in floods, stone
hatchets and copper utensils* are often discovered; these are remains
of the ancient inhabitants of America. (* Doubtless the copper of
Cuba. The abundance of this metal in its native state would naturally
induce the Indians of Cuba and Hayti to melt it. Columbus says that
there were masses of native copper at Hayti, of the weight of six
arrobas; and that the boats of Yucatan, which he met with on the
eastern coast of Cuba, carried, among other Mexican merchandize,
crucibles to melt copper.)

At sunrise I requested the captain to heave the lead. There was no
bottom to be found at sixty fathoms; and the ocean was warmer at its
surface than anywhere else; it was at 26.8 degrees; the temperature
exceeded 4.2 degrees that which we had found near the breakers of
Diego Perez. At the distance of half a mile from the coast, the sea
water was not more than 2.5 degrees; we had no opportunity of sounding
but the depth of the water had no doubt diminished. On the 14th of
March we entered the Rio Guaurabo, one of the two ports of Trinidad de
Cuba, to put on shore the practico, or pilot of Batabano, who had
steered us across the flats of the Jardinillos, though not without
causing us to run aground several times. We also hoped to find a
packet-boat (correo maritimo) in this port, which would take us to
Carthagena. I landed towards the evening, and placed Borda's azimuth
compass and the artificial horizon on the shore for the purpose of
observing the passage of some stars by the meridian; but we had
scarcely begun our preparations when a party of small traders of the
class called pulperos, who had dined on board a foreign ship recently
arrived, invited us to accompany them to the town. These good people
requested us mount two by two on the same horse; and, as the heat was
excessive, we accepted their offer. The distance from the mouth of the
Rio Guaurabo to Trinidad is nearly four miles in a north-west
direction. The road runs across a plain which seems as if it had been
levelled by a long sojourn of the waters. It is covered with
vegetation, to which the miraguama, a palm-tree with silvered leaves
(which we saw here for the first time), gives a peculiar character.*
(* Corypha miraguama. Probably the same species which struck Messrs.
John and William Fraser (father and son) in the vicinity of Matanzas.
Those two botanists, who introduced a great number of valuable plants
to the gardens of Europe, were shipwrecked on their voyage to the
Havannah from the United States, and saved themselves with difficulty
on the cayos at the entrance of the Old Channel, a few weeks before my
departure for Carthagena.) This fertile soil, although of tierra
colorada, requires only to be tilled and it would yield fruitful
harvests. A very picturesque view opens westward on the Lomas of San
Juan, a chain of calcareous mountains from 1800 to 2000 toises high
and very steep towards the south. Their bare and barren summits form
sometimes round blocks; and here and there rise up in points like
horns,* a little inclined. (* Wherever the rock is visible I perceived
compact limestone, whitish-grey, partly porous and partly with a
smooth fracture, as in the Jura formation.) Notwithstanding the great
lowering of the temperature during the season of the Nortes or north
winds, snow never falls; and only a hoar-frost (escarcha) is seen on
these mountains, as on those of Santiago. This absence of snow is
difficult to be explained. In emerging from the forest we perceived a
curtain of hills of which the southern slope is covered with houses;
this is the town of Trinidad, founded in 1514, by the governor Diego
Velasquez, on account of the rich mines of gold which were said to
have been discovered in the little valley of Rio Arimao.* (* This
river flows towards the east into the Bahia de Xagua.) The streets of
Trinidad have all a rapid descent: there, as in most parts of Spanish
America, it is complained that the Couquistadores chose very
injudiciously the sites for new towns.* (* It is questionable whether
the town founded by Velasquez was not situated in the plain and nearer
the ports of Casilda and Guaurabo. It has been suggested that the fear
of the French, Portuguese and English freebooters led to the
selection, even in inland places, of sites on the declivity of
mountains, whence, as from a watch-tower, the approach of the enemy
could be discerned; but it seems to me that these fears could have had
no existence prior to the government of Hernando de Soto. The Havannah
was sacked for the first time by French corsairs in 1539.) At the
northern extremity is the church of Nuestra Senora de la Popa, a
celebrated place of pilgrimage. This point I found to be 700 feet
above the level of the sea; it commands a magnificent view of the
ocean, the two ports (Puerto Casilda and Boca Guaurabo), a forest of
palm-trees and the group of the lofty mountains of San Juan. We were
received at the town of Trinidad with the kindest hospitality by Senor
Munoz, the Superintendent of the Real Hacienda. I made observations
during a great part of the night and found the latitude near the
cathedral by the Spica Virginis, alpha of the Centaur, and beta of the
Southern Cross, under circumstances not equally favourable, to be 21
degrees 48 minutes 20 seconds. My chronometric longitude was 82
degrees 21 minutes 7 seconds. I was informed at my second visit to the
Havannah, in returning from Mexico, that this longitude was nearly
identical with that obtained by the captain of a frigate, Don Jose del
Rio, who had long resided on that spot; but that he marked the
latitude of the town at 21 degrees 42 minutes 40 seconds.

The Lieutenant-Governor (Teniente Governadore) of Trinidad, whose
jurisdiction then extended to Villa Clara, Principe and Santo
Espiritu, was nephew to the celebrated astronomer Don Antonio Ulloa.
He gave us a grand entertainment, at which we met some French
emigrants from San Domingo who had brought their talents and industry
to Spanish America. The exportation of the sugar of Trinidad, by the
registers of the custom-house, did not then exceed 4000 chests.

The advantage of having two ports is often discussed at Trinidad. The
distance of the town from Puerto de Casilda and Puerto Guaurabo is
nearly equal; yet the expense of transport is greatest in the former
port. The Boca del Rio Guaurabo, defended by a new battery, furnishes
safe anchorage, although less sheltered than that of Puerto Casilda.
Vessels that draw little water or are lightened to pass the bar, can
go up the river and approach the town within a mile. The packet-boats
(correos) that touch at Trinidad de Cuba prefer, in general, the Rio
Guaurabo, where they find safe anchorage without needing a pilot. The
Puerto Casilda is more inclosed and goes further back inland but
cannot be entered without a pilot, on account of the breakers
(arrecifes) and the Mulas and Mulattas. The great mole, constructed
with wood, and very useful to commerce, was damaged in discharging
pieces of artillery. It is entirely destroyed, and it was undecided
whether it would be best to reconstruct it with masonry, according to
the project of Don Luis de Bassecourt, or to open the bar of Guaurabo
by dredging it. The great disadvantage of Puerto de Casilda is the
want of fresh water, which vessels have to procure at the distance of
a league.

We passed a very agreeable evening in the house of one of the richest
inhabitants, Don Antonio Padron, where we found assembled at a
tertulia all the good company of Trinidad. We were again struck with
the gaiety and vivacity that distinguish the women of Cuba. These are
happy gifts of nature to which the refinements of European
civilization might lend additional charms but which, nevertheless,
please in their primitive simplicity. We quitted Trinidad on the night
of the 15th March. The municipality caused us to be conducted to the
mouth of the Rio Guaurabo in a fine carriage lined with old crimson
damask; and, to add to our confusion, an ecclesiastic, the poet of the
place, habited in a suit of velvet notwithstanding the heat of the
climate, celebrated, in a sonnet, our voyage to the Orinoco.

On the road leading to the port we were forcibly struck by a spectacle
which our stay of two years in the hottest part of the tropics might
have rendered familiar to us; but previously I had nowhere seen such
an innumerable quantity of phosphorescent insects.* (* Cocuyo, Elater
noctilucus.) The grass that overspread the ground, the branches and
foliage of the trees, all shone with that reddish and moveable light
which varies in its intensity at the will of the animal by which it is
produced. It seemed as though the starry firmament reposed on the
savannah. In the hut of the poorest inhabitants of the country,
fifteen cocuyos, placed in a calabash pierced with holes, afford
sufficient light to search for anything during the night. To shake the
calabash forcibly is all that is necessary to excite the animal to
increase the intensity of the luminous discs situated on each side of
its body. The people of the country remark, with a simple truth of
expression, that calabashes filled with cocuyos are lanterns always
ready lighted. They are, in fact, only extinguished by the sickness or
death of the insects, which are easily fed with a little sugar-cane. A
young woman at Trinidad de Cuba told us that during a long and
difficult passage from the main land, she always made use of the
phosphorescence of the cocuyos, when she gave suck to her child at
night; the captain of the ship would allow no other light on board,
from the fear of corsairs.

As the breeze freshened in the direction of north-east we sought to
avoid the group of the Caymans but the current drove us towards those
islands. Sailing to south 1/4 south-east, we gradually lost sight of
the palm-covered shore, the hills rising above the town of Trinidad
and the lofty mountains of the island of Cuba. There is something
solemn in the aspect of land from which the voyager is departing and
which he sees sinking by degrees below the horizon of the sea. The
interest of this impression was heightened at the period to which I
here advert; when Saint Domingo was the centre of great political
agitations, and threatened to involve the other islands in one of
those sanguinary struggles which reveal to man the ferocity of his
nature. These threatened dangers were happily averted; the storm was
appeased on the spot which gave it birth; and a free black population,
far from troubling the peace of the neighbouring islands, has made
some steps in the progress of civilization and has promoted the
establishment of good institutions. Porto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica, with
370,000 whites and 885,000 men of colour, surround Hayti, where a
population of 900,000 negros and mulattos have been emancipated by
their own efforts. The negros, more inclined to cultivate alimentary
plants than colonial productions, augment with a rapidity only
surpassed by the increase of the population of the United States.



On the morning of the 17th of March, we came within sight of the most
eastern island of the group of the Lesser Caymans. Comparing the
reckoning with the chronometric longitude, I ascertained that the
currents had borne us in seventeen hours twenty miles westward. The
island is called by the English pilots Cayman-brack, and by the
Spanish pilots, Cayman chico oriental. It forms a rocky wall, bare and
steep towards the south and south-east. The north and north-west part
is low, sandy, and scantily covered with vegetation. The rock is
broken into narrow horizontal ledges. From its whiteness and its
proximity to the island of Cuba, I supposed it to be of Jura
limestone. We approached the eastern extremity of Cayman-brack within
the distance of 400 toises. The neighbouring coast is not entirely
free from danger and breakers; yet the temperature of the sea had not
sensibly diminished at its surface. The chronometer of Louis Berthoud
gave me 82 degrees 7 minutes 37 seconds for the longitude of the
eastern cape of Cayman-brack. The latitude reduced by the reckoning on
the rhumbs of wind at the meridian observation, appeared to me to be
19 degrees 40 minutes 50 seconds.

As long as we were within sight of the rock of Cayman-brack
sea-turtles of extraordinary dimensions swam round our vessel. The
abundance of these animals led Columbus to give the whole group of the
Caymans the name of Penascales de las Tortugas (rocks of the turtles.)
Our sailors would have thrown themselves into the water to catch some
of these animals; but the numerous sharks that accompany them rendered
the attempt too perilous. The sharks fixed their jaws on great iron
hooks which were flung to them; these hooks were very sharp and (for
want of anzuelos encandenados* (* Fish-hooks with chains.)) they were
tied to cords: the sharks were in this manner drawn up half the length
of their bodies; and we were surprised to see that those which had
their mouths wounded and bleeding continued to seize the bait over and
over again during several hours.* (* Vidimus quoque squales,
quotiescunque, hamo icti, dimidia parte corporis e fluctibus
extrahebantur, cito alvo stercus emittere haud absimile excrementis
caninis. Commovebat intestina (ut arbitramur) subitus pavor. Although
the form and number of teeth change with age, and the teeth appear
successively in the shark genus, I doubt whether Don Antonio Ulloa be
correct in stating that the young sharks have two, and the old ones
four rows of grinders. These, like many other sea-fish, are easily
accustomed to live in fresh water, or in water slightly briny. It is
observed that sharks (tiburones) abound of late in the Laguna of
Maracaybo, whither they have been attracted by the dead bodies thrown
into the water after the frequent battles between the Spanish
royalists and the Columbian republicans.) At the sight of these
voracious fish the sailors in a Spanish vessel always recollect the
local fable of the coast of Venezuela, which describes the benediction
of a bishop as having softened the habits of the sharks, which are
everywhere else the dread of mariners. Do these wild sharks of the
port of La Guayra specifically differ from those which are so
formidable in the port of the Havannah? And do the former belong to
the group of Emissoles with small sharp teeth, which Cuvier
distinguishes from the Melandres, by the name of Musteli?

The wind freshened more and more from the south-east, as we advanced
in the direction of Cape Negril and the western extremity of the great
bank of La Vibora. We were often forced to diverge from our course;
and, on account of the extreme smallness of our vessel, we were almost
constantly under water. On the 18th of March at noon we found
ourselves in latitude 18 degrees 17 minutes 40 seconds, and in 81
degrees 50 minutes longitude. The horizon, to the height of 50
degrees, was covered with those reddish vapours so common within the
tropics, and which never seem to affect the hygrometer at the surface
of the globe. We passed fifty miles west of Cape Negril on the south,
nearly at the point where several charts indicate an insulated flat of
which the position is similar to that of Sancho Pardo, opposite to
Cape San Antonio de Cuba. We saw no change in the bottom. It appears
that the rocky shoal at a depth of four fathoms, near Cape Negril, has
no more existence than the rock (cascabel) itself, long believed to
mark the western extremity of La Vibora (Pedro Bank, Portland Rock or
la Sola), marking the eastern extremity. On the 19th of March, at four
in the afternoon, the muddy colour of the sea denoted that we had
reached that part of the bank of La Vibora where we no longer find
fifteen, and indeed scarcely nine or ten, fathoms of water. Our
chronometric longitude was 81 degrees 3 minutes; and our latitude
probably below 17 degrees. I was surprised that, at the noon
observation, at 17 degrees 7 minutes of latitude, we yet perceived no
change in the colour of the water. Spanish vessels going from Batabano
or Trinidad de Cuba to Carthagena, usually pass over the bank of La
Vibora, on its western side, at between fifteen and sixteen fathoms
water. The dangers of the breakers begin only beyond the meridian 80
degrees 45 minutes west longitude. In passing along the bank on its
southern limit, as pilots often do in proceeding from Cumana or other
parts of the mainland, to the Great Caymnan or Cape San Antonio, they
need not ascend along the rocks, above 16 degrees 47 minutes latitude.
Fortunately the currents run on the whole bank to south-west.

Considering La Vibora not as a submerged land, but as a heaved-up part
of the surface of the globe, which has not reached the level of the
sea, we are struck at finding on this great submarine island, as on
the neighbouring land of Jamaica and Cuba, the loftiest heights
towards its eastern boundary. In that direction are situated Portland
Rock, Pedro Keys and South Key, all surrounded by dangerous breakers.
The depth is six or eight fathoms; but, in advancing to the middle of
the bank, along the line of the summit, first towards the west and
then towards the north-west, the depth becomes successively ten,
twelve, sixteen and nineteen fathoms. When we survey on the map the
proximity of the high lands of San Domingo, Cuba and Jamaica, in the
neighbourhood of the Windward Channel, the position of the island of
Navaza and the bank of Hormigas, between Capes Tiburon and Morant;
when we trace that chain of successive breakers, from the Vibora, by
Baxo Nuevo, Serranilla, and Quita Sueno, as far as the Mosquito Sound,
we cannot but recognize in this system of islands and shoals the
almost-continued line of a heaved-up ridge running from north-east to
south-west. This ridge, and the old dyke, which link, by the rock of
Sancho Pardo, Cape San Antonio to the peninsula of Yucatan, divide the
great sea of the West Indies into three partial basins, similar to
those observed in the Mediterranean.

The colour of the troubled waters on the shoal of La Vibora has not a
milky appearance like the waters in the Jardinillos and on the bank of
Bahama; but it is of a dirty grey colour. The striking differences of
tint on the bank of Newfoundland, in the archipelago of the Bahama
Islands and on La Vibora, the variable quantities of earthy matter
suspended in the more or less troubled waters of the soundings, may
all be the effects of the variable absorption of the rays of light,
contributing to modify to a certain point the temperature of the sea.
Where the shoals are 8 to 10 degrees colder at their surface than the
surrounding sea, it cannot be surprising that they should produce a
local change of climate. A great mass of very cold water, as on the
bank of Newfoundland, in the current of the Peruvian shore (between
the port of Callao and Punta Parina* (* I found the surface of the
Pacific ocean, in the month of October 1802 on the coast of Truxillo,
15.8 degrees centigrade; in the port of Callao, in November, 15.5;
between the parallel of Callao and Punta Parina, in December, 19
degrees; and progressively, when the current advanced towards the
equator and receded towards the west-north-west, 20.5 and 22.3
degrees)), or in the African current near Cape Verd, have necessarily
an influence on the atmosphere that covers the sea, and on the climate
of the neighbouring land; but it is less easy to conceive that those
slight changes of temperature (for instance, a centesimal degree on
the bank of La Vibora) can impart a peculiar character to the
atmosphere of the shoals. May not these submarine islands act upon the
formation and accumulation of the vesicular vapours in some other way
than by cooling the waters of the surface?

Quitting the bank of La Vibora, we passed between the Baxo Nuevo and
the light-house of Camboy; and on the 22nd March we passed more than
thirty leagues to westward of El Roncador (The Snorer), a name which
this shoal has received from the pilots who assert, on the authority
of ancient traditions, that a sound like snoring is heard from afar.
If such a sound be really heard, it arises, no doubt, from a
periodical issuing of air compressed by the waters in a rocky cavern.
I have observed the same phenomenon on several coasts, for instance,
on the promontories of Teneriffe, in the limestones of the Havannah,*
(* Called by the Spanish sailors El Cordonazo de San Francisco.) and
in the granite of Lower Peru between Truxillo and Lima. A project was
formed at the Canary Islands for placing a machine at the issue of the
compressed air and allowing the sea to act as an impelling force.
While the autumnal equinox is everywhere dreaded in the sea of the
West Indies (except on the coast of Cumana and Caracas), the spring
equinox produces no effect on the tranquillity of those tropical
regions: a phenomenon almost the inverse of that observable in high
latitudes. Since we had quitted La Vibora the weather had been
remarkably fine; the colour of the sea was indigo-blue and sometimes
violet, owing to the quantity of medusae and eggs of fish (purga de
mar) which covered it. Its surface was gently agitated. The
thermometer kept up, in the shade, from 26 to 27 degrees; not a cloud
arose on the horizon although the wind was constantly north, or
north-north-west. I know not whether to attribute to this wind, which
cools the higher layers of the atmosphere, and there produces icy
crystals, the halos which were formed round the moon two nights
successively. The halos were of small dimensions, 45 degrees diameter.
I never had an opportunity of seeing and measuring any* of which the
diameter had attained 90 degrees. (* In Captain Parry's first voyage
halos were measured round the sun and moon, of which the rays were 22
1/2 degrees; 22 degrees 52 minutes; 38 degrees; 46 degrees. North-west
Passage, 1821.) The disappearance of one of those lunar halos was
followed by the formation of a great black cloud, from which fell some
drops of rain; but the sky soon resumed its fixed serenity, and we saw
a long series of falling-stars and bolides which moved in one
direction and contrary to that of the wind of the lower strata.

On the 23rd March, a comparison of the reckoning with the chronometric
longitude, indicated the force of a current bearing towards
west-south-west. Its swiftness, in the parallel of 17 degrees, was
twenty to twenty-two miles in twenty-four hours. I found the
temperature of the sea somewhat diminished; in latitude 12 degrees 35
minutes it was only 25.9 degrees (air 27.0 degrees). During the whole
day the firmament exhibited a spectacle which was thought remarkable
even by the sailors and which I had observed on a previous occasion
(June 13th, 1799). There was a total absence of clouds, even of those
light vapours called dry; yet the sun coloured, with a fine rosy tint,
the air and the horizon of the sea. Towards night the sea was covered
with great bluish clouds; and when they disappeared we saw, at an
immense height, fleecy clouds in regular spaces, and ranged in
convergent bands. Their direction was from north-north-west to
south-south-east, or more exactly, north 20 degrees west, consequently
contrary to the direction of the magnetic meridian.

On the 24th March we entered the gulf which is bounded on the east by
the coast of Santa Marta, and on the west by Costa Rica; for the mouth
of the Magdalena and that of the Rio San Juan de Nicaragua are on the
same parallel, nearly 11 degrees latitude. The proximity of the
Pacific Ocean, the configuration of the neighbouring lands, the
smallness of the isthmus of Panama, the lowering of the soil between
the gulf of Papagayo and the port of San Juan de Nicaragua, the
vicinity of the snowy mountains of Santa Marta, and many other
circumstances too numerous to mention, combine to create a peculiar
climate in this gulf. The atmosphere is agitated by violent gales
known in winter by the name of the brizotes de Santa Marta. When the
wind abates, the currents bear to north-east, and the conflict between
the slight breezes (from east and north-east) and the current renders
the sea rough and agitated. In calm weather, the vessels going from
Carthagena to Rio Sinu, at the mouth of the Atrato and at Portobello,
are impeded in their course by the currents of the coast. The heavy or
brizote winds, on the contrary, govern the movement of the waters,
which they impel in an opposite direction, towards west-south-west. It
is the latter movement which Major Rennell, in his great hydrographic
work, calls drift; and he distinguishes it from real currents, which
are not owing to the local action of the wind, but to differences of
level in the surface of the ocean; to the rising and accumulation of
waters in very distant latitudes. The observations which I have
collected on the force and direction of the winds, on the temperature
and rapidity of the currents, on the influence of the seasons, or the
variable declination of the sun, have thrown some light on the
complicated system of those pelagic floods that furrow the surface of
the ocean: but it is less easy to conceive the causes of the change in
the movement of the waters at the same season and with the same wind.
Why is the Gulf-stream sometimes borne on the coast of Florida,
sometimes on the border of the shoal of Bahama? Why do the waters
flow, for the space of whole weeks, from the Havannah to Matanzas, and
(to cite an example of the corriente por arriba, which is sometimes
observed in the most eastern part of the main land during the
prevalence of gentle winds) from La Guayra to Cape Codera and Cumana?

As we advanced, on the 25th of March, towards the coast of Darien, the
north-east wind increased with violence. We might have imagined
ourselves transported to another climate. The sea became very rough
during the night yet the temperature of the water kept up (from
latitude 10 degrees 30 minutes, to 9 degrees 47 minutes) at 25.8
degrees. We perceived at sunrise a part of the archipelago* of Saint
Bernard, which closes the gulf of Morrosquillo on the north. (* It is
composed of the islands Mucara, Ceycen, Maravilla, Tintipan, Panda,
Palma, Mangles, and Salamanquilla, which rise little above the sea.
Several of them have the form of a bastion. There are two passages in
the middle of this archipelago, from seventeen to twenty fathoms.
Large vessels can pass between the Isla Panda and Tintipan, and
between the Isla de Mangles and Palma.) A clear spot between the
clouds enabled me to take the horary angles. The chronometer, at the
little island of Mucara, gave longitude 78 degrees 13 minutes 54
seconds. We passed on the southern extremity of the Placer de San
Bernardo. The waters were milky, although a sounding of twenty-five
fathoms did not indicate the bottom; the cooling of the water was not
felt, doubtless owing to the rapidity of the current. Above the
archipelago of Saint Bernard and Cape Boqueron we saw in the distance
the mountains of Tigua. The stormy weather and the difficulty of going
up against the wind induced the captain of our frail vessel to seek
shelter in the Rio Sinu, or rather, near the Punta del Zapote,
situated on the eastern bank of the Ensenada de Cispata, into which
flows the river Sinu or the Zenu of the early Conquistadores. It
rained with violence, and I availed myself of that occasion to measure
the temperature of the rain-water: it was 26.3 degrees, while the
thermometer in the air kept up, in a place where the bulb was not wet,
at 24.8 degrees. This result differed much from that we had obtained
at Cumana, where the rain-water was often a degree colder than the
air.* (* As, within the tropics, it takes but little time to collect
some inches of water in a vase having a wide opening, and narrowing
towards the bottom, I do not think there can be any error in the
observation, when the heat of the rain-water differs from that of the
air. If the heat of the rain-water be less than that of the air it may
be presumed that only a part of the total effect is observed. I often
found at Mexico at the end of June, the rain at 19.2 or 19.4 degrees,
when the air was at 17.8 and 18 degrees. In general it appeared to me
that, within the torrid zone, either at the level of the sea, or on
table-lands from 1200 to 1500 toises high, there is no rain but that
during storms, which falls in large drops very distant from each
other, and is sensibly colder than the air. These drops bring with
them, no doubt, the low temperature of the high regions. In the rain
which I found hotter than the air, two causes may act simultaneously.
Great clouds heat by the absorption of the rays of the sun which
strike their surface; and the drops of water in falling cause an
evaporation and produce cold in the air. The temperature of
rain-water, to which I devoted much attention during my travels, has
become a more important problem since M. Boisgiraud, Professor of
Experimental Philosophy at Poitiers, has proved that in Europe rain is
generally sufficiently cold, relatively to the air, to cause
precipitation of vapour at the surface of every drop. From this fact
he traces the cause of the unequal quantity of rain collected at
different heights. When we recollect that one degree only of cooling
precipitates more water in the hot climate of the tropics, than by a
temperature of 10 to 13 degrees, we may cease to be surprised at the
enormous size of the drops of rain that fall at Cumana, Carthagena and

Our passage from the island of Cuba to the coast of South America
terminated at the mouth of the Rio Sinu, and it occupied sixteen days.
The roadstead near the Punta del Zapote afforded very bad anchorage;
and in a rough sea, and with a violent wind, we found some difficulty
in reaching the coast in our canoe. Everything denoted that we had
entered a wild region rarely visited by strangers. A few scattered
houses form the village of Zapote: we found a great number of mariners
assembled under a sort of shed, all men of colour, who had descended
the Rio Sinu in their barks, to carry maize, bananas, poultry and
other provisions to the port of Carthagena. These barks, which are
from fifty to eighty feet long, belong for the most part to the
planters (haciendados) of Lorica. The value of their largest freight
amounts to about 2000 piastres. These boats are flat-bottomed, and
cannot keep at sea when it is very rough. The breezes from the
north-east had, during ten days, blown with violence on the coast,
while, in the open sea, as far as 10 degrees latitude, we had only had
slight gales, and a constantly calm sea. In the aerial, as in the
pelagic currents, some layers of fluids move with extreme swiftness,
while others near them remain almost motionless. The zambos of the Rio
Sinu wearied us with idle questions respecting the purpose of our
voyage, our books, and the use of our instruments: they regarded us
with mistrust; and to escape from their importunate curiosity we went
to herborize in the forest, although it rained. They had endeavoured,
as usual, to alarm us by stories of boas (traga-venado), vipers and
the attacks of jaguars; but during a long residence among the Chayma
Indians of the Orinoco we were habituated to these exaggerations,
which arise less from the credulity of the natives, than from the
pleasure they take in tormenting the whites. Quitting the coast of
Zapote, covered with mangroves,* (* Rhizophora mangle.) we entered a
forest remarkable for a great variety of palm-trees. We saw the trunks
of the Corozo del Sinu* pressed against each other, which formed
heretofore our species Alfonsia, yielding oil in abundance (* In
Spanish America palm-trees with leaves the most different in kind and
species are called Corozo: the Corozo del Sinu, with a short, thick,
glossy trunk, is the Elaeis melanococca of Martius, Palm. page 64 tab.
33, 55. I cannot believe it to be identical with the Elaeis guineensis
(Herbal of Congo River page 37) since it vegetates spontaneously in
the forests of the Rio Sinu. The Corozo of Caripe is slender, small
and covered with thorns; it approaches the Cocos aculeata of Jacquin.
The Corozo de los Marinos of the valley of Cauca, one of the tallest
palm-trees, is the Cocus butyracea of Linnaeus.); the Cocos butyracea,
called here palma dolce or palma real, and very different from the
palma real of the island of Cuba; the palma amarga, with fan-leaves
that serve to cover the roofs of houses, and the latta,* (* Perhaps of
the species of Aiphanes.) resembling the small piritu palm-tree of the
Orinoco. This variety of palm-trees was remarked by the first
Conquistadores.* (* Pedro de Cieca de Leon, a native of Seville, who
travelled in 1531, at the age of thirteen years, in the countries I
have described, observes that Las tierras comarcanas del Rio Cenu y
del Golfo de Uraba estan llena de unos palmares muy grandes y
espessos, que son unos arboles gruessos, y llevan unas ramas como
palma de datiles. [The lands adjacent to the Rio Cenu and the Gulf of
Uraba are full of very tall, spreading palm-trees. They are of vast
size and are branched like the date-palm.] See La Cronica del Peru
nuevamenta escrita, Antwerp 1554 pages 21 and 204.) The Alfonsia, or
rather the species of Elais, which we had nowhere else seen, is only
six feet high, with a very large trunk; and the fecundity of its
spathes is such that they contain more than 200,000 flowers. Although
a great number of those flowers (one tree bearing 600,000 at the same
time) never come to maturity,* the soil remains covered with a thick
layer of fruits. (* I have carefully counted how many flowers are
contained in a square inch on each amentum, from 100 to 120 of which
are found united in one spathe.) We often made a similar observation
under the shade of the mauritia palm-tree, the Cocos butyracea, the
Seje and the Pihiguao of the Atabapo. No other family of arborescent
plants is so prolific in the development of the organs of flowering.
The almond of the Corozo del Sinu is peeled in the water. The thick
layer of oil that swims in the water is purified by boiling, and
yields the butter of Corozo (manteca de Corozo) which is thicker than
the oil of the cocoa-tree, and serves to light churches and houses.
The palm-trees of the section of Cocoinies of Mr. Brown are the
olive-trees of the tropical regions. As we advanced in the forest, we
began to find little pathways, looking as though they had been
recently cleared out by the hatchet. Their windings displayed a great
number of new plants: Mougeotia mollis, Nelsonia albicans, Melampodium
paludosum, Jonidium anomalum, Teucrium palustre, Gomphia lucens, and a
new kind of Composees, the Spiracantha cornifolia. A fine Pancratium
embalmed the air in the humid spots, and almost made us forget that
those gloomy and marshy forests are highly dangerous to health.

After an hour's walk we found, in a cleared spot, several inhabitants
employed in collecting palm-tree wine. The dark tint of the zambos
formed a strong contrast with the appearance of a little man with
light hair and a pale complexion who seemed to take no share in the
labour. I thought at first that he was a sailor who had escaped from
some North American vessel; but I was soon undeceived. This
fair-complexioned man was my countryman, born on the coast of the
Baltic; he had served in the Danish navy and had lived for several
years in the upper part of the Rio Sinu, near Santa Cruz de Lorica. He
had come, to use the words of the loungers of the country para ver
tierras, y pasear, no mas (to see other lands, and to roam about,
nothing else.) The sight of a man who could speak to him of his
country seemed to have no attraction for him; and, as he had almost
forgotten German without being able to express himself clearly in
Spanish, our conversation was not very animated. During the five years
of my travels in Spanish America I found only two opportunities of
speaking my native language. The first Prussian I met with was a
sailor from Memel who served on board a ship from Halifax, and who
refused to make himself known till after he had fired some musket-shot
at our boat. The second, the man we met at the Rio Sinu, was very
amicably disposed. Without answering my questions he continued
repeating, with a smile, that the country was hot and humid; that the
houses in the town of Pomerania were finer than those of Santa Cruz de
Lorica; and that, if we remained in the forest, we should have the
tertian fever (calentura) from which he had long suffered. We had some
difficulty in testifying our gratitude to this good man for his kind
advice; for according to his somewhat aristocratic principles, a white
man, were he bare-footed, should never accept money "in the presence
of those vile coloured people!" (gente parda). Less disdainful than
our European countryman, we saluted politely the group of men of
colour who were employed in drawing off into large calabashes, or
fruits of the Crescentia cujete, the palm-tree wine from the trunks of
felled trees. We asked them to explain to us this operation, which we
had already seen practised in the missions of the Cataracts. The vine
of the country is the palma dolce, the Cocos butyracea, which, near
Malgar, in the valley of the Magdalena, is called the wine palm-tree,
and here, on account of its majestic height, the royal palm-tree.
After having thrown down the trunk, which diminishes but little
towards the top, they make just below the point whence the leaves
(fronds) and spathes issue, an excavation in the ligneous part,
eighteen inches long, eight broad, and six in depth. They work in the
hollow of the tree, as though they were making a canoe; and three days
afterwards this cavity is found filled with a yellowish-white juice,
very limpid, with a sweet and vinous flavour. The fermentation appears
to commence as soon as the trunk falls, but the vessels preserve their
vitality; for we saw that the sap flowed even when the summit of the
palm-tree (that part whence the leaves sprout out) is a foot higher
than the lower end, near the roots. The sap continues to mount as in
the arborescent Euphorbia recently cut. During eighteen to twenty
days, the palm-tree wine is daily collected; the last is less sweet
but more alcoholic and more highly esteemed. One tree yields as much
as eighteen bottles of sap, each bottle containing forty-two cubic
inches. The natives affirm that the flowing is more abundant when the
petioles of the leaves, which remain fixed to the trunk, are burnt.

The great humidity and thickness of the forest forced us to retrace
our steps and to gain the shore before sunset. In several places the
compact limestone rock, probably of tertiary formation, is visible. A
thick layer of clay and mould rendered observation difficult; but a
shelf of carburetted and shining slate seemed to me to indicate the
presence of more ancient formations. It has been affirmed that coal is
to be found on the banks of the Sinu. We met with Zambos carrying on
their shoulders the cylinders of palmetto, improperly called the
cabbage palm, three feet long and five to six feet thick. The stem of
the palm-tree has been for ages an esteemed article of food in those
countries. I believe it to be wholesome although historians relate
that, when Alonso Lopez de Ayala was governor of Uraba, several
Spaniards died after having eaten immoderately of the palmetto, and at
the same time drinking a great quantity of water. In comparing the
herbaceous and nourishing fibres of the young undeveloped leaves of
the palm-trees with the sago of the Mauritia, of which the Indians
make bread similar to that of the root of the Jatropha manihot, we
involuntarily recollect the striking analogy which modern chemistry
has proved to exist between ligneous matter and the amylaceous fecula.
We stopped on the shore to collect lichens, opegraphas and a great
number of mosses (Boletus, Hydnum, Helvela, Thelephora) that were
attached to the mangroves, and there, to my great surprise,
vegetating, although moistened by the sea-water.

Before I quit this coast, so seldom visited by travellers and
described by no modern voyager, I may here offer some information
which I acquired during my stay at Carthagena. The Rio Sinu in its
upper course approaches the tributary streams of the Atrato which, to
the auriferous and platiniferous province of Choco, is of the same
importance as the Magdalena to Cundinamarca, or the Rio Cauca to the
provinces of Antioquia and Popayan. The three great rivers here
mentioned have heretofore been the only commercial routes, I might
almost add, the only channels of communication for the inhabitants.
The Rio Atrato receives, at twelve leagues distance from its mouth,
the Rio Sucio on the east; the Indian village of San Antonio is
situated on its banks. Proceeding upward beyond the Rio Pabarando, you
arrive in the valley of Sinu. After several fruitless attempts on the
part of the Archbishop Gongora to establish colonies in Darien del
Norte and on the eastern coast of the gulf of Uraba, the Viceroy
Espeleta recommended the Spanish Government to fix its whole attention
on the Rio Sinu; to destroy the colony of Cayman; to fix the planters
in the Spanish village of San Bernardo del Viento in the jurisdiction
of Lorica; and from that post, which is the most westerly, to push
forward the peaceful conquests of agriculture and civilization towards
the banks of the Pabarando, the Rio Sucio and the Atrato.* (* I will
here state some facts which I obtained from official documents during
my stay at Carthagena, and which have not yet been published. In the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the name of Darien was given
vaguely to the whole coast extending from the Rio Damaquiel to the
Punta de San Blas, on 2 1/4 degrees of longitude. The cruelties
exercised by Pedrarias Davila rendered almost inaccessible to the
Spaniards a country which was one of the first they had colonized. The
Indians (Dariens and Cunas-Cunas) remained masters of the coast, as
they still are at Poyais, in the land of the Mosquitos. Some Scotchmen
formed in 1698 the settlements of New Caledonia, New Edinburgh and
Scotch Port, in the most eastern part of the isthmus, a little west of
Punta Carreto. They were soon driven away by the Spaniards but, as the
latter occupied no part of the coast, the Indians continued their
attacks against Choco's boats, which from time to time descended the
Rio Atrato, The sanguinary expedition of Don Manuel de Aldarete in
1729 served only to augment the resentment of the natives. A
settlement for the cultivation of the cocoa-tree, attempted in the
territory of Urabia in 1740 by some French planters under the
protection of the Spanish Government, had no durable success; and the
court, excited by the reports of the archbishop-viceroy, Gongora,
ordered, by the cedule of the 15th August, 1783, either the conversion
and conquest, or the destruction (reduccion o extincion) of the
Indians of Darien. This order, worthy of another age, was executed by
Don Antonio de Arebalo: he experienced little resistance and formed,
in 1785, the four settlements and forts of Cayman on the eastern coast
of the Gulf of Urabia, Concepcion, Carolina and Mandinga. The Lele, or
high-priest of Mandinga, took an oath of fidelity to the King of
Spain; but in 1786 the war with the Darien Indians recommenced and was
terminated by a treaty concluded July 27th, 1787, between the
archbishop-viceroy and the cacique Bernardo. The forts and new
colonies, which figured only on the maps sent to Madrid, augmented the
debt of the treasury of Santa Fe de Bogota, in 1789, to the sum of
1,200,000 piastres. The viceroy, Gil Lemos, wiser than his
predecessor, obtained permission from the Court to abandon Carolina,
Concepcion and Mandinga. The settlement of Cayman only was preserved,
on account of the navigation of the Atrato, and it was declared free,
under the government of the archbishop-viceroy: it was proposed to
transfer this settlement to a more healthy spot, that of Uraba; but
lieutenant-general Don Antonio Arebalo, having proved that the expense
of this removal would amount to the sum of 40,000 piastres, the fort
of Cayman was also destroyed, by order of the viceroy Espeleta in
1791, and the planters were compelled to join those of the village of
San Bernardo.) The number of independent Indians who inhabit the lands
between Uraba, Rio Atrato, Rio Sucio and Rio Sinu was, according to a
census made in 1760, at least 1800. They were distributed in three
small villages, Suraba, Toanequi and Jaraguia. This population was
computed, at the period when I travelled there, to be 3000. The
natives, comprehended in the general name of Caymans, live at peace
with the inhabitants of San Bernardo del Viento (pueblo de Espanoles),
situated on the western bank of the Rio Sinu, lower than San Nicolas
de Zispata, and near the mouth of the river. These people have not the
ferocity of the Darien and Cunas Indians, on the left bank of the
Atrato; who often attack the boats trading with the town of Quidbo in
the Choco; they also make incursions on the territory of Uraba, in the
months of June and November, to collect the fruit of the cacao-trees.
The cacao of Uraba is of excellent quality; and the Darien Indians
sometimes come to sell it, with other productions, to the inhabitants
of Rio Sinu, entering the valley of that river by one of its tributary
streams, the Jaraguai.

It cannot be doubted that the Gulf of Darien was considered, at the
beginning of the sixteenth century, as a nook in the country of the
Caribs. The word Caribana is still preserved in the name of the
eastern cape of that gulf. We know nothing of the languages of the
Darien, Cunas and Cayman Indians: and we know not whether Carib or
Arowak words are found in their idioms; but it is certain,
notwithstanding the testimony of Anghiera on the identity of the race
of the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles and the Indians of Uraba, that
Pedro de Cieca, who lived so long among the latter, never calls them
Caribs nor cannibals. He describes the race of that tribe as being
naked with long hair, and going to the neighbouring countries to
trade; and says the women are cleanly, well dressed and extremely
engaging (amorosas y galanas). "I have not seen," adds the
Conquistador, "any women more beautiful* in all the Indian lands I
have visited: they have one fault, however, that of having too
frequent intercourse with the devil." (* Cronica del Peru pages 21 and
22. The Indians of Darien, Uraba, Zenu (Sinu), Tatabe, the valleys of
Nore and of Guaca, the mountains of Abibe and Antioquia, are accused,
by the same author, of the most ferocious cannibalism; and perhaps
that circumstance alone gives rise to the idea that they were of the
same race as the Caribs of the West Indies. In the celebrated
Provision Real of the 30th of October, 1503, by which the Spaniards
are permitted to make slaves of the anthropophagic Indians of the
archipelago of San Bernardo, opposite the mouth of the Rio Sinu, the
Isla Fuerte, Isla Bura (Baru) and Carthagena, there is more of a
question of morals than of race, and the denomination of Caribs is
altogether avoided. Cieca asserts that the natives of the valley of
Nore seized the women of neighbouring tribes, in order first to devour
the children who were born of the union with foreign wives, and then
the women themselves. Foreseeing that this horrible depravity would
not be believed, although it had been observed by Columbus in the West
Indies, he cites the testimony of Juan de Vadillo, who had observed
the same facts and who was still living in 1554 when the Cronica del
Peru appeared in Dutch. With respect to the etymology of the word
cannibal, it seems to me entirely cleared up by the discovery of the
journal kept by Columbus during his first voyage of discovery, and of
which Bartholomew de las Casas has left us an abridged copy. Dice mas
el Almirante que en las islas passadas estaban con gran temor de
carib: y en algunas los llamaban caniba; pero en la Espanola carib y
son gente arriscada, pues andan por todas estas islas y comen la gente
que pueden haber. [And the Admiral moreover says that in the islands
they passed, great apprehension was entertained on account of the
caribs. Some call them canibas; but in Spanish they are called caribs.
They are a very bold people, and they travel about these islands, and
devour all the persons whom they capture.] Navarete tome 1 page 135.
In this primitive form of words it is easy to perceive that the
permutation of the letters r and n, resulting from the imperfection of
the organs in some nations, might change carib into canib, or caniba.
Geraldini who, according to the tendency of that age, sought, like
Cardinal Bembo, to latinize all barbarous denominations, recognizes in
the Cannibals the manners of dogs (canes) just as St. Louis desired to
send the Tartars ad suas tartareas sedes unde exierint.)

The Rio Sinu, owing to its position and its fertility, is of the
highest importance for provisioning Carthagena. In time of war the
enemy usually stationed their ships between the Morro de Tigua and the
Boca de Matunilla, to intercept barques laden with provisions. In that
station they were, however, sometimes exposed to the attack of the
gun-boats of Carthagena: these gun-boats can pass through the channel
of Pasacaballos which, near Saint Anne, separates the isle of Baru
from the continent. Lorica has, since the sixteenth century, been the
principal town of Rio Sinu; but its population which, in 1778, under
the government of Don Juan Diaz Pimienta, amounted to 4000 souls, has
considerably diminished, because nothing has been done to secure the
town from inundations and the deleterious miasmata they produce.

The gold-washings of the Rio Sinu, heretofore so important above all,
between its source and the village of San Geronimo, have almost
entirely ceased, as well as those of Cienega de Tolu, Uraba and all
the rivers descending from the mountains of Abibe. "The Darien and the
Zenu," says the bachelor Enciso in his geographical work published at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, "is a country so rich in gold
pepites that, in the running waters, that metal can be fished with
nets." Excited by these narratives, the governor Pedrarias sent his
lieutenant, Francisco Becerra, in 1515, to the Rio Sinu. This
expedition was most unfortunate for Becerra and his troop were
massacred by the natives, of whom the Spaniards, according to the
custom of the time, had carried away great numbers to be sold as
slaves in the West Indies. The province of Antioquia now furnishes, in
its auriferous veins, a vast field for mining speculations; but it
might be well worth while to relinquish gold-washings for the
cultivation of colonial productions in the fertile lands of Sinu, the
Rio Damaquiel, the Uraba and the Darien del Norte; above all, that of
cacao, which is of a superior quality. The proximity of the port of
Carthagena would also render the neglected cultivation of cinchona an
object of great importance to European trade. That precious tree
vegetates at the source of the Rio Sinu, as in the mountains of Abibe
and Maria. The real febrifuge cinchona, with a hairy corolla, is
nowhere else found so near the coast, if we except the Sierra Nevada
of Santa Marta.

The Rio Sinu and the Gulf of Darien were not visited by Columbus. The
most eastern point at which that great man touched land, on the 26th
November, 1503, is the Puerto do Retreto, now called Punta de
Escribanos, near the Punta of San Blas, in the isthmus of Panama. Two
years previously, Rodrigo de Bastidas and Alanso do Ojeda, accompanied
by Amerigo Vespucci, had discovered the whole coast of the main land,
from the Gulf of Maracaybo as far as the Puerto de Retreto. Having
often had occasion in the preceding volumes to speak of New Andalusia,
I may here mention that I found that denomination, for the first time,
in the convention made by Alonso de Ojeda with the Conquistador Diego
de Sicuessa, a powerful man, say the historians of his time, because
he was a flattering courtier and a wit. In 1508 all the country from
the Cabo de la Vela to the Gulf of Uraba, where the Castillo del Oro
begins, was called New Andalusia, a name since restricted to the
province of Cumana.

A fortunate chance led me to see, during the course of my travels, the
two extremities of the main land, the mountainous and verdant coast of
Paria, which Columbus supposes to have been the cradle of the human
race, and the low and humid coast extending from the mouth of the Sinu
towards the Gulf of Darien. The comparison of these scenes, which have
again relapsed into a savage state, confirms what I have elsewhere
advanced relative to the strange and sometimes retrograde nature of
civilization in America. On one side, the coast of Paria, the islands
of Cubagua and Marguerita; on the other, the Gulf of Uraba and Darien,
received the first Spanish colonists. Gold and pearls, which were
there found in abundance, because from time immemorial they had been
accumulated in the hands of the natives, gave those countries a
popular celebrity from the beginning of the sixteenth century. At
Seville, Toledo, Pisa, Genoa and Antwerp those countries were viewed
like the realms of Ormuz and of Ind. The pontiffs of Rome mentioned
them in their bulls; and Bembo has celebrated them in those historical
pages which add lustre to the glory of Venice.

At the close of the fifteenth, and the beginning of the sixteenth
century, Europe saw, in those parts of the New World discovered by
Columbus, Ojeda, Vespucci and Rodrigo de Bastidas, only the advanced
capes of the vast territories of India and eastern Asia. The immense
wealth of those territories in gold, diamonds, pearls and spices had
been vaunted in the narratives of Benjamin de Tudela, Rubruquis, Marco
Polo and Mandeville. Columbus, whose imagination was excited by these
narrations, caused a deposition to be made before a notary, on the
12th of June, 1494, in which sixty of his companions, pilots, sailors
and passengers certified upon oath that the southern coast of Cuba was
a part of the continent of India. The description of the treasures of
Cathay and Cipango, of the celestial town of Quinsay and the province
of Mango, which had fired the admiral's ambition in early life,
pursued him like phantoms in his declining days. In his fourth and
last voyage, on approaching the coast of Cariay (Poyais or Mosquito
Coast), Veragua and the Isthmus, he believed himself to be near the
mouth of the Ganges.* (* Tambien dicen que la mar baxa a Ciguare, y de
alli a diez jornadas es el Rio de Guangues: para que estas tierras
estan con Veragua como Tortosa con Fuenterabia o Pisa con Venecia."
[Also it is said that the sea lowers at Ciguara, and from thence it is
a ten days' journey to the river Ganges; for these lands are, with
reference to Veragua, like Tortosa with respect to Fuenterabia, or
Pisa, with respect to Venice.] These words are taken from the Lettera
Rarissima of Columbus, of which the original Spanish was lately found,
and published by the learned M. Navarrete, in his Coleccion de Viages
volume 1 page 299.) These geographical illusions, this mysterious
veil, which enveloped the first discoveries, contributed to magnify
every object, and to fix the attention of Europe on regions, the very
names of which are, to us, scarcely known. New Cadiz, the principal
seat of the pearl-fishery, was on an island which has again become
uninhabited. The extremity of the rocky coast of Paria is also a
desert. Several towns were founded at the mouth of the Rio Atrato, by
the names of Antigua del Darien, Uraba or San Sebastian de Buenavista.
In these spots, so celebrated at the beginning of the sixteenth
century, the historians of the conquest tell us that the flower of the
Castilian heroes were found assembled: thence Balboa set out to
discover the South Sea; Pizarro marched from thence to conquer and
ravage Peru; and Pedro de Cieca constantly followed the chain of the
Andes, by Autioquia, Popayan and Cuzco, as far as La Plata, after
having gone 900 leagues by land. These towns of Darien are destroyed;
some ruins scattered on the hills of Uraba, the fruit-trees of Europe
mixed with native trees, are all that mark to the traveller the spots
on which those towns once stood. In almost all Spanish America the
first lands peopled by the Conquistadores, have retrograted into
barbarism.* (* In carefully collating the testimonies of the
historians of the Conquest, some contradictions are observed in the
periods assigned to the foundation of the towns of Darien. Pedro de
Cieca, who had been on the spot, affirms that, under the government of
Alonzo de Ojeda and Nicuessa, the town of Nuestra Senora Santa Maria
el Antigua del Darien was founded on the western coast of the Gulf or
Culata de Uraba, in 1509; and that later (despues desto passado) Ojeda
passed to the eastern coast of the Culata to construct the town of San
Sebastian de Uraba. The former, called by abbreviation Ciudad del
Antigua, had soon a population of 2000 Spaniards; while the latter,
the Ciudad del Uraba, remained uninhabited, because Francisco Pizarro,
since known as the conqueror of Peru, was forced to abandon it, having
vainly demanded succour from St. Domingo. The historian Herrera, after
having said that the foundation of Antigua had preceded by one year
that of Uraba or San Sebastian, affirms the contrary in the following
chapter and in the Chronicle itself. It was, according to the
Chronicle, in 1501 that Ojeda, accompanied by Vespucci, and
penetrating for the first time the Gulf of Uraba or Darien, resolved
to construct, with wood and unbaked bricks, a fort at the entrance of
Culata. It appears, however, that this enterprise was not executed;
for, in 1508, in the convention made by Ojeda and Nicuessa, they each
promised to build two fortresses on the limits of New Andalusia and of
Castillo del Oro. Herrera, in the 7th and 8th books of the first
Decade, fixes the foundation of San Sebastian de Uraba at the
beginning of 1510, and mentions it as the most ancient town of the
continent of America, after that of Ceragua, founded by Columbus in
1503, on the Rio Belen. He relates how Francisco Pizarro abandoned
that town, and how the foundation of the Ciudad del Antigua by Entiso,
towards the end of the year 1510, was the consequence of that event.
Leo X made Antigua a bishopric in 1514; and this was the first
episcopal church of the continent. In 1519 Pedrarius Davila persuaded
the court of Madrid, by false reports, that the site of the new town
of Panama was more healthful than that of Antigua, the inhabitants
were compelled to abandon the latter town, and the bishopric was
transferred to Panama. The Gulf of Uraba was deserted during thirteen
years, till the founder of the town of Carthagena, Pedro de Heredia,
after having dug up the graves, or huacas, of the Rio Sinu, to collect
gold, sent his brother Alonzo, in 1532, to repeople Uraba, and
reconstruct on that spot a town under the name of San Sebastian de
Buenavista.) Other countries, discovered later, attract the attention
of the colonists: such is the natural progress of things in peopling a
vast continent. It may be hoped that on several points the people will
return to the places that were first chosen. It is difficult to
conceive why the mouth of a great river, descending from a country
rich in gold and platina, should have remained uninhabited. The
Atrato, heretofore called Rio del Darien, de San Juan or Dabayba, has
had the same fate as the Orinoco. The Indians who wander around the
delta of those rivers continue in a savage state.

We weighed anchor in the road of Zapote, on the 27th March, at
sunrise. The sea was less stormy, and the weather rather warmer,
although the fury of the wind was undiminished. We saw on the north a
succession of small cones of extraordinary form, as far as the Morro
de Tigua; they are known by the name of the Paps (tetas) of Santero,
Tolu, Rincon and Chichimar. The two latter are nearest the coast. The
Tetas de Tolu rise in the middle of the savannahs. There, from the
trunks of the Toluifera balsamum, is collected the precious balsam of
Tolu, heretofore so celebrated in the pharmacopoeias of Europe, and in
which is a profitable article of trade at Corozal, Caimito and the
town of Tocasuan. In the savannahs (altas del Tolu) oxen and mules
wander half wild. Several of those hills between Cienega de Pesquero
and the Punta del Comissario are linked two-and-two together, like
basaltic columns; it is, however, very probable that they are
calcareous, like the Tetas de Managua, south of the Havannah. In the
archipelago of San Bernardo we passed between the island of
Salamanquilla and Cape Boqueron. We had scarcely quitted the gulf of
Morosquillo when the sea became so rough that the waves frequently
washed over the deck of our little vessel. It was a fine moonlight
night. Our captain sought in vain a sheltering-place on the coast to
the north of the village of Rincon. We cast anchor at four fathoms
but, having discovered that we were lying over a reef of coral, we
preferred the open sea.

The coast has a singular configuration beyond the Morro de Tigua, the
terminatory point of the group of little mountains which rise like
islands from the plain. We found at first a marshy soil extending over
a square of eight leagues between the Bocas de Matuna and Matunilla.
These marshes are connected by the Cienega de la Cruz, with the Dique
of Mahates and the Rio Magdalena. The island of Baru which, with the
island of Tierra Bomba, forms the vast port of Carthagena, is,
properly speaking, but a peninsula fourteen miles long, separated from
the continent by the narrow channel of Pasacaballos. The archipelago
of San Bernardo is situated opposite Cape Boqueron. Another
archipelago, called Rosario, lies off the southern point of the
peninsula of Baru. These rents in the coast are repeated at the 10 3/4
and 11 degrees of latitude. The peninsulas near the Ensenada of Galera
de Zamba and near the port of Savanilla have the same aspect as the
peninsula Baru. Similar causes have produced similar effects; and the
geologist must not neglect those analogies, in the configuration of a
coast which, from Punta Caribana in the mouth of the Atrato, beyond
the cape of La Vela, along an extent of 120 leagues, has a general
direction from south-west to north-east.

The wind having dropped during the night we could only advance to the
island of Arenas where we anchored. I found it was 78 degrees 2
minutes 10 seconds of longitude. The weather became stormy during the
night. We again set sail on the morning of the 29th of March, hoping
to be able to reach Boca Chica that day. The gale blew with extreme
violence, and we were unable to proceed with our frail bark against
the wind and the current, when, by a false manoeuvre in setting the
sails (we had but four sailors), we were during some minutes in
imminent danger. The captain, who was not a very bold mariner,
declined to proceed further up the coast and we took refuge, sheltered
from the wind, in a nook of the island of Baru south of Punta
Gigantes. It was Palm Sunday and the Zambo, who had accompanied us to
the Orinoco and did not leave us till we returned to France, reminded
us that on the same Sunday in the preceding year, we had nearly been
lost on the north of the mission of Uruana.

There was to be an eclipse of the moon during the night, and the next
day an occultation of alpha Virginis. The observation of the latter
phenomenon might have been very important in determining the longitude
of Carthagena. In vain I urged the captain to allow one of his sailors
to accompany me by land to the foot of Boca Chica, a distance of five
miles. He objected on account of the wild state of the country in
which there is neither habitation nor path. A little incident which
might have rendered Palm-Sunday more fatal justified the prudence of
the captain. We went by moonlight to collect plants on the shore; as
we approached the land, we saw a young negro issue from the thicket.
He was quite naked, loaded with chains, and armed with a machete. He
invited us to land on a part of the beach covered with large
mangroves, as being a spot where the surf did not break, and offered
to conduct us to the interior of the island of Baru if we would
promise to give him some clothes. His cunning and wild appearance, the
often-repeated question whether we were Spaniards, and certain
unintelligible words which he addressed to some of his companions who
were concealed amidst the trees, inspired us with some mistrust. These
blacks were no doubt maroon negroes: slaves escaped from prison. This
unfortunate class are much to be feared: they have the courage of
despair, and a desire of vengeance excited by the severity of the
whites. We were without arms; the negroes appeared to be more numerous
than we were and, thinking that possibly they invited us to land with
the desire of taking possession of our canoe, we thought it most
prudent to return on board. The aspect of a naked man wandering on an
uninhabited beach, unable to free himself from the chains fastened
round his neck and the upper part of his arm, was an object calculated
to excite the most painful impressions. Our sailors wished to return
to the shore for the purpose of seizing the fugitives, to sell them
secretly at Carthagena. In countries where slavery exists the mind is
familiarized with suffering and that instinct of pity which
characterizes and enobles our nature is blunted.

Whilst we lay at anchor near the island of Baru in the meridian of
Punta Gigantes I observed the eclipse of the moon of the 29th of
March, 1801. The total immersion took place at 11 hours 30 minutes
12.6 seconds mean time. Some groups of vapours, scattered over the
azure vault of the sky, rendered the observation of the immersion

During the total eclipse the lunar disc displayed, as almost always
happens, a reddish tint, without disappearing; the edges, examined
with a sextant, were strongly undulating, notwithstanding the
considerable altitude of the orb. It appeared to me that the moon was
more luminous than I had ever seen it in the temperate zone. The
vividness of the light, it may be conceived, does not depend solely on
the state of the atmosphere, which reflects, more or less feebly, the
solar rays, by inflecting them in the cone of the shade. The light is
also modified by the variable transparency of that part of the
atmosphere across which we perceived the moon eclipsed. Within the
tropics great serenity of the sky and a perfect dissolution of the
vapours diminish the extinction of the light sent back to us by the
lunar disc. I was singularly struck during the eclipse by the want of
uniformity in the distribution of the refracted light by the
terrestrial atmosphere. In the central region of the disc there was a
shadow like a round cloud, the movement of which was from east to
west. The part where the immersion was to take place was consequently
a few minutes prior to the immersion much more brightly illumined than
the western edges. Is this phenomenon to be attributed to an
inequality of our atmosphere; to a partial accumulation of vapour
which, by absorbing a considerable part of the solar light, inflects
less on one side the cone of the shadow of the earth? If a similar
cause, in the perigee of central eclipses, sometimes renders the disc
invisible, may it not happen also that only a small portion of the
moon is seen; a disc, irregularly formed, and of which different parts
were successively enlightened?

On the morning of the 30th of March we doubled Punta Gigantes, and
made for the Boca Chica, the present entrance of the port of
Carthagena. From thence the distance is seven or eight miles to the
anchorage near the town; and although we took a practico to pilot us,
we repeatedly touched on the sandbanks. On landing I learned, with
great satisfaction, that the expedition appointed to take the survey
of the coast under the direction of M. Fidalgo, had not yet put to
sea. This circumstance not only enabled me to ascertain the
astronomical position of several towns on the shore which had served
me as points of departure in fixing chronometrically the longitude of
the Llanos and the Orinoco, but also served to guide me with respect
to the future direction of my journey to Peru. The passage from
Carthagena to Porto Bello and that of the isthmus by the Rio Chagres
and Cruces, are alike short and easy; but it was to be feared that we
might stay long at Panama before we found an opportunity of proceeding
to Guayaquil, and in that case the voyage on the Pacific would be
extremely lingering, as we should have to sail against contrary winds
and currents. I relinquished with regret the hope of levelling by the
barometer the mountains of the isthmus, though it would then have been
difficult to foresee that at the present time (1827), while
measurements have been effected on so many other points of Mexico and
Columbia, we should remain in ignorance of the height of the ridge
which divides the waters in the isthmus. The persons we consulted all
agreed that the journey by land along the Cordilleras by Santa Fe de
Bogota, Popayan, Quito and Caxamarca would be preferable to the
sea-voyage, and would furnish an immense field for exploration. The
predilection of Europeans for the tierras frias, that is to say, the
cold and temperate climate that prevails on the back of the Andes,
gave further weight to these counsels. The distances were known, but
we were deceived with respect to the time it would take to traverse
them on mules' backs. We did not imagine that it would require more
than eighteen months to go from Carthagena to Lima. Notwithstanding
this delay, or rather owing to the slowness with which we passed
through Cundinamarca, the provinces of Popayan and Quito, I did not
regret having sacrificed the passage of the isthmus to the route of
Bogota, for every step of the journey was full of interest both
geographically and botanically. This change of direction gave me
occasion to trace the map of the Rio Magdalena, to determine
astronomically the position of eighty points situated in the inland
country between Carthagena, Popayan, and the upper course of the river
Amazon and Lima, to discover the error in the longitude of Quito, to
collect several thousand new plants, and to observe on a vast scale
the relations between the rocks of syenitic porphyry and trachyte with
the fire of volcanoes.

The result of those labours of which it is not for me to appreciate
the importance have long since been published. My map of the Rio
Magdalena, multiplied by the copies of the year 1802 in America and
Spain, and comprehending the country between Almaguer and Santa Marta,
from 1 degree 54 minutes to 11 degrees 15 minutes latitude, appeared
in 1816. Till that period no traveller had undertaken to describe New
Grenada; and the public, except in Spain, knew the navigation of the
Magdalena only by some lines traced by Bouguer. That learned traveller
had descended the river from Honda; but, being in want of astronomical
instruments, he had ascertained but four or five latitudes, by means
of small dials hastily constructed. The narratives of travels in
America are now singularly multiplied. Political events have led
numbers of persons to those countries: and travellers have perhaps too
hastily published their journals on returning to Europe. They have
described the towns where they resided, and landscape scenery
remarkable for beauty; they have furnished information respecting the
inhabitants and the different modes of travelling in barks, on mules
or on men's backs. These works, several of which are agreeable and
instructive, have familiarized the nations of the Old World with those
of Spanish America, from Buenos Ayres and Chili as far as Zacatecas
and New Mexico. But unfortunately, in many instances, the want of a
thorough knowledge of the Spanish language and the little care taken
to acquire the names of places, rivers and tribes, have occasioned
extraordinary mistakes.

During the six days of our stay at Carthagena our most interesting
excursions were to the Boca Grande and the hill of Popa; the latter
commands the town and a very extensive view. The port, or rather the
bahia, is nearly nine miles and a half long, if we compute the length
from the town (near the suburb of Jehemani or Xezemani) to the Cienega
of Cacao. The Cienega is one of the nooks of the isle of Baru,
south-west of the Estero de Pasacaballos, by which we reach the
opening of the Dique de Mahates. Two extremities of the small island
of Tierra Bomba form, on the north, with a neck of land of the
continent, and on the south, with a cape of the island of Baru, the
only entrances to the Bay of Carthagena; the former is called Boca
Grande, the second Boca Chica. This extraordinary conformation of the
land has given birth, for the space of a century, to theories entirely
contradictory respecting the defence of a place which, next to the
Havannah and Porto Cabello, is the most important of the main land and
the West Indies. Engineers differed respecting the choice of the
opening which should be closed; and it was not, as some writers have
stated, after the landing of Admiral Vernon, in 1741, that the idea
was first conceived* of filling up the Boca Grande. (* Don Jorge Juan
in his Secret Notices addressed to the Marques de la Ensenada says: La
entrada antigua era por un angosto canal que llaman Boca Chica; de
resultas de esta invasion se acordo deja cioga y impassable la Boca
Grande, y volver a abrir la antigua fortificandola. [The old entrance
was by a narrow channel called the Boca Chica; but after this invasion
it was determined to close up the Boca Grande and to open the old
passage, fortifying it.] Secr. Not. volume 1 page 4.) The English
forced the small entrance when they made themselves masters of the
bay; but being unable to take the town of Carthagena, which made a
gallant resistance, they destroyed the Castillo Grande (called also
Santa Cruz) and the two forts of San Luis and San Jose which defended
the Boca Chica.

The apprehension excited by the proximity of the Boca Grande to the
town determined the court of Madrid, after the English expedition, to
shut up the entrance along a distance of 2640 varas. From two and a
half to three fathoms of water were found; and a wall, or rather a
dyke, in stone, from fifteen to twenty feet high, was raised on piles.
The slope on the side of the water is unequal, and seldom 45 degrees.
This immense work was completed under the Viceroy Espeleta in 1795.
But art could not vanquish nature; the sea is unceasingly though
gradually silting up the Boca Chica, while it labours unceasingly to
open and enlarge the Boca Grande. The currents which, during a great
part of the year, especially when the bendavales blow with violence,
ascend from south-west to north-east, throw sand into the Boca Chica,
and even into the bay itself. The passage, which is from seventeen to
eighteen fathoms deep, becomes more and more narrow,* and if a regular
cleansing be not established by dredging machines, vessels will not be
able to enter without risk. (* At the foot of the two forts San Jose
and San Fernando, constructed for the defence of the Boca Chica, it
may be seen how much the land has gained upon the sea. Necks of land
are formed on both sides, and also before the Castillo del Angel
which, northward, commands the fort of San Fernando.) It is this small
entrance which should have been closed; its opening is only 250
toises, and the passage or navigable channel is 110 toises. If it
should one day be determined to abandon the Boca Chica, and
re-establish the Boca Grande in the state which nature seems to
prescribe, new fortifications must be constructed on the
south-south-west of the town. This fortress has always required great
pecuniary outlays to keep it up.

The insalubrity of Carthagena varies with the state of the great
marshes that surround the town on the east and north. The Cienega de
Tesca is more than fifteen miles long; it communicates with the ocean
where it approaches the village of Guayeper. When, in years of
drought, the heaped-up earth prevents the salt water from covering the
whole plain, the emanations that rise during the heat of the day when
the thermometer stands between 28 and 32 degrees are very pernicious
to the health of the inhabitants. A small portion of hilly land
separates the town of Carthagena and the islet of Manga from the
Cienega de Tesca. Those hills, some of which are more than 500 feet
high, command the town. The Castillo de San Lazaro is seen from afar
rising like a great rocky pyramid; when examined nearer its
fortifications are not very formidable. Layers of clay and sand,
belonging to the tertiary formation of nagelfluhe, are covered with
bricks and furnish a kind of construction which has little stability.
The Cerro de Santa Maria de la Popa, crowned by a convent and some
batteries, rises above the fort of San Lazaro and is worthy of more
solid and extensive works. The image of the Virgin, preserved in the
church of the convent, has been long revered by mariners. The hill
itself forms a prolonged ridge from west to east. The calcareous rock,
with cardites, meandrites and petrified corals, somewhat resembles the
tertiary limestone of the peninsula of Araya near Cumana. It is split
and decomposed in the steep parts of the rock, and the preservation of
the convent on so unsolid a foundation is considered by the people as
one of the miracles of the patron of the place. Near the Cerro de la
Popa there appears, on several points, breccia with a limestone cement
containing angular fragments of Lydian stone. Whether this formation
of nagelfluhe is superposed on tertiary limestone of coral, and
whether the fragments of the Lydian stone come from secondary
limestone analogous to that of Zacatecas and the Moro de Nueva
Barcelona, are questions which I have not had leisure to investigate.
The view from the Popa is extensive and varied, and the windings and
rents of the coast give it a peculiar character. I was assured that
sometimes from the windows of the convent and even in the open sea,
before the fort of Boca Chica, the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada de
Santa Marta are discernible. The distance of the Horqueta to the Popa
is seventy-eight nautical miles. This group of colossal mountains is
most frequently wrapped in thick clouds: and it is most veiled at the
season when the gales blow with violence. Although only forty-five
miles distant from the coast, it is of little service as a signal to
mariners who seek the port of Saint Marta. Hidalgo during the whole
time of his operations near the shore could take only one observation
of the Nevados.

A gloomy vegetation of cactus, Jatropha gossypifolia, croton and
mimosa covers the barren declivity of Cerro de la Popa. In herbalizing
in those wild spots, our guides showed us a thick bush of Acacia
cornigera, which had become celebrated by a deplorable event. Of all
the species of mimosa the acacia is that which is armed with the
sharpest thorns; they are sometimes two inches long; and being hollow,
serve for the habitation of ants of an extraordinary size. A woman,
annoyed by the jealousy and well founded reproaches of her husband,
conceived a project of the most barbarous vengeance. With the
assistance of her lover she bound her husband with cords, and threw
him, at night, into a bush of Mimosa cornigera. The more violently he
struggled, the more the sharp woody thorns of the tree tore his skin.
His cries were heard by persons who were passing, and he was found
after several hours of suffering, covered with blood, and dreadfully
stung by the ants. This crime is perhaps without example in the
history of human turpitude: it indicates a violence of passion less
assignable to the climate than to the barbarism of manners prevailing
among the lower class of the people.

My most important occupation at Carthagena was the comparison of my
observations with the astronomical positions fixed by the officers of
the expedition of Fidalgo. In the year 1783 (under the ministry of M.
Valdes) Don Josef Espinosa, Don Dionisio Galiano and Don Josef de Lanz
proposed to the Spanish government a plan for taking a survey of the
coast of America, in order to extend the atlas of Tofino to the
western colonies. The plan was approved; but it was not till 1792 that
an expedition was fitted out at Cadiz, and they were enabled to
commence their scientific operations at the island of Trinidad.


I might enumerate among the causes of the lowering of the temperature
at Cuba during the winter months, the great number of shoals with
which the island is surrounded, and on which the heat is diminished
several degrees of centesimal temperature. This diminished heat may be
assigned to the molecules of water locally cooled, which go to the
bottom; to the polar currents, which are borne toward the abyss of the
tropical ocean, or to the mixture of the deep waters with those of the
surface at the declivities of the banks. But the lowering of the
temperature is partly compensated by the flood of hot water, the Gulf
Stream, which runs along the north-west coast, and the swiftness of
which is often diminished by the north and north-east winds. The chain
of shoals which encircles the island and which appears on our maps
like a penumbra, is fortunately broken on several points, and those
interruptions afford free access to the shore. In the south-east part
the proximity of the lofty primitive mountains renders the coast more
precipitous. In that direction are situated the ports of Santiago de
Cuba, Guantanamo, Baitiqueri and (in turning the Punta Maysi) Baracoa.
The latter is the place most early peopled by Europeans. The entrance
to the Old Channel, from Punta de Mulas, west-north-west of Baracoa,
as far as the new settlement which has taken the name of Puerto de las
Nuevitas del Principe, is alike free from shoals and breakers.
Navigators find excellent anchorage a little to the east of Punta de
Mulas, in the three rocks of Tanamo, Cabonico, and Nipe; and on the
west of Punta de Mulas in the ports of Sama, Naranjo, del Padre and
Nuevas Grandes. It is remarkable that near the latter port, almost in
the same meridian where, on the southern side of the island, are
situated the shoals of Buena Esperanza and of Las doce Leguas,
stretching as far as the island of Pinos, we find the commencement of
the uninterrupted series of the cayos of the Old Channel, extending to
the length of ninety-four leagues, from Nuevitas to Punta Icacos. The
Old Channel is narrowest opposite to Cayo Cruz and Cayo Romano; its
breadth is scarcely more than five or six leagues. On this point, too,
the Great Bank of Bahama takes its greatest development. The Cayos
nearest the island of Cuba and those parts of the bank not covered
with water (Long Island, Eleuthera) are, like Cuba, of a long and
narrow shape. Were they only twenty or thirty feet higher, an island
much larger than St. Domingo would appear at the surface of the ocean.
The chain of breakers and cayos that bound the navigable part of the
Old Channel towards the south leave between the channel and the coast
of Cuba small basins without breakers, which communicate with several
ports having good anchorage, such as Guanaja, Moron and Remedios.

Having passed through the Old Channel, or rather the Channel of San
Nicolas, between Cruz del Padre and the bank of the Cayos de Sel, the
lowest of which furnish springs of fresh water, we again find the
coast, from Punta de Icacos to Cabanas, free from danger. It affords,
in the interval, the anchorage of Matanzas, Puerto Escondido, the
Havannah and Mariel. Further on, westward of Bahia Honda, the
possession of which might well tempt a maritime enemy of Spain, the
chain of shoals recommences* (* They are here called Bajos de Santa
Isabel y de los Colorados.) and extends without interruption as far as
Cape San Antonio. From that cape to Punta de Piedras and Bahia de
Cortez, the coast is almost precipitous, and does not afford soundings
at any distance; but between Punta de Piedras and Cabo Cruz almost the
whole southern part of Cuba is surrounded with shoals of which the
isle of Pinos is but a portion not covered with water. These shoals
are distinguished on the west by the name of Gardens (Jardines y
Jardinillos); and on the east, by the names Cayo Breton, Cayos de las
doce Leguas, and Bancos de Buena Esperanza. On all this southern line
the coast is exempt from danger with the exception of that part which
lies between the strait of Cochinos and the mouth of the Rio Guaurabo.
These seas are very difficult to navigate. I had the opportunity of
determining the position of several points in latitude and longitude
during the passage from Batabano to Trinidad of Cuba and to
Carthagena. It would seem that the resistance of the currents of the
highlands of the island of Pines, and the remarkable out-stretching of
Cabo Cruz, have at once favoured the accumulation of sand, and the
labours of the coralline polypes which inhabit calm and shallow water.
Along this extent of the southern coast a length of 145 leagues, only
one-seventh affords entirely free access; namely that part between
Cayo de Piedras and Cayo Blanco, a little to the east of Puerto
Casilda. There are found anchorages often frequented by small barks;
for example, the Surgidero del Batabano, Bahia de Xagua, and Puerto
Casilda, or Trinidad de Cuba. Beyond this latter port, towards the
mouth of the Rio Cauto and Cabo Cruz (behind the Cayos de doce
Leguas), the coast, covered with lagoons, is not very accessible, and
is almost entirely desert.

At the island of Cuba, as heretofore in all the Spanish possessions in
America, we must distinguish between the ecclesiastic,
politico-military, and financial divisions. We will not add those of
the judicial hierarchy which have created so much confusion amongst
modern geographers, the island having but one Audiencia, residing
since the year 1797 at Puerto Principe, whose jurisdiction extends
from Baracoa to Cape San Antonio. The division into two bishoprics
dates from 1788 when Pope Pius VI nominated the first bishop of the
Havannah. The island of Cuba was formerly, with Louisiana and Florida,
under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of San Domingo, and from the
period of its discovery it had only one bishopric, founded in 1518, in
the most western part at Baracoa by Pope Leo X. The translation of
this bishopric to Santiago de Cuba, took place four years later; but
the first bishop, Fray Juan de Ubite, arrived only in 1528. In the
beginning of the nineteenth century (1804), Santiago de Cuba was made
an archbishopric. The ecclesiastical limit between the diocese of the
Havannah and Cuba passes in the meridian of Cayo Romano, nearly in the
80 3/4 degree of longitude west of Paris, between the Villa de Santo
Espiritu and the city of Puerto Principe. The island, with relation to
its political and military government, is divided into two goviernos,
depending on the same capitan-general. The govierno of the Havannah
comprehends, besides the capital, the district of the Quatro Villas
(Trinidad, Santo Espiritu, Villa Clara and San Juan de los Remedios)
and the district of Puerto Principe. The Capitan-general y Gobernador
of the Havannah has the privilege of appointing a lieutenant in Puerto
Principe (Teniente Gobernador), as also at Trinidad and Nueva
Filipina. The territorial jurisdiction of the capitan-general extends,
as the jurisdiction of a corregidor, to eight pueblos de Ayuntamiento
(the ciudades of Matanzas, Jaruco, San Felipe y Santiago, Santa Maria
del Rosario; the villas of Guanabacoa, Santiago de las Vegas, Guines,
and San Antonio de los Banos). The govierno of Cuba comprehends
Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Holguin and Bayamo. The present limits of
the goviernos are not the same as those of the bishoprics. The
district of Puerto Principe, with its seven parishes, for instance,
belonged till 1814 to the govierno of the Havannah and the
archbishopric of Cuba. In the enumerations of 1817 and 1820 we find
Puerto Principe joined with Baracoa and Bayamo, in the jurisdiction of
Cuba. It remains for me to speak of a third division altogether
financial. By the cedula of the 23rd March, 1812, the island was
divided into three Intendencias or Provincias; those of the Havannah,
Puerto Principe and Santiago de Cuba, of which the respective length
from east to west is about ninety, seventy and sixty-five sea-leagues.
The intendant of the Havannah retains the prerogatives of
Superintendente general subdelegado de Real Hacienda de la Isla de
Cuba. According to this division, the Provincia de Cuba comprehends
Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Holguin, Bayamo, Gibara, Manzanillo,
Jiguani, Cobre, and Tiguaros; the Provincia de Puerto Principe, the
town of that name, Nuevitas, Jagua, Santo Espiritu, San Juan de los
Remedios, Villa de Santa Clara and Trinidad. The most westerly
intendencia, or Provincia de la Havannah, occupies all that part
situated west of the Quatro Villas, of which the intendant of the
capital has lost the financial administration. When the cultivation of
the land shall be more uniformly advanced, the division of the island
into five departments, namely: the vuelta de abaxo (from Cape San
Antonio to the fine village of Guanajay and Mariel), the Havannah
(from Mariel to Alvarez), the Quintas Villas (from Alvarez to Moron),
Puerto Principe (from Moron to Rio Cauto), and Cuba (from Rio Cauto to
Punta Maysi), will perhaps appear the most fit, and most consistent
with the historical remembrances of the early times of the Conquest.

My map of the island of Cuba, however imperfect it may be for the
interior, is yet the only one on which are marked the thirteen
ciudades; and also seven villas, which are included in the divisions I
have just enumerated. The boundary between the two bishoprics (linea
divisoria de los dos obispados de la Havana y de Santiago de Cuba)
extends from the mouth of the small river of Santa Maria (longitude 80
degrees 49 minutes), on the southern coast, by the parish of San
Eugenio de la Palma, and by the haciendas of Santa Anna, Dos Hermanos,
Copey, and Cienega, to La Punta de Judas (longitude 80 degrees 46
minutes) on the northern coast opposite Cayo Romano. During the regime
of the Spanish Cortes it was agreed that this ecclesiastical limit
should be also that of the two Deputaciones provinciales of the
Havannah and of Santiago. (Guia Constitucional de la isla de Cuba,
1822 page 79). The diocese of the Havannah comprehends forty, and that
of Cuba twenty-two, parishes. Having been established at a time when
the greater part of the island was occupied by farms of cattle
(haciendas de ganado), these parishes are of too great extent, and
little adapted to the requirements of present civilization. The
bishopric of Santiago de Cuba contains the five cities of Baracoa,
Cuba, Holguin, Guiza, Puerto Principe and the Villa of Bayamo. In the
bishopric of San Cristoval de la Havannah are included the eight
cities of the Havannah, namely: Santa Maria del Rosario, San Antonio
Abad or de los Banos, San Felipe y Santiago del Bejucal, Matanzas,
Jaruco, La Paz and Trinidad, and the six villas of Guanabacoa, namely:
Santiago de las Vegas or Compostela, Santa Clara, San Juan de los
Remedios, Santo Espiritu and S. Julian de los Guines. The territorial
division most in favour among the inhabitants of the Havannah, is that
of vuelta de arriba and de abaxo, east and west of the meridian of the
Havannah. The first governor of the island who took the title of
Captain-general (1601) was Don Pedro Valdes. Before him there were
sixteen other governors, of whom the series begins with the famous
Poblador and Conquistador, Diego Velasquez, native of Cuellar, who was
appointed by Columbus in 1511.

In the island of Cuba free men compose 0.64 of the whole population;
and in the English islands, scarcely 0.19. In the whole archipelago of
the West Indies the copper-coloured men (blacks and mulattos, free and
slaves) form a mass of 2,360,000, or 0.83 of the total population. If
the legislation of the West Indies and the state of the men of colour
do not shortly undergo a salutary change; if the legislation continue
to employ itself in discussion instead of action, the political
preponderance will pass into the hands of those who have strength to
labour, will to be free, and courage to endure long privations. This
catastrophe will ensue as a necessary consequence of circumstances,
without the intervention of the free blacks of Hayti, and without
their abandoning the system of insulation which they have hitherto
followed. Who can venture to predict the influence which may be
exercised on the politics of the New World by an African Confederation
of the free states of the West Indies, situated between Columbia,
North America, and Guatimala? The fear of this event may act more
powerfully on the minds of many, than the principles of humanity and
justice; but in every island the whites believe that their power is
not to be shaken. All simultaneous action on the part of the blacks
appears to them impossible; and every change, every concession granted
to the slave population, is regarded as a sign of weakness. The
horrible catastrophe of San Domingo is declared to have been only the
effect of the incapacity of its government. Such are the illusions
which prevail amidst the great mass of the planters of the West
Indies, and which are alike opposed to an amelioration of the
condition of the blacks in Georgia and in the Carolinas. The island of
Cuba, more than any other of the West India Islands, might escape the
common wreck. That island contains 455,000 free men and 160,000
slaves: and there, by prudent and humane measures, the gradual
abolition of slavery might be brought about. Let us not forget that
since San Domingo has become free there are in the whole archipelago
of the West Indies more free negroes and mulattos than slaves. The
whites, and above all, the free men, whose cause it would be easy to
link with that of the whites, take a very rapid numerical increase at
Cuba. The slaves would have diminished, since 1820, with great
rapidity, but for the fraudulent continuation of the slave-trade. If,
by the progress of human civilization, and the firm resolution of the
new states of free America, this infamous traffic should cease
altogether, the diminution of the slave population would become more
considerable for some time, on account of the disproportion existing
between the two sexes, and the continuance of emancipation. It would
cease only when the relation between the deaths and births of slaves
should be such that even the effects of enfranchisement would be
counterbalanced. The whites and free men now form two-thirds of the
whole population of the island, and this increase marks in some degree
the diminution of the slaves. Among the latter, the women are to the
men (exclusive of the mulatto slaves), scarcely in the proportion of
1 : 4, in the sugar-cane plantations; in the whole island, as 1 : 1.7;
and in the towns and farina where the negro slaves serve as domestics,
or work by the day on their own account as well as that of their
masters, the proportion is as 1 : 1.4; even (for instance at the
Havannah),* as 1 : 1.2. (* It appears probable that at the end of
1825, of the total population of men of colour (mulattos and negroes,
free and slaves), there were nearly 160,000 in the towns, and 230,000
in the fields. In 1811 the Consulado, in a statement presented to the
Cortes of Spain, computed at 141,000, the number of men of colour in
the towns, and 185,000 in the fields. Documentes sobre los Negros page
121.) This great accumulation of mulattos, free negros and slaves in
the towns is a characteristic feature in the island of Cuba.) The
developments that follow will show that these proportions are founded
on numerical statements which may be regarded as the limit-numbers of
the maximum.

The prognostics which are hazarded respecting the diminution of the
total population of the island, at the period when the slave-trade
shall be really abolished, and not merely according to the laws, as
since 1820, respecting the impossibility of continuing the cultivation
of sugar on a large scale, and respecting the approaching time when
the agricultural industry of Cuba shall be restrained to plantations
of coffee and tobacco, and the breeding of cattle, are founded on
arguments which do not appear to me to be perfectly just. Instead of
indulging in gloomy presages the planters would do well to wait till
the government shall have procured positive statistical statements.
The spirit in which even very old enumerations were made, for instance
that of 1775, by the distinction of age, sex, race, and state of civil
liberty, deserves high commendation. Nothing but the means of
execution were wanting. It was felt that the inhabitants were
powerfully interested in knowing partially the occupations of the
blacks, and their numerical distribution in the sugar-settlements,
farms and towns. To remedy evil, to avoid public danger, to console
the misfortunes of a suffering race, who are feared more than is
acknowledged, the wound must be probed; for in the social body, when
governed by intelligence, there is found, as in organic bodies, a
repairing force, which may be opposed to the most inveterate evils.

In the year 1811 the municipality and the Tribunal of Commerce of the
Havannah computed the total population of the island of Cuba to be
600,000, including 326,000 people of colour, free or slaves, mulattos
or blacks. At that time, nearly three-fifths of the people of colour
resided in the jurisdiction of the Havannah, from Cape Saint Antonio
to Alvarez. In this part it appears that the towns contained as many
mulattos and free negroes as slaves, but that the coloured population
of the towns was to that of the fields as two to three. In the eastern
part of the island, on the contrary, from Alvarez to Santiago de Cuba
and Cape Maysi, the men of colour inhabiting the towns nearly equalled
in number those scattered in the farms. From 1811 till the end of
1825, the island of Cuba has received along the whole extent of its
coast, by lawful and unlawful means, 185,000 African blacks, of whom
the custom-house of the Havannah, only, registered from 1811 to 1820,
about 116,000. This newly introduced mass has no doubt been spread
more in the country than in the towns; it must have changed the
relations which persons well informed of the localities had
established in 1811, between the eastern and western parts of the
island, between the towns and the fields. The negro slaves have much
augmented in the eastern plantations; but the fact that,
notwithstanding the importation of 185,000 bozal negroes, the mass of
men of colour, free and slaves, has not augmented, from 1811 to 1825,
more than 64,000, or one-fifth, shows that the changes in the relation
of partial distribution are restrained within narrower limits than one
would at first be inclined to admit.

The proportions of the castes with respect to each other will remain a
political problem of high importance till such time as a wise
legislation shall have succeeded in calming inveterate animosities and
in granting equality of rights to the oppressed classes. In 1811, the
number of whites in the island of Cuba exceeded that of the slaves by
62,000, whilst it nearly equalled the number of the people of colour,
both free and slaves. The whites, who in the French and English
islands formed at the same period nine-hundredths of the total
population, amounted in the island of Cuba to forty-five hundredths.
The free men of colour amounted to nineteen hundredths, that is,
double the number of those in Jamaica and Martinique. The numbers
given in the enumeration of 1817, modified by the Deputacion
Provincial, being only 115,700 freedmen and 225,300 slaves, the
comparison proves, first, that the freedmen have been estimated with
little precision either in 1811 or in 1817; and, secondly, that the
mortality of the negroes is so great, that notwithstanding the
introduction of more than 67,700 African negroes registered at the
custom-house, there were only 13,300 more slaves in 1817 than in 1811.

In 1817 a new enumeration was substituted for the approximative
estimates attempted in 1811. From the census of 1817 it appears that
the total population of the island of Cuba amounted to 572,363. The
number of whites was 257,380; of free men of colour, 115,691, and of
slaves 199,292.

In no part of the world where slavery prevails is emancipation so
frequent as in the island of Cuba. The Spanish legislature favours
liberty, instead of opposing it, like the English and French
legislatures. The right of every slave to choose his own master, or
set himself free, if he can pay the purchase-money, the religious
feeling which disposes many masters in easy circumstances to liberate
some of their slaves, the habit of keeping a multitude of blacks for
domestic service, the attachments which arise from this intercourse
with the whites, the facility with which slaves who are mechanics
accumulate money, and pay their masters a certain sum daily, in order
to work on their own account--such are the principal causes which in
the towns convert so many slaves into free men of colour. I might add
the chances of the lottery, and games of hazard, but that too much
confidence in those means often produces the most fatal effects.

The primitive population of the West India Islands having entirely
disappeared (the Zambo Caribs, a mixture of natives and negroes,
having been transported in 1796, from St. Vincent to the island of
Ratan), the present population of the islands (2,850,000) must be
considered as composed of European and African blood. The negroes of
pure race form nearly two-thirds; the whites one-fifth; and the mixed
race one-seventh. In the Spanish colonies of the continent, we find
the descendants of the Indians who disappear among the mestizos and
zambos, a mixture of Indians with whites and negroes. The archipelago
of the West Indies suggests no such consolatory idea. The state of
society was there such, at the beginning of the sixteenth century,
that, with some rare exceptions, the new planters paid as little
attention to the natives as the English now do in Canada. The Indians
of Cuba have disappeared like the Guanches of the Canaries, although
at Guanabacoa and Teneriffe false pretensions were renewed forty years
ago, by several families, who obtained small pensions from the
government on pretext of having in their veins some drops of Indian or
Guanche blood. It is impossible now to form an accurate judgment of
the population of Cuba or Hayti in the time of Columbus. How can we
admit, with some, that the island of Cuba, at its conquest in 1511,
had a million of inhabitants, and that there remained of that million,
in 1517, only 14,000! The statistic statements in the writings of the
bishop of Chiapa are full of contradictions. It is related that the
Dominican monk, Fray Luys Bertram, who was persecuted* by the
encomenderos, as the Methodists now are by some English planters,
predicted that the 200,000 Indians which Cuba contained, would perish
the victims of the cruelty of Europeans. (* See the curious
revelations in Juan de Marieta, Hist. de todos los Santos de Espana
libro 7 page 174.) If this be true, we may at least conclude that the
native race was far from being extinct between the years 1555 and
1569; but according to Gomara (such is the confusion among the
historians of those times) there were no longer any Indians on the
island of Cuba in 1553. To form an idea of the vagueness of the
estimates made by the first Spanish travellers, at a period when the
population of no province of the peninsula was ascertained, we have
but to recollect that the number of inhabitants which Captain Cook and
other navigators assigned to Otaheite and the Sandwich Islands, at a
time when statistics furnished the most exact comparisons, varied from
one to five. We may conceive that the island of Cuba, surrounded with
coasts adapted for fishing, might, from the great fertility of its
soil, afford sustenance for several millions of those Indians who have
no desire for animal food, and who cultivate maize, manioc, and other
nourishing roots; but had there been that amount of population, would
it not have been manifest by a more advanced degree of civilization
than the narrative of Columbus describes? Would the people of Cuba
have remained more backward in civilization than the inhabitants of
the Lucayes Islands? Whatever activity may be attributed to causes of
destruction, such as the tyranny of the conquistadores, the faults of
governors, the too severe labours of the gold-washings, the small-pox
and the frequency of suicides,* it would be difficult to conceive how
in thirty or forty years three or four hundred thousand Indians could
entirely disappear. (* The rage of hanging themselves by whole
families, in huts and caverns, as related by Garcilasso, was no doubt
the effect of despair; yet instead of lamenting the barbarism of the
sixteenth century, it was attempted to exculpate the conquistadores,
by attributing the disappearance of the natives to their taste for
suicide. See Patriota tome 2 page 50. Numerous sophisms of this kind
are found in a work published by M. Nuix on the humanity of the
Spaniards in the conquest of America. This work is entitled
Reflexiones imparciales sobre la humanidad de los Epanoles contra los
pretendidos filosofos y politicos, para illustrar las historias de
Raynal y Robertson; escrito en Italiano por el Abate Don Juan Nuix, y
traducido al castellano par Don Pedro Varela y Ulloa, del Consejo de
S.M. 1752. [Impartial reflections on the humanity of the Spaniards,
intended to controvert pretended philosophers and politicians, and to
illustrate the histories of Raynal and Robertson; written in Italian
by the Abate Don Juan Nuix and translated into Castilian by Don Pedro
Varela y Ulloa, member of His Majesty's Council.] The author, who
calls the expulsion of the Moors under Philip III a meritorious and
religious act, terminates his work by congratulating the Indians of
America "on having fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, whose
conduct has been at all times the most humane, and their government
the wisest." Several pages of this book recall the salutary rigour of
the Dragonades; and that odious passage, in which a man distinguished
for his talents and his private virtues, the Count de Maistre (Soirees
de St. Petersbourg tome 2 page 121) justifies the Inquisition of
Portugal "which he observes has only caused some drops of guilty blood
to flow." To what sophisms must they have recourse, who would defend
religion, national honour or the stability of governments, by
exculpating all that is offensive to humanity in the actions of the
clergy, the people, or kings! It is vain to seek to destroy the power
most firmly established on earth, namely, the testimony of history.)
The war with the Cacique Hatuey was short and was confined to the most
eastern part of the island. Few complaints arose against the
administration of the two first Spanish governors, Diego Velasquez and
Pedro de Barba. The oppression of the natives dates from the arrival
of the cruel Hernando de Soto about the year 1539. Supposing, with
Gomara, that fifteen years later, under the government of Diego de
Majariegos (1554 to 1564), there were no longer any Indians in Cuba,
we must necessarily admit that considerable remains of that people
saved themselves by means of canoes in Florida, believing, according
to ancient traditions, that they were returning to the country of
their ancestors. The mortality of the negro slaves, observed in our
days in the West Indies, can alone throw some light on these numerous
contradictions. To Columbus and Velasquez the island of Cuba must have
appeared well peopled,* if, for instance, it contained as many
inhabitants as were found there by the English in 1762. (* Columbus
relates that the island of Hayti was sometimes attacked by a race of
black men (gente negra), who lived more to the south or south-west. He
hoped to visit them in his third voyage because those black men
possessed a metal of which the admiral had procured some pieces in his
second voyage. These pieces were sent to Spain and found to be
composed of 0.63 of gold, 0.14 of silver and 0.19 of copper. In fact,
Balboa discovered this black tribe in the Isthmus of Darien. "That
conquistador," says Gomara, "entered the province of Quareca: he found
no gold, but some blacks, who were slaves of the lord of the place. He
asked this lord whence he had received them; who replied, that men of
that colour lived near the place, with whom they were constantly at
war...These negroes," adds Gomara, "exactly resemble those of Guinea;
and no others have since been seen in America (en las Indios yo pienso
que no se han visto negros despues.") The passage is very remarkable.
Hypotheses were formed in the sixteenth century, as now; and Petrus
Martyr imagined that these men seen by Balboa (the Quarecas), were
Ethiopian blacks who, as pirates, infested the seas, and had been
shipwrecked on the coast of America. But the negroes of Soudan are not
pirates; and it is easier to conceive that Esquimaux, in their boats
of skins, may have gone to Europe, than the Africans to Darien. Those
learned speculators who believe in a mixture of the Polynesians with
the Americans rather consider the Quarecas as of the race of Papuans,
similar to the negritos of the Philippines. Tropical migrations from
west to east, from the most western part of Polynesia to the Isthmus
of Darien, present great difficulties, although the winds blow during
whole weeks from the west. Above all, it is essential to know whether
the Quarecas were really like the negroes of Soudan, as Gomara
asserts, or whether they were only a race of very dark Indians (with
smooth and glossy hair), who from time to time, before 1492, infested
the coasts of the island of Hayti which has become in our days the
domain of Ethiopians.) The first travellers were easily deceived by
the crowds which the appearance of European vessels brought together
on some points of the coast. Now, the island of Cuba, with the same
ciudades and villas which it possesses at present, had not in 1762
more than 200,000 inhabitants; and yet, among a people treated like
slaves, exposed to the violence and brutality of their masters, to
excess of labour, want of nourishment, and the ravages of the
small-pox--forty-two years would not suffice to obliterate all but the
remembrance of their misfortunes on the earth. In several of the
Lesser Antilles the population diminishes under English domination
five and six per cent annually; at Cuba, more than eight per cent; but
the annihilation of 200,000 in forty-two years supposes an annual loss
of twenty-six per cent, a loss scarcely credible, although we may
suppose that the mortality of the natives of Cuba was much greater
than that of negroes bought at a very high price.

In studying the history of the island we observe that the movement of
colonization has been from east to west; and that here, as everywhere
in the Spanish colonies, the places first peopled are now the most
desert. The first establishment of the whites was in 1511 when,
according to the orders of Don Diego Columbus, together with the
conquistador and poblador Velasquez, he landed at Puerto de Palmas,
near Cape Maysi, then called Alfa y Omega, and subdued the cacique
Hatuey who, an emigrant and fugitive from Hayti, had withdrawn to the
eastern part of the island of Cuba, and had become the chief of a
confederation of petty native princes. The building of the town of
Baracoa was begun in 1512; and later, Puerto Principe, Trinidad, the
Villa de Santo Espiritu, Santiago de Cuba (1514), San Salvador de
Bayamo, and San Cristoval de la Havana. This last town was originally
founded in 1515 on the southern coast of the island, in the Partido of
Guines, and transferred, four years later, to Puerto de Carenas, the
position of which at the entrance of the two channels of Bahama (el
Viejo y de Nuevo) appears to be much more favourable to commerce than
the coast on the south-west of Batabano.* (* A tree is still shown at
the Havannah (at Puerto de Carenas) under the shade of which the
Spaniards celebrated their first mass. The island, now called
officially The ever-faithful island of Cuba, was after its discovery
named successively Juana Fernandina, Isla de Santiago, and Isla del
Ave Maria. Its arms date from the year 1516.) The progress of
civilization since the sixteenth century has had a powerful influence
on the relations of the castes with each other; these relations vary
in the districts which contain only farms for cattle, and in those
where the soil has been long cleared; in the sea-ports and inland
towns, in the spots where colonial produce is cultivated, and in such
as produce maize, vegetables and forage.

Until the latter part of the eighteenth century the number of female
slaves in the sugar plantations of Cuba was extremely limited; and
what may appear surprising is that a prejudice, founded on religious
scruples, opposed the introduction of women, whose price at the
Havannah was generally one-third less than that of men. The slaves
were forced to celibacy on the pretext of avoiding moral disorder. The
Jesuits and the Bethlemite monks alone renounced that fatal prejudice,
and encouraged negresses in their plantations. If the census, no doubt
imperfect, of 1775, yielded 15,562 female, and 29,366 male slaves, we
must not forget that that enumeration comprehended the totality of the
island, and that the sugar plantations occupy even now but a quarter
of the slave population. After the year 1795, the Consulado of the
Havannah began to be seriously occupied with the project of rendering
the increase of the slave population more independent of the
variations of the slave-trade. Don Francisco Arango, whose views were
ever characterized by wisdom, proposed a tax on the plantations in
which the number of slaves was not comprised of one-third females. He
also proposed a tax of six piastres on every negro brought into the
island, and from which the women (negras bozales) should be exempt.
These measures were not adopted because the colonial assembly refused
to employ coercive means; but a desire to promote marriages and to
improve the condition of the children of slaves has existed since that
period, when a cedula real (of the 22nd April, 1804) recommended those
objects "to the conscience and humanity of the planters."

The first introduction of negroes into the eastern part of the island
of Cuba took place in 1521 and their number did not exceed 300. The
Spaniards were then much less eager for slaves than the Portuguese;
for, in 1539, there was a sale of 12,000 negroes at Lisbon, as in our
days (to the eternal shame of Christian Europe) the trade in Greek
slaves is carried on at Constantinople and Smyrna. In the sixteenth
century the slave-trade was not free in Spain; the privilege of
trading, which was granted by the Court, was purchased in 1586, for
all Spanish America, by Gaspar de Peralta; in 1595, by Gomez Reynel;
and in 1615, by Antonio Rodriguez de Elvas. The total importation then
amounted to only 3500 negroes annually; and the inhabitants of Cuba,
who were wholly engaged in rearing cattle, scarcely received any.
During the war of succession, French ships were accustomed to stop at
the Havannah and to exchange slaves for tobacco. The Asiento treaty
with the English in some degree augmented the introduction of negroes;
yet in 1763, although the taking of the Havannah and the sojourn of
strangers gave rise to new wants, the number of slaves in the
jurisdiction of the Havannah did not amount to 25,000; and in the
whole island, not to 32,000. The total number of African negroes
imported from 1521 to 1763 was probably 60,000; their descendants
survive among the free mulattos, who inhabit for the most part the
eastern side of the island. From the year 1763 to 1790, when the
negro-trade was declared free, the Havannah received 24,875 (by the
Compania de Tobacos 4957, from 1763 to 1766; by the contract of the
Marquess de Casa Enrile, 14,132, from 1773 to 1779; by the contract of
Baker and Dawson, 5786, from 1786 to 1789). If we estimate the
introduction of slaves in the eastern part of the island during those
twenty-seven years (1763 to 1790) at 6000, we find from the discovery
of the island of Cuba, or rather from 1521 to 1790, a total of 90,875.
We shall soon see that by the ever-increasing activity of the
slave-trade the fifteen years that followed 1790 furnished more slaves
than the two centuries and a half which preceded the period of the
free trade. That activity was redoubled when it was stipulated between
England and Spain that the slave-trade should be prohibited north of
the equator, from November 22nd, 1817, and entirely abolished on the
30th May, 1820. The King of Spain accepted from England (which
posterity will one day scarcely believe) a sum of 400,000 pounds
sterling, as a compensation for the loss which might result from the
cessation of that barbarous commerce.

Jamaica received from Africa in the space of three hundred years
850,000 blacks; or, to fix on a more certain estimate, in one hundred
and eight years (from 1700 to 1808) nearly 677,000; and yet that
island does not now possess 380,000 blacks, free mulattos and slaves.
The island of Cuba furnishes a more consoling result; it has 130,000
free men of colour, whilst Jamaica, on a total population half as
great, contains only 35,000.

On comparing the island of Cuba with Jamaica, the result of the
comparison seems to be in favour of the Spanish legislation, and the
morals of the inhabitants of Cuba. These comparisons demonstrate a
state of things in the latter island more favorable to the physical
preservation, and to the liberation of the blacks; but what a
melancholy spectacle is that of Christian and civilized nations,
discussing which of them has caused the fewest Africans to perish
during the interval of three centuries, by reducing them to slavery!
Much cannot be said in commendation of the treatment of the blacks in
the southern parts of the United States; but there are degrees in the
sufferings of the human species. The slave who has a hut and a family
is less miserable than he who is purchased as if he formed part of a
flock. The greater the number of slaves established with their
families in dwellings which they believe to be their own property, the
more rapidly will their numbers increase.

The annual increase of the last ten years in the United States
(without counting the manumission of 100,000), was twenty-six on a
thousand, which produces a doubling in twenty-seven years. Now, if the
slaves at Jamaica and Cuba had multiplied in the same proportion,
those two islands (the former since 1795, and the latter since 1800)
would possess almost their present population, without 400,000 blacks
having been dragged from the coast of Africa, to Port-Royal and the

The mortality of the negroes is very different in the island of Cuba,
as in all the West Indies, according to the nature of their treatment,
the humanity of masters and overseers, and the number of negresses who
can attend to the sick. There are plantations in which fifteen to
eighteen per cent perish annually. I have heard it coolly discussed
whether it were better for the proprietor not to subject the slaves to
excessive labour and consequently to replace them less frequently, or
to draw all the advantage possible from them in a few years, and
replace them oftener by the acquisition of bozal negroes. Such are the
reasonings of cupidity when man employs man as a beast of burden! It
would be unjust to entertain a doubt that within fifteen years negro
mortality has greatly diminished in the island of Cuba. Several
proprietors have made laudable efforts to improve the plantation

It has been remarked how much the population of the island of Cuba is
susceptible of being augmented in the lapse of ages. As the native of
a northern country, little favoured by nature, I may observe that the
Mark of Brandebourg, for the most part sandy, contains, under an
administration favourable to the progress of agricultural industry, on
a surface only one-third of that of Cuba, a population nearly double.
The extreme inequality in the distribution of the population, the want
of inhabitants on a great part of the coast, and its immense
development, render the military defence of the whole island
impossible: neither the landing of an enemy nor illicit trade can be
prevented. The Havannah is well defended, and its works rival those of
the most important fortified towns of Europe; the Torreones, and the
fortifications of Cogimar, Jaruco, Matanzas, Mariel, Bahia Honda,
Batabano, Xagua and Trinidad might resist for a considerable time the
assaults of an enemy; but on the other hand two-thirds of the island
are almost without defence, and could scarcely be protected by the
best gun-boats.

Intellectual cultivation is almost entirely limited to the whites, and
is as unequally distributed as the population. The best society of the
Havannah may be compared for easy and polished manners with the
society of Cadiz and with that of the richest commercial towns of
Europe; but on quitting the capital, or the neighbouring plantations,
which are inhabited by rich proprietors, a striking contrast to this
state of partial and local civilization is manifest, in the simplicity
of manners prevailing in the insulated farms and small towns. The
Havaneros or natives of the Havannah were the first among the rich
inhabitants of the Spanish colonies who visited Spain, France and
Italy; and at the Havannah the people were always well informed of the
politics of Europe. This knowledge of events, this prescience of
future chances, have powerfully aided the inhabitants of Cuba to free
themselves from some of the burthens which check the development of
colonial prosperity. In the interval between the peace of Versailles
and the beginning of the revolution of San Domingo, the Havannah
appeared to be ten times nearer to Spain than to Mexico, Caracas and
New Grenada. Fifteen years later, at the period of my visit to the
colonies, this apparent inequality of distance had considerably
diminished; now, when the independence of the continental colonies,
the importation of foreign manufactures and the financial wants of the
new states have multiplied the intercourse between Europe and America;
when the passage is shortened by improvements in navigation; when the
Columbians, the Mexicans and the inhabitants of Guatimala rival each
other in visiting Europe; the ancient Spanish colonies--those at least
that are bathed by the Atlantic--seem alike to have drawn nearer to
the continent. Such are the changes which a few years have produced,
and which are proceeding with increasing rapidity. They are the
effects of knowledge and of long-restrained activity; and they render
less striking the contrast in manners and civilization which I
observed at the beginning of the century, at Caracas, Bogota, Quito,
Lima, Mexico and the Havannah. The influences of the Basque,
Catalanian, Galician and Andalusian origin become every day more

The island of Cuba does not possess those great and magnificent
establishments the foundation of which is of very remote date in
Mexico; but the Havannah can boast of institutions which the
patriotism of the inhabitants, animated by a happy rivalry between the
different centres of American civilization, will know how to extend
and improve whenever political circumstances and confidence in the
preservation of internal tranquillity may permit. The Patriotic
Society of the Havannah (established in 1793); those of Santo
Espiritu, Puerto Principe, and Trinidad, which depend on it; the
university, with its chairs of theology, jurisprudence, medicine and
mathematics, established since 1728, in the convent of the Padres
Predicedores;* (* The clergy of the island of Cuba is neither numerous
nor rich, if we except the Bishop of the Havannah and the Archbishop
of Cuba, the former of whom has 110,000 piastres, and the latter
40,000 piastres per annum. The canons have 3000 piastres. The number
of ecclesiastics does not exceed 1100, according to the official
enumeration in my possession.) the chair of political economy, founded
in 1818; that of agricultural botany; the museum and the school of
descriptive anatomy, due to the enlightened zeal of Don Alexander
Ramirez; the public library, the free school of drawing and painting;
the national school; the Lancastrian schools, and the botanic garden,
are institutions partly new, and partly old. Some stand in need of
progressive amelioration, others require a total reform to place them
in harmony with the spirit of the age and the wants of society.


When the Spaniards began their settlements in the islands and on the
continent of America those productions of the soil chiefly cultivated
were, as in Europe, the plants that serve to nourish man. This
primitive stage of the agricultural life of nations has been preserved
till the present time in Mexico, in Peru, in the cold and temperate
regions of Cundinamarca, in short, wherever the domination of the
whites comprehends a vast extent of territory. The alimentary plants,
bananas, manioc, maize, the cereals of Europe, potatoes and quinoa,
have continued to be, at different heights above the level of the sea,
the basis of continental agriculture within the tropics. Indigo,
cotton, coffee and sugar-cane appear in those regions only in
intercalated groups. Cuba and the other islands of the archipelago of
the Antilles presented during the space of two centuries and a half a
uniform aspect: the same plants were cultivated which had nourished
the half-wild natives and the vast savannahs of the great islands were
peopled with numerous herds of cattle. Piedro de Atienza planted the
first sugar-canes in Saint Domingo about the year 1520; and
cylindrical presses, moved by water-wheels, were constructed.* (* On
the trapiches or molinos de agua of the sixteenth century see Oviedo,
Hist. nat. des Ind. lib. 4 cap. 8.) But the island of Cuba
participated little in these efforts of rising industry; and what is
very remarkable, in 1553, the historians of the Conquest* mention no
exportation of sugar except that of Mexican sugar for Spain and Peru.
(* Lopez de Gomara, Conquista de Mexico (Medina del Campo 1353) fol.
129.) Far from throwing into commerce what we now call colonial
produce, the Havannah, till the eighteenth century, exported only
skins and leather. The rearing of cattle was succeeded by the
cultivation of tobacco and the rearing of bees, of which the first
hives (colmenares) were brought from the Floridas. Wax and tobacco
soon became more important objects of commerce than leather, but were
shortly superseded in their turn by the sugar-cane and coffee. The
cultivation of these productions did not exclude more ancient
cultivation; and, in the different phases of agricultural industry,
notwithstanding the general tendency to make the coffee plantations
predominate, the sugar-houses furnish the greatest amount in the
annual profits. The exportation of tobacco, coffee, sugar and wax, by
lawful and illicit means, amounts to fourteen millions of piastres,
according to the actual price of those articles.

Three qualities of sugar are distinguished in the island of Cuba,
according to the degree of purity attained by refining (grados de
purga). In every loaf or reversed cone the upper part yields the white
sugar; the middle part the yellow sugar, or quebrado; and the lower
part, or point of the cone, the cucurucho. All the sugar of Cuba is
consequently refined; a very small quantity is introduced of coarse or
muscovado sugar (by corruption, azucar mascabado). The forms being of
a different size, the loaves (panes) differ also in weight. They
generally weigh an arroba after refining. The refiners (maestros de
azucar) endeavour to make every loaf of sugar yield five-ninths of
white, three-ninths of quebrado, and one-ninth of cucurucho. The price
of white sugar is higher when sold alone than in the sale called
surtido, in which three-fifths of white sugar and two-fifths of
quebrado are combined in the same lot. In the latter case the
difference of the price is generally four reals (reales de plata); in
the former, it rises to six or seven reals. The revolution of Saint
Domingo, the prohibitions dictated by the Continental System of
Napoleon, the enormous consumption of sugar in England and the United
States, the progress of cultivation in Cuba, Brazil, Demerara, the
Mauritius and Java, have occasioned great fluctuations of price. In an
interval of twelve years it was from three to seven reals in 1807, and
from twenty-four to twenty-eight reals in 1818, which proves
fluctuations in the relation of one to five.

During my stay in the plains of Guines, in 1804, I endeavoured to
obtain some accurate information respecting the statistics of the
making of cane-sugar. A great yngenio producing from 32,000 to 40,000
arrobas of sugar is generally fifty caballerias,* or 650 hectares in
extent, of which the half (less than one-tenth of a square sea league)
is allotted to sugar-making properly so called (canaveral) and the
other half for alimentary plants and pasturage (potrero). (* The
agrarian measure, called caballeria, is eighteen cordels, (each cordel
includes twenty-four varas) or 432 square varas; consequently, as 1
vara = 0.835m., according to Rodriguez, a caballeria is 186,624 square
varas, or 130,118 square metres, or thirty-two and two-tenths English
acres.) The price of land varies, naturally, according to the quality
of the soil and the proximity of the ports of the Havannah, Matanzas
and Mariel. In a circuit of twenty-five leagues round the Havannah the
caballeria may be estimated at two or three thousand piastres. For a
produce* of 32,000 arrobas (or 2000 cases of sugar) the yngenio must
have at least three hundred negroes. (* There are very few plantations
in the whole island of Cuba capable of furnishing 40,000 arrobas;
among these few are the yngenio of Rio Blanco, or of the Marquess del
Arca, and those belonging to Don Rafael Ofarrel and Dona Felicia
Jaurregui. Sugar-houses are thought to be very considerable that yield
2000 cases annually, or 32,000 arrobas (nearly 368,000 kilogrammes.)
In the French colonies it is generally computed that the third or
fourth part only of the land is allotted for the plantation of food
(bananas, ignames and batates); in the Spanish colonies a greater
surface is lost in pasturage; this is the natural consequence of the
old habits of the haciendas de ganado.) An adult and acclimated slave
is worth from four hundred and fifty to five hundred piastres; a bozal
negro, adult, not acclimated, three hundred and seventy to four
hundred piastres. It is probable that a negro costs annually, in
nourishment, clothing and medicine, forty-five to fifty piastres;
consequently, with the interest of the capital, and deducting the
holidays, more than twenty-two sous per day. The slaves are fed with
tasajo (meat dried in the sun) of Buenos Ayres and Caracas; salt-fish
(bacalao) when the tasajo is too dear; and vegetables (viandas) such
as pumpkins, munatos, batatas, and maize. An arroba of tasajo was
worth ten to twelve reals at Guines in 1804; and from fourteen to
sixteen in 1825. An yngenio, such as we here suppose (with a produce
of 32,000 to 40,000 arrobas), requires, first, three machines with
cylinders put in motion by oxen (trapiches) or two water-wheels;
second, according to the old Spanish method, which, by a slow fire
causes a great consumption of wood, eighteen cauldrons (piezas);
according to the first method of reverberation (introduced since the
year 1801 by Mr. Bailli of Saint Domingo under the auspices of Don
Nicolas Calvo) three clarificadoras, three peilas and two traines de
tachos (each train has three piezas), in all twelve fondos. It is
commonly asserted that three arrobas of refined sugar yield one barrel
of miel, and that the molasses are sufficient for the expenses of the
plantation: this is especially the case where they produce brandy in
abundance. Thirty-two thousand arrobas of sugar yield 15,000 bariles
de miel (at two arrobas) of which five hundred pipas de aguardiente de
cana are made, at twenty-five piastres.

In establishing an yngenio capable of furnishing two thousand caxas
yearly, a capitalist would draw, according to the old Spanish method,
and at the present price of sugar, an interest of six and one-sixth
per cent; an interest no way considerable for an establishment not
merely agricultural, and of which the expense remains the same,
although the produce sometimes diminishes more than a third. It is
very rarely that one of those great yngenios can make 32,000 cases of
sugar during several successive years. It cannot therefore be matter
of surprise that when the price of sugar in the island of Cuba has
been very low (four or five piastres the quintal), the cultivation of
rice has been preferred to that of the sugar-cane. The profit of the
old landowners (haciendados) consists, first, in the circumstance that
the expenses of the settlement were much less twenty or thirty years
ago, when a caballeria of good land cost only 1200 or 1600 piastres,
instead of 2500 to 3000; and the adult negro 300 piastres, instead of
450 to 500; second, in the balance of the very low and the very high
prices of sugar. These prices are so different in a period of ten
years that the interest of the capital varies from five to fifteen per
cent. In the year 1804, for instance, if the capital employed had been
only 100,000 piastres, the raw produce, according to the value of
sugar and rum, would have amounted to 94,000 piastres. Now, from 1797
to 1800, the price of a case of sugar was sometimes, mean value, forty
piastres instead of twenty-four, which I was obliged to suppose in the
calculation for the year 1825. When a sugar-house, a great manufacture
or a mine is found in the hands of the person who first formed the
establishment, the estimate of the rate of interest which the capital
employed yields to the proprietor, can be no guide to those who,
purchasing afterwards, balance the advantages of different kinds of

In soils that can be watered, or where plants with tuberose roots have
preceded the cultivation of the sugar-cane, a caballeria of fertile
land yields, instead of 1500 arrobas, 3000 or 4000, making 2660 or
3340 kilogrammes of sugar (blanco and quebrado) per hectare. In fixing
on 1500 arrobas and estimating the case of sugar at 24 piastres,
according to the price of the Havannah, we find that the hectare
produces the value of 870 francs in sugar; and that of 288 francs in
wheat, in the supposition of an octuple harvest, and the price of 100
kilogrammes of wheat being 18 francs. I have observed elsewhere that
in this comparison of the two branches of cultivation it must not be
forgotten that the cultivation of sugar requires great capital; for
instance, at present 400,000 piastres for an annual production of
32,000 arrobas, or 368,000 kilogrammes, if this quantity be made in
one single settlement. At Bengal, in watered lands, an acre (4044
square metres) renders 2300 kilogrammes of coarse sugar, making 5700
kilogrammes per hectare. If this fertility is common in lands of great
extent we must not be surprised at the low price of sugar in the East
Indies. The produce of a hectare is double that of the best soil in
the West Indies and the price of a free Indian day-labourer is not
one-third the price of the day-labour of a negro slave in the island
of Cuba.

In Jamaica in 1825 a plantation of five hundred acres (or fifteen and
a half caballerias), of which two hundred acres are cultivated in
sugar-cane, yields, by the labour of two hundred slaves, one hundred
oxen and fifty mules 2800 hundredweight, or 142,200 kilogrammes of
sugar, and is computed to be worth, with its slaves, 43,000 pounds
sterling. According to this estimate of Mr. Stewart, one hectare would
yield 1760 kilogrammes of coarse sugar; for such is the quality of the
sugar furnished for commerce at Jamaica. Reckoning in a great
sugar-fabric of the Havannah 25 caballerias or 325 hectares for a
produce of from 32,000 to 40,000 cases, we find 1130 or 1420
kilogrammes of refined sugar (blanco and quebrado) per hectare. This
result agrees sufficiently with that of Jamaica, if we consider the
loss sustained in the weight of sugar by refining, in converting the
coarse sugar into azucar blanco y quebrado) or refined sugar. At San
Domingo a square (3403 square toises = 1.29 hectare) is estimated at
forty, and sometimes at sixty quintals: if we fix on 5000 pounds, we
still find 1900 kilogrammes of coarse sugar per hectare. Supposing, as
we ought to do when speaking of the produce of the whole island of
Cuba, that, in soils of average fertility, the caballeria (at 13
hectares) yields 1500 arrobas of refined sugar (mixed with blanco and
quebrado), or 1330 kilogrammes per hectare, it follows that 60,872
hectares, or nineteen five-fourths square sea leagues, (nearly a ninth
of the extent of a department of France of middling size), suffice to
produce the 440,000 cases of refined sugar furnished by the island of
Cuba for its own consumption and for lawful and illicit exportation.
It seems surprising that less than twenty square sea leagues should
yield an annual produce of more than the value of fifty-two millions
of francs (counting one case, at the Havannah, at the rate of
twenty-four piastres). To furnish coarse sugar for the consumption of
thirty millions of French (which is actually from fifty-six to sixty
millions of kilogrammes) it requires within the tropics but nine and
five-sixths square sea leagues cultivated with sugar-cane; and in
temperate climates but thirty-seven and a half square sea leagues
cultivated with beet-root. A hectare of good soil, sown or planted
with beet-root, produces in France from ten to thirty thousand
kilogrammes of beet-root. The mean fertility is 20,000 kilogrammes,
which furnish 2 1/2 per cent, or five hundred kilogrammes of coarse
sugar. Now, one hundred kilogrammes of that sugar yield fifty
kilogrammes of refined sugar, thirty of sugar vergeoise, and twenty of
muscovade; consequently, a hectare of beet-root produces 250
kilogrammes of refined sugar.

A short time before my arrival at the Havannah there had been sent
from Germany some specimens of beet-root sugar which were said to
menace the existence of the Sugar Islands in America. The planters had
learned with alarm that it was a substance entirely similar to
sugar-cane, but they flattered themselves that the high price of
labour in Europe and the difficulty of separating the sugar fit for
crystallization from so great a mass of vegetable pulp would render
the operation on a grand scale little profitable. Chemistry has, since
that period, succeeded in overcoming those difficulties; and, in the
year 1812, France alone had more than two hundred beet-root sugar
factories working with very unequal success and producing a million of
kilogrammes of coarse sugar, that is, a fifty-eighth part of the
actual consumption of sugar in France. Those two hundred factories are
now reduced to fifteen or twenty, which yield a produce of 300,000
kilogrammes.* (* Although the actual price of cane-sugar not refined
is 1 franc 50 cents the kilogramme, in the ports, the production of
beetroot-sugar offers a still greater advantage in certain localities,
for instance, in the vicinity of Arras. These establishments would be
introduced in many other parts of France if the price of the sugar of
the West Indies rose to 2 francs, or 2 francs 25 cents the kilogramme,
and if the government laid no tax on the beetroot-sugar, to compensate
the loss on the consumption of colonial sugar. The making of
beetroot-sugar is especially profitable when combined with a general
system of rural economy, with the improvement of the soil and the
nourishment of cattle: it is not a cultivation independent of local
circumstances, like that of the sugar-cane in the tropics.) The
inhabitants of the West Indies, well informed of the affairs of
Europe, no longer fear beet-root, grapes, chesnuts, and mushrooms, the
coffee of Naples nor the indigo of the south of France. Fortunately
the improvement of the condition of the West India slaves does not
depend on the success of these branches of European cultivation.

Previously to the year 1762 the island of Cuba did not furnish more
commercial produce than the three least industrious and most neglected
provinces with respect to cultivation, Veragua, the isthmus of Panama
and Darien, do at present. A political event which appeared extremely
unfortunate, the taking of the Havannah by the English, roused the
public mind. The town was evacuated in 1784 and its subsequent efforts
of industry date from that memorable period. The construction of new
fortifications on a gigantic plan* threw a great deal of money
suddenly into circulation (* It is affirmed that the construction of
the fort of Cabana alone cost fourteen millions of piastres.); later
the slave-trade became free and furnished hands for the sugar
factories. Free trade with all the ports of Spain and occasionally
with neutral states, the able administration of Don Luis de Las Casas,
the establishment of the Consulado and the Patriotic Society, the
destruction of the French colony of Saint Domingo,* (* In three
successive attempts, in August 1791, June 1793, and October 1803.
Above all the unfortunate and sanguinary expedition of Generals
Leclerc and Rochambeau completed the destruction of the sugar
factories of Saint Domingo.) and the rise in the price of sugar which
was the natural consequence, the improvement in machines and ovens,
due in great part to the refugees of Cape Francois, the more intimate
connection formed between the proprietors of the sugar factories and
the merchants of the Havannah, the great capital employed by the
latter in agricultural establishments (sugar and coffee plantations),
such have been successively the causes of the increasing prosperity of
the island of Cuba, notwithstanding the conflict of the authorities,
which serves to embarrass the progress of affairs.

The greatest changes in the plantations of sugar-cane and in the sugar
factories, took place from 1796 to 1800. First, mules were substituted
(trapiches de mulas) for oxen (trapiches de bueyes); and afterwards
hydraulic wheels were introduced (trapiches de agua), which the first
conquistadores had employed at Saint Domingo; finally the action of
steam-engines was tried at Ceibabo, at the expense of Count Jaruco y
Mopex. There are now twenty-five of those machines in the different
sugar mills of the island of Cuba. The culture of the sugar-cane of
Otaheite in the meantime increased. Boilers of preparation
(clarificadoras) were introduced and the reverberating furnaces better
arranged. It must be said, to the honour of wealthy proprietors, that
in a great number of plantations, a kind solicitude is manifested for
sick slaves, for the introduction of negresses, and for the education
of children.

The number of sugar factories (yngenios) in 1775 was 473 in the whole
island; and in 1817 more than 780. Among the former, none produced the
fourth part of the sugar now made in the yngenios of second rank; it
is consequently not the number of factories that can afford an
accurate idea of the progress of that branch of agricultural industry.

The first sugar-canes carefully planted on virgin soil yield a harvest
during twenty to twenty-five years, after which they must be replanted
every three years. There existed in 1804, at the Hacienda de
Matamoros, a square (canaveral) worked during forty-five years. The
most fertile soil for the production of sugar is now in the vicinity
of Mariel and Guanajay. That variety of sugar-cane known by the name
of Cana de Otahiti, recognised at a distance by a fresher green, has
the advantage of furnishing, on the same extent of soil, one-fourth
more juice, and a stem more woody, thicker, and consequently richer in
combustible matter. The refiners (maestros de azucar), pretend that
the vezou (guarapo) of the Cana de Otahiti is more easily worked, and
yields more crystallized sugar by adding less lime or potass to the
vezou. The South Sea sugar-cane furnishes, no doubt, after five or six
years' cultivation, the thinnest stubble, but the knots remain more
distant from each other than in the Cana creolia or de la tierra. The
apprehension at first entertained of the former degenerating by
degrees into ordinary sugar-cane is happily not realized. The
sugar-cane is planted in the island of Cuba in the rainy season, from
July to October; and the harvest is gathered from February to May.

In proportion as by too rapid clearing the island has become unwooded,
the sugar-houses have begun to want fuel. A little stalk (sugar-cane
destitute of its juice) used to be employed to quicken the fire
beneath the old cauldrons (tachos); but it is only since the
introduction of reverberating furnaces by the emigrants of Saint
Domingo that the attempt has been made to dispense altogether with
wood and burn only refuse sugar-cane. In the old construction of
furnaces and cauldrons, a tarea of wood, of one hundred and sixty
cubic feet, is burnt to produce five arrobas of sugar, or, for a
hundred kilogrammes of raw sugar, 278 cubic feet of the wood of the
lemon and orange trees are required. In the reverberating furnaces of
Saint Domingo a cart of refuse-cane of 495 cubic feet produced 640
pounds of coarse sugar, which make 158 cubic feet of refuse-cane for
100 kilogrammes of sugar. I attempted, during my stay at Guines, and
especially at Rio Blanco, with the Count de Mopex, several new
constructions, with the view of diminishing the expense of fuel,
surrounding the focus with substances which do not powerfully conduct
the heat, and thus diminish the sufferings of the slaves who keep up
the fire. A long residence in the salt-producing districts of Europe,
and the labours of practical halurgy, to which I have been devoted
since my early youth, suggested to me the idea of those constructions,
which have been imitated with some success. Cuvercles of wood, placed
on clarificadoras, accelerated the evaporation, and led me to believe
that a system of cuvercles and moveable frames, furnished with
counter-weights, might extend to other cauldrons. This object merits
further examination; but the quantity of vezou (guarapo) of the
crystallized sugar extracted, and that which is destroyed, the fuel,
the time and the pecuniary expense, must be carefully estimated.

An error, very general through Europe and one which influences opinion
respecting the effects of the abolition of the slave-trade, is that in
those West India islands called sugar colonies, the majority of the
slaves are supposed to be employed in the production of sugar. The
cultivation of the sugar-cane is no doubt a powerful incentive to the
activity of the slave trade; but a very simple calculation suffices to
prove that the total mass of slaves contained in the West Indies is
nearly three times greater than the number employed in the production
of sugar. I showed seven years ago that, if the 200,000 cases of sugar
exported from the island of Cuba in 1812 were produced in the great
establishments, less than 30,000 slaves would have sufficed for that
kind of labour. It ought to be borne in mind for the interests of
humanity that the evils of slavery weigh on a much greater number of
individuals than agricultural labours require, even admitting, which I
am very far from doing, that sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton can be
cultivated only by slaves. At the island of Cuba it is generally
supposed that one hundred and fifty negroes are required to produce
1000 cases (184,000 kilogrammes) of refined sugar; or, in round
numbers, a little more than 1200 kilogrammes, by the labour of each
adult slave. The production of 440,000 cases would consequently
require only 66,000 slaves. If we add 36,000 to that number for the
cultivation of coffee and tobacco in the island of Cuba, we find that
about 100,000 of the 260,000 slaves now there would suffice for the
three great branches of colonial industry on which the activity of
commerce depends.


The cultivation of coffee takes its date, like the improved
construction of cauldrons in the sugar houses, from the arrival of the
emigrants of San Domingo, especially after the years 1796 and 1798. A
hectare yields 860 kilogrammes, the produce of 3500 plants. The
province of the Havannah reckoned:

    In 1800 60 cafetales.
    In 1817 779 cafetales.

The coffee tree being a shrub that yields a good harvest only in the
fourth year, the exportation of coffee from the port of the Havannah
was, in 1804, only 50,000 arrobas. It rose:

    In 1809 to 320,000 arrobas.
    In 1815 to 918,263 arrobas.

In 1815, when the price of coffee was fifteen piastres the quintal,
the value of the exportation from the Havannah exceeded the sum of
3,443,000 piastres. In 1823, the exportation from the port of Matanzas
was 84,440 arrobas; so that it seems not doubtful that, in years of
medium fertility, the total exportation of the island, lawful and
contraband, is more than fourteen millions of kilogrammes.

From this calculation it results that the exportation of coffee from
the island of Cuba is greater than that from Java, estimated by Mr.
Crawfurd, in 1820, at 190,000 piculs, 11 4/5 millions of kilogrammes.
It likewise exceeds the exportation from Jamaica, which amounted, in
1823, according to the registers of the custom-house, only to 169,734
hundredweight, or 8,622,478 kilogrammes. In the same year Great
Britain received, from all the English islands, 194,820 hundredweight;
or 9,896,856 kilogrammes; which proves that Jamaica only produced
six-sevenths. Guadaloupe sent, in 1810, to the mother country,
1,017,190 kilogrammes; Martinico, 671,336 kilogrammes. At Hayti, where
the production of coffee before the French revolution was 37,240,000
kilogrammes, Port-au-Prince exported, in 1824, only 91,544,000
kilogrammes. It appears that the total exportation of coffee from the
archipelago of the West Indies, by lawful means only, now amounts to
more than thirty-eight millions of kilogrammes; nearly five times the
consumption of France, which, from 1820 to 1823, was, on the yearly
average, 8,198,000 kilogrammes. The consumption of Great Britain is
yet* only 3 1/2 millions of kilogrammes. (* Before the year 1807, when
the tax on coffee was reduced, the consumption of Great Britain was
not 8000 hundredweight (less than 1/2 million of kilogrammes); in
1809, it rose to 45,071 hundredweight; in 1810, to 49,147
hundredweight; in 1823, to 71,000 hundredweight, in 1824, to 66,000
hundredweight (or 3,552,800 kilogrammes.)

The exportation of 1814 was 60 1/2 millions of kilogrammes, which we
may suppose was at that period nearly the consumption of the whole of
Europe. Great Britain (taking that denomination in its true sense, as
denoting only England and Scotland) now consumes nearly two-thirds
less coffee and three times more sugar than France.

The price of sugar at the Havannah is always by the arroba of 25
Spanish pounds (or 11.49 kilogrammes), and the price of coffee by the
quintal (or 45.97 kilogrammes). The latter has been known to vary from
4 to 30 piastres; it even fell, in 1808, below 24 reals. The price of
1815 and 1819 was between 13 and 17 piastres the quintal; coffee is
now at 12 piastres. It is probable that the cultivation of coffee
scarcely employs in the whole island of Cuba 28,000 slaves, who
produce, on the yearly average, 305,000 Spanish quintals (14 millions
of kilogrammes), or, according to the present value, 3,660,000
piastres; while 66,000 negroes produce 440,000 cases (81 millions of
kilogrammes) of sugar, which, at the price of 24 piastres, is worth
10,560,000 piastres. It results from this calculation that a slave now
produces the value of 130 piastres of coffee, and 160 piastres of
sugar. It is almost useless to observe that these relations vary with
the price of the two articles, of which the variations are often
opposite and that, in calculations which may throw some light on
agriculture in the tropical region, I comprehend in the same point of
view interior consumption, exportation lawful and contraband.


The tobacco of the island of Cuba is celebrated throughout Europe. The
custom of smoking, borrowed from the natives of Hayti, was introduced
into Europe about the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the
seventeenth century. It was generally hoped that the cultivation of
tobacco, freed from an oppressive monopoly, would be to the Havannah a
very profitable object of commerce. The good intentions displayed by
the government in abolishing, within six years, the Factoria de
tabacos, have not been attended by the improvement which was expected
in that branch of industry. The cultivators want capital, the farms
have become extremely dear, and the predilection for the cultivation
of coffee is prejudicial to that of tobacco.

The oldest information we possess respecting the quantity of tobacco
which the island of Cuba has thrown into the magazines of the mother
country go back to 1748. According to the Abbe Raynal, a much more
exact writer than is generally believed, that quantity, from 1748 to
1753 (average year) was 75,000 arrobas. From 1789 to 1794 the produce
of the island amounted annually to 250,000 arrobas; but from that
period to 1803 the increased price of land, the attention given
exclusively to the coffee plantations and the sugar factories, little
vexations in the exercise of the royal monopoly (estanco), and
impediments in the way of export trade, have progressively diminished
the produce by more than one-half. The total produce of tobacco in the
island is, however, believed to have been, from 1822 to 1825, again
from 300,000 to 400,000 arrobas.

In good years, when the harvest rose to 350,000 arrobas of leaves,
128,000 arrobas were prepared for the Peninsula, 80,000 for the
Havannah, 9200 for Peru, 6000 for Panama, 3000 for Buenos Ayres, 2240
for Mexico, and 1000 for Caracas and Campeachy. To complete the sum of
315,000,000 (for the harvest loses 10 per cent of its weight in merma
y aberias, during the preparation and the transport) we must suppose
that 80,000 arrobas were consumed in the interior of the island (en
los campos), whither the monopoly and the taxes did not extend. The
maintenance of 120 slaves and the expense of the manufacture amounted
only to 12,000 piastres annually; the persons employed in the factoria
cost 54,100 piastres. The value of 128,000 arrobas, which in good
years was sent to Spain, either in cigars or in snuff (rama y polvos),
often exceeded 5,000,000 piastres, according to the common price of
Spain. It seems surprising to see that the statements of exportation
from the Havannah (documents published by the Consulado) mark the
exportations for 1816, at only 3400 arrobas; for 1823, only 13,900
arrobas of tabaco en rama, and 71,000 pounds of tabaco torcida,
estimated together, at the custom-house, at 281,000 piastres; for
1825, only 70,302 pounds of cigars, and 167,100 pounds of tobacco in
leaves; but it must be remembered that no branch of contraband is more
active than that of cigars. Although the tobacco of the Vuelta de
abaxo is the most famous, a considerable exportation takes place in
the eastern part of the island. I rather doubt the total exportation
of 200,000 boxes of cigars (value 2,000,000 piastres) as stated by
several travellers during latter years. If the harvests were thus
abundant, why should the island of Cuba receive tobacco from the
United States for the consumption of the lower class of people?

I shall say nothing of the cotton, the indigo, or the wheat of the
island of Cuba. These branches of colonial industry are of
comparatively little importance; and the proximity of the United
States and Guatimala renders competition almost impossible. The state
of Salvador, belonging to the Confederation of Central America, now
throws 12,000 tercios annually, or 1,800,000 pounds of indigo into
trade; an exportation which amounts to more than 2,000,000 piastres.
The cultivation of wheat succeeds (to the great astonishment of
travellers who have passed through Mexico), near the Quatro Villas, at
small heights above the level of the ocean, though in general it is
very limited. The flour is fine; but colonial productions are more
tempting, and the plains of the United States--that Crimea of the New
World--yield harvests too abundant for the commerce of native cereals
to be efficaciously protected by the prohibitive system of the
custom-house, in an island near the mouth of the Mississippi and the
Delaware. Analogous difficulties oppose the cultivation of flax, hemp,
and the vine. Possibly the inhabitants of Cuba are themselves ignorant
of the fact that, in the first years of the conquest by the Spaniards,
wine was made in their island of wild grapes.* (* De muchas parras
monteses con ubas se ha cogido vino, aunque algo agrio. [From several
grape-bearing vines which grow in the mountains, they extract a kind
of wine; but it is very acid.] Herera Dec. 1 page 233. Gabriel de
Cabrera found a tradition at Cuba similar to that which the people of
Semitic race have of Noah experiencing for the first time the effect
of a fermented liquor. He adds that the idea of two races of men, one
naked, another clothed, is linked to the American tradition. Has
Cabrera, preoccupied by the rites of the Hebrews, imperfectly
interpreted the words of the natives, or, as seems more probable, has
he added something to the analogies of the woman-serpent, the conflict
of two brothers, the cataclysm of water, the raft of Coxcox, the
exploring bird, and many other things that teach us incontestably that
there existed a community of antique traditions between the nations of
the two worlds? Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of America.)
This kind of vine, peculiar to America, has given rise to the general
error that the true Vitis vinifera is common to the two continents.
The Parras monteses which yields the somewhat sour wine of the island
of Cuba, was probably gathered on the Vitis tiliaefolia which Mr.
Willdenouw has described from our herbals. In no part of the northern
hemisphere has the vine hitherto been cultivated with the view of
producing wine south of the 27 degrees 48 minutes, or the latitude of
the island of Ferro, one of the Canaries, and of 29 degrees 2 minutes,
or the latitude of Bushire in Persia.


This is not the produce of native bees (the Melipones of Latreille),
but of bees brought from Europe by way of Florida. The trade in wax
has only become important since 1772. The exportation of the whole
island, which from 1774 to 1779 was only 2700 arrobas (average year),
was estimated in 1803, including contraband, at 42,700 arrobas, of
which 25,000 were destined for Vera Cruz. In the churches of Mexico
there is a great consumption of Cuban wax. The price varies from
sixteen to twenty piastres the arroba.

Trinidad and the small port of Baracoa also carry on a considerable
trade in wax, furnished by the almost uncultivated regions on the east
of the island. In the proximity of the sugar-factories many bees
perish of inebriety from the molasses, of which they are extremely
fond. In general the production of wax diminishes in proportion as the
cultivation of the land augments. The exportation of wax, according to
the present price, amounts to about 500,000 of piastres.


It has already been observed that the importance of the commerce of
the island of Cuba depends not solely on the riches of its
productions, the wants of the population in the articles and
merchandize of Europe, but also in great part on the favourable
position of the port of the Havannah. This port is situated at the
entrance of the Gulf of Mexico, where the high roads of the commercial
nations of the old and the new worlds cross each other. It was
remarked by the Abbe Raynal, at a period when agriculture and industry
were in their infancy, and scarcely threw into commerce the value of
2,000,000 piastres in sugar and tobacco, that the island of Cuba alone
might be worth a kingdom to Spain. There seems to have been something
prophetic in those memorable words; and since the parent state has
lost Mexico, Peru and so many other colonies declared independent,
they demand the serious consideration of statesmen who are called upon
to discuss the political interests of the Peninsula.

The island of Cuba, to which for a long time the court of Madrid
wisely granted great freedom of trade, exports, lawfully and by
contraband, of its own native productions, in sugar, coffee, tobacco,
wax and skins, to the value of more than 14,000,000 piastres; which is
about one-third less than the value of the precious metals furnished
by Mexico at the period of the greatest prosperity of its mines.* (*
In 1805 gold and silver specie was struck at Mexico to the value of
27,165,888 piastres; but, taking an average of ten years of political
tranquillity, we find from 1800 to 1810 scarcely 24 1/2 million of
piastres.) It may be said that the Havannah and Vera Cruz are to the
rest of America what New York is to the United States. The tonnage of
1000 to 1200 merchant ships which annually enter the port of the
Havannah, amounts (excluding the small coasting-vessels), to 150,000
or 170,000 tons.* (* In 1816 the tonnage of the commerce of New York
was 299,617 tons; that of Boston, 143,420 tons. The amount of tonnage
is not always an exact measure of the wealth of commerce. The
countries which export rice, flour, hewn wood and cotton require more
capaciousness than the tropical regions of which the productions
(cochineal, indigo, sugar and coffee) are of little bulk, although of
considerable value.) In time of peace from 120 to 150 ships of war are
frequently seen at anchor at the Havannah. From 1815 to 1819 the
productions registered at the custom-house of that port only (sugar,
rum, molasses, coffee, wax and butter) amounted, on the average, to
the value of 11,245,000 piastres per annum. In 1823 the exportation
registered two-thirds less than their actual price, amounted
(deducting 1,179,000 piastres in specie) to more than 12,500,000
piastres. It is probable that the importations of the whole island
(lawful and contraband), estimated at the real price of the articles,
the merchandize and the slaves, amount at present to 15,000,000 or
16,000,000 piastres, of which scarcely 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 are
re-exported. The Havannah purchases from abroad far beyond its own
wants, and exchanges its colonial articles for the productions of the
manufactures of Europe, to sell a part of them at Vera Cruz, Truxillo,
Guayra, and Carthagena.

On comparing, in the commercial tables of the Havannah, the great
value of merchandise imported, with the little value of merchandise
re-exported, one is surprised at the vast internal consumption of a
country containing only 325,000 whites and 130,000 free men of colour.
We find, in estimating the different articles, according to the real
current prices: in cotton and linen (bretanas, platillas, lienzos y
hilo), two and a half to three millions of piastres; in tissues of
cotton (zarazas musulinas), one million of piastres; in silk (rasos y
generos de seda), 400,000 piastres; and in linen and woollen tissues,
220,000 piastres. The wants of the island, in European tissues,
registered as exported to the port of the Havannah only, consequently
exceeded, in these latter years, from four millions to four and a half
millions of piastres. To these importations of the Havannah we must
add: hardware and furniture, more than half a million of piastres;
iron and steel, 380,000 piastres; planks and great timber, 400,000
piastres; Castile soap, 300,000 piastres. With respect to the
importation of provisions and drinks to the Havannah, it appears to me
to be well worthy the attention of those who would know the real state
of those societies which are called sugar or slave colonies. Such is
the composition of those societies established on the most fruitful
soil which nature can furnish for the nourishment of man, such the
direction of agricultural labours and industry in the West Indies,
that, in the best climate of the equinoctial region, the population
would want subsistence but for the freedom and activity of external
commerce. I do not speak of the introduction of wines at the port of
the Havannah, which amounted (according to the registers of the
custom-house), in 1803, to 40,000 barrels; in 1823, to 15,000 pipas
and 17,000 barrels, to the value of 1,200,000 piastres; nor of the
introduction of 6000 barrels of brandy from Spain and Holland, and
113,000 barrels (1,864,000 piastres) of flour. These wines, liquors
and flour are consumed by the opulent part of the nation. The cereals
of the United States have become articles of absolute necessity in a
zone where maize, manioc and bananas were long preferred to every
other amylaceous food. The development of a luxury altogether
European, cannot be complained of amidst the prosperity and increasing
civilization of the Havannah; but, along with the introduction of the
flour, wine, and spirituous liquors of Europe, we find, in the year
1816, 1 1/2millions of piastres; and, in the year 1823, 3 1/2 millions
for salt meat, rice and dried vegetables. In the last mentioned year,
the importation of rice was 323,000 arrobas; and the importation of
dried and salt meat (tasajo), for the slaves, 465,000 arrobas.

The scarcity of necessary articles of subsistence characterizes a part
of the tropical climates where the imprudent activity of Europeans has
inverted the order of nature: it will diminish in proportion as the
inhabitants, more enlightened respecting their true interests, and
discouraged by the low price of colonial produce, will vary the
cultivation, and give free scope to all the branches of rural economy.
The principles of that narrow policy which guides the government of
very small islands, inhabited by men who desert the soil whenever they
are sufficiently enriched, cannot be applicable to a country of an
extent nearly equal to that of England, covered with populous cities,
and where the inhabitants, established from father to son during ages,
far from regarding themselves as strangers to the American soil,
cherish it as their own country. The population of the island of Cuba,
which in fifty years will perhaps exceed a million, may open by its
own consumption an immense field to native industry. If the
slave-trade should cease altogether, the slaves will pass by degrees
into the class of free men; and society, being reconstructed, without
suffering any of the violent convulsions of civil dissension, will
follow the path which nature has traced for all societies that become
numerous and enlightened. The cultivation of the sugar-cane and of
coffee will not be abandoned; but it will no longer remain the
principal basis of national existence than the cultivation of
cochineal in Mexico, of indigo in Guatimala, and of cacao in
Venezuela. A free, intelligent and agricultural population will
progressively succeed a slave population, destitute of foresight and
industry. Already the capital which the commerce of the Havannah has
placed within the last twenty-five years in the hands of cultivators,
has begun to change the face of the country; and to that power, of
which the action is constantly increasing, another will be necessarily
joined, inseparable from the progress of industry and national
wealth--the development of human intelligence. On these united powers
depend the future destinies of the metropolis of the West Indies.

In reference to what has been said respecting external commerce, I may
quote the author of a memoir which I have often mentioned, and who
describes the real situation of the island. "At the Havannah, the
effects of accumulated wealth begin to be felt; the price of
provisions has been doubled in a small number of years. Labour is so
dear that a bozal negro, recently brought from the coast of Africa,
gains by the labour of his hands (without having learned any trade)
from four to five reals (two francs thirteen sous to three francs five
sous) a day. The negroes who follow mechanical trades, however common,
gain from five to six francs. The patrician families remain fixed to
the soil: a man who has enriched himself does not return to Europe
taking with him his capital. Some families are so opulent that Don
Matheo de Pedroso, who died lately, left in landed property above two
millions of piastres. Several commercial houses of the Havannah
purchase, annually, from ten to twelve thousand cases of sugar, for
which they pay at the rate of from 350,000 to 420,000 piastres." (De
la situacion presente de Cuba in manuscript.) Such was the state of
public wealth at the end of 1800. Twenty-five years of increasing
prosperity have elapsed since that period, and the population of the
island is nearly doubled. The exportation of registered sugar had not,
in any year before 1800, attained the extent of 170,000 cases
(31,280,000 kilogrammes); in these latter times it has constantly
surpassed 200,000 cases, and even attained 250,000 and 300,000 cases
(forty-six to fifty-five millions of kilogrammes). A new branch of
industry has sprung up (that of plantations of the coffee tree) which
furnishes an exportation of the value of three millions and a half of
piastres. Industry, guided by a greater mass of knowledge, has been
better directed. The system of taxation that weighed on national
industry and exterior commerce has been made lighter since 1791, and
been improved by successive changes. Whenever the mother-country,
mistaking her own interests, has attempted to make a retrograde step,
courageous voices have arisen not only among the Havaneros, but often
among the Spanish rulers, in defence of the freedom of American
commerce. A new channel has recently been opened for capital by the
enlightened zeal and patriotic views of the intendant Don Claudio
Martinez de Pinillos, and the commerce of entrepot has been granted to
the Havannah on the most advantageous conditions.

The difficult and expensive interior communications of the island
render its own productions dearer at the ports, notwithstanding the
short distance between the northern and southern coasts. A project of
canalization which unites the double advantage of connecting the
Havannah and Batabano by a navigable line, and diminishing the high
price of the transport of native produce, merits here a special
mention. The idea of the Canal of Guines had been conceived for more
than half a century with the view of furnishing timber at a more
moderate price for ship-building in the arsenal of the Havannah. In
1796 the Count de Jaruco y Mopox, an enterprising man, who had
acquired great influence by his connection with the Prince of the
Peace, undertook to revive this project. The survey was made in 1798
by two very able engineers, Don Francisco and Don Felix Lemaur. These
officers ascertained that the canal in its whole development would be
nineteen leagues long (5000 varas or 4150 metres), that the point of
partition would be at the Taverna del Rey, and that it would require
nineteen locks on the north, and twenty-one on the south. The distance
from the Havannah to Batabano is only eight and a half sea-leagues.
The canal of Guines would be very useful for the transport of
agricultural productions by steam-boats,* because its course would be
in proximity with the best cultivated lands. (* Steam-boats are
established from the Havannah to Matanzas, and from the Havannah to
Mariel. The government granted to Don Juan O'Farrill (March 24th,
1819) a privilege on the barcos de vapor.) The roads are nowhere worse
in the rainy season than in this part of the island, where the soil is
of friable limestone, little fitted for the construction of solid
roads. The transport of sugar from Guines to the Havannah, a distance
of twelve leagues, now costs one piastre per quintal. Besides the
advantage of facilitating internal communications, the canal would
also give great importance to the surgidero of Batabano, into which
small vessels laden with salt provisions (tasajo) from Venezuela,
would enter without being obliged to double Cape Saint Antonio. In the
bad season and in time of war, when corsairs are cruising between Cape
Catoche, Tortugas and Mariel, the passage from the Spanish main to the
island of Cuba would be shortened by entering, not at the Havannah,
but at some port of the southern coast. The cost of constructing the
canal de Guines was estimated in 1796 at one million, or 1,200,000
piastres: it is now thought that the expense would amount to more than
one million and a half. The productions which might annually pass the
canal have been estimated at 75,000 cases of sugar, 25,000 arrobas of
coffee, and 8000 bocoyes of molasses and rum. According to the first
project, that of 1796, it was intended to link the canal with the
small river of Guines, to be brought from the Ingenio de la Holanda to
Quibican, three leagues south of Bejucal and Santa Rosa. This idea is
now relinquished, the Rio de los Guines losing its waters towards the
east in the irrigation of the savannahs of Hato de Guanamon. Instead
of carrying the canal east of the Barrio del Cerro and south of the
fort of Atares, in the bay of the Havannah, it was proposed at first
to make use of the bed of the Chorrera or Rio Armendaris, from
Calabazal to the Husillo, and then of the Zanja Real, not only for
conveying the boats to the centre of the arrabales and of the city of
the Havannah, but also for furnishing water to the fountains which
require to be supplied during three months of the year. I visited
several times, with MM. Lemaur, the plains through which this line of
navigation is intended to pass. The utility of the project is
incontestable if in times of great drought a sufficient quantity of
water can be brought to the point of partition.

At the Havannah, as in every place where commerce and the wealth it
produces increase rapidly, complaints are heard of the prejudicial
influence exercised by them on ancient manners. We cannot here stop to
compare the first state of the island of Cuba, when covered with
pasturage, before the taking of the capital by the English, and its
present condition, since it has become the metropolis of the West
Indies; nor to throw into the balance the candour and simplicity of
manners of an infant society, against the manners that belong to the
development of an advanced civilization. The spirit of commerce,
leading to the love of wealth, no doubt brings nations to depreciate
what money cannot obtain. But the state of human things is happily
such that what is most desirable, most noble, most free in man, is
owing only to the inspirations of the soul, to the extent and
amelioration of its intellectual faculties. Were the thirst of riches
to take absolute possession of every class of society, it would
infallibly produce the evil complained of by those who see with regret
what they call the preponderance of the industrious system; but the
increase of commerce, by multiplying the connections between nations,
by opening an immense sphere to the activity of the mind, by pouring
capital into agriculture, and creating new wants by the refinement of
luxury, furnishes a remedy against the supposed dangers.


The increase of the agricultural prosperity of the island of Cuba and
the influence of the accumulation of wealth on the value of
importations, have raised the public revenue in these latter years to
four millions and a half, perhaps five millions of piastres. The
custom-house of the Havannah, which before 1794 yielded less than
600,000 piastres, and from 1797 to 1800, 1,900,000 piastres, pours
into the treasury, since the declaration of free trade, a revenue
(importe liquido) of more than 3,100,000 piastres.* (* The
custom-house of Port-au-Prince, at Hayti, produced in 1825, the sum of
1,655,764 piastres; that of Buenos Ayres, from 1819 to 1821, average
year, 1,655,000 piastres. See Centinela de La Plata, September 1822
Number 8; Argos de Buenos Ayres Number 85.)

The island of Cuba as yet contains only one forty-second part of the
population of France; and one half of its inhabitants, being in the
most abject indigence, consume but little. Its revenue is nearly equal
to that of the Republic of Columbia, and it exceeds the revenue of all
the custom-houses of the United States* before the year 1795, when
that confederation had 4,500,000 inhabitants, while the island of Cuba
contained only 715,000. (* The custom-houses of the United States,
which yielded in 1801 to 1808 sixteen millions of dollars, produced in
1815 but 7,282,000.) The principal source of the public revenue of
this fine colony is the custom-house, which alone produces above
three-fifths, and amply suffices for all the wants of the internal
administration and military defence. If in these latter years, the
expense of the general treasury of the Havannah amounted to more than
four millions of piastres, this increase of expense is solely owing to
the obstinate struggle maintained between the mother country and her
freed colonies. Two millions of piastres were employed to pay the land
and sea forces which poured back from the American continent, by the
Havannah, on their way to the Peninsula. As long as Spain, unmindful
of her real interests, refuses to recognize the independence of the
New Republics, the island of Cuba, menaced by Columbia and the Mexican
Confederation, must support a military force for its external defence,
which ruins the colonial finances. The Spanish naval force stationed
in the port of the Havannah generally costs above 650,000 piastres.
The land forces require nearly one million and a half of piastres.
Such a state of things cannot last indefinitely if the Peninsula do
not relieve the burden that presses upon the colony.

From 1789 to 1797 the produce of the custom-house at the Havannah
never rose to more than 700,000 piastres. In 1814 it was 1,855,117.
From 1815 to 1819 the royal taxes in the port of the Havannah amounted
to 11,575,460 piastres; total 18,284,807 piastres; or, average year,
3,657,000 piastres, of which the municipal taxes formed 0.36.

The public revenue of the Administracion general de Rentas of the
jurisdiction of Havannah amounted:

    in 1820 to 3,631,273 piastres.
    in 1821 to 3,277,639 piastres.
    in 1822 to 3,378,228 piastres.

The royal and municipal taxes of importation at the custom-house of
the Havannah in 1823 were 2,734,563 piastres.

The total amount of the revenue of the Havannah in 1824 was 3,025,300

In 1825 the revenue of the town and jurisdiction of the Havannah was
3,350,300 piastres.

These partial statements show that from 1789 to 1824 the public
revenue of Cuba has been increased sevenfold.

According to the estimates of the Cajas matrices, the public revenue
in 1822 was, in the province of the Havannah alone, 4,311,862
piastres; which arose from the custom-house (3,127,918 piastres), from
the ramos de directa entrada, as lottery, tithes, etc. (601,808
piastres), and anticipations on the charges of the Consulado and the
Deposito (581,978 piastres). The expenditure in the same year, for the
island of Cuba, was 2,732,738 piastres, and for the succour destined
to maintain the struggle with the continental colonies declared
independent, 1,362,029 piastres. In the first class of expenditure we
find 1,355,798 piastres for the subsistence of the military forces
kept up for the defence of the Havannah and the neighbouring places;
and 648,908 piastres for the royal navy stationed in the port of the
Havannah. In the second class of expense foreign to the local
administration we find 1,115,672 piastres for the pay of 4234 soldiers
who, after having evacuated Mexico, Columbia and other parts of the
Continent formerly Spanish possessions, passed by the Havannah to
return to Spain; 164,000 piastres is the cost of the defence of the
castle of San Juan de Ulloa.

I here terminate the Political Essay on the island of Cuba, in which I
have traced the state of that important Spanish possession as it now
is. My object has been to throw light on facts and give precision to
ideas by the aid of comparisons and statistical tables. That minute
investigation of facts is desirable at a moment when, on the one hand
enthusiasm exciting to benevolent credulity, and on the other
animosities menacing the security of the new republics, have given
rise to the most vague and erroneous statements. I have as far as
possible abstained from all reasoning on future chances, and on the
probability of the changes which external politics may produce in the
situation of the West Indies. I have merely examined what regards the
organization of human society; the unequal partition of rights and of
the enjoyments of life; the threatening dangers which the wisdom of
the legislator and the moderation of free men may ward off, whatever
be the form of the government. It is for the traveller who has been an
eyewitness of the suffering and the degradation of human nature to
make the complaints of the unfortunate reach the ear of those by whom
they can be relieved. I observed the condition of the blacks in
countries where the laws, the religion and the national habits tend to
mitigate their fate; yet I retained, on quitting America, the same
horror of slavery which I had felt in Europe. In vain have writers of
ability, seeking to veil barbarous institutions by ingenious turns of
language, invented the expressions negro peasants of the West Indies,
black vassalage, and patriarchal protection: that is profaning the
noble qualities of the mind and the imagination, for the purpose of
exculpating by illusory comparisons or captious sophisms excesses
which afflict humanity, and which prepare the way for violent
convulsions. Do they think that they have acquired the right of
putting down commiseration, by comparing* the condition of the negroes
with that of the serfs of the middle ages, and with the state of
oppression to which some classes are still subjected in the north and
east of Europe? (* Such comparisons do not satisfy those secret
partisans of the slave trade who try to make light of the miseries of
the black race, and to resist every emotion those miseries awaken. The
permanent condition of a caste founded on barbarous laws and
institutions is often confounded with the excesses of a power
temporarily exercised on individuals. Thus Mr. Bolingbroke, who lived
seven years at Demerara and who visited the West India Islands,
observes that "on board an English ship of war, flogging is more
frequent than in the plantations of the English colonies." He adds
"that in general the negroes are but little flogged, but that very
reasonable means of correction have been imagined, such as making them
take boiling soup strongly peppered, or obliging them to drink, with a
very small spoon, a solution of Glauber-salts." Mr. Bolingbroke
regards the slave-trade as a universal benefit; and he is persuaded
that if negroes who have enjoyed, during twenty years, all the
comforts of slave life at Demerara, were permitted to return to the
coast of Africa, they would effect recruiting on a large scale, and
bring whole nations to the English possessions. Voyage to Demerara,
1807. Such is the firm and frank profession of faith of a planter; yet
Mr. Bolingbroke, as several passages of his book prove, is a moderate
man, full of benevolent intentions towards the slaves.) These
comparisons, these artifices of language, this disdainful impatience
with which even a hope of the gradual abolition of slavery is repulsed
as chimerical, are useless arms in the times in which we live. The
great revolutions which the continent of America and the Archipelago
of the West Indies have undergone since the commencement of the
nineteenth century, have had their influence on public feeling and
public reason, even in countries where slavery exists and is beginning
to be modified. Many sensible men, deeply interested in the
tranquillity of the sugar and slave islands, feel that by a liberal
understanding among the proprietors, and by judicious measures adopted
by those who know the localities, they might emerge from a state of
danger and uneasiness which indolence and obstinacy serve only to

Slavery is no doubt the greatest evil that afflicts human nature,
whether we consider the slave torn from his family in his native
country and thrown into the hold of a slave ship,* or as making part
of a flock of black men, parked on the soil of the West Indies; but
for individuals there are degrees of suffering and privation. (* "If
the slaves are whipped," said one of the witnesses before the
Parliamentary Committee of 1789, "to make them dance on the deck of a
slave ship--if they are forced to sing in chorus; 'Messe, messe,
mackerida,' [how gaily we live among the whites], this only proves the
care we take of the health of those men." This delicate attention
reminds me of the description of an auto-da-fe in my possession. In
that curious document a boast is made of the prodigality with which
refreshments are distributed to the condemned, and of the staircase
which the inquisitors have had erected in the interior of the pile for
the accommodation of the relazados (the relapsed culprits.)) How great
is the difference in the condition of the slave who serves in the
house of a rich family at the Havannah or at Kingston, or one who
works for himself, giving his master but a daily retribution, and that
of the slave attached to a sugar estate! The threats employed to
correct an obstinate negro mark this scale of human privations. The
coachman is menaced with the coffee plantation; and the slave working
on the latter is menaced with the sugar house. The negro, who with his
wife inhabits a separate hut, whose heart is warmed by those feelings
of affection which for the most part characterize the African race,
finds that after his labour some care is taken of him amidst his
indigent family, is in a position not to be compared with that of the
insulated slave lost in the mass. This diversity of condition escapes
the notice of those who have not had the spectacle of the West Indies
before their eyes. Owing to the progressive amelioration of the state
even of the captive caste in the island of Cuba, the luxury of the
masters and the possibility of gain by their work, have drawn more
than eighty thousand slaves to the towns; and the manumission of them,
favoured by the wisdom of the laws, is become so active as to have
produced, at the present period, more than 130,000 free men of colour.
By considering the individual position of each class, by recompensing,
by the decreasing scale of privations, intelligence, love of labour
and the domestic virtues, the colonial administration will find the
best means of improving the condition of the blacks. Philanthropy does
not consist in giving a little more salt-fish, and some fewer lashes:
the real amelioration of the captive caste ought to extend over the
whole moral and physical position of man.

The impulse may be given by those European governments which have a
right comprehension of human dignity, and who know that whatever is
unjust bears with it a germ of destruction; but this impulse, it is
melancholy to add, will be powerless if the union of the planters, if
the colonial assemblies or legislatures, fail to adopt the same views
and to act by a well-concerted plan, having for its ultimate aim the
cessation of slavery in the West Indies. Till then it will be in vain
to register the strokes of the whip, to diminish the number that may
be given at one time, to require the presence of witnesses and to
appoint protectors of slaves; all these regulations, dictated by the
most benevolent intentions, are easily eluded: the isolated position
of the plantations renders their execution impossible. They
pre-suppose a system of domestic inquisition incompatible with what is
understood in the colonies by the phrase established rights. The state
of slavery cannot be altogether peaceably ameliorated except by the
simultaneous action of the free men (white men and coloured) residing
in the West Indies; by colonial assemblies and legislatures; by the
influence of those who, enjoying great moral consideration among their
countrymen and acquainted with the localities, know how to vary the
means of improvement conformably with the manners, habits, and the
position of every island. In preparing the way for the accomplishment
of this task, which ought to embrace a great part of the archipelago
of the West Indies, it may be useful to cast a retrospective glance on
the events by which the freedom of a considerable part of the human
race was obtained in Europe in the middle ages. In order to ameliorate
without commotion new institutions must be made, as it were, to rise
out of those which the barbarism of centuries has consecrated. It will
one day seem incredible that until the year 1826 there existed no law
in the Great Antilles to prevent the sale of young infants and their
separation from their parents, or to prohibit the degrading custom of
marking the negroes with a hot iron, merely to enable these human
cattle to be more easily recognized. Enact laws to obviate the
possibility of a barbarous outrage; fix, in every sugar estate, the
proportion between the least number of negresses and that of the
labouring negroes; grant liberty to every slave who has served fifteen
years, to every negress who has reared four or five children; set them
free on the condition of working a certain number of days for the
profit of the plantation; give the slaves a part of the net produce,
to interest them in the increase of agricultural riches;* fix a sum on
the budget of the public funds, destined for the ransom of slaves, and
the amelioration of their condition--such are the most urgent objects
for colonial legislation. (* General Lafayette, whose name is linked
with all that promises to contribute to the liberty of man and the
happiness of mankind, conceived, in the year 1785, the project of
purchasing a settlement at Cayenne, and to divide it among the blacks
by whom it was cultivated and in whose favour the proprietor renounced
for himself and his descendants all benefit whatever. He had
interested in this noble enterprise the priests of the Mission of the
Holy Ghost, who themselves possessed lands in French Guiana. A letter
from Marshal de Castries, dated 6th June, 1785, proves that the
unfortunate Louis XVI, extending his beneficent intentions to the
blacks and free men of colour, had ordered similar experiments to be
made at the expense of Government. M. de Richeprey, who was appointed
by M. de Lafayette to superintend the partition of the lands among the
blacks, died from the effects of the climate at Cayenne.)

The Conquest on the continent of Spanish America and the slave-trade
in the West Indies, in Brazil, and in the southern parts of the United
States, have brought together the most heterogeneous elements of
population. This strange mixture of Indians, whites, negroes,
mestizos, mulattoes and zambos is accompanied by all the perils which
violent and disorderly passion can engender, at those critical periods
when society, shaken to its very foundations, begins a new era. At
those junctures, the odious principle of the Colonial System, that of
security, founded on the hostility of castes, and prepared during
ages, has burst forth with violence. Fortunately the number of blacks
has been so inconsiderable in the new states of the Spanish continent
that, with the exception of the cruelties exercised in Venezuela,
where the royalist party armed their slaves, the struggle between the
independents and the soldiers of the mother country was not stained by
the vengeance of the captive population. The free men of colour
(blacks, mulattoes and mestizoes) have warmly espoused the national
cause; and the copper-coloured race, in its timid distrust and
passiveness, has taken no part in movements from which it must profit
in spite of itself. The Indians, long before the revolution, were poor
and free agriculturists; isolated by their language and manners they
lived apart from the whites. If, in contempt of Spanish laws, the
cupidity of the corregidores and the tormenting system of the
missionaries often restricted their liberty, that state of vexatious
oppression was far different from personal slavery like that of the
slavery of the blacks, or of the vassalage of the peasantry in the
Sclavonian part of Europe. It is the small number of blacks, it is the
liberty of the aboriginal race, of which America has preserved more
than eight millions and a half without mixture of foreign blood, that
characterizes the ancient continental possessions of Spain, and
renders their moral and political situation entirely different from
that of the West Indies, where, by the disproportion between the free
men and the slaves, the principles of the Colonial System have been
developed with more energy. In the West Indian archipelago as in
Brazil (two portions of America which contain near 3,200,000 slaves)
the fear of [?] among the blacks, and the perils that surround the
whites, have been hitherto the most powerful causes of the security of
the mother countries and of the maintenance of the Portuguese dynasty.
Can this security, from its nature, be of long duration? Does it
justify the inertness of governments who neglect to remedy the evil
while it is yet time? I doubt this. When, under the influence of
extraordinary circumstances, alarm is mitigated, when countries in
which the accumulation of slaves has produced in society the fatal
mixture of heterogeneous elements may be led, perhaps unwillingly,
into an exterior struggle, civil dissensions will break forth in all
their violence and European families, innocent of an order of things
which they have had no share in creating, will be exposed to the most
imminent dangers.

We can never sufficiently praise the legislative wisdom of the new
republics of Spanish America which, since their birth, have been
seriously intent on the total extinction of slavery. That vast portion
of the earth has, in this respect, an immense advantage over the
southern part of the United States, where the whites, during the
struggle with England, established liberty for their own profit, and
where the slave population, to the number of 1,600,000, augments still
more rapidly than the whites.* (* In 1769, forty-six years before the
declaration of the Congress at Vienna, and thirty-eight years before
the abolition of the slave-trade, decreed in London and at Washington,
the Chamber of Representatives of Massachusetts had declared itself
against "the unnatural and unwarrantable custom of enslaving mankind."
See Walsh's Appeal to the United States, 1819 page 312. The Spanish
writer, Avendano, was perhaps the first who declaimed forcibly not
only against the slave-trade, abhorred even by the Afghans
(Elphinstone's Journey to Cabul page 245), but against slavery in
general, and "all the iniquitous sources of colonial wealth."
Thesaurus Ind. tom. 1 tit. 9 cap. 2.) If civilization, instead of
extending, were to change its place; if, after great and deplorable
convulsions in Europe, America, between Cape Hatteras and the
Missouri, were to become the principal seat of the light of
Christianity, what a spectacle would be presented by that centre of
civilization, where, in the sanctuary of liberty, we could attend a
sale of negroes after the death of a master, and hear the sobbings of
parents who are separated from their children! Let us hope that the
generous principles which have so long animated the legislatures of
the northern parts of the United States will extend by degrees
southward and towards those western regions where, by the effect of an
imprudent and fatal law, slavery and its iniquities have passed the
chain of the Alleghenies and the banks of the Mississippi: let us hope
that the force of public opinion, the progress of knowledge, the
softening of manners, the legislation of the new continental republics
and the great and happy event of the recognition of Hayti by the
French government, will, either from motives of prudence and fear, or
from more noble and disinterested sentiments, exercise a happy
influence on the amelioration of the state of the blacks in the rest
of the West Indies, in the Carolinas, Guiana, and Brazil.

In order to slacken gradually the bonds of slavery the laws against
the slave-trade must be most strictly enforced, and punishments
inflicted for their infringement; mixed tribunals must be formed, and
the right of search exercised with equitable reciprocity. It is
melancholy to learn that, owing to the culpable indifference of some
of the governments of Europe, the slave-trade (more cruel from having
become more secret) has dragged from Africa, within ten years, almost
the same number of negroes as before 1807; but we must not from this
fact infer the inutility, or, as the secret partisans of slavery
assert, the practical impossibility of the beneficent measures adopted
first by Denmark, the United States and Great Britain, and
successively by all the rest of Europe. What passed from 1807 till the
time when France recovered possession of her ancient colonies, and
what passes in our days in nations whose governments sincerely desire
the abolition of the slave-trade and its abominable practices, proves
the fallacy of this conclusion. Besides, is it reasonable to compare
numerically the importation of slaves in 1825 and in 1806? With the
activity prevailing in every enterprise of industry, what an increase
would the importation of negroes have taken in the English West Indies
and the southern provinces of the United States if the slave-trade,
entirely free, had continued to supply new slaves, and had rendered
the care of their preservation and the increase of the old population,
superfluous? Can we believe that the English trade would have been
limited, as in 1806, to the sale of 53,000 slaves; and that of the
United States, to the sale of 15,000? It is pretty well ascertained
that the English islands received in the 106 years preceding 1786 more
than 2,130,000 negroes, forcibly carried from the coast of Africa. At
the period of the French revolution, the slave-trade furnished
(according to Mr. Norris) 74,000 slaves annually, of which the English
colonies absorbed 38,000, and the French 20,000. It would be easy to
prove that the whole of the West Indian archipelago, which now
comprises scarcely 2,400,000 negroes and mulattoes (free and slaves),
received, from 1670 to 1825, nearly 5,000,000 of Africans. These
revolting calculations respecting the consumption of the human species
do not include the number of unfortunate slaves who have perished in
the passage or have been thrown into the sea as damaged merchandize.*
(* Volume 7 page 151. See also the eloquent speech of the Duke de
Broglie, March 28th, 1822 pages 40, 43 and 96.) By how many thousands
must we have augmented the loss, if the two nations most distinguished
for ardour and intelligence in the development of commerce and
industry, the English and the inhabitants of the United States, had
continued, from 1807, to carry on the trade as freely as some other
nations of Europe? Sad experience has proved how much the treaties of
the 15th July, 1814, and of the 22nd January, 1815, by which Spain and
Portugal reserved to themselves the trade in blacks during a certain
number of years, have been fatal to humanity.

The local authorities, or rather the rich proprietors, forming the
Ayuntamiento of the Havannah, the Consulado and the Patriotic Society,
have on several occasions shown a disposition favourable to the
amelioration of the condition of the slaves.* (* Dicen nuestros Indios
del Rio Caura cuando se confiesan que ya entienden que es pecado
corner carne humana; pero piden qua se les permita desacostumbrarse
poco a poco; quieren comer la carne humana una vez al mes, despues
cada tres meses, hasta qua sin sentirlo pierdan la costumbre. Cartas
de los Rev Padres Observantes Number 7 manuscript. [Our negroes of the
River Caura say, when they confess, that they know it is sinful to eat
human flesh; they beg to be permitted to break themselves of the
custom, little by little: they wish to eat human flesh once a month,
and afterwards once every three months, until they feel they have
cured themselves of the practice.]) If the government of the
mother-country, instead of dreading the least appearance of
innovation, had taken advantage of those propitious circumstances, and
of the ascendancy of some men of abilities over their countrymen, the
state of society would have undergone progressive changes; and in our
days, the inhabitants of the island of Cuba would have enjoyed some of
the improvements which have been under discussion for the space of
thirty years. The movement at Saint Domingo in 1790 and those which
took place in Jamaica in 1794 caused so great an alarm among the
haciendados of the island of Cuba that in a Junta economica it was
warmly debated what measure could be adopted to secure the
tranquillity of the country. Regulations were made respecting the
pursuit of fugitive slaves,* which, till then, had given rise to the
most revolting excesses (* Reglamento sobre los Negros Cimmarrones de
26 de Dec. de 1796. Before the year 1788 there were great numbers of
fugitive negroes (cimmarones) in the mountains of Jaruco, where they
were sometimes apalancados, that is, where several of those
unfortunate creatures formed small intrenchments for their common
defence by heaping up trunks of trees. The maroon negroes, born in
Africa (bozales), are easily taken; for the greater number, in the
vain hope of finding their native land, march day and night in the
direction of the east. When taken they are so exhausted by fatigue and
hunger that they are only saved by giving them, during several days,
very small quantities of soup. The creole maroon negroes conceal
themselves by day in the woods and steal provisions during the night.
Till 1790, the right of taking the fugitive negroes belonged only to
the Alcalde mayor provincial, an hereditary office in the family of
the Count de Bareto. At present any of the inhabitants can seize the
maroons and the proprietor of the slave pays four piastres per head,
besides the food. If the name of the master is not known, the
Consulado employs the maroon negro in the public works. This
man-hunting, which, at Hayti and Jamaica, has given so much fatal
celebrity to the dogs of Cuba, was carried on in the most cruel manner
before the regulation which I have mentioned above.); it was proposed
to augment the number of negresses on the sugar estates, to direct
more attention to the education of children, to diminish the
introduction of African negroes, to bring white planters from the
Canaries, and Indian planters from Mexico, to establish country
schools with the view of improving the manners of the lower class, and
to mitigate slavery in an indirect way. These propositions had not the
desired effect. The junta opposed every system of immigration, and the
majority of the proprietors, indulging their old illusions of
security, would not restrain the slave-trade when the high price of
the produce gave a hope of extraordinary profit. It would, however, be
unjust not to acknowledge in this struggle between private interests
and the views of wise policy, the desires and the principles
manifested by some inhabitants of the island of Cuba, either in their
own name or in the name of some rich and powerful corporations. "The
humanity of our legislation," says M. d'Arango nobly,* in a memoir
written in 1796 (* Informe sobre negros fugitives (de 9 de Junio de
1769), par Don Francisco de Arango y Pareno, Oidor honorario y syndico
del Consulado.), "grants the slave four rights (quatro consuelos)
which somewhat assuage his sufferings and which have always been
refused him by a foreign policy. These rights are, the choice of a
master less severe* (* The right of buscar amo. When a slave has found
a new master who will purchase him, he may quit the master of whom he
has to complain; such is the sense and spirit of a law, beneficent,
though often eluded, as are all the laws that protect the slaves. In
the hope of enjoying the privilege of buscar amo, the blacks often
address to the travellers they meet, a question, which in civilized
Europe, where a vote or an opinion is sometimes sold, is more
equivocally expressed; Quiere Vm comprarme? [Will you buy me, Sir?]);
the privilege of marrying according to his own inclination; the
possibility of purchasing his liberty* by his labour (* A slave in the
Spanish colonies ought, according to law, to be estimated at the
lowest price; this estimate, at the time of my journey, was, according
to the locality, from 200 to 380 piastres. In 1825 the price of an
adult negro at the island of Cuba, was 450 piastres. In 1788 the
French trade furnished a negro for 280 to 300 piastres. A slave among
the Greeks cost 300 to 600 drachmes (54 to 108 piastres), when the
day-labourer was paid one-tenth of a piastre. While the Spanish laws
and institutions favour manumission in every way, the master, in the
other islands, pays the fiscal, for every freed slave, five to seven
hundred piastres!), and of paying, with an acquired property, for the
liberty of his wife and children.* (* What a contrast is observable
between the humanity of the most ancient Spanish laws concerning
slavery, and the traces of barbarism found in every page of the Black
Code and in some of the provincial laws of the English islands! The
laws of Barbadoes, made in 1686, and those of Bermuda, in 1730,
decreed that the master who killed his negro in chastising him, could
not even be sued, while the master who killed his slave wilfully
should pay ten pounds sterling to the royal treasury. A law of saint
Christopher's, of March 11th, 1784, begins with these words: "Whereas
some persons have of late been guilty of cutting off and depriving
slaves of their ears, we order that whoever shall extirpate an eye,
tear out the tongue, or cut off the nose of a slave, shall pay five
hundred pounds sterling, and be condemned to six months imprisonment."
It is unnecessary to add that these English laws, which were in force
thirty or forty years ago, are abolished and superseded by laws more
humane. Why can I not say as much of the legislation of the French
islands, where six young slaves, suspected of an intention to escape,
were condemned, by a sentence pronounced in 1815, to have their
hamstrings cut!) Notwithstanding the wisdom and mildness of Spanish
legislation, to how many excesses the slave is exposed in the solitude
of a plantation or a farm, where a rude capatez, armed with a cutlass
(machete) and a whip, exercises absolute authority with impunity! The
law neither limits the punishment of the slave, nor the duration of
labour; nor does it prescribe the quality and quantity of his food.*
(* A royal cedula of May 31st, 1789 had attempted to regulate the food
and clothing; but that cedula was never executed.) It permits the
slave, it is true, to have recourse to a magistrate, in order that he
may enjoin the master to be more equitable; but this recourse is
nearly illusory; for there exists another law according to which every
slave may be arrested and sent back to his master who is found without
permission at the distance of a league and a half from the plantation
to which he belongs. How can a slave, whipped, exhausted by hunger,
and excess of labour, find means to appear before the magistrate? and
if he did reach him, how would he be defended against a powerful
master who calls the hired accomplices of his cruelties as witnesses."

In conclusion I may quote a very remarkable extract from the
Representacion del Ayuntamiento, Consulado, y Sociedad patriotica,
dated July 20th, 1811. "In all that relates to the changes to be
introduced in the captive class, there is much less question of our
fears on the diminution of agricultural wealth, than of the security
of the whites, so easy to be compromised by imprudent measures.
Besides, those who accuse the consulate and the municipality of the
Havannah of obstinate resistance forget that, in the year 1799, the
same authorities proposed fruitlessly that the government would divert
attention to the state of the blacks in the island of Cuba (del
arreglo de este delicado asunto.) Further, we are far from adopting
the maxims which the nations of Europe, who boast of their
civilization, have regarded as incontrovertible; that, for instance,
without slaves there could be no colonies. We declare, on the
contrary, that without slaves, and even without blacks, colonies might
have existed, and that the whole difference would have been comprised
in more or less profit, by the more or less rapid increase of the
products. But such being our firm persuasion, we ought also to remind
your Majesty that a social organization into which slavery has been
introduced as an element cannot be changed with inconsiderate
precipitation. We are far from denying that it was an evil contrary to
all moral principles to drag slaves from one continent to another;
that it was a political error not to have listened to the
remonstrances of Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola, who complained of
the introduction and accumulation of so many slaves in proximity with
a small number of free men; but, these evils being now inveterate, we
ought to avoid rendering our position and that of our slaves worse, by
the employment of violent means. What we ask of your Majesty is
conformable to the wish proclaimed by one of the most ardent
protectors of the rights of humanity, by the most determined enemy of
slavery; we desire, like him, that the civil laws should deliver us at
the same time from abuses and dangers."

On the solution of this problem depends, in the West India Islands
only, and exclusive of the republic of Hayti, the security of 875,000
free men (whites and men of colour* (* Namely: 452,000 whites, of
which 342,000 are in the two Spanish Islands (Cuba and Porto Rico),
and 423,000 free men of colour, mulattoes, and blacks.)) and the
mitigation of the sufferings of 1,150,000 slaves. It is evident that
these objects can never be attained by peaceful means, without the
concurrence of the local authorities, either colonial assemblies, or
meetings of proprietors designated by less dreaded names, by the old
parent state. The direct influence of the authorities is
indispensable; and it is a fatal error to believe that we may leave it
to time to act. Time will act simultaneously on the slaves, on the
relations between the islands and the inhabitants of the continent,
and on events which cannot be controlled, when they have been waited
for with the inaction of apathy. Wherever slavery is long established,
the increase of civilization solely has less influence on the
treatment of slaves than many are disposed to admit. The civilization
of a nation seldom extends to a great number of individuals; and does
not reach those who in the plantations are in immediate contact with
the blacks. I have known very humane proprietors shrink from the
difficulties that arise in the great plantations; they hesitate to
disturb established order, to make innovations, which, if not
simultaneous, not supported by the legislation, or (which would be
more powerful) by public feeling, would fail in their end, and perhaps
aggravate the wretchedness of those whose sufferings they were meant
to alleviate. These considerations retard the good that might be
effected by men animated by the most benevolent intentions, and who
deplore the barbarous institutions which have devolved to them by
inheritance. They well know that to produce an essential change in the
state of the slaves, to lead them progressively to the enjoyment of
liberty, requires a firm will on the part of the local authorities,
the concurrence of wealthy and enlightened citizens, and a general
plan in which all chances of disorder and means of repression are
wisely calculated. Without this community of action and effort
slavery, with its miseries and excesses, will survive as it did in
ancient Rome,* along with elegance of manners, progressive
intelligence, and all the charms of the civilization which its
presence accuses, and which it threatens to destroy, whenever the hour
of vengeance shall arrive. (* The argument deduced from the
civilization of Rome and Greece in favour of slavery is much in vogue
in the West Indies, where sometimes we find it adorned with all the
graces of erudition. Thus, in speeches delivered in 1795, in the
Legislative Assembly of Jamaica, it was alleged that from the example
of elephants having been employed in the wars of Pyrrhus and Hannibal,
it could not be blamable to have brought a hundred dogs and forty
hunters from the island of Cuba to hunt the maroon negroes. Bryan
Edwards volume 1 page 570.) Civilization, or slow national
demoralization, merely prepare the way for future events; but to
produce great changes in the social state there must be a coincidence
of certain events, the period of the occurrence of which cannot be
calculated. Such is the complication of human destiny, that the same
cruelties which tarnished the conquest of America have been re-enacted
before our own eyes in times which we suppose to be characterized by
vast progress, information and general refinement of manners. Within
the interval embraced by the span of one life we have seen the reign
of terror in France, the expedition to St. Domingo,* (* The North
American Review for 1821 Number 30 contains the following passage:
Conflicts with slaves fighting for their freedom are not only dreadful
on account of the atrocities to which they give rise on both sides;
but even after freedom has been gained they help to confound every
sentiment of justice and injustice. Some planters are condemning to
death all the male negro population above six years of age. They
affirm that those who have not borne arms will be contaminated by the
example of those who have been fighting. This merciless act is the
consequence of the result of the continued misfortunes of the
colonies. Charault, Reflexions sur Saint Domingue.), the political
re-action in Naples and Spain, I may also add, the massacres of Chio,
Ipsara and Missolonghi, the work of the barbarians of Eastern Europe,
which the civilized nations of the north and west did not deem it
their duty to prevent. In slave countries, where the effect of long
habit tends to legitimize institutions the most adverse to justice, it
is vain to count on the influence of information, of intellectual
culture, or refinement of manners, except in as much as all those
benefits accelerate the impulse given by governments and facilitate
the execution of measures once adopted. Without the directive action
of governments and legislatures a peaceful revolution is a thing not
to be hoped for. The danger becomes the more imminent when a general
inquietude pervades the public mind; when amidst the political
dissensions of neighbouring countries the faults and the duties of
governments have been revealed: in such cases tranquillity can be
restored only by a ruling authority which, in the noble consciousness
of its power and right, sways events by entering itself on the career
of improvement.



The object of this memoir is to concentrate the geological
observations which I collected during my journeys among the mountains
of New Andalusia and Venezuela, on the banks of the Orinoco and in the
Llanos of Barcelona, Calabozo and the Apure; consequently, from the
coast of the Caribbean Sea to the valley of the Amazon, between 2 and
10 1/2 degrees north latitude.

The extent of country which I traversed in different directions was
more than 15,400 square leagues. It has already formed the subject of
a geological sketch, traced hastily on the spot, after my return from
the Orinoco, and published in 1801. At that period the direction of
the Cordillera on the coast of Venezuela and the existence of the
Cordillera of Parime were unknown in Europe. No measure of altitude
had been attempted beyond the province of Quito; no rock of South
America had been named; there existed no description of the
superposition of rocks in any region of the tropics. Under these
circumstances an essay tending to prove the identity of the formations
of the two hemispheres could not fail to excite interest. The study of
the collections which I brought back with me, and four years of
journeying in the Andes, have enabled me to rectify my first views,
and to extend an investigation which, by reason of its novelty, had
been favourably received. That the most remarkable geological
relations may be the more easily seized, I shall treat aphoristically,
in different sections, the configuration of the soil, the general
division of the land, the direction and inclination of the beds and
the nature of the primitive, intermediary, secondary and tertiary


 Configuration of the Country.
 Inequalities of the Soil.
 Chains and Groups of Mountains.
 Divisionary Ridges.
 Plains or Llanos.

South America is one of those great triangular masses which form the
three continental parts of the southern hemisphere of the globe. In
its exterior configuration it resembles Africa more than Australia.
The southern extremities of the three continents are so placed that,
in sailing from the Cape of Good Hope (latitude 33 degrees 55 minutes)
to Cape Horn (latitude 55 degrees 58 minutes), and doubling the
southern point of Van Diemen's Land (latitude 43 degrees 38 minutes),
we see those lands stretching out towards the south pole in proportion
as we advance eastward. A fourth part of the 571,000 square sea
leagues* (* Almost double the extent of Europe.) which South America
comprises is covered with mountains distributed in chains or gathered
together in groups. The other parts are plains forming long
uninterrupted bands covered with forests or gramina, flatter than in
Europe, and rising progressively, at the distance of 300 leagues from
the coast, between 30 and 170 toises above the level of the sea. The
most considerable mountainous chain in South America extends from
south to north according to the greatest dimension of the continent;
it is not central like the European chains, nor far removed from the
sea-shore, like the Himalaya and the Hindoo-Koosh; but it is thrown
towards the western extremity of the continent, almost on the coast of
the Pacific Ocean. Referring to the profile which I have given* of the
configuration of South America (* Map of Columbia according to the
astronomical observations of Humboldt by A.H. Brue 1823.), in the
latitude of Chimborazo and Grand Para, across the plains of the
Amazon, we find the land low towards the east, in an inclined plane,
at an angle of less than 25 seconds on a length of 600 leagues; and
if, in the ancient state of our planet, the Atlantic Ocean, by some
extraordinary cause, ever rose to 1100 feet above its present level (a
height one-third less than the table-lands of Spain and Bavaria), the
waves must, in the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, have broken upon
the rocks that bound the eastern declivity of the Cordilleras of the
Andes. The rising of this ridge is so inconsiderable compared to the
whole continent that its breadth in the parallel of Cape Saint Roche
is 1400 times greater than the average height of the Andes.

We distinguish in the mountainous part of South America a chain and
three groups of mountains, namely, the Cordillera of the Andes, which
the geologist may trace without interruption from Cape Pilares, in the
western part of the Straits of Magellan, to the promontory of Paria
opposite the island of Trinidad; the insulated group of the Sierra
Nevada de Santa Marta; the group of the mountains of the Orinoco, or
of La Parime; and that of the mountains of Brazil. The Sierra de Santa
Marta being nearly in the meridian of the Cordilleras of Peru and New
Grenada, the snowy summits descried by navigators in passing the mouth
of the Rio Magdalena are commonly mistaken for the northern extremity
of the Andes. I shall soon prove that the colossal group of the Sierra
de Santa Marta is almost entirely separate from the mountains of Ocana
and Pamplona which belong to the eastern Cordillera of New Grenada.
The hot plains through which runs the Rio Cesar, and which extend
towards the valley of Upar, separate the Sierra Nevada from the Paramo
de Cacota, south of Pamplona. The ridge which divides the waters
between the gulf of Maracaibo and the Rio Magdalena is in the plain on
the east of the Laguna Zapatoza. If, on the one hand, the Sierra de
Santa Marta has been erroneously considered (on account of its eternal
snow, and its longitude) to be a continuation of the Cordillera of the
Andes, on the other hand, the connexion of that same Cordillera with
the coast mountains of the provinces of Cumana and Caracas has not
been recognized. The littoral chain of Venezuela, of which the
different ranges form the Montana de Paria, the isthmus of Araya, the
Silla of Caracas and the gneiss-granite mountains north and south of
the lake of Valencia, is joined between Porto Cabello, San Felipe and
Tocuyo to the Paramos de las Rosas and Niquitao, which form the
north-east extremity of the Sierra de Merida, and the eastern
Cordillera of the Andes of New Grenada. It is sufficient here to
mention this connexion, so important in a geological point of view;
for the denominations of Andes and Cordilleras being altogether in
disuse as applied to the chains of mountains extending from the
eastern gulf of Maracaibo to the promontory of Paria, we shall
continue to designate those chains (stretching from west to east) by
the names of littoral chain, or coast-chain of Venezuela.

Of the three insulated groups of mountains, that is to say, those
which are not branches of the Cordillera of the Andes and its
continuation towards the shore of Venezuela, one is on the north, and
the other two on the west of the Andes: that on the north is the
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; the two others are the Sierra de la
Parime, between 4 and 8 degrees of north latitude, and the mountains
of Brazil, between 15 and 28 degrees south latitude. This singular
distribution of great inequalities of soil produces three plains or
basins, comprising a surface of 420,600 square leagues, or four-fifths
of all South America, east of the Andes. Between the coast-chain of
Venezuela and the group of the Parime, the plains of the Apure and the
Lower Orinoco extend; between the group of Parime and the Brazil
mountains are the plains of the Amazon, of the Rio Negro and the
Madeira, and between the groups of Brazil and the southern extremity
of the continent are the plains of Rio de la Plata and of Patagonia.
As the group of the Parime in Spanish Guiana, and of the Brazil
mountains (or of Minas Geraes and Goyaz), do not join the Cordillera
of the Andes of New Grenada and Upper Peru towards the west, the three
plains of the Lower Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio de la Plata, are
connected by land-straits of considerable breadth. These straits are
also plains stretching from north to south, and traversed by ridges
imperceptible to the eye but forming divortia aquarum. These ridges
(and this remarkable phenomenon has hitherto escaped the attention of
geologists) are situated between 2 and 3 degrees north latitude, and
16 and 18 degrees south latitude. The first ridge forms the partition
of the waters which fall into the Lower Orinoco on the north-east, and
into the Rio Negro and the Amazon on the south and south-east; the
second ridge divides the tributary streams of the right bank of the
Amazon and the Rio de la Plata. These ridges, of which the existence
is only manifested, as in Volhynia, by the course of the waters, are
parallel with the coast-chain of Venezuela; they present, as it were,
two systems of counter-slopes partially developed, in the direction
from west to east, between the Guaviare and the Caqueta, and between
the Mamori and the Pilcomayo. It is also worthy of remark that in the
southern hemisphere the Cordillera of the Andes sends an immense
counterpoise eastward in the promontory of the Sierra Nevada de
Cochabamba, whence begins the ridge stretching between the tributary
streams of the Madeira and the Paraguay to the lofty group of the
mountains of Brazil or Minas Geraes. Three transversal chains (the
coast-mountains of Venezuela, of the Orinoco or Parime, and the Brazil
mountains) tend to join the longitudinal chain (the Andes) either by
an intermediary group (between the lake of Valencia and Tocuyo), or by
ridges formed by the intersection of counter-slopes in the plains. The
two extremities of the three Llanos which communicate by land-straits,
the Llanos of the Lower Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio de la Plata
or of Buenos Ayres, are steppes covered with gramina, while the
intermediary Llano (that of the Amazon) is a thick forest. With
respect to the two land-straits forming bands directed from north to
south (from the Apure to Caqueta across the Provincia de los Llanos,
and the sources of the Mamori to Rio Pilcomayo, across the province of
Mocos and Chiquitos) they are bare and grassy steppes like the plains
of Caracas and Buenos Ayres.

In the immense extent of land east of the Andes, comprehending more
than 480,000 square sea leagues, of which 92,000 are a mountainous
tract of country, no group rises to the region of perpetual snow; none
even attains the height of 1400 toises. This lowering of the mountains
in the eastern region of the New Continent extends as far as 60
degrees north latitude; while in the western part, on the prolongation
of the Cordillera of the Andes, the highest Summits rise in Mexico
(latitude 18 degrees 59 minutes) to 2770 toises, and in the Rocky
Mountains (latitude 37 to 40 degrees) to 1900 toises. The insulated
group of the Alleghenies, corresponding in its eastern position and
direction with the Brazil group, does not exceed 1040 toises.* (* The
culminant point of the Alleghenies is Mount Washington in New
Hampshire, latitude 44 1/4 degrees. According to Captain Partridge its
height is 6634 English feet.) The lofty summits, therefore, thrice
exceeding the height of Mont Blanc, belong only to the longitudinal
chain which bounds the basin of the Pacific Ocean, from 55 degrees
south to 68 degrees north latitude, that is to say, the Cordillera of
the Andes. The only insulated group that can be compared with the
snowy summits of the equinoctial Andes, and which attains the height
of nearly 3000 toises, is the Sierra de Santa Marta; it is not
situated on the east of the Cordilleras, but between the prolongation
of two of their branches, those of Merida and Veragua. The
Cordilleras, where they bound the Caribbean Sea, in that part which we
designate by the name of Coast Chain of Venezuela, do not attain the
extraordinary height (2500 toises) which they reach in their
prolongation towards Chita and Merida. Considering separately the
groups of the east, those of the shore of Venezuela, of the Parime,
and Brazil, we see their height diminish from north to south. The
highest summits of each group are the Silla de Caracas (1350 toises),
the peak of Duida (1300 toises), the Itacolumi and the Itambe* (900
toises). (* According to the measure of MM. Spix and Martius the
Itambe de Villa de Principe is 5590 feet high.) But, as I have
elsewhere observed, it would be erroneous to judge the height of a
chain of mountains solely from that of the most lofty summits. The
peak of the Himalayas, accurately measured, is 676 toises higher than
Chimborazo (* The Peak Iewahir, latitude 30 degrees 22 minutes 19
seconds; longitude 77 degrees 35 minutes 7 seconds east of Paris,
height 4026 toises, according to MM. Hodgson and Herbert.); Chimborazo
is 900 toises higher than Mont Blanc; and Mont Blanc 653 toises higher
than the peak of Nethou.* (* This peak, called also peak of Anethou or
Malahita, or eastern peak of Maladetta, is the highest summit of the
Pyrenees. It rises 1787 toises and consequently exceeds Mont Perdu by
40 toises.) These differences do not furnish the relative average
heights of the Himalayas, the Andes, the Alps and the Pyrenees, that
is, the height of the back of the mountains, on which arise the peaks,
needles, pyramids, or rounded domes. It is that part of the back where
passes are made, which furnishes a precise measure of the minimum of
the height of the great chains. In comparing the whole of my measures
with those of Moorcroft, Webb, Hodgson, Saussure and Ramond, I
estimate the average height of the top of the Himalayas, between the
meridians of 75 and 77 degrees, at 2450 toises; the Andes* (at Peru,
Quito and New Grenada), at 1850 toises (* In the passage of Quindiu,
between the valley of the Magdalena and that of the Rio Cauca, I found
the culminant point (la Garita del Parama) to be 1798 toises; it is
however, regarded as one of the least elevated. The passages of the
Andes of Guanacas, Guamani and Micuipampa, are respectively 2300,
1713, and 1817 toises above sea-level. Even in 33 degrees south
latitude the road across the Andes between Mendoza and Valparaiso is
1987 toises high. I do not mention the Col de l'Assuay, where I
passed, near la Ladera de Cadlud, on a ridge 2428 toises high, because
it is a passage on a transverse ridge joining two parallel chains.);
the summit of the Alps and Pyrenees at 1150 toises. The difference of
the mean height of the Cordilleras (between 5 degrees north and 2
degrees south latitude) and the Swiss Alps, is consequently 200 toises
less than the difference of their loftiest summits; and in comparing
the passes of the Alps, we see that their average height is nearly the
same, although peak Nethou is 600 toises lower than Mont Blanc and
Mont Rosa. Between the Himalaya* (* The passes of the Himalaya that
lead from Chinese Tartary into Hindostan (Nitee-Ghaut, Bamsaru, etc.)
are from 2400 to 2700 toises high.) and the Andes, on the contrary,
(considering those chains in the limits which I have just indicated),
the difference between the mean height of the ridges and that of the
loftiest summits presents nearly the same proportions.

Taking an analogous view of the groups of mountains at the east of the
Andes, we find the average height of the coast-chain of Venezuela to
be 750 toises; of the Sierra Parime, 500 toises; of the Brazilian
group, 400 toises; whence it follows that the mountains of the eastern
region of South America between the tropics are, when compared to the
medium elevation of the Andes, in the relation of one to three.

The following is the result of some numerical statements, the
comparison of which affords more precise ideas on the structure of
mountains in general.* (* The Cols or passes indicate the minimum of
the height to which the ridge of the mountains lowers in a particular
country. Now, looking at the principal passes of the Alps of
Switzerland (Col Terret, 1191 toises, Mont Cenis, 1060 toises; Great
Saint Bernard, 1246 toises; Simplon, 1029 toises; and on the neck of
the Pyrenees, Benasque, 1231 toises; Pinede, 1291 toises; Gavarnic,
1197 toises; Cavarere, 1151 toises; it would be difficult to affirm
that the Pyrenees are lower than the average height of the Swiss



Himalayas (between north latitude       : 4026 : 2450 : 1 : 1.6.
30 degrees 18 minutes and 31 degrees
53 minutes, and longitude 75 degrees
23 minutes and 77 degrees 38 minutes)

Cordillera of the Andes (between        : 3350 : 1850 : 1 : 1.8.
latitude 5 and 2 degrees south)

Alps of Switzerland                     : 2450 : 1150 : 1 : 2.1.

Pyrenees                                : 1787 : 1150 : 1 : 1.5.

Littoral Chain of Venezuela             : 1350 :  750 : 1 : 1.8.

Group of the Mountains of the Parime    : 1300 :  500 : 1 : 2.6.

Group of the Mountains of Brazil        : 900  :  500 : 1 : 2.3.

If we distinguish among the mountains those which rise sporadically,
and form small insulated systems,* (* As the groups of the Canaries,
the Azores, the Sandwich Islands, the Monts-Dores, and the Euganean
mountains.) and those that make part of a continued chain,* (* The
Himalayas, the Alps, and the Andes.) we find that, notwithstanding the
immense height* of the summits of some insulated systems (* Among the
insulated systems, or sporadic mountains, Mowna-Roa is generally
regarded as the most elevated summit of the Sandwich Islands. Its
height is computed at 2500 toises, and yet at some seasons it is
entirely free from snow. An exact measure of this summit, situated in
very frequented latitudes, has for 25 years been desired in vain by
naturalists and geologists.), the culminant points of the whole globe
belong to continuous chains--to the Cordilleras of Central Asia and
South America.

In that part of the Andes with which I am best acquainted, between 8
degrees south latitude and 21 degrees north latitude, all the colossal
summits are of trachyte. It may almost be admitted as a general rule
that whenever the mass of mountains rises in that region of the
tropics much above the limit of perpetual snow (2300 to 2470 toises),
the rocks commonly called primitive (for instance, gneiss-granite or
mica-slate) disappear, and the summits are of trachyte or
trappean-porphyry. I know only a few rare exceptions to this law, and
they occur in the Cordilleras of Quito where the Nevados of Conderasto
and Cuvillan, situated opposite to the trachytic Chimborazo, are
composed of mica-slate and contain veins of sulphuret of silver. Thus
in the groups of detached mountains which rise abruptly from the
plains the loftiest summits, such as Mowna-Roa, the Peak of Teneriffe,
Etna and the Peak of the Azores, present only recent volcanic rocks.
It would, however, be an error to extend that law to every other
continent, and to admit, as a general rule, that, in every zone, the
greatest elevations have produced trachytic domes: gneiss-granite and
mica-slate constitute the summits of the ridge, in the almost
insulated group of the Sierra Nevada of Grenada and the Peak of
Malhacen,* (* This peak, according to the survey of M. Clemente Roxas,
is 1826 toises above the level of the sea, consequently 39 toises
higher than the loftiest summit of the Pyrenees (the granitic peak of
Nethou) and 83 toises lower than the trachytic peak of Teneriffe. The
Sierra Nevada of Grenada forms a system of mountains of mica-slate,
passing to gneiss and clay-slate, and containing shelves of euphotide
and greenstone.), as they also do in the continuous chain of the Alps,
the Pyrenees and probably the Himalayas.* (* If we may judge from the
specimens of rocks collected in the gorges and passes of the Himalayas
or rolled down by the torrents.) These phenomena, discordant in
appearance, are possibly all effects of the same cause: granite,
gneiss, and all the so-styled primitive Neptunian mountains, may
possibly owe their origin to volcanic forces, as well as the
trachytes; but to forces of which the action resembles less the
still-burning volcanoes of our days, ejecting lava, which at the
moment of its eruption comes immediately into contact with the
atmospheric air; but it is not here my purpose to discuss this great
theoretic question.

After having examined the general structure of South America according
to considerations of comparative geology, I shall proceed to notice
separately the different systems of mountains and plains, the mutual
connection of which has so powerful an influence on the state of
industry and commerce in the nations of the New Continent. I shall
give only a general view of the systems situated beyond the limits of
the region which forms the special object of this memoir. Geology
being essentially founded on the study of the relations of
juxtaposition and place, I could not treat of the littoral chain and
the chain of the Parime separately, without touching on the other
systems south and west of Venezuela.



This is the most continuous, the longest, the most uniform in its
direction from south to north and north-north-west, of any chain of
the globe. It approaches the north and south poles at unequal
distances of from 22 to 33 degrees. Its development is from 2800 to
3000 leagues (20 to a degree), a length equal to the distance from
Cape Finisterre in Galicia to the north-east cape (Tschuktschoi-Noss)
of Asia. Somewhat less than one half of this chain belongs to South
America, and runs along its western shores. North of the isthmus of
Cupica and of Panama, after an immense lowering, it assumes the
appearance of a nearly central ridge, forming a rocky dyke that joins
the great continent of North America to the southern continent. The
low lands on the east of the Andes of Guatimala and New Spain appear
to have been overwhelmed by the ocean and now form the bottom of the
Caribbean Sea. As the continent beyond the parallel of Florida again
widens towards the east, the Cordilleras of Durango and New Mexico, as
well as the Rocky Mountains, merely a continuation of those
Cordilleras, appear to be thrown still further westward, that is,
towards the coast of the Pacific Ocean; but they still remain eight or
ten times more remote from it than in the southern hemisphere. We may
consider as the two extremities of the Andes, the rock or granitic
island of Diego Ramirez, south of Cape Horn, and the mountains lying
at the mouth of Mackenzie River (latitude 69 degrees, longitude 130
1/2 degrees), more than twelve degrees west of the greenstone
mountains, known by the name of the Copper Mountains, visited by
Captain Franklin. The colossal peak of Saint Elias and that of Mount
Fairweather, in New Norfolk, do not, properly speaking, belong to the
northern prolongation of the Cordilleras of the Andes, but to a
parallel chain (the maritime Alps of the north-west coast), stretching
towards the peninsula of California, and connected by transversal
ridges with a mountainous land, between 45 and 53 degrees of latitude,
with the Andes of New Mexico (Rocky Mountains). In South America the
mean breadth of the Cordillera of the Andes is from 18 to 22 leagues.*
(* The breadth of this immense chain is a phenomenon well worthy of
attention. The Swiss Alps extend, in the Grisons and in the Tyrol, to
a breadth of 36 and 40 leagues, both in the meridians of the lake at
Como, the canton of Appenzell, and in the meridian of Bassano and
Tegernsee.) It is only in the knots of the mountains, that is where
the Cordillera is swelled by side-groups or divided into several
chains nearly parallel, and reuniting at intervals, for instance, on
the south of the lake of Titicaca, that it is more than 100 to 120
leagues broad, in a direction perpendicular to its axis. The Andes of
South America bound the plains of the Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio
de la Plata, on the west, like a rocky wall raised across a crevice
1300 leagues long, and stretching from south to north. This upheaved
part (if I may be permitted to use an expression founded on a
geological hypothesis) comprises a surface of 58,900 square leagues,
between the parallel of Cape Pilesar and the northern Choco. To form
an idea of the variety of rocks which this space may furnish for the
observation of the traveller, we must recollect that the Pyrenees,
according to the observations of M. Charpentier, occupy only 768
square sea leagues.

The name of Andes in the Quichua language (which wants the consonants
d, f, and g) Antis, or Ante, appears to me to be derived from the
Peruvian word anta, signifying copper or metal in general. Anta chacra
signifies mine of copper; antacuri, copper mixed with gold; and puca
anta, copper, or red metal. As the group of the Altai mountains* takes
its name from the Turkish word altor or altyn (* Klaproth. Asia
polyglotta page 211. It appears to me less probable that the tribe of
the Antis gave its name to the mountains of Peru.), in the same manner
the Cordilleras may have been termed "Copper-country," or Anti-suyu,
on account of the abundance of that metal, which the Peruvians
employed for their tools. The Inca Garcilasso, who was the son of a
Peruvian princess, and who wrote the history of his native country in
the first years of the conquest, gives no etymology of the name of the
Andes. He only opposes Anti-suyu, or the region of summits covered
with eternal snow (ritiseca), to the plains or Yuncas, that is, to the
lower region of Peru. The etymology of the name of the largest
mountain chain of the globe cannot be devoid of interest to the
mineralogic geographer.

The structure of the Cordillera of the Andes, that is, its division
into several chains nearly parallel, which are again joined by knots
of mountains, is very remarkable. On our maps this structure is
indicated but imperfectly; and what La Condamine and Bouguer merely
guessed, during their long visit to the table-land of Quito, has been
generalized and ill-interpreted by those who have described the whole
chain according to the type of the equatorial Andes. The following is
the most accurate information I could collect by my own researches and
an active correspondence of twenty years with the inhabitants of
Spanish America. The group of islands called Tierra del Fuego, in
which the chain of the Andes begins, is a plain extending from Cape
Espiritu Santo as far as the canal of San Sebastian. The country on
the west of this canal, between Cape San Valentino and Cape Pilares,
is bristled with granitic mountains covered (from the Morro de San
Agueda to Cabo Redondo) with calcareous shells. Navigators have
greatly exaggerated the height of the mountains of Tierra del Fuego,
among which there appears to be a volcano still burning. M. de
Churruca found the height of the western peak of Cape Pilares
(latitude 52 degrees 45 minutes south) only 218 toises; even Cape Horn
is probably not more than 500 toises* high. (* It is very distinctly
seen at the distance of 60 miles, which, without calculating the
effects of terrestrial refraction, would give it a height of 498
toises.) The plain extends on the northern shore of the Straits of
Magellan, from the Virgin's Cape to Cabo Negro; at the latter the
Cordilleras rise abruptly, and fill the whole space as far as Cape
Victoria (latitude 52 degrees 22 minutes). The region between Cape
Horn and the southern extremity of the continent somewhat resembles
the origin of the Pyrenees between Cape Creux (near the gulf of Rosas)
and the Col des Perdus. The height of the Patagonian chain is not
known; it appears, however, that no summit south of the parallel of 48
degrees attains the elevation of the Canigou (1430 toises) which is
near the eastern extremity of the Pyrenees. In that southern country,
where the summers are so cold and short, the limit of eternal snow
must lower at least as much as in the northern hemisphere, in Norway,
in latitude 63 and 64 degrees; consequently below 800 toises. The
great breadth, therefore, of the band of snow that envelopes these
Patagonian summits, does not justify the idea which travellers form of
their height in 40 degrees south latitude. As we advance towards the
island of Chiloe, the Cordilleras draw near the coast; and the
archipelago of Chonos or Huaytecas appears like the vestiges of an
immense group of mountains overwhelmed by water. Narrow estuaries fill
the lower valleys of the Andes, and remind us of the fjords of Norway
and Greenland. We there find, running from south to north, the Nevados
de Maca (latitude 45 degrees 19 minutes), of Cuptano (latitude 44
degrees 58 minutes), of Yanteles (latitude 43 degrees 52 minutes), of
Corcovado, Chayapirca (latitude 42 degrees 52 minutes) and of Llebean
(latitude 41 degrees 49 minutes). The peak of Cuptana rises like the
peak of Teneriffe, from the bosom of the sea; but being scarcely
visible at thirty-six or forty leagues distance, it cannot be more
than 1500 toises high. Corcovado, situated on the coast of the
continent, opposite the southern point of the island of Chiloe,
appears to be more than 1950 toises high; it is perhaps the loftiest
summit of the whole globe, south of the parallel of 42 degrees south
latitude. On the north of San Carlos de Chiloe, in the whole length of
Chile to the desert of Atacama, the low western regions not having
been overwhelmed by floods, the Andes there appear farther from the
coast. The Abbe Molina affirms that the Cordilleras of Chile form
three parallel chains, of which the intermediary is the most elevated;
but to prove that this division is far from general, it suffices to
recollect the barometric survey made by MM. Bauza and Espinosa, in
1794, between Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. The road leading from one
of those towns to the other, rises gradually from 700 to 1987 toises;
and after passing the Col des Andes (La Cumbre, between the houses of
refuge called Las Calaveras and Las Cuevas), it descends continually
as far as the temperate valley of Santiago de Chile, of which the
bottom is only 409 toises above the level of the sea. The same survey
has made known the minimum of height at Chile of the lower limit of
snow, in 33 degrees south latitude. The limit does not lower in summer
to 2000 toises.* (* On the southern declivity of the Himalayas snow
begins (3 degrees nearer the equator) at 1970 toises.) I think we may
conclude according to the analogy of the Snowy Mountains of Mexico and
southern Europe, and considering the difference of the summer
temperature of the two hemispheres, that the real Nevadas at Chile, in
the parallel of Valdivia (latitude 40 degrees), cannot be below 1300
toises; in Valparaiso (latitude 33 degrees) not lower than 2000
toises, and in that of Copiapo (latitude 27 degrees) not below 2200
toises of height. These are the limit-numbers, the minimum of
elevation, which the ridge of the Andes of Chile must attain in
different degrees of latitude, to enable their summits to rise above
the line of perpetual snow. The numerical results which I have just
marked and which are founded on the laws of distribution of heat, have
still the same importance which they possessed at the time of my
travels in America; for there does not exist in the immense extent of
the Andes, from 8 degrees south latitude to the Straits of Magellan,
one Nevada of which the height above the sea-level has been
determined, either by a simple geometric measure, or by the combined
means of barometric and geodesic measurements.

Between 33 and 18 degrees south latitude, between the parallels of
Valparaiso and Arica, the Andes present towards the east three
remarkable spurs, the Sierra de Cordova, the Sierra de Salta, and the
Nevados de Cochabamba. Travellers partly cross and partly go along the
side of the Sierra de Cordova (between 33 and 31 degrees of latitude)
in their way from Buenos Ayres to Mendoza; it may be said to be the
most southern promontory which advances, in the Pampas, towards the
meridian of 65 degrees; it gives birth to the great river known by the
name of Desaguadero de Mendoza and extends from San Juan de la
Frontera and San Juan de la Punta to the town of Cordova. The second
spur, called the Sierra de Salta and the Jujui, of which the greatest
breadth is 25 degrees of latitude, widens from the valley of Catamarca
and San Miguel del Tucuman, in the direction of the Rio Vermejo
(longitude 64 degrees). Finally, the third and most majestic spur, the
Sierra Nevada de Cochabamba and Santa Cruz (from 22 to 17 1/2 degrees
of latitude), is linked with the knot of the mountains of Porco. It
forms the points of partition (divortia aquarum, between the basin of
the Amazon and that of the Rio de la Plata. The Cachimayo and the
Pilcomayo, which rise between Potosi, Talavera de la Puna, and La
Plata or Chuquisaca, run in the direction of south-east, while the
Parapiti and the Guapey (Guapaiz, or Rio de Mizque) pour their waters
into the Mamori, to north-east. The ridge of partition being near
Chayanta, south of Mizque, Tomina and Pomabamba, nearly on the
southern declivity of the Sierra de Cochabamba in latitude 19 and 20
degrees, the Rio Guapey flows round the whole group, before it reaches
the plains of the Amazon, as in Europe the Poprad, a tributary of the
Vistula, makes a circuit in its course from the southern part of the
Carpathians to the plains of Poland. I have already observed above,
that where the mountains cease (west* of the meridian of 66 1/2
degrees (* I agree with Captain Basil Hall, in fixing the port of
Valparaiso in 71 degrees 31 minutes west of Greenwich, and I place
Cordova 8 degrees 40 minutes, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra 7 degrees 4
minutes east of Valparaiso. The longitudes mentioned in the text refer
always to the meridian of the Observatory of Paris.)) the partition
ridge of Cochabamba goes up towards the north-east, to 16 degrees of
latitude, forming, by the intersection of two slightly inclined
planes, only one ridge amidst the savannahs, and separating the waters
of the Guapore, a tributary of the Madeira, from those of the Aguapehy
and Jauru, tributaries of the Rio Paraguay. This vast country between
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Villabella, and Matogrosso, is one of the
least known parts of South America. The two spurs of Cordova and Salta
present only a mountainous territory of small elevation, and linked to
the foot of the Andes of Chile. Cochabamba, on the contrary, attains
the limit of perpetual snow (2300 toises) and forms in some sort a
lateral branch of the Cordilleras, diverging even from their tops
between La Paz and Oruro. The mountains composing this branch (the
Cordillera de Chiriguanaes, de los Sauces and Yuracarees) extend
regularly from west to east; their eastern declivity* is very rapid,
and their loftiest summits are not in the centre, but in the northern
part of the group. (* For much information concerning the Sierra de
Cochabamba I am indebted to the manuscripts of my countryman, the
celebrated botanist Taddeus Haenke, which a monk of the congregation
of the Escurial, Father Cisneros, kindly communicated to me at Lima.
Mr. Haenke, after having followed the expedition of Alexander
Malaspina, settled at Cochabamba in 1798. A part of the immense herbal
of this botanist is now at Prague.)

The principal Cordillera of Chile and Upper Peru is, for the first
time, ramified very distinctly into two branches, in the group of
Porco and Potosi, between latitude 19 and 20 degrees. These two
branches comprehend the table-land extending from Carangas to Lamba
(latitude 19 3/4 to 15 degrees) and in which is situated the small
mountain lake of Paria, the Desaguadero, and the great Laguna of
Titicaca or Chucuito, of which the western part bears the name of
Vinamarca. To afford an idea of the colossal dimensions of the Andes,
I may here observe that the surface of the lake of Titicaca alone (448
square sea leagues) is twenty times greater than that of the Lake of
Geneva, and twice the average extent of a department of France. On the
banks of this lake, near Tiahuanacu, and in the high plains of Callao,
ruins are found which bear evidence of a state of civilization
anterior to that which the Peruvians assign to the reign of the Inca
Manco Capac. The eastern Cordillera, that of La Paz, Palca, Ancuma,
and Pelechuco, join, north-west of Apolobamba, the western Cordillera,
which is the most extensive of the whole chain of the Andes, between
the parallels 14 and 15 degrees. The imperial city of Cuzco is
situated near the eastern extremity of this knot, which comprehends,
in an area of 3000 square leagues, the mountains of Vilcanota,
Carabaya, Abancai, Huando, Parinacochas, and Andahuaylas. Though here,
as in general, in every considerable widening of the Cordillera, the
grouped summits do not follow the principal axis in uniform and
parallel directions, a phenomenon observable in the general
disposition of the chain of the Andes, from latitude 18 degrees, is
well worthy the attention of geologists. The whole mass of the
Cordilleras of Chile and Upper Peru, from the Straits of Magellan to
the parallel of the port of Arica (18 degrees 28 minutes 35 seconds),
runs from south to north, in the direction of a meridian at most 5
degrees north-east; but from the parallel of Arica, the coast and the
two Cordilleras east and west of the Alpine lake of Titicaca, abruptly
change their direction and incline to north-west. The Cordilleras of
Ancuma and Moquehua, and the longitudinal valley, or rather the basin
of Titicaca, which they inclose, take a direction north 42 degrees
west. Further on, the two branches again unite in the group of the
mountains of Cuzco, and thence their direction is north 80 degrees
west. This group of which the table-land inclines to the north-east,
forms a curve, nearly from east to west, so that the part of the Andes
north of Castrovireyna is thrown back more than 242,000 toises
westward. This singular geological phenomenon resembles the variation
of dip of the veins, and especially of the two parts of the chain of
the Pyrenees, parallel to each other, and linked by an almost
rectangular elbow, 16,000 toises long, near the source of the
Garonne;* (* Between the mountain of Tentenade and the Port d'Espot.);
but in the Andes, the axes of the chain, south and north of the curve,
do not preserve parallelism. On the north of Castrovireyna and
Andahuaylas (latitude 14 degrees), the direction is north 22 degrees
west, while south of 15 degrees, it is north 42 degrees west. The
inflexions of the coast follow these changes. The shore separated from
the Cordillera by a plain 15 leagues in breadth, stretches from Camapo
to Arica, between 27 1/2 and 18 1/2 degrees latitude north 5 degrees
east; from Arica to Pisco, between 18 1/2 and 14 degrees latitude at
first north 42 degrees west, afterwards north 65 degrees west; and
from Pisco to Truxillo, between 14 and 8 degrees of latitude north 27
degrees west. The parallelism between the coast and the Cordillera of
the Andes is a phenomenon the more worthy of attention, as it occurs
in several parts of the globe where the mountains do not in the same
manner form the shore.

After the great knot of mountains of Cuzco and Parinacochas, in 14
degrees south latitude, the Andes present a second bifurcation, on the
east and west of the Rio Jauja, which throws itself into the Mantaro,
a tributary stream of the Apurimac. The eastern chain stretches on the
east of Huanta, the convent of Ocopa and Tarma; the western chain, on
the west of Castrovireyna, Huancavelica, Huarocheri, and Yauli. The
basin, or rather the lofty table-land which is inclosed by these
chains, is nearly half the length of the basin of Chucuito or
Titicaca. Two mountains covered with eternal snow, seen from the town
of Lima, and which the inhabitants name Toldo de la Nieve, belong to
the western chain, that of Huarocheri.

North-west of the valleys of Salcabamba, in the parallel of the ports
of Huaura and Guarmey, between 11 and 10 degrees latitude, the two
chains unite in the knot of the Huanuco and the Pasco, celebrated for
the mines of Yauricocha or Santa Rosa. There rise two peaks of
colossal height, the Nevados of Sasaguanca and of La Viuda. The
table-land of this knot of mountains appears in the Pambas de Bombon
to be more than 1800 toises above the level of the ocean. From this
point, on the north of the parallel of Huanuco (latitude 11 degrees),
the Andes are divided into three chains: the first, and most eastern,
rises between Pozuzu and Muna, between the Rio Huallaga, and the Rio
Pachitea, a tributary of the Ucayali; the second, or central, is
between the Huallaga, and the Upper Maranon; the third, or western,
between the Upper Maranon and the coast of Truxillo and Payta. The
eastern chain is a small lateral branch which lowers into a range of
hills: its direction is first north-north-east, bordering the Pampas
del Sacramento, afterwards it turns west-north-west, where it is
broken by the Rio Huallaga, in the Pongo, above the confluence of
Chipurana, and then it loses itself in latitude 6 1/4 degrees, on the
north-west of Lamas. A transversal ridge seems to connect it with the
central chain, south of Paramo de Piscoguanuna (or Piscuaguna), west
of Chachapoyas. The intermediary or central chain stretches from the
knot of Pasco and Huanuco, towards north-north-west, between Xican and
Chicoplaya, Huacurachuco and the sources of the Rio Monzan, between
Pataz and Pajatan, Caxamarquilla and Moyobamba. It widens greatly in
the parallel of Chachapoyas, and forms a mountainous territory,
traversed by deep and extremely hot valleys. On the north of the
Paramo de Piscoguanuna (latitude 6 degrees) the central chain throws
two branches in the direction of La Vellaca and San Borja. We shall
soon see that this latter branch forms, below the Rio Neva a tributary
stream of the Amazon, the rocks that border the famous Pongo de
Manseriche. In this zone, where North Peru approximates to the
confines of New Grenada in latitude 10 and 5 degrees, no summit of the
eastern and central chains rises as high as the region of perpetual
snow; the only snowy summits are in the western chain. The central
chain, that of the Paramos de Callacalla, and Piscoguanuna, scarcely
attains 1800 toises, and lowers gently to 800 toises; so that the
mountainous and temperate tract of country which extends on the north
of Chachapoyas towards Pomacocha, La Vellaca and the source of the Rio
Nieva is rich in fine cinchona trees. After having passed the Rio
Huallaga and the Pachitea, which with the Beni forms the Ucayali, we
find, in advancing towards the east, only ranges of hills. The western
chain of the Andes, which is the most elevated and nearest to the
coast, runs almost parallel with the shore north 22 degrees west,
between Caxatambo and Huary, Conchucos and Guamachuco, by Caxamarca,
the Paramo de Yanaguanga, and Montan, towards the Rio de Guancabamba.
It comprises (between 9 and 7 1/2 degrees) the three Nevados de
Pelagatos, Moyopata and Huaylillas. This last snowy summit, situated
near Guamachuco (in 7 degrees 55 minutes latitude), is the more
remarkable, since from thence on the north, as far as Chimborazo, on a
length of 140 leagues, there is not one mountain that enters the
region of perpetual snow. This depression, or absence of snow, extends
in the same interval, over all the lateral chains; while, on the south
of the Nevado de Huaylillas, it always happens that when one chain is
very low, the summits of the other exceed the height of 2460 toises.
It was on the south of Micuipampa (latitude 7 degrees 1 minute) that I
found the magnetic equator.

The Amazon, or as it is customary to say in those regions, the Upper
Maranon, flows through the western part of the longitudinal valley
lying between the Cordilleras of Chachapayas and Caxamarca.
Comprehending in one point of view, this valley, and that of the Rio
Jauja, bounded by the Cordilleras of Tarma and Huarocheri, we are
inclined to consider them as one immense basin 180 leagues long, and
crossed in the first third of its length, by a dyke, or ridge 18,000
toises broad. In fact, the two alpine lakes of Lauricocha and
Chinchaycocha, where the river Amazon and the Rio de Jauja take their
rise, are situated south and north of this rocky dyke, which is a
prolongation of the knot of Huanuco and Pasco. The Amazon, on issuing
from the longitudinal valley which bounds the chains of Caxamarca and
Chachacocha, breaks the latter chain; and the point where the great
river penetrates the mountains, is very remarkable. Entering the
Amazon by the Rio Chamaya or Guancabamba, I found opposite the
confluence, the picturesque mountain of Patachuana; but the rocks on
both banks of the Amazon begin only between Tambillo and Tomependa
(latitude 5 degrees 31 minutes, longitude 80 degrees 56 minutes). From
thence to the Pongo de Rentema, a long succession of rocks follow, of
which the last is the Pongo de Tayouchouc, between the strait of
Manseriche and the village of San Borja. The course of the Amazon,
which is first directed north, then east, changes near Puyaya, three
leagues north-east of Tomependa. Throughout the whole distance between
Tambillo and San Borja, the waters force a way, more or less narrow,
across the sandstones of the Cordillera of Chachapoyas. The mountains
are lofty near the Embarcadero, at the confluence of the Imasa, where
large trees of cinchona, which might be easily transplanted to
Cayenne, or the Canaries, approach the Amazon. The rocks in the famous
strait of Manseriche are scarcely 40 toises high; and further eastward
the last hills rise near Xeberos, towards the mouth of the Rio

I have not yet noticed the extraordinary widening of the Andes near
the Apolobamba. The sources of the Rio Beni being found in the spur
which stretches northward beyond the confluence of that river with the
Apurimac, I shall give to the whole group the name of "the spur of
Beni." The following is the most certain information I have obtained
respecting those countries, from persons who had long inhabited
Apolobamba, the Real das Minas of Pasco, and the convent of Ocopa.
Along the whole eastern chain of Titicaca, from La Paz to the knot of
Huanuco (latitude 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 degrees) a very wide mountainous
land is situated eastward, at the back of the declivity of the Andes.
It is not a widening of the eastern chain itself, but rather of the
small heights that surround the foot of the Andes like a penumbra,
filling the whole space between the Beni and the Pachitca. A chain of
hills bounds the eastern bank of the Beni to latitude 8 degrees; for
the rivers Coanache and Magua, tributaries of the Ucayali (flowing in
latitude 6 and 7 degrees) come from a mountainous tract between the
Ucayali and the Javari. The existence of this tract in so eastern a
longitude (probably longitude 74 degrees), is the more remarkable, as
we find at four degrees of latitude further north, neither a rock nor
a hill on the east of Xeberos, or the mouth of the Huallaga (longitude
77 degrees 56 minutes).

We have just seen that the spur of Beni, a sort of lateral branch,
loses itself about latitude 8 degrees; the chain between the Ucayali
and the Huallaga terminates at the parallel of 7 degrees, in joining,
on the west of Lamas, the chain of Chachapayas, stretching between the
Huallaga and the Amazon. Finally, the latter chain, to which I have
given the designation of central, after forming the rapids and
cataracts of the Amazon, between Tomependa and San Borja, turns to
north-north-west, and joins the western chain, that of Caxamarca, or
the Nevados of Pelagatos and Huaylillas, and forms the great knot of
the mountains of Loxa. The mean height of this knot is only from 1000
to 1200 toises: its mild climate renders it peculiarly favourable to
the growth of the cinchona trees, the finest kinds of which are found
in the celebrated forest of Caxanuma and Uritusinga, between the Rio
Zamora and the Cachiyacu, and between Tavacona and Guancabamba. Before
the cinchona of Popayan and Santa Fe de Bogota (north latitude 2 1/2
to 5 degrees), of Huacarachuco, Huamalies and Huanuco (south latitude
9 to 11 degrees) became known, the group of the mountains of Loxa had
for ages been regarded as the sole region whence the febrifuge bark of
cinchona could be obtained. This group occupies the vast territory
between Guancabamba, Avayaca, Ona and the ruined towns of Zamora and
Loyola, between latitude 5 1/2 and 3 1/4 degrees. Some of the summits
(the Paramos of Alpachaca, Saraguru, Savanilla, Gueringa, Chulucanas,
Guamani, and Yamoca, which I measured) rise from 1580 to 1720 toises,
but are not even sporadically covered with snow, which in this
latitude falls only above 1860 to 1900 toises of absolute height.
Eastward, in the direction of the Rio Santiago and the Rio de Chamaya,
two tributary streams of the Amazon, the mountains lower rapidly:
between San Felipe, Matara, and Jaen de Bracamoros, they are not more
than 500 or 300 toises.

As we advance from the mica-slate mountain of Loxa towards the north,
between the Paramos of Alpachaca and Sara (in latitude 3 degrees 15
minutes) the knot of mountains ramifies into two branches which
comprehend the longitudinal valley of Cuenca. This separation
continues for a length of only 12 leagues; for in latitude 2 degrees
27 minutes the two Cordilleras again re-unite in the knot of Assuy, a
trachytic group, of which the table-land near Cadlud (2428 toises
high) nearly enters the region of perpetual snow.

The group of the mountains of Assuy, which affords a very frequented
pass of the Andes between Cuenca and Quito (latitude 2 1/2 to 0
degrees 40 minutes south) is succeeded by another division of the
Cordilleras, celebrated by the labours of Bouguer and La Condamine,
who placed their signals sometimes on one, sometimes on the other of
the two chains. The eastern chain is that of Chimborazo (3350 toises)
and Carguairazo; the western is the chain of the volcano Sangay, the
Collanes, and of Llanganate. The latter is broken by the Rio Pastaza.
The bottom of the longitudinal basin that bounds those two chains,
from Alausi to Llactacunga, is somewhat higher than the bottom of the
basin of Cuenca. North of Llactacanga, 0 degrees 40 minutes latitude,
between the tops of Yliniza (2717 toises) and Cotopaxi (2950 toises),
of which the former belongs to the chain of Chimborazo, and the latter
to that of Sangay, is situated the knot of Chisinche; a kind of narrow
dyke that closes the basin, and divides the waters between the
Atlantic and the Pacific. The Alto de Chisinche is only 80 toises
above the surrounding table-lands. The waters of its northern
declivity form the Rio de San Pedro, which, joining the Rio Pita,
throws itself into the Gualabamba, or Rio de las Esmeraldas. The
waters of the southern declivity, called Cerro de Tiopullo, run into
the Rio San Felipe and the Pastaza, a tributary stream of the Amazon.

The bipartition of the Cordilleras re-commences and continues from 0
degrees 40 minutes latitude south to 0 degrees 20 minutes latitude
north; that is, as far as the volcano of Imbabura near the villa of
Ibarra. The eastern Cordillera presents the snowy summits of Antisana
(2992 toises), of Guamani, Cayambe (3070 toises) and of Imbabura; the
western Cordillera, those of Corazon, Atacazo, Pichinca (2491 toises)
and Catocache (2570 toises). Between these two chains, which may be
regarded as the classic soil of the astronomy of the 18th century, is
a valley, part of which is again divided longitudinally by the hills
of Ichimbio and Poignasi. The table-lands of Puembo and Chillo are
situated eastward of those hills; and those of Quito, Inaquito and
Turubamba lie westward. The equator crosses the summit of the Nevado
de Cayambe and the valley of Quito, in the village of San Antonio de
Lulumbamba. When we consider the small mass of the knot of Assuy, and
above all, of that of Chisinche, we are inclined to regard the three
basins of Cuenca, Hambato and Quito as one valley (from the Paramo de
Sarar to the Villa de Ibarra) 73 sea leagues long, from 4 to 5 leagues
broad, having a general direction north 8 degrees east, and divided by
two transverse dykes one between Alausi and Cuenca (2 degrees 27
minutes south latitude), and the other between Machache and Tambilbo
(0 degrees 40 minutes). Nowhere in the Cordillera of the Andes are
there more colossal mountains heaped together than on the east and
west of this vast basin of the province of Quito, one degree and a
half south, and a quarter of a degree north of the equator. This basin
which, next to the basin of Titicaca, is the centre of the most
ancient native civilization, touches, southward, the knot of the
mountains of Loxa, and northward the tableland of the province of Los

In this province, a little beyond the villa of Ibarra, between the
snowy summits of Cotocache and Imbabura, the two Cordilleras of Quito
unite, and form one mass, extending to Meneses and Voisaco, from 0
degrees 21 minutes north latitude to 1 degree 13 minutes. I call this
mass, on which are situated the volcanoes of Cumbal and Chiles, the
knot of the mountains of Los Pastos, from the name of the province
that forms the centre. The volcano of Pasto, the last eruption of
which took place in the year 1727, is on the south of Yenoi, near the
northern limit of this group, of which the inhabited table-lands are
more than 1600 toises above sea-level. It is the Thibet of the
equinoctial regions of the New World.

On the north of the town of Pasto (latitude 1 degree 13 minutes north;
longitude 79 degrees 41 minutes) the Andes again divide into two
branches and surround the table-land of Mamendoy and Almaguer. The
eastern Cordillera contains the Sienega of Sebondoy (an alpine lake
which gives birth to the Putumayo), the sources of the Jupura or
Caqueta, and the Paramos of Aponte and Iscanse. The western
Cordillera, that of Mamacondy, called in the country Cordillera de la
Costa, on account of its proximity to the shore of the Pacific, is
broken by the great Rio de Patias, which receives the Guativa, the
Guachicon and the Quilquase. The table-land or intermediary basin has
great inequalities; it is partly filled by the Paramos of Pitatumba
and Paraguay, and the separation of the two chains appeared to me
indistinct as far as the parallel of Almaguer (latitude 1 degree 54
minutes; longitude 79 degrees 15 minutes). The general direction of
the Andes, from the extremity of the basin of the province of Quito to
the vicinity of Popayan, changes from north 8 degrees east to north 36
degrees east; and follows the direction of the coast of Esmeralda and

On the parallel of Almaguer, or rather a little north-east of that
town, the geological structure of the ground displays very remarkable
changes. The Cordillera, to which we have given the name of eastern,
that of the lake of Sebondoy, widens considerably between Pansitara
and Ceja. The knot of the Paramo de las Papas and of Socoboni gives
birth to the great rivers of Cauca and Magdalena, and is divided into
two chains, latitude 2 degrees 5 minutes east and west of La Plata,
Vieja and Timana. These two chains continue nearly parallel as far as
5 degrees of latitude, and they bound the longitudinal valley through
which winds the Rio Magdalena. We shall give the name of the eastern
Cordillera of New Grenada to that chain which stretches towards Santa
Fe de Bogota, and the Sierra Nevada de Merida, east of Magdalena; the
chain which lies between the Magdalena and the Cauca, in the direction
of Mariquita, we will call the central Cordillera of New Grenada; and
the chain which continues the Cordillera de la Costa from the basin of
Almaguer, and separates the bed of the Rio Cauca from the
platiniferous territory of Choco, we will designate the western
Cordillera of New Grenada. For additional clearness, we may also name
the chain, that of Suma Paz, after the colossal group of mountains on
the south of Santa Fe de Bogota, which empties the waters of its
eastern declivity into the Rio Meta. The second chain may bear the
name of the chain of Guanacas or Quindiu, after the two celebrated
passages of the Andes, on the road from Santa Fe de Bogota to Popayan.
The third chain may be called the chain of Choco, or of the shore.
Some leagues south of Popayan (latitude 2 degrees 21 minutes north),
west of Paramo de Palitara and the volcano of Purace, a ridge of
mica-slate runs from the knot of the mountains of Sacoboni to
north-west, and divides the waters between the Pacific and the
Caribbean Sea; they flow from the northern declivity into the Rio
Cauca, and from the southern declivity, into the Rio de Patias.

The tripartition of the Andes (north latitude 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 degrees)
resembles that which takes place at the source of the Amazon in the
knot of the mountains of Huanuco and Pasco (latitude 11 degrees
south); but the most western of the three chains that bound the basins
of the Amazon and the Huallaga, is the loftiest; while that of Choco,
or the shore, is the least elevated of the three chains of New
Grenada. Ignorance of this tripartition of the Andes in that part of
South America near the Rio Atrato and the isthmus of Panama, has led
to many erroneous opinions respecting the possibility of a canal that
should connect the two seas.

The eastern chain of the Andes of New Grenada* preserves its
parallelism during some time with the two other chains, those of
Quindiu and Choco; but beyond Tunja (latitude 5 1/2 degrees) it
inclines more towards the north-east, passing somewhat abruptly from
the direction north 25 degrees east to that of north 45 degrees east.
(* I employ a systematic denomination, for the name of the Andes is
unknown in the countries situated north of the equator.) It is like a
vein that changes its direction; and it rejoins the coast after being
greatly enlarged by the grouping of the snowy mountains of Merida. The
tripartition of the Cordilleras, and above all, the spreading of their
branches, have a vast influence on the prosperity of the nations of
New Grenada. The diversity of the superposed table-lands and climates
varies the agricultural productions as well as the character of the
inhabitants. It gives activity to the exchange of productions, and
renews over a vast surface, north of the equator, the picture of the
sultry valleys and cool and temperate plains of Peru. It is also
worthy of remark that, by the separation of one of the branches of the
Cordilleras of Cundinamarca and by the deviation of the chain of
Bogota towards the north-east, the colossal group of the mountains of
Merida is enclosed in the territory of the ancient Capitania-general
of Venezuela, and that the continuity of the same mountainous land
from Pamplona to Barquisimeto and Nirgua may be said to have
facilitated the political union of the Columbian territory. As long as
the central chain (that of Quindiu) presents its snowy summits, no
peak of the eastern chain (that of La Suma Paz) rises, in the same
parallels, to the limit of perpetual snow. Between latitude 2 and 5
1/2 degrees neither the Paramos situated on the east of Gigante and
Neiva, nor the tops of La Suma Paz, Chingasa, Guachaneque, and Zoraca,
exceed the height of 1900 to 2000 toises; while on the north of the
parallel of Paramo d'Erve (latitude 5 degrees 5 minutes), the last of
the Nevados of the central Cordillera, we discover in the eastern
chain the snowy summits of Chita (latitude 5 degrees 50 minutes), and
of Mucuchies (latitude 8 degrees 12 minutes). Hence it results that
from latitude 5 degrees the only mountains covered with snow during
the whole year are the Cordilleras of the east; and although the
Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is not, properly speaking, a continuation
of the Nevados of Chita and Mucuchies (west of Patute and east of
Merida), it is at least very near their meridian.

Having now arrived at the northern extremity of the Cordilleras,
comprehended between Cape Horn and the isthmus of Panama, we shall
proceed to notice the loftiest summits of the three chains which
separate in the knot of the mountains of Socoboni, and the ridge of
Roble (latitude 1 degree 50 minutes to 2 degrees 20 minutes). I begin
with the most eastern chain, that of Timana and Suma Paz, which
divides the tributary streams of the Magdalena and the Meta: it runs
by the Paramos de Chingasu, Guachaneque, Zoraca, Toquillo (near
Labranza Grande), Chita, Almorsadero, Laura, Cacota, Zumbador and
Porqueras, in the direction of the Sierra Nevada de Merida. These
Paramos indicate ten partial risings of the back of the Cordilleras.
The declivity of the eastern chain is extremely rapid on the eastern
side, where it bounds the basin of the Meta and the Orinoco; it is
widened on the west by the spurs on which are situated the towns of
Santa Fe de Bogota, Tunja, Sogamoso and Leiva. They are like
tablelands fixed to the western declivity, and are from 1300 to 1400
toises high; that of Bogota (the bottom of an ancient lake) contains
fossil bones of the mastodon, in the plain called (from them) the
Campo de Gigantes, near Suacha.

The intermediary, or central chain, runs east of Popayan, by the high
plains of Mabasa, the Paramos of Guanacas, Huila, Savelillo, Iraca,
Baraguan, Tolima, Ruiz and Herveo, towards the province of Antioquia.
In 5 degrees 15 minutes of latitude this chain, the only one that
shows traces of recent volcanic fire, in the summits of Sotara and
Purace, widens considerably towards the west, and joins the western
chain, which we have called the chain of Choco, because the
platiniferous land of that province lies on the slope opposite the
Pacific ocean. By the union of the two chains, the basin of the
province of Popayan is close on the north of Cartago Viejo; and the
river of Cauca, issuing from the plain of Buga, is forced, from the
Salto de San Antonio, to La Boca del Espiritu Santo, to open its way
across the mountains, along a course of from 40 to 50 leagues. The
difference of the level is very remarkable in the bottom of the two
parallel basins of Cauca and Magdalena. The former, between Cali and
Cantago, is from 500 to 404 toises; the latter, from Neiva to
Ambalema, is from 265 to 150 toises high. According to different
geological hypotheses, it may be said either that the secondary
formations have not accumulated to the same thickness between the
eastern and central, as between the central and western chains; or,
that the deposits have been made on the base of primitive rocks,
unequally upheaved on the east and west of the Andes of Quindiu. The
average difference of the thickness of these formations is 300 toises.
The rocky ridge of the Angostura of Carare branches from the
south-east, from the spur of Muzo, through which winds the Rio Negro.
By this spur, and by those that come from the west, the eastern and
central chains approach between Nares, Honda, and Mendales. In fact,
the bed of the Rio Magdalena is narrowed in 5 and 5 degrees 18
minutes, on the east by the mountains of Sergento, and on the west by
the spurs that are linked with the granitic mountains of Maraquito and
Santa Ana. This narrowing of the bed of the river is in the same
parallel with that of the Cauca, near the Salto de San Antonio; but,
in the knot of the mountains of Antioquia the central and western
chains join each other, while between Honda and Mendales, the tops of
the central and eastern chains are so far removed that it is only the
spurs of each system that draw near and are confounded together. It is
also worthy of remark that the central Cordillera of New Grenada
displays the loftiest summit of the Andes in the northern hemisphere.
The peak of Tolima (latitude 4 degrees 46 minutes) which is almost
unknown even by name in Europe, and which I measured in 1801, is at
least 2865 toises high. It consequently surpasses Imbabura and
Cotocache in the province of Quito, the Chiles of the table-lands of
Los Pastos, the two volcanoes of Popayan and even the Nevados of
Mexico and Mount Saint Elias of Russian America. The peak of Tolima,
which in form resembles Cotapaxi, is perhaps inferior in height only
to the ridge of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which may be
considered as an insulated system of mountains.

The eastern chain, also called the chain of Choco and the east coast
(of the Pacific), separates the provinces of Popayan and Antioquia
from those of Barbacoas, Raposo and Choco. It is in general but little
elevated, compared to the height of the central and eastern chains; it
however presents great obstacles to the communications between the
valley of Cauca and the shore. On its western slope lies the famous
auriferous and platiniferous land,* which has during ages yielded more
than 13,000 marks of gold annually. (* Choco, Barbacoas and Brazil are
the only countries in which the existence of grains of platinum and
palladium has hitherto been fully ascertained. The small town of
Barbacoas is situated on the left bank of the Rio Telembi (a tributary
of Patias or the Rio del Castigo) a little above the confluence of
Telembi and the Guagi or Guaxi, nearly in latitude 1 degree 48
minutes. The ancient Provincia, or rather the Partido del Raposo,
comprehends the insalubrious land extending from the Rio Dagua, or San
Buenaventura, to the Rio Iscuande, the southern limit of Choco.) This
alluvial zone is from ten to twelve leagues broad; its maximum of
productiveness lies between the parallels of 2 and 6 degrees latitude;
it sensibly impoverishes towards the north and south, and almost
entirely disappears between 1 1/4 degree north latitude and the
equator. The auriferous soil fills the basin of Cauca, as well as the
ravines and plains west of the Cordillera of Choco; it rises sometimes
nearly 600 toises above the level of the sea, and descends at least 40
toises.* (* M. Caldas assigns to the upper limit of the zone of
gold-washings, only the height of 350 toises. Semanario tome 1 page
18; but I found the Seraderos[?] of Quilichao, on the north of
Popayan, to be 565 toises high.) Platinum (and this fact is worthy of
attention) has hitherto been found only on the west of the Cordillera
of Choco, and not on the east, notwithstanding the analogy of the
fragments of rocks of greenstone, phonolite, trachyte, and ferruginous
quartz, of which the soil of the two slopes is composed. From the
ridge of Los Robles, which separates the table-land of Almaguer from
the basin of Cauca, the western chain forms, first, in the Cerros de
Carpinteria, east of the Rio San Juan de Micay, the continuation of
the Cordillera of Sindagua, broken by the Rio Patias; then, lowering
northward, between Cali and Las Juntas de Dagua, and at the elevation
of 800 to 900 toises, it sends out considerable spurs (latitude 4 1/4
to 5 degrees) towards the source of the Calima, the Tamana and the
Andagueda. The two former of these auriferous rivers are tributary
streams of the Rio San Juan del Choco; the second empties its waters
into the Atrato. This widening of the western chain forms the
mountainous part of Choco: here, between the Tado and Zitara, called
also Francisco de Quibdo, lies the isthmus of Raspadura, across which
a monk traced a navigable line of communication between the two
oceans. The culminant point of this system of mountains appears to be
the Peak of Torra, situated south-east of Novita.

The northern extremity of this enlargement of the Cordillera of Choco,
which I have just described, corresponds with the junction formed on
the east, between the same Cordillera and the central chain, that of
Quindiu. The mountains of Antioquia, on which we have the excellent
observations of Mr. Restrepo, may be called a knot of mountains, and
on the northern limit of the plains of Buga, or the basin of Cauca,
they join the central and western chains. The ridge of the eastern
Cordillera is at the distance of thirty-five leagues from this knot,
so that the contraction of the bed of the Rio Magdalena, between Honda
and Ambalema, is caused only by the approximation of the spurs of
Mariquita and Guaduas. There is not, therefore, properly speaking, a
group of mountains between latitude 5 and 5 1/4 degrees, uniting the
three chains at once. In the group of the province of Antioquia, which
forms the junction of the central and western Cordilleras, we may
distinguish two great masses; one between the Magdalena and the Cauca,
and the other between the Cauca and the Atrato. The first of these
masses, which is linked most immediately to the snowy summits of
Herveo, gives birth on the east to the Rio de la Miel and the Nare;
and on the north to Porce and Nechi; its average height is only from
1200 to 1350 toises. The culminant point appears to be near Santa
Rosa, south-west of the celebrated Valley of Bears (Valle de Osos).
The towns of Rio Negro and Marinilla are built on table-lands 1060
toises high. The western mass of the knot of the mountains of
Antioquia, between the Cauca and the Atrato, gives rise, on its
western descent, to the Rio San Juan, Bevara, and Murri. It attains
its greatest height in the Alto del Viento, north of Urrao, known to
the first conquistadores by the name of the Cordilleras of Abide or
Dabeida. This height (latitude 7 degrees 15 minutes) does not,
however, exceed 1500 toises. Following the western slope of this
system of mountains of Antioquia, we find that the point of partition
of the waters that flow towards the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea
(latitude 5 1/2 and 6 degrees ) nearly corresponds with the parallel
of the isthmus of Raspadura, between the Rio San Juan and the Atrato.
It is remarkable that in this group, more than 30 leagues broad,
without sharp summits, between latitude 5 1/4 and 7 degrees, the
highest masses rise towards the west; while, further south, before the
union of the two chains of Quindiu and Choco, we saw them on the east
of Cauca.

The ramifications of the knot of Antioquia, on the north of the
parallel 7 degrees, are very imperfectly known; it is observed only
that their lowering is in general more rapid and complete towards the
north-west, in the direction of the ancient province of Biruquete and
Darien, than towards the north and north-east, on the side of Zaragoza
and Simiti. From the northern bank of the Rio Nare, near its
confluence with the Samana, a spur stretches out, known by the name of
La Simitarra, and the Mountains of San Lucar. We may call it the first
branch of the group of Antioquia. I saw it, in going up the Rio
Magdalena, on the west, from the Regidor and the mouth of the Rio
Simiti, as far as San Bartolome (on the south of the mouth of the Rio
Sogamozo); while, eastward, in latitude 7 3/4 and 8 1/4 degrees, the
spur of the mountains of Ocana appear in the distance; they are
inhabited by some tribes of Molitone Indians. The second branch of the
group of Antioquia (west of Samitarra) commences at the mountains of
Santa Rosa, stretches out between Zaragoza and Caceres, and terminates
abruptly at the confluence of the Rio Nechi (latitude 8 degrees 33
minutes): at least if the hills, often conical, between the mouth of
the Rio Sinu and the small town of Tolu, or even the calcareous
heights of Turbaco and Popa, near Carthagena, may not be regarded as
the most northern prolongation of this second branch. A third advances
towards the gulf of Uraba or Darien, between the Rio San Jorge and the
Atrato. It is linked southward with the Alto del Viento, or Sierra de
Abide, and is rapidly lost, advancing as far as the parallel of 8
degrees. Finally, the fourth branch of the Andes of Antioquia,
situated westward of Zitara and the Rio Atrato, undergoes, long before
it enters the isthmus of Panama, such a depression, that between the
Gulf of Cupica and the embarcadero of the Rio Naipipi, we find only a
plain across which M. Gogueneche has projected a canal for the
junction of the two seas. It would be interesting to know the
configuration of the strata between Cape Garachine, or the Gulf of St.
Miguel, and Cape Tiburon, especially towards the source of the Rio
Tuyra and Chucunaque or Chucunque, so as to determine with precision
where the mountains of the isthmus of Panama begin to rise; mountains
whose elevation does not appear to be more than 100 toises. The
interior of Darfur is not more unknown to geographers than the humid,
insalubrious forest-land which extends on the north-west of Betoi and
the confluence of the Bevara with the Atrato, towards the isthmus of
Panama. All that we positively know of it hitherto is that between
Cupica and the left bank of the Atrato there is either a land-strait,
or a total absence of the Cordillera. The mountains of the isthmus of
Panama, by their direction and their geographical position, may be
considered as a continuation of the mountains of Antioquia and Choco;
but on the west of Bas-Atrato, there is scarcely a ridge in the plain.
We do not find in this country a group of interposed mountains like
that which links (between Barquisimeto, Nirgua and Valencia) the
eastern chain of New Grenada (that of Suma Paz and the Sierra Nevada
de Merida) to the Cordillera of the shore of Venezuela.

The Cordillera of the Andes, considered in its whole extent, from the
rocky wall of the island of Diego Ramirez to the isthmus of Panama, is
sometimes ramified into chains more or less parallel, and sometimes
articulated by immense knots of mountains. We distinguish nine of
those knots, and consequently an equal number of branching-points and
ramifications. The latter are generally bifurcations. The Andes are
twice only divided into three chains; in the knot of Huanuco, near the
source of the Amazon, and the Huallaga (latitude 10 to 11 degrees) and
in the knot of the Paramo de las Papas (latitude 2 degrees), near the
source of the Magdalena and the Cauca. Basins, almost shut in at their
extremities, parallel with the axis of the Cordillera and bounded by
two knots and two lateral chains, are characteristic features of the
structure of the Andes. Among these knots of mountains some, for
instance those of Cuzco, Loxa and Los Pastos, comprise 3300, 1500 and
1130 square leagues, while others no less important in the eye of the
geologist are confined to ridges or transversal dykes. To the latter
belong the Altos de Chisinche (latitude 0 degrees 40 minutes south)
and the Los Robles (latitude 2 degrees 20 minutes north), on the south
of Quito and Popayan. The knot of Cuzco, so celebrated in the annals
of Peruvian civilization, presents an average height of from 1200 to
1400 toises, and a surface nearly three times greater than the whole
of Switzerland. The ridge of Chisinche, which separates the basins of
Tacunga and Quito, is 1580 toises high, but scarcely a mile broad. The
knots or groups which unite several partial chains have not the
highest summits, either in the Andes or, for the most part, in the
great mountain ranges of the old continent; it is not even certain
that there is always in those knots a widening of the chain. The
greatness of the mass, and the height so long attributed to points
whence several considerable branches issue, was founded either on
theoretic ideas or on false measures. The Cordilleras were compared to
rivers that swell as they receive a number of tributary streams.

Among the basins which the Andes present, and which form probably as
many lakes or small inland seas, those of Titicaca, Rio Jauja and the
Upper Maranon, comprise respectively 3500, 1300, and 2400 square
leagues of surface.* (* I here subjoin some measures interesting to
geologists. Area of the Andes, from Tierra del Fuego to the Paramo de
las Rosas (latitude 9 1/4 degrees north), where the mountainous land
of Tocuyo and Barquesimeto begins, part of the Cordillera of the shore
of Venezuela, 58,900 square leagues, (20 to a degree) the four spurs
of Cordova, Salta, Cochabamba and Beni alone, occupy 23,300 square
leagues of this surface, and the three basins contained between
latitude 6 and 20 degrees south measure 7200 square leagues. Deducting
33,200 square leagues for the whole of the enclosed basins and spurs,
we find, in latitude 65 degrees, the area of the Cordilleras elevated
in the form of walls, to be 25,700 square leagues, whence results
(comprehending the knots, and allowing for the inflexion of the
chains) an average breadth of the Andes of 18 to 20 leagues. The
valleys of Huallaga and the Rio Magdalena are not comprehended in
these 58,900 square leagues, on account of the diverging direction of
the chain, east of Cipoplaya and Santa Fe de Bogota.) The first is so
encompassed that no drop of water can escape except by evaporation; it
is like the enclosed valley of Mexico,* (* We consider it in its
primitive state, without respect to the gap or cleft of the mountains,
known by the name of Desaghue de Huehuetoca.) and of those numerous
circular basins which have been discerned in the moon, and which are
surrounded by lofty mountains. An immense alpine lake characterizes
the basin of Tiahuanaco or Titicaca; this phenomenon is the more
worthy of attention, as in South America there are scarcely any of
those reservoirs of fresh water which are found at the foot of the
European Alps, on the northern and southern slopes, and which are
permanent during the season of drought. The other basins of the Andes,
for instance, those of Jauja, the Upper Maranon and Cauca, pour their
waters into natural canals, which may be considered as so many
crevices situated either at one of the extremities of the basin, or on
its banks, nearly in the middle of the lateral chain. I dwell on this
articulated form of the Andes, on those knots or transverse ridges,
because, in the continuation of the Andes called the Cordilleras of
the shore of Venezuela, we shall find the same transverse dykes, and
the same phenomena.

The ramification of the Andes and of all the great masses of mountains
into several chains merits particular consideration in reference to
the height more or less considerable of the bottom of the enclosed
basins, or longitudinal valleys. Geologists have hitherto directed
more attention to the successive narrowing of these basins, their
depth compared with the walls of rock that surround them, and the
correspondence between the re-entering and the salient angles, than to
the level of the bottom of the valleys. No precise measure has yet
fixed the absolute height of the three basins of Titicaca, Jauja and
the Upper Maranon;* (* I am inclined to believe that the southern part
of the basin of the Upper Maranon, between Huary and Huacarachuco,
exceeds 350 toises.) but I was fortunate enough to be able to
determine the six other basins, or longitudinal valleys, which succeed
each other, as if by steps, towards the north. The bottom of the
valley of Cuenca, between the knots of Loxa and Assuay, is 1350
toises; the valley of Allansi and of Hambato, between the knot of the
Assuay and the ridge of Chisinche, 1320 toises; the valley of Quito in
the eastern part, 1340 toises, and in the western part, 1490 toises;
the basin of Almaguer, 1160 toises; the basin of the Rio Cauca,
between the lofty plains of Cali, Buga, and Cartago, 500 toises; the
valley of Magdalena, first between Neiva and Honda, 200 toises; and
further on, between Honda and Mompox, 100 toises of average height
above the level of the sea.* (* In the region of the Andes
comprehended between 4 degrees of south latitude and 2 degrees of
north, the longitudinal valleys or basins inclosed by parallel chains
are regularly between 1200 and 1500 toises high; while the transversal
valleys are remarkable for their depression, or rather the rapid
lowering of their bottom. The valley of Patias, for instance, running
from north-east to south-west is only 350 toises of absolute height,
even above the junction of the Rio Guachion with the Quilquasi,
according to the barometric measures of M. Caldas; and yet it is
surrounded by the highest summits, the Paramos de Puntaurcu and
Mamacondy. Going from the plains of Lombardy, and penetrating into the
Alps of the Tyrol, by a line perpendicular to the axis of the chain,
we advance more than 20 marine leagues towards the north, yet we find
the bottom of the valley of the Adige and of Eysack near Botzen, to be
only 182 toises of absolute height, an elevation which exceeds but 117
toises that of Milan. From Botzen however, to the ridge of Brenner
(culminant point 746 toises) is only 11 leagues. The Valais is a
longitudinal valley; and in a barometric measurement which I made very
recently from Paris to Naples and Berlin, I was surprised to find that
from Sion to Brigg, the bottom of the valley rises only to from 225 to
350 toises of absolute height; nearly the level of the plains of
Switzerland, which, between the Alps and the Jura, are only from 274
to 300 toises.) In this region, which has been carefully measured, the
different basins lower very sensibly from the equator northward. The
elevation of the bottom of enclosed basins merits great attention in
connection with the causes of the formation of the valleys. I do not
deny that the depressions in the plains may be sometimes the effect of
ancient pelagic currents, or slow erosions. I am inclined to believe
that the transversal valleys, resembling crevices, have been widened
by running waters; but these hypotheses of successive erosions cannot
well be applied to the completely enclosed basins of Titicaca and
Mexico. These basins, as well as those of Jauja, Cuenca and Almaguer,
which lose their waters only by a lateral and narrow issue, owe their
origin to a cause more instantaneous, more closely linked with the
upheaving of the whole chain. It may be said that the phenomenon of
the narrow declivities of the Sarenthal and of the valley of Eysack in
the Tyrol, is repeated at every step, and on a grander scale, in the
Cordilleras of equinoctial America. We seem to recognize in the
Cordilleras those longitudinal sinkings, those rocky vaults, which, to
use the expression of a great geologist,* "are broken when extended
over a great space, and leave deep and almost perpendicular rents." (*
Von Buch, Tableau du Tyrol meridional page 8 1823.)

If, to complete the sketch of the structure of the Andes from Tierra
del Fuego to the northern Polar Sea, we pass the boundaries of South
America, we find that the western Cordillera of New Grenada, after a
great depression between the mouth of the Atrato and the gulf of
Cupica, again rises in the isthmus of Panama to 80 or 100 toises high,
augmenting towards the west, in the Cordilleras of Veragua and
Salamanca,* and extending by Guatimala as far as the confines of
Mexico. (* If it be true, as some navigators affirm, that the
mountains at the north-western extremity of the republic of Columbia,
known by the names of Silla de Veragua, and Castillo del Choco, be
visible at 36 leagues distance, the elevation of their summits must be
nearly 1400 toises, little lower than the Silla of Caracas.) Within
this space it extends along the coast of the Pacific where, from the
gulf of Nicoya to Soconusco (latitude 9 1/2 to 16 degrees) is found a
long series of volcanoes,* most frequently insulated, and sometimes
linked to spurs or lateral branches. (* See the list of twenty-one
volcanoes of Guatimala, partly extinct and partly still burning, given
by Arago and myself, in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes pour
1824 page 175. No mountain of Guatimala having been hitherto measured,
it is the more important to fix approximately the height of the Volcan
de Agua, or the Volcano of Pacaya, and the Volcan de Fuego, called
also Volcano of Guatimala. Mr. Juarros expressly says that this
volcano which, by torrents of water and stones, destroyed, on the 11th
September, 1541, the Ciudad Vieja, or Almolonga (the ancient capital
of the country, which must not be confounded with the ancient
Guatimala), is covered with snow, during several months of the year.
This phenomenon would seem to indicate a height of more than 1750
toises.) Passing the isthmus of Tehuantepecor Huasacualco, on the
Mexican territory, the Cordillera of central America extends on toward
the intendancia of Oaxaca, at an equal distance from the two oceans;
then from 18 1/2 to 21 degrees latitude, from Misteca to the mines of
Zimapan, it approximates to the eastern coast. Nearly in the parallel
of the city of Mexico, between Toluca, Xalapa and Cordoba, it attains
its maximum height; several colossal summits rising to 2400 and 2770
toises. Farther north the chain called Sierra Madre runs north 40
degrees west towards San Miguel el Grande and Guanaxuato. Near the
latter town (latitude 21 degrees 0 minutes 15 seconds) where the
richest silver mines of the known world are situated, it widens in an
extraordinary degree and separates into three branches. The most
eastern branch advances towards Charcas and the Real de Catorce, and
lowers progressively (turning to north-east) in the ancient kingdom of
Leon, in the province of Cohahuila and Texas. That branch is prolonged
from the Rio Colorado de Texas, crossing the Arkansas near the
confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri (latitude 38 degrees 51
minutes). In those countries it bears the name of the Mountains of
Ozark,* and attains 300 toises of height. (* Ozark is at once the
ancient name of Arkansas and of the tribe of Quawpaw Indians who
inhabit the banks of that great river. The culminant point of the
Mountains of Ozark is in latitude 37 1/2 degrees, between the sources
of the White and Osage rivers.) It has been supposed that on the east
of the Mississippi (latitude 44 to 46 degrees) the Wisconsin Hills,
which stretch out to north-north-east in the direction of Lake
Superior, may be a continuation of the mountains of Ozark. Their
metallic wealth seems to denote that they are a prolongation of the
eastern Cordillera of Mexico. The western branch or Cordillera
occupies a part of the province of Guadalajara and stretches by
Culiacan, Aripe and the auriferous lands of the Pimeria Alta and La
Sonora, as far as the banks of the Rio Gila (latitude 33 to 34
degrees), one of the most ancient dwellings of the Aztek nations. We
shall soon see that this western chain appears to be linked by the
spurs that advance to the west, with the maritime Alps of California.
Finally, the central Cordillera of Anahuac, which is the most
elevated, runs first from south-east to north-west, by Zacatecas
towards Durango, and afterwards from south to north, by Chihuahua,
towards New Mexico. It takes successively the names of Sierra de Acha,
Sierra de Los Mimbres, Sierra Verde, and Sierra de las Grullas, and
about the 29 and 39 degrees of latitude, it is connected by spurs with
two lateral chains, those of the Texas and La Sonora, which renders
the separation of the chains more imperfect than the trifurcations of
the Andes in South America.

That part of the Cordilleras of Mexico which is richest in silver beds
and veins, is comprehended between the parallels of Oaxaca and
Cosiquiriachi (latitude 16 1/2 to 29 degrees); the alluvial soil that
contains disseminated gold extends some degrees still further
northwards. It is a very striking phenomenon that the gold-washing of
Cinaloa and Sonora, like that of Barbacoas and Choco on the south and
north of the isthmus of Panama, is uniformly situated on the west of
the central chain, on the descent opposite the Pacific. The traces of
a still-burning volcanic fire which was no longer seen, on a length of
200 leagues, from Pasto and Popayan to the gulf of Nicoya (latitude 1
1/4 to 9 1/2 degrees), become very frequent on the western coast of
Guatimala (latitude 9 1/2 to 16 degrees); these traces of fire again
cease in the gneiss-granite mountains of Oaxaca, and re-appear,
perhaps for the last time, towards the north, in the central
Cordillera of Anahuac, between latitude 18 1/4 and 19 1/2 degrees,
where the volcanoes of Taxtla, Orizaba, Popocatepetl, Toluca, Jorullo
and Colima appear to be situated in a crevice* extending from
east-south-east to west-north-west, from one ocean to the other. (* On
this zone of volcanoes is the parallel of the greatest heights of New
Spain. If the survey of Captain Basil Hall afford results alike
certain in latitude and in longitude, the volcano of Colima is north
of the parallel of Puerto de Navidad in latitude 19 degrees 36
minutes; and, like the volcano of Tuxtla, if not beyond the zone, at
least beyond the average parallel of the volcanic fire of Mexico,
which parallel seems to be between 18 degrees 59 minutes and 19
degrees 12 minutes.) This line of summits, several of which enter the
limit of perpetual snow, and which are the loftiest of the Cordilleras
from the peak of Tolima (latitude 40 degrees 46 minutes north), is
almost perpendicular to the great axis of the chain of Guatimala and
Anahuac, advancing to the 27th parallel, uniformly north 42 degrees
east. A characteristic feature of every knot, or widening of the
Cordilleras, is that the grouping of the summits is independent of the
general direction of the axis. The backs of the mountains in New Spain
form very elevated plains, along which carriages can roll for an
extent of 400 leagues, from the capital to Santa-Fe and Taos, near the
sources of Rio del Norte. This immense table-land, in 19 and 24 1/2
degrees, is constantly at the height of from 950 to 1200 toises, that
is, at the elevation of the passes of the Great Saint Bernard and the
Splugen. We find on the back of the Cordilleras of Anahuac, which
lower progressively from the city of Mexico towards Taos, a succession
of basins: they are separated by hills little striking to the eye of
the traveller because they rise only from 250 to 400 toises above the
surrounding plains. The basins are sometimes closed, like the valley
of Tenochtitlan, where lie the great Alpine lakes, and sometimes they
exhibit traces of ancient ejections, destitute of water.

Between latitude 33 and 38 degrees, the Rio del Norte forms, in its
upper course, a great longitudinal valley; and the central chain seems
here to be divided into several parallel ranges. This distribution
continues northward, in the Rocky Mountains,* where, between the
parallels of 37 and 41 degrees, several summits covered with eternal
snow (Spanish Peak, James Peak and Big Horn) are from 1600 to 1870
toises of absolute height. (* The Rocky Mountains have been at
different periods designated by the names of Chypewyan, Missouri,
Columbian, Caous, Stony, Shining and Sandy Mountains.) Towards
latitude 40 degrees south of the sources of the Paduca, a tributary of
the Rio de la Plata, a branch known by the name of the Black Hills,
detaches itself towards the north-east from the central chain. The
Rocky Mountains at first seem to lower considerably in 46 and 48
degrees; and then rise to 48 and 49 degrees, where their tops are from
1200 to 1300 toises, and their ridge near 950 toises. Between the
sources of the Missouri and the River Lewis, one of the tributaries of
the Oregon or Columbia, the Cordilleras form in widening, an elbow
resembling the knot of Cuzco. There, also, on the eastern declivity of
the Rocky Mountains, is the partition of water between the Caribbean
Sea and the Polar Sea. This point corresponds with those in the Andes
of South America, at the spur of Cochabamba, on the east, latitude 19
degrees 20 minutes south; and in the Alto de los Robles (latitude 2
degrees 20 minutes north), on the west. The ridge that separates the
Rocky Mountains extends from west to east, towards Lake Superior,
between the basins of the Missouri and those of Lake Winnipeg and the
Slave Lake. The central Cordillera of Mexico and the Rocky Mountains
follow the direction north 10 degrees west, from latitude 25 to 38
degrees; the chain from that point to the Polar Sea prolongs in the
direction north 24 degrees west, and ends in the parallel 69 degrees,
at the mouth of the Mackenzie River.*

    (* The eastern boundary of the Rocky Mountains lies:--
    In 38 degrees latitude : 107 degrees 20 minutes longitude.
    In 40 degrees latitude : 108 degrees 30 minutes longitude.
    In 63 degrees latitude : 124 degrees 40 minutes longitude.
    In 68 degrees latitude : 130 degrees 30 minutes longitude.)

In thus developing the structure of the Cordilleras of the Andes from
56 degrees south to beyond the Arctic circle, we see that its northern
extremity (longitude 130 degrees 30 minutes) is nearly 61 degrees of
longitude west of its southern extremity (longitude 60 degrees 40
minutes); this is the effect of the long-continued direction from
south-east to north-west north of the isthmus of Panama. By the
extraordinary breadth of the New Continent, in the 30 and 60 degrees
north latitude, the Cordillera of the Andes, continually approaching
nearer to the western coast in the southern hemisphere, is removed 400
leagues on the north from the source of the Rio de la Paz. The Andes
of Chile may be considered as maritime Alps,* (* Geognostically
speaking, a littoral chain is not a range of mountains forming of
itself the coast; this name is extended to a chain separated from the
coast by a narrow plain.) while, in their most northern continuation,
the Rocky Mountains are a chain in the interior of a continent. There
is, no doubt, between latitude 23 and 60 degrees from Cape Saint Lucas
in California, to Alaska on the western coast of the Sea of
Kamschatka, a real littoral Cordillera; but it forms a system of
mountains almost entirely distinct from the Andes of Mexico and
Canada. This system, which we shall call the Cordillera of California,
or of New Albion, is linked between latitude 33 and 34 degrees with
the Pimeria alta, and the western branch of the Cordilleras of
Anahuac; and between latitude 45 and 53 degrees, with the Rocky
Mountains, by transversal ridges and spurs that widen towards the
east. Travellers who may at some future time pass over the unknown
land between Cape Mendocino and the source of the Rio Colorado, may
perhaps inform us whether the connexion of the maritime Alps of
California or New Albion, with the western branch of the Cordilleras
of Mexico, resembles that which, notwithstanding the depression, or
rather total interruption observed on the west of the Rio Atrato, is
admitted by geographers to exist between the mountains of the isthmus
of Panama and the western branch of the Andes of New Grenada. The
maritime Alps, in the peninsula of Old California, rise progressively
towards the north in the Sierra of Santa Lucia (latitude 34 1/2
degrees), in the Sierra of San Marcos (latitude 37 to 38 degrees) and
in the Snowy Mountains near Cape Mendocino (latitude 39 degrees 41
minutes); the last seem to attain at least the height of 1500 toises.
From Cape Mendocino the chain follows the coast of the Pacific, but at
the distance of from twenty to twenty-five leagues. Between the lofty
summits of Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helen, in latitude 45 3/4
degrees, the chain is broken by the River Columbia. In New Hanover,
New Cornwall and New Norfolk these rents of a rocky coast are
repeated, these geologic phenomena of the fjords that characterize
western Patagonia and Norway. At the point where the Cordillera turns
towards the west (latitude 58 3/4 degrees, longitude 139 degrees 40
minutes) there are two volcanic peaks, one of which (Mount Saint
Elias) perhaps equals Cotopaxi in height; the other (Fair-Weather
Mountain) equals the height of Mount Rosa. The elevation of the former
exceeds all the summits of the Cordilleras of Mexico and the Rocky
Mountains, north of the parallel 19 1/4 degrees; it is even the
culminant point in the northern hemisphere, of the whole known world
north of 50 degrees of latitude. North-west of the peaks of Saint
Elias and Fair-Weather the chain of California widens considerably in
the interior of Russian America. Volcanoes multiply in number as we
advance westward, in the peninsula of Alaska and the Fox Islands,
where the volcano Ajagedan rises to the height of 1175 toises above
the level of the sea. Thus the chain of the maritime Alps of
California appears to be undermined by subterraneous fires at its two
extremities; on the north in 60 degrees of latitude, and on the south,
in 28 degrees, in the volcanoes of the Virgins.* (* Volcanes de las
Virgenes. The highest summit of Old California, the Cerro de la
Giganta (700 toises), appears to be also an extinguished volcano.) If
it were certain that the mountains of California belong to the western
branch of the Andes of Anahuac, it might be said that the volcanic
fire, still burning, abandons the central Cordillera when it recedes
from the coast, that is, from the volcano of Colima; and that the fire
is borne on the north-west by the peninsula of Old California, Mount
Saint Elias, and the peninsula of Alaska, towards the Aleutian Islands
and Kamschatka.

I shall terminate this sketch of the structure of the Andes by
recapitulating the principal features that characterize the
Cordilleras, north-west of Darien.

Latitude 8 to 11 degrees. Mountains of the isthmus of Panama, Veragua
and Costa Rica, slightly linked to the western chain of New Grenada,
which is that of Choco.

Latitude 11 to 16 degrees. Mountains of Nicaragua and Guatimala; line
of volcanoes north 50 degrees west, for the most part still burning,
from the gulf of Nicoya to the volcano of Soconusco.

Latitude 16 to 18 degrees. Mountains of gneiss-granite in the province
of Oaxaca.

Latitude 18 1/2 to 19 1/2 degrees. Trachytic knot of Anahuac, parallel
with the Nevados and the burning volcanoes of Mexico.

Latitude 19 1/2 to 20 degrees. Knot of the metaliferous mountains of
Guanaxuato and Zacatecas.

Latitude 21 3/4 to 22 degrees. Division of the Andes of Anahuac into
three chains:

Eastern chain (that of Potosi and Texas), continued by the Ozark and
Wisconsin mountains, as far as Lake Superior.

Central chain (of Durango, New Mexico and the Rocky Mountains),
sending on the north of the source of the river Platte (latitude 42
degrees) a branch (the Black hills) to north-east, widening greatly
between the parallels 46 and 50 degrees, and lowering progressively as
it approaches the mouth of Mackenzie River (latitude 68 degrees).

Western chain (of Cinaloa and Sonora). Linked by spurs to the maritime
Alps, or mountains of California.

We have yet no means of judging with precision the elevation of the
Andes south of the knot of the mountains of Loxa (south latitude 3
degrees 5), but we know that on the north of that knot the Cordilleras
rise five times higher than the majestic elevation of 2600 toises:

In the group of Quito, 0 to 2 degrees south latitude (Chimborazo,
Antisano, Cayambe, Cotopaxi, Collanes, Yliniza, Sangay, Tungurahua.)

In the group of Cundinamarca, latitude 4 3/4 degrees north (peak of
Tolima, north of the Andes of Quindiu).

In the group of Anahuac, from latitude 18 degrees 59 minutes to 19
degrees 12 minutes (Popocatepetl or the Great Volcano of Mexico, and
Peak of Orizaba). If we consider the maritime Alps or mountains of
California and New Norfolk, either as a continuation of the western
chain of Mexico, that of Sonora, or as being linked by spurs to the
central chain, that of the Rocky Mountains, we may add to the three
preceding groups:

The group of Russian America, from latitude 60 to 70 degrees (Mount
Saint Elias). Over an extent of 63 degrees of latitude, I know only
twelve summits of the Andes which reach the height of 2600 toises, and
consequently exceed by 140 toises, the height of Mont Blanc. Only
three of these twelve summits are situated north of the isthmus of


In the enumeration of the different systems of mountains, I place this
group before the littoral chain of Venezuela, though the latter, being
a northern prolongation of the Cordillera of Cundinamarca, is
immediately linked with the chain of the Andes. The Sierra Nevado of
Santa Marta is encompassed within two divergent branches of the Andes,
that of Bogota, and that of the isthmus of Panama. It rises abruptly
like a fortified castle, amidst the plains extending from the gulf of
Darien, by the mouth of the Magdalena, to the lake of Maracaybo. The
old geographers erroneously considered this insulated group of
mountains covered with eternal snow, as the extremity of the high
Cordilleras of Chita and Pamplona. The loftiest ridge of the Sierra
Nevada de Santa Marta is only three or four leagues in length from
east to west; it is bounded (at nine leagues distance from the coast)
by the meridians of the capes of San Diego and San Augustin. The
culminant points, called El Picacho and Horqueta, are near the western
border of the group; they are entirely separated from the peak of San
Lorenzo, also covered with eternal snow, but only four leagues distant
from the port of Santa Marta, towards the south-east. I saw this
latter peak from the heights that surrounded the village of Turbaco,
south of Carthagena. No precise measurement has hitherto given us the
height of the Sierra Nevada, which Dampier affirms to be one of the
highest mountains of the northern hemisphere. Calculations founded on
the maximum of distance at which the group is discerned at sea, give a
height of more than 3004 toises. That the group of the mountains of
Santa Marta is insulated is proved by the hot climate of the lands
(tierras calientes) that surround it. Low ridges and a succession of
hills indicate, perhaps, an ancient connection between the Sierra
Nevada de Santa Marta on one side, by the Alto de las Minas, with the
phonolitic and granitic rocks of the Penon and Banca, and on the
other, by the Sierra de Perija, with the mountains of Chiliguana and
Ocana, which are the spurs of the eastern chain of the Andes of New
Grenada. In this latter chain, the febrifuge species of cinchona
(corollis hirsutis, staminibus inclusis) are found in the Sierra
Nevada de Merida; but the real cinchona, the most northern of South
America, is found in the temperate region of the Sierra Nevada de
Santa Marta.


This is the system of mountains the configuration and direction of
which have excited so powerful an influence on the cultivation and
commerce of the ancient Capitania General of Venezuela. It bears
different names, as the mountains of Coro, of Caracas, of the
Bergantin, of Barcelona, of Cumana, and of Paria; but all these names
belong to the same chain, of which the northern part runs along the
coast of the Caribbean Sea. This system of mountains, which is 160
leagues long,* is a prolongation of the eastern Cordillera of the
Andes of Cundinamarca. (* It is more than double the length of the
Pyrenees, from Cape Creux to the point of Figuera.) There is an
immediate connection of the littoral chain with the Andes, like that
of the Pyrenees with the mountains of Asturia and Galicia; it is not
the effect of transversal ridges, like the connection of the Pyrenees
with the Swiss Alps, by the Black Mountain and the Cevennes. The
points of junction are between Truxillo and the lake of Valencia.

The eastern chain of New Grenada stretches north-east by the Sierra
Nevada de Merida, as well as by the four Paramos of Timotes, Niquitao,
Bocono and Las Rosas, of which the absolute height cannot be less than
from 1400 to 1600 toises. After the Paramo of Las Rosas, which is more
elevated than the two preceding, there is a great depression, and we
no longer see a distinct chain or ridge, but merely hills, and high
table-lands surrounding the towns of Tocuyo and Barquisimeto. We know
not the height even of Cerro del Altar, between Tocuyo and Caranacatu;
but we know by recent measures that the most inhabited spots are from
300 to 350 toises above sea-level. The limits of the mountainous land
between Tocuyo and the valleys of Aragua are, the plains of San Carlos
on the south, and the Rio Tocuyo on the north; the Rio Siquisique
flows into that river. From the Cerro del Altar on the north-east
towards Guigue and Valencia, succeed, as culminant points, the
mountains of Santa Maria (between Buria and Nirgua); then the Picacho
de Nirgua, supposed to be 600 toises high; and finally Las Palomeras
and El Torito (between Valencia and Nirgua). The line of
water-partition runs from west to east, from Quibor to the lofty
savannahs of London, near Santa Rosa. The waters flow on the north,
towards the Golfo triste of the Caribbean Sea; and on the south,
towards the basins of the Apure and the Orinoco. The whole of this
mountainous country, by which the littoral chain of Caracas is linked
to the Cordilleras of Cundinamarca, was celebrated in Europe in the
middle of the nineteenth century; for that part of the territory
formed of gneiss-granite, and lying between the Rio Tocuyo and the Rio
Yaracui, contains the auriferous veins of Buria, and the copper-mine
of Aroa which is worked at the present day. If, across the knot of the
mountains of Barquisimeto, we trace the meridians of Aroa, Nirgua and
San Carlos, we find that on the north-west that knot is linked with
the Sierra de Coro, and on the north-east with the mountains of
Capadare, Porto Cabello and the Villa de Cura. It may be said to form
the eastern wall of that vast circular depression of which the lake of
Maracaybo is the centre and which is bounded on the south and west by
the mountains of Merida, Ocana, Perija and Santa Marta.

The littoral chain of Venezuela presents towards the centre and the
east the same phenomena of structure as those observed in the Andes of
Peru and New Grenada; namely, the division into several parallel
ranges and the frequency of longitudinal basins or valleys. But the
irruptions of the Caribbean Sea having apparently overwhelmed, at a
very remote period, a part of the mountains of the shore, the ranges
or partial chains are interrupted and some basins have become oceanic
gulfs. To comprehend the Cordillera of Venezuela in mass we must
carefully study the direction and windings of the coast from Punta
Tucacas (west of Porto Cabello) as far as Punta de la Galera of the
island of Trinidad. That island, those of Los Testigos, Marguerita and
Tortuga constitute, with the mica-slates of the peninsula of Araya,
one and the same system of mountains. The granitic rocks which appear
between Buria, Duaca and Aroa cross the valley of the Rio Yaracui and
draw near the shore, whence they extend, like a continuous wall, from
Porto Cabello to Cape Codera. This prolongation forms the northern
chain of the Cordillera of Venezuela and is traversed in going from
south to north, either from Valencia and the valleys of Aragua, to
Burburata and Turiamo, or from Caracas to La Guayra. Hot springs*
issue from those mountains (* The other hot springs of the Cordillera
of the shore are those of San Juan, Provisor, Brigantin, the gulf of
Cariaco, Cumucatar and Irapa. MM. Rivero and Boussingault, who visited
the thermal waters of Mariara in February, 1823, during their journey
from Caracas to Santa Fe de Bogota, found their maximum to be 64
degrees centigrade. I found it at the same season only 59.2 degrees.
Has the great earthquake of the 26th March, 1812, had an influence on
the temperature of these springs? The able chemists above mentioned
were, like myself, struck with the extreme purity of the hot waters
that issue from the primitive rocks of the basin of Aragua. Those of
Onoto, which flow at the height of 360 toises above the level of the
sea, have no smell of sulphuretted hydrogen; they are without taste,
and cannot be precipitated, either by nitrate of silver or any other
re-agent. When evaporated they have an inappreciable residue which
consists of a little silica and a trace of alkali; their temperature
is only 44.5 degrees, and the bubbles of air which are disengaged at
intervals are at Onoto, as well as in the thermal waters of Mariara,
pure nitrogen. The waters of Mariara (244 toises) have a faint smell
of sulphuretted hydrogen; they leave, by evaporation, a slight
residuum, that yields carbonic acid, sulphuric acid, soda, magnesia
and lime. The quantities are so small that the water is altogether
without taste. In the course of my journey I found only the springs of
Cumangillas hotter than the thermal waters of Las Trincheras: they are
situated on the south of Porto Cabello. The waters of Comangillas are
at the height of 1040 toises and are alike remarkable for their purity
and their temperature of 96.3 degrees centigrade.), those of Las
Trincheras (90.4 degrees) on its southern slope and those of Onoto and
Mariara on its southern slope. The former issue from a granite with
large grains, very regularly stratified; the latter from a rock of
gneiss. What especially characterizes the northern chain is a summit
which is not only the loftiest of the system of the mountains of
Venezuela, but of all South America, on the east of the Andes. The
eastern summit of the Silla of Caracas, according to my barometric
measurement made in 1800, is 1350 toises high,* (* The Silla of
Caracas is only 80 toises lower than the Canigou in the Pyrenees.) and
notwithstanding the commotion which took place on the Silla during the
great earthquake of Caracas, that mountain did not sink 50 or 60
toises, as some North American journals asserted. Four or five leagues
south of the northern chain (that of Mariara, La Silla and Cape
Codera) the mountains of Guiripa, Ocumare and Panaquire form the
southern chain of the coast, which stretches in a parallel direction
from Guigue to the mouth of the Rio Tuy, by the Guesta of Yusma and
the Guacimo. The latitudes of the Villa de Cura and San Juan, so
erroneously marked on our maps, enabled me to ascertain the mean
breadth of the whole Cordillera of Venezuela. Ten or twelve leagues
may be reckoned as the distance from the descent of the northern chain
which bounds the Caribbean Sea, to the descent of the southern chain
bounding the immense basin of the Llanos. This latter chain, which
also bears the name of the Inland Mountains, is much lower than the
northern chain; and I can hardly believe that the Sierra de Guayraima
attains the height of 1200 toises.

The two partial chains, that of the interior, and that which runs
along the coast, are linked by a ridge or knot of mountains known by
the names of Altos de las Cocuyzas (845 toises) and the Higuerote (835
toises between Los Teques and La Victoria) in longitude 69 degrees 30
minutes and 69 degrees 50 minutes. On the west of this ridge lies the
enclosed basin* of the lake of Valencia or the Valles de Aragua (*
This basin contains a small system of inland rivers which do not
communicate with the ocean. The southern chain of the litteral
Cordillera of Venezuela is so depressed on the south-west that the Rio
Pao is separated from the tributary streams of the lake of Tacarigua
or Valencia. Towards the east the Rio Tuy, which takes its rise on the
western declivity of the knot of mountains of Las Cocuyzas, appears at
first to empty itself into the valleys of Aragua; but hills of
calcareous tufa, forming a ridge between Consejo and Victoria, force
it to take its course south-east.); and on the east the basin of
Caracas and of the Rio Tuy. The bottom of the first-mentioned basins
is between 220 and 250 toises high; the bottom of the latter is 460
toises above the level of the Caribbean Sea. It follows from these
measures that the most western of the two longitudinal valleys
enclosed by the littoral Cordillera is the deepest; while in the
plains near the Apure and the Orinoco the declivity is from west to
east; but we must not forget that the peculiar disposition of the
bottom of the two basins, which are bounded by two parallel chains, is
a local phenomenon altogether separate from the causes on which the
general structure of the country depends. The eastern basin of the
Cordillera of Venezuela is not shut up like the basin of Valencia. It
is in the knot of the mountains of Las Cocuyzas, and of Higuerote,
that the Serrania de los Teques and Oripoto, stretching eastward, form
two valleys, those of the Rio Guayre and Rio Tuy; the former contains
the town of Caracas and both unite below the Caurimare. The Rio Tuy
runs through the rest of the basin, from west to east, as far as its
mouth which is situated on the north of the mountains of Panaquire.

Cape Codera seems to terminate the northern range of the littoral
mountains of Venezuela but this termination is only apparent. The
coast forms a vast nook, thirty-five sea leagues in length, at the
bottom of which is the mouth of the Rio Unare and the road of Nueva
Barcelona. Stretching first from west to east, in the parallel of 10
degrees 37 minutes, this coast recedes at the parallel 10 degrees 6
minutes, and resumes its original direction (10 degrees 37 minutes to
10 degrees 44 minutes) from the western extremity of the peninsula of
Araya to the eastern extremities of Montana de Paria and the island of
Trinidad. From this dissection of the coast it follows that the range
of mountains bordering the shore of the provinces of Caracas and
Barcelona, between the meridian 66 degrees 32 minutes and 68 degrees
29 minutes (which I saw on the south of the bay of Higuerote and on
the north of the Llanos of Pao and Cachipo), must be considered as the
continuation of the southern chain of Venezuela and as being linked on
the west with the Sierras de Panaquire and Ocumare. It may therefore
be said that between Cape Codera and Cariaco the inland chain itself
forms the coast. This range of very low mountains, often interrupted
from the mouth of the Rio Tuy to that of the Rio Neveri, rises
abruptly on the east of Nueva Barcelona, first in the rocky island of
Chimanas, and then in the Cerro del Bergantin, elevated probably more
than 800 toises, but of which the astronomical position and the
precise height are yet alike unknown. On the meridian of Cumana the
northern chain (that of Cape Codera and the Silla of Caracas) again
appears. The micaceous slate of the peninsula of Araya and Maniquarez
joins by the ridge or knot of mountains of Meapire the southern chain,
that of Panaquire the Bergantin, Turimiquiri, Caripe and Guacharo.
This ridge, not more than 200 toises of absolute height, has, in the
ancient revolutions of our planet, prevented the irruption of the
ocean, and the union of the gulfs of Paria and Cariaco. On the west of
Cape Codera the northern chain, composed of primitive granitic rocks,
presents the loftiest summits of the whole Cordillera of Venezuela;
but the culminant points east of that cape are composed in the
southern chain of secondary calcareous rocks. We have seen above that
the peak of Turimiquiri, at the back of the Cocollar, is 1050 toises,
while the bottoms of the high valleys of the convent of Caripe and of
Guardia de San Augustin are 412 and 533 toises of absolute height. On
the east of the ridge of Meapire the southern chain sinks abruptly
towards the Rio Arco and the Guarapiche; but, on quitting the main
land, we again see it rising on the southern coast of the island of
Trinidad which is but a detached portion of the continent, and of
which the northern side unquestionably presents the vestiges of the
northern chain of Venezuela, that is, of the Montana de Paria (the
Paradise of Christopher Columbus), the peninsula of Araya and the
Silla of Caracas. The observations of latitude I made at the Villa de
Cura (10 degrees 2 minutes 47 seconds), the farm of Cocollar (10
degrees 9 minutes 37 seconds) and the convent of Caripe (10 degrees 10
minutes 14 seconds), compared with the more anciently known position
of the south coast of Trinidad (latitude 10 degrees 6 minutes), prove
that the southern chain, south of the basins of Valencia and of Tuy*
(* The bottom of the first of these four basins bounded by parallel
chains is from 230 to 460 toises above, and that of the two latter
from 30 to 40 toises below the present sea-level. Hot springs gush
from the bottom of the gulf of the basin of Cariaco, as from the
bottom of the basin of Valencia on the continent.) and of the gulfs of
Cariaco and Paria, is still more uniform in the direction from west to
east than the northern chain from Porto Cabello to Punta Galera. It is
highly important to know the southern limit of the littoral Cordillera
of Venezuela because it determines the parallel at which the Llanos or
the savannahs of Caracas, Barcelona and Cumana begin. On some
well-known maps we find erroneously marked between the meridians of
Caracas and Cumana two Cordilleras stretching from north to south, as
far as latitude 8 3/4 degrees, under the names of Cerros de Alta
Gracia and del Bergantin, thus describing as mountainous a territory
of 25 leagues broad, where we should seek in vain a hillock of a few
feet in height.

Turning to the island of Marguerita, composed, like the peninsula of
Araya, of micaceous slate, and anciently linked with that peninsula by
the Morro de Chacopata and the islands of Coche and Cubagua, we seem
to recognize in the two mountainous groups of Macanao and La Vega de
San Juan traces of a third coast-chain of the Cordillera of Venezuela.
Do these two groups of Marguerita, of which the most westerly is above
600 toises high, belong to a submarine chain stretching by the isle of
Tortuga, towards the Sierra de Santa Lucia de Coro, on the parallel of
11 degrees? Must we admit that in latitude 11 1/4 and 12 1/2 degrees a
fourth chain, the most northerly of all, formerly stretched out in the
direction of the island of Hermanos, by Blanquilla, Los Roques,
Orchila, Aves, Buen Ayre, Curacao and Oruba, towards Cape Chichivacoa?
These important problems can only be solved when the chain of islands
parallel with the coast has been properly examined. It must not be
forgotten that a great irruption of the ocean appears to have taken
place between Trinidad and Grenada,* and that no where else in the
long series of the Lesser Antilles are two neighbouring islands so far
removed from each other. (* It is affirmed that the island of Trinidad
is traversed in the northern part by a chain of primitive slate, and
that Grenada furnishes basalt. It would be important to examine of
what rock the island of Tobago is composed; it appeared to me of
dazzling whiteness; and on what point, in going from Trinidad
northward, the trachytic and trappean system of the Lesser Antilles
begins.) We observe the effect of the rotatory current in the
direction of the coast of Trinidad, as in the coasts of the provinces
of Cumana and Caracas, between Cape Paria and Punta Araya and between
Cape Codera and Porto Cabello. If a part of the continent has been
overwhelmed by the ocean on the north of the peninsula of Araya it is
probable that the enormous shoal which surrounds Cubagua, Coche the
island of Marguerita, Los Frailes, La Sola and the Testigos marks the
extent and outline of the submerged land. This shoal or placer, which
is of the extent of 200 square leagues, is well known only to the
tribe of the Guayqueries; it is frequented by these Indians on account
of its abundant fishery in calm weather. The Gran Placer is believed
to be separated only by some canals or deep furrows of the bank of
Grenada from the sand-bank that extends like a narrow dyke from Tobago
to Grenada, and which is known by the lowering of the temperature of
the water and from the sand-banks of Los Roques and Aves. The
Guayquerie Indians and, generally speaking, all the inhabitants of the
coast of Cumana and Barcelona, are imbued with an idea that the water
of the shoals of Marguerita and the Testigos diminishes from year to
year; they believe that, in the lapse of ages, the Morro do Chacopata
on the peninsula of Araya will be joined by a neck of land to the
islands of Lobos and Coche. The partial retreat of the waters on the
coast of Cumana is undeniable and the bottom of the sea has been
upheaved at various times by earthquakes; but these local phenomena,
which it is so difficult to account for by the action of volcanic
force, the changes in the direction of currents, and the consequent
swelling of the waters, are very different from the effects manifested
at once over the space of several hundred square leagues.


It is essential to mineralogical geography to designate by one name
all the mountains that form one system. To attain this end, a
denomination belonging to a partial group only may be extended over
the whole chain; or a name may be employed which, by reason of its
novelty, is not likely to give rise to homogenic mistakes.
Mountaineers designate every group by a special denomination; and a
chain is generally considered as forming a whole only when it is seen
from afar bounding the horizon of the plains. We find the name of
snowy mountains (Himalaya, Imaus) repeated in every zone, white
(Alpes, Alb), black and blue. The greater part of the Sierra Parime
is, as it were, edged round by the Orinoco. I have, however, avoided a
denomination having reference to this circumstance, because the group
of mountains to which I am about to direct attention extends far
beyond the banks of the Orinoco. It stretches south-east, towards the
banks of the Rio Negro and the Rio Branco, to the parallel of 1 1/2
degrees north latitude. The geographical name of Parime has the
advantage of reviving recollections of the fable of El Dorado, and the
lofty mountains which, in the sixteenth century, were supposed to
surround the lake Rupunuwini, or the Laguna de Parime. The
missionaries of the Orinoco still give the name of Parime to the whole
of the vast mountainous country comprehended between the sources of
the Erevato, the Orinoco, the Caroni, the Rio Parime* (a tributary of
the Rio Branco) and the Rupunuri or Rupunuwini, a tributary of the Rio
Essequibo. (* The Rio Parime, after receiving the waters of the
Uraricuera, joins the Tacutu, and forms, near the fort of San
Joacquim, the Rio Branco, one of the tributary streams of the Rio
Negro.) This country is one of the least known parts of South America
and is covered with thick forests and savannahs; it is inhabited by
independent Indians and is intersected by rivers of dangerous
navigation, owing to the frequency of shoals and cataracts.

The system of the mountains of Parime separates the plains of the
Lower Orinoco from those of the Rio Negro and the Amazon; it occupies
a territory of trapezoidal form, comprehended between the parallels of
3 and 8 degrees, and the meridians of 61 and 70 1/2 degrees. I here
indicate only the elements of the loftiest group, for we shall soon
see that towards south-east the mountainous country, in lowering,
draws near the equator, as well as to French and Portuguese Guiana.
The Sierra Parime extends most in the direction north 85 degrees west
and the partial chains into which it separates on the westward
generally follow the same direction. It is less a Cordillera or a
continuous chain in the sense given to those denominations when
applied to the Andes and Caucasus than an irregular grouping of
mountains separated the one from the other by plains and savannahs. I
visited the northern, western and southern parts of the Sierra Parime,
which is remarkable by its position and its extent of more than 25,000
square leagues. From the confluence of the Apure, as far as the delta
of the Orinoco, it is uniformly three or four leagues removed from the
right bank of the great river; only some rocks of gneiss-granite,
amphibolic slate and greenstone advance as far as the bed of the
Orinoco and create the rapids of Torno and of La Boca del Infierno.*
(* To this series of advanced rocks also belong those which pierce the
soil between the Rio Aquire and the Rio Barima; the granitic and
amphibolic rocks of the Vieja Guayana and of the town of Angostura;
the Cerro de Mono on the south-east of Muitaco or Real Corono; the
Cerro of Taramuto near the Alta Gracia, etc.) I shall name
successively, from north-north-east to south-south-west, the different
chains seen by M. Bonpland and myself as we approached the equator and
the river Amazon. First. The most northern chain of the whole system
of the mountains of Parime appeared to us to be that which stretches
(latitude 7 degrees 50 minutes) from the Rio Arui, in the meridian of
the rapids of Camiseta, at the back of the town of Angostura, towards
the great cataracts of the Rio Carony and the sources of the Imataca.
In the missions of the Catalonian Capuchins this chain, which is not
300 toises high, separates the tributary streams of the Orinoco and
those of the Rio Cuyuni, between the town of Upata, Cupapui and Santa
Marta. Westward of the meridian of the rapids of Camiseta (longitude
67 degrees 10 minutes) the high mountains in the basin of the Rio
Caura only commence at 7 degrees 20 minutes of latitude, on the south
of the mission of San Luis Guaraguaraico, where they occasion the
rapids of Mura. This chain stretches westward by the sources of the
Rio Cuchivero, the Cerros del Mato, the Cerbatana and Maniapure, as
far as Tepupano, a group of strangely-formed granitic rocks
surrounding the Encaramada. The culminant points of this chain
(latitude 7 degrees 10 minutes to 7 degrees 28 minutes) are, according
to the information I gathered from the Indians, situated near the
sources of Cano de la Tortuga. In the chain of the Encaramada there
are some traces of gold. This chain is also celebrated in the
mythology of the Tamanacs; for the painted rocks it contains are
associated with ancient local traditions. The Orinoco changes its
direction at the confluence of the Apure, breaking a part of the chain
of the Encaramada. The latter mountains and scattered rocks in the
plain of the Capuchino and on the north of Cabruta may be considered
either as the vestiges of a destroyed spur or (on the hypothesis of
the igneous origin of granite) as partial eruptions and upheavings. I
shall not here discuss the question whether the most northerly chain,
that of Angostura and of the great fall of Carony, be a continuation
of the chain of Encaramada. Third. In navigating the Orinoco from
north to south we observe, alternately, on the east, small plains and
chains of mountains of which we cannot distinguish the profiles, that
is, the sections perpendicular to their longitudinal axes. From the
mission of the Encaramada to the mouth of the Rio Qama I counted seven
recurrences of this alternation of savannahs and high mountains.
First, on the south of the isle Cucuruparu rises the chain of
Chaviripe (latitude 7 degrees 10 minutes); it stretches, inclining
towards the south (latitude 6 degrees 20 minutes to 6 degrees 40
minutes), by the Cerros del Corozal, the Amoco, and the Murcielago, as
far as the Erevato, a tributary of the Caura. It there forms the
rapids of Paru and is linked with the summits of Matacuna. Fourth. The
chain of Chaviripe is succeeded by that of the Baraguan (latitude 6
degrees 50 minutes to 7 degrees 5 minutes), celebrated for the strait
of the Orinoco, to which it gives its name. The Saraguaca, or mountain
of Uruana, composed of detached blocks of granite, may be regarded as
a northern spur of the chain of the Baraguan, stretching south-west
towards Siamacu and the mountains (latitude 5 degrees 50 minutes) that
separate the sources of the Erevato and the Caura from those of the
Ventuari. Fifth. The chain of Carichana and of Paruaci (latitude 6
degrees 25 minutes), wild in aspect, but surrounded by charming
meadows. Piles of granite crowned with trees and insulated rocks of
prismatic form (the Mogote of Cocuyza and the Marimaruta or Castillito
of the Jesuits) belong to this chain. Sixth. On the western bank of
the Orinoco, which is low and flat, the Peak of Uniana rises abruptly
more than 3000 feet high. The spurs (latitude 5 degrees 35 minutes to
5 degrees 40 minutes) which this peak sends eastward are crossed by
the Orinoco in the first Great Cataract (that of Mapura or the
Atures); further on they unite together and, rising in a chain,
stretch towards the sources of the Cataniapo, the rapids of Ventuari,
situated on the north of the confluence of the Asisi (latitude 5
degrees 10 minutes) and the Cerro Cunevo. Seventh. Five leagues south
of the Atures is the chain of Quittuna, or of Maypures (latitude 15
degrees 13 minutes), which forms the bar of the Second Great Cataract.
None of those lofty summits are situated on the west of the Orinoco;
on the east of that river rises the Cunavami, the truncated peak of
Calitamini and the Jujamari, to which Father Gili attributes an
extraordinary height. Eighth. The last chain of the south-west part of
the Sierra Parime is separated by woody plains from the chain of
Maypures; it is the chain of the Cerros de Sipapo (latitude 4 degrees
50 minutes); an enormous wall behind which the powerful chief of the
Guaypunabi Indians intrenched himself during the expedition of Solano.
The chain of Sipapo may be considered as the beginning of the range of
lofty mountains which bound, at the distance of some leagues, the
right bank of the Orinoco, where that river runs from south-east to
north-west, between the mouth of the Ventuari, the Jao and the Padamo
(latitude 3 degrees 15 minutes). In ascending the Orinoco, above the
cataract of Maypures, we find, long before we reach the point where it
turns, near San Fernando del Atabapo, the mountains disappearing from
the bed of the river, and from the mouth of the Zama there are only
insulated rocks in the plains. The chain of Sipapo forms the
south-west limit of the system of mountains of Parime, between 70 1/2
and 68 degrees of longitude. Modern geologists have observed that the
culminant points of a group are less frequently found at its centre
than towards one of its extremities, preceding, and announcing in some
sort, a great depression* of the chain. (* As seen in Mont Blanc and
Chimborazo.) This phenomenon is again observed in the group of the
Parime, the loftiest summits of which, the Duida and the Maraguaca,
are in the most southerly range of mountains, where the plains of the
Cassiquiare and the Rio Negro begin.

These plains or savannahs which are covered with forests only in the
vicinity of the rivers do not, however, exhibit the same uniform
continuity as the Llanos of the Lower Orinoco, of the Meta and of
Buenos Ayres. They are interrupted by groups of hills (Cerros de
Daribapa) and by insulated rocks of grotesque form which pierce the
soil and from a distance fix the attention of the traveller. These
granitic and often stratified masses resemble the ruins of pillars or
edifices. The same force which upheaved the whole group of the Sierra
Parime has acted here and there in the plains as far as beyond the
equator. The existence of these steeps and sporadic hills renders it
difficult to determine the precise limits of a system in which the
mountains are not longitudinally ranged as in a vein. As we advance
towards the frontier of the Portuguese province of the Rio Negro the
high rocks become more rare and we no longer find the shelves or dykes
of gneiss-granite which cause rapids and cataracts in the rivers.

Such is the surface of the soil between 68 1/2 and 70 1/2 degrees of
longitude, between the meridian of the bifurcation of the Orinoco and
that of San Fernando de Atabapo; further on, westward of the Upper Rio
Negro, towards the source of that river, and its tributary streams the
Xie and the Uaupes (latitude 1 to 2 1/4 degrees, longitude 72 to 74
degrees) lies a small mountainous tableland, in which Indian
traditions place a Laguna de oro, that is, a lake surrounded with beds
of auriferous earth.* (* According to the journals of Acunha and Fritz
the Manao Indians (Manoas) obtained from the banks of the Yquiari
(Iguiare or Iguare) gold of which they made thin plates. The
manuscript notes of Don Apollinario also mention the gold of the Rio
Uaupes. La Condamine, Voyage a l'Amazone. We must not confound the
Laguna de Oro, which is said to be found in going up the Uaupes (north
latitude 0 degrees 40 minutes) with another gold lake (south latitude
1 degree 10 minutes) which La Condamine calls Marahi or Morachi
(water), and which is merely a tract often inundated between the
sources of the Jurubech (Urubaxi) and the Rio Marahi, a tributary
stream of the Caqueta.) At Maroa, the most westerly mission of the Rio
Negro, the Indians assured me that that river as well as the Inirida
(a tributary of the Guavare) rises at the distance of five days'
march, in a country bristled with hills and rocks. The natives of San
Marcellino speak of a Sierra Tunuhy, nearly thirty leagues west of
their village, between the Xie and the Icanna. La Condamine learned
also from the Indians of the Amazon that the Quiquiari comes from a
country of mountains and mines. Now, the Iquiari is placed by the
French astronomer between the equator and the mouth of the Xie (Ijie),
which identifies it with the Iguiare that falls into the Icanna. We
cannot advance in the geologic knowledge of America without having
continually recourse to the researches of comparative geography. The
small system of mountains, which we may provisionally call that of the
sources of the Rio Negro and the Uaupes, and the culminant points of
which are not probably more than 100 or 120 toises high, appears to
extend southward to the basin of Rio Yupura, where rocky ridges form
the cataracts of the Rio de los Enganos and the Salto Grande de Yupura
(south latitude 0 degrees 40 minutes to north latitude 0 degrees 28
minutes), and the basin of the Upper Guaviare towards the west. We
find in the course of this river, from 60 to 70 leagues west of San
Fernando del Atabapo, two walls of rocks bounding the strait (nearly 3
degrees 10 minutes north latitude and 73 3/4 degrees longitude) where
father Maiella terminated his excursion. That missionary told me that,
in going up the Guaviare, he perceived near the strait (angostura) a
chain of mountains bounding the horizon on the south. It is not known
whether those mountains traverse the Guaviare more to the west, and
join the spurs which advance from the eastern Cordillera of New
Grenada, between the Rio Umadea and the Rio Ariari, in the direction
of the savannahs of San Juan de los Llanos. I doubt the existence of
this junction. If it really existed, the plains of the Lower Orinoco
would communicate with those of the Amazon only by a very narrow
land-strait, on the east of the mountainous country which surrounds
the source of the Rio Negro: but it is more probable that this
mountainous country (a small system of mountains, geognostically
dependent on the Sierra Parime) forms as it were an island in the
Llanos of Guaviare and Yupura. Father Pugnet, Principal of the
Franciscan convent at Popayan, assured me, that when he went from the
missions settled on the Rio Caguan to Aramo, a village situated on the
Rio Guayavero, he found only treeless savannahs, extending as far as
the eye could reach. The chain of mountains placed by several modern
geographers, between the Meta and the Vichada, and which appears to
link the Andes of New Grenada with the Sierra Parime, is altogether

We have now examined the prolongation of the Sierra Parime on the
west, towards the source of the Rio Negro: it remains for us to follow
the same group in its eastern direction. The mountains of the Upper
Orinoco, eastward of the Raudal of the Guaharibos (north latitude 1
degree 15 minutes longitude 67 degrees 38 minutes), join the chain of
Pacaraina, which divides the waters of the Carony and the Rio Branco,
and of which the micaceous schist, resplendent with silvery lustre,
figures so conspicuously in Raleigh's El Dorado. The part of that
chain containing the sources of the Orinoco has not yet been explored;
but its prolongation more to the east, between the meridian of the
military post of Guirior and the Rupunuri, a tributary of the
Essequibo, is known to me through the travels of the Spaniards Antonio
Santos and Nicolas Rodriguez, and also by the geodesic labours of two
Portuguese, Pontes and Almeida. Two portages but little frequented*
are situated between the Rio Branco and the Rio Essequibo, south of
the chain of Pacaraina; they shorten the land-road leading from the
Villa del Rio Negro to Dutch Guiana. (* The portages of Sarauru and
the lake Amucu.) On the contrary, the portage between the basin of the
Rio Branco and that of the Carony crosses the summit of the chain of
Pacaraina. On the northern slope of this chain rises the Anocapra, a
tributary of the Paraguamusi or Paravamusi; and on the southern slope,
the Araicuque, which, with the Uraricapara, forms the famous Valley of
Inundations, above the destroyed mission of Santa Rosa (latitude 3
degrees 46 minutes, longitude 65 degrees 10 minutes). The principal
Cordillera, which appears of little breadth, stretches on a length of
80 leagues, from the portage of Anocapra (longitude 65 degrees 35
minutes) to the left bank of the Rupunuri (longitude 61 degrees 50
minutes), following the parallels of 4 degrees 4 minutes and 4 degrees
12 minutes. We there distinguish from west to east the mountains of
Pacaraina, Tipique, Tauyana, among which rises the Rio Parime (a
tributary of the Uraricuera), Tubachi, Christaux (latitude 3 degrees
56 minutes, longitude 62 degrees 52 minutes) and Canopiri. The Spanish
traveller, Rodriguez, marks the eastern part of the chain by the name
of Quimiropaca; but preferring to adopt general names, I continue to
give the name of Pacaraina to the whole of this Cordillera which links
the mountains of the Orinoco to the interior of Dutch and French
Guiana, and which Raleigh and Keymis made known in Europe at the end
of the 16th century. This chain is broken by the Rupunuri and the
Essequibo, so that one of their tributary streams, the Tavaricuru,
takes its rise on the southern declivity, and the other, the Sibarona,
on the northern. On approaching the Essequibo, the mountains are more
developed towards the south-east, and extend beyond 2 1/2 degrees
north latitude. From this eastern branch of the chain of Pacaraina the
Rio Rupunuri rises near the Cerro Uassari. On the right bank of the
Rio Branco, in a still more southern latitude (between 1 and 2 degrees
north) is a mountainous territory in which the Caritamini, the
Padaviri, the Cababuri (Cavaburis) and the Pacimoni take their source,
from east to west. This western branch of the mountains of Pacaraina
separates the basin of Rio Branco from that of the Upper Orinoco, the
sources of which are probably not found east of the meridian of 66 15
minutes: it is linked with the mountains of Unturan and Yumariquin,
situated south-east of the mission of Esmeralda. Thence it results
that, while on the west of the Cassiquiare, between that river, the
Atabapo, and the Rio Negro, we find only vast plains, in which rise
some little hills and insulated rocks; real spurs stretch eastward of
the Cassiquiare, from north-west to south-east, and form a continued
mountainous territory as far as 2 degrees north latitude. The basin
only, or rather the transversal valley of the Rio Branco, forms a kind
of gulf, a succession of plains and savannahs (campos) several of
which penetrate from south to north, into the mountainous land between
the eastern and western branches of the chain of Pacaraina, to the
distance of eight leagues north of the parallel of San Joaquin.

We have just examined the southern part of the vast system of the
mountains of Parime, between 2 and 4 degrees of latitude, and between
the meridians of the sources of the Orinoco and the Essequibo. The
development of this system of mountains northward between the chain of
Pacaraina and Rio Cuyuni, and between the meridians 66 and 61 3/4
degrees, is still less known. The only road frequented by white men is
that of the river Paragua, which receives the Paraguamusi, near the
Guirior. We find indeed, in the journal of Nicolas Rodriguez, that he
was constantly obliged to have his canoe carried by men (arrastrando)
past the cataracts which intercept the navigation; but we must not
forget a circumstance of which my own experience furnished me with
frequent proofs--that the cataracts in this part of South America are
often caused only by ridges of rocks which do not form mountains.
Rodriguez names but two between Barceloneta and the mission of San
Jose; while the missionaries place more to the east, in 6 degrees
latitude, between the Rio Caroni and the Cuyuni, the Serranias of
Usupama and Rinocote. The latter crosses the Mazaruni, and forms
thirty-nine cataracts in the Essequibo, from the military post of
Arinda (latitude 5 degrees 30 minutes) to the mouth of Rupunuri.

With respect to the continuation of the system of the mountains of
Parime, south-east of the meridian of the Essequibo, the materials are
entirely wanting for tracing it with precision. The whole interior of
Dutch, French and Portuguese Guiana is a terra incognita; and the
astronomical geography of those countries has scarcely made any
progress during the space of thirty years. If the American limits
recently fixed between France and Portugal should one day cease to be
mere diplomatic illusions and acquire reality in being traced on the
territory by means of astronomical observations (as was projected in
1817), this undertaking would lead geographical engineers to that
unknown region which, at 3 1/2 degrees west of Cayenne, divides the
waters between the coast of Guiana and the Amazon. Till that period,
which the political state of Brazil seems to retard, the geognostic
table of the group of Parime can only be completed by scattered
notions collected in the Portuguese and Dutch colonies. In going from
the Uassari mountains (latitude 2 degrees 25 minutes, longitude 61
degrees 50 minutes) which form a part of the eastern branch of the
Cordillera of Pacaraina, we find towards the east a chain of
mountains, called by the missionaries Acaray and Tumucuraque. Those
two names are found on our maps between 1/2 and 3 degrees north
latitude. Raleigh first made known, in 1596, the system of the
mountains of Parime, between the sources of the Rio Carony and the
Essequibo, by the name of Wacarima (Pacarima), and the Jesuits Acunha
and Artedia furnished, in 1639, the first precise notions of that part
of this system which extends from the meridian of Essequibo to that of
Oyapoc. There they place the mountains of Yguaracuru and Paraguaxo,
the former of which gives birth to a gold river (Rio de oro), a
tributary of the Curupatuba;* (* When we know that in Tamanac gold is
called caricuri; in Carib, caricura: in Peruvian, cori (curi), we
easily recognize in the names of the mountains and rivers
(Yguara-curu, Cura-patuba) which we have just marked, the indication
of auriferous soil. Such is the analogy of the imported roots in the
American tongues, which otherwise differ altogether from each other,
that 300 leagues west of the mountain Ygaracuru, on the banks of the
Caqueta, Pedro de Ursua heard of the province of Caricuri, rich in
gold washings. The Curupatuba falls into the Amazon near the Villa of
Monte Alegre, north-east of the mouth of the Rio Topayos.); and
according to the assertion of the natives, subterraneous noises are
sometimes heard from the latter. The ridge of this chain of mountains,
which runs in a direction south 85 degrees east from the peak of Duida
near the Esmeralda (latitude 3 degrees 19 minutes), to the rapids of
the Rio Manaye near Cape Nord (latitude 1 degree 50 minutes), divides,
in the parallel of 2 degrees, the northern sources of the Essequibo,
the Maroni and the Oyapoc, from the southern sources of the Rio
Trombetas, Curupatuba and Paru. The most southern spurs of this chain
approach nearer to the Amazon, at the distance of fifteen leagues.
These are the first heights which we perceived after having left
Xeberos and the mouth of the Huallaga. They are constantly seen in
navigating from the mouth of the Rio Topayo towards that of Paru, from
the town of Santarem to Almeirim. The peak Tripoupou is nearly in the
meridian of the former of those towns and is celebrated among the
Indians of Upper Maroni. It is said that farther eastward, at Melgaco,
the Serras do Velho and do Paru are still distinguished in the
horizon. The real boundaries of this series of sources of the Rio
Trombetas are better known southward than northward, where a
mountainous country appears to advance in Dutch and French Guiana, as
far as within twenty to twenty-five leagues of the coast. The numerous
cataracts of the rivers of Surinam, Maroni and Oyapoc, prove the
extent and the prolongation of rocky ridges; but in those regions
nothing indicates the existence of continued plains or table-lands
some hundred toises high, fitted for the cultivation of the plants of
the temperate zone.

The system of the mountains of Parime surpasses in extent nineteen
times that of the whole of Switzerland. Even considering the
mountainous group of the sources of the Rio Negro and the Xie as
independent or insulated amidst the plains, we still find the Sierra
Parime (between Maypures and the sources of the Oyapoc) to be 340
leagues in length; its greatest breadth (the rocks of Imataca, near
the delta of the Orinoco, at the sources of the Rio Paru) is 140
leagues. In the group of the Parime, as well as in the group of the
mountains of central Asia, between the Himalaya and the Altai, the
partial chains are often interrupted and have no uniform parallelism.
Towards the south-west, however (between the strait of Baraguan, the
mouth of the Rio Zama and the Esmeralda), the line of the mountains is
generally in the direction of north 70 degrees west. Such is also the
position of a distant coast, that of Portuguese, French, Dutch and
English Guiana, from Cape North to the mouth of the Orinoco; such is
the mean direction of the course of the Rio Negro and Yupura. It is
desirable to fix our attention on the angles formed by the partial
chains, in different regions of America, with the meridians; because
on less extended surfaces, for instance in Germany, we find also this
singular co-existence of groups of neighbouring mountains following
laws of direction altogether different, though every separate group
exhibits the greatest uniformity in the line of chains.

The soil on which the mountains of Parime rise, is slightly convex. By
barometric measures I found that, between 3 and 4 degrees north
latitude, the plains are elevated from 160 to 180 toises above
sea-level. This height will appear considerable if we reflect that at
the foot of the Andes of Peru, at Tomependa, 900 leagues from the
coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the Llanos or plains of the Amazon rise
only to the height of 194 toises. The distinctive characteristics of
the group of the mountains of Parime are the rocks of granite and
gneiss-granite, the total absence of calcareous secondary formations,
and the shelves of bare rock (the tsy of the Chinese deserts), which
occupy immense spaces in the savannahs.


This group has hitherto been marked on the maps in a very erroneous
way. The temperate table-lands and real chains of 300 to 500 toises
high have been confounded with countries of exceedingly hot
temperature, and of which the undulating surface presents only ranges
of hills variously grouped. But the observations of scientific
travellers have recently thrown great light on the orography of
Portuguese America. The mountainous region of Brazil, of which the
mean height rises at least to 400 toises, is comprehended within very
narrow limits, nearly between 18 and 28 degrees south latitude; it
does not appear to extend, between the provinces of Goyaz and
Matogrosso, beyond longitude 53 degrees west of the meridian of Paris.

When we regard in one view the eastern configuration of North and
South America, we perceive that the coast of Brazil and Guiana, from
Cape Saint Roque to the mouth of the Orinoco (stretching from
south-east to north-west), corresponds with that of Labrador, as the
coast from Cape Saint Roque to the Rio de la Plata corresponds with
that of the United States (stretching from south-west to north-east).
The chain of the Alleghenies is opposite to the latter coast, as the
principal Cordilleras of Brazil are nearly parallel to the shore of
the provinces of Porto Seguro, Rio Janeiro and Rio Grande. The
Alleghenies, generally composed of grauwacke and transition rocks, are
somewhat loftier than the almost primitive mountains (of granite,
gneiss and mica-slate) of the Brazilian group; they are also of a far
more simple structure, their chains lying nearer to each other and
preserving, as in the Jura, a more uniform parallelism.

If, instead of comparing those parts of the new continent situated
north and south of the equator, we confine ourselves to South America,
we find on the western and northern coasts in their whole length, a
continued chain near the shore (the Andes and the Cordillera of
Venezuela), while the eastern coast presents masses of more or less
lofty mountains only between the 12 and 30 degrees south latitude. In
this space, 360 leagues in length, the system of the Brazil mountains
corresponds geologically in form and position with the Andes of Chile
and Peru. Its most considerable portion lies between the parallels 15
and 22 degrees, opposite the Andes of Potosi and La Paz, but its mean
height is five toises less, and cannot even be compared with that of
the mountains of Parime, Jura and Auvergne. The principal direction of
the Brazilian chains, where they attain the height of from four to
five hundred toises, is from south to north, and from south-south-west
to north-north-east; but, between 13 and 19 degrees the chains are
considerably enlarged, and at the same time lowered towards the west.
Ridges and ranges of hills seem to advance beyond the land-straits
which separate the sources of the Rio Araguay, Parana, Topayos,
Paraguay, Guapore and Aguapehy, in 63 degrees longitude. As the
western widening of the Brazilian group, or rather the undulations of
the soil in the Campos Parecis, correspond with the spurs of Santa
Cruz de la Sierra, and Beni, which the Andes send out eastward, it was
formerly concluded that the system of the mountains of Brazil was
linked with that of the Andes of Upper Peru. I myself laboured under
this error in my first geologic studies.

A coast chain (Serra do Mar) runs nearly parallel with the coast,
north-east of Rio Janeiro, lowering considerably towards Rio Doce, and
losing itself almost entirely near Bahia (latitude 12 degrees 58
minutes). According to M. Eschwege* some small ridges reach Cape Saint
Roque (latitude 5 degrees 12 minutes). (* Geognostiches Gemulde von
Brasilien, 1822. The limestone of Bahia abounds in fossil wood.)
South-east of Rio Janeiro the Serra do Mar follows the coast behind
the island of Saint Catherine as far as Torres (latitude 29 degrees 20
minutes); it there turns westward and forms an elbow stretching by the
Campos of Vacaria towards the banks of the Jacuy.

Another chain is situated westward of the shore-chain of Brazil. This
is the most lofty and considerable of all and is called the chain of
Villarica. Mr. Eschwege distinguishes it by the name of Serra do
Espinhaco and considers it as the principal part of the whole
structure of the mountains of Brazil. This Cordillera loses itself
northward,* between Minas Novas and the southern extremity of the
Capitania of Bahia, in 16 degrees latitude. (* The rocky ridges that
form the cataract of Paulo Affonso, in the Rio San Francisco, are
supposed to belong to the northern prolongation of the Serra do
Espinhaco, as a series of heights in the province of Seara (fetid
calcareous rocks containing a quantity of petrified fish) belong to
the Serra dos Vertentes.) It is there more than 60 leagues removed
from the coast of Porto Seguro; but southward, between the parallels
of Rio Janeiro and Saint Paul (latitude 22 to 23 degrees), in the knot
of the mountains of Serra da Mantiquiera, it draws so near to the
Cordillera of the shore (Serra do Mar), that they are almost
confounded together. In the same manner the Serra do Espinhaco follows
constantly the direction of a meridian, towards the north; while
towards the south it runs south-east, and terminates about 25 degrees
latitude. The chain reaches its highest elevation between 18 and 21
degrees; and there the spurs and table-lands at its back are of
sufficient extent to furnish lands for cultivation where, at
successive heights, there are temperate climates comparable to the
delicious climates of Xalapa, Guaduas, Caracas and Caripe. This
advantage, which depends at once on the widening of the mass of the
chain and of its spurs, is nowhere found in the same degree east of
the Andes, not even in chains of more considerable absolute height, as
those of Venezuela and the Orinoco. The culminant points of the Serra
do Espinhaco, in the Capitania of Minas Geraes, are the Itambe (932
toises), the Serra da Piedade, near Sabara (910 toises), the
Itacolumi, properly Itacunumi (900 toises), the Pico of Itabira (816
toises), the Serras of Caraca, Ibitipoca and Papagayo. Saint Hilaire
felt piercing cold in the month of November (therefore in summer) in
the whole Cordillera of Lapa, from the Villa do Principe to the Morro
de Gaspar Suares.

We have just noticed two chains of mountains nearly parallel but of
which the most extensive (the littoral chain) is the least lofty. The
capital of Brazil is situated at the point where the two chains draw
nearest together and are linked together on the east of the Serra de
Mantiqueira, if not by a transversal ridge, at least by a mountainous
territory. Old systematic ideas respecting the rising of mountains in
proportion as we advance into a country, would have warranted the
belief that there existed, in the Capitania of Mato Grosso, a central
Cordillera much loftier than that of Villarica or do Espinhaco; but we
now know (and this is confirmed by climateric circumstances) that
there exists no continued chain, properly speaking, westward of Rio
San Francisco, on the frontiers of Minas Geraes and Goyaz. We find
only a group of mountains, of which the culminant points are the
Serras da Canastra (south-west of Paracatu) and da Marcella (latitude
18 1/2 and 19.10 degrees), and, further north, the Pyrenees stretching
from east to west (latitude 16 degrees 10 minutes) between Villaboa
and Mejaponte). M. Eschwege has named the group of mountains of Goyaz
the Serra dos Vertentes, because it divides the waters between the
southern tributary streams of the Rio Grande or Parana, and the
northern tributary streams of Rio Tucantines. It runs southward beyond
the Rio Grande (Parana), and approaches the chain of Espinpapo in 23
degrees latitude, by the Serra do Franca. It attains only the height
of 300 or 400 toises, with the exception of some summits north-west of
Paracatu, and is consequently much lower than the chain of Villarica.

Further on, west of the meridian of Villaboa, there are only ridges
and a series of low hills which, on a length of 12 degrees, form the
division of water (latitude 13 to 17 degrees) between the Araguay and
the Paranaiba (a tributary of the Parana), between the Rio Topayos and
the Paraguay, between the Guapore and the Aguapehy. The Serra of San
Marta (longitude 15 1/2 degrees) is somewhat lofty, but maps have
vastly exaggerated the height of the Serras or Campos Parecis north of
the towns of Cuyaba and Villabella (latitude 13 to 14 degrees,
longitude 58 to 62 degrees). These Campos, which take their name from
that of a tribe of wild Indians, are vast, barren table-lands,
entirely destitute of vegetation; and in them the sources of the
tributary streams of three great rivers, the Topayos, the Madeira and
the Paraguay, take their rise.

According to the measures and geologic observations of M. Eschwege,
the high summits of the Serra do Mar (the coast-chain) scarcely attain
660 toises; those of the Serra do Espinhaco (chain of Villarica), 950
toises; those of Serra de los Vertentes (group of Canastra and the
Brazilian Pyrenees), 450 toises. Further west the surface of the soil
seems to present but slight undulations; but no measure of height has
been made beyond the meridian of Villaboa. Considering the system of
the mountains of Brazil in their real limits, we find, except some
conglomerates, the same absence of secondary formations as in the
system of the mountains of the Orinoco (group of Parime). These
secondary formations, which rise to considerable heights in the
Cordillera of Venezuela and Cumana, belong only to the low regions of


In that part of South America situated on the east of the Andes we
have successively examined three systems of mountains, those of the
shore of Venezuela, of the Parime and Brazil: we have seen that this
mountainous region, which equals the Cordillera of the Andes, not in
mass, but in area and horizontal section of surface, is three times
less elevated, much less rich in precious metals adhering to the rock,
destitute of recent traces of volcanic fire and, with the exception of
the coast of Venezuela, little exposed to the violence of earthquakes.
The average height of the three systems diminishes from north to
south, from 750 to 400 toises; those of the culminant points (maxima
of the height of each group) from 1350 to 1000 or 900 toises. Hence it
results that the loftiest chain, with the exception of the small
insulated system of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, is the
Cordillera of the shore of Venezuela, which is itself but a
continuation of the Andes. Directing our attention northward, we find
in Central America (latitude 12 to 30 degrees) and North America
(latitude 30 to 70 degrees), on the east of the Andes of Guatimala,
Mexico and Upper Louisiana, the same regular lowering which struck us
towards the south. In this vast extent of land, from the Cordillera of
Venezuela to the polar circle, eastern America presents two distinct
systems, the group of the mountains of the West Indies (which in its
eastern part is volcanic) and the chain of the Alleghenies. The former
of these systems, partly covered by the ocean, may be compared, with
respect to its relative position and form, to the Sierra Parime; the
latter, to the Brazil chains, running also from south-west to
north-east. The culminant points of those two systems rise to 1138 and
1040 toises. Such are the elements of this curve, of which the convex
summit is in the littoral chain of Venezuela:




Brazil Group : Itacolumi 900 (south latitude 20 1/2 degrees).

Parime Group : Duida 1300 (north latitude 3 1/4 degrees).

Littoral Chain of Venezuela : Silla of Caracas 1350 (north latitude 10
1/2 degrees).

Group of the West Indies : Blue Mountains 1138 (north latitude 18 1/5

Chain of the Alleghenies : Mount Washington 1040 (north latitude 44
1/4 degrees).

I have preferred indicating in this table the culminant points of each
system to the mean height of the line of elevation; the culminant
points are the results of direct measures, while the mean height is an
abstract idea somewhat vague, particularly when there is only one
group of mountains, as in Brazil, Parime and the West Indies, and not
a continued chain. Although it cannot be doubted that, among the five
systems of mountains on the east of the Andes, of which one only
belongs to the southern hemisphere, the littoral chain of Venezuela is
the most elevated (having a culminant point of 1350 toises, and a mean
height from the line of elevation of 750), we yet recognise with
surprise that the mountains of eastern America (whether continental or
insular) differ very inconsiderably in their height above the level of
the sea. The five groups are all nearly of an average height of from
500 to 700 toises; and the culminant points (maxima of the lines of
elevation) from 1000 to 1300 toises. That uniformity of structure, in
an extent twice as great as Europe, appears to me a very remarkable
phenomenon. No summit east of the Andes of Peru, Mexico and Upper
Louisiana rises beyond the limit of perpetual snow.* (* Not even the
White Mountains of the state of New Hampshire, to which Mount
Washington belongs. Long before the accurate measurement of Captain
Partridge I had proved (in 1804), by the laws of the decrement of
heat, that no summit of the White Mountains could attain the height
assigned to them by Mr. Cutler, of 1600 toises.) It may be added that,
with the exception of the Alleghenies, no snow falls sporadically in
any of the eastern systems which we have just examined. From these
considerations it results, and above all, from the comparison of the
New Continent with those parts of the old world which we know best,
with Europe and Asia, that America, thrown into the aquatic
hemisphere* of our planet, is still more remarkable for the continuity
and extent of the depressions of its surface, than for the height and
continuity of its longitudinal ridge. Beyond and within the isthmus of
Panama, but eastward of the Cordillera of the Andes, the mountains
scarcely attain, over an extent of 600,000 square leagues, the height
of the Scandinavian Alps, the Carpathians, the Monts-Dores (in
Auvergne) and the Jura. (* The southern hemisphere, owing to the
unequal distribution of seas and continents, has long been marked as
eminently aquatic; but the same inequality is found when we consider
the globe as divided not according to the equator but by meridians.
The great masses of land are stinted between the meridian of 10
degrees west, and 150 degrees east of Paris, while the hemisphere
eminently aquatic begins westward of the meridian of the coast of
Greenland, and ends on the east of the meridian of the eastern coast
of New Holland and the Kurile Isles. This unequal distribution of land
and water has the greatest influence on the distribution of heat over
the surface of the globe, on the inflexions of the isothermal lines,
and the climateric phenomena in general. For the inhabitants of the
central parts of Europe the aquatic hemisphere may be called western,
and the land hemisphere eastern; because in going to the west we reach
the former sooner than the latter. It is the division according to the
meridians, which is intended in the text. Till the end of the 15th
century the western hemisphere was as much unknown to the nations of
the eastern hemisphere, as one half of the lunar globe is to us at
present, and will probably always remain.) One system only, that of
the Andes, comprises in America, over a long and narrow zone of 3000
leagues, all the summits exceeding 1400 toises high. In Europe, on the
contrary, even considering the Alps and the Pyrenees as one sole line
of elevation, we still find summits far from this line or principal
ridge, in the Sierra Nevada of Grenada, Sicily, Greece, the Apennines,
perhaps also in Portugal, from 1500 to 1800 toises high.* (* Culminant
points; Malhacen of Grenada, 1826 toises; Etna, according to Captain
William Henry Smith, 1700 toises; Monte Corno of the Apennines, 1489
toises. If Mount Tomoros in Greece and the Serra Gaviarra of Portugal
enter, as is alleged, into the limit of perpetual snow, those summits,
according to their position in latitude, should attain from 1400 to
1600 toises. Yet on the loftiest mountains of Greece, Tomoros, Olympus
in Thessaly, Polyanos in Dolope and Mount Parnassus, M. Pouqueville
saw, in the month of August, snow lying only in patches, and in
cavities sheltered from the rays of the sun.) The contrast between
America and Europe, with respect to distribution of the culminant
points, which attain from 1300 to 1500 toises, is the more striking,
as the low eastern mountains of South America, of which the maximum of
elevation is only from 1300 to 1400 toises, are situated beside a
Cordillera of which the mean height exceeds 1800 toises, while the
secondary system of the mountains of Europe rises to maxima of
elevation of 1500 to 1800 toises, near a principal chain of at least
1200 toises of average height.


Andes of Chile, Upper Peru. Knots of the mountains of Porco and Cuzco,
2500 toises. : Group of the Brazil Mountains; a little lower than the
Cevennes 900 to 1000 toises.

Andes of Popayan and Cundinamarca. Chain of Guacas, Quindiu, and
Antioquia. More than 2800 toises. : Group of Parime Mountains; little
lower than the Carpathians; 1300 toises.

Insulated group of the Snowy Mountains of Santa Marta. It is believed
to be 3000 toises high. : Littoral Chain of Venezuela; 80 toises lower
than the Scandinavian Alps; 1350 toises.

Volcanic Andes of Guatimala, and primitive Andes of Oaxaca, from 1700
to 1800 toises. : Group of the West Indies, 170 toises higher than the
mountains of Auvergne, 1140 toises.

Andes of New Mexico and Upper Louisiana (Rocky Mountains) and further
west. The Maritime Alps of New Albion, 1600 to 1900 toises. : Chain of
the Alleghenies; 160 toises higher than the chains of Jura and the
Gates of Malabar; 1040 toises.

This table contains the whole system of mountains of the New
Continent; namely: the Andes, the maritime Alps of California or New
Albion and the five groups of the east.

I may subjoin to the facts I have just stated an observation equally
striking; in Europe the maxima of secondary systems, which exceed 1500
toises, are found solely on the south of the Alps and Pyrenees, that
is, on the south of the principal continental ridge. They are situated
on the side where that ridge approaches nearest the shore, and where
the Mediterranean has not overwhelmed the land. On the north of the
Alps and Pyrenees, on the contrary, the most elevated secondary
systems, the Carpathian and the Scandinavian mountains* do not attain
the height of 1300 toises. (* The Lomnitzer Spitz of the Carpathians
is, according to M. Wahlenberg, 1245 toises; Sneehattan, in the chain
of Dovrefjeld in Norway (the highest summit of the old continent,
north of the parallel of 55 degrees), is 1270.) The depression of the
line of elevation of the second order is consequently found in Europe
as well as in America, where the principal ridge is farthest removed
from the shore. If we did not fear to subject great phenomena to too
small a scale, we might compare the difference of the height of the
Alps and the mountains of eastern America, with the difference of
height observable between the Alps or the Pyrenees, and the Monts
Dores, the Jura, the Vosges or the Black Forest.

We have just seen that the causes which upheaved the oxidated crust of
the globe in ridges, or in groups of mountains, have not acted very
powerfully in the vast extent of country stretching from the eastern
part of the Andes towards the Old World; that depression and that
continuity of plains are geologic facts, the more remarkable, as they
extend nowhere else in other latitudes. The five mountain systems of
eastern America, of which we have stated the limits, divide that part
of the continent into an equal number of basins of which only that of
the Caribbean Sea remains submerged. From north to south, from the
polar circle to the Straits of Magellan, we see in succession:


An able geologist, Mr. Edwin James, has recently shown that this basin
is comprehended between the Andes of New Mexico, or Upper Louisiana,
and the chains of the Alleghenies which stretch northward in crossing
the rapids of Quebec. It being quite as open northward as southward,
it may be designated by the collective name of the basin of the
Mississippi, the Missouri, the river St. Lawrence, the great lakes of
Canada, the Mackenzie river, the Saskatchewan and the coast of
Hudson's Bay. The tributary streams of the lakes and those of the
Mississippi are not separated by a chain of mountains running from
east to west, as traced on several maps; the line of partition of the
waters is marked by a slight ridge, a rising of two counter-slopes in
the plain. There is no chain between the sources of the Missouri and
the Assineboine, which is a branch of the Red River and of Hudson's
Bay. The surface of these plains, almost all savannah, between the
polar sea and the gulf of Mexico, is more than 270,000 square sea
leagues, nearly equal to the area of the whole of Europe. On the north
of the parallel of 42 degrees the general slope of the land runs
eastward; on the south of that parallel it inclines southward. To form
a precise idea how little abrupt are these slopes we must recollect
that the level of Lake Superior is 100 toises; that of Lake Erie, 88
toises, and that of Lake Ontario, 36 toises above the level of the
sea. The plains around Cincinnati (latitude 39 degrees 6 minutes) are
scarcely, according to Mr. Drake, 80 toises of absolute height.
Towards the west, between the Ozark mountains and the foot of the
Andes of Upper Louisiana (Rocky Mountains, latitude 35 to 38 degrees),
the basin of the Mississippi is considerably elevated in the vast
desert described by Mr. Nuttal. It presents a series of small
table-lands, gradually rising one above another, and of which the most
westerly (that nearest the Rocky Mountains, between the Arkansas and
the Padouca), is more than 450 toises high. Major Long measured a base
to determine the position and height of James Peak. In the great basin
of the Mississippi the line that separates the forests and the
savannahs runs, not, as may be supposed, in the manner of a parallel,
but like the Atlantic coast, and the Allegheny mountains themselves,
from north-east to south-west, from Pittsburg towards Saint Louis, and
the Red River of Nachitoches, so that the northern part only of the
state of Illinois is covered with gramina. This line of demarcation is
not only interesting for the geography of plants, but exerts, as we
have said above, great influence in retarding culture and population
north-west of the Lower Mississippi. In the United States the prairie
countries are more slowly colonized; and even the tribes of
independent Indians are forced by the rigour of the climate to pass
the winter on the banks of rivers, where poplars and willows are
found. The basins of the Mississippi, of the lakes of Canada and the
St. Lawrence, are the largest in America; and though the total
population does not rise at present beyond three millions, it may be
considered as that in which, between latitude 29 and 45 degrees
(longitude 74 to 94 degrees), civilization has made the greatest
progress. It may even be said that in the other basins (of the
Orinoco, the Amazon and Buenos Ayres) agricultural life scarcely
exists; it begins, on a small number of points only, to supersede
pastoral life, and that of fishing and hunting nations. The plains
between the Alleghenies and the Andes of Upper Louisiana are of such
vast extent that, like the Pampas of Choco and Buenos Ayres, bamboos
(Ludolfia miega) and palm-trees grow at one extremity, while the
other, during a great part of the year, is covered with ice and snow.


This is a continuation of the basin of the Mississippi, Louisiana and
Hudson's Bay. It may be said that all the low lands on the coast of
Venezuela situated north of the littoral chain and of the Sierra
Nevada de Merida belong to the submerged part of this basin. If I
treat here separately of the basin of the Caribbean Sea, it is to
avoid confounding what, in the present state of the globe, is partly
above and partly below the ocean. The recent coincidence of the
periods of earthquakes observed at Caracas and on the banks of the
Mississippi, the Arkansas and the Ohio, justifies the geologic
theories which regard as one basin the plains bounded on the south, by
the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela; on the east, by the Alleghenies
and the series of the volcanoes of the West Indies; and on the west,
by the Rocky Mountains (Mexican Andes) and by the series of the
volcanoes of Guatimala. The basin of the West Indies forms, as we have
already observed, a Mediterranean with several issues, the influence
of which on the political destinies of the New Continent depends at
once on its central position and the great fertility of its islands.
The outlets of the basin, of which the four largest* are 75 miles
broad, are all on the eastern side, open towards Europe, and agitated
by the current of the tropics. (* Between Tobago and Grenada; Saint
Martin and the Virgin Isles; Porto Rico and Saint Domingo; and between
the Little Bank of Bahama and Cape Canaveral of Florida.) In the same
manner as we recognize, in our Mediterranean, the vestiges of three
ancient basins by the proximity of Rhodes, Scarpanto, Candia, and
Cerigo, as well as by that of Cape Sorello of Sicily, the island of
Pantelaria and Cape Bon, in Africa; so the basin of the West India
Islands, which exceeds the Mediterranean in extent, seems to present
the remains of ancient dykes which join* Cape Catoche of Yucatan to
Cape San Atonio of the island of Cuba (* I do not pretend that this
hypothesis of the rupture and the ancient continuity of lands can be
extended to the eastern foot of the basin of the West Indies, that is,
to the series of the volcanic islands in a line from Trinidad to Porto
Rico.); and that island to Cape Tiburon of St. Domingo; Jamaica, the
Bank of La Vibora and the rock of Serranilla to Cape Gracias a Dios on
the Mosquito Shore. From this situation of the most prominent islands
and capes of the continent, there results a division into three
partial basins. The most northerly has long been distinguished by a
particular denomination, that of the Gulf of Mexico; the intermediary
or central basin may be called the Sea of Honduras, on account of the
gulf of that name which makes a part of it; and the southern basin,
comprehended between the Caribbean Islands and the coast of Venezuela,
the isthmus of Panama, and the country of the Mosquito Indians, would
form the Caribbean Sea. The modern volcanic rocks distributed on the
two opposite banks of the basin of the West Indies on the east and
west, but not on the north and south, is also a phenomenon worthy of
attention. In the Caribbean Islands, a group of volcanoes, partly
extinct and partly burning, stretches from 12 to 18 degrees; and in
the Cordilleras of Guatimala and Mexico from latitude 9 to 19 1/2
degrees. I noticed on the north-west extremity of the basin of the
West Indies that the secondary formations dip towards south-east;
along the coast of Venezuela rocks of gneiss and primitive mica-slate
dip to north-west. The basalts, amygdaloids, and trachytes, which are
often surmounted by tertiary limestones, appear only towards the
eastern and western banks.


This basin, like the plains of Lombardy, is open to the east. Its
limits are the littoral chain of Venezuela on the north, the eastern
Cordillera of New Grenada on the west, and the Sierra Parime on the
south; but as the latter group extends on the west only to the
meridian of the cataracts of Maypures (longitude 70 degrees 37
minutes), there remains an opening or land-strait, running from north
to south, by which the Llanos of Venezuela communicate with the basin
of the Amazon and the Rio Negro. We must distinguish between the basin
of the Lower Orinoco, properly so called (north of that river and the
Rio Apure), and the plains of Meta and Guaviare. The latter occupy the
space between the mountains of Parime and New Grenada. The two parts
of this basin have an opposite direction; but being alike covered with
gramina, they are usually comprehended in the country under the same
denomination. Those Llanos extend, in the form of an arch, from the
mouth of the Orinoco, by San Fernando de Apure, to the confluence of
the Rio Caguan with the Jupura, consequently along a length of more
than 360 leagues.


The general slope is eastward, and the mean height from 40 to 50
toises. The western bank of that great sea of verdure (mar de yerbas)
is formed by a group of mountains, several of which equal or exceed in
height the Peak of Teneriffe and Mont Blanc. Of this number are the
Paramos del Almorzadero, Cacota, Laura, Porquera, Mucuchies, Timotes,
and Las Rosas. The height of the northern and southern banks is
generally less than 500 or 600 toises. It is somewhat extraordinary
that the maximum of the depression of the basin is not in its centre,
but on its southern limit, at the Sierra Parime. It is only between
the meridians of Cape Codera and Cumana, where a great part of the
littoral Cordillera of Venezuela has been destroyed, that the waters
of the Llanos (the Rio Unare and the Rio Neveri) reach the northern
coast. The partition ridge of this basin is formed by small
table-lands, known by the names of Mesas de Amana, Guanipa and Jonoro.
In the eastern part, between the meridians 63 and 66 degrees, the
plains or savannahs run southward beyond the bed of the Orinoco and
the Imataca, and form (as they approach the Cujuni and the Essequibo)
a kind of gulf along the Sierra Pacaraina.


The great breadth of this zone of savannahs (from 100 to 120 leagues)
renders the denomination of land-strait somewhat improper, at least if
it be not geognostically applied to every communication of basins
bounded by high Cordilleras. Perhaps this denomination more properly
belongs to that part in which is situated the group of almost unknown
mountains that surround the sources of the Rio Negro. In the basin
comprehended between the eastern declivity of the Andes of New Grenada
and the western part of the Sierra Parime, the savannahs, as we have
observed above, stretch far beyond the equator; but their extent does
not determine the southern limits of the basin here under
consideration. These limits are marked by a ridge which divides the
waters between the Orinoco and the Rio Negro, a tributary stream of
the Amazon. The rising of a counter-slope almost imperceptible to the
eye, forms a ridge that seems to join the eastern Cordillera of the
Andes to the group of the Parime. This ridge runs from Ceja (latitude
1 degree 45 minutes), or the eastern slope of the Andes of Timana,
between the sources of the Guayavero and the Rio Caguan, towards the
isthmus that separates the Tuamini from Pimichin. In the Llanos,
consequently, it follows the parallels of 20 degrees 30 minutes and 2
degrees 45 minutes. It is remarkable that we find the divortia aquarum
further westward on the back of the Andes, in the knot of mountains
containing the sources of the Magdalena, at a height of 900 toises
above the level of the Llanos, between the Caribbean Sea and the
Pacific ocean, and almost in the same latitude (1 degree 45 minutes to
2 degrees 20 minutes). From the isthmus of Javita towards the east,
the line of the partition of waters is formed by the mountains of the
Parime group; it first rises a little on the north-east towards the
sources of the Orinoco (latitude 3 degrees 45 minutes ?) and the chain
of Pacaraina (latitude 4 degrees 4 minutes to 4 degrees 12 minutes);
then, during a course of 80 leagues, between the portage of the
Anocapra and the banks of the Rupunuri, it runs very regularly from
west to east; and finally, beyond the meridian 61 degrees 50 minutes,
it again deviates towards lower latitudes, passing between the
northern sources of the Rio Suriname, the Maroni, the Oyapoc and the
southern sources of Rio Trombetas, Curupatuba, and Paru (latitude 2
degrees to 1 degree 50 minutes). These facts suffice to prove that
this first line of partition of the waters of South America (that of
the northern hemisphere) traverses the whole continent between the
parallels of 2 and 4 degrees. The Cassiquiare alone has cut its way
across the ridge just described. The hydraulic system of the Orinoco
displays the singular phenomenon of a bifurcation where the limit of
two basins (those of the Orinoco and the Rio Negro) crosses the bed of
the principal recipient. In that part of the basin of the Orinoco
which runs in the direction of from south to north, as well as in that
running from west to east, the maxima of depression are found at the
foot of the Sierra Parime, we may even say, on its outline.


This is the central and largest basin of South America. It is exposed
to frequent equatorial rains, and the hot and humid climate develops a
force of vegetation to which nothing in the two continents can be
compared. The central basin, bounded on the north by the Parime group,
and on the south by the mountains of Brazil, is entirely covered by
thick forests, while the two basins at the extremities of the
continent (the Llanos of Venezuela and the Lower Orinoco, and the
Pampas of Buenos Ayres or the Rio de la Plata) are savannahs or
prairies, plains without trees and covered with gramina. This
symmetric distribution of savannahs bounded by impenetrable forests,
must be connected with physical revolutions which have operated
simultaneously over great surfaces.


The western shore of this basin is formed by the chain of the Andes,
from the knot of the mountains of Huanuco to the sources of the
Magdalena. It is enlarged by the spurs of the Rio Beni,* (* The real
name of this great river, respecting the course of which geographers
have been so long divided, is Uchaparu, probably water (para) of Ucha;
Peni also signifies river or water; for the language of the Maypures
has very many analogies with that of the Moxos; and veni (oueni)
signifies water in Maypure, as una in Moxo. Perhaps the river retained
the name of Maypure, after the Indians who spoke that language had
emigrated northward in the direction of the banks of the Orinoco.)
rich in gem-salt, and composed of several ranges of hills (latitude 8
degrees 11 minutes south) which advance into the plains on the eastern
bank of the Paro. These hills are transformed on our maps into Upper
Cordilleras and Andes of Cuchao. Towards the north the basin of the
Amazon, of which the area (244,000 square leagues) is only one-sixth
less than the area of all Europe, rises in a gentle slope towards the
Sierra Parime. At 68 degrees of west longitude the elevated part of
this Sierra terminates at 3 1/2 degrees north latitude. The group of
little mountains surrounding the source of the Rio Negro, the Inirida
and the Xie (latitude 2 degrees) the scattered rocks between the
Atabapo and the Cassiquiare, appear like groups of islands and rocks
in the middle of the plain. Some of those rocks are covered with signs
or symbolical sculpture. Nations, very different from those who now
inhabit the banks of the Cassiquiare, penetrated into the savannahs;
and the zone of painted rocks, extending more than 150 leagues in
breadth, bears traces of ancient civilization. On the east of the
sporadic groups of rocks (between the meridian of the bifurcation of
the Orinoco and that of the confluence of the Essequibo with the
Rupunuri) the lofty mountains of the Parime commence only in 3 degrees
north latitude; where the plains of the Amazon terminate.

The limits of the plains of the Amazon are still less known towards
the south than towards the north. The mountains that exceed 400 toises
of absolute height do not appear to extend in Brazil northward of the
parallels 14 or 15 degrees of south latitude, and west of the meridian
of 52 degrees; but it is not known how far the mountainous country
extends, if we may call by that name a territory bristled with hills
of one hundred or two hundred toises high. Between the Rio dos
Vertentes and the Rio de Tres Barras (tributary streams of the Araguay
and the Topayos) several ridges of the Monts Parecis run northward. On
the right bank of the Topayos a series of little hills advance as far
as the parallel of 5 degrees south latitude, to the fall (cachoeira)
of Maracana; while further west, in the Rio Madeira, the course of
which is nearly parallel with that of the Topayos, the rapids and
cataracts indicate no rocky ridges beyond the parallel of 8 degrees.
The principal depression of the basin of which we have just examined
the outline, is not near one of its banks, as in the basin of the
Lower Orinoco, but at the centre, where the great recipient of the
Amazon forms a longitudinal furrow inclining from west to east, under
an angle of at least 25 degrees. The barometric measurements which I
made at Javita on the banks of the Tuamini, at Vasivia on the banks of
the Cassiquiare and at the cataract of Rentema, in the Upper Maranon,
seem to prove that the rising of the Llanos of the Amazon northward
(at the foot of the Sierra Parime) is 150 toises, and westward (at the
foot of the Cordillera of the Andes of Loxa), 190 toises above the


This is the zone or land-strait by which, between 12 and 20 degrees of
south latitude, the plains of the Amazon communicate with the Pampas
of Buenos Ayres. The western bank of this zone is formed by the Andes,
between the knot of Porco and Potosi, and that of Huanuco and Pasco.
Part of the spurs of the Rio Beni, which is but a widening of the
Cordilleras of Apolobamba and Cuzco and the whole promontory of
Cochabamba, advance eastward into the plains of the Amazon. The
prolongation of this promontory has given rise to the idea that the
Andes are linked with a series of hills which the Serras dos Parecis,
the Serra Melgueira, and the supposed Cordillera of San Fernando,
throw out towards the west. This almost unknown part of the frontiers
of Brazil and Upper Peru merits the attention of travellers. It is
understood that the ancient mission of San Jose de Chiquitos (nearly
latitude 17 degrees, longitude 67 degrees 10 minutes, supposing Santa
Cruz de la Sierra, in latitude 17 degrees 25 minutes, longitude 66
degrees 47 minutes) is situated in the plains, and that the mountains
of the spur of Cochabamba terminate between the Guapaix (Rio de
Mizque) and the Parapiti, which lower down takes the names of Rio San
Miguel and Rio Sara. The savannahs of the province of Chiquitos
communicate on the north with those of Moxos, and on the south with
those of Chaco; but a ridge or line of partition of the waters is
formed by the intersection of two gently sloping plains. This ridge
takes its origin on the north of La Plata (Chuquisaca) between the
sources of the Guapaix and the Cachimayo, and it ascends from the
parallel of 20 degrees to that of 15 1/2 degrees south latitude,
consequently on the north-east, towards the isthmus of Villabella.
From this point, one of the most important of the whole hydrography of
America, we may follow the line of the partition of the water to the
Cordillera of the shore (Serra do Mar). It is seen winding (latitude
17 to 20 degrees) between the northern sources of the Araguay, the
Maranhao or Tocantines, the Rio San Francisco and the southern sources
of the Parana. This second line of partition which enters the group of
the Brazil mountains on the frontier of Capitania of Goyaz separates
the flowings of the basin of the Amazon from those of the Rio de la
Plata, and corresponds, south of the equator, with the line we have
indicated in the northern hemisphere (latitude 2 to 4 degrees), on the
limits of the basins of the Amazon and the Lower Orinoco.

If the plains of the Amazon (taking that denomination in the
geognostic sense we have given it) are in general distinguished from
the Llanos of Venezuela and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, by the extent
and thickness of their forests, we are the more struck by the
continuity of the savannahs in that part running from south to north.
It would seem as though this sea of verdure stretched forth an arm
from the basin of Buenos Ayres, by the Llanos of Tucuman, Manso,
Chuco, the Chiquitos, and the Moxos, to the Pampas del Sacramento and
the savannahs of Napo, Guaviare, Meta and Apure. This arm crosses,
between 7 and 3 degrees south latitude, the basin of the forests of
the Amazon; and the absence of trees on so great an extent of
territory, together with the preponderance which the small
monocotyledonous plants have acquired, is a phenomenon of the
geography of plants which belongs perhaps to the action of ancient
pelagic currents or other partial revolutions of our planet.


These plains correspond with those of the Mississippi and of Canada in
the northern hemisphere. If one of their extremities approaches less
nearly to the polar regions, the other enters much further into the
region of palm-trees. That part of this vast basin extending from the
eastern coast towards the Rio Paraguay does not present a surface so
perfectly smooth as the part situated on the west and the south-east
of the Rio de la Plata, and which has been known for ages by the name
of Pampas, derived from the Peruvian or Quichua language.* (* Hatan
Pampa signifies in that language, a great plain. We find the word
Pampa also in Riobamba and Guallabamba; the Spaniards, in order to
soften the geographical names, changing the p into b.) Geognostically
speaking these two regions of east and west form only one basin,
bounded on the east by the Sierra de Villarica or do Espinhaco, which
loses itself in the Capitania of San Paul, near the parallel of 24
degrees; issuing on the north-east by little hills, from the Serra da
Canastra and the Campos Parecis towards the province of Paraguay; on
the west by the Andes of Upper Peru and Chile; and on the north-west
by the ridge of the partition of the waters which runs from the spur
of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, across the plains of the Chiquitos,
towards the Serras of Albuquerque (latitude 19 degrees 2 minutes) and
San Fernando. That part only of this basin lying on the west of the
Rio Paraguay, and which is entirely covered with gramina, is 70,000
square leagues. This surface of the Pampas or Llanos of Manse,
Tucuman, Buenos Ayres and eastern Patagonia is consequently four times
greater than the surface of the whole of France. The Andes of Chile
narrow the Pampas by the two spurs of Salta and Cordova; the latter
promontory forms so projecting a point that there remains (latitude 31
to 32 degrees) a plain only 45 leagues broad between the eastern
extremity of the Sierra de Cordova and the right bank of the river
Paraguay, stretching in the direction of a meridian, from the town of
Nueva Coimbra to Rosario, below Santa Fe. Far beyond the southern
frontiers of the old viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres, between the Rio
Colorado and the Rio Negro (latitude 38 to 39 degrees) groups of
mountains seem to rise in the form of islands in the middle of a
muriatiferous plain. A tribe of Indians of the south (Tehuellet) have
there long borne the characteristic name of men of the mountains
(Callilehet) or Serranos. From the parallel of the mouth of the Rio
Negro to that of Cabo Blanco (latitude 41 to 47 degrees) scattered
mountains on the eastern Patagonian coast denote more considerable
inequalities inland. All that part, however, of the Straits of
Magellan, from the Virgins' Cape to the North Cape, on the breadth of
more than 30 leagues, is surrounded by savannahs or Pampas; and the
Andes of western Patagonia only begin to rise near the latter cape,
exercising a marked influence on the direction of that part of the
strait nearest the Pacific, proceeding from south-east to north-west.

If we have given the plains or great basins of South America the names
of the rivers that flow in their longitudinal furrows, we have not
meant by so-doing to compare them to mere valleys. In the plains of
the Lower Orinoco and the Amazon all the lines of the declivity
doubtless reach a principal recipient, and the tributaries of
tributary streams, that is the basins of different orders, penetrate
far into the group of the mountains. The upper parts or high valleys
of the tributary streams must be considered in a geological table as
belonging to the mountainous region of the country, and beyond the
plains of the Lower Orinoco and the Amazon. The views of the geologist
are not identical with those of the hydrographer. In the basin of the
Rio de la Plata and Patagonia the waters that follow the lines of the
greatest declivities have many issues. The same basin contains several
valleys of rivers; and when we examine nearly the polyedric surface of
the Pampas and the portion of their waters which, like the waters of
the steppes of Asia, do not go to the sea, we conceive that these
plains are divided by small ridges or lines of elevation, and have
alternate slopes, inclined, with reference to the horizon, in opposite
directions. In order to point out more clearly the difference between
geological and hydrographic views, and to prove that in the former,
abstracting the course of the waters which meet in one recipient, we
obtain a far more general point of view, I shall here again recur to
the hydrographic basin of the Orinoco. That immense river rises on the
southern slope of the Sierra Parime. It is bounded by plains on the
left bank, from the Cassiquiare to the mouth of the Atabapo, and flows
in a basin which, geologically speaking, according to one great
division of the surface of South America into three basins, we have
called the basin of the Rio Negro and the Amazon. The low regions,
which are bounded by the southern and northern declivities of the
Parime and Brazil mountains, and which the geologist ought to mark by
one name, contain, according to the no less precise language of
hydrography, two basins of rivers, those of the Upper Orinoco and the
Amazon, separated by a ridge that runs from Javita towards Esmeralda.
From these considerations it results that a geological basin (sit
venia verbo) may have several recipients and several emissaries,
divided by small ridges almost imperceptible; it may at the same time
contain waters that flow to the sea by different furrows independent
of each other, and the systems of inland rivers flowing into lakes
more or less charged with saline matter. A basin of a river, or
hydrographic basin, has but one recipient, one emissary; if, by a
bifurcation, it gives a part of its waters to another hydrographic
basin, it is because the bed of the river, or the principal recipient,
approaches so near the banks of the basin or the ridge of partition
that the ridge partly crosses it.

The distribution of the inequalities of the surface of the globe does
not present any strongly marked limits between the mountainous country
and the low regions, or geologic basins. Even where real chains of
mountains rise like rocky dykes issuing from a crevice, spurs more or
less considerable, seem to indicate a lateral upheaving. While I admit
the difficulty of properly defining the groups of mountains and the
basins or continuous plains, I have attempted to calculate their
surfaces according to the statements contained in the preceding





Andes                                         :  58,900.
Littoral Chain of Venezuela                   :   1,900.
Sierra Nevada de Merida                       :     200.
Group of the Parime                           :  25,800.
System of the Brazil mountains                :  27,600.

TOTAL                                         : 114,400.


Llanos of the Lower Orinoco, the Meta,        :  29,000.
and the Guaviare
Plains of the Amazon                          : 260,400.
Pampas of Rio de la Plata and Patagonia       : 135,200.
Plains between the eastern chain of the
Andes of Cundinamarca and the chain of Choco  :  12,300.
Plains of the shore on the west of the Andes  :  20,000.

TOTAL                                         : 456,900.

The whole surface of South America contains 571,300 square leagues (20
to a degree), and the proportion of the mountainous country to the
region of the plains is as 1 to 3.9. The latter region, on the east of
the Andes, comprises more than 424,600 square leagues, half of which
consists of savannahs; that is to say, it is covered with gramina.



In the preceding section we have examined the inequalities of the
surface of the soil, that is to say, the general structure of the
mountains and the form of the basins rising between those variously
grouped mountains. These mountains are sometimes longitudinal, running
in narrow bands or chains, similar to the veins that preserve their
directions at great distances, as the Andes, the littoral chain of
Venezuela, the Serra do Mar of Brazil, and the Alleghenies of the
United States. Sometimes they are in masses with irregular forms, in
which upheavings seem to have taken place as on a labyrinth of
crevices or a heap of veins, as for example in the Sierra Parime and
the Serra dos Vertentes. These modes of formation are linked with a
geognostic hypothesis, which has at least the recommendation of being
founded on facts observed in remote times, and which strongly
characterize the chains and groups of mountains. Considerations on the
aspect of a country are independent of those which indicate the nature
of the soil, the heterogeneity of matter, the superposition of rocks
and the direction and inclination of strata.

In taking a general view of the geological constitution of a chain of
mountains, we may distinguish five elements of direction too often
confounded in works of geognosy and physical geography. These elements

  1. The longitudinal axis of the whole chain.
  2. The line that divides the waters (divortia aquarum).
  3. The line of ridges or elevation passing along the maxima of height.
  4. The line that separates two contiguous formations into horizontal
  5. The line that follows the fissures of stratification.

This distinction is the more necessary, there existing probably no
chain on the globe that furnishes a perfect parallelism of all these
directing lines. In the Pyrenees, for instance, 1, 2, 3, do not
coincide, but 4 and 5 (that is, the different formations which come to
light successively, and the direction of the strata) are obviously
parallel to 1, or to the direction of the whole chain. We find so
often in the most distant parts of the globe, a perfect parallelism
between 1 and 5, that it may be supposed that the causes which
determine the direction of the axis (the angle under which that axis
cuts the meridian) are generally linked with causes that determine the
direction and inclination of the strata. This direction of the strata
is independent of the line of the formations, or their visible limits
at the surface of the soil; the lines 4 and 5 sometimes cross each
other, even when one of them coincides with 1, or with the direction
of the longitudinal axis of the whole chain. The RELIEF of a country
cannot be precisely explained on a map, nor can the most erroneous
opinions on the locality and superposition of the strata be avoided,
if we do not apprehend with clearness the relation of the directing
lines just mentioned.

In that part of South America to which this memoir principally
relates, and which is bounded by the Amazon on the south, and on the
west by the meridian of the Snowy Mountains (Sierra Nevada) of Merida,
the different bands or zones of formations (4) are sensibly parallel
with the longitudinal axis (1) of the chains of mountains, basins or
interposed plains. It may be said in general that the granitic zone
(including under that denomination the rocks of granite, gneiss and
mica-slate) follows the direction of the Cordillera of the shore of
Venezuela, and belongs exclusively to that Cordillera and the group of
the Parime mountains; since it nowhere pierces the secondary and
tertiary strata in the Llanos or basin of the Lower Orinoco. Thence it
results that the same formations do not constitute the region of
plains and that of mountains.

If we may be allowed to judge of the structure of the whole Sierra
Parime, from the part which I examined in 6 degrees of longitude, and
4 degrees of latitude, we may believe it to be entirely composed of
gneiss-granite; I saw some beds of greenstone and amphibolic slate,
but neither mica-slate, clay-slate, nor banks of green limestone,
although many phenomena render the presence of mica-slate probable on
the east of the Maypures and in the chain of Pacaraina. The geological
formation of the Parime group is consequently still more simple than
that of the Brazilian group, in which granites, gneiss and mica-slate
are covered with thonschiefer, chloritic quartz (Itacolumite),
grauwacke and transition-limestone; but those two groups exhibit in
common the absence of a real system of secondary rocks; we find in
both only some fragments of sandstone or silicious conglomerate. In
the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela the granitic formations
predominate; but they are wanting towards the east, and especially in
the southern chain, where we observe (in the missions of Caripe and
around the gulf of Cariaco) a great accumulation of secondary and
tertiary calcareous rocks. From the point where the littoral
Cordillera is linked with the Andes of New Grenada (longitude 71 1/2
degrees) we observe first the granitic mountains of Aroa and San
Felipe, between the rivers Yaracui and Tocuyo; these granitic
formations extend on the east of the two coasts of the basin of the
Valleys of Aragua, in the northern chain, as far as Cape Codera; and
in the southern as far as the mountains (altas savanas) of Ocumare.
After the remarkable interruption of the littoral Cordillera in the
province of Barcelona, granitic rocks begin to appear in the island of
Marguerita and in the isthmus of Araya, and continue, perhaps, towards
the Boca del Drago; but on the east of the meridian of Cape Codera the
northern chain only is granitic (of micaceous slate); the southern
chain is entirely composed of secondary limestone and sandstone.

If, in the granitic series, where a very complex formation, we would
distinguish mineralogically between the rocks of granite, gneiss, and
mica-slate, it must be borne in mind that coarse-grained granite, not
passing to gneiss, is very rare in this country. It belongs peculiarly
to the mountains that bound the basin of the lake of Valencia towards
the north; for in the islands of that lake, in the mountains near the
Villa de Cura, and in the whole northern chain, between the meridian
of Vittoria and Cape Codera, gneiss predominates, sometimes
alternating with granite, or passing to mica-slate. Mica-slate is the
most frequent rock in the peninsula of Araya and the group of Macanao,
which forms the western part of the island of Marguerita. On the west
of Maniquarez the mica-slate of the peninsula of Araya loses by
degrees its semi-metallic lustre; it is charged with carbon, and
becomes a clay-slate (thonschiefer) even an ampelite (alaunschiefer).
Beds of granular limestone are most common in the primitive northern
chain; and it is somewhat remarkable that they are found in gneiss,
and not in mica-slate.

We find at the back of this granitic, or rather mica-slate-gneiss soil
of the southern chain, on the south of the Villa de Cura, a transition
stratum, composed of greenstone, amphibolic serpentine, micaceous
limestone, and green and carburetted slate. The most southern limit of
this district is marked by volcanic rocks. Between Parapara, Ortiz and
the Cerro de Flores (latitude 9 degrees 28 minutes to 9 degrees 34
minutes; longitude 70 degrees 2 minutes to 70 degrees 15 minutes)
phonolites and amygdaloids are found on the very border of the basin
of the Llanos, that vast inland sea which once filled the whole space
between the Cordilleras of Venezuela and Parime. According to the
observations of Major Long and Dr. James, trap-formations (bulleuses
dolerites and amygdaloids with pyroxene) also border the plains or
basin of the Mississippi, towards the west, at the declivity of the
Rocky Mountains. The ancient pyrogenic rocks which I found near
Parapara where they rise in mounds with rounded summits, are the more
remarkable as no others have hitherto been discovered in the whole
eastern part of South America. The close connection observed in the
strata of Parapara, between greenstone, amphibolic serpentine, and
amygdaloids containing crystals of pyroxene; the form of the Morros of
San Juan, which rise like cylinders above the table-land; the granular
texture of their limestone, surrounded by trap rocks, are objects
worthy the attention of the geologist who has studied in the southern
Tyrol the effects produced by the contact of poroxenic porphyries.* (*
Leopold von Buch. Tableau geologique du Tyrol page 17. M. Boussingault
states that these singular Morros de San Juan, which furnish a
limestone with crystalline grains, and thermal springs, are hollow,
and contain immense grottos filled with stalactites, which appear to
have been anciently inhabited by the natives.)

The calcareous soil of the littoral Cordillera prevails most on the
east of Cape Unare, in the southern chain; it extends to the gulf of
Paria, opposite the island of Trinidad, where we find gypsum of Guire,
containing sulphur. I have been informed that in the northern chain
also, in the Montana de Paria, and near Carupana, secondary calcareous
formations are found, and that they only begin to show themselves on
the east of the ridge of rock called the Cerro de Meapire, which joins
the calcareous group of Guacharo to the mica-slate group of the
peninsula of Araya; but I have not had an opportunity of ascertaining
the accuracy of this information. The calcareous stratum of the
southern chain is composed of two formations which appear to be very
distinct the one from the other: namely limestone of Cumanacoa and
that of Caripe. When I was on the spot the former appeared to me to
have some analogy with zechstein, or Alpine limestone; the latter with
Jura limestone; I even thought that the granular gypsum of Guire might
be that which belongs in Europe to zechstein, or is placed between
zechstein and variegated sandstone. Strata of quartzose sandstone,
alternating with slaty clay, cover the limestone of Cumanacoa, Cerro
del Imposible, Turimiquiri, Guarda de San Agustin, and the Jura
limestone in the province of Barcelona (Aguas Calientes). According to
their position these sandstones may be considered as belonging to the
formation of green sandstone, or sandstone with lignites below chalk.
But if, as I thought I observed at Cocollar, sandstone forms strata in
the Alpine limestone before it is superposed, it appears doubtful
whether the sandstone of the Imposible, and of Aguas Calientes,
constitute one series. Muriatiferous clay (with petroleum and lamellar
gypsum) covers the western part of the peninsula of Araya, opposite to
the town of Cumana, and in the centre of the island of Marguerita.
This clay appears to lie immediately over the mica-slate, and under
the calcareous breccia of the tertiary strata. I cannot decide whether
Araya, which is rich in disseminated muriate of soda, belongs to the
sandstone formation of the Imposible, which from its position may be
compared to variegated sandstone (red marl).

There is no doubt that fragments of tertiary strata surround the
castle and town of Cumana (Castillo de San Antonio) and they also
appear at the south-western extremity of the peninsula of Araya (Cerro
de la Vela et del Barigon); at the ridge of the Cerro de Meapire, near
Cariaco; at Cabo Blanco, on the west of La Guayra, and on the shore of
Porto Cabello; they are consequently found at the foot of the two
slopes of the northern chain of the Cordillera of Venezuela. This
tertiary stratum is composed of alternate beds of calcareous
conglomerate, compact limestone, marl, and clay, containing selenite
and lamellar gypsum. The whole system (of very recent beds) appears to
me to constitute but one formation, which is found at the Cerro de la
Popa, near Carthagena, and in the islands of Guadaloupe and Martinico.

Such is the geological distribution of strata in the mountainous part
of Venezuela, in the group of the Parime and in the littoral
Cordillera. We have now to characterize the formations of the Llanos
(or of the basin of the Lower Orinoco and the Apure); but it is not
easy to determine the order of their superposition, because in this
region ravines or beds of torrents and deep wells dug by the hands of
man are entirely wanting. The formations of the Llanos are, first, a
sandstone or conglomerate, with rounded fragments of quartz, Lydian
stone, and kieselschiefer, united by a ferruginous clayey cement,
extremely tenacious, olive-brown, sometimes of a vivid red; second, a
compact limestone (between Tisnao and Calabozo) which, by its smooth
fracture and lithographic aspect, approaches the Jura limestone:
third, alternate strata of marl and lamellar gypsum (Mesa de San
Diego, Ortiz, Cachipo). These three formations appeared to me to
succeed each other in the order I have just described, the sandstone
inclining in a concave position, northward, on the transition-slates
of Malpasso, and southward, on the gneiss-granite of Parime. As the
gypsum often immediately covers the sandstone of Calabozo, which
appeared to me, on the spot, to be identical with our red sandstone, I
am uncertain of the age of its formation. The secondary rocks of the
Llanos of Cumana, Barcelona and Caracas occupy a space of more than
5000 square leagues. Their continuity is the more remarkable, as they
appear to have no existence, at least on the east of the meridian of
Porto Cabello (70 degrees 37 minutes) in the whole basin of the Amazon
not covered by granitic sands. The causes which have favoured the
accumulation of calcareous matter in the eastern region of the coast
chain, in the Llanos of Venezuela (from 10 1/2 to 8 degrees north),
cannot have operated nearer the equator, in the group of the mountains
of the Parime and in the plains of the Rio Negro and the Amazon
(latitude 1 degree north to 1 degree south). The latter plains,
however, furnish some ledges of fragmentary rocks on the south-west of
San Fernando de Atabapo, as well as on the south-east, in the lower
part of the Rio Negro and the Rio Branco. I saw in the plains of Jaen
de Bracamoros a sandstone which alternates with ledges of sand and
conglomerate nodules of porphyry and Lydian stone. MM. Spix and
Martius affirm that the banks of the Rio Negro on the south of the
equator are composed of variegated sandstone; those of the Rio Branco,
Jupura and Apoporis of quadersandstein; and those of the Amazon, on
several points, of ferruginous sandstone.* (* Braunes eisenschussiges
Sandstein-Conglomerat (Iron-sand of the English geologists, between
the Jura limestone and green sandstone.) MM. Spix and Martius found on
rocks of quadersandstein, between the Apoporis and the Japura, the
same sculptures which we have pointed out from the Essequibo to the
plains of Cassiquiare, and which seem to prove the migrations of a
people more advanced in civilization than the Indians who now inhabit
those countries.) It remains to examine if (as I am inclined to
suppose) the limestone and gypsum formations of the eastern part of
the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela differ entirely from those of the
Llanos, and to what series belongs that rocky wall* named the Galera,
which bounds the steppes of Calabozo towards the north? (* Is this
wall a succession of rocks of dolomite or a dyke of quadersandstein,
like the Devil's Wall (Teufelsmauer), at the foot of the Hartz?
Calcareous shelves (coral banks), either ledges of sandstone (effects
of the revulsion of the waves) or volcanic eruptions, are commonly
found on the borders of great plains, that is, on the shores of
ancient inland seas. The Llanos of Venezuela furnish examples of such
eruptions near Para(?) like Harudje (Mons Ater, Plin.) on the northern
boundary of the African desert (the Sahara). Hills of sandstone rising
like towers, walls and fortified castles and offering great analogy to
quadersandstein, bound the American desert towards the west, on the
south of Arkansas.) The basin of the steppes is itself the bottom of a
sea destitute of islands; it is only on the south of the Apure,
between that river and the Meta, near the western bank of the Sierra,
that a few hills appear, as Monte Parure, la Galera de Sinaruco and
the Cerritos de San Vicente. With the exception of the fragments of
tertiary strata above mentioned there is, from the equator to the
parallel of 10 degrees north (between the meridian of Sierra Nevada de
Merida and the coast of Guiana), if not an absence, at least a
scarcity of those petrifactions, which strikes an observer recently
arrived from Europe.

The maxima of the height of the different formations diminish
regularly in the country we are describing with their relative ages.
These maxima, for gneiss-granite (Peak of Duida in the group of
Parime, Silla de Caracas in the coast chain) are from 1300 to 1350
toises; for the limestone of Cumanacoa (summit or Cucurucho of
Turimiquiri), 1050 toises; for the limestone of Caripe (mountains
surrounding the table-land of the Guarda de San Augustin), 750 toises;
for the sandstone alternating with the limestone of Cumanacoa
(Cuchilla de Guanaguana), 550 toises; for the tertiary strata (Punta
Araya), 200 toises.

The tract of country of which I am here describing the geological
constitution is distinguished by the astonishing regularity observed
in the direction of the strata of which the rocks of different eras
are composed. I have already often pointed the attention of my readers
to a geognostic law, one of the few that can be verified by precise
measurements. Occupied since the year 1792 by the parallelism, or
rather the loxodromism of the strata, examining the direction and
inclination of the primitive and transition beds, from the coast of
Genoa across the chain of the Bochetta, the plains of Lombardy, the
Alps of Saint Gothard, the table-land of Swabia, the mountains of
Bareuth, and the plains of Northern Germany, I was struck with the
extreme frequency, if not the uniformity, of the horary directions 3
and 4 of the compass of Freiberg (direction from south-west to
north-east). This research, which I thought might lead to important
discoveries relating to the structure of the globe, had then such
attractions for me that it was one of the most powerful incentives of
my voyage to the equator. My own observations, together with those of
many able geologists, convince me that there exists in no hemisphere a
general and absolute uniformity of direction; but that in regions of
very considerable extent, sometimes over several thousand square
leagues, we observe that the direction and (though more rarely) the
inclination have been determined by a system of particular forces. We
discover at great distances a parallelism (loxodromism) of the strata,
a direction of which the type is manifest amidst partial perturbations
and which often remains the same in primitive and transition strata. A
fact which must have struck Palasson and Saussure is that in general
the direction of the strata, even in those which are far distant from
the principal ridges, is identical with the direction of mountain
chains; that is to say, with their longitudinal axis.

Venezuela is one of the countries in which the parallelism of the
strata of gneiss-granite, mica-slate and clay-slate, is most strongly
marked. The general direction of these strata is north 50 degrees
east, and the general inclination from 60 to 70 degrees north-west.
Thus I observed them on a length of more than a hundred leagues, in
the littoral chain of Venezuela; in the stratified granite of Las
Trincheras at Porto Cabello; in the gneiss of the islands of the lake
of Valencia, and in the vicinity of the Villa de Cura; in the
transition-slate and greenstone on the north of Parapara; in the road
from La Guayra to the town of Caracas, and through all the Sierra de
Avila in Cape Codera; and in the mica-slate and clay-slate of the
peninsula of Araya. The same direction from north-east to south-west,
and this inclination to north-west, are also manifest, although less
decidedly, in the limestones of Cumanacoa at Cuchivano and between
Guanaguana and Caripe. The exceptions to this general law are
extremely rare in the gneiss-granite of the littoral Cordillera; it
may even be affirmed that the inverse direction (from south-east to
north-west) often bears with it the inclination towards south-west.

As that part of the group of the Sierra Parime over which I passed
contains much more granite* than gneiss (* Only the granite of the
Baragon is stratified, as well as crossed by veins of granite: the
direction of the beds is north 20 degrees west), and other rocks
distinctly stratified, the direction of the layers could be observed
in this group only on a small number of points; but I was often struck
in this region with the continuity of the phenomenon of loxodromism.
The amphibolic slates of Angostura run north 45 degrees east, like the
gneiss of Guapasoso which forms the bed of the Atabapo, and like the
mica-slate of the peninsula of Araya, though there is a distance of
160 leagues between the limits of those rocks.

The direction of the strata, of which we have just noticed the
wonderful uniformity, is not entirely parallel with the longitudinal
axes of the two coast chains, and the chain of Parime. The strata
generally cut the former of those chains at an angle of 35 degrees,
and their inclination towards the north-west becomes one of the most
powerful causes of the aridity which prevails on the southern
declivity* of the mountains of the coast. (* This southern declivity
is however less rapid than the northern.) May we conclude that the
direction of the eastern Cordillera of New Grenada, which is nearly
north 45 degrees east from Santa Fe de Bogota, to beyond the Sierra
Nevada de Merida, and of which the littoral chain is but a
continuation, has had an influence on the direction (hor. 3 to 4) of
the strata in Venezuela? That region presents a very remarkable
loxodromism with the strata of mica-slate, grauwacke, and the
orthoceratite limestone of the Alleghenies, and that vast extent of
country (latitude 56 to 68 degrees) lately visited by Captain
Franklin. The direction north-east to south-west prevails in every
part of North America, as in Europe in the Fitchtelgebirge of
Franconia, in Taunus, Westerwald, and Eifel; in the Ardennes, the
Vosges, in Cotentin, in Scotland and in the Tarentaise at the
south-west extremity of the Alps. If the strata of rocks in Venezuela
do not exactly follow the direction of the nearest Cordillera, that of
the shore, the parallelism between the axis of one chain, and the
strata of the formations that compose it, are manifest in the Brazil
group.* (* The strata of the primitive and intermediary rocks of
Brazil run very regularly, like the Cordillera of Villarica (Serra do
Espinhaco) hor. 1.4 or hor. 2 of the compass of Freiberg (north 28
degrees east.))



The preceding section has developed the geographical limits of the
formations, the extent of the direction of the zones of
gneiss-granite, mica-slate-gneiss, clay-slate, sandstone and
intermediary limestone, which come successively to light. We will now
indicate succinctly the nature and relative age of these formations.
To avoid confounding facts with geologic opinions I shall describe
these formations, without dividing them, according to the method
generally followed, into five groups--primitive, transition,
secondary, tertiary and volcanic rocks. I was fortunate enough to
discover the types of each group in a region where, before I visited
it, no rock had been named. The great inconvenience of the old
classification is that of obliging the geologist to establish fixed
demarcations, while he is in doubt, if not respecting the spot or the
immediate superposition, at least respecting the number of the
formations which are not developed. How can we in many circumstances
determine the analogy existing between a limestone with but few
petrifactions and an intermediary limestone and zechstein, or between
a sandstone superposed on a primitive rock and a variegated sandstone
and quadersandstein, or finally, between muriatiferous clay and the
red marl of England, or the gem-salt of the tertiary strata of Italy?
When we reflect on the immense progress made within twenty-five years
in the knowledge of the superposition of rocks, it will not appear
surprising that my present opinion on the relative age of the
formations of Equinoctial America is not identically the same with
what I advanced in 1800. To boast of a stability of opinion in geology
is to boast of an extreme indolence of mind; it is to remain
stationary amidst those who go forward. What we observe in any one
part of the earth on the composition of rocks, their subordinate
strata and the order of their position are facts immutably true, and
independent of the progress of positive geology in other countries;
while the systematic names applied to any particular formation of
America are founded only on the supposed analogies between the
formations of America and those of Europe. Now those names cannot
remain the same if, after further examination, the objects of
comparison have not retained the same place in the geologic series; if
the most able geologists now take for transition-limestone and green
sandstone, what they took formerly for zechstein and variegated
sandstone. I believe the surest means by which geologic descriptions
may be made to survive the change which the science undergoes in
proportion to its progress, will be to substitute provisionally in the
description of formations, for the systematic names of red sandstone,
variegated sandstone, zechstein and Jura limestone, names derived from
American localities, as sandstone of the Llanos, limestone of
Cumanacoa and Caripe, and to separate the enumeration of facts
relative to the superposition of soils, from the discussion on the
analogy of those soils with those of the Old World.*

(* Positive geography being nothing but a question of the series or
succession (either simple or periodical) of certain terms represented
by the formations, it may be necessary, in order to understand the
discussions contained in the third section of this memoir, to
enumerate succinctly the table of formations considered in the most
general point of view.

1. Strata commonly called Primitive; granite, gneiss and mica-slate
(or gneiss oscillating between granite and mica-slate); very little
primitive clay-slate; weisstein with serpentine; granite with
disseminated amphibole; amphibolic slate; veins and small layers of

2. Transition strata, composed of fragmentary rocks (grauwacke),
calcareous slate and greenstone, earliest remains of organized
existence: bamboos, madrepores, producta, trilobites, orthoceratites,
evamphalites). Complex and parallel formations; (a) Alternate beds of
grey and stratified limestone, anthracitic mica-slate, anhydrous
gypsum and grauwacke; (b) clay-slate, black limestone, grauwacke with
greenstone, syenite, transition-granite and porphyries with a base of
compact felspar; (c) Euphotides, sometimes pure and covered with
jasper, sometimes mixed with amphibole, hyperstein and grey limestone;
(d) Pyroxenic porphyries with amygdaloides and zirconian syenites.

3. Secondary strata, presenting a much smaller number of
monocotyledonous plants; (a) Co-ordinate and almost contemporary
formations with red sandstone (rothe todtes liegende), quartz-porphyry
and fern-coal. These strata are less connected by alternation than by
opposition. The porphyries issue (like the trachytes of the Andes) in
domes from the bosom of intermediary rocks. Porphyritic breccias which
envelope the quartzose porphyries. (b) Zechstein or Alpine limestone
with marly, bituminous slate, fetid limestone and variegated gypsum
(Productus aculeatus). (c) Variegated sandstone (bunter sandstein)
with frequent beds of limestone; false oolites; the upper beds are of
variegated marl, often muriatiferous (red marl, salzthon) with
hydrated gypsum and fetid limestone. The gem-salt oscillates from
zechstein to muschelkalk. (d) Limestone of Gottingen or muschelkalk
alternating towards the top with white sandstone or brittle sandstein.
(Ammonitis nodosus, encrinites, Mytilus socialis): clayey marl is
found at the two extremities of muschelkalk. (e) White sandstone,
brittle sandstein, alternating with lias, or limestone with graphites;
a quantity of dicotyledonous mixed with monocotyledonous plants. (f)
Jura limestone of complex formation; a quantity of sandy intercalated
marl. We most frequently observe, counting from below upwards; lias
(marly limestone with gryphites), oolites, limestone with polypi,
slaty limestone with fish, crustacea, and globules of oxide of iron
(Amonites planulatus, Gryphaea arcuata). (g) Secondary sandstone with
lignites; iron sand; Wealden clay; greensand or green sandstone; (h)
Chlorite; tufted and white chalk; (planerkalk, limestone of Verona.)

4. Tertiary strata, showing a much smaller number of dicotyledonous
plants. (a) Clay and tertiary sandstone with lignites; plastic clay;
mollasse and nagelfluhe, sometimes alternating where chalk is wanting,
with the last beds of Jura limestone; amber. (b) Limestone of Paris or
coarse limestone, limestone with circles, limestone of Bolca,
limestone of London, sandy limestone of Bognor; lignites. (c)
Silicious limestone and gypsum with fossil bones alternating with
marl. (d) Sandstone of Fontainebleau. (e) Lacustrine soil with porous
millstone grit. (e) Alluvial deposits.)


There are countries (in France, the vicinity of Lyons; in Germany,
Freiberg, Naundorf) where the formations of granite and gneiss are
extremely distinct; there are others, on the contrary, where the
geologic limits between those formations are slightly marked, and
where granite, gneiss and mica-slate appear to alternate by layers or
pass often from one to the other. These alternations and transitions
appeared to me less common in the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela
than in the Sierra Parime. We recognise successively, in the former of
these two systems of mountains, above all in the chain nearest the
coast, as predominating rocks from west to east, granite (longitude 70
to 71 degrees), gneiss (longitude 68 1/2 to 70 degrees), and
mica-slate (longitude 65 3/4 to 66 1/2 degrees); but considering
altogether the geologic constitution of the coast and the Sierra
Parime, we prefer to treat of granite, gneiss and mica-slate, if not
as one formation, at least as three co-ordinate formations closely
linked together. The primitive clay-slate (urthonschiefer) is
subordinate to mica-slate, of which it is only a modification. It no
more forms an independent stratum in the New Continent, than in the
Pyrenees and the Alps.

(a) GRANITE which does not pass to gneiss is most common in the
western part of the coast-chain between Turmero, Valencia and Porto
Cabello, as well as in the circle of the Sierra Parime, near the
Encaramada, and at the Peak of Duida. At the Rincon del Diablo,
between Mariara and Hacienda de Cura, and at Chuao, it is
coarse-grained, and contains fine crystals of felspar, 1 1/2 inches
long. It is divided in prisms by perpendicular vents, or stratified
regularly like secondary limestone, at Las Trincheras, the strait of
Baraguan in the valley of the Orinoco, and near Guapasoso, on the
banks of the Atabapo. The stratified granite of Las Trincheras, giving
birth to very hot springs (from 90.5 degrees centigrade), appears from
the inclination of its layers to be superposed on gneiss which is seen
further southward in the islands of the lake of Valencia; but
conjectures of superposition founded only on the hypothesis of an
indefinite prolongation of the strata are doubtful; and possibly the
granite masses which form a small particular zone in the northern
range of the littoral Cordillera, between 70 degrees 3 minutes and 70
degrees 50 minutes longitude, were upheaved in piercing the gneiss.
The latter rock is prevalent, both in descending from the Rincon del
Diablo southward to the hot-springs of Mariara, and towards the banks
of the lake of Valencia, and in advancing on the east towards the
group of Buenavista, the Silla of Caracas and Cape Codera. In the
region of the littoral chain of Venezuela, where granite seems to
constitute an independent formation from 15 to 16 leagues in length, I
saw no foreign or subordinate layers of gneiss, mica-slate or
primitive limestone.* (* Primitive limestone, everywhere so common in
mica-slate and gneiss, is found in the granite of the Pyrenees, at
Port d'Oo, and in the mountains of Labourd.)

The Sierra Parime is one of the most extensive granitic strata
existing on the globe;* but the granite, which is seen alike bare on
the flanks of the mountains and in the plains by which they are
joined, often passes into gneiss. (* To prove the extent of the
continuity of this granitic stratum, it will suffice to observe that
M. Leschenault de la Tour collected in the bars of the river Mana, in
French Guiana, the same gneiss-granites (with a little amphibole)
which I observed three hundred leagues more to the west, near the
confluence of the Orinoco and the Guaviare.) Granite is most commonly
found in its granular composition and independent formation, near
Encaramada, at the strait of Baraguan, and in the vicinity of the
mission of the Esmeralda. It often contains, like the granites of the
Rocky Mountains (latitude 38 to 40 degrees), the Pyrenees and Southern
Tyrol, amphibolic crystals,* disseminated in the mass, but without
passing to syenite. (* I did not observe this mixture of amphibole in
the granite of the littoral chain of Venezuela except at the summit of
the Silla of Caracas.) Those modifications are observed on the banks
of the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, the Atabapo, and the Tuamini. The
blocks heaped together, which are found in Europe on the ridge of
granitic mountains (the Riesengebirge in Silesia, the Ochsenkopf in
Franconia), are especially remarkable in the north-west part of the
Sierra Parime, between Caycara, the Encaramada and Uruana, in the
cataracts of the Maypures and at the mouth of the Rio Vichada. It is
doubtful whether these masses, which are of cylindrical form,
parallelopipedons rounded on the edge, or balls of 40 to 50 feet in
diameter, are the effect of a slow decomposition, or of a violent and
instantaneous upheaving. The granite of the south-eastern part of
Sierra Parime sometimes passes to pegmatite,* composed of laminary
felspar, enclosed in curved masses of crystalline quartz. (*
Schrift-granit. It is a simple modification of the composition and
texture of granite, and not a subordinate layer. It must not be
confounded with the real pegmatite, generally destitute of mica, or
with the geographic stones (piedras mapajas) of the Orinoco, which
contain streaks of dark green mica irregularly disposed.) I saw gneiss
only in subordinate layers;* (* The magnetic sands of the rivers that
furrow the granitic chain of the Encaramada seem to denote the
proximity of amphibolic or chloritic slate (hornblende or
chloritschiefer), either in layers in the granite, or superposed on
that rock.); but, between Javita, San Carlos del Rio Negro, and the
Peak of Duida, the granite is traversed by numerous veins of different
ages, abounding with rock-crystal, black tourmalin and pyrites. It
appears that these open veins become more common on the east of the
Peak of Duida, in the Sierra Pacaraina, especially between Xurumu and
Rupunuri (tributaries of the Rio Branco and the Essequibo), where
Hortsmann discovered, instead of diamonds* and emeralds, a mine (four)
of rock-crystal. (* These legends of diamonds are very ancient on the
coast of Paria. Petrus Martyr relates that, at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, a Spaniard named Andres Morales bought of a young
Indian of the coast of Paria admantem mire pretiosum, duos infantis
digiti articulos longum, magni autem pollicis articulum aequantem
crassitudine, acutum utrobique et costis octo pulchre formatis
constantem. [A diamond of marvellous value, as long as two joints of
an infant's finger, and as thick as one of the joints of its thumb,
sharp on both sides, and of a beautiful octagonal shape.] This
pretended adamas juvenis pariensis resisted the action of lime. Petrus
Martyr distinguishes it from topaz by adding offenderunt et topazios
in littore, [they pay no heed to topazes on the coast] that is of
Paria, Saint Marta and Veragua. See Oceanica Dec. 3 lib. 4 page 53.)

(b) GNEISS predominates along the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela,
with the appearance of an independent formation, in the northern chain
from Cerro del Chuao, and the meridian of Choroni, as far as Cape
Codera; and in the southern chain, from the meridian of Guigne to the
mouth of the Rio Tuy. Cape Codera, the great mass of the Silla of
Galipano, and the land between Guayra and Caracas, the table-land of
Buenavista, the islands of the lake of Valencia, the mountains between
Guigne, Maria Magdalena and the Cerro do Chacao are composed of
gneiss;* (* I have been assured that the islands Orchila and Los
Frailes are also composed of gneiss; Curacao and Bonaire are
calcareous. Is the island of Oruba (in which nuggets of native gold of
considerable size have been found) primitive?); yet amidst this soil
of gneiss, inclosed mica-slate re-appears, often talcous in the Valle
de Caurimare, and in the ancient Provincia de Los Mariches; at Cabo
Blanco, west of La Guayra; near Caracas and Antimano, and above all,
between the tableland of Buenavista and the valleys of Aragua, in the
Montana de las Cocuyzas, and at Hacienda del Tuy. Between the limits
here assigned to gneiss, as a predominant rock (longitude 68 1/2 to 70
1/2 degrees), gneiss passes sometimes to mica-slate, while the
appearance of a transition to granite is only found on the summit of
the Silla of Caracas.* (* The Silla is a mountain of gneiss like Adams
Peak in the island of Ceylon, and of nearly the same height.) It would
require a more careful examination than I was able to devote to the
subject, to ascertain whether the granite of the peak of St. Gothard,
and of the Silla of Caracas, really lies over mica-slate and gneiss,
or if it has merely pierced those rocks, rising in the form of needles
or domes. The gneiss of the littoral Cordillera, in the province of
Caracas, contains almost exclusively garnets, rutile titanite and
graphite, disseminated in the whole mass of the rock, shelves of
granular limestone, and some metalliferous veins. I shall not decide
whether the granitiferous serpentine of the table-land of Buenavista
is inclosed in gneiss, or whether, superposed upon that rock, it does
not rather belong to a formation of weisstein (heptinite) similar to
that of Penig and Mittweyde in Saxony.

In that part of the Sierra Parime which M. Bonpland and myself
visited, gneiss forms a less marked zone, and oscillates more
frequently towards granite than mica-slate. I found no garnets in the
gneiss of Parime. There is no doubt that the gneiss-granite of the
Orinoco is slightly auriferous on some points.

(c) MICA-SLATE, with clay-slate (thonschiefer), forms a continuous
stratum in the northern chain of the littoral Cordillera, from the
point of Araya, beyond the meridian of Cariaco, as well as in the
island of Marguerita. It contains, in the peninsula of Araya, garnets
disseminated in the mass, cyanite and, when it passes to clayey-slate,
small layers of native alum. Mica-slate constituting an independent
formation must be distinguished from mica-slate subordinate to a
stratum of gneiss, on the east of Cape Codera. The mica-slate
subordinate to gneiss presents, in the valley of Tuy, shelves of
primitive limestone and small strata of graphic ampelite
(zeicheschiefer); between Cabo Blanco and Catia layers of chloritic,
granitiferous slate, and slaty amphibole; and between Caracas and
Antimano, the more remarkable phenomenon of veins of gneiss inclosing
balls of granitiferous diorite (grunstein).

In the Sierra Parime, mica-slate predominates only in the most eastern
part, where its lustre has led to strange errors.

The amphibolic slate of Angostura, and masses of diorite in balls,
with concentric layers, near Muitaco, appear to be superposed, not on
mica-slate, but immediately on gneiss-granite. I could not, however,
distinctly ascertain whether a part of this pyritous diorite was not
enclosed on the banks of the Orinoco, as it is at the bottom of the
sea near Cabo Blanco, and at the Montana de Avila, in the rock which
it covers. Very large veins, with an irregular direction, often assume
the aspect of short layers; and the balls of diorite heaped together
in hillocks may, like many cones of basalt, issue from the crevices.

Mica-slate, chloritic slate and the rocks of slaty amphibole contain
magnetic sand in the tropical regions of Venezuela, as in the most
northern regions of Europe. The gannets are there almost equally
disseminated in the gneiss (Caracas), the mica-slate (peninsula of
Araya), the serpentine (Buenavista), the chloritic slate (Cabo
Blanco), and the diorite or greenstone (Antimano). These garnets
re-appear in the trachytic porphyries that crown the celebrated
metalliferous mountain of Potosi, and in the black and pyroxenic
masses of the small volcano of Yana-Urca, at the back of Chimborazo.

Petroleum (and this phenomenon is well worthy of attention) issues
from a soil of mica-slate in the gulf of Cariaco. Further east, on the
banks of the Arco, and near Cariaco, it seems to gush from secondary
limestone formations, but probably that happens only because those
formations repose on mica-slate. The hot springs of Venezuela have
also their origin in, or rather below, the primitive rocks. They issue
from granite (Las Trincheras), gneiss (Mariara and Onoto) and the
calcareous and arenaceous rocks that cover the primitive rocks (Morros
de San Juan, Bergantin, Cariaco). The earthquakes and subterraneous
detonations of which the seat has been erroneously sought in the
calcareous mountains of Cumana have been felt with most violence in
the granitic soils of Caracas and the Orinoco. Igneous phenomena (if
their existence be really well certified) are attributed by the people
to the granitic peaks of Duida and Guaraco, and also to the calcareous
mountain of Cuchivano.

From these observations it results that gneiss-granite predominates in
the immense group of the mountains of the Parime, as mica-slate-gneiss
prevails in the Cordillera of the coast; that in the two systems the
granitic soil, unmixed with gneiss and mica-slate, occupies but a very
small extent of country; and that in the coast-chain the formations of
clayey slate (thonschiefer), mica-slate, gneiss and granite succeed
each other in such a manner on the same line from east to west
(presenting a very uniform and regular inclination of their strata
towards the north-west), that, according to the hypothesis of a
subterraneous prolongation of the strata, the granite of Las
Trincheras and the Rincon del Diablo may be superposed on the gneiss
of the Villa de Cura, of Buenavista and Caracas; and the gneiss
superposed in its turn on the mica-slate and clay-slate of Maniquarez
and Chuparuparu in the peninsula of Araya. This hypothesis of a
prolongation of every rock, in some sort indefinite, founded on the
angle of inclination presented by the strata appearing at the surface,
is not admissible; and according to similar equally vague reasoning we
should be forced to consider the primitive rocks of the Alps of
Switzerland as superposed on the formation of the compact limestone of
Achsenberg, and that [transition, or identical with zechstein?] in
turn, as being superposed on the molassus of the tertiary strata.


If, in the sketch of the formations of Venezuela, I had followed the
received division into primitive, intermediary, secondary and tertiary
strata, I might be doubtful what place the last stratum of mica-slate
in the peninsula of Araya should occupy. This stratum, in the ravine
(aroyo) of Robalo, passes insensibly in a carburetted and shining
slate, into a real ampelite. The direction and inclination of the
stratum remain the same, and the thonschiefer, which takes the look of
a transition-rock, is but a modification of the primitive mica-slate
of Maniquarez, containing garnets, cyanite, and rutile titanite. These
insensible passages from primitive to transition strata by clay-slate,
which becomes carburetted at the same time that it presents a
concordant position with mica-slate and gneiss, have also been
observed several times in Europe by celebrated geologists. The
existence of an independent formation of primitive slate
(urthonschiefer) may even be doubted, that is, of a formation which is
not joined below by strata containing some vestiges of monocotyledonous

The small thonschiefer bed of Malpasso (in the southern chain of the
littoral Cordillera) is separated from mica-slate-gneiss by a
co-ordinate formation of serpentine and diorite. It is divided into
two shelves, of which the upper presents green steatitous slate mixed
with amphibole, and the lower, dark-blue slate, extremely fissile, and
traversed by numerous veins of quartz. I could discover no fragmentary
stratum (grauwacke) nor kieselschiefer nor chiastolite. The
kieselschiefer belongs in those countries to a limestone formation. I
have seen fine specimens of the chiastolite (macle) which the Indians
wore as amulets and which came from the Sierra Nevada de Merida. This
substance is probably found in transition-slate, for MM. Rivero and
Boussingault observed rocks of clay-slate at the height of 2120
toises, in the Paramo of Mucuchies, on going from Truxillo to Merida.*
(* In Galicia, in Spain, I saw the thonschiefer containing
chiastholite alternate with grauwacke; but the chiastolite
unquestionably belongs also to rocks which all geologists have
hitherto called primitive rocks, to mica-schists intercalated like
layers in granite, and to an independent stratum of mica-slate.)


We have indicated above a layer of granitiferous serpentine inclosed
in the gneiss of Buenavista, or perhaps superposed on that rock; we
here find a real stratum of serpentine alternating with diorite, and
extending from the ravine of Tucutunemo as far as Juncalito. Diorite
forms the great mass of this stratum; it is of a dark green colour,
granular, with small grains, and destitute of quartz; its mass is
formed of small crystals of felspar intermixed with crystals of
amphibole. This rock of diorite is covered at its surface, by the
effect of decomposition, with a yellowish crust, like that of basalts
and dolerites. Serpentine, of a dull olive-green and smooth fracture,
mixed with bluish steatite and amphibole, presents, like almost all
the co-ordinate formations of diorite and serpentine (in Silesia, at
Fichtelgebirge, in the valley of Baigorry, in the Pyrenees, in the
island of Cyprus and in the Copper Mountains of circumpolar America),*
traces of copper. (* Franklin's Journey to the Polar Sea page 529.)
Where the diorite, partly globular, approaches the green slate of
Malpasso, real beds of green slate are found inclosed in diorite. The
fine saussurite which we saw in the Upper Orinoco in the hands of the
Indians, seems to indicate the existence of a soil of euphotide,
superposed on gneiss-granite, or amphibolic slate, in the eastern part
of the Sierra Parime.


The Morros of San Juan rise like ruinous towers in a soil of diorite.
They are formed of a cavernous greyish green limestone of crystalline
texture, mixed with some spangles of mica, and are destitute of
shells. We see in them masses of hardened clay, black, fissile,
charged with iron, and covered with a crust, yellow from
decomposition, like basalts and amphiboles. A compact limestone
containing vestiges of shells adjoins this granular limestone of the
Morros of San Juan which is hollow within. Probably on a further
examination of the extraordinary strata between Villa de Cura and
Ortiz, of which I had time only to collect some few specimens, many
phenomena may be discovered analogous to those which Leopold von Buch
has lately described in South Tyrol. M. Boussingault, in a memoir
which he has recently addressed to me, calls the rock of the Morros a
problematic calcariferous gneiss. This expression seems to prove that
the plates of mica take in some parts a uniform direction, as in the
greenish dolomite of Val Toccia.


The gneiss-granite of the Sierra Parime is covered in some few places
(between the Encaramada and the strait of Baraguan and in the island
of Guachaco) in its western part with an olive-brown sandstone,
containing grains of quartz and fragments of felspar, joined by an
extremely compact clayey cement. This cement, where it abounds, has a
conchoidal fracture and passes to jasper. It is crossed by small veins
of brown iron-ore, which separate into very thin plates or scales. The
presence of felspar seems to indicate that this small formation of
sandstone (the sole secondary formation hitherto known in the Sierra
Parime) belongs to red sandstone or coal.* (* Broken and intact
crystals of feldspar are found in the todte liegende coal-sandstone of
Thuringia. I observed in Mexico a very singular agglomerated felspar
formation superposed upon (perhaps inclosed in) red sandstone, near
Guanaxuato.) I hesitate to class it with the sandstone of the Llanos,
the relative antiquity of which appears to me to be less
satisfactorily verified.


I arrange the various formations in the order which I fancied I could
discern on the spot. The carburetted slate (thonschiefer) of the
peninsula of Araya connects the primitive rocks of gneiss-granite and
mica-slate-gneiss with the transition strata (blue and green slate,
diorite, serpentine mixed with amphibole and granular greenish-grey
limestone) of Malpasso, Tucutunemo and San Juan. On the south the
sandstone of the Llanos rests on this transition strata; it is
destitute of shells and composed, like the savannahs of Calabozo, of
rounded fragments of quartz,* kieselschiefer and Lydian stone,
cemented by a ferruginous olive-brown clay. (* In Germany sandstones
which belong unquestionably to red sandstone contain also (near
Weiderstadt, in Thuringia) nodules, and rounded fragments. I shall not
cite the pudding-stone subordinate to the red sandstone of the
Pyrenees because the age of that sandstone destitute of coal may be
disputed. Layers of very large rounded nodules of quartz are inclosed
in the coal sandstone of Thuringia, and in Upper Silesia.) We there
find fragments of wood, in great part monocotyledonous, and masses of
brown iron-ore. Some strata, as in the Mesa de Paja, present grains of
very fine quartz; I saw no fragments of porphyry or limestone. Those
immense beds of sandstone that cover the Llanos of the Lower Orinoco
and the Amazon well deserve the attention of travellers. In appearance
they approximate to the pudding-stones of the molassus stratum, in
which calcareous vestiges are also often wanting, as at Schottwyl and
Diesbach in Switzerland; but they appeared to me by their position to
have more relation to red sandstone. Nowhere can they be confounded
with the grauwackes (fragmentary transition-rocks) which MM.
Boussingault and Rivero found along the Cordilleras of New Grenada,
bordering the steppes on the west. Does the want of fragments of
granite, gneiss and porphyry, and the frequency of petrified wood,* (*
The people of the country attribute those woods to the Alcornoco,
Bowdichia virgilioides (See Nova Gen. et Spec. Plant. volume 3 page
377), and to the Chaparro bovo, Rhopala complicata. It is believed in
Venezuela as in Egypt that petrified wood is formed in our times. I
found this dicotyledonous petrified wood only at the surface of the
soil and not inclosed in the sandstone of the Llanos. M. Caillaud made
the same observation on going to the Oasis of Siwa. The trunks of
trees, ninety feet long, inclosed in the red sandstone of Kifhauser
(in Saxony), are, according to the recent researches of Von Buch,
divided into joints, and are certainly monocotyledonous.) sometimes
dicotyledonous, indicate that those sandstones belong to the more
recent formations which fill the plains between the Cordillera of the
Parime and the coast Cordillera, as the molassus of Switzerland fills
the space between the Jura and the Alps? It is not easy, when several
formations are not perfectly developed, to determine the age of
arenaceous rocks. The most able geologists do not concur in opinion
respecting the sandstone of the Black Forest and of the whole country
south-west of the Thuringer Waldgebirge. M. Boussingault, who passed
through a part of the steppes of Venezuela long after me, is of
opinion that the sandstone of the Llanos of San Carlos, that of the
valley of San Antonio de Cucuta and the table-lands of Barquisimeto,
Tocuyo, Merida and Truxillo belong to a formation of old red sandstone
or coal. There is in fact real coal near Carache, south-west of the
Paramo de las Rosas.

Before a part of the immense plains of America was geologically
examined, it might have been supposed that their uniform and continued
horizontality was caused by alluvial soils, or at least by arenaceous
tertiary strata. The sands which in the Baltic provinces and in all
the north of Germany, cover coarse limestone and chalk, seem to
justify these systematic ideas, which have been extended to the Sahara
and the steppes of Asia. But the observations which we have been able
to collect sufficiently prove that both in the Old and the New World,
both plains, steppes, and deserts contain numerous formations of
different eras, and that these formations often appear without being
covered by alluvial deposits. Jura limestone, gem-salt (plains of the
Meta and Patagonia) and coal-sandstone are found in the Llanos of
South America; quadersandstein,* (* The forms of these rocks in walls
and pyramids, or divided in rhomboid blocks, seems no doubt to
indicate quadersandstein; but the sandstone of the eastern declivity
of the Rocky Mountains in which the learned traveller Mr. James found
salt-springs (licks), strata of gypsum and no coal, appear rather to
belong to variegated sandstone (buntersandstein).) a saliferous soil,
beds of coal,* (* This coal immediately covers, as in Belgium, the
grauwacke, or transition-sandstone.) and limestone with trilobites,*
(* In the plains of the Upper Missouri the limestone is immediately
covered by a secondary limestone with turritulites, believed to be
Jurassic, while a limestone with grypheae, rich in lead-ore and which
I should have believed to be still more ancient than oolitic
limestone, and analogous to lias, is described by Mr. James as lying
above the most recent formation of sandstone. Has this superposition
been well ascertained?) fill the vast plains of Louisiana and Canada.
In examining the specimens collected by the indefatigable Caillaud in
the Lybian desert and the Oasis of Siwa, we recognize sandstone
similar to that of Thebes; fragments of petrified dicotyledonous wood
(from thirty to forty feet long), with rudiments of branches and
medullary concentric layers, coming perhaps from tertiary sandstone
with lignites;* (* Formation of molassus.); chalk with spatangi and
anachytes, Jura limestone with nummulites partly agatized; another
fine-grained limestone* employed in the construction of the temple of
Jupiter Ammon (Omm-Beydah) (* M. von Buch very reasonably inquires
whether this statuary limestone, which resembles Parian marble, and
limestone become granular by contact with the systematic granite of
Predazzo, is a modification of the limestone with nummulites, of Siwa.
The primitive rocks from which the fine-grained marble was believed to
be extracted, if there be no deception in its granular appearance, are
far distant from the Oasis of Siwa.); and gem-salt with sulphur and
bitumen. These examples sufficiently prove that the plains (llanos),
steppes and deserts have not that uniform tertiary formation which has
been too generally supposed. Do the fine pieces of riband-jasper, or
Egyptian pebbles, which M. Bonpland picked up in the savannahs of
Barcelona (near Curataquiche), belong to the sandstone of the Llanos
of Calabozo or to a stratum superposed on that sandstone? The former
of these suppositions would approach, according to the analogy of the
observations made by M. Roziere in Egypt, the sandstone of Calabozo,
or tertiary nagelfluhe.


A bluish-grey compact limestone, almost destitute of petrifactions,
and frequently intersected by small veins of carburetted lime, forms
mountains with very abrupt ridges. These layers have the same
direction and the same inclination as the mica-slate of Araya. Where
the flank of the limestone mountains of New Andalusia is very steep we
observe, as at Achsenberg, near Altdorf in Switzerland, layers that
are singularly arched or turned. The tints of the limestone of
Cumanacoa vary from darkish grey to bluish white and sometimes pass
from compact to granular. It contains, as substances accidentally
disseminated in the mass, brown iron-ore, spathic iron, even
rock-crystal. As subordinate layers it contains (1) numerous strata of
carburetted and slaty marl with pyrites; (2) quartzose sandstone,
alternating with very thin strata of clayey slate; (3) gypsum with
sulphur near Guire in the Golfo Triste on the coast of Paria. As I did
not examine on the spot the position of this yellowish-white
fine-grained gypsum I cannot determine with any certainty its relative

([Footnote not indicated:] This sandstone contains springs. In general
it only covers the limestone of Cumanacoa, but it appeared to me to be
sometimes enclosed.)

The only petrifactions of shells which I found in this limestone
formation consist of a heap of turbinites and trochites, on the flank
of Turimiquiri, at more than 680 toises high, and an ammonite seven
inches in diameter, in the Montana de Santa Maria, north-north-west of
Caripe. I nowhere saw the limestone of Cumanacoa (of which I treat
specially in this article) resting on the sandstone of the Llanos; if
there be any such superposition it must be found on descending the
table-land of Cocollar towards the Mesa de Amana. On the southern
coast of the gulf of Cariaco the limestone formation probably covers,
without the interposition of another rock, a mica-slate which passes
to carburetted clay-slate. In the northern part of the gulf I
distinctly saw this clayey formation at the depth of two or three
fathoms in the sea. The submarine hot springs appeared to me to gush
from mica-slate like the petroleum of Maniquarez. If any doubts remain
as to the rock on which the limestone of Cumanacoa is immediately
superposed, there is none respecting the rocks which cover it, such as
(1) the tertiary limestone of Cumana near Punta Delgada and at Cerro
de Meapire; (2) the sandstone of Quetepe and Turimiquiri, which,
forming layers also in the limestone of Cumanacoa, belongs properly to
the latter soil; the limestone of Caripe which we have often
identified in the course of this work with Jura limestone, and of
which we shall speak in the following article.


Descending the Cuchillo de Guanaguana towards the convent of Caripe,
we find another more recent formation, white, with a smooth or
slightly conchoidal fracture, and divided in very thin layers, which
succeeds to the bluish grey limestone formation of Cumanacoa. I call
this in the first instance the limestone formation of Caripe, on
account of the cavern of that name, inhabited by thousands of
nocturnal birds. This limestone appeared to me identical (1) with the
limestone of the Morro de Barcelona and the Chimanas Islands, which
contains small layers of black kieselschiefer (slaty jasper) without
veins of quartz, and breaking into fragments of parallelopiped form;
(2) with the whitish grey limestone with smooth fracture of Tisnao,
which seems to cover the sandstone of the Llanos. We find the
formation of Caripe in the island of Cuba (between the Havannah and
Batabano and between the port of Trinidad and Rio Guaurabo), as well
in the small Cayman Islands.

I have hitherto described the secondary limestone formations of the
littoral chain without giving them the systematic names which may
connect them with the formations of Europe. During my stay in America
I took the limestone of Cumanacoa for zechstein or Alpine limestone,
and that of Caripe for Jura limestone. The carburetted and slightly
bituminous marl of Cumanacoa, analogous to the strata of bituminous
slate, which are very numerous* in the Alps of southern Bavaria (* I
found them also in the Peruvian Andes near Montau, at the height of
1600 toises.), appeared to me to characterize the former of these
formations; while the dazzling whiteness of the cavernous stratum of
Caripe, and the form of those shelves of rocks rising in walls and
cornices, forcibly reminded me of the Jura limestone of Streitberg in
Franconia, or of Oitzow and Krzessowic in Upper Silesia. There is in
Venezuela a suppression of the different strata which, in the old
continent, separate zechstein from Jura limestone. The sandstone of
Cocollar, which sometimes covers the limestone of Cumanacoa, may be
considered as variegated sandstone; but it is more probable that in
alternating by layers with the limestone of Cumanacoa, it is sometimes
thrown to the upper limit of the formation to which it belongs. The
zechstein of Europe also contains a very quartzose sandstone. The two
limestone strata of Cumanacoa and Caripe succeed immediately each
other, like Alpine and Jura limestone, on the western declivity of the
Mexican table-land, between Sopilote, Mescala and Tehuilotepec. These
formations, perhaps, pass from one to the other, so that the latter
may be only an upper shelf of zechstein. This immediate covering, this
suppression of interposed soils, this simplicity of structure and
absence of oolitic strata, have been equally observed in Upper Silesia
and in the Pyrenees. On the other hand the immediate superposition of
the limestone of Cumanacoa on mica-slate and transition
clay-slate--the rarity of the petrifactions which have not yet been
sufficiently examined--the strata of silex passing to Lydian stone,
may lead to the belief that the soils of Cumanacoa and Caripe are of
much more ancient formation than the secondary rocks. We must not be
surprised that the doubts which arise in the mind of the geologist
when endeavouring to decide on the relative age of the limestone of
the high mountains in the Pyrenees, the Apennines (south of the lake
of Perugia) and in the Swiss Alps, should extend to the limestone
strata of the high mountains of New Andalusia, and everywhere in
America where the presence of red sandstone is not distinctly


Between Nueva Barcelona and the Cerro del Bergantin a quartzose
sandstone covers the Jura limestone of Cumanacoa. Is it an arenaceous
rock analogous to green sandstone, or does it belong to the sandstone
of Cocollar? In the latter case its presence seems to prove still more
clearly that the limestones of Cumanacoa and Caripe are only two parts
of the same system, alternating with sandstone, sometimes quartzose,
sometimes slaty.


Deposits of lamellar gypsum, containing numerous strata of marl, are
found in patches on the steppes of Caracas and Barcelona; for
instance, in the table-land of San Diego, between Ortiz and the Mesa
de Paja; and near the mission of Cachipo. They appeared to me to cover
the Jura limestone of Tisnao, which is analogous to that of Caripe,
where we find it mixed with masses of fibrous gypsum. I have not given
the name formation either to the sandstone of the Orinoco, of
Cocollar, of Bergantin or to the gypsum of the Llanos, because nothing
as yet proves the independence of those arenaceous and gypsous soils.
I think it will one day be ascertained that the gypsum of the Llanos
covers not only the Jura limestone of the Llanos, but that it is
sometimes enclosed in it like the gypsum of the Golfo Triste on the
east of the Alpine limestone of Cumanacoa. The great masses of sulphur
found in the layers, almost entirely clayey, of the steppes (at
Guayuta, valley of San Bonifacio, Buen Pastor, confluence of the Rio
Pao with the Orinoco) may possibly belong to the marl of the gypsum of
Ortiz. These clayey beds are more worthy of attention since the
interesting observations of Von Buch and several other celebrated
geologists respecting the cavernosity of gypsum, the irregularity of
the inclination of its strata and its parallel position with the two
declivities of the Hartz and the upheaved chain of the Alps; while the
simultaneous presence of sulphur, oligist iron and the sulphurous acid
vapours which precede the formation of sulphuric acid, seem to
manifest the action of forces placed at a great depth in the interior
of the globe.


This soil presents a striking analogy with salzthon or leberstein
(muriatiferous clay) which I have found accompanying gem-salt in every
zone. In the salt-pits of Araya (Haraia) it attracted the attention of
Peter Martyr d'Anghiera at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It
probably facilitated the rupture of the earth and the formation of the
gulf of Cariaco. This clay is of a smoky colour, impregnated with
petroleum, mingled with lamellar and lenticular gypsum and sometimes
traversed by small veins of fibrous gypsum. It incloses angular and
less friable masses of dark brown clay with a slaty and sometimes
conchoidal fracture. Muriate of soda is found in particles invisible
to the naked eye. The relations of position or superposition between
this soil and the tertiary rocks does not appear sufficiently clear to
enable me to pronounce with certainty on this element, the most
important of positive geology. The co-ordinate layers of gem-salt,
muriatiferous clay and gypsum present the same difficulties in both
hemispheres; these masses, the forms of which are very irregular,
everywhere exhibit traces of great commotions. They are scarcely ever
covered by independent formations; and after having been long
believed, in Europe, that gem-salt was exclusively peculiar to Alpine
and transition limestone, it is now still more generally admitted,
either from reasoning founded on analogy or from suppositions on the
prolongation of the strata, that the true location of gem-salt is
found in variegated sandstone (buntersandstein). Sometimes gem-salt
appears to oscillate between variegated sandstone and muschelkalk.

I made two excursions on the peninsula of Araya. In the first I was
inclined to consider the muriatiferous clay as subordinate to the
conglomerate (evidently of tertiary formation) of the Barigon and of
the mountain of the castle of Cumana, because a little to the north of
that castle I had found shelves of hardened clay containing lamellar
gypsum inclosed in the tertiary strata. I believed that the
muriatiferous clay might alternate with the calcareous conglomerate of
Barigon; and near the fishermen's huts situated opposite Macanao,
conglomerate rocks appeared to me to pierce through the strata of
clay. During a second excursion to Maniquarez and the aluminiferous
slates of Chaparuparu, the connexion between tertiary strata and
bituminous clay seemed to me somewhat problematical. I examined more
particularly the Penas Negras near the Cerro de la Vela,
east-south-east of the ruined castle of Araya. The limestone of the
Penas is compact, bluish grey and almost destitute of petrifactions.
It appeared to me to be much more ancient than the tertiary
conglomerate of Barigon, and I saw it covering, in concordant
position, a slaty clay, somewhat analogous to muriatiferous clay. I
was greatly interested in comparing this latter formation with the
strata of carburetted marl contained in the Alpine limestone of
Cumanacoa. According to the opinions now most generally received, the
rock of the Penas Negras may be considered as representing muschelkalk
(limestone of Gottingen); and the saliferous and bituminous clay of
Araya, as representing variegated sandstone; but these problems can
only be solved when the mines of those countries are worked. Those
geologists who are of opinion that the gem-salt of Italy penetrates
into a stratum above the Jura limestone, and even the chalk, may be
led to mistake the limestone of the Penas Negras for one of the strata
of compact limestone without grains of quartz and petrifactions, which
are frequently found amidst the tertiary conglomerate of Barigon and
of the Castillo de Cumana; the saliferous clay of Araya would appear
to them analogous to the plastic clay of Paris,* (* Tertiary sandstone
with lignites, or molassus of Argovia.) or to the clayey shelves (dief
et tourtia) of secondary sandstone with lignites, containing
salt-springs, in Belgium and Westphalia. However difficult it may be
to distinguish separately the strata of marl and clay belonging to
variegated sandstone, muschelkalk, quadersandstein, Jura limestone,
secondary sandstone with lignites (green and iron sand) and the
tertiary strata lying above chalk, I believe that the bitumen which
everywhere accompanies gem-salt, and most frequently salt-springs,
characterizes the muriatiferous clay of the peninsula of Araya and the
island of Marguerita, as linked with formations lying below the
tertiary strata. I do not say that they are anterior to that
formation, for since the publication of M. von Buch's observations on
the Tyrol, we must no longer consider what is below, in space, as
necessarily anterior, relatively to the epoch of its formation.

Bitumen and petroleum still issue from the mica-slate; these
substances are ejected whenever the soil is shaken by a subterranean
force (between Cumana, Cariaco and the Golfo Triste). Now, in the
peninsula of Araya, and in the island of Marguerita, saliferous clay
impregnated with bitumen is met with in connexion with this early
formation, nearly as gem-salt appears in Calabria in flakes, in basins
inclosed in strata of granite and gneiss. Do these circumstances serve
to support that ingenious system, according to which all the
co-ordinate formations of gypsum, sulphur, bitumen and gem-salt
(constantly anhydrous) result from floods passing across the crevices
which have traversed the oxidated crust of our planet, and penetrating
to the seat of volcanic action. The enormous masses of muriate of soda
recently thrown up by Vesuvius,* (* The ejected masses in 1822 were so
considerable that the inhabitants of some villages round Vesuvius
collected them for domestic purposes.) the small veins of that salt
which I have often seen traverse the most recently ejected lavas, and
of which the origin (by sublimation) appears similar to that of
oligist iron deposited in the same vents,* (* Gay-Lussac on the action
of volcanoes in the Annales de Chimie volume 22 page 418.) the layers
of gem-salt and saliferous clay of the trachytic soil in the plains of
Peru and around the volcano of the Andes of Quito are well worthy the
attention of geologists who would discuss the origin of formations. In
the present sketch I confine myself to the mere enumeration of the
phenomena of position, indicating, at the same time, some theoretic
views, by which observers in more advantageous circumstances than I
was myself may direct their researches.


This is a very complex formation, presenting that mixture and that
periodical return of compact limestone, quartzose sandstone and
conglomerates (limestone breccia) which in every zone peculiarly
characterises the tertiary strata. It forms the mountain of the castle
of San Antonio near the town of Cumana, the south-west extremity of
the peninsula of Araya, the Cerro Meapire, south of Caraco and the
vicinity of Porto Cabello. It contains (1) a compact limestone,
generally of a whitish grey, or yellowish white (Cerro del Barigon),
some very thin layers of which are entirely destitute of
petrifactions, while others are filled with cardites, ostracites,
pectens and vestiges of lithophyte polypi: (2) a breccia in which an
innumerable number of pelagic shells are found mixed with grains of
quartz agglutinated by a cement of carbonate of lime: (3) a calcareous
sandstone with very fine rounded grains of quartz (Punta Arenas, west
of the village of Maniquarez) and containing masses of brown iron ore:
(4) banks of marl and slaty clay, containing no spangles of mica, but
enclosing selenite and lamellar gypsum. These banks of clay appeared
to me constantly to form the lower strata. There also belongs to this
tertiary stratum the limestone tufa (fresh-water formation) of the
valleys of Aragua near Vittoria, and the fragmentary rock of Cabo
Blanco, westward of the port of La Guayra. I must not designate the
latter by the name of nagelfluhe, because that term indicates rounded
fragments, while the fragments of Cabo Blanco are generally angular,
and composed of gneiss, hyaline quartz and chloritic slate, joined by
a limestone cement. This cement contains magnetic sand,* (* This
magnetic sand no doubt owes its origin to chloritous slate, which, in
these latitudes, forms the bed of the sea.) madrepores, and vestiges
of bivalve sea shells. The different fragments of tertiary strata
which I found in the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela, on the two
slopes of the northern chain, seem to be superposed near Cumana
(between Bordones and Punta Delgada); in the Cerro of Meapire; on the
[Alpine] limestone of Cumanacoa; between Porto Cabello and the Rio
Guayguaza; as well as in the valleys of Aragua; on granite; on the
western declivity of the hill formed by Cabo Blanco, on gneiss; and in
the peninsula of Araya, on saliferous clay. But this is perhaps merely
the effect of apposition.* (* An-nicht Auflagerung, according to the
precise language of the geologists of my country.) If we would range
the different members of the tertiary series according to the age of
their formation we ought, I believe, to regard the breccia of Cabo
Blanco with fragments of primitive rocks as the most ancient, and make
it be succeeded by the arenaceous limestone of the castle of Cumana,
without horned silex, yet somewhat analogous to the coarse limestone
of Paris, and the fresh-water soil of Victoria. The clayey gypsum,
mixed with calcareous breccia with madrepores, cardites and oysters,
which I found between Carthagena and the Cerro de la Popa, and the
equally recent limestones of Guadalope and Barbadoes (limestones
filled with seashells resembling those now existing in the Caribbean
Sea) prove that the latest deposited strata of the tertiary formation
extend far towards the west and north.

These recent formations, so rich in vestiges of organized bodies,
furnish a vast field of observation to those who are familiar with the
zoological character of rocks. To examine these vestiges in strata
superposed as by steps, one above another, is to study the Fauna of
different ages and to compare them together. The geography of animals
marks out limits in space, according to the diversity of climates,
which determine the actual state of vegetation on our planet. The
geology of organized bodies, on the contrary, is a fragment of the
history of nature, taking the word history in its proper acceptation:
it describes the inhabitants of the earth according to succession of
time. We may study genera and species in museums, but the Fauna of
different ages, the predominance of certain shells, the numerical
relations which characterize the animal kingdom and the vegetation of
a place or of a period, should be studied in sight of those
formations. It has long appeared to me that in the tropics as well as
in the temperate zone the species of univalve shells are much more
numerous than bivalves. From this superiority in number the organic
fossil world furnishes, in every latitude, a further analogy with the
intertropical shells that now live at the bottom of the ocean. In
fact, M. Defrance, in a work* full of new and ingenious ideas, not
only recognizes this preponderance of the univalves in the number of
the species, but also observes that out of 5500 fossil univalve,
bivalve and multivalve shells, contained in his rich collections,
there are 3066 univalve, 2108 bivalve, and 326 multivalve; the
univalve fossils are therefore to the bivalve as three to two. (*
Table of Organized Fossil Bodies, 1824.)


I place pyroxenic amygdaloid and phonolite (porphyrschiefer) at the
end of the formations of Venezuela, not as being the only rocks which
I consider as pyrogenous, but as those of which the volcanic origin is
probably posterior to the tertiary strata. This conclusion is not
deduced from the observations I made at the southern declivity of the
littoral Cordillera, between the Morros of San Juan, Parapara and the
Llanos of Calabozo. In that region local circumstances would possibly
lead us to regard the amygdaloids of Ortiz as linked to a system of
transition rocks (amphibolic serpentine, diorite, and carburetted
slate of Malpasso); but the eruption of the trachytes across rocks
posterior to the chalk (in the Euganean Mountains and other parts of
Europe) joined to the phenomenon of total absence of fragments of
pyroxenic porphyry, trachyte, basalt and phonolite (The fragments of
these rocks appear only in tufas or conglomerates which belong
essentially to basaltic formations or surround the most recent
volcanoes. Every volcanic formation is enveloped in breccia, which is
the effect of the eruption itself.), in the conglomerates or
fragmentary rocks anterior to the recent tertiary strata, renders it
probable that the appearance of trap rocks at the surface of the earth
is the effect of one of the last revolutions of our planet, even where
the eruption has taken place by crevices (veins) which cross
gneiss-granite, or the transition rocks not covered by secondary and
tertiary formations.

The small volcanic stratum of Ortiz (latitude 9 degrees 28 minutes to
9 degrees 36 minutes) formed the ancient shore of the vast basin of
the Llanos of Venezuela: it is composed on the points where I could
examine it of only two kinds of rocks, namely, amygdaloid and
phonolite. The greyish blue amygdaloid contains fendilated crystals of
pyroxene and mesotype. It forms balls with concentric layers of which
the flattened centre is nearly as hard as basalt. Neither olivine nor
amphibole can be distinguished. Before it shows itself as a separate
stratum, rising in small conic hills, the amygdaloid seems to
alternate by layers with the diorite, which we have mentioned above as
mixed with carburetted slate and amphibolic serpentine. These close
relations of rocks so different in appearance and so likely to
embarrass the observer give great interest to the vicinity of Ortiz.
If the masses of diorite and amygdaloid, which appear to us to be
layers, are very large veins, they may be supposed to have been formed
and upheaved simultaneously. We are now acquainted with two formations
of amygdaloid; one, the most common, is subordinate to the basalt: the
other, much more rare,* (* We find examples of the latter in Norway
(Vardekullen, near Skeen), in the mountains of the Thuringerwald; in
South Tyrol; at Hefeld in the Hartz, at Bolanos in Mexico etc.)
belongs to the pyroxenic porphyry.* (* Black porphyries of M. von
Buch.) The amygdaloid of Ortiz approaches, by its oryctognostic
characters, to the former of those formations, and we are almost
surprised to find it joining, not basalt, but phonolite,* an eminently
felspathic rock, in which we find some crystals of amphibole, but
pyroxene very rarely, and never any olivine. (* There are phonolites
of basaltic strata (the most anciently known) and phonolites of
trachytic strata (Andes of Mexico). The former are generally above the
basalts; and the extraordinary development of felspar in that union,
and the want of pyroxene, have always appeared to me very remarkable
phenomena.) The Cerro de Flores is a hill covered with tabulary blocks
of greenish grey phonolite, enclosing long crystals (not fendillated)
of vitreous felspar, altogether analogous to the phonolite of
Mittelgebirge. It is surrounded by pyroxenic amygdaloid; it would no
doubt be seen below, issuing immediately from gneiss-granite, like the
phonolite of Biliner Stein, in Bohemia, which contains fragments of
gneiss embedded in its mass.

Does there exist in South America another group of rocks, which may be
preferably designated by the name of volcanic rocks, and which are as
distinct from the chain of the Andes, and advance as far towards the
east as the group that bounds the steppes of Calabozo? Of this I
doubt, at least in that part of the continent situated north of the
Amazon. I have often directed attention to the absence of pyroxenic
porphyry, trachyte, basalt and lavas (I range these formations
according to their relative age) in the whole of America eastward of
the Cordilleras. The existence even of trachyte has not yet been
verified in the Sierra Nevada de Merida which links the Andes and the
littoral chain of Venezuela. It would seem as if volcanic fire, after
the formation of primitive rocks, could not pierce into eastern
America. Possibly the scarcity of argentiferous veins observed in
those countries may be owing to the absence of more recent volcanic
phenomena. M. Eschwege saw at Brazil some layers (veins?) of diorite,
but neither trachyte, basalt, dolerite, nor amygdaloid; and he was
therefore much surprised to see, in the vicinity of Rio Janeiro, an
insulated mass of phonolite, exactly similar to that of Bohemia,
piercing through gneiss. I am inclined to believe that America, on the
east of the Andes, would have burning volcanoes if, near the shore of
Venezuela, Guiana and Brazil, the series of primitive rocks were
broken by trachytes, for these, by their fendillation and open
crevices, seem to establish that permanent communication between the
surface of the soil and the interior of the globe, which is the
indispensable condition of the existence of a volcano. If we direct
our course from the coast of Paria by the gneiss-granite of the Silla
of Caracas, the red sandstone of Barquisimeto and Tocuyo, the slaty
mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Merida, and the eastern Cordillera
of Cundinamarca to Popayan and Pasto, taking the direction of
west-south-west, we find in the vicinity of those towns the first
volcanic vents of the Andes still burning, those which are the most
northerly of all South America; and it may be remarked that those
craters are found where the Cordilleras begin to present trachytes, at
a distance of eighteen or twenty-five leagues from the present coast
of the Pacific Ocean.* (* I believe the first hypotheses respecting
the relation between the burning of volcanoes and the proximity of the
sea are contained in Aetna Dialogus, a very eloquent though
little-known work by Cardinal Bembo.) Permanent communications, or at
least communications frequently renewed, between the atmosphere and
the interior of the globe, have been preserved only along that immense
crevice on which the Cordilleras have been upheaved; but subterranean
volcanic forces are not less active in eastern America, shaking the
soil of the littoral Cordillera of Venezuela and of the Parime group.
In describing the phenomena which accompanied the great earthquake of
Caracas,* on the 26th March, 1812, I mentioned the detonations heard
at different periods in the mountains (altogether granitic) of the
Orinoco. (* I stated in another place the influence of that great
catastrophe on the counter-revolution which the royalist party
succeeded in bringing about at that time in Venezuela. It is
impossible to conceive anything more curious than the negociation
opened on the 5th of April, by the republican government, established
at Valencia in the valleys of Aragua, with Archbishop Prat (Don
Narciso Coll y Prat), to engage him to publish a pastoral letter
calculated to tranquilize the people respecting the wrath of the
deity. The Archbishop was permitted to say that this wrath was merited
on account of the disorder of morals; but he was enjoined to declare
positively that politics and systematic opinions on the new social
order had nothing in common with it. Archbishop Prat lost his liberty
after this singular correspondence.) The elastic forces which agitate
the ground, the still-burning volcanoes, the hot sulphurous springs,
sometimes containing fluoric acid, the presence of asphaltum and
naphtha in primitive strata, all point to the interior of our planet,
the high temperature of which is perceived even in mines of little
depth, and which, from the times of Heraclitus of Ephesus, and
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, to the Plutonic theory of modern days, has
been considered as the seat of all great disturbances of the globe.

The sketch I have just traced contains all the formations known in
that part of Europe which has served as the type of positive geology.
It is the fruit of sixteen months' labour, often interrupted by other
occupations. Formations of quartzose porphyry, pyroxenic porphyry and
trachyte, of grauwacke, muschelkalk and quadersandstein, which are
frequent towards the west, have not yet been seen in Venezuela; but it
may be also observed that in the system of secondary rocks of the old
continent muschelkalk and quadersandstein are not always clearly
developed, and are often, by the frequency of their marls, confounded
with the lower layers of Jura limestone. The muschelkalk is almost a
lias with encrinites; and quadersandstein (for there are doubtless
many above the lias or limestone with gryphites) seems to me to
represent the arenaceous layers of the lower shelves of Jura

I have thought it right to give at some length this geologic
description of South America, not only on account of the novel
interest which the study of the formations in the equinoctial regions
is calculated to excite, but also on account of the honourable efforts
which have recently been made in Europe to verify and extend the
working of the mines in the Cordilleras of Columbia, Mexico, Chile and
Buenos Ayres. Vast sums of money have been invested for the attainment
of this useful end. In proportion as public confidence has enlarged
and consolidated those enterprises, from which both continents may
derive solid advantage, it becomes the duty of persons who have
acquired a local knowledge of these countries to publish information
calculated to create a just appreciation of the relative wealth and
position of the mines in different parts of Spanish America. The
success of a company for the working of mines, and that of works
undertaken by the order of free governments, is far from depending
solely on the improvement of the machines employed for draining off
the water, and extracting the mineral, on the regular and economical
distribution of the subterraneous works, or the improvements in
preparation, amalgamation, and melting: success depends also on a
thorough knowledge of the different superposed strata. The practice of
the science of mining is closely linked with the progress of geology;
and it would be easy to prove that many millions of piastres have been
rashly expended in South America from complete ignorance of the nature
of the formations, and the position of the rocks, in directing the
preliminary researches. At the present time it is not precious metals
solely which should fix the attention of new mining companies; the
multiplication of steam-engines renders it indispensable, wherever
wood is not abundant or easy of transport, to seek at the same time to
discover coal and lignites. In this point of view the precise
knowledge of the red sandstone, coal-sandstone, quadersandstein and
molassus (tertiary formation of lignites), often covered with basalt
and dolerite, is of great practical importance. It is difficult for a
European miner, recently arrived, to judge of a country presenting so
novel an aspect, and when the same formations cover an immense extent.
I hope that the present work, as well as my Political Essay on New
Spain, and my work on the Position of Rocks in the Two Hemispheres,
will contribute to diminish those obstacles. They may be said to
contain the earliest geologic information respecting places whose
subterraneous wealth attracts the attention of commercial nations; and
they will assist in the classification of the more precise notions
which later researches may add to my labours.

The republic of Colombia, in its present limits, furnishes a vast
field for the enterprising spirit of the miner. Gold, platinum,
silver, mercury, copper, gem-salt, sulphur and alum may become objects
of important workings. The production of gold alone amounted, before
the outbreak of the political dissensions, on the average, to 4700
kilogrammes (20,500 marks of Castile) per annum. This is nearly half
the quantity furnished by all Spanish America, a quantity which has an
influence the more powerful on the variable proportions between the
value of gold and silver, as the extraction of the former metal has
diminished at Brazil, for forty years past, with surprising rapidity.
The quint (a tax which the government raises on gold-washings) which
in the Capitania of Minas Geraes was, in 1756, 1761 and 1767, from
118, 102 and 85 arobas of gold (of 14 3/5 kilogrammes), has fallen,
during 1800, 1813 and 1818, to 30, 20 and 9 arobas; an arob of gold
having, at Rio Janeiro, the value of 15,000 cruzados. According to
these estimates the produce of gold in Brazil, making deductions for
fraudulent exportation, was, in the middle of the eighteenth century,
the years of the greatest prosperity of the gold-washings, 6600
kilogrammes, and in our days, from 1817 to 1820, 600 kilogrammes less.
In the province of San Paulo the extraction of gold has entirely
ceased; in the province of Goyaz, it was 803 kilogrammes in 1793 and
in 1819 scarcely 75. In the province of Mato Grosso it is almost
nothing; and M. Eschwege is of opinion that the whole produce of gold
in Brazil does not amount at present to more than 600,000 cruzados
(scarcely 440 kilogrammes). I dwell on these particulars because, in
confounding the different periods of the riches and poverty of the
gold-washings of Brazil, it is still affirmed in works treating of the
commerce of the precious metals, that a quantity of gold equivalent to
four millions of piastres (5800 kilogrammes of gold*) flows into
Europe annually from Portuguese America. (* This error is twofold: it
is probable that Brazilian gold, paying the quint, has not, during the
last forty years, risen to 5500 kilogrammes. I heretofore shared this
error in common with writers on political economy, in admitting that
the quint in 1810 was still (instead of 26 arrobas or 379 kilogrammes)
51,200 Portuguese ounces, or 1433 kilogrammes; which supposed a
product of 7165 kilogrammes. The very correct information afforded by
two Portuguese manuscripts on the gold-washings of Minas Geraes, Minas
Novas and Goyaz, in the Bullion Report for the House of Commons, 1810,
acc. page 29, goes as far only as 1794, when the quinto do ouro of
Brazil was 53 arrobas, which indicates a produce of more than 3900
kilogrammes paying the quint. In Mr. Tooke's important work, On High
and Low Prices part 2 page 2) this produce is still estimated (mean
year 1810 to 1821) at 1,736,000 piastres; while, according to official
documents in my possession, the average of the quint of those ten
years amounted only to 15 arrobas, or a product quint of 1095
kilogrammes, or 755,000 piastres. Mr. John Allen reminded the
Committee of the Bullion Report, in his Critical Notes on the table of
M. Brongniart, that the decrease of the produce of the gold-washings
of Brazil had been extremely rapid since 1794; and the notions given
by M. Auguste de Saint Hilaire indicate the same desertion of the
gold-mines of Brazil. Those who were miners have become cultivators.
The value of an arroba of gold is 15,000 Brazilian cruzados (each
cruzado being 50 sous). According to M. Franzini the Portuguese onca
is equal to 0.028 of a kilogramme, and 8 oncas make 1 mark; 2 marks
make 1 arratel, and 32 arratels 1 arroba.) If, in commercial value,
gold in grains prevails, in the republic of Columbia, over the value
of other metals, the latter are not on that account less worthy to fix
the attention of government and of individuals. The argentiferous
mines of Santa Anna, Manta, Santo Christo de las Laxas, Pamplona, Sapo
and La Vega de Sapia afford great hope. The facility of the
communications between the coast of Columbia and that of Europe
imparts the same interest to the copper-mines of Venezuela and New
Grenada. Metals are a merchandize purchased at the price of labour and
an advance of capital; thus forming in the countries where they are
produced a portion of commercial wealth; while their extraction gives
an impetus to industry in the most barren and mountainous districts.



electric, similarity of, in the electric eel and the voltaic battery.
volcanic, centre of.
connexion of.

Acosta, travels of.

Adansonia, or baobab of, Senegal.

Acuvajos, country of the.


travels in.
deserts of.

Aguas Calientes:
ravine of.
river of.

early practice of.
influence of on individuals.
mean temperature required for the success of.
geology applied to.
in the island of Cuba.
zone of, in Spanish America.

Aguatire, the.


Alcaldes, or Indian magistrates.

Alegranza, island of.

crocodiles of.

Aloe, see Maguey.



Alphabet, application of the, in Indian languages.

Alta Vista:
plain of.
natural ice-house of.



Amasonia, arborea.

Amazon river:
falls of the.
valley of the.
navigation of.
tributary streams of.
bridges over the.
course of the.
basin of the.
plains of the.
locality of.

Amazons, traditions of the.


discovery of.
rapidity of vegetation in.
Savannahs of.
geological structure of.
early colonists of.
traditons of.
ancient name of.
supposed identity of, with Asia.
east of the Andes.
population of.
population of.
plants of.
forests of.
missions of.
natives of.
waters of.
pampas of.
geography of.
geognostic description of.
configuration of.
mountains of.
extent of.
plains of Ibib, boundaries of.

America, Spanish:
inhabitants of.
civil wars of.
state of society in.
productions of.
boundaries of.
frontier posts of.
population of.
extent of.
republics of.
commerce of.
agriculture of.
political position of.

Amerigo, Vespucci.

Andalusia, New:
coasts of.
mountains of.
capital of.
inhabitants of.
earthquakes in.
extent of.

ascent of the.
branches of the.
structure of.
elevation of.
etymology of the name.
importance of the.
of Chili.

commerce of.
geology of.

Anil, see Indigo.

effects of heat and cold upon.
organization of.
contemplations on the nature of.
hemispherical distribution of.
geography of.
wild, herds of.

Animals, painted representations of, by native Indians.


Antidotes, to poisons.

Antiles, the.


of the torrid zone.
use of by the natives as food.

Apes, different species of.

Apparatus, electrical.

Apples, American.

Apure river:
voyage on the.
channel of.
navigation of.
junction of, with the Orinoco.
fetid waters of.
rise of the.

Apurito, island of.

Aquio, river.


cotton plantations of.
boundaries of.
forests of.
plains of.
indigo grounds of.
cacao plantations of.
geology of.
vultures of.


salt works of.
Peninsula of.
castle of.
pearls of.
inhabitants of.
scarcity of rain in.
geology of.

of St. Bernard.
of Chonos.
of Rosario.


Areverians, tribe of.

Areo, river.

copper mines of.
river of.

Arowaks, tribe of the.

Arrua, the.

Artabrum, promontory of.

Arvi, the.

Asia, steppes of.

Asphaltum, lake of.

Assuay, mountains of.


Astronomy, study of.

Atabapo, the:
pure waters of the.
banks of the.

Ataripe, cavern of.

temperature of the.
currents in the.
phenomena, in the.


rapid changes in the.
serenity of the.
greatest heat of the.
observations on the.

Atmospheric transparency, effects of, on mental and vegetable


Aturajos, country of the.

rapids of.
mission of.
prevalence of fevers at.
vegetation of.
church of.
tribes of.
language of.

Arauca, river:
birds of the.

Avila, mountain of.

new island of the.
sea around the.

Balsam-trees, groves of.

furniture made from.
region of.


Bandits of the plains.

Baracoa, commerce of.

Baragnan, passage of.

Barba de Tigre.

Barbarian, origin of the term.

Barbarism, regions in which it most prevails.

Barbula, cotton plantations of.

Barcelona, New:
native population of.
languages of.
port of.
fort of.
earthquakes at.
plains of.
town of.

Barigon, limestones of the.


variations of, previous to earthquakes.
horary variations of.


peninsula of.
island of.


route to.
gulf of.
rocks of.

Batavia, sugar cane of.

Bathing, methods of, practised by the Indians.


Baudin, Captain:
expedition of to the South Seas.
ascent of peak of Teneriffe, by.

Baxo de la Cotua.


Beauty, national ideas of.

peculiar to the New World.
European importation of.

Beet-root sugar.

Benedictus Alexander, physiological phenomenon related by.

Beni, river.

Benzoni Girolamo:
voyage of.


excursion to.
sandstone of the.

Bermuda, islands of.

Berrio, Antonio de:
expedition of.

Bertholletia excelsa, or Brazil nut tree.

Bird island.

Birds of South America:
migrations of.
nocturnal, see Guacharo.

Bishop's lake.

Bitumen springs.

Blow-tubes of the Indians.

Boats of Cumana.

Bobadilla Francisco, mission founded by.

Boca de Arichuna:
del Drago.
Grande of Carthagena.
de la Tortuga.

Bochica, or Indacanzas, priests of.

practice of.
methods of.

Bohemia, mountains of.


Bonpland, M.:
intrepidity of.
tree dedicated to (Bonplandia trifoliata).

Boracha, island of.

Borachita, island of.

of the Canary islands.
of the Coral islands.

Bougainville, dissemination of the sugar cane by.

Bovadillo, expedition of.

Branco river.

boundaries of.
extent of.
population of.
mountains of.
frontiers of.
gold of.

Brazil-nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa):
nut, harvest of.


Breschet, M.

over the Amazon.
of Lianas.

situation of the.
conjunction of, with the Cocolla.
descent of the.

Bruyere, description of slaves by.

Brownea, or mountain roses.

Buen Pastor, mineral springs of.

Buenos Ayres:
exports of.
extent of.
population of.
situation of.
pampas of.

Burro, isle of.

Butterflies, American.

from birds.
from palm-fruit.
from the tortoise egg.

Cabo Blanco:
summit of.
climate of.

Cabrera, promontory of.

Cabruta, town of.

Cabullure, river.

port of.
export of.
adulteration of.
harvest of.
of Cumana.
trees, propagation of.
plants having the same properties.
of Barcelona.

forests of.
varieties of.
plantations of.

departure from.
plains of.

Calabury river.

Caldera, of Peak of Teneriffe.

Caledonia, New.

first introduction of, in America.
of Forteventura.
of Teneriffe.


Campoma, lake of.

basin of.
lakes of.

Cananivacari, rapids of.

Canaries of Orotava:
of Montana Clara.

Canary Islands:
birds of the.
ancient historical notices of.
geology of the.
fruits and plants of.
aborigines of.
inhabitants of.
government of the.
hot springs of.

origin of the term.

tribes most addicted to.
in Egypt.

Cano de la Tigre.

modes of conveying them overland.
of Norfolk Island.

Caparro monkey.

Capanaparo, lake of.

Araya, salt-pits of.
De la Brea.
St. Vincent.
Three Points.

Cape Verd Islands.

Capitania, General of Caracas.
government of.
population of.
exportation of hides from.
annexation of with New Granada.

Caps, of bark.

Capuchin Hospital, near Cumana.

missions of.
indigo, manufactures of.
government of.
influence of.

city of.
salt-works of.
population of.
valleys of.
climate of.
vegetable productions of.
temperature of.
state of society in.
intelligence of the inhabitants.
printing office in.
mines of.
earthquakes at.
effects of the.
departure from.
flora of.
Cacao, plantations of.
commerce of.
plains of.
La Venta, or large Inn of.
islands of.


Caratapona, granite islands of.

Caravalleda, sugar plantations of.

Caravanserai of San Fernando.

missions of.
inhabitants of.

town of.
valley of.
climate of.
population of.

Cariaco, gulf of.

Caribbean Sea:
basins of the.

Caribbees, see Caribs.

language of the.
tribes of.
native white race of.
migrations of.
missions of.
customs of.
characteristics of.
extermination of the.
origin of the term.
government of.
laws of.

language of the.

mission of.
port of.

convent of.
valley of.
climate of.
cavern of.
oil harvest of.
river of.
geology of.

Carizales, island of.

del Pino.


Carony, river:
course of the.
falls of.
tributary streams of.

Carthagena, port of.

Cascabel, or rattlesnake.


Cascarilla-bark, see Cinchona.

Cassime, or Zodiacal Light.

Cassipagotos, tribe of.

river banks of the.
encampment on the.
branch of the.
fertility of the.
general aspect of.
temperature of.
navigation of.

Castanos, el Monte de.

Castile, climate of.

Castle of San Antonio:
hospital of the.

latitude of the.
of Atures.
of Cariven.
of Cunuri.
of Guaharibos.
of Maypures.
of the Orinoco.
navigation of the.
scenery of the.
of Rio Caroni.
of Quittuna.


of the plains.
exportation of hides.

of Ataripe.
of Caripe.
of Dantoe.
of the Guacharo.

origin of.
geological formations of.
of Derbyshire.
of Franconia.

Cayman, see Crocodile:
geology of.
situation of.


de Cristoval.
de Perez.

Cecropia, the.

Cedeno, river.

Centurion, Don M., expedition of.

Ceremonies, religious, of the Indians.

Cerro de Flores.

Cerros de Sipapo.

Ceylon, pearl fisheries of.

Chacaito, river of.

Chamberg, island of.

inaccuracies of.
of Vespucci.

missions of the.
nation of.
physiognomy of.
habits of.
physical conformation of.
mental inaptitude of.
language of.
colour of.

Chayma women.

Chemistry, vegetable.

Chiquires, or water hogs.

mountains of.

Chimanas, groups of.

Chimborazo, chain of.

of Cumana.
of Caracas.

Chocolate, preparation of.

Cigars, exportation of, from Cuba.

Cinchona, or Cascarilla bark.

Cinnamon, or Canela tree.

causes which tend to retard the progress of.
advance of, between the tropics.
effects of, on the human countenance.
physical evils attending.
grades of.
course of.
humanizing influence of.
promoted by river-intercourse.
and slavery.

Claystone (Thonschiefer):

Climate of America:
causes of the variableness of, in corresponding latitudes.

Cloquet, M., on physiognomy.

Cocoa, see cacao.

ascent of the.
climate of.
elevation of the.

Cocuy, harem of.

Cocuyza, peak of.

Coffee trees:
propagation of.
cultivation of, at Caripe.
at Caracas.
plantations of.
abundant produce of.
of the Havannah.

American society in the.

Colonists of America.

Colorado river.

Colonization, progress of.

causes of the different shades of, in the human family.
of the native Indians.
aristocracy of.

republic of.
mines of.

Columbus, Christopher:
early discoveries of.
his estimation of gold.
tomb of.
journal of.

Columbus, Ferdinand, description of the Indians by.

Combustion, volcanic.

Commerce, future advantages to.

Concepcion de Urban.

Concervo, island of.

Congo river.

Conorichite, river.


Consejo, see Mammon.

Constellations of the torrid zone.

of fevers, facts relating to.
of the plague.
Dr. Bailey's opinion on the.

Convent of Caripe.

Conuco, or Farm of Bermudez.

formation of.

of the Andes.
of Baraguaro.
near Cumana.
native inhabitants of the.
climate of.
volcanic nature of the.
of the coast.
Real de Neve.

cultivation of, in the equinoctial regions.
limits of the growth of.

Cortez, Hernan.

Cortex Angosturae.

port of.
mountains of.
light house of.
departure from.

Cosmogony, theory of.

Cotopaxi, mountain of.

native manufactures of.
trees of America.
cultivation of.
plantations of.

Courbrail, the.

Cow-tree (Palo de Vaca).

Cows in the torrid zone.

Creole sugar cane, introduction of the, into West Indies.

Creoles, nobility of the.

groups of.
ferocity of.
summer sleep of.
instinct of.
oil of, used medicinally.
effect of heat and cold upon.
food of.
flesh of, sold for food.
habits of.
modes of destroying.
of Algodonol.
of the Havannah.
of Latie Valencia.
of Manzanares.
of the Nile.
of Rio Adeuas Calentes.
of Rio Cabulare.
of Rio Neveri.
of the Orinoco.
of Uritucu.

formation of.

coffee plantations of.
agriculture of.
extent of.
population of.
political importance of.
inhabitants of.
position of.
geology of.
minerals of.
climate of.
turtles of.
voyage of Cortez to.
ports of.
shores of.
temperature of.
dioceses of.
government of.
colonization of.
public institutions of.
commerce of.
tobacco plantations of.
productions of.
revenue of.

Cuba and the slave trade.

island of.
pearls of.
native deer of.

Risco or crevice of.
tigers of the.
forests of.
gold mines of.
caverns of.

Culebra, island of.

Culimacari, rock of.

city of.
geology of.
forests of.
frequency of earthquakes in.
population of.
plains of.
port of.
climate of.
ancient name of.
slave market of.
government of.
mountains of.
cacao of.
languages of.
trading boats of.
departure from.
return to.
geology of.
governor of.

town of.
tobacco plantations of.
indigo plantations of.
geology of.

subdued tribes of.

Cunavami, mountains of.


Cunucunumo river.

Cunuri, cataract of.

Cura, the.

Curare, or vegetable poison, see Poisons.

Curacicanas, cotton manufactures of the.

equinoctial, in the Atlantic.
causes of.
variations of the.
seeds and fruits, deposited by.


Cuspa, or Cinchona tree, medicinal properties of.

Cuzco, city of.

Dagysa notata, a mollusc, discovered by Sir J. Banks.

coast of.
gold of the.
gulf of.

Dairies of Andalusia.

Dances of the Indians.

Dapa, island of.

Dapicho, or fossil India-rubber.
preparation of.
growth of.

Daripe, San Miguel de.

Decrement of heat, laws of the.

Deer, American.

Deformities, natural, total absence of, among the Indians.

Deity, ideas of the, held by native Indians.

Delpeche, printing office established by.

Delta, the plains of the.

Deluge, traditions of the.

settlement of.

Depons, M., opinions of, on Lake of Valencia.

Deserts of the New World:
dangers of travelling in.

Devil's Nook (Rincon del Diablo).

Dialects, Indian:
analogy of.
affinity of.
diversity of.

island of.
sugar plantations of.

cutting of, first invented.
legends of.

Diego de Losada, town founded by.

Diego de Ordaz.

Dirt-eating, a custom of the Ottomacs.

Diseases most prevalent in America.

Divinity, native ideas of.

of the river Manzanares.
of the Temi.

Dornajito, spring of.

Don Alexandro Mexia.

Don Jose de Manterola.

Don Nicolas Soto, travels with.

Don Vincent Emparan, Governor of Cumana:
intelligence and hospitality of.

district of.
expeditions to.
de la Parima.

Doubts, geographical, respecting the junction of great rivers.

height and antiquity of.
juice of the.

Dresses of the native Indians.

volcano of.
peak of the.

Durasno, hill of, levelled by the Marquis de Nava.


oscillation of the.
undulations of.
effects of, on men and animals.

practice of.
effects of.
in Asia.
among animals.

Earths, odoriferous.

causes of.
connection of, with the atmosphere, preceding the shock.
connection of, with volcanic eruptions.
frequent shocks of, in towns distant from volcanoes.
effects of, on the sea.
on the shoals.
annual indications of.
atmospheric indications of.
phenomena of.
theories of.
at Caracas.
at Cumana.
at Lima.
in Mexico.
at Morro Roxo.
in Peru.
at Riobamba.

of the moon.
of the sun, effects of.

varied species of.
modes of fishing for.
habits of the.
dangers attending the shock from.
medicinal properties of the.

Eggs of the turtle:
fisheries of, on the river Orinoco.
harvest of.
season for laying.
method of depositing.
immense numbers of.

crocodiles of.
traditions of.

El Castillo.

El Castillito, rock of.

El Cucurucho de Coco, mountain of.

El Dorado:
legends of.
etymology of.
traditions of.
legendary city of.

El Moro, or fort of Barcelona.

El Penol de los Banos.

El Roncador.

theory of.
Indian knowledge of.
effects of, on horses.
transmission of the shock.
dangerous effects of.

Elevation of mountains, maxima of.

Emancipation of slaves.

Emeralds, supposed mines of.

Encampments, Indian.

port of.
mountains of.
natives of.
legends of.



Equator, crossing the.


Errors, geographical.

Eruptions, volcanic:
connection of, with earthquakes.

Erythrina, the.

mission of.
origin of the colony.
monkeys of.
villa of.
native tribes of.
departure from.
mosquitos of.
longitude of.

Essay, political, on the island of Cuba.

English colony of.
missionaries of.

acqueducts of.

countries of the.
colour of the.

Etna, eruptions, and lava of.

Europe, departure of the author from.

dangers of a tropical climate to.
influence of.
on slavery.

theory of.
effects of, on the atmosphere.

Exhalations, inflammable.

Eye-stones, remarkable properties of the.

Facts, pathological, relating to fevers.

observations on.

Faxardo, Francisco:
town founded by.
island of.

Features, mobility and immobility of, in men and animals.

Females, Indian, condition of.

Fernando, Cortez.

geographical distribution of.

Ferrol, port of.

American typhus.
propagation of.
yellow, first appearance of the.
limits and spread of.
proximate cause of.
prevalence of.
treatment of.

prevalence of, in the islands of the Orinoco.
remedies for.
pathological facts relating to.
epidemic, in the region of Cariaco.

Fig tree.

nocturnal, in the Llanos.

caribe or cannibal.
action of.
of the Nile.
flying, formation of.

Fishes, respiration of.

Fishing, singular methods of.

bees of.

of the United States.
stores of Caracas

zone of.
effects of the diminution of.
on the Caribbean Sea.
of Catuaro.
of cedar.
of mahogany.
of palm trees.
of Pimichin.
of Punzera.
of Venezuela.



Fortunate Islands.

Fossil remains:
discovery of.
study of.

Francisco, Lozano:
remarkable physiological phenomenon of.
of Pampeluna.

Fray Ramon Bueno:
residence of.
remarks of, on the habits of the Ottomacs.

of Antimano.
of Araya.
of Caracas.
of Macarao.

Fucus, or sea-weed, banks of, in the Atlantic.

Fuente de Sanchorquiz.

scenery of.
plants of.

Galipano, mountain of.

Gallitos, or rock manikin.

Gardens, botanical, of Orotava.


Garzes, or white herons.

of America.
laws of.

queries in.
problem of.
basis of the study of.
of America.
of Aragua.
of the Canary Islands.
of Cumana.
applied to mining and agriculture.
of Mariara.
of Peak of Teneriffe.
of volcanoes.

Geophagy, details of.

errors in.
nature of.
by M. Leschenault.
of America.
of plants.

Girolamo, Benzoni:
account of the slave trade by.
voyage of.

Glass, volcanic.

Glorieta de Cocuy.

Glue, natural.

strata of.
formation of.
strata of.

Goats, of Peak of Teneriffe.

early use of, as a medium of exchange.
of Brazil.
their legends.
mines of Baruta.
of Buria.
of Cuba.
of Paria.
of Rincomada.
of San Juan.
of the valley of Tuy.
ornaments, worn by native Indians.
of Brazil.
produce of.

de las Damas.

Gomara, history of the Parians by.

Gomora, island of.

Gonzales Pizarro.

Govierno de Cumana:
prevailing languages in the.

Graciosa, island of.

Grammars, American, collected by the author's brother.

varieties of.
of Cape Finisterre.
of Guiana.

Gravina, Admiral.

language of.
inhabitants of.

Greenstone, strata of.

Grenada, New:
connexion of, with foreign colonies.
commerce of.
extent of.
population of.
mountains of.

Grenada, island of.

of Caripe.
of Muggendorf.

formation of.
varied structure of, in both hemispheres.

Guacara, Indians.

Guachaco, island of.

Guacharo, or nocturnal bird:
cavern of the.
description of the.
oil or butter procured from.
pyramid of.
majestic peak of.

hot springs of.
volcano of.

natives of.
cataract of.

Guaineres, tribe of.

Guamo Indians, tribe of.
habits of the.

mission of.
fertile valley of.
mules of.
geological formations of.

origin of the.
extinction of the race.
laws of.
mummy caves of.
language of.
successors of the.


tribe of.
character and habits of the.
habitations of.

Guarapiche, river.


Guatavita, sacred lake of.

Guatimala, extent and population of.


Guaurabo, river.

river of.
plains of.

Guaiana, Old:
fort of.

Guayanos, tribes of.


Guayguaza, river:
fords of the.

Guaypunaves, warlike chief of.

Guayqueria Indians:
district of the.
origin of.
habits of.
language of.

Guayra, La:
voyage to.
fevers in.
port of.
climate of.
valleys of.
fortifications of.
coasts of.
earthquakes at.
exports of.

Guayra river:
source of the.
swells of the.


Guainia river:
frontier posts on the.

supposed mineral wealth of.
natives of.
missions of.
population of.
maps of.
granites of.
auriferous soil of.
capitals of.
commerce of.

mountains of.
village of.

port of.
canal of.

Gulf Stream:
temperature of the.
breadth of the.
course of the.

of Cariaco.
traditions of the.
hot springs of.
cacao plantations of.
coasts of.
of Batabano.
of Darien.
of Maracaybo.
of Mexico.
of Mochima.
of Panama.
of Paria.
of Santa Fe.
of Santa Marta.
of Uraba.

Gulfs, subterranean.


experiments on the.
influence of, on other fish.
shocks from the.
electrical apparatus of the.

of Araya.
of the LLanos.

Hacienda de Cura.

Hail-storms, phenomena of.

Hanno, early travels of.

Hateros, or farmers, wealth of the.

de Alta Gracia.
del Cayman, inhabitants of the.
del Cocollar.

Havannah, The:
state of society in.
fevers of.
voyage to.
arrival at.
commerce of.
town of.
climate of.
population of.
slave population of.
fortifications of.
sugar plantations of.
conquest of.
coffee plantations of.
port of.
wealth of.
revenue of.


Haiti (Hayti):
language of.
copper of.
population of.

Hay tree.

decrement of.
atmospheric, parts of the New World most exposed to.

of Teneriffe.
existence of.
zone of.

Hercules, tower of, in Galicia.

Hernan Cortez:
discoveries of.
shipwreck of.
Perez de Quesada.


Herrera, Alonzo de, expedition of.

Hides, exportation of.

Hieroglyphic rock-marks.

bay of.
departure from.
vegetation on the.

Himalaya mountains:
height of the.

History, natural, museum of, at Madrid.

Hocco, or American pheasant.

Homes of native Indians.


map of America, by.
errors of.


Horizon, distant visibility of the.



Horses of the Llanos:
contests of, with electric eels.

Hospital at Caripe.





Hudson's Bay.

Hunger, physiology of.

Huten, Felipe de, expedition of.

Huts of the natives.

Huttonian theory.


Iceland, introduction of Christianity into.

Ice-house, natural, of Peak of Teneriffe.

Idapa, mouth of the.

grammatical system of.

Iguana, nests of the.

Imposible, mountain:
geological conformation of the.

Indians of the missions:
compared with free tribes.
great age attained by.
language of.

first meeting with.
festivals of.
settlement of, on the salt lakes.
superstitions of.
characteristic traits of.
religious instruction of.
religious principles of.
rencontre with.
manners of.
food of.
tribes of.
apathy of.
physiology of.
colour of.
system of navigation practised by.
districts of the.
hire of, as beasts of burden.
languages of.
intellectual development of.
encampments of.
intrepidity of.
cannibalism of the.

of Barcelona.
copper coloured, districts of.
of Cuba.
dwarf, tribes of.
fair, tribes of.
country of.
of the Guainia.
of Maguiritares.
of the Orinoco.
distribution of the hordes.
of Panapana.
of Pararuma.
of Rio Negro.

Indigo, or Anil:
culture and manufacture of.
exportation of.
early use of by the Mexicans.
of Aragua.
of Batabano.
of Guainia.
of Mijagual.

Indios andantes, or wandering tribes of Indians.

Infanticide, Indian practice of.

Infierno, or Hell rock.

Inheritance, laws of.

Insect-food, used by the Indians.

phosphorescent, of the Torrid Zone.
plague of.

Instruments, musical, of the Indians.

Insurrections, Indian.

Interment, Indian modes of.


causes of.

de Uruana.
vieja de la Manteca.

origin of.
of the South Sea.

Islote, granite island of.

Italy, travels in.


Javanavo, island of.

Jaguar tigers:
size of.
haunts of.
rencontre with.
intrepidity of.
familiarity of.
varieties of.

coffee plantations of.
slave trade of.
sugar plantations of.

James, Mr. Edwin, geology of the Mississippi by.

coral rocks of.
flats of the.

island of.
rapids of.

the Indian chief.
San Antonio de, mission of.
forests of.
salt manufactures of.
isthmus of.


Jesuit Missions, destruction of the.

suppression of.
wars of the.

Joval, tigers of the.

Juagua, river.

Juan Gonzales, intelligence and premature death of.

Jarumo tree.

Juliac, M., skilful treatment of the yellow fever by.

Junction of rivers, doubts respecting the.

Jupura, river.

Juruario, river.

valley of.
rocks of.

Keymis, Lawrence, travels of.

of the Guanches.
of Mexico.
of the Manitivitanos.

La Boca.

La Cabrera, peninsula of.

La Concepcion de Piritu.

La Guayra, see Guayra.

La Mina, ravine of.

La Valle, medicated waters of.

La Vega.

La Venta of Caracas.

La Vibora.

La Victoria, road to.

Lafayette, on the emancipation of slaves.


situation of.
town of.
climate of.
Grande, port of.
del Obispo.

of asphaltum.
of Campoma.
of Capanaparo.
traditions of.
first geographical notice of.

volcanic region of.
inhabitants of.
capital of.

Landmarks, natural.

influence of, on the diversity of nations.
construction and mechanism of.
of the Caribbees.
its relation to the Tamanac.
grammatical construction of.
of Greenland.

varieties of, in the New Continent.
analogy of.
affinity of.
classification of.
grammatical construction of.
study of.
difficulty of acquiring, experienced by the Indian.




Latin, early knowledge of.

Laurels, zone of.

strata of.
primitive rock in.

Leap of the Toucan.

of the deluge.
of the gold districts.
of headless men.
of the Indians.
of monkeys.
of the salvaje.

Leschenault, M., on geophagy.

Lichens, zone of.

of the stars, intensity of.
volcanic, cause of.
variations of.

state of society in.
town of.

formations of.
of Caripe.
of Cumanacoa.
of Penas Negras.

Lines, isothermal.


characteristics of the.

Llano del Retama.

latitude of the.
basins of the.
arid plains of.
banks of the.
landscape of.
subdivisions of the.
origin of the.
reptiles of the.
electric eels of the.
geological construction of.
hot winds of the.
cattle of the.
proportions of the.
of New Barcelona.
of Caracas.
of Cumana.
del Pao.
of Rio de la Plata.
of Venezuela.


Lobos, island of.

Lomas of St. Juan.

Lopez de Aguirre.

Los Aparecidos.

Los Budares.

Los Penones.

Los Teques, mountains of.

Los Vueltas.

Maelstrom, doubted existence of the.

Macarao, fruits of.


Machine, electrical, invented by a native.

Maco Indians:
habits of the.

Macusis, tribe of.

Magdalena, river:
course of the.
navigation of.
serpents of the.

Madrid, visit of the author to.

Magellan, straits of.

Maguey, or Aloe:
cord from the fibres of the.

Mahates, town of.

forests of.
of Cuba.
of Pinos.

Maiquetia, cocoa trees of.

Mairan on zodiacal light.


Malaria, supposed causes of.

Malpasso, geology of.


Mammee tree.

Mammon or Consejo:
miraculous image of the Virgin at.

Manimi, mountain of.

geographical distribution of the races of.
difference of colour in.
physical effects of civilization upon.
different characteristics of.

Manapiari river.

Manco, Inca, flight of.

Mandavaca, mission of.


Manatee (Manati):
of the river Apure.
of the island of Cuba.


inhabitants of.
village of.
potteries of.
petroleum, springs of.

Manoa, expedition to.

Manzanares, the:
bar of the.
banks of the.
Indian custom of bathing in.

Mapara, cataract of.

of America.
of Cuba.

Mar Blanco.

inhabitants of.
situation of.

Maracaybo (Maracaibo), port of.

Maravaca, or Sierra Mariguaca.

Marepizanas, tribe of.

Margareta (Margarita), island of.

Marguerita, island of.

peaks of.
geological construction of.
hot springs of.
medicinal waters of.

Marl formations.

Maroa, mission of.


Matacona, river.


Mataveni, river.

hamlet of.
origin of the name.



Mauritia-palm, or sago-tree.

Mauritius, sugar canes, first brought to the.

Mavaca, river.

Maxima of mountain elevation.

climate of.
luxuriant vegetation of.
village of.
cataract of.
inhabitants of.
potteries of.
birds of.
animals of.


consumption of.

Mediterranean Sea:
formation of the.
basins of the.
of the west.

Medusas, or sea-nettles:
phosphoric properties of.

Memnon, statue of, probable cause of the sounds issuing from.




Meta, river:
plains of the.

Meteorology, main problem of.

connection of, with the undulations of the earth.
fiery, seen at Cumana.

Mexico, or New Spain:
connection of, with foreign colonies.
native population of.
state of society in.
nobility of.
wheat of.
government of.
agriculture of.
extent of.

Miasma, experiments on.

Mica-slate, formations of.


of nations.
of insects.
of plants.
difficulties of the theory.

distribution of animals yielding.
analysis of.


of alum.
of Aroa.
of Buria.
of Caracas.
of Columbia.
of copper.
of emeralds.
of gold.
of Granada.
of Guanaxuato.
of Los Teques.
of Santa Rosa.
of silver.

Mining, geology applied to.

effects of.
phenomena of.

of Atures.
of Carichana.
of the Capuchins.
inhabitants of the.
capital of.
government of the.
of Carony.
of Catuaro.
of the Chayma Indians.
of Guanaguana.
of Javita.
of Maroa.
of Pararuma.
of Piritu.
native tribes of the.
of San Antonio.
of San Balthasar, on the Orinoco.
of San Borja, of Santa Cruz.
of Uruana.

life of the.
influence of.
general character of the.

first establishment of in America.
etymology of the names.
interpreters of the.
of the Upper Orinoco.

earthquakes in the valleys of the.
basin of the.

Mochima, gulf of.

Mocundo, sugar plantations of.

anatomical cause of the cry of.
natural phenomena of.
distance at which the cry may be heard.
rare species of.
legends of.
of Valencia.
of Vuelta Basilio.

of the Cataracts.


Montana Clara.
canary birds of.
de Paria, strata of.

Monte Verde.


prismatic colours round the.
total eclipse of the.
names for the.

Morro Roxo.

Morros of San Juan.

plague of.
various species.
effects of the sting of.
migration of.
voracity of.
sting of.
scourge of.
disappearance of.
of Maypure.

geological constitution of.
chains, transverse.

Mountaineers, district of.

origin of.
structure of.
systems of.
maxima of the heights of.
of Andalusia.
of Araya.
of Avila.
of Brazil.
of Buenavista.
conical, peculiarities of.
of Cumana.
of Cariaco.
of Encaramada.
of Guanaja.
of Higuerote.
of Meapera.
of Parime.
of Santa Maria.
of Santa Marta.
of Silla and Cordera.
of Venezuela.
volcanic, shape of.
geology of.
isolated position of.
sinking of, during an earthquake.
of Yumariquin.

Mucuju river.

of Araya.
of Guadaloupe.
characteristics of.

Mules, American.

Mummies of Ataruipe.

Mummy-caves of the Guanches.

Music of the Indians.


Myths, ancient.

Naga, peak of.

Nao, lake of.

Naphtha, natural springs of.

of the New World, supposed origin of.
causes of the shades of colour in the.

hordes, distribution of.
Indians, subtlety of.
varied colour of.
manner of living.
characteristics of.
legends of the.
rafts of the.
infanticide encouraged by.
polygamy of the.
white race.
worship, objects of.

tranquillity of.
immutable laws of.

new system of.
Indian mode of.

Needle, magnetic, variations in the.


Negro population.

sale of.
festivals of.
municipality of.
mortality of.
moral condition of.
emancipation of.
importation of.

Negroes of valley of Tuy.

Negro, Rio, the:
its source.
tributaries of the.
oscillations of.
basin of the.

Neiva, valley of.

Nettles, see Medusas.

Barcelona, see Barcelona.
Valencia, see Valencia.

Neveri, river.

Grenada, see Grenada.
Spain, see Mexico.
Toledo, see Toledo.

Niger, sands of the.

Night in the woods of America.

Niguator, mountain of.

crocodiles of the.
periodical risings of the.

Niopo, or Indian snuff.

of Spanish America.
badge of.
of complexion.

Noon, in the tropics.

Numbers, difficulty of acquiring a knowledge of.

Oak, magnitude and antiquity of the.


weapons made of.
varieties of.
origin of.

temperature of the.
currents in the.
phosphoresence of the, see Humboldt's Views of Nature.

Ochsenberg, mountain of.


obtained from the birds of Caripe.
of the cocoa nut.
of the crocodile, medicinal properties of the.
of the manatee.
of the turtle egg.
sale of.

Omaguas, province of the.

Optical illusion.

Orang-otang, the.

Orange trees:
of America.
of Cuba.
of Spain.

island of.
geology of.

Ordaz, expeditions of.

course of the.
waters of the.
water levels of.
navigation of.
junctions of the.
celebrated bifurcation of the.
sinuosities of the.
breadth of.
temperature of.
insalubrious winds of the.
connection of, with the Amazon.
source of.
confluence of.
periodical swellings of.
current of.
branches of the.
origin of the name.
ancient name of.
tributary streams of.
accident on the.
aspect of the, from Uruana.
coast scenery of the.
district of the.
great cataracts of the.
islands of the.
mountains of the.
monkeys of the.
vegetation on the banks of the.
Lower, dangerous navigation of.
basin of the.
Upper, course of the.
cataracts of.
mountains of.
valley of.

port of.
town of.
fruits of.
society in.

Ortiz, volcanic strata of.

Otaheite, sugar canes of, first introduced into America.


Ottomac Indians:
customs of.
physiological phenomena of.
character and habits of.

Ouavapavi monkey.

Oviedo y Banos, the historiographer:
description of Lake Valencia, by.


Pacimoni river.

Padaviri river.

forests of.
groves of.
classification of.
utility of the.
of Cuba.
of the Llanos.
of Piritu.

Palo de Vaca, see Cow-tree.

Pampas, or steppes:
origin of the term.
extent of.
of Buenos Ayres.

Panama, isthmus of.


Panumana, island of.

town of.
river of.


Paper, substitutes for.

Paraguay river.

Pararuma, encampment of Indians at.

promontory of.
coast of.
origin of the name.
inhabitants of.

Parians, history of the.

district of.
lake of.
traditions of.

Parkinsonia aculeata.

Parnati river.

Parroquets, flocks of.

Pascua, valley of.

Pasto, town of.

region of.
cultivation of the.

mountains of.
plains of.

Patagonians, origin of.

Pathology of fevers.

Pays de Vaud, scenery of, compared with Valencia.

of Ayadyrma, or Echerdo.
of Calitamini.
of Cocunza.
of Cuptano.
of Duida.
of Guacharo.
of the Silla, see Silla.
of Teneriffe.
ascent of.
scenery of the.
crater of.
temperature of the.
descent from.
structure of.
geology of.
historical notice of.
eruptions of.
vegetation on the.
of Teyde.

early use of, by the Americans.
revenue arising from the sale of.
modes of procuring.

Pearl coast:
situation of the.
fisheries of Cubagua.
rapid diminution of.
of Ceylon.
of Margareta.
of Panama.
oyster, methods of taking the.
destruction of.




summits of.
nobility of.
government of.
extent of.
population of.
mountains of.
frontiers of.



origin of.
of Maniquarez.

Pheasant, American.

of earthquakes.
of hailstones.
of vegetable sleep.

volcanic, series of.


Phosphoresence of the sea.

causes of tribal features.
shades of.

of man.
of animals.

rapids of the.
de la Paciencia, a rock in the middle of the Orinoco.
del Tigre.

general use of.

Pimichin, forests of.

of Baruto.

Pino del Dornajito:
spring of.

Pinos, island of.

Pirijao palm.

islands of.
palm trees of.

of Teneriffe
of the Teyde.

of Charas.
of Retama.

culture and population of.
continuity of.
of the Amazon.
of Caracas.
of Europe.
of Rio de la Plata.
of the Tuy, of Venezuela.

Plane-tree, antiquity of the.

phenomena of the sleep of.
experiments on the air from.
distribution of.
migration of.
malaria of.
cordage from.
milk of.
of the island of Teneriffe.
of the islands of Valencia.
of North America.
of South America.


Rio de la.
plains of the.

Curare, preparation of the.
effects of, on the system.

Poisons, vegetable, peculiar to the New World.

Polygamy, Indian practice of.

Popa, convent de la.

Population, compared with territory.
of Angostura.
of Brazil.
of Buenos Ayres.
of Caracas.
of Cariaco.
of Chile.
of the colonies.
of Cuba.
of Cumana.
of Grenada.
of Guatimala.
of Guiana.
of Mexico.
of Peru.
of Porto Rico.
of Quito.
of Spanish America.
of the United States.
of Upata.
of Venezuela.

phosphoresence caused by.
of the river Apure.

Portachuelo, promontory of.

Portages on the rivers.

Portland Rock.

Porto Cabello:
saltworks of.
departure from.
geology of.
Rico, extent of.
population of.

settlements of.

Portus Magnus.

Potato, cultivation of the.

Pottery, early manufacture of.

Potteries, Indian.

Powders, intoxicating, used by the Indians.

Poya, or balls of earth, consumption of.


Priests of Tomo.

Printing-office, of Caracas.

Prognostications by the author of the great earthquake at Caracas.

Prussic acid, discovery of.

Puerto de Arriba.


plantations of.

plains of.
wild silk of.

Python, the.

Pyramid of Guacharo.

Quaquas, warlike tribe of.

Quartz, veins of.

Quebrada, or ravines:
de Aguas Calientes.
del Oro.
de Seca.
de Tipe.


Queries, geological.

plain and spring of.
view of.

fruit of the.

mountains of.


Quipos, or knotted cords, use of.

Quirabuena, see Mandavaca.

province of.
summits of.
volcanic nature of the kingdom.
earthquakes in.
town of.
state of society in.
civilization of.
sheep of.
extent of.
population of.
political position.

Quittuna, cataract of.

antiquity of.
differences of.
proportion of.
jealousies of.
disappearance of.
Anglo Saxon.
native, affinity of.
native, white.

natural, of the Orinoco.

scarcity of, in Araya.
frequency of, at Caracas.
periodical seasons of.
prognostics of.
causes of.

Raleigh, Sir W.:
voyages of.
expeditions of.

Rambleta, plain of.

Ranges, volcanic.

navigation and causes of.
of Atures.
of Piedra.

of Cameji.
of Canucari.
of Cariven.
of Garcita.
of Javariveni.
of Marimara.
of Tobaje.

Raudals, elevation of, see Cataracts.

Raya, Indians.

Reactions, volcanic.

Redoute, M., work of, on Roses.


Region of perpetual snow.

Religion of the Indians.

Republics of Spanish America.


Retama, plain of.

Rhododendrons, zone of.

Rialexo de Aboxo.

Rinconada, gold mines of.

Rincon del Diablo, see Devil's Nook.

junctions of.
advantages of.
changes in the courses of.
causes of the swelling of.
source of the five great streams.
of Cuba.
of hot water.

The following rivers are referred to under their respective
alphabetical entries:
Rio Apure, Aguas Calientes, Amazon, Aquio, Areo, Aroa, Atabapo,
Arauca, Beni, Cabullare, Calaburg, Chacaito, Congo, Carony, Esteven,
Essequibo, Guiamo Guayre, Guaurapo, Jagua, Jupura, Juruario,
Manzanares, Matacona, Mataveni, Negro, Neveri, Orinoco, Parima, Plata,
Sinu, Sipapo, Sodomoni, Suapure, Tocuyo, Tomo.

de Afuera.
del Infierno.


strata of.
classification of.
geological arrangement of.
incrustations of.
nature of.
subterranean fires in.
caverns of.
varieties of.
worship of.
of Cabo Blanco.
which compose the island of Teneriffe.
of the plains.
painted (Tepu-mereme).

Rum, manufacture of.

island of.
origin and destruction of.

Sacrifices, human.

Sago-trees, see Mauritia palm.

Salive Indians.

geognostical phenomena of.
substitutes for.
lake of Penon Blanco.
marshes, of Cerro de la Vela.
works of Araya.
revenue yielded to the government by.
of Caracas.
of Porto Cabello.
of San Antonio de Javita.

Salvaje, or wild man of the woods.

Antonio, castle of.
geology of.
coffee plantations of.
sugar plantations of.
Fernando de Apure.
temperature of, trade of.
de Atabapo.
political importance of.
plantations of.
Francisco, Solano.
Josef, island of.
Juan river.
Juan de los Remedios.
Juanillo, ravine of.
Luis de Cura, see Villa Cura.
del Encaramada.
Pedro, valley of.

Sanchorquiz, spring of.

varieties of.
of the Llanos.
of the Orinoco.

Sanscrit language.

Santa Barbara.

Santa Cruz:
situation of.
town of.
Humboldt's departure from.
Indian village of.
de Cachipo.

Santa Fe de Bogota:
gulf of.

ruins of.
present name of.

Santos, Don Antonio.

Sarsaparilla (Zarza):
varieties of.

countries of.
character of.
state of, in the torrid and temperate zones.
mental inaptitude of.
difference of colour in.
encampment of.
festivals of.
food of.
origin of.

origin of.
floods in.
extent of.
distribution of.
of Atures.
of Caripe.
of Invernadero del Garzel.
of Lagartero.
of Louisiana.
of Lower Orinoco.

Schonbrunn, conservatories of.

Scylax, travels of.

vegetation in the.
phosphorescence of the.
volcanic shocks in the.
temperature of, see Ocean.
distinct banks of.
remarkable specimen of.

changes in the.
of rain and storm.

Seeds, tide-borne.

summer sleep of.



Shells, petrifactions of.

Ship-building, American.


dangerous effects of.
transmission of.
theory of.
of the gymnotus.


Siapa, see Idapa.

Sienega of Batabano.

de Cochabamba.
del Guacharo.
de Meapire, cacao plantations of.
Nevada de Santa Maria.
de la Parime.
strata of the.

Silk of the palm-tree.

Silla of Caracas:
ascent of the.
peaks of the.
summit of the.
precipice of.
descent from the.
strata of.

Sipapo, river:
forests of.
mountains of.

Sinu, river.

Skeletons, Indian.

strata of.

elevation of, to farmers and landowners.
manumission of.
importation of.
rights of.
punishment of.
Sabbath of.
of the Canary Islands.
of Cumana.
of Venezuela.
of Victoria.
fugitive, capture of.

Slave dealers:
routes of the.
price of.

Slave laws:

market, at Cumana.
commercial establishments to facilitate the.
causes which led to the abolition of.
Benzoni, on the.

Slavery, statistics of.

Snakes, antidote to the venom of.


zones of.
three ages of.
effects of earthquakes upon.

Sodomoni river.

Soils, auriferous.

expeditions of.
residence of.


analogy of.
propagation of.
rapid transmission of.
resemblance of.
nocturnal propagation of.

South Sea Islands.

journey through.
possessions of, in America.

first settlement of.
descendants of.

Speier, George von.

of Europe and America.
temperature of.
of warm water.
origin of.
of hot water.
of bitumen.
of Caracas.
of Caripe.
of Mariara.
medicinal properties of.
of mineral tar, see Petroleum.
of Mount Imposible.
of Quetepe.



constellations of.
radiance of.
magnitude of.

States, American.

of the eye.

locality of.
painted, locality of.
worship of.

St. Juan de la Rambla, malmsey wine of.

St. Michael.

St. Thomas de la Guiana.

inclination of.
maxima of.
enumeration of.
parallelism of.
of Sierra Parime.

Stylites, sect of.

Styptic, natural.

Suapure river.

Succession, laws of.

manufacture of.
prices of.
preparations from.
refining of.
profits of.
machinery for.
from beet-root.
of Cuba.
of St. Domingo.
of slave colonies.