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Title: Guatemala and Her People of To-day - Being an Account of the Land, Its History and Development; the People, Their Customs and Characteristics; to Which Are Added Chapters on British Honduras and the Republic of Honduras, with References to the Other Countries of Central America, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica
Author: Winter, Nevin O. (Nevin Otto)
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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      *      *      *      *      *      *

                                Works of

                            NEVIN O. WINTER


    _Mexico and Her People of To-day_ $3.00

    _Guatemala and Her People of To-day_ 3.00


                          L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
                  New England Building, Boston, Mass.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

[Illustration: PRESIDENT CABRERA.]


Being an Account of
the Land, Its History and Development;
the People, Their Customs and
Characteristics; to Which Are Added
Chapters on British Honduras and
the Republic of Honduras, with References
to the Other Countries of Central
America, Salvador, Nicaragua,
and Costa Rica



Author of “Mexico and Her People of To-day”

Illustrated from Original and
Selected Photographs by the Author

[Illustration: Publisher’s Logo]

Boston  ❦  ❦  L. C. Page
and Company  ❦  MDCCCCIX

Copyright, 1909,
by L. C. Page & Company
All rights reserved

First Impression, July, 1909

Electrotyped and Printed by
The Colonial Press
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.

[Illustration: The author’s route is printed in red.]


                               MY SISTER


For the better understanding of the pronunciation of the names of towns
and places in Guatemala and other parts of Spanish-America, the rule for
their pronunciation is herewith given:

                                   like, in

                           A       ah

                           E       ay

                           I       ee

                           J       h

                           O       oh

                           U       oo

                           Ñ       ny

                           Hue     we

                           LL      lli (in

                           H       is silent



THE very generous reception accorded “Mexico and Her People of To-day,”
by both public and press, has led the author to believe that there is a
field for a book upon a part of Central America covered by him in his
travels, prepared on the same general lines as that book, and treating
of the people and their customs, as well as the country, its resources
and present state of development. There is also the belief in the mind
of the author that the English-speaking people of America are becoming
more and more interested each year in the “other Americans,” those who
speak the Latin tongues; but who proudly call themselves “Americans”
also, and are as proud of the New World as those of Anglo-Saxon birth.
This is his explanation, or apology, for giving to the public another
book, which he hopes will receive as kindly a welcome as its

This book is not the result of hurried preparation, and its faults,
whatever they may be, are not the result of hasty compilation. Following
a tour through Guatemala and Honduras a careful reading of the available
literature upon those countries has been made, and the work of
preparation has spread over a period of almost two years. Care has been
taken that the statements herein made should be true to the facts, and
reliable. The publishers have done their part well in their efforts to
make the book attractive and pleasing to the eye, and an ornament to the
library. It is hoped that the wide range of subjects will render the
volume of interest and value to anyone interested in the countries

The author desires to express his acknowledgment of obligation to Mr. I.
W. Copelin for the use of a number of photographs taken by him during a
recent visit to Guatemala; also to the publishers of the World To-day
and Leslie’s Weekly, for permission to use material and photographs
which had first appeared in their publications.

TOLEDO, OHIO, June, 1909.



              CHAPTER                                 PAGE

                  I. TOLTEC LAND                        1

                 II. FROM OCEAN TO OCEAN               16

                III. THE CAPITAL                       54

                 IV. THE TROPICS AND THEIR             81

                  V. THE PEOPLE                       109

                 VI. RAILWAYS AND THEIR ROUTES        132

                VII. THE ANCIENTS AND THEIR           149

               VIII. THE STORY OF THE REPUBLIC        165

                 IX. RELIGIOUS INFLUENCES             202

                  X. PRESENT CONDITIONS AND FUTURE    218

                 XI. BRITISH HONDURAS                 235

                XII. REPUBLIC OF HONDURAS             245

                     APPENDICES                       281

                     INDEX                            303


                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


             PRESIDENT CABRERA                        _Frontispiece_

             MAP OF GUATEMALA                            iv

               AGUA AND FUEGO

             LANDING AT CHAMPERICO                       19

             THE VOLCANO AGUA                            29

             OX-CART AND NATIVE DRIVER                   30

             JOURNEYING ACROSS COUNTRY BY MULE           34

             SCENE AT EL RANCHO                          40

             A VILLAGE NEAR THE COAST                    45

             PLANTATION HOUSE ON LAKE IZABAL             47

             LAKE IZABAL                                 48



             THE CATHEDRAL, GUATEMALA CITY               60

             A TYPICAL STREET IN GUATEMALA CITY          62

             THE PRESIDENT’S GUARD OF HONOUR             64

             TEATRO COLON, GUATEMALA CITY                67

             A BULL-FIGHT IN GUATEMALA CITY              68

             GUATEMALAN MARKET WOMEN                     74

             STATUE OF BULL, GUATEMALA CITY              77

             GRAN HOTEL, GUATEMALA CITY                  78

             STREET CAR IN GUATEMALA CITY                80

             AN INDIAN WITH HIS _MACHETE_                84

             A TROPICAL JUNGLE                           86

             A NATIVE HUT                                93

             A SUGAR PLANTATION                          97

             DRYING COFFEE                              105

             A MILL FOR HULLING COFFEE                  106

             INDIAN GIRL WITH WATER JAR                 116

             A CARGADOR ON THE ROAD                     123

             PLAYING THE MARIMBA                        125

             A GROUP OF CARIBS                          128


             A WATERFALL NEAR ESCUINTLA                 138

             SAN JOSE, THE PORT OF GUATEMALA CITY       140

             THE WEEKLY TRAIN ON THE GUATEMALA          142

             A BELLE OF PUERTO BARRIOS                  146

             ONE OF THE COLUMNS AT QUIRIGUA             156

             INDIAN GIRL                                166

             A PEON                                     179

             J. RUFINO BARRIOS                          190

             DUGOUT CANOE ON THE MONTAGUA RIVER         230

             A POLICEMAN OF BELIZE                      236

             ENGLISH HOMES AT BELIZE                    239

             A STREET IN BELIZE                         242

             THE HONDURAS NAVY, THE _TATUMBLA_          249

             PUERTO CORTEZ                              250

             A TYPICAL BEGGAR                           269

             SOLDIERS OF HONDURAS                       272



                               CHAPTER I

                              TOLTEC LAND

THERE is a vast amount of ignorance and wrong conception prevalent
concerning the republics of Central America. Mexico has been exploited a
great deal in recent years and the whereabouts of Panama on the map is
now pretty generally known, but the five republics lying between these
two countries have been too much overlooked by recent writers. We are
sometimes inclined to appropriate the term republic and the name
American to ourselves as though we held a copyright on these words. And
yet here at our very doors are five nations, each of which lays great
stress on the term republic as applied to itself, and whose citizens
proudly call themselves Americanos.

The ideas of many concerning the Central American republics are drawn
from the playlife of popular novels and the comic-opera stage. Although
there may have been some foundation for their portrayal of political
life along the shores of the Caribbean Sea, and there are some things
approaching the burlesque to our eyes, yet there is a more serious side
to life in these countries. There are thousands of Guatemalans,
Honduraneans, Costa Ricans, Salvadoreans, and Nicaraguans, who are
seriously trying to solve the problem of self-government, and they are
improving each year. A whole country can not be plowed up and resown in
a season as the corn-fields of last year were transformed by the farmers
into the waving fields of golden grain this year. It is a long and hard
task that is before these struggling Spanish-Americans, but they are now
on the right road and will win. They deserve our sympathetic
consideration rather than ridicule; and it behooves Americans to inform
themselves concerning a people about whom they have thrown a protecting
mantle in the shape of the Monroe Doctrine, and who lie at our very
doors. Furthermore, the opportunities for commercial conquest invite the
earnest thought and study of the great American public.

Guatemala, the largest and most important of these republics, has been
described as the privileged zone of Central America and is easily
reached from both sides by steamers, and will soon be connected with the
northern republics by rail. It is a country of mountains, tropical
forests, lakes, rivers, coast and plains. No portion of the earth
presents a greater diversity of level in an equal amount of surface, or
a greater variety of climate. Humboldt, the great traveller, described
it as an extremely fertile and well cultivated country more than a
century ago. To this day, however, there are great tracts of fertile
virgin lands open to cultivation.

There are three minor mountain systems in the country. Of these the
northern series is composed chiefly of denuded cones from fifteen
hundred to two thousand feet high with plains between; the central
consists of ranges running from east to west and reaching a height of
from seven to fourteen thousand feet; the southern branch comprises a
number of volcanic peaks which culminate in several notable volcanoes.
These ranges parallel the Pacific and are known as the Cordilleras.

The Pacific side of Central America, from Guatemala to Nicaragua, is a
highly volcanic region, and Guatemala has her full share. The many
companion peaks and notched ranges as they are seen from the sea look
like great fangs. In no country in the world can one find a greater
number of perfect cones than in Guatemala where there are scores of
these peaks ranging from Tajumulco (13,814 feet), and Tacana (13,334
feet), down to small cones only a few hundred feet above the sea level,
yet maintaining the characteristic outline. Many of the peaks have never
been ascended so that little is known about their formation. All of
these volcanoes are now extinct, or at least quiescent, except Santa
Maria (10,535 ft.), from which smoke and steam constantly issue out of a
fissure, or crater, on the side several hundred feet from the top of the
cone or crater proper. This volcano had been quiet so long that it was
looked upon as extinct until early in April, 1902, rumblings were heard,
and suddenly it belched forth mud and sand, throwing the latter fifty
miles or more. By this eruption Quezaltenango, hitherto an enterprising
town and second city in the republic, was almost ruined, and several
thousand of its inhabitants destroyed. A number of villages near the
base of the mountain were almost completely demolished and a part of
Ocos, the most northerly Pacific port, sank into the sea during one of
the earthquakes which accompanied the eruption.

Since the settlement of the country in 1522 there are recorded some
fifty eruptions and more than three hundred earthquakes, the last of
which was in 1903. Nearly half of these eruptions were by Fuego, which
has been quiescent for a number of years. This list does not include
many little earthquakes of mild quality which frequently occur, thus
showing that the cooling and wrinkling process of the earth is still
proceeding. Innumerable hot springs are found in nearly every part of
the country, while beds of scoriae, lava and great quantities of
volcanic sand present in so many places testify to the numerous
upheavals that have taken place in centuries now past.

In former times the natives are said to have cast living maidens into
the craters of the volcanoes to appease the spirits or gods who were
supposed to be angry. Later, after Christianity was introduced, the
priests held masses and the people formed processions to calm the angry
mountains, until finally the happy thought struck the priests of
baptizing the volcanoes and formally receiving them into the church in
order to make them good. This was finally done, but the “goodness” did
not last, for even Santa Maria, supposed to be one of the “saintliest,”
went back to her old tricks, and her fall from grace was more disastrous
than any of the other recorded instances of her uncertain disposition.

In the hollows of the mountains lie a number of beautiful lakes. Lakes
Atitlan and Amatitlan are beautiful bodies of water almost as blue as
the famous Swiss lakes and reposing in nearly as beautiful locations.
The former is at an elevation of more than a mile, has no visible outlet
and its depth is unknown. To replace the effect of the glacier-topped
Alps there are the graceful conical peaks of the volcanoes. Lake Peten
is another large lake about twenty-seven miles in length, but it is less
beautiful and less accessible than those first mentioned. The town of
Flores, capital of that province, is situated on an island in the lake.
Lake Izabal, so called, but really an arm of the ocean, is the largest
lake, being about forty miles long and from twelve to twenty miles in
width. A few of the streams are navigable a short distance from the
ocean for light craft, but none of them are very much aid to commerce
except, perhaps, the Polochic, which pours itself into Lake Izabal.

[Illustration: From the Bulletin of the International Bureau of American

There are about one hundred and sixty miles of coast line on the
Atlantic, or Gulf, side of the republic. Puerto Barrios is the chief
port now because of the railway terminal having been established at that
place and it has been in existence less than twenty-five years. The
Spaniards established no large settlement on this coast and the nearest
city was Coban, at an altitude of four thousand feet, and about one
hundred miles from the coast. To the English, who were always seeking to
establish coast towns for the benefit of commerce, and with whom there
were few inland cities, the location of the principal cities inland
seems strange. Yet south of us in Central America, where the continent
grows narrow and wrinkled, scowling as it were, a territory larger than
all New England, this was the universal practice.

A commercial nation would long ago have established a harbour at
Livingston, about twenty-five miles north of Puerto Barrios. It is
situated on a bluff where a large city should be located, and has a far
better climate than Vera Cruz, Mexico. Although several hundred years
old it is still nothing but a crude wall and palm-thatched village.
Lowell has said “What is so rare as a day in June?” Here it is a
perpetual June where the thermometer seldom exceeds 86 degrees, and it
is generally considerably below that. Yellow fever has never become
epidemic here, and the deaths from it, and other tropical fevers, are
fewer than the victims of tuberculosis in northern climates. Livingston
is at the mouth of the Rio Dulce (Sweet River), which, after a few miles
inland from the coast, broadens out into Lake Izabal, and this lake
would make a beautiful and commodious harbour, large enough to hold all
the navies of the world. At the present time some sand bars impede the
passage of vessels, but a few dredges would soon make a fine channel
into the lake, where vessels would be perfectly protected from the
severe “northers” which sometimes sweep over the Gulf.

The Pacific coast line with its indentations is almost three hundred
miles long. The commerce in the early days was nearly all carried on
through the small ports on this coast and transported to the cities in
the interior. Guatemala City, Quezaltenango, Totonicapan and all the
other principal cities on this slope, except Retalhuleu and Mazatenango,
are located at a distance of from sixty to one hundred miles from the
sea, which meant a journey of from two to five days by the old means of
conveyance which are still necessary to reach many of those centres of

Guatemala contains fifty thousand six hundred square miles, being about
the size of Illinois, and extends from the thirteenth to the seventeenth
degree north latitude. Its greatest length from north to south is three
hundred and sixty miles, and its greatest breadth from east to west is
three hundred and ninety miles. The range of mountains, or Cordilleras,
which runs through the country northeasterly and southwesterly, seems to
be a connecting link between the Rocky and Andes ranges. The climate
varies through the background of mountains, the sloping direction, the
nearness to the sea, or the direction and force of the periodical winds.
Depending upon altitude the climate ranges from torrid heat on the coast
to regions where snow occasionally falls on the crest of the mountains.
The _tierra caliente_ (hot land) is the name given to those lands up to
two thousand feet high. From two thousand to five thousand feet is found
the _tierra templada_, and above that is the _tierra fria_ (the cold
land). From May to October the rainy season occurs with great
regularity. The coldest months are December and January, and the hottest
months March and April. By reason of this variation in temperature and
soil, all the products of the torrid and temperate zones can be

The average person has a habit of associating tropical lands with the
idea of intense and disagreeable heat. This person does not stop to
think that the conditions are often much different from what they seem
on the map. Even at the equator, which one would naturally think almost
uninhabitable, the upland sections are just as well adapted for the
abode of white people as the temperate zone. If one should start at sea
level, at the equator, and ascend the mountains one mile, he will
experience the same change in temperature as to go due north one
thousand miles. If he goes up another mile he will find the summer
temperature lower than in that part of North America twenty-five hundred
miles north of the equator. The same is true in Central America, for
climate is determined by altitude and not by nearness to the equatorial
line. The population of Guatemala in 1904 was estimated to be 1,842,000,
of whom about fifty per cent are full blooded Indians and forty per cent
are Ladinos, or those of mixed blood. The Ladinos are descendants of the
early Spanish conquerors and natives and are generally superior to the
natives, although in some instances they seem to have inherited the evil
of both races. The remaining ten per cent comprise the Creole, or
Spanish, population, who form the aristocracy. A few thousand foreigners
are also engaged in business in the country.

Guatemala is a republic modelled in form after the United States. It is
made up of twenty-two provinces, termed _departmentos_, whose chief
officer is called a _jefe politico_ and who is appointed by the
president. The _departmentos_ are again subdivided into municipal
districts, of which there are three hundred and thirty-one, at the head
of which is one or several _alcaldes_, or mayors. Again, for political
purposes, the country is divided into thirty-eight electoral districts.
There is a congress of deputies elected by the people on the basis of
one deputy for each twenty thousand inhabitants. The President is
elected by an electoral college for a term of six years. He is not
supposed to be re-elected without one term intervening, but this little
matter never seems to trouble an ambitious President, for, if Congress
is favourable, the law can easily be changed. He has six secretaries and
an additional advisory body of nine members of whom a majority are
selected by the House of Deputies and the remainder appointed. There has
never been a real President, for each one has been a practical dictator,
and made the attempt, at least, to run everything his own way. A
dictator, however, like Porfirio Diaz, one who was far-sighted enough to
see what was for the best interest of his country and had the ability to
carry into effect his ideas for the upbuilding of his country, would do
far more for Guatemala in her present condition than a man elected
president by popular suffrage.

It was curiosity, the mother of science, that became the mother of the
new world, gave birth to continents, islands and seas, and gave form as
well as boundary to the earth. After the first few discoveries were made
the sea soon carried the Spanish galleons to the newly-discovered lands
filled with the cavaliers and peasants of that country. These
adventurers who carried the flag of Spain into the New World were men of
great physical endurance, but possessed of little character, and that
little dwarfed by the lust of gold. They were soldiers of fortune who
came to destroy and not to create. Even Columbus, who ranked high above
the other _conquistadores_ in character, was led to make his first
landing on the American mainland by the sight of natives wearing pieces
of pure gold suspended around their necks along the shores of the
Caribbean Sea. In looking for the source of this gold supply he made an
expedition of several weeks in what is now the republic of Honduras, but
without profitable results. No serious attempts at colonizing were made
until the chief lieutenant of Cortez, Pedro de Alvarado, made his
memorable and historic expedition against the Quiché tribe, of the
wealth of which people marvellous reports had been brought. Alvarado was
a past graduate of the Cortez school of intrigue, deception and
duplicity, and soon made himself master of the province which was
designated as the Kingdom of Guatemala. He was reckless, impetuous, and
merciless; lacking in veracity if not common honesty, but zealous and
courageous. His forces comprised one hundred and twenty horsemen, three
hundred infantry, including one hundred and thirty cross-bowmen, and
twenty thousand picked native warriors. Spain was at once declared the
sovereign power and Alvarado was established as the representative of
that government. The incidents of the conquest of Mexico were repeated
in a smaller and less impressive way since the number of the natives was
not so great, and no powerful and advanced tribe such as the Aztecs held

The Quiché Indians were, at that time, the most powerful tribe in
Guatemala, but the domination of the country was shared with the
Cakchiquels and Zutugils. News of the white men with their wonderful
weapons of warfare had already reached these people. Kicab Tanub, King
of the Quichés, tried to form an alliance with the other kings against
the invading forces, but failed. This conference was held at Totonicapan
and was attended by two hundred thousand warriors with great barbaric
display. The Zutugils entered into an alliance with Alvarado after
receiving certain promises. Alas! for the proffered friendship and
friendly hand. It meant only vassalage for the natives and death for the

Thus by lying, deceit, intrigue, duplicity and even the good offices of
some of the priests, the power of these mighty tribes was broken and the
rule of Spain installed, and a new order of things was established. The
people, except a few powerful chiefs, were enslaved. These few chiefs
were released upon accepting baptism and went forth as missionaries to
their people. Thousands of the natives were set at work making bricks,
bringing stone and other building materials for the capital, which was
established in a beautiful valley between the mountains in the very
shadow of two volcanic peaks which were destined to bring death and
disaster upon the invaders, as if in revenge for their trampling upon
the rights and freedom of those to whom this valley rightfully belonged.
The labour of tens of thousands of enslaved natives resulted in a
beautiful city which was overthrown and destroyed in a night of terrible
thunder and lightning, of frightful rumblings of the earth, and of a
terrific rushing of waters which laid the whole city waste.


                               CHAPTER II

                          FROM OCEAN TO OCEAN

AFTER a tour of the land of the Aztecs I embarked at Salina Cruz, that
new Pacific port of Mexico whose importance in the commercial world is
just beginning to be felt, and started on a journey to the land of the
Toltecs. Passage was taken on the good ship _Menes_ of the Kosmos Line,
and never were passengers in better hands. There were only five
first-class passengers and they made rather a cosmopolitan gathering in
the cabin each evening. They were an American, a Scotchman, an
Englishman, a Spaniard and a Columbian and these, together with three
members of the crew, the captain, doctor and first officer, all Germans,
made up the personnel of those who gathered around the table at each
meal. I did not mention that there were ten Mexican bulls that had taken
passage on the first cabin deck destined for a bull-fight in Guatemala
City. As these animals were safely boxed up, however, they were not very
sociable on the trip and scarcely made their presence known by even a

These coasting vessels are unique in the carrying trade. They have an
extraordinary amount of deck space and carry everything from mail to
fresh lettuce, and perform the functions of a freight steamer and market
gardener. Your beefsteak or mutton of to-morrow stands on the hoof in
the hatchway below, gazing up at you with inquiring eyes, and, on the
upper deck, barnyard fowls blink reproachfully at you through the slats
of their double-decked coops. The roustabout crew are Chilean rotos, who
look as though they might be pleased to stick a knife between one’s
ribs. There are few tourists in the American sense of the word, and the
passengers are mostly German, English or Yankee drummers, or engineers
bound for railroads or mines in Central or South America, with
occasionally a native army officer or merchant travelling from one port
to another.

The harbours all along this coast are open roadsteads and the lack of
harbour accommodations was evident at the first stop, San Benito, the
southernmost port in Mexico, and only a few miles from the Guatemala
boundary. The vessel anchored almost a mile from the shore. Because of a
high surf it was necessary to wait a half-day before the harbour
official could come out, and nothing can be done until this formality is
complied with. At last a lighter, pulled by eight brown oarsmen standing
up on a running-board, flying a tattered Mexican flag at the rear and a
yellow quarantine flag at the fore, approached. San Benito boasts a
lighthouse consisting of a light sustained on two high poles, a signal
station similar to a band-stand in appearance, and a warehouse. A
donkey-engine is employed to pull the boat through the heavy surf by
means of a cable. After unloading a mixed cargo and taking on three
thousand bags of coffee destined for Hamburg, all of which required
three days, the ship steamed to Ocos, the first port in Guatemala. The
massive iron pier at this place was destroyed by the last earthquake in
1902, and it required a day to unload the cargo there and take on a few
hundred bags of coffee, and then we started for Champerico.


Guatemala is a corruption of an Indian word meaning “a land covered with
trees.” And so it seemed, for the whole shore was a dense, impenetrable
forest of tropical growth, whose topmost points are the plumes of waving
palms, clear to the background of mountains, from which arise many
volcanic peaks, making a beautiful and impressive sight. We were aroused
in the morning by the snorting and puffing of a little tug which now
enlivens the harbor of Champerico and jerks the lighters around with a
great show of hustle. Because of the shallow water, it is necessary to
anchor out some distance from the shore, and the cargo, as well as
passengers, is carried back and forth in these boats. After such a wait
as the dignity of the occasion demands, the _commandante_ came out rich
in gold embroidered blue coat and yellow-striped red trousers. The
captain escorted him into the cabin where a few samples of bottled goods
were inspected. A couple of hours later the _commandante_ came out
smiling, even if a little less steady on his feet, and we were permitted
to land. Landing at this port is, in itself, quite an undertaking, for
the passenger is seated in a chair which is whisked over the side of the
boat by a steam crane and dropped into a waiting lighter, together with
a medley of boxes, barrels, trunks, personal luggage, and various other
kinds of impedimenta. The lighter was quickly drawn to the great, lofty
pier by the spiteful little tug with which it was connected by a long
hawser. When near the pier the hawser was dropped, but the distance was
well calculated and the lighter calmly floated to the proper place, and
we were lifted up to the pier in another chair by a similar operation.
The process is probably less dangerous than it looks, but the passenger
breathes freer when the operation is over with and he is safely landed
in this land of political disturbances and make-believe money. It cost
me seven dollars to land, but when they exchanged six dollars for one
Mexican peso, it was not so expensive, for the Mexican eagle on a silver
dollar was only worth half as much as the proud bird of Uncle Samuel in
the same place.

The piers at Guatemala ports are all the property of private companies
operating under concessions, that simply receive passengers at a fixed
charge and freight at a given rate for each hundred pounds and transport
it to the custom-house, which is invariably at the end of the pier, so
that there is no chance for escape from the customs officers. Baggage
exceeding one hundred pounds becomes quite a burden as the charges are
excessive for the service rendered. The Aduana, or custom-house, is no
unimportant factor in the scheme of government here as there is very
little that escapes duty, although it is hinted that some of the duties
collected never reach the government coffers. Then, in addition to an
import customs, there is even an export duty on coffee which gives the
little, uniformed officials more to do.

My experience with these officials gave the first insight into the
suspicion with which a stranger is regarded in that country during
troublous times, and nearly all times are more or less unsettled under
the present government. The two officials carefully scrutinized every
article. A number of letters that I had received in Mexico attracted
their attention, both officials carefully scrutinizing each one until
they reached a letter of introduction to “His most Excellent and
Illustrious Señor Don ——,” a member of the President’s Cabinet, when
they carefully placed everything back and politely told me that there
was no duty to be paid. The name of one so close to the President seemed
to remove all suspicion of smuggling at least. I was obliged to give
them my name and destination, as I had already done at the pier, and was
met by an officer at the door who conducted me to the _commandante’s_
office, where my whole pedigree was asked; and again at the station the
same interrogatories had to be answered. All of these experiences were
amusing rather than otherwise, for no discourtesy was shown and all the
soldiers were polite. They simply served to break the monotony of
tedious travel.

“Is there a revolution in Guatemala now?”

This was about the first question I asked after sitting down to
breakfast in the dining-room of a small boarding-house run by a German
woman. The question was prompted by definite reports which had reached
us at San Benito, Mexico, that ex-President Barillas was at Tapachula
with about twenty-five followers “armed to the teeth.” At any time,
however, it would be the proper question to ask at breakfast, or not
later than dinner, for revolutions are the only things that occur in a
hurry down there.

Absolute silence followed the question for some time. Finally, a native
Guatemaltecan (thus it is they write it and not Guatemalan) answered
with “No, there is no revolution.”

After this man had gone out, an American who had been sitting at the
table took up the question and said that there was considerable talk of
a revolution because of dissatisfaction, and the government was very
much alarmed. He added, “We have to be very careful what we say, as
spies are everywhere, and the man who first answered you is one of

Champerico is a town of perhaps fifteen hundred inhabitants and not a
very attractive place, as a great part of it is made up of the poor,
native quarters. It is usually very hot in the sun, although pleasant in
the shade. The railway promised an early escape, but the prospective
passengers were informed that the train was off the track just outside
the town and it was late in the afternoon before the train finally
started. The train only went as far as Retalhuleu that night, about
twenty miles, as the engineer would not risk running after it became
dark. The country through which the road passed exhibited a rank and
luxuriant growth of tropical foliage, the product of a swampy soil and
moist climate.

That same evening in the Hotel Pantoja, a very good ten dollar a day
hotel, while sitting in the office engaged in conversation with another
American, the landlord, who did not understand English, walked by us
twice with a warning gesture to be careful what was said. He afterwards
explained that there was another American present in the room who was
looked upon as a spy. This alleged spy I met on the train later, and he
proved to be an aide on the staff of President Cabrera. Although a
citizen of the United States by birth, he was a man, who, as I
afterwards learned, from personal observation, stood quite high in
government circles and would scarcely have been a good man to entrust
with any plots against the government of his chief.

We left Retalhuleu the following morning before daylight for the ride to
Guatemala City. The distance is about one hundred and fifty miles, but
it was a fourteen hour journey according to the schedule, which is a
fair illustration of the speed of railroad travel in this country. The
train was a mixed one made up of freight and first and second class
passenger coaches, the latter being continually crowded with Indians.
After a soldier had taken the names and destination of all the
passengers the train was allowed to proceed.

The mail coach on this train consisted of a small corner in one car and
was in charge of one clerk. This fellow got off at a station for some
purpose but lingered a little too long, and the train had started when
he reached it. He was afraid to jump on the train in motion and followed
us as far as we could see him, waving his hands wildly and racing in the
hot sun. The conductor was obdurate and would not stop for him, so the
last half day’s run was made without a mail clerk and I do not know what
the people did for their mail. As a rule, however, that is not very
heavy. The conductor dismissed the matter by saying that “he had no
business to leave the train.”

Through this part of the republic the cochineal used to be cultivated
extensively. The cochineal is a little insect which clings to the leaves
of the _nopal_, a species of the cactus. The insects on the leaves give
it a very peculiar “warty” appearance. Just before the rainy season
begins the leaves of the _nopal_ are cut off and hung in a dry place.
Then they are scraped, the insects being killed by being baked in a hot
oven which gives them a brownish colour and makes a scarlet or crimson
dye; or, they are put into boiling water, when they become black and
furnish a blue or purple dye. When prepared for market they are worth
several dollars per pound, as it is slow and tedious work to separate
the insects from the cactus. It is estimated that there are seventy
thousand insects to the pound. When you consider that more than a
million tons of the cochineal dye were exported in a single year at one
time, a slight idea may be gained of the magnitude of the industry
before the cheaper chemical dyes destroyed the market for the cochineal.
At present the insect is cultivated only for local use, as the natives
prefer it to colour their gayly-hued cotton and woollen fabrics. It can
be said of it that the colour will stand almost any amount of rain and
sunshine and the tints are as beautiful and pure as one could desire.

The greater part of the land along the line of this railway is
cultivated after a fashion, but only in a careless and desultory way.
None of the towns are very large and the villages poor but fairly
numerous. At Escuintla the passengers were obliged to change to the
Central Railroad and take the train which had come up from the coast on
its way to the capital.

After leaving Escuintla the road skirts around the base of Agua and
begins to climb up the mountain range. In the next thirteen miles the
road ascends more than twenty-five hundred feet, which takes it into
another zone. The track crosses numerous large and deep gorges. The
tangled, tropical forests have disappeared and coffee and cane
plantations become numerous. The smooth slopes of Agua and Fuego are
rich in cultivation. At nearly every station women appear with all kinds
of fruits for sale, as well as eggs, cakes, _dulces_ (candies), etc.
Never did I eat more delicious pineapples than those secured right here.
They were great, luscious, toothsome fruits. Oranges cannot compare with
the cultivated and developed fruit of California, but bananas were fine
and much better than the fruit generally sold at our own fruit stands.

Lake Amatitlan is passed and a pretty little body of water it is
nestling in the hollow of the hills. There are many boiling springs near
its shores, which show how near it is to the unsettled forces of nature.
The washwomen take advantage of this water heated by nature, as it saves
them trouble and fuel and is always ready for use. The villages become
more numerous as the city is approached, and factory buildings and the
white walls of the _haciendas_ which dot the landscape here and there
make a pleasing contrast. Some lava beds are passed showing that nature
has created disturbances in the past quite freely. At last the final
ridge is passed, and there, nestling in the valley, is the City of
Guatemala. Its situation is somewhat similar to the valley of Mexico,
though it is not nearly so large; neither are the surrounding barriers
of the mountains so high; nor are the lakes present, which gave the City
of Mexico the name of the New-World Venice.

A couple of years ago it was impossible to travel by rail all the way
from Guatemala City to the Gulf coast, and it was necessary to leave the
city on the back of that sadly-wise, much-neglected creature—the mule,
for there was no carriage road. This method of travel entails hardships,
but I believe that it has its compensations. Byron says:

          “Though sluggards deem it but a foolish chase,
          And marvel men should quit their easy chair,
          The toilsome way, and long, long league to trace,
          Oh, there is sweetness in the mountain air,
          And life, that bloated ease can never hope to share.”

[Illustration: THE VOLCANO AGUA.]

Two other Americans, residents of the country, were going and invited me
to join them. The liveries wanted three hundred dollars each from us for
three saddle mules, a cargo mule and mozo (servant). An old Indian in
the country furnished the same for sixty-five dollars each—just about
five dollars in gold—which was cheap enough for a four days’ journey to
the railroad and back.

It was the intention of our party to start at five o’clock in the
morning, as we had to cover forty-eight miles that day in order to reach
a decent stopping-place for the night. The old Indian did not show up
until nearly six, and he then came very much excited for some one had
broken into his stable and stolen a saddle and a couple of bridles. He
was able, however, to fit us out in fairly respectable style, and we
started on our long and—to me—uncomfortable but never-to-be-forgotten
journey. It was just at sunrise and the beauty of the picture as we left
the city and climbed the encircling girdle of hills will ever remain
with me. I could not refrain from looking back several times at the
historic old city with its low buildings and lofty churches which seemed
to have such an unusual height. The bells were ringing out the mass and
all was quiet, for the traffic had not yet begun in the city. In the
distance the great volcano Agua looked down upon the slumbering city
from its stately, cloud-flecked cone.

A few drivers of oxen had started their awkward trains for the day’s
work. The skill with which these drivers guided, turned, stopped, and
started these bulky “critters,” who draw their loads entirely from the
yokes attached to their horns, is remarkable. No goad or whip was
needed, for a long slim stick, and a shrill, sibilant hiss, seemed all
that was necessary to guide them. With heads bowed in submission, these
mild-eyed beasts of burden and faithful friends of man seemed to obey
the _carreteros_ implicitly except when, once in a while, an unruly one
might display a slight perverseness. Then it was a revelation to listen
to the blood-curdling blasphemy that poured forth in an unremitting
stream from the amber-hued driver’s lips.

For about twenty miles there is a rough carriage road, and many
journeyed in vehicles that far in order to avoid as much of the long
ride on mules as possible. The scenery is beautiful as the road winds
along near a stream for a long distance. We caught many glimpses of
domestic scenes in the little huts along the road where the chickens,
pigs and dogs seemed as much at home in the house, which usually
consists of one room, as any of the human members. One writer gives an
account of stopping at one of these huts at night. He says that


“ten human beings, twelve chickens, three pigs, and insects innumerable
passed the night in a room not more than twenty feet square.” I can well
believe in the literal truth of this statement from the sights that I
saw all over the country.

The most interesting feature of the journey was the constant stream of
men and women on the road, most of them headed for Guatemala City. The
visitor to this country who confines his journeying to the iron horse
misses these unique experiences and can not get so good an insight into
the country and its people as he who is willing to endure a little

After about a seven hours’ continuous journey we reached a place called
Agua Caliente (the warm water) where we were to obtain our dinner. This
was an event anxiously awaited by me, for I was saddle-weary and nearly
exhausted, not being accustomed to the saddle, and especially to
mountain roads. Imagine my disappointment when the “posada” consisted of
a poor cottage where a half dozen naked children were running around,
none of whom would satisfy the modern conception of cleanliness. The
only articles of furniture were some benches and a poor excuse for a

Even tables are dispensed with in some of these houses and meals are
eaten off the shelves. The fewer the articles of furniture, however, the
fewer lurking places are provided for cockroaches, scorpions or
centipedes. The kitchen outfit consisted of a sort of stove made of
plaster and sticks, a pot or two, a tin pan, a few earthen jugs, and a
good _metate_ on which to beat the _tortillas_ into shape.

After some parleying the good housewife prepared for us _tortillas_,
_frijoles negros_ (black beans), some soft boiled eggs, and coffee.
These people make a coffee essence by grinding and roasting, or burning,
the coffee berries, which are then pulverized and boiled for hours. This
essence is placed in bottles which are set on the table along with a jug
of hot water so that you can dilute it to suit yourself. Although it
tastes rather bitter at first, it has the merit of being a great
stimulant, as I can testify from personal experience, and I grew to
rather like it. The tortillas are made of corn which has first been
soaked in lime water until pasty, and is then rolled, patted and tossed,
and made into cakes in appearance about like pancakes. They require more
labour in preparation than almost any other kind of food. Black beans
are one of the staple foods of the country and will be found not only in
the humble cottage of the peon at each meal, but on the table of the
rich man at least twice a day.

I wanted a drink of water and so requested of the man of the house as
soon as we arrived. “In a moment,” he said. In fifteen or twenty minutes
I asked again for the water. The answer was a “_momentita_,” a little
moment. I spoke of it several times, but after an hour and half’s rest
we left and the “_momentita_” had not yet elapsed. It is simply an
instance of the character of the people.

Journeying across country by mule, and over a rough road, is not a very
sociable way to travel. My mule was the slowest gaited one and persisted
in lagging behind about a quarter of a mile until I became too weary to
spur him to greater effort. There was scarcely a mile of level road, but
it was first up hill and then down, and the latter was hardest on the
rider. The path in places was very narrow so that two mules could
scarcely pass. On one side would be a sheer declivity of several hundred
feet at the bottom of which a roaring mountain stream ran with deafening
noise. On the other side was a wall of rock. The mule persisted in
walking almost on the very edge much to my discomfort. I let him have
his own way, however, according to advice, and had no reason to regret
it. A surer footed animal never existed than the little tan mule
allotted to me, for on dangerous paths he never made a misstep. Some of
the descents were so steep that he was obliged to zigzag across the path
to prevent slipping and possible fatality.

As we reached higher altitudes the views became more and more
magnificent. We passed through groves of oaks and pines and encountered
relatives of the thistle and sunflower that, in this land of botanical
exuberance, have attained to the dignity of shrubs and trees.
Olive-green mistletoe, in masses several feet in diameter, hung from
high branches and there were birds so gay of plumage that they seemed
like fragments of a disintegrated rainbow as they floated by us.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1907, by Judge Company, New York. JOURNEYING

It was four o’clock in the afternoon when we reached the crest of the
mountain. One of my companions pointed out a village in the distance.
“That,” he said, “is Sanarate, where we will stop to-night.” It seemed
to me that we ought to reach it in about an hour. Our little party
started to descend and we were an hour and half in reaching a level
surface. Then we crossed a stream, went up a hill and still on, and
always on, until darkness had fallen. Had I been alone I should have
dropped off under a tree, or at a hut alongside the road, or done
anything but go on. And yet I could not be blind to the magnificence of
the night, for the skies were brilliant with thousands of stars unseen
in these northern latitudes. At times I could forget my troubles and see
only the blazing, radiant firmament. Thus it was that I followed the
leaders, and finally, weary and aching, we entered the courtyard of a
cheery-looking, comfortable hotel where the jolly German host made us
welcome to the best his house afforded. Never did the smell of supper
seem more refreshing, and never did palatable food taste better than it
did that night to me in the _fonda_ of Sanarate.

Here I experienced a sample of a native bed, if such an arrangement of
folding sticks and tight-stretched canvas can be called a bed. It is a
simple cot of canvas without a mattress, a microscopic pillow, and a few
covers. One writer graphically describes his experience with such a cot:
“I have tossed on this cot racked with fever, listening day and night to
the discords of a neighbouring graphophone hoarsely venting grand opera
and negro minstrelsy, my temperature at one hundred and seven, and with
two hundred grains of quinine scattered through my anatomy. I wish my
worst enemy a no more hideous experience.” I was, however, weary enough
to sleep on a stone floor and never slept sounder than I did that night
on that hard, unyielding cot, and awakened in the morning refreshed and
ready for the remaining twenty-four miles of the journey.

Bright and early the next morning our little cavalcade left this
cheerful hostelry and wended its way on toward the Gulf. We were
thankful indeed that our lot had been cast in such a pleasant place.
This hotel was made possible by the number of foreigners engaged in
surveying and grading the new railroad which passed through this
village. Few towns of this size in Guatemala can boast of a hotel, and,
in the absence of such accommodations, the traveller is either obliged
to take refuge at a native hut or in the _cabildo_, the public hall,
which is always free and open to the traveller and is generally anything
but an attractive place, for cleanliness is not one of its attributes,
as it seems to be no one’s particular duty to look after it.

There were no such steep ascents or descents this day as we had on the
first day’s journey through the mountainous region, although we were
constantly going down into a lower altitude. Scarcely had we left the
village until our path was sheltered from the sun by a wonderful curtain
of vegetation that seemed to belong to fairy land. Woven into it were
fantastic ferns, lianes that swung from the tops of lofty trees,
splendid orchids and bromeliads, and the rustling, waving fronds of many
palms. It was such a road as I had never seen before. Reaching the end
of this enchanted road I saw my companions disappear down a
densely-wooded ravine, for my mule was lagging behind as usual. I did
not see them for more than an hour, as the ravine twisted and turned so
much that one’s range of vision was very small, although the scenery was
beautiful. The path crossed and re-crossed the little stream many times.
I grew rather alarmed when the paths forked, but trusted to my
nondescript steed rather from necessity than confidence. We finally left
the ravine and came out upon the first level road we had travelled since
leaving Guatemala City, and there were my companions at just about the
regulation distance in advance.

The number of natives travelling on foot the same way we were going was
unusually large and kept increasing each mile. All the by-paths
contained their quota, who joined those on the main road, like the
little rivulets which made up the great stream. All were dressed in
their best, for that is usually about all they possess; at least their
clothes were freshly washed and looked unusually well. Men, women and
children, all in family groups, moved along at a rapid pace as if drawn
by a powerful magnet.

The number of Indians kept increasing more and more for the next few
miles, each carrying their baskets of food and many stopping along the
road to eat. At last we reached a town where a fiesta was in progress,
and this seemed to be their Mecca. All along the road from the capital
we had noticed decorated arches erected over the road every few miles. A
bishop had come to this village and these arches had been erected in his
honour. It was the first time for nine years that a clergyman had been
in that village. It was the duty of a priest living about thirty miles
away to come here at least once each year to perform marriage
ceremonies, baptisms, and other religious ceremonies. He started each
year, but failed to come because he always got thoroughly saturated with
liquor each time before he had travelled this far.

One incident happened here which rather discomfited an American liquor
salesman whom I met. He had sent several mule cargoes of liquor over for
the train that we were attempting to make in order to ship it to
Honduras. It is necessary for each driver in charge of such merchandise
to have a “guia” showing that all government fees had been paid. The
driver did not have his in proper shape, so the _commandante_ arrested
the whole outfit, mules, driver, and whisky. They extracted a few
gallons of the liquid cheer to aid in the proper celebration of the
priest’s coming, and then let the driver proceed unmolested.

A journey of a few more hours brought us to Rancho San Agustin, or, as
it is generally called, El Rancho, the end of our mule journey, for a
train at that time ran once a week to Puerto Barrios. This train left El
Rancho on Sunday morning at 6.30, taking two days for the one hundred
and twenty-nine miles to the Gulf, and just making connection with the
weekly mail steamer for New Orleans. Although we had travelled
forty-eight miles the first day and twenty-four miles the second day by
one o’clock in the afternoon, our boy _mozo_, who took a different
route, and walked all the way, driving the cargo mule loaded with our
baggage before him, arrived just about one hour later than we did.
Several other passengers for the weekly train were already there, having
started a day earlier than ourselves. Our hotel was a big two-story
frame building—the first frame building that I had seen in the country.
It looked almost colossal by the side of a little thatch cottage in an
adjoining enclosure, and had been built by the railroad company for its
employees and patrons. It cost only twenty dollars a day at this
hostelry in the stage money of the country.

[Illustration: SCENE AT EL RANCHO.]

This unfilled gap in the steel highway between the two great oceans was
a blessing and delight, for a more interesting region would be hard to
find. Across the great Montagua Valley to the north were the beautiful
Sierras de las Minas, whose slopes are kept always bright and verdant by
perpetual, though ever-changing, clouds and mists. Even though they are
not snow-capped and rugged like the Alps, these mountains of Guatemala
have a weirdness and fascination that it is hard to describe. Everywhere
the cacti-like trees reared their thorny, spreading arms. Though the
grasses of the valley were sere and dry, for this was the dry season,
they were not dead, for the first few days of summer rains transform
them into a carpet of vivid green.

The view from El Rancho is magnificent. It is in a valley on the bank of
a stream, while the range of mountains towers above it in the distance.
On the slopes the green fields glistened in the sun. Although the sun
was hot and dry in the village, over on the hills it was raining, and we
could hear peals of thunder and see the bright flashes of lightning
which accompanied the tropical outpour. A small stream that came from
that direction soon became a raging torrent, thus showing the violence
of the storm.

It seemed good to hear the clanging of the bell and the tooting of the
whistle of an American locomotive early the next morning. By the noise
it made one would think that it was the overland limited impatient to be
off. When all was ready we started out and at no time did the train move
faster than eight miles an hour. No one of the passengers, however,
after looking at the track and rails, where there were scarcely two ties
to each rail that would hold a spike in many places, urged the engineer
to greater speed. The necessary water for the engine was supplied on
several occasions by water carried from a stream to the tender by a
bucket-brigade which passed the bucket from hand to hand along to its

El Rancho is just within the border of the _tierra caliente_, and the
graceful cocoanut palm is to be seen there as well as the tree cacti,
which increase in size and number according to elevation. The presence
of the cacti is a sure indication of a dry season which prevails for
several months each year. The green cocoanut furnishes one of the most
refreshing and delightful drinks of the tropics. The natives take the
cocoanut, chop off the end with a _machete_, and drink the fluid that it
contains directly from the shell. This native weapon shaped somewhat
like an old-fashioned corn cutter is a very useful instrument with these
people. It answers for a shovel, knife, axe, pump-handle, fishing rod,
and weapon of defence as well as offence.

Gualan, fifty-five miles from the starting point, marked the end of the
first day’s journey. It is a small town made up of a few adobe buildings
and many thatch cottages of natives. It is a picturesque place on the
high banks above the Montagua River, which at this point is a very swift
stream. A picturesque ferryman attracted my attention and I waited
almost an hour to get a good picture of him and his dugout canoe. When
he was in position the sun would not shine and when the sun was visible
the boatman was missing from the picture, and it was necessary to use
the very quickest exposure because of the swiftness of the stream.

A loud-voiced American with a big revolver in his holster, looking like
a cheap imitation of the Western desperado, had attracted my attention
on the train, and he proved to be the landlord of the half-caste hotel
in this town. As it was the only stopping-place in Gualan there was no
choice for the traveller. As the evening hours wore away and his stock
of liquors was reduced by his own patronage of the bar, the landlord
became more noisy and quarrelsome until one man took offence and said a
few sharp words which stopped his _braggadocia_ manner. It looked for a
while as though the quarrel would end in a shooting, and would have done
so, if the landlord had not calmed down and retracted some of his

Many of the Americans scattered down through the tropical countries are
not very representative characters. Alienated from all home influences,
they set up an alliance with some native woman and abandon themselves to
the cheer of the _cantina_, or saloon. Many of these men perhaps would
only drink moderately at home, if at all, but in these tropical climes
they let down every bar to vice and pander to their baser natures. I
will never forget one American railroad man whom I met in Guatemala City
one morning. He had just begun his drinking and was very communicative.
We were at the station and he looked around and said: “They try to keep
a fellow in a perpetual state of intoxication down here. See! there is a
_cantina_, and there is another, and another. You go to the Plaza and it
is _cantina_ everywhere. I have been trying for two years to save enough
money to get back to the States, but they won’t let me. Last month, I
earned $800 (about $60 in gold) and I have only got a few dollars left.”
Later in the day I saw him at the bull-ring throwing paper dollars at a
crowd of boys who followed him about until the police drove them away.
Soon he will join the ever-increasing band of American tramps that one
finds there. Beggars are numerous in the country, but they are not all
natives, nor Indians, and the American can be found among them fully as
abject and degraded as any others of that class.


There are only a few villages from Gualan to Puerto Barrios and they are
not very populous. They looked almost like African towns with their huts
made of palm and bamboo. The paths in the villages were all narrow, and
grass and weed grown. There were thorns to scratch the bare feet and
hooked seeds of plants that cling to the clothes—but this can be
duplicated almost anywhere. The building of a hut is a simple
proposition, for all the Indian has to do is to go into the forest and
cut some bamboo poles and some palm leaves or banana stalks for a roof,
and he has all the material necessary. A few poles are set into the
ground, establishing the size, and to these, by means of vines, are
attached many horizontal reeds or poles. These may be close together or
several inches apart, and sometimes mortar or stones are used to fill in
the wall. The same style of steep roof is always made. Sometimes the
entrance is closed by a hinged door, but a piece of loosely swinging
cloth answers the same purpose and does just as well.

After an all-day’s journey we at last reached Puerto Barrios. The nearer
we approached the coast the denser became the vegetation and the more
impenetrable the forests, or jungles, which is really a more appropriate

Near Puerto Barrios and a few miles to the west is the port of Santo
Tomas. It is situated on a bay which makes a good harbour and was
established in 1843 by a colony of Belgians. Like many tropical colonies
it proved a failure because of the lack of foresight on the part of the
promoters and an absolute ignorance of tropical conditions and the
precautions necessary for health and success. Several hundred people
comprised the original colony, but it soon dwindled through deaths and
departures until now it is a small village although it is still a port
of entry. The railroad terminus being established at its near-by rival
sealed the doom of its future prospects, although its natural advantages
are probably superior to its more fortunate neighbour. The fate of this
colony is simply another illustration of the care and foresight
necessary on the part of those seeking to establish colonies in a new
country and under conditions so much different from those with which the
prospective colonists are familiar.


It would be unfair to the reader and an injustice to the country to
leave this coast without a description of Lake Izabal and the river
leading to it, for this river rivals the far-famed Saguenay in beauty
and grandeur of scenery. It is a sail of less than two hours across the
choppy seas of the Gulf of Amatique from Puerto Barrios to Livingston,
which is situated at the mouth of the Rio Dulce (the sweet river), the
entrance to which is through a high wall of cliffs. For the first few
miles after leaving Livingston on the way up the river the shores are
lined with some fine banana plantations and a succession of gently
sloping and verdant hills that reach an altitude of a thousand feet. To
the north are the Sierra de Santa Cruz mountains running parallel to the
river, and to the south and in plain view are the more distant Sierras
de Las Minas, both of these ranges being covered to their very summits
with many shades of rich green foliage. Then after passing a bend in the
river the little steamer enters a narrow canyon with towering cliffs on
either side, and for several miles there is a succession of scenes of
wild beauty.

At one point the rocky walls rise almost perpendicularly from the water
to a height of several hundred feet. Instead of barren cliffs, however,
the sides are almost completely covered with vegetation so that the
rocks are seldom visible. From every foothold springs a dense growth of
tropical vegetation and from every crevice hang vines and shrubbery
swaying like green curtains in the breeze, and dipping their foliage in
the river. Higher up are giant trees, covered with thousands of
beautiful orchids, which cast their shadows in the deep blue waters
underneath. All of this renders the scene one of dazzling beauty when
the overhead skies are clear and the bright sun brings out the contrasts
of sunlight and shadow.

[Illustration: LAKE IZABAL.]

At last the towering walls become broken and finally recede, banana
plantations again appear, and the river broadens out into the Gulf of
Golfete, which is a pretty little body of water about two miles broad
and eight or ten miles in length, and is dotted with a number of pretty
little green islands. Another connecting stream leads into that inland
sea called Lake Izabal. On one bank of this stream stands the old
Spanish fort of San Felipe, which was never very formidable and is now
only a joke as fortifications go. In the olden time Port Izabal on the
lake was the principal port and the approach was protected by this
fortification. It is nearly forty-eight miles from Livingston. The high
walls stand out boldly, but they are partly covered with climbing vines
and mosses. It affords, however, a fine view of Lake Izabal with its
broad expanse of blue waters and its shores a seemingly impenetrable
jungle, except where a cleared space marks the location of a banana
plantation. Its wooded shores are low, but the land rises gently to the
background of mountains many miles away. Occasionally showers of short
duration follow along the mountain slopes, and when the clouds have
passed away the most brilliant of rainbows appears. As there are showers
within view almost every day it might almost be called a land of
rainbows. The waters of the lake are alive with many varieties of fish,
the quiet coves and bays are the haunts of the alligator, while in the
jungle may be found the small deer and bear of the country.

The old town of Izabal, once the port and a prosperous place, but now
dwindled to a straggling, thatch-roofed village, reposes in perpetual
_siesta_ on the southern shore of the lake. Santa Cruz is another
village on the north shore, where there is a sawmill and a small
collection of native huts and a few better buildings which house the
white inhabitant.

A number of small streams pour their waters into Lake Izabal. The
principal stream, however, is the Polochic, which is navigable as far as
Panzos, a distance of about thirty or forty miles, for light-draught
steamers. There is a regular weekly service maintained by a steamer
which brings down the mails, passengers and freight from Coban, the
capital of Alta Verapaz, to make connection with the weekly steamer
sailings for New Orleans. The river is not very wide, the course rather
tortuous and the current swift, especially in the rainy seasons, so that
boating is quite an exciting experience for the novice. This route was
formerly and still is the main trade route for the natives of the Coban
and Peten district who bring their produce down the Polochic and Chocon
rivers in their dugouts, called pitpans, to the lake and then to the
markets of Livingston. It is quite a common sight to pass their boats
loaded with cocoanuts, bananas, plantains or other fruits or fish, with
the brown native and his wife industriously paddling the same.

There are few places in the world where there is such an abundance of
life, both plant and animal, as in the Lake Izabal district. Perennial
moisture reigns in the soil and uninterrupted summer in the air, so that
vegetation luxuriates in ceaseless activity all the year around. To this
genial influence of ever-present moisture and heat must be ascribed the
infinite variety of trees and plants. The trees do not grow in clusters
or groups of single species as in our northern woods, but the different
varieties crowd each other in unsocial rivalry, each trying to overtop
the other. The autumn tints of browns and yellows, crimsons and purples,
are as unknown as the cold sleep of winter. The ceaseless round of
ever-active life might seem to make the forest scenery of the tropics
monotonous, but there is such an untold variety and beauty in it that
the scene never grows tiresome. The beautiful description of spring with
its awakening life by Lowell is applicable every day in the year in this

             “Whether we look, or whether we listen,
              We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
             Every clod feels a stir of might,
             An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
             And, groping blindly above it for light,
             Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
             And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
             To be some happy creature’s palace.”

The last two verses are especially true, for the insect life is almost
incredibly abundant. Mosquitoes and sandflies there are in great numbers
to annoy the visitor, and beautifully coloured butterflies upon which to
feast one’s eyes. I met three naturalists, who were called “bug hunters”
by the people, one of whom was making a collection of dragon-flies, and
another butterflies, and the third was gathering specimens of ferns. All
of them had visited many parts of tropical America, but they found this
section the most fruitful field in each line of research. Bugs and
beetles, bees and wasps, ants and plant-lice, moths and spiders, and all
the other little crawling and flying forms of life are innumerable in
the number of individuals and a multitude in the variety of species

The bright sparkling pools are the haunts of myriads of dainty little
humming birds. One naturalist has figured that these little fairy-like
creatures equal in number all of the other birds together. They may be
seen darting in and out among the flowers or, poised on wings, and
clothed in their purple, golden or emerald beauty, hanging suspended in
the air. Then, after a startled look at the intruder upon their haunts,
turning first one eye and then the other, they will suddenly disappear
like a flash of light.


                              CHAPTER III

                              THE CAPITAL

GUATEMALA CITY long ago laid aside its swaddling clothes. While Boston
was yet a mere village, the capital of Guatemala was the abode of one
hundred thousand people, and was surpassed in importance only by Lima,
Peru, and the City of Mexico. It was the home of some of the most
learned men in Spanish-America, the site of great schools of theology
and science, the seat of the Inquisition and the headquarters of the
Jesuits. The present Guatemala City, however, is the third one to bear
that name, the first two having been destroyed by volcanic disturbances.
It is now the commercial, political and social centre of the republic,
and in it is concentrated the wealth, culture and refinement of the
whole country. Because of its superiority over other Central American
municipalities Guatemala City has been called the “Little Paris,” a
designation very pleasing to the inhabitants of the metropolis of
Central America. Its similarity to Paris is about as great as that of
St. Augustine to New York.

The present city was founded in 1776, just about the time that the
American patriots were breaking the shackles which bound them to the
mother country. The former capital, now known as Antigua, was located
about thirty miles distant, near the base of the volcanoes Agua (water)
and Fuego (fire), the latter so called because formerly it constantly
emitted smoke and flames. Suddenly, one evening, earthquake rumblings
were heard, intense darkness spread over the valley, and without warning
a great deluge of water overwhelmed the city, demolishing the houses and
destroying eight thousand of the inhabitants. It was considered a
judgment of heaven because of certain impious remarks that had been
made. The natural explanation is that the crater of the volcano, then
called Hunapu, had become filled with water, the earthquake rent the
crater, and the water rushing down in torrents acquired terrific force
in its descent of several thousand feet. After the first destruction in
this unusual and terrible way, in 1541, the city had been rebuilt in
grander style than before and the inhabitants rested in fancied security
within the shadow of the lofty volcanic peaks which abound here, and
which fill the visitor with a strange awe. These volcanoes had been
baptized and received into the church and were supposed to be on their
good behaviour. The baptism of the volcanoes did not seem to have a
permanent effect upon their disposition, for another eruption
accompanied by a severe earthquake destroyed the second capital in 1773.


The city of ruins as it exists to-day is a most interesting place to
visit, and several thousand people still make it their home. Nearly
every ruin houses a family who manage in some way to secure shelter
within the broken walls and make a living by carving cane heads or
making the doll images and effigies which are used in religious
celebrations. The images are about five or six inches high, representing
the nativity of Christ and are used at Christmas. It was built on much
the same general plan as the present capital, with narrow streets laid
out at right angles to each other. It was well provided with religious
edifices, for there are the ruins of almost sixty churches that can be
traced. They were all of solid masonry, many feet in thickness with
vaulted roofs, and must have cost immense sums of money in material and
transportation, for much of the material was imported from Spain. Now
these vaulted arches support masses of vegetation, and the bells which
formerly called Spaniard and Indian to service are silent. The grand old
cathedral still stands a sad reminder of its former magnificence. Within
its shattered walls the service of the church used to be performed in
all its solemnity, and the burning incense filled every nook of the vast
edifice with its fragrance. Indians with baskets of fowls on their back,
and Spaniards whose very shoulders drooped with the burden of elongated
names and lofty titles, knelt by a common genuflection before these
magnificent altars.

A number of the old buildings yet bear the arms of Castile and Leon—two
castles and two lions rampant. Some of the images of the saints still
stand in their niches on the façades of the churches, which causes them
to be looked upon with special veneration by the ignorant natives,
because only a direct interposition of Providence could have kept them
unharmed during the frightful undulations of the earthquake. The once
imposing square is now dotted here and there with the huts and booths of
the market people, and the present town is a sad reminder of a once
proud and powerful city. After seeing the ruins you know that the
rickety old coach with its tires half off, which brought you there, and
the harness held on the horses (or mules) by thongs, is just in harmony
with the place itself.

The present capital has been comparatively free from these volcanic
disturbances, although several volcanic peaks are plainly visible in
this translucent atmosphere, which equals or surpasses that of Colorado
for clearness. It is situated in a long, narrow valley with a slight
slope to the east. The hills surrounding the valley are indescribably
soft and beautiful with deep shadowed ravines which contrast with the
green vegetation in the rainy season. The grandeur of the scene is
centred in three towering volcanoes that rise sharp and distinct against
the blue sky—the symmetrical outline of Agua, the serrated ridge of
Fuego and the isolated cone of Pacaya.


From the church of El Carmen, situated on an eminence in the
northeastern part of the city, a fine view is obtained of the city and
valley. This church is made picturesque by the outcroppings of quartz
and the oriental appearance of the building. It is more like a small
fortress, with its little round tower, and the gray stone moss-grown
wall surrounding the hill, than a religious edifice. It is older than
the city, and in the bell tower is a bell dated 1748, more than a
quarter of a century before the founding of the capital at this
location. The interior is dark and gloomy and its walls are hung with
examples of crude art. Behind the church the plain stretches away to the
purple hills. In front and nestling at the foot of the hill is the
capital. The city is compactly built, about two miles square, with
peaked and flat roofs covered with brown tiles, and walls variously
coloured, but rather dirty. The only contrast to the rather dull colour
is the vivid green foliage in the open courts of the houses. Because the
houses are nearly all one-storied, the twenty or more churches appear
unusually lofty and imposing. In particular, the grand old Cathedral in
the centre of the city overtowers every other structure in its majesty.
In another direction, on the opposite side of the city, the walls and
towers of the Castillo de San Jose stand out against the background of
hills and give a semblance of military strength to the otherwise
peaceful appearance of the valley.

Guatemala City is nearly five thousand feet above the level of the
rolling seas and enjoys a wholesome and salubrious climate. Of this too
much cannot be said, for it is truly delightful. With an average
temperature of seventy-two degrees it has no extremes of heat and cold,
and the thermometer seldom varies more than twenty to twenty-five
degrees during the entire year. In the so-called winter season the
mercury rarely goes below sixty-five degrees and the summer heat does
not usually exceed eighty-five degrees. Foreigners who live there and
travellers who visit there fall in love with the climate, and, when once
acclimated, do not want to leave. Seventy-five thousand or more people,
Spaniards, Indians and Ladinos, with a sprinkling of Germans and
Americans, are trying to solve the problem of life and existence under
such favourable skies; and it is no wonder that the strenuous life of
our American cities has few disciples in this favoured valley. Life runs
along a smooth, easy pathway, with nothing to rush you, and it is
equally as impossible to hurry any one else. A newly arrived American
may start out with an impulsive eagerness to do something, but, after a
few futile attempts to hasten results, will soon yield to the inevitable
trend of delay in this land of “to-morrow” and “wait-a-while.”


The city is distant from the Pacific Ocean, nearly seventy-five miles
and from the Gulf of Mexico twice that distance. There were probably two
reasons which influenced the Spaniards to locate their capitals inland;
one of these was for safety and the other because, in these tropical
lands, the climate along the coast is hot, rainy, and fever-stricken. It
was certainly not for the convenience of commerce, for all imports and
exports had to be transported over narrow and rough trails on the backs
of men and mules, for a long period, before a roadway was completed to
the Pacific port of San Jose. Governors and Archbishops, common
Spaniards and humble natives, were obliged to ride over those trails on
the backs of horses or mules, and generally that of the latter obliging,
but contrary, “critters.”

The city is a typical Spanish-American town in architecture, although
recent improvements have taken away the monastic appearance that used to
prevail. The streets are straight and narrow and laid out at right
angles to each other. The ones running north and south are called
_avenidas_ (avenues), and those east and west, _calles_ (streets). The
sidewalks are paved with smooth flagstones and are almost on a level
with the roughly-paved roadway which slopes toward the centre for
drainage. The streets are bordered on both sides by low, one-storied
buildings whose tile roofs once red are now a dirty brown, and whose
plastered walls once white are now soiled and blotched by the pieces of
plaster which have been broken out. The walls are usually of adobe
(sun-dried) brick, or stone, covered with stucco, and are several feet
thick in order to defy any but the most severe earthquake shocks. The
windows are broad and high, and are protected by iron bars like the
windows of a prison cell. If the house is so fortunate as to have a
second story, then a neat little iron or wooden balcony is erected in
front of them. There is one entrance to the house and that is guarded by
great, heavy doors studded with big nails, and fastened with a massive
lock fit only for a mediaeval castle. The keys to these locks are
frequently eight or ten inches long and would fit no keyring that is on
the market to-day. Carriages, market people, and high-born ladies, all
use this common entrance which leads into the _patio_ around which the
house is invariably built. These _patios_ take the place of the lawn in
northern homes and are frequently beautiful little miniature gardens
filled with tropical plants and fragrant with the blossoms of many
flowers. The living rooms all open out upon this court, and here,
sheltered from the wind, the people can bask in the sun when it is cool
and occupy the shady side when it is hot, and thus keep themselves
fairly comfortable without the aid of fires or electric fans.


The Plaza de Armas, which is in the center of the city, is quite a
pretty square and is surrounded on three sides by public buildings,
while on the other side are retail stores with the _portales_ so common
in these countries. On the north side is the municipal building, on the
west side the National Palace and government barracks, and on the east
side lies the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace. In the centre is a
delightful little garden surrounded by an iron fence, within which are
many exquisite flowers and pretty plants with wine coloured leaves. A
few evergreens, fountains, a statue of Cristobal Colon, the ever present
band-stand, and an old square stone tower, or temple, with an equestrian
statue of Charles IV of Spain complete the adornments of this square.
Across one side rattle the little toy street-cars, and now and then a
hooded victoria slips through, the top drawn like a vizor over the
inside, so that all you can see is the tip of a chin or a bit of white
parasol. It is not pleasant for the ladies to appear on the street
unless they are very plain.


In front of the National Palace a company of the President’s Guard of
Honour parades each morning. This organization comprises about five
hundred picked men from the army who actually wear shoes and a jaunty
cap, and their uniforms look as bright as a working-man’s new suit of
blue jeans, and they are of the same material. A good military band
plays, and, aided by the music, the company manages to keep step
occasionally, but only occasionally, for that little matter does not
seem to them very important. Sedate Spaniards, descendants of the proud
hidalgos, and Indians whose progenitors built the great palaces, or
temples, at Palenque, Copan and Quirigua, mingle here, and types of
several centuries may be seen side by side. Customs of the sixteenth and
nineteenth centuries are here intermingled, but the twentieth century
can hardly be said to have reached this city. The Indian with his pack
on his back passes by followed by a mule dray, but the gasoline
devil-wagon has not yet made its appearance in this city, and the
warning horn of the street-cars takes the place of the honk-honk of the

At night when the band concerts are given the plaza is a good place to
study the people, for all classes turn out in great numbers and parade
around the central portion. The cock-of-the-walk on such occasions is
the student of the military academy who struts around much-bedecked in a
red uniform covered with gold braid, and with his sword invariably
trailing on the ground—much resembling the peacock on dress parade with
his tail feathers fluttering in the breeze. The young dandies are there
with their bamboo sticks, tailor-made clothes and smoking their
abominable cigarettes. A few foreign drummers or _concessionaires_ stalk
around the plaza side by side with the substratum of _ladinos_ in their
shabby attire. A few families may stroll around with their little girls
in stiff little white gloves and their shy, velvety eyes turning this
way and that without a sign of recognition.

The most imposing of all the churches of the city, the Cathedral, and
the same may be said of all Spanish churches, is elaborately ornamented
with carving, giving it a _rococo_, or overdone, effect, but the
proportions are good. It is flanked by two square towers. The entrance
is approached by many steps and is guarded by four colossal saints
supposed to represent the four evangelists. They are not very saintly in
appearance, being carved out of a very rough coarse stone and very much
weather-beaten. There are also several pillars with urns on top, thus
adding a Roman effect. The interior gives a general impression of
roominess with its fine aisles, but the blue and white effect of the
ceiling is not very pleasing, although different from anything I had
ever seen in church decoration. The floor is paved with stone. There is
a large main altar and a number of gilt side altars with the usual
collection of decorated wooden saints. A number of images clad in gauze
and gaily-hued angels with tiaras are placed within the various altars,
while the Virgin wears a fine velvet gown embroidered with gold thread.
The structure is about two hundred and seventy-five feet long. Adjoining
this is the Episcopal Palace, which has on many occasions been the
centre of political intrigue and sedition before the late President
Rufino Barrios curbed the power of the clergy.


All Guatemala is proud of its Teatro Colon, the National Theatre, for
the government in these Spanish-American countries considers it a part
of its duties to furnish amusement for its subjects. The building is
modeled after the famous church of the Madelaine in Paris. It stands in
the middle of a large enclosure surrounded by a high iron fence. The
grounds are laid out as a garden with oleander and orange trees and
flowers of many kinds planted in generous profusion along the walks, and
there are several fountains which send out their cooling spray. The coat
of arms of the republic stand out prominently on the façade and there
are numerous other plaster ornaments in relief against the stucco walls,
which are laid out in blocks to imitate stone. The interior is in good
taste and the stage is large and roomy. The government allows a generous
yearly subsidy which enables good talent to be brought from Italy, Spain
and Mexico. There are two tiers of boxes which run clear around the hall
and several proscenium boxes, of which one is reserved for the
President. Silk hats are worn by the men and canes are carried, while
the women wear a few feathers in their hair, but no hats, and much
powder and paste on their faces. During the long intermission nearly
everybody leaves his seat and wanders out into the vestibule to visit
and smoke—even some of the ladies indulging occasionally in this

The people are inordinately fond of amusements as are all people of
Latin blood. In this enumeration the bull-fight should not be omitted.
In the large bull-ring which stands just outside the central railway
station all classes meet on Sunday afternoon, and the “_carramba_” of
the Spaniard mingles with the stronger expressions of his fairer-skinned
Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic neighbour. The Spaniard believes that the
bull-fight is an exemplification of the superior prowess of his race,
for the Spaniard is as much superior to all other men as the Spanish
bull is more valiant than all other bulls. The bull-fight in Guatemala
City is usually a poor imitation of the sanguinary conflicts of the
Iberian peninsula. The victims are generally oxen, with perhaps one or
two bulls doomed to the death. The town was all excitement during my
visit, for Mazzantini, the great Spanish matador, was coming to give
three “corridas” with imported bulls. The boat that I came on carried
ten of these bulls in boxes, and the old custodian with his bulls caused
more trouble than all the rest of the cargo, including the passengers,
put together. Excursions were advertised by the railroad and it was the
principal topic of conversation. Everyone that I met, American and
native, urged me to stay for the first great event to take place the
following Sunday. I had seen the bull-fight, however, in all its
horrible details in its native land, and it did not appeal to me even
with the great “Mazzantini” taking part.


I attended one bull-fight while there in order to get some photographs,
and was thoroughly disgusted. Two bulls of the six advertised for the
occasion were doomed to the death and there were two _matadores_. One of
them was a young Spaniard whom I had met on the steamer. He wore the
lock of long hair on the side of his head which is affected by all bull
fighters, and claimed to be a good fighter. He was agile and leaped over
the bull with a vaulting pole and planted the _banderillos_ quite
adeptly. As a _matador_ he was a failure, and after he had made three
ineffectual attempts to kill the bull, and had buried three swords in
the poor creature’s neck, the crowd became hostile and he was obliged to
leave the arena, followed by the anathemas and hisses of the large
audience. Then my bull-fighting acquaintance, who had given me such a
cordial invitation in the morning to attend the performance, retired in
great discomfiture, and I have never seen him since.

There is a prosperous American club in the city to which many other
foreigners belong, and I was fortunate enough to be given a visitor’s
card. The social life of the expatriated American centres around this
organization and it has considerable influence in the city and country.
It was very interesting to talk with the older members of the stirring
events in the time of President J. Rufino Barrios and his dramatic
method of proclaiming the confederation of all the Central American
republics. There are several hundred Americans in the country engaged in
various enterprises, from promotion to construction, and from
plantations to manufacturing. The Germans occupy the leading place in
the commerce as they seem to amalgamate more readily with the country,
for they come to make permanent homes, while most of the Americans
expect to make their fortune and then leave for Uncle Sam’s domains once
more. A number of Chinese merchants are also engaged in business here
and a few French. Jews are also numerous and a Jewish synagogue is the
only non-Catholic religious edifice I saw, although there is a
Presbyterian Mission maintained in the city.

Nearly every business house runs a money exchange department and the
sign “_Cambia de Moneda_” (money exchange) vies in number with the
“cantinas.” Even the bootblack in the hotel wanted to exchange money and
followed the quotations each day as carefully as any banker. During my
stay it varied from twelve and one-half to thirteen and one-fourth paper
dollars for one in gold with the American eagle on it. Every merchant
was anxious to secure New York, London, or Hamburg exchange. Prices of
commodities varied from day to day, for, although posted in paper
values, they were regulated on a gold basis. Business begins about eight
in the morning and ceases about seven in the evening, but all business
houses put up their shutters and close up tight for two or three hours
in the middle of the day during the siesta hours. You will never know,
however, unless you study the calendar, whether the stores will be open
or not, for holidays and feast-days are many. There is an old saying
that Spanish holidays numbered three hundred and sixty-five, not
including Sundays.

The principal market is a large structure in the rear of the Cathedral,
and has large gates at each corner through which a line of people are
passing at all times during the business hours. The entrance is nearly
always obstructed by women with fruit for sale, whose presence was
tolerable from the fact that they sold it extremely cheap. Every
available space is filled with native merchants—mostly women—who offer
for sale home and foreign goods and a great variety of indigenous
fruits. Vendors outside of the enclosure suspend straw mats on poles for
shelter from the torrid sun. Beneath each one sat a woman or girl with
her articles for sale spread about and before her—a little fruit, some
vegetables, or even some cooked meat. Inside the building one can get a
three course meal of native concoctions for a few cents, or can buy the
luscious fruits of the country, including oranges, bananas, zapotes, or
pineapples, for a song almost. Although the place is generally crowded
there is no jostling or confusion. It would be hard to find a
quarrelsome or disorderly person or any one who would raise his voice
above the tone of polite conversation, and even the babies—of whom there
are always many—refrain from crying. The dealers are all bargainers and
will invariably ask at least twice as much as they would readily accept.
A look of surprise or astonishment at a price given will invariably
bring the query, “What will you give?” There is no such thing as a fixed
price, and yet the lowest price that will be accepted does not vary much
among the different merchants, as I found on several occasions.

There is a second native market in the western part of the city. Near
this market is a road which is the great highway for the market people
coming from lowland and highland. It was a sight that never grew tame or
monotonous to me to watch the never-ending procession of men, women,
children, burros, and mules continually coming to the city, and, on
several mornings, I went out to watch it. Men and women come marching
down the middle of the road in Indian file—the men with great loads on
their backs, and the women with large market baskets on their heads,
filled with fruits, vegetables, pottery, eggs or poultry. Oftentimes
they travel for three or four days to market with nothing but the cold
stones or mother earth at night for a bed. The whole load, when
marketed, may not bring more than a couple of dollars in gold, but they
would consider that pretty good pay for a week’s work. In this way the
fruits of the hot lands are brought to the city by those simple folks in
just the same manner as their ancestors have done ever since the
founding of the city. Sometimes an Indian bearing fodder or other
provender is scarcely visible underneath his load. It is rather comical
to see an enormous box about the size of a small house trotting down the
street on what seems to be its own pair of brown legs. Little boys and
little girls, as soon as large enough, assume their share of the burdens
and carry their little bundles in the same way as their elders. One
writer describes a market woman whom he saw as follows: “She carried an
open-work basket of fowls and ducks on her back on which was also slung
a baby; in her arms she carried a fine young pig, and on her head was a
tray of _tortillas_. As she jogged along the baby cried, the porker
squealed and the poultry made noise enough to drown her own groans.”


Numerous public buildings are scattered over the city. Perhaps the most
noted is the University of Guatemala, which has a great reputation all
over Central America. As a matter of fact Guatemala City was noted for
its learning before any educational institution had been established in
the United States; and dust had accumulated on its library before the
first little red school house had made its appearance. This university
has many professors, contains a large and valuable collection of books,
pamphlets and manuscripts, and its museum has a numerous and exhaustive
collection of woods, birds, pottery, gods, and ornaments of the former
races, and stuffed specimens of birds, including a number of the rare
quetzal. There are also Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, Arts and
Trades, a Polytechnic Institute, hospitals, court house, and many other
institutions of government and justice. The post office is situated in
an old convent confiscated from the church, and the same is true of a
number of the other government buildings now in use.

There are no great parks, but a number of little breathing-places are
scattered over the city that lend their attraction. The Plaza Concordia
is the prettiest of all and occupies an entire square surrounded by a
massive brick fence. Palms, bananas, cacti, flowers, shrubs and large
trees each lend an individual attraction. Broad paths wind here and
there through the park, and on these the people promenade while the
military bands, of which there are several, play popular and classical
airs. Especially is this an interesting place to visit on Sunday
afternoons when the aristocracy congregate to listen to the bands.

The most ambitious attempt at ornamentation is found in the Reforma, a
wide boulevard in imitation of the Paseo de la Reforma in the City of
Mexico. It is ornamented with trees, numerous stone seats and statues,
and a number of fine modern homes face it, thus making it the most
modern vista in the city. The principal statue is a rather creditable
one of President J. Rufino Barrios, who deserves such a memorial more
than any other of her former rulers. There is also a statue of a bull
which seems rather incongruous but probably deserves a place in this
land of bull-fights. The Reforma leads out to the hippodrome, or race
track, and the Temple of Minerva, which is dedicated to popular
education and where a public celebration is held each year to stimulate
interest in that valuable accomplishment.


Guardia Viejo, a suburb distant a few miles, is a favourite resort of
the populace on _fiesta_ occasions. Thousands of people at such times
throng the park and the streets in the village and the typical holiday
spirit of good nature and freedom prevails. I had the good fortune to be
present during one of these celebrations and it was an interesting

Water is brought to the city by two aqueducts running across the valley
for many miles, and the supply is abundant and the quality good. There
are a score of public fountains with public laundry facilities
connected. Circular brick buildings are erected over small sinks which
anyone is permitted to use. First come, first served, is the motto which
is observed, and they are generally in demand. The clothes are laid out
on the grass to dry. According to custom here, it takes a week to get a
washing after giving it out, and even a Chinaman will not do much better
than that.

There is a good hotel in the city in which it was a real pleasure to
rest after experiencing some of the crudeness in accommodation
elsewhere. It is built around a court yard which is ornamented with
orange and oleander trees, ferns, vines and many flowers. Inclosed glass
corridors make a pleasant promenade and dining place. At the Gran Hotel
I encountered a number of members of that strange legion who are always
in active service and on the firing line—those men who go through the
jungle ahead of the railroad and over the mountains before the
engineers. To sell a bit of cotton cloth or a phonograph they are ready
to speak as many languages as a German diplomat. They cross deserts and
run the risk of pestilence, and have more adventures than an amateur
explorer would write volumes about. These men are the salesmen who
introduce the manufactured goods of commercial countries into the
uncivilized and uncommercial lands of the globe. Some of them deserve
medals and even pensions, but they are lucky if they get their names in
the papers when they pass away in some far-off land. Many of them are
very interesting characters and as full of interesting anecdotes of
personal adventures as the tropical jungle is of vegetation.


The tram lines extend all over the city but the little “dinky” cars are
almost a joke. The only compensation is the cheap fares which are just
about one cent in real money, but a shilling in the paper substitute.
The city is unusually well lighted with electric lights, and a
creditable telephone service has been installed.

The military element was in evidence everywhere, as, at the time of my
visit, there was an unusual number of soldiers in the city, and parades
were of daily occurrence. The soldiers were not awe-inspiring nor did
they seem to take their duties very seriously. The fort of San Juan is a
rather imposing fortress built in regulation style with moat and
drawbridge, and its adobe walls painted to resemble great stone blocks.
I noticed that the guns all seemed to point toward the city itself.
Prisoners working under guard were to be seen in many places with more
soldiers on guard than prisoners working. At one place, I saw nine
soldiers lounging about and guarding four prisoners who were at work. At
another time there were a half dozen soldiers forming a hollow square,
in the centre of which was one poor prisoner who looked anything but a
desperate criminal. In the country, I have seen them marched along
across country with their arms tied with a rope which was held by a
soldier who rode on a horse. The days of maudlin sympathy with law
breakers has not yet reached Guatemala.

Guatemala City is a perfect place to play with life, cloistered away
from the active world, and yet so near to its bustling stir. The real
world and its manners are here, but there are none of its problems. All
things are reduced to so small a scale that the individual need not
worry. People who have money have inherited it or made it easy; those
who have it not, never expect it. There is no hustling, ambitious middle
class to stir up rivalry and discontent. The people drift along placidly
and, content with what they have, covet not the riches or luxury of
another. The visitor can enjoy life and live quietly, feeling that he
can always go back to the real world whenever he wants to, and that a
few days’ journey will transport him back to the busy life of our great



                               CHAPTER IV


THE growth of vegetation in tropical lands is a revelation of what rich
soil aided by a hot sun and an abundance of water can do. There are
localities in the world where is found the rich soil, but either warmth
or water is wanting and they are comparatively barren. In this region
where the soil is frequently eight to fourteen feet in depth, where the
fall of water is from eighty to one hundred and twenty inches annually,
and where the sun furnishes perpetual summer heat, nature reveals
herself in her grandest moods, and the stranger coming here for the
first time cries out in astonishment at her prodigality.

The first feeling of one on entering a tropical forest is that of
helplessness, confusion, awe, and all but terror. Without a compass or a
blazed path a man would be almost lost in a few minutes if he should
venture into such a tangled growth by himself. The exuberance of
vegetation is fairly astounding and the English language is utterly
inadequate to express the variety and luxuriance of the vegetable world.
It is equally as impossible to describe the colours for there are so
many tints of green. The costliest amusements of our gayest cities can
never equal the gratuitous diversions which nature provides for her
favoured guests. Thus it is that one feels when traversing the tropical
forests of Guatemala. Eastern Guatemala, that part bordering on the Gulf
of Mexico, is an American Java, a botanical garden spot where climate
and the black soil vie with that eastern isle. And no land can compare
with it in the number and variety of its birds and flying insects, for
it is a veritable natural museum of living birds and butterflies.

Every growth on these shores is straining upwards in perpendicular
lines, and in fierce competition, towards the light above so necessary
to its healthfulness. These upward shoots are of every possible
thickness and almost every conceivable hue. The leaves are, for the most
part, on the twigs. The number and variety of trees is almost infinite
as compared with our northern woods. There are more varieties of palms
alone, than all the arboreal species of the New England woods. Among
these are the cohune palms with great clusters of hard, oily nuts;
another kind with fearful spines but edible nuts; and even climbing,
vine-like palms that will reach a length of several hundred feet.
Bamboos are present everywhere with their graceful stems, and tall reeds
with blossoms in striking contrast with the dark-green leaves of the

Great mahogany trees rise straight and with uniform trunks in the forest
like the great oaks in our own woods, only higher. Immense ceiba trees
sometimes fifteen feet in diameter stand up like veritable monsters of
the forests and occasionally throw out great buttresses, as it were, for
additional strength. When these trees are cut a platform is built
reaching above these buttresses and the cutters stand on this. Even the
poor little villages are ennobled somewhat by the noble palms and ceiba
trees which they contain. Decaying trees and branches are seldom seen,
for the elements quickly destroy or the migratory ants devour them. If a
dead trunk or log is found it is so covered with growths of parasites
such as orchids, mosses, ferns and flowering plants, that the dead wood
can scarcely be seen. One tree drops its nuts, about the size of a hen’s
egg, into the water where they germinate and float about until they
anchor themselves on a bank or shoal. The absence of sod is very
noticeable, for the foliage is so dense that grass will not grow.
Rosewood, ironwood, logwood, sapodilla, cedar, cacao and fig trees—all
are found within these forests, and the mangrove on the coast lands, or
the banks of streams.


There are no solitary tree trunks, such as we are accustomed to, in the
lowlands. All are covered with vines and parasitic growths. Some of the
trees have enough orchids and other plants growing upon them to stock a
hot-house; others have so many vines stretching down from their branches
to the ground that you would think some kind of a trap had been built.
One vine may twine around another and another, until a great cable is
formed several inches across and furbelowed all down the middle into
regular knots. There is sometimes such a labyrinth of this wire rigging
that it keeps an Indian with his _machete_ busy, for he must cut vines
right and left every few feet. It must have been in such a forest that
the story of Jack and the Beanstalk originated, for these vines bring it
vividly to mind. One parasitic vine—the matapolo—starts as a slender
vine, but gradually expands until it looks like a huge serpent; and if
several cling to the tree they will kill it, but by that time they will
support the dead trunk. The sarsaparilla, that health-giving plant, is
one of these dependent vines, indigenous to these forests, and is a very
common growth here. It belongs to the Smilax family and climbs to a
great height. Only the long tough roots are used in medicinal
preparations. These are cut off by the hunters and the stems planted in
the ground, when the roots will be replaced in a short time by the
alchemist, nature. The vanilla is a parasitic orchid and also flourishes
in these damp, oozy forests.

When no vines are visible at the bottom, dangling vines may be seen
sixty or eighty feet up in the green cloud above, growing out of what
looks like a gigantic nest of parasitic growths, and frequently with
arms as large as a fair-sized sapling. You can only tell what it is by
felling the tree, and even then the trunk may refuse to fall, for it is
so linked and intertwined with adjoining trees by the many vines. When
thirsty the natives cut a rough looking vine, first above and then
below, and from out of this section pour out a pint or more of pure cold
water. This is the ascending rain water hurrying aloft to be transformed
into sap, leaf, flower and fruit.

[Illustration: A TROPICAL JUNGLE.]

In contrast to the silence of the northern woods there is no stillness
in these jungles so long as the sun is above the horizon. The music may
vary from the screeching of the innumerable flocks of parrots—for they
never go singly—to the feeble chirp of an insect, but it is there.
During the day there are birds that incessantly chatter, whistle, croak,
chirrup, coo, warble and utter discordant noises, thus making the air
vocal with the varied sounds. At night the pitiful howling of the spider
monkey breaks the silence that otherwise might obtain. No country, so
naturalists say, offers a greater variety of bright-hued birds. The
great macaw is a polychromatic wonder rivalling the proud peacock
flaunting his plumage in the sunlight. There are many varieties of
parrots and parroquets to be found. The quetzal, which figures in the
national emblem, has tail feathers often reaching three feet in length.
These feathers are of a peacock green to indigo in colour, the breast is
scarlet and the wings dark. This bird will not survive captivity, and
for this reason the founders of the republic gave it a place on the
nation’s escutcheon. In ancient days, so highly was this bird regarded
that none but the royal family dared to wear its plumes. There are some
good specimens to be seen in the museum at the capital, but a live
quetzal is rarely seen. Then there are pelicans, kingfishers, mot-mots,
pavos, curassows, white cranes, doves, swallows, noisy yellow-tails and
the curious toucan with its enormous bill and brilliant colour. Vampire
bats about the size of an English sparrow are common. They will bite
cattle, but are not so large, nor so fierce, as the South American
species that will attack even human beings.

Two species of monkeys are found in these forests—the white-faced mono,
whose face is nearly devoid of hair and beard, and the long-tailed,
howling monkey. These animals are migratory and, as they build no nests,
it is difficult to locate them. It is really wonderful—so hunters
say—how fast these monkeys can travel through the trees by jumping from
one limb to another sixty or eighty feet above ground. They live on
fruits and insects, especially beetles and butterflies, and rob the
nests of birds for the eggs. Many of them are kept as pets and they are
quite intelligent and very mischievous. Some of the natives prize them
as food. Among the other animals, more or less common, are peccaries,
jaguars (called by the natives _tigres_), tapirs, ant-bears, wild hogs,
and a species of small, red deer. The sloth, that peculiar tree-animal
so different from most tree-animals, which are usually very agile, is
found in some districts. Snakes are not so plentiful as one would
expect, although the “chicken boa,” so called, sometimes reaching a
length of a dozen feet, is occasionally encountered. Alligators are not
very common, though not a rarity by any means. Turtles are very
plentiful, and the edible hawksbill turtle, whose shell is so valuable,
because it furnishes the tortoise-shell of commerce, is very abundant on
these shores, sometimes weighing as much as one hundred and fifty
pounds. The iguana is one of the numerous lizard family and is highly
prized for food, its flesh tasting something like chicken, so epicures
say. The natives prefer it to good beefsteak. This curious reptile has a
mouth like a toad, green, glittering eyes, a ponderous under throat, and
lancet shaped spines along the back, and sometimes reaches a length of
four feet. It is easily tamed, and it is a very common sight to see them
in the coast villages sunning themselves around the cottages and
apparently as much at home as the dogs and chickens.[1]

Great butterflies, whose outstretched wings spread out eight inches, are
a common sight. Collectors flock to these shores each year for butterfly
specimens, for in no country is there a greater variety. The natives can
seldom be hired to catch them as they think it is unlucky and will
injure the eyes. Spiders with legs two inches across can be found.
Scorpions and centipedes abound, but both are sluggish and are dreaded
very little by the natives—not much more than hornets in our own

Footnote 1:

  “These serpentes are lyke unto crocodiles, saving in bigness; they
  call them guanas. Unto that day none of owre men durste aduenture to
  taste of them, by reason of theyre horrible deformitie and lothsomnes.
  Yet the Adelantado being entysed by the pleasantnes of the king’s
  sister, Anacaona, determined to taste the serpentes. But when he felte
  the flesh thereof to be so delycate to his tongue, he fel to amayne
  without al feare. The which thyng his companions perceiuing, were not
  behynde hym in greedyness; insomuch that they had now none other talke
  than of the sweetnesse of these serpentes, which they affirm to be of
  more pleasant taste than eyther our phesantes or partriches.”—_An old

Many kinds of ants have their habitat in the Guatemalan tropics. One
species builds nests in the tree tops, which resemble those of hornets.
Another kind, called the umbrella ant, is one of the most interesting
species in the family of ants. They are so called because, when seen,
the worker is always carrying a piece of leaf like a sail, which he
holds tightly as if his life or happiness depended on getting that
particular leaf to its destination. Several times I took away the piece
of leaf and the worker would immediately attack another ant and
endeavour to get his leaf, and sometimes a number of ants would become
involved in the melee. The ant finally left without a leaf would start
back on the trail, for it seemed to be an inviolable rule never to go
back to the nest without a section of leaf. These leaves are stored away
where they ferment and form one of the foods of these industrious little

When Cortez made his memorable journey from Mexico to the present site
of Puerto Cortez, in 1525, passing through Livingston, the coast country
of the Kingdom of Quahtemala, as it was then called, was an almost
unbroken forest, swampy, and oozy, and subject to heavy overflows in the
rainy season. He sailed up the Rio Dulce with eyes wide open in wonder
as the beauties of the stream unfolded. Almost two-thirds of the
available agricultural land in Guatemala is still uncultivated for want
of labourers and the necessary industry. With the advancement of modern
science in remedying the fever-producing conditions, these regions can
be made most desirable. One noted scientist has recently predicted that
tropical lands will in the future be the favourite abode of mankind, as
they were in the early history of the human race, because of the ease
with which a livelihood can be obtained. In a land of perpetual summer,
where fruits grow wild and a small piece of land will produce enough
sustenance for a family, there is no need for a man to work hard.
Earning one’s bread by the sweat of his brow becomes a jest. It is
little wonder that the natives bask in the sun and dream their lives

Of all the rich soil so abundant in this republic, there is little
systematic cultivation. There is no necessity to plow the land after it
has been cleared of the timber and undergrowth. Even corn, of which
three crops can be raised in a season, without the aid of fertilizers,
is planted in holes made by a stick, and rice is scattered broadcast.
Corn will often grow twelve feet in height and produce three generous
ears on the stalk. The land laws are liberal in order to encourage
settlers from other lands to locate here. The public lands are divided
into lots of not more than fifteen _caballerias_, which are sold for a
price ranging from $250 to $300 each by the government. A _caballeria_
comprises one hundred and thirteen and five-eighths acres. Premiums have
been offered by the government for the cultivation of India rubber,
cacao, sarsaparilla, cotton, and tobacco; and no tax will be levied for
ten years on lands devoted to the cultivation of these products. The
small farmer, however, cannot make a small farm pay as well as in
northern lands, for he could not stand it to work so hard and so
regularly. Plantations to be successful should be large enough to
justify the establishment of a colony of peon labourers on the premises.

[Illustration: A NATIVE HUT.]

One plantation of three thousand acres, and employing from nine hundred
to thirteen hundred labourers, produced in one year three hundred
thousand pounds of sugar, twenty-two thousand gallons of milk, three
million bottles of brandy, two thousand head of cattle and more than a
million pounds of coffee. The labour laws require the owner of a
plantation to preserve order on his estate; to keep a record of his
employees, their wages, etc., in Spanish; to provide suitable dwellings
or materials with which to build them (this, however, is simple enough);
to furnish medicines and medical assistance in case of sickness; to keep
a free school for the children where more than ten families are
employed, if there is no public school in the neighbourhood; and to see
that all persons are vaccinated.

Nature has done all that could be expected or could be hoped for on her
part. The only thing necessary for success is the proper selection of
ground and intelligent cultivation of the crops to which it is adapted.
The diversity of altitudes and climates allows a great range of
products. In no country in the world of equal size, in all probability,
is there such a great variety of surface or such a diversity of natural
products. There are more than four hundred species of wood of which one
hundred and fifty are commercially valuable, and some three hundred and
forty medicinal plants have already been discovered; and the end of
discoveries in this line has not yet been reached.

Of the valuable woods, mahogany easily takes first place. These great
and majestic trees are found in considerable number in the forests of
northeastern Guatemala. Those situated near the larger streams have been
cut down. Farther inland the difficulty of transportation makes the
marketing of the logs an expensive undertaking, although the standing
trees can be purchased from the government for a very small sum. The
logwood tree, as well as other dyewoods, is found bordering on all the
great lagoons and some portions of the Gulf coast. It is a tree of
medium size and peculiar appearance, attaining a height of twenty or
thirty feet. The trunk is gnarled and full of cavities, and separates a
short distance above the ground. The heart, the only valuable portion,
is a deep red. The logwood is found in the same localities as the
mahogany, and they are districts that are generally flooded in the rainy
season. The timbers are cut in the dry season and then floated down to
the ports in the rainy season.

The palms are the most familiar of all tropical trees and a landscape
hardly seems tropical without these graceful trees. It is doubtful if
there is a single class of the tropical trees so essential to the native
as the palms. Houses, timber, firewood, fodder, food and drink, needles
and threads, wax and drugs are all obtained from palms of various
species. The Royal palm is the most graceful and majestic of all, and
there is no more imposing scene of arboreal beauty than the long avenues
of these beautiful trees so common in the American tropics. Their
smooth, tapering trunks, almost as hard as granite, tower upward for
eighty or even a hundred feet above the earth, bearing at the top a mass
of green, drooping plumes. These great white trunks, standing boldly out
upon verdure-clad slopes, so conspicuous among the tangled sea of vines
and jungle at their feet, and their plumes swaying gently in the
breezes, are a beautiful and imposing sight.

The commonest and most useful of the palms is the cocoanut, which is a
conspicuous sight in every village and rural scene in tropical lands. As
this palm most commonly grows in spots exposed to the full sweep of the
winds, the trunk is gradually bent away from the winds. It is seldom,
indeed, that one will find the cocoanut in an absolutely perpendicular
position. The stem is so strong and tough, being composed of
closely-interwoven fibres, that the entire top may be torn off by the
hurricanes and the trunk remain uninjured. The cocoanut commences to
bear when from three to ten years old and will continue to produce
fruit, year after year, for from seventy-five to one hundred years. The
nut is used for both food and drink, and the shell is made into dippers,
jars, spoons and other household utensils. The dried cocoa is a valuable
article of commerce, but the real value of the oil prepared from the
fresh meat is only beginning to be realized. It is useful not only in
the manufacture of soaps, but a butter is prepared from it that is
superior not only to cottonseed oil, but, so it is claimed, better than
even animal butter for purposes of food. There is no reason why the
tropics of Guatemala should not produce large quantities of the oil and
cocoa meat for American and European trade.

[Illustration: A SUGAR PLANTATION.]

India rubber grows wild in the forests and could be cultivated
profitably, as it is now being done in Mexico and other countries. The
government will give one _manzana_ (113.62 acres) of land as a bonus for
every two thousand rubber plants set out for cultivation. Sugar cane can
be raised profitably, as the stalks grow high, with many joints, and
have a greater percentage of saccharine than in most countries where it
is cultivated. Furthermore, it does not require replanting for years in
this soil. The stalks will grow nine feet high in as many months. At
present about the only use to which the cane is devoted here is in the
manufacture of “white-eye,” the native brandy. Some of it is made into
sugar by means of old-fashioned sugar mills, which are simply vertical
iron-roll mills turned by oxen. There is only one kettle used and no
clarifier, and the syrup is run into wooden moulds, where it is cooled
into dark hemispherical blocks—a form much liked by the Indians.

The Guatemalan cacao is claimed to be the very best in the world. It is
not cultivated to any great extent at present, although the propagation
is on the increase, as Ecuador practically controls the trade. The best
conditions are an altitude of from eight hundred to two thousand feet
and a soil rich in moisture, or capable of irrigation. Virgin lands from
which forests have been cut are the best. It requires six years for the
trees to mature, although they will occasionally bear in less time. The
cultivation does not require nearly so much labour as coffee, although
care must be taken not to hurt the “bean” when it is removed from the
pod. One day is given for “fermentation;” after which they are dried in
the sun for several days. The cacao is then ready for the market to
furnish our delicious chocolate preparations. The pods are from ten to
twelve inches long and contain many beans; they resemble a musk melon in
appearance, and grow from the branches and trunks of the trees.

Nutmegs have proved a success on the Island of Trinidad and would do
just as well here. The trees require at least eighty inches of rain
annually. They will produce nutmegs in eight to ten years and will then
bear and improve for a century. Each tree will yield from one thousand
to five thousand nuts in a season, in size varying from sixty-eight to
one hundred and twenty in a pound. Tobacco grows well and of good
quality at an elevation of from one thousand to two thousand feet.
Common and sweet potatoes, yams, beans, breadfruit, squashes, melons,
tomatoes, peppers, the _aguacate_, or alligator pear (weighing about a
pound), the _granadilla_ (fruit of the passion flower), and many other
fruits and vegetables can easily be cultivated at a fair profit.

Japan, India, or Ceylon can furnish nothing more fascinating or stranger
in their vegetable kingdom than this favoured land. The fruits are
simply wonderful in variety and perfection. The glowing sun and ardent
breath of the tropics ask little aid from the hand of man in perfecting
their products. One eats eggs, custard and butter off the trees.

The mango is nearly as abundant and prolific as the banana in some
places. It grows on a very handsome tree, the leaves being long,
lanceolate, polished, and hanging in dense masses of dark-green foliage.
In size it is like a full-grown apple tree. The fruit is about the size
of an egg plum, and when ripe is yellow in colour and very juicy. They
grow in long, pendent branches, and the rich, juicy, golden-meated fruit
is not only attractive to the eye, but delightful to the palate.

That great broad-leaved, useful plant so characteristic of the tropics,
the banana, grows in great profusion in Guatemala, where there are fully
two hundred varieties. Many of them are too delicate for transportation
so they will never become a factor in commerce. All through the lowlands
of Guatemala and even up to an elevation of two thousand and more feet,
the banana is more common than the apple tree in New England; and few
indeed are the native shacks in those sections that do not have their
banana grove near. The uses of the banana in its natural habitat are so
many, and its growth is so exuberant, that it might be classed, with
equal propriety, as a weed, a vegetable, or a fruit.

Along the line of the Guatemala Northern Railway and the borders of Lake
Izabal, with its connecting streams, are thousands of acres just as well
suited to the cultivation of this delicious fruit as the neighbouring
republic of Honduras, or more distant Costa Rica. Much of the land
belongs to the public domain and can be secured for a small sum,
although the first cost probably represents not more than one-third of
the investment that will be found necessary. The land must be cleared,
although this is a simple matter, for the trees and underbrush are
simply left where they fall, as decay is very rapid in this climate; and
the banana shoots, called _hijos_, are planted in the midst of the
rubbish from twelve to fifteen feet apart. After about nine months the
stalk will bear and the bunch of bananas is cut while still green. The
parent stalk is cut down and one or more shoots will spring up from the
roots which will bear fruit in the same time. Thus a marketable crop is
produced each week, bringing in a steady and unceasing revenue.

The banana has a curious and prodigal method of propagation. Even before
the fruit of the parent stalk has matured, new stalks begin to spring up
from the roots. As this process is repeated indefinitely it follows that
unless these surplus stalks are cut out, a banana field would soon
become a miniature jungle. Some growers follow the plan of allowing four
shoots to grow in one hill, and their gradations are so arranged that
while the oldest is bearing fruit the second is in blossom, the third is
half-grown, and the fourth is just coming forth from the ground. In the
majority of cases a new shoot will spring up from the old stalk if cut
near the ground and there is plenty of rain.

The rapidity of growth of this shoot is a marvel of tropical hustling. A
prominent naturalist has made a record of the growth during the first
few hours which seems almost incredible, but is true. Twenty minutes
after the stalk was cut, the new shoot could be seen pushing up from the
center of the cut. Eight hours after cutting, the shoot was nearly two
feet in height with the leaves forming. Thirty-one hours after cutting
there were four well-developed and perfect leaves and the new shoot
constituted quite a respectable looking tree. This great rapidity of
growth is due to the spirally-wrapped leaves that are contained within
the banana stalk, and which are merely pushed upward and unroll. It is a
fact that under those circumstances the growth is so rapid that it is
almost discernible to the eye. Stalks grown in this way, it is said,
seldom bloom or bear fruit.

The requirements for successful cultivation of this fruit are a deep,
alluvial soil, and plenty of water either by rain or irrigation. The
nature of the soil, however, seems to have less to do with the
successful growing of the banana than the amount of rainfall, which
should be at least one hundred inches annually, and the temperature,
which must be very warm. The best results are obtained near streams, and
an occasional overflow is not a disadvantage. About two hundred or two
hundred and twenty-five hills to the acre is the usual allowance. The
average yield will then be from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
bunches of marketable fruit each year. It is practically immune from
insect pests, and a worm-eaten banana, or banana stalk, is practically
unknown. It is so vigorous that it will hold its own amid all sorts of
weeds and climbing vines, although the successful cultivator will keep
his fields free from such pests.

A careful writer has said that the same amount of land that will produce
enough wheat to support two persons will raise enough bananas to sustain
fifty persons. The food value of the banana and plantain, which is
larger and perhaps more nutritious than the former, has never been fully
exploited. They make an excellent meal which is very nutritious when
dried and ground. At the present time most of the profit goes to the
transportation company which holds a monopoly of the carrying trade.
They are sold to the fruit company for less than half what they are
worth in this country. A vessel will carry twenty thousand bunches in
addition to a cargo of passengers, and the loss on the fruit does not
exceed fifteen per cent. The fact that bananas can not be kept for any
length of time, except in cold storage, requires their early marketing;
and the further fact that they will not stand much handling requires
their shipment in vessels especially constructed for their
transportation. These vessels are all owned by one fruit-buying trust.
It is no wonder that this monopoly has proved very profitable to its
owners. Now that the new railroad is opened up and regular trains are
running, this rich banana soil ought to be rapidly developed, since the
market for this delicious fruit is constantly increasing and the supply
has never yet exceeded the demand. Instead of a million bunches,
Guatemala ought to export five or ten million bunches each year.

All over the world the fruits, as well as other articles of the tropics,
are coming into greater demand each year. In 1908 the United States
imported fruits and other food products of the tropics, not including
coffee, to the value of more than two dollars for each man, woman and
child in the country. Sugar was by far the largest item on the list,
bananas second, and cacao a close rival for that distinction. More than
37,000,000 bunches of bananas were consumed in the United States during
that year, an increase of fifty per cent in five years. The general use
of the banana is of very recent growth, for it has come into use in
Northern climates almost entirely within the last quarter of a century.
The Pacific slope of Guatemala, although much less in extent, is far
ahead of the Gulf side in cultivation and is far more thickly settled.
The chief export from this district is coffee which is cultivated
everywhere at an altitude of from one thousand to six thousand feet. The
soil is about the same as that of Chiapas, the adjoining Mexican state,
which also produces a fine quality of coffee. Thousands of bags of
coffee are shipped from the ports of Ocos, Champerico and San Jose, in
Guatemala, and San Benito, in Mexico, which is only a few miles from the
border. Coffee is not a natural product of this soil, but was first
introduced into the New World by a Spanish priest in Guatemala, who
obtained the seed in Arabia. It was found adapted to the soil and
climate, and coffee is to-day by far the most valuable export, the
shipments having reached as high as eighty-five million pounds in one
year, worth as much as all other exports together. Most of it is
exported to Germany and England, as it is a common saying throughout
Mexico and Central America, that only the poor grades of coffee are sent
to the greatest coffee-drinking nation in the world—that of Uncle
Sam—and the national eagle ought to trail his feathers in the dust at
this reflection on his good taste.

[Illustration: DRYING COFFEE.]

A coffee field is a beautiful sight with its shrubs of dark green dotted
here and there with the white, fragrant blossoms and the bright, crimson
berries which look almost like cherries. It must be remembered that
coffee grows on trees, which are set nine or ten feet apart, for the
trees will grow twenty feet high if permitted, and ladders are necessary
for the pickers. The trees are raised in nurseries and when a few months
old are transplanted. It requires a deep soil, careful cultivation,
plenty of rain, and shade for the young plants to reach their highest
development. The best altitude is from 2,600 feet to 4,500 feet in this
climate. On the lower elevations the plants must be shaded, and the
banana is generally employed because it also produces a valuable crop
and furnishes a revenue while the coffee trees are maturing. Corn may be
planted among the trees if one is in a hurry to obtain returns from the
land. The trees will produce a profitable crop in from four to six years
after transplanting, although coffee two years from the seed is
frequently seen. On the higher elevations the plants must be protected
from the north winds of December to February, and a site is generally
chosen with a range of hills to the north for shelter. The critical
period is the blooming season, when a heavy rainfall, while the trees
are in flower, washes away the pollen and will prevent fructification.
The “cherry” ripens in October, and they are then gathered and “pulped,”
after which they are spread out on the great paved yards, with which
every finca is supplied, to dry, after which they are separated and
hulled, and then stored. After the pulp has been removed coffee is
called in _pergamino_; then after the parchment-like covering has been
removed, it is in _oro_.


If one feels a decided call to till the soil old Mother Earth will be
about as generous to him in coffee culture as in anything. Whatever
cultivation one undertakes, he must wait some years to see his money
come back. Even if he engages in the raising of cattle, he must wait for
the calves to grow, and no calf will grow faster than he pleases, unless
you stuff him with expensive grain. With corn, wheat or barley, you must
prepare the soil carefully each season, and after the crop is cut and
stacked, the land is there again, bare as before. With coffee, after the
land is once planted, it does not need replanting for many years.


                               CHAPTER V

                               THE PEOPLE

THERE are but two classes of people in Guatemala, Creoles and Indians.
The Creoles include all those who are European or in whom the European
blood predominates. They are the business and professional men of the
country and the land owners. Although numbering not to exceed one-tenth
of the population, this class own all but a small fraction of the wealth
of the country. They busy themselves with the business and politics of
the country, while the Indians do the real work and even the fighting if
there is anything of that kind on hand to be done. A substantial middle
class which usually form the backbone of a nation’s strength has not yet
been developed.

The Creoles are an interesting race—kind, considerate and courteous.
They enjoy leisure, always have time for a friendly conversation and
welcome a holiday as a relief from the strain of business cares. If you
should chance upon an acquaintance on the street he is never in such a
hurry that he would not stop, shake hands, and inquire politely after
each member of your family, and would then politely listen in turn to
inquiries after each member of his own household, which you would be in
duty bound to make, as a courtesy to his own friendly interest. The
punctuality of an engagement never bothers them, and the man who
persists in keeping or insisting upon such a thing is rather a bore.
This easy-going, care-free nature has not hastened the progress of the

The Creole woman has ever been a favourite theme of poets, and their
black, bewitching eyes have won many a eulogy from both poetic and prose
writers; and deservedly so, for woman is ever an excuse for a eulogy and
toast in all countries and in all languages. The Spanish-American woman
is always interesting, and perhaps, as often as in other bloods, is
beautiful. They are home lovers, and the _casa_, or home, is jealously
shielded from prying eyes by the husband or father, who is lord and
master. The idea of political suffrage or woman’s rights has never yet
agitated their gentle bosoms. Their life is a reminder of Oriental
exclusiveness, and a young woman is seldom seen on the street unless her
mother or some older woman is with her as a companion.

The windows and balconies furnish convenient seats for the young women
of the house, who, forbidden by custom to walk the streets
unaccompanied, plant themselves there and inconsiderately stare at all
who pass, and especially the men. You can look in return, for it is only
properly gallant and polite to stare at them as frankly as if they were
pictures or flowers. To the foreigner it is quite embarrassing to pass
this gauntlet of curious eyes. When the cool of the day comes Mamma,
together with Juanita and Carmencita, may be seen in the window, all of
them dressed up and made very beautiful, watching the street with their
faces close to the bar. One who knows them well may stop and talk with
them, being careful to pay all the attention to Mamma. It is just the
same at the bull-fight or theatre, for opera glasses will be levelled
with a steady gaze, such as an American would never experience in his
own country. It is not the coquettish glance seeking a flirtation, for
it is not accompanied by a smile, but is rather that of curiosity, or a
natural and uncontrollable interest in the genus represented—that

These same balconies and window-seats also play a large part in the
courtship of the country. “Playing the bear” is the name given to it,
and it is very much the same as Mexican love-making. A young man who is
attracted by the black eye or coquettish glance of a _señorita_ will
follow her to her home and then “play the bear” by passing back and
forth in front of the house for a long time each day until he is
rewarded by a smile or wave of the hand from the object of his
attentions. I learned recently of one young man who used a telephone by
throwing one instrument up on the balcony and keeping the other. In this
way the “bear” would talk with the young lady for hours each day.
Finally the suit progresses until he can talk to her through the barred
window. Perhaps in the most casual way imaginable she may let her
fingers slip through the bars, for there is just a chance that Mamma may
be asleep, for she sits with her eyes shut—it is just a chance of
course, but the risk may be taken and Mamma was once young herself.
Later he may be invited to call at the house by the father or mother
after a family council, if his antecedents are all right, for they have
probably been investigated in the meantime by the sagacious parents of a
marriageable young lady.

To the independent American woman such a life is simply
incomprehensible. It would be dull, uninteresting—in fact, in many ways,
aggravating. From childhood to old age the Spanish-American woman rarely
does as she likes, but is a slave to antiquated customs. Think of a
woman not doing as she wants! As a child a servant accompanies her to
school and calls for her in the evening. When the marriageable age is
reached, her courting must all be done in the presence of others; and
there are so many romantic spots to be found where it could be done so
much more pleasantly in this warm climate. After the engagement the
vigilance of the parents is increased, and the young couple are never
even for a moment left to themselves. If they should go to a dance, the
family accompanying, of course, the girl must dance every dance with her
escort. When married the pleasure of a wedding trip is not for her,
unless the husband is wealthy. Last of all, if the marriage proves
unhappy, the consolation of a divorce is even denied her!

After marriage the Señora settles down to a life of inactivity, and in a
few years she has lost her girlhood beauty. To do any of the household
work is beneath her, and the number of servants is limited only by the
means of her husband. She enjoys life in a rocking-chair, reads a
little, plays her music when the mood is upon her, and occasionally does
needlework. Families are large and, be it said to her credit, she is
usually a good mother and devoted to her children. She knows nothing of
the joys of “bargain days,” for she usually contents herself by sending
to the store and having the goods brought out to her carriage. The cook
practically runs the household and is given a fixed allowance for the
marketing, out of which there must be some margin for “graft,” or the
cook will leave and seek a more generous master. Seldom indeed is it
that a woman dares to depart from these conventionalities, however great
the desire, and the universal reason given is that “it is not the

Boys may be sent away to liberal schools, but the girls are educated in
convents and, if sent abroad, go to Spain, thus retaining the old
Spanish customs. The girls are fairly pretty in youth, but this soon
fades. Their minds are not broadened by travel, and they grow up with
narrow views of life but proud of their ancestry. They are very devoted
to the outward ceremonials of the church and spend more time in learning
the lives of the saints than they do in reading useful literature. A
woman’s popularity in Guatemala City is judged by the number of pictures
of herself that are sold by the photographer; and he is at liberty to
sell the photographs of his lady patrons to whomsoever may desire them.
The more he sells the more his patron is pleased, for it flatters her

The brown-skinned descendants of the ancient Toltecs and children of a
southern sun, whose warm rays have implanted a permanent tan on their
cheeks, comprise the great majority of the population and are an
interesting race. Dressed in their scanty garb, which is generally
clean, they loll away life basking in the sun when it is cool, and
hiding from the same when it is hot. They may breakfast on a glass of
water and dine on a banana, yet among themselves they are always happy
and laugh like grown-up children. Why should they work much? is their
philosophy. Fruit is abundant, game is plentiful, pigs and chickens need
little care, and kind nature richly rewards every effort to cultivate
her soil. In this climate wants are few. The latest fashions have no
temptation; the woods and jungle furnish material for their thatch and
reed cottages, and the morrow can take care of itself. They sleep, eat
and smoke when the inclination comes upon them, and drink “white-eye”
(native brandy) when they have money with which to buy it.

As an individual the peon is not a particularly lovable character except
for his fidelity. He is much like a child in many ways and has to be
frequently treated as one. He even fails to resent a chastisement by a
knock-down blow from his employer, if his conscience tells him he
deserves it. On the other hand a word of encouragement or a courteous
“_buenas dias_” (good morning) brings a smile of genuine pleasure to his
face which is unmistakable. The personal _mozo_, or body-servant of the
master, is especially useful and amiable. On a journey he thinks little
of himself, and never until every want and wish of the master has been
met and gratified. Although to-day not obliged to defend his master
against brigandish attacks as formerly, yet he would be perfectly
willing to lay down his life for him if necessary. Although times have
changed, the _mozo_ remains just the same faithful, trustworthy and
careful servant as formerly. He is not over intelligent, perhaps, or
over cleanly in appearance always, but he is as loyal and dependable a
servant as can be found anywhere in the world.


Debt and improvidence is not confined to the poor peon. While the latter
is indebted to the planter, the planter has probably mortgaged his
growing crops to the merchant, and the merchant in turn demands
long-time credit from the foreign dealer. Thus it is that the business
is conducted on credit almost entirely and little actual money is

Guatemala has been called the land of “_no hay_,” meaning “there is
none,” because it is such a common answer and it illustrates one
characteristic of this race. If the people do not want to bother, that
will be their invariable answer. You might go up to a house where the
yard was full of chickens, the woman engaged in making _tortillas_, and
fruit trees loaded with fruit in the yard, and yet have a conversation
about like the following:

“Have you any meat?”

“_No hay_” (pronounced eye).

“Have you any eggs?”

“_No hay._”

“Have you any fruit?”

“_No hay._”

“Have you a house?”

“_No hay._”

“Have you anything to eat?”

“_No hay._”

In such a case the best way to do is to enter the house and hunt around
for yourself, and blandly order the woman to prepare whatever you chance
to find. Then, if you leave a small sum of money with her on departing,
she will not take any offence but will politely thank you. Time is the
only thing with which they seem to be well supplied. It is equally hard
to get anything done, for, unless the party is willing to do the work
requested, he will find some plausible excuse. An American travelling
across the country a few years ago found it necessary to have his horse
shod at one of the small towns. There were three blacksmiths in the
town; of these one was sick but had supplies, a second had no nails and
the third no charcoal. As there was no lending among the craft the horse
could not be shod.

The great vices of the inhabitants are a general indolence and
improvidence, and for that reason labour is hard to secure. This has led
to the system of peonage by means of which the labourer is obliged to
work for his employer so long as he is indebted to him. This condition
is generally entered into voluntarily on the part of the Indian by
borrowing a small sum of money from a plantation owner and the signing
of a contract of employment. The following is a literal copy of one of
these contracts which I obtained from the manager of a coffee

The _mozo_ herewith employed binds himself:

1. To discharge with his work daily and personally the debt contracted
on this _finca_.

2. To do every class of work after the customs established on the

3. To absent himself from the _finca_ on no pretext without previous
permission in writing.

4. To pay all expenses made necessary in case of flight, and rendering
himself subject to the proceedings brought against him through the
proper authority.

5. To remain on the _finca_ eleven months of each year.

6. To subject himself to all articles of the law of labourers decreed by
the government.

7. The loan is given not to the man alone but to his entire family; and
each and every one will be individually responsible for what they

8. The _mozo_ who becomes security for another _mozo_ (be it man or
woman) assumes the same responsibilities as the one who receives the

This latter clause is inserted because in most instances one labourer
goes security for another by guaranteeing that the latter will carry out
his part, or he himself will assume it. If the _mozo_ flees, an order of
arrest will issue and an officer sent after him. For this purpose an
_alcalde_, or justice, is usually kept on each plantation.

When the labourer once assumes this condition he is generally bound for
life, as few of them ever succeed in paying back the loan, and the
plantation owner never encourages him to do it for he would lose his
labourer. On his part he is obliged to furnish medical attendance,
advance wedding, baptismal and burial fees, and, on the larger
plantation, to furnish a spiritual guide and teacher for the youth. It
is a sort of patriarchal relationship that exists between employer and
employee. The native will not work more than about two hundred days in
the year because of the numerous church and national holidays which he
must celebrate; likewise, every birth, death, and baptism in the family
gives another occasion for a holiday, and the saint’s day of each member
of his family as well as those of the master must be celebrated. Every
person is named after a saint, and they are surprised to find an
American who has not been named after any. “Who will protect and keep
you from harm?” they will ask.

The Indians in the hot country are less inclined to work than those on
the uplands, and one sees much of them. In fact you could not look in
their direction without seeing a great deal of them, for they wear no
superfluous clothing. The men frequently wear only a breech-cloth, the
women a short skirt, and no more. In fact, in travelling from the coast
to capital you pass through an entire evolution in the matter of
clothing from practical nakedness to a complete suit of sandals,
trousers and shirt. The dictator Barrios issued a decree requiring all
natives to wear sufficient clothes, or his market produce would be
confiscated when he entered a town. Even to this day it is not an
uncommon sight in some places to see the aborigine sitting by the
roadside near Retalhuleu, or Mazatenango, and enveloping himself, or
herself, in sufficient clothing to pass municipal inspection. In the
colder altitudes where clothing is more necessary for physical comfort,
each tribe has a distinct dress and the district from which the Indian
comes can be told by a glance at his outfit. In the hot country, those
who dress at all wear simply a white cotton shirt and trousers.

[Illustration: A CARGADOR ON THE ROAD.]

The Indians are obliged by law to do carrying work across the country
when desired and paid for their services. If the traveller is unable to
get a cargador, an appeal to the proper official will secure one within
a reasonable time. That official will, if necessary, arrest a man and
lock him up over night in the _cabildo_, in order to have him on hand
when wanted. They can only be obliged to go about a two days’ journey
from home and carry a hundred pounds. Their wages are only a few cents
per day in gold, so that their services do not come very high. In case
of attempted overcharge the _Jefe_ (local governor) will settle all
disputes, and he is generally very fair in his conclusions. Many of the
cargadors use a framework called a _carcaste_ in which to carry their

If one desires to engage a cargador it is necessary to give him enough
time to prepare _tortillas_ for the journey. With a basket of these, a
plenteous supply of coffee, a cup, and a few twigs for fire, the Indian
is ready for the journey. He will not need to buy anything on the road
except some fruit or a little “white-eye,” the native brandy. Their
excuse for this extra would be like the old Guatemalan, who said: “One
wants to get rid of his memory once in a while.” At night they light
their fires either in the public hall, or out-of-doors under the
brilliant starlit canopy, where they make their coffee and warm their
_tortillas_. Embers of these fires may be seen on every hand as one
journeys across the country. The men are unobtrusive, and even when
gathered together in considerable numbers they are quiet if any
strangers are present. Among themselves, however, they are gay and
light-hearted and seem to enjoy life.

These cargadors are an ancient and honourable institution in Central
America. From time immemorial they have transported baggage and produce
from one part of the country to another, and they rather look upon the
encroachment of railroads with disfavour, for it will curtail their
business. They will carry a mule’s load of one hundred and fifty pounds
at even a greater speed, averaging five or six miles an hour, for they
travel at a sort of jog trot. Some of the couriers in olden times were
very fleet of foot for they used to be kept busy in time of war before
the introduction of the telegraph. President Rufino Barrios had a runner
in his employ of whom it is said that he carried a dispatch thirty-five
leagues into the interior and returned an answer in thirty-six hours,
making the two hundred and ten miles over mountains at the rate of six
miles an hour, including stops and delays for food and sleep. When
equipped for the road these men wear a costume consisting of short
trousers, like bathing-trunks, a white cotton shirt and sandals made of

[Illustration: PLAYING THE MARIMBA.]

The Indians are very fond of music and show considerable natural talent.
Many native bands, especially in the army, play popular and classical
music in a very pleasing way. One unique instrument, called the Marimba,
is met with only in Central America and southern Mexico. It has some
very pleasing tones that it is truly delightful to listen to. The larger
ones are made of a frame seven or eight feet long and two and one-half
feet high upon which strips of hard wood are placed, and beneath which
are fastened wooden resonators for different tones. Some of them have as
many as six complete octaves of tones and semitones. The sounds are
produced by striking with a rubber tipped stick the strips of wood, thus
resembling the xylophone. Those that I saw generally had three players,
each armed with two sticks in each hand with which they struck the wood
strips. Their playing was sometimes really marvellous in the dexterity
with which they played even difficult runs and maintained almost perfect
harmony—it seemed beyond the ability of these uneducated Indians who
played entirely by ear. The tone of the Marimba is sweet or, as one
writer has described it, “like several pianos and harps combined,
together with a bass effect not unlike a bass viol.” The repertoire of
the players is generally limited so that it becomes monotonous after a

Nearly all the soldiers, except officers, are men of the Indian race.
Guatemala has a compulsory military law which compels every man to serve
in time of war and gives the government the right to impress them into
the military service when, in their judgment, the occasion demands
summary measures. One of the villages visited by me had just been the
scene of one of these “impressing” occasions, and the impression made
was still very vivid among the inhabitants left. The military officials
had swooped down upon this village, literally like the thief in the
night without any warning. If their purpose had become known they would
have found an Adamless village and no man at home. As it was, they
captured all the men in the village who were capable of bearing arms.
Thereupon there was great weeping and wailing among their fathers and
mothers, wives and sweethearts. The men, however, were marched to a
neighbouring village where they were allowed to fill up on “white-eye.”
Their courage rose as the liquor disappeared and they soon marched away
to the music of the band, shouting, “Long Live the Republic!” “Long Live
El President!” Hence, while the women bewailed their lot at home, the
men were eating government _tortillas_ and drinking the Cabrera brand of
patriotism, somewhere within the boundaries of the republic.

The samples of soldiers that one sees at the various _commandancias_, or
barracks, were not very terror-inspiring although decidedly picturesque.
Dressed in jumper and overalls of the familiar blue jeans, barefooted
and wearing a battered old straw hat of any shape, or without shape,
they looked like play-soldiers. They are like children in their
artlessness, and in fact even an old Indian is a child in worldly
wisdom. The man who wore a pair of shoes was pretty sure of promotion to
sergeant. Many of the soldiers were mere boys not older than sixteen.
The number of men under arms at that time was said to exceed twenty-five
thousand, and the government claimed they could soon raise it to fifty
thousand. This does not seem like a large force and yet it is as large
in proportion to the population as an army of a million and a quarter
would be in the United States, which contains at least fifty times as
great a population.

The race generally known as Caribs, and who dwell along the shore of the
Caribbean Sea, predominate at Livingston and along this coast. They have
an olive complexion, round heads, abundant black hair, which is usually
straight but sometimes kinky. They are also short and erect, but
muscular. It has only been in recent years that they wore any clothing
at all, and they are not burdened with it yet. Every place where there
is water is a bathing resort, and the only bathhouses are big mahogany
logs, hewn square. Sharks and alligators sometimes make it exciting for
them. The Caribs have negro blood in them which dates from the
foundering of an African slave ship on these shores, several centuries
ago. They claim to be good catholics but still retain much of their
pagan rites and superstitions; they are exclusive and seldom intermarry
with the native Indians of whom Guatemala has more pure bloods than any
other of the Central American republics.

[Illustration: A GROUP OF CARIBS.]

The women wear the most picturesque costumes in Central America and are
more tastily dressed than any of the native women in Mexico, with the
single exception of those in Tehuantepec. They have a dark
complexion—almost as dark as a mulatto—and the young women are famous
for the beauty of their figure, which is as perfect as nature can make
it unaided by art. They walk erect with a graceful carriage and with an
elastic footstep full of grace and freedom. Nearly all have raven black
hair which hangs down the back in a double braid. They are kind hearted,
frank and good natured. By far the largest share of the work falls upon
the shoulders of the gentler sex; but they bear their burdens with
becoming fortitude and are generally loyal to their lord and master,
even when the native “white-eye” takes away what little sense he has.
Drunkenness is quite common. It is surprising to an American to see a
native stretched at full length even in a public street in a drunken
stupor. No one pays any attention to him, unless by a little kick, until
the stupor passes away and he is able to navigate for himself again.

The fondness for bright colours among the native women can be observed
in their extremely simple but artistic costume. The entire outfit
consists of three pieces and the style does not change with the seasons.
The skirt consists of a piece of cotton cloth, generally a plaid,
wrapped around the hips and held in place by a sash; the waist is a
square piece of figured material, sometimes richly embroidered, with a
hole cut in the centre to pass the head through and the ends tucked down
under the skirt. Their straight, black hair is usually braided down the
back and they are both bareheaded, and barefooted, and, probably, rather
empty-minded. The man may afford a pair of sandals made from a piece of
sole leather and strapped on his feet, but the women seldom afford this
luxury. A little washing would not injure their natural complexion. They
seldom walk but go along with a peculiar swing, or jog-trot, over hill
and down dale, with a heavy basket on their heads and baby swung over
their shoulders. In this way they will make six miles an hour and will
beat the average mule. Some of the more fortunate ones come leading or
driving mules with loads almost as large as themselves, but the owners
themselves walk. This gives them, however, a chance to ride on the
return to their humble cottage home.

The women are not without their faults for they can smoke to their
heart’s content. There is no law against it and custom seems rather to
approve of the vice. It is not only a common sight to see them smoking
cigarettes but cigars as well. One day I saw a mother with three
children, two boys and a girl, and the oldest one not more than nine or
ten years of age, each puffing away at a big fat cigar that was black
enough to appal the average man smoker. There is a naturalness and
simplicity in their manner that rather astonishes an American when he
happens to stumble upon a group of them bathing without any regard for
the simple clothing that would be considered necessary at Atlantic City,
and they are not afraid of strangers either. Then one can see them
nursing their babies and searching for specimens in the little
youngster’s hair at the same time. Yet this absence of prudishness or
unnaturalness does not mean an absence of the virtues, although morality
has not yet reached an ideal stage.


                               CHAPTER VI

                       RAILWAYS AND THEIR ROUTES

GUATEMALA has more miles of railway than all the other Central American
republics together. And yet there are not more than half enough to
properly develop the country. There are still a number of important
cities and large agricultural districts which have no rail communication
with either the coast or the rest of the republic. Nothing will
contribute more to the prosperity and peace of the country than an
extension of the existing lines into even the most remote sections.

The larger cities are all situated at some distance from the coast and
several of them at an altitude of more than a mile in the mountains.
Communication with the coast and rest of the country is over long,
narrow and rough trails. The transportation of commerce is slow and
expensive and requires thousands of cargadors, mules and the patient
burros. Furthermore, the very isolation of the people and difficulty of
communication keeps them aloof from modern progress, and leaves them
content with things as they are, and with no ambition for anything more
advanced or better than was enjoyed by their forefathers. The Indians
rather look with distrust upon the encroaching iron highways as they
fear they will interfere with their employment. Their opposition,
however, is a mild one and contents itself with looking on at the
advancing track in an idle and listless way. They aid in the
construction work when the mood is upon them, or they are compelled to
by the authorities; at other times they refuse, and the question of
steady and satisfactory labour is sometimes a hard one to solve by the
railroad contractor.

The building of railroads has been encouraged by the present government
both by liberal concessions and the granting of subsidies, and about two
hundred miles have been constructed since Cabrera became President.
Several other concessions have been granted but the government has not
been in a position to meet the payments promised, so that the projects
have been held in abeyance. It is absolutely necessary for the
government to meet a fair proportion of the construction expense,
otherwise railroad building would not be a profitable undertaking
because of the undeveloped condition of the country.

The greatest undertaking before the country at the present time is the
Pan American Railway of which little has been heard in the United States
until recently, and a great many think that it is merely an idle dream.
These people may be surprised to learn that it will soon be an
accomplished fact so far as the North American continent is concerned. A
railroad by that name has just been completed from San Geronimo, on the
Tehuantepec National Railroad, in Mexico, to the Guatemala frontier, a
distance of about three hundred miles. More than this, the road is
already in operation and regular through trains are running to
Tapachula, only a few miles from the boundary of Guatemala. As soon as
the Occidental Railway of Guatemala is extended about thirty miles from
Retalhuleu to connect with the Mexican line at the border, there will be
an all-rail line from Canada and the United States to Guatemala City. A
concession has already been granted for this line and it will be built
at once by the same people who have just completed the Mexican portion
of this scheme so successfully. The present line from Retalhuleu to
Escuintla, about eighty miles, will become a part of the through
connecting system that will be extended at least to Panama, if not
beyond. This much is a certainty, and that it will be completed within a
very few years is my prediction. Through trains will not be a
possibility, however, unless the Guatemala and other Central American
lines are broadened to standard gauge, for at present all the Central
American lines in operation and in construction are built of narrow
gauge width. The Mexican connecting lines are all of standard gauge

A survey was made a few years ago from Oaxaca, Mexico, to the
northernmost railroad connection in the Argentine Republic, and all of
the Spanish-American republics are looking forward to the completion of
this great scheme at some day in the future. Its construction to Panama
would, I believe, be of great assistance in preserving peace and in
engendering a better feeling between the states of Central America, as
it would facilitate commerce among them and would give them one common
interest. At present there is no railroad in any of the republics that
reaches the boundary of any other, so that communication is generally by
sea and through the ports.

The Occidental Railway starts at the important port of Champerico and,
with the Guatemala Central, forms a through line to the capital city. It
has been in operation for several years and has aided very much in the
development of this section of the country. The first city touched by it
on the way to the capital is Retalhuleu, the capital of a department and
one of the principal cities of the republic, which boasts a population
of twelve thousand inhabitants. The buildings are nearly all
one-storied, and the streets are narrow and ill-paved. The sidewalks are
scarcely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Door-steps and
window-sills project beyond the houses to such an extent that walking
abroad at night is rather dangerous. It has an elevation of nearly a
thousand feet above sea level so that its temperature is much better
than on the coast. It is now one of the principal shipping points of the
coffee for which this region is famous, and quite a number of Germans
are engaged in that business in the city. There are no manufacturing
industries outside of the small plants needed for local wants.

[Illustration: From the Bulletin of the International Bureau of American

The road passes through many coffee _fincas_, or plantations, after
passing a small junction point, Mulua. From this place a branch line
runs to San Felipe, within about twenty-five miles of Quezaltenango,
which city for a long time was in control of the coffee market of the
country and the second city in the republic. The earthquake of 1902 not
only ruined that city but destroyed many a fine coffee plantation. It
lies in a basin surrounded by hills nearly a mile and a half above sea
level and is shadowed by the volcano Santa Maria. Before disaster
overtook it, the city housed a population of twenty-five thousand
people. It has always been noted as one of the strongest centres of the
priestly power—at least second only to the capital. The road to
Quezaltenango in the rainy season is almost impassable. Take one of our
country lanes, cut ditches across it, dig deep pits in it, throw some
big stones in the centre of it, and run a few streams across it, and you
have a fair sample of what this road is when the rains are beating upon
it each day. A concession has been granted to complete this branch to
Quezaltenango, and it is an improvement much needed. The completion of
the line is promised in the near future by the government.

A number of towns of more or less importance are reached by the
railroad. With the exception of Mazatenango, a town of about the size of
Retalhuleu, and Patulul, they are all sleepy looking places where the
hungry-looking dogs and buzzards are the only creatures that seem to be
busy or even looking for something to do. It is a good thing for these
places that these scavengers do keep busy, for they are the only health
officers in commission, and they have no human assistants. The most of
the dogs are not fed in order to encourage them to forage for a living,
and the number of thin, cadaverous-looking dogs wandering around and
searching for a chance to fill a great aching void in their interior
anatomy is truly astonishing and equals Constantinople. Bernal Diaz, the
historian of the conquest, says the natives used to raise a certain
species of dog that never barked and was very good eating and the flesh
of which was sold in the market.


At Escuintla the Occidental Railway connects with the Guatemala Central,
which runs from San Jose, the principal port, to the capital. This city
seems destined to be the railway centre of the country for here the Pan
American railroad will cross the interoceanic line. At present it is a
much less important city than formerly, when it was the headquarters of
the dealers in the coffee, indigo, and the cochineal trade. Aniline dyes
have taken the place of the old dyes, other towns have shared its
importance as a coffee centre and the town is said to be only a ghost of
its former self. It is, however, still an ideal, lazy, tropical town
where the greater part of the twelve thousand inhabitants take life
easy. The narrow, cobbled streets are bordered by dismal-looking adobe
huts, and palms line the Avenue of San Luis which were ancient when the
oldest inhabitant was a youth.

In the winter time Escuintla is a resort for the inhabitants of the
capital who come here for the hot baths and a warmer climate, for the
elevation is only about three hundred feet above sea level. In the
summer the temperature at midday is decidedly hot and even animals seek
the shade. The large-leaved plants fold up until about three o’clock,
when the rain begins first with a few large drops. A torrent then
follows which ceases as suddenly as it began, when a new life appears,
the plants open, and the roses are again fresh and fragrant. The Indian
women of Escuintla are quite attractive and will draw the attention of
an American as they walk along the street balancing jars of water
holding from three to five gallons on their heads. They are well
developed and naturally graceful and wear many coral necklaces or
bangles of small silver coins. From ten to thirty they are in their
prime and at forty they are old women.

The Central railway was built by C. P. Huntington and his associates,
and is the oldest and, for a long time, was the only railroad in the
country. It is about seventy-five miles in length and is a
well-constructed road. The most of the traffic from the capital and
interior to the Pacific passes over this line to its port, San Jose,
which is very similar in its facilities to Champerico.


This road, in connection with the Guatemala Northern, completed a year
ago, makes the third interoceanic railway south of our own borders, the
other two being the Tehuantepec National, in Mexico, and the Panama
railroad. Another road will soon be completed in Costa Rica, so it is
claimed. Over the Guatemala Northern Railroad it is now possible to
travel from Guatemala City to Puerto Barrios, the principal Gulf port,
by rail. This road was the dream of President Rufino Barrios a quarter
of a century ago, as he had already at that time granted a concession
for its construction. The first spike was driven in 1892 and two years
later the line was opened as far as El Rancho, a distance of one hundred
and twenty-nine miles, while the entire distance from port to capital is
nearly two hundred miles. The government finances running low by that
time, it was leased to a private company who operated it for revenue
only. It was not a bonanza for the operators even when they used all the
income for profit and operating expenses without placing any of it back
in the road. The difficulties in the operation of a railroad in a
tropical country are many and they were all encountered here. The ties
soon decayed, and in the rainy season the streams became raging torrents
which washed away bridges and the tracks along their banks. The rolling
stock was likewise neglected and in a few years the road was practically
abandoned. Furthermore, the road being without a good terminus, the
freight offered for transportation was relatively small.

Only one train each week to connect with the mail steamers was run for
several years. Finally, in 1902, the government took up the project with
renewed vigour and secured the services of Sir William Van Horne, the
man who made possible the Canadian Pacific transcontinental line, and
later built the Cuban railways. Hundreds of men were placed at work
reconstructing the road, building new bridges and completing the gap to
the capital of about seventy miles. This last extension was within the
mountain ranges and required some remarkable engineering feats. There
are many tunnels and cuts through solid rock and the longest stretch of
straight track is less than a mile. This last section was finally opened
for traffic on the 19th of January, 1908, and imposing ceremonies were
begun that day which continued throughout the entire week. President
Cabrera and his cabinet, and the diplomatic corps took part in the
ceremonies, and were passengers on the first through passenger train
which was run from the capital to the Gulf on that date. The dream of
several presidents and the despair of many engineers has at last become
a reality, and another ocean-to-ocean line has been thrown open for the
world’s commerce.


There are no large towns along the line of the Guatemala Northern.
Zacapa, a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, is the largest place and
contains the railroad shops and offices. From this city it is the
ultimate intention to build a branch to San Salvador, the only Central
American republic with no Atlantic seaport, and give that republic an
opening to the Gulf of Mexico and the near ports of the United States.
The first rails for this very feasible project have already been laid
and this important line will be of great advantage to American
merchants. It is said that the road will be built without delay and I
sincerely hope that such will be the case. That word _mañana_
(to-morrow), however, cuts a very important figure in affairs in this
part of the world, and money is not always as plentiful as desired.

After leaving Gualan, the next place of importance, the road plunges
into the denser tropics, where forests of the graceful bamboo, and the
palms which are the personification of grace and beauty, alternate with
plains fit for grazing. Ferns, tall canes, and the lianes predominate in
vegetation, while birds with strange voices, insects with equally
strange shapes and noisy lizards become the visible life of the jungle.
The road follows near the Montagua River with its ever-varying shores,
where much trouble has been experienced during the rainy season. The
large bridge across this stream has been torn away twice during the
rainy season, and, in a number of places, the track has been washed away
or has slipped into the stream a number of times. Every few miles there
are section houses for the accommodation of the track employees built in
the sombre forest. The management found it almost impossible to get the
Indians to work in these tropical swamps. Hundreds of southern negroes
had been brought over, being lured by the promise of $1.50 per day, in
gold, and their board. Most of them would leave by the first boat if
they had money enough to get back or could work their passage across. A
party of twenty-two had just come over on the boat that took me away and
a more dejected lot of “cullud gemmen” I never saw, for they had already
heard of the life that was in store for them, and they were trying to
devise ways and means for their return to “God’s Country,” as one of
them called it.

Puerto Barrios, the terminus of this railroad, will be the great
distributing centre not alone for Guatemala, but also for San Salvador,
which is the smallest but most densely populated of the Central American
republics. It is only a four days’ journey from New Orleans and Mobile
with the present service, and the nine hundred miles of water could be
covered in two and one-half to three days easily. At present it takes
fifteen to eighteen days from New York to Guatemala City, via Panama,
and nearly as long by the monthly steamer from that city to Puerto
Barrios. The steamers from San Francisco to San Jose consume almost an
equal amount of time. With proper service Guatemala City could be
reached in four days from New Orleans, which would certainly give the
United States a great advantage over any European country in the
commerce of the future. The distance by rail from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, or from Puerto Barrios to San Jose, is two hundred and seventy
miles. The opening of the railway will also reduce to an appreciable
extent the freight charges which hitherto have been heavy because it was
necessary to transport everything on mule back for seventy miles.

At the present time the real Puerto Barrios consists of a single row of
lazy, steep-roofed, palm-thatched, native huts, that spring from the
very water’s edge. There are four large wooden buildings which shelter
the customs officials, local garrison, commandante and officers of the
transportation company. There is also a very creditable hotel. The port
officers strut around in their gay uniforms and make a very close
examination of both incoming and outgoing baggage. Though the population
is not numerous, the languages are many, and one can hear Spanish,
German, French, English, the sibilant Chinese, and the unintelligible
gibberish of the Carib.


In addition to the lines already enumerated there is a road about twenty
miles in length running from the Pacific port of Ocos inland and which
will reach the projected Pan American railway. There is another short
road extending from Panzos, at the head of navigation on the Polochic
River to Pancajche, a distance of about twenty-eight miles. This road
was intended to be built to Coban, a city of twenty-five thousand
people, and the largest city on the Gulf side of the mountains. It is an
old place founded soon after the conquest, that has been prosperous in
times past but is probably no larger now than a half century ago. It is
also in a rich coffee section which furnishes the bulk of the commerce
from there.

There should be a railroad from Coban to the capital. At present it
takes as long to cover the intervening distance of one hundred and
twenty-five miles as to travel from Chicago to San Francisco on the
overland flyers. There are also several important and fair-sized cities,
such as Huehuetenango, Totonicapan and Santa Cruz del Quiché, in the
mountains which have no railway communication and where such an
enterprise would be welcomed. Nothing is more needed and no improvement
will aid more in developing the country than new railroads connecting
these cities with the outside world.

The engineers and conductors on all the Central American roads are
almost exclusively Americans—many of them, as I learned, having been
discharged from American roads for various offences. Some of them
gravitate that way by a succession of steps on Mexican roads. It is,
nevertheless, a satisfaction to an American travelling there for he has
some one to talk to in his favourite language. There is only one train a
day on any of the roads, and that a mixed passenger and freight, and the
speed is never great enough to alarm the timid traveller.


                              CHAPTER VII


         “World wrongly called the New! this clime was old
          When first the Spaniards came, in search of gold.
          Age after age its shadowy wings have spread,
          And man was born, and gathered to the dead;
          Cities rose, ruled, dwindled to decay,
          Empires were formed, then darkly swept away;
          Race followed race, like cloud-shades o’er the field,
          The stranger still to strangers doomed to yield.”

AT the time of the conquest the Aztecs, who were then at the height of
their power and glory, were the dominant race in what is now Mexico and
Central America. And yet the broad plains of Yucatan and Central America
were the theatre of a much older civilization compared with which that
of the Aztecs was, as one writer says, “as the brightness of the full
meridian moon to the splendour of the sun that has already set.” As to
whether the Aztec culture was a borrowed culture or not has been the
subject of much vain speculation, and little has been accomplished by
actual investigation. It is still a matter of dispute “Whether the Maya
culture was developed on the soil where its remains are found, or
brought with the people from parts unknown; whether the Aztecs borrowed
from the Mayas, or the Mayas from the Aztecs; or whether both these
great nations derived their culture from the Toltecs. And again, it is
claimed that the Toltecs themselves are nothing more than the figures of
a sun-myth.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

From this it will be seen that of these early races and their history
little is known. It is supposed that the Toltecs who appeared in the
Valley of Mexico about the seventh century and built the city of Tula,
and possibly Mitla, wandered southward after their defeat by the Aztecs
and finally stopped in Guatemala where they found rest from pursuit.
This much at least is known that the region comprising the greater part
of Guatemala, and the western portion of Honduras, and Yucatan, was the
seat of an ancient American civilization as highly developed and as
interesting to the archæological or anthropological student as any of
the primitive civilizations of the Old World. Long before the dream of
western empire began to fire the ambitions of European kings and incite
the adventurous spirits of the times, centuries before the empire of the
Montezumas had reached the height of its glory, when it was destined to
become the prey of those avaricious adventurers, the curtain had already
fallen on the last sad scene that closed the career of this Maya, or
Toltec, empire, and the ruined cities alone remained as a reminder of
their former splendour.

There are numerous remains of these cities, or rather they might be
termed ruins of religious and governmental centres, for no ruins have
been found of private dwellings. Religion and government seem to have
been one and inseparable among these early races. Among these ruins are
those of Palenque and Uxmal in Yucatan, Utatlan and Quirigua in
Guatemala, Copan,[2] and some lesser known ruins in Honduras. There are
probably still other cities in the wildernesses around Lake Peten
awaiting the coming of the traveller—cities that had their birth so far
back in the twilight of time that not even a tradition remains to tell
who built them.

Footnote 2:

  See appendix for description.

There are some traditions which have come down to us in a book called
the “Popul Vuh,” or sacred book of the Quichés, by an unknown author.
Two translations exist of this book, one in Spanish by Ximenes, the
other in French by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. Mr. Brigham, in his
excellent work, has translated into English a number of the legends
contained in that quaint work concerning the founding of the world, the
creation of the first inhabitants and other curious lore. I will quote
but one concerning the creation of the world:—

“Then the word came to Tepeu Gucumatz in the shades of night; it spoke
to Gucumatz and said to him: It is time to consult, to consider, to meet
and hold counsel together, to join speech and wisdom to light the way
and for mutual guidance. And the name of this is Huracan, the Voice
which sounds: the Voice of Thunder is the first; the second is the Flash
of Light; the Lightning is the third. These three are the Heart of
Heaven, and they descended to Gucumatz at the moment when he was
considering the work of creation. Know that this water will retire and
give place to land, which shall appear everywhere: there shall be light
in the heaven and on earth: but we have yet made no being who shall
respect and honour us. They spoke, and the land appeared because of

The Spaniards found numerous books among the priesthood and old Indian
families of many pages, in which the history, traditions and customs of
the people are probably recorded. The pages were covered with numerals,
glyphs and drawings quite beautifully executed in colours. The Spanish
priests destroyed all these writings that they could get their hands on,
just as they did the records of the Aztecs in Mexico, and made bonfires
of the accumulated literature of centuries. Thus, to satisfy a religious
bigotry, they have deprived us of a true knowledge of the progressive
races who once dwelt in this favoured land. A few of these books still
exist and they are preserved in European libraries, although copies have
been reproduced for other libraries.

Mr. Gordon, in an article in the Century Magazine, describes these books
as follows:—

“Four only have come down to us—priceless relics that in some unknown
manner found their way into European libraries, where they lay hidden
until unearthed by scholars of recent years. The books of the Mayas
consisted of long strips of paper made from maguey fibre, and folded
after the manner of a screen so as to form pages about nine by five
inches; these were covered with hieroglyphic characters, very neatly
drawn by hand, in brilliant colours. Boards were fastened on the outside
pages, and the completed book looked like a neat volume of large octavo
size. The characters in which they are written are the same as those
found upon the stone tablets and monuments in the ruined cities of
Palenque and Copan. This system of writing, which is entirely distinct
from the picture writing of the Aztecs, was the exclusive possession of
the Mayas. It was a highly developed system, and as investigations have
shown, embraced a number of phonetic elements. In this respect, as in
many others, the Mayas were far in advance of any other American

A flood of light might be let in upon prehistoric America if these books
and the inscriptions on the many columns which have been found, and
which are very similar, could ever be deciphered. It is known that many
of the hieroglyphics record dates, but the significance of most of them
is unknown. They are evidently of a peaceful character as there is
nothing to indicate that they are memorials of strife or anything of a
warlike nature. These people possessed a well-developed system of
numeration whose chief application seemed to be in their time-reckoning.
Their year was divided into eighteen months of twenty days each, the
year beginning on the day of transit of the sun by the zenith. As the
months only gave a period of three hundred and sixty days, the remaining
five days were arbitrarily added to make the complete cycle.

Among the most remarkable and inexplicable ruins of these people are
those of Quirigua which are not far from Port Izabal. These ruins are
completely hidden in a thick tropical forest a few miles from a village
of the same name. They consist of several square and oblong mounds and
terraces, varying from six to forty feet on each side, which were
ascended by flights of stone steps. The principal interest, however,
centres in several large, carved monoliths of light-coloured,
coarse-grained sandstone, thirteen in number, arranged irregularly
around what were probably the most important plazas. There are numerous
hieroglyphic inscriptions on these monoliths which have Egyptian
characteristics. The natives seem to have no traditions respecting the
ruins, and they simply call them _idoles_, that is, idols. Several of
the stones are from three to four feet square and from fourteen to
twenty-five feet high above the ground.

The entire surface, except top and bottom, is covered with inscriptions.
On the front and back are full length human figures standing in stiff
and conventional attitude. Tiger heads carved above these figures
probably indicate high rank, or chiefs, and a skull denotes death. The
mysterious symbols of the Greek cross which is also found on these
stones has been the cause of much speculation among scholars. If the
human figures are portraits of persons, who were they? Where did they
live? and what did they do that they should be thus immortalized?


Various theories have been propounded concerning all these ruins of
Mexico and Central America, and it would be presumptuous for anyone not
a member of a dozen or more learned societies and bearing several
scientific degrees to venture an opinion. A few writers ascribe them to
descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, to the Phœnicians, and to the
Egyptians. Some ascribe to them great antiquity and others assert that
they are of comparatively recent construction. The well-known traveller,
J. L. Stephens, says: “They are the work of the same race who inhabited
the country at the time of the Spanish conquest, or of some not very
distant progenitors.” The great argument against this view is, however,
that there were no traditions among the people found by the Spaniards
that shed any light as to their origin, as would certainly have been the
case if he is correct. The people who built them seem to have had a
distinct, independent and separate existence.

Professor Marshall H. Saville, of the Department of Anthropology, in
Columbia University, and also one of the curators in the American Museum
of Natural History, is one of the best versed authorities on the ruins
of Spanish-America, as he has visited many of them in connection with
scientific expeditions. Through his courtesy I am enabled to give the
following description written by him of the ruins at Quirigua:—

Of all the ancient cities in Central America, the forest covered ruins
of Quirigua are perhaps the least known. They are situated in the valley
of the Motagua, or Montagua River, about half a league from the left
bank, and about sixty miles from the mouth where it empties into the
Caribbean Sea. Entirely overspread with the densest tropical vegetation
found anywhere in Central America, they have remained unexplored and
their extent unknown. Now, however, the transcontinental railway from
Puerto Barrios to the City of Guatemala passes through the valley at a
distance of not more than a mile from this wonderful group of remains,
and they are thus brought within easy reach of the traveller.

As yet no systematic excavation has ever been carried on there, although
no field in Central America offers a richer return to the archæologist.
It is not at all improbable that still more valuable sculptures may be
buried in the paradise of luxuriant growth, in which cacao, quina, india
rubber, mahogany, bamboo and gigantic ferns abound, through the depths
of which the jaguar, puma, tapir and peccary roam at will, while birds
of brilliant coloured plumage are exceedingly numerous.

The ruins consist of a large number of mounds, pyramids, terraces or
platforms, both square and rectangular, measuring from six to forty feet
in height, some standing in groups of four arranged around a central
square or plaza, while others occupy an isolated position. The greater
number of these structures have been faced with squared stones and had
flights of stone steps on one side leading to the top.

There are three principal structures in the main group, near which are
standing thirteen large monuments in the form of stelae, and large,
rounded masses carved to represent grotesque animals. These are in what
is probably the great plaza, or square, the heart of the ancient city.
At the northern end is a large rectangular terraced structure about
three hundred feet long from east to west and one hundred and
seventy-five feet from north to south. Near the northwestern corner is
what appears to be an artificial lagoon, or pond, which probably has an
outlet in the Montagua River. At the southern base of the structure are
standing three stelae, or monoliths, ranging in height from fourteen to
eighteen feet and having carved on the front and back representations of
human figures. On one is a man with a chin beard. Both sides are
entirely covered with hieroglyphic writing in the form of squares,
called _katuns_. On another is perhaps the most important hieroglyphic
inscription yet found in America. It consists of two kinds of writing.
The upper half of the inscription is in pictures elaborately and
intricately carved, while in the lower half are the abbreviated and
conventional characters such as are commonly found in the Mayan glyphs.

Undoubtedly an unravelling of the picture writing will aid greatly in
deciphering the hundreds of inscriptions which are found in the
territory once occupied by the Maya race, formerly the most advanced of
all the ancient peoples of America. In only two other monuments is this
form of “picture” writing found, one example being in the ruins of
Copan, Honduras, where the back of a stela is entirely covered with

About two hundred feet south of these three monoliths are the two
highest monuments which have been discovered in the new world. The first
stands twenty-five feet above the ground; the other is twenty-two feet
high. The first mentioned is leaning at an angle of forty-five degrees,
and as it stands there must be at least ten feet of its length under
ground. There are full-face human figures carved on the front and back,
and a hieroglyphic inscription on either side. (Fortunately it has been
accurately moulded by Mr. Maudslay in plaster, and a cast is in the
American Museum of Natural History, in New York, and in the Peabody
Museum at Harvard College.)

The second stela, twenty-two feet high, is by far the most artistically
carved of all the standing monoliths. It has large, full-face human
figures on the front and back, and both sides are occupied by
hieroglyphs. The figure best preserved represents a man with a small
chin beard. He is standing on a platform covered with symbolic carving.
His feet, which are placed heel to heel, are shod with elaborate
sandals. On his head is an immense head dress, made up of five
superimposed grotesque faces or masks. From either side extend feathers,
which are carved gracefully around the sides above the inscriptions, the
whole effect being most striking.

The ears of the person are almost covered with huge ear ornaments. The
breast and body to the waist are loaded with ornaments, and an
elaborately worked loin cloth hangs from the waist, down between the
legs to the feet. In the right hand is held a kind of wand or sceptre,
much resembling a “jumping jack.” The upper part is a grotesque little
figure, with a long nose, representing a deity. From the bottom of the
stick hang feathers. The left hand is covered by a shield, on the face
of which is a mask, probably a representation of the sun god.

Near at hand are two fallen stelae about ten feet in length, entirely
covered with moss and vegetable debris. About eight hundred feet south
of these two large stelae is a high truncated pyramid, more than one
hundred and fifty feet in diameter at the base. A short distance east
and northeast are three large monuments, and from three hundred to four
hundred feet south in a plaza enclosed on three sides, is another group
of stelae.

The most important of these is in the form of a conventionally carved
gigantic turtle, the most extraordinary sculpture in Central America.
Roughly described, it is a cube about eight feet in size and probably
weighing twenty tons. It is entirely covered with picture and
hieroglyphic writing, and representations of a symbolic character, among
which are several exaggerated animal and human faces and figures. (A
plaster cast of this is also found in the above named museums.) In
addition, there is an interesting figure carved on another stela,
representing a woman, with fat, round cheeks, which has been called the
enano, or dwarf. Besides the monuments now standing there are several
fallen stelae, some complete, while others are broken.

The rock out of which they are carved is a gray porphyry, the quarries
being several miles from the ruins and more than six hundred feet above
the valley. The stones were probably all transported in the rough and
carved on the spot where they now stand, the debris being used in the
construction of the pyramids and edifices. The labour of transporting
these immense stones must have been stupendous, and indicates a very
high knowledge of mechanics.

In the mounds and pyramids all traces of palaces and temples of stone
have disappeared. One excavation made, however, proves that stone
buildings have existed, for in the principal pyramid several rooms have
been uncovered, revealing the triangular Maya arch, with walls to the
rooms, made of nicely laid stones, covered with stucco or plaster, and
with smooth cement floors.

During the last decade decided advance has been made in deciphering the
Mayan inscriptions, and the Quirigua hieroglyphs have received
considerable attention, especially since the appearance of the work of
Mr. A. P. Maudslay. The careful drawings have given us material for a
comparative study of these inscriptions with those of Copan and
Palenque. Certain parts of the writing have been unravelled and the
mystery surrounding them is being slowly dispelled. Much remains to be
done, however, before the entire body of the inscriptions is deciphered.

So far as they have been worked out they relate to chronological counts
extending over a period of more than three thousand years. This does not
imply that they had a written history of such respectable antiquity, but
according to their ingenious calendar system and mode of reckoning time
they are carried back to a fixed date, very much as we reckon from a
fixed date, namely, the birth of Christ. The later dates of the Quirigua
inscriptions very probably may be assigned to a place somewhere about
the beginning of the Christian era.


                              CHAPTER VIII

                       THE STORY OF THE REPUBLIC

“GOLD,” said Columbus in a letter to King Ferdinand, “is the most
excellent of metals. With gold we not only do whatever we please in this
world, but we can employ it to snatch souls from Purgatory and to people
Paradise.” This was the keynote to the Spanish character and explains
the difference between the civilizations established by Spain and other
colonizing nations. Thrifty activity was regarded with disdain by the
cavalier and each man sought only enough money to live on the interest
of it, or to establish a trust fund for his family. The government
imposed on each of its colonies a multitude of officials, since nowhere
in the world were there so many nobles for whom it was necessary to
provide honourable employment, and an opportunity to acquire the riches
that were deemed so desirable. This greed for gold and contempt for all
industrial and agricultural pursuits is perhaps the most remarkable
feature of Spain’s colonial policy.

“The Spaniards,” says a historian, “conceived the Americans to be
animals of an inferior nature, who were not entitled to the rights and
privileges of men. In peace they subjected them to servitude. In war
they paid no regard to those laws, which, by a tacit convention between
contending nations, regulate hostility and set bounds to its rage.” The
history of the conquest of Guatemala is but another story of war, rapine
and slavery similar to the other conquests of Spain. We have the
testimony of Alvarado himself upon this point. On one occasion he wrote
to Cortez: “That day I killed and captured many people, many of them
captains and persons of rank.” At another time he wrote: “That I might
bring them to the service of His Majesty, I determined to burn the
lords; and I burned them and commanded their city to be burned and razed
to its foundations.” Prisoners were branded on the cheeks and thighs and
sold as slaves at public auction, one-fifth of the money realized going
to the Spanish crown in all cases. It was not many months until
Guatemala acknowledged the sovereignty of Spain, and, with Chiapas, now
the southernmost state of the republic of Mexico, was made a province
with a resident captain-general.

[Illustration: INDIAN GIRL.]

The rule of Spain lasted for nearly three centuries, from 1524 to 1821.
Under their system of government the natives were looked upon as lawful
prey and were oppressed in every possible way. Las Casas, and a few of
the other priests, endeavoured to prevent extreme cruelty, although even
their methods would not appear very high, according to present
standards. The policy of Spain was always narrow and selfish. The
unlimited power of the clergy and their immunity from the civil laws
made them arrogant and intolerant. Even before the death of Alvarado, in
1541, there were numerous uprisings of the Indians which were crushed
with an iron hand. The false system of government created distrust in
all, so that no man put confidence in his neighbour. The Inquisition,
that terrible institution of blind hatred and bigotry, flourished here
with all its malevolence and many were its victims. Although the Indians
were exempt from its action, it gave a ready way to dispose of anyone
who made himself particularly obnoxious to the powers that were, and the
offenders were turned over to the tender mercies of those who seemed to
rejoice in human suffering and misery. We turn with horror from the
sacrificial altars of the Aztec and Toltec races; and yet a careful
search by historians has not found any persecution for opinion’s sake
among these people, but their offerings were all made to please their

As generation after generation of American-born but European-descended
Guatemalans arose and a certain national spirit and feeling was
developed, these persons demanded some recognition and at least a
limited degree of home rule. This Spain would not grant, but continued
to send her viceroys, captains-general, archbishops, etc., from the
mother country. Of the one hundred and seventy viceroys who ruled in the
Americas, only four were of American birth, and those were reared and
educated in Spain. It was the same with the archbishops, bishops,
captains-general and other chief officials.

The opening of the nineteenth century was pregnant with important events
both in Europe and America. The success of the English colonists in
overthrowing the foreign yoke acted as a leaven in spreading
dissatisfaction throughout the Spanish colonies. Napoleon was at the
height of his power and was upturning monarchies with a reckless hand.
Affairs in Spain culminated in the detention by this Lord of Europe of
the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, and the other members of the royal
family at Bayonne, France, until he forced them to resign their rights
to the Spanish crown in his favour. Joseph Napoleon, brother of the
emperor, was crowned as King of Spain. Heretofore the Audiencia,
captain-general and archbishop of Guatemala, though many times wishing
for freedom, could not bring themselves to discard the country that gave
them birth, religion and civilization. Even educated Indians, though
desiring independence, looked upon the ruling power with fear and an
almost superstitious reverence. Napoleon’s acts of violence and
usurpation of the throne upon which all Spanish subjects looked with
such veneration broke this enchantment, greatly stimulated the desire
for freedom and gave it new impetus. Up to this time the subjects of
Spain in Central America had been allowed no voice in their own
government save as timid petitioners. At last the right was granted to
Guatemala to choose a deputy who should reside at the court, and on
March 3rd, 1810, Manuel Jose Pavon y Munoz was chosen for this position.
Promises of reform were held out by the Spanish Cortes, but nothing
seemed to be done in good faith and the patience of those governed was
gradually exhausted.

A constant espionage was maintained by the police by way of
intimidation. Informers and spies seemed omnipresent. Jose Bustamente,
of Guerra, the newly-appointed captain-general, adopted stringent
measures to stem the rising tide of insurrection. No intelligent native
was free from suspicion which frequently resulted in his imprisonment or
exile. A long memorial sent to the Spanish Cortes setting forth the
causes of discontent resulted in the adoption of an organic code which
promised reform and for a few months had a beneficial effect.

It was on the 15th of September, 1810, that the patriot-priest Hidalgo
issued his famous _pronunciamento_ declaring the sovereignty of Spain at
an end in Mexico. The news of his success again stimulated the germs of
independence in Guatemala and they began to germinate in secret among
the more intelligent of both Creoles and natives. The government used
every means to keep the people in ignorance of the real events in Mexico
and South America and spread reports of great government successes in
putting down the insurrections. Restiveness and despair fell upon many
and the hopes of a better government by Spain evaporated. Men were
unwilling to live longer under such despotism, and they began to look
upon even death as a relief.

In 1811, _pronunciamentos_ began to appear in a number of cities in the
Kingdom of Guatemala, and on November 5th of that year the first blow
was struck for freedom by the capture of several thousand muskets and a
large sum of money in the Salvador treasury. The Archbishop granted
eighty days indulgences for those not participating in the revolutionary
movements, but this promise had little effect among the thinking
classes. The masses, on the other hand, were in a degraded condition,
socially, intellectually and morally, and controlled by an ignorant
fanaticism. The most absurd doctrines and miracles were implicitly
believed in, and fealty to the sovereigns, so they were taught, was a
high virtue.

Spain was practically helpless because of her troubles in Mexico and
South America where formidable revolutions were in progress. Because of
this no large armies were sent and there was no great war for
independence. During the years from 1811 to 1821, however, there were
thousands of victims to the cause of independence throughout all of
Central America and Chiapas—men who sacrificed life, liberty and
freedom. Even if there were no great bloody fields of carnage or
brilliant feats of arms, as in Mexico, there were tragedies in
abundance, and the lives sacrificed upon the sacred altar of patriotism
were as precious as those slain in battle in other countries. The Betlen
conspiracy, in 1813, led by a patriotic priest, gained considerable
headway, but the conspirators soon found themselves in prison through a
betrayal of their plans. In 1814, a national constitution was proclaimed
by Spain through her representative, Bustamente, but few believed that
it was in good faith. The desire for separation from the galling yoke of
Spain had taken too strong a hold to be appeased by a little sop.

Finally, in 1821, Spain’s representative, Señor Gavino Gainza, joined
the rebels. On the 14th of September of that year the government house
in Guatemala City was thronged by representatives of the people who came
to attend a meeting that had been called by Gainza. Immediate
independence was advised by the majority of those representatives and
every attempt at a vacillating policy was defeated. Every vote for
independence was received by the citizens who had gathered on the plaza
with loud applause and those against it with groans. The
anti-independents fearing for their lives retired from the palace, but
they were not molested. An _Acta de Independencia_ was then drawn up,
adopted, signed and sworn to by all those who were present, and publicly
proclaimed on the following day. This act declared Guatemalans to be a
free and independent people and invited citizens of the provinces to
elect at once representatives to a national congress to be convened on
the 1st day of March, 1822, on the basis of one representative for each
fifteen thousand inhabitants. This was just two hundred and ninety-seven
years, three months and nineteen days from the time Alvarado and his
followers took possession of the country.

A provisional _junta_ was formed to advise with Gainza, who had
apparently thrown his die with independence, but secretly—so it is
claimed—intended to deal doubly. Chiapas had proclaimed independence a
few days earlier and was the first province of the Guatemala
captain-generalcy, or Kingdom of Guatemala, as it was called, to throw
off the Spanish yoke. San Salvador followed on the 21st of September,
Honduras on the 16th of October, Nicaragua on the 21st of October and
Costa Rica on the 27th of October. All of these provinces formally
accepted the Plan of Iguala proclaimed by Iturbide of Mexico, which
provided as follows: preservation of the Roman Catholic Church;
independence under a monarchical form of government with a prince of the
royal house of Spain as ruler; union and equality of Spaniards and
Mexicans and Central Americans.

The change to freedom was not easy after three centuries of misrule. The
abolishment of slavery forty years before the United States freed her
black men was one good omen. Two parties, conservatives and liberals,
sprang up. The most of the enlightened ones espoused the cause of the
liberals, while the old families, those with race prejudice, and the
clergy adhered to the conservative cause, although many of the priests
were in the front rank of those battling for independence. Thus the
state cast adrift without any fixed policy.

The idea of annexation to Mexico began to grow popular. Iturbide, who
had in the meantime made himself Emperor of Mexico, sent messengers to
Gainza, who espoused that cause and began to persecute those opposed to
that idea. Republicans were insulted and even conversations on the
street on political subjects were prohibited. The _junta_ decreed
annexation on the 5th of January, 1822, and the people were given all
the rights of Mexican citizens. This union only lasted for about fifteen
months and was dissolved soon after the fall of the Emperor Iturbide.
The only tangible results of the union were internal strife and heavy

In 1823 a congress of the states of Central America was summoned to meet
in Guatemala City. This congress assembled in June as the Asamblea
Nacional Constituyente and remained in session nearly two years. It
founded the United Provinces of Central America, but difficulties soon
set in between the different provinces. A constitution was framed and
promulgated in 1825 for which the constitution of the United States was
taken as a model. Arcé was proclaimed the first president in the same
year and was soon after recognized by most of the leading powers.
Conflicts arose very soon between the federal and local authorities in
Guatemala City, which city had been made the capital of the
confederation. The vice-president, Flores, retired to Quezaltenango,
where he was attacked by an infuriated mob of natives on the 13th of
October, 1826. He sought refuge in the pulpit of the parish church from
whence he was dragged by a mob of women and literally torn to pieces.
The Indians had been aroused by a Spanish priest who attributed a
pestilence to him. A reign of religious fanaticism soon followed and
troops from San Salvador invaded Guatemala to restore order. Convents
and monasteries were suppressed by the government, but Arcé found
himself unable to preserve order, and resigned the presidency.

In 1799, there was born in Honduras a child named Francisco Morazan, who
was destined to be the greatest figure in this Central American
Confederation. His father was a Frenchman and his mother a native Creole
woman of that country. We know little of his youth except that he
managed to acquire a fair education for that age. He grew up to be a man
of impetuous but not sanguinary temperament, and was possessed of great
decision and perseverance. His bearing was free and manly; his manner
was frank and open; his domestic life was exemplary. After holding
several minor offices in Honduras he became secretary-general of that
province, then Senator and _jefe_, or governor, but his bent was that of
a warrior. Revolution broke out at La Antigua, in Guatemala, and this
province then placed itself under the protection and leadership of
General Morazan, who had an army of about two thousand men, and who had
espoused the cause of the malcontents. With this small force Morazan
besieged Guatemala City, the capital of the federation, and the city
soon capitulated. General Morazan thereupon assumed the power of state
and used much vigour, but was just. He afterwards wrote, “No one was put
to death or had money exacted from him.” This was an almost unheard of
leniency in Central America, but he had no cause to regret this
magnanimity, even though there was much blood to avenge and there were
many grievances to punish.

A period of reaction followed, for the servile conservative party, which
had been hitherto dominant, fell. It seemed almost as though Morazan had
been called by Providence itself. Some cruel measures by his followers
and supporters followed, but the best authorities do not blame him
personally for those acts, as he seemed to be above petty measures for
the purpose of revenge. It was even decreed that all salaries that had
been paid for several years be refunded to the national treasury and
harsh means were taken to collect them. A few months later another man
was elected president by the new congress that had been chosen, although
Morazan was the real power behind the throne, but at that time he
preferred the military command. Many prisoners were exiled, the
archbishop and a number of friars expelled, and all monastic
institutions, except one, were suppressed by the new government. Because
of fear of trouble from Spain all property of Spanish subjects was
ordered sequestered until that country formally recognized independence.

It was ever a struggle between the church party and the anti-clericals.
On one side were arrayed the sincere adherents of the church and the
clergy, many of whom were bigoted as well as covetous. In the other
party were the honest patriots and those who expected to reap emolument
from the confiscation of church property. In addition there was a
floating class of professional revolutionists who threw their lot with
whichever party promised the greatest reward, and the bandits who would
rob a church as cheerfully as a lonely traveller on the road.

[Illustration: A PEON.]

It is difficult to realize how long it takes to throw away temporal and
spiritual fetters, even though they are self-forged. The people of
Central America felt lost without harness and reins, whip and spurs, as
soon as a little freedom had been gained. They did not know what to do
with their liberty which many interpreted to mean license. They thought
it consisted of wranglings for place, of wars of brothers against
brothers, of priests against people. A self-styled aristocracy and
ignorant rabble both contributed to the discontent.

They had copied the letter and not the spirit of American institutions.
The scheming politicians would hesitate at nothing to attain private
ends or personal aggrandizement. The aristocracy were impetuous by
nature and impatient of restraint, while the peons were indolent and
accepted whatever condition fell to them.

Finally, in 1830, Morazan was elected president at the regular election
and assumed office on the 16th day of September. Ignoring all precedents
this new ruler turned his first attention and efforts to further
education. Peace reigned for a short time, but the demon of political
strife was soon let loose again. The former president, who had just
failed of re-election, invaded Guatemala with about a hundred
discontented ones from Mexico, and another revolutionist entered the
country from the opposite border with a couple of hundred negroes from
Honduras, but both were defeated by the prompt measures of the
government. Yet in this victory was actual defeat, for the dissolution
of the confederation really dated from this time. Congress adopted some
liberal measures at the instance of Morazan, among which were absolute
freedom of conscience and the right to worship God according to the
dictates of conscience, both of which measures showed an advanced spirit
of toleration. This liberty, however, angered the clericals who did not
favour the progressive policies of Morazan. Furthermore, and this was
the most powerful influence, the smaller states were jealous of
Guatemala, because of her predominance both in population and area, and
they demanded an equal voice in the government. It was one of the same
troubles that confronted the colonies during the early days of the
republic. Beginning with the withdrawal of Nicaragua, in December, 1832,
all the provinces formally withdrew from the confederation within a few

A scourge of cholera in 1837 was taken advantage of by certain fanatics
of the clerical party, who made the ignorant rabble believe that the
waters had been poisoned in order to destroy the natives and make room
for foreigners. That such a movement should be successful seems almost
incredible in this day and age, but its effect soon spread over the
whole land, and the government was helpless when opposed by blind
fanaticism. Cries for vengeance were heard on every side, and many
physicians were put to death with cruel tortures, such as being
compelled to swallow the entire contents of their medicine chests.
Rafael Carrera, whose hostilities resembled highway robbery rather than
civilized warfare, soon became the head of the revolt, aided by a
certain class of priests who termed him the “Protecting Angel Rafael.”
The government put a price on Carrera’s head and the following notice
was posted throughout the country:

    “The person or persons who may deliver the criminal Rafael
    Carrera, dead or alive (if he does not voluntarily present
    himself under the last pardon), shall receive a reward of
    fifteen hundred dollars and two caballerias of land, and pardon
    for any crime he has committed.

                                              “The general-in-chief,
                                                    “J. N. CARVALLO.

    “_Guatemala, July 20th, 1838._”

Outlaws and robbers joined this new leader, while the main body of
troops were men in rags armed with all kinds of weapons from rusty
muskets to knives on long poles; and even sticks shaped like muskets
with tin-plate locks were carried by many. As this oddly-assorted band
approached Guatemala City thousands of women joined them with sacks to
carry away the loot and plunder. Viva la religion! Death to the
foreigners! were the cries that filled the air as they entered the walls
of the capital. The government, knowing its own weakness and also
Carrera’s mercenary disposition, finally compromised by paying Carrera
$1,000 for his own use and $10,000 to be distributed among his troops,
and making him a general in the army. A foolish compromise! An
injudicious surrender! Temporary quiet was followed by more and greater
disorder, and Morazan was compelled soon afterwards to flee to San
Salvador, then to Costa Rica, where he was openly insulted, and finally
to South America, where he found peace and quiet.

A quiet life did not suit the spirit of General Morazan, for he soon
after returned to Costa Rica and became involved in the political
troubles of that country. As in Honduras and Guatemala his sword was
found on the side of freedom and against oppression. Ill luck followed
his forces and he was captured by treachery and the promise of immunity.
He was cast in irons and a mock trial held at which he was condemned to
die within three hours. The prospect of death did not break the brave
spirit of this remarkable man, and he dictated his will and a defence of
his actions, and then boldly faced the squad of executioners. He himself
gave the command to fire, after seeing that good aim was taken by the
soldiers. Thus died at San Jose, Costa Rica, on the 15th of September,
1842, the twenty-first anniversary of freedom from the Spanish yoke,
perhaps the greatest statesman that Central America has yet produced. He
was misunderstood, maligned and killed, but his last words were

“Posterity will do me justice.”

Carrera was only about twenty-one years of age when he first became the
leader of the clerical, or servile, forces. Of base birth, his mother
being a well-known market woman, he was so ignorant that he could not
even write his name, and signed official documents with a rubber stamp;
of a violent and irascible temper and the slave of violent passions, yet
he was bold, determined and persevering; constantly beaten, yet he
always managed to escape. From a common servant he became a pig driver
and later the absolute dictator of Guatemala for many years. At first
the mere tool of the priests, they were afterwards obliged to put up
with the insults and abuse of the man whom they had raised up to a
position of power. His vanity knew no bounds and there was no limit to
his cruelty. He beat men, pulled out their hair and beards; violated
women, cut off their tresses and ears; and, while president, he
occasionally shot men on the plaza for effect. On one occasion he
ordered eighteen prominent citizens of Quezaltenango shot on the plaza
as an example to the rest of the inhabitants.

John L. Stephens, an American diplomat, who met Carrera many times, has
given us a vivid picture of this man. He describes him as about five
feet, six inches in height, with straight black hair and an Indian
complexion. Stephens happened to be in a town that was captured by
Carrera. Every inhabitant was compelled to shout, Viva Carrera! If the
person hesitated a gun would be aimed at his breast and, if he refused,
it would be fired. _Viva la Patria!_ was never thought of, for Carrera
was the government. He never talked of how many prisoners he took, but
it was always how many of the enemy were killed, for prisoners were not

Carrera raised his army by promising the natives the plunder of the
capital, says Stephens. He approached it with a tumultuous mass of
half-naked savages, men, women and children, estimated at ten or twelve
thousand. Several well-known outlaws, criminals, robbers and murderers
were with him. The “General” rode on horseback with a green bush in his
hat which was hung around with pieces of cotton cloth covered with
pictures of saints, wore a pair of green, frieze trousers, and a fine
coat covered with gold embroidery. The natives all had green bushes in
their hats, looking like a moving forest as they marched down the
streets of the capital. As they proceeded the soldiers cried: “Viva la
religion and death to the foreigners.” One captive general was placed
sidewise on a mule with his feet tied under the animal, and his face
bruised, swollen, and disfigured by stones and blows of _machetes_. Many
other prisoners were tied together with ropes. This was similar to the
invasion of Rome by the barbaric hordes of the north.

Although virtually the head of the government from the flight of
Morazan, in 1839, he was not formally chosen president until 1844. The
clerical party called him “Son of God” and “Our Lord,” and hailed him as
their saviour. A few years later he resigned because of trouble, but did
not entirely give up his power, and in 1852 was made president for life
and occupied that position until his death on the 14th of April, 1865,
just about the time of the death of President Lincoln. He was even able
through legislative enactment to name his successor. Congress had
declared him a hero and the preserver of the republic and ordered his
bust engraved on all coins. Guatemala had finally declared her
independence the 21st day of March, 1847, as the Republic of Guatemala
instead of a state within the confederation, by which designation it had
formerly been known, although the confederation had been practically
dissolved many years before.

His successor, Vicente Cerna, was a man of very ordinary ability and a
religious fanatic. He was a warm friend of the Jesuits and his greatest
recommendation was that he went to confession once each week as
regularly and conscientiously as he took his meals. He could not control
the discordant elements and insurrections soon sprang up on every hand,
even though he had the united support of the church party. New and
powerful leaders of the opposition came into prominence. The most
influential opponent of the government at this time was Serapio Cruz,
who was ably supported by Granados and J. Rufino Barrios, hitherto a
refugee in Chiapas. Cruz invaded Guatemala from Chiapas in 1869 with
only twenty-five men. His numbers gradually swelled as he proceeded
across the country, although only a small portion were supplied with
firearms. Some carried _machetes_, while many more were entirely
unarmed. He was finally defeated in an engagement with the government
forces near the capital and his head was carried into the city as a
ghastly trophy and a warning to other revolutionists. Granados and
Barrios kept up the struggle with varying success for many months. They
finally gathered up a couple of small armies and marched toward
Guatemala City. Their journey was almost a triumphal procession and they
entered that city as victors as Cerna fled.

H. H. Bancroft, the able and painstaking historian of Spanish North
America, says that the result of thirty years of conservative rule in
Guatemala was two hundred lazy and stupid monks, two hundred almost
useless nuns, one archbishop, two bishops, fifteen vicars and canons, a
foreign debt of five million dollars. There were no schools, roads,
bridges, or telegraphs. The postal facilities were inadequate, and
immense tracts of unproductive land owned by the church brought no
revenue for the support of the government. This is a terrific
arraignment of that party and explains in a great measure why that
country has lagged behind so far in the onward march of progress. And
yet its history down to that time is not much worse than that of Mexico
for the same period.

Granados was first made president after the flight of Cerna, but he was
soon after, in 1872, succeeded by General Barrios, who ruled the country
with an iron hand for more than a dozen years and was practically
dictator during that time. Opinions differ a great deal concerning this
man, but the passing years show the farsightedness of his policies. I
talked with a great many people who knew him at the American Club in
Guatemala City. All admit that he was a greater man than any of his
successors, and that he was a better one is nearly as generally
conceded. He was resourceful and iron-willed, but progressive; he drove
his political opponents out of the country mercilessly and made many
bitter enemies as a result; his friends were few because he never
confided his plans to them in advance, although he would do anything for
them that lay within his power and did not conflict with his purposes.
One writer, who met him, has analyzed his character as follows: “In
disposition he was sympathetic and affectionate; when he liked a man he
showered favours upon him; when he distrusted, he was cold and
repellent; and when he hated, his vengeance was swift and sure. He did
everything with a nervous impetuosity, thought rapidly and acted

Guatemala began to make progress from the very beginning of the rule—and
I say rule, not administration, advisedly—of Barrios. A new constitution
was adopted by the national assembly convened for that purpose, and he
was re-elected president in 1880 by popular suffrage, which was really
the only constitutional election ever held in the country up to that
time. With all the energy of his nature he fostered education and
endeavoured to uplift the masses by improving their condition and
cultivating their understanding. Following the example of the other
Spanish-American republics the Jesuits were banished, and much of the
church property was confiscated and appropriated to the cause of
education and for other public uses. He gave liberal concessions to
railroads, constructed cart roads, erected telegraph lines and greatly
improved the finances of the country by a new system of taxation. He
even persuaded the Presbyterian Church of the United States to send a
missionary to the country, paying all of his travelling expenses and
providing him and his family with accommodations. The missionary opened
a Sunday school in the capital, to which the President sent his own
children and urged his officials to do the same. Thus, for a time at
least, the Protestant Mission was very popular and fashionable. He
enforced the observance of the Sabbath and made everyone send their
children to the public schools or pay for the privilege of sending them
to private schools.

[Illustration: J. RUFINO BARRIOS.]

Although the government established by him was not of the people nor by
the people, he fully intended it to be for the people. His failure
probably was due to his lack of that conciliation and diplomacy which
Porfirio Diaz used so successfully during the first few years of his
presidency in Mexico, by which means he united the discordant elements.
In view of the radical measures undertaken by Barrios it is not
surprising that powerful enemies were made who on numerous occasions
attempted his life. One plot was made in a woman’s house, similar to
that of Mrs. Surratt’s, where the plot to kill Lincoln was formed, but
the woman revealed it, and seventeen of the leaders were executed on the
main plaza in the capital.

One evening President Barrios and a couple of friends were walking in
the little garden surrounding the theatre where they were going to
attend a performance. Suddenly there was a streak of flame through the
night air and with a thud a bomb fell almost at the feet of Barrios. The
fuse sizzled and flashed as it burned, but the man for whom it was
intended was as cool and unperturbed as if the deadly bomb was nothing
more than a toy firecracker. Coolly picking it up, he put out the fuse
with his hand and, turning to his companions, said in an unconcerned
way: “The rascals don’t know how to kill me.” The President displayed
magnanimity toward these plotters by pardoning all those concerned
except the leader, who was sent into exile.

In 1881, President Barrios visited the United States and was received
with the highest consideration by the government in Washington and by
the authorities in many other cities. He came to invite this government
to mediate the boundary difficulties between Guatemala and Mexico, which
was done. The following year he visited Europe and again crossed the
United States on his return. In this way he endeavoured to get new ideas
for the betterment of his country, and went back home with a renewed
determination to establish a great nation in Central America.

For years the idea of a union of all the Central American republics had
been cherished by Barrios as it had been by a number of his
predecessors. In fact this idea has been the dream of nearly every
president of each one of the Central American republics even to this
day. Barrios thought this would be beneficial not only to his own land
but to each one of the states. The methods he pursued were no worse than
England and other countries have followed from time immemorial to
accomplish similar ends. He was on good terms with all of the republics.
San Salvador had presented him with a sword of honour in token of her
esteem, and Costa Rica had made him a general in her army in recognition
of her friendship.

The President of Honduras had signified his willingness to enter into
such a union. Likewise the President of San Salvador had led him to
believe that he favoured the movement. Nicaragua and Costa Rica refused
to enter into a confederation. Nevertheless, Barrios, trusting in the
ability of the three rulers to control the situation, issued a
proclamation on the 28th of February, 1885, declaring a federation of
the five Central American republics and proclaiming himself as Supreme
Military Chief until a choice could be made. President Zaldivar of San
Salvador played him false and the scheme failed. Zaldivar was able to do
this as he controlled the cables and either refused to send or garbled
the dispatches forwarded to the other powers. Barrios was not daunted,
but invaded San Salvador to compel Zaldivar to yield. His oldest son was
killed in battle on the 21st of April, and Barrios himself was shot from
ambush when he went back to search for the body of his son. His remains
are buried in a cemetery near Guatemala City, and the grave is marked by
a slender, broken column set upon a great square, wooden cenotaph. His
widow and six children soon after embarked for the United States, where
Barrios had made investments to provide for just such a contingency.

Barrios was succeeded by Manuel Lisandro Barillas, a man of kind and
benevolent instincts but ill fitted to control a turbulent republic like
Guatemala. He at once withdrew the decree of federation which had proven
so ill-timed and made peace with the other republics. Little was
accomplished by him, although he attempted to continue the reform
policies of Barrios. He was elected for and served for one full term,
but was defeated for re-election by a nephew of the elder Barrios. This
soured him and from that time until his death he was a more or less
turbulent factor in the Guatemala political situation. When I was in
that country he was in Chiapas, on the border of Guatemala, where, as I
was informed by an American who had seen him, he had a force of
twenty-five men “armed to the teeth.” This seems like a small force, but
Granados had no more when he made his successful march and overthrew the
existing government. Barillas had figured that the malcontents would
flock to him as soon as he entered the country. He had sacrificed his
all, and even his daughters had sold their diamonds to purchase guns and
ammunition for his campaign. The President of Mexico compelled him to
leave their territory, and President Cabrera rushed troops to the
border, so that the movement was a fiasco. Had it not been for this, the
result might have been different, for the discontented in Guatemala at
that time numbered many.

Ex-President Barillas was killed in the City of Mexico on the 7th day of
April, 1907, aged sixty-seven years. He was riding on a street car when
a youth of seventeen climbed aboard and stabbed him twice in the neck,
the first blow severing the jugular vein. The assassin was a young
Guatemalan who seemed to have come to Mexico for that purpose.

The successor of Barillas as president, José Maria Reina Barrios, served
only a few years and developed no marked policy. He was a man of energy
and strong will, but did not possess the ability or strength of
character of his uncle. During the first few years of his term he gave
the country a fairly good government and worked much for the prosperity
of Guatemala. Near the close of his first term, however, he sought by
legislative enactment to extend his term of office for five years, and a
series of revolutions followed. In February, 1898, he was assassinated
on the streets of Guatemala City by a foreigner, evidently an anarchist,
and the country was left in a disastrous condition.

The _Premier Designado_, which corresponds to the position of
Vice-President under our form of government, at the time of the
assassination of Reina Barrios, was Manuel Estrada Cabrera. He was a
lawyer by profession and the first civilian to hold that office since
the establishment of the republic. Upon his accession to the presidency
he found the country involved in many serious complications. The foreign
obligations were threatening to precipitate trouble with international
entanglements, and the new President at once exerted every effort to
place this indebtedness in a more favourable condition, and to organize
the finances in such a way that the legitimate demands of creditors
might be met. It is only fair to Cabrera to say that he succeeded in
these efforts even more than might have been expected by his most
sanguine supporters. His legal training stood him in good stead. The
finances of the country were reorganized, foreign creditors were
appeased, and, after the first few years, for he was elected to a full
term in September of the same year, the way to permanent peace and
prosperity seemed to open up wide. Guatemala appeared for a while to be
preparing to follow in the footsteps of Mexico, and Cabrera’s adherents
enthusiastically prophesied for him a career as great and meritorious as
that of Mexico’s wonderful statesman.

“Cabrera is a wonderful man. He will do for Guatemala what Diaz has done
for Mexico.” Thus spoke a high official of that government to me
concerning Manuel Estrada Cabrera, who has now been at the head of the
government for more than eleven years.

It seems to me, however, that President Cabrera has signally failed in
many ways. He lacks in the quality of “_simpatica_,” a Spanish term that
it is difficult to translate into English. He has failed to attract the
affection and confidence of his people sufficiently to establish
permanent peace and tranquillity. Although revolutions have not been
successful, or even formidable, yet it has been only by the exercise of
the most severe military measures and police espionage at all times that
such has not been the result. That severity alone does not suffice to
make a ruler respected, or even feared, has been demonstrated over and
over again. It is not the schoolmaster who inflicts the severest
penalties who preserves the best order in the schoolroom, and it is not
the ruler who inaugurates a reign of terror who lays the surest
foundation for permanent peace and prosperity. In a Latin-American
republic, where the president is the ruler, and not a figurehead, he
must possess that peculiar and undefinable ascendency of character, that
personal magnetism which lays a spell on the popular imagination and
impels them to submit to his wishes willingly. If he lacks in either of
those essentials, his influence will soon wane, other leaders will
receive the popular plaudits, and a revulsion of public favour will
leave the late favourite high and dry upon the deserted strand.

The best elucidation that can be made of this subject is by a comparison
between the careers of President Cabrera and Diaz. The latter succeeded
to a government that had been in the throes of revolution for
three-fourths of a century, with a bankrupt treasury and a large foreign
debt, the army disorganized, and the country overrun with bandits; and
yet in his first term of four years, and in a country seven or eight
times greater both in area and population, he accomplished far more for
the betterment of Mexico than Cabrera has in eleven years at the head of
affairs in Guatemala. Diaz used harsh measures where necessary, but he
has accomplished more by diplomacy and the exercise of good judgment
than he has by the use of mere force. To-day there is only one party in
Mexico and that is the Diaz party.

That there is great dissatisfaction in Guatemala the events of recent
years fully indicate. In 1907 an attempt was made upon the life of
President Cabrera by exploding a mine, but this failed. Severe measures
were adopted by the officials, and several of those suspected of
implication in the plot were put to death, while a larger number were
imprisoned _incommunicado_—that is, without privilege of communication
with friends or counsel. Among this number were several foreigners who
were suspected of designs against the President. Again, in April, 1908,
another attack was made upon the President by some of his soldiers and
he narrowly escaped death by shooting. The conditions that followed have
been described as a “regime of terror” because of the many executions
and incarcerations. An official report stated that eighteen men were
court-martialed and sentenced to be shot for participation in this

The worst condemnation, I think, was the attitude of President Cabrera
and his ministers toward Mexico when that government wanted him to give
up certain persons for trial on the charge of conspiracy in the murder
of ex-President Barillas, which had occurred on Mexican soil. Cabrera
absolutely declined to grant this request, and his refusal almost
resulted in the breaking off of all diplomatic relations between the two
countries, and a conflict between the two governments was for a time
imminent. This condition has, however, passed away and cordial relations
now exist between the two republics. Furthermore, Cabrera has
consistently refrained from becoming involved in the various conflicts
that have raged between Nicaragua and its neighbours, and has been an
active supporter of the Central American peace conference which was
brought about by the influence of the United States.


                               CHAPTER IX

                          RELIGIOUS INFLUENCES

THE ruins still existing throughout Mexico and Central America teach us
that the early races occupying that country prior to the coming of the
Spaniards were a religious people. It is true that their ideas of
religious truth were crude and not of a very high order, but the element
of worship of and responsibility to a superior being existed and found
expression in various ways. Their theology had not resulted in so many
deities as the more imaginative Greeks and Romans had created for
themselves, but they were polytheists and had different gods endowed
with different attributes who claimed their devotion. They were
originally worshippers of one god, called Taotl, but adopted other gods
from those conquered and from surrounding tribes, until they had a
fairly respectable number of divinities who claimed their homage.

Quetzalcoatl, one of the two principal gods of the Aztecs, was
originally a Toltec god who was worshipped with offerings of fruits of
the soil, and even flowers. And it is claimed that the Toltecs were
never, until their intercourse with the Aztecs, given to human
sacrifices. It is true, however, that afterwards they did indulge in
those horrible practices of offering human beings to their gods, and
even indulged in cannibalism. This is the condition that existed when
the Spaniards came with the religion of the gentle Nazarene.

The craze of the Crusades led men to believe that the kingdom of Christ
could be extended by the sword. Add to this religious motive the love of
adventure and military glory, and the passion of avarice, and you have
the elements which moved men, and often the vilest of men, to engage in
such enterprises as conquering the New World. The pope bestowed the
sanction of Heaven upon the Spanish expeditions and gave the King of
Spain complete authority over all things temporal and spiritual in the
newly-discovered lands; the bodies and souls, the property and services
of the conquered nations were to be his inheritance and that of his
successors for ever. Thus it was that the pope Alexander VI pretended to
hand over to the Spanish dynasty vast continents and islands which he
did not own, and in which he had no right to a foot of the territory or
a single human being upon them.

The “Christianization” of the millions of human beings by a mere handful
of military adventurers and their few clerical helpers, generally at the
point of the sword, is a record such as the world had never before
witnessed. A single clergyman baptized in one day five thousand natives
and did not desist until he was so exhausted that he could not lift his
hands. Another priest wrote that “an ordinary day’s work is from ten to
twenty thousand souls.” In the course of a few years baptism had been
administered to millions. It is not surprising that converts adopted
with such undue haste, and who were neither instructed in the tenets of
the new faith nor taught the absurdities of the old belief, mingled in
hopeless confusion their veneration for the ancient superstition and
their slender knowledge of the new Christianity. They might be able to
make the sign of the cross and yet not know what that symbol meant to
humanity. These vague and hazy sentiments were transmitted by the new
converts to their posterity and they have not been thoroughly eradicated
after four centuries of the work of Spanish ecclesiastics.

“Christianity, instead of fulfilling its mission of enlightening,
converting, and sanctifying the natives, was itself converted. Paganism
was baptized, Christianity paganized.” These are the words of a
scholarly and conservative writer. Cruelty and avarice marked the policy
of the military chiefs, and the priests, with a few exceptions, aided
them. “The victors,” says a Jesuit historian, “in one year of merciless
massacre, sacrificed more victims to avarice and ambition than the
Indians, during the existence of their empire (Mexico), devoted in
chaste worship to their native gods. The lands were parcelled out into
immense estates, and titles given to their Spanish owners, while the
millions of natives were reduced to the condition of serfs. Under such
conditions the conquered races began their new life.”

The Church soon set itself to the task of acquiring wealth, and with
wealth came arrogance and the greed for power which that gives. The sale
of masses for the dead and indulgences for the living offered an
unlimited opportunity to the unscrupulous clergyman to raise money. This
phase has been well expressed as follows: “When there was high money,
there was high mass; low money, low mass; and no money, no mass.”
Certain masses, according to amount paid, would relieve the souls in
purgatory of from one thousand up to thirty-two thousand years of
torment. These practices have not entirely disappeared from
Spanish-America to this day.

The clergy were “generally native Spaniards, devoted to the interests of
the King, the Church, and the Inquisition, passing their lives in
criminal indulgence or luxurious repose.” Hundreds of priests, monks,
and nuns were imposed on Guatemala. The people were heavily taxed for
their support and for every office of the Church excessive fees were
demanded. Marriage fees were so high that the poor peons could not
afford the ceremony and consequently the majority of children born were
illegitimate. Some of the priests became very immoral and scandals in
the convents were not infrequent. The clericals were not amenable to the
civil courts but had a separate tribunal in which every question
relating to their own character, their functions, and their property was
pleaded and tried. This position immensely increased the power of the
Church in the politics of the state.

I have said that Christianity was paganized and the conditions to-day
prove the statement. New ceremonies and symbols were substituted for the
old, and the saints took the place of the former idols as a visible
object of worship. Religious _fiestas_, of which there are now about two
hundred each year, and processions were established to attract and hold
the natives to the new worship and in an outward sense they were a
success. Many of the religious ceremonies are performed with the most
lamentable indifference and want of decorum. Some of the celebrations in
the churches in the more remote districts include dances of the most
grotesque description, being as near as possible to the old rites of the
natives. The priests justify these ceremonies by saying that it is
necessary in order to hold them in the church. “The old customs,” says
one, “are respectable; it is well to preserve them, only taking care
that they do not degenerate into orgies.”

These same simple natives will attend the churches to-day and kneel
before the sacred images while making their prayers, and burn their
candles, and then go and consult their old wizards and follow whatever
his instructions may be. The old and the new superstitions are wofully
confused in their minds, but they want to be on the safe side by
following both. They even burn an incense made of gum opal before the
altars in the churches, the same as formerly used in their idol worship.
They will sometimes kneel to a blank wall or door post and mutter their
prayers, being absolutely oblivious to anything going on around them.
The impressive services, the chanting, the solemn music attract the
Indian but at heart he is simply an idolater.

The Quiché Tribe of Guatemala, who are the most numerous body of Indians
in that country, are descendants of that ancient race of builders who
held sway in the Valley of Mexico from the seventh to the twelfth
century—the Toltecs. Driven from there by the victorious Aztecs they
fled south and early in the sixteenth century were divided into two or
three powerful and flourishing kingdoms in northern and northwestern
Guatemala. These people are also closely related to the Maya race in
Yucatan who have been such a source of trouble to the Mexican
government. They carried with them some of the gods and the horrible
practices of their conquerors.

It is estimated that there are some three hundred and fifty thousand of
the Quiché tribes now living in Guatemala. They are quite industrious
being engaged in agriculture and the weaving of cotton and woollen
goods. Although nominal Catholics, yet they follow their own customs of
worship. They have their own wizards, who are always old men, and follow
a strange mixture of fire and devil worship. These old men, the wizards
or priests, are much feared and held in great reverence by the people.
It is well known that the Indians have certain concoctions that will
produce madness, and it is claimed that these wizards will sometimes
give such herbs to the victims of their displeasure. The people at least
credit them with such actions and fear is but a natural result.

During the first century and a half of Spanish rule hundreds of churches
were built in Guatemala. It became a pious duty for returning Spaniards
to bring paintings and statues of saints for these newly-erected
churches and holy relics of the saints to place therein. Now most of
these sacred edifices are in a very poorly preserved state. Much of the
church property has been confiscated. The wealth thus having been taken
away and the natives being poor, the churches have a neglected
appearance. Even bats make their abode in some of these structures
devoted to the worship of God.

The services are open to all and the Indian with a crate of chickens or
turkeys on his back kneels side by side with a _señorita_ who has the
bluest of blood in her veins. They meet by a common genuflection. There
are many old crude organs yet in the churches with the wind supplied by
a bellows much the same as that found in a blacksmith shop. And as if
this were not enough, native instruments, including a drum made of hides
stretched over the hollow trunks of trees, are used, and bombs and
rockets are let off to add to the confusion and make a deeper impression
on the mind of the poor native.

The most absurd paintings and statues are used to portray sacred
characters to the worshippers. In one place God is represented as a man
with a bald head and white beard, almost as hideous as some of the
eastern idols. Christ is represented both as a shaven monk and with bent
legs, and staples in the ankles to strap him to a mule on Palm Sunday.
Another figure of Christ, according to a careful writer, represents him
with glass eyes, long human hair and a crown cocked over on his left eye
like a drunken man. In the same church is an altar piece with deeply
sunken panel containing a realistic crucifix with glass eyes, sweat,
long hair, blood drops and from five wounds proceed skeins of crimson
thread representing the blood flowing—a horrible and repulsive sight
that seems to attract these simple people. On one side of this panel are
Roman soldiers mocking the suffering of the Christ; on the other is a
Guatemaltecan general in full uniform (the one who presented this
gruesome work to the church) weeping at the sight. In a church at
Esquipulas is a picture of the people lassoing Christ, and in another is
a picture of a priest offering a consecrated wafer to a kneeling ass.

Huge figures, which are really dolls, represent the Virgin and other
Marys. _Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe_, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is
generally represented as a large doll, all lace and tinsel, and is
carried through the streets accompanied by music, flowers and fireworks.
On December 8th is celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception. On
this occasion religious processions are held which march over the
principal streets and women dress up as devils and animals and dance
before the image of the Virgin in many places. Many rockets are fired
and candles are burned in almost every window. Holy week is also filled
with processions in which images of the Virgin, Christ and the saints
are carried through the streets. The day is a public holiday and candles
are burned in almost every window. The most famous shrine is that at
Esquipulas, called Our Lord of Esquipulas, and where the statue (if such
it can be called) generally known as the Black Christ, is found. This
was made in Guatemala City in 1594. The image is less than life size and
has long female hair. Formerly as many as fifty thousand pilgrims came
there in a year even from far away Mexico and Panama. Money then flowed
into this shrine in great abundance, but it is now rather neglected.

It is little wonder that the men of the Creole class very seldom attend
the services. Bringing down the Christian worship to such a low level
cannot do otherwise than alienate one who thinks for himself. The
majority of the men simply stand by without interfering with the
services, but at heart they are atheistic and it is little wonder.

Several Catholic writers have been the most severe critics of the
religious conditions in many parts of Spanish-America. The cause, in my
opinion, has been the mixture of the religious with the political, in
which the corruption of the latter lowered the high plane on which
religion should stand. Those of the clergy who were ambitious for power
cloaked their movements under the guise of religion and thus brought the
odium of their political movements upon the Church, which, as an
organization, had nothing to do with it. It is impossible, however, to
absolutely separate the two in treating of the conditions which have
existed in times past and which still exist in some places.

The Roman Church, as a body that has done great good in times past, and
is doing great work in other countries such as the United States, owes
it as a duty to itself to reform the Church in Mexico, Central and South
America, and lift it to the high standard it has reached elsewhere. The
priesthood should be improved and the immoral and unworthy members
removed from that office. The fees for the services of the Church should
be reduced so that the poor Indians can have the offices of the Church
for marriages, burials, confirmations, etc. The Church could also assist
greatly in advancing the work of educating the native. I believe that
conditions are improving to a great extent and I know that there are
scores of hard-working and conscientious priests of the Catholic Church
in Guatemala who are honestly endeavouring to inculcate the truths of
religion among the natives, and the results are seen in the communities
in which they work. To them all praise and honour is due.

Protestantism has scarcely made an impression in Guatemala as yet. The
Presbyterian Church maintains missionaries in Guatemala City and
Quezaltenango who preach there and occasionally in outlying towns. The
Wesleyan Methodist ministers living at Belize hold services at Puerto
Barrios at infrequent intervals, and one or two other missionaries are
stationed at other points in the republic. The priests are generally
hostile, naturally, and very little has been accomplished.

I quote from the Presbyterian missionary stationed at Quezaltenango in a
report made to the home board in 1906:

“Just a week ago while passing along the street in San Marcos in company
with the missionary of that Station we had about eight or nine stones
thrown at us, but fortunately none of them struck us. Later many of the
better people of the town on hearing of it came to us repudiating such
conduct toward the Christians. The church here in Quezaltenango has
grown but little in numbers during the past year and there have been
many failings among the believers. There is noticeable growth among some
that is encouraging enough to cheer the missionary in spite of the
falling away of others. The work at Retalhuleu has been given up
indefinitely as the Mission force here has not been sufficient to
provide a worker there, and until there are more missionaries on the
field it would be unwise to attempt to reopen it or start any new work

Also from a report by another missionary located at the capital:

“There is a wide open door for us among the poor people, where there
will be no conflict with local physicians and where there will be no
intrusion upon the territory of another. Children and poor people
literally die here by the hundred without any proper medical care. The
story in this line is simply pathetic, heartrending. My wife has, with
her very limited knowledge, saved the lives of many, and if she had the
strength could have done much for many more people, but she has had to
give up this work, almost entirely.”

There is a broad field, I believe, for missionary work, and the medical
missionary will accomplish the best results just as is the case in
oriental lands. Good physicians are few and the poor people cannot
afford to pay them for their services. A lack of hygiene is prevalent
everywhere and the people are ignorant of ordinary sanitary measures
which would lessen sickness and suffering in a great degree. A moral
awakening is badly needed also and the field is ripe for such a movement
either from within the Catholic church or through the evangelizing
efforts of Protestant bodies. Institutional churches would, in my
opinion, best meet the situation so that the social as well as spiritual
side of the people could be brought up to a higher plane. The field is
there and it only awaits the workers.

In Guatemala City there is a good opening for a Young Men’s Christian
Association. It could accomplish a great work both among the foreigners
residing there and the native residents. It could, because of its
undenominational character, be made a centre not only for religious work
but for the social and intellectual life of the capital in a way that no
other institution could fill. I met many Americans in business there who
expressed the need of such an institution for the expatriated citizens
of foreign countries.


                               CHAPTER X


THE foreigner in Guatemala is absolutely safe, and travelling in that
country is as free from danger as in our own land. Sensational rumours
sometimes appear in American newspapers about the imprisonment of
American subjects, but, if the reports are true, the persons arrested no
doubt deserve punishment, for meddlers and persons seeking to escape
punishment for wrong-doing in other lands frequently seek an asylum in
the Central American republics. Were they innocent our own officials
would be called upon to right the injustice, and this government has not
deemed it necessary to interfere. The country is practically free from
robbers and it is absolutely unnecessary for the traveller to make of
himself a walking arsenal before visiting Guatemala. The natives are
harmless and trustworthy. One can entrust thousands of dollars with a
cargador to be carried across the country, and, if he is informed that
he will be held responsible for his charge, the native will accomplish
his mission or die in the attempt. This trait of fealty to trust is a
striking characteristic of the native character.

The cause of education has been promoted very much in recent years and
schools have been established in many of the villages. The “Festival of
Minerva” was instituted as an annual commemoration in the interest of
education. It was thought that a popular celebration would draw the
attention of the people to the value of education and would stimulate
the desire for greater learning. To a certain extent it has succeeded,
and there is no doubt that a larger percentage of people can read and
write to-day than was the case a decade ago. At least limited facilities
for primary education exist in most of the villages, but the schools are
entirely inadequate to accommodate those of school age. Education is
compulsory in theory, but practically voluntary in practice, because of
the non-enforcement of the laws. The appropriations are wholly
inadequate for efficient results.

There are six papers published in the capital. “The Diario Official” is
a government organ. Then the other more important publications are the
“Diario de Centro-America,” “La Republica” and “La Nacion.” In all there
are about thirty papers published in the entire republic. All of these
newspapers are subject to strict government supervision and censure. Any
mention whatever of a revolutionary movement would bring severe
punishment upon the head of the offending editor. It is even forbidden
to give an account of murders and assaults that take place. It is easy
to see that an editor’s position is not an easy one, for his range of
news is limited and an overslip might lead to confiscation and

The fluctuating value of the currency of the country is an unfortunate
condition. There is absolutely no silver or gold money in circulation. A
customs examination of my baggage upon leaving the country caused me to
inquire the purpose of it. The reply was that the law forbids the taking
of silver out of the country. As I had not seen a silver coin in
circulation this explanation made the examination seem like a jest.
Paper certificates issued by the banks, together with minor coins of
alloy, constitute the sole currency. The value of these dollars
fluctuates from six to eight cents on a gold basis. This is rather to
the advantage of the investor, however, as he pays for all native
supplies and labour in the depreciated currency of the country and sells
all his productions at gold values. The wages of unskilled labourers are
very low, averaging from one to two and a half dollars in paper per day,
or from eight to twenty-five cents per day. The best results are
obtained by assigning a task to the peon. He will perform the allotted
task, but extra pay is no inducement for him to work overtime. The only
consideration that will move him to do extra work is the promise that
the overtime will be credited on another day in order to give him an
extra holiday.

The foreign trade of Guatemala slowly increases each year. The last year
for which statistics are available, 1907, show total exports amounting
to $10,174,486 and imports of $7,316,574. Of the exports, the bulk of
which is coffee, Germany is the largest consumer, taking 53.79 per cent.
of the total, while the United States uses only 21.6 per cent. In the
matter of imports the proportion is different and the United States has
a fair proportion of the trade. Of the total imports the United States
furnished 58.1 per cent., and its nearest competitor is England with
about 22 per cent. to her credit. Spain, the mother country, brings up
the rear with less than two per cent. of the whole. The value of the
goods imported from the United States for 1905 was only $1,442,000, and
those sent in return $2,292,000, showing a considerable balance of trade
in favour of Guatemala. The chief imports from the United States consist
of foodstuffs, hardware, railroad supplies and cotton goods. Germany has
the lead in machinery, and England provides by far the most of the
cotton manufactures, furnishing at least three-fourths of the entire
imports of that line of goods.

Guatemala, because of its nearness to our seaports, ought to be an
unusually good market for the United States. With the opening of the new
railroad to the Gulf, the Capital, which is the chief distributing
point, is placed within such easy communication of our southern ports,
such as Galveston, New Orleans and Mobile, that Europe can not
successfully compete if all other conditions are made satisfactory.
American concerns ought to furnish practically all the manufactured
articles needed by Guatemala, and can do so if the business is properly
looked after. Upon this subject a recent consular report says: “If this
field is properly worked and sufficiently long credit is given,
practically nothing but American goods need be found in the markets of
Guatemala, for they are generally conceded to be the best. The market is
worth cultivating, for the next few years will see great development
here. Everything points that way, and the national resources are great.
Packages should be very firmly nailed and bound by band iron, so that
they would be difficult to open, as there is much complaint about goods
being stolen from boxes in transit. It will pay exporters to pack well
everything they ship. Dollars spent in this line will bring hundreds in

Another report says: “It must be borne in mind that the importers of
this republic are for the greater part Germans, and their interest and
inclination lead them to trade with the fatherland. England also is
preferred over the United States, possibly because Guatemala merchants
can more easily identify themselves in England, and get better credits.
American goods therefore are imported only when their quality places
them so far ahead of the European article that the merchant is almost
compelled to have them in stock. The American manufacturers should
become better acquainted with this trade, ascertain who are worthy of
credit, and extend it. The long voyage and delay _en route_ compel the
importers to ask long credits. It is sometimes two or three months after
shipments destined for this city leave the manufacturer, before they can
be displayed in the store of the importer. The custom duty on about all
cotton goods is collected on gross weight of the package. Great care
should be taken with invoices for custom-house purposes; the goods must
be described in exact phraseology of Guatemala custom tariff.”

A credit of nine months is generally asked, and this is readily granted
by European merchants, but Americans usually demur at this long credit
and trade is lost. Furthermore, American salesmen seldom understand the
Latin nature or even the language, and endeavour to hurry sales. They
want to get away by the next train or steamer, while a European drummer
will cultivate his trade leisurely. In the end the sales are large
enough to justify his methods and very little is lost by failures if
reasonable precaution is exercised.

The conquest of what have heretofore been regarded as the unhealthful
and disagreeable features of the lowlands of the tropics is now at hand.
Those localities where yellow fever has prevailed and that troublesome
mosquito, the _stegomya fasciata_, has heretofore held sway, will soon
come into their own. The transformation that has taken place at Panama,
Colon and Havana will be repeated along the whole Caribbean Shore and
great and prosperous ports will take the place of the little towns which
are now found. When modern methods of drainage and sanitation, sewerage,
and water supply have been installed, those coasts will be the site of
prosperous cities almost as desirable as those more distant from the

The possibilities of life in the tropics are so favourable that an
almost unlimited population can be supported. The island of Java, with
an area scarcely as large as Guatemala, supports a population of twenty
millions of people. Bangkok, the capital of Siam, located at sea level,
about the same distance from the equator as Guatemala, is a city of
wealth and good sanitary conditions and has a population of about four
hundred thousand. These comparisons might be made in great numbers, all
tending to show what capabilities of development now lie inert right at
our very doors.

The Spanish-Americans have a great many good qualities which we have
heretofore failed to appreciate. Americans are too much inclined to
thoughtlessly criticize everything and everybody that is not as we would
have it. The world would be a prosaic world indeed if all nations were
alike, just as it would be if all individuals were cast in the same
mould. Environment and heredity have given them different
characteristics which will always prevail. We should look upon our Latin
neighbours with more sympathy and aid them wherever possible, for
Americans themselves, though an especially favoured people, are not
perfect. The Spanish-Americans have an innate courtesy which is sadly
deficient in our own land, and they admire Americans, but they resent
that superior, not-as-good-as-I attitude adopted by so many of our

We assume to exercise a guardianship over the Latin-American republics.
Whether the Monroe Doctrine is a good thing for those countries or not
depends upon ourselves. It can be made a good measure or it may become a
curse. European domination would be better than political chaos, and the
Latin-Americans resent the Monroe Doctrine. It is advisable for us to
study our wards. It behooves all classes, professional and business, to
realize the importance of Latin America, which comprises three-fourths
of the two Americas, and study her economic and political needs. In that
way any barrier that may still exist will be broken down. Seventy
millions of people are found among those nations and such an aggregation
of people are worthy our interest and friendship.

“_Mañana_” and “_no es costumbre_” are expressions that explain two of
the elements in the Spanish-American character which account for his
non-progressiveness. The first is the “to-morrow” spirit—the desire to
put everything off until the future. It is almost impossible to get him
to do anything promptly, but it is delayed from day to day in the
blandest way imaginable. It can well be called the land of “to-morrow”
and “wait-a-while.” The other expression means “it is not the custom”
and illustrates the adherence to usage which is so prevalent. If you
attempt to do anything in a different way, and even a better way, he is
not interested because it has not been the custom to do it that way with
his forefathers. He meets your argument with the terse expression “_no
es costumbre_” and the matter is dismissed. It is for this reason that a
crooked stick with an iron point is still used in plowing, for that has
been the unchanging method since “the memory of man runneth not to the
contrary,” as Blackstone, the great law giver, would say. This habit
makes the Guatemalan slow to adopt new devices, even though they might
be a convenience and labour-saving. He is satisfied until his neighbours
adopt it, and then his pride is aroused and he will begin to use the
articles or adopt the new methods himself.

Guatemala will never be a manufacturing country unless coal is found in
greater abundance than has yet been done. Even the fuel used in
locomotives is imported, and it becomes very expensive because of long
and difficult transportation. Some waterfalls exist which might be
utilized to develop electric power. This would be a profitable
undertaking at this time as some small factories for domestic needs
always exist, and electric energy for light and electric street railway
system is needed. The only factories that are now found are for the
manufacture of coarse textiles, hats, pottery, foundry products and the
necessary railway repairs. Pottery ware in the average home is used for
flour barrels, cisterns, stoves, baths, stew-pans, coffee-pots, dishes,
lamps, floors, etc. The looms in use are of the very crudest pattern,
being simply two harnesses worked by the foot of the weaver, and the
bobbins are wound on bamboo sticks which are shoved in and out through
the web.

The mineral riches have been practically unexploited. The mining
archives of the old colonial government show that during the three
centuries of Spanish occupancy more than thirteen hundred mines of gold,
silver, lead, copper, tin and iron were successfully worked and were a
source of great revenue to both church and state, and that enormous
quantities of gold and silver were taken from those mines. From one
group of mines the records prove that nearly fifty millions of dollars
in silver were coined besides large amounts that were shipped to Europe
in bullion. From 1627 to 1820 more than thirteen hundred mines of
valuable metals were discovered and worked under the Spanish domination,
for that government kept an elaborate and accurate record of the mines
of the precious metals. On the banks of the Montagua River a few gold
mines are being worked. Judging from the few American miners I met, not
all of them, at least, are getting rich out of the precious metal.
Guatemala is not as highly a mineralized section as Mexico. Little
scientific prospecting or exploiting has been done as yet. In Honduras
several valuable gold mines are being worked, and Guatemala, sandwiched
in between that country and Mexico, must contain some gold. Silver mines
are being worked profitably in some parts of the country, and very rich
veins of argentiferous lead have been located. Lead, tin, copper,
antimony, marble of superior quality, sulphur, asbestos and alabaster
have been discovered, and coal in small veins. Mining experts have
reported extensive veins of all those metals, but little has been done
since the establishment of the republic in working them. These mines
will offer great inducements as soon as the transportation facilities
are improved and new cyanide mills constructed for the thorough and
economical working of the raw ores. The very isolation of the mines and
difficulty of establishing communication have heretofore prevented the
working of the veins already known. The small quantity of coal is a
serious detriment to the development of manufactures, for fuel becomes
an expensive item in manufacture. There are a number of waterfalls,
however, which might easily be used for the generation of electric power
for manufactures and railroads. This field remains entirely undeveloped
at the present time, but it is certainly worth investigation.


Railroads are now needed more than anything else. Only four hundred
miles of railroad in a state nearly as large as Illinois illustrates the
difficulty of communication. For instance, the distance from Guatemala
City to Totonicapan, a city of twenty-five thousand people, is only one
hundred miles, yet it requires almost as long to travel this distance as
it does to go from New York to San Francisco on one of our express
trains. A mule path is the only road, and the average traveller will not
make it in less than four days. Five hundred or a thousand miles of new
railway lines would do far more to develop the country than anything
else, for the telegraph and telephone would follow the iron rails. At
present there are about three thousand miles of telegraph and a few
hundred miles of telephone wires that spread over the country. These
improvements would also go far toward establishing peaceful conditions,
for they would enable the central government to learn promptly of any
disaffection, and hurry troops there before the movement could become at
all formidable.

Guatemala is a land of possibilities. Everything that can be raised in
the temperate and tropical zones will grow here. If irrigation is
provided in the _tierra templada_ there need be no unproductive season
for the warm air and bright sun will propagate the seeds that are sown
at any time of the year. Two crops of wheat and three crops of corn will
reward the industry of the planter. Fertilizers are unnecessary, for the
heavy rains of the rainy season wash down the rich soils from the sides
of the mountains and fertilize the plains. The great secret is therefore
for the agriculturist to adapt his cultivation to the nature of the
climate and soil and his success is assured. Greater success will be
realized on plantations where a colony of peon labourers is maintained,
however, because otherwise it is difficult to secure labour when needed,
and the farmer can not expect to do as much with his own hands as in a
cooler climate. Continued peace, stability of government, construction
of more railways and the investment of foreign capital are the four
essential needs for the growth and prosperity of Guatemala. No one can
travel through that republic, or the neighbouring one of Honduras, and
note their nearness to the great markets of the world, variety of
climate, wealth of natural resources and vast areas suited to profitable
agriculture and not be deeply impressed.

Stability of government will come, I believe, very soon. The
Spanish-American character is developing. The prosperity of Mexico and
railway connections with that country will have a far greater influence
in bringing about that result than any one other condition. The peace
conference held at Washington in 1907, composed of prominent
representatives of all the Central American republics, was a notable
event, and will have a far-reaching effect in bringing about permanent
peace among those turbulent states. The meetings were characterized by
an earnestness of desire and seriousness of intention that were pleasing
to one interested in the welfare of those countries. Already many
millions of foreign capital, including about eight millions of American
gold, are invested in Guatemala, and the aggregate is increasing each
year. Tourists and commercial salesmen are going there in greater
numbers, and each one comes back enthusiastic over the possibilities of
development of that country.

Guatemala is the most important of the Central American republics and is
the nearest to the United States in geographical situation. It is a
short journey for the traveller in search of new and novel sights, and
should not be overlooked by the merchant or manufacturer on the lookout
for new fields of conquest. The near-west is just as good a field as the
far-east and the exertion is less. The land is yet virgin, for the wants
of the people have not been developed. The leaven is working, however,
and the transition period is near at hand. It began in Mexico and is
slowly working its way downward toward Panama. Its progress can be
hastened by judicious and studied effort. It is not a thankless or
profitless task, for the returns will compensate for the effort


                               CHAPTER XI

                            BRITISH HONDURAS

IT was with romantic feelings that I sailed along the coast of British
Honduras, past the numerous little coral reefs, called cays, and into
the beautiful harbour of Belize. For many years these shores were the
rendezvous of organized bands of pirates, who practically ruled the
Caribbean seas during a good part of the seventeenth century. Each
wooded island and cay has its legend of buried treasure, but no one has
ever been able to locate a single “caché,” although expeditions in
search of this fabled treasure-trove are still organized and as often
fail. Each new leader feels that he has discovered the true key to this
hidden wealth, and comes to these shores armed with “magnetic needles”
or “divining rods,” which will be sure to point out the exact location
of the buried gold.

The pirates who sailed the Caribbean waters were of many nationalities,
Dutch, French, Spanish and British. An old Scotch buccaneer, named Peter
Wallace, with eighty companions, was the first to enter the port of
Belize, which name was originally given to the whole settlement. These
men immediately erected houses at that place enclosed by rude palisades
for defence. From here they set out on their expeditions after stray
merchantmen. It was not long, however, before the shrewd Scotchman
discovered that there was more and surer money in marketing the native
woods than in the uncertain and dangerous occupation of robbing ships.
Logwood at that time was in such demand for the manufacture of dyes that
it sometimes brought as much as one hundred dollars a ton, and is now
worth not one-tenth of that price because of the cheaper chemical dyes.
So prosperous had this colony become by 1733 that Yucatan sent troops
and attempted to drive away the colonists by force.

[Illustration: A POLICEMAN OF BELIZE.]

England had at one time laid claim to the “mosquito coast,” which is now
a part of the Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua, and which was at that
time nothing but a howling wilderness occupied by a hybrid race of
negroes and Indians, called “Zambos,” who were ruled by a hereditary
king. When difficulties arose with Spain England waived all her rights
to that shore in return for the sovereignty of Belize, which since that
time has been known as British Honduras. Spain afterwards repented of
her bargain and sent a formidable (?) fleet in 1798 to capture the place
which was ignominiously defeated in the “Battle of St. George’s Caye,”
which is much celebrated locally. The United States and Great Britain
entered into the treaty known as the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1850,
which provided that neither country should occupy, fortify, colonize, or
exercise dominion over any portion of Central American territory, except
Belize, or make use of a protectorate in any form.

British Honduras forms a slice of land off the northeast coast of
Guatemala and lying between that country and Yucatan. Its greatest
length is one hundred and seventy-four miles and its greatest width
sixty-eight miles, and, with the adjacent cays, contains an area of
about seven thousand five hundred and sixty-two square miles. On the
coast it is swampy and covered with dense tropical vegetation, but the
interior is composed of ridges which reach the dignity of good-sized
hills. There are a number of little villages along the coast from which
bananas and other tropical fruits are shipped, and in the interior are
the settlements of the logwood and mahogany workers, but none of the
places pass beyond the dignity of villages. The total population is in
the neighbourhood of twenty-five thousand, of which negroes predominate,
and the whites are only a small percentage.

Belize, the principal town, and capital, is the largest and most
important town on the Caribbean coast of Central America. As our steamer
wended its way through the cays and low green islands, the long line of
white buildings setting amidst rows of royal palms, with here and there
a clump of cocoanut trees, made a picturesque and beautiful sight. As we
came to anchor a mile from shore a number of fleet sail-boats manned by
coal-black negroes came out to meet us and take the passengers ashore. I
afterwards learned that this place is the negro’s paradise, for they
have absolute social and political equality. They are the soldiers and
policemen, and fill nearly all the other important positions except
governmental. These places at least are reserved for the members of the
small white colony.


It has been said that the Englishman always carries his atmosphere with
him no matter in what latitude it might be. I have visited several
British colonies and have always found that true, and nowhere is it more
impressed on you than here at Belize. It is such a contrast from the
Spanish-American towns that the change is almost startling. Although
there are perhaps not more than two or three hundred Englishmen there,
you will see all the characteristic of that race in their native land.
There are of course always a few concessions made in order to conform to
local conditions but, as a rule, they are not many in number.

As one writer says of his visit: “We were not at all surprised to find
that the black native police wore the familiar blue-and-white striped
cuff of the London bobby, the district attorney a mortar-board cap and
gown, and the colonial bishop gaiters and an apron. It was quite in
keeping, also, that the advertisements on the boardings should announce,
and give equal prominence to, a Sunday-school treat and boxing match,
and that officers of a man-of-war should be playing cricket with a local
eleven under a tropical sun, and that the chairs in the Council room and
Government House should be of heavy leather stamped V. R. with a crown
above the initials. An American official in as hot a climate, being more
adaptable, would have had bamboo chairs with large, open-work backs, or
would have supplied the council with rocking-chairs.”

The Governor’s House is a large building set in a little grove of royal
and cocoanut palms and with a fine view of the blue waters of the bay.
The background of blue sea is filled with the dories of the Caribs,
which are merely huge logs hollowed out and rigged sloop-fashion with
white sails, or sails that had once been white. Several cannon are set
up in the yard and a number of dusky-hued natives in the uniform of a
British soldier pace back and forth in the hot sun—this giving a
semblance of the power of the British lion.

The city of Belize contains a population of about eight thousand souls,
and a very cosmopolitan population it is with its negroes, British,
Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, etc., etc. The city itself is generally
clean and tidy, but not so picturesque as the Spanish towns. The Belize
River divides the town, and over it there is one bridge. Across this
bridge passes in review the entire life of the town like the famous
Rialto bridge at Venice. The houses are generally three stories in
height and painted white. Cistern water is used exclusively for domestic
purposes, and immense cisterns twenty to thirty-five feet high and
greater in circumference are a common sight. The water is rendered
delightfully cool by porous earthen jars which are placed in a draught
of air, and the water is thus cooled by the rapid evaporation of this
climate. Around the houses are flowers in endless variety, of which the
most conspicuous are the oleander trees which frequently reach a height
of twelve feet, and whose beautiful white blossoms contrast so strongly
with the dark-green foliage of other trees such as the mango.

The market is a most interesting place for an American. The stalls are
generally presided over by negro women or Carib men who have brought
their produce in a dory. Every kind of tropical fruit can be purchased
at a low price, from the delicious mango to a peculiar fruit that very
much resembles ice cream in appearance, though not in temperature. Many
of these tropical fruits are delicious and would be popular in our
northern markets, but they are too delicate for transportation, so that
it is very doubtful whether they will ever be found for sale so far from
their natural habitat. In the flower department one can find many kinds
of beautiful blossoms, and at prices so cheap that it is almost a sin
not to buy them. The traveller will find many flowers with which he is
familiar mingled with new varieties whose appearance is no less
beautiful because of their strangeness. He will find times and seasons
much confused in the assortment of carnations, marigolds, sweet peas,
poppies, gladioles, dahlias, roses, fuchsias, lilies and mignonettes
which meet his astonished gaze. Then there are many beautiful orchids
over which many people fairly rave. Pigs of the razor back variety and
with a porcupine-like coat of hair are for sale, being held by the owner
with a string attached to a hind leg. Here every one comes for their
table supplies of vegetables and fruits, and at times it is a very
animated place.

[Illustration: A STREET IN BELIZE.]

Belize is a delightful place to be during the months from December to
March. While people in Northern latitudes are bundling themselves up as
a protection against the chilly blasts of old Boreas, the populace of
Belize are enjoying pleasant summer weather and wearing their
warm-weather clothes. At night the trade winds which nearly always blow
across this bay lower the temperature so that refreshing sleep can be
obtained. It is healthful and there is no more fever than at our own
Gulf ports, and yellow fever very seldom gets any foothold whatever,
even though the town is only a few feet above the level of the sea. The
most disagreeable occasions are when the “Northers” sweep across the
Gulf with indescribable velocity and lash the waves with great fury.
Then the inhabitant on shore may congratulate himself that he is not at
the mercy of old father Neptune.

British Honduras has few modern improvements. There is not a railway in
the land, and even the cart roads are only passably good. It contains
within its borders possibilities of development that are hardly
believable to one who has not seen these incredibly rich tropical lands.
Although considered small, it is several times as large as our smallest
states, and its agricultural possibilities far exceed those
commonwealths. Its nearness to markets makes it especially attractive,
and its stable government renders investments absolutely safe. At
present its chief distinction is its logwood industry, of which Belize
is in the lead, and the mahogany which is floated here in rafts from its
own borders and the neighbouring forests of Guatemala and the State of
Campeche, Mexico.

The Belize River with its tributary streams leads back into the great
tropical forests of Peten where mahogany is abundant. Much of the
mahogany lands are in the hands of large owners or companies who have
the business thoroughly organized, although large tracts still belong to
public lands, where concessions can be secured for cutting the valuable
export woods. The timber is roughly squared and then floated down the
streams during the rainy season, and most of it finds its way to Belize,
where it is put in shape for the market. The mahogany grows rapidly, and
it is said that in thirty years a tree will grow from a shoot and
furnish logs of large size. This city is also a great market for the
chicle gum, which is obtained in the neighbouring forests and shipped to
the United States to be used in the manufacture of chewing gum, for
which more money is spent by the great family of Uncle Sam than is sent
to all the foreign missions of the world by the same nation.


                              CHAPTER XII

                          REPUBLIC OF HONDURAS

THE Republic of Honduras is situated immediately east of Guatemala and
has a frontier line of perhaps two hundred miles next to that republic.
On the Caribbean Sea its coast line from Guatemala to Cape
Gracias-a-Dios (thanks to God) measures about four hundred miles. The
true boundary line between Honduras and Nicaragua has caused much
confusion and misunderstanding in the past, and it is hardly well
defined yet, although several commissions have been appointed by the two
governments and made their reports. It has but a small coast line on the
Pacific in the Bay of Fonseca.

There are many rivers which rise in the interior and wend their way
toward the ocean. The principal rivers flow northward and empty their
waters into the Gulf of Mexico. Of these the largest is the Ulua, which
drains a large expanse of territory and discharges a greater amount of
water into the sea than any other river of Central America. It is
navigable for a distance of a hundred and twenty-five miles for
light-draft vessels, and regular service is now maintained on it by a
small combined freight and passenger steamer operated by an American
company. It opens up a rich agricultural district to commerce. The
Aguan, Negro, Patuca and Coco, or Segovia, rivers are also considerable
streams which are navigated by the natives. The Lake of Yohoa, the only
lake of any note, is about twenty-five miles long and from three to
eight miles broad.

Cortez reported to his sovereign that Honduras was a “land covered with
awfully miry swamps. I can assure your majesty that even on the tops of
the hills our horses, led as they were by hand, and without their
riders, sank to their girths in the mire.” The great conqueror doubtless
landed during the rainy season, when the rains are literally “downpours”
and the rivers become torrents. At that season the mud does seem to be
almost without bottom, and the immense areas of mangrove-tree swamps
which cover the mud flats in the immediate vicinity of the mainland made
the finding of a good landing-place a difficult matter. Although he
found the natives tractable and the country was easily subdued, yet he
could not control nature, which here exhibits herself in her wildest and
most terrible aspects. He named his landing-place Puerto Caballos,
because he lost a number of horses, but it has since been named in his
own honour.

Honduras is not all swamp, for this condition only exists along the
coast of the Atlantic and Pacific and for a distance varying from only a
few miles to fifty miles inland. Then the land begins to rise, gradually
spreading out into plains and plateaus, until the mountainous region is
reached with its many volcanic peaks which lift their graceful heads
above the clouds. The same general mountain system that has been
described in Guatemala enters Honduras, and with many breaks takes a
general southeasterly course through the republic to Nicaragua. The mean
altitude is not nearly so high as in Guatemala, nor are there so many
lofty peaks, but there can be found almost every possible variety of
climate, soil and production.

Nature has been prodigal in her gifts to this republic, and nowhere upon
the whole earth can greater returns be realized with a minimum of
effort. It seems that all Nature is awaiting with welcoming arms the
farmer, the rancher and the fruit-grower, for there is very little of
the land that is not susceptible of some sort of profitable development.
Nowhere on earth are there more fertile valleys, more genial suns,
softer breezes, or fairer skies. And yet with all these natural
advantages, and with all this inducement to labour and development,
there is no place on this great globe where nature’s gifts are so poorly
utilized or so little appreciated, and to-day Honduras is the least
advanced of all the Central American republics.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1907, by Judge Company, New York. THE HONDURAS

It is as difficult and almost as long a journey from New York to reach
the capital of Honduras as the capital of Persia, which seems so far
away, while Central America is so near. One must go by steamer to Colon,
across the Isthmus of Panama by rail, then a several days’ journey on
the Pacific to Amapala, and lastly a three or four days’ journey by mule
to Tegucigalpa; or, he can take the steamer to Puerto Cortez, railroad
to San Pedro Sula, and an eight or ten days’ journey over the mountains
on the long-eared, but short-legged, nondescript quadrupeds above named.
There are no accommodations or comforts along the way and, on arriving
at the capital, one is obliged many times to depend on the good will of
citizens for a decent stopping-place as the hotel is not a very
desirable hostelry.

The harbour of Puerto Cortez, in the northwestern corner of the
republic, is large, commodious and safe. As our boat steamed through the
blue waters of the bay, the town set in among clumps of cocoanut palms
following the sweep of the shore, and with its background of mountains,
made a beautiful picture that lingers in the memory. We passed by the
Honduras navy resting at anchor. It consisted of a single vessel, the
_Tatumbla_, which made a great show of strength with its two little guns
which have seen little more warlike service than to fire a salute when a
foreign man-of-war has appeared in the harbour. Formerly it was the
private yacht of an American, then saw service in the Spanish-American
war, after which it was sold to Honduras.

Puerto Cortez is the principal Gulf port of the country and is a
fair-sized town of twelve hundred or more. There are a few frame and
corrugated-iron buildings which house the railroad office, custom-house,
steamship freight house, _commandancia_, and offices of the United Fruit
Company, generally known as the banana trust. A few frame houses are the
homes of the various consular agents stationed at this port. The native
quarters are made up of a row of mud and thatch huts facing the bay and
almost hidden by the foliage of the palms which overtower them. A
syndicate is now at work filling up the lowlands and converting it into
a modern seaport by the aid of steam shovels and a good force of

Puerto Cortez is very subject to yellow fever and is often quarantined
for months at a time in the summer. I had one letter from a business man
written in July in which he stated that they had been quarantined since
May 22nd and that it would probably last until about the first of
October. This condition seriously interferes with business, for visitors
cannot come in and the planters all flee to the higher lands for safety.
Anyone desiring to visit the country should do so from October to March
when there is no danger of quarantine delay, and during the dry season
travelling is much pleasanter. Some day, perhaps, the government may
learn a lesson from Havana and Panama and introduce modern sanitation,
and thus destroy the breeding places of the troublesome _stegomya
fasciata_, the yellow-fever mosquito, which is at present the bane of
the country.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1907, by Judge Company, New York. PUERTO

The most pretentious building in the town is a large two-storied
building surrounded by verandas, looking like an old colonial home. In
the yard were two flag-poles, on one of which was the stars and stripes
and on the other the blue and white flag of Honduras. A closer
inspection showed that it was the home of the exiled Louisiana State
Lottery, now known as the Honduras National Lottery. After being driven
from the United States by the action of the Postmaster General, and
later by the State government of Louisiana, that State having refused a
renewal of its franchise, this insidious monster, which at one time
absorbed profits of many millions of dollars annually from the people,
and supported its officers in luxury, was obliged to seek a new
domicile. Mexico refused it a charter and even poverty-stricken Colombia
and liberal Nicaragua denied it a home. Honduras, however, gave it a
local habitation and a name upon the promise to pay an annual license
fee of twenty thousand dollars and twenty per cent. of its gross
receipts. So here it was housed in a great building, and here once each
month a drawing took place to see which one of the many foolish persons
investing their money was the successful gambler. There is not a
Spanish-American country, however, which does not charter some one or
more public lotteries, generally to raise money for charitable purposes,
and in almost all of these the vendor of lottery tickets is a familiar
sight on the streets.

From Puerto Cortez a railway runs about sixty miles inland to Pimienta.
The principal town on this transcontinental line, however, is San Pedro
Sula, about thirty-eight miles from that port. The train runs every
other day at irregular intervals, and is made up of some poor coaches, a
poor engine, and banana freight cars something like the open cars for
the transportation of live stock. The track at that time was in harmony
with the equipment. This line was built by an English company which took
the contract for constructing the line from coast to coast, passing
through the capital. The company was to do the work on a percentage
basis and the government to foot the bills. The construction company
worked in so many extras and padded the bills so that the government was
obligated for twenty-seven millions of dollars by the time the road
reached San Pedro Sula, or nearly three-quarters of a million dollars
per mile of actual track. By this time the government was bankrupted and
construction work stopped. Most of the bonds issued have never been paid
and a great part have been repudiated, although they are still the
subject of international dispute.

The road passes through a fine stretch of tropical swamp and jungle.
Sometimes there are veritable tunnels of palms which reach within a few
feet of the track. Beyond there is an impenetrable net-work of vines,
creepers, ferns, and trees covered with all kinds of orchids. For many
miles the road passes through banana fields, or forests, they might be
called, for these tropical plants grow fifteen or twenty feet high in
this rich soil. It requires almost four hours to cover the distance
between the two towns, but the entire run was fortunately made without
an accident.

San Pedro Sula lies in a beautiful broad valley sixty miles long and
from five to thirty miles in width, which is known as the plain of Sula.
It is drained by several rivers, is comparatively low and level, and is
one of the richest districts in the entire republic. In spite of its low
altitude it is remarkably salubrious, which is due to the constant
winds. Banana fields surround it on all sides except one where it
nestles close to an imposing mountain. It is the most modern town in
Honduras and contains many good frame buildings. There are also a couple
of fairly good hotels in this city conducted by Americans, so that an
American can stop here under pretty favourable conditions so far as
physical comfort is concerned. A number of streams of clear water run
through the town which add to its attractiveness and cleanliness. There
is, of course, a native quarter much similar to other towns, but the
foreign influence has had a good effect even among them.

While in San Pedro an American “gentleman of colour” and a Jamaican
negro got into an altercation and the latter was terribly cut by the
other, for of course the weapons used were knives. The latter, although
seriously cut and unable to walk, was arrested, and the former was tied
with ropes and conducted to the jail. It is an almost invariable rule
that both parties to an affray are arrested and thrust into prison. They
are there held “_incommunicado_.” This means to be incarcerated
seventy-two hours in solitary confinement, without bail, at the end of
which time a judicial examination is given. Their theory is that after a
man has been kept in solitude for three days with only his own thoughts
for company, he is more likely to tell the truth than if he had been in
communication with his lawyers, friends and reporters all that time.
Witnesses are sometimes held in the same way, so that it is advisable
for a stranger to keep away from scenes of trouble or, if it arises in
his vicinity, to get out of that neighbourhood as soon as possible.

The railroad runs inland a few miles farther, but San Pedro Sula is
generally made the starting point for the capital for it is easier to
secure good mules and _mozos_ at this point. It is necessary not only to
have those but a certain amount of _impedimenta_ in the shape of
hammocks, blankets, etc. must be carried along, and it is even advisable
to carry such provisions as will not be affected by the climate. The
trail to the capital, Tegucigalpa, is nothing but a mule path, narrow
and winding, and for the average traveller it is an eight days’ journey.
The road passes through forests which comprise an enchanted wilderness
where the white-faced monkeys peer at you from the branches of the trees
and gaily-plumed parrots screech as they fly overhead; again it winds
among the mountains on a narrow ledge which causes the uninitiated
traveller to hold his breath when he gazes at the chasm below; at other
times it follows the bed of streams which, during the rainy season, are
raging torrents.

There are no hotels and few public inns on the route. It is generally
necessary to stop with the natives in the villages, or the public
_cabildo_, which is always at the service of the wayfarer. Hammocks are
used for sleeping on account of the insects. As one writer has put this
superabundance of insects:—“There will be sometimes as many as a hundred
insects under one leaf; and after they have once laid their claws upon
you, your life is a mockery, and you feel at night as though you were
sleeping in a bed of red pepper.”

Richard Harding Davis has given us an amusing account of his experience
one night as follows: “I took an account of the stock before I turned
in, and found there were three dogs, eleven cats, seven children, five
men, not including five of us, three women, and a dozen chickens, all
sleeping, or trying to sleep, in the same room and under the one roof.
And when I gave up attempting to sleep and wandered out into the night,
I stepped on the pigs, and startled three or four calves that had been
sleeping under the porch and that lunged up out of the darkness.”

The only town of any importance that is passed is Comayagua. This was
the former capital and at one time the largest city in the country. This
city was selected under direct orders of Cortez who directed one of his
lieutenants to lay out a capital midway between the two oceans. If a
straight line should be drawn across the country, Comayagua would be in
the exact centre. Its one time thirty thousand inhabitants are now
reduced to seven thousand who sleep and dream away life in the warm
sunlight and surrounded by groves of orange trees. It is a dull and
desolate place of one-storied buildings and contains a half dozen or
more old churches, some of them with roofless walls overgrown with moss
and vines that stand as a silent reminder of the religious fervour of
the earlier days. There is a fine old cathedral which stands as a good
example of the Spanish-Moorish architecture so prevalent in every land
colonized by the Spaniards. This, the second city in the republic, is
situated in a broad fertile valley which stretches away for miles, while
dim, cloud-crowned mountains surround it like grim sentinels. The
elevation is less than two thousand feet. It has gradually lost its
former prestige since the seat of government was removed to its rival.

Tegucigalpa, the capital since 1880, is situated on a bare, dreary plain
and is surrounded by several abrupt hills which guard the sleeping city.
It is a city of twelve thousand inhabitants and is a typical
Spanish-American town with all the characteristics which have heretofore
been described. The houses are usually painted pink, blue, yellow,
green, white or some other pronounced colour. The public buildings are
not pretentious, although it contains the administration buildings,
hospitals, colleges, etc. A clock on the cathedral tower marks the time
of which the inhabitants have a supply more than equal to the demand.
The town is divided by a small stream which is the public laundry, and
this is the only industry that is always running, for women may be seen
here from early morning until late at night rubbing and pounding their
clothes to a snowy whiteness. Although the hills contained enough water
to supply the city in abundance no effort was made until a few years ago
to utilize it, and all the water used was carried into the city in jars
from the river upon the heads of the women. A reservoir has been
constructed in the mountains a few miles away from which water is now
brought to the city by a pipe line so that the city is well supplied
with this necessity.

Tegucigalpa was founded in 1579 and soon grew to be as large a town as
it now is. For venerable antiquity Americans must doff their hats to
this old city. While Chicago was yet the site of Indian wigwams and long
before our great Eastern metropolis was more than a small town,
Tegucigalpa was a noted city. The name of the town comes from two native
words—_Teguz_, meaning a hill, and _Galpa_, meaning silver; thus it
means the “city on the silver hill.” A half-century ago it was perhaps a
larger town than it is to-day. There are several public squares of
considerable beauty. In Morazan Park, the principal square, there is a
fine equestrian statue of General Morazan, the liberator of Central
America. For a wonder in a Spanish town there is neither a theatre nor a
club, so that the cafés furnish the only social centres. Although hard
to believe from its somnolent character, yet Tegucigalpa has been the
scene of stirring events and has been a hotbed of revolutions. Only a
few years ago Tegucigalpa was besieged for six months, and many
buildings show the mark of bullets fired by the revolutionists. In this
city the execution of revolutionists has frequently taken place along
the walls of one of the churches, and there is a row of bullet holes in
the wall just about the height of a man’s chest. A revolutionist meets
death bravely and stoically as though he looked forward to that end with
pleasure. He is often compelled to dig his own grave which he does with
equanimity. He takes the gambler’s chance in a revolution. Success may
take him into the presidential chair and failure will probably place him
before a squad of soldiers with guns aimed at his heart.

Richard Harding Davis in “Three Gringos in Venezuela and Central
America” gives the following instance of the varying fortunes of
revolutionists: “I saw an open grave by the roadside which had been dug
by the man who was to have occupied it. The man who dug this particular
grave had been captured, with two companions, while they were hastening
to rejoin their friends of the government party. His companions in
misery were faint-hearted creatures, and thought it mattered but little,
so long as they had to die, in what fashion they were buried. So they
scooped out a few feet of earth with the tools their captors gave them,
and stood up in the hollows they had made, and were shot back into them,
dead; but the third man declared that he was not going to let his body
lie so near the surface of the earth that the mules could kick his bones
and the next heavy freshet wash them away. He accordingly dug leisurely
and carefully to the depth of six feet, smoothing the sides and
sharpening the corners. While he was thus engaged at the bottom of the
hole, he heard shots and yells above him, and when he poked his head up
over the edge of the grave he saw his own troops running down the
mountain-side and his enemies disappearing before them.”

Honduras has perhaps suffered more from revolutionary disturbances than
any of the other Central American republics. Bordering as she does on
all these states, except Costa Rica, she has not only had to contend
with her own troubles but has been the helpless and unwilling
battleground for contentions between Nicaragua on the one side and San
Salvador or Guatemala on the other. Weaker than any of these her own
government has often been dictated by one or more of her more powerful
neighbours. With all the machinery of a republic and with an excellent
constitution and laws on paper, a change of rulers is usually effected
by a revolution as that seems to be the only way the will of the people
can be determined. They are sometimes almost bloodless as two armies
manœuvre around until one decides it is weaker than the other and takes
to flight. Selfish partisanship too often passes for patriotism, and the
leaders are only too willing to plunge the country into war to gain the
spoils of office for themselves and their followers.

Although many men may not be killed in these revolutions, as very many
times they are only local, nevertheless they keep the country in a
continual ferment, for the vanquished never quite forgive the victors.
The most formidable disturbance in recent years was a war between
Nicaragua and Honduras in the winter of 1906–07. This war resulted in a
victory for Nicaragua, partly because of the revolutionary party in
Honduras grasping advantage of the conditions and taking arms against
the government. As a result Manuel Bonilla, who had been president for
several years, was driven from office and General Miguel Davila became
his successor. This war-revolution lasted for several months and as a
result the business was demoralized to a great extent for the whole
country was involved. United States marines were landed at Truxillo and
Puerto Cortez to preserve order. Since that time there have been no
serious disturbances. The agreement recently entered into between the
five republics promises to do away with the interferences from other
more powerful states in the internal affairs of Honduras, and the
extension of railroads and telegraphs, and the investment of foreign
capital promise much better conditions for the future.

Most presidents have begun their career as revolutionists, or, I
suppose, they would rather be termed reformers. A man is spoken of as a
“good revolutionist” as we would speak of a “good lawyer” or a “good
doctor,” meaning that he is successful in that line of work. The fate
suffered by many unsuccessful revolutionists would not be a bad one for
some of our own corrupt and selfish politicians. The history of Honduras
down to 1840 is so closely identified with Guatemala that it does not
need special mention. With the election of Francisco Ferrera as
president in that year it began a separate existence. There was much
agitation among the various towns because of the heavy burdens imposed
on them, and in 1847, during the Mexican war, one president practically
declared war against the United States, which challenge was ignored. On
several occasions Great Britain sent warships to the coast of Honduras
to enforce her demands which were not always just. During a part of the
time that Carrera was ruling Guatemala, President Guardiola was in
charge of the affairs in Honduras. He was a man of the same stripe, part
negro, and is said to have been “possessed of all the vices and guilty
of about all the crimes known to man. At the very mention of his
approach, the inhabitants would flee to the woods.” One writer calls him
“the tiger of Central America.” He was finally assassinated. Internal
trouble and disputes with her neighbours kept Honduras in turmoil down
to 1880, when President Soto was inducted into office. During his term
of three years, and that of his successor, General Louis Bogran,
progress began, agriculture was stimulated and trade increased.

Honduras is a country about the size of Ohio and contains forty-six
thousand four hundred square miles of territory, although the estimates
vary greatly for no accurate surveys have ever been made. For
governmental purposes it is divided into sixteen departments, each of
which has a civil head. Its governmental divisions and its legislative
and judicial systems are very much like those of Guatemala. The
president is assisted by a cabinet and circle of advisers.

On the Atlantic coast are five large and a number of smaller islands,
known as the Bay Islands. One of these, Roatan, has been described as a
lazy man’s paradise. It is forty miles long and about three miles in
width, with a population of three or four thousand. It is a beautiful
and prolific island where the people are lazy because work is not
necessary. Even the cocoanuts will drop to the ground to save the
inhabitants the necessity of climbing after them, and all he has to do
is to strike them on a sharpened stake driven into the ground in order
to prepare them for eating. Native yams will grow to a weight of forty
or fifty pounds, and a piece of cane stuck into the ground will renew
itself almost perennially. Roses and flowers grow wild. The climate
ranges from 66 degrees to 88 degrees, and the air is not even disturbed
by revolutions. The only jail is a little one-room hut in which a drunk
occasionally sleeps off a stupor.

Cassava bread, one of the staple articles of food, is made from the
tuberous roots of the manioc which often weigh as much as twenty pounds.
The roots are grated into a coarse meal which is then washed carefully
to remove the grains of starch. The mass is next placed in a primitive
press and the poisonous juice pressed out. The squeezed mass is then
made into flat loaves which are dried and then baked. It is said to make
a nutritious and quite palatable food. This bread forms one of the
principal articles of food of these natives.

The half-million inhabitants include a considerably smaller percentage
of Spanish descendants and a much larger number of negroes than
Guatemala. The “Zambos,” a mixture of Indian and negro, used to be quite
numerous along the Mosquito coast, but many of them have migrated to
Nicaragua. They were formerly ruled by a hereditary king. The Caribs,
who were originally inhabitants of St. Vincent, have taken their place
in the Gulf settlements. They are the best sailors along the coast and
can be seen at any time out on the sea in their dories. These dories are
hewed out of solid logs, equipped with sails, and vary in length from
thirty to sixty feet, and are from three to eight feet across the beam.
Their houses are always the same, with a high, peaked and thatched roof,
sometimes twenty-five to thirty feet in height. No nails are used in the
construction. They sometimes look almost like huge stacks of hay from a

The Caribs are said to have lived on the island of St. Vincent, where,
at the conclusion of the war between England and France, they were found
to be in such sympathy with the French that they were deported to the
island of Roatan. From there they drifted to the mainland and
established a number of settlements all along the coast. One writer
describes them as follows:—“They are peaceable, friendly, ingenious and
industrious. They are noted for their fondness of dress, wearing red
bands around their waists to imitate sashes, straw hats turned up, clean
white shirts and frocks, long and tight trousers. The Carib women are
fond of ornamenting their persons with coloured beads strung in various
forms. They are scrupulously clean and have a great aptitude for
acquiring languages, many of them being able to talk in Carib, Spanish
and English. Polygamy is general among them, some of them having as many
as three or four wives; but the husband is compelled to have a separate
house and plantation for each. It is the custom when a woman cannot do
all the work for her to hire her husband. Men accompany them on their
trading expeditions, but never by any chance carry the burdens, thinking
it far beneath them.”

The average native or half-breed on the higher lands lives from year to
year in his thatched hut. He may look after a few cows and make cheese
from their milk. He plants a small patch of maize each year and grows a
few bananas and plantains for food. He is content to live on the
plainest food and in the simplest way in order to live an indolent life.
Thus he exists during his allotted years until he drops into his grave
and in a year or two there is not even a sign to show where he was laid.
Occasionally graves of the early inhabitants are found, but the
burial-places of later generations are practically unmarked and no
attempt is made to preserve their location as there are no tombstones
and after a few months there is nothing to show its location.

[Illustration: A TYPICAL BEGGAR.]

Beggars are not very common except the blind, the lame and the sick. The
necessaries of life are so easily procured, so little clothing is
required, and any one may find land upon which to plant a little maize
or bananas that it does not require much money or much exertion to
sustain life. The condition of those who are helpless, however, is
pitiable in the extreme and the sympathy of a stranger is aroused each
day by a sight of some poor unfortunate.

Next to maize (corn) bananas and plantains form the principal food. The
latter are cooked in many ways, boiled, baked or made into pastry, but
are never eaten raw. Maize was indigenous on those shores, because the
Spanish conquerors found it growing and it formed the principal food of
the people. The banana is believed to have been introduced by the
Spaniards, and the one argument used for this theory is that all the
names of this plant are of Spanish derivation. In Honduras a sort of
beer is brewed from maize that the natives are very fond of, but they
prefer on “_fiestas_” the _aguardiente_ (brandy) because it is stronger
and affords more exhilaration. This is a drink brought by civilization,
for the earlier inhabitants, not having any distilled liquors, had to be
contented with the milder fermented forms of intoxicants.[3]

Footnote 3:

  _Note._ “On the warmer plains the wine-palm is grown. The wine is very
  simply prepared. The tree is felled and an oblong hole cut into it,
  just above the crown of leaves. The hole is eight inches deep, passing
  nearly through the trunk. It is about a foot long and several inches
  broad; and in this hollow the juice of the tree immediately begins to
  collect, scarcely any running out at the butt where it has been cut
  off. In three days after cutting the wine-palm the hollow will be
  filled with a clear yellowish wine, the fermented juice of the tree,
  and this will continue to secrete daily for twenty days, during which
  the tree will have yielded some gallons of wine.”—_Thomas Belt._

Cock-fighting is one of the principal forms of amusement among the
people of Honduras. Their mode of cock-fighting is very cruel, as they
usually tie long sickle-shaped knives onto their natural spurs with
which they are able to give each other fearful gashes and wounds. It is
no unusual sight to see a game cock tied up at the door by the leg, or
in some other part of the house, and being treated as an honoured member
of the family. The comb is cut off near the head in order that his
opponent cannot grasp him there and thus place him at a disadvantage.
Bets are made on every fight and considerable money is lost and won on
this sport.

Education is not far advanced although the number of schools has been
increased each year. There are very many full-grown boys and girls who
do not even know their letters. Perhaps not more than half the
inhabitants can boast of even a rudimentary education. There are only
about seven hundred schools for primary instruction in the entire
republic, with an average attendance of about twenty-five thousand
pupils. The wealthier families send their boys to the famous university
in Guatemala City for their education. They are not so much interested
in the matter of education for girls.

A large force of soldiers is always kept under arms—that is, large in
proportion to the population. Its standing army is almost half as great
as our own with about one one-hundred and fiftieth of the population.
Every town and village of any size has its _commandancia_, or barracks,
in which a force of troops is quartered. They are not formidable looking
troops, and yet they sometimes have a reckless way of shooting that is
destructive to human life. Military service is compulsory for men from
twenty-one to thirty years of age, and after that they remain members of
the reserve until they are forty. This is the written law but the
unwritten law of the revolutionary leader is far more potent.

As I have stated above, Honduras is the least progressive of the five
republics of Central America, and yet it is a country of wonderful
natural resources and is burdened with plenty of opportunities. The low
coast land sloping up to the high mountain plateaus furnish every
variety of climate and give a wide range of agricultural possibilities.
Bananas, cocoanuts, oranges, sugar cane, wheat, corn, rice, rye, barley
are among the list of profitable products that can be cultivated. Few
fields are properly plowed and the care bestowed on growing crops
amounts to nothing. The ground is so fertile that the mere insertion of
a kernel of corn in the earth is sufficient. A kernel thus planted on
Thursday has been found four inches high by the following Monday. With
all this fertility there is sometimes an insufficient food supply for
the cities. Agriculture is in the most primitive condition and will
probably remain so until there are better roads, better markets and
cheaper transportation facilities.

[Illustration: Copyright, 1907, by Judge Company, New York. SOLDIERS OF

In many parts of Honduras there are lands well suited to cattle raising.
They may be found grazing on the sterile slopes of the mountain ranges
as well as in the more fertile valleys. There is much fine rolling land,
well watered during the rainy season and rich in pasturage, to be found
in the republic, which is well suited to this industry. In the dry
season, however, many of those plains, or savannahs, furnish scant
fodder for the cattle. As irrigation has not been attempted the cattle
have a feast half the year and a famine the other half. No care whatever
is taken of their herds by the owners and they are left to forage as
best they can. It is not much wonder that the grade of stock is poor,
although hundreds of thousands of cattle are raised in this way, and
wander over the public domain. Each rancher has his own brand which is
recorded the same as in the United States. Thousands more would be
raised and sent out of the country were it not for the heavy export tax.

There are no industries in the country worthy of mention except
_aguardiente_ manufacture which is a government monopoly. The sugar cane
growers enter into a contract with the government to furnish a
stipulated amount of this brandy each month, and it is then sold by the
government to the regularly licensed dealers at a fixed price. A large
part of the revenue of the republic is derived from this source as many
hundred thousand gallons are consumed each year. A cheap grade of
“Panama” hat is also manufactured in one province which is exported to
the neighbouring republics and the United States.

Nearly the whole of the republic, except the lowlands, is mineralized.
Old workings among the gold-bearing formations show that the aboriginal
tribes understood the art of separating the gold from quartz. Documents
deposited in the archives of Tegucigalpa show that the Spaniards found
the mines of Honduras very profitable, and the king’s tithe no doubt
aided in building real castles in Spain. The Spaniards were good
prospectors but poor workers, for they did their work in the most
primitive way. Their work was mostly done by slave labour so that this
was an inexpensive item to them. Any of the natives could be drafted
into this work upon the initiative of the government. They were seldom
carried to any great depth, so that there are hundreds of mines
scattered over the country to-day which are abandoned and filled with
water. They cannot be operated successfully until roads are constructed
over which machinery can be transported.

The chief mining district is not far from the capital city. The Rosario
Mining Company is the most successful and best-known company and has
been placed on a profitable basis. Silver ores are the most abundant but
gold has been washed on the rivers of Olancho for many years in small
quantities. Silver is generally in combination with lead, iron, copper
or antimony. There are some valuable copper deposits in some places
containing eighty per cent of pure copper. Iron ores are common, zinc
occurs, but coal has been found only in very small quantities. Opals
have been found in considerable numbers and many of them are large and
beautiful. About one million dollars’ worth of the various minerals have
been mined annually in recent years.

Honduras has a small coast line on the Pacific with Amapala as its only
seaport on that ocean. It is situated on the island of Tigre about
thirty miles from the mainland, and nearly in the centre of the
magnificent Bay of Fonseca. This is a very poor open roadstead with no
pier, so that lighters are the only means of loading and unloading
vessels. The Atlantic coastline is much longer and well protected by
outlying islands which affords much better protection to vessels. Ceiba
is a pretty little port at the foot of the Congrehoy, the highest
volcanic peak in the country. It has a population of several thousand
and is in the centre of a rich banana belt. Recently a short railroad of
about thirty miles in length has been constructed here which reaches out
through this fertile field and will aid in developing this section of
the country. Many hundred thousand bunches of bananas are shipped from
this port each year and the number constantly increases. Truxillo, or
Trujillo, is another fair harbour on this coast. The town is not very
large yet, although it is nearly four centuries old, having been founded
in 1525. The filibusterer William Walker, who made himself dictator of
Nicaragua at one time, was captured by Honduras’ troops at this place
and executed, thus ending a romantic and venturesome career.

Honduras has never attained the prominence in commerce that her natural
resources would warrant one to reasonably expect. The total imports for
the year ending July 31st, 1908, were $2,829,979, according to the
statistics of that government. Of this amount the United States
furnished more than half. The exports to the United States for the same
period amounted to nearly $3,000,000, which was nearly five-sixths of
the whole exports. This is accounted for by the fact that the principal
export is bananas nearly all of which are sent to the various ports of
Uncle Sam. After minerals coffee and hides furnish the next two largest
items of export. All import duties are levied by weight, so that the
duties on many articles comparatively inexpensive in first cost become
expensive luxuries in Honduras. An ordinary cooking range might be cited
as an example. The shipping of imports and exports is almost entirely in
the hands of Germans who conduct all the great commission houses and do
a very profitable business. The importation of goods is oftentimes a
complicated matter for in addition to the fixed import duties there are
the fees for manifest, custom-house permit, transfer fee, sanitary fee
on goods destined for the interior, and a municipal impost at some
towns. Add to this the brokerage fees and the total expense oftentimes
amounts to quite a sum.

The money of Honduras is on a silver basis and is subject to all the
fluctuations of that metal. Guatemalan and Chilean silver coins are the
principal currency in circulation although one bank is authorized to
issue paper currency which passes at par with the silver. The silver
peso or dollar is the standard. As exchange varies from 215 to 250 per
cent it will be seen that its value ranges from about forty to
forty-five cents in gold. Even this is better than the paper money of

What shall be done with this great unimproved country? That question is
reserved for the future to decide. I believe that the influence of
America and Americans will do far more toward the settlement of the
turmoil which has been so general in that country and the development of
the natural resources than any other one influence. The number of
Americans residing in Honduras is increasing each year, and their
influence is already being felt wherever they reside. Sometime the
people themselves may awaken to the fact that they have been living in
poverty with wealth at their very doors. The eastern coast is developing
more rapidly than the western because of the nearness to the markets of
the United States. Good steamship service is now maintained so that it
is only a four or five days’ journey to New Orleans and Mobile. Let
Americans waken up to the great possibilities of trade and development
that lie at their very door. Let American merchants and manufacturers
exploit their goods and secure the trade of this country that is now
controlled by British and German merchants. The people generally prefer
American goods, but the merchants of this country have never learned the
art of dealing with the Spanish-American. It is a situation that must be
studied, but success is worth the effort.

“_Adios_,” with the Spaniard means “how do you do,” “good-bye,” and “a
pleasant journey to you.”

I close this narrative with this one word to the reader which is
greeting, benediction and farewell, all three combined, trusting that
our acquaintance has been mutually beneficial.



                               APPENDIX I

THE following table gives the names of the departments in Guatemala, the
name of the chief town, or capital, and the number of inhabitants and
elevation of that city, the compilation being made from the latest and
most reliable statistics available:—


              Alta Verapaz Coban          24,475    4,010

              Amatitlan    Amatitlan      10,000    4,212

              Baja Verapaz Salamá          7,125    2,831

              Chimaltenango Chimaltenango   14,000    5,365

              Chiquimula   Chiquimula     10,602    1,232

              Escuintla    Escuintla      12,000    1,248

              Guatemala    Guatemala      85,000    4,810

              Huehuetenango Huehuetenango   10,000    7,052

              Izabal       Livingston      1,500       45

              Jalapa       Jalapa         10,000    4,777

              Jutiapa      Jutiapa        12,000    2,821

              Peten        Flores          6,000      478

              Quezaltenango Quezaltenango   22,265    7,351

              Quiché       Sante Rosa      6,237    5,492
                           del Quiché

              Retalhuleu   Retalhuleu     10,000      968

              Sacatepequez Antigua         8,000    5,314

              San Marcos   San Marcos     10,000    7,150

              Santa Rosa   Cuajinicuilapa    2,000    3,214

              Sololá       Sololá         15,000    6,974

              Suchitepequez Mazatenango    10,000    1,085

              Totonicapan  Totonicapan    25,196    7,894

              Zacapa       Zacapa         12,000      536


                              APPENDIX II

THE Republic of Honduras is composed of sixteen departments, or
provinces, and one territorial district. The territory of Mosquitia is
situated in the extreme northeastern section of the country and is the
second largest political division in the republic, comprising about
one-fifth of the entire landed surface and with a population of four
thousand, mostly a mixed race of negroes and Indians. This is an average
of about one person for every two square miles. The country is covered
with a dense forest of tropical verdure, through which the waters of
several rivers course. Along the rivers the lands have been partially
explored but much of the interior is still unknown. The Bay Islands
department comprises a group of five low islands lying at a distance of
from twenty-five to fifty miles from the northern shore. The names of
the islands are Utila, Roatan, Elena, Barbareta and Bonaca, and they
contain a total population of about five thousand whites, negroes and
Indians. The English language is quite commonly used on those islands
for they were long under the sovereignty of England.

The names of the different departments, together with the capital city,
its population and elevation, according to the best and most recent
statistics available, are as follows:—


              Tegucigalpa  Tegucigalpa    12,000    3,200

              Copan        Santa Rosa     10,000    3,400

              Choluteca    Choluteca       8,636      250

              Gracias      Gracias         5,324    2,520

              Olancho      Juticalpa      11,103    1,500

              El Paraiso   Danli           8,878    2,300

              Santa        Santa           3,593      750
              Barbara      Barbara

              Valle        Nacaome         8,913      110

              Comayagua    Comayagua       7,206    1,650

              La Paz       La Paz          4,490    2,000

              Intibuca     La Esperanza    4,026    4,950

              Cortes       San Pedro       7,182      255

              Yoro         Yoro            6,127    2,000

              Colon        Truxillo       l4,040      sea

              Atlantida    La Ceiba        3,379      sea

              Bay Islands  Coxin Hole       l500      sea

The uneven character of the configuration of the earth’s surface and the
effect of the trade winds gives the Central American republics a great
variety of climate. The so-called “seasons,” the wet and dry, do not
always express the real conditions, for local conditions influence the
temperature and amount of rainfall. There is a wide difference, for
instance, between the Atlantic and Pacific slopes. On the Atlantic coast
there is literally no dry season. The central plateaus have a climate of
their own subject neither to excessive droughts or heavy rains. When you
consider that the highest temperature inland rarely exceeds 90° F. and
does not go below 50° F. it will be seen that the land is quite
inhabitable, for there are no great extremes. The “wet” season from May
to November is called _invierno_, or winter, and the “dry” season from
November to May is termed _verano_, or summer.

In order to set forth clearly the temperature I herewith give a table of
the thermometer readings at Tegucigalpa for an entire year as given in a
handbook compiled by Mr. A. K. Moe, formerly United States Consul at
that city, and issued by the International Bureau of the American
Republics, to which same book I am indebted for some other valuable
information herein contained:—

                AVERAGE   AVERAGE                       EXTREME
        January  °F. 60    °F. 76    °F. 54    °F. 79    °F. 25
        February    60        81        52        84        32
        March     61        83        55        88        33
        April     63        84        56        89        33
        May       67        84        63        90        27
        April     63        84        56        89        33
        May       67        84        63        90        27
        June      67        82        65        86        21
        July      67        81        64        84        20
        August    66        81        62        84        22
        September    65        82        61        84        23
        October    65        79        61        83        22
        November    65        78        61        82        21
        December    59        75        50        81        31


                              APPENDIX III


PEOPLE living in volcanic regions do not seem to fear the presence of
these lofty peaks any more than people living in mountainous regions
fear their overhanging ridges. One would think that the terrible and
destructive eruptions of Vesuvius would leave that region depopulated,
but no sooner have the earth’s tremblings ceased than the people flock
again to their accustomed haunts, and the fertile fields once more
respond to the efforts of the farmer and gardener. And so it is in
Central America, where volcanic peaks abound and mild earthquakes are
common. The volcanoes of Hawaii are larger, those of South America
loftier, some in Italy and Java more destructive, but nowhere on the
world is there such an unbroken line of volcanic peaks as along the
Pacific coast of Central America. The Atlantic coast has but one
distinct cone of any great height and that is the Congrehoy (8,040 ft.),
which runs clear to the water’s edge. It is the only lofty peak in
Honduras and has perhaps the sharpest and most clearly marked cone in
that section of the world.

Little is known of the early history of the eruptions of these volcanoes
and earthquake disturbances, called by the natives “_temblors_.” The
early natives believed that earthquakes were caused by a god, Cabracan,
who was in the habit of shaking the mountains. The stories of the
Spanish conquerors are so mingled with devils and their work that they
are incredible and convey no enlightening information. Their chroniclers
tell an amusing instance of the attempt of a friar to draw up the lava,
which had the appearance of molten gold, in an iron bucket from a
crater. The bucket and chain as well melted as soon as it approached the
seething lava.

History records the birth of the volcano, Izalco, in San Salvador in
1770. For several days strange subterranean noises accompanied by
earthquake shocks had been heard in that vicinity and the people fled in
terror. After a few days a lateral opening appeared in a field from
which fire, smoke and lava belched forth. This was followed by sand and
stones from which a cone has been gradually built up, until now it is
higher than Vesuvius. It has been named the “lighthouse of Salvador” by
the sailors, because it is nearly always visible at night.

I append an account of an ascent of Santa Maria made a few months after
its destructive eruption of 1902, which appeared in the Scientific

“I began the ascent of the volcano from the plantation of La Sabina, a
favourite health resort famous for its springs of mineral water.
Journeying from Palmar to La Sabina we passed two plantations whose
buildings were ruined and fields devastated. We found the hotel of the
town buried many feet beneath mud. I found the crater a huge pit some
500 feet in depth, from the bottom of which spouted a magnificent
geyser. The steam issued with terrible force, roaring and crackling.
Almost at my very feet arose another geyser, through the vapour of which
there could be dimly seen a large pool formed by the condensed steam.
Besides the large geysers, innumerable small jets of steam spouted from
the edge of the crater in a vapourous fringe, sending forth little
clouds toward the centre. At intervals a strong odour of sulphur
assailed the nostrils. It is probable that when the volcano was in full
eruption the entire crater was open, for the earth seemed to have fallen
in and to have formed a kind of floor. Otherwise it would be impossible
to account for the enormous mass of material ejected by the crater.”

The following table gives a list of the principal volcanic peaks in
Guatemala, all of which are classed as “extinct,” or “quiescent,” except
Santa Maria:—

                        VOLCANIC PEAK     HEIGHT

                        Tajumulco         13,814

                        Tacana            13,334

                        Acatenango        13,012

                        Fuego             12,821

                        Agua              12,300

                        Atitlan           11,849

                        Cerro Cerchil     11,830

                        Cerro Quiché      11,160

                        Cerro Calel       10,813

                        Santa Maria       10,535

                        Cerro Quemado     10,200

                        Quezaltenango      9,238

                        Pacaya             7,675

                        Ipala              6,019

                        Chingo             6,019


                              APPENDIX IV

                             RUINS OF COPAN

NO American has spent so much time in exploring the ruins of this
mysterious city of Honduras as Mr. George Byron Gordon. For a number of
years he spent the greater part of the year in making excavations,
removing debris, and in exploring every nook and corner of this ancient
seat of civilization. Through the courtesy of The Century Company I am
permitted to give the following description of Copan as written by Mr.
Gordon and published in the Century Magazine, which, though greatly
abbreviated, is yet sufficiently full to give the reader a fair idea of
the one-time grandeur and magnificence of this ancient city:—

    Hidden away among the mountains of Honduras, in a beautiful
    valley which, even in that little-travelled country, where
    remoteness is a characteristic attribute of places, is unusually
    secluded, Copan is one of the greatest mysteries of the ages.
    Not only do the recent explorations confirm the magnitude and
    importance of the ruins, but the collection of relics now in the
    Peabody Museum is sufficient to convince the most skeptical that
    here are the remains of a city, unknown to history, as
    remarkable and as worthy of our careful consideration as any of
    the ancient centres of civilization in the Old World. Whatever
    the origin of its people, this old city is distinctly
    American—the growth of American soil and environment.

    The area comprised within the limits of the old city consists of
    a level plain seven or eight miles long and two miles wide at
    the greatest. This plain is covered with the remains of stone
    houses, doubtless the habitations of the wealthy. The streets,
    squares, and courtyards were paved with stone, or with white
    cement made from lime and powdered rock, and the drainage was
    accomplished by means of covered canals and underground sewers
    built of stone and cement. On the slopes of the mountains, too,
    are found numerous ruins; and even on the highest peaks fallen
    columns and ruined structures may be seen.

    On the right bank of the Copan River, in the midst of the city,
    stands the principal group of structures—the temples, palaces,
    and buildings of a public character. These form part of what has
    been called, for want of a better name, the Main Structure—a
    vast, irregular pile rising from the plain in steps and terraces
    of masonry, and terminating in several great pyramidal
    elevations, each topped by the remains of a temple which, before
    our excavations were begun, looked like a huge pile of fragments
    bound together by the roots of trees, while the slopes of the
    pyramids, and the terraces and pavements below, are strewn with
    the ruins of these superb edifices. Its sides face the four
    cardinal points; its greatest length from north to south is
    about eight hundred feet, and from east to west it measured
    originally nearly as much, but a part of the eastern side has
    been carried away by the swift current of the river which flows
    directly against it.

    Within the Main Structure, at an elevation of sixty feet, is a
    court one hundred and twenty feet square, which, with its
    surrounding architecture, must have presented a magnificent
    spectacle, when it was entire. It was entered from the south
    through a passage thirty feet in width, between two high
    pyramidal foundations, each supporting a temple. The court
    itself is inclosed by ranges of steps or seats rising to a
    height of twenty feet, as in an amphitheatre; they are built of
    great blocks of stone, neatly cut, and regularly laid without
    mortar. In the centre of the western side is a stairway
    projecting a few feet into the court, and leading to a broad
    terrace above the range of seats on that side. The upper steps
    in this stairway are divided in the midst by the head of a huge
    dragon facing the court, and holding in its distended jaws a
    grotesque human head of colossal proportions.

    One temple, in many ways the most interesting yet explored,
    furnishes a typical example of this class of building. From the
    stone-paved terrace above the western side of the court, a great
    stairway, with massive steps, leads up to a platform which runs
    the whole length of the building, and is carried out at each end
    upon solid piers to the line of beginning of the steps. From the
    head of the stairway two graceful wing stones, extending across
    the platform, guard the approach to the first entrance, which
    gives access to the outer chambers. This doorway is nine feet
    wide, and was covered with a vaulted roof, now fallen. Directly
    opposite it, in the interior, is a second doorway, leading to
    the inner chambers. In front of this second entrance is a step
    two feet high, ornamented on the face by hieroglyphics and
    skulls carved in relief. At each end a huge death’s-head forms a
    pedestal for a crouching human figure supporting the head of a
    dragon, the body of which is turned upward, and is lost among
    the scrollwork and figures of a cornice that runs above the
    doorway. All the interior walls were covered with a thin coat of
    stucco, on which figures and scenes were painted in various
    colours; and the cornices were adorned with stucco masks and
    other ornaments, likewise painted. The roofs, with the massive
    towers which they supported, had fallen and filled the chambers
    completely. The horizontal arch formed by overlapping stones was
    always used in the construction of roofs—a type that is common
    to all the Maya cities. The outside of the building, profusely
    ornamented with grotesques at every line, bears witness to the
    ambitious prodigality of the architect, his love of adornment,
    and his aversion to plain surfaces—a characteristic that is
    manifested on all the monuments and carvings at Copan. An
    elaborate cornice with foliated design, adorned with plumage,
    all beautifully carved, ran around the four sides. Higher up, a
    row of portrait-like busts was also carried around the entire
    building. Whatever of plain surface remained was covered with
    pure white stucco, and the same material was used upon the
    sculptures to give a finish to the carving and a suitable
    surface for the colours that were used to produce the desired

    The northern slope of the main structure goes down abruptly, in
    a broad, steep flight of steps, to the floor of the plaza, which
    stretches away to the north, and terminates in an amphitheatre
    about three hundred feet square, inclosed on the eastern,
    northern, and western sides by ranges of seats twenty feet high.
    The southern side is open, except that its centre is occupied by
    a pyramid that rose almost to a point, leaving a square platform
    on top. In the plaza stood the principal group of obelisks,
    monoliths, or stelae, as they are variously designated, to which
    Copan owes its principal fame. There are fifteen in all
    scattered over the plaza, some overthrown and others still
    erect. Although affording infinite variety in detail, in general
    design and treatment these monuments are all the same. They
    average about twelve feet in height and three feet square, and
    are carved over the entire surface. On one side, and sometimes
    on two opposite sides, stands a human figure in high relief,
    always looking toward one of the cardinal points. Upon these
    personages is displayed such a wealth of ornament and insignia
    that the figures look over-burdened and encumbered, giving the
    idea that the chief object of the artist was the display of such
    adornment. While nearly all these human figures are
    disproportionately short, the accurate drawing and excellent
    treatment of the smaller figures in the designs surrounding the
    principal characters show that this is not owing to deficient
    perception on the part of the sculptor.

    The sides of the monuments not occupied by human figures are
    covered by hieroglyphic inscriptions. In front of each of the
    figures, at a distance of a few feet, is a smaller sculpture,
    called an altar. These measure sometimes seven feet across and
    from two to four feet in height. The design sometimes represents
    a grotesque monster with curious adornments; but a common form
    of altar is a flat disk seven or eight feet in diameter, with a
    row of hieroglyphs around the edge. Much of the carving on these
    obelisks and altars is doubtless symbolical; and until this is
    better understood it is useless to speculate upon the character
    of the monuments themselves—speculations in which our ignorance
    would allow us unlimited scope. Two of the figures have their
    faces hidden by masks, a circumstance which seems to preclude
    the theory that they are portraits, although that is suggested
    by the striking individuality of many of the faces. But who can
    tell? The statues may be those of deified kings or heroes; on
    these altars a grateful people may have paid the tribute of
    affection; or, as some would have us believe, they may have been
    idols, insatiate monsters, on whose reeking altars the bloody
    sacrifice prevailed. We would fain believe that the Mayas were a
    humane and gentle people, given to generous impulses and noble
    deeds; that these relics of their art, in which the thought and
    feeling of the people strove to find expression, had for their
    object and inspiration a better motive than the deliberate
    shedding of human blood.

    No regular burying-place has yet been found at Copan, but a
    number of isolated tombs have been explored. The location of
    these was strange and unexpected—beneath the pavement of
    courtyards and under the foundations of houses. They consist of
    small chambers of very excellent masonry, roofed sometimes by
    means of the horizontal arch, and sometimes by means of slabs of
    stone resting on the top of the vertical walls. In these tombs
    one, and sometimes two, interments had been made. The bodies had
    been laid at full length upon the floor. The cerements had long
    since moldered away, and the skeletons themselves were in a
    crumbling condition, and give little knowledge of the physical
    characteristics of the people; but one fact of surpassing
    interest came to light concerning their private lives, namely,
    the custom of adorning the front teeth with gems inlaid in the
    enamel, and by filing. The stone used in the inlaying was a
    bright-green jadeite. A circular cavity about one-sixteenth of
    an inch in diameter was drilled in the enamel of each of the two
    front teeth of the upper row, and inlaid with a little disk of
    jadeite, cut to a perfect fit, and secured by means of a bright
    red cement.

    Besides the human remains, each tomb contained a number of
    earthenware vessels of great beauty and excellence of
    workmanship, some of them painted with figures in various
    colours, and others finished with a peculiar polish resembling a
    glaze. Some of these vessels contained charcoal and ashes; in
    others were various articles of use and adornment. The beads,
    ear-ornaments, medallions, and a variety of other ornaments,
    usually of jadeite, exhibit an extraordinary degree of skill in
    the art of cutting and polishing stones, while the pearls and
    trinkets carved from shell must have been obtained by trade or
    by journeys to the coast. In the same tombs with these ornaments
    were frequently found such objects of utility as knives and
    spear-heads of flint and obsidian, and stone hatchets and
    chisels. These were doubtless family vaults, though none of them
    contained the remains of many burials.

    As to the antiquity of the city, although we have no data that
    will enable us to fix a date, there are certain historical facts
    that remove it from the reach of history or tradition, and place
    the era of its destruction long anterior to the discovery of


                               APPENDIX V


For the benefit of those who may wish to pursue their study of these
countries more extensively I append herewith a list of a few of the
books which give information about Guatemala and Honduras:—

_Bard, S. A._: Waikna: Adventures on the Mosquito Shore. London, 1855.

_Brasseur de Bourbourg_: Popul Vuh. Sacred book of the Quiché Indians.
Paris, 1861.

_Bancroft, Hubert Howe_: History of Central America. San Francisco,

_Bancroft, Hubert Howe_: The Native Races of the Pacific Coast of North
America. San Francisco, 1880.

_Brigham, William T._: Guatemala: The Land of the Quetzal. New York,

_Casas, Bartolomeo de Las_, Bishop of Chiapas: London, 1699. This is a
narrative of an eye witness of the Spanish invasion in Mexico and
Central America. A very interesting and very rare book.

_Charles, Cecil_: Honduras: The Land of Great Depths. Chicago, 1890.

_Curtis, William Eleroy_: Capitals of Spanish-America. New York, 1888.

_Diaz del Castillo, Bernal_: True History of the Conquest of New Spain.
Madrid, 1632. An English edition. London, 1844.

_Dunn, Henry_: Guatemala in 1827–8. London, 1829.

_Davis, Richard Harding_: Three Gringos in Venezuela and Central
America. New York, 1896.

_Humboldt, Alexander von_: Political Essay on New Spain. Berlin, 1811.

_Keane, A. H._: Central America and West Indies. London, 1901.
(Stanford’s compendium of geography and travel.)

_Morlan, A. P._: A Hoosier in Honduras. Indianapolis, 1897.

_Maudslay, Anne C. and Alfred P._ A glimpse at Guatemala and some notes
on the ancient monuments of Central America. London, 1899.

_Pepper, Charles M._ Guatemala, the country of the future; a monograph,

_Squier, E. G._: Honduras; descriptive, historical, statistical. London,

_Stephens, John Lloyd_: Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas,
and Yucatan. New York, 1841.

_Vincent, Frank_: In and Out of Central America. New York, 1896.

_Wells, William V._ Explorations and Adventures in Honduras. New York,



 Agriculture, 26, 91;
   in Honduras, 272.

 Aguardiente, 270.

 Agua, volcano of, 55.

 Agua Caliente, 31.

 Aguacate, 98.

 Alcaldes, 120.

 Alvarado, Pedro de, 13, 14, 166.

 Amapala, 275.

 Amatitlan, Lake of, 6, 27.

 American Club, 70.

 Americans, 43–44.

 Amusements, 68.

 Aniline dyes, 139.

 Animals, wild, 88.

 Ants, 83.

 Antigua, 55–58.

 Aqueducts, 77.

 Army, the, 127.

 Atitlan, Lake of, 6.

 Aztecs, the, 149.

 Balconies, 111.

 Bamboo, the, 83.

 Bananas, 99, _et seq._, 253.

 Banana plantations, 47.

 Baptism of natives, 204.

 Barillas, President, 22.

 Barrios, J. Rufino, 67, 70, 76, 124, 141, 188, 190–194.

 Barrios, José Maria, 196.

 Bargaining, 73.

 Bay Islands, 265, 282.

 Bear, playing the, 112–123.

 Beds, native, 35.

 Beggars, 269.

 Belgian colony, 46.

 Belize, 235, 238, 244.

 Belize River, 240, 244.

 Bibliography, 300–301.

 Birds, 86–87.

 Bogran, General, 264.

 Books, Ancient, 153–154.

 Bonilla, Manuel, 263.

 Boys, 114.

 Brandy, native, 97.

 Bull-fight, 68–69, 111.

 Butterflies, 89.

 Cabrera, President, 24, 126, 195–201.

 Cabildo, the, 122.

 Caballeria, 92.

 Cacao, 97–98.

 Cakchiquels, 14.

 Calendar of the ancients, 155.

 Campeche, 244.

 Cantinas, 44.

 Caribs, 127–128, 240, 267.

 Caribbean Sea, 235–236, 264.

 Carcaste, 123.

 Cargadors, 122–125.

 Carera, Rafael, 181–187.

 Casa, the, 110.

 Cassava bread, 266.

 Cathedral, the, 59, 66.

 Cattle raising, 273.

 Ceiba trees, 83, 276.

 Central America. United Provinces of, 175, 193.

 Central America, conquest of, 12. _et seq._

 Central Railroad, 138–139.

 Cerna, Vicente, 187.

 Chocon River, 50.

 Cholera, 181.

 Champerico, 19, 23.

 Chicle, 244.

 Churches, 209.

 Cisterns, 241.

 Cities, location of, 61.

 Clayton-Bulwer treaty, 237.

 Climate, 8, 10, 60, 248, 284.

 Clothing, 121–122.

 Coban, 7, 50, 146–147.

 Cochineal, 25, 139.

 Cocoanut palm, 95.

 Cock-fighting, 270.

 Coffee, 105–108, 136.

 Columbus, Christopher, 13, 165.

 Colon, statue of, 63;
   theatre, 67.

 Comayagua, 257–258.

 Commandancias, 127.

 Commerce in Honduras, 276–278.

 Congress, First, 175.

 Congrehoy, 276, 286.

 Conventionality, 113–114.

 Copan, ruins of, 151, 160, 164, 290, _et seq._

 Cordilleras, 9.

 Corn, 91.

 Cortez, Hernan, 90, 246.

 Costa Rica, 100.

 Costume, 129.

 Courting customs, 112–113.

 Credit, 117, 224.

 Creoles, 109, _et seq._, 212.

 Cruelty of Spaniards, 166, 205.

 Crusades, the, 203.

 Currency, 220–221.

 Customs, 33, 65, 71–73, 110–111, 227.

 Custom-house, 20.

 Dandies, 65.

 Davila, Miguel, 263.

 Debt, 117.

 Departments of Guatemala, 281;
   of Honduras, 283.

 Diaz, Porfirio, 12, 199.

 Dogs, 138.

 Drunkenness, 129.

 Earthquakes, 5, 287–288.

 Education, 75, 114–115, 219;
   in Honduras, 271.

 El Carmen, church of, 58.

 El Rancho, 141.

 Engineers, American, 147.

 Escuintla, 26, 138–139, 140.

 Exports, 221–222;
   of Honduras, 277.

 Farming, 92.

 Fiestas, 38, 77, 207.

 Flores, Vice-President, 6, 176.

 Flowers, 241–242.

 Fonseca, Bay of, 245, 276.

 Food, 32.

 Foreigners, 71.

 Foreign trade, 221–222.

 Forests, tropical, 81, _et seq._

 Fruits, 98, 241.

 Fuego, Volcano of, 5, 55.

 Gainza, Gavino, 172–173.

 Golfete, Gulf of, 48.

 Gracias-a-Dios, Cape, 245.

 Granados, 187, 188, 189.

 Granadilla, 98.

 Gualan, 42, 143.

 Guardiola, President, 264.

 Guardia Viejo, 77.

 Guatemala, Kingdom of, 13.

 Guatemala, area of, 9;
   population of, 11;
   travelling in, 24, _et seq._

 Guatemala City, 8, 54, _et seq._, 115, 141, 271;
   destruction of, 5, 55.

 Guatemala Northern Railway, 100.

 Hidalgo, 170.

 Hieroglyphs, 155, _et seq._, 294.

 Holidays, 121.

 Honduras, 100.

 Honduras, History of, 204.

 Hotels, 78, 254, 256.

 Houses, 62.

 Humming birds, 53.

 Hustler, a tropical, 101.

 Hut, building of, 45.

 Idols, 156.

 Iguala, Plan of, 174.

 Iguana, 88–89.

 Imports, 221–222;
   of Honduras, 277.

 Improvidence, 117–119.

 Indians, 31, 38, 74, 116;
   Customs of, 115–118.

 Independence, 173, _et seq._

 Industries, lack of, 273.

 Inquisition, 167.

 Insects, abundance of, 52, 86, 89, 256.

 Izabal, Lake, 6, 8, 47, _et seq._, 100;
   town, 49.

 Java, an American, 82.

 Jefe, 123.

 Jesuits, 190.

 Labor, laws of, 93.

 Land, cost of, 92.

 Las Casas, 167.

 Laundries, public, 77.

 Livingston, 7, 47, 128.

 Logwood, 84, 94, 243.

 Lotteries, 25.

 Machete, 42, 84.

 Mahogany, 83, 94, 244.

 Maize, 91.

 Mañana, 143, 227.

 Mango, 99.

 Mangrove-tree Swamps, 246.

 Manufacturing, 228.

 Manzana, 96.

 Marimba, the, 125.

 Markets, 72–74, 114, 241.

 Marriage, 112–113.

 Matapolo, the, 85.

 Mayas, the, 150, 297.

 Mazatenango, 9, 122, 138.

 Medicinal plants, 93.

 Mexican War, 264.

 Mexico, Annexation to, 175.

 Military service, 272.

 Minerva, Festival of, 219;
   temple of, 77.

 Mining, 229;
   in Honduras, 274–275.

 Missions, Protestant, 191, 214–216.

 Mistletoe, 34.

 Monroe Doctrine, 2, 226.

 Montagua River, 144, 157–158, 230.

 Montezuma, 151.

 Money, 20, 72, 220–221, 278.

 Monkeys, 86–87.

 Morazan Francisco, 176–179, 184, 259.

 Mosquito coast, 236, 266.

 Mountains, 3, 247.

 Mozo, the, 116–117, 122–125.

 Mulua, 137.

 Music, 124–125, 210.

 Museum, 75.

 Nature, Prodigality of, 247–248.

 Natives of Honduras, 267–269.

 National Palace, 63.

 Navy of Honduras, 249.

 Negroes, 144, 238.

 Newspapers, 219.

 New Orleans, 145.

 “No hay,” land of, 117–118.

 Nopal, the, 25.

 Northers, the, 243.

 Northern Railroad, 140–145.

 Nutmegs, 98.

 Occidental Railroad, 134, 136–138.

 Ocos, 5, 18, 146.

 Opportunities, 222;
   in Honduras, 278–279;
   in British Honduras, 243.

 Orchids, 83, 242.

 Outlaws, 182.

 Oxen, use of, 29.

 Pacific slope, 105.

 Palms, 82, 94.

 Panama, 135.

 Panama hats, 274.

 Pan American Railroad, 134–136.

 Panzos, 146.

 Parasitic growths, 83.

 Parks, 76.

 Parrots, 86.

 Paseo de la Reforma, 76.

 Passion-flower, fruit of, 98.

 Patio, 63.

 Patulul, 138.

 Peonage, 119–121.

 Peten, Lake, 6, 50, 151.

 Picture writing, 154.

 Pirates, 235–236.

 Plaza de Armas, 63.

 Plants, medicinal, 93.

 Political divisions, 11.

 Polochic River, 7, 50, 146.

 Popul Vuh, 152.

 Possibilities in tropics, 225.

 Post office, 75.

 Pottery, 229.

 Presbyterian missions, 71, 191, 214–216.

 President, term and election of, 12.

 Prisoners, 79.

 Priests, Spanish, 153, 206.

 Prisons, 254–255.

 Pronunciamentos, 171.

 Processions, Religious, 212.

 Protestant Missions, 214.

 Puerto Barrios, 7, 46, 145–146.

 Puerto Cortez, 249–252.

 Quahtemala, Kingdom of, 90.

 Quetzalcoatl, 201–202.

 Quetzal, 75, 86.

 Quezaltenango, 8, 137, 176.

 Quiché Indians, 14, 208–209.

 Quirigua, 151, 155, _et seq._

 Railroads, 132, _et seq._, 231;
   of Honduras, 252–253, 276.

 Rancho San Agustin, 39.

 Religion of ancients, 151.

 Retalhuleu, 9, 23, 122, 136.

 Revolutions, fear of, 22, 261–263.

 Rio Dulce, 47, 91.

 Rivers of Honduras, 245–246.

 Roads, 33.

 Roatan, Island of, 265, 267.

 Routes to Honduras, 248.

 Royal palm, 95.

 Rubber, 96.

 Ruins, 149, _et seq._, 202.

 Saint day, 121.

 Salina Cruz, 16.

 Salvador, San, 143.

 Santa Maria, Volcano of, 4, 6, 137, 288.

 San Benito, 17.

 Sanarate, 34.

 San Felipe, Fort of, 49.

 San Felipe, 137.

 San Jose, 139.

 San Juan, Fort of, 79.

 San Pedro Sula, 252–254.

 Santo Tomas, 46.

 Sarsaparilla, 85.

 Scavengers, 138.

 Schools, 75.

 Señoras, 114.

 Señoritas, 111–113.

 Servants, 116.

 Sierra de Santa Cruz, 47.

 Sierras de las Minas, 40, 47.

 Sloth, the, 88.

 Smoking, 130–131.

 Snakes, 88.

 Soldiers, 64, 79, 126–127, 271.

 Spaniards, Government by, 165, _et seq._

 Spanish-American women, 101–101.

 Staring, custom of, 111.

 Sugar cane, 96–97, 274.

 Superstition, 209.

 Tacana, Volcano of, 4.

 Tajumulco, Volcano of, 4.

 Tapachula, 22, 134.

 Tegucigalpa, 248, 255, 258–259.

 Temperature of Honduras, 284.

 Theatre, 111.

 Tierra caliente, 9, 42.

 Tierra fria, 10.

 Tierra templada, 10.

 Timber, variety of, 93.

 Tobacco, 98.

 Toltecs, the, 150.

 Tortillas, 75.

 Totonicapan, 8.

 Travelling, 61, 255.

 Tram cars, 79.

 Transportation, 132.

 Tropics, vegetation of the, 51.

 Tropical fruits, demand for, 104.

 Truxillo, 276.

 Tula, 150.

 Turtles, 88.

 Umbrella ants, 90.

 University of Guatemala, 75.

 Vanilla, 85.

 Vegetation, 37.

 Volcanoes, 4, 56, 286–290.

 Wages, 221.

 White-eye, 97.

 Wizards, Indian, 209.

 Women, 110, 128–129, 140.

 Yellow fever, 250.

 Yohoa, Lake of, 246.

 Yucatan, 149.

 Zacapa, 143.

 Zambos, 236, 266.

 Zutugils, 14.


 ● Transcriber’s note:

    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.

    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.

    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Guatemala and Her People of To-day - Being an Account of the Land, Its History and Development; the People, Their Customs and Characteristics; to Which Are Added Chapters on British Honduras and the Republic of Honduras, with References to the Other Countries of Central America, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica" ***

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