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September 6.—Passed the mouth of the small river Airico on the left. One of our Indians says that the ascent of this river for a week brings the traveller to a lake, and for another week, to mountains.
We have had quite heavy squalls of wind and rain every day since entering the Amazon. The canoes are so low that they cannot ride the waves of mid-river, and are compelled to haul in for the land, and wait for the storm to pass. We saw alligators to-day, for the first time.
September 7.- Arrived at Parinari. This is an Indian village of three hundred and thirty inhabitants, situated on a hill on the right bank of the river. It is about twenty feet above the present level of the river, which rises, in the full, to within three feet of the houses. The people live principally by fishing, and gathering sarsaparilla to sell at Nauta. The lieutenant governor gave us some spirits made of plantains. It was vile stuff; very strong; and is said to be unwhole
September 8.-Saw Ronsocos; and the Fiscales killed six howling monkeys with their pucunas. Passed the mouth of Tigre Yacu on the left. It is seventy yards broad, and looks deep and free from obstruction. Its waters are much clearer than those of the Amazon. It is navigable for canoes a long way up; and a considerable quantity of sarsaparilla is gathered on its banks, though inhabited by savages, who are said to be warlike and dangerous. We camped at night on an island near the middle of the river. A narrow island lay between us and San Regis, a small pueblo on the left bank, whence we could hear the sound of music and merry-making all night. It has two hundred and ten inhabitants.
The Fiscales, cooking their big monkeys over a large fire on the beach, presented a savage and most picturesque night scene. They looked more like devils roasting human beings than like servants of the church.
September 9.—Passed a channel called Pucati, which is a small mouth of the Ucayali. It is now nearly dry. In the rainy season it is passable for canoes; but spreads out so much in its course (forming small lakes) that it leaves few places to kindle a fire on, or sleep; and is, for this reason, little used. It takes three days to come through it from the Ucayali to the Amazon; and six to traverse it the other way. Soon after leaving this, we passed another small channel, said to communicate with a large lake-a large one probably in the full, when this whole country between the Ucayali, Amazon, and channel of Pucati is nearly overflowed. We arrived at Nauta at noon, having travelled two hundred and ten miles from the mouth of the Huallaga.
We called on the governor general of the Missions of Mainas, Don José Maria Arebalo, who received us with some formality, and gave us lodgings in one of the houses of the village, I suspect, turning out the inhabitants for that purpose. My companion, Ijurra, was not sure of a cordial reception; for, when sub-prefect of the province, he had caused Arebalo to be arrested and carried prisoner from Balza Puerto to Moyobamba. But our friend was much too magnanimous to remember old feuds; and he and Ijurra soon became boon companions.
Nauta is a fishing village of one thousand inhabitants, mostly Indians of the Cocama tribe, which is distinct from that of the Cocamillas of Laguna. It has a few white residents engaged in trading with the Indians for salt fish, wax, and sarsaparilla, which are obtained from the Ucayali. Don Bernardino Cauper, an old Portuguese, does most of the business of the place. He sends parties of Indians to fish or gather sarsaparilla upon the Napo and Ucayali; and he has two or three boats (called in this part of the country garreteas) trading down the river as far as Egas. He supplies all the country above with foreign articles from Brazil, and receives consignments from the upper country, which he sends to Egas.
Don Bernardino lives in a sort of comfort. He has plenty of meat, (calling turtle, salt fish, and fowls meat,) with farinha from below, and beans and onions from his little garden. There is good tobacco from above to smoke, and wholesome, though fiery, Lisbon wine to drink. I have been frequently struck during my journey with the comparative value of things. The richest man of a village of one thousand inhabitants, in the United States, would think Bernardino's table poorly supplied, and would turn up his nose at a grass hammock slung between two hooks in the shop for a bed-place. Yet these things were regal luxuries to us; and, doubtless, being the best that are to be had, Don Bernardino is perfectly contented, and desires nothing better.
The old gentleman is very pious. The Cura of Pebas was at this time in Nauta, attending to the repairs of the church; and we celebrated a nine-days service (Novena) in honor of our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of the arms of Peru. The expenses of the service (being a fee for the padre and the lighting of the church with wax) were borne by individuals. The padre gave the first day; then Senhor Cauper; then his wife, his wife's sister, his son, his pretty Brazilian niece, Donna Candida; then came Arebalo; then Ijurra and I; the priest winding up on Sunday. But my old friend was not contented with this; and when I shoved off on Monday for the Ucayali, I left him engaged in another church service, setting off rockets, and firing, from
time to time, an old blunderbuss, loaded to the muzzle, in honor of a miracle that had happened in Rimini, in Italy, some year and a half ago, of which we had just received intelligence.
The governor general gave me some statistics, from which it appears that the province of Mainas is divided into the province proper, (of which the capital is Moyabamba,) the upper and lower Missions, and the Conversions of the Ucayali.
The upper Mission has four districts—Balza Puerto, Xeberos, Laguna, and Andoas; containing seventeen villages, and nine thousand nine hundred and eleven inhabitants. The lower Mission has two districtsNauta and Loreto, with seventeen villages, and three thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine inhabitants. The Conversions of the Ucayali are confined to the villages of Sarayacu, Tierra Blanca, and Sta. Catalina, and number one thousand three hundred and fifty inhabitants, mostly converts of the Panos tribe. They are governed by priests of the College of Ocopa, who are under the spiritual direction of its guardian; but hold their temporal authority under the prefect of the department. Arebalo estimates the number of whites in the Missions and Conversions—counting men, women, and children—at four hundred and seven.
Both Missions are under the authority of a governor general, who holds his commission from the sub-prefect of the province. Each district has its governor, and each town its lieutenant governor. The other authorities of a town are curacas, captains, lieutenants, adjutants, ensigns, sergeants, alcaldes, and constables. (All these are Indians.) The office of curaca is hereditary. The right of succession is sometimes interfered with by the white governor; but this always gives dissatisfaction, and is occasionally (added to other grievances) the cause of rebellion and riot. The savages treat their curaca with great respect, and submit to corporal punishment at his mandate.
I know of no legal establishment in the Missions; the law proceeding out of the mouths of the governors. Indians are punished by flogging or confinement in the stocks; whites are sometimes imprisoned; but if their offence is of a grave nature, they are sent to be tried and judged by the courts of the capital.
Arebalo estimates the value of the commerce of the Missions with Brazil at twenty thousand dollars annually; and that with the Pacific coast, through Chachapoyas and Truxillo, at twenty thousand more. The vegetable productions of the Missions do not equal the value of the imports; but the people get some money from the coast for their manufactures of coarse cotton and straw-hats; and a little gold is occasionally obtained from the sands of the Napo and Pastaza.
The Missions send to Chachapoyas and Truxillo tobacco, salt fish, straw-hats, coarse cotton cloths, wax, incense for the churches, balsam copaiba, and vanilla; and receive, in return, cattle, horses, goods of Europe, and a little money. The Brazilians bring up heavy articles, such as I described as composing the cargo of the traders we met at Laguna; and take back straw-hats, hammocks of the Indians, sarsaparilla, and money. The value of the sarsaparilla of the Missions is estimated at two thousand dollars at the place of production, and six thousand at its place of sale in Brazil; the value of the wax at the same at the place of production; and at four thousand dollars at place of sale. The greatest protit, however, is made on the fish, of which thirty thousand pieces are taken annually in the Ucayali and Amazon. It costs there about three cents the piece; and is worth in Tarapoto, Lamas, and other places of the province, about twelve and a half cents the piece. Estimate of the expenses and returns of a canoe-load of salt fish from
Nauta to Balza Puerto.
Nauta for one yard of English cotton cloth (valued at
1 121 Pay of seven peons, 12 yards of cotton cloth of Tarapoto, valued at 12} cents the yard
10 50 Maintenance of the seven men for thirty-six days, at 3 cents per day
44 184 - 100 00
Cr. Eight hundred pieces in Balza Puerto, at 124 cents
55 811 or about one hundred and twenty-six per cent. in thirty-six days.
The return-cargo also yields a profit: so that my friend, the governor, who by virtue of his office can get as many men to take fish for him as he wants, will probably return to civilized parts in a few years with a snug little sum in his pocket. Old Cauper is rich, and the priest in comfortable circumstances.
Estimate of expenses and returns of an expedition from Nauta to the
Ucayali for the collection of sarsaparilla. (The expedition will occupy
four months of time.) Dr. Hire of two garreteas, that will carry seventy-five arrobas each, at 3} cents per day, (four months)
$7 50 Eighteen peons from Nauta to Sarayacu, at ten yards of English cotton cloth each, (twenty-five cents)
45 00 Support of these peons for twenty days, at 35 cents per man per day
11 25 Contract with fifty Pirros or Conibos Indians (who now
take the boats and go up the tributaries of the Ucayali)
Cr. One hundred and fifty arrobas, worth in Nauta two dollars
Profit in four months
- 105 00 or about thirteen and a half
a per cent. per
month. The people engaged in this occupation make, however, more profit, by cheating the Indians in every possible mode. They also own the garreteas; and, by management, support their peons for less than three cents per day.
This is an estimate made up from information given by Arebalo. Hacket makes a much better business of it. IIe says, “ Eighty working hours above Sarayacu, on the Ucayali, is the mouth of the river Aguaytia, on the banks of which grows sarsaparilla in sufficient quantity not only to enrich the province of Mainas, but all the department of Amazonas. Its cost is eight varas of tocuyo the hundred pounds, undertaking the work of gathering it with formality—that is to say, employing one hundred persons under the direction of a man of talent, and paying them a monthly salary of twenty-four varas of tocuyo each; quadruple the price that is generally paid in Mainas.
“ It sells in Nauta, Peruate, and Loreto for nine dollars the hundred pounds, gold or silver coin; in Tabatinga, (frontier of Brazil,) for ten dollars and fifty cents; in Pará, for twenty-five dollars; and in Europe, for from forty to sixty dollars, in times of greatest abundance."