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VOL. n. 


Ms. Helen Cameron 








DURING THE YEARS 1799—1804. 
















Lake of Tacarigna. — Hot Springs of Mariara.— Town of Nneva 
Valencia ad Rey— Descent towards the Coasts of Porto 
CabeUo ....... 1 


Mountains which separate the Valleys of Aragua from the Llanos 
of Caracas. — ^Villa de Cara. — Parapara. — Llanos or Steppes. 
— Calabozo . • . • . . .68 


San Fernando de Apnre. — ^Intertwinings and Bifurcations of the 

Rivers Apure and Arauca. — ^Navigation on the Rio Apnre . 137 


Junction of the Apure and the Orinoco.— Mountains of Enca- 
ramada. — Uruana. — ^Baraguan. — Caricbana. — Mouth of the 
Meta. — Island of Panumana . . . . • 1 74 


The Mouth of the Rio Anaveni. — Peak of Uniana. ^Mission of 
Atnres. —Cataract, or Raudal of Mapara. — Islets of Sum- 
pamana and Uirapuri . . . . • 234 


Raodal of Garcita.— Maypures. — Cataracts of Quitnna. — ^Mouth of 

the Vichada and the Zama.— Rock of Aricagua. — Siquita . 289 

a 2 

ri COKTElfTS. 


San Fernando de Atabapo. — San Balthasar. — ^The rivers Terni and 
Tuamini. — Javita. — Portage from the Tuamini to the Rio 
Negro ....... 329 


The Rio Negro. — Boundaries of Brazil. — The Cassiquiare. — Bifur- 
cation of the Orinoco . . . . .372 


The Upper Orinoco, from the Esmeralda to the confluence of the 
Guaviare. — Second passage across the Cataracts of Atures and 
Maypures. — The Lower Orinoco, between the mouth of the 
Rio Apure, and Angostura the capital of Spanish Guiana . 432 









Chapteb XVI. 

L&ke of Tacarigua. — Hot Springs of Mariara. — ^Town of Nueva Valencia 
del Rey. — ^Descent towards the Coasts of Porto Cabello. 

The valleys of Aragua form a narrow basin between gra- 
nitic and calcareous mountains of unequal height. On the 
north, they are separated by the Sierra Mariara from the 
sea-coast ; and towards the south, the chain of Guacimo 
and Yusma serves them as a rampart against the heated 
air of the steppes. Groups of hills, high enough to deter- 
mine the course of the waters, close this basin on the east 
and west like transverse dykes. We find these hJls between 
the Tuy and La Victoria, as well as on the road from 
Valencia to Nirgua, and at the mountains of Torito.* From 

* The lofty mountams of Los Teques, where the Tuy takes its source, 
may be looked upon as the eastern boundary of the valleys of Aragua. 
The level of the ground continues, in fact, to rise from La Victoria to the 
Hacienda de Tuy ; but the river Tuy, turning southward in the direction 
of the sierras of Guairaima and Tiara, has found an issue on the cast ; 

VOL. H. B 


this extraordinary configuration of the land, the little rivers 
of -the valleys of Aragua form a peculiar system, and direct 
their course towards a basin closed on all sides. These 
rivers do not bear their waters to the ocean; they are 
collected in a lake ; and subject to the peculiar influence 
of evaporation, they lose themselves, if we may use the 
expression, in the atmosphere. On the existence of rivers 
and lakes, the fertility of the soil and the produce of culti- 
vation in these valleys depend. The aspect of the spot, 
and the experience ol half a century, have proved that the 
level of the waters is not invariable ; the waste by evapora- 
tion, and the increase from the waters running into the 
lake, do not uninterruptedly balance each other. The lake 
being elevated one thousand feet above the neighbouring 
steppes of Calabozo, and one thousand three hundred and 
thirty-two feet above the level of the ocean, it has been 
suspected that there are subterranean communications and 
filtrations. The appearance of new islands, and the gradual 
retreat of the waters, have led to the belief that the lake 
may perhaps, in time, become entirely dry. An assemblage 
of physical circumstances so remarkable was well fitted to 
fix my attention on those valleys where the wild beauty of 
nature is embellished by agricultural industry, and the arts 
of rising civilization. 

The lake of Valencia, called Tacarigua by the Indians, 
exceeds in magnitude the lake of Neufchatel in Switzerland ; 
but its ^general form has more resemblance to the lake of 
Geneva, which is nearly at the same height above the level 
of the sea. As the slope of the ground in the valleys of 
Aragua tends towards the south and the west, that part 
of the basin still covered with water is the nearest to the 
southern chain of the mountains of Guigue, of Yusma, 
and of Guacimo, which stretch towards the high savannahs 
of Ocumare. The opposite banks of the lake of Valencia 
display a singular contrast ; those on the south are desert, 
ana almost uninhabited, and a screen of high mountains 

and it is more natural to .consider as the limits of the basin of Aragua a 
line drawn through the sources of the streams flowing into the lake of 
Valencia. The charts and sections I have traced of the road from Cara- 
cas to Nueva Valencia, and from Porto Cabello to Villa de Cura, exhibit 
the whole of these geological relations. 


gives them a gloomy and monotonous aspect. The northern 
shore on the contrary, is cheerful, pastoral, and decked with 
the rich cultivation of the sugar-cane, coffee-tree, and 
cotton. Paths bordered with cestrums, azedaracs, and other 
shrubs always in flower, cross the plain, and join the scat- 
tered farms. Every hotise is surrounded by clumps of trees. 
The Ceiba with its large yellow flowers* gives a peculiar 
character to the landscape, mingling its branches with those 
of the purple erythrina. This mixture of vivid vegetable 
colours contrasts finely with the uniform tint of an un- 
clouded sky. In the season of drought, where the burning 
soil is covered with an undulating vapour, artificial irriga- 
tions preserve verdure and promote fertility. Here and 
there the granite rock pierces through the cultivated ground. 
Enormous stony masses rise abruptly in the midst of the 
valley. Bare and forked, they nourish a few succulent 
plants, which prepare mould for future ages. Often on the 
summit of these lonely hills may be seen a fig-tree or a 
clusia with fleshy leaves, which has fixed its roots in the 
rock, and towers over the landscape. With their dead and 
witiiered branches, these trees look like signals erected on 
a steep cHff. The form of these mounts unfolds the secret 
of their ancient origin ; for when the whole of this valley 
was filled with water, and the waves beat at the foot of the 
peaks of Mariara (the Devil's Nook)t and the chain of the 
coast, these rocky hills were shoals or islets. 

These features of a rich landscape, these contrasts be- 
tween the two banks of the lake of V alencia, often remiaded 
me of the Pays de Yaud, where the soil, everywhere cul- 
tivated, and everywrhere fertile, offers the husbandman, the 
shepherd, and the vine-dresser, the secure fruit of their 
labours, while, on the opposite side, Chablais presents only 
a mountainous and half-desert country. In these distant 
climes surrounded by exotic productions, I loved to recall 
to mind the enchanting descriptions ^dth which the aspect 
of the Leman lake and the rocks of La MeiUerie inspired 
a great writer. Now, while in the centre of civilized Europe, 
I endeavour in my turn to paint the scenes of the New- 
World, I do not imagine I present the reader with clearer 

♦ Cames follendas (Bombax hibiscifolius). 
t £1 Rincon del Diablo. 

B 2 


images, or more precise ideas, by comparing our landscapes 
with those of the equinoctial regions. It cannot be too 
often repeated that nature, in every zone, whether wild 
or cultivated, smiling or majestic, lias an individual cha- 
racter. The impressions which she excites are infinitely 
varied, like the emotions produced by works of genius, 
according to the age in which they were conceived, and the 
diversity of language from which they in part derive their 
charm. We must limit our comparisons merely to dimen- 
sions and external form. We may institute a parallel 
between the colossal summit of Mont Blanc and the 
Himalaya Mountains; the cascades of the Pyrenees and 
those of the Cordilleras : but these comparisons, useful with 
respect to science, fail to convey an idea of the character- 
istics of nature in the temperate and torrid zones. On the 
banks of a lake, in a vast forest, at the foot of summits 
covered with eternal snow, it is not the mere magnitude 
of the objects which excites our admiration. That which 
speaks to ^he soul, which causes such profound and varied 
emotions, escapes our measurements as it does the forms 
of language. Those who feel powerfully the charms of 
nature cannot venture on comparing one with another, 
scenes totally different in character. 

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

According to astronomical observations made at La Vic- 
toria, Hacienda de Cura, Nueva Valencia, and Gruigue, "the 
length of the lake in its present state from Cagua to 
Quay OS, is ten leagues, or twenty-eight thousand eight 
hundred toises. Its breadth is very unequal. If we judge 
from the latitudes of the mouth of the Eio Cura* and the 
village of Guigue, it nowhere surpasses 2*3 leagues, or six 
thousacd five hundred toises ; most commonly it is but four 


or five miles. The dimensions, as deduced from my observa- 
tions are much less than those hitherto adopted by the 
natives. It might be thought that, to form a precise idea 
of the progressive diminution of the waters, it would be 
sufficient to compare the present dimensions of the lake 
with those attributed to it by ancient chroniclers; by 
Oviedo for instance, in his History of the Province of Vene- 
zuela, published about the year 1723. This writer in his 
emphatic style, assigns to " this inland sea, this monstruoso 
cuerpo de la tagwia de Valencia,^ ^* fourteen leagues in length 
and six in breadth. He affirms that at a small distance 
from the shore the lead finds no bottom ; and that large 
floating islands cover the surface of the waters, which are 
constantly agitated by the winds. No importance can be 
attached to estimates which, without being founded on any 
measurement, are expressed in leagues (léguas) reckoned in 
the colonies at three thousand, five thousand, and six thou- 
sand six hundred and fifty varas.f Oviedo, who must so 
often have passed over the vaUeys of Aragua, asserts that 
the town oi Nueva Valencia del Bey was built in 1555, 
at the distance of half a league from the lake ; and that 
the proportion between the length of the lake and its 
breadth, is as "seven to three. At present, the town of 
Valencia is separated from the lake by level ground of more 
than two thousand seven hundred toises (which Oviedo 
would no doubt have estimated as a space of a league and 
a half) ; and the length of the basin of the lake is to its 
breadth as 10 to 2*3, or as 7 to 1*6. The appearance of the 

* " Enormous body of the lake of Valencia." 

"f Seamen being the first, and for a long time the only, persons who 
introdnced into the Spanish colonies any precise ideas on the astrono- 
mical position and distances of places, the legua nautica of 6650 varas, 
or of 2854 toises (20 in a degree"), was originally used in Mexico and 
throughout South America ; but this legua nautica has been gradually 
reduced to one-half or one-third, on account of the slowness of tra- 
Telling across steep mountains, or dry and burning plains. The common 
people measure only time directly ; and then, by arbitrary hypotheses, 
infer from the time the space of ground travelled over. In the course of 
my geographical researches, I have had frequent opportunities of exa- 
mining the real value of these leagues, by comparing the itinerary dis- 
tances between points lying under the same meridian with the difference 
of latitudes. 


soil between Valencia and Q-uigue, the little hills rising 
abruptly in the plain east of the Cano de Cambury, some of 
which (el Islote and la Isla de la Negra or Caratapona) 
have even preserved the name of islands, sufficiently prove 
that the waters have retired considerably since the time of 
Oviedo. With respect to the change in the general form 
of the lake, it appears to me improbable that in the seven- 
teenth century its breadth was nearly the half of its length. 
The situation of the granite mountains of Mariara and of 
Guigue, the slope of the ground which rises more rapidly 
towards the north and south than towards the east and 
west, are alike repugnant to this supposition. 

In treating the long-discussed question of the diminution 
of the waters, I conceive we must distinguish between the 
different periods at which the sinking of their level has 
taken place. Wherever we examine the valleys of rivers, or 
the basins of lakes, we see the ancient shore at great dis- 
tances. No doubt seems now to be entertained, that our 
rivers and lakes have undergone immense diminutions ; but 
many geological facts remind us also, that these great 
changes in the distribution of the waters have preceded aU 
historical times; and that for many thousand years most 
lakes have attained a permanent equilibrium between the 
produce of the water flowing in, and that of evaporation and 
filtration. Whenever we Sad this equilibrium broken, it 
will be weU rather to examine whether the rupture be 
not owing to causes merely local, and of very recent date, 
than to admit an uninterrupted diminution of the water. 
This reasoning is conformable to the more circumspect 
method of modem science. At a time when the physical 
history of the world, traced by the genius of some eloquent 
writers, borrowed all its charms from the fictions of imagi- 
nation, the phenomenon of which we are treating would 
have been adduced as a new proof of the contrast these 
writers sought to establish between the two continents. 
To demonstrate that America rose later than Asia and 
Europe from the bosom of the waters, the lake of Tacarigua 
woula have been described as one of those interior basins 
which have not yet become dry by the effects of slow and 
gradual evaporation. I have no doubt that, in very remote 
times, the whole valley, from the foot o^ the mountains of 


Cocuyza to those of Torito and Nirgua, and from La Sierra 
de Mariara to the chain of Q-uigue, of Guacimo, and La 
Pahna, was filled with water. Everywhere the form of the 
promontories, and their steep decHvities, seem to indicate 
the shore of an alpine lake, similar to those of Stvria and 
Tyrol. The same little helicites, the same valvatsB, which now 
live in the lake of Valencia, are found in layers of three or 
four feet thick as far inland as Turmero and La Concesion 
near La Victoria. These facts undoubtedly prove a retreat 
of the waters ; but nothing indicates that this retreat has 
continued fronl a very remote period to our days. The 
valleys of Aragua are among the portions of Venezuela most 
anciently peopled; and yet there is no mention in Oviedo, 
or any other old chronicler, of a sensible diminution of the 
lake. Must we suppose, that this phenomenon escaped 
their observation, at a time when the Indians far exceeded 
the white population, and when the banks of the lake were 
*es8 inhabited? Within half a century, and particularly' 
within these thirty years, the natural desiccation of this 
great basin has excited general attention. We find vast 
tracts of land which were formerly inundated, now dry, and 
already cultivated with plantains, sugar-canes, or cotton. 
Wherever a hut is erected on the bank of the lake, we see 
the shore receding from year to year. We discover islands, 
which, in consequence of the retreat of the waters, are just 
beginning to be joined to the continent, as for instance the 
rocky island of Cidebra, in the direction of Guigue ; other 
islands already form promontories, as the Morro, between 
Guigue and Nueva Valencia, and La Cabrera, south-east of 
Mariara : others agaiu are now rising in the islands them- 
selves like scattered hills. Among these last, so easily 
recognized at a distance, some are only a quarter of a mile, 
others a league from the present shore. I may cite as the 
most remarkable three granite islands, thirty or forty toises 
high, on the road from the Hacienda de Cura to Aguas 
CaJientes; and at the western extremity of the lake, the 
Serritc» de Don Pedro, Islote, and Caratapona. On visiting 
two islands* entirely surrounded by water, we found in the 

♦ lela de Cura and Cabo Blanco. The promontory of Cabrera has 
been connected with the shore ever since the year 1750 or 1760 by a little 
▼aUey,- which bears the name of Portachuelo. 


situated in opposite hemispheres, as, for example, Lombardy 
bordered by the Alps, and Lower Peru inclosed between the 
Pacific and the Cordillera of the Andes, afford striking proofs 
of the justness of this assertion. 

Till the middle of the last century, the mountams round 
the valleys of Aragua were covered with forests. Great 
trees of the families of mimosa, ceiba, and the fig-tree, 
shaded and spread coolness along the banks of the lake. 
The plain, then thinly inhabited, was filled with brushwood, 
interspersed with trunks of scattered trees and parasite 
plants, enveloped with a thick sward, less capable of emitting 
radiant caloric than the soil that is cultivated and conse- 
quently not sheltered from the rays of the sun. With the 
destruction of the trecF., and the increase of the cultivation 
of sugar, indigo, and r jtton, the springs, and all the natural 
suppEes of the lake of Valencia, have diminished from year 
to year. It is difficult to form a just idea of the enormous 
quantity of evaporation which takes place under the torrid 
zone, in a valley surrounded with steep declivities, where 
a regular breeze and descending currents of air are felt 
towards evening, and the bottom of which is flat, and looks 
as if levelled by the waters. It has been remarked, that 
the heat which prevails throughout the year at Cura, 
Guacara, Nueva Valencia, and on the borders of the lake, 
is the same as that felt at midsummer in Naples and 
Sicily. The mean annual temperatiu-e of the valleys of 
Aragua is nearly 25 '5"; my hygrometrical observations of 
the month of February, taking the mean of day and night, 

tave 71*4° of the hair hygrometer. As the words great 
rought and great humidity have no determinate significa- 
tion, and air that would be called very dry in the lower 
regions of the tropics would be regarded as humid in 
Europe, we can jud^e of these relations between climates 
only by comparing spots situated in the same zone. Now 
at Cumana, where it sometimes does not rain during a 
whole year, and where I had the means of collectmg a 
great number of hygrométrie observations made at different 
hours of the day and night, the mean humidity of the air 
is 86"; corresponding to the mean temperature of 27 '7°. 
Taking into account the influence of the rainy months, that 
is to say, estimating the difference observed in other parts 


The cbanges which the destruction of forests, the clearing 
of plains, and the cultivation of indigo, have produced within 
hall a century in the quantity of water flowing in on the 
one hand, and on the other the jevaporation of the soil, and 
the dryness of the atmosphere, present causes sufficiently 
powerfal to explain the progressive diminution of the lake of 
Valencia. I cannot concur in the opinion of M. Depons * 
(who visited these countries since I was there) " that to 
set the mind at rest, and for the honour of science," a sub- 
terranean issue must be admitted. By feUing the trees 
which cover the tops and the sides of mountams, men in 
every climate prepare at once two calamities for future gene- 
rations ; want of fuel and scarcity of water. Trees, by the 
nature of their perspiration, and the radiation from their 
leaves in a sky without clouds, surround themselves with an 
atmosphere constantly cold and misty. They afiect the 
copiousness of springs, not, as was long believed, by a pecu- 
liar attraction for the vapours diffused through the air, but 
because, by sheltering the soil from the direct action of the 
sun, they diminish the evaporation of water produced by 
rain. When forests are destroyed, as they are everywhere 
in America by the European planters, witn imprudent pre- 
cipitancy, the springs are entirely dried up, or become less 
abundant. The beds of the rivers, remaining dry during 
a part of the year, are converted into torrents whenever 
great rains fall on the heights. As the sward and moss 
disappear with the brushwood from the sides of the moun- 
tains, the waters falling in rain are no longer impeded in 
their course ; and instead of slowly augmenting the level of 
the rivers by progressive filtrations, they furrow, during 
heavy showers, the sides of the hills, bearing down the 
loosened soil, and forming sudden and destructive inunda- 
tions. Hence it results, that the clearing of forests, the 
want of permanent springs, and the existence of torrents, 
are three phenomena closely connected together. Countries 

♦ In his ' Voyage à la Terre Ferme/ M. Depons says, " The small 
extent of the surface of the lake renders impossihle the supposition that 
evaporation alone, however considerable within the tropics, could remove 
as much water as the rivers furnish.*' In the sequel, the author himself 
seems to abandon what he terms '* this occult case, the hypothesis of an 


zones, we must endeavour to solve the problem of the mean 
tension of the vapours contained in the atmosphere in dif- 
ferent latitudes, and at different heights above the surface 
of the ocean. 

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

Since the increase of agriculturJal industry in the valleys of 
Aragua, the little rivers which run into the lake of Valencia 
can no longer be regarded as positive supplies during the 
six months succeeding December. They remain dried up 
in the lower part of their course, because the planters of 
indigo, coffee, and sugar-canes, have made frequent drainings 
(azequias), in order to water the ground by trenches. We 
may observe also, that a pretty considerable river, the Rio 
Pao, which rises at the entrance of the Llanos, at the foot of 
the range of hills called La Q-alera, heretofore mingled its 
waters \\dth those of the lake, by uniting with the Cano de 
Cambury, on the road from the town of î^ueva Valencia to' 
G-uigue. The course of this river was from south to north. 
At the end of the seventeenth century, the proprietor of a 
neighbouring plantation dug at the back of the hill a new 
bed for the feio Pao. He turned the river; and, after 
having employed part of the water for the irrigation of his 
fields, he caused the rest to flow at a venture southward, 
following the declivity of the Llanos. In this new southern 
direction the Rio Pao, mingled with three other rivers, the 


Tinaco, the Gruanarito, and the Ckilua, falls into the Portu- 
guesa, which is a branch of the Apure. It is a remarkable 
phenomenon, that by a paj^cular position of the ground, 
and the lowering of the ric^e of division to south-west, the 
Bio Pao separates itself fix)m the little system of interior 
rivers to wiiich it originally belonged, and for a century 
past has communicated, through the channel of the Apure 
and the Orinoco, with the ocean. What has been nere 
effected on a small scale by the hand of man, nature often 
performs, either by progressively elevating the level of the 
soil, or by those iaJls of the ground occasioned by violent 
earthquakes. It is probable, that in the lapse of ages, 
several rivers of Soudan, and of New Holland, which' are 
now lost in the sands, or in inland basins, wiU open for 
themselves a course to the shores of the ocean. We cannot 
at least doubt, that;, in both continents there are systems of 
interior rivers, which may be considered as not entirely 
developed ; and which communicate with each other, either 
in the time of great risings, or by permanent bifurcations. 

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

The land that surrounds the lake of Valencia being en- 
tirely flat and even, a diminution of a few inches in the level 
of the water exposes to view a vast extent of ground covered 
with fertile mud and organic remains.*- In proportion as 
the lake retires, cultivation adv^ances towards the new shore. 

* This I observed daily in the Lake of Mexico. 


These natural desiccations, so important to agriculture, 
have been considerable during the last ten years, in which 
America has suffered from great droughts. Instead of mark- 
ing the sinuosities of the present banks of the lake, I have 
advised the rich landholders in these countries to fix 
columns of granite in the basin itself, in order to observe 
from year to year the mean height of the waters. The 
Marquis del Toro has imdertaken to put this design into 
execution, employing the fine granite of the Sierra de 
Mariara, and establishing limnometefs, on a bottom of gneiss 
rock, so common in the lake of Valencia, 

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

"While some of the cultivators of the valleys of Aragua 
fear the total disappearance of the lake, and others its re- 
turn to the banks it has deserted, we hear the question 
gravely discussed at Caracas, whether it would not be advis- 
able, in order to give greater extent to agriculture, to 
conduct the waters of the lake into the Llanos, by digging a 
canal towards the Eio Pao. The possibility* of this enter- 

• The dividing ridge, namely, that which divides the waters between 
the valleys of Aragua and the Llanos, lowers so much towards the west of 
Guigue, as we have already observed, that there are ravines which conduct 
the waters of the Cafk) de Cambury, the Rio Valencia, and the Guataparo, 
In the time of floods, to the Rio Pao ; but it would be easier to open a 
navigable canal from the lake of Valencia to the Orinoco, by the Pao, the 
Portuguesa, and the Apure, than to dig a draining canal level with the 
bottom of the lake. This bottom, according to the sounding, and my 
barometric measurements, is 40 toises less than 222, or 182 above the 
surface of the ocean. On the road from Guigne to the Llanos, by the 
table-land of La Villa de Cura, I found, to the south of the dividing 


prise cannot be denied, particularly by having recourse to 
tunnels, or subterranean canals. The progressive retreat of 
the waters has given birth to the beautiful and luxuriant 
plains of Maracay, Cura, Mocundo, Guigue, and Santa Cruz 
del Escoval, planted with tobacco, sugiir-canes, coffee, indigo, 
and cacao ; but how can it be doubted for a moment that 
the lake alone spreads fertility over this country ? If de- 
prived of the enormous mass of vapour which the surface 
of the waters sends forth daily into the atmosphere, the 
valleys of Aragua would become as dry and barren as the 
surrounding mountains. 

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

The temperature of the lake at the smface during my 
abode in the valleys of Aragua, in the month of Eebrnary, 
waa constantly from 23® to 23*7°, consequently a little below 
the mean temperature of the air. This may be from the 
effect of evaporation, which carries off caloric from the air 
and the water ; or because a great mass of water does not 
follow with an equal rapidity the changes in the tempera- 

ridg^ and on its southern declivity, no point of level corresponding to 
the 182 toises, except near San Juan. The absolute height of this village 
is 194 toises. But, I repeat that, farther towards the west, in the country 
between the CaAo de Cambury and the sources of the Rio Pao, which I 
was not able to visit, the point of level of the bottom of the lake is much 
farther north. 


tiire of the atmosphere, and the lake receives streams whicû 
rise from several cold springs in the neighbouring mountains. 
I have to regret that, notwithstanding its small depth, I could 
not determine the temperature of the water at thirty or 
forty fathoms. I was not provided with the thermometrical 
sounding apparatus which I had used in the Alpine lakes 
of Salzburg, and in the Caribbean Sea. The experiments 
of Saussure prove that, on both sides of the Alps, the lakes 
which are from one hundred and ninety to two hundred and 
seventy-four toises of absolute elevation* have, in the middle 
of winter, at nine hundred, at six hundred, and sometimes 
even at one hundred and fifty feet of depth, a uniform 
temperature from 4*3 to 6 degrees : but these experiments 
have not yet been repeated in lakes situated under the 
torrid zone. The strata of cold water in Switzerland are 
of an enormous thickness. They have been found so near 
the surface in the lakes of Geneva and Bienne, that the 
decrement of heat in the water was one centesimal degree 
for ten or fifteen feet ; that is to say, eight times more rapid 
than in the ocean, and forty-eight times more rapid than in 
the atmosphere. In the temperate zone, where the heat of 
the atmosphere sinks to the freezing point, and far lower, 
the bottom of a lake, even were it not surrounded by glaciers 
and mountains covered with eternal snow, must contaia 
particles of water which, having duriug winter acquired at 
the surface the maximum of their density, between 3*4° and 
4*4°, have consequently fallen to the greatest depth. Other 
particles, the temperature of which is + 05°, far from 
placing themselves below the stratum at 4°, can only find 
their hydrostatic equilibrium above that stratum. They 
win descend lower only when their temperature is aug- 
mented 3° or 4° by the contact of strata less cold. If 
water ia cooling continued to condense uniformly to the 
freezing point, there would be found, in very deep lakes 
and basins having no communication with each other (what- 
ever the latitude of the place), a) stratum of water, the 
temperature of which would be nearly equal to the maxi- 
mum of refrigeration above the freezing point, which the 
lower regions of the ambient atmosphere annually attain. 

* This is the difference between the absolute elevatious of the lakes of 
Geneva and Thun. 


Hence it is probable, that, in the plains of the torrid zone, 
or in the vaUeys but little elevated, the mean heat of which 
is from 25 "5° to 27**, the temperature of the bottom of the 
lakes can never be below 21° or 22°. If in the same zone 
the ocean contain at depths of seven or eight hundred 
fathoms, water the temperature of which is at 7°, that is to 
say, twelve or thirteen degrees colder than the maximum 
of the heat* of the equinoctial atmosphere over the sea, 
I think it must be considered as a direct proof of a sub- 
marine current, carrying the waters of the pole towards the 
equator. We wiU not here solve the delicate problem, as 
to the manner in which, within the tropics and in the tem- 
perate zone, (for example, in the Caribbean Sea and in the 
lakes of Switzerland,) these inferior strata of water, cooled 
to 4° or 7°, act upon the temperature of the stony strata of 
the globe which they cover ; and how these same strata, the 
primitive temperature of which is, within the tropics, 27°, 
and at the lake of G-eneva 10°, react upon the half-frozen 
waters at the bottom of the lakes, and of the equinoctial 
ocean. These questions are of the highest importance, both 
with regard to the economy of animals that live habitually 
at the bottom of fresh and salt waters, and to the theory 
of the distribution of heat in lands surrounded by vast and 
de^ seas. 

The lake of Valencia is fuU of islands, which embellish 
the scenery by the picturesque form of their rocks, and the 
beauly of the vegetation with which they are covered: 
an advantage which this tropical lake possesses over those 
of the Alps. The islands are fifteen in number, distributed 
in three groups ;t without reckoning Morro and Cabrera, 
which are already joined to the shore. They are partly 

* It is almost superfluous to observe that I am considering here only 
tiiat part of the atmosphere lying on the ocean between 10^ north and 10** 
south latitude. Towards the northern limits of the torrid zone, in latitude 
23**, whitbflr the north winds bring with an extreme rapidity the cold air 
of Canada, the thermometer falls at sea as low as 16% and even lower. 

f The position of these islands is as follows: northward, near the 
shore^ the Isla de Cura ; on the south-east, Burro, Horno, Otama, Sorro, 
Caiguira, Nuevos Peflones, or the Aparecidos ; on the north-west, Cabo 
Blanco, or Isla de Aves, and Chamberg ; on the south-west, Brucha and 
Cnlebra. In the centre of the lake rise, like shoals or small detached rocks, 
Vagre, Fraile, Peftasco, and Pan de A2ucar. 



cultivated, and extremely fertile on account of the vapours 
that rise froùi the lake. Burro, the largest^ of these islands, 
is two miles in length, and is inhabited by some families 
of mestizos, who rear goats. These simple people seldom 
visit the shore of Mocundo. To them the lake appears of 
immense extent ; they have plantains, cassava, milk, and a 
little fish. A hut constructed of reeds ; hammocks woven 
from the cotton which the neighbouring fields produce ; a 
large stone on which the fire is made ; the ligneous fruit of 
the tutuma (the calabash) in which they draw water, con- 
stitute their domestic establishment. An old mestizo who 
ofiered us some goat's milk had a beautiful daughter. Wo 
learned from our guide, that solitude had rendered him as 
mistrustful as he might perhaps have been made by the 
society of men. The day before our arrival, some hunters * 
had visited the island. They were overtaken by the shades • 
of night ; and preferred sleeping in the open air to return- 
ing to Mocundo. This news spread alarm throughout the 
island. The father obliged the young girl to cHmb up a 
very lofty zamang or acacia, which grew in the plain at 
some distance from the hut, while he stretched himself at 
the foot of the tree, and did not permit his daughter to 
descend till the hunters had departed. 

The lake is in general well stocked with fish ; though it 
furnishes only three kinds, the fiesh of which is soft and 
insipid, the fftùavina, the va^re, and the sardina. The two 
last descend into the lake with the streams that flow into 
it. The guavina, of which I made a drawing on the spot, 
is 20 inches long and 3*5 broad. It is perhaps a new 
species of the genus erythrina of Gronovius. It nas large 
silvery scales edged with green. This fish is extremely 
voracious, and destroys other kinds. The fishermen as- 
sured us that a small crocodile, the hava* which often ^ 
approached us when we were bathing, contributes also to 
the destruction of the fish. We never could succeed in pro- 
curing this reptile so as to examine it closely : it generally 

* The hava, or bavilla, is very common at Bordones, near Cumana. 
See vol. i, p. 160. The name of bava (baveuse) has misled M. Depons; 
he takes this reptile for a fish of oar seas, the Blennius pholis. (Voyage 
à la Terre Ferme.) The Blennius pholis (smooth blenny), is called by 
the French baveuse (slaverer), in Spanish, baba. 


attaiiui only three or four feet in length. It is said to be 
veiy harmless ; its habits however, as weU as its form, much 
resemble those of the alligator (Crocodilus acutus). It 
swims in suclua manner as to show only the point of its 
snout, and the extremily of its tail; and places itself 
at mid-day on the bare beach. It is certainly neither a 
monitor (the real monitors living only in the old continent,) 
nor the sauvegarde of Seba (Lacerta teguixin,) which dives 
and does not swim. It is somewhat remarkable that the 
lake of Valencia, and the whole system of small rivers 
flowing into it, have no large alligators, though this dan- 
gerous animal abounds a few leagues off in the streams 
that flow either into the Apure or the Orinoco, or imme- 
diately into the Caribbean Sea between Porto Cabello and 
La GTuayra. 

In the islands that rise like bastions in the midst of the 
waters, and wherever the rocky bottom of the lake is visible, 
I recognised a uniform direction in the strata of gneiss. 
This direction is nearly that of the chains of mountains on 
the north and south of the lake. In the hills of Cabo 
Blanco there are found among the gneiss, angular masses 
of opaque quartz, slightly translucid on the edges, and vary- 
ing from grey to deep black. This quartz passes sometimes 
into homstein, and sometimes into kieselschiefer (schistose 
jasper). I do not think it constitutes a vein. The waters 
of the lake* decompose the gneiss by erosion in a very 
extraordinary manner. I have found parts of it porous, 
almost ceUuiar, and split in the form of cauliflowers, fixed 
on gneiss perfectly compact. Perhaps the action ceases 
with the movement of the waves, and the alternate contact 
of air and water. 

The island of Chamberg is remarkable for its height. 
It is a rock of gneiss, with two summits in the form of 
a saddle, and raised two hundred feet above the surface of 
the water. The slope of this rock is barren, and affords 
only nourishment for a few plants of, clusia with large white 

* The watet of the lake is not salt, as iâ asserted at Caracas. It may 
be drunk without being filtered. On evaporation it leaves a very small 
residuum of carbonate of lime, and perhaps a little nitrate of potash. It 
it surprising that an inland lake should not be richer in alkaline and 
earthy salts, acquired from the neighbouring soils. 

c 2 


flowers. But the view of the lake and of the richly culti- 
vated neighbouring valleys is beautiful, and their aspect is 
wonderful after sunset, when thousands of aquatic birds, 
herons, flamingoes, and wild ducks cross the lake to roost 
in the islands, and the broad zone of mountains which 
surrounds the horizon is covered with fire. The inhabitants, 
as we have already mentioned, bum the meadows in order ' 
to produce fresher and finer grass. Grramineous plants 
abound, especially at the summit pf the chain ; and those 
vast conflagrations extend sometimes the length of a thou- 
sand toises, and appear like streams of/ lava overflowing 
the ridge of the mountains. When reposing on the banks 
of the lake to enjoy the soft freshness of the air in one of 
those beautiful evenings peculiar to the tropics, it is delight- 
ful to contemplate in the waves as they beat the .shore, the 
reflection of the red fires that illumine the horizon. 

Among the plants which grow on the rocky islands of the 
lake of Valencia, many have been believed to be peculiar 
to those spots, because tiU now they have not been dis- 
covered elsewhere. Such are the paparv^trees of the lake ; 
and the tomato* of the island of Cura. The latter differs 
from OUT Solanum lycopersicum ; the frxiit is round and 
small, but has a fine flavour; it is now cultivated at La 
Victoria, at Nueva Valencia, and everywhere in the valleys 
of Aragua. The papaw-tree of the lake (papaya de la 
laguna) abounds also in the island of Cura and at Cabo 
Blanco ; its trunk shoots higher than that of the common 
papaw (Carica papaya), but its fruit is only half as large, 
perfectly spherical, without projecting ribs, and four or five 
inches in diameter. When cut open it is found quite fiUed 
with seeds, and without those hoUow places which occur i 
constantly in the common papaw. The taste of this fruit, 
of which I have often eaten, is extremely sweet.f I know 
not whether it be a variety of the Carica microcarpa, de- 
scribed by Jacquin. 

The environs of the lake are insalubrious only in times 
of great drought, when the waters in their retreat leave a 

* The tomatos are cultivated, as well as the papaw-tree of the lake, 
in the Botanical Garden of Berlin, to which I had sent some seeds. 

t The people of the country attribute to it an astringent quality, and 
call it tapaculo. 

HOT sPBuracf or the lake. 21 

muddy sediment exposed to the rays of the sun. The 
banks, shaded by tufts of Coccoloba barbadensis, and 
decorated with fine liliaceous plants,* remind us, by the 
appearance of the aquatic vegetation, of the marshy shores 
01 our lakes in Europe. We find there, pondweed (pota- 
mogeton), chara, and cats'-tail three feet high, which it 
is difficult not to confound with the Typha angustifolia of 
our marshes. It is only after a careful examination, that 
we recognise ' each of these plants for distinct species,t 
peculiar to the new continent. How many plants of the 
Straits of Magellan, of Chile, and the CordiUeras of Quito 
have formerly been confounded with the productions of the 
northern temperate zone, owing to their analogy in form 
and appearance. 

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

Among the rivers flowing into the lake of Valencia some 
owe their origin to thermal springs, and deserve particular 
attention. These springs gush out at three points of the 
granitic Cordillera of the coast ; near Onoto, between Tur- 
mero and Maracay; near Mariara, north-east of the Hacienda 
de Cura ; and near Las Trincheras, on the road from Nueva 
Valencia to Porto Cabello. I could examine with care only 
the physical and geological relations of the thermal waters of 
Manara and Las Trincheras. In going up the small river 

• Pancratium undulatum, Amaryllis nervosa. 
f Potamogeton tenuifoliam, Chara compressa, Typha tenuifoUa. 


Cura towards its source, the mountains of Mariara are seen 
advancing into the plain in the form of a vast amphitheatre, 
composed of perpendicular rocks, crowned by peaks with 
rugged summits. The central point of the amphitheatre 
bears the strange name of the l)evil's Nook (Rmcon del 
Diablo). The range stretching to the east is called El 
Chaparro ; that to the west. Las Viruelas. These ruin-like 
rocks command the plain; they are composed of a coarse- 
gp'amed granite, nearly porphjmtic, the yellowish white feld- 
spar crystals of which are more than an inch and a half long. 
Mica is rare in them, and is of a fine silvery lustre. Nothing 
can be more picturesque and solemn than the aspect of this 

froup of mountains, half covered with vegetation. The 
eak of Calavera, which unites the Eincon del Diablo to the 
Chaparro, is visible from afar. In it the granite is separated 
by perpendicular fissures into prismatic masses. It would 
seem as if the primitive rock were crowned with columns of 
basalt. In the rainy season, a considerable sheet of water 
rushes down like a cascade jfrom these cHffs. The moun- 
tains connected on the east with the Eincon del Diablo, 
are much less lofty, and contain, like the promontory of La 
Cabrera, and the little detached hills in the plain, gneiss 
and mica-slate, including garnets. 

In these lower mountains, two or three miles north-east 
of Mariara, we find the ravine of hot waters called Que- 
brada de Aguas Calientes. This ravine, running N.W. 75°, 
contains several small basins. Of these the two uppermost, 
which have no communication with each other, are only 
eight inches in diameter ; the three lower, from two to three 
feet. Their depth varies from three to fifteen inches. The 
temperature of these difierent funnels (pozos) is from 56° 
to 59° ; and what is remarkable, the lower funnels . are 
hotter than the upper, though the difference of the level 
is only seven or eight inches. The hot waters, collected 
together, form a little rivulet, called the Eio de Aguas 
Calientes, which, thirty feet lower, has a temperature of only 
48°. In seasons of great drought, the time at which we 
visited the ravine, the whole body of the thermal waters 
forms a section of only twenty-six square inches. This is 
considerably augmented in the rainy season ; the rivulet is 
then transformed into a torrent, and its heat diminishes; 


for it appears that the hot springs themselves are subject 
only to imperceptible varianons. All these springs are 
8lifi;htlj impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen gas. The 
fetid smell, pecidiar to this gas, can be perceived only by 
approaching very near the springs. In one of these wells 
only, the temperature of which is 56*2®, bubbles of air are 
evolved at nearly regular intervals of two or three minutes. 
I observed that these bubbles constantly rose from the same 
points, which are four in number ; and that it was not pos- 
sible to change the places from which the gas is emitted, by 
stirring the bottom of the basin with a stick. These places 
correspond no doubt to holes or fissures on the gneiss ; and 
indeed when the bubbles rise from one of the apertures, the 
emission of gas follows instantly from the other three. I 
could not succeed in inflaming the small quantities of gas 
that rise above the thermal waters, or those I collected in 
a glass phial held over the springs, an operation that ex- 
cited in me a nausea, caused less by the smell of the gas, 
than by the excessive heat prevailing in this ravine. Is this 
sulphuretted hydrogen mixed with a great proportion of car- 
bonic acid or atmospheric air? I am doubtml of the first 
of these mixtures, though so common in thermal waters ; for 
example at Aix la Chapelle, Enghien, and Bareges. The 
gas collected in the tube of Fontana's eudiometer had been 
shaken for a long time with water. The small basins are 
covered with a light film of sulphur, deposited by the sul- 
phuretted hydrogen in its slow combustion in contact "with 
the atmospheric oxygen. A few plants near the springs 
were incrusted with sulphur. This deposit is scarcely 
visible when the water of Mariara is suffered to cool in an 
open vessel; no doubt because the quantity of disengaged 
gas is very small, and is not renewed. The water, when 
cold, gives no precipitate with a solution of nitrate of copper; 
it is <festitute of flavour, and veiy drinkable. K it contain 
any saline substances, for example, the sulphates of soda or 
magnesia, their quantities must be very insignificant. Being 
almost destitute of chemical tests,* we contented ourselves 

* A imall case, containing acetate of lead, nitrate of silver, alcohol, 
pmanate of potash, &c., had been left by mistake at Cumana. 1 evapo- 
rated some of the water of Mariara, and it yielded only a very small 
residuum, which, digested with nitric acid, appeared to contain only a 
little silica and extractive vegetable matter. 


with filling at the spring two bottles, which were sent^ 
along with the nourishing milk of the tree called palo de 
vaca, to MM. Fourcroy and Vauquelin, by the way of 
Porto CabeUo and the Havannah. This purity in hot 
waters issuing immediately from granite mountains is in 
Europe, as well as in the New Continent, a most curious 
phenomenon.* How can we explain the origin of the 
sulphuretted hydrogen? It cannot proceed from the de- 
composition of sulphurets of iron, or pyritic strata. Is it 
owing to sulphurets of calcium, of magnesium, or other 
earthy metalloids, contained in the interior of our planet, 
under its rocky and oxidated crust ? 

In the ravine of the hot waters of Mariara, amidst little 
funnels, the temperature of which rises from 56° to 69°, two 
species of aquatic plants vegetate; the one is membrana- 
ceous, and contains bubbles of air; the other has parallel 
fibi'es. The first much resembles the Ulva labyrinthiformis 
of Vandelli, which the thermal waters of Europe furnish. 
At the island of Amsterdam, ttifts of lycopodium and mar- 
chantia have been seen in places where the heat of the soil 
was far greater : such is the efiect of an habitual stimulus 
on the organs of plants. The waters of Mariara contain no 
aquatic insects. Frogs are found in them, which, being 
probably chased by serpents, have leaped into the funnels, 
and there perished. 

South of the ravine, in the plain extending towards the 
shore of the lake, another sulphureous spring gushes out, 
less hot and less impregnated with gas. The crevice whence 
this water issues is six toises higher than the funnel just 
described. The thermometer did not rise in the crevice 
above 42°. The water is collected in a basin surrounded by 
large trees ; it is nearly circular, from fifteen to eighteen feet 
diameter, and three feet deep. The slaves throw themselves 
into this bath at the end of the' dav, when covered with 
dust, after having worked in the neighbouring fields of in- 
digo and sugar-cane. Though the water of this bath (bano) 
is habitually from 12** to 14° hotter than the air, the negroes 
call it refreshing ; because in the torrid zone this term is 

* Warm springs equally pure are found issuing from the granites 
of Portugal, and those of Cantal. In Italy, the Pisciarelli of the lake 
Agnano have a temperatsre equal to 93^. Are these pure water» pro* 
duced by condensed vapours ? 


ttfled for whatever restores strengtli, calms the irritation of 
the nerves, or causes a feeling of comfort. We ourselves ex- 
perienced the salutary eflfects of the bath. Having slung our 
nammocks on the trees round the basin, we passed a whole 
day in this charming spot, which abounds in plants. We 
found near the hano of Mariara the volador, or gyrocarpus. 
The winged finiits of this large tree turn like a fly-wheel, 
when they fall from the stalk. On shaking the branches of 
the volador, we saw the air filled with its fruits, the simul- 
taneous faU of which presents the most singular spectacle. 
The two membranaceous and striated wings are turned so 
as to meet the air, in falling, at an angle of 45°. Fortu- 
nately the fruits we gathered were at their maturity. We 
sent some to Europe, and they have germinated in the 
gardens of Berlin, Paris, and Malmaison. The numerous 
plants of the volador, now seen in hot-houses, owe their 
origin to the only tree of the kind found near Mariara. 
The geographical distribution of the different species of gyro- 
carpus, which Mr. Brown considers as one of the laurineœ, 
is very singular. Jacquin saw one species near Carthagena 
in America.* This is the same which we met with again 
in Mexico, near Zumpango, on the road from Acapulco to 
the capital. t Another species, which grows on the moun- 
tains of CoromandeljJ has been described by Roxburgh; 
the third and fourth § grow in the southern hemisphere, on 
the coasts of Australia. 

After getting out of the bath, whQe, half-wrapped in a 
sheet, we were drying ourselves in the sun, according to 
the custom of the country, a little man of the mulatto race 
approached us. After bowing gravely, he made us a long 
tipeech on the virtuçs of the waters of Mariara, adverting 
to the numbers of invalids by whom they have been visited 
for some years past, and to the favourable situation of the 
springs, between the two towns Valencia and Caracas. He 

* The Gyrocarpus Jacqnini of Gartner, or Gyrocarpus americaxàus of 

t The natives of Mexico called it quitlacoctli, I saw some of its 
young leaves with three and five lobes ; the full-grown leaves are in the 
form of a heart, and always with three lobes. We never met with the 
volador in flower. 

' X ^is ^ ^^c Gyrocarpus asiaticus of Willdenow. 

§ Gyrocarpus sphenopterus, and G. rugosus. 


showed lis his house, a little hut covered with palm-leaves, 
situated in an enclosure at a small distance, on the bank 
of a rivulet, communicatiag with the bath. He assured us 
that we should there find all the conveniences of life ; nails 
to suspend our hammocks, ox-leather to stretch over benches 
made of reeds, earthem vases always filled with cool water, 
and what, after the bath, would be most salutaiy of aU, 
those great lizards (iguanas), the flesh of which is known 
to be a refi^shing aliment. "We judged fi:om his harangue, 
that this good man took us for invalids, who had come to 
stay near the spring. His counsels and offers of hospitality 
were not altogether disinterested. He styled himself 'the 
inspector of the waters, and the pulpero* of the place.' 
Accordingly all his obliging attentions to us ceased as soon 
as he heard that we had come merely to satisfy our curi- 
osiiy; or as they express it in the Spanish colonies, those 
lands of idleness, para ver, no mas, ' to see, and nothing 
more.' The waters of Mariara are used with success in 
rheumatic swellings, and affections of the skiu. As the 
waters are but very feebly impregnated with sulphuretted 
hydrogen, it is necessary to bathe at the spot where the 
springs issue. Farther on, these same waters are employed 
for the irrigation of fields of indigo. A wealthy landed 
proprietor of Mariara, Don Domingo Tovar, had formed 
the project of erectiag a bathing-house, and an establish- 
ment which would furnish visitors with better resources 
than lizard's flesh for food, and leather stretched on a bench 
for their repose. 

On the 21st of February, in the evening, we set out from 
the beautiful Hacienda de Cura for Gruacara and Nueva 
Valencia. "We preferred travelliûg by night, on account 
of the excessive heat of the day. We passed by the hamlet 
of Punta Zamuro, at the foot of the high mountains of Las 
Viruelas. The road is bordered with large zamang-trees, 
or mimosas, the trunks of which rise to sixty feet high. 
Their branches, nearly horizontal, meet at more than one 
hundred and fifty feet distance. I have nowhere seen a 
vault of verdure more beautiful and luxuriant. The night 
was gloomy: the B/incon del Diablo with its denticulated 
rocks appeared from time to time at a distance, illumined 

* Proprietor of a pulperia, or little shop where refreshments are sold. 


by tlie burning of the savannahs, or wrapped in ruddy 
smoke. At the spot where the bushes were thickest, our 
horses were frightened by the yell of an animal that seemed 
to follow us closely. ït was a large jaguar, which had 
roamed for three years among these mountains. He had 
constantly escaped the pursuits of the boldest hunters, and 
had earned off iiorses and mules from the midst of enclo- 
sures ; but, having no want of food, had not yet attacked 
men. The negro who conducted us uttered wild cries, 
expecting by these means to frighten the tiger; but his 
em>rts were ineffectual. The jaguar, like the wolf of Europe, 
follows travellers even when he wiU not attack them ; the 
wolf in the open fields and in unsheltered places, the jaguar 
^irfeig the road and appearing only at intervals between 
the bushes. 

We passed the day on the 23rd in the house of the 
Marquis de Toro, at the village of G-uacara, a very con- 
siderable Indian community. An avenue of carolineas leads 
from Guacara to Mocundo. It was the first time I had 
seen in the open air this majestic plant, which forms one 
of the principal ornaments oi the extensive conservatories 
of îSchônbrunn.* Mocimdo is a rich plantation of sugar- 
canes, belonging to the family of Toro. We there mid, 
what is so rare in that country, a garden, artificial clumps 
of trees, and on the border of the water, upon a rock of 
&;neiss, a pavilion with a mirador, or belvidere. The view 
IS dehghtfol over the western part of the lake, the surround- 
ing mountains, and a forest of palm-trees that separates 
G-uacara from the city of Nueva Valencia. The fields of 
sugar-cane, from the soft verdure of the young reeds, re- 
semble a vast meadow. Everything denotes abimdance; 
but it is at the price of the liberty of the cultivators. At 
Mocundo, with two hundred and thirty negroes, seventy- 
seven tahlanesy or cane-fields, are cultivated, each of which, 
ten thousand varas square,t yields a net profit of two 

^ Every tree of the Carolinea princeps at Sch<5nbrann has sprang A*om 
teeds collected from one single tree of enormous size^ near Chacao^ east 
of Caracas. 

f A tabion, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and 
one-fifth : a legal acre has 1344 square toises^ and 1*95 legal acre is equal 
to one hectare. 


hundred or two hundred and forty piastres a-year. The 
Creole cane and the cane of Otaheite* are planted in the 
month of April, the first at four, the second at five feet 
distance. The cane ripens in fourteen months. It flowers 
in the month of October, if the plant be sufficiently vigo- 
rous; but the top is cut off before the panicle imfolds. 
In all the monoco^ledonous plants (for example, the ma- 
guey cultivated at Mexico for extracting pulque, the wine- 
yielding palm-tree, and the sugar-cane), the flowering alters 
the quality of the juices. The preparation of sugar, the 
boiling, and the claying, are very imperfect in Terra Pinna, 
because it is made only for home consumption; and for 
wholesale, papelon is preferred to sugar, either refined or 
raw. This papelon is an impure sugar, in the form of little 
loaves, of a yellow-brown colour. It contains a mixture of 
molasses and mucilaginous matter. The poorest man eats 
papelon, as in Europe he eats cheese. It is believed to have 
nutritive qualities. Fermented with water it yields the 
guarapo, the favourite beverage of the people. In the pro- 
vince of Caracas subcarbonate of potash is used, instead of 
lime, to purify the juice of the sugar-cane. The ashes of 
the huca^e, which is the Erythrina corallodendrum, are pre- 

The sugar-cane was introduced very late, probably towards 
the end of the sixteenth century, from the West India 
Islands, into the valleys of Aragua. It was known in India, 
in China, and in all the islands of the Pacific, from the 
most remote antiquity; and it was planted at Khorassan, in 
Persia, as early as the fifth century of our era, in order to 
obtain from it solid sugar.f The Arabs carried this reed, 
so useful to the inhabitants of hot and temperate countries, 
to the shores of the Mediterranean. In 1306, its culti- 
vation was yet unknown in Sicily; but was already common 
in the island of Cyprus, at Ehodes, and in the Morea. A 
hundred years after it enriched Calabria, Sicily, and the 
coasts of Spain. Erom Sicily the Infante Don Kenry trans- 

* In the island of Pcdma, where in the latitude of 29° the sugar-cane 
is said to he cultivated as high as 140 toises ahoTe the level of the 
Atlantic, the Otaheite cane requires more heat than the Creole cane. 

t The Indian name for the sugar-cane is sharkara. Thence the word 


planted Ibe cane to Madeira : from Madeira ■ it passed to 
the Canary Islands, where it was entirely unknown; for 
the *fenilaB' of Juha, * quae expressœ liquorem fundimt potui 
uciindum,' are euphorbias (the Tabayba dulce), and not, 
fts has heen recently asserted,* sugar-canes. Twelve sugar- 
mama factories (ingénies de azucar) were soon established 
In the island of Great Canary, in that of Pahna, and between 
Adexe, Icod, and Gruarachico, in the island of Teneriffe. 
Negroes were employed in this cultivation, and their de- 
scendants still inhabit the grottos of Tiraxana, in the 
Great Canary. Since the sugar-cane has been transplanted 
to the "West Indies, and the New World has given maize 
to the Canaries, the cultivation of the latter has taken the 
place of the cane at Teneriffe and the Great Canary. The 
cane is now found only in the island of Palma, near Arguai 
And Tazacorte,t where it yields scarcely one thousand quin- 
tals of sugar a year. The sugar-cane of the Canaries, which 
Aiguilon transported to St. Domingo, was there cultivated 
extensively as early as 1513, or during the six or seven 
following years, under the auspices of the monks of St. 
Jerome. Negroes were employed in this cultivation from 
its commencement ; and in 1519 representations were made 
to government, as in our own time, that the West India 
Islands would be ruined and made desert, if slaves were 
not conveyed thither annually from the coast of Guinea. 

For some years past the culture and preparation of sugar 
has heen much improved in Terra Pirma ; and, as the pro- 
cess of refining is prohibited by the laws at Jamaica, they 
reckon on the fraudulent exportation of refined sugar to 
the English colonies. But the consumption of the pro- 
vinces of Venezuela, in papelon, and in raw sugar employed 
in making chocolate and sweetmeats (dulces) is so enor- 
mous, that the exportation has been hitherto entirely null. 
The finest plantations of sugar are in the valleys of Axagua 
and of the Tuy, near Pao de Zarate, between La Victoria 

* On the origin of cane-sugar, in the Journal de Pharmacie, 1816, 
p. 387. The Tabayba dulce is, according to Von Buch, the Euphorbia 
balBamifera, the juice of which is neither cèrrosive nor bitter like that of 
the eardon, or Euphorbia canariensis. 

f " Notice sur la Culture du Sucre dans les Isles Canariennes," by 
Leopold von Buch. 


and San Sebastian, near G-uatire, Guarenas, and Caurimare. 
The first canes arrived in the New Worid from the Canary 
Islands ; and even now Canarians, or Tslenos, are placed at 
the head of most of the great plantations, and superintend 
the labours of cultivation and refining. 

It is this connexion between the Canarians and the 
inhabitants of Venezuela, that has given rise to the in- 
troduction of camels into those provinces. The Marquis 
del Torp caused three to be brought from Lancerote. The 
expense of conveyance was very considerable, owing to the 
space which these animals occupy on board merchant- vessels, 
and the great quantity of water they require during a long 
sea-voyage. A camel, bought for thirty piastres, costs 
between eight and nine hundred before it reaches the coast 
of Caracas. We saw four of these animals at Mocundo ; 
three of which had been bred in America. Two others had 
died of the bite of the coral, a venomous serpent very 
common on the banks of the lake. These camels have 
hitherto been employed only in the conveyance of the Sugar- 
canes to the mill. The males, stronger than the femîdes, 
carry from forty to fifty arrobas. A wealthy landholder in 
the province of Varinas, encouraged by the example of the 
Marquis del Toro, has allotted a sum of 15,000 piastres for 
the purpose of bringing fourteen or fifteen camels at once 
from the Canary Islands. It is presumed these beasts of 
burden may be employed in the conveyance of merchandise 
across the burning plains of Casanare, from the Apure and 
Calabozo, which in the season of drought resemble the 
deserts of Africa. How advantageous it would have been 
had the Conquistadores, from the begianing of the sixteenth 
century, peopled America with camels, as they have peopled 
it with homed cattle, horses, and mules. Wherever there 
are immense distances to cross in uninhabited lands ; where- 
ever the construction of canals becomes difficult (as in the 
isthmus of Panama, on the table-land of Mexico, and in the 
deserts that separate the kingdom of Quito from Peru, and 
Peru from Chile), camels would be of the highest import- 
ance, to facilitate inland commerce. It seems the more 
surprising, that their introduction was not encouraged by 
the government at the beginning of the conquest, as, long 
after the taking of Grenada, camels, for which the Moors 


bad a great predilection, were still very coma ton in the 
south of Spam. A Biscayan, Juan de Eemaga, carried 
some of these animals at his own expense to Peru. Father 
Acosta saw them at the foot of the Andes, about the end 
of the sixteenth century; but little care being taken of 
them, they scarcely ever bred, and the race soon became 
extinct. In those times of oppression and cruelty, which 
have been described as the era of Spanish glory, the com- 
mendataries (encomenderos) let out the Indians to travel- 
lers like beasts of burden. They were assembled by hun- 
dreds, either to carry merchandise across the Cordilleras, 
or to follow the armies in their expeditions of discovery and 
piUage. The Indians endured this service more patiently, 
because, owing to the almost total want of domestic ani- 
mals, they had long been constrained to perform it, though 
in a less inhuman manner, under the government of their 
own chiefs. The introduction of camels attempted by 
Juan de Eeinaga spread an alarm among the encomen" 
derasy who were, not by law, but in fact, lords of the Indian 
villages. The court listened to the complaints of the enco- 
menderos; and in consequence America was deprived of 
one of the means which would have most facilitated inland 
communication, and the exchange of productions. Now, 
however, there is no reason why the introduction of camels 
should not be attempted as a general measure. Some 
hundreds of these usefid animals, spread over the vast 
surface of America, in hot and barren places, would in a 
few years have a powerful influence on the public prosperity. 
Provinces separated by steppes would then appear to be 
brought nearer to each other ; several kinds of inland mer- 
chandize would diminish in price on the coast ; and by in- 
creasing the number of camels, above all the species called 
hedjin, or *the ship of the desert,* a new life would be 
given to the industiy and commerce of the New World. 

On the evening of the 22nd we continued our journey from 
Mocundo by Los Guayos to the city of Nueva Valencia, 
"We passed a little forest of palm-trees, which resembled, by 
their appearance, and their leaves spread like a fan, the 
ChamaBrops humilis of the coast of Barbary. The trunk, 
howevery rises to twenty-four and sometimes thirty feet 


high. It is probably a new species of the genus corypka; 
and is called in the country pahia de sombrero^ the footstalks 
of the leaves being employed in weaving hats resembling 
our straw hats. This grove of palm-trees, the withered 
foliage of which rustles at the least breath of air — the 
camels feeding in the plain — ^the undulating motion of the 
vapours on a soil scorched by the ardour of the sun, give the 
landscape an African aspect. The aridity of the land aug- 
ments as the traveller approaches the town, after passing 
the western extremity of the lake. It is a clayey soil, which 
has been levelled and abandoned by the waters. The neigh- 
bouring hiUs, called Los Morros de Valencia, are composed 
of white tufa, a very recent limestone formation, imme- 
diately covering the gneiss. It is again found at Victoria, 
and on several other points along the chain of the coast. 
The whiteness of this tufa, which reflects the rays of the sun, 
contributes greatly to the excessive heat felt in this place. 
Everything seems smitten with sterility; scarcely are a few 
plants of cacao found on the banks of the Eio de Valencia ; 
the rest of the plain is bare, and destitute of vegetation. 
This appearance of sterility is here attributed, as it is every- 
where in the valleys of Aragua, to the cultivation of indigo ; 
which, according to the planters, is, of aU. plants, that which 
most exhausts (cansa) tne ground. The real physical causes 
of this phenomenon would be an interesting inquiry, since, 
like the effects of fallowing land, and of a rotation of crops, 
it is far from being sufficiently understood. I shall only 
observe in general, that the complaints of the increasing 
sterility of cultivated land become more frequent between 
the tropics, in proportion as they are near the period of 
their first breaking-up. In a region almost destitute of 
herbs, where every phmt has a ligneous stem, and tends to 
raise itself as a shrub, the virgin soil remains shaded either 
by great trees, or by bushes; and under this tufted shade it 
preserves everywhere coolness and humidity. However 
active the vegetation of the tropics may appear, the number 
of roots that penetrate into the earth, is not so great in an 
uncultivated soil ; while the plants are nearer to each other 
in lands subjected to cultivation, and covered with indigo, 
«ugar-canes, or cassava. The trees and shrubs, loaded with 


hrancbes and leaves, draw a great part of their nourishment 
from the ambient air ; and the virgin soil augments its fer- 
tility by the decomposition of the vegetable substances 
which progressively accumulate. It is not so in the fields 
covered with indigo, or other herbaceous plants; where the 
rays of the sun penetrate freely into the earth, and by the 
accelerated combustion of the hydrurets of carbon and other 
acidifiable principles, destroy the germs of fecundity. These 
effects strike the imagination of the planters the more for- 
cibly, as in lands newly inhabited they compare the fertility 
of a soil which has been abandoned to itself during thou- 
sands of years, with the produce of ploughed fields. The 
Spanish colonies on the continent, and the great islands of 
Porto-E,ico- and Cuba, possess remarkable advantages with 
respect to the produce of agriculture over the lesser West 
India Islands. The former, from their extent, the varietv 
of their scenery, and their small relative population, still 
bear aU the characters of a new soil; while at Barhadoes, 
Tobago, St. Lucia, the Virgin Islands, and the French part 
of St. Domingo,* it may be perceived that long cultivation 
has begun to exhaust tne soil. K in the vaUeys of Aragua, 
instead of abandoning the indigo grounds, and leaving them 
Êdlow, they were covered during several years, not with 
com, but with other alimentary plants and forage; if among 
these plants such as belong to different families were pre- 
ferred, and which shade the soil by their large leaves, the 
amelioration of the fields would be gradually accomplished, 
and they would be restored to a part of their former fer- 

The citv of Nueva Valencia occupies a considerable extent 
of ground, but its population scarcely amounts to six or 
seven thousand souls. The streets are very broad, the 
mari^et place, (plaza mayor,) is of vast dimensions; and, the 
houses being low, the disproportion between the population 
of the town, and the space that it occupies, is stiU greater 
than at Caracas. Many of the whites, (especiaUy the 
poorest,) forsake their houses, and live the greater part of 
the year in their little plantations of indigo and cotton, 
where they can venture to work with their own hands; 
which, according to the inveterate prejudices of that countr}"^, 
would be a disgrace to them in the t'^wn. 

TOL. n. I» 


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

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

* Un abogado contra los barmigos. 


only on the back of the Cordilleras that I found a small 
chapel, destined, according to its insteription, for prayers to 
be addressed to Heaven for the destruction of the termites. 

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

* The fc^owing are some remarkable passages in the letter from 
Aguirre to the Idng of Spain. 

'* King Philip, native of Spain, son of Charles the Invincible ! I, 
Lopez de Aguirre, thy vassal, an old Christian, of poor but noble parents, 
and a native of the town of Onate in Biscay, passed over yoimg to Peru, to 
laboar lance in hand. I rendered thee great sei-vices in the conquest of 
India. I fought for thy glory, without demanding pay of thy officers, as 
it proved by the books of thy treasury. I firmly believe, Christian King 
and Lord, that, very ungrateful to me and my companions, all those who 
write to thee from this land [America], deceive thee much, because thou 
seeat things from too far off. I recommend to thee to be more just toward 
the good vassals whom thou hast in this country : for I and mine, 
weary of the cruelties and injustice which thy viceroys, thy governors, 
and thy judges, exercise in thy name, are resolved to obey thee no more. 
We r^ard ourselves no longer as Spaniards. We wage a cruel war against 
tiiae, because we will not endure the oppression of thy ministers ; who, 
to give places to their nephews and their -children, dispose of our lives, 

D 2 


sailed bj the common people, * the Tjrrant,' was killed at 
Barquesimeto, after having been abandoned by his own men. 
At the moment when he fell, he plunged a dagger into the 
bosom of his only daughter, " that she might not have to 

our r^utation, and our fortune. I am lame in the left foot from two 
shots of an arquebuss, which I received in the valley of Coquimbo, 
fighting under the orders of thy marshal, Alonzo de Alvarado, against 
Francis Hernandez Giron, then a rebel, as I am at present, and shall be 
always; for since thy viceroy, the Marquis de Caflete, a cowardly, am- 
bitious^ and effeminate man, has hanged our most valiant warriors, I care 
no more for thy pardon than for the books of Martin Luther. It is not 
well in thee. King of Spain, to be ungrateful toward thy vassals ; for it 
was whilst thy father, the emperor Charles, remained quietly in Castile, 
that they procured for thee so many kingdoms and vbst countries. 
Remember, King Philip, that thou hast no right to draw revenues from 
these provinces, the conquest of which has been without danger to thee, 
but inasmuch as thou recompensest those who have rendered thee such 
great services. I am certain that few kings go to heaven. Therefore 
we regard ourselves as very happy to be here in the Indies, preserving in 
all their purity the commandments of God, and of the Roman Church ; 
and we intend, though sinners during life, to become one day mart3nrs to 
the glory of God. On going out of the river Amazon, we landed in an 
island called La Margareta. We there received news from Spain of the 
great faction and machination (maquina) of the Lutherans. This news 
alarmed us extremely ; we found among us one of that faction ; his 
name was Monteverde. I had him cut to pieces, as was just : for, believe 
me, Seftor, wherever I am, people live according to the law. But the 
corruption of morals among the monks is so great in this land that it is 
necessary to chastise it severely. There is not an ecclesiastic here who 
does not think himself higher than the governor of a province. I beg of 
thee, great King, not to believe what the monks tell thee down yonder in 
Spain. They are always talking of the sacrifices they make, as well as of 
the hard and bitter life they are forced to lead in America : while they 
occupy the richest lands, and the Indians hunt and fish for them every 
day. If they shed tears before thy throne, it is that thou mayest send 
them hither to govern provinces. Dost thou know what sort of life they 
lead here ? Given up to luxury, acquiring possessions^ selling the sacra- 
ments, being at once ambitious, violent, and gluttonous ; such is the life 
they lead in America. The faith of the Indians suffer by such bad ex- 
amples. If thou dost not change all this, O King of Spain^ thy govern- 
ment will not be stable. 

" What a misfortune that the Emperor, thy father, should have con- 
quered Germany at such a price, and spent, on that conquest, the money 
we procured for him in these very Indies! In the year 1559 the 
Marquis de Caftete sent to the Amazon, Pedro de Ursua, a Navarrese, or 
rather a Frenchman : we sailed on the largest rivers of Peru till we came 
to a gulf of fresh water. We had already gone three hundred teaguef 


blosli before the Spaniards at the name of the daughter of a 
traitor." The soul of the tyrant (such is the belief of the 
natives) wanders in the savannahs, like a flame that flies the 
approach of men* 

The second historical event connected with the name of 
Valencia is the great incursion made by the Caribs of the 
Orinoco in 1578 and 1580. That cannibal horde went up 
the banks of the Guarico, crossing the plains or Uanos. 
They were happily repulsed by the valour of Garcia Gon- 
zales, one of the captams whose names are still most revered 
in those provinces. It is gratifying to recollect, that the 
descendants of those very Caribs now live in the missions 
as peaceable husbandmen^ and that no savage nation of 
Qxnana dares to cross the plains which separate the region 
of the forests from that of cultivated land. The Cordillera 
of the coast is intersected by several ravines, very uniformly 
directed fit)m south-east to north-west. This phenomenon 
is general from the Quebrada of Tocume, between Petares 
and Caracas, as far as Porto CabeUo. It would seem as if 
the impulsion had everywhere come from the south-east; 
and this fa^t is the more striking, as the strata of gneiss and 

when we killed that bad and ambitious captain. We chose a caballero 
of Seville, Fernando de Guzman, for king : and we swore fealty to him, 
as is done to thyself. I was named quarter-master-general : and because 
I did not consent to all he willed, he wanted to kill me. But I killed this 
new king, the captain of his guards, his lieutenant-general, his chaplain, 
a woman, a knight of the order of Rhodes, two ensigns, and five or six 
domestics of the pretended king. I then resolved to punish thy ministers 
and thy auditors (counsellors of the audiencia). I named captains and 
sergeants: these again wanted to kill me, but I had them all hanged. 
In tiie midst of these adventures we navigated for eleven months, till we 
readied the mouth of the river. We sailed niore than fifteen hundred 
leagues. God knows how we got through that great mass of water. I 
admise thee, O great King, never to send Spanish fleets into that accursed 
river. God preserve thee in his holy keeping." 

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

* See vol. i, p. 164. 


mica-slate in the Cordillera of the coast are generallj di- 
directed from the south-west to the north-east. Most of 
these ravines penetrate into the mountains at their southern 
declivity, without crossing them entirely. But there is an 
opening (abra) on the meridian of Nueva Valencia, which 
leads towards the coast, and by which a cooling sea-breeze 

Eenetrates every evening into the valleys of Aragua. This 
reeze rises regularly two or three hours after sunset. 
By this ahra, the farm of Barbula, and an eastern branch 
of the ravine, a new road is being constructed from Va- 
lencia to Porto Cabello. It will be so short, that it will 
require only four hours to reach the port ; and the traveller 
will be able to go and return in the same day from the coast 
to the valleys of Aragua. In order to examme this road, we 
set out on the 26th of February in the evening for the farm 
of Barbula. 

On the morning of the 27th we visited the hot springs of 
La Trinchera, three leagues from Valencia. The ravine is 
very large, and the descent almost continual from the banks 
of the lake to the sea-coast. La Trinchera takes its name 
from some fortifications of earth, thrown iip in 1677 by the 
French buccaneers, who sacked the town of Valencia. The 
hot springs (and this is a remarkable geological fact,) do not 
issue on the south side of the mountains, like those of Ma- 
riara, Onoto, and the Brigantine; but they issue from the 
chain itself, almost at its northern declivity. They are much 
more abundant than any we had till then seen, forming a 
rivulet which, in times of the greatest drought, is two feet 
deep and eighteen wide. The temperature of the water, 
measured with great care, was 90*3° of the centigrade ther- 
mometer. Next to the springs of Urijino, in Japan, which 
are asserted to be pure water at 100 of temperature, the 
waters of the Trinchera of Porto CabeUo appear to be the 
hottest in the world. We breakfasted near the spring; 
eggs plunged into the water were boiled in less than four 
minutes. These waters, strongly charged with sulphuretted 
hydrogen, gush out from the back of a hill rising one hun- 
dred and fifty feet above the bottom of the ravine, and tend- 
ing from south-south-east to north-north-weSt. The rock 
from which the springs gush, is a real coarse-grained granite, 
resembling that of the Eincon del Diablo, in the mountains 


of Mariara. "Wherever the waters evaporate in the air, they 
form sediments and incrustations of carbonate of lime; pos- 
sibly they traverse strata of primitive limestone, so common 
in the mica-slate tod gneiss of the coasts of Caracas. We 
were surprised 'at the luxuriant vegetation that surrounds 
the basin; mimosas with slender pinnate leaves, clusias, and 
fig-trees, have pushed their roots ujto the bottom of a pool, 
the temperature of which is 85° ; and the branches of these 
trees extended over the surface of the water, at two or three 
inches distance. The foliage of the mimosas, though con- 
stantly enveloped in the hot vapours, displayed the most 
beautiful verdure. An arum, with a woody stem, and with 
large sagittate leaves, rose in the very middle of a pool the 
temperature of which was 70^. Plants of the same species 
vegetate in other parts of those mountains at the bnnk of 
torrents, the temperature of which is not 18". WTiat is still 
more singular, forty feet distant from the point whence the 
springs gush out at a temperature of 90°, other springs are 
found perfectly cold. , They all follow for some time a parallel 
direction; and the natives showed us that, by digging a hole 
between the two rivulets, they could procure a bath of any 
given temperature they pleased. It seems remarkable, that 
in the hottest as well as the coldest climates, people display 
the same predilection for heat. On the introduction of 
Christianity into Iceland, the inhabitants would be baptized 
only in the hot springs of Hecla: and in the torrid zone, 
in the plains, as well as on the Cordilleras, the natives flock 
from all parts to the thermal waters. The sick, who come 
to La Tnnchera to use vapour-baths, form a sort of frame- 
work over the spring with branches of trees and very slender 
reeds. They stretch themselves naked on this frame, which 
appeared to me to possess little strength, and to be danger- 
ous of access. The Eio de Aguas Calientes runs towards the 
north-east, and becomes, near the coast, a considerable river, 
swairming with great crocodiles, and contributing, by its 
inundations, to the insalubrity of the shore. 

We descended towards Porto Cabello, having constantly 
the river of hot water on our right. The road is extremely 
picturesque, and the waters roll down on the shelves of 
rock. We mijrht have fancied we were gazing on the cas- 
cades of the iieuss, that flows down Mount St. Qothard; 


but what a contrast in the, vigour and richness of the vege- 
tation ! The white trunks of the cecropia rise majesticauv 
amid bignonias and melastomas. They do not disappear till 
we are within a hundred toises above the level of the ocean. 
A small thorny pahn-tree extends also to this limit ; the 
slender pinnate leaves of which look as if they had been 
curled toward the edges. This tree is very common in 
these mountains ; but not having seen either its fruit or its 
flowers, we are ignorant whether it be the piritu palm-tree 
of the Caribbees, or the Cocos aculeata of Jacquin. 

The rock on this road presents a geological phenome- 
non, the more remarkable as the existence of real stratified 
granite has long been disputed. Between La Trinchera and 
the Hato de Cambury a coarse-grained granite appears, 
which, from the disposition of the spangles of mica, collected 
in small groups, scarcely admits of confounding with gneiss, 
or with rocks of a schistose texture. This granite, divided 
into ledges of two or three feet thick, is directed 52° north- 
east, and slopes to the north-west regularly at an angle of 
from 30° or 40°. The feldspar, crystallizea in prisms with 
four unequal sides, about an inch long, passes through every 
variety of tint from a flesh-red to yellowish white. The 
mica, united in hexagonal plates, is black, and sometimes 
green. The quartz predommates in the mass ; and is ge- 
neraUy of a milky white. I observed neither hornblende, 
black schorl, nor rutile titanite, in this granite. In 
some ledges we recognised round masses, of a blackish 
gray, very quarteose, and almost destitute of mica. They 
are from one to two inches diameter; and are found in 
every zone, in all granite mountains. These are not im- 
bedded fragments, as at Greifienstein in Saxony, but aggre- 
gations of particles which seem to have been subjected to 
partial attractions. I could not follow the line of jimc- 
tion of the gneiss and granitic formations. According to 
angles taken in the valleys of Aragua, the gneiss appears to 
descend below the granite, which must consequently be of 
a more recent formation. The appearance of a stratified 
granite excited my attention the more, because, having had 
the direction of the mines of Fichtelberg in Franconia for 
several years, I was accustomed to see granites divided into 
ledges of three or four feet thick, but little inclined, and 


forming masses like towers, or old ruins, at the summit of 
the highest mountains.* 

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

* At Ochsenkopf, at Rudolphstein, at Epprechtstein, at Luxburg, and 
•t Schneeberg. The dip of the strata of these granites of Fichtelberg ia 
generally only from 6* to 10*, rarely (at Scheeberg) 18". According to 
the dips I observed in the neighbouring strata of gneiss and mica-slate, I 
Bbonld think that the granite of Fichtelberg is very ancient, and serves as 
a basis for other formations ; but the strata of grUnstein, and the disse- 
minated tin>ore which it contains, may lead us to doubt its great an- 
tiquity, from the analogy of the granites of Saxony containing tin. 


from the coast, near la Villa del Pao, but there was reason 
to believe that this latter place had once been a comtco, or 
cultivated enclosure. Everyivhere else on the continent of 
America we saw the Parkinsonia, like the Plumeria, only in 
the gardens of the Indians. 

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

We were received with the utmost kindness in the house 
of a French physician, M. Juliac, who had studied medicine 
at Montpelier. His small house contained a collection of 
things the most various, but which were all calculated to 
interest travellers. We found works of literature and 
natural history ; notes on meteorology ; skins of the jaguar 
and of large aquatic serpents ; live animals, monkeys, arma- 
dilloes, and birds. Our host was principal surgeon to the 
royal hospital of Porto Cabello, and was celebrated in the 
country for his skilful treatment of the yellow fever. 
During a period of seven years he had seen six or eight 
thousand persons enter the hospitals, attacked by this 
cruel malady. He had observed the ravages that the epi- 
demic caused in Admiral Ariztizabal's fleet,, in 1793. That 
fleet lost nearly a third of its men; for the sailors were 
almost all unseasoned Europeans, and held unrestrained 
intercourse with the shore. M. Juliac had heretofore treated 
the sick as was commonly practised in Terra Tirma, and in 
the island, by bleeding, aperient mediciues, and acid drinks. 
In this treatment no attempt was made to raise the vital 
powers by the action of stimulants, so that, in attempting to 
aUay the fever, the languor and debility were augmented. 
In the hospitals, where the sick were crowded, the mortality 
was often thirty-three per cent, among the white Creoles ; 
and sixty-five in a hundred among the Europeans recently 
disembarked. Since a stimulant treatment, the use of opium, 
of benzoin, and of alcoholic draughts, has been substituted 
for the old debilitating method, the mortality has con- 
siderably diminished. It was believed to be reduced to 
twenty in a hundred among Europeans, and ten among 


Creoles ;* even when black vomiting, and haBmorrliage from 
the nos'e, ears, and gums, indicated a high degree of exacer- 
bation in the malady. I relate faithfîilly what was then 
given as the general result of observation : but I think, in 
these numerical comparisons, it must not be forgotten, that, 
notwithstanding appearances, the epidemics of several suc- 
cessive years do not resemble each other ; and that, in order 
to decide on the use of fortifying or debilitating remedies, 
(if indeed this difference exist in an absolute sense,) we 
must distinguish between the various periods of the malady. 
The cHmate of Porto CabeUo is less ardent than that of 
La<juayra. The breeze there is stronger, more frequent, 
and more regular. The houses do not lean against rocks 
that absorb the rays of the sun during the day, and emit 
caloric at night, and the air can circulate more freely between 
the coast and the mountains of Ilaria. The causes of the 
insalubrity of the atmospere must be sought in the shores 
that extend to the east, as far as the eye can reach, towards 
the Punta de Tucasos, near the fine port of Chichiribiche. 
There are situated the salt-works ; and there, at the begin- 
ning of the rainy season, tertian fevers prevail, and easily 
degenerate into asthenic fevers. It is affirmed that the 
mestizoes who are employed in the salt-works are more 
tawny, and have a yellower skin, when they have suffered 
several successive years from those fevers, which are called 
*the malady of the coast.' The poor fishermen, who dwell 
on this shore, are of opinion that it is not the inundations 
of the sea, and the retreat of the salt-water, which render 
tiie lands covered with mangroves so unhealthful ;t they 

* I have treated in another work of the proportions of mortality in the 
yellow fever. (Nouvelle Espagne, vol. ii, p. 777, 785, and 867.) At 
Cadiz the average mortality was, in 1800, twenty per cent ; at Seville, in 
1801, it amounted to sixty per cent. At Vera Cruz the mortality does 
not exceed twelve or fifteen per cent, when the sick can be properly 
attended. In the civil hospitals of Paris the number of deaths, one year 
with another, is from fourteen to eighteen per cent.; but it is asserted 
tiiat a great number of patients enter the hospitals almost dying, or at a 
ftrj advanced time of life. 

f In the West India Islands all the dreadful maladies which prevail 
daring the wintry season, have been for a long time attributed to the 
■ooth winds. These winds convey the emanations of the mouths of the 
Orinoco and of the small rivers of Terra Firma toward the high latitudes. 


believe that the insalubrity of the air is owing to the fresh 
water, that is, to the overflowings of the Guayguaza and Este- 
van, the swell of which is so great and sudden in the months 
of October and November. The banks of the Eio Estevan 
have been less insalubrious since little plantations of maize 
and plantains have been established; and, by raising and 
hardening the ground, the river has been confined within 
narrower limits. A plan is formed of giving another issue 
to the Eio San Estevan, and thus to render the environs of 
Porto Cabéllo more wholesome. A canal is to lead the 
waters toward that part of the coast which is opposite the 
island of Guayguàza. 

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

During our abode at Porto Cabello, the current on the 
coast, generally directed towards the west,* ran from west 
to east. This upward current (corriente por arriba), is 
very frequent durmg two or three months of the year, from 
September to November. It is believed to be owing to 
some north-west winds that have blown between Jamaica 
an,d Cape St. Antony in the island of Cuba. 

* The wrecks of the Spanish ships, burnt at the island of Trinidad, at 
the time of its occupation by thevEnglish in 1797, were carried by the 
general or rotary current to Panta Brava, near Porto Cabello. , This 
general current toward the east, from the coasts of Paria to the isthmus 
of Panama and the western extremity of the island of Cuba, was the 
subject of a violent dispute between Don Diego Columbus, Oviedo, and 
the pilot Andres, in the sixteenth century. 


The military defence of the coasts of Terra Firma rests 
on six points : the castle of San Antonio at Cumana ; 
the Morro of Nueva Barcelona; the fortifications of La 
Ghiiajra, (mounting one hundred and thirty-four guns) ; ' 
Porto Cabello ; fort San Carlos, (at the mouth of the lake 
of Maracaybo) ; and Ca/ èhagena. Porto Cabello is, next to 
Carthagena, the most /japortant fortified place. The town 
of Porto Cabello is quite modem, and the port is one of 
the finest in the world. Art has had scarcely any- 
thing to add to the advantages which the nature of the 
spot presents. A neck of land stretches first towards the 
north, and then towards the west. Its western extremity 
is opposite to a range of islands connected by bridges, and 
80 close together that they might be taken for another neck 
of land. These islands are all composed of a calcareous 
breccia of extremely recent formation, and analagous to 
that on the coast of Cumana, and near the castle of Araya. 
It is a conglomerate, containing fragments of madrepores 
and other corals cemented by a limestone basis and grains 
of sand. We had ah^ady seen this conglomerate near the 
Bio Guaygu'aza. By a singular disposition of the ground 
the port resembles a basin or a little mland lake, the south- 
em extremity of which is filled with little islands covered 
with mangroves. The opening of the port towards the west 
contributes much to the smoothness of the water.* One 
vessel only can enter at a time ; but the largest ships of the 
line can anchor very near land to take in water. There is 
no other danger in entering the harbour than the reefs of 
Punta Brava, opposite which a battery of eight guns has 
been erected. Towards the west and south-west we see the 
fort, which is a regular pentagon with five bastions, the 
battery of the reef, and the fortifications that surround the 
ancient town, foimded on an island of a trapezoidal form. 
A bridge and the fortified gate of the Staccado join the old 
to the new town; the latter is already larger than the 

* It is disputed at Porto Cabello whether the port takes its name 
from the tranquillity of its waters, ** which would not move a hair 
(cabello)," or (which is morfe probable) derived from Antonio Cabello, 
one of the fishermen with whom the smugglers of Curaçoa had formed a 
flonnexion at the period when the first hamlet was constructed on this 
kilf'desert coast 


former, thougli considered only as its suburb. The bottom 
of the basin or lake which forms the harbour of Porto 
CabeUo, turns behind this suburb to the south-west. It is 
a marshy ground filled with noisome and stagnant water. 
The town, which iias at present nearly nine thousand inha- 
bitants, owes its origin to an illicit commerce, attracted to 
these shores by the proximity of the town of Burburata, 
which was founded in 1549. It is only since the adminis- 
tration of the Biscayans, and of the company of Guipuzcoa, 
that Porto CabeUo, which was but a hamlet, has been 
converted into a well-fortified town. The vessels of La 
Guayra, which is less a port than a bad open roadstead, 
come to Porto Cabello to be caulked and repaired. 

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

We left Porto CabeUo on the first of March, at sunrise. 
We saw with surprise the great number of boats that were 
laden with fruit to be sold at the market. It reminded me 
of a fine morning at Venice. The town presents in general, 
on the side towards the sea, a cheerful and agreeable aspect. 
Mountains covered with vegetation, and crowned with 
peaks caUed Las Tetas de Ilaria, which, from their outUne 
would be taken for rocks of a trap-formation, form the 
background of the landscape. Near the coast aU is bare, 
white, and strongly iUumined, while the screen of mountains 

* The MirSdor is situate eastward of the Yigia Âlta, and south-east of 
the battery of the salt-works and the powder-mill. 


is clothed with trees of thick foliage that project their vast 
shadows upon the brown and rocky ground. On going out 
of the town , we visited an aqueduct that had been just 
finished. It is five thousand vartis long, and conveys the 
waters of the Kio Estevan by a trench to the town. This 
work has cost more than thirty thousand piastres ; but its 
waters gush out in every street. 

We returned from Porto Cabello to the valleys of Aragua^ 
and stopped at the Farm of Barbula, near which, a new 
road to Valencia is in the course of construction. We had 
heard, several weeks before, of a tree, the sap of which is 
a nourishing milk. It is called * the cow-tree' ; and we were 
assured that the negroes of the farm, who drink plentifiilly 
of this vegetable milk, consider it a wholesome aliment. 
All the milky juices of plants being acrid, bitter, and more 
or less poisonous, this account appeared to us very extraor- 
dinary ; but we found by experience during our stay at 
Barbula, that the virtues of this tree had not been exag- 
gerated. This fine tree rises like the broad-leaved star- 
apple.* Its oblong and pointed leaves, rough and alternate, 
are marked by lateral ribs, prominent at the lower surface, 
and parallel. Some of them are ten inches long. We 
did not see the flower : thé fruit is somewhat fleshy, and 
contains otoe and sometimes two nuts. When incisions are 
made in the trunk of this tree, it yields abundance of a 
glutinous milk, tolerably thick, devoid of all acridity, and 
of an agreeable and balmy smell. It was ofiered to us in 
the sheU of a calabash. We drank considerable quantities 
of it in the evening before we went to bed, and very early 
in the morning, without feeling the least injurious efiect. 
The viscosity of this milk alone renders it a Httle disagree- 
able. The negroes and the free people who work in the 
plantations drink it, dipping iuto it their bread of maize or 
cassava. The overseer of the farm told us that the negroes 
grow sensibly fatter during the season when the polo de 
vaca furnishes them with most milk. This juice, exposed to 
the air, presents at its surface (perhaps in consequence of 
the absorption of the atmospheric oxygen) membranes of a 
strongly animalized substance, yellowish, stringy, and resem- 
bling cheese. These membranes, separated from the rest of 

* Chrysophyllum calnito. 


the more aqueous liquid, are elastic, almost like caoutchouc ; 
but they undergo, in time, the same phenomena of putre- 
fiaction as gelatine. The people call the coagulum that 
separates by the contact of the air, cheese. This coagulum 
grows sour m the space of five or six days, as I observed in 
the smaU portions which I carried to Nueva Valencia. The 
milk contained in a stopped phial, had deposited a little 
coagulum; and, far from becoming fetid, it exhaled con- 
stantly a balsamic odour. The fresh juice mixed with cold 
water was scarcely coagulated at all ; out on the contact of 
nitric acid the separation of the viscous membranes took 

?lace. We sent two bottles of this milk to M. Fourcroy at 
^aris : in one it was in its natural state, and in the other, 
mixed with a certain quantity of carbonate of soda. The 
French consul residing in the island of St. Thomas, under- 
took to convey them to him. 

The extraordinary tree of which we have been speaking 
appears to be peculiar to the Cordillera of the coast, par- 
ticularly from Barbula to the lake of Maracaybo. Some 
stocks of it exist near the village of San Mateo ; and, ac- 
cording to M. Bredemeyer, whose travels have so much 
enriched the fine conservatories of Schonbrunn and Vienna, 
in the valley of Caucagua, three days journey east of Caracas. 
This naturalist found, like us, that the vegetable milk of the 
palo de vaca had an agreeable taste and an aromatic smell. 
At Caucagua, the natives call the tree that fiimishes this 
nourishing juice, *the milk-tree* (arbol del leche). They 
profess to recognize, from the thickness and colour of the 
foliage, the trimks that yield the most juice ; as the herds- 
man distinguishes, from external signs, a good milch-cow, 
No botanist has hitherto known the existence of this plant. 
It seems, according to M. Kunth, to belong to the sapota 
family. Long after my return to Europe, I found in the 
Description of the East Indies by Laet, a Dutch traveller, 
a passage that seems to have some relation to the cow-tree. 
"There exist trees," says Laet,* "in the province of Cu- 

* *' Inter arbores quœ sponte hic passim nascuntur, memorantur a 
scriptoribus Hispanis quKdam qns lacteum quemdam liquorem fanclunt, 
qai durus admodum evadit instar gummi, et suavem odorem de se fundit ; 
alis qus liquorem quemdam edunt, instar lactis coagulati, qui in cibis ab 
ipsis ttsurpatnr sine noza/' (Among the trees growing here, it is re- 


maui, the sap of which much resembles curdled milk, and 
affords a salubrious nourishment." 

Amidst the great number of curious phenomena which 1 
have observed in the course of my travels, I confess there 
are few that have made so powerful an impression on me 
as the aspect of the cow-tree. Whatever relates to milk 
or to com, inspires an interest which is not merely that 
of the physical knowledge of things, but is connected witK 
another order of ideas and sentiments. We can scarcely 
conceive how the human race could exist without farina- 
ceous substances, and without that nourishing juice which 
the breast of the mother contains, and which is appro- 
priated to the long feebleness of the infant. The amy- 
laceous matter of com, the object of religious veneration 
among so many nations, ancient and modem, is diffused in 
the seeds, and deposited in the roots of vegetables ; milk, 
which serves as an aliment, appears to us exclusively the 
produce of animal organization. Such are the impressions 
we have received in our earliest infancy : such is also 
the source of that astonishment created by the aspect of 
the tree just described. It is not here the solemn shades 
of forests, the majestic course of rivers, the mountaias 
wrapped in eternal snow, that excite our emotion. A few 
drops of vegetable juice recall to our minds aU the power- 
folness and the fecundity of nature. On the barren flank 
of a rock grows a tree with coriaceous and dry leaves. Its 
large woo^ roots can scarcely penetrate into the stone. 
For several months of the year not a single shower moistens 
its foliage. Its branches appear dead and dried ; but when 
the trunk is pierced there flows from it a sweet and nourish- 
ing milk. It is at the rising of the sun that this vegetable 
fountain is most abundant. The negroes and natives are 
then seen hastening from afi quarters, furnished with large 
bowls to receive the milk, which grows yellow, and thickens 
at its surface. Some empty their bowls under the tree 
itself^ others carry the juice home to their children. 

marked by Spanigh writers that there are some which pour out a milky 
juice which soon grows solid, like gam, affording a pleasant odour ; and 
also others that give out a liquid which coagulates like cheese, and which 
Ûtej eat at meals without any ill effects). Descriptio Indiarum Occideu* 
taUnm, lib. 18. 

VOL. n. I 


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

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

* Coroxvlon andicola. 

MiLK-PBODUOnra plants. 51 

and hydrocyanic acid.* These mixtures vaiy not only in 
the different families, but also in the species which belong 
to the same genus. Sometimes it is morpHine or the nar- 
cotic principle, that characterises the vegetable milk, as in 
some papaverous plants ; sometimes it is caoutchouc, as in 
the hevea and the castilloa ; sometimes albumen and casenm, 
as in the cow-tree. 

The lactescent plants belong chiefly to the three families 
of the euphorbiaceœ, the urticeas, and the apocine^ef. Since, 
on examining the distribution of vegetable forms over the 
g^be, we find that those three &milies are more nume- 
rous in species in the low regions of the tropics, we must 
thence conclude, that a very elevated temperature contri- 
butes to the elaboration of the mOky juices, to the formation 
of caoutchouc, albumen, and caseous matter. The sap of 
tiie pah de vaca furnishes imquestionably the most striking 
example of a vegetable milk in which the acrid and de- 
leterious principle is not united with albumen, caseum, 
and caoutchouc : the genera euphorbia and asclepias, how- 
ever, though generally known for their caustic properties, 
already present us with a few species, the juice oi which 
is sweet and harmless. Such are the Tabayba dulce of the 
Canary Islands, which we have already mentioned,^ and the 
Asclepias lactifera of Ceylon. Burman relates that, in the 
latter coimtry, when cow's milk is wanting, the milk of this 
asdepias is used; and that the aliments commonly pre- 
pared with animal milk are boiled with its leaves. It may 
06 possible, as Decandolle has well observed, that the 
natives employ only the juice that flows &om the young 
plant, at a period when the acrid principle is not yet deve- 
loped. In &ct, the first shoots of^the apocyneous plants are 
eâen in several coimtries. 

* Opium contains morphine, caoutchouc, 5cc. 

1> After these three great families follow the papaTeraceae, the chico- 
the lobeliaoe», the campanulacee, Ihe sapotese, and the cncurbi- 
The hydrocyanic add is peculiar to the group of rosaceo-amyg- 
In the mooocotyledonous plants there is no milky juice ; but 
the perisperm of the palms, which yields such sweet and agrerâble milky 
OBukknis, conttins, no doubt, caseum. Of what nature is the milk of 

X Evphorbia balsamifera. The milky juice of the Cactus mamillaris if 
equally sweeC , 

E 2 


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

The younger the fruit of the carica, the more milk it 
yields : it is even found in the germen scarcely fecundated. 
In proportion as the fruit ripens, the milk becomes less abun- 
dant, and more aqueous. Less of that animal matter which 
is coiEigulable by acids and by the absorption of atmospheric 
oxygen, is found in it. As the whole fruit is viscous,* it 
might be supposed that, as it grows larger, the coagulable 
matter is deposed in the organs, and forms a part of the 
pulp, or the fleshy substance. "When nitric acid, diluted 
with four parts of water, is added drop by drop to the miTlr 
expressed from a very young fruit, a very extraordinary phe- 
nomenon appears. At the centre of each drop a gelatinous 
pellicle is formed, divided by greyish streaks. These streaks 
are simply the juice rendered more aqueous, owing to the 
contact of the acid having deprived it of the albumen. At 
the same time, the cent^ of the pellicles becomes opaque, 
and of the colour of the yolk of an egg ; they enlarge as if 
by the prolongation of divergent fibres. The whole liquid 

* The same viscosity is also remarked in the fresh milk of the 
pah de vaca. It is no doubt occasioned by the caoutchouc, which is 
not yet separated, and which forms one mass with the albumen and the 
caseum, as the butter and the caseum in amimal milk. The juice of« 
euphorbiaceous plant (Sapium aucuparium), which also yields caoutchouc, 
Is so glutinous that it is used to catch parrots. 


assumes at first the appearance of an agate with milky 
clouds ; and it seems as if organic membranes were forming 
under the eye of the observer. When the coagulum extends 
to the whole mass, the yellow spots again disappear. By 
agitation it becomes granulous like soft cheese.* The 
yellow colour reappears on adding a few more drops of 
nitric acid. The acid acts in this instance as the oxygen of 
the atmosphere at a temperature from 27^ to 35^ ; for the 
white coagulum grows yellow in two or three minutes, when 
exposed to the sun." After a few hours the yellow colour 
turns to brown, no doubt because the carbon is set more 
fiee progressively as the hydrogen, with which it was com- 
bine^ is burnt. The coagulum formed by the acid becomes 
viscous, and acquires that smell of wax which I have 
observed in treatmg muscular flesh and mushrooms (morels) 
with nitric acid. According to the fine experiments of Mr. 
• Hatchett, the albumen may be supposed to pass partly to 
the state of gelatine. The coagulum of the papaw-tree, 
when newly prepared, being thrown into water, softens, dis- 
solves in part, and gives a yellowish tint to the fluid. The 
milk, placed in contact witn water only, forms also mem- 
branes. In an instant a tremulous jelly is precipitated, 
resembling starch. This phenomenon is particularly strikmg 
if the water employed be heated to 4(r or 60°. The jeUy 
condenses in proportion as more water is poured upon it. 
It preserves a long time its whiteness, only growing yellow 
by the contact of a few drops of nitric acid. Guided by the 
experiments of Fourcroy and Yauquelin on the juice of the 

* The rabstance which falls down in gnunous an4 filamentons dots is 
not pore caontchonc, but perhaps a mixture of this substance with caseiim 
ind «Ibninen. Adds predpitate the caoutchoac from the milky jnioe of 
Ae eaphorbhims, fig-trees, and herea; thej predpitate the casenm from 
the mflk of animals. A white ooagulnm was formed in phials closely 
stopped, containing the milk of the herea, and presenred among our col- 
feetioiis, during oar jonmey to the Orinoco. It is perh^w the develop* 
moA of a vegiétable add whidi then furnishes oxygen to the albumen, 
Ths formation of the coagulum of the herea, or of real caoutdioac, is 
nevertheless much more rapid in contact with the air. The absrirption at 
itmosf heric oxygen is not in the least necessary to the proda£ti<m of 
batter which exists already formed in the milk of animals ; but I btheve 
it eannot be doubted that, in the milk of plants, this absorption produces 
the pellides of caoutchouc, of coagulated albumen, and of caseum, whidi 
•re suoMisively formed in Tesseb exposed to the open air. 


hevea, I mixed a solution of carbonate of soda with the 
milk of the papaw. No clot is formed, even when pure 
water is poured on a mixture of the milk with the alkaline 
solution. The membranes appear only when, by adding an 
acid, the soda is neutralized, and the acid is in excess. I 
made the coagulum formed by nitric acid, the juice of 
lemons, or hot water, likewise disappear by mixing it with 
carbonate of soda. The sap again becomes milky and Liquid, . 
as in its primitive state ; but this experiment succeeds only 
when the coagulum has been recently formed. 

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

The produce of the bread-fruit tree can no more be 
considered as bread than plantains before the state of 
maturity, or the tuberous and amylaceous roots of the cas- 
sava, the dioscorea, the Convolvulus batatas, and the potato. 
The milk of the cow-tree contains, on the contrary, a 
caseous matter, like the milk of mammiferous animals. 
Advancing to more general considerations, we may regard, 
with M. Gtiy-Lussac, the caoutchouc as the oily part, — 
the butter of vegetable milk. "We find in the milk of 
plants caseum and caoutchouc; in the milk of animaliSi 
caseum and butter. The proportions of the two albuminous 
and oily principles difier in the various species of animals 
and of lactescent plants. In these last they are most fre- 
quently mixed with other substances hurtful as food ; but of 
which the separation might perhaps be obtained by chemical 

Srocesses. A vegetable milk becomes nourishing when it is 
estitute of acrid and narcotic principles ; and lubounds less 
in caoutchouc than in caseous matter.* 

* The milk of the lactescent agarics has not been separately analysed ; 
it contains an acrid principle in the Agaricus piperatus ; and in other 
species it is sweet and harmless. The experiments of MM. Braconnotr 

Whilst the polo 8e 
and the bonnij of mtme in tfe tornà ^saat. ii ûd 
lemindfl us of the mmieioiis emsn viôcîi ^jpryjoe il "vwmt 
fine dimates tlie earelesB indolpiire of 

has made known the biztter-ti^Be of BambasTa. -viôeii M. I^ 
CandoUe soi^iectB to be of the £uiiihr x£ aafwiaE. ac icd ac 
our milk-tree. The plantain, tfe aasD-tree. and vat nm i risia 
of the Orinoeo, are as mndi bteadntreea as lâiE- rtmrn of 'Sia: 
Sou& Sea. The fruits of the ereaeecnaa aent Xfif- JEsrrtxu 
seiTe as Tessels îxx oontaînîng loodL mhdk làie içHcâk» xf.vut 
palms, and the baik of treea. fimnfifa ca|K anc saoDemc 
without ft seam. The knota, or lather ife noackr eelja ^ 




SMC tn|«rtin«Sût/ IK^ 
tsw; y »w > r «it M 


the trunks .of bamboos, supply ladders, and facilitate in a 
thousand ways the construction of a hut, and the fabrication 
of chairs, beds, and other articles of furniture that compose 
the wealth of a savage household. In the midst of this 
lavish vegetation, so varied in its productions, it requires 
very powerful motives to excite man to labour, to rouse him 
from nis lethargy, and to unfold his intellectual faculties. 

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


Marquis del Toro, and pass three days mcire on the borden 
of the lake. 

It was the carmval season, and all was gaiety. The 
sports in which the people indulge, and which are called 
cames tcUendaSy* assume occasionsJly somewhat of a sarage 
character. Some led an ass loaded with water, and, where- 
erer they found a window open, inundated the apartment 
within by means of a pump. Others carried bags filled witli 
hairs of pieapiea ;t and blew the hair, which causes a great 
irritation of the skin, into the fiices of those who passed by. 

From Guacara we returned to Xueva Valencia. We 
found there a few French emigrants, the only ones we saw 
during fiye years passed in the Spanish colonies. Notwith- 
standing the ties of blood which unite the royal famnw»» of 
France and Spain, eren French priests were not permitted 
to take refuge in that part of the New Worid, wnere man 
with such facility finds food and shelter. Bey<Hid the At- 
lantic, the TJnited States of America afford the only asyliim 
to mififortune. A gOTemment, strong because it is fi-ee, ooo- 
fiding because it is just, has nothing to fear in giring lefii^ 
to the proscribed. 

We naTe endeaTOuied above to gire some notions of Ae 
state of the cultiYatkm of indigo, cottcm, and sugar, in ûte 
province of Caracas. Befiwe we quk the vaDey of Angua 
and its neighbouring coast, it renudiiB fœ* us to ^iieak of the 
cacao-plantations, which have at aD times been txmsâàen^ m 
the principal source of the proroerity of those wuaakm. 
The province of Caracas^ at the end of tb& eigùtbaiith 
eentury, produced annually a hundred and fifty tlxmsaol 
ianegaa, o£ which a hundred tiioosand were ecnmniM^ in 
Spain, and thirty thousand in the provincier. TiOinMhi^ a 
fimega of cacao at only twenty-five piastres for ihf; yw» 
given at Cadiz, we find tiiat thé toUu value of iht inyjrts^ 
tion of cacao^ by the six ports of the C^Mta&da Gtiumii <4 

* Or "ftrnpeatDiah." TWt wore eaniwwà hm làtt ma^ wutma»^ 

these spottB beios; alvajs hdd jut Ition me ff a Mfi< J M < «r ^ iMOUt^ 

t DolidM» 

{The province, not the iifiilHâi fcimi J, nnmtifM0fif Mit iuisMiM^ 
tiic CMCÊO pl a ntarin— of C^Maaa, Ae fi v nim t M, rf Ita rrtiHw ai , id Hw m mf V^^ 
afVaniias,aBdorSi«iik '^ ' 


Caracas, amounts to four million eight hundred thousand 
piastres. So important an object of commerce merits a 
careful discussion ; * and I flatter myself, that, from the great 
number of materials I have collected on all the branches of 
colonial agriculture, I shall be able to add something to the 
information published by M. Depons, in his valuable work 
on the provinces of Venezuela. 

The tree which produces the cacao is not at present found 
wild in the forests of Terra Pirma to the north of the 
Orinoco ; we began to find it only beyond the cataracts of 
Ature and Maypure. It abounds particularly near the 
banks of the VentuariJ and on the Upper Orinoco, between 
the Padamo and the G-ehette. This scarcity of wild cacao- 
trees in South America, north of the latitude of 6°, is a very 
curious phenomenon of botanical geography, and yet little 
known. This phenomenon appears the more surprising, aa, 
according to the annual produce of the harvest, the number 
of trees in full bearing in the cacao-plantations of Caracas, 
Nueva Barcelona, Venezuela, Varinas, and Maracaybo, is 
estimated at more than sixteen millions. The wild cacao- 
tree has many branches, and is covered with a tufted and 
dark foliage. It bears a very small fruit, like that variety 
which the ancient Mexicans called thlcacahuatl. Trans- 
planted into the conucos of the Indians of Cassiquiare and 
the Rio Negro, the wild tree preserves for several genera- 
tions that force of vegetable life, which makes it bear fruit 
in the fourth year ; while, in the province of Caracas, the 
harvest begins only the sixth, seventh, or eighth year. It 
is later in the inland parts than on the coasts and in the 
valley of Q-uapo. We met with no tribe on the Orinoco 
that prepared a beverage with the seeds of the cacao-tree. 
The savages suck the pulp of the pod, and throw away the 
seeds, ^ which are "often found m heaps where they have 
passed the night. Though chorote, which is a very weak 
infusion of cacao, is considered on the coast to be a very 
ancieiit beverage, no historical fact proves that chocolate, 
or any preparation whatever of cacao, was known to the 
natives of Venezuela before the arrival of the Spaniards. 
It appears to me more probable that the cacao-plantations of 
Caracas were suggested by those of Mexico and G-uatimala ; 
and that the Spaniards inhabiting Terra Firma learned the 


cultivation of the cacao-tree, sheltered in its youth by the 
foliage of the erythrina and plantain ;* the mbrication of 
cakes of chocolati, and the use of the li(^uid of the same 
name, in course of their communications with Mexico, Gua- 
timala, and JN'icaragua. 

Down to the sixteenth century travellers differed in 
opinion respecting the chocolati, Benzoni plainly says that 
it is a drink "fitter for hogs than men."t The Jesuit 
Acosta asserts, that " the Spaniards who inhabit America 
are fond of chocolate to excess ; but that it re(juires to be 
accustomed to that black beverage not to be disgusted at 
the mere sight of its froth, which swims on it like yeast 
on a fermented liquor." He adds, "the cacao is a prejudice 
(una supersticion) of the Mexicans, as the coca is a pre- 
judice of the Peruvians." These opinions remind us of 
Madame de Sevigné's prediction respecting the use of coffee. 
Fernando Oortez and his page, the gentilhomhre d^l gran 
ChnquigtadoTj whose memoirs were published by Eamusio, 
on the contrary, highly praise chocolate, not only as an 
agreeable drink, though prepared cold,]; but in particular 
as a nutritious substance. "He who has drunk one cup," 
aavB the page of Fernando Cortez, " can travel a whole oay 
without any other food, especially in very hot climates ; for 
chocolate is by its nature cold and refreshing." We shall 
not subscribe to the latter part of this assertion ; but we 
shall soon have occasion, in our voyage on the Orinoco, and 
our excursions towards the summit of the Cordilleras, to 
celebrate the salutary properties of chocolate. It is easily 
conveyed and readily employed : as an aliment it contains a 
large quantity of nutritive and stimulatiag particles in a 
small compass. It has been said with truth, that in the 
East, rice, gum, and ghee (clarified butter), assist man in 
crossing the deserts; and so, in the New World, cho- 

* This process of the Mexican cultivators^ practised on the coast of 
Caracas, is described in the memoirs known under the title of ''Rela- 
tioiie di certo Gentiluomo del Signer Cortez, Conquistadore del Messico." 
(Ranmsio, torn, ii, p. 134). 

t Ben2oni, Istoriadel Mondo Nuovo, 1572^ p. 104. 

X Father Gill has very clearly shown, from two passages in Torque-. 
Bada (Monarquia Indiana, lib. xiv.) that the Mexicans prepared the 
infusion cold, and that the Spaniards introduced the custom of preparing 
diocolate by boiling water with the paste of cacao. 


colate and the flour of maize, have rendered accessible to 
the traveller the table-lands of the Andes, and yast unin- 
habited forests. 

The cacao harvest is extremely variable. The tree vege- 
tates with such vigour thkt flowe» spring out even from tlie 
roots, wherever the earth leaves them uncovered. It suffers 
&om the north-east winds, even when they lower the tem- 
perature only a few degrees. The heavy showers that fall 
liregularly after the rainy season, during the winter months, 
from December to March, are also very hurtfiil to the 
cacao-tree. The proprietor of a plantation of fifty thousand 
trees often loses the value of more than four or five thou- 
sand piastres in cacao in one hotir. G-reat humidity is 
favourable to the tree only when it augments progressively, 
and is for a long time uninterrupted. If, in the season of 
drought, the leaves and the young fruit be wetted by a 
violent shower, the fruit* falls from the stem ; for it appears 
that the vessels which absorb water break from being ren- 
dered turgid. Besides, the cacao-harvest is one of the most 
uncertain, on accoimt of the fatal effects of inclement sea- 
sons, and the great number of worms, insects, birds, and 
quadrupeds,* which devour the pod of the cacao-tree ; and 
this branch of agriculture has the disadvantage of obliging 
the new planter to wait eight or ten years for the fruit of 
his labours, and of yielcung after mL an article of very 
difficult preservation. 

The finest plantations of cacao are found in the province 
of Caracas, along the coast, between CaravaUeda and the 
mouth of the Kio Tocuyo, in the valleys of Caucagua, 
Capaya, Curiepe, and G-uapo; and in those of Cupira, 
between cape Conare and cape Unare, near Aroa, Bar- 
quesimeto, Gruigue, and Uritucu. The cacaa that grows 
on the banks of the Uritucu, at the entrance of the llanos, in 
the jurisdiction of San Sebastian de las Eeyes, is considered 
to be of the finest quality. Next to the cacao of Uritucu 
comes that of Gruigue, of Caucagua, of Capaya, and of 
Cupira. The merchants of Cadiz assign the fist rank to 
the cacao of Caracas, immediately after that cf Socomusco ; 
and its price is generally from thirty to forty per cent, 
higher than that of Gruayaquil. 

* Parrots^ monkeys, agoutis, squirrels, and stags. 


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

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

The late wars have had much more fatal effects on the 
cacao trade of Caracas than on that of Gruayaqidl. On 
account of the increase of price, less cacao of the first quality 
has been consumed in Europe. Instead of mixiag, as was 
done formerly for common chocolate, one quarter of the 
cacao of Caracas, with three-quarters of that of Guayaquil, 
the latter has been employed pure m Spain. We must here 


remark, tljat a great deal of cacao of an inferior quality, 
such as that of Maranon, the Eio Negro, Honduras, and 
the island of St, Lucia, bears the name, in commerce, of 
Guayaquil cacao. The exportation from that pott amountt 
only to sixty thousand fanegas; consequently it is two- 
thirds less than that of the ports of the Capitania-Q^neral 
of Caracas. 

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


the fourth year, ahimdant crops. Whererer the toil is not 
exhausted, the fruit has become hj cultiratian larger and 
bitter, but also later. 

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

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

The hot and fertile valleys of the Cordillera of the coast 
of Venezuela occupy a tract of land which, on the west, 
towards the lake of Maracaybo, displays a remarkable 
farie^ of scenery. I shall exhibit in one view, to close 
this chapter, the &cts I have been able to coUect respecting 


the quality of the soil and the metallic riches of the districts 
of Aroa, of Barquesimeto, and of Carora. 

From tne Sierra Nevada of Merida, and the paramos of 
Niquitao, Bocono, and Las Bosas,* which contain the valu- 
able bark-tree, the eastern Cordillera of New Grranadaf 
decreases in height so rapidly, that, between the ninth and 
tenth degrees of latitude, it forms only a chain of little 
mountains, which, stretching to the north-east by the Altar 
and Torito, separates the rivers that join the Apure and 
the Orinoco from those numerous rivers that flow either 
into the Caribbean Sea or the lake of Maracaybo. On this 
dividing ridge are built the towns of Nirgua, San Felipe 
el Fuerte, Barquesimeto, and Tocuyo. The first three are 
in a very hot climate; but Tocuyo enjoys great coolness, 
and we heard with surprise, that, beneath so fine a sky, the 
inhabitants have a strong propensi^ to suicide. The 
ground rises towards the south; for Truxillo, the lake of 
U rao, from which carbonate of soda is extracted, and La 
G-rita, all to the east of the CordiUera, though no farther 
distant, are four or five hundred toises high. 

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

* Many travellers, who were monks, have asserted that the little 
Paramo de Las Rosas, the height of which appears to be more than 
1,600 toises, is covered with rosemary, and the red and white roses of 
Europe grow wild there. These roses are gathered to decorate the altars 
in the neighbouring villages on the festivals of the church. By what 
accident has our Rosa centifolia become wild in this country, while we 
nowhere found it in the Andes of Quito and Peru ? Can it really be the 
rose-tree of pur garden ? 

t The bark exported from the port of Maracaybo does not come from 
the territory of Venezuela, but from the mountains of Pamplona in New 
Grenada, being brought down the Rio de San Faustino, that flows into 
the lake of Maracaybo. (Pombo, Noticias sobre las Quinas, 1814, 
p. 65.) Some is coUected near Merida, in the ravine of Yiscucucuy. 


healtli of tbe inbabitants, from cape Codera as far as the 
lake of Maracaybo. 

Among tbe rivers which descend nortb-east toward tbe 
coast of Porto Cabello, and La Punta de Hicacos, tbe most 
remarkable are those of Tocuyo, Aroa, and Taracuj. Were 
it not for tbe miasmata which infect the atmosphere, the val- 
leys of Aroa and of Yaracuy would perhaps be more popu- 
lous than those of Aragua. Navigable rivers would even 
give the former the advantage of facilitating the exportation 
of their own crops of sugar and cacao, and that of the pro- 
ductions of the neighbouring lands ; as the wheat of Quibor, 
the cattle of Monai, and the copper of Aroa. The ipines 
from which this copper is extracted, are in a lateral valley, 
opening into that of Aroa ; and which is less hot, and less 
unhealthy, than the ravines nearer the sea. In the latter 
the Indians have their gold-washings, and the soil conceals 
rich copper-ores, which no one has yet attempted to extract. 
The ancient mines of Aroa, after having been long neglected, 
have been wrought anew by the care of Don Antonio Heii- 
riquez, whom we met at San Fernando on the borders of thv 
Apure. The total produce of metaUic copper is twelve or 
mieen hundred quintals a year. This copper, known at 
Cadiz by the name of Caracas copper, is of excellent quality. 
It is even preferred to that of Sweden, and of Coquimbo in 
Chile. Part of the copper of Aroa is employed for making 
bells, which are cast on the spot. Some ores of silver have 
been recently discovered between Aroa and Xirgua, near 
Guanita, in the mountain of San Pablo. Grrains of gold 
are found in all the mountainous lands between the Rio 
Taracuy, the town of San Pebpe, Nirgua, and Barque- 
simeto; particularly in the Rio de Santa Cruz, in which the 
Indian gold-gatherers have sometimes found lumps of the 
value of fr)ur or five piastres. Do the neighbouring rocks 
of mica-slate and gneiss contain veins? or is the gold dis- 
seminated here, as in the granites of Guadarama iu Spain, 
and of the Fichtelberg in Franconia, throughout the whole 
mass of the rock? Possibly the waters, in filtering through 
it, bring together the disseminated grains of gold; in 
which case every attempt to work the rock would be useless. 
In the Savana ae la Miel, near the town of Barquesimeto, a 
shaft has been sunk in a black shining slate resembling 

TOL. U. E 


ampelite. The minerals extracted from this shaft, which 
were sent to me at Caracas, were quartz, non-auriferous 
pyrites, and carbonated lead, crystallized in needles of a 
silky lustre. 

La the early times of the conquest the working of the 
mines of Nirgua and of Buria* was begun, notwithstanding 
the incursions of the warKke nation of the G-iraharas. In 
this very district the accumulation of negro slaves in 1553 
gave rise to an event bearii^g some analogy to the insur- 
rection in St. Domingo. A negro slave excited an insur- 
rection among the miners of the Iteal de San Pelipe de 
Buria. J^e retired into the woods, and founded, witn two 
hundred of his companions, a town, where he was proclaimed 
king. Miguel, this new king, was a friend to pomp and 
parade. He caused his wife &uiomar, to assume the title of 
queen; and, according to Oviedo, he appointed ministers 
and counsellors of state, officers of the royal household, and 
even a negro bishop. He soon after ventured to attack the 
neighbouring town of ISTueva Segovia de Barquesimeto; but, 
being repulsed by Diego de Losada, he perished in the conflict. 
This African monarchy was succeeded at Nirgua by a republic 
of Zamboes, the descendants of negroes and Indians. The 
whole municipality (cabildo) is composed of men of colour 
tb whom the king of Spain has given the title of " his 
faithful and loyal subjects, the Zamboes of Nirgua." Few 
families of Whites wul inhabit a country where the system 
of government is so adverse to their pretensions ; and the 
little town is called in derision La republica de Zamhos y 

K the hot vallies of Area, of Taracuy, and of the E-io 
Tocuvo, celebrated for their excellent timber, be rendered 
fevensh by luxuriance of vegetation, and extreme atmo- 
spheric humidity, it is different in the savannahs of Monai 
and Carora. These Llanos are separated by the moun- 
tainous tract of Tocuyo and ISTirgua aom the great plains of 
La Portuguesa and Calabozo. It is very extraordmary to 
see barren savannahs loaded with miasmata. No marshy 
ground is found there, but several phenomena indicate a 

• The valley of Buria, and the little river of the same name, com- 
municate with the valley of the Rio Coxede, or the Rio de Barque- 


disengagement of hydrogen.* "When travellers, who are not 
acquainted with natural inflammable gases, are shown the 
Oueva del Serrito de Monai, the people of the country love 
to frighten them by setting fire to the gaseous combination 
which is constantly accumulated in the upper part of the 
cavern. May we attribute the insalubrity ol the atmosphere 
to the same causes as those which operate in the plains be- 
tween Tivoli and Rome, viz., disengagements of sulphuretted 
hydrogen ?t Possibly, also, the mountainous lauds, near 
the llanos of Monai, may have a baneful influence on the 
surrounding plains. The south-easterly winds may convey 
to them the putrid exhalations that rise from the ravine 
of Villegas, and from La Sienega de Cabra, between Carora 
and Carache. I am desirous of collecting every circum- 
stance having a relation to the salubrity of the air ; for, in a 
matter so obscure, it is only by the comparison of a great num- 
ber of phenomena, that we can hope to discover the truth. 

The barren yet feverish savannahs, extending from Bar- 
quesimeto to the eastern shore of the lake of Maracaybo, are 
partly covered with cactus; but the good silvester-cochineal, 
known by the vague name of grana de Carora^ comes from a 
more temperate region, between Carora and Truxillo, and 

* What is that luminous phenomenon known under the name of the 
Lantern (farol) of Maracaybo, which is perceived every night toward the 
seaside as well as in the inland parts, at Merida for example, where M. 
Palados observed it during two years ? The distance, greater than 40 
leagues, at which the light is observed, has led to the supposition that it 
might be owing to the effects of a thunderstorm, or of electrical explo- 
sions which might daily take place in a pass in the mountains. It is 
asserted that, on approaching the /aro/, the rolling of thunder is heard. 
Others vaguely allege that it is an air-volcano, and that asphaltic soils, 
like those of Mena, cause these inflammable exhalations which are so 
constant in their appearance. The phenomenon is observed on a moun- 
tainous and uninhabited spot, on the borders of the Rio Catatumbo, near 
its jonction with the Rio Sulia. The situation of the farol is such that, 
being nearly in the meridian of the opening (boca) of the lake of Mara- 
caybo, navigators are guided by it as by a lighthouse. 

f Don Carlos del Pozo has discovered in this district, at the bottom of 
the Qoebrada de Moroturo, a stratum of clayey earth, black, strongly 
soiling the fingen, emitting a powerful smell of sulphur, and inflaming 
spontaneously when slightly moistened and exposed for a long time to 
the rays of the tropical sun. The detonation of this muddy substance is 
very violent. 

F 2 


particularly from the vaUey of the Eio Mucuju,* to the east 
of Merida. The inhabitants altogether neglect this produc- 
tion, so much sought for in commerce. 

Chaptee xvn. 

Mountains which separate the Valleys of Aragua from the Llanos of 
Caracas. — Villa de Cara. — Parapara. — Llanos or Steppes. — Calabozo. 

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

Before I trace the scenery of the Llanos, or of the region 
of pasturage, I will briefly describe the road we took 
from Nueva Valencia, by YiUa de Cura and San Juan, to 
the little village of Ortiz, at the entrance of the steppes. 
We left the vaUeys of Aragua on the 6th of March before 
sunrise. We passed over a plain richly cultivated, keeping 
along the south-west side of the lake of Valencia, and cross- 
ing the ground left uncovered by the waters of the lake. 
We were never weary of admiring the fertility of the soil, 
covered with calabashes, water-melons, and plantains. The 
rising of the sun was announced by the distant noise of the 
howling monkeys. Approaching a group of trees, which rise 
in the midst oi the plain, between those parts which were 
anciently the islets of Don Pedro and La, Negra, we saw 
numerous bands of araguatos moving as in procession and 
very slowly, from one tree to another. A male was followed 
by a great number of females; several of the latter carrying 

* This little river descends from the Paramo de los Conejos, and flows 
into the Rio Albarregas. 


their young on their shoulders. The howling monkeys, 
which live in society in different parts of America, every- 
where resemble each other in their manners, though the 
species are not always the same. The uniformity with 
which the araguatos* perform their movements is extremely 
striking. Whenever the branches of neighbouring trees do 
not touch each other, the male who leads the party sus- 
pends himself by the callous and prehensile part of his 
tail ; and, letting fall the rest of his body, swings himself 
till in one of his oscillations he reaches the neighbouring 
branch. The whole file performs the same movements on 
the same spot. It is almost superfluous to add how dubious 
is the assertion of Ulloa, and so many otherwise well- 
informed travellers, according to whom, the marimondos,t 
the araguatos, and other monkeys with a prehensile tail, 
form a sort of chain, in order to reach the opposite side 
of a river.J We had opportunities, during five years, of 
observing thousands of these animals ; and for this very 
reason we place no confidence in statements possibly 
invented by the Europeans themselves, though repeated by 
the Indians of the Missions, as if they had been transmitted 
to them by their fathers. Man, the most remote from civi- 
lization, enjoys the astonishment he excites in recounting 
the marvels of his countrj''. He says he has seen what he 
imagines may have been seen by others. Every savage is a 
hunter, and the stories of hunters borrow from the imagi- 
nation in proportion as the animals, of which they boast the 
artifices, are endowed with a high degree of intelligence. 
Hence arise the fictions of which foxes, monkeys, crows, 
and the condor of the Andes, have been the subjects in both 

The araguatos are accused of sometimes abandoning their 
young, that they may be lighter for flight when pursued by 
the Indian hunters. It is said that mothers have been seen 
removing their young from their shoulders, and throwing 
them down to the foot of the tree. I am inclined to believe 
that a movement merely accidental has been mistaken for 

• Simia ursiua. t Simia belzebuth. 

X Ulloa has not hesitated to represent in an engraving this extraordi- 

feat of the monkeys with a prehensile tail. — See Viage i la America 
Meridional (Madrid, 1748). 


one premeditated. The Indians have a dislike and a pre- 
dilection for certain races of monkeys ; they love the viu- 
. ditas, thfe titis, and generally all the little sagoins ; while 
the araguatos, on account of their mournful aspect, and 
their uniform howling, are at once detested and abused. 
Tn reflecting on the causes that may facihtate the pro- 
pagation of sound in the air during the night, I thought 
it important to determine with precision the distance at 
which, especially in damp and stormy weather, the howling 
of a band of araguatos is heard. I believe I obtained proof 
of its being distinguished at eight hundred toises distance. 
The monkeys which are furnished with four hands cannot 
make excursions in the Llanos; and it is easy, amidst vaat • 
plains covered with grass, to recognize a solitary group of 
trees, whence the noise proceeds, and which is iiûiabitea by . 
howling monkeys. !N^ow, by approaching or withdrawing 
from this group of trees, the maximum of the distance-may 
be measured, at which the howling is heard. These dis- 
tances appeared to me sometimes one-third greater during 
the night, especially when the weather was cloudy, very hot, 
and humid. 

The Indians pretend that when the araguatos fill the 
forests with their howling, there is always one that chaunts 
as leader of the chorus. The observation is pretty accurate. 
During a long interval one solitary and strong voice is gene- 
rally distinguished, till its place is taken by another voice of 
a different pitch. We may observe from time to time the 
same instinct of imitation among frogs, and almost all 
animals which live together and exert theit voices in union. 
The Missionaries further assert, that, when a female among 
the araguatos is on the point of bringing forth, the choir 
suspends its bowlings till the moment of the birth of the 
young. I could not myself judge of the accuracy of this 
assertion ; but I do not believe it to be entirely unfounded. 
I have observed that, when an extraordinary incident, the 
moaas for instance of a wounded araguato, fixed the atten- 
tion of the band, the bowlings were for some minutes 
suspended. Our guides assured us gravely, that, " to 'cure 
an asthma, it is sufficient to drink out of the bony drum of 
the hyoïdal bone of the araguato." This animal having so 
extraordinary a volume of voice, it is supposed that its 


larynx must necessariiy impart to the water poured into it 
the virtue of curing affeciions of the lungs. Such is the 
Bcience of the vulgar, which sometimes resembles that of the 

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

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


are formed in Europe of the intolerance, and even of tfad 
religious fervour of the Spanish colonists. 

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

An apothecary who had been ruined by an unhappy pro- 
pensity for working mines, accompanied us in our excursion 
to the Serro de Chacao, very rich in auriferous pyrites. We 
continued to descend' the southern declivity of the Cordil- 
lera of the coast, in which the plains of Aragua form a 
longitudinal valley. We passed a part of the night of the' 
11th of March at the village of San Juan, remarkable for 
its thermal waters, and the singular form of two neighbour- 
ing mountains, called the Morros of San Juan. They form 
slender peaks, which rise from a wall of rocks with a very 
extensive base. The wall is perpendicular, and resembles 


the DeviVs Wall, which surrounds a part of the group of 
mountains in the Hiirtz.* These peaks, when seen from afar 
in the Llanos, strike the imagination of the inhabitants of 
the plain, who are not accustomed to the least unequal 
ground, and the height of the peaks is singularly exag- 
gerated by them. They were described to us as being in 
the middle of the steppes (which they in reality b^ound on 
the north) far beyond a range of hills called La Gklera. 
Judging from angles taken at the distance of two miles, these 
hills are scarcely more than a h^mdred and fifty-six toises 
higher than the village of San Juan, and three hundred and 
fifty toises above the level of the Llanos, The thermal 
waters glide out at the foot of these hills, which are formed 
of transition-limestone. The waters are impregnated with 
sulphuretted Tiydrogen, like those of Mariara, and form a 
little pool or lagoon, in which the thermometer rose only to 
31*3°. I found, on the night of the 9th of March, by very 
satisfactory observations of the stars, the latitude of Villa 
de Cura to be 10° 2' 47;. 

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

After having bathed in the cool and limpid water of the 
little river of San Juan, the bottom of which is of basaltic 
îin, we continued our journey at two in the morning, 
Ortiz and Parapara, to the Mesa de Paja. The road to 
the Llanos being at that time infested with robbers, several 
travellers joined us so as to form a sort of caravan. We 
proceeded down hill during six or seven hours ; and we 
skirted the Cerro de Plores, near which the road turns off, 

, ♦ ** Die TeufeU Mauer/' near Wernigerode in Germany. 


leading to the great village of San Joae de Tisnao. "We 
passed the farms of Luque and Juncalito, to enter the 
valleys which, on account of the bad road, and the blue 
colour of the slates, bear the names of Malpaso and Pte- 
d/ras Azules, 

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

We find at first, in the Sierra de Mariara, which belongs 
to the northern branch of the Cordillera of the coast, a 
coarse-grained granite ; then, in the valleys of Aragua, on 
the borders of the lake, and in the islands, it contains, as 
in the southern branch of the chain of the coast, gneiss 
and mica-slate. These last-named rocks are auriferous in 
the Quebrada del Oro, near Guigue ; and between Yilla 
de Cura and the Morros de San Juan, in the mountain of 
ChaSao. The- gold is contained in pyrites, which are found 
sometimes disseminated almost imperceptibly in the whole 
mass of the gneiss,* and sometimes united in small veins 
of quartz. Most of the torrents that traverse the moun- 
tains bear along with them grains of gold. The poor in- 
habitants of ViUa de Cura and San Juan have sometimes 
gained thirty piastres a-day by washing the sand ; but most 

* The four metals, which are found disseminated in the granite rocks, 
as if they were of contemporaneous formation, are gold, tin, titanium, 
and cobalt. 

DESERTED Id [2<ES. 75 

commonly, in spite of their industry, they do not m a week 
find particles of gold of the value of two piastres. Here, 
however, as in every place where native gola and auriferous 
pyrites are disseminated in the rock, or by the destruction 
of the rocks, are deposited in alluvial lands, the people con- 
ceive the most exaggerated ideas of the metallic riches of 
the soil. But the success of the workiugs, which depends 
less on the abundance of the ore in a vast space of land 
than on its accumulation in one point, has not justified 
these favourable prepossessions. The moimtaiu of Chacao, 
bordered by the ravine of Tucutunemo, rises seven hundred 
feet above the village of San Juan. It is formed of gneiss, 
which, especially in the superior strata, passes into mica- 
slate. We saw the remains of an ancient mine, known by 
the name of Beal de Santa Barha/ra, The works were 
directed to a stratum of cellular quartz,* full of polyhedric 
cavities, mixed with iron-ore, containing auriferous pyrites 
and small grains of gold, sometimes, it is said, visible to 
^ the naked eye. It appears 'that the gneiss of the Cerro de 
Chacao also furnishes another metallic deposit, a mixture of 
copper and silver-ores. This deposit has been the object of 
works attempted with great ignorance by some Mexican 
miners under the superintendance of M. Avalo. The gal- 
leryt directed to the north-east, is only twenty-five toises 
l(Hig. We there found some fine specimens of blue carbo- 
nated copper mingled with sulphate of barytes and quartz; 
but we could not ourselves judge whether the ore contained 
any argentiferous fahlerz, and whether it occurred in a 
stratum, or, as the apothecary who was our guide asserted, 
in real veins. This much is certain, that the attempt at 
working the mine cost more than twelve thousand piastres 
in two years. It would no doubt have been more prudent 
to have resumed the works on the auriferous stratum of the 
Beal de Santa Barbara. 

* This stratum of quartz, and the gneiss in which it is contained, lie 
hor. 8 of the Freyberg compass, and dip 70° to the south-west. At a 
hundred toises distance from the auriferous quartz, the gneiss resumes its 
ordinary situation, hor. 3-4, with 60° dip to the north>west. A few 
itrata of gneiss abound in silvery mica, and contain, instead of garnets, 
m immense quantity of small octohedrons of pyrites. This silvery gneiss 
membles that of the famous mine of HimmelsfUrst, in Saxony. 

t La Cueva de los Mexicanos. 


The zone of gneiss just mentioned is, in the coast-chain 
from the sea to the Villa de Cura, ten leagues broad. In 
this great extent of land, gneiss and mica-slate are found 
exclusively, and they constitute one formation.* Beyond 
the town of Villa de Cura and the Cerro de Chacao the 
aspect of the country presents greater geognostic variety. 
There are still eight leagues of declivity from the table-land 
of Cura to the entry of the Llanos ; and on the southern 
slope of the mountains of the coast, four different forma- 
tions of rock cover the gneiss. We shall first give the 
description of the different strata, without grouping them 

On the south of the Cerro de Chacao, between the ravine 
of Tucutunemo and Piedras Negras, the gneiss is concealed 
beneath a formation of serpentine, of which the composition 
varies in the different superimposed strata. Sometimes it 
is very pure, veir homogeneous, of a dusky olive-green, and 
of a conchoidal n-acture : sometimes it is veined, mixed with 
bluish steatite, of an unequal fecture, and containing 
spangles of mica. In both these states I could not discover 
in it either garnets, hornblende, or diallage. Advancing 
farther to the south (and we always passed over this ground 
in that direction) the green of the serpentine grows deeper, 
and feldspar and hornblende are recognised in it: it is 
difiicult to determine whether it passes into diabasis or 
alternates with it. There is, however, no doubt of its con- 

* This formation, which we shall call gneiss^mica-slate, is pecu- 
liar to the chain of the coast of Caracas. Five formations must be dis- 
tinguished, as MM. Yon Buch and Raumer have so ably demonstrated 
in their excellent papers on Landeck and the Riesengebii^e, namely^ 
granite, granite-gneiss, gneiss^ gneiss -mica-slate^ and mica-slate. Geo- 
logists whose researches have been confined to a small tract of land, 
having confounded these formations which nature has separated in several 
countries in the most distinct manner^ have admitted that the gneiss and 
mica-slate alternate everywhere in superimposed beds, or furnish in- 
sensible transitions from one rock to the other. These transitions and 
alternating sijperpositions take place no doubt in formations of granite- 
gneiss and gneiss-mica-slate ; but because these phenomena are observed 
in one region, it does not follow that in other regions we may not find 
very distinct circumscribed formations of granite, gneiss, and mica-slate. 
The same considerations may be applied to the formations of serpentine, 
which are sometimes isolated, and sometimes belong to the eurite, mica- 
slate, and grttnstein. 


taming veins of copper-ore.* At the foot of this mountain 
two fine springs gush out from the serpentine. Near the 
village of San Juan, the granular diahasis appears alone 
uncovered, and takes a greenish black hue. The feldspar 
intimately mixed with the mass, may be separated into 
distinct crystals. The mica is very rare, and there is no 
quartz. The mass assumes at the surface a yellowish crust 
like dolerite and basalt. 

In the midst of this tract of trap-formation, the Morros 
of San Juan rise like two castles in ruins. They appear 
linked to the momes of St Sebastian, and to La Gralera 
which bounds the Llanos like a rocky wall. The Morros of 
San Juan are formed of limestone of a crystalline texture ; 
sometimes very compact, sometimes spongy, of a greenish- 
grey, shining, composed of small grains, and mixed with 
scattered spangles of mica. This limestone yields a strong 
effervescence with acids. I could not find in it any vestige 
of organized bodies. It contains in subordinate strata, 
masses of hardened clay of a blackish blue, and carburetted. 
These masses are fissile, very heavy, and loaded with 
iron ; their streak is whitish, and they produce no effen^es- 
cence with acids. They assume at their surface, by their 
decomçositio!Q in the air, a yellow colour. We seem to 
recognize in these argillaceous strata a tendency either 
to the transition-slates, or to the Meselschiefer (schistose 
lasper), which everywhere characterise the black transition- 
limestones. When in fragments, they might be taken at 
first sight for basalt or homblende.f Another white lime- 
stone, compact, and containing some fragments of shells, 
backs the Morros de San Juan. I could not see the line of 
junction of these two limestones, or that of the calcareous 
formation and the diabasis. 

* One of these veins, on which two shafts have heen sunk, was 
directed hor. 2*\, and dipped 80° east. The strata of the serpentine, 
where it is stratified with some regularity, run hor. 8, and dip almost 
perpendicularly. I found malachite disseminated in this serpentine, 
where it passes into grUnstein. 

t I had an opportunity of examining again, with the greatest care, the 
rocks of San Juan, of Chacao, of Parapara, and of Calabozo, during my 
stay at Mexico, wher^, conjointly with M. del Rio, one of the most dis- 
tinguished pupils of the school of Freyberg, I formed a geognostical col* 
lectu)n for the Colegio de Mineria of New Spain. 


The transverse valley wHcli descends from Piedras Negras 
and the village of San Juan, towards Parapara and the 
Llanos, is filled with trap-rocks, displaying close affinity 
with the formation of green slates, which they cover. Some- 
times wo seem to see serpentine, sometimes griinstein, and 
sometimes dolerite and basalt. The arrangement of these 

Eroblematical masses is not less extraordinary. Between 
an Juan, Malpaso, and Piedras Azules, they form strata 
parallel to each other; and dipping regularly northward 
at an angle of 40® or 50°, they cover even the green slates 
in concordant stratification. Lower down, towards Para- 
para and Ortiz, where the amygdaloids and phonolites are 
connected with the griinstein, everything assumes a basaltic 
aspect. Balls of griinstein heaped one upon another, form 
those rounded cones, which are found so frequently in the 
Mittelgebirge in Bohemia, near Bilin, the country of pho- 
nolites. The following is the result of my partial obser- 

The griinstein, which at first alternated with strata of 
serpentine, or was connected with that rock by insensible 
transitions, is seen alone, sometimes in strata considerably 
inclined, and sometimes in baUs with concentric strata, im- 
bedded in strata of the same substance. It lies, near Mal- 
paso, on green slates, steatitic, mingled with hornblende, 
destitute of mica and grains of quartz, dipping, like the 
griinsteins, 45° toward the north, and directed, like them, 
v5° north-west. 

A great sterility prevails where these green slates predo- 
minate, no doubt on account of the magnesia they contain, 
which (as is proved by the magnesian-limestone of England*) 
is very hurtml to vegetation. The dip of the green slates 
continues the same ; but by degrees the direction of their 
strata becomes parallel to the general direction of the pri- 
mitive rocks of the chain of the coast. At Piedras Azules 
these slates, mingled with hornblende, cover in concordant 
stratification a blackish-blue slate, very fissile, and traversed 
by small veins of quartz. The green slates include some 
strata of griinstein, and even contain balls of that sub- 
stance. I nowhere saw the green slates alternate with 

* Magnesian limestone is of a straw- yellow colour, and contains 
madrepores : it lies beneath red marl^ or muriatiferous red sandstone. 


the black slates of the ravine of Piedras Azules : at the line 
of junction these two slates appear rather to pass one into 
the other, the green slates becoming of a pearl-grey in pro- 
portion as they lose their hornblende. 

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

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

South-west of the village of Parapara rises the little Cerro 
de Flores, which is discerned from afar in the steppes. 
Almost at its foot, and in the midst of the mandelstein 
timet we have just been describing, a porphyritic phonolite, 
■ mass of compact feldspar of a greenish grey, or mountain- 


green, containing long crystals of vitreous feldspar, appears 
exposed. It ia the real porphyrschiefer of Werner ; and it 
would bt7 aifficult to distinguish, in a collection of stones, 
the phonolite of Parapara from that of Bilin, in Bohemia. 
It does not, however, here form rocks in grotesque shapes, 
but little hiUs covered with tabular blocks, large plates 
extremely sonorous, translucid on the edges, and wounding 
the hands when broken. 

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

I must observe, in the first place, that the substance just 
described under the name of griinstein, in every respect 
resembles that which forms layers in the mica-slate of 
Cabo Blanco, and veins near Caracas. It differs only by 
containing neither quartz, garnets, nor pyrites. The 
close relations we observed near the Cerro de Chacao, 
between the griinstein and the serpentine, cannot surorise 
these geologists who have studied the mountains of Fran- 
conia and Silesia. Near Zobtenberg* a serpentine rock al- 
ternates also with gahhro. In the district of Glatz the 
fissures of the gabbro are filled with a steatite of a greenish 
white colour, and the rock which was long thought to 
belong to the griinsteinsf is a close mixture of feldspar and 

• Between Tampadel and Silsterwiz. 

+ In the mountains of Bareuth, in Franconia, so abundant in griinstein 
and serpentine, these formations are not connected together. The ser- 
pentine there belongs rather to the schistose hornblende (homblend- 
schiefer), as in the island of Cuba. Near Guanaxuato, in Mexico, I saw 
it alternating with syenite. These phenomena of serpentine rocks form- 
ing layers in eurite (weisstein), in schistose hornblende, in gabbro, and 
in syenite, are «o much the more remarkable, as the greats mass of gar- 
netiferous serpentines, which are found in the mountains of gneiss and 
mica-slate, form little distinct mounts, masses not covered by other for 
mations. It is not the same in the mixtures of serpentine and granulated 


The grunsteins of Tucutimemo, wHicIi we consider as 
constituting the same formation as the serpentine rock, 
contain veins of malachite and copper-pyrites. These same 
metalliferous combinations are found also m Franconia, in 
the grunsteins of the mountains of Steben and Lichtenberg. 
"With respect to the green slates of Malpaso, which have all 
the characters of transition-slates, they are identical with 
those which M. von Buch has so well described, near 
Schonau, in Silesia. They contain beds of griinstein, like 
the slates of the mountains of Steben just mentioned.* 
The black limestone of the Morros de San Juan is also 
a transition-limestone. It forms perhaps a subordinate 
stratum in the slates of Malpaso. This situation would be 
analogous to what is observed in several parts of Switzer- 
Lmd-t The slaty zone, the centre of which is the ravine of 
Hedras Azules, appears divided into two formations. On 
some points we tmnk we observe one passing into the other. 

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

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

^ On advancing into the adit for draining the Friedrich- Wilhelmstollen 
miney which I caused to be begun in 1794f near Steben, and which is yet 
only 340 toises long, there have successively been found, in the transition- 
slate tnbordinate strata of pure and porphyritic grUnstein, strata, of 
Ljdtan stone and ampelite (alaunschiefer), and strata of fine-grained 
gittnstein. All these strata characterise the transition-slates. 

t For instance, at thç Glyshom, at the Col de Balme, &c. 

TOL. ^ O 


difficulty seems to arise from the too intimate and too 
numerous relations observed in rocks that are thought not 
to belong to the same famUy. 

The phonolite (or leucostine compacte of Cordier) is pretty 
generally regarded by aU who have at once examined burn- 
ing and extinguished volcanos, as a flow of lithoid lava. I 
found no real basalt or dolerite; but the presence of 
pyroxene in the amygdaloid of Parapara leaves little doubt 
01 the igneous origin of those spheroidal masses, fissured, 
and ftdl of cavities. Balls of this amygdaloid are enclosed 
in the griinstein; and this griinstein alternates on one 
side with a green slate, on the other with the serpentine 
of Tucutunemo. Here, then, is a connexion sufficiently 
close established between the phonolites and the green 
slates, between the pyroxenic amygdaloids and the serpen- 
tines contakdng copper-ores, between volcanic substances 
and others that are included under the vague name of 
transition-traps. AU these masses are destitute of quartz 
like the real trap-porphyries, or volcanic trachytes. This 
phenomenon is the more remarkable, as the grunsteina 
which are called primitive almost always contain quartz in 
Europe. The most general dip of the slates of Piedras 
Azules, of the grunsteins of Parapara, and of the pyroxenic 
amygdaloids embedded in strata of griinstein, does not follow 
the slope of the ground from north to south, but is pretty 
regular towards the north. The strata iacHne towards the 
chain of the coast, as substances which had not been in fusion 
might be supposed to do. Can we admit that so many al- 
ternating rocks, imbedded one in the other, have a common 
origin? The nature of the phonolites, which are lithoid 
lavas with a feldspar basis, and the nature of the green slates 
intermixed with nomblende, oppose this opinion. In this 
state of thiQgs we may choose between two solutions of the 
problem in question. In one of these solutions the phono- 
lite of the Cerro de Plores is to be regarded as the sole 
volcanic production of the tract ; and we are forced to unite 
the pyroxenic amygdaloids with the rest of the grunsteins, 
in one single formation, that which is so common in the 
transition-mountains of Europe, considered hitherto as not 
volcanic. In the other solution of the problem, the masses 
of phonolite, amygdaloid, and griinstein, which are found 


in the south of the ravine of Piedras Azules, are separated 
fit)m the griinsteins and serpentine rocks that cover the 
declivity of the mountains north of the ravine. In the 
present state of knowledge I find difficulties almost equally 
great in adopting either of these suppositions ; but I have 
no doubt that, when the real griinsteins (not the homblende- 
griinsteins) contained in the gneiss and mica-slates, shall 
have been more attentively examined in other places ; when 
the basalts (with -pyroxene) forming strata in primitive 
rocks* and the diabases and amygdaloids in the transition 
mountains, shall have been carefully studied; when the 
texture of the masses shall have been subjected to a kind 
of mechanical analysis, and the hornblendes better distin- 
guished from the pyroxenes,t and the griinsteins from the 
dolerites ; a great number of phenomena which now appear 
isolated and obscure, will be ranged under general laws. 
The phonoHte and other rocks of igneous origin at Parapara 
are so much the more interesting, as they indicate ancient 
eruptions in a granite zone ; as they belong to the shore of 
the basin of the steppes, as the basalts of Hariitsh belong 
to the shore of the desert of Sahara; and lastly, as they 
are the only rocks of the kind we observed in the mountains 
of the Capitania- General of Caracas, which are also destitute 
of trachytes or trap-porphjrry, basalts, and volcanic produc- 

The southern declivity of the western chain is tolerably 
steep ; the steppes, according to my barometrical measure- 
ments, being a thousand feet lower than the bottom of the 
basin of Aragua. Prom the extensive table-land of the 
Villa de Cura we descended towards the banks of the Bio 
Tucutunemo, which has hoUowed for itself, in a serpentine 
rock, a longitudinal vaUey running from east to west, at 
nearly the same level as La Victoria. A transverse valley, 
tying generally north and south, led us into the Llanos, by 

* For faistance, at Krobsdorf, in Silesia, a stratum of basalt has been 
fecognixed in the mica- slate by two celebrated geologists, MM. von Buch 
and Ravmer. (Vom Granite des Riesengebirges, 1813.) 

t The griinsteins or diabases of the Fichtelgebirge, in Franconia, which 
bdimg to the transition-slate^ sometimes conain pyroxenes. 

X Rom the Rio Negro to the coasts of Cumana and Caracas, to the 
iHt of the mountains of Merida, which we did not visit. 

a 2 


the villages of Parapara and Ortiz. It grows very narrow 
in several parts. Basins, the bottoms of which are perfectly 
horizontal, communicate together by narrow passes with 
steep declivities. They were, no doubt, formerly small lakes, 
which, owing to the accumulation of the watiers, or some 
more violent catastrophe, have broken down the dykes by 
which they were separated. This phenomenon is found 
in both continents, wherever we examine the longitudinal 
valleys forming the passages of the Andes, the Alps,* or 
the Pyrenees. It is probable, that the irruption of the 
waters towards the Llanos have given, by extraordinary 
rents, the form of ruins to the Morros of San Juan and 
of San Sebastian. The volcanic tract of Parapara and Ortis 
is now only 30 or 40 toises above the Llanos. The eruptions 
consequently took place at the lowest point of the granitic 

In the Mesa de Paja, in the ninth degree of latitude, 
we entered the basin oi the Llanos. The sun was almost at 
its zenith ; the earth, wherever it appeared sterile and des- 
titute of vegetation, was at the temperature of 48° or 60^t 
Not a breath of air was felt at the height at which we were 
on our mides; yet, in the midst of this apparent calm, 
whirls of dast incessantly arose, driven on by those small 
currents of kir which glide only over the surface of the 

f round, and are occasioned by the difference of temperature 
etween the naked sand and the spots covered with grass. 
These sand-winds augment the suffocating heat of the air. 
Every grain of quartz, hotter than the smrounding air, 
radiates heat in every direction; and it is difficult to ob- 
serve the temperature of the atmosphere, owing to these 
particles of sand striking against the bulb of the thermo* 
meter. All around us the plains seemed to ascend to the 
sky, and the vast and profound solitude appeared like an 
ocean covered with sea-weed. According to the unequal 
mass of vapours diffused through the atmosphere, and the 
variable decrement in the temperature of the different strata 
of air, the horizon in some parts was clear and distinct ; in 
other parts it appeared undulating, sinuous, and as if striped. 

* For example, the road from the valley of Ursem to the Hospice of 
St. Gothard, and thence to Airolo. 
t A thermometer, placed m the sand, rose to 38*4^ and 40^ Reaumur» 


The earfch there was confounded with the sky. Through the 
dry mist and strata of vapour the trunks of pahn-trees were 
seen from afar, stripped of their foliage and their verdant 
summits, and looking like the masts of a ship descried upon 
the horizon. 

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

The different quarters of the world have been supposed to 
be characterized by the remark, that Europe has its heaths, 
Asia its steppes, Africa its deserts, and America its savan- 
nahs ; but by this distinction, contrasts are established that 


are not founded either on the nature of things, or the 
genius of languages. The existence of a heath always sup- 
poses an association of plants of the family of ericœ; the 
steppes of Asia are not everywhere covered with saline 
plants ; the savannahs of Venezuela furnish not only the 
gramina, but with them small herbaceous mimosas, legu- 
mina, and other dicotyledonous plants. The plains of Son- 
garia, those which extend between the Don and the Volga, 
and the priszta of Hungary, are real savannahs, pasturages 
abounding in grasses ;* while the savannahs to the east and 
west of the Eocky Mountains and of New Mexico produce 
chenopodiums containing carbonate and muriate of soda. 
Asia has real deserts destitute of vegetation, in Arabia, in 
Gobi, and in Persia. Since Ve have become better ac- 
quainted with the deserts in the interior of Afirica, so long 
and so vaguely confounded together under the name ot 
desert of Sahara (Zahra) ; it has been observed, that in this 
continent, towards the east, savannahs and pastures are 
found, as in Arabia, situated in the midst of naked and 
barren tracts. It is these deserts, covered with gravel 
and destitute of plants, which are almost entirely wanting 
in the New "World. I saw them only in that part of 
Peru, between Amotape and Coquimbo, on the shores of 
the Pacific. These are called by the Spaniards, not Uanos, 

* These vast steppes of Hungary are elevated only thirty or forty 
toises above the level of the sea, which is more than eighty leagues 
distant from them. (See Wahlenberg's Flora Carpathianica.) Baron 
Podmanitzky, an Hungarian nobleman, highly distinguished for his 
knowledge of the physical sciences, caused the level of these plains to 
be taken, to facilitate the formation of a canal then projected between 
the Danube and the Theiss. He found the line of division, or the con- 
vexity of the ground, which slopes on each side towards the beds of the 
two rivers, to be only thirteen toises above the height of the Danube^ 
The widely extended pastures, which reach in every direction to the 
horizon, are called in the country, Puszta^ and, over a distance of many 
leagues, are without any human habitation. Plains of this kind, inter- 
mingled with marshes and sandy tracts, are found on the western side of 
the Theiss, between Czegled, Csaba, Komloss, and Szarwass ; and on the 
eastern side, between Debreczin, Karczag, and Szoboszlo. The area of 
these plains of the interior basin of Hungary has been estimated, by a 
pretty accurate calculation, to be between two thousand five hundred 
and three thousand square leagues (twenty to a degree). Between 
Csegled, Szolnok, and Ketskemet, the plain resembles a sea of land. 


l>ut the desiertoa of Sechura and Atacamez. This solitary 
tract is not broad, but it is four hundred and forty leagues 
long. The rock pierces everywhere though the quicksands. 
Jfo drop of rain ever falls on it; and, like the desert of 
Sahara, north of Timbuctoo, the Peruvian desert affords, 
near Huaura, a rich mine of native salt. Everywhere else, 
in the New World, there are plains desert because not 
inhabited, but no real deserts.* 

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

The steppes of Asia are all beyond the tropics, and form 
reiy ^vated table-lands. America also has savannahs of 

* We are almost temptedi howerer, to give the name of desert to that 
vast and sandy table-land of Brazil, the Campos dos Parecis, which gives 
birth to the rivers Tapajos, Paraguay, and Madeira, and which reaches 
the summit of the highest mountains. Almost destitute of vegetation, it 
reminds u of Gobi, in Mongolia. 


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

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

The chief characteristic of the savannahs or steppes of 
South America is the absolute want of hills and inequalities, 
— ^the perfect level of every part of the soil. Accordingly 
the Spanish conquerors, who first penetrated from Coro to 
the banks of the Apure, did not call them deserts or 
savannahs, or meadows, but plains (llanos). Often within a 
distance of thirty square leagues there is not an eminence 
of a foot- high. This resemblance to the surface of the sea 
strikes the imagination most powerfully where the plains are 


ahoeetber destitute of palm-trees ; and wbere the mountains 
of the shore and of the Orinoco are so distant that they 
cannot be seen, as in the Mesa de Favones. A person would 
be tempted there to take the altitude of the sun with a quad- 
rant, if the horizon of the land were not constantly misty on 
account of the variable effects of refraction. Tms equality 
of sur&ce is still more perfect in the meridian of Calabozo, 
than towards the east, between Cari, La Villa del Pao, and 
Nueva Barcelona; but it extends without interruption from 
the mouths of the Orinoco to La YiUa de Araure and to 
Ospinos, on a parallel of a hundred and eighty leagues in 
length ; and from San Carlos to the savannahs of Caqueat, 
on a meridian of two hundred leagues. It particularly cha- 
racterises the New Continent, as it does the low steppes of 
Asia, between the Borysthenes and the Volga, between the 
Irtish and the Obi. The deserts of central Africa, of Arabia, 
Sjrisky and Persia, Gobi, and Casna, present, on the contrary, 
many inequalities, ranges of hills, ravines without water, 
and rocks which pierce the sands. 

The Llanos, however, notwithstanding the apparent uni- 
formity of their surface, present two kinds of mequalities, 
which cannot escape the observation of the traveller. The 
first is known by the name of banks (bancos) ; they are in 
reality shoals in the basin of the steppes, fractured strata of 
sandfitone, or compact limestone, standing four or five feet 
higher than the rest of the plain. These banks are some- 
times three or four leagues in length; they are entirely 
smooth, with a horizontal surface; their existence is per- 
ceived only by examining their margins. The second species 
of inequality can be recognised omy by geodesical or baro- 
metric levellings, or by the course of rivers. It is called a 
tnesa or table, and is composed of small fiats, or rather 
convex eminences, that rise insensibly to the height of a 
few toises. Such are, towards the east, in the province of 
Cumana, on the north of the Villa de la Merced and Can- 
delaria, the Mesas of Amana, of Guanipa, and of Jonoro, the 
direction of which is south-west and north-east ; and which, 
m spite of their inconsiderable elevation, divide the waters 
between the Orinoco and the northern coast of Terra Firma, 
The convexity of the savannah alone occasions this partition : 
we there find the * dividing of the waters ' (divortia aqua- 


mm*), as in Poland, where, far from the Carpathian moun^ 
tains, the plain itself divides the waters between the Baltic 
and the Black Sea. Geographers, who suppose the existence 
of a chain of mountains wherever there is a line of divi- 
sion, have not failed to mark one in the maps, at the sources 
of the Rio Neveri, the Unare, the Gruarapiche, and the 
Pao. Thus the priests of Mongol race, according to ancient 
and superstitious custom, erect ohoes, or little mounds of 
stone, on every point where the rivers flow in an opposite 

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

Without stopping here to give a mineralogical description 

■ * '* C. Manlium prope jugis [Tauri] ad divortia aquarum castn 
posuisse.'' lÀTjt lib. 38, c. 75. 
t This is the distance from Timbuctoo to the northern coast of Africa* 


0f the transverse chains which divide America from east to 
west, it will be sufficient to notice the general structure of a 
continent, the extremities of which, though situated in cli- 
mates little analogous, nevertheless present several features 
of resemblance. In order to have an exact idea of the plains, 
their configuration, and their limits, we must know the chains 
of mountains that form their boundaries. We have already 
described the Cordillera of the coast, of which the highest 
summit is the Silla de Caraccas, and which is linked bv the 
Paramo de las Bosas to the Nevada de Merida, and the 
Andes of New Grenada. We have seen that, in the tenth 
degree of north latitude, it stretches from Quibor and Bar- 
quesimeto as far as the point of Paria. A second chain of 
mountains, or rather a less elevated but much larger group, 
extends between the parallels of 3° aiid 7° from the mouths 
of the Guaviare and the Meta to the sources of the Orinoco, 
the Marony, and the Essequibo, towards Prench and Dutch 
Guiana. I call this chain the Cordillera of Parime, or of 
the great cataracts of the Orinoco. It may be followed for 
a length of two hundred and fifty leagues ; but it is less a 
chain, than a collection of granitic mountains, separated by 
small plains, without being everywhere disposea in lines. 
The group of the mountains of Parime narrows considerably 
between the sources of the Orinoco and the mountains of 
Demerara, in the Sierras of Quimiropaca and Pacaraimo, 
which divide the waters between the Carony and the Bio 
Parime, or Bio de Aguas Blancas. This is the scene of the 
expeditions which were undertaken in search of El Dorado, 
and the great city of Manoa, the Timbuctoo of the New Con- 
tinent. The Cordillera of Parime does not join the Andes of 
New Grenada, but is separated from them by a space eighty 
leagues broad. K we suppose it to have been destroyed in 
this space by some great revolution of the globe (which is 
scarcely probable) we must admit that it anciently branched 
off from the Andes between Santa Fé de Bogota and Pam- 
plona. This remark serves to fix more easily in the memory 
of the reader the geographical position of a Cordillera till 
now very imperfectly known. A third chain of mountains 
unites in 16° and 18° south latitude (by Santa Cruz de 
la Sierra^ the Serranias of Aguapehy, and the famous 


Campos dos Parecis) the Andes of Peru, to tlie mountains 
of Brazil. It is the Cordillera of Chiquitos which widens in 
the Capitania de Minas Gerâes, and divides the rivers flowing 
into the Amazon from those of the Eio de la Plata,* not only 
in the interior of the country, in the meridian of Villa Boa, 
but also at a few leagues from the coast, between Bio 
Janeiro and Bahia.f 

These three transverse chains, or rather these three groups 
of mountains stretching from west to east, withm the 
limits of the torrid zone, are separated by tracts entirely 
level, the plains of Caracas, or oi the Lower Orinoco ; the 
plains of tne Amazon and the Eio Negro ; and the plains of 
Buenos Ayres, "or of La Plata. I use the terra plains, 
because the Lower Orinoco and the Amazon, far frt)m 
flowing in a vaUey, form but a Httle furrow in the midst 
of a vast level. The two basins, placed at the extremi- 
ties of South America, are savannahs or steppes, pasturage 
without trees; the intermediate basin, which receives the 
equatorial rains during the whole year, is ahnost entirely 
one vast forest, through which no other roads are known 
save the rivers. The strong vegetation which conceals the 
soil, renders also the uniformity of its level less perceptible ; 
and the plains of Caracas and La Plata bear no other name. 
The three basins we have just described are called, in the 
language of the colonists, the Llanos of Varinas and of 
Caracas, the hosques or selvas (forests) of the Amazon, and 
the Pampas of Buenos Ayres. The trees not only for the 
most part cover the plains of the Amazon, from the Cor- 
dillera de Chiquitos, as far as that of Parime; they also 
crown these two chains of mountains, which rarely attain 
the height of the Pjrrenees.J On this account, the vast 
plains of the Amazon, the Madeira, and the Bio Negro, are 
not so distinctly bounded as the Llanos of Caracas, and the 

* There is only a portage or carrying-place of 5,322 braças between 
the Guapore (a branch of the Marmore and of the Madeira), and the Rio 
Aguapehy (a branch of the Jaura and of the Paraguay). 

t The Cordillera of Chiquitos and of Brazil stretches toward the south- 
east, in the government of the Bio Grande, beyond the latitude of 30^ 

X We must except the most western part of the Cordillera of Chiquitos, 
between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where the summita 


Pamptts of Buenos Ayres. As the region of forests com- 
prises at once the plains and the mountains, it extends from 
18° south to 7° and 8° north,* and occupies an extent of 
near a hundred and twenty thousand square leagues. This 
forest of South America, for in fact there is only one, is six 
times larger than France. It is known to Europeans only 
on the shores of a few rivers, by which it is traversed ; and 
has its openings, the extent of which is in proportion to that 
of the rorests. We shall soon skirt the marshy savannahs, 
between the Upper Orinoco, the Conorichite, and the Cassi- 
quiare, in the latitude of 3° and 4°. There are other open- 
ings, or as they are called, * clear savannahs,'t in the same 
pflurallel, between the sources of the Mao and the Rio de 
Aguas Blancas, south of the Sierra de Pacaraima. These 
last savannahs, which are inhabited by Caribs, and nomad 
Macusis, lie near the frontiers of Dutch and French 

Having noticed the geological constitution of South Ame- 
rica, we shall now mark its principal features. The western 
coasts are bordered by an enormous wall of mountains, rich 
in precious metals wherever volcanic fire has not pierced 
through the eternal snowi This is the Cordillera of the 
Andes. Summits of trap-porphyry rise beyond three thou- 
sand three hundred toises, and the mean height of the 
chain J is one thousand eight hundred and fifty toises. It 
stretches in the direction of a meridian, and sends into each 
hemisphere a lateral branch, in the latitudes of 10° north, 
and 16° and 1 8° south. The first of these two branches, 
that of the coast of Caracas, is of considerable length, and 
forms in fact a chain. The second branch, the Cordillera of 

are covered ^th snow ; but this colossal group almost belongs to the 
Andes de la Paz, of which it forms a promontory or spnr, directed toward 
the east. 

* To the west) in consequence of the Llanos of Manso, and the Pampas 
de Hnanacos, the forests do not extend generally beyond the parallels of 
18^ or 19° sonth latitude ; but to the east, in Brazil (in the capitanias of 
San Pablo and Rio Grande), as well as in Paraguay, on the borders of the 
Fsruia, they advance as far as 25° south. 

^ Savannas HmpiaSf that is to say, clear of trees. 

t In New Grenada, Quito, and Peru, according to measurements 
taken by Bouguer, La Condamine, and myself. 


Chiquitos and of the sources of the Guapore, is very rich in 
gold, and widens toward the east, in Brazil, into vast table* 
lands, having a mild and temperate climate. Between these 
two transverse chains, contiguous to the Andes, an isolated 
group of granitic mountains is situated, from 3° to 7° north 
latitude ; which also runs parallel Jo the Equator, but, not 
passing the meridian of 71°, terminates abruptly towards 
the west, and is not united to the Andes of New G-renada. 
These three transverse chains have no active volcanos ; we 
know not whether the most southern, like the two others, 
be destitute of trachytes or trap-porphyry. None of their 
summits enter the limit of perpetual snow ; and the mean 
height of the CordiQera of La Parime, and of the littoral 
cham of Caracas, does not reach six hundred toises, though 
some of its summits rise fourteen hundred toises above the 
level of the sea.* The three transverse chains are separated 
by plains entirely closed towards the west, and open towards 
the east and south-east. When we reflect on their small 
elevation above the surface of the ocean, we are tempted to 
consider the'm as gulfs stretching in the direction of the cur- 
rent of rotation. If, from the effect of some peculiar attrac- 
tion, the waters of the Atlantic were to rise fifty toises at 
the mouth of the Orinoco, and two hundred toises at the 
mouth of the Ahiazon, the flood would submerge more than 
the half of South America. The eastern declivity, or the 
foot of the Andes, now six hundred leagues distant from the 
coast of Brazil, would become a shore beaten by the waves. 
This consideration is the result of a barometric measurement, 
taken in the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, where the 
river Amazon issues from the Cordilleras. I found the mean 
height of this immense river only one hundred and ninety-, 
four toises above the present level of the Atlantic. The 
intermediate plains, however, covered with forests, are still 
five times higher than the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, and 
the grass-covered Llanos of Caracas and the Meta. 

Those Llanos which form the basin of the Orinoco, and 
which we crossed twice in one year, in the months of March 

* We do not reckon here, as belonging to the chain of the coast, the 
Nevados and Paramos of Merida and of Truxillo, which are a prolonga. 
tion of the Andes of New Grenada. 

comeTEXiON or the plaiks. 95 

and July, communicate with the basin of the Amazon and 
the Bio I^egro, bounded on one side by the CordQlera of 
Ohiquitos, and on the other by the mountains of Parime; 
The opening which is left between the latter and the 
Andes of New Grrenada, occasions this communication. The 
'aspect of the country here remiuds us, but on a much 
larger scale, of the plaius of Lombardy, which also are only 
fifty or sixty toises above the level ol the ocean ; and are 
directed first fipom La Brenta to Turin, east and west ; and 
then from Turin to- Coni, north and south. K we were 
authorized, from other geological facts, to regard the three 
great plains of the Lower Orinoco, the Amazon, and the 
Eio de la Plata as basins of ancient lakes,* we should 
imagine we perceived iu the plains of the Eio Yichada and 
the Meta, a channel by which the waters of the upper 
lake (those of the plains of the Amazon) forced their way 
towards the lower basin, (that of the Llanos of Caracas,) 
separating the Cordillera of La Parime from that of the 
Andes. This channel is a kind of land-strait. The ground, 
which is perfectly level between the Gruaviare, the Meta, 
and the Apure, displays no vestige of a violent irruption of 
the waters ; but on the edge of the Cordillera of Parime, 
between the latitudes of 4° and 7°, the Orinoco, flowiag in 
a westerly direction from its source to the mouth of the 
Guaviare, has forced its way through the rocks, directing 
its course from south to north. All the great cataracts, as 
we shaU. soon see, are within the latitudes just named. 
When the river has reached the mouth of the Apure in that 
very low ground where the slope towards the north is met 
by the counter-sjope towards the south-east, that is to say, 
by the inclination of the plains which rise imperceptibly 
towards the mountains of Caracas, the river turns anew and 
flows eastward. It appeared to me, that it was proper to 
fix the attention of the reader on these singular inflexions 
of the Orinoco because, belonging at once to two basius, its 
course marks, in some sort, even on the most imperfect 
maps, the direction of that part of the plains intervening 

* In Siberia, the great steppes between the Irtish and the Obi, espe- 
cially that of Baraba, full of salt lakes (Tchabakly, Tchany, Karasouk, 
and Topolony), appear to have been, according to the Chinese traditions, 
even within historical times, an inland sea. 


between New Grenada and the western border of the 
mountains of La Parime. 

Tlie Llanos or steppes of the Lower Orinoco and of the 
Meta, like the deserts of Africa, bear different names in 
different parts. From the mouths of the Dragon the Llanos 
of Cumana, of Barcelona, and of Caracas or Venezuela,*' 
foUow, running from east to west. Where the steppes turn 
towards the south and south-south-west, from the latitude 
of 8°, between the meridians of 70° and 73°, we find from 
north to south, the Llanos of Yarinas, Casanare, the Meta, 
Gruaviare, Caguau, and Caqueta.f The plains of Varinas 
contaiQ some few monuments of the industry of a nation 
that has diappeared. Between Mijagual and the Cano de la 
Hacha, we find some real tumuli, called in the country the 
Serillos de he Indios, They are hillocks in the shape of cones, 
artificially formed of earth, and probably contain bones, like 
the tumuli in the steppes of Asia. A fine road is also 
discovered near Hato de la Calzada, between Yarinas and 
Canagua, five leagues long, made before the conquest, in 
the most remote times, by the natives. It is a causeway of 
earth fifteen feet high, crossing a plain often overflowed. 
Did nations farther advanced in civilization descend from 
the mountains of Truxillo and Merido to the plains of the 
Rio Apure ? The Indians whom we now find between this 
river and the Meta, are in too rude a state to. think of 
making roads or raising tumuli. 

I calculated the area of these Llanos from the Caqueta 
to the Apure, and from the Apure to the Delta of the 
Orinoco, and found to be it seventeen thousand square 

* The following are subdivisions of these three ^reat Llanos, as I 
marked them down on the spot. The Llanos of Cumana and New Anda- 
lusia include those of M aturin and Terecen, of Amana, Guanipa, Jonoro,^ 
and Can. The Llanos of Nueva Barcelona comprise those of Aragua, 
I'ariaguan, and Villa del Pao. We distinguish in the Llanos of Caracas 
those of Chaguaramas, Uritucu, Calabozo or Guarico, La Portuguesa, 
San Carlos, and Araure. 

i* The inhabitants of these plains distinguish as subdivisions, from the 
Rio Portuguesa to Caqueta, the Llanos of Guanare, Bocono, Nutrius or 
the Apure, Palmerito near Quintero, Guardalito and.Arauca, the Meta, 
Apiay near the port of Pachaquiaro, Vichada, Guaviare, Arriari, Inirida, 
the Rio Hacha, and Caguan. The limits between the savannahs and the 
forests, in the plains that extend from the sources of the Rio Negro to 
Putumayo, are not sufficiently known. 


leaçues twenty to a degree. The part running from north 
xO south is abnost double that which stretches from east to 
«rest, between the Lower Orinoco and the littoral chain of 
Caracas. The Pampas on the north and north-west of 
Buenos Ayres, between this city and Cordova, Jujuy, and 
Che Tuçuman, are of nearly the same extent as the Llanos ; 
but the Pampas stretch still farther on to the length of 18° 
southward ; and the land they occupy is so vast, that they 
produce palm-trees at one oi their extremities, while the 
other, equally low and level, is covered with eternal frost. 

The Llanos of America, where they extend in the direc- 
tion of a parallel of the equator, are three-fourths narrower 
than the great desert of Africa. This circumstance is very 
important in a region where the winds constantly blow from 
east to west. The farther the plains stretch in this direc- 
tion, the more ardent is their cHmate. The great ocean of 
sand in Africa communicates by Temen* with Gredrosia and 
Beloochistan, as far as the right bank of the Lidus. It is 
from the effect of winds that have passed over the deserts 
situated to the east, that the little basin of the Eed Sea, 
surrounded by plains which send forth from all sides 
radiant caloric, is one of the hottest regions of the globe. 
The unfortunate captain Tuckey relates,t that the centi- 
grade thermometer keeps there generally in the night at 
34®, and by day from 40° to 44°. We shall soon see that, 
even in the westernmost part of the steppes of Caracas, we 
seldom found the temperature of the air, in the shade, 
above 37°. 

* We cannot be surprised that the Arabic should be richer than any 
other language of the East in words expressing the ideas of desert, unin- 
habited plains, and plains covered with gramina. I could give a list of 
thirty^five of these words, which the Arabian authors employ without 
always distinguishing them by the shades of meaning which each separate 
word expresses. Makadh and kaâh indicate, in preference, plains ; 
hakaâh, a table -land; kafr^ mikfary smlis, mahk, and habaucer, a naked 
desert, covered with sand and gravel ; tanufah, a steppe. Zahra means 
•t once a naked desert and a savannah. The word steppe, or step, is 
Russian, and not Tartarian. In the Tarco-Tartar dialect a heath is 
calkd tola or tschoL The word gobit which Europeans have cor- 
rupted into cobi, signifies in the Mongol tongue a naked desert. It is 
eqoiTalent to the scha-mo or khan-hai of the Chinese. A steppe, or 
{Âiân covered with herbs, is in Mongol, kudah ; in Chinese, kouang, 
t Expedition to explore the river Zahir, 1818. 


These physical considerations on the steppes of tte New 
World are linked with others more interesting, inasmuch as 
they are connected with the history of our speeies. The 
great sea of sand in Africa, the deserts without water, are 
frequented only by caravans, that take fifty days to traverse 
them.* Separating the Negro race fipom the Moors, and 
the Berber and Kabyle tribes, the Sahara is inhabited only 
in the oases. It affords pasturage only in the eastern 
part, where, fipom the effect of the trade-winds, the layer of 
sand being less thick, the springs appear at the surface of the 
. earth. In America, the steppes, less vast, less scorching, 
fertilized by fine rivers, present fewer obstacles to the iater- 
course of nations. The Llanos separate the chain of the 
coast of Caracas and the Andes of New Grenada ôx>m 
the region of forests ; from that woody region of the Orinoco 
which, from the first discovery of America, has been inha- 
bited by nations more rude, and farther removed from 
civilization, than the inhabitants of the coast, and still' more 
than the mountaineers of the Cordilleras. The steppes, 
however, were no more heretofore the rampart of civiliza- 
tion than they are now the rampart of the Hbertrv of the 
hordes that live in the forests. They have not hindered the 
nations of the Lower Orinoco from goiag up the little 
rivers and making incursions to the north and, the west. 
If, according to the various distribution of animals on the 
globe, the pastoral life could have existed in the New 
World, — if, before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Llanos 
and the Pampas had been filled with those numerous herds 
of cows and norses that graze there, Columbus would have 
found the human race in a state quite different. Pastoral 
nations living on milk and cheese, real nomad races, would 
have spread themselves over those vast plains which com- 
municate with each other. They would nave been seen at 
the period of great droughts, and even at that of iQunda- 
tions, fighting for the possession of pastures ; subjugating 
one another mutually ; and, united by the common tie of 
manners, language, and worship, they would have risen 
to that state of . demi-civilization which we observe with 
surprise in the nations of the Mongol and Tartar race. 

* This is the maximum of the time, according to Major RennelL 
(Travels of Mungo Park, vol. ii) 


America would then, like the centre of Asia, have had its 
conquerors, who, ascending from the plains to the tahle- 
landâ of the Cordilleras, and abandoning a wandering life, 
would have subdued the civilized nations of Peru and New 
Ghrenada, overturned the throne of the Incas and of the 
Zaque,* and substituted for the despotism which is the 
fruit of theocracy, that despotism which arises from the 
TOtriarchal government of a pastoral people. In the New 
World the human race has not experienced these great 
■moral and political changes, because the steppes, though 
more fertile than those of Asia, have remained without 
herds ; because none of the animals that furnish milk in 
abundance are natives of the plains of South America ; and 
because, in the progressive unfolding of American civiUza- 
tion, the intermediate link is wanâig that connects the 
hunting with the agricultural nations. 

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

After having passed two nights on horseback, and sought 
in vain, by day, for some shelter from the heat of the 
son beneath the tufts of the moriche palm-trees, we arrived 
before night at the little Hato del Cayman,t called also La 
Ghiadaloupe. It was a solitary house in the steppes, sur- 
rounded by a few small huts, covered with reeds and skins. 
The cattle, oxen, horses, and mules are not penned, but 
wander freely over an extent of several square leagues. 
There is nowhere any enclosure ; men, naked to the waist and 
anned with a lance, ride over the savannahs to inspect the 
unîmala ; bringing back those that wander too far from the 
paatures of the farm, and branding aU that do not already bear 
the mark of their proprietor. These mulattos, who are known 

* The Zaque was the secular chief of Cundinamarca. His power was 
ihared with the high priest (lama) of Iraca. 

t The Farm of the Alligator. 

H 2 


by the name of peones llaneros, are partly û«ed-men and 
partly slaves. They a»e constantly exposed to the burn- 
ing heat of the tropical sun. Their food is meat, dried in 
the air, and a little salted ; and of this even their horses 
sometimes partake. Being always in the saddle, they fency 
they cannot make the slightest excursion on "foot. We 
found an old negro slave, who managed the farm in the 
absence of his master. He told us of herds composed of 
several thousand cows, that were grazing in the steppes; yet 
we asked in vain for a bowl of milk. We were offered, in a 
calabash, some yellow, muddy, and fetid water, drawn from a 
neighbouring pool. The indolence of the inhabitants of the 
Llanos is such that they do not dig wells, though they know 
that almost everywhere, at ten feet deep, fine springs are 
found in a stratum of conglomerate, or red sandstone. 
After suffering during onehaff of the year firom the effect 
of inundations, they quietly resign themselves, during the 
other hadf, to the most distressing deprivation of water. 
The old negro advised us to cover the cup with a linen 
cloth, and drink as through a filter, that we might not be 
incommoded by the smell, and might swallow less of the 
yellowish mud suspended in the water. We did not then 
think that we should afterwards be forced, during whole 
months, to have recourse to this expedient. The waters of 
the Orinoco are always loaded with earthy particles; they 
are even putrid, where dead bodies of alligators are found 
in the creeks, lying on banks of sand, or half-buried in the 

No sooner were our instruments unloaded and safely 
placed, than our mules were set at liberty to go, as they 
say here, para hiscar agtta, that is, " to search for water. 
There are little pools round the faim, which the a,niTna1ft 
find, guided by their instinct, by the view of some scattered 
tufts of mauritia, and by the sensation of humid coolness, 
caused by little currents of air amid an atmosphere which to 
us appears calm and tranquil. When the pools of water- 
are far distant, and the people of the farm are too lazy to 
lead the cattle to these natural watering-places, they confine 
them during five or six hours in a very hot stable before 
they let them loose. Excess of thirst then augments their 
sagacity, sharpening as it were their senses and their 



instinct. No sooner is the stable opened, than the horses 
and mules, especially the latter (for the penetration of these 
animals exceeds the iatelligence of the horses), rush into 
the sayannahs. With upraised tails and heads thrown back 
thej run against the wind, stopping from time to time as 
if explonng space ; they follow less the impressions of sight 
than of smell ; and at length announce, by prolonged neigh- 
ings, that there is water iu the direction of their course. 
AH these movements are executed more promptly, and with 
r^idier success, by horses bom in the Llanos, and which 
h&ye long enjoyed their liberty, than by those that come 
from the coast, and descend frx)m domestic horses. In 
animalfl, for the most part, as in man, the quickness of the 
senses is diminished by Ions: subjection, and by the habits 
that arise from a fixeà abode a^d the progress of culti- 

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

We were only at the distance of a quarter of a league 
ftom the &nn, yet we continued walldng more than an hour 
wiiliout reaching it. We perceived too late that we had 
taken a wrong durection. Having left it at the decline of 
day, before the stars were visible, we had gone forward into 
the plain at hazard. We were, as usual, provided with 
a compass, and it might have been easy for us to steer our 
course from the position of Canopus and the Southern 
Cross; but unfortunately we were uncertain whether, on 
leaving the farm, we had gone towards the east or the south. 
We i^tempted to return to the spot where we had bathed, 


and we again walked three quarters of an hour without 
finding the pool. We sometimes thought we saw fire où 
the horizon; hut it was the light of the rising stars enlarged 
by the vapours. After having wandered a long time in thé 
savannah, we resolved to seat ourselves beneath the trunk 
of a palm-tree, in a spot perfectly dry, surrounded by short 
grass ; for the fear of water-snakes is always greater than 
that of jaguars among Europeans recently disembarked; 
We could not flatter ourselves that our guides, of whom we 
knew the insuperable indolence, would come in search of us 
in the savannah before they had prepared their food and 
finished their repast. Whilst somewhat perplexed by the 
uncertainty of our situation, we were agreeably affected by 
hearing from afar the sound of a horse advancing towards us. 
The rider was an Indian, armed with a lance, who had jusl/ 
made the rodeo, or round, in order to collect the cattle 
. within a determinate space of ground. The sight of two 
white men, who said they had lost their way, led him at 
first to suspect some trick. We found it difficult to inspire^ 
him with confidence ; he at last consented to guide us to 
the farm of the Cayman, but without slackening the gentle' 
trot of his horse. Our guides assured us that " they hàd= 
already begun to be uneasy about us ;" and, to justify this 
inquietude, they gave a long enumeration of persons who, 
having lost themselves in the Llanos, had been found nearly 
exhausted. It may be supposed that the danger is immi-- 
nent only to those who lose themselves far from any habi* 
tation, or who, having been stripped by robbers, as has* 
happened of late years, have been fastened by the body and 
hands to the trunk of a pahn-tree. 

In order to escape as much as possible from the heat of 
the day, we set off at two in the morning, with the hope of 
reaching Calabozo before noon, a small but busy trading- 
town, situated in the midst of the Llanos. The aspect of the 
country was stiU the same. There was no moonlight ; but 
the great masses of nebulaB that spot the southern sky en- 
lighten, as they set, à part of the terrestrial horizon. The 
solemn spectacle of the starry vault, seen in its immense 
expanse ; — ^the cool breeze which blows over the plain during 
the night : — ^the waving, motion of the grass, wherever it has. 
attained any height ; everything recalled to our minds thé 


■ax&ce of the ocean. The illusion was augmented when 
the disk of the sun appearing on the horizon, repeated its 
image bj the effects of re&action, and, soon losing its 
flattened form, ascended rapidly and straight towards the 

Sunrise in the plains is the coolest moment of the day ; 
but this change of temperature does not make a very lively 
impression on the organs. We did not find the thermo- 
meter in general sink below 27*5 ; while near Acapulco, at 
Mexico, and in places equally low, the temperature at noon 
is often 32°, and at sunrise only 17° or 18°. The. level surface 
of t^e ground in the Llanos, which, during the day, is never 
in the shade, absorbs so much heat that, notwithstanding 
Hbe nocturnal radiation toward a sky without clouds, the 
earth and air have not time to cool very sensibly from mid- 
ni^t to sunrise. 

In proportion as the sun rose towards the zenith, and the 
earth and the strata of superincumbent air took different 
temperatures, the phenomenon of the mirage displayed 
itsen in its numerous modifications. This phenomenon 
is BO common in every zone, that I mention it only 
because we stopped to measure with some precision the 
breadth of the aerial distance between the horizon and the 
Bospended object. There w^ a constant suspeusion, with- 
out inversion. The little currents of air that swept the 
Burface of the soil had so variable a temperature that, in a 
drove of wild oxen, one part appeared with the legs raised 
above the surflace of the ground, while the other rested on 
it. The aerial distance was, according to the distance of 
the animal, from 3' to 4'. Where tufts of the moriche palm 
were found growing in long ranges, the extremities of these 
green rows were suspended like the capes which were, for 
80 long a time, the subject of my observations at Cumana. 
A well-informed person assured us, that he had seen, be- 
tween Çâlabozo and TJritucu, the image of an animal in- 
verted, without there being any direct image. Niebuhr 
made a similar observation in Arabia. We several times 
thought we saw on the horizon the figures of tumuli and 
towers, which disappeared at intervals, without our being 
able to discern the real shape of the objects. They were 
periiaps hillocks, or small eminences, situated beyond the 


ordinary visual horizon. I need not mention those tracts^ 
destitute of vegetation, which appear like large lakes with 
an undulating surface. This phenomenon, observed in very 
remote times, has occasioned the mirage to receive in 
Sanscrit the expressive name of desire of the antelope. We 
admire the frequent allusions in the Indian, Persian, and 
Arabic poets, to the magical effects of terrestrial refraction. 
It was scarcely known to the Grreeks and Romans. Proud 
of the riches of their soil, and the mild temperature of the 
air, they would have felt no envy of this poetry of the 
desert. It had its birth in Asia; and the oriental poets 
found its source in the nature of the country they in- 
habited. They were inspired with the aspect of those vast 
solitudes, interposed Hke arms of the sea or gulfs, between 
lands which nature had adorned with her most luxuriant 

The plain assumes at sunrise a more animated aspect. 
The cattle, which had reposed during the night along 
the pools, or beneath clumps of mauritias and rhopalas, 
were now collected in herds; and these solitudes became 
peopled with horses, mules, and oxen, that live here free,^ 
rather than wild, without settled habitations, and disdaining 
the care and protection of man. In these hot climates, 
the oxen, though of Spanish breed, like those of the cold 
table-lands of Quito, are of a gentle disposition. A 
traveUer runs no risk of being attacked or pursued, as we 
often were in our excursions on the back of the Cordilleras, 
where the climate is rude, the aspect of the country more 
wild, and food less abundant. As we approached CalabozOy 
we saw herds of roebucks browsing peacefully in the midst 
of horses and oxen. They are called matacani; their flesh 
is good ; they are a little larger than our roes, and resemble 
deer with a very sleek skin, of a fawn-colour, spotted with 
white. Their horns appear to me to have single points. 
They had little fear of the presence of man : and in herds 
of thirty or forty we observed several that were entirely 
white. This variety, common enough among the large stags 
of the cold climates of the Andes, surprised us in these low 
and burning plains. I have since learned, that even the 
jaguar, in the hot regions of Paraguay, sometimes affords 
albino varieties, the skin of which is of such uniform white* 


ness that the spots or rings can be distinguished only in the 
sunshine. The number of matacani, or little deer,* is so 
considerable in the Llanos, that a trade might be carried on 
with their skins.f A skilful hunter could easily kill more 
than twenty in a day; but such is the indolence of the 
inhi^itants, that often they will not give themselves the 
trouble of taking the skin. The same indifference is evinced 
in the chase of the jaguar, a skin of which fetches only one 
piastre in the steppes of Yarinas, wMLe at Cadiz it costs 
four or five. 

The steppes that we traversed -are principally covered 
with grasses of the genera Killiugia, Cenchrus, and Fas- 

Som.^ At this season, near Calabozo and San Jerome 
Pirital, these grasses scarcely attain the height of nine 
(HP ten inches. Near the banks of the Apure and the Por- 
tngaesa they rise to four feet in height, so that the jaguar 
can conceal himself among them, to spring u^n the mules 
and horses that cross the plain. Mingled with these gra- 
mina some plants of the dicotyledonous class are found ; as 
tomeras, malvaceœ, and, what is very remarkable, little 
mimosaa with irritable leaves,|| caUed by the Spaniards 
darmideras. The same breed of cows, which fatten in 
Europe on sainfoin and clover, find exceUent nourishment 
in the herbaceous sensitive plants. The pastures where 
these shrubs particularly abound are sold at a higher price 
than others. To the east, in the llanos of Cari and Bar- 
celona, the cypura and the cramolaria,§ the beautiful white 
flower of which is from six to eight inches long, rise soli- 
tarily amid the gramina. ' The pastures are richest not only 
around the rivers subject to inundations, but also wherever 
the trunks of palm-trees are near each other. The least 
fertile spots are those destitute of trees ; and attempts to 
cultivate them would be nearly fruitless. We cannot attri- 

* Tliej are called in the country ' Yenados de tierras calientes' (deer 
^fike warm imub,) 

f This trade is carried on, but on a very limited scale, at Carora and 
at Barqnesimeto. 

X KiUingia monocephala, K. odorata, Cenchrus pUosus, Vilfa tenacis- 
tim, Andropogon plumosum, Panicum micranthum, Poa repens, Paspa- 
faun leptostachyum, P. conjugatum, Aristida recunrata. (Nova G^enera 
ct Spedes PLantamm, vol. i, pp. 84-243.) 

H The lenntlTe-plant (Mimosa dormiens). 

I Cypura graminea, Craniolaria annua (the scorzonera of the natives). 


bute this difference to the shelter afforded by the palm-treea, 
in preventing the solar rays from drying and burning up 
the soil. I have seen, it is true, trees of this family, in the 
forests of the Orinoco, spreading a tufted foliage ; but we 
cannot say much for the shade of the palm-tree of the Danes, 
the pahna de cdbija* which has but a lew folded and palmate 
leaves, like those of the chamaerops, and of which the lower- 
♦^ i|k , . most are constantly withered. We were surprised to • see 
^P that almost all these trunks of the corypha were nearly of 
the same size, viz., from twenty to twentv-four feet high, 
and from eight to ten inches diameter at the foot. Nature 
has produced few species of palm-trees in such prodigious 
numbers. Amidst thousands of trunks loaded with olive- 
shaped fruits we found about one hundi'ed without fruit. 
May we suppose that there are some trees with flowers 
purely monoecious, mingled with others furnished with her- 
maphrodite flowers ? 

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

Beside the solitary trunks of this palm-tree, we find dis- 
persed here and there in the steppes a few clumps, real 
groves (palmares), in which the corypha is intermingled 
with a tree of the pçoteaceous family, called chaparro by the 
natives. It is a new species of rhopala,t with hard and 
resonant leaves. The httle groves of rhopala are called 
cTiaparales; and it may be supposed tl^at, m a vast plain, 
where only two or three species of trees are to be found, 

* The roofing palm-tree (Corypha tectorum). 

i* Resemhling the Ëmbothrium, of which we found no species in Somth 
t America. The embothriums are represented in American vegetation by 
the genera Lomatia and Oreocallis* 


the ehaparro, which affords tihade, is considered a highly 
Taliiable plant. The corypha spreads through the Llanos of 
Caracas nrom Mesa de Peja as far as Gruayaval; farther 
north and north-west, near Guanare and San Carlos, its 
place is taken by another species of the same genus, with 
leaTes alike palmate but larger. It is called the 'royal « 
palm of the plains' (palma real de los Llanos).* Other * 
palm-trees rise south of Guayaval, especially the piritu with ^ » ^, 
pinnate leaves,t and the moriche (Mauritia flexuosa), cele- **?? 
Drated by Eather GrumiUa under the name of arhol de la vida, 
or tree of life. It is the sago-tree of America, furnishing 
flour, wine, thread for weaving hammocks, baskets, nets, 
and clothing. Its fruit, of the form of the cones of the 
pine, and corered with scales, perfectly resembles that of 
the Calamus rotang. It has somewhat the taste of the 
apnle. Wh«n arrived at its maturity it is yeDow within and 
red without. The araguato monkeys eat it with avidity; 
tmd the nation of the G-uaraounos, whose whole existence, it 
may be said, is closely linked with that of the moriche palm- 
tree, produce from it a fermented liquor, slightly acid, and 
extremely refreshing. This palm-tree, with its large shining 
leaves, folded like a fan, preserves a beautiful verdure at the 
period of the greatest drought. The mere sight of it pro- 
diices an agreeable sensation of coolness, and when loaded 
with scaly fruit, it contrasts singularly with the mournful 
aspect of the palma de cohija, the foliage of which is always 
grey and covered with dust. The Uaneros believe that the 
fimner attracts the vapouqs in the air ;| and that for this 
reason, water is constantly found at its foot, when dug for 
to a certain depth. The effect is confoimded with the cause. 
The moriche grows best in moist places ; and it may rather 
be said that the water attracts the tree. The natives of the 
Orinoco, by analogous reasoning, admit, that the great 
leopents contribute to preserve humidity in a province. 
" You would look in vain for water-serpents," said an old 

* Tbif palm-tree of the plains must not be confonnded with thepalma 
real of Caracas and of Coriepe, with pinnate leaves. 

f Perhaps an Ai];dumes. 

X If the head of the moriche were better furnished with leaves than it 
generally i», we might perhaps admit that the soil round the tree pre* 
iti humidity through the influence of the shade. 

108 OBIGO or THE LL.1N0S. 

Indian of Javita to us gravely, " where there are no marslies ; 
because the water ceases to collect when you imprudently 
kiU the serpents that attract it." 

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

It is impossible to cross these burniag plains, without 
inquiring whether they have always been in the same state ; 
or whether they have been stripped of their vegetation by 
some revolution of nature. The stratum of mould now 
found on them is in fact very thin. The natives believe 
that the palma/res and the chaparaleg (the little groves of 
palm-trees and rhopala) were more frequent and more exten- 
sive before the arrival of the Spaniards* Since the Llanos 
have been inhabited and .peopled with cattle become wild, 
the savannah is often set on fire, in order to ameHorate 
the pasti^ge. Groups of scattered trees are accidently 
destroyed with the grasses. The plains were no doubt less 
bare in the fifteenth century, than they now are ; yet the 
first Conquistadores, who came from Coro, described them 
then as savannahs, where nothing could be perceived but 
the sky and the turf, generaUy destitute of trees, and dif- 
ficult to traverse on account of the reverberation of heat 
from the soil. Why does not the great forest of the Orinoco 
extend to the north, on the left bank of that river ? Why 
does it not fill that vast space that reaches as far as thé 
Cordillera of the coast, and which is fertilized by numerous 
rivers ? These questions are connected witl^ all that relates 
to the history of our planet. If, indulging in geological 
reveries, we suppose that the steppes of America, and the 
desert of Sahara, have been stripped of their vegetation by 
an irruption of tlie ocean, or that they formed originally the 


bottom of an inland sea, we may conceive that thousands of 
years have not sufficed for the trees and shrubs to advance 
mhn the borders of the forests, from the skirts of the plains 
either naked or covered with turf, toward the centre, and 
darken so vast a space with their shade. It is more difficult to 
explain the origin of bare savannahs, encircled by forests, 
than to recognize the causes that maintain forests and savan- 
nahs within their ancient limits, like continents and seas. 

We found the most cordial hospitality at Calabozo, in the 
house of the superintendent of the royal plantations, Don 
Miguel Cousin. The town, situated between the banks of 
the Guarico and the TJritucu, contained at this period only 
five thousand inhabitants; but everything denoted increasing 
prosperity. The wealth of most of the inhabitants consists 
m herds, under the management of farmers, who are caQed 
hateros, from the word hato, which signifies in Spanish a 
house or farm placed in the midst of pastures. The scat- 
tered population of the Llanos being accumulated on certain 
points, principally around towns, Calabozo reckons already 
nve villages or missions in its environs. It is. computed, 
that 98,000 head of cattle wander in the pastures nearest 
to the town. It is very difficult to form an exact idea 
of the herds contained in the Llanos of Caracas, Barce- 
lona, Cumana, and Spanish G-uiana. M. Depons, who lived 
in the town of Caracas longer than I, and whose statis- 
tical statements are generally accurate, reckons in those 
fast plains, from the mouths of the Orinoco to the lake of 
Maracaybo, 1,200,000 oxen, 180,000 horses, and 90,000 
mules. He estimates the produce of these herds at 5,000,000 
francs ; adding to the value of the exportation the price of 
the hides consumed in the country. There exist, it is 
beHered, in the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, 12,000,000 cows, 
and 8,000,000 horses, without comprising in this enume- 
meration the cattle that have no acknowledged proprietor. 

1 shall not hazard any general estimates, which from their 
nature are too imcertain; but shall only observe that, in 
the Llanos of Caracas, the proprietors of the great hatos are 
entirely ignorant of the number of the cattle they possess. 
They only know that of the young cattle, which are branded 
every year with a letter or mark peculiar to each herd. The 
richest proprietors mark as many as 14,000 head every 


year; and sell to the number of five or six thousand. 
According to official documents, the exportation of hides 
from the whole capitania-general of Caracas amounted 
annuaUy to 174,000 skins of oxen, and 11,500 of goats. 
When we reflect, that these documents are taken from 
the books of the custom-houses, where no mention is made 
of the fraudulent dealings in hides, we are tempted to 
believe that the estimate of 1,200,000 oxen wandering in 
the Llanos, from the Carony and the Q-uarapiche to the 
lake of Maracaybo, is much underrated. The port oï La 
Guayra alone exported annu^y from 1789 to 1792, 70,000 
or 80,000 hides, entered in the custom-house books, scarcely 
one-fifth of which was sent to Spain. The exportation from 
Buenos Ayres, at the end of the eighteenth century, was, 
according to Don Felix de Azara, 800,000 skins. The hides 
of Caracas are preferred in the Peninsula to those of Buenos 
Ayres; because the latter, on account of a longer passage, 
undergo a loss of twelve per cent, in the tanning. The 
southern part of the savannahs, commonly called thé Upper 
Plains (Llanos de arriba), is very productive in mules and 
oxen ; but the pasturage being in general less good, these 
animals are obliged to be sent to other plains to be fattened 
before thej are sold. The Llano de Menai, and all the 
Lower Plains (Llanos de abaxo), abound less in herds, but 
the pastures are so fertile, that they furnish meat of an 
exceÛent quality for thç supply of the coast. The mules, 
which are not fit for labour before the fifth year, are pur- 
chased on the spot at the price of fourteen or eighteen pias- 
tres. The horses of the Llanos, descending from the fine 
Spanish breed, are not very large ; they are generally of a 
uniform colour, brown bay, like most of the wild animals. 
Sufiering alternately from drought and floods, tormented by 
the stings of insects and the bites of the large bats, they 
lead a sorry life. After haviug enjoyed for some months 
the care of man, their good qualities are developed. Here 
there are no sheep : we saw flocks only on the table-land of 

The hatos of oxen have sufiered considerably of late from 
troops of marauders, who roam over the steppes killing the 
animals merely to take their hides. This robbery has in- 
creased since the trade of the Lower Orinoco has become 


more flourishiiig. Por half a century, the banks of that 
great river, from the mouth of the Apure as far as Angostura, 
were known only to the missionary-monks. The exportata- 
tion of cattle took place fromihe ports of the northern coast 
only, viz. firom. Cumana, Barcelona, Burburata, and Porto 
Cabello. This dependence on the coast is now much dimi- 
xiished. The southern part of the plains has established an 
internal communication with the Lower Orinoco ; and this 
trade is the more brisk, as those who devote themselves to it 
eaeiiT escape the trammels of the prohibitory laws. 

The greatest herds of cattle in the Llanos of Caracas are 
those or the hcUos of Merecure, La Cruz, Belen, Alta Q-racia, 
and Pavon. The Spanish cattle came from Coro and Tocuyo 
into the plains. History has preserved the name of the 
colonist wbo first conceived the idea of peopling these pas- 
turages, inhabited only by deer, and a large species of cavy, 
Christoval Kodriguez sent the first homed cattle into the 
Llanos, about the year 1548. He was an inhabitant of the 
town of Tocuyo, and had long resided in New Grenada. 

When we hear of the ' innumerable quantity ' of oxen, 
borses, and mules, that are spread over the plains of Ame- 
rica, we seem generally to forget that in civilized Europe, 
on lands of much less extent, there exist, in agricultural 
countries, quantities no less prodigious. Prance, accord- 
ing to M. Peuchet, feeds 6,000,000 large homed cattle, of 
wmch 3,500,000 are oxen employed in drawing the plough. 
In the Austrian monarchy, the number of oxen, cows, 
and calves, has been estimated at 13,400,000 head. Paris 
alone consumes annually 155,000 horned cattle. Germany 
receives 150,000 1 oxen yearly from Hungary. Domestic 
animals, collected in small herds, are considered by agricul- 
tmal nations as a secondary object in the riches of the state. 
Accordingly they strike the imagination much less than 
those wandering droves of Oxen and horses which alone fill 
the uncultivated tracts of the New World. CivLLization and 
social order favour aHke the progress of population, and the 
multiplication of animals useful to man. 

"We found at Calabozo, in the midst of the Llanos, an 
electrical machine with large plates, electrophori, batteries, 

* The thick -nosed tapir, or river cavy (Cavia capybara), called 
êUçuire in those countries. 



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

Next to his electrical apparatus, the work of the industry 
and intelligence of an inhabitant of the Llanos, nothing at 
Calabozo excited in us so great an interest as the gymnoti, 
which are animated electrical apparatuses. I was impatient, 
from the time of my arrival at Cumana, to procure electrical 
eels. "We had been promised them often, but our hopes 
bad always been disappointed Money loses its value. ap 


you withdraw from the coast; and how is the imperturbablo 
apathy of the ignorant people to be vanquished, when they 
are. not excited by the desire of gain ? 

The Spaniards confound all electric fishes under the name 
of temblculores,* There are some of these in the Caribbean 
Sea, on the coast of Cumana. The Q-uayquerie Indians, 
who are the most skilful and active fisbermen in those 
parts, brought us a fish, which, they said, benumbed their 
Dands. Tb^ fish ascends the little river Manzanares. It 
is a new species of ray, the lateral spots of which are 
scarcely visible, and wmch much resembles the torpedo. 
The torpédos, which are furnished with an electric organ ex- 
ternally visible, on account of the transparency of the skin^ 
form a genus or subgenus diflerent from the rays properly 
80 called.t The torpedo of Cumana was very lively, very 
energetic in its muscular movements, and yet the electric 
shocks it gave us were extremely feeble. They became 
stronger on galvanizing the animal by the contact of zinc 
and gold. Other tembladores, real gymnoti or electric eels, 
inhaoit the Hio Colorado, the G-uarapiche, and se\'eral little 
streams which traverse the Missions of the Chavma Indians. 
They abound also in the large rivers of America, the Ori- 
noco, the Amazon, and the Meta; but the force of the 
currents and the depth of the water, prevent them from 
being caught by the Indiatis. They see these fish less fre- 
quently than they feel shocks from them when swimming or 
bathing in the river. In the Llanos, particularly in the 
environs of Calabozo, between the farms of Morichal and 
the Upper and Lower Missions, the basins of stagnant 
water and the confluents of the Orinoco (the Eio Guarico 
and the canos Bastro, Berito, and Paloma) are filled with 
electric eels. We at first wished to make our experiments 
\R the house we inhabited at Calabozo ; but the dread of the 
shocks caused by the gymnoti is so great, and so exag- 

• Literally "tremblers," or "producers of trembling." 
i" Cirrier, Règne Animal, vol. ii. The Mediterranean contains, ac- 
eonhng to M. Risso, four species of electrical torpédos, all formerly 
eoofoanded under the name of Raia torpedo ; these are Torpedo narke, 
T. unimaculata, T. galvanii, and T. marmorata. The torpedo of the 
Cape of Good Hope, the subject of the recent experiments of Mr« Todd, 
k, no doubt, a nondcflcript species, 

VOL. n. z 


gerated among the common people, that duiing three days . 
we could not obtain one, though they are easily caught, and, 
we had promised the Indians two piastres for every si3X>ng 
and vigorous fish. This fear of the Indians is the more 
extrordinary, as they do not attempt to adopt precautions 
in which they profess to have great confidence. When 
interrogated on the effect of the temhladores, they never fedl 
to tell the Whites, that they may be touched with impunity 
while you are chewiug tobacco. This supposed influence of 
tobacco on animal electricity is as general on the continent 
of South America, as the belief among mariners of the effect 
of garlic and tallow on the magnetic needle. 

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

The extraordinary noise caused by the horses' hoofs, 
makes the fish issue from the mud, ana excitesithem to the 
attack. These yellowish and livid eek, resembling large 

* Amyris lateriflora, A. coriacea, Laurus pichurin, Myrozylon 8ecim« 
dum, Malpighia reticulata, 
i* Meaning to excite the fish by horses. 

snrerLAB method of fishing. 115 

.aquadc seipents, swim on the surface of the water, and 
crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules. A contest 
between gj^îmala of so different an organization presents 
s very striking spectacle. The Indians, provided with 
barpoons and long slender reeds, surround the pool closely ; 
and some dimb up the trees, the branches of which extend 
horizontally over the surface of the water. By their wild 
cries, and the length of their reeds, they prevent the horses 
firom running away and reaching the bank of the pool. 
The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by the 
repeated discharge of their electric batteries. For a long 
interval they seem likely to prove victorious. Several horses 
siok beneath the violence of the invisible strokes which they 
receive from aU sides, in organs the most essential to life ; 
and stunned by the force and frequency of the shocks, they 
disappear under the water. Others, panting, with mane 
erect, and haggard eyes expressing anguish and dismay, 
raise themselves, and endeavour to flee from the storm 
by which they are overtaken. They are driven back by 
the TTiHia-TiR into the middle of the water; but a small 
number succeed in eluding the active vigilence of the 
fishermen. These regain the shore, stumbling at every 
step, and stretch themselves on the sand, exhausted with 
fktifi^, and with limbs benumbed by the electric shocks 
of the gymnoti. 

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

We had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by 
killing successively aU the animals engaged ; but by degree» 
the impetuosity of this unequal combat dimtoished, and the 
wearied gymnoti dispersed. They require a long rest, and 
abundant nourishment, to repair the galvanic force which 

I 2 


they have lost.* The mules and horses appear less fright- 
ened; their manes are no longer bristled, and their eyes 
express less dread. The gymnoti approach timidly the edge 
of the marsh, where they are taken by means of small 
harpoons fastened to long cords. When the cords are very 
dry the Indians feel no shock in raising the fish into the 
air. In a few minutes we had ûve large eels, most of which 
were but slightly wounded. Some others were taken, by 
the same means, towards evening. 

The temperature of the waters in which the gymnoti 
habitually nve, is from 26° to 27°. Their electnc force 
diminishes it is said, in colder waters ; and it is remarkable 
that, in general, animals endowed with electromotive organs, 
the efieCts of which are sensible to man, are not found in 
the air, but in a fluid that is a conductor of electricity. The 
gymnotus is the largest of electrical fishes. I measured 
some that were from five feet to five feet three inches long ; 
and the Indians assert that they have seen them still larger. 
We found that a fish of three feet ten inches long weighed 
twelve pounds. The transverse diameter of the body, with- 
out reckoning the anal fin, which is elongated in thé form 
of a keel, was three inches and a half. The gymnoti of the 
Cano de Bera are of a fine olive-green. The under part of 
the head is yellow mingled with red. Two rows ol small 
yellow spots are placed symmetrically along the back, from 
the head to the end of the tail. Every spot contains an 
excretory aperture. In consequence, the skm of the animal 
is constantly covered with a mucous inatter, which, as Volta 
has proved, conducts electricity twenty or thirty times 
better than pure water. It is in general somewhat remark- 
able, that no electric fish yet discovered in the difierent 
parts of the world, is covered with scales. t 

* The Indians assured us that when the horses are made to run two 
days successively into the same pool, none are killed the second day. 
See, on the fishing for gymnoti, " Views of Nature." (Bohn's éd., p. 18.) 

t We yet know with certainty only seven electric fishes ; Torpedo 
narke, Risso, T. unimaculata, T. marmorata, T. galvunii, Silurus elec- 
tricus, Tetraodon electricus, Gymnotus electricus. It appears uncertain 
whether the Trichiurus indiens has electrical properties or not. (See 
Cuvier's Règne Animal, vol. ii.) But the genus Torpedo, very different 
from that of the rays properly so called, has numerous species in the 
equatorial seas; and it is probable that there exist several gymnoti 


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

The swimming-bladder of the gymnotus is two feet five 
inches long in a fish of three feet ten inches. t It is sepa^ 
rated by a mass of fat from the external skin ; and rests upon 
the electric organs, which occupy more than two-thirds of 

specifically different. The Indians mentioned to us a black and very 
pow^fol species^ inhabiting the marshes of the Apure, which never 
atf^* a length of more t^an two feet, but which we were not able to 
procure. The raton of the Rio de la Magdalena, which I have described 
under the name of Gymnotus œquilabiatus (Observations de Zoologie, 
▼oL L) forms a particular sub-genus. This is a Carapa, not scaly, and 
without an dectric organ. This organ is also entirely wanting in the 
Brazilian Carapo, and in all the rays which were carefully examined b^ 

f Cnvier has shown that in the Gymnotus electricus there exists, 
besides the large S¥dmming- bladder, another situated before it, and much 
smaller. It looks like the bifurcated swimming-bladder in the Gymnotm 


the ammal's body. The same vessels which penetrate bcb- 
tween the plates or leaves of these organs, and which cover 
them with blood when they are cut transversely, also send 
out numerous branches to the exterior surface of the air- 
bladder. I found iu a hundred parts of the air of the swim- 
ming-bladder four of oxygen and ninety-six of nitrogen. 
The meduUary substance of the brain displays but a feeble 
analogy with the albuninous and gelatinous matter of the 
electric organs. But these two substances have in common 
the great quantity of arterial blood which they receive, and 
which is deoxidated in them. We may agaiu remark, on 
this occasion, that an extreme activity m the functions of 
the braia causes the blood to flow more abundantly towards 
the head, as the energy of the movement of the muscles 
accelerates the deoxidation of the arterial blood. What a 
contrast between the multitude and the diameter of the 
blood-vessels of the gymnotus, and the small space occupied 
by its muscular system ! This contrast reminds the observer, 
that three functions of animal life, which appear in other re- 
spects sufficiently distinct, — the functions of the brain, those 
of the electrical organ, and those of the muscles, aU require 
the afflux and concourse of arterial or oxygenated blood. 

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


ingly, the Tamanac TndianH call the grmiiotiis. in their 
expressive language, arimna, which means * aom£thing that 
depriyes of motion.' 

The sensation caused hj the feeble shocks of an e2«ctrîc 
eel appeared to me analogous to that painiiil rrirehing 
with which I have been seized at each contact of rro 
heterogeneoua metals applied to wounds which I had x&ade 
on my back by means of cantharides. This diferei^ce *A 
sensation between the effects of dectric fishes and tho^ 
of a Yokaic battery or a Jjejeen jar feebly charged has 
struck every observer; thm is, however, nothing in this 
contrary to the supposition of the identity of electnchy and 
the galvanic action of fishes. The electricity mmj he the 
same ; but its effects will be variouslv modillci bv the di5- 
position of the electrical apparatus, by the intensity of the 
fluid, by the rapidity of the current, and by the particiJar 
mode of action. 

In Dutch Guiana, at Demerara for instance, electrrc 
eels were formerly emploved to core paralytic affectioi:?. 
At a time when the physicians of Europe had great conn- 
dence in the effects of electrîcîtT, a surs'eon of Em«<edfbo. 
named Van der Lott, published in Holland a treatise on 
the medical properties of the gvmnotus. These electric 
remedies are practised among the savages of America, as 
they were among the Greeks. We are told by ScriboLius 
Laigus, Gkden, and Dioscondes, that Unpedos cure the head- 
ache and the gout. I did not hear of this mode of treat- 
ment in the Spanish colonies which I visited; and I can 
assert that, after having made experiments during four ho'jr» 
successively with gymnoti, M. Bonpland and mvself felt, till 
the next day, a ddbility in the muscles, a pain m the joints, 
and a general uneasiness, the efSeet of a strong irritation of 
the nervous system. 

The gynmotus is neither a charged conductor, nor a 
batteiy, nor an electromotive apparatus, the shock of which 
is received every time they are touched with one hand, or 
when both hands are applied to form a conducting circle 
between the opposite poles. The electric action of the fish 
depends entirely on its will; because it does not keep its 
electric organs always charged, or whether by the secretion 
of some fluid, or by any other means alike mysterious to us, 


it be capable of directing the action of its organs to ati 
external object. We often tried, both insulated and other- 
wise, to touch the fish, without feeUng the least shock. 
When M. Bonpland held it by the head, or by the middle of 
the body, while I held it by the tail, and, standing on the 
moist ground, did not take each other's hand, one of us 
received shocks, which the other did not feel. It depends 
upon the gymnotus to direct its action towards the point 
where it finds itself most strongly irritated. The discharge 
is then made at one point only, and not at the neighbouring 
points. If two persons touch the belly of the fi»h with their 
fingers, at an inch distance, aud press it simultaneously, 
sometimes one, sometimes the other, will receive the shock. 
In the same manner, when one insulated person holds the 
tail of a vigorous gymnotus, and another pinches the gills or 
pectoral fin, it is often the first only by whom the shock is 
received. It did not appear to us that these differences 
could be attributed to the dryness or moisture of our hands, 
or to their unequal conducting power. The gymnotus 
seemed to direct its strokes sometimes from the whole sur- 
face of its body, sometimes from one point only. This 
effect indicates less a partial discharge of the organ com- 
posed of an innumerable quantity of layers, than the faculty 
which the animal possesses, (perhaps by the iustantaneous 
secretion of a fluid spread through the cellular membrane,) 
of establishing the communication between its organs and 
the skin only, in a very limited space. 

Nothing proves more stron^y the faculty, which the 
gymnotus possesses, of darting and directing its stroke 
at will, than the observations made at Philadelphia and 
Stockholm,* on gymnoti rendered extremely tame. When 

* By MM. Williamson and Fahlberg. The following account is given 
by the latter gentleman. " The gymnotus sent from Surinam to M. 
Nërderling, at Stockholm, lived more than four months in a state of 
perfect health. It was twenty-seven inches long; and the shocks it gave 
were so violent, especially in the open air, that I found scarcely any 
means of protecting myself by non-conductors, in transporting the fish 
from one place to another. Its stomach being very small, it ate little 
at a time, but fed often. It approached living fish, first sending them 
from afar a shock, the energy of which was proportionate to the size of 
the prey. The gymnotus seldom failed in its aim ; one single stroke 
was almost always sufficient to overcome the resistance which the strata 


tiiej had been made to fast a long time, they killed small 
fishes put into the tnb. They acted from a. distance ; that 
is to say, their electrical shocK passed through a very thick 
stratum of water. "We need not be surprised that what was 
observed in Sweden, on a single gymnotus only, we could 
not perceive in a great number of individuals in their native 
countiy. The electric action of animals being a vital action, 
and subject to their will, it does not depend solely on their 
state ol health and vigour. A gymnotus that has been 
kept a long time in captivity, accustoms itself to the im- 
prisonment to which is is reduced; it resumes by degrees 
the same habits in the tub, which it had in the rivers and 
marshes. An electrical eel was brought to me at Calabozo : 
it had been taken in a net, and consequently having no 
wound. It ate meat, and terribly frightened the little tor- 
toises and froçs which, not aware of their danger, placed 
themselves on its back. The frogs did not receive the stroke 
till the moment when they touched the body of the 
gjftmotus. When they recovered, they leaped out of the 
tub ; and when replaced near the fish, they were frightened 
at the mere sight of it. We then observed nothing that 
indicated an action at a distance ; but our gymnotus, recently 
taken, was not yet sufficiently tame to attack and devour 
frogs. On approaching the finger, or the metallic points, 
very close to the electric organs, no shock was felt. Perhaps 
the acdmal did not perceive the proximity of a foreign body ; 
or, if it did, we must suppose that in the commencement of 
its captivity, timidity prevented it from darting ibrth its 
riiergetic strokes except when strongly irritated by an 
immediate contact. The gymnotus being immersed in water, 
I placed my hand, both armed and unarmed with metal, 
within a very small distance fix)m the electric organs; yet 
the strata of water transmitted no shock, while M. Bonpland 
irritated the animal strongly by an immediate contact, and 

of water, more or less thick according to the distance, opposed to the 
dectrical current. When very much pressed by hunger, it sometimes 
erected the shocks against the person who daÙy brought its food of 
boiled meat. Persons afflicted with rheumatism came to touch it in hopes 
of being cured. They took it at once by the neck and tail : the shocks 
in this case stronger than when touched with one hand only. It 
entirely lost its electrical power a short time before its death." 


received some very violent shocks. Had we placed a vei^ 
delicate electroscope in the contiguous strata of water, it 
might possibly have deen influenced at the moment when 
the gymnotus seemed to direct its stroke elsewhere, Pre* 
pared frogs, placed immediately on the body of a torpedo^ 
experience, according to Ghlvani, a strong contraction at 
everv discharge of the fish. 

The electrical organ of the gymnoti acts only under the 
immediate influence of the brain and the heart. On cutting 
a very vigorous fish through the middle of the body, the 
fore part alone gave shocks. These are equally strong in 
whatever part of the body the fish is touched ; it is most 
disposed, however, to emit them when the pectoral fin, the 
electrical organ, the lips, the eyes, or the guls, are pinched. 
Sometimes the animal struggles violently with a person 
holding it by the tail, without communicating the least 
shock. Not did I feel any when I made a shght incision 
near the pectoral fin of the fish, and galvanized the wound 
by the contact of two pieces of zinc and silver. The g;^- 
notus bent itself convulsively, and raised its head out of the 
water, as if terrified by a sensation altogether new ; but I 
felt no vibration in the hands which held the two metals. 
The most violent muscular movements are not always ac- 
companied by electric discharges. 

The action of the fish on the human organs is transmitted 
and intercepted by the same bodies that transmit and inter- 
cept the electrical current of a conductor charged by a 
Leyden jar, or Voltaic battery. Some anomalies, which we 
thought we observed, are easily explained, when we recollect 
that even metals (as is proved m)m their ignition when 
exposed to the action of the battery) present a slight 
obstacle to the passage of electricity ; ana that a bad con- 
ductor annihilates the effect, on our organs, of a feeble 
electric charge, whilst it transmits to us the effect of a 
very strong one. The repulsive force which zinc and silver 
exercise together being far superior to that of gold and 
silver, I have found that when a frog, prepared and armed 
with silver, is galvanized under water, the conducting aro 
of zinc produces contraction as soon as one of its extre-^ 
mities approaches the muscles within three lines distance ; 
while an arc of gold does not excite the organs, when the 


Btraiam of water between the gold and the muscles is more 

than half a. line thick. In the same manner^ by employing 

s conducting arc composed of two pieces of zinc and silver 

Boldered together endways; and resting, as before, one of 

the extremities of the metallic circuit on the femoral nerve, 

it is necessary, in order to produce contractions, to bring 

the other extremity of the conductor nearer and nearer to 

the muscles, in proportion as the irritability of the organs 

diminishes. Toward the end of the experiment the slightest 

stratum of water prevents the passage of the electrical cur- 

lenty and it is only by the immediate contact of the arc with 

the muscles, that the contractions take place. These effects 

are, however, dependent on three variable circumstances; 

the energy of the electromotive apparatus, the conducti- 

bilitY of the medium, and the irritability of the organs which 

receive the impressions: it is because experiments have 

not been sufficiently multiplied with a view to these three 

variable elements, that, in the action of electric eels and 

torpédos, accidental circumstances have been taken for 

absolute conditions, without which the electric shocks are 

not felt. 

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

Besinous substances, glass, very dry wood, horn, and even 
bones, which are generally believed to be good conductors, 
prevent the action of the gymnoti &om being transmitted to, 
I was surprised at not feeling the least shock on 


pressing; wet sticks of sealing-wax against tlie organs of tli^ 
fish, while the same animal gave me the most violent 
strokes, when excited by means of a metallic rod. M. Bon- 
pland received shocks, when carrying a gymnotus on two 
cords of the fibres of the palm-tree, which appeared to iia 
extremely dry. A strong discharge makes its way through 
very imperfect conductors. Perhaps also the obstacle which 
the conductor presents renders the discharge more painful. 
I touched the gymnotus with a wet pot of brown clay, 
without efiect ; yet I received violent shocks when I carried 
the gymnotus m the same pot, because the contact was 

"WTien two persons, insulated or otherwise, hold each 
other's hands, and only one of these persons touches the 
fish with the hand, either naked or armed with metal, the 
shock is most commonly felt by both at once. However, it 
sometimes happens that, in the most^ severe shocks, the 
person who comes into immediate contact with the ûah 
alone feels them. "When the gymnotus is exhausted, or in 
a very reduced state of excitability, and will no longer emit 
strokes on being irritated with one hand, the shocks are 
felt in a very vivid manner, on forming the chain, and em- 
ploying both hands. Even then, however, the electric shock 
takes place only at the will of the animal. Two persons, 
one 01 whom holds the tail, and the other the head, cannot, 
by joining hands and forming a chain, force the gymnotus to 
dart his strpke. 

Though* employing the most delicate electrometers in 
various ways, insulatmg them on a plate of glass, and receiv- 
ing very strong shocks which passed through the electro- 
meter, I could never discover any phenomenon of attraction 
or repulsion. The same observation was made by M. Fahl- 
berg at Stockholm. That philosopher, however, has seen 
an electric spark, as Walsn and Ingenhousz had before 
him, in London, by placing the gymnotus in the air, and 
interrupting the conducting chain by two gold leaves pasted 
upon glass, and a line distant from each other. No person, 
on the contrary, has ever perceived a spark issue from the 
body of the fish itself We irritated it for a long time 
during the night, at Calabozo, in perfect darkness, without 
observing any luminous appearance. Having placed four 


ffpnnoti, of unequal strength, in sucli a manner as to receive 
the shocks of the most vigorous fish by contact, that is to 
Bay, by touching only one of the other fishes, I did not 
observe that these last were agitated at the moment when 
the current passed their bodies. Perhaps the current 
did not penetrate below the humid surface of the skin. 
We will not, however, conclude from this, that the gymnoti 
are insensible to electricity ; and that they cannot fight with 
each other at the bottom of the pools. Their nervous 
system must be subject to the same agents as the nerves of 
other animals. I have indeed seen, that, on laying open 
their nerves, they imdergo muscular contractions at the 
mere contact of two opposite metals ; and M. Fahlberg, of 
Stockholm, found that his gymnotus was convulsively agi- 
tated when placed iu a copper vessel, and feeble discharges 
from a Leyden jar passed through its skin. 
After the experiments I had made on gyinnoti, it became 

• U^hly interestmg to me, on my return to Europe, to ascer- 
tain with precision the various circumstances ia which 
another electric fish, the torpedo of our seas, gives or does 
not give shocks. Though tms fish had been examined by 
numerous men of science, I found aU that had been pub* 
fished on its electrical efiects extremely vague. It has been 
Tery arbitrarily supposed, that this fish acts like a Leyden 
iar, which may be discharged at wiU, by touching it with 
Doth hands; and this supposition appears to have led into 
error observers who have devoted themselves to researches 
of this kind. M. G^ay-Lussac and myself, during our journey 
to Italy, made a .great number of experiments on torpédos 
taken in the gulf of Naples. These experiments furnish 
many results somewhat different from those I collected on 
the gymnoti. It is probable that the cause of these anoma- 
lies IS owing rather to the inequality of electric power in 
tbe two fishes, than to the dinerent disposition of their 

Though the power of the torpedo cannot be compared 
with that of the gymnotus, it is sufficient to cause very 
painfiil sensations. A person accustomed to electric shocks 
can with difficulty hold m his hands a torpedo of twelve or 

7 fimrteen inches, and in possession of all its vigour. When 
the torpedo gives only veiy feeble strokes under water, 


they become more sensible if tbe animal be raised aboVe the 
surface. I have often observed the same phenomenon in 
experimenting on frogs. 

The torpedo moves the pectoral fins convulsively every 
time it emits a stroke; and this stroke is more or less 
painful, according as the immediate contact takes place 
by a greater or less surface. We observed that the 
gymnotus gives the strongest shocks without making any 
movement with the eyes, head, or fins.* Is this difference 
caused by the position of the electric organ, which is not 
double in the gynmoti? or does the movement of the 
pectoral fins of the torpedo directly prove that the fish 
restores' the electrical equilibrium by its own skin, dis- 
charges itself by its own body, and that we generally feel 
only the effect of a lateral shock ? 

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

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

M. Gay-Lussac made the important observation that 
when an iusulated person touches the torpedo with one 

* The anal fin of the gymnoti only has a sensible motion when these 
fishes are excited under the belly, where the electric organ is placed. 



finger, it is indispensible that the contact be direct. The 
fish may with impunity be touched with a key, or any 
other metallic instrument; no shock is felt when a con- 
ducting or non-conducting body is interposed between the 
finger and the electrical organ of the torpedo. This cir- 
cumstance proves a great difference between the torpedo 
and the gymnotus, the latter giving his strokes through an 
iron rod several feet long. 

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

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

If, in this situation of the fish between two plates, there 
exist any immediate communication between the edges of 
these two plates, no shock takes place. The chain between 
tiie two suTÊEices %î the electric organ is then formed by 
the plates, and the new communication, established by the 
contact of the two hands with the two plates, remains with- 
out effect. We carried the torpedo with impunity between 
two plates of metal, and felt the strokes it gave only at the 
instant when they ceased to touch each other at the 

Nothing ixi the torpedo or in the gymnotus indicates that 
the ATiima.] modifies the electrical state of the bodies by 
which it is surrounded. The most delicate electrometer is 
no mj affected in whatever manner it is employed, whether 


bringing it near the organs or insulating the fish, covering 
it wifch a metallic plate, and causing the plate to communis 
cate by a conducting wire with the condenser of Volt^ 
We were at great pains to vary the experiments by which 
we sought to render the electrical tension of the torpedo 
sensible ; but they were constantly without effect, and per- 
fectly confirmed what M. Bonpland and myself had observed 
respecting the gymnoti, during our abode in South America. 

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

We are, doubtless, very far from having discovered all 
the secrets of the electrical action of fishes which is modified 
by the influence of the brain and the nerves; but the 
experiments we have just described are sufficient to prove 
that these fishes act by a concealed electricity, and by elec- 
tromotive organs of a peculiar construction, which are 
recharged with extreme rapidity. Volta admits that the 
discharges of the opposite electricities in the torpédos and 
the gymnoti are made by their own 8kin,*and that when we 
touch them with one hand only, or by means of a metallic 
point, we feel the effect of a lateral shock, the electrical 
current not being directed solely the shortest way. When 
a Leyden jar is placed on a wet woollen cloth (which is a 
bad conductor), and the jar is discharged in such a manner 
that the cloth makes part of the chain, prepared frogs, 
placed at different distances, indicate by their contractions 
that the current spreads itself over the whole cloth in a 
thousand different ways. According to this analogy, the 
most violent shock given by the gymnotus at a difitaucQ 


would be but a feeble part of tbe stroke whieli re-establishes 
tiie equilibrium in the interior of the fish.* As the gym- 
notus directs its stroke wherever it pleases, it must also be 
admitted that the discharge is not made by the whole skin 
at once, but that the animal, excited perhaps by the motion 
of a fluid poured into one part of the cellular membrane, 
establishes at will the communication between its organs 
and some particular part of the skin. It may be conceived 
that a lateral stroke, out of the direct current, must become 
imperceptible under the two conditions of a very weak 
discbarge, or a very great obstacle presented by the nature 
and length of the conductor. Notwithstanding these con- 
siderations, it appears to me very surprising that shocks 
of the torpedo, strong in appearance, are not propagated 
to the band when a very thin plate of metal is interposed 
between it and the fish. 

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

The gymnoti, which are objects of curiosity and of the 
the deepest interest to the philosophers of Europe, are at 
once dreaded and detested by the natvies. They furnish. 
indeed, in their muscidar flesh, pretty good aliment; but 
the electric organ fills the greater part of their body, and 
this organ is slimy, and disagreeable to the taste; it is 

* The heterogeoeous poles of the double electrical organs must 
dist in each oi^n. Mr. Todd has recently proved, by experiments 
made on torpédos at the Cape of Good Hope^ that the animal continues 
to give violent shocks when one of these organs is' extirpated. On the 
contrary, all electrical action is stopped (and this point, as elucidated by 
Galvani, is of the greatest importance) if injury be inflicted on the 
bndn, or if the nerves which supply the plates of the electrical organs be 
divided. In the latter case^ the nerves being cut, and the brain left un- 
Umdied, the torpedo continues to live, and perform every muscular 
movement. A fish, ^ exhausted by too numerous electrical discharges, 
mffered much more than another fish deprived, by dividing the nerves, 
of any communication between the brain and the electromotive apparatus. 
(PhikMophical Transactions, 1816). 

TOL. n. k: 


accordingly separated with care from the rest of the eel. 
The presence of gymnoti is also considered as the principal 
cause of the want of fish in the ponds and pools of the 
Llanos. They, however, kill many more than they devour : 
and the Indians told us, that when young alligators and 
gymnoti are caught at the same time in very strong nets, 
the latter never show the slightest trace of a wound, 
because they disable the young alligators before they are 
attacked by them. All the inhabitants of the waters dread 
the society of the gymnoti. Lizards, tortoises, and frogs, 
seek pools where they are. secure from the electric action. 
It became necessary to change the direction of a road 
Rear Uritucu, because the electric eels were so numerous 
in one river, that they every year killed a great number of 
mules, as they forded the water with their burdens. 

Though in the present state of our knowledge we may 
flatter ourselves with having thrown some light on the 
extraordinary effects of electric fishes, yet a vast number of 
physical and physiological researches still remain to be made. 
The brilliant results which chemistry has obtained by means 
of the Voltaic battery, have occupied all observers, and turned 
attention for some time from the examinations of the phe- 
nomena of vitality. Let us hope that these phenomena, the 
mo^t awful and the most mysterious of all, will in their turn 
occupy the earnest attention of natural philosophers. This 
hope will be easily realized if they succeed in procuring 
anew living gymnoti in some one of the great capitals of 
Europe. The discoveries that will be made on the electro- 
motive apparatus of these fish, much more energetic, and 
more easy of preservation, than the torpédos,* will extend 

* In order to investigate the pbenomena of the living electromotive 
apparatus in its greatest simplicity, and not to mistake for general 
conditions circumstances which depend on the degree of energy of the 
electric organs, it is necessary to perform the experiments on those 
electrical fishes most easily tamed. If the gymnoti were not known, we 
might suppose, from the observations made on torpédos, that fishes can- 
not give their shocks from a distance through very thick strata of water, 
or through a bar of iron, without forming a circuit. Mr. Williamson has 
felt strong shocks when he held only one hand in the water, and this 
hand, without touching the gymnotus, was placed between it and the 
small fish towards which the stroke was directed from ten or fifteea 
inches distance. (Philosophical Transactions, vol. Ixv, pp. 99 and 108), 



to all the plienomena of muscular motion subject to voli- 
tion. It will perhaps be found that, in most animals, every 
contraction of the muscular fibre is preceded by a discharge 
firom the nerve into the muscle ; and that the mere simple 
contact of heterogeneous substances is a source of move- 
ment and of life in aU organized bein^. Did an ingenious 
and lively people, the Arabians, guess ttom remote antiquity, 
that the same force which inflames the vault of Heaven m 
storms, is the living and invisible weapon of inhabitants of 
the waters ? It is said, that the electric fish of the Nile 
bears a name in Egypt, that signifies thunder.* 

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

As we advanced iuto the southern part of the Llanos, we 
found the ground more dusty, more destitute of herbage, 
and more cracked by the effect of long drought. The palm- 
trees disappeared by degrees. The thermometer kept, from 
eleven in the moming t3l sunset, at 34° or 35°. The calmer 
the air appeared at eight or ten feet high, the more we were 
enveloped in those whirlwinds of dust, caused by the little 
currents of air that sweep the ground. About four o'clock 
in the afternoon, we found a young Indian girl stretched 
upon the savannah. She was almost m a state of nudity, and 
appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years of age. Ex- 
hausted with fatigue and thirst, her eyes, nostrils, and mouth 

When the gymnotus was enfeebled by bad health, the lateral shock 
was imperceptible ; and in order to feel the shock, it was necessary to 
form a chain, and touch the fish with both hands at once. Cavendish, 
in his ingenious experiments on an artificial torpedo, had well remarked 
these differences, depending on the greater or less energy of the charge. 
(Philosophical Transactions, 1776, p. 212). 

* It appears, however, that a distinction is to be made between rahd. 
thunder, and rahadh^ the electrical fish ; and that this latter word means 
simplv * that which causes trembling.' 

K 2 


filled with dust, she breathed with a rattling in her throat, 
and was unable to answer our questions. A pitcher, oveiv 
turned, and half filled with sand, was lying at her side. 
Happily one of our mules was laden with water ; and we 
roused the girl from her lethargic state by bathing her face, 
and forcing her to drink a few drops of wine. She was at 
first alarmed on seeing herself surrounded by so many per- 
sons ; but by degrees she took courage, and conversed with 
our guides. She judged, from the position of the sun, that 
she must have remained during several hours in that state 
of lethargy. We could not prevail on her to mount one of 
our beasts of burden, and she would not return to Uritucu 
She had been in service at a neighbouring farm ; and she 
had been discharged, because at the end of a long sickness 
she was less able to work than before. Our menaces and 
prayers were alike fruitless ; insensible to sufiering, like the 
rest of her race, she persisted in her resolution of going to 
one of the Indian Missions near the city of Calabozo. We 
removed the sand from her pitcher, and filled it with water. 
She resumed her way along the steppe, before we had re- 
mounted our horses, and was soon separated fix)m us by a 
cloud of dust. During the night we forded the Rio Uritucu, 
which abounds with a breed of crocodiles remarkable for 
their ferocity. We were advised to prevent our dogs from 
going to drink in the rivers, for it often happens that the 
crocodiles of Uritucu come out of the water, and pursue 
dogs upon the shore. This intrepidity is so much the more 
striking, as at eight leagues distance, the crocodiles of the 
B»io Tisnao are extremely timid, and little dangerous. The 
manners of animals vary in the same species according to 
local circumstances difficult to be determined. We were 
shown a hut, or rather a kind of shed, in which our host of 
Calabozo, Don Miguel Cousin, had witnessed a very extra- 
ordinary scene. Sleeping with one of his friends on a bench 
or couch covered with leather, Don Miguel was awakened 
early in the morning by a violent shaknig and a horrible 
noise. Clods of earth were thrown into the middle of the 
hut. Presently a young crocodile two or three feet long 
issued from under the bed, darted at a'dog which lay on the 
threshold of the door, and, missing him in the impetuosity 
of his spring, ran towards the beach to gain the river. On 


examining tlie spot where the harhacoa, or couch, was placed, 
the cause of this strange adventure was easily discovered. 
The ground was disturbed to a considerable depth. It was 
dried mud, which had covered the crocodile in that state of 
lethargy, or summer-sleep, in which many of the species lie 
during the absence of the rains in the Llanos. The noise of 
men and horses, perhaps the smell of the dog, had aroused 
the crocodile. The hut being built at the edge of the pool, 
and inundated during part of the year, the crocodile had no 
doubt entered, at the time of the iuundaiion of the savan- 
nahs, by the same opening at which it was seen to go out. 
The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call uji, 
OP water-serpents,* in the same lethargic state. To reanimate 
them, they must be irritated, or wetted with water. Boas 
are killed, and immersed in. the streams, to obtain, by means 
of putrefaction, the tendinous parts of the dorsal muscles, 
of which excellent guitar-strings are made at Galabozo, 
pref(^rable to those furnished by the intestines of the alouate 

The drought and heat of the Llanos act like cold upon 
animals and plants. Beyond the tropics the trees lose their 
leaves in a very dry air. Beptiles, particularly crocodiles 
and boas, having very indolent habits, leave with reluctance 
the basias in which they have found water at the period of 
great iQundations. In proportion as the pools become 
dry, these animals penetrate into the mud, to seek that 
degree of humidity which gives flexibility to their skin and 
integuments. In this state of repose they are seized with 
stupefaction; but possibly they preserve a communication 
with the external air ; and, however little that communica- 
tion may be, it possibly suffices to keep up the respiration of 
an animal of the saurian family, provided with enormous 
pulmonaiy^sacs, exerting no muscular motion, and in which 
aknost all the vital functions are suspended. It is probable 
that the mean temperature of the dried mud, exposed to 
the solar rays, is more than 40°. When the north of Egypt, 
where the coolest month does not fall below 18 '4°, was 
inhabited by crocodiles, they were often found torpid with 
cold. They were subject to a wiuter-sleep, like the Euro- 

* Culebra de agua^ named by the common people traga-venado, * the 
■wallower of stags.' The word uji belongs to the Tamanac language. 


pean frog, lizard, sand-martin, and marmot. If tlie hibernal 
lethargy he ohserved, hoth in cold-hlooded and in hot- 
blooded animals, we shall be less surprised to learn, that 
these two classes furnish alike examples of a summer-sleep. 
In the same manner as the crocodiles of South America, 
the tanrecs, or Madagascar hedgehogs, in the midst of the 
torrid zone, pass three months of the year in lethargy. 

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

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

The red sandstone of the Llanos of Caracas lies in a 
concave position, between the primitive mountains of the 
shore and of Parime. On the north it is backed by the 

* The Spanish colonists call the Crotophaga ani, zamuriio (little car- 
non vulture, — Vultur aura minuta), or garapatero, * the eater of gara« 
pttasj' insects of the Acarus family. 


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

A dense whitish-gray limestone, with a smooth fracture, 
somewhat analogous to that of Caripe, and consequently 
to that of Jura, lies on the red sandstone between Tisnao 
and Calabozo.t In several other places, for instance in the 
Mesa de San Diego, and between Ortiz and the Mesa de 
Paja,J we find above the limestone lamellar gypsum alter- 
nating with strata of marl. Considerable quantities of this 
gypsum are sent to the city of Caracas,§ which is situated 
amidst primitive mountains. 

This gypsum generally forms only small beds, and is 
mixed with a great deal of fibrous gypsum. Is it of the 

* At Malpaso and Piedras Azules. 

f Does ihia formation of secondary limestone of the Llanos contam 
galena ? It has been found in strata of black marl, at Barbacoa^ between 
Truxillo and Barquesimeto, north-west of the Llanos. 

% Also near Cachipe and San Joacqoim, in the Llanos of Barcelona. 

$ This trade is carried on at Parapara. A load of d^ht arrobas sells at 
C f acas for twenty» four piastres. 


same formation as that of Gruire, on the coast of iParia^ 
which contains sulphur? or do the masses of this latter 
substance, found in the valley of Buen Pastor and on the 
banks of the Orinoco, belong, with the argillaceous gyp- 
sum of the Llanos, to a secondary formation much more 

These questions are very interesting in the study of tlie 
relative antiquity of rocks, which is the principal basis of 
geology. I know not of any salt-deposits in the Llanos. 
Homed cattle prosper here without those famous hareros, 
or muriatiferous lands, which abound in the Pampas of 
Buenos Ayres.* 

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

We passsd the Guarico, and encamped in the savannahs 
south of Guayaval. Enormous bats, no doubt of the tribe 
of Phyllostomas, hovered as usual over our hammocks 
during a great part of the night. Every moment they 
seemed to be about to fasten on our faces. Early in the 

* Known in North America under the name of ' salt-licks.' 


morning we pursued our way over low grounds, often in- 
tmdated. In the season of rains, a boat may be navigated, 
as on a lake, between the Guarieo and the Apure. We 
arrived on the 27th of March at the Yilla de San Fer- 
nando, the capital of the Mission of the Capuchins in the 
province of Varinas. This was the termmation of our 
journey over the Llanos ; for we passed the three months 
of Apnl, May, and June on the rivers. 

Chaptee XVIII. 

San Fernando de Apure. — Intertwinings and Bifurcations of the Rivera 
Apure and Arauca. — Navigation on the Rio Apure. 

Tell the second half of the eighteenth century the names 
of the great rivers Apure, Arauca, and Meta were scarcely 
known in Europe : certainly less than they had been in the 
two preceding centuries, when the valiant Felipe de Urre 
and tne conquerors of Tocuyo traversed the Llanos, to seek, 
beyond the Apure, the great legendary cil^ of El Dorado, 
and the rich country of the Omeguas, the Timbuctoo of the 
New Contiuent. Such daring expeditions could not be car- 
ried out without all the apparatus of war ; and the weapons, 
which had been destined for the defence of the new colo- 
nists, were employed without intermission agaiost the 
unhappy natives. When more peaceful times succeeded 
to those of violence and public calamity, two powerful 
Indian tribes, the Cabres and the Caribs of the Orinoco, 
made themselves masters of the country which the Con- 
quistadores had ceased to ravage. None but poor monks 
were then permitted to advance to the south of the steppes. 
Beyond the Uritucu an unknown world opened to the 
Spanish colonists; and the descendants of those intrepid 
warriors who had extended their conquests from Peru to 
the coasts of 'New Grenada and the mouth of the Amazon, 
knew not the roads that lead from Coro to the Eio Meta. 
The shore of Venezuela remained a separate country ; and 
the slow conquests of the Jesuit missionaries were success- 
fill only by skirting the banks of *^"* Ot^oco. These 


fathers had already penetrated beyond the great cataracts of 
Atures and Maypures, when the Andalusiau Capuchins had 
scarcely reached the plains of Calabozo, from the coast and 
the valleys of Aragua. It would be difficult to explain these 
contrasts by the system according to which, the different 
monastic orders are governed ; for the aspect of the country 
contributes powerfully to the more or less rapid progress of 
the Missions. They extend but slowly into the interior of 
the land, over mountains, or in steppes, wherever they do 
not follow the course of a particular river. It will scarcely 
be believed, that the Yilla de Fernando de Apure, only fifty 
leagues distant in a direct line from that part of the coast 
of Caracas which has been longest inhabited, was founded 
at no earlier a date than 1789. We were shown a parch- 
ment, full of fine paintings, containing the privileges of this 
little town. The parchment was sent from Madrid at the 
solicitation of the monks, whilst yet only a few huts of reeds 
were to be seen around a great cross raised in the 'centre of 
the hamlet. The missionaries and the secular governments 
being alike interested in exaggerating in Europe what they 
have done ta augment the culture and population of the 
provinces beyond sea, it often happens that names of towns 
and villages are placed on the list of new conquests, long 
before their foundation. 

The situation of San Fernando, on a large navigable river, 
near the mouth of another river which traverses the whole 
province of Varinas, is extremely advantageous for trade. 
Every production of that province, hides, cacao, cotton, and 
the mdigo of Mijagual, which is of the first quality, passes 
through this town towards the mouths of the Ormoco. 
During the season of rains large vessels go from Angostura 
as far as San Fernando de Apure, and by the Eio Santo 
Domingo as far as Torunos, the port of the town of Varinas. 
At that period the inundations of the rivers, which form a 
labyrinth of branches between the Apure, the Arauca, the 
Capanaparo, and the Sinaruco, cover a country of nearly 
four hundred square leagues. At this point, the Orinoco, 
turned aside from its course, not by neighbouring moun- 
tains, but by the rising of counterslopes, runs eastward 
instead of following its previous direction in the line of 
the meridian. Considering the surface of the globe as a 


polyhedron, formed of planes variously inclined, we may 
conceive by the mere inspection of the maps, that the inter- 
section of these slopes, rising towards the north, the west, 
and south,* between San Fernando de Apure, Caycara, and 
the mouth of the Meta, must cause a considerable depres- 
sion. The savannahs in this basin are covered with twelve 
or fourteen feet of water, and present, at the period of 
rains, the aspect of a great lake. The farms ana villages 
which seem as if situated on shoals, scarcely rise two 
or three feet above the surface of the water. Everything 
here calls to mind the inundations of Lower Egypt, and the 
lake of Xarayes, heretofore so celebrated among geogra- 
phers, though it exists only during some months of the year. 
The sweUuigs of the rivers Apure, Meta, and Orinoco, are 
also periodical. In the rainy season, the horses that wander 
in the savannah, and have not time to reach the rising 
fiTOunds of the Llanos, perish by hundreds. The mares are 
I^B, Mowed bT their^colt8,t swimming during a part of 
the day to feed upon the grass, the tops of which alone 
wave above the waters. Li this state they are pursued by 
the crocodiles, and it is by no means unconmion to find the 
prints of the teeth of these carnivorous reptiles on their 
thighs. The carcases of horses, mules, and cows, attract an 
innumerable quantity of vultures. The zamuros are the 
ibisis of this country, and they render the same service to 
the inhabitants of the Llanos as the Yultur percnopterus 
to the inhabitants of Egypt. 

We cannot reflect on the effects of these inundations 
without admiring the prodigious pliability of the organiza- 
tion of the animals which man has subjected to his sway. 
In Greenland the dog eats the refuse of the fisheries ; and 
when fish are wanting, feeds on seaweed. The ass and the 

* The risinj^ towards the north and west are connected with two line* 
of ridges, the mountains of Villa de Cura and of Merida. The third 
■lope, running from north to south, b that of the land-strait between 
the Andes and the chain of Parime. It determines the general inclina* 
tion of the Orinoco, from the mouth of the Guayiare to that of the 

f The colts are drowned eyerywhere in large numbers, because they 
are sooner tired of swimming, and striye to follow the mares in pkoes 
wbfere the latter alone can touch the ground. 


horse, originally natives of the cold and barren plains of 
Upper Asia, follow man to the New World, return to the 
wila state, and lead a restless and weary life in the 
burning climates of the tropics. Pressed alternately by 
excess of drought and of humidity, they sometimes seek a 
pool in the midst of a bare and dusty plain, to quench their 
thirst ; and at other times flee from water, and the over- 
flowing rivers, as menaced by an enemy that threatens them 
on all sides. Tormented during the day by gadflies and 
mosquitos, the horses, mules, and cows find themselves 
attacked at night by enormous bats, which fasten on their 
backs, and cause wounds that become dangerous, because 
they are filled with acarid» and other hurtful insects. In 
the time of. great drought the mules gnaw even the thorny 
cactus* in order to imbibe its cooling juice, and draw it forth 
as from a vegetable fountain. During the great inunda- 
tions these same animals lead an amphibious life, surrounded 
by crocodiles, waternserpents, and manatis. Yet, such are 
the immutable laws of nature, that their races are preserved 
in the struggle with the elements, and amid so many sufler- 
ings and dangers. When the waters retire, and the rivers 
return agaia into their beds, the savannah is overspread 
with a beautiful scented grass ; and the ammals of Europe 
and Upper Asia seem to enjoy, as in their native climes, 
the renewed vegetation of spring. 

During the time of great floods, the inhabitants of these 
countries, to avoid the force of the currents, and the danger 
arising from the trunks of trees which these currents bring 
down, instead of ascending the beds of rivers in their boats, 
cross the savannahs. To go from San Fernando to the 
villages of San Juan de Payara, San Eaphael de Atamaica, 
or San Francisco de Capanaparo, they direct their course 
due south, as if they were crossing a smgle river of twenty 
leagues broad. The junctions of the G-uarico, the Apure, 
the Cabullare, and the Arauca with the Orinoco, form, at a 
hundred and sbdy leagues from the coast of G-uiana, a kind 
of interior Delta, of which hydrography furnishes few ex- 
amples iu the Old World. Accordmg to the height of the 

* The asses are particularly adroit in extracting the moisture con- 
tained in the Cactus melocatus. Thej push aside the thorns with their 
hoofs ; but sometimes lame themselves in performing this feat. 


mercury in the barometer, the waters of the Apure have 
only a fall of thirty-four toises from San Fernando to the 
sea. The fall from the mouths of the Osage and the 
Missouri to the bar of the Mississippi is not more con- 
siderable. The savannahs of Lower Louisiana everywhere 
remind us of the savannahs of the Lower Orinoco. 

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

San Fernando is celebrated for the excessive heat which 
prevails there the greater part of the year; and before I 
begin the recital of our long navigation on the rivers, I 
shall relate some facts calculated to throw light on the 
meteorology of the tropics. We went, provided with ther- 
mometers, to the flat shores covered with white sand which 
border the river Apure. At two in the afternoon I found 
the sand, wherever it was exposed to the sun, at 52 "5°. 
The instrument, raised eighteen inches above the sand, 
marked 42*8°, and at six feet high 38*7°. The temperature 
of the air under the shade of a ceiba was 36*2°. These 
observations were made during a dead calm. As soon as 
the wind began to blow, the temperature of the air rose 8° 
higher, yet we were not enveloped by a tvind of sand, hut 
the strata of air had been in contact with a soil more 
strongly heated, or through which whirlwinds of sand had 

Eassed. This western part of the Llanos is the hottest, 
ecause it receives air that has already crossed the rest of 
the barren steppe. The same diflference has been observed 
between the eastern and western parts of the deserts of 
Africa, where the trade-winds blow. 


The heat augjtnents sensibly in the Llanos during the 
rainy season, particularly in the month of July, when the 
sky is cloudy, and reflects the radiant heat toward the earth. 
During this season the breeze entirely ceases ; and, accoM- 
ing to good thermometrical observations made by M. Pozo, 
the thermometer rises in the shade to 39° and 39*5°, though 
kept at the distance of more than fifteen feet from the 
ground. As we approached the banks of the Portuguesa, 
the Apure, and the Apurito, the air became cooler from the 
evaporation of so considerable a mass of water. This eflect 
is more especially perceptible at siyiset. During the day 
the shores of the rivers, covered with white sand, reflect 
the heat in an insupportable degree, even more than the 
yellowish brown clayey grounds of Calabozo and Tisnao. 

On the 28th of March I was on the shore at sunrise to 
measure the breadth of the Apure, which is two hundred 
and six toises. The thunder rolled in all directions around. 
It was the first storm and the first rain of the season. The 
river was swelled by the easterly wind ; but it soon became 
calm, and then some great cetacea, much resembling the 
porpoises of our seas, began to play in long files on the 
surface of the water. The slow and indolent crocodiles 
seem to dread the neighbourhood of these animals, so noisy 
and impetuous in their evolutions, for we saw them dive 
whenever they approached. It is a very extraordinary phe- 
nomenon to find cetacea at such a distance from the coast. 
The Spaniards of the Missions designate them, as they do 
the porpoises of the ocean, by the name of toninas. The 
Tamanacs call them orinticna. They are three or four feet 
long ; and bending their back, and pressing with their tail 
on the inferior strata of the water, they expose to view a 
part of the back and of the dorsal fin. I did not succeed 
in pbtaimng any, though I often engaged Indians to 
shoot at them with their arrows. Father Gili asserts 
that the Gumanos eat their flesh. Are these cetacea 
peculiar to the great rivers of South America, like the 
manati, which, according to Cuvier, is also a fresh water 
cetaceous animal ? or must we admit that they go up from 
the sea against the current, as the beluga sometimes does in 
the rivers of Asia ? "What would lead me to doubt this last 
supposition is, that we saw toninas above the great cataracts 


of the Oiinoco, in the Eio Atabapo* Did they penetrate 
into the centre of equinoctial America from the mouth of 
the Amazon, by the communication of that river with the 
Brio Negro, the Cassiquiare, and the Orinoco ? They are 
found here at all seasous, and nothing seems to denote 
that they make periodical migrations like salmon. 

While the thunder rolled around us, the sky displayed 
aoXj scattered clouds, that advanced slowly toward the 
zenith, and in an opposite direction. The hygrometer of 
Deluc was at 53°, the centigrade thermometer 23" 7°, and 
Saussure*s hygrometer 87'5". The electrometer gave no 
sign of electricity. As the storm gathered, the blue of the 
sky changed at first to deep azure and then to grey. The 
vesicular vapour became visible, and the thermometer rose 
three degrees, as is almost always the case, within the 
tropics, from a cloudy sky which reflects the radiant heat of 
the soil. A heavy rain feU. Being sufficiently habituated 
to the climate not to fear the effect of tropical rains, we 
remained on the shore to observe the electrometer. I held 
it more than twenty minutes in my hand, six feet above the 
ground, and observed that in general the pith-balls separated 
only a few seconds before the lightning was seen. The 
séparation was four lines. The electric charge remained 
the same during several minutes ; and having time to deter- 
mine the nature of the electricity, by approachiug a stick of 
sealing-wax, I saw here what I had often observed on the 
ridge of the Andes during a storm, that the electricity of 
the atmosphere was first positive, then nil, and then ne- 
gative. These oscillations from positive to negative were 
often repeated. Yet the electrometer constantly denoted, a 
little before the lightning, only E., or 4- E., and never — E. 
Towards the end of the storm the west wind blew very 
strongly. The clouds dispersed, and the thermometer sunt 
to 22® on account of the evaporation from the soil, and the 
freer radiation towards the sky. 

I have entered into these details on the electric charge 
of the atmosphere because travellers in general confine 
themselves to the description of the impressions produced 
on a European newly arrived by the solemn spectacle of a 
tropical storm. In a country where the year is divided into 


great seasons of drought and wet, or, as the Indians say in 
their expressive language, of sun* and ratn,t it is highly 
interesting to follow the progress of meteorological pheno- 
mena in the transition from one season to another We 
had already observed, in the valleys of Aragua, from the 
18th and 19th of February, clouds forming at the com- 
mencement of the night. In the beginning of the month 
of March the accumulation of tlie vesicular vapours, visible 
to the eye, and with them signs of atmospheric electricity, 
augmented daily. We saw flashes of heat-lightning to the 
south ; and the electrometer of Volta constantly displayed, 
at sunset, positive electricity. The pith balls, unexcited 
during the day, separated to the width of three or four lines 
at the commencement of the night, which is triple what I 
generally observed in Europe, with the same instrument, in 
calm weather. Upon the whole, from the 26th of May, the 
electrical equilibrium of the atmosphere seemed disturbed. 
During whole hours the electricity was nil, then it became 
very strong, and soon after was again imperceptible. The 
hygrometer of Deluc continued to indicate great dryness 
(from 33° to 35°), and yet the atmosphere appeared no 
longer the same. Amidst these perpetual variations of the 
electric state of the air, the trees, divested of their foliage, 
already began to unfold new leaves, and seemed to feel the 
approach of spring. 

The variations which we have just described are not 
peculiar to one year. Everything in the equinoctial zone 
has a wonderful uniformity of succession, because the active 

Êowers of nature limit and balance each other, according to 
iws that are easily recognized. I shall here note the 
progress of atmospherical phenomena in the islands to the 
east of the Cordilleras of Merida and of New Grenada, in 
the Llanos of Venezuela and the Rio Meta, from four to ten 
degrees of north latitude, wherever the rains are constant 

* In the Maypure dialect camoiij properly "the heat [of the sun]." 
The Tamanacs call the season of drought uamu, *'the time of grass- 

t In the Tamanac language canepo. The year is designated, among 
several nations, by the name of one of the two seasons. The Maypurea 
say, " so many suns," (or rather ** so many heats ;") the Tamanacs, 
** 80 many rains." 


firom May to October, and comprehending consequently the 
periods of the greatest heats, which occur in July and 

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

About the end of February and the beginning of March, 
the blue of the sky is less intense, the hygrometer indicates 
by degrees greater humidity, the stars are sometimes veiled 
by a slight stratum of vapour, and their light is no longer 
steady and planetary ; they are seen twinkling from time to 
time when at 20® above the horizon. The breeze at this 
period becomes less strong, less regular, and is often inter- 
rupted by dead calms. The clouds accumulate towards 
Bouth-south-east, appearing Hke distant mountains, with 
outlines strongly marked. From time to time they detach 
themselves from the horizon, and traverse the vault of the 
sky with a rapidity which little corresponds with the feeble 
wind prevailing in the lower strata of the air. At the end 
of March, the southern region of the atmosphere is illumiried 
by small electric explosions. They are like phosphorescent 
gleams, circumscribed by vapour. The breeze then shifts 
from time to time, and for several hours together, to the 
west and south-west. This is a certain sign of the approach 
of the rainy season, which begins at the Orinoco about the 
end of April. The blue sky disappears, and a grey tint 
spreads uniformly over it. At the same time the heat of the 
atmosphere progressively increases; and soon the heavens 
are no longer obscured by clouds, but by condensed vapours. 
The plaiutive cry of the howling apes begins to be heard 
before sunrise. The atmospheric electricity, which, during 

* The maximum of the heat is not felt on the coast^ at Cumana, at La 
Guayra, and in the neighbouring island uf Margareta, before the month of 
September; and the rains, if the name can be given to a few drops 
that fall at intervals, are observed only in the months of October and 



the season of drought, from December to March, had been 
constantly, in the day-time, from 1*7 to 2 lines, becomes 
extremely variable from the month of March. It appears 
nil during whole days ; and then for some hours the pith- 
balls diverge three or four lines. The atmosphere, which 
is generally, in the torrid as well as in the temperate 
zone, in a state of positive electricity, passes alternately, 
for eight or ten minutes, to the negative state. The season 
of rains is that of storms; and yet a great number of 
experiments made 4^^™ig three years, prove to me that it 
is precisely in this season of storms we find the smallest 
degree of electric tension in the lower regions of the atmo- 
sphere. Are storms the effect of this unequal charge of 
the different superincumbent strata of air? What pre- 
vents the electricity from descending towards the earth, in 
air which becomes more humid after the month of March ? 
The electricity at this period, instead of being diffused 
throughout the whole atmosphere, appears accumulated on 
the exterior envelope, at the surface of the clouds. Accor- 
ding to M. Gray-Lussac it is the formation of the cloud itself 
that carries the fluid toward its surface. The storm rises in 
the plains two hours after the sun has passed the meridian ; 
consequently a short time after the moment of the maxi- 
mum of diurnal heat within the tropics. It is extremely rare 
in the islands to hear thunder during the night, or in the 
morning. Storms at night are peculiar to certain valleys of 
rivers, having a peculiar climate. 

What then are the causes of this rupture of the equili- 
brium in the electric tension of the air ? of this continual 
condensation of the vapours into water ? of this interruption 
of the breezes ? of this commencement and duration oi the 
rainy seasons? I doubt whether electricity have any in- 
fluence on the formation of vapours. It is rather the for- 
mation of these vapours that augments and modifies the 
electrical tension. North and south of the equator, storms 
or great explosions take place at the same time in the 
temperate and in the equinoctial zone. Is there an action 
propagated through the great aërial ocean from the tem- 
perate zone towards the tropics? How can it be con- 
ceived, that in that zone where the sun rises constantly 
to so great a height above the horizon, its passage througn 


the zenith can have so powerful an injBiuence on the meteo- 
rological variations ? I am of opinion that no local cause 
determines the commencement of the raias within the tro- 
pics ; and that a more intimate knowledge of the higher 
currents of air will elucidate these problems, so complicated 
in appearance. We can observe only what passes in the 
lower strata of the atmosphere. The Andes are scarcely 
inhabited beyond the height of two thousand toises ; and at 
that height the proximity of the soil, and the masses of moun- 
tains, which form the shoals of the aerial ocean, have a sen- 
sible influence on the ambient air. What we observe on 
the table-land of Antisana is not what we should find at the 
same height in a balloon, hovering over the Llanos or the 
surface oi the ocean. 

We have just seen that the season of rains and storms in 
the northern equinoctial zone coiucides with the passage of 
the sun through the zenith of the place,* with the ces- 
sation of the north-east breezes, and with the frequency 
of calms and hendavales, which are stormy winds from 
south-east and south-west, accompanied by a cloudy sky. 
I believe that, in reflecting on the general laws of tne 
equilibrium of the gaseous masses constituting our atmo- 
sphere, we may find, in the interruption of the current that 
blows from an homonymous pole, in the want of the renewal 
of air in the torrid zone, and m the continued action of 
an ascendiQg humid current, a very simple cause of the 
coincidence of these phenomena. While the north-easterly 
breeze blows with all its violence north of the equator, it 
prevents the atmosphere which covers the equinoctial lands 
and seas from saturating itself with moisture. The hot and 
moist air of the torrid zone rises aloft, and flows off again 
towards the poles; while inferior polar currents, bringing 
drier and colder strata, are every instant taking the place of 
the columns of ascending air. By this constant action of 
two opposite currents, the humidity, far from being accumu- 
lated in the equatorial region, is carried towards the cold 
and temperate regions. During this season of breezes, 
which is that when the sun is in the southern signs, the 

* These passages take place, in the fifth and tenth degrees of north lat. 
between the 3rd and the i6th of April, and between the 27th of August 
and the 8th of September. 


148 CHANaE or the seasons. 

sky in the northern equinoctial zone is constantly serene. 
The vesicular vapours are not condensed, because the air, 
unceasingly renewed, is far from the point of saturation. 
In proportion as the sun, entering the northern signs, rises 
towaras the zenith, the breeze from the north-east moderates, 
and by degrees entirely ceases. The difference of tempera- 
ture between the tropics and the temperate northern zone is 
then the least possible. It is the summer of the boreal pole ; 
and, if the mean temperature of the winter, between 42° and 
62° of north latitude, be from 20° to 26° of the centigrade 
thermometer less than the equatorial heat, the difference in 
summer is scarcely from 4° to 6°. The sun being in the 
zenith, and the breeze having ceased, the causes which pro- 
duce humidity, and accumulate it in the northern equinoc- 
tial zone, become at once more active. The colunm of 
air reposing on this zone, is saturated with vapours, 
because it is no longer renewed by the polar current. 
Clouds form in this air saturated and cooled by the com- 
bined effects of radiation and the dilatation of the ascending 
air. This air augments its capacity for heat in proportion 
as it rarefies. With the formation and collection of the 
vesicular vapours, electricity accumulates in the higher re- 
gions of the atmosphere. The precipitation of the vapours is 
continual during the day ; but it generally ceases at night, 
and frequently even before sunset. The showers are regu- 
larly more violent, and accompanied with electric explosions, 
a short time after the maximum of the diurnal heat. This 
state of things remains unchanged, till the sun enters into the 
southern signs. This is the commencement of cold in the 
northern temperate zone. The current from the north-pole 
is then re-established, because the difference between the 
heat of the equinoctial and temperate regions augments 
daily. The north-east breeze blows with violence, the air of 
the tropics is renewed, and can no longer attain the degree 
of saturation. The rains consequently cease, the vesicular 
vapour is dissolved, and the sky resumes its clearness and 
its azure tint. Electrical explosions are no longer heard, 
doubtless because electricity no longer comes in contact with 
the groups of vesicular vapours in the high regions of the 
air, I had almost said the coating of clouds, on which the 
fluid can accumulate. 


We liave here considered the cessation of the breezes as 
,tlie principal cause of the equatorial rains. These rains in 
each hemisphere last only as long as the sun has its decli- 
nation in that hemisphere. It is necessary to observe, that 
the absence of the breeze is not always succeeded by a dead 
calm ; but that the calm is often interrupted, particularly 
along the western coast of America, by bendavaleSf or south- 
west and south-east winds. This phenomenon seems to 
demonstrate that the columns of humid air which rise in the 
northern equatorial zone, sometimes flow off tosvard the 
south pole. In fact, the countries situated in the torrid 
zone, both north and south of the equator, furnish, during 
their summer, while the sun is passing through their zenith, 
the mayimiim of difference of temperature with the air of the 
opposite pole. The southern temperate zone has its winter, 
wmle it rains on the north of the equator ; and while a mean 
heat prevails from 5® to 6° greater than in the time of 
drought, when the sun is lower.* The continuation of the 
rains, while the hendavales blow, proves that the currents 
finom the remoter pole do not act in the northern equi- 
noctial zone like the currents of the nearer pole, on account 
of the greater humidity of Jhe southern pol^ current. The 
air, wafi^ed by this current, comes from a hemisphere consist- 
ing almost entirely of water. It traverses all the southern 
equatorial zone to reach the parallel of 8° north latitude ; 
and is consequently less dry, less cold, less adapted to act as 
a counter-current to renew the equinoctial air and prevent 
its saturation, than the northern polar current, or the breeze 
£rom the north-east.f We may suppose that the hendavaleê 
are impetuous winds which, on some coasts, for instance on 
that of Gruatimala, (because they are not the effect of a 
legular and progressive descent of the air of the tropics 
towards the south pole, but thej alternate with calms), are 
aocompanied by electrical explosions, and are in fact squalls, 

* Fnmi the equator to 10* of north lat. the mean temperatnrei of the 
— miiMT and winter months icaroel j differ 2^ or 3^ ; but at the Units of 
tiie torrid zone, toward the tropic d Ctsaoerf the differeoee amotants 
to 8* or 9*. 

f In the two temperate zones the air loses its tnmsparenej every time 
tiiat the wind blows from the opposite pole, that is to mj, fnm the pole 
that has not the same denoodnatioa as the hemiq»berein wfûchûiewmà 


that indicate a reflux, an abrupt and instantaneous rupture, 
of equilibrium in the aerial ocean. 

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

The aspect of the sky, the progress of the electricity, and 
the shower of the 28th of March, announced the commence- 
ment of the rainy season ; we were still advised, however, to 
go from San Fernando de Apure by San Francisco de Capa- 
naparo, the Eio Sinaruco, and the Hato de San Antonio, to 
the village of the Ottomacs, recently founded near the 
banks of the Meta, and to embark on the Orinoco a little 
above Carichana. This way by land lies across an unhealthy 
and feverish country. An old farmer named Francisco San- 
chez obligingly offered to conduct us. His dress denoted 
the great simplicity of manners prevailing in those distant 
countries. He had acquired a fortune of more than 100,000 
piastres, and yet he mounted on horseback with his feet bare, 
and wearing mrge silver spurs. We knew by the experience 
of several weeks the dull uniformity of the vegetation of tho 
Llanos, and preferred the longer road, which leads by the 
Bio Apure to the Orinoco. We chose one of those very large 
canoes called lanchas by the Spaniards. A pilot and four 
Indians were sufficient to manage it. They constructed, 
near the stem, in the space of a few hours, a cabin covered 
with palm-leaves, sufficiently spacious to contain a table 
and benches. These were made of ox-hides, strained tight, 
and nailed to frames of brazil-wood. I mention these mi- 
nute circumstances, to prove that our accommodations on 
the Eio Apure were far different from those to which we 
were afterwards reduced in the narrow boats of the Orinoco. 
We loaded the canoe with provision for a month. Fowls, 
eggs, plantains, cassava, and cacao, are found in abundance 


at San Fernando. The good Capuchin, Fray Jose Maria de 
Malaga, gave us sherry wine, oranges, and tamarinds, to 
make cooling beverages. We could easily foresee that a 
roof constructed of palm-tree leaves would become exces- 
sively hot on a large river, where we were almost always 
eMosed to the perpendicular rays of the sun. The Indians 
reued less on the provision we had purchased, than on their 
hooks and nets. We took also some fire-arms, which we 
found in general use as far as the cataracts; but farther 
south the great humidity of the air prevents the mission- 
aries from using them. The Eio Apure abounds in fish, 
manatis, and turtles, the eggs of which afibrd an aliment 
more nutritious than agreeable to the taste. Its banks are 
inhabited by an innumerable quantity of birds, among which 
the pauxi and the gtMcha/raca, which may be called the tur- 
keys and pheasants of those countries, are found to be the 
most useml. Their flesh appeared to be harder and less 
white than that of the gallinaceous tribe in Europe, because 
they use much more muscular exercise. We did not forget 
to add to our provision, fishing-tackle, fire-arms, and a few 
casks of brandy, to serve as a medium of barter with the 
Indians of the Orinoco. 

We departed from San Fernando on the 30th of March, 
at four in the afternoon. The weather was extremely hot ; 
the thermometer rising in the shade to 34°, though the 
breeze blew very strongly from the south-east. Owing to 
this contraiy wind we could not set our sails. We were 
accompanied, in the whole of this voyage on the Apure, the 
Orinoco, and the Eio Negro, by the brother-in-law of the 
governor of the province of Varinas, Don Nicolas Soto, 
who had recently arrived from Cadiz. Desirous of visiting 
countries so calculated to excite the curiosity of a Euro- 
pean, .he did not hesitate to confine himself with us during 
seventy-four days in a narrow boat infested with mosquitos. 
His amiable disposition and gay temper often helped to 
make us forget the sufferings of a voyage which was not 
wholly exempt from danger. We passed the mouth of the 
Apurito, and coasted the island of the same name, formed 
by the Apure and the Ouarico. This island is in fact only 
a very low spot of ground, bordered by two great rivers, 
both of which, at a little (Stance from each other, fall into 

152 TABTJBO rraiAIfS. 

the Orinoco, after having formed a junction below San Fer- 
nando by the first biftmeation of the Apure. The Isla del 
Apurito is twenty-two leagues in length, and two or three 
leagues in breadth. It is divided by the Cano de la Tigrera 
and the Cano del Manati into three parts, the two extremes 
of which bear the names of Isla de Blanco and Isla de los 
G-arzitas. The right bank of the' Apure, below the Apurito, 
is somewhat better cultivated than the left bank, where the 
Taruros, or Japuin Indians, have constructed a few huts 
with reeds and stalks of palm-leaves. These people, who 
live by hunting and fishmg, are very skilful in killing 
jaguars. It is they who principally carry the skins, known 
in Europe by the name of tiger-skins, to the Spanish vil- 
lages. Some of these Indians have been baptized, but they 
never visit the Christian churches. They are considered as 
savages because they choose to remain independent. Other 
tribes of Taruros live under the rule of the missionaries, in 
the viQage of Achaeuas, situated south of the Eio Payara. 
The individuals of niis nation, whom I had an opportunity 
of seeiog at the Orinoco, have a stem expression oi counte- 
nance ; and some features in their physiognomy, erroneously 
called Tartarian, belong to branches of the Mongol race, 
the eye very long, the cheekbones high, but the nose pro- 
minent throughout its whole length. They are taller, 
browner, and less thick-set than the Chayma Indians. The 
missionaries praise the intellectual character of the Taruros, 
who were formerly a powerful and numerous nation on the 
banks of the Orinoco, especially in the environs of Cuycara, 
below the mouth of the Guarico. We passed the night at 
Diamante, a small sugar-plantation formed opposite the 
island of the same name. 

During the whole of my voyage from San Fernando to 
San Carlos del Eio Negro, and thence to the town of 
Angostura, I noted down day by day, either in the boat or 
where we disembarked at night, all that appeared to me 
worthy of observation. Violent rains, and the prodigious 
quantity of mosquitos with which the air is filled on the 
banks of the Orinoco and the Cassiquiare, necessarily occa- 
sioned some interruptions ; but I supplied the omission by 
notes taken a few days after. I here subjoin some extracts 
from my journal. Whatever is written widle the objects we 


describe are before our eyes bears a character of truth and 
individuality which gives attraction to things the least 

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

Having passed the Diamante we entered a land inhabited 
only by tigers, crocodiles, and chiguires; the latter are a 
large species of the genus Cavia of Linnaeus. We saw flocks 
of birds, crowded so closely together as to appear against the 
sky like a dark cloud which every instant changed its form. 
The river widens bv degrees. One of its banks is generally 
barren and sandy from the effect of inundations ; the other 
is higher, and covered with lofty trees. In some parts the 
river is bordered by forests on each side, and forms a 
straight canal a hundred and fifty toises broad. The 
manner in which the trees are disposed is very remarkable. 
We first find bushes of sauso* forming a Ûnd of hedge 
four feet high, and appearing as if they had been clipped 
by the hand of man. A copse of cedar, brazilletto, and 
lignum-vitsB, rises behind this hedge. Palm-trees are rare ; 
we. saw only a few scattered trunks of the thorny pirita 
and corozo. The large quadrupeds of those regions, the 
jaguars, tapirs, and peccaries, have made openings in the 
nage of sati90 which we have just described. Through 
these the wild nnimala pass when they come to drink at the 
river. As they fear but little the approach of a boat, we 
had the pleasure of viewing them as they paced slowly 
. along the shore till they dU^peared in the forest, which 
they entered by one of the narrow passes left at intervals 
between the bushes. These scenes, which were often re- 
peated, had ever for me a peculiar attraction. The pleasure 

* Henneda rwntiindfolia. This is a neir genus, q>proadinig iSbm 
•Icfaomea of Swartz. 


they excite is not owing solely to the interest which the 
naturalist takes in the objects of his study, it is connected 
with a feeling common to all men who have been brought 
up in the habits of* civilization. You find yourself in a new 
world, in the midst of untamed and savage nature. Now 
the jaguar, — ^the beautiful panther of America, — appears 
upon the shore; and now the hocco,* with its black 
plumage and tufted head, moves slowly along the sausos. 
Animals of the most diflerent classes succeed each other. 
" ^sse como en el Faradiso,*^ "It is just as it was in 
Paradise," said our pilot, an old Indian of the Missions. 
Everything, indeed, in these regions recalls to mind the 
state of the primitive world with its innocence and felicity. 
But in carefolly observing the manners of animals among 
themselves, we see that they mutually avoid and fear each 
other. The golden age has ceased ; and in this Paradise of 
the American forests, as well as everywhere else, sad and 
long experience has taught all beings that benignity is 
seldom found in alliance with strength. 

When the shore is of cohsiderable breadth, the hedge of 
sauso remains at a distance from the river. In the inter- 
mediate space we see crocodiles, sometimes to the number 
of eight or ten, stretched on the sand. Motionless, with 
their jaws wide open, they repose by each other, without 
displaying any of those marks of affection observed in other 
animals Uving in society, The troop separates as soon as 
they quit the shore. It is, however, probably composed of 
one male only, and many females; for as M. Descourtils, 
who has so much studied the crocodiles of St. Domingo, 
observed to me, the males are rare, because they kill one 
another in fighting during the season of their loves. These 
monstrous creatures are so numerous, that throughout the 
whole course of the river we had almost at every instant five 
or six in view. Yet at this period the swelling of the Rio 
Apure was scarcely perceived ; and consequently hundreds 
of crocodiles were stiU buried in the mud of the savannahs. 
About four in the afternoon we stopped to measure a dead 
cropodile which had been cast ashore. It was only sixteen 
feet eight inches long ; some days after M. Bonpland found 
another, a male, twenty-two feet three inches long. In 

* Ceyz elector, the peacock-pheasant ; C. pauzi, the cashew-bird. 


every zone, in America as in Egypt, this animal attains the 
same size. The species so abundant in the Apure, the 
Orinoco,* and the Rio de la Magdalena, is not a cayman, 
but a real crocodile, analagous to that of the Nile, having 
feet dentated at the external edges. When it is recollected 
that the male enters the age of puberty only afc ten years, 
and that its length is then eight feet, we may presume that 
the crocodile measured by M. Bonpland was at least twenty- 
eight years old. The Indians told us, that at San remando 
scarcely a year passes, without two or three grown-up 
persons, particularly women who fetch water fix)m the river, 
being drowned by these carnivorous reptiles. They related 
to us the history of a young girl of TJritucu, who by singular 
intrepidity and presence of mind, saved herself from the jaws 
of a crocodile. WTien she felt herself seized, she sought the 
eyes of the animal, and plunged her fingers iato them with 
enich violence, that the pain forced the crocodile to let her 
go, after having bitten off the lower part of her left arm. 
The girl, notwithstanding the enormous quantity of blood she 
lost, reached the shore, swimming with the hand that still 
remained to her. In those desert countries, where man is 
ever wrestling with nature, discourse daily turns on the best 
means that may be employed to escape from a tiger, a boa, or 
a crocodile ; every one prepares himself in some sort for the 
dangers that may await him. "I knew," said the young 
girl of TJritucu coolly, "that the cayman lets go his hold, u 
you push your fingers into his eyes.'* Long after my 
return to Europe, I learned that in the interior of Africa the 
negroes know and practise the same means of defence. Who 
does not recoUect, with lively interest, Isaac, the guide of 
the unfortunate Mungo Park, who was seized twice by a 
crocodile, and twice escaped from the jaws of the monster, 
having succeeded in thrusting his fingers into the creature's 
eyes while under water. The African Isaac, and the young 
American girl, owed their safety to the same presence of 
mind, and the same combination of ideas. 

The movements of the crocodile of the Apure are sudden 
and rapid when it attacks any object ; but it moves with 
the slowness of a salamander, when not excited by rage 

* It is the arua of the Tamanac Indians, the amana of the Maypuro 
Indians, the Crocodilus acutus of Cuvier. 


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

The crocodiles of the Apure find abundant food in the 
chiguires (thick-nosed tapu's),* which live fifty or sixty 
together in troops on the banks of the river. These animals, 
as large as our pigs, have no weapons of defence ; they swim 
somewhat better than they run : yet they become the prey 

* Cavia capybara, Linn. The word ehignire belongs to the language 
of the Palenkas and the Cumanagotos. The Spaniards call this animal 
guardatinqja i the Caribs, capigua; the Tamanacs, cappiva; and the 
Maypures, chiato. According to Azara, it is known at Buenos Ayres by 
the Indian names of eapiygua and capiguara. These various denomi- 
nations show a striking analogy between the languages of the Orinoco 
and those of the Rio de la Plata. 


of the crocodiles in the water, and of the tigers on land. 
It is difficult to conceive, how, being thus persecuted by 
two powerful enemies, they become so numerous ; but they 
breed with the same rapicuty as the little cavies or guinea- 
pigs, which come to us from Brazil. 

yfe stopped below the mouth of the Cano de la Tigrera, 
in a sinuosity called la Vuelta del Jbval, to measure the 
velocity of the water at its surface. It was not more than 
3:2 feet* in a second, which gives 2*56 feet for the mean velo- 
city. The height of the barometer indicated barely a slope of 
seventeen inches in a mile of nine hundred and fifty toises. 
The velocity is the simultaneous effect of the slope of the 
ground, and the accumulation of the waters by the swelling 
of the upper parts of the river. We were agam surrounded 
by chiguires, which swim like dogs, raising their heads and 
necks above the water. We saw with surprise a large 
crocodile on the opposite shore, motionless, and sleeping in 
the midst of these nibbling animals. It awoke at the ap- 
proach of our canoe, and went into the water slowly, without 
mghtening the chiguires. Our Indians accounted for this 
indifference by the stupidity of the animals, but it is more 
probable that the chiguires know by long experience, that 
the crocodile of the Apure and the Orinoco does not attack 
upon land, unless he nnds the object he would seize imme- 
diately in his way, at the instant when he throws himself 
into tne water. 

Near the Joval nature assumes an awfiil and extremely wild, 
aspect. We there saw the largest jaguar we had ever met 
with. The natives themselves were astonished at its pro- 
digious length, which surpassed that of any Bengal tiger I 
had ever seen in the museums of Europe. The animal lay 
stretched beneath the shade of a large zamang.* It had 
just kiQed a chiguire, but had not yet touched its prey, on 
which it kept one of its paws. The zamuro vultures were 
assembled in great numbers to devour the remains of the 
jaguar's repast. They presented the most curious spectacle, 

* In order to measure the velocity of the surface of a river, I generally 
measured on the beach a base of 250 feet, and observed with the chrono- 
meter the time that a floating body, abandoned to the current, required 
to reach this distance. 

t A species of mimosa. 

158 SKOBicous JAarAB. 

by a singular mixture of boldness and timidity. They ad- 
vanced within the distance of two feet from the animal, but at 
the least movement he made they drew back. In order to 
observe more nearly the manners of these creatures, we 
went into the little skiff that accompanied our canoe. Tigers 
very rarely attack boats by swimmmg to them ; and never 
but when their ferocity is heightened by a long privation of 
food. The noise of our oars led the animal to rise slowly, 
and hide itself behind the sauso bushes that bordered the 
shore. The vultures tried to profit by this moment of 
absence to devour the chiguire; but the tiger, notwith- 
standing the proximity of our boat, leaped into the midst of 
them, ^d in a fit of rage, expressed by his gait and the 
movement of his tail, carried off his prey to the forest. 
' The Indians regretted that they were not provided with 
their lances, in order to go on shore and attack the tiger. 
They are accustomed to this weapon, and were right in 
not trusting to our fire-arms. In so excessively damp an 
atmosphere muskets offcen miss fire. 

Continuing to descend the river, we met with the great 
herd of chiguires which the tiger had put to flight, and from 
which he had selected his prey. These animals saw us land 
very unconcernedly ; some oi them were seated, and gazed 
upon us, moving the upper lip like rabbits. They seemed 
not to be afraid of man, but the sight of our dog put them 
to flight. Their hind legs being longer than their fore legs, 
their pace is a slight gallop, but with so little swiftness that 
we succeeded in catching two of them. The chiguire, which 
swims with the greatest agility, utters a short moan in 
running, as if its respiration were impeded. It is the largest 
of the family of rodentia or gnawing animals. It defends 
itself only at the last extremity, when it is surrounded and 
wounded. Having great strength in its grinding teeth,* 
particularly the hinder ones, wmch are pretty long, it can 
tear the paw of a. tiger, or the leg of a horse, with its bite. 

* We counted eighteen on each siàé: On the hind feet, at the upper 
end of the metatarsus, there is a callosity three inches long and Ûiree 
quarters of an inch hroad, destitute of hair. The animal, when seated, 
rests upon this part. No tail is visible externally ; but on putting aside 
the hair we discover a tubercle, a mass of naked and wrinkled flesh, of a 
conical figure^ and half an inch long. 


Its flesh has a musky smell somewhat disagreeable; jet 
hams are made of it in this country, a circumstance whSch 
almost justifies the name of 'water-hog,' given to the 
chiguire by some of the older naturalists. The missionary 
monks do not hesitate to eat these hams during Lent. 
According to their zoological classification they place the 
armadillo, the thick-nosed taper, and the manati, near the 
tortoises; the first, because it is covered with a hard ar- 
mour like a sort of shell ; and the others because they are 
amphibious. The chiguires are found in such numbers on 
the banks of the rivers Santo Domingo, Apure, and Arauca, 
in the marshes and in the inundated savannahs* of the 
lilanos, that the pasturages suffer from them. They browze 
the grass which fattens the horses best, and which bears the 
name of chiguirero, or chiguire-grass. They feed also upon 
fish ; and we saw with sm^iise, that, when scared by the 
approach of a boat, the animal in diving remains eight or 
ten minutes under water. 

We passed the night as usual, in the open air, though in 
a plantation, the proprietor of which employed himself in 
hunting tigers. He wore scarcely any clothing, and was of 
a dark brown complexion like a Zambo. This did not pre- 
vent his classing himself amongst the Whites. He called 
his wife and his daughter, who were as naked as himself, 
Dona Isabella and Doiia Manuela. Without having ever 
quitted the banks of the Apure, he took a lively interest in 
the news of Madrid, — enquiring eagerly respecting " those 
never-ending wars, and everything down yonder (todas las 
cosas de alla)." He knew, he said, that the king was soon to 
come and visit " the grandees of the country of Caracas," but 
he added with some pleasantry, " as the people of the court 
can eat only wheaten bread, they wiU never pass beyoncj 
the town of Victoria, and we shall not see them here." 
I had brought with me a chiguire, which I had intended to 
have roasted; but our host assured us, that such * Indian 
game' was not food fit for "/w>5 otros cahalleros hlancos,^^ 
(white gentlemen like ourselves and him). Accordingly he 
offered us some venison, which he had killed the day before 
with ah arrow, for he had neither powder nor fire-arms. 

• Near Uritucu, in the Caflo del Ravanal, we saw a flock of eighty or 
one hundred of these animalà. 



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

On the 1st of April, at sunrise, we quitted Seiior Don 
Ignacio and Senora Dona Isabella his wife. The weather 


was cooler, for the thermometer (which generally kopt up 
in the dajrfcime to 30'' or 35°) had sunk to 24°. The tempera- 
ture of the river was little changed : it continued constantly 
at 26° or 27°. The current carried with it an enonnous 
number of trunks of trees. It might be imagined that on 
ground entirely smooth, and where the eye cannot dis- 
tinguish the least hill, the river would have formed by the 
force of its current a channel in a straight Une; but a 
glance at the map, which I traced by the compass, will 

5 rove the contrary. The two banks, worn by the waters, 
o not furnish an equal resistance; and almost impercep- 
rible inequalities of tne level suffice to produce great sinuo- 
sities. Yet below the Joval, where the bed of the river 
enlarges a little, it forms a channel that appears perfectly 
straight, and is shaded on each side by very tall trees. 
This part of the river is called Cano E»ico. I found it to 
be one hundred and thirty-six toises broad. We passed 
a low island, inhabited by thousands of flamingos, rose- 
coloured spoonbills, herons, and moorhens, which displayed 
plumage of the most various colours. These birds were 
so close together that they seemed to be unable to stir. 
The island they frequent is called Isla de Aves, or Bird 
Island. Lower down we passed the point where the Rio 
Arichuna, an arm of the Apure, branches off to the Cabu- 
lare, carrying away a considerable body of its waters. We 
stopped, on the right bank, at a little Indian mission, inha- 
bited by the tribe of the Guamos, called the village of 
Santa Barbara de Arichuna. 

The Guamos* are a race of Indians very difficult to fix 
on a settled spot. They have great similari^ of manners 
with the Achaguas, the Guajibos.,t and the Ottomacs, par- 
taking their disregard of cleanliness, their spirit of ven- 
geance, and their taste for wandering ; but their language 
differs essentially. The greater part of these four tribes 
live by fishing and hunting, in plains often inundated, 
situated between the Apure, the Meta, and the Guaviare. 
The nature of these regions seems to invite the natives to 
a wandering life. On entering the mountains of the Cata- 

* Father Gili observes that their Indian name is Uamu and Pau^ and 
that they originally dwelt on the Upper Apure, 
t Their Indian name is Guahiva, 


racts of the Orinoco, we shall soon find, among the Piraoas, 
the Macos, and the Maqiiiritaras, milder manners, a love 
of agriculture, and great cleanliness in the interior of their 
huts. On mountain ridges, in the midst of impenetrable 
forests, man is compelled to fix himself, and cultivate a 
small spot of land. This cultivation requires little care ; 
while, in a country where there are no other roads than 
rivers, the life of the hunter is laborious and difficult. The 
Guamos of the mission of Santa Barbara could not furnish 
us with the provision we wanted. They cultivate only a 
little cassava. They appeared hospitable; and when we 
entered their huts, they offered us dried fish, and water 
cooled in porous vessels. 

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

The night was calm and serene, and there was a beautiful 
moonlight. The crocodiles, stretched along the shore, 
placed themselves in such a manner as to be able to see the 
fire. We thought we observed that its blaze attracted 
them, as it attracts fishes, crayfish, and other inhabitants of 
the water. The Indians showed us the tracks of three tigers 
in the sand, two of which were very young. A female had 
no doubt conducted her little ones to drink at the river. 
Finding no. tree on the strand, we stuck our oars in the 
ground, and to these we fastened our hammocks. Every- 
thing passed tranquilly tiU eleven at night ; and then a noise 
so terrific arose in the neighbouring forest, that it was 
almost impossible to close our eyes. Amid the cries of so 
many wild beasts howling at once, the Indians discriminated 
such only as were at intervals heard separately. These 
were the little soft cries of the sapajous, the moans of the 
alouate apes, the bowlings of the jaguar and couguar, the 
peccary, and the sloth, and the cries of the curassao, the 


parraka, and other gaUinaceous birds. When the jaguars 
approached the skirt of the forest, our dog, which till then 
had never ceased harking, began to howl and seek for 
shelter beneath our hammocks. Sometimes, after a long 
silence, the cry of the tiger came from the tops of the trees ; 
and then it was followed by the sharp and long whistling 
of the monkeys, which appeared to flee from the danger 
that threatened them. We heard the same noises repeated, 
during the course of whole months, whenever the forest 
approached the bed of the river. The security evinced by 
the Indians inspires confidence in the minds of travellers^ 
who readily persuade themselves that the tigers are afraid of 
fire, and that they do not attack a man lying in his ham- 
mock. These attacks are in fact extreuiely rare; and, 
during a long abode in South America, I remember only 
one example, of a llanero, who was found mutilated in his 
liammock opposite the island of Achaguas. 

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

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

M 2 


the shelter of a solitary tree, his slumbers are disturbed by 
a serenade from the forest. 

"We set sail before sunrise, on the 2nd of April. The 
morning was beautiful and cool, according to the feelings of 
those who are accustomed to the heat of these climates. 
The thermometer rose only to 28° in the air, but the dry 
and white sand of the beach, notwithstanding its radiation 
towards a cloudless sky, retained a temperature of 86°. The 
porpoises (toninas) ploughed the river in long files. The 
shore was covered with fishing-birds. Some of these perched 
on the floating wood as it passed down the river, and 
surprised the fish that preferred the middle of the stream. 
Our canoe was aground several times during the morning. 
These shocks are sufficiently violent to split a light bark. 
We struck on the points of several large trees, which remain 
for years in an oblique position, sunk in the mud. These 
trees descend from Sarare, at the period of great inun- 
dations, and they so fill the bed of the river, that canoes in 
going up find it difficult sometimes to make their way over 
the shoals, or wherever there are eddies. We reached a 
spot near the island of Carizales, where we saw trunks of 
the locust-tree, of an enormous size, above the surface of the 
water. They were covered with a species of plotus, nearly 
resembling the anhmga^ or white bellied darter. These 
birds perch in files, like pheasants and parrakas, and they 
remain for hours entirely motionless, with their beaks raised 
toward the sky. 

Below the island of Carizales we observed a diminution of 
the waters of the river, at which we were the more sur- 
prised, as, after the bifurcation at la Boca de Arichuna, there 
18 no branch, no natural drain, which takes away water from 
the Apure. The loss is solely the effect of evaporation, and 
of filtration on a sandy and wet shore. Some idea of tho 
magnitude of these efiects may be formed, from the fact 
that we found the heat of the diy sands, at différent hours of 
the day, from 36° to 52°, and that of sands covered with 
three or four inches of water 32°. The beds of rivers are 
heated as far as the depth to which the solar rays can 
penetrate without undergoing too great an extinction in 
their passage through the superincumbent strata of water. 


Besides, filtration extends in a lateral direction far beyond 
the bed of the river. The shore, which apears dry to us, 
imbibes water as far up as to the level of the surface of 
the river. We saw water gush out at the distance of fifty 
toises from the shore, every time that the Indians struck 
their oars into the ground. Now these sands, wet below, 
but dry above, and exposed to the solar rays, act like 
sponges, and lose the infiltrated water every instant by 
evaporation. The vapour that is emitted, traverses the 
upper stratum of sand strongly heated, and becomes sensible 
to the eye when the air cools towards evening. As the beach 
dries, it draws from the river new portions of water ; and it 
may be easily conceived that this continual alternation of va- 

J)orization and lateral absorption must cause an immense 
OSS, difficult to submit to exact calculation. The increase 
of these losses would be in proportion to the length of the 
course of the rivers, if from their source to their mouth they 
were equally surrounded by a flat shore ; but these shores 
being formed by deposits from the water, and the water 
having less velocity in proportion as it is more remote fix)m 
its source, throwing down more sediment in the lower than 
in the upper part of its course, many rivers in hot climates 
undergo a diminution in the quantity of their water, as they 
approach their outlets. Mr. Barrow observed these curious 
effects of sands in the southern part of Africa, on the banks 
of the Orange Eiver. They have also become the subject 
of a very important discussion, in the various hypotheses 
that have been formed respecting the course of the Niger.* 

Near the Vujelta de Basilio, where we landed to coUect 
plants, we saw on the top of a tree two beautiful little 
monkeys, black as jet, of the size of the sai, with prehensile 
tails. Their physiognomy and their movements sufficiently 
showed that they were neither the qttato (Simia beelzebub) 

* Geographers supposed, for a long period, that the Niger was entirely 
absorbed by the sands, and evaporated by the heat of the tropical sun, as 
no embouchure could be found on the western coast of Africa to meet 
the requirements of so enormous a river. It was discovered, however, 
by the Landers, in 1830, that it does really flow into the Atlantic; yet 
the cause mentioned above is so powerful, that of all the numerous 
branches into which it separates at its mouth, only one (the Nun River) 
is navigable even for light ships, and for half the year even those are 
unable to enter. 

.- 4-.- 


nor the chamek, nor any of the Ateles. Our Indians them- 
selves had never seen any that resembled them. Mo2ikeys, 
especially those living in troops, make long emigrations 
at certam periods, and consequently it happens that at the 
beghming of the rainv seasons the natives discover roimd 
their huts different kinds which they have not before 
observed. On this same bank our guides showed us a 
nest of yoimg iguanas only four inches long. It was 
difficult to distinguish them fix>m common lizards. There 
was no distinguishing inark yet formed but the dewlap 
below the throat. The dorsal spines, the large erect scales, 
all those appendages that render the iguana so remarkable 
when it attains its full growth, were scarcely traceable. 

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

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

Since our departure from San Pemando we had not met 
a single boat on this fine river. Everything denoted the 
most profound solitude. On the morning of the 3rd of 
April our Indians caught with a hook the fish known in the 
country by the name of caribe* or caribito, because no other 
fish has such a thirst for blood. It attacks bathers and 

* Caribe in the Spanish language signifies cannibal. 


Bwimmers, firom whom it often bites away considerable 
pieces of flesh. The Indians dread extremely these caribes ; 
and several of them showed us the scars of deep wounds in 
the calf of the leg and in the thigh, made by these little 
animals. They swim at the bottom of rivers ; but if a few 
drops of blood be shed on the water, they rise by thou- 
sands to the surface, so that if a person be only slightly 
bitten, it is di£&cult for him to get out of the water vdthout 
receiving a severer wound. When we reflect on the numbers 
of these fish, the largest and most voracious of which are 
only four or five inches long, on the triangular form of their 
sluup and cutting teeth, and on the amplitude of their re- 
tractile mouths, we need not be surprised at the fear which 
the caribe excites in the inhabitants of the banks of the 
Apure and the Orinoco. In places where the river was 
very limpid, where not a fish appeared, we threw into the 
water little morsels of raw flesh, and in a few minutes a 
perfect cloud of caribes had come to dispute their prey. 
The belly of tliis fish has a cutting edge, indented like 
a saw, a characteristic which may be also traced in the 
serra-saJmes, the myletes, and the pristigastres. The pre- 
sence of. a second adipous dorsal fin, and the form of the 
teeth, covered by lips distant firom each other, and largest 
in the lower jaw, place the caribe among the serrchsalmes. 
Its mouth is much wider than that of the myletes of Cuvier. 
Its body, toward the back, is ash-coloiu'ed with a tint of 
green, but the belly, the giU-covers, and the pectoral, anal, 
and ventral fins, are of a fine orange hue. Three species are 
known in the Orinoco, and are distinguished by their size. 
The intermediate appears to be identical with the medium 
species of the piraya, or piranha, of Marcgrav.* The cari- 
bito has a very agreeable flavour. As no one dares to 
bathe where it is found, it may be considered as one of the 
greatest scourges of those climates, in which the sting of 
the mosquitos and the general irritation of the skin render 
the use of baths so necessary. 

We stopped at noon in a desert spot called Algodonal. 
I left my companions while they drew the boat ashore and 
were occupied in preparing our dioner. I went along the 
beach to get a near vieW of a group of crocodiles sleeping in 

* Salmo rhombeas, Linn. 


the son, and lying in such a manner as to have their tails, 
which were furnished with broad plates, resting on one an- 
other. Some little herons,* white as snow, walked along their 
backs, and even upon their heads, as if passing over trunks 
of trees. The crocodiles were of a greenish grey, half 
covered with dried mud ; from their colour and immobility 
they might have been taken for statues of bronze. This ex- 
cursion had nearly proved fatal to me. I had kept my eyes 
constantly turned towards the river ; but, whilst pickmg up 
some spangles of mica agglomerated together in the sand, I 
discovered the recent footsteps of a tiger, easily distinguish- 
able from their form and size. The animal had gone towards 
the forest, and turning my eyes on that side, I found myself 
within eighty paces of a jaguar that was lying under the 
thick foliage of a ceiba. No tiger had. ever appeared to me 
so large. 

There are accidents in life against which we may seek 
in vain to fortify our reason. I was extremely alarmed, yet 
sufficiently master of myself and of my. motions to enable 
me to follow the advice which the Indians had so often 
given us as to how we ought to act in such cases. I con- 
tinued to walk on without running, avoided moving my arms, 
and I thought I observed that the jaguai^s attention was 
fixed on a herd of capybaras which was crossing the river. I 
then began to return, making a large circuit toward the edge 
of the water. As the distance increased, I thought I might 
accelerate my pace. How often was I tempted to look back 
in order to assure myself that I was not pursued ! Happily 
I yielded very tardily to this desire. The jaguar had re- 
mained motionless. These enormous cats with spotted robes 
are so weU fed in countries abounding in capybaras, pecaries, 
and deer, that they rarely attack men. I arrived at the 
boat out of breath, and related my adventure to the Indians. 
They appeared very little interested by my story ; yet, after 
having loaded our guns, they accompanied us to the ceiba 

*t* Garzon chico. It is believed, in Upper £g3rpt, that herons 
have an affection for crocodiles, because they take advantage in fishing 
of the terror that monstrous animal causes among the fishes, which 
he drives from the bottom to the surface of the water ; but on the banks 
of the Nile» the heron keeps prudently a€ some distance from the cro- 


beneath whicli tlie jaguar had lain. He was there no longer, 
and it would have been imprudent to have pursued him into 
the forest, where we must have dispersed, or advanced in 
Bingle file, amidst the intertwining lianas.. 

d the evening we passed the mouth of the Cano del 
Manati, thus named on account of the immense quantity of 
manatis caught there every year. This herbivorous animal 
of the cetaceous family, is called by the Indians apcia and 
avia* and it attains here generally ten or twelve feet in 
length. It usually weighs from five hundred to eight hun- 
dred pounds, but it is asserted that one has been taken of 
eight thousand pounds weight. The manati abounds in the 
Orinoco below the cataracts, in the Eio Meta, and in the 
Apure, between the two islands of Carizales and Conserva. 
We found no vestiges of nails on the external surface or 
the , edges of the fins, which are quite smooth ; but little 
"rudiments of nails appear at the third phalanx, when the 
skin of the fins is taken off. "We dissected one of these 
animals, which was nine feet long, at Carichana, a Mission 
of the Orinoco. The upper lip was four inches longer than 
the lower one. It was covered with a very fine skin, and served 
as a proboscis. The iaside of the mouth, which has a sensi- 
ble warmth in an animal newly killed, presented a very 
singular conformation. The tongue was almost motionless ; 
but in front of the tongue there was a fleshy excrescence in 
each jaw, and a cavity Imed with a very hard skin, into which 
the excrescence fitted. The manati eats such quantities of 
grass, that we have found its stomach, which is divided into 
several xiavities, and its intestines, (one hundred and eight 
feet long,) filled with it. On opening the animal at the 
back, we were struck with the magnitude, form, and situa- 
tion of its lungs. They have very large cells, and resemble 
immense swimming-bladders. They are three feet long. 
Filled with air, they have a bulk of more than a thousand 
cubic inches. I was surprised to see that, possessing such 

* The first of these words belongs to the Tamanac language, and the 
second to the Ottomae. Father Gili proves, in opposition to Oviedo, 
that the manati (fish with hands) is not Spanish, but belongs to the 
languages of Hayti (St. Domingo) and the Maypures. I believe also 
that, according to the genius of the Spanish tongue, the animal would 
have been called manudo or manorif bat not manati. 


considerable receptacles for air, the manati comes so often 
to the surface of the water to breathe. Its flesh is very 
savoury, though, from what prejudice I know not, it is con- 
sidered unwholesome and apt to produce fever. It ap- 
peared to me to resemble port rather than beef. It is most 
esteemed by the Guamos and the Ottomacs ; and these two 
nations are particularly expert in catching the manati. Its 
flesh, when salted and dried in the sun, can be preserved a 
whole year; and, as the clergy regard this mammiferous 
animal as a fish, it is much sought during Lent. The 
vital principal is singularly strong in the manati ; it is tied 
after being harpooned, but is not killed till it has been 
taken into the canoe. This is effected, when the animal is 
very large, in the middle of the river, by filling the canoe 
two-thirds with water, sliding it under the animal, and then 
balinff out the water by means of a calabash. This fishery 
is most easy ailer grJt inundations, when the manati ha^ 
passed from the great rivers into the lakes and surrounding 
marshes, and the waters diminish rapidly. At the period 
when the Jesuits governed the Missions of the Lower 
Orinoco, they assembled every year at Cabruta, below the 
mouth of the Apure, to have a grand fishing for manatis, 
with the Indians of their Missions, at the foot of the moun- 
tain now called El Capuchino. The fat of the anim^, 
known bv the name of manati-butter (manteca de manati,) 
is used jtor lamps in the churches ; and is also employed in 
preparing food. It has not the fetid smell of whale-oil, 
or that of the other cetaceous animals which spout water. 
The hide of the manati, which is more than an inch and half 
thick, is cut into slips, and serves, like thongs of ox-leather, 
to supply the place of cordage in the Llanos. When im- 
mersed in water, it has the defect of undergoing a slight 
degree of putrefaction. Whips are made of it in the Spa- 
nish colonies. Hence the words latino and manati are 
synonymous. These whips of manati-leather are a cruel 
instnunent of punishment for the unhappy slaves, and even 
for the Indians of the Missions, though, according to the 
laws, the latter ought to be treated like freemen. 

We passed the night opposite the island of Conserva. In 
skirting the forest we were surarised by the sight of an enor- 
mous trunk of a tree seventy feet high, and thickly set with 


brancMng thorns. It is called hy the natives harba de tigre. 
It was perhaps a tree of the berberideous family.* The 
Indians nad kindled fires at the edge of the water. We 
again perceived, that their light attracted the crocodiles, 
and even the porpoises (toninas), the noise of which inter- 
rupted our sleep, till the fire was extinguished. A female 
jaguar approached our station whilst taking her young one 
to drink at the river. The Indians succeeded in chasing her 
away, but we heard for a long time the cries of the little 
jaguar, which mewed like a young cat. Soon after, our great 
dog was bitten, or, as the Indians say, stung, at the point 
of the nose, by some enormous bats that hovered around 
our hammocks. These bats had long tails, like the Mo- 
losses : I believe, however, that they were Phyllostomes, the 
tongue of which, furnished with papill», is an organ of 
suction, and is capable of being considerably elongated. 
The dog's wound was very small and round ; and though he 
uttered a plaintive cry when he felt himself bitten, it was 
not firom pain, but because he was frightened at the sight of 
the bats, which came out from beneath our hammocks. 
These accidents are much more rare than is believed even 
in the country itself In the course of several years, not- 
withstanding we slept so often in the open air, in climates 
where vampire-bats,t and other analagous species are so 
common, we were never wounded. Besides, the puncture 
is no-way dangerous, and in general causes so little pain, 
that it often does not awaken the person till after the bat 
has withdrawn. 

The 4th of April was the last day we passed on the Eio 
^pure. The vegetation of its banks became more and more 
uniform. During several days, and particularly since we 
had left the Mission of Arichuna, we had suffered cruelly 
from the stings of insects, which covered our faces and 
hands. They were not mosquitos, which have the appear- 

* We found, on the banks of the Apure, Ammania apurensis, Cordia 
cordifolia, C. grandiflora, MoUugo sperguloides. Myosotis lithosper- 
moïdes, Spermacocce diffusa, Coronilla occidentalis, Bignonia apurensis, 
Pisonia pubescens, Ruellia viscosa, some new species of Jussieua, and a 
new genus of the composite family, approximating to Rolandra, the 
Trichospira menthoides of M. Kunth. 

i" Verspertilio spectrum. 


ance of little flies, or of the genus Simulium, but zancudos^ 
which are really gnats, though very different from our Euro- 
pean species.* These insects appear only after sunset. Their 
proboscis is so long that, when they fix on the lower surface 
of a hammock, they pierce through it and the thickest gar- 
ments with their sting. 

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

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

We were singularly struck at the small quantity of water 
which the Eio Apure furnishes at this season to the Ori- 
noco. The Apure, which, according to my measurements, 
was still one hundred and thirty-six toises broad at the Cano 
Bico, was only sixty or eighty at its mouth.* Its depth 

* M. Latreille has discovered that the mosquitos of South Carolina are 
of the genus Simulium (Atractocera meigen.) 

t The latter (Craz pauxi) is less common than the former. 

t Not quite so broad as the Seine ac the Pont Royal, opposite the 


here was only three or four toises. It loses, no doubt, a 
part of its waters by the Rio Arichuna and the Cano del 
Manati, two branches of the Apure that flow into the 
Payara and the Guarico ; but its greatest loss appears to 
be caused by filtrations on the beach, of which we have 
before spoken. The velocity of the Apure near its mouth 
was only 3*2 feet per second ; so that I could easily have 
calculated the whole quantity of the water if I had taken, 
by a series of proximate soundings, the whole dimensions 
of the tranverse section. 

We touched several times on shoals before we entered 
the Orinoco. The ground gained from the water is immense 
towards the confluence of the two rivers. We were obliged 
to be towed along by the bank. What a contrast between 
this state of the river immediately before the entrance of 
the rainy season, when all the efiects of dryness of the air 
and of evaporation have attained their maximum, and that • 
autumnal state when the Apure, like an arm of the sea, 
covers the savannahs as far as the eye can reach! We 
discerned towards the south the lonely hills of Coruato; 
while to the east the granite rocks of Curiquima, the Sugar 
Loaf of Caycara, and the mountains of the Tyrant* (Cerros 
del Tirano) began to rise on the horizon. It was not without 
emotion that we beheld for the first time, after long ex- 
pectation, the waters of the Orinoco, at a point so distant 
from the coast. 

palace of the Tuileries, and a little more than half the width of the 
Thames at Westminster Bridge. 

* This name alludes, no doubt, to the expedition of Antonio Sedeno. 
The port of Caycara, opposite Cabruta, still bears the name of that Coo* 


Chaptee XIX. 

Junction of the Apure and the Orinoco. — Mountains of Encaramada. — 
Uruana. — Baraguan. — Carichana. — ^Mouth of the Meta. — Island of 

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

In these scattered features of the landscape, in this cha- 
racter of solitude and of greatness, we recognize the course 
of the Orinoco, one of the most majestic rivers of the New 
World. The water, like the land, displays everywhere a 
characteristic and peculiar aspect. The Ded of the Orinoco 
resembles not the bed of the Meta, the Guaviare, the Eio 
Negro, or the Amazon. These differences do not depend 
altogether on the breadth or the velocity of the current; 
they are connected with a multitude of impressions which 
it is easier to perceive upon the spot than to define with 
precision. Thus, the mere form of the waves, the tint of 


the waters, the aspect of the sky and the clouds, would lead 
an experienced navigator to guess whether he were in the 
Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, or in the equinoctial part of 
the Pacific. 

The wind blew fresh from east-north-east. Its direc- 
tion was favourable for sailing up the Orinoco, towards the 
Mission of Encaramada ; but our canoes were so ill calcu- 
lated to resist the shocks of the waves, that, from the 
violence of the motion, those who suffered habitually at sea 
were equally incommoded on the river. The short, broken 
waves are caused by the conflict of the waters at the junc- 
tion of the two rivers. This conflict is very violent, but far 
from being so dangerous as Eather Grumilla describes. We 
passed the Punta Curiquima, which is an isolated mass of 
quartzose granite, a small promontory composed of rounded 
blocks. There, on the right bank of the Orinoco, Father 
Hotella founded, in the time of the Jesuits, a Mission of 
the Palenka and Viriviri or Guire Indians. But during 
inundations, the rock Curiquima and the village at its foot 
were entirely surrounded by water ; and this serious incon- 
venience, together the sufferings of the missionaries and In- 
dians from the innumerable quantity of mosquitos and niguaa,^ 
led them to forsake this humid spot. It is now entirely 
deserted, while opposite to it, on the right bank of the river, 
the little mountains of Coruato are the retreat of wandering 
Indians, expelled either from the Missions, or from tribes 
that are not subject to the government of the monks. 

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

"We first proceeded south-west, as far as the shore inhabited 

* The cbego (Pulex penetrans), which penetrates under the naili of the 
toei in men and monkeys, and there deposits its eggs. 


by the Guaricoto Indians on the left bank of the Orinoco, 
and then we advanced straight toward the south. The river 
is so broad that the mountains of Encaramada appear to rise 
from the water, as if seen above the horizon of the sea. They 
form a continued chain from east to west. These mountains 
are composed of enormous blocks of granite, cleft and piled 
one upon another. Their division into blocks is the effect 
of decomposition. What contributes above all to embellish 
the scene at Encaramada is the luxuriance of vegetation 
that covers the sides of the rocks, leaving bare only their 
rounded summits. They look like ancient ruins rising in 
the midst of a forest. The mountain immediately at the 
back of the Mission, the Tepupano* of theTamanac Indians, 
is terminated by three enormous granitic cylinders, two of 
which are inclined, while the third, though worn at its base, 
and more than eighty feet high, has preserved a vertical 
position. This rock, which calls to mind the form of the 
Schnareher in the Hartz mountains, or that of the Organs 
of Actopan in Mexico,t composed formerly a part of the 
rounded summit of the mountain. In every climate, un- 
stratified granite separates by decomposition into blocks of 
prismatic, cylindric, or columnar figures. 

Opposite the shore of the G-uaricotos, we drew near 
another heap of rocks, which is very low, and three or four 
toises long. It rises in the midst of the plain, and has less 
resemblance to a tumulus than to those masses of granitic 
stone, which in North Hpland and Oermany bear the name 
of hunenbette, beds (or tombs) of heroes. The shore, at this 
part of the Orinoco, is no longer of pure and quartzose sand ; 
but is composed of clay and spangles of mica, deposited in 
very thin strata, and generally at an inclination of forty or 
fifty degrees. It looks like decomposed mica-slate. This 
change in the geological configuration of the shore extends 

* Tepu-pano, * place of stones,' in which we recognize iepu 'stone, 
rock,' as in tepu-iri ' mountain.' We here perceive that Lesgian Oigour- 
Tartar root tep 'stone* (found in America among the Americans, in 
teptl: among the Caribs^ in tebou; among the Tamanacs, in tepuiri) ; 
a striking analogy between the languages of Caucasus and Upper Asia 
and those of the banks of the Orinoco. 

+ In Captain Tuckejr's Voyage on the river Congo, we find repre- 
sented a granitic rock, Taddi Enzazi, which bears a striking resemblance 
to the mountain of Encaramada. 


&r b^ond the mouth of the Apure. ITe had begun to 
obeenre it in this latter liveT as far off as Algodonal and the 
CsDO del ManatL The spangles of mica c<»iie« no doubt, 
firom the granite mountains of Cunqnima and Knfarama«ia ; 
since further north-east we find only quartzose sand, sand* 
atone, compact limestone, and grpsom. Allurial earth car- 
ried successirelT from south to north need not surprise us 
in the Orinoco: but to what shall we attribute tl^ same 
phenomenon in the bed of the Apure, seven leagues west of 
its mouth r In the piesent state of things, notwithstanding 
the swellings of the Orinoco, the waters of the Apure never 
retrograde so fisff ; and, to explain this phenomenon, we are 
forced to admit that the micaceous strata were deposited at 
a time when the whole of the very low countiy Iving be- 
tween CaycarEu Algodonal, and the mountains of Eucara- 
mada, formed the basin of an inland lake. 

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

The Indian names of the Mission of San Luis del Encara- 
mada, are Gwija and Caramana.* This small village was 

* All the Missions of Soath America have names composed of two 
words, the first of which is necessarily the name of a saint, the patron of 
the church, and the second an Indian name, that of the nation, or the 
spot where the establishment is placed. Thos we say, San Jose de 
Maypures, Santa Cruz de Cachipo, San Juan Nepomuceno de los Atures, 
&c. These compound names appear only in official documents; the 
inhabitants adopt but one of the two names, and generally, provided it 
be sonorous, the Indian. As the names of saints are several times 
repeated in neighbouring places, great confusion in geography arises from 
these repetitions. The names of Sah Juan, San Diego« and San Pedro* 



founded in 1749 by Father Gili, the Jesuit, author of the 
Storia delV Orinoco, published at Home. This missionaiy, 
learned in the Indian tongues, lived in these solitudes during 
eighteen years, till the expulsion of the Jesuits. To form a 
precise idea of the savage state of these countries it must be 
recollected that Eather Grili speaks of Carichana,* which 
is forty leagues from Encaramada, as of a spot far 
distant; and that he never advanced so far as the first 
cataract in the river of which he ventured to undertake the 

In the port of Encaramada we met with some Caribs of 
Panapana. A cacique was going \ip the Orinoco in his 
canoe, to join in the famous fishing of turtles* eggs. His 
canoe was rounded toward the bottom like a hon^o, and 
followed by a smaller boat called a curiara. He was seated 
beneath a sort of tent, constructed, like the sail of palm- 
leaves. His cold and silent gravity, the respect with 
which he was treated by his attendants, everything denoted 
him to be a person of importance. He was equipped, 
however, in the same manner as his Indians. They were all 
equally naked, armed with bows and arrows, and painted 
with onoto, which is the colouring fecula of the Bixa oreUana. 
The chief, the domestics, the furniture, the boat, and the 
sail, were all painted red. These Caribs are men of an 
almost athletic stature; they appeared to us much taller 
than any Indians we had hitherto seen. Their smooth and 
thick hair, cut short on the forehead like that of choristers, 
their eyebrows painted black, their look at once gloomy and 
animated, gave a singular expression to their countenances. 
Having tiU then seen only the skulls of some Caribs of the 
West India Islands preserved in the collections of Europe, 
we were surprised to find that these Indians, who were of 

Sure race, had foreheads much more rounded than they are 
escribed. The women, who were very tall, and disgusting 

are scattered in our maps as if by chance. It is pretended that the 
Mission of Guaja affords a very rare example of the composition of two 
Sp^mish words. The word Encaramada means things raised one upon 
another, from encaramavt * to raise up.* It is derived from the figure 
of Tepupano and the neighbouring rocks : perhaps it is only an Indian 
word caramana, in which, as in manati^ a Spanish signification was 
believed to be discovered. 

* Saggio di Storia Americana^ vol. i. p. 122. 


from their want of cleanliness, carried their infants on their 
oacks. The thighs and legs of the infants were bound at 
certain distances by broad strips of cotton cloth, and the 
flesh, strongly compressed beneath the ligatures, was swelled 
in the interstices. It is generally to be observed, that the 
Caribs are as attentive to their exterior and their ornaments, 
as it is possible for men to be, who are naked and painted 
red. They attach great importance to certain configurations 
of the body; and a mother would be accused of culpable ^ 
indifierence toward her children, if she did not employ arti- 
ficial means to shape the calf of the leg after the fashion of 
the country. As none of our Indians of Apure understood 
the Caribbee language, we could obtain no information fix)m 
the cacique of Panama respecting the encampments that are 
made at this season in several islands of the Orinoco for 
collecting turtles' eggs. 

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

s 2 


Nile,* "tliat they swarm like worms in the shallow waters of 
the river, and in the shelter of uninhabited islands." 

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

* Description de l'Egypte, translated by De Sacy. 


of Murcielago, towards the sources of the Erevato and the 

It was across these mountains, which are inhabited 
by Indians of gentle character, employed in agriculture,* 
that, at the time of the expedition for 'settling boundaries, 
General Iturriaga took some homed cattle for the supply 
of the new town of San Fernando de Atabapo. The in- 
habitants of Encaramada then showed the Spanish soldiers 
the way by the !Rio Manapiari,t which faUs mto the Yen- 
tuari. By descending these two rivers, the Orinoco and the 
Atabapo may be reached without passiag the great cataracts, 
which present almost insurmountable obstacles to the con- 
veyance of cattle. The spirit of enterprise which had so 
eminently distinguished the Castillans at the period of the 
discovery of America, was again roused for a time in the 
middle of the eighteenth century, when Ferdinand VI was 
desirous of knowing the true limits of his vast possessions ; 
and in the forests of Guiana, that land of fiction and 
fabulous tradition, the wily Indians revived the chimerical 
idea of the wealth of El Dorado, which had so much occu- 
pied the imagination of the first conquerors. 

Amidst the mountains of Encaramada, which, like most 
coarse-grained granite rocks, are destitute of metallic veins, 
we cannot help inquiring whence came those grains of gold 
which Juan Martinez J and lialeigh profess to have seen in 
such abundance in the hands of the Indians of the Orinoco. 
From what I observed in that part of America, I am led to 
think that gold, like tin,|| is sometimes disseminated in an 

* The Mapoyes, Parecas, Javaranas, and Curacicanas, who possess 
fine plantations (conucos) in the savannahs by which these forests are 

f Between Encarmada and the Rio Manapiare, Don Miguel Sanchez, 
chief of this little expedition, crossed the Rio Guainaima, which flows 
into the Cuchivero. Sanchez died, from the fatigue of this journey, on 
the borders of the Ventuari. 

t The companion of Diego Ordaz. 

II Thus tin is found in granite of recent formation, at Geyer ; in hya- 
lomicte or graisen, at Zinnwald ; and in syenitic porphyry, at Altenberg, 
in Saxony, as well as near Naila, in the Fichtelgebirge. I have also seen, 
in the Upper Palatinate, micaceous iron, and black earthy cobalt, far from 
any kind of vein, disseminated in a granite destitute of mica, as magnetic 
iron-sand is in volcanic rocks. 


almost imperceptible maimer in the very mass of granite 
rocks, without our being able to perceive that there is a 
ramification and an intertwining of small veins. Not long 
ago the Indians of Encaramada found in the Quebrada del 
Tigre* a piece of native gold two lines in diameter. It was 
rounded, and appeared to have been washed along by the 
waters. This discovery excited the attention of the mis- 
sionaries much more than of the natives ; it was followed by 
no other of the same kind. 

I cannot quit this first link of the mountains of Enca- 
ramada without recalling to mind a fact that was not un- 
known to Father Gili, and which was often mentioned to 
me during our abode in the Missions of the Orinoco. The 
natives of those countries have retained the belief that, " at 
the time of the great waters, when their fathers were forced 
to have recourse to boats, to escape the general inimdation, 
the waves of the sea beat against the rocks of Encaramada." 
This belief is not confined to one nation singly, the Tama- 
nacs ; it makes part of a system of historical tradition, of 
which we find scattered notions among the Maypures of the 
great cataracts ; among the Indians of the Eio Erevato, which 
runs into the Caura ; and among almost all the tribes of the 
Upper Orinoco. When the Tamanacs are asked how the 
human race survived this great deluge, the *age of water,* 
of the Mexicans, they say, "a man and a woman saved 
themselves on a high mountain, called Tamanacu, situated on 
the banks of the Asiveru ; and casting behind them, over 
their heads, the fruits of the mauritia palm-tree, they saw 
the seeds contained in those fruits produce men and women, 
who repeopled the earth." Thus we find in all its simpli- 
city, among nations now in a savage state, a tradition which 
the Greeks embellished with all the charms of imagination ! 
A few leagues firom Encaramada, a rock, called Tepvrmereme, 
or * the painted rock,' rises in the midst of the savannah. 
Upon it are traced representations of animals, and symbolic 
figures resembling those we saw in going down the Orinoco, 
at a small distance below Encaramada, near the town Cay- 
cara. Similar rocks in Africa are called by travellers yè^wA 
stones. 1 shall not make use of this term, Decause fetishism 
does not prevail among the natives of the Orinoco ; and the 

* The Tiger-ravine. 


figures of staM, of the sun, of tigers, and of crocodiles, which 
we found traced upon the rocks in spots now uninhabited, 
appeared to me in no way to denote the objects of worship 
of those nations. Between the banks of the Cassiquiare 
and the Orinoco, between Encaramada, the Capuchino, and 
Caycara, these hieroglyphic figures are often seen at great 
heights, on rocky cliffs which could be accessible only by 
constructing very' lofty scaffolds. When the natives are 
asked how those figures could have been sculptured, they 
answer with a smile, as if relating a fact of which only a 
white man could be ignorant, that "at the period of the 
great waters, their fathers went to that height in boats.*' 

These ancient traditions of the human race, which we find 
dispersed over the whole surface of the globe, like the relics 
of a vast shipwreck, are highly interesting in the philo- 
sophical study of our own species. Like certain families of 
the vegetable kingdom, which, notwithstanding the diversity 
of climates and the influence of heights, retain the impres- 
sion of a common type, the traditions of nations respecting 
the origin of the world, display everywhere the same phy- 
siognomy, and preserve features of resemblance that fill us 
with astonishment. How many different tongues, belonging 
to branches that appear totally distinct, transmit to us the 
same facts ! The traditions concerning races that have been 
destroyed, and the renewal of nature, scarcely vary in 
reality, though every nation gives them a local colouring. 
In the great continents, as in the smallest islands of the 
Pacific Ocean, it is always on the loftiest and nearest moun- 
tain that the remains of the human race have been saved ; 
and this event appears the more recent, in proportion as the 
nations are uncultivated, and as the knowledge they have 
of their own existence has no very remote date. After 
having studied with attention the Mexican monuments 
anterior to the discovery of the New World ; after haviag 
penetrated into the forests of the Orinoco, and observed 
the diminutive size of the European establishments, their 
solitude, and the state of the tribes that have remained 
independent ; we cannot allow ourselves to attribute the 
analogies just cited to the influence exercised by the mis- 
sionaries, and by Christianity, on the national traditions. 
Nor IS it more probable, that the discovery of eearshells on 


the summit of mountams gave birth, among the nations of 
the Orinoco, to the tradition of some great inundation 
which extinguished for a time the germs of organic life on 
our globe. The country that extends from the right bank 
of the Orinoco to the Cassiquiare and the Eio Negro, is a 
country of primitive rocks. 1 saw there one small formation 
of sandstone or conglomerate ; but no secondary limestone, 
and no trace of petnfactionb. 

A fresh north-east breeze carried us full-sail towards the 
Boca de la Tortuga. "We landed, at eleven in the morn- 
ing, on an island which the Indians of the Missions of XJru- 
ana considered as their property, and whicli lies in the 
middle of the river. This island is celebrated for the turtle 
fishery, or, as they say here, the cosecha, * the harvest [of 
eggs,]* that takes place annually. "We here found an 
assemblage of Indians, encamped under huts made of 
palm-leaves. This encampment contained more than three 
hundred persons. Accustomed, since we had left San 
Pemando de Apure, to see only desert shores, we were 
singularly struck by the bustle that prevailed here. We 
found, besides the Gruamos and the Ottomacs of Uruana, 
who are both considered as savage races, Caribs and other 
Indians of the Lower Orinoco. Every tribe was separatelv 
encamped, and was distinguished by the pigments ^dth whicK 
their skins were painted. Some white men were seen amidst 
this tumultuous assemblage, chiefly pulperos, or little traders 
of Angostura, who had come up the river to purchase turtle 
oil from the natives. The missionary of TJruana, a native 
of Alcala, came to meet us, and he was extremely astonished 
at seeing us. After having admired our instruments, he 
; gave us an exaggerated picture of the sufferings to which 
! we should be necessarily exposed in ascending the Orinoco 
beyond the cataracts. The object of our journey appeared 
to him very mysterious. " How is it possible to believe," 
said he, " that you have left your country, to come and be 
devoured by mosquitos on this river, and to measure lands 
that are not your own ? '* We were happily furnished with 
recommendations from the Superior of the Franciscan Mis- 
sions, and the brother-in-law of the governor of Varinas, 
who accompanied us, soon dissipated the doubts to which 
our dress, our accent, and our arrival in this sandy island, 


had given rise among the Whites. The missionary invited 
US to partake a frugal repast of fish and plantains. He told 
us that he had come to encamp with the Indians during 
the time of the * harvest of eggs,' " to celebrate mass every 
morning in the open air, to procure the oil necessary for the 
church-lamps, and especially to govern this mixed republic 
(republica de Indies y Castellanos) in which every one 
wished to profit singly by what Q-od had granted to all." 

"We made the tour of the island, accompanied by the 
missionary and by a pulpero, who boasted of having, for ten 
successive years, visited the camp of the Indians, and at- 
tended the turtle-fishery. We were on a plain of sand per- 
fectly smooth ; and were told that, as far as we could see 
along the beach, turtles' eggs were concealed under a layer 
of earth. The missionary carried a long pole in his hand. 
He showed us, that by means of this pole, the extent of the 
stratum of eggs could be determined as accurately as the 
miner determines the limits of a bed of marl, of bog iron- 
ore, or of coal. On thrusting the rod perpendicularly into 
the ground, the sudden want of resistance shows that the 
cavity or layer of loose earth containing the eggs, has been 
reached. We saw that the stratum is generally spread with 
so much uniformity, that the pole finds it everywhere in a 
radius of ten toises around any given spot. Here they talk 
continually of square perches of eggs ; it is like a mming- 
country, divided into lots, and worked with the great- 
est regularity. The stratum of eggs, however, is far from 
covering the whole island : they are not found wherever the 
ground rises abruptly, because the turtle cannot mount 
heights. I related to my guides the emphatic description 
of Father G-umilla, who asserts, that the shores ot the 
Orinoco contain fewer grains of sand than the river con- 
tains turtles ; and that these animals would prevent vessels 
from advancing, if men and tigers did not annually destroy 
80 great a number.* ^^ Son cuentos de fraileSy* "they are 

* *' It would be as difficult to count the grains of sand on the shores of 
the Orinoco, as to count the immense number of tortoises which inhabit 
its margins and waters. Were it not for the vast consumption of tor- 
toises and their eggs, the river Orinoco, despite its great magnitude, 
would be unnavigable, for vessels would be impeded by the enormoui 
multitude of the tortoises.'' — Gumilla, Orinoco Illustrata^ vol. i. pp. 


monkish legends," said the pulpero of Angostura, in a low 
voice; for the only travellers in this country being the 
missionaries, they here call * monks' stories,' what we call 
'travellers' tales,' in Europe. 

The Indians assured us that, in going up the Orinoco 
firom its mouth to its junction with the Apure, not one island 
or one beach is to be found, where eggs can be collected in 
abundance. The great turtle (arrau)* dreads places inha- 
bited bv men, or much frequented by boats, it is a timid 
and mistrustful animal, raising only its head above the 
water, and hiding itself at the least noise. The shores where 
almost aU the turtles of the Orinoco appear to assemble 
annually, are situated between the junction of the Ori- 
noco with the Apure, and the great cataracts; that is to 
say, between Cabruta and the Mission of Atures. There 
are found the three famous fisheries ; those of Encaramada, 
or Boca del Cabullare ; of Cucuruparu, or Boca de la Tor- 
tuga ; and of Pararuma, a little below Carichana. It seems 
that the arrau does not pass beyond the cataracts ; and we 
were assured, that only the turtles called terehay, (in Spanish 
terecayas^ are found above Atures and Maypures. 

The arrau, called by the Spaniards of the Missions simply 
tortuga, is an animal whose existence is of great importance 
to the nations on the Lower Orinoco. It is a large fresh- 
water tortoise, with palmate and membraneous feet; the 
head very flat, with two fleshy and acutely-poiated append- 
ages under the chin ; five claws to the fore feet, and four to 
the hind feet, which are furrowed underneath. The upper 
shell has five central, eight lateral, and twenty-four marginal 

Elates. The colour is darkish grey above, and orange 
eneath. The feet are yeUow, and very long. There is a 
deep furrow between the eyes. The claws are very strong 
andT crooked. The anus is placed at the distance of one-fifbh 
from the extremity of the tau. The fuU-grown animal 
weighs from forty to fifty pounds. Its eggs are much larger 
than those of pigeons, and less elongated than the eggs of the 
terekay. They are covered with a calcareous crust, and, it is 

* This word belongs to the Maypure language, and must not be con- 
founded with aruut which means a crocodile, among the Tamanacs, 
neighbours of the Maypures. The Ottomacs call the turtle of Uruana, 
achea ; the Tamanacs, pe^e. 

SEASON OF LAxrera. 187 

said, they have sufficient firmness for the children of the 
Ottomac Indians, who are great players at ball, to throw them 
into the air from one to another. If the arrau inhabited 
tlie bed of the river above the cataracts, the Indians of the 
Upper Orinoco would not travel so far to procure the flesh 
and the eggs of this tortoise. Tet, formerly, whole tribes 
from the Atabapo and the Cassiquiare have been known to 

Cass the cataracts, in order to take part in the fishery at 

The terekay is less than the arrau. It is in general only 
fourteen inches in diameter. The number of plates in the 
upper shell is the same, but they are somewhat differently 
arranged. I counted three in the centre of the disk, and 
five hexagonal on each side. The margins contain twenty- 
four, all quadrangular, and much curved. The upper shell 
is of a black colour inclining to green ; the feet and claws 
are like those of the a/rrau. The whole animal is of an 
olive-green, but it has two spots of red mixed with yeUow on 
tlie top of the head. The throat is also yellow, and fur- 
nished with a prickly appendage. The tereJcwys do not 
assemble in numerous societies Mke the arraus, to lay tneir 
eggs in common, and deposit them upon the same shore. 
The eggs of the terekay have an agreeable taste, and are 
much sought after by the inhabitants of Spanish Guiana. 
They are found in the Upper Orinoco, as well as below the 
cataracts, and even in the Apure, the Uritucu, the Guarico, 
and the small rivers that traverse the Llanos of Caracas, 
The form of the feet and head, the appendages of the chin 
and throat, and the position of the anus, seem to indicate 
that the arrau, and probably the terekay also, belong to a 
new subdivision of the tortoises, that may be separated from 
the emydes. The period at which the large arrau tortoise 
lays its eggs coincides with the period of the lowest waters. 
The Orinoco beginning to increase from the vernal equinox, 
the lowest flats are found uncovered from the end of Ja- 
nuary till the 20th or 25th of March. The arrau toi> 
toises coUect in troops in the month of January, then issue 
from the water, and warm themselves in the sun, reposing 
on the sands. The Indians believe that great heat is in- 
dispensable to the health of the animal, and that its expo- 


Bure to the sun favours the laying of the eggs. The arraus 
are found on the beach a great part of the day during the 
whole month of February. At the beginning of March the 
straggling troops assemble, and swim towards the small num- 
ber of islands on which they habitually deposit their eggs. 
It is probable that the same tortoise returns every year to 
the same locality. At this period, a few days before they 
lay their eggs, thousands of these animals may be seen 
ranged in long files, on the borders of the islands of Cucu- 
ruparu, TJruana, and Pararuma, stretching out their necks 
and holding their heads above water, to see whether they 
have anything to dread. The Indians, who are anxious that 
the bands when assembled should not separate, that the 
tortoises should not disperse, and that the laying of the 
eggs should be performed tranquilly, place sentinels at cer- 
tain distances along the shore. The people who pass in 
boats are told to keep in the middle of the river, and not 
frighten the tortoises by cries. The laying of the eggs 
takes place always during the night, and it begins soon alter 
sunset. "With its hind feet, which are very long, and fur- 
nished with crooked claws, the animal digs a hole of three 
feet in diameter and two in depth. These tortoises feel so 

Sressing a desire to lay their eggs, that some of them 
escend into holes that have been dug by others, but which 
are not yet covered with earth. There they deposit a new 
layer of eggs on that which has been recently laid. In this 
tumultuous movement an immense number of eggs are 
broken. The missionary showed us, by removing the sand 
in several places, that this loss probably amounts to a fifth 
of the whole quantity. The yolk of the broken eggs con- 
tributes, in d^ing, to cement the sand ; and we foimd very 
large concretions of grains of quartz and broken shells. 
The number of animeds working on the beach during the 
night is so considerable, that day surprises many of them 
before the laying of their eggs is terminated. They are 
then urged on by the double necessity of depositing their 
eggs, and closing the holes they have dug, that they may 
not be perceived by the jaguars. The tortoises that thus 
remain too late are insensible to their own danger. They 
work in the presence of the Indians, who visit the beach 


at a very early hour, and who call them * mad tortoises.' 
Notwithstanding the rapidity of their movements, they are 
then easily caught with the hand. 

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

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

The lieutenant (commissionado del Padre) begms his 
operations by sounding. He examines by means of a long 
wooden pole or a cane of bamboo, how far the stratum of 
eggs extends. This stratum, according to our measurements, 
extended to the distance of one hundred and twejity feet from 
the shore. Its average depth is three feet. The commis- 

190 phoditce or the islakjd. 

sionado places marks to indicate the poiat where each tribe 
should stop in its labours. We were surprised to hear this 
* harvest of eggs ' estimated like the produce of a well- 
cultivated field. An area accurately measured of one hun- 
dred and twenty feet long, and thirty feet wide, has been 
known to yield one hundred jars oi oil, valued at about 
forty poimds sterling. The Indians remove the earth 
with their hands; they place the eggs they have collected 
in small baskets, carry them to their encampment, and 
throw them into long troughs of wood filled with water. 
In these troughs the eggs, broken and stirred with shovels, 
remain exposed to the sun till the oily part, which swims on 
the sur£sLce, has time to inspissate. As fast as this collects 
on the surface of the water, ii is taken off and boiled over 
a quick fire. This animal oil, called tortoise butter (manteca 
de tortugas)* keeps the better, it is said, in proportion as it 
has undergone a strong ebullition. When well prepared, 
it is limpid, inodorous, and scarcely yellow. The missiona- 
ries compare it to the best olive oil, and it is used not 
merely for burning in lamps, but for cooking. It is not 
easy, however, to procure oil of turtles' eggs quite pure. It 
has generally a putrid smell, owing to the mixture of eggs 
in which the young are already formed. 

I acquired some general statistical notions on the spot, by 
consulting the missionary of Uruana, his lieutenant, and the 
traders of Angostura. The shore of Uruana furnishes one 
thousand botijas, or jars of oil, annually. The price of each 
jar at Angostura varies from two piastres to two and a half. 
We may admit that the total produce of the three shores, 
where the cosecha, or gathering of eggs, is annually made, is 
five thousand botijas. Now as two hundred eggs yield oil 
enough to fill a Dottle (limeta), it requires five thousand 
eggs for a jar or botija of oil. Estimating at one hundred, 
or one hundred and sixteen, the number of eggs that one 
tortoise produces, and reckoning that one third of these is 
broken at the time of laying, particularly by the *mad 
tortoises,* we may presume that, to obtam annually five 
thousand jars of oil, three hundred and thirty thousand 
nrrau tortoises, the weight of which amounts to one himdred 

* The Tamanac Indians give it the name of carapa ; the Maypurei 
call it timi. 


and sixty-five thousand quintals, must lay thirty-three 
miQions of eggs on the three shores where this harvest 
is gathered. The results of these calculations are much 
below the truth. Many tortoises lay only sixty or seventy 
eggs ; and a great number of these animals are devoured by 
jaguars at the moment they emerge from the water. The 
Indians bring away a great number of eggs to eat them 
dried in the sun; and they break a considerable number 
through carelessness duiiug the gathering. The number of 
eggs that are hatched before the people can dig them up is 
so prodigious, that near the encampment of Uruana I saw 
the whole shore of the Orinoco swarming with little tor- 
toises an inch in diameter, escaping with fifficulty from the 
Eursuit of the Indian children. Û to these considerations 
e added, that all the arrau% do not assemble on the three 
shores of the encampments ; and that there are many which 
lay their eggs in solitude, and some weeks later,* between 
the mouth of the Orinoco and the confluence of the Apure ; 
we must admit that the number of turtles which annually 
deposit their eggs on the banks of the Lower Orinoco, is 
near a million. This number is very great for so large an 
animal. In general large animals multiply less considerably 
than the smaller ones. 

The labour of collecting the eggs, and preparing the oil, 
occupies three weeks. It is at this period only that the mis- 
sionaries have any communication with the coast and the 
civilized neighbouring countries. The Franciscan monks 
who live south of the cataracts, come to the * harvest of 
eggs * less to procure oil, than to see,* as they say, * white 
faces ;' and to learn whether the king inhabits the Escurial 
or San Ildefonso, whether convents are still suppressed 
in France, and above all, whether the Turks continue to 
keep quiet. On these subjects, (the only ones interesting 

* The arrauiy which lay their eggs before the beginning of March, 
(for in the same species the more or less frequent basking in the sun, the 
food; and the peculiar organization of each individual, occasion dififer- 
ences,) come out of the water with the terekaya, which lay in January and 
February. Father Gumilla believes them to be arraus that were not 
able to lay their eggs the preceding year. It is difficult to find the eggs 
of the terekaya, because these animals, far from collecting in thousandi 
on the same beach, deposit their eggs as they are scattered about. 


to a monk of the Orinoco), the small traders of Angostura, 
who visit the encampments, can give, unfortunately, no very 
exact information. But in these distant countries no doubt 
is ever entertained of the news brought by a white man 
from the capital. The profit of the traders in oil amounts 
to seventy or eighty per cent. ; for the Indians sell it them 
at the price of a piastre a jar or botija, and the expense of 
carriage is not more than two-fifths of a piastre per jar. 
The Indians bring away also a considerable quantity of eggs 
dried in the sun, or slightly boiled. Our rowers had baskets 
or little bags of cotton-cloth filled with these eggs. Their 
taste is not disagreeable, when well preserved. We were 
shown large shells of turtles, which had been destroyed by 
the jaguars. These animals follow the arraus towards those 
places on the beach where the eggs are laid. They surprise 
the cmraus on the sand ; and, in order to devour them at 
their ease, turn them in such a manner that the under shell 
is uppermost. In this situation the turtles cannot rise; 
and as the jaguar tucns many more than he can eat in one 
night, the Ladians often avail themselves of his cunning and 

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

* In the Tamanac language^ from peje, a tortoise, and canepOt rain. 


soned arrows, whilst, with upraised heads and paws ex- 
tended, the animals are warming themselves in the sun. 

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

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

VOL. II. o 


animals. Scarcely is one male found among several hun- 
dred females. ïne cause of this disparity cannot be the 
same as with the crocodiles, which nght in the coupling 

Our pilot had anchored at the Tlaya de Jiuevos, to pur- 
chase some provisions, our store having began to run snort. 
We found there fresh meat, Angostura rice, and even biscuit 
made of wheat-flour. Our Indians filled the boat with 
little live turtles, and eggs dried in the sun, for their own 
use. Having taken leave of the missionary of TJruana, who 
had treated us with great kindness, we set sail about four 
in the afternoon. The wind was fresh, and blew in squalls. 
Since we had entered the mountainous part of the country, 
we had discovered that our canoe earned sail very badly ; 
but the master was desirous of showing the Indians who 
were assembled on -the beach, that, by going close to the 
wind, he could reach, at one single tack, the middle of the 
river. At the very moment when he was boasting of his 
dexterity, and the boldness of his manœuvre, the force of 
the wind upon the sail became so great that we were on 
the point of going down. One side of the boat was under 
water, which rushed in with such violence that it was soon 
up to our knees. It washed over a little table at which I was 
writing at the stem of the boat. I had some difficulty to 
save my journal, and in an instant we saw our books, papers, 
and dried plants, all afloat. M. Bonpland was lying asleep 
in the middle of the canoe. Awakened by the entrance of 
the water and the cries of the Indians, he understood the 
danger of our situation, whilst he maintained that coolness 
which he always displayed in the most difficult circumstances. 
The lee-side righting itself from time to time during the 
squall, he did not consider the boat as lost. He thought 
that, were we even forced to abandon it, we might save our- 
selves by swimmiog, since there was no crocodile in sight 
Amidst this uncertainty the cordage of the sail suddenly 
gave way. The same gust of wind, that had thrown us on 
our beam, served also to right us. We laboured to bale the 
water out of the boat with calabashes, the sail was again set, 
and in less than half an hour we were in a state to proceed. 
The wind now abated ^ little. Squalls alternating with 
daad calms are common in that part of the Orinoco whicl 


IS bordered bj mountains. They are very dangerous for 
boats deeply laden, and without decks. We had escaped 
as if by miracle. To the reproaches that were heaped on 
our pilot for having kept too near the wind, he replied with 
the phlegmatic coolness peculiar to the Indians, observing 
"that the whites would find sun enough on those banks 
tO' dry their papers." We lost onlv one book — ^the first 
volume of the * Grenera Plantarum ' of Schreber — which had 
fallen overboard. At nightfall we landed on a barren island 
in the middle of the river, near the Mission of XJruana. 
We supped in a clear moonlight, seating ourselves on 
some large turtle-shells that were found scattered about 
the beach. What satisfaction we felt on finding ourselves 
thus comfortably landed! We figured to ourselves the 
situation of a man who had been saved alone from ship- 
wreck, wandering on these desert shores, meeting at every 
step with other rivers Which fall into the Orinoco, and which 
it IS dangerous to pass by swimming, on account of the 
multitude of crocodiles and caribe fishes. We pictured to 
ourselves such a man, alive to the most tender affections 
of the soul, ignorant of the fate of his companions, and 
thinking more of them than of himself. If we love to 
indulge such melancholy meditations, it is because, when 
just escaped from danger, we see'm to feel as it were the 
necessitjr of strong emotions. Our minds were fuU of what 
we had just witnessed. There are periods in life when, with- 
out being discouraged, the fiiture appears more uncertain. 
It was only three days since we had entered the Orinoco, 
and there yet remamed three months for us to navigate 
rivers encumbered with rocks, and in boats smaller than that 
in which we had so nearly perished. 

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



quent in those regions, and display at that period the 
greatest intrepidity. 

On the following day, the 7th, we passed, on our right, the 
mouth of the great Rio Auraca, celebrated for the immense 
number of birds that frequent it; and, on our left, the 
Mission of XJruana, commonly called La Ckmcepcion de Ur^ 
hcma. This small village, which contains five hundred souls, 
was founded by the Jesuits, about the year 1748, by the 
union of the Ottomac and Cavere Indians. It lies at the 
foot of a mountain composed of detached blocks of granite, 
which, I believe, bears the name of Saraguaca, Masses of 
rock, separated one from the other by the effect of decom- 
position, form caverns, in which we find indubitable proofs 
of the ancient civilization of the natives. Hieroglyphic 
figures, and even characters in regular lines, are seen sculp- 
tured on, their sides; though Î doubt whether they bear 
any analogy to alphabetic writing. We visited the Mission 
of TJruana on our return from the Eio Negro, and saw with 
our own eyes those heaps of earth which the Ottomacs eat, 
and which have become the subject of such lively discussion 
in Europe.* 

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

The temperature of the water at its surface was 27*8° of 
the centigrade thermometer, near Uruana. That of the 
river Zaire, or Congo, in Africa, at an equal distance from 
the equator, was found by Captain Tuckey, in the months 
of July and August, to be only from 23*9° to 25*6°. 

The western bank of the Orinoco remains low farther 

* This earth is a greasy kind of clay, which, in seasons of scarcity, the 
natives use to assuage the cravings of hunger ; it having been proved by 
their experience as well as by physiological researches, that want of food 
can be more easily borne by filling the cavity of the stomach with some 
substance, even although it may be in itself very nearly or totally innu- 
tritious. The Indian hunters of North America, for the same purpose, 
tie boards tightly across the abdomen ; and most savage races are found 
to have recourse to expedients that answer the same end. 



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

Having passed the mouths of the channels communicat- 
ing with the lake of Capanaparo, we entered a part of the 
Orinoco, where the bed of the river is narrowed by the 
mountains of Baraguan. It is a kind of strait, reaching 


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

We landed in the middle of the strait of Baraguan to 
measure its breadth. The rocks project so much towards 
the river that I measured with difficulty a base of eighty 
toises. I found the river eight hundred and eighty-nine 
toises broad. In order to conceive how this passage bears 
the name of a strait, we must recoUect that the breadth of 
the river from Uruana to the junction of the Meta is in 
general from 1500 to 2500 toises. In this place, which is 
extremely hot and barren, I measured two granite summits, 
much rounded : one was only a hundred and ten, and the 
other eighty-five, toises. There are higher summits in the 


interior of the croup, but in general these mountains, of so 
wild an^ aspect, have not the elevation that is assigned to 
them by the missionaries. 

We looked in vain for plants in the clefts of the rocks, 
which are as steep as walls, and furnish some traces of 
stratification. We found only an old trunk of aubletia,* 
with large apple-shaped fruit, and a new species of the 
family of the apocynesB.f All the stones were covered with 
an innumerable quantity of iguanas and geckos with spread- 
ing and membranous fingers. These lizards, motionless, 
with heads raised, and mouths open, seemed to suck in the 
heated air. The thermometer placed against the rock rose 
to 50*2®. The soil appeared to undulate, from the effect of 
mirage, without a breath of wind being felt. The sun was 
near the zenith, and its dazzling light, reflected from the su/*- 
face of the river, contrasted with the reddish vapours ^that 
enveloped every surrounding object. How vivid i& ^he im- 
pression produced by the calm of nature, at noon, in these 
burning climates ! The beasts of the forests retire to the 
thickets ; the birds hide themselves beneath the foliage of 
the trees, or in the crevices of the rocks. Xet, amidst this 
apparent siler^ce, when we lend an attentive ear to the most 
feeble sounds transmitted through the air, we hear a dull 
vibration, a continual murmur, a hum of insects, filling, if 
we may use the expression, all the lower strata of the air. 
Nothing is better fitted to make man feel the extent and 
power of organic life. Myriads of insects creep upon the 
soil, and flutter round the plants parched by the heat of the 
sun. A confused noise issues from every bush, from the 
decayed trunks of trees, from the clefts of the rocks, and 
from the ground undermined by lizards, millepedes, and 
cecilias. These are so many voices proclaiming to us that 
all nature breathes; and that, under a thousand different 
forms, life is diffused throughout the cracked and dusty soil, 
as well as in the bosom of the waters, and in the air that 
circulates around us. 

The sensations which I here recall to mind are not 
unknown to those who, without having advanced to the 
equator, have visited Italy, Spain, or Egypt. That contrast 
of motion and silence, that aspect of nature at once calm and 

* Aubletia tiburba. f AUamanda salicifolia. 


animated, strikea the imagination of the traveller when he 
enters the basin of the Mediterranean, within the zone of 
olives, dwarf palms, and date-trees. 

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

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

Early on the following morning we arrived at the beach 
of Pararuma, where we Ibund an encampment of Indiansi 


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

"We found among the Indians assembled at Fararuma 
some white men, who had come from Angostura to purchase 
the tortoise-butter. After having wearied us for a long 
time with their complaints of the *bad harvest,' and the 
mischief done by the tigers among the turtles, at the 
time of laying their eggs, they conducted us beneath an 
aioupa, that rose in the centre of the Indian camp. We 
there found the missionary-monks of Carichana and the 


Cataracts seated on the ground, playing at cards, and 
smoking tobacco in ïong pipes. Their ample blue garments, 
their shaven heads, and their long beards, might have led us 
to mistake them for natives of the East. These poor priests 
received us in the kindest manner, giving us every informa- 
tion necessary for the continuation of our voyage. They 
had suffered from tertian fever for some months ; and their 
pale and emaciated aspect easily convinced us that the 
countries we were about to visit were not without danger to 
the health of travellers. 

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

The assemblage of Indians at Pararuma again excited 
in U5 that interest, which everywhere attaches man in a 
cultivated state to the study of man iu a savage condition, 
and the successive development of his intellectual faculties. 
How difficidt to recognize iu this infancy of society, in this 
assemblage of dull, silent, inanimate Indians, the primitive 
character of our species ! Human nature does not here 
manifest those features of artless simpKcity, of which 

* Little cascades (chorros raudalitos). 


poets in every language have drawn such enchanting 
pictures. The savage of the Orinoco appeared to us to be 
as hideous as the savage of the Mississippi, described by 
that philosophical traveller Yolney, who so well knew how 
to paint man in different climates. "We are eager to persuade 
ourselves that these natives, crouching before the fire, or 
seated on large turtle-shells, their bodies covered with earth 
and grease, their eyes stupidly fixed for whole hours on the 
beverage they are preparing, far from being the primitive 
type of our species, are a degenerate race, the feeble remains 
of nations who, after having been long dispersed in the 
forests, are replunged into barbarism. 

Red paint being in some sort the only clothing of the 
Indians, two kinds may be distinguished among them, 
according as they are more or less affluent. The common 
decoration of the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and the Jaruros, 
is onoto* called by the Spaniards achate, and by the planters 
of Cayenne, rocou. It is the colouring matter extracted 
from the pulp of the Bixa orellana.t The Indian women 
prepare the anato by throwing the seeds of the plant into a 
tub filled with water. They beat this water for an hour, 
and then leave it to deposit the colouring fecula, which is of 
an intense brick-red. After having separated the water, 
they take out the fecula, dry it between their hands, knead 
it with oil of turtles' eggs, and form it into round cakes of 
three or four ounces weight. When turtle oil is wanting, 
some tribes mix with the anato the fat of the crocodile. 

Another pigment, much more valuable, is extracted from 
a plant of the family of the bignonisB, which M. Bonpland 
has made known by the name of Bignonia chica. It climbs 
up and clings to the tallest trees by the aid of tendrils. Its 
buabiate flowers are an inch long, of a fine violet colour, 
and disposed by twos or threes. The bipinnate leaves 
become reddish m drying. The fruit is a pod, filled with 
winged seeds, and is two feet long. This plant grows 

* Properly anoto. This word beloDgs to the Tamanac Indians. The 
Maypures call it majepa. The Spanish missionaries say onotarse, * to 
rub the skin with anato.' 

+ The word bijra, adopted by botanists, is derived from the ancient 
language of Hayti (the island of St. Domingo). RocoUf the term com* 
monly used by the French, is derived from the Brazilian word, urucu. 


spontaneously, and in great abundance, near Mfi,ypures ; and 
in going up the Orinoco, beyond the mouth of the Gua- 
viare, from Santa Barbara to the lofty mountain of Duida, 
particularly near Esmeralda. We also found it on the banks 
of the Cassiquiare. The red pigment of chica is not ob- 
tained from the fruit, like the onoto, but from the leaves 
macerated in water. The colouring matter separates in the 
form of a light powder. It is collected, without being mixed 
with turtle-oil, into little lumps eight or nine inches long, 
and from two to three high, rounded at the edges. These 
lumps, when heated, emit an agreeable smell of benzoin. 
When the chica is subjected to distiQation, it yields no 
sensible traces of ammonia. * It is not, like indigo, a sub- 
stance combined with azote. ' It dissolves slightly in sul- 
phuric and muriatic acids, and even in alkalis. Ground 
with oil, the chica furnishes a red colour that has a tint of 
lake. Applied to wool, it might be confounded with mad- 
der-red. There is no doubt but that the chica, unknown in 
Europe before our travels, may be employed usefully in the 
arts. The nations on the Orinoco, by whom this pigment 
is best prepared, are the Salivas, the Guipunaves,* the 
Caveres, and the Piraoas. The processes of infusion and 
maceration are in general very common among all the 
nations on the Orinoco. Thus the Maypures carry on a 
trade of barter with the little loaves of puruma, which is a 
vegetable fecula, dried in the manner of indigo, and yield- 
ing a very permanent yellow colour. The chemistry of the 
savage is reduced to the preparation of pigments, that of 
poisons, and the dulcification of the amylaceous roots, which 
the aroïdes and the euphorbiaceous plants afford. 

Most of the missionaries of the Upper and Lower Ori- 
noco permit the Indians of their Missions to paiat their 
skins. It is painful to add, that some of them speculate 
on this barbarous practice of the natives. In their huts, 
pompously called com)entos,'\^ I have often seen stores of 
chica, which they sold as high as four francs the cake. To 
form a just idea of the extravagance of the decoration of 
these naked Indians, I must observe, that a man of large 

* Or Guaypufiaves ; they call themselves Uipuham, 
t In the Mbsions, the priest's house bears the name of * the con- 

OBiGor oï PAnrmro the skdt. 205 

stature gains with difficulty enougli by the labour of a fort- 
night, to procure in exchange the chica necessary to paint 
himself red. Thus as we say, in temperate climates, of a 
poor man, "he has not enough to clothe himself,'* you hear 
the Indians of the Orinoco say, " that man is so poor, that 
he has not enough to paint half his body." The little trade 
in chica is carried on chiefly with the tribes of the Lower 
Orinoco, whose country does not produce the plant which 
furnishes this much-valued substance. Thé Caribs and the 
Ottomacs paint only the head and the hair with chica, but 
the Salives possess this pigment in sufficient abundance to 
cover their whole bodies. When the missionaries send on 
their own account small cargoes of cacao, tobacco, and 
chiquichiqui* from the Kio Negro to Angostura, they always 
add some cakes of chica, as being articles of merchandise 
in great request. 

The custom of painting is not equally ancient among aU 
the tribes of the Orinoco. It has increased since the time 
when the powerful nation of the Caribs made frequent in- 
cursions into those coiuitries. The victors and the van- 
quished were alike naked ; and to please the conqueror it 
was necessary to paint like him, and to assume his colour. 
The influence of the Caribs has now ceased, and they 
remain circumscribed between the rivers Carony, Cu}iini, 
and Paraguamuzi ; but the Caribbean fashion of painting 
the whole body is still preserved. The custom has sur- 
vived the conquest. 

Does the use of the anato and chica derive its origin 
from the desire of pleasing, and the taste for ornament, so 
common among the most savage nations ? or must we sup- 
pose it to be founded on the observation, that these colour- 
ing and oily matters with which the skin is plastered, 
preserve it from the sting of the mosquitos ? I have often 
heard this question discussed in Europe ; but in the Mis- 
sions of the Orinoco, and wherever, within the tropics, 
the air is filled with venomous insects, the inquiry would 
appear absurd. The Carib and the SaHve, who are painted 
red, are not loss cruelly tormented by the mosquitos 
and the zancudos, than the Indians whose bodies are 
plastered with no colour. The sting of the insect causes 

* Ropes made with the petioles of a palm-tree witli pinnate leaves. 


no swelling in either; and scarcely ever produces those 
little pustules which occasion such smarting and itching 
to Europeans recently arrived. But the native and the 
White suffer equally from the sting, till the insect has with- 
drawn its sucker from the skin. After a thousand useless 
essays, M. Bonpland and inyself tried the expedient of 
rubbing our hands and arms with the fat of the crocodile, 
and the oil of turtle-eggs, but we never felt the least 
relief, and were stung as before. I know that the Lap- 
landers boast of oil and fat as the most useful preservatives ; 
but the insects of Scandinavia are not of the same species 
as those of the Orinoco. The smoke of tobacco drives 
away our gnats, while it is employed in vain against the 
zancudos. If the application of mt and astringent* sub- 
stances preserved the inhabitants of these countries from 
the torment of insects, as Father Gumilla alleges, why has 
not the custom of painting the skin become general on these 
shores? Why do so many naked natives paint only the 
face, though living in the neighbourhood of those who 
paint the whole bodypf 

We are struck with the observation, that the Indians of 
the Orinoco, like the natives of North America, prefer the 
substances that yield a red colour to etery other. Is this 
predilection founded on the facility with which the savage 
procures ochreous earths, or the colouring fecula of anato 
and of chica ? I doubt this much. Indigo grows wild in a 
great part of equinoctial America. This plant, like so many 
other leguminous plants, would have furnished the natives 
abundantly with pigments to colour themselves blue like the 
ancient Britons.J Yet we see no American tribe painted 
with indigo. It appears to me probable, as I have already 
hinted above, that the preference given by the Americans 
to the red colour is generally founded on the tendency 
which nations feel to attribute the idea of beauty to what- 
ever characterises their national physiognomy. Men whose 
skin is naturally of a brownish red, love a red colour. If 

* The pulp of the anato, and even the chica, are astringent and 
slightly purgative. 

f The Caribs, the Salives, the Tamanacs, and the Maypures. 

X The half-clad nations of the temperate zone often paint their skin of 
the same colour us that with which their clothes are dy^. 


they be bom with a forehead little raised, and the head flat, 
they endeavour to depress the foreheads of their children. 
If they be distinguished from other iiations by a thin beard, 
they try to eradicate the few hairs that nature has given 
them. They think themselves embellished in proportion as 
they heighten the characteristic marks of their race, or of 
then* national conformation. 

We were surpr sed to see, that, in the camp of Pararuma, 
the women far advanced in years were more occupied with 
their Ornaments than the youngest women. We saw an 
Indian female of the nation of the Ottomacs employing two 
of her daughters in the operation of rubbing her hair with 
the oil of turtles' eggs, and painting her back with anatd 
and caruto. The ornament consisted of a sort of lattice- 
work formed of black lines crossing each other on a red 
ground. Each little square had a black dot in the centre. 
It was a work of incredible patience. We returned from 
a very long herborization, and the painting was not half 
finished. This research of ornament seems the more singu- 
lar when we reflect that the figures and marks are not 
produced bj the process of tattooing, but that paintings 
executed with so much care are eifaced,* if the Indian ex- 
poses himself imprudently to a heavy shower. There are 
some nations who paint only to celebrate festivals ; others 
are covered with colour during the whole year : and the latter 
consider the use of anato as so indispensable, that both 
men and women would perhaps be less ashamed to present 
themselves without a guayuco'\ than destitute ot paint. 
These giiayucos of the Orinoco are partly bark of trees, and 
partly cotfcon-cloth. Those of the men are broader than 
those worn by the women, who, the missionaries say, have 
in general a less lively feeling of modesty. A similar ob- 
servation was made by Christopher Columbus. May we 
not attribute this indifierence, this want of delicacy in 

* The black and caustic pigment of the camio (Genipa americana) 
however, resists a long time the action of water, as we found with regret, 
having one day, in sport with the Indians, caused our faces to be marked 
with spots and strokes of caruto. When we returned to Angostura, in 
the midst of Europeans, these marks were still visible. 

"t* A word of the Caribbean language. The perizoma of the Indian! 
of the Orinoco is rather a band than an apron. 


women belonging to nations of which the manners are not 
much depraved, to that rude state of slavery to which 
the sex is reduced in South America by male injustice and 

When we speak in Europe of a native of Guiana, we 
figure to ourselves a man whose head and waist are deco- 
rated with the fine feathers of the macaw, the toucan, and the 
humming-bird. Our painters and sculptors have long since 
regarded these ornaments as the characteristic marks of 
an American. We were surprised at not finding in the 
Chayma Missions, in the encampments of Uruana and of 
Pararuma (I might almost say on all the shores of the 
Orinoco and the Cassiquiare) those fine plumes, those fea- 
thered aprons, which are so often brought by travellers 
from Cayenne and Demerara. These tribes for the most 
part, even those whose intellectual faculties are most ex- 
panded, who cultivate alimentary plants, and know how to 
weave cotton, are altogether as naked,* as poor, and as 
destitute of ornaments as the natives of New Holland. The 
excessive heat of the air, the profuse perspiration in which 
the body is bathed at every hour of the day and a great part 
of the night, render the use of clothes insupportable. Their 
objects of ornament, and particularly their plumes of fea- 
thers, are reserved for dauces and solemn festivals. The 
plumes worn by the Gruipunavest are the most celebrated ; 
being composed of the fine feathers of manakins and 

The Indians are not always satisfied with one colour 
uniformly spread; they sometimes imitate, in the most 
whimsical manner, in painting their skin, the form of Euro- 
pean garments. We saw some at Paranuna, who were 
painted with blue jackets and black buttons. The mission- 
aries related to us that the Guaynaves of the Eio Caura 
are accustomed to stain themselves red with anato, and to 
make broad transverse stripes on the body, on which they 
stick spangles of silvery mica. Seen at a distance, these 

* For instance, the Macos and the Piraoas. The Caribs must be ex- 
cepted, whose perizoma is a cotton cloth, so broad that it might covsr 
the shoulders. ' 

t These came originally from the banks of the Inirida, one of the 
rivers that fall into the Guaviare. 

Pju:nted bodies op the Indians. 209 

naked men appear to be dressed in laced clothes. If ])ainted 
nations had been examined with the same attention as 
those who are clothed, it would have been perceived that 
the most fertile imagination, and the most mutable caprice, 
have created the fashions of painting, as weU as those of 

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

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



as throiigliout the rest of our passage on the river, and 
studied their manners. 

The aalUtos, or rock-manakins, are sold at Pararuma in 
pretty little cages made of the footstalks of palm-leaves. 
These birds are infinitely more rare on the banks of the Ori- 
noco, and iu the north and west of equinoctial America, than 
in French Guiana. They have hitherto been found only near 
the Mission of Encaramada, and in the Ravdales or cataracts 
of Maypures. I say expressly m the cataracts, because 
the gallitos choose for then» habitual dwelling the hollows of 
the Httle granitic rocks that cross the Orinoco and form 
such numerous cascades. We sometimes saw them appear 
in the morning in the midst of the foam of the river, calling 
their females, and fighting in the manner of our cocks, 
folding the double moveable crest that decorates the crown 
of the head. As the Indians very rarely take the full-grown 
gallitos, and those males only are valued in Europe, which 
from the third year have beautiful saffi-on-coloured plumage, 
purchasers should be on their guard not to confound young 
females with young males. Both the male and female 
(jallitos are of an olive-brown ; but the polio, or j^oung male, 
IS distiQguishable at the earhest age, by its size and its 
yellow feet. After the third year the plumage of the males 
assumes a beautiful safl&'on tint; but the female remains 
always of a dull dusky brown colour, with yellow only on 
the wing-coverts and tips of the wings.* To preserve m 
our collections the fine tint of the plumage of a male and 
full-grown rock-manakin, it must not be exposed to the 
light. This tint grows pale more easy than in the other 
genera of the passerine order. The yoimg males, as in most 
other birds, have the plumage or uvery of their mother. 
I am surprised to see that so skilful a naturalist as Le 
VaiHant f can doubt whether the females always remain of 
a dusky olive tint. The Indians of the Raudales all assured 
me that thev had never seen a safiron-coloured female. 

Among tne monkeys, brought by the Indians to the fair 
of Pararuma, we distinguished several varieties of the sai,X 

* Especially the part which ornithologists call the carpus, 

•f Oiseaux de Paradis, vol. ii, p. 61. 

X Simla capudna, (the capuchin monkey). 


belonging to the little groups of creeping monkeys called 
matchi in the Spanish colonies ; marimondes,* or ateles with 
a red belly ; titis, and viiiditas. The last two species parti- 
cularly attracted our attention, and we purchased them to 
send to Europe. 

The titi of the Orinoco (Simla sciurea), well-known in our 
collections, is called hititeni by the Maypure Indians. It is 
veiy common on the south of the cataracts. Its face is 
white ; and a little spot of bluish-black covers the mouth 
and the point of the nose. The titis of the most elegant 
form, and the most beautiful colour (with hair of a golden 
yellow), come fix)m~the banks of the Cassiquiare. Those 
that are taken on the shores of the Gruaviare are large and 
difficult to tame. Nb other monkey has so much the phy- 
siognomy of a child as the titi; there is the same expression 
of mnocence, the same playful smile, the same rapidity in 
the transition from joy to sorrow. Its large eyes are instantly 
filled with tears, when it is seized with fear. It is ex- 
tremely fond of insects, particularly of spiders. The saga- 
city of this little animal is so great, that one of those we 
brought LQ our boat to Angostura distinguislied perfectly the 
different plates annexed to Cuvier's 'Tableau élémentaire 
d'Histoire naturelle.' The engravings of this work are not 
coloured ; yet the titi advanced rapidly its little hand in the 
hope of catching a grasshopper or a wasp, every time* that 
we showed it the eleventh plate, on which these insects are 
represented. It remained perfectly indifferent when it was 
shown engravings of skeletons or heads of mammiferous 
animals. t When several of these little monkeys, shut 
up LQ the same cage, are exposed to the raiu, and the 
habitual temperature of the air sinks suddenly two or three 
degrees, they twist their tail (which, however, is not pre- 
hensile) round their neck, ana intertwine their arms and 
legs to warm one another. The Indian hunters told us, that 

* Simia belzebuth. 

f I may observe^ that I have never heard of an instance in which a 
picture, representing, in the greatest perfection, hares or deer of their 
natural size, has made the least impression even on sporting dogs, 
the intelligence of which appears the most improved. Is there any 
authenticated instance of a dog having recognized a full-length picture oi 
his master ? In all these cases, the sight is not assisted by the smell. 

r 2 


in the forests they often met groups of ten or twelve of these 
animals, whilst others sent forth lamentable cries, because 
they wished ta enter amid the group to find warmth and. 
shelter. By shooting arrows dipped in weak poison at one 
of these groups, a great number of young monkeys are taken 
alive at once. The titi in falling remains clinging to its 
mother, and if it be not wounded by the fall, it does not 
quit the shoulder or the neck X)f the dead animal. Most of 
those that are found alive in the huts of the Indians have 
been thus taken from the dead bodies of their mothers. 
Those that are full grown, when cured of a slight wound, 
commonly die before they can accustom themselves to a 
domestic state. The titis are in general delicate and timid 
little animals. It is very difficult to tonvey them from the 
Missions of the Orinoco to the coast of Caracas, or of Cu- 
mana. They become melancholy and dejected in proportion 
as they quit the region of the forests, and enter the Llanos. 
This change cannot be attributed to the slight elevation of the 
temperature ; it seems rather to depend on a greater inten- 
sity of light, a less degree of humidity, and some chemical 
property of the air of the coast. 

The saimiri, or titi of the Orinoco, the atele, the sajou, 
and other quadrumanous animals long known in Europe, 
form a striking contrast, both in their gait and habits, with 
the macavahu, called by the njissionaries viudita, or * widow 
in mourning.' The hair of this little animal is soft, glossy, 
and of a fine black. Its face is covered with a mask of a 
square form and a whitish colour tinged with blue. This 
mask contains the eyes, nose, and mouth. The ears have a 
rim: they are small, very pretty, and almost bare. The 
neck of the nidow presents in front a white band, an inch 
broad, and forming a semicircle. The feet, or rather the 
hinder hands, are black like the rest of the body ; but the 
fore paws are white without, and of a glossy black within. 
In these marks, or white spots, the missionaries think they 
recognize the veil, the neckerchief, and the gloves of a 
widow in mourning. The character of this little monkey, 
which sits up on its hinder extremities only when eating, is 
but little indicated in its appearance. It has a wild and 
timid air; it often refuses the food offered to it, eve a when 
tormented by a ravenous appetite. It has little inclination 


for the society of other monkeys. The sight of the smallest 
saimiri puts it to flight. Its eye denotes great vivacity. 
We have seen it remain whole hours motionless without 
sleeping, and attentive to everything that was passing 
around. But this wildness and timidity are merely apparent. 
The vitidita, when alone, and left to itself, becomes furious 
at the sight of a bird., It then climbs and runs with asto- 
nishing rapidity ; darts upon its prey like a cat ; and kills 
whatever it can seize. This rare and delicate monkey is 
found on the right bank of the Orinoco, in the granite moun- 
tains which rise behind the Mission of Santa Barbara. It 
inhabits also the banks of the Guaviare, near San Fernando 
de Atabapo. 

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

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

The missionary from the cataracts made the preparations 
for our voyage with greater energy than we wished. Lest 
there might not be a sufficient number of the Maco and Gua- 
hibe Indians, who are acquainted with the labyrinth of smaU 
channels and cascades of which the Raudales or cataracts 
are composed, two Indians were, during the night, placed in 
the cepo — a sort of stocks in which they were msuie to lie 
with their legs between two pieces of wood, notched and 
festened together by a chain with a padlock. Early in the 
morning we were awakened by 'the cries» of a young man, 
mercilessly beaten with a whip of manati skin. His name 
was Zerepe, a very intelligent young Indian, who proved 



liighly useful to us in the sequel, but who now refused* to 
accompany us. He was bom in the Mission of Atures ; but 
his father was a Maco, and his mother a native of the nation 
of the Maypures. He had returned to the woods (al 
monte), and having lived some years with the unsubdued 
Indians, he had thus acquired the knowledge of several 
languages, and the missionary employed him as an inter- 
preter. We obtained with difficulty the pardon of this 
young man. "Without these acts of severity," we were 
told, "you would want for everything. The Indians of the 
JRatidales and the Upper Orinoco are a stronger and more 
laborious race than the inhabitants of the Lower Orinoco. 
They know that they are much sought after at Angostura. 
If left to their own will, they would all go down the river to 
sell their productions, and live in fiill liberty ^mong the 
whites. The Missions would be totally deserted.'* 

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

To say that the sar^age, like the child, can be governed 
only by force, is merely to establish false analogies. The 
Indians of the Orinoco have something infantine in the 
expression of their joy, and the quick succession of their 
emotions, but they are not great children ; they are as little 
so as the poor labourers in the east of Europe, whom the 
barbarism of our feudal institutions has held in the rudest 
state. To consider the employment of force as the first and 
sole means of the civilization of the savage, is a principle as 
far from being true in the education of nations as in the 
education of youth. Whatever may be the state of weak- 
ness or degradation in our species, no ûiculty is entirely 


vmiliilated. The^ human understanding exhibits only dif- 
ferent degrees of strength and development. The savage, 
like the child, compares the present with the past; he 
directs his actions, not according to blind instmct, but 
motives of interest. Reason can everywhere enlighten 
reason ; and its progress will be retarded in proportion as 
the men who are called upon to bring up youtn, or govern 
nations, substitute constraint and force for that moral 
influence which can alone unfold the rising faculties, cabn 
the irritated passions, and give stability to social order. 

"We could not set sail before ten on the morning of the 
10th. To gain something in breadth in our new canoe, a 
sort of lattice-work had been constructed on the stem with 
branches of trees, that extended on each side beyond the 
gunwale. Unfortunately, the toldo or roof of leaves, that 
covered this lattice-work, was so low that we were obliged 
to lie down, without seeing anything, or, if seated, to sit 
nearly double. The necessity of carrying the canoe across 
the rapids, and even from one river to another ; and the fear 
of givmg too much hold to the wind, by making the toldo 
higher, render this construction necessary for vessels that 
go up towards the Bio Negro. The toldo was intended to 
cover four persons, lying on the deck or lattice-work of 
brush-wood ; but our legs reached far beyond it, and when it 
rained half our bodies were wet. Our couches consisted of 
ox-hides or tiger-skins, spread upon branches of trees, which 
were painfully felt through so thin a covering. The fore 
part of the boat was Med with Indian rowers, furnished 
with paddles, three feet long, in the form of spoons. Tl^ey 
were all naked, seated two by two, and they Kept time in* 
rowing with a surprising uniformity, singing songs of a 
sad and monotonous character. The small cages contain- 
ing our birds and our monkeys, the number of which aug- 
mented as we advanced, were hung some to the toMo 
and others to the bow of the boat. This was our travelling 
menagerie. Notwithstanding the frequent losses occasioned 
by accidents, and above all by the fatal effects of exposure 
to the sun, we had fourteen of these little animals alive at 
our return from the Cassiquiare. Naturalists, who wish to 
collect and bring living animals to Europe, might cause 
boats to be constructed expressly for this purpose at Angos-. 


tura, or at Grand Para, the two dapitaltf situated on the 
banks of the Orinoco and the Amazon, the fore-deck of 
which boats might be fitted up with two rows of cages shel- 
tered from the rays of the sun. Every night, when we estsr 
blished our watch, our collection of animals and our instru- 
ments occupied the centre ; around these were placed first 
our hammocks, then the hammocks of the Indians ; and on 
the outside were the. fires which are thought indispensable 
against the attacks of the iaeuar. About sunrise the mon- 
keys in our cages answered the cries of the monkeys of the 
forest. These communications between animals of the same 
species sympathizing with one another, though unseen, one 
party enjoymg that liberty which the other regrets, have 
something melancholy and affecting. 

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

Our Indians showed us, on the right bank of the river, 
the place which was formerly the site of the Mission of 
Pararuma, founded by the Jesuits about the year 1733. 
The mortality occasioned by the smaU-pox among the Salive 
Indians was the principal cause of the dissolution of the 


mission. The few inhabitants who survived this cruel epi- 
demic, removed to the village of Carichana. It was at Jra- 
raruma, that, according to the testimony of Father Roman, 
hail was seen to fall during a great storm, about the middle 
of the last century. This is almost the only instance of it 
I know in a plaiu that is nearly on a level with the sea; 
for haU falls generally, between the tropics, only at three 
hundred toises of elevation. If it form at an equal height 
over plains and table-lands, we must suppose that it melts 
as it falls, in passing through the lowest strata of the atmo- 
sphere, the mean temperature of which is from 27*5° to 24° 
of the centigrade thermometer. I acknowledge it is very 
difficult to explain, in the present state of meteorology, why 
it hails at Philadelphia, at Eome, and at Montpelier, during 
the hottest months, the mean temperature of which attains 
25° or 26° ; while the same phenomenon is not observed at" 
Cumana, at La Gruayra, and in general, in the equatorial 
plains. In the United States, and in the south of Europe, 
the heat of the plains (from 40° to 43° latitude) is nearly 
the same as within the tropics; and according to my re- 
searches the decrement of caloric equaUy varies but little. 
If then the absence of hail within the torrid zone, at the 
level of the sea, be produced by the melting of the hail- 
stones in crossing the lower strata of the air, we must 
suppose that these hail-stones, at the moment of their for- 
mation, are larger in the temperate than in the torrid zone. 
"We yet know so little of the conditions under which water 
congeals in a stormy cloud iu our cKmates, that we can- 
not judge whether the same conditions be fulfilled on the 
equator above the plains. The clouds in which we hear the 
rattling of the hadstones against one another before they 
fall, and which move horizontally, have always appeared to 
me of little elevation ; and at these small heights we may 
conceive that extraordinary refrigerations are caused by the 
dilatation of the ascending air, of which the capacity for 
caloric augments ; by currents of cold air coming from a 
higher latitude, and above all, according to M. Gav Lussac, 
by the radiation from the upper surface of the clouds. I 
shall have occasion to return to this subject when speaking 
of the different forms under which hail and hoar-frost appear 
on the Andes, at two thousand and two thousand six nun- 


dred toises of height; and when examining the question 
whether we may consider the stratum of clouds that enve- 
lops the mountains as a horizontal continuation of the 
stiratum which we see immediately above us in the plains. 

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

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

The garrison which the Jesuits maintained on this rock, 
waa not intended merely to protect the Missions against 

* Intrenchment of monachal despotism. 


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

Beyond the mouth of the Eio Paruasi, the Orinoco again 

220 ifissioK or cabighaita. 

narrows. Pull of little islands and masses of granite rock, 
it presents rapids, or small cascades (remolinos), which at 
first sight may alarm the traveller by the continual eddies 
of the water, but which at no season of the year are dan- 
gerous for boats. A range of shoals, that crosses almost 
the whole river, bears the name of the Ravdal de Marimara, 
"We passed it without difficulty by a narrow channel, ia 
which the water seems to boil up as it issues out impetu- 
ously* below the JPiedra de Marimara, a compact mass of 
granite eighty feet high, and three hundred feet in cir- 
cumference, without fissures, or any trace of stratification. 
The riv^r penetrates far into the land, and forms spacious 
bays in the rocks. One of these bays, inclosed between 
two promontories destitute of vegetation, is called the Port 
of Cfarichana.t The spot has a very wild aspect. In the 
evening the rocky coasts project their vast shadows over 
the surface of the river. The waters appear black from 
reflecting the image of these granitic masses, which, in the 
colour of their external surface, sometimes resemble coal, 
and sometimes lead-ore. We passed the night in the small 
village of Carichana, where we were received at the priest's 
house, or convento. It was nearly a fortnight since we had 
slept under a roof. 

To avoid the efiects of the inundations, often so fatal to 
health, the Mission of Carichana. has been established at 
three quarters of a league from the river. The Indians in 
this Mission are of the nation of the Salives, and they have 
a disagreeable and nasal pronunciation. Their language, of 
which the Jesuit Anisson has composed a grammar still in 
manuscript, is, with the Caribbean, the Tamanac, the May- 
pure, the Ottomac, the Gruahive, and the Jaruro, one of the 
mother-tongues most general on the Orinoco. Father Grili 
thinks that the Ature, the Piraoa, and the Quaqua or 
Mapoye, are only dialects of the Salive. My journey was 
much too rapid to enable me to judge of the accuracy of 
this opinion ; but we shall soon see that, in the village of 
Ature, celebrated on account of its situation near the great 
cataracts, neither the Salive nor the Ature is now spoken, 
but the language of the Maypures. In the Salive of Cari- 

* These places are called chorreras in the Spanish colonies. 
f Piedra y puerto de Carichana. 


cliana, man is called cocco; woman, gnacu; water, eagua; 
fire, eyussa ; the earth, seke ; th^ sky, mwmeseke (earth on 
high) ; the jaguar, impii ; the crocodile, cuipoo ; maize, 
giomu ; the plaintain, paratv/na ; cassava, peihe, I may here 
mention one of those descriptive compounds that seem to 
characterise the iofancy of language, though they are re- 
tained in some very perfect idioms.* Thus, as in the Bis- 
cayan, thunder is called *the noise of the cloud (pchtsd);* 
the sun bears the name, in the Salive dialect, of mume-sekc' 
cocco, *the man (cocco) of the earth (seke) above (mtime),* 

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

We foimd among these Salive Indians, at Carichana, a 
white woman, the sister of a Jesuit of New Grenada. It is 
difficult to define the satisfaction that is felt when, in the 
midst of nations of whose language we are ignorant, we 
meet with a beiag with whom we can converse without an 

* See vol. i, p. 326. 
t The Salive mission, on the Rio Yichada, was destroyed by the Caribs. 


interpreter. Every mission has at least two interpreters 
(knguarazes). They are Indians, a little less stupid than the 
rest, through whose medium the missionaries of the Orinoco, 
who now very rarely give themselves the trouble of studying 
the idioms of the country, communicate with the neophytes. 
These interpreters attended us in all our herborizations ; 
but they rather understand than speak Castilian. "With 
their indolent indifference, they answer us by chance, but 
always with an of&cious smile, " Yes, Father ; no, Father," 
to every question addressed to them. 

. The vexation that arises from such a style of conversation 
continued for months may easily be conceived, when you 
wish to be enlightened upon objects in which you take the 
most lively interest. We were often forced to employ several 
interpreters at a time, and several successive translators, in 
order to communicate with the natives.* 

"After leaving my Mission," said the good monk of 
Uruana, " you will travel like mutes." This prediction was 
nearly accomplished; and, not to lose the advantage we 
might derive from intercourse even with the rudest Indians, 
we sometimes preferred the language of sign». "When a 
a native perceives that jrou wiU not employ an interpreter ; 
when you interrogate him directly, showmg him the objects ; 
he rouses himself from his habitual apathy, and manifests an 
extraordinary capacity to make himself comprehended. He 
varies his signs, pronounces his words slowly, and repeats 
them without being desired. The consequence conferred 
upon him, in suffering yourself to be instructed by him, 
flatters his self-love. This facility in making himself com- 
prehended is particularly remartable in the independent 
Indian. It cannot be doubted that direct intercourse with 
the natives is more instructive and more certain than the 
communication by interpreters, provided the questions be 

* To form a just idea of the perplexity of these communications by 
interpreters^ we may recollect that, in the expedition of Lewis and 
Clarke to the river Columbia, in order to converse with the Chopunnish 
Indians, Captain Lewis addressed one of his men in English ; that man 
translated the question into French to Chaboneau ; Chaboneau translated 
it to his Indian wife in Minnetaree; the woman translated it into 
Shoshonee to a prisoner ; and the prisoner translated it into Chopunnish. 
It may be feared that the sense of the question was a little altered by 
these successive translations. 


simplified, and repeated to several individuals under dif- 
ferent forms. The variety of idioms spoken on the banks of 
the Meta, the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Eio Negro, 
is so prodigious, that a traveller, however great may be his 
talent for languages, can never hope to leam enough to 
make himself understood along the navigable rivers, from 
Angostura to the small fort of San Carlos del Rio Negro. 
In rem and Quito it is sufficient to know the Quichua, or 
the Inca language ; in Chile, the Araucan; and in Paraguay, 
the &uarany; in order to be understood by most of the 
population. But it is different in the Missions of Spanish 
Ghuiana, where nations of various races are miùgled in the 
same vOlage. It is not even sufficient to have learned the 
Caribee or Carina, the Guamo, the Guahive, the Jaruro, 
the Ottomac, the Maypure, the Salive, the Marivitan, the 
Maquiritare, and the Guaica, ten dialects, of which there 
exist only imperfect grammars, and which have less affinity 
with each other than the Greek, German, and Persian 

The environs of the Mission of Carichana appeared to us 
to be delightful. The little village is situated in one of 
those plains covered with grass that separate all the links 
of the granitic mountains, from Encaramada to beyond 
the Cataracts of Maypures. The line of the forests is seen 
only in the distance. The horizon is everywhere bounded 
by mountains, partly wooded and of a dark tint, partly bare, 
with rocky summits gilded by the beams of the setting sun. 
"What gives a peculiar character to the scenery of this coun- 
try are banks of rock (laxas) nearly destitute of vege- 
tation, and often more than eight hundred feet in circum- 
ference, yet scarcely rising a few inches above the surounding 
savannahs. They now make a part of the plain. We ask 
ourselves ydth surprise, whether some extraordinary revolu- 
tions may have carried away the earth and plants ; or whether 
the granite nucleus of our planet shows itself bare, because 
the germs of life are not yet developed on all its points. 
The same phenomenon seems to be found also in the desert 
of Shamo, which separates Mongolia from China. Those 
banks of solitary rock in the desert are caDed tsi/. I think 
they would be real table-lands, if the surrounding plains 
were stripped of the sand and mould that cover them, and 
which the waters have accumulated in the lowest places. 

224 cuEiors plants. 

On these stony flats of Carichana we observed with inte- 
rest the rising vegetation in the diflerent degrees of its. 
development. We there found lichens cleaving the rock, 
and collected in crusts more or less thick ; little portions of 
sand nourishing succulent plants ; and lastly layers of black 
mould deposited in the hollows, formed from the decay of 
roots and leaves, and shaded by tufts of evergreen shrubs. 

At the distance of two dt three leagues from the Mission, 
we find, in these plains intersected by granitic hills, a vege- 
tation no less rich than varied. On comparing the site of 
Carichana with that of all the villages above the Great Ca- 
taracts, we are surprised at the facility with which we tra- 
verse the country, without following the banks of the rivers, 
or being stopped by the thickness of the forests. M. Bon- 
pland made several excursions on horseback, which fur- 
nished him with a rich harvest of plants. I shall mention 
only the paraguatan, a magnificent species of the macroc- 
nemum, the bark of which yields a red dye ;* the guaricamo, 
with a poisonous root ;t the Jacaranda obtusifolia ; and the 
êerrape, or jape X of the Salive Indians, which is the Couma- 
rouna of Aublet, so celebrated throughout Terra Firma for 
its aromatic fruit. This fruit, which at Caracas is placed 
among linen, as in Europe it is in snufi", under the name of 
tonca, or Tonquin bean, is regarded as poisonous. It is a 
false notion, very general in the province of Cumana, that 
the excellent liqueur fabricated at Martinique owes its pecu- 
liar flavour to the jape. In the Missions it is called sirna^ 
9*vha ; a name that may occasion serious mistakes, the true 
simaruba being a febrifuge species of the Quassia genus, 
found in Spanish Guiana only in the valley of Rio Caura, 
where the Paudacot Indians give it the name of achecchari. 

I found the dip of the magnetic needle, in the great square 
at Carichana, 33'7° (new division). The intensity of the 
magnetic action was expressed by two hundred and twenty- 
-peven oscillations in ten minutes of time; an increase of 
force that would seem to indicate some local attraction. 
Tet the blocks of the granite, blackened by the waters of the 
Orinoco, have no perceptible action upon the needle. 

The river had risen several inches during the day on the 

* Macrocnemum tinctoriam. f Ityania coccidea. 

X Dipterix odorata, Willd. or Baryosma tongo of Gaertner. The jape 
frnuhes Carichana with excellent timber. * 


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

There w«s a remote period then, in which the classes of 
plants were otherwise distributed, when the animals were 
larger, and the rivers broader and of greater depth. There 


226 MYSTEBTOUS 80X710)8. 

end those records of nature, that it is in our power to con- 
sult. We are ignorant whether the human race, which at 
the time of the discovery of America scarcely formed a few 
feeble tribes on the east' of the Cordilleras, had already 
descended into the plains ; or whether the ancient tradition 
of the * great waters,' which is found among the nations of 
the Orinoco, the Erevato, and the Caura, belong to other 
climates, whence it has been propagated to this part of the 
New Continent. 

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

The granitic rock on which we lay is one of those, where 
travellers on the Orinoco have heard from time to time, 
towards sunrise, subterraneous sounds, resembling those 
of the organ. The missionaries call these stones lojcas de 
musica, ' It is witchcraft (cosa de bruxas),* said our young 
Indian pilot, who could speak Spanish. We aever our- 
selves heard these mysterious sounds, either at^Carichana 
Vieja, or in the tipper Orinoco ; but from information given 
us by witnesses worthy of belief, the existence of a pheno- 


menon that seems to depend on a certain state of the 
atmosphere, cannot be denied. The shelves of rock are full 
of very narrow and deep crevices. They are heated during 
the day to 48° or 50°. I several times found their tempe- 
rature at the surface, during the night, at 39®, the surround- 
ing atmosphere being at 28°. It may easily be conceived, 
that the difference of temperature between the subterranean 
and the external air attains its maidmum about sunrise, or 
at that moment which is at the same time farthest from 
the period of the maximum of the heat of the preced- 
ing day. May not these organ-like sounds, which are 
heard when a person lays his ear in contact with the 
stone, be the effect of a current of air that issues out 
through the crevices ? Does not the impulse of the air 
against the elastic spangles of mica that intercept the 
crevices, contribute to modify the sounds? May we not 
abmit that the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, in passing 
incessantly up and down the Nile, had made the same 
observation on some rock of the Thebaid; and that the 
* music of the rocks' there led to the jugglery of the priests 
in the statue of Memnon ? Perhaps, when * the rosy- 
fingered Aurora rendered her son, the glorious Memnon, 
vocal,'* the voice was that of a man hidden beneath the 
pedestal of the statue ; but the observation of the natives 
of the Orinoco, which we relate, seems to explain in a 
natural manner what gave rise to the Egyptian belief of a 
stone that poured forth sounds at sunrise. 

Almost at the same period at which I communicated these 
conjectures to some of the learned of Europe, three Prench 
travellers, MM. Jomard, Jollois, and Devilliers, were led 
to analogous ideas. They heard, at sunrise, in a monument 
of granite, at the centre of the spot on which stands the 
palace of Kamak, a noise resembling that of a striug break- 
ing. Now this comparison is precisely that which the 
ancients employed in speaking of the voice of Memnon. 
The French travellers thought, like me, that the passage of 

* These are the words of an inscription, which attests that sounds 
were heard on the 13th of the month Pachou, in the tenth year of the 
reign of Antoninus. See Monuments de l'Egypte Ancienne. 

q 2 


rarefied air through the fissures of a sonorous stone might 
have suggested to the Egyptian priests the invention of the 
juggleries of the Memnonium. 

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

We found the bed of the river, to the length of six hun- 
dred toises, fuU of granite rocks. Here is what is called the 
Itavdal de Cariven. We passed through channels that were 
not five feet broad. Our canoe was sometimes jammed 
between two blocks of granite. We sought to avoid these 

Eassages, into which the waters rushed with a fearful noise ; 
ut there is really little danger, in a canoe steered by a good 
Tnciia.n pilot. When the current is too violent to be resisted 
the rowers leap into .the water, and fasten a rope to the 
point of a rock, to warp the boat along. This manoeuvre is 
very tedious ; and we sometimes avafled ourselves of it, to 
climb the rocks among which we were entangled. They are 
of all dimensions, rounded, very black, glossy like lead, and 
destitute of vegetation. It is an extraordinary phenomenon 
to see the waters of one of the largest rivers on the globe in 
some sort disappear. We perceived, even far from the shore, 
those immense blocks of granite, rising from the ground, 
and leaning one against another. The intervening channels 
in the rapids are more than twenty-five fathoms deep ; and 
are the more difficult to be observed, as the rocks are often 
narrow toward their bases, and form vaults suspended over 
the surface of the river. We perceived no crocodiles in the 
raudal; these animals seem to shun the noise of cataracts. 


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

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

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

The Rio Meta, which traverses the vast plains of Casa- 
nare, and which is navigable as far as the foot of the Andes 
of New Grenada, will one day be of great political import- 
ance to the inhabitants of Guiana and Venezuela. Prom 
the Golfo Triste and the Boca del Drago a small fleet 
may go up the Orinoco and the Meta to within fifteen or 
twenty leagues of Santa Pe de Bogota. The flour of New 
Grenada may be conveyed the same way. The Meta is like 
a canal of communication between countries placed in the 
same latitude, but differing in their productions as much as 
France and Senegal. The Meta has its source in the union 

230 KAViGATioir or the biteb. 

of two rivers which descend from the paramos of Chingasa 
and Suma Paz. The first is the Eio Negro, which, lower 
down, receives the Pachaquiaro ; the second is the Eio de 
Aguas Blancas, or Umadea. The junction takes place near 
the port of Marayal. It is only eight or ten leagues 
from the Passo de la Cabulla, where you quit the Eio 
Negro, to the capital of Santa Fe. from the villages 
of Xiramena and CabuUaro to those of G-uanapalo and 
Santa Eosalia de Cabapuna, a distance of sixty leagues, the 
banks of the Meta are more inhabited than those of the 
Orinoco. We find in this space fourteen Christian settle- 
ments, in part very populous ; but from the mouths of the 
rivers Pauto and Casanare, for a space of more than fifty 
leagues, the Meta is infested by tne Guahibos, a race of 

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

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

At the period of the " harvest of turtles' eggs," not only 
the flour of Santa Eé descended the river, but the salt of 
Chita,t the cotton cloth of San Gil, and the printed coun- 
terpanes of Socorro. To give some security to the little 
traders who devoted themselves to this inland commerce, 
attacks were made from time to time from the castillo or 
fort of Carichana, on the Guahibos. 

To keep these Guahibos in awe, the Capuchin mission- 
aries, who succeeded the Jesuits in the government of the 

* I find the word written Guajihos, Guahivos, and Guagivos, They 
call themselves Gua-iva. 

f East of Labranza Grande^ and the north-west of Pore, nonr the 
capital of the province of Casanare» 


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

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


exceedingly black ; and the hoarse sounds of the cascades of 
the Orinoco mingled with the rolling of the distant thunder. 

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

The interest with which we examined these poor savages 
became perhaps the cause of the destruction of the mission. 
Some among them, who preferred a wandering life to the 
labours of agriculture, persuaded the rest to return to the 
plains of the Meta. They told them, " that the white men 
would come back to San Borja, to take them away in the 
boats, and sell then^ as poitos, or slaves, at Angostura.'* 
The Guahibos awaited the news of our return from the Rio 
Negro by the Cassiquiare; and when they heard that we 
were arrived at the first great cataract, that of Atures, they 
all deserted, and fled to the savannahs that border the 


Orinoco oir the west. The Jesuit Fathers had abeady 
formed a mission on this spot, and bearing the same name. 
No tribe is more difficult to fix to the soil than the G-ua- 
hibos. They would rather feed on stale fish, scolopendras, 
and worms, than cultivate a little spot of ground. The 
other Indians say, that "a Guahibo eats everything that 
exists, both on and under the ground." 

In ascending the Orinoco more to the south, the heat, far 
from increasiug, became more bearable. The air in the day 
was at 26° or 27-5°; and at night, at 23*7''. The water of 
the Orinoco retained its habitual temperature of 27*7°. The 
torment of the mosquitos augmented severely, notwithstand- 
ing the decrease of heat. We never suffered so much from 
them as at San Borja. We could neither speak nor uncover 
our faces without having our mouths and noses fiUed with 
insects. We were surprised not to find the thermometer 
at 35° or 36° ; the extreme irritation of the skin made us 
believe that the air was scorching. We passed the night on 
the beach of Guaripo. The fear of the little caribe fish 
prevented us from oathing. The crocodiles we had met 
with this day were all of an extraordinary size, from twenty- 
two to twenty-four feet. 

Our sufferings from the zancvdos made us depart at five 
o'clock on the morning of the 14th. There are fewer insects 
in the strata of air lying immediately on the river, than 
near the edge of the forests. We stopped to breakfast 
at the island of G-uachaco, or Vachaco, where the granite is 
immediately covered by a formation of sandstone, or con- 
glomerate. This sandstone contains fragments of quartz, 
and even of feldspar, cemented by indurated clay. It exhi- 
bits Htfcle veins of brown iron-ore, which separate in laminaB, 
or plates, of one line in thickness. We had already found 
these plates on the shores between Encaramada and Bara- 
guan, where the missionaries had sometimes taken them for 
an ore of gold, and sometimes for tin. It is probable, that 
this secondary formation occupied formerly a larger space. 
Having passed the mouth of the Eio Parueni, beyond which 
the Maco Indians dwell, we spent the night on the island of 
Panumana. I could with difficulty take the altitudes of 
Canopus, in order to ^ the longitude of the point, near 
which the river suddenly turns towards the west. The 

234 BAPIDS or THE ATiniES. 

island of Fanxunana is rich in plants. We there again 
found those shelves of bare rock, tnose tufbs of melastomas, 
those thickets of small shrubs, the blended scenery of which 
had charmed us in the plains of Carichana. The mountains 
of the Great Cataracts bounded the horizon towards the 
south-east. In proportion as we advanced, the shores of 
the Orinoco exhibited a more imposing and picturesque 

Chapter XX. 

Tlie Mouth of the Rio Anaveni.-— Peak of Uniana. — Mission of Atures. 
•^Cataract, or Raudal of Mapara. — Islets of Surupamana and 

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

Scenes so astonishing must for ages have fixed the atten- 
tion of the inhabitants of the New World. When Diego de 
Todaz, Alfonzo de Herrera, and the intrepid Ealeigh, an- 
chored at the mouth of the Orinoco, they were informed 
by the Indians of the Grreat Cataracts, which they them- 
selves had never visited, and which they even confounded 
with cascades farther to the east. Whatever obstacles the 
force of vegetation under the torrid zone may throw in the 
way of intercourse among nations, all that relates to the 
course of great rivers acquires a celebrity which extends to 
vast distances. The Orinoco, the Amazon, and the TJni- 
guay, traverse, like inland arms of seas, in different direc- 
&ons, a land covered with forests, and inhabited by tribes, 


part of whom are cannibals. It is not yet two hundred 
years since ciyiLization and the light of a more humane 
religion have pursued their way along the banks of these 
ancient canals traced by the hand of nature ; long, however, 
before the introduction, of agriculture, before communica- 
tions for the purposes of barter were established among 
these scattered and often hostile tribes, the knowledge of 
extraordinary phenomena, of falls of \ water, of volcanic fires, 
and of snows resisting all the ardent heat of summer, was 
propagated by a thousand fortuitous circumstances. Three 
hundred leagues from the coast, in the centre of South 
America, among nations whose excursions do not extend to 
three days' journey, we find an idea of the ocean, and words 
that denote a mass of salt water extending as far as the eye 
can discern. Various events, which repeatedly occur in 
savage hfe, contribute to enlarge these conceptions. In 
consequence of tile petty wars between neighbouring tribes, 
a prisoner is brought into a strange count^, and treated as 
a poito or mero^ that is to say, as a slave. After being often 
sold, he is dragged to new wars, escapes, and returns home ; 
he relates what he has seen, and what he has heard ô*om 
those whose tongue he has been compelled to learn. As on 
discovering a coast, we hear of great inland animals, so, on 
entering the valley of a vast river, we are surprised to find 
that savages, who are strangers to navigation, nave acquired 
a knowledge of distant things. In the infant state of 
society, the exchange of ideas precedes, to a certain point, 
the exchange of productions. 

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


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

Beyond the Oreat Cataracts an unknown land begins. 
The country is partly mountainous and partly flat, receiving 
at once the confluents of the Amazon and the Orinoco. 
Prom the facility of its communications with the Eio Negro 
and Grand Para, it appears to belong still more to Brazil 
than to the Spanish colonies. None of the missionaries 
who have described the Orinoco before me, neither Father 
G-umiUa, Gili, nor Caulin, had passed the Eaudal of May- 
pures. We found but three Christian estabhshments above 
the Great Cataracts, along the shores of the Orinoco, in an 
extent of more than a hundred leagues; and these three 
establishments contained scarcely six or eight white persons, 
that is to say, persons of European race. We cannot be 
surprised that such a desert region should have been at 
all times the land of fable and fau*y visions. There, accord- 
ing to the statements of certain missionaries, are found 
races of men, some of whom have an eye in the centre of 
the forehead, whilst others have dogs' heads, and mouths 
below their stomachs. There they pretend to have found 
all that the ancients relate of the Garamantes, of the Ari- 
maspes, and of the Hyperboreans. It would be an error 
to suppose that these simple and ofben rustic missionaries 


had themselves invented all these exaggerated fictions ; they 
derived them in great part from the recitals of the Indians. 
A fondness for narration prevails in the Missions, as it does 
at sea, in the East, and in every place where the mind 
seeks amusement. A missionary, from his vocation, is not 
inclined to scepticism; he imprints on his memory what 
the natives have so often repeated to him; and, when 
returned to Europe, and restored to the civilized world, he 
finds a pleasure in creating astonishment by a recital of 
facts which he thinks he has collected, and by an animated 
description of remote things. These stories, which the 
Spanish colonists call * tales of travellers and of monks' 
(cuentos de viagères y frailes), increase in improbability in 
proportion as you increase your distance from the forests 
of the Orinoco, and approach the coasts inhabited by the 
whites. When, at Cumana, Nue va Barcelona, and other 
seaports which have frequent communication with the Mis- 
sions, you betray any sign of incredulity, you are reduced 
to silence by these few words : " The fathers have seen it, 
but far above the G-reat Cataracts (mas arriba de los Eau- 

On the 15th of April, we left the island of Panumana at 
four in the morning, two hours before sunrise. The sky 
was in great part obscured, and lightnings flashed over dense 
clouds at more than forty degrees of elevation. We were 
surprised at not hearing thunder; but possibly this was 
owing to the prodigious height of the storm ? It appears 
to us, that in Europe the electric flashes without thunder, 
vaguely called heat-lightning, are seen generally nearer the 
horizon. Under a cloudy sky, that sent back the radiant 
caloric of the soil, the heat was stifling; not a breath of 
wind agitated the foliage of the trees. The jaguars, as 
usual, had crossed the arm of the Orinoco by which we were 
separated from the shore, and we heard their cries extremely 
near. During the night the Indians had advised us to quit 
our station in the open air, and retire to a deserted hut 
belonging to the conucos of the inhabitants of Atiu'es. They 
had taken care to barricade the opening with planks, a 
precaution which seemed to us superfluous; but near the 
Cataracts tigers are very numerous, and two years before, 
in these very conucos of Panumana, an Indian returning to 


his liut, towards the close of the rainy season, found a tigress 
settled in it with her two young. These animals had mha- 
bited the dwelling for several months ; they were dislodged 
from it with difficulty, and it waa only after an obstinate 
combat that the former master regained possession of his 
dwelling. The jaguars are fond of retiring to deserted 
ruios, and I believe it is more prudent in general for a 
solitary traveller to encamp in the open air, between two 
fires, tnan to seek shelter in uninhabited huts. 

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

The little village of San Juan Nepomuceno de los Atures 
was founded by the Jesuit Francisco Gonzales, in 1748. In 
going up the river this is the last of the Christian mis- 
sions that owe their origin to the order of St. Ignatius. 
The more southern establishments, those of Atabapo, of 
Cassiquiare, and of Eio Negro, were formed by the fothers 
of the Observance of St. Francis. The Ormoco appears to 
have flowed heretofore where the village of Atures now 
stands, and the flat savannah that surrounds the village no 
doubt formed part of the river. I saw to the east of the 
mission a succession of rocks, which seemed to have been 
the ancient shore of the Orinoco. In the lapse of ages the 


river lias been impelled westward, in consequence of the 
accumulations of earth, which occur more frequently on the 
side of the eastern mountains, that are furrowed by torrents. 
The cataract bears the name of Mapara,* as we have men- 
tioned above ; while the name of the village is derived from 
that of the nation of Atures, now believed to be extinct. 
I find on the maps of the seventeenth century, Island and 
Cataract ofAthule; which is the word Atures written ac- 
cording to the pronunciation of the Tamanacs, who con- 
found, like so many other people, the consonants I and r. 
This mountainous region was so little known in Europe, 
even in the middle of the eighteenth century, that D'Anville, 
in the first edition of his South America, makes a branch 
issue from the Orinoco, near Salto de los Attires, and fall 
into the Amazon, to which branch he gives the name of 
Eio Negro. 

Early maps, as well as Father Gumilla's work, place 
the Mission in latitude 1^ 30'. Abbé QiH gives it 3* 5(/. 
I found, by meridian altitudes of Canopus and a of the 
Southern Cross, 5° 38' 4" for the latitude ; and by the chro- 
nometer 4^ 41' 17" of longitude west of the meridian of 

We found this small Mission in the most deplorable state. 
It contained, even at the time of the expedition of Solano, 
commonly called the 'expedition of the boundaries,' three 
hundred and twenty Indians. This number had diminished, 
at the time of our passage by the Cataracts, to forty-seven ; 
and the missionary assured us that this diminution became 
from year to year more sensible. He showed us, that in the 

* I am ignorant of the etymology of this world, which I believe means 
only a fall of water. Gill translates into Maypure a small cascade 
(raudalito) by uccamathi mapara canacapatirri. Should we not 
spell this word matpara ? mat being a radical of the Maypure tongue^ 
and meaning bad (Hervas, Saggio, N. 29). The radical par (jaara) is 
found among American tribes more than five hundred leagues distant 
from each other, the Caribs, Maypures, Brazilians, and Peruvians, in the 
words sea, rain, water, lake. We must not confound mapara with mapaja ; 
this last word signifies, in Maypure and Tamanac, the papaw or melon- 
tree, no doubt on account of the sweetness of its fruit, for mapa means 
in the Maypure, as well as in the Peruvian and Omagua tongues, ' the honey 
of bees.' The Tamanacs call a cascade, or raudal, in general uatapurutpe\ 
the Maypures, uca. 


space of thirty-two months only one marriage had been 
entered in the registers of the parish church. Two others 
had been contractefl by uncatechised natives, and celebrated 
before the Indian Oooemador, At the fii*st foundation of 
the Mission, the Atures, Maypures, Meyepures, Abanis, and 
Quirupas, had been assembled together. Instead of these 
tribes we found only Guahibos, and a few families of the 
nation of Macos. The Atures have almost entirely disap- 
peared ; they are no longer known, except by the tombs m 
the cavern of Atamipe, which recall to mind the sepulchres 
of the Guanches at Teneriffe. We learned on the spot, that 
the Atures, as well as the Quaquas, and the Macos or 
Piaroas, belong to the great stock of the Salive nations; 
while the Maypures, the Abanis, the Parenis, and the Guay- 
punaves, are of the same race as the Cabres or Caveres, 
celebrated for their long wars with the Caribs. In this 
labyrinth of petty nations, divided from one another as the 
nations of Latium, Asia Minor, and Sogdiana, formerly were, 
we can trace no general relations but by following the 
analogy of tongues. These are the only monuments that 
have reached us from the early ages of the world ; the only 
monuments, which, not hieing fixed to the soil, are at once 
moveable and lasting, and have as it were traversed time 
and space. They owe their duration, and the extent they 
occupy, much less to conquering and polished nations, than 
to those wandering and half-savage tribes, who, fleeing 
before a powerful enemy, carried along with them in their 
extreme wretchedness only their wives, their children, and 
the languages of their fathers. 

Between the latitudes of 4° and 8°, the Orinoco not only 
separates the great forest of the Parime from the bare 
savannahs of the Apure, Meta, and Guaviare, but also forms 
the boundary between tribes of very different manners. 
To the westward, over treeless plains, wander the Guahibos, 
the Chiricoas, and the Guamos ; nations, proud of their 
savage independence, whom it is difficult to fix to the soil, 
or habituate to regular labour. The Spanish missionaries 
characterise them well by the name of Indios andantes 
(errant or vagabond Indians), because they are perpetually 
moving from place to place. To the east of the Orinoco, 
between the neighbouring sources of the Caura, Cataniapo, 


and Yentuari, live the Macos, the Salives, the Curacicanas, 
Parecas, and Maquiritares, mÙd, tranquil tribes, addicted to 
agriculture, and easily subjected to the discipline of the 
Missions. The Indian of the plains differs from the Indian 
of the forests in language as weU. as manners and mental 
disposition; both have an idiom abounding in spirited and 
bold terms ; but the language of the former is harsher, more 
concise, and more impassioned; that of the latter, softer, 
more diffuse, and fuUer of ambiguous expressions. 

The Mission of Atures, like most of the Missions of the 
Orinoco, situated between the mouths of the Apure and the 
Atabapo, is composed of both the classes of tribes we have 
just described. We there find the Indians of the forests, 
and the Indians heretofore nomadic* (Indios monteras and 
Indios llcmeros, or andantes). We visited with the mis- 
sionary the huts of Macos, whom the Spaniards call Piraoas, 
and those of the Guahibos. The first indicated more love 
of order, cleanliness, and ease. The independent Macos (I 
do not designate them by the name of savages) have their 
rochelas, or fixed dwellings, two or three days' journey east 
of Atures, toward the sources of the little river Cataniapo. 
They are very numerous. Like most of the natives of the 
woods, they cultivate, not maize, but cassava ; and they live 
in great harmony with the Christian Indians of the mission. 
The harmony was established and wisely cultivated by tiie 
Franciscan monk, Bernardo Zea. This alcalde of the re^ 
dticed IVIacos quitted the village of Atures for a few months 
every year, to live in the plantations which he possessed in 
the midst of the forests near the hamlet of the mdependent 
Macos. In consequence of this peaceful intercourse, many 
of the Indios monteros came and established themselves some 
time ago in the mission. They asked eagerly for knives,- 
fishing hooks, and those coloured glass-beads, which, not- 
withstanding the positive prohibition of the priests, were 
employed not as necklaces, but as ornaments of the guayuco ' 
(perizoma). Having obtained what they sought, they re- 

* I employ the word nomadic as synonymous with wandering^ and not 
in its primitive si^ification. The wandering nations of America (those of 
the indigenous tribes, it is to be understood) are never shepherds ; they 
live by tishing and hunting, on the fruit of a few trees, the farinaceous 
pith of palm-trees, &c. 



turned to the woods, weaiy of the regulations of the mission. 
Epidemic fevers, which prevailed with violence at the en- 
trance of the rainy season, contributed greatly to this unex- 
pected flight. In 1799 the mortality was very considerable 
at Carichana, on the banks of the Meta, and at the Baudal 
of Atures. The Indian of the forest conceives a horror of 
the life of the civilized man, when, I will not say any mis- 
fortune befalls his family settled in the mission, but merely 
any disagreeable or unforeseen accident. Natives, who were 
neophytes, have been known to desert for ever the Chyistian 
estabhshments, on account of a great drought; as if this 
calamity would not have reached them equally in their plan- 
tations, had thev remained in their primitive independence. 

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

1 have just alluded to the noxious influence on the salu- 
brity of the? atmosphere, which is attributed by the natives^ 
and even the missionaries, to the bare rocks. This opinion 
is the more worthy of attention, as it is connected with 


a physical phenomenon lately observed in different parts 
of the globe, and not yet simciently explained. Among 
the cataracts, and wherever the Orinoco, between the Mis- 
sions of Carichana and of Santa Barbara, periodically washes 
the granitic rocks, they become smooth, black, and as if 
coated with plumbago. The colouring matter does not 
penetrate the stone, which is coarse-grained granite, con- 
taining a few solitary crystals of hornblende. Taking a 
general view of the primitive formation of Atures, we per- 
ceive, that, like the granite of Syene in Egypt, it is a granite 
with hornblende, and not a real syenite formation. Many 
of the layers are entirely destitute of hornblende. The black 
crust is 0*3 of a line in thickness; it is found chiefly on the 
quartzose parts. The crystals of feldspar sometimes pre- 
serve externally their reddish-white colour, and rise above 
the black crust. On breaking the stone with a hammer, 
the inside is found to be white, and without any trace of de- 
composition. These enormous stony masses appear some- 
times in rhombs, sometimes under tnose hemispneric forms, 
Çeculiar to graaitic rocks when they separate in blocks, 
'hey give the landscape a singularly gloomy aspect; their 
colour being in strong contrast with that of tne foam of the 
river which covers them, and of the vegetation by which 
they are surrounded. The Indians say, that the rocks are 
* burnt' (or carbonized) 'by the rays of the sun.' We saw 
them not only in the bed of the Orinoco, but in some spots 
as far as five hundred toises from its present shore, on 
heights which the waters now never reach even in their 
greatest swellings. 

What is this brownish black crust, which ^ves these 
rocks, when they have a globular form, the appearance of 
meteoric stones r What idea can we form of the action of 
the water, which produces a deposit, or a change of colour, so 
extraordinary ? We must observe, in the first place, that 
this phenomenon does not belong to the cataracts of the 
Orinoco alone, but is foimd in both hemispheres. At my 
return from Mexico in 1807, when I showed the granites of 
Atures and Maypures to M. Eozière, who had travelled 
over the valley of Egypt, the coasts of the Bed Sea, and 
Mount Sinai, this learned geologist pointed out to me that 
the primitive rocks of the little cataracts of Syene display, 

B 2 


like the rocks of the Orinoco, a glossy surface, of a blackish- 
grey, or almost leaden colour, and of which some of the 
fragments seem coated with tar. Recently, in the un- 
fortimate expedition of Captain Tuckey, the English natu- 
ralists were struck with the same appearance in the yellahu 
(rapids and shoals) that obstruct the river Congo or Zaire. 
Dr. Koenig has placed in the British Museum, beside the 
syenites of the Congo, the granites of Atures, taken from a 
series of rocks which were presented by M. Bonpland and ' 
myself to the illustrious president of tne Boyal Society of 
London. "These fragments," says Mr. Koenig, "alike re- 
semble meteoric stones ; in both rocks, those of the Orinoco 
and of Africa, the black crust is composed, according to the 
analysis of Mr. Children, of the oxide of iron and man- 
ganese." Some experiments made at Mexico, conjointly with 
Seiior del Eio, led me to think that the rocks of Atures, 
which blacken the paper in which they are wrapped,* contain, 
besides oxide of manganese, carbon, and supercarburetted 
iron. At the Ormoco, granitic masses of forty or fifty feet 
thick are uniformly coated with these oxides ; and, however 
thin these crusts may appear, they must nevertheless contain 
pretty considerable quantities of iron and manganese, since 
they occupy a space of above a league square. 

It must be observed that all these phenomena of colora- 
tion have hitherto appeared in the torrid zone only, in rivers 
that have periodical overflowings, of which the habitual 
temperature is from twenty-four to twenty-eight centesimal 
degrees, and which flow, not over gritstone or calcareous 
rocks, but over granite, gneiss, and hornblende rocks. 
Quartz and feldspar scarcely contain five or six thousandths 
of oxide of iron and of manganese ; but in mica and horn- 
blende these oxides, and particularly that of iron, amount, 
according to Klaproth and Herrmann, to fifteen or twenty 
parts in a hundred. The hornblende contains also some 
carbon, like the Lydian stone and TdeselscMefer, Now, if 
these black crusts were formed by a slow decomposition of 

* I remarked the same phenomenon from sponsfy grains of platina one 
or two lines in length, collected at the stream-works of Taddo, in the pro- 
vince of Choco. Flaviug been wrapped up in white paper during a journey 
of several months^ they left a black stain, like that of plumbago or super- 
carburetted iron. 


the granitic rock, under the double influence of humidity 
and the tropical sun, how is it to be conceived that these 
•oxides are spread so uniformly over the whole surface of 
the stony masses, and are not more abundant round a 
crystal of mica or hornblende than on the feldspar and 
milky quartz? The ferruginous sandstones, granites, and 
marbles, that become cinereous and sometimes brown in 
damp air, have an aspect altogether different. In reflecting 
upon the lustre and equal thickness of the crusts, we are 
rather inclined to think that this matter is deposited by the 
Orinoco, and that the water has penetrated even into the 
clefts of the rocks. Adopting this hypothesis, it may be 
asked whether the river holds the oxides suspended like 
sand and other earthy substances, or whether they are 
found in a state of chemical solution. The first supposition 
is less admissible, on account of the homogeneity of the 
crusts, wldch contain neither grains of sand, nor spangles 
of mica, mixed with the oxides. We must then recur to 
the idea of a chemical solution ; and this idea is no way at 
variance with the phenomena daily observable in our labo- 
ratories. The waters of great rivers contain carbonic acid ; 
and, were they even entirely pure, they would still be 
capable, in very great volumes, of dissolving some portions 
of oxide, or those metallic hydrates which are regarded as 
the least soluble. The mud of the Nile, which is the 
sediment of the matters which the river holds suspended, 
is destitute of manganese ; but it contains, according to the 
analysis of M. Regnault, six parts in a hundred of oxide 
of iron ; and its colour, at first black, changes to yellowish 
brown by desiccation and the contact of air. The mud 
consequently is not the cause of the black crusts on the 
rocks of Syene. Berzelius, who, at my request, examined 
these crusts, recognized in them, as in those of the gra- 
nites of the Orinoco and Eiver Congo, the union of iron and 
manganese. That celebrated chemist was of opinion that 
the rivers do not take up these oxides from the soil over 
which they flow, but that they derive them from their sub- 
terranean soiu'ces, and deposit them on the rocks in the 
manner of cementation, by the action of particular affini- 
ties, perhaps by that of the potash of the feldspar. A long 
residence at the cataracts of the Orinoco, the Nile, and the 

248 îniKjs^Ess of the popflitiok. 

black crusts than in those which abound in Ij^minff of silveiy 
mica. When walking between the hours of one and three 
in the afternoon, at Oarichana, Atures, or Maypures, among 
those blocks of stone destitute of vegetable mould, and piled 
up to great heights, one feels a sensation of suffocation, as 
if standing before the opening of a furnace. The winds, if 
ever felt in those woody regions, far from bringing coolness, 
appear more heated when they have passed over beds of 
stone, and heaps of rounded blocks oi granite. This aug« 
mentation of heat adds to the insalubrity of the climate. 

Among the causes of the depopulation of the Eaudales, 
I have not reckoned the smali-poi, that malady which in 
other parts of America makes such cruel ravages that the 
natives, seized with dismay, bum their huts, kill their 
children, and renounce every kind of society. This scourge 
is almost unknown on the banks of the Orinoco, and shoidd 
it penetrate thither, it is to'^ be hoped that its effects may 
be immediately counteracted by vaccination, the blessings 
of which are daily felt along the coasts of Terra Firma. 
The causes which depopulate the Christian settlements 
are, the repugnance of the Indians for the regulations 
of the missions, insalubrity of climate, bad nourishment, 
want of care in the diseases of children, and the guilty 
practice of preventing pregnancy by the use of deleterious 
herbs. Among the barbarous people of Q-uiana, as well as 
those of the half-civilized islands of the South Sea, young 
wives are fearful of becoming mothers. K they have chil- 
dren, their offspring are exposed not only to the dangers 
of savage life, but also to other dangers arising from the 
strangest popular prejudices. When twins are born, false 
notions of propriel^ and family honour require that one of 
them should be destroyed. " To bring twins into the 
world," say the Indians, " is. to be exposed to public scorn; 
it is to resemble jats, opossmns, and the vilest animals, 
which bring forth a great number of young at a time.'* 
Nay, more, they affirm that " two children born at the same 
time cannot belong to the same father." This is an axiom 
of physiology among the Salives ; and in every zone, and in 
different states of society, when the vulgar seize upon an 
axiom, they adhere to it with more stedfastness than the 
better-informed men by whom it was first hazarded. To 


which cause the insalubrity of the atmosphere. Can it be 
admitted that^ under the influence of excessive heat and of 
constant humidity, the black crusts of the granitic rocks are 
capable of acting upon the ambient air, and producing 
imasmata with a triple basis of carbon, azote, and hydrogen ? 
This I doubt. The granites of the Orinoco, it is true, often 
contain hornblende; and those who are accustomed to 
practical labour in mines are not ignorant that the most 
noxious exhalations rise from galleries wrought in syenitic 
and hornblende rocks : but in an atmosphere renewed every 
instant by the action of little currents of air, the effect can- 
not be the same as in a mine. 

It is probably dangerous to sleep on the laa;a8 negras, 
only because these rocks retain a very elevated temperature 
during the night. I have found their temperature in the 
day at 48°, the air in the shade being at 29*7° ; during the 
night the thermometer on the rock indicated 36°, the air 
bemg at 26°. When the accumulation of heat in thé stony 
masses has reached a stationary degree, these masses be- 
come at the same hours nearly of the same temperature. 
"What they have acquired more in the day they lose at night 
by radiation, the force of which depends on the state of the 
surface of the radiating body, the interior arrangement of 
its particles, and, above all, on the clearness of the sky, that 
is, on the transparency of the atmosphere and the absence 
of clouds. When the declination of the sun varies very 
little, this luminary adds daily nearly the same quantities 
of heat, and the rocks are not hotter at the ena than in 
the middle of summer. There is a certain maximum which 
they cannot pass, because they do not change the state of 
their surface, their density, or their capacity for caloric. 
On the shores of fche Orinoco, on getting out of one's ham- 
mock during the night, and touchmg with the bare feet the 
rocky surface of the groimd, the sensation of heat expe- 
rienced is very remarkable. I observed pretty constantly, 
in puttmg the bulb of the thermometer in contact with the 
ledges of bare rocks, that the laxaa negraa are hotter during 
the day than the reddish-white granites at a distance from 
the river ; but the latter cool during the night less rapidly 
than the former. It may be easily conceived that the 
emission and loss of caloric is more rapid in masses with 


the NewWorld. The more imposing and majestic the objects 
we describe, the more essential it becomes to seize them in 
their smallest details, to fix the outline of the picture we 
would present to the imagination of the reader, and to 
describe with simplicity what characterises the great and 
imperishable monuments of nature. 

The navigation of the Orinoco from its mouth as iar as 
the confluence of the Anaveni, an extent of 260 leagues, is 
not impeded. There are shoals and eddies near Muitaco, 

' in a cove that bears the name of the Mouth of Hell (Boca 

' del Infiemo) ; and there are rapids (raudalitos) near Cari- 
chana and San Boija ; but in all these places the river is 
never entirely barred, as a channel is lefb by which boats 
can pass up and down. 

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

After proceeding up the Orinoco beyond the Eio Ana- 
veni, we find, between the mountains of Uniana and Sipapu, 
the G^reat Cataracts of Mapara and Quittuna, or, as they 

, are more commonly called by the missionaries, the Eaudales 
of Atures and Maypures. These bars, which extend from 

i one bank to the other, present in general a similar aspect : 
they are composed of innumerable islands, dikes of rock, 
and blocks of granite piled on one another and covered with 
palm-trees. But, notwithstanding a uniformity of aspect, 
each of these cataracts preserves an individual character. 


The first, the Atures, is most easily passahle when the 
waters are low. The Indians prefer crossing the second, 
the Maypures, at the time of great floods. Beyond the 
Maypnres and the mouth of the Cano Cameji, the Orinoco 
is again unobstructed for the length of more than one 
hundred and sixty-seven leagues, or nearly to its source; 
that is to say, as mr as the Eaudalito of Gruaharibos, east of 
the Cano Chiguire and the lofty mountains of Tumariquin. 

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

{)roduced by other mountains, other ledges which, after a 
ong and tranquil course, the rivers have to pass over, 
precipitating themselves from step to step. 

The Amazon does not pierce its way through the prin- 
cipal chain of the Andes, as was affirmed at a period when 
it was gratuitously supposed that, wherever moimtains are 
divided into parallel chains, the intermedial or central ridge 
must be more elevated than the others. This great river 
rises (and this is a point of some importance to geology) 
eastward of the western chain, which alone in this latitude 
merits the denomination of the high chain of the Andes. 
It is formed by the junction of the river Aguamiros with 
the Eio Chavinillo, which issues from the lake Llauricocha 
in a longitudinal valley bounded by the western and the 
intermedial chain of the Andes. To form an accurate idea 
of these hydrographical relations, it must be borne in mind 
that a division mto three chains takes place in the colossal 
)up or knot of the mountains of Pasco and Huanuco. 
?he western chain, which is the loftiest, and takes the name 
of the Cordillera Real de Nieve, directs its course (between 
Huary and Caxatamba, Guamachuco and Luema, Micui- 


pampa and G^uangamarca) by the Novados of Yiuda, Pela- 
gatos, Moyopata, and Huaylillas, and by the Paramos of 
Guamani and Guaringa, towards the town of Loxa. The 
intermedial chain separates the waters of the Upper Mara» 
non from those of the Guallaga, and over a long space 
reaches only the small elevation of a thousand toises; it 
enters the region of perpetual snow to the south of 
Huanuco in the Cordillera of Sasaguanca. It stretches at 
first northward by Huacrachuco, Chachapoyas, Moyobamba, 
and the Paramo of Piscoguannuna ; then it progressively 
lowers toward Peca, Copallin, and the Mission of Santiago, 
at the eastern extremity of the province of Jaen de Braca- 
moros. The third, or easternmost chain, skirts the right 
bank of the Eio Guallaga, and loses itself in the seventh 
degree of latitude. So long as the Amazon flows fi:t)m 
south to north in the longitudinal valley, between two 
chains of unequal height (that is, from the farms of Qui- 
villa and Guancaybamba, where the river is crossed on 
wooden bridges, as far as the confluence of the Rio Chin- 
chipe), there are neither bars, nor any obstacle whatever to 
the navigation of boats. The falls of water begin only 
where the Amazon turns toward the east, crossing the 
intermedial chain of the Andes, which widens considerably 
toward the north. It meets with the first rocks of red 
sandstone, or ancient conglomerate, between Tambillo and 
the Pongo of Rentema (near which I measured the breadth, 
depth, and swiftness of the waters), and it leaves the rocks 
of red sandstone east of the famous strait of Manseriche, 
near the Pongo of Tayuchuc, where the hills rise no higher 
than forty or fifty toises above the level of its waters. The 
river does not reach the most easterly cham, which bounds 
the Pampas del Sacramento. From the hills of Tayuchuc 
as far as Grand Para, during a course of more than seven 
hundred and fifty leagues, the navigation is free from 
obstacles. It results from this rapid sketch, that, if the 
Maranon had not to pass over the hiUy country between 
Santiago and Tomependa (which belongs to the central 
chain of the Andes) it would be navigable from its mouth 
as far as Pumpo, near Piscobamba in the province of Con- 
chucos, forty-three leagues north of its source. 

We have just seen that, in the Orinoco, as in the Amazon, 


the great cataracts are not found near the sources of the 
rivers. After a tranquil course of more than one hundred 
ajid sixty leagues from the little Raudal of Guaharibos, east 
of Esmeralda, as far as the mountains of Sipapu, the river, 
augmented by the waters of the Jao, the Ventuari, the 
Atabapo, and the Guaviare, suddenly changes its primitive 
direction from east to west, and runs from south to north : 
then, in crossing the land-strait* in the plaios of Meta, 
meets the advanced buttresses of the Cordillera of Parima. 
This obstacle causes cataracts far more considerable, and 
presents greater impediments to navigation, than all the 
Pongos of the TTpper Maranon, because they are propor- 
tionally nearer to the mouth of the river. These geogra- 
phical details serve to prove, in the instances of the two 
greatest rivers of the New World, 1st, that it cannot be 
ascertained in an absolute manner that, beyond a certain 
number of toises, or a certain height above the level of the 
sea, rivers are not navigable ; 2ndly, that the rapids are not 
always occasioned, as several treatises of general topography 
affirm, by the height of the first obstacles, by the first lines 
of ridges which the waters have to surmount near their 

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

I shall here repeat some scattered features of a picture 

* This strait, which T have several times mentioned, is formed by the 
Cordilleras of the Andes of New Granada, and the Cordillera of Parima. 


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

The lofty mountains that bound the horizon on every 
side, contribute also, by their forms and the nature of their 
vegetation, to give an extraordinary character to the land- 
scape. The average height of these mountains is not more 
than seven or eight hundred feet above the surrounding 
plaint. Their summits are rounded, as for the most part in 
gi'anitic mountains, and covered ^^th thick forests of the 
laurel-tribe. Clusters of palm-trees,t the leaves of which, 
curled like feathers, rise majestically at an angle of seventy 
degrees, are dispersed amid trees with horizontal branchés ; 

* Views of Nature, p. 153 (Bohn's edition). 
f El cncurito. 


and their bare trunks, like columns of a hundred or a 
hundred and twenty feet high, shoot up into thé air, and 
when seen in distinct relief against the azure vault of the 
sky, they resemble a forest planted upon another forest. 
"When, as the moon was going down behind the mountains 
of Uniana, her reddish (Esc was hidden behind the pinnated 
foliage of the palm-trees, and again appeared in the aerial 
zone that separates the two forests, I thought myself trans- 
ported for a few moments to the hermitage which Bernardin 
de Saint-Pierre has described as one of the most delicious 
scenes of the Isle of Bourbon, and I felt how much the 
aspect of the plants and their groupings resembled each 
other in the two worlds. In describing a small spot of land 
in an island of the Indian Ocean, the inimitable author of 
Paul and Virginia has sketched the vast picture of the land- 
scape of the tropics. He knew how to paint nature, not 
because he had studied it scientifically, but because he felt 
it in all its harmonious analogies of forms, colours, and 
interior powers. 

East of the Atures, near these rounded mountains crowned, 
as it were, by two superimposed forests of laurels and 

Calms, other mountains of a very different aspect arise, 
'heir ridge is bristled with pointed rocks, towering like 
pillars above the summits of the trees and shrubs. These 
effects are common to all granitic table-lands,, at the Harz, 
in the metalliferous mountains of Bohemia, in Q-alicia, on 
the limit of the two Castiles, or wherever a granite of new 
formation appears above the ground. The rocks, which are 
at distances from each other, are composed of blocks piled 
together, or di\dded into regular and horizontal beds. , On 
the summits of those situated near the Orinoco, flamingos, 
soldados* and other fishing-birds perch, and look like men 
posted as sentinels. This resemblance is so striking, that 
the inhabitants of Angostura, soon after the foundation of 
their city, were one day alarmed by the sudden appearance 
of soldados and garzas, on a mountain towards the south. 
They believed they were menaced with an attack of Indios 
monteros (wild Indians called mountaineers) ; and the people 
were not perfectly tranquillized, till they saw the birds soar- 

* The soldado (soldier) is a large species of h^t>n. 


ing in the air, and continuing their migration towards the 
mouths of the Orinoco. 

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

We had not heard thunder more than once or twice at 
Atures, and the vegetation everywhere displaved that vigorous 
aspect, that brilliancy of colour, seen on the coast only at 
the end of the rainy season. The old trees wore decorated 
with beautiful orchideas,* yeUow bannisterias, blue-flowered 
bignonias, peperomias, arums, and pothoses. A single trunk 
displays a greater variety of vegetable forms than are con- 
tained within an extensive space of ground in our countries. 
Close to the parasite plants peculiar to very hot climates wo 
observed, not without surprise, in the centre of the torrid 
zone, and near the level of the sea, mosses resembling in 
every respect those of Europe. We gathered, near the Great 
Cataract of Atures, that fine specimen of Grimmiaf with 
fontinalis leaves, which has so much fixed the attention of 
botanists. It is suspended to the branches of the loftiest 
trees. Of the phsenerogamous plants, those which prevail 
in the woody spots are the mimosa, ficus, and laurinea. 
This fact is the more characteristic, as, according to the 
observations of Mr. Brown, the laurinesB appear to be almost 
entirely wanting on the opposite continent, in the equinoctial 
part oi Africa. Plants that love humidity adorn the scenery 
surrounding the cataracts. We there find in the plains groups 
of heliconias and other scitamineae with large and glossy 
leaves, bamboos, and the three palm-trees, the murichiy 

* Cymbidium yiolaceum, Habenaiia angustifolia, &c. 
t Grimmia fontinaloïdes. See Hooker's Musci Exotici, 1818, tab. ÎL 
The learned author of the Monography of the Jungermannise (Mr. Jackson 
Hooker), with noble disinterestedness, published at his own expense, in 
London, the whole collection of cryptogamous plants, brought by Bonpland 
and Humboldt from the equinoctial regions of America. 


jaaua, and vadgiai, each of which forms a separate group. 
Tne murichi, or mauritia with scaly fruits, is the celebrated 
sago-tree of the Gruaraon Indians. It has pahnate leaves, 
and has no relation to the pahn-trees with pinnate and 
curled leaves ; to the jagua, which appears to be a species of 
the cocoa-tree ; or to the vadgiai or cucurito, which may be 
assimilated to the fine species Oreodoxa. The cucurito, 
which is the palm most prevalent around the cataracts of 
the Atures and Mayphres, is remarkable for its stateliness. 
Its leaves, or rather its palms, crown a trunk of eighty or 
one hundred feet high; their direction is almost perpen- 
dicular when young, as well as at their full growth, thfe 
points only being incurvated. They look like plumes of the 
most soft and verdant green. The cuctmto, the pi/Hjao, the 
fruit of which resembles the apricot, the Oreodoxa regia or 
pahna real of the island of Cuba, and the ceroxylon of the 
high Andes, are the most majestic of aU the palm-trees we 
saw in the New World. As we advance toward the tem- 
perate zone, the plants of this family decrease in size and 
beauty. What a difference between the species we have just 
mentioned, and the date-tree of the East, which umbr- 
tunately has become to the landscape painters of Europe the 
type of a group of palm-trees 1 

It is not suprising that persons who have travelled only 
in the north oi Africa, in Sicily, or in Spain, cannot conceive 
that, of aU large trees, the palm is the most grand and beau- 
tiful in form. Incomplete analogies prevent Europeans from 
having a just idea of the aspect of the torrid zone. All the 
world knows, for instance, that this zone is embellished by 
the contrasts exhibited in the foliage of the trees, and 

Î)articularly by the great number of those with pinnate 
eaves. The ash, the service-tree, the inga, the acacia of the 
United States, the gleditsia, the tamarind, the mimosa, the 
desmanthus, have aU pinnate leaves, with foliolœ more or 
less long, slender, tough, and shining. But can a group of 
ash-trees, of service-trees, or of sumach, recall the picturesque 
effect of tamarinds or mimosas, when the azure of the sky 
appears through their small, slender, and delicately pinnated 
leaves? These considerations are more important than they 
may at first seem. The forms of plants determine the phy- 
siognomy of nature ; and this physiognomy influences the 
VOL. II. s 


moral dispositions of nations. Every type comprehends 
species, wnich, while exhibiting the same general appear- 
ance, differ in the varied development of the similar organs. 
The palm-trees, the scitaminesB, the malvacesB, the trees with 
pinnate leaves, do not aU displav the same picturesque 
beauties ; and generally the most Deautiful species of each 
type, in plants as in ammalsj belong to the equinoctial zone. 

The proteace»,* crotons, agaves, and the great tribe of 
the cactuses, which inhabit exclusively the New World, dis- 
appear gradually, as we ascend the Orinoco above the 
Apure and the Meta. It is, however, the shade and humi- 
dity, rather than the distance from the coast, which oppose 
the migration of the cactuses southward." We found forests 
of them mingled with crotons, covering a great space of arid 
land to the east of the Andes, in the province of Bracamoros, 
towards the Upper Maranon. The arborescent ferns seem 
to fail entirely near the cataracts of the Orinoco ; we found 
no species as far as San Temando de Atabapo, that is, to 
the confluence of the Orinoco and the Ouaviare. 

Having now examined the vicinity of the Atures, it re- 
mains for me to speak of the rapids themselves, which occur 
in a part of the valley where the bed of the river, deeply 
ingulfed, has almost inaccessible banks. It was only in a 
very few spots that we could enter the Orinoco to bathe, 
between the two cataracts, in coves where the waters have 
eddies of little velocity. Persons who have dwelt in the 
Alps, the Pyrenees, or even the Cordilleras, so celebrated 
for the fractures and the vestiges of destruction which 
they display at every step, can scarcely picture to them- 
selves, from a mere narration, the state of the bed of the 
river. It is traversed, in an extent of more than five miles, 
by innumerable dikes Of rock, forming so many natural 
dams, so many barriers resembling those of the Dnieper, 
which the ancients designated by the name of phragmoi. 
The space between the rocky dikes of the Orinoco is filled 
with islands of different dimensions ; some hiUy, divided into 
several peaks, and two or three hundred toises in length, 
others small, low, and like mere shoals. These islands 
divide the river into a number of torrents, which boil up as 

* RhopalaSf which characterise the vegetation of the Llanos. 


they break against the rocks. The jaguas and cucuritos 
with plumy leaves, with which all the islands are covered, 
seem like groves of palm-trees rising from the foamy surface 
of the waters. The Indians, whose task it is to pass the boats 
empty over the ravdales^ distinguish every shelf, and every 
rock, by a particular name. On entering from the south you • 
find first the Leap of the Toucan (Salto del Piapoco) ; and 
between the islands of Avaguri and Javariveni is the Raudal 
of Javariveni, where, on our return from Eio Negro, we > 
passed some hours amid the rapids, waiting for our boat. A 
great part of the river appeared dry. Blocks of granite ar» 
neaped together, as in the moraines which the glaciers of 
Switzerland drive before them. The river is ingulfed in 
caverns ; and in one of these caverns we heard the water roll 
at once over our heads and beneath our feet. The Orinoco 
seems divided into a multitude of arms or torrents, each of 
which seeks to force a passage through the rocks. We 
were struck with the little water to be seen in the bed of 
the river, the frequency of subterraneous falls, and the 
timiult of the waters breaking on the rocks in foam. 

Cuncta fremunt undis ; ac multo murmure mentis 
Spumeus invictis canescit fluctibus amnis.* 

Having passed the Raudal of Javariveni (I name here 
only the principal falls) we come to the Raudal of Canucari, 
formed by a ledge of rocks uniting the islands of Surupa- 
mana and Uirapuri. When the dikes, or natural dams, are 
only two or three feet high, the Indians venture to descend 
them in boats. In going up the river, they swim on before, 
and if, after many vain efibrts, they succeed in fixing a rope 
to one of the points of rock that crown the dike, they then, 
by means of that rope, draw the bark to the top of the 
raudal. The bark, during this arduous task, often fills with 
water ; at other times it is stove against the rocks, and the 
Indians, their bodies bruised and bleeding, extricate them- 
selves with difficulty from the whirlpools, and reach, by 
swimming, the nearest island. When the steps or rocky 
barriers are' very high, and entirely bar the river, light boats 
are carried on shore, and with the help of branches of trees 

* Lucan, Pharsalia, lib. x, v. 132. 

S 2 


placed under thein to serve as rollers, they are drawn as far 
as the place where the river again becomes navigable. This 
operation is seldom necessary when the water is high. We 
cannot speak of the cataracts of the Orinoco without recal- 
ling to mind the manner heretofore employed for descending 
the cataracts of the Nile, of which Seneca has left us a 
description probably more poetical than accurate. I shaU 
cite the passage, which traces with fidelity what may be seen 
every day at Atures, Maypures, and in some pongos of the 
Amazon. " Two men emoark in a small boat ; one steers, 
and the other empties it as it fills with water. Long buffeted 
by the rapids, the whirlpools, and the contrary currents, 
they pass through the narrowest channels, avoid the shoals, 
ana rush down the whole river, guiding the course of the 
boat LQ its accelerated fall." * 

In hydrographie descriptions of countries, the vague 
names of cataracts, cascades, flsdls, and rapids,t denoting 
those tumultuous movements of water which arise îrom 
very different circumstances, are generally confounded with 
one another. Sometimes a whole nver precipitating 
itself from a great height, and by one single fall, renders 
navigation impossible. Such is the majestic fall of the 
Eio Tequendama, which I have represented in my " Yiews 
of the Cordilleras;' such are the falls of Niagara and 
of the Ehine, much less remarkable for their elevation, 
than for the mass of water they contain. Sometimes stony 
dikes of small height succeed each othpr at great distances, 
and form distinct falls ; such are the cachoeiras of the Eio 
Negro and the Eio Madeira, the saltos of the Eio Cauca, 
and the greater part of the pongos that are found in the 
tipper Maranon, from the confluence of the Chinchipe to 
the vijlage of San Borja. The highest and most formidable 
of these pongos, which are descended on rafts, that of 
Mayasi, is however only three feet in height. Sometimes 
small rocky dikes are so near each other that they form 
for several miles an uninterrupted succession of cascades 
and whirlpools {chorros and remolinos) ; these are properly 

* Nat. Qusst.j lib. iv, cap. 2. (edit. Elzev., torn, ii, p. 609.) 
f The corresponding terms in use amonis: the people of South America^ 
re saltos, chorros, pongos, cachoeiras, and raudales. 


what are called rapids (raudales). Such are iho i/ellalas, or 
rapids of the Eiver Zaire,* or Congo, which Captain Tuckey 
has recently made known to us ; the rapids of the Orange 
Kiver in Africa, above PeUa ; and the falls of the Missouri, 
which are four leagues in length, where the river issues 
from the Kocky Mountains. Such also are the cataracts of 
Atures and Maypures; the only cataracts which, situated 
in the equinoctial region of the New World, are adorned 
with the noble growth of palm-trees. At aU seasons they 
exhibit the aspect of cascades, and present the greatest 
obstacles to the navigation of the Orinoco, while the rapids 
of the Ohio and of Upper Egypt are scarcely visible at the 
period of floods. A solitary cataract, like Niagara, or the 
cascade of Temi, afibrds a grand but single picture, varying 
only as the observer changes his pla<îe. Kapids, on the 
contrary, especially when adorned with large trees, embel- 
lish a landscape during a length of several leagues. Some- 
times the tumultuous movement of the waters is caused 
only by extraordinary contractions of the beds of the rivers. 
Such IS the cmgostv/ra of Carare, in the river Magdalena, 
a strait that impedes communication between Santa Fé de 
Bogota and the coast of Carthagena ; and ^ch is the pongc 
of Manseriche, in the Upper Maranon. 

The Orinoco, the Eio Negro, and almost aU the con- 
fluents of the Amazon and the Maranon, have falls or rapids, 
either because they crpss the mountains where they take 
rise, or because they meet other mountains in their course. 
If the Amazon, from the pongo of Manseriche (or, to speak 
with more precision, from thejpow^o of Tayuchuc) as far as 
its mouth, a space of more than seven hundred and fifty 
leagues, exhibit no tumultuous movement of the waters, the 
river owes this advantage to the uniform direction of its 
course. It flows from west to east in a vast plain, forming 

* Vqyage to explore the River Zaire, 1818, pp. 152, 327, 340. What 
fhe inhajbitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia call ohellâl in the Nile, is called 
yellala in the River Congo. This analogy between words signifying 
rapids is remarkable, on account of the enormous distance of the yellala» 
of tlie Congo from the chellâl and djenadel of the Nile. Did the word 
chellal penetrate with the Moors into the west of Africa? If, with 
Burckhardt, we consider the origin of this word as Arabic (Travels in 
Nubia, 1819), it must be derived from the root challa^ * to dbperse/ which 
forms ehelil, 'water falling through a narrow channel.' 


a longitudinal vaUey between the mountains of Farima and 
the great mass of the mountains of Brazil. 

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

It is probable that the river Orinoco loses part of 
its waters in the cataracts, not only by increased evapo- 
ration, caused by the dispersion of minute drops in the 
atmosphere, but stiU more by filtrations into the subter- 
raneous cavities. These losses, however, are not very per- 
ceptible when we compare the mass of waters entering into 
the raudal with that which issues out near the mouth of the 
Bio Anaveni. It was by a similar comparison that the 


existence of subterraneous caTities in the yellalas or rapids 
of the river Congo was discovered. Thepongo of Manse- 
riche, which ought rather to be called a strait than a fall, 
ingulfs, in a manner not yet sufficiently eimlored, a part of 
the waters and all the floating wood of the Upper Maranon. 

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

Some of the Missionaries in their writings have alleged 
that the inhabitants of Atures and Maypures have been 
Btruck with deafiiess by the noise of the Q-reat Cataracts ; 


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

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

I rather think that the presence of the sun acts upon the 
propagation and intensity of sound by the obstacles met in 
currents of air of different density, and by the partial un- 
dulations of the jatmosphere arising from the unequal heating 


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

In support of these ideas, I might almost rest on the 
authority of an ancient philosopher, whom the modems do 
not esteem in proportion to his merits, though the most dis- 
tinguished zoologists have long rendered ample justice to the 
sagacity of his observations. " Why,** says Anstotle in his 
curious book of Froblems, "why is sound better heard 

* Annales de Chimie^ torn, vii, p. 29d* 

266 HOMES or the natives. 

during the night? Because there is more calmness on 
account of the absence of caloric {of the hottest).* This 
absence renders every thing calmer, for the sun is the prin- 
ciple of all movement." Aristotle had no doubt a vague 
presentiment of the cause of the phenomenon ; but he attri- 
butes to the motion of the atmosphere, and the shock of the 
particles of air, that which seems to be rather owing to 
abrupt changes of density in the contiguous strata of air. 

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

The Indians of Atures are nnld and moderate, and accus- 
tomed, from the effects of their idleness, to the greatest pri- 
vations. Formerly, beiug excited to labour by the Jesuits, 
they did not want for food. The fathers cultivated maize, 
Prench beans (frijoles), and other European vegetables; 
they even planted sweet oranges and tamarinds round the 
villages; and they possessed twenty or thirty thousand 
head of cows and horses, in the savannahs of Atures and 

* I have placed in a parenthesis, a literal version of the term employed 
bj Aristotle, to express in reality what we How term the matter of heat. 
TÎieodore of Gaza, in his Latin translation^ expresses in the shape of 
a doubt what Aristotle positively asserts. I may here remark, that, 
notwithstanding the imperfect state of science among the ancients, 
the works of the Stagirite contain more ingenious observations than those 
of many later philosophers. It is in vain we look in Aristoxei^es (De 
Musica), in Theophylactus Simocatta (De Quaestionibus physicis), or in 
the ôth Book of the Quœst. Nat. of Seneca, for an explanation of the 
nocturnal augmentation of sound. 


Carichana. They had at their service a great number of 
slaves and servants (peones), to tend their herds. Nothing 
is now cultivated but a little cassava, and a few plantains. 
Such however is the fertility of the soil, that at Atures I 
counted on a single branch of a musa one hundred and eight 
fruits, four or five of which would almost have sufficed for a 
man's daily food. The culture of maize is entirely neglected, 
and the horses and cows have entirely disappeared. Near 
the ravdal, a part of the village stiU bears the name oïlPasso 
d^l ganado (ford of the cattle), while the descendants of 
those very Indians whom the Jesuits had assembled in a 
mission, speak of homed cattle as of animals of a race now 
lost. In going up the Orinoco, toward San Carlos del Eio 
Negro, we saw the last cow at Carichana. The Fathers of 
the Observance, who now govern these vast countries, did 
not immediately succeed the Jesuits. During an inter- 
regnum of eighteen years, the missions were visited only 
from time to time, and by Capuchin monks. The agents of 
the secular government, under the title of Eoyal Commis- 
sioners, managed the hatos or farms of the Jesuits with 
culpable negligence. They killed the cattle for the sake 
of selling the hides. Many heifers were devoured by the 
jaguars, and a great number perished in consequence of 
wounds made by the bats of the ravdales, which, though 
smaller, are far bolder than the bats of the Llanos. At tne 
time of the expedition of the boimdaries, horses from Enca- 
ramada, Carichana, and Atures, were conveyed as far as San 
Jose de Maravitanos, where, on the banks of the Eio Negro, 
the Portuguese could only procure them, after a long passage, 
and of a very inferior quality, by the rivers Amazon and 
Grand Para. Since the year 1795, the cattle of the Jesuits 
have entirely disappeared. There now remain as monuments 
of the ancient cultivation of these countries, and the active 
industry of the first missionaries, only a few trunks of the 
orange and tamarind, in the savannahs, surrounded by wild 

The tigers, or jaguars, which are less dangerous for the 
jattle than the bats, come into the village at Atures, and 
devour the swine of the poor Indians. The missionary 
related to us a striking instance of the familiarity of f lese 
animals, usually so ferocious. Some months before our 


arrival, a jaguar, which was thought to be young, though 
of a large size, had wounded a child in playing with him. 
The facts of this case, which were verified to us on the spot^ 
are not without interest in the history of the manners of 
animals. Two Indian children, a boy and a girl, about 
eight and nine years of age, were seated on the grass near 
the village of Atures, in the middle of a savannah, which 
we several times traversed. At two o'clock in the afber- 
noon, a jaguar issued &om the forest, and approached the 
children, bounding around them ; sometimes he hid himself 
in the hi^h grass, sometimes he sprang forward, his back 
bent, his head hung down, in the manner of our cats. The 
little boy, ignorant of his danger, seemed to be sensible of 
it only when the jaguar with one of his paws gave him 
some blows on the head. These blows, at first slight, 
became ruder and ruder ; the claws of the jaguar wounded 
the child, and the blood flowed freely. The Uttle girl then 
took a branch of a tree, struck the animal, and it fled from 
her. The Indians ran up at the cries of the children, and 
saw the jaguar, which then bounded off without making 
the least show of resistance. 

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

We have mentioned that domestic pigs are attacked by 
the jaguars. There are in these countries, besides the 


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

Among the monkeys which we saw at the mission of the 
Atures, we found one new species, of the tribe of sais and 
Majotis, which the Creoles vulgarly call machis. It is the 
ouavapavi with grey hair and a bluish face. It has the 
orbits of the eyes and the forehead as white as snow, a 
peculiarity which at first sight distinguishes it from tho 


Simia capucina, the Simla apella, the Simia trépida, and ikê 
other weeping monkeyB hitherto so confusedly described. 
This little animal is as gentle as it is uglj. A monkey of 
this species, which was kept in the courtyard of the mia- 
sionary, would firequently mount on the back of a pig, and 
in this manner traverse the savannahs. We have also seen 
it upon the back of a large cat, which had been brought up 
with it in Father Zea's house. 

It was among the cataracts that we began to hear of the 
hairy man of the woods, called salvaje, that carries off 
women, constructs huts, and sometimes eats human flesh. 
The Tamanacs call it achi, and the Maypures vasitri, or 
'great devil.* The natives and the missionaries have no 
doubt of the existence of this man-shaped monkey, of which 
they entertain a singular dread. Father G-Hi gravely relates 
the history of a lady in the town of San Carlos, in the 
Llanos of V enezuela, who much praised the gentle character 
and attentions of the man of the woods. She is stated to 
have lived several years with one in great domestic harmony', 
and only requested some hunters to take her back, " because 
she ana her children (a little hairy also) were weary of 
living far from the church and the sacraments." The same 
author, notwithstanding his credulity, acknowledges that he 
never knew an Indian who asserted positively that he had 
seen the salvaje with his own eyes. This wild legend, 
which the missionaries, the European planters, and the 
negroes of Africa, have no doubt embellished with many 
features taken from the description of the manners of the 
orang-otang,* the gibbon, the jocko or chimpanzee, and the 
pongo, followed ns, during five years, from the northern to 
the southern hemisphere. We were everywhere blamed, 
in the most cultivated class of society, for being the only 
persons to doubt the existence of the great anthropomorphous 

♦ Simia satyrus. We must not believe, notwithstanding the assertions 
of almost all zoological writers, that the word orang-otang is applied 
exclusively in the Malay language to the Simia satyrus of Borneo. This 
expression, on the contrary, means any very large monkey, that resembles 
man in figure. (Marsden's Hist, of Sumatra, 3rd edit., p. 117.) Modem 
zoologists have arbitrarily appropriated provincial names to certain species ; 
and by continuing to prefer these names, strangely disfigured in their 
orthography, to the Latin systematic names, the confusion of the nomen- 
clature has been increased. 

BnrGxncAB SEOSirDS. 271 

monkey of America. There are certain regions where this 
belief is particularly preraient among the people ; such are 
the banks of the Upper Orinoco, the valley of TJpar near 
the l^e of ^ianc&jDO, the mountaros of Santa Martïha and 
of Merida, the proTinces of Quixos, and the banks of the 
Amazon near Tomependa. In all these places, so distant 
one from the other, it is asserted that the salvaje is easily 
recognized by the traces of its feet, the toes of which are 
turned backward. But if there exist a monkey of a large 
size in the New Continent, how has it happened that for 
three centuries no man worthy of belief has been able to 
procure the skin of one ? Several hypotheses present them- 
selves to the mind, in order to explain the source of so 
ancient an error or belief. Has the famous capuchin mon- 
key of Esmeralda (Simia chiropotes), with its long canine 
teeth, and physiognomy much more like man's* than that 
of the orang-otang, given rise to the fable of the salvaje f 
It is not so large indeed as the coàïta (Simia paniscus) ; 
but when seen at the top of a tree, and the nead only 
visible, it might easUy be taken for a human being. It may 
be also (and this opinion appears to me the most probable) 
that the ' man of the woods ' was one of those large bears, 
the footsteps of whicli resemble those of a man, and which 
are believed in every country to attack women. The animal 
killed in my time at the foot of the moimtains of Merida, 
and sent, by the name of salvaje, to Colonel TJngaro, the 
governor of the province of Varinas, was in fact a bear with 
black and smooth fiir. Our feUow-traveUer, Don Nicolas 
Soto, had examined it closely. Did the strange idea of a 
plantigrade animal, the toes of which are placed as if it 
walked backward, take its origin from the habit of the real 
savages of the woods, the Indians of the weakest and most 
timid tribes, of deceiving their enemies, when they enter 
a forest, or cross a sandy shore, by covering the traces of 
their feet with sand, or walking backward ? 

Though I have expressed my doubts of the existence of 
an unknown species of large monkey in a continent which 
appears entirely destitute of quadrumanous animals of the 
mmily of the orangs, cynocepnali, mandrils, and pongos ; yet 

* The nvhole of the features — the expression of the physiognomy ; but 
not the forehead. 


cumstances that are difficult to characterise. It may be 
observed that the plague of mosquitos and zancudos is not 
so general in the torrid zone as is commonly believed. On 
the table-lands elevated more than four hundred toisefi 
above the level of the ocean, in the vejy dry plains remote 
from the beds of great rivers (for instance, at Cumana and 
Calabozo), there are not sensibly more gnats than in the 
most populous parts of Europe. They are perceived to 
augment enormously at Nueva Barcelona, and more to the 
west, on the coast that extends towards Cape Codera. 
Between the little harbour of Higuerote and the mouth of 
the Bio TJnare, the vn^etched inhabitants are accustomed 
to stretch themselves on the ground, and pass the night 
buried in the sand three or four inches deep, leaviag out 
the head only, which they cover with a handkerchief. You 
suffer from the sting of insects, but in a manner easy to 
bear, in descending the Orinoco from Cabruta towards 
Angostura, and in going up from Cabruta towards TJruana, 
between the latitudes of 7° and 8°. But beyond the mouth 
of the Bio Arauca, after having passed the strait of Bara- 
guan, the scene suddenly changes. From this spot the 
traveller may bid farewell to repose. If he have any 

Eoetical remembrance of Dante, he may easily imagine he 
as entered the città dolente, and he will seem to read on 
the granite rocks of Baraguan these lines of the Inferno : — 

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

The lower strata of air, from the surface of the ground to 
the height of fifteen or twenty feet, are absolutely filled vrith 
venomous insects. If in an obscure spot, for instance in the 
grottos of the cataracts formed by superincumbent blocks of 
granite, you direct your eyes toward the openiag enlightened 
by the sun, you see clouds of mosquitos more or less thick. 
At the mission of San Borja, the suffering from mosquitos is 
greater than at Carichana ; but in the Baudales, at Atures, 
and above all at Maypures, this suffering may be said to 
attain its maximum. 1 doubt whether there be a country 
imon earth where man is exposed to more cruel torments in 
the rainy season. Having passed the fifth degree of latitude, 
you are somewhat less stung; but on the upper Orinoco 
the stings are more painful, because the heat and the abso- 


lute want of wind render the air more burning and more 
irritating in its contact with the skin. 

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

After proceeding further to the south, where the system 
of yellowish-brown waters commences,* on the banks of the 
Atabapo, the Tuni, the Tuamini, and the Eio Negro, we 
enjoyed an unexpected repose. These rivers, like the 
Orinoco, cross thick forests, but the tipulary insects, as well 
as the crocodiles, shun the proximity of the black waters. 
Possibly these waters, which are a little colder, and chemically 
different from the white waters, are adverse to the larv» of 
tipulary insects and gnats, which may be considered as real 
aquatic animals. Some small rivers, the colour of which is 
deep blue, or yellowish-brown (as the Toparo, the Mataveni, 
and the Zama), are exceptions to the almost general rule of 
the absence of mosquitos over the hlack waters. These 
three rivers swarm with them ; and the Indians themselves 
fixed our attention on the problematic causes of this pheno- 
menon. In going down the Eio Negro, we breathed freely 
at Maroa, Daripe, and San Carlos, villages situated on the 
boundaries of Brazil. But this improvement of our situation 
was of short continuance; our sufferings recommenced .as soon 
as we entered the Cassiquiare. At Esmeralda, at the eastern 
extremity of the Upper Orinoco, where ends the known 
world of the. Spaniards, the clouds of mosquitos are almost 
as thick as at the G-reat Cataracts. At Mandavaca we found 
an old missionary, who told us with an air of sadness, that 
he had had " his twenty years of mosquitos"* in America. 

* Generally called ' black waters' {aguaa negraa), 
t '* Yo tengo mis veinte aûos de mosquitos.'' 



He desired us to look at his legs, " that we might be able to 
tell one day, beyond sea (por alM), what the poor monks 
suffer in the forests of Cassiquiare." Every sting leaving a 
small darkish brown point, his legs were so speckled that it 
was difficult to recognize the whiteness of his skin through 
the spots of coagulated blood. If the insects of the genus 
Simnlium abound in the Cassiquiare, which has white waters^ 
the culices or zancudos are so much the more rare; you 
scarcely find any there ; while on the rivers of hlack watert^ 
in the Atabapo and the Rio, there are generally some zan 
cudos and no mosquitos. 

I have just shown, from my own observations, how much 
the geographical distribution of venomous insects varies in 
this labyrinth of rivers with white and black waters. It 
were to be wished that a learned entomologist could study 
on the spot the specific differences of these noxious insects,* 
which in the torrid zone, in spite of their minute size, act 
an important point in the economy of nature. What ap- 
peared to us very remarkable, and is a fact known to all the 
missionaries, is, that the different species do not associate 
together, and that at different hours of the day you are 
stung by distinct species. Every time that the scene changes, 
and, to use the simple expression of the missionaries, other 
insects * mount guard,' you have a few minutes, often a 
quarter of an hour, of repose. The insects that disappear 
have not their places instantly supplied by their successors. 
Prom half-past-six in the morning till five in the afternoon, 
the air is filled with mosquitos ; which have not, as some 
travellers have stated, the form of our gnats,t but that 
of a small fly. They are simuliums of the family Nemo- 
cera of the system of Latreille. Their sting is as painful 
as that of the genus Stomox. It leaves a little reddish 
brown spot, which is extravased and coagulated blood, where 
their proboscis has pierced the skin. Au hour before sunset 

* The mosquito bovo or tenbiguai ; the melero, which always settles 
apon the eyes ; the tempranerOf or putchiki ; the Jejen : the gnat rivaH ; 
the great zancudo, or matchaki ; the cafafi, &c. 

i* Culez pipiens. This difference between mosquito (little fly^^simulium) 
and zancudo (gnat, — culez) exists in all the Spanish colonies. The word 
zancudo signifies *longlegs/ — qui tiene las zancas largos. The mosquitos 
of the Orinoco are the moustiques ; the zancudos are the maringouins of 
French travellers. 


a species of small gnats, called tempraneros* because they 
appear also at sunrise, take the place of the mosquitoa. 
Ijieir presence scarcely lasts an hour and a half ; they dis» 
appear between six and seven in the evening, of, as they 
say here, after the Angelus (a la oracion). After a few mi- 
nutes' repose, you feel yourself stung by zancudos, another 
species of gnat with very long legs. The zancudo, the pro- 
boscis of which contains a sharp-pointed sucker, causes the 
most acute pain, and a swelling that remains several weeks. 
Its hum resembles that of the European gnat, but is louder 
and more prolonged. The Indians pretend to distinguish 
the zancvdos and the tempraneros "by their song;" the 
latter are real twilight insects, while tne zaucudos are most 
frequently nocturnal insects, and disappear toward sunrise. 

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

We have seen that the insects of the tropics everjrwhere 
follow a certain standard in the periods at which they alter- 
nately arrive and disappear. At fixed and invariable hours, 
in the same season, and the same latitude, the air is peopled 
with new inhabitants, and in a zone where the barometer 
becomes a clock,* where everything proceeds with such ad- 
mirable regularity, we might guess blindfold the hour of the 
day or night, by the hum of the insects, and by their stings, 

* * Which appear at an early hour* {temprano). Some persons say, 
that the zancudo is the same as the tempranero, which returns at night, 
after hiding itself for som etime. I have doubts of this identity of the 
Bpecies ; the pain caused by the sting of the two insects appeared to me 

f By the extreme regularity of the horary variations of the atmospheric 


the pain of "which differs according to the nature of the 
poison that each species deposits in the wound. 

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

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

On recapitulating the observations here recorded, we see, 
that within the tropics, the mosquitos and zancudos do not 
rise on the slope of the Cordilleras* toward the temperate 

* The Culex pipiens of Europe does not, like the culex of the torrid 
zone, shun mountainous places. Giesecke suffered from these insects in 
Greenland, at Disco, in latitude 70°. They are found in Lapland in 
summer, at three or four hundred toises high, and at a ten>perature of 
11° or 12^ 


region, where the mean heat is below 19* or 20** ; and that, 
with few exceptions, they shun the Hack waters, and dry 
and unwooded spots.* The atmosphere swarms with them 
much more in the Upper than in the Lower Orinoco, 
because in the former the river is surrounded with thick 
forests on its banks, and the skirts of the forests are not 
separated from the river by a barren and extensive beach. 
Tne mosquitos diminish on the New Continent with the 
diminution of the water, and the destruction of the woods ; 
but the effects of these changes are as slow as the progress 
of cultivation. The towns of Angostura, Nueva Barcelona, 
and Mompox, where from the want of police, the streets, the 
great squares, and the interior of court-yards are overgrown 
with brushwood, are sadly celebrated for the abundance of 

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

It is a curious fact, that the whites bom in the torrid 
zone may walk barefoot with impunity, in the same apart- 

* Trifling modifications in the waters, or in the air, often appear to 
prevent the development of the mosquitos. Mr. Bowdich remarks that 
there are none at Coomassie, in the kingdom of the Ashantees, though the 
town is surrounded hy marshes, and though the thermometer )ceeps up 
between seventeen and twenty-eight centesimal degrees, day and night. 

f Mas moscas que aire. 


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

I shall here recite several facts, which prove that the 
Indians, and in general all the people of colour, at the 
moment of being stung, suffer like the whites, although 
perhaps with less intensity of pain. In the day-time, and 
even when labouring at the oar, the natives, in order to 
chase the insects, are continually giving one another smart 
slaps with the palm of the haud. They even strike them- 
selves and their comrades mechanically during their sleep. 
The violence of their blows reminds one of the Persian tale 
of the bear that tried to kiU with his paw the insects on the 
forehead of his sleeping master. Near Maypures we saw 
some young Indians seated in a circle and nibbing cruelly 
each others' backs with the bark of trees dried at the fire. 
Indian women were occupied, with a degree of patience of 
which the copper-coloured race alone are capable, in extract- 
fcracting, by means of a sharp bone, the little mass of coagu- 
lated blood that forms the centre of every sting, and gives 
the skin a speckled appearance. One of the most barbarous 
nations of tho Orinoco, that of the Ottomacs, is acquainted 
with the use of mosquito-curtains (mosquiteros) Woven 
from the fibres of the moriche palm-tree. At Higuerote, 
on tho coast of Caracas, the copper-coloured people sleep 
buried in the sand. In the villages of the Bio Magdaleiia 


the Indians often invited us to stretch ourselves as they did 
on ox-skins, near the church, in the middle of the plaza 
arande, where they had assembled all the cows in the neigh- 
bourhood. The proximity of cattle gives some repose to 
man. The Indians of the Upper Orinoco and the Cassi 
quiare, seeing that M. Bonpland could not prepare his 
Herbal, owing to the continual torment of the mosquitos, 
invited him to enter their ovens (homitos). Thus they call 
little chambers, without doors or windows, into which they 
creep horizontally through a very low opening. When they 
have driven away the insects by means of a fire of wet 
brushwood, which emits a great deal of smoke, they close 
the opening of the oven. The absence of the mosquitos is 
purchased dearly enough by the excessive heat of the stag- 
nated air, and the smoke of a torch of copal, which lights 
the oven during your stay in it. M. Bonpland, with courage 
and patience weU worthy of praise, dried hundreds of plants, 
shut up in these homitos of the Indians. 

These precautions of the Indians sufficiently prove that, 
notwithstanding the different organization of the epidermis, 
the copper-coloured man, like the white man, suffers from 
the stings of insects ; but the former seems to feel less pain, 
and the sting is not followed by those swellings which, 
during several weeks, heighten the irritability of the skin, 
and throw persons of a delicate constitution into that 
feverish state which always accompanies eruptive maladies. 
Whites born in equinoctial America, and Europeans who 
have long sojourned in the Missions, on the borders of 
forests and great rivers, suffer much more than the Indians, 
but infinitely less than Europeans newly arrived. It is not, 
therefore, as some travellers assert, the thickness of the 
Bkin that renders the sting more or less painful at the 
moment when it is received ; nor is it owing to the parti- 
cular organization of the integuments, that in the Indians 
the sting is followed by less of swelling and inflammatory 
symptoms ; it is on the nervous irritability of the epidermis 
that the acuteness and duration of the pain depend. This 
irritability is augmented by very warm clothing, by the use 
of alcoholic liquors, by the habit of scratching the wounds, 
and lastly, (and this physiological observation is the result of 
my own experience,) that of baths repeated at too short 


intervals. In places where the absence of crocodiles permits 
people to enter a river, M. Bonpland and myself oDserred 
that the immoderate use of batns, while it moderated the 
pain of old stings of zancudos, rendered us more sensible 
to new stings. By bathing more than twice a daj^, the skia 
is brought into a state of nervous irritability, of which no 
idea can be formed in Europe. It would seem as if all 
feeling were carried toward the integuments. 

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

I learned that the little insects of the family of the nemo- 
cersB migrate from time to time like the alouate monkeys, 
which live in society. In certain spots, at the commence- 
ment of the rainy season, different species appear, the sting 
of which has not yet been felt. We were informed at the 
Bio Magdalena, that at Simiti no other culex than the jejen 
Was formerly known ; and it was then possible to enjoy a 


tranquil night's rest, for the jejen is not a nocturnal insect. 
Since the year 1801, the great blue-winged gnat (Culex 
cyanopterua) has appeared in such numbers, that the poor 
inhabitnats of Simiti know not how to procure an undis- 
turbed sleep. In the marshy channels (esteros) of the isle 
of Baru, near Carthagena, is found a little white fly called 
cafafi. It is scarcely visible to the naked eye, and causes 
very painful swellings. The toldos or cottons used for 
mosquito-curtains, are wetted to prevent the cafafi pene- 
trating through the interstices left by the crossing threads. 
This insect, happily rare elsewhere, goes iip in Januarr, by 
the channel (dique) of Mahates, as far as Morales. When 
we went to this village in the month of May, we found 
there cimuliœ and zancudos, but no jejens. 

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

This voracity of insects in certain spots, the fury with 
which they attack man,* the activity of the venom varjdng 
in the same species, are very remarkable facts ; which find 
their analogy, however, in the classes of large animals. The 
crocodile of Angostura pursues men, while at Neuva Barce- 

* This voracity^ this appetite for blood, seems surprising in little 
insects, that live on vegetable juices, and in a country almost entirely 
uninhabited. ** What would these animals eat, if we did not pass this 
way ? *' say the Creoles, in going through countries where there are only 
crocodiles covered with a scaly skin, and hairy monkeys. 


lona you may bathe tranquilly in the Rio Neveri amidst 
these carnivorous reptiles. The jaguars of Maturin, Cuin&- 
nacoa, and the isthmus of Panama, are timid in comparison 
of those of the Upper Orinoco. The Indians well know 
that the monkeys of some valleys are easily tamed, while 
others of the same species, caught elsewhere, will rather die 
of hunger than submit to slavery.* 

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

The frequency of gnats and mosquitos characterises un- 
healthy climates only so far as the development and multi- 
plication of these insects depend on the same causes that 
give rise to miasmata. These noxious animals love a fertile 
soil covered with plants, stagnant waters, and a humid air 
never agitated by the wind ; they prefer to an open country 
those shades, that softened day, that tempered degree of 

* I might have added the example of the scorpion of Cumana, which 
it is very difficult to distinguish from that of the island of Trinidad, Jamaica» 
Carthagena, and Guayaquil 5 yet the former is not more to he feared than 
the Scorpio europseus (of the south of France), while the latter produces 
consequences far more alarming than the Scorpio occitanus (of Spain and 
Barbary). At Carthagena and Guayaquil, the sting of the scorpion 
(alacran) instantly causes the loss of speech. Sometimes a singular 
torpor of the tongue is observed for fifteen or sixteen hours. The patient, 
when stung in the legs, stammers as if he had been struck with apoplexy. 


light, heat, and moisture which, while it favours the action 
of chemical affinities^ accelerates the putrefaction of organ- 
ised substances. May not the mosquitos themselves in- 
crease the insalubrity of the atmosphere ? When we reflect 
that to the height of three or four toises a cubic foot of air 
is often peopled by a million of winged insects,* which 
contain a caustic and venomous liquid ; when we recollect 
that several species of culex are 1*8 line long from the head 
to the extremity of the corslet (without reckoning the legs); 
lastly, when we consider that in this swarm of mosquitos 
and gnats, diffused in the atmosphere like smoke, there is 
a great number of dead insects raised by the force of the 
ascending air, or by that of the lateral currents which are 
caused by the unequal heating of the soil, we are led to 
inquire whether the presence of so many animal substances 
in the air must not occasion particular miasmata. I think 
that these substances act on the atmosphere differently from 
sand and dust; but it wiU be prudent to affirm nothing 
positively on this subject. Chemistry has not yet unveilea 
the numerous mysteries of the insalubritv of the air ; it has 
only taught us that we are ignorant of many things with 
which a few years ago we believed we were acquainted. 

Daily experience appears in a certain degree to prove the 
fact that at the Orinoco, Cassiquiare, Rio Caura, and where- 
ever the air is very unhealthy, the sting of the mosquito 
augments the disposition of the organs to receive the im- 
pression of miasmata. When you are exposed day and 
night, during whole months, to the torment of insects, the 
continual irritation of the skin causes febrile commotions ; 
and, from the sympathy existing between the dermoid and 
the gastric systems, iojures the functions of the stomach. 
Digestion first becomes difficult, the cutaneous inflamma^ 
tion excites profuse perspirations, an unquenchable thirst 
Bucceds, and, in persons of a feeble constitution, increasing 
impatience is succeeded by depression of mind, during 
which all the pathogenic causes act with increased violence. 
It is neither the dangers of navigating in small boats, the 
savage Indians, nor the serpents, crocodiles, or jaguars, that 
make Spaniards dread a voyage on the Orinoco; it is, as 

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


they say with simplicity, " el sudar y las moscas,'* (the perspi- 
ration and the flies). We have reason to believe that man- 
kind, as they change the surface of the soil, wiU succeed in 
altering by degrees the constitution of the atmosphere. 
The insects will diminish when the old trees of the forest 
have disappeared; when, in those countries now desert, 
the rivers are seen bordered with cottages, and the plains 
covered with pastures and harvosts. 

Whoever has lived long in countries infested by mos- 
quitos will be convinced, as we were, that there exists no 
remedy for the torment of these insects. The Indians, 
covered with anoto, bolar earth, or turtle oil, are not pro- 
tected from their attacks. It is doubtful whether the 
painting even relieves: it certainly does not prevent the 
evil. Europeans, recently arrived at the Orinoco, the B-io 
Magdalena, the river Guayaquil, or Bio Chagres (I mention 
the four rivers where the msects are most to be dreaded) at 
first obtain some relief by covering their faces and hands, 
but they soon feel it difficult to endure the heat, are weary 
of being condemned to complete inactivity, and finish with 
leaving the face and hands uncovered. Persons who would 
renounce all kind of occupation during the navigation of 
these rivers, might bring some particular garment from 
Europe in the form of a bag, under which they could 
remam covered, opening it only every half-hour. This bag 
should be distended by whalebone hoops, for a close mask 
and gloves would be perfectly insupportable. Sleeping on 
the ground, on skins, or in hammocks, we could not make 
use of mosquito-curtains (toldos) while on the Orinoco. 
The toldo is useftQ only where it forms a tent so well closed 
around the bed that there is not the smallest opening by 
which a gnat can pass. This is difficult to accomplish ; and 
often when you succeed (for instance, in going up the Eio 
Magdalena, where you travel with some degree of con- 
venience), you are forced, in order to avoid being suffi>cated 
by the heat, to come out from beneath your toldo^ and walk 
nbout in the open air. A feeble wind, smoke, and powerful 
smells, scarcely afibrd any relief in places where the insects 
are very numerous and very voracious. It is erroneously 
affirmed, that these little animals fly from the peculiar smeÛ 
emitted by the crocodile. We were fearfully stung at 


Bataillee, in the road from Carthagena to Honda, while we 
were dissecting a crocodile eleven feet long, the smell of 
which infested all the surrounding atmosphere. The Indians 
much commend the fumes of burnt cow-dung. When the 
wind is very strong, and accompanied by rain, the mosqidtos 
disappear lor some time: they sting most cruelly at the 
approach of a storm, particularly when the electric explo- 
sions are not followed by heavy showers. 

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

I have thrown together at the close of this chapter all 
we learned during the course of our travels on phenomena 
which naturalists have hitherto singularly neglected, though 
they exercise a great infiuence on the welfare of the inha- 
bitants, the salubrity of the climate, and the establishment 
of new colonies on the rivers of equinoctial America. I 
might justly have incurred the charge of having treated 


this subject too much in detail, were it not connected with 
general physiological views. Our imagination is struck 
only by what is great ; but the lover of natural philosophy 
should reflect equally on little things. We have just seen 
that winged insects, collected in society, and concealing in 
their sucker a liquid that irritates the skin, are capable of 
rendering vast countries almost uninhabitable. Other insects 
equally small, the termites (comejen),* create obstacles to 
the progress of civilization, in several hot and temperate 
parts of the equinoctial zone, that are difficult to be sur- 
mounted. They devour paper, pasteboard, and parchment 
with frightful rapidity, utterly destroying records and libra- 
ries. Whole provinces of Spanish America do not possess 
one written document that dates a hundred years back. 
What improvement can the civilization of nations acquire if 
nothing link the present with the past ; if the depositaries 
of human knowledge must be repeatedly renewed ; if the 
records of genius and reason cannot be transmitted to 
posterity ? 

In proportion as you ascend the table-land of the Andes 
these evils disappear. Man breathes a fresh and pure air. 
Insects no more disturb the labours of the day or the 
slumbers of the night. Documents can be collected in 
archives without our having to complain of the voracity of 
the termites. Mosquitos are no longer feared at a height 
of two hundred toises ; and the termites, still very frequent 
at three hundred toises of elevation,* become very rare at 
Mexico, Santa Fé de Bogota, and Quito. In these great 
capitals, situated on the. back of the Cordilleras, we find 
libraries and archives, augmented from day to day by the 
enlightened zeal of the inhabitants. These circumstances, 
combined with others, insure a moral preponderance to the 
Alpine region over the lower regions of the torrid zone. K 
we admit, agreeably to the ancient traditions collected in 
both the old and new worlds, that at the time of the catas- 
trophe which preceded the renewal of our species, man 
descended from the mountains into the plains, we may 
admit, with still greater confidence, that these mountains, 

* Literally, * the eaters,* or * the devourers.' 

t There are some at Popayau (height 910 toises; mean temperature 
18*7*)> but they are species that gnaw wood only. 


the cradle of so many various nations, will for ever remain 
the centre of human civilization in the torrid zone. Erom 
these fertile and temperate table-lands, from these islets 
scattered in the aerial ocean, knowledge and the blessings 
of social institutions wiU be spread over those vast forests 
extending ' along the foot of the Andes, now inhabited only 
by savage tribes whom the very wealth of nature has 
retained in indolence and barbarism. 

Chapteb XXI. 

Randal of Garcita. — Maypures. — Cataracts of Quituna. — Month of the 
Vichada and the Zama. — Rock of Aricagua. — Siquita. 

"We directed our course to the Tuerto de arnba^ above 
the cataract of Atures, opposite the mouth of the Kio 
Cataniapo, where our boat was to be ready for us. In the 
narrow path that leads to the emha/rcadero we beheld for 
the last time the peak of Uniana. It appeared like a cloud 
rising above the horizon of the plains. The Guahibos 
wander at the foot of the mountains, and extend their 
course as far as the banks of the Vichada. "We were 
shown at a distance, on the right of the river, the rocks 
that surround the cavern of Ataruipe ; but we had not 
time to visit that cemetery of the destroyed tribe of the 
Atures. Father Zea had repeatedly described to us this 
extraordinary cavern, the skeletons painted with anoto, the 
large vases of baked earth, in which the bones of separate 
fiimilies appear to be collected; and many other curious 
objects, which we proposed to examine on our return from 
the Eio Negro. "You wiU scarcely believe," said the 
missionaries, "that these skeletons, these painted vases, 
things which we believed were unknown to the rest of the 
world, have brought trouble upon me and my neighbour, 
the missionary of Carichana. You have seen the misery 
in which I live in the ravdales. Though devoured by mos- 
quitos, and often in want of plantains and cassava, yet I 
have found envious people even in this country ! A white 
man, who inhabits the pastures between the Meta and the 
Apure, denounced me recently in the Audencia of Caracas, 

VOL. n. u 


as concealing a treasure I liad discovered, jointly with the 
missionary of Carichana, amid the tombs of the Indians. 
It is asserted that the Jesuits of Santa Fé de Bogota were 
apprised beforehand of the destruction of their company; 
and that, in order to save the riches they possessed in 
money and precious vases, they sent them, either by the 
Rio Meta or the Yichada, to the Orinoco, with orders to 
have them hidden in the islets amid the vandales. These 
treasures I am supposed to have appropriated imknown to 
my superiors. The Audencia of Caracas brought a com- 
plaint before the governor of Guiana, and we were ordered 
to appear in person. We uselessly performed a journey of 
one nundred and fifty leagues ; and, although we declared 
that we had found in the cavern only human bones, and 
dried bats and polecats, commissioners were gravely no- 
minated to come hither and search on the spot for the 
supposed treasures of the Jesuits. "We shall wait long for 
these commissioners. When they have gone up the Ori- 
noco as far as San Borja, the fear of the mosquitos will 
prevent them from going farther. The cloud of flies which 
envelopes us in the ravdales is a good defence." 

The account given by the missionary was entirely con- 
formable to what we afterwards learned at Angostura from 
the governor himself. Fortuitous circumstances had given 
rise to the strangest suspicions. In the caverns where the 
mummies and skeletons of the nation of the Atures are 
found, even in the midst of the cataracts, and in the most 
inaccessible islets, the Indians long ago discovered boxes 
bound with iron, containing various European tools, rem- 
nants of clothes, rosaries, and glass trinkets. These objects 
are thought to have belonged to Portuguese traders of the 
Rio Negro and Grand Para, who, before the establishment 
of the Jesuits on the banks of the Orinoco, went up to 
Atures by the portages and interior communications of 
rivers, to trade with the natives. It is supposed that these 
men sunk beneath the epidemic maladies so common in the 
ratcdales, and that their chests became the property of the 
Indians, the wealthiest of whom were usually Duried with 
all they possessed most valuable during their lives. From 
these very uncertain traditions the tale of hidden treasures 
has been fabricated. As in the Andes of Quito every ruined 


building, not excepting the foiuKjations of the pyramids 
erected by the French savans for the measurement of the 
meridian, is regarded as Inga jpilca* that is, the work of 
the Inca; so on the Orinoco every hidden treasure can 
belong only to the Jesuits, an order which, no doubt, 
governed the missions better than the Capuchins and 
the monks of the Observance, but whose riches and 
success in the civilization of the Indians have been much 
exaggerated. When the Jesuits of Santa Fé were arrested, 
those heaps of piastres, those emeralds of Muzo, those bars 
of gold of Choco, which the enemies of the company sup- 

?osed they possessed, were not found in their dwellings, 
can cite a respectable testimony, which proves incon- 
testibly, that the viceroy of New Granada had not warned 
the Jesuits of Santa Fé of the danger with which they were 
menaced. Don Vicente Orosco, an engineer officer in the 
Spanish army, related to me that, being arrived at An- 
gostura, with Don Manuel Centurion, to arrest the mis- 
sionaries of Carichana, he met an Indian boat that was 
going down the Eio Meta. The boat being manned with 
Indians who could speak none of the tongues of the country, 
gave rise to suspicions. After useless researches, a bottle 
was at length discovered, containing a letter, in which the 
Superior of the company residing at Swiita Fé informed the 
missionaries of the Orinoco of the persecutions to which 
the Jesuits were exposed in New Grrenada. This letter 
recommended no measure of precaution ; it was short, with- 
out ambiguity, and respectful towards the government, 
whose orders were executed with useless and unreasonable 

Eight Indians of Atures had conducted our boat through 
the raudales, and seemed weU satisfied with the slight re- 
compence we gave them. They gain little by this employ- 
ment ; and in order to give a just idea of the poverW and 
want of commerce iu the missions of the Orinoco, I shall 
observe that during three years, with, the exception of the 
boats sent annually to Angostura by the commander of 
San Carlos du Eio Negro, to fetch the pay of the soldiers, 
the missionary had seen but five canoes of the Upper 

* Pilca (properly in Quichua jn'rca), wall of the Tnca. 



Orinoco pass the cataract, which were bound for the 
harvest ojf turtles' eggs, and eight boats laden with mei> 

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

Besides the Piaroas of Cataniapo, who pierce their ears, 
and wear as ear-ornaments the teeth of caymans and pec- 
caries, three other tribes of Macos are known : one, on the 
Ventuari, above the Rio Mariata; the second, on the 
Fadamo, north of the mountains of Maraguaca; and the 
third, near the Guaharibos, towards the sources of the 
Orinoco, above the Eio Grehette. This last tribe bears the 
name of Macos-Macos. I collected the following words ûx>m 
a young Maco of the banks of the Cataniapo, whom we 
met near the embarcadero, and who wore in his ears, instead 
of a tusk of the peccary, a large wooden cyHnder.* 

Plantain, Paruru (in Tamanac àlao,paruru). 

Cassava, Elente (iu Maco, cahig). 

Maize, Niame, 

The sun, Jamm (in Salive, mvme-sehe-coceo). 

The moon. Jama (in Sahve, veado), 

"Water, AÂia (in Salive, cogita). 

One, Nicmti, 

Two, Tajus. 

Three, PercotaJiuja, 

Four, Imontegroa. 
The young man could not reckon as fSsff as five, which cer- 
tainly is no proof that the word five does not exist in the 
Maco tongue. I know not whether this tongue be a dialect 
of the Salive, as is pretty generally asserted; for idioms 

* This custom is observed among the Cabres, the Maypures^ and the 
Pevas of the Amazon. These last, described by La Condamine, stretch 
their ears by weights of a considerable size. 


derived jfrom one another, sometimes furnish words utterly 
different for the most common and most important things* 
But in discussions on mother-tongues and derivative lan- 
guages, it is not the sounds, the roots only, that are 
decisive ; but rather the interior structure and grammatical 
. forms. In the American idioms, which are notwithstanding 
rich, the moon is commonly enough called the stm of night, 
or even the swn of leep ; but the moon and sun very rarely 
bear the same name, as among the Macos. I know only 
a few examples in the most northerly part of America, 
among the Woccons, the Ojibbeways, the Muskogulges, 
and the Mohawks. t Our missionary asserted that jama, 
in Maco, indicated at the same time the Supreme Beiag, 
and the great orbs of night and day; while many other 
American tongues, for instance the Tamanac, and the 
Caribbee, have distinct words to denote God, the Moon, 
and the Sun. We shall soon see how anxious the mission- 
aries of the Orinoco are not to employ, in their translations 
of the prayers of the church, the native words which denote 
the Divinity, the Creator {Amanené), the G-reat Spirit who 
animates all nature. They choose rather to Indianize the 
Spanish word Dios, converting it, according to the differ- 
ences of pronunciation, and the genius of the different 
dialects, into Dioso, Tiosu, or Piosu. 

When we again embarked on the Orinoco, we found the 
river free from shoals. After a few hours we passed the 
Baudal of Garcita, the rapids of which are easy of ascent, 
when the waters are high. To the eastward is seen a small 
chain of mountains called the chain of Cumadaminari, con- 
sisting of gneiss, and not of stratified granite. We were 
struck with a succession of great holes at more than one 
hundred and eighty feet above the present level of the 
Orinoco, yet which, notwithstanding, appear to be the effects 
of the erosion of the waters. We shall see hereafter, that 
this phenomenon occurs again nearly at the same height, 
both in the rocks that border the cataracts of Maypures, 
and fifty leagues to the east, near the mouth of the Rio Jao. 

* The great family of the Esthonian (or Tschoudi) languages, and of 
the Samoiede languages, affords numerous examples of these differences. 

f Nipia-kisathwa in the Shawanese (the idiom of Canada), from nippi^ 
to sleep, and isUathwa, the sun. 

294 BTEEiraTH or the ctjebent. 

We slept in the open air, on the left bank of the river, 
below the island of Tomo. The night was beautiful and 
serene, but the torment of the mosquitos was so great near 
the ground, that I could not succeed iu levelling the artificial 
horizon ; consequently I lost the opportunity of making an 

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

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


almost a refinement of luxury, in that wild spot ; but our 
wants rendered us every day more and more ingenious. 

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

Storms within the tropics are as short a they are violent. 
The lightning had fallen twice near our boat, and. had no 
doubt struck the surface of the water. I mention this phe- 
nomenon, because it is pretty generally believed in those 
coimtries that the clouds, the surface of which is charged 
with electricity, are at so great a height that the lightning 
reaches the ground more rarely than in Europe. The night 
was extremely dark, and we could not in less than two 
hours reach the village of Maypures. We were wet to the 
skin. In proportion as the rain ceased, the zancudos re- 
appeared, with that voracity which tipulary insects always 
display immediately after a storm. My fellow-travellers 
were uncertain whether it would be best to stop in the port 
or proceed on our way on foot, in spite of the darkness of 
the night. Father Zea was determined to reach his home. 
He had given directions for the construction of a large 
house of two stories, which was to be begun by the Indians 
of the mission. " You wiU there find," said he gravely, 
" the same conveniences as in the open air ; I have neither 
a bench nor a table, but you wiU not suffer so much from 
the flies, which are less troublesome in the mission than 
on the banks of the river," We followed the counsel of 
the missionary, who caused torches of copal to be lighted. 


These torches are tubes made of bark, three inches in 
diameter, and filled with copal resin. We walked at first 
over beds of rock, which were bare and slippery, and then 
we entered a thick grove of palm trees. We were twice 
obliged to pass a sfepeam on trunks of trees hewn down. 
The torches had already ceased to give light. Being formed 
on a strange principle, the woody substance which resembles 
the wick surrounoing the resin, they emit more smoke 
than light, and are easily extinguished. The Tudian pilot, 
who expressed himself with some facility in Spanish, told us 
of snakes, water-serpents, and tigers, by which we might be 
attacked. Such conversations may be expected as matters 
of course, by persons who travel at night with the natives. 
By intimidating the European traveller, the Indians imagine 
they render themselves more necessary, and gain the con- 
fidence of the stranger. The rudest inhabitant of the 
missions fully understands the deceptions which everywhere 
arise from the relations between men of unequal fortune 
and civilization. Under the absolute and sometimes vexa- 
tious government of the monks, the Indian seeks to ame- 
liorate his condition by those little artifices which are the 
weapons of physical and intellectual weakness. 

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

The raudal of Maypures, called by the Indians Quituna, 
is formed, as aU cataracts are, by the resistance which the 
river encounters in its way across a ridge of rocks, or a 
chain of mountains. The lofty mountains of Cunavami and 
Calitamini, between the sources of the rivers Cataniapo and 
Ventuari, stretch toward the west in a chain of granitic 
hiUs. Prom this chain flow three small rivers, which em- 
brace in some sort the cataract of Maypures. There are, on 


the eastern bank, the Sanariapo, and on the western, the 
Cameji and the Toparo. Opposite the village of Maypurea, 
the mountains fall back in an arch, and, like a rocky coast, 
form a gulf open to the south-east. The irruption of the 
river is effected between the mouths of the Toparo and the 
Sanariapo, at the western extremity of this majestic amphi- 

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


manganese, seem to justify this conjecture. They are found 
on all the stones, tar from the mission, and indicate the 
former abode of the waters. In going up the river, all 
merchandise is discharged at the confluence of the Ko 
Toparo and the Orinoco. The boats are entrusted to the 
natives, who have so perfect a knowledge of the ravdal, that 
they have a particular name for every step. They conduct 
the boats as far as the mouth of the Cameji, where the 
danger is considered as past. 

I will here describe tne cataract of Quituna or Maypures 
as it appeared at the two periods when I examined it, in 

foing down and up the river. It is formed, like that of 
lapara or Atures, by an archipelago of islands, which, to 
the length of three thousand toises, fiU the bed of the river; 
and by rocky dikes, which join the islands together. The 
most remarkable of these dikes, or natural dams, are Puri" 
marimi, Manimi, and the Leap of the Sardine (Salto de la 
Sardina). I name them in the order in which I saw them 
in succession from south to north. The last of these three 
stages is near nine feet high, and forms by its breadth a 
magnificent cascade. I must here repeat, however, that the 
turbulent shock of the precipitated and broken waters de- 
pends not so much on the absolute height of each step or 
dike, as upon the multitude of counter-currents, the group- 
ing of the islands and shoals, that lie at the foot of the 
raudalitos or partial cascades, and the contraction of the 
channels, which often do not leave a free navigable passage 
of twenty or thirty feet. The eastern part of the cataract 
of Maypures is much more dangerous than the western; 
and therefore the Indian pilots prefer the left bank of the 
river to conduct the boats down or up. Unfortunately, in 
the season of low waters, this bank remains partly dry, and 
recourse must be had to the process of portage; that is, the 
boats are obliged to be dragged on cylinders, or round logs. 
To command a comprehensive view of these stupendous 
scenes, the spectator must be stationed on the little moun- 
tain of Manimi, a granitic ridge, which rises from the 
savannah, north of the church of the mission, and is itself 
only a continuation of the ridges of which the raudalito of 
Manimi is composed. We often visited this mountain, for 
we were never weary of gazing on this astonishing spectacle» 


From the smninit of the rock is descried a sheet of foam, 
extending the length of a whole mile. Enormous masses of 
stone, black as iron, issue from its bosom. Some are paps 
grouped in pairs, like basaltic hills; others resemble towers, 
fortified castles, and ruined buildings. Their gloomy tint 
contrasts with the silvery splendour of the foam. Every 
rock, every islet is covered with vigorous trees, collected in 
clusters. At the foot of those paps, far as the eye can reach, 
a thick vapour is suspended over the river, and through this 
whitish fog the tops of the lofty palm-trees shoot up. What 
name shall we give to these majestic plants? I suppose 
them to be the vad^iai, a new species of the genus Oreodoxa, 
the trunk of which is more than eighty feet high. The fea- 
thery leaves of this palm-tree have a brilliant lustre, and rise 
almost straight toward the sky. At every hour of the day 
the sheet of foam displays different aspects. Sometimes the 
hilly islands and the palm-trees project their broad shadows ; 
sometimes the rays of the setting sun are refracted in the 
cloud that hangs over the cataract, and coloured arcs are 
formed which vanish and appear alternately. 

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

The calm of the atmosphere, and the tumultuous move- 
ment of the waters, produce a contrast peculiar to this zona 
Here no breath of wind ever agitates the foliage, no cloud 
veils the splendour of the azure vault of heaven; a great 
mass of light is diffused in the air, on the earth strewn with 
plants with glossy leaves, and on the bed of the river, which 
extends as far as the eye can reach. This appearance sur- 


prises the traveller bom in the north of Europe. The idea 
of wild scenery, of a torrent rushing from rock to rock, is 
linked in his unagination with that of a climate where the 
noise of the tempest is mingled with the sound of the cataract; 
and where, in a gloomy and misty day, sweeping clouds seem 
to descend into the valley, and to rest upon the tops of the 
pines. The landscape of the tropics in the low regions of 
the continents has a peculiar physiognomy, something of 
greatness and repose, which it preserves even where one of 
the elements is struggling with invincible obstacles. Near 
the equator, hurricanes and tempests belong to islands only, 
to deserts destitute of plants, and to those spots where parts 
of the atmosphere repose upon surfaces from which the 
radiation of heat is very unequal. 

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

In a place where we had bathed the day before, at the 
foot of the rock of Manimi, the Indians killed a serpent 
seven feet and a-half long. The Macos called it a camudu. 
Its back displayed, upon a yeUow ground, transverse bands, 
partly black, and partly inclining to a brown green: under 
the beUy the bands were blue, and united in rhombic spots. 
This animal, which is not venomous, is said by the natives to 
attain more than fifteen feet in length. I thought at first, 
that the camtidu was a hoa ; but I saw with surprise, that 
the scales beneath the tail were divided into two rows. It 
was thc/refore a viper, (coluber); perhaps a python of the 
New Continent : I say perhaps, for great naturalists appear 
to admit that all the pythons belong to the Old, and all 
the boas to the New world. As the boa of Pliny was a 
serpent of Afirica and of the south of Europe, it would have 
been well if the boas of America had been named pythons, 


and the pythons of India been called boas. The first 
notions oi an enormous reptile capable of seizing man, and 
even the great quadrupeds, came to us from India and the 
coast of Guinea. However indifferent names may be, we 
can scarcely admit the idea, that the hemisphere in which 
Virgil described the agonies of Laocoon, (a fable which the 
Greeks of Asia borrowed from much more southern nations) 
does not possess the boa-constrictor. I will not augment 
the confrision of zoological nomenclature by proposing new 
changes, and shall confine myself to observing tnat at least 
the missionaries and the latmized Indians of the missions, 
if not the planters of Guiana, clearly distinguish the traga' 
venados (real boas, with simple anal plates) from the culebraa 
de agua, or water-snakes, like the camudu (pythons with 
double anal scales). The traga-venados have no transverse 
bands on the back, but a chain of rhombic or hexagonal 
spots. Some species prefer the driest places; others love 
the water, as the pythons, or culebras de agua. 

Advancing towards the west, we find the hiUs or islets in 
the deserted branch of the Orinoco crowned with the same 
palm-trees that rise on the rocks of the cataracts. One of 
these hills, called Keri, is celebrated in the country on 
account of a white spot which shines from afar, and in 
which the natives profess to see the image of the fiiU moon. 
I could not climb this steep rock, but I believe the white 
spot to be a large nodule of quartz, formed by the union of 
several of those veins so common in granites passing into 
gneiss. Opposite Keri, or the Bock of the Moon, on the 
twin mountain Ouivitari, which is an islet in the midst of 
the cataracts, the Indians point out with mysterious awe a 
similar white spot. It has the form of a disc ; and they 
say this is the image of the sun (Camosi). Perhaps the 
geographical situation of these two objects has contributed 
to their having received these names. Keri is on the side 
of the setting, Camosi on that of the rising sun. Languages 
beiQg the most ancient historical monuments of nations, 
some learned men have been singularly struck by the ana- 
logy between the American word camosi and camosch, which 
seems to have signified originally, the sun, in one of the 
Semitic dialects. This analogy has given rise to hypotheses 


whicli appear to me at least very problematical. The god 
of the Moabites, Chemosh, or Camosch, who has so wearied 
the patience of the learned; Apollo Chomens, cited by 
Strabo and by Ammianus MarceUinus; Belphegor; Annin 
or Hamon ; and Adonis : all, without doubt, represent the 
sun in the winter solstice ; but what can we conclude ûrom 
a solitary and fortuitous resemblance of sounds in languages 
that have nothing besides in common ? 

The Maypure tongue is still spoken at Atures, although 
the mission is inhabited only by G-uahibos and Macos. At 
Maypures the Guareken and Pareni tongues only are now 
spoken. From the E-io Anaveni, which falls into the 
Orinoco north of Atures, as far as beyond Jao, and to the 
mouth of the G-uaviare (between the fourth and sixth 
degrees of latitude), we everywhere find rivers, the termi- 
nation of which, veni,* recalls to mind the extent to which 
the Maypure tongue heretofore prevailed. Veni, or weni, 
signifies water, or a river. The words camcsi and heri, 
which we have just cited, are of the idiom of the Pareni 
Indians,t who, I think I have heard from the natives, 
lived originally on the banks of the Mataveni. J The Abbé 
G-ili considers the Pareni as a simple dialect of the May- 
pure. This question cannot be solved by a comparison of 
the roots merely. Being totally ignorant of the gram- 
matical structure of the Pareni, I can raise but feeble 
doubts against the opinion of the Italian missionary. The 
Pareni is perhaps a mixture of two tongues that belong to 
difierent families ; like the Maquiritari, which is composed 
of the Maypure and the Caribbee ; or, to cite an example 
better known, the modem Persian, which is allied at the 
same time to the Sanscrit and to the Semitic tongues. The 

* Anayeni, Mataveni, Maraveni^ &c. 

i* Or Parenas^ who must not be confounded either with the Paravenes 
of the Rio Caura {Caulirit p. 69)» or with the Parecas, whose language 
belongs to the great family of the Tamanac tongues. A young Indian of 
Maypures, who called himself a Paragini, answered my questions almost 
in the same words that M. Bonpland heard from a Pareni. I have 
indicated the differences in the table, see pp. 303-4. 

X South of the Rio Zama. We slept in the open air near the mouth 
of the Matayeni on the 28th day of May, in our return from the Rio Negro. 



foUowing are Pareni words, which I careftilly compared 
with Maypure words.* 



The sun 

Camosi ' 

Kiè (Kiepurig) 

The moon 


Kejapi (Cagijapi) 

A star 







Oueni (ut) 








The head 


Nuchibucu X 

The hair 


The eyes 



The nose 



The mouth 



The teeth 



The tongue 



The ear 



The cheek 


The neck 



The arm 



The hand 



The breast 


The back 


The thigh 


The nipples 


The foot 



The toes 


The calf of the leg 


A crocodile 



A fish 







PkratAna (Teot)§ 


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

i* I am ignorant of what ima signifies in this compound word. Eno 
means in Maypure the sky and thunder. Jna signifies mother. 

t The syllables no and nti, joined to the words that designate parts of 
the body, might have been suppressed ; they answer to the possessive 
pronoun my. 

§ We may be surprised to find the word teot denote the eminently 
nutritive substance that supplies the place of com (the gift of a bene- 
ficent divinity), and on which the subsistence of man witi^ the tropics 














Puziana (Pagiana) 

Sinapa (Achinafe) 
Meteuba (Meuteufafa) 
Puriana vacavi 

Puriana yacavi 


Puriassima Tacavi 



Papeta (Popetas) 
Avanume (Avanome) 
Apekiya Pejiiyeji) 


This comparison seems to prove that the analogies ob- 
served in the roots of the Pareni and the Maypure tongues 
are not to be neglected ; they are, however, scarcely more 
frequent than those that have been observed between the 
Maypure of the Upper Orinoco and the language of the 
Moxos, which is spoken on the banks of the Marmora, 
from 15° to 20° of south latitude. The Parenis have in 
their pronunciation the English th, or tsa of the Arabians, 
as I cleariy heard in the word Amethami (devil, evil spirit). 
I need not again notice the origin of the word camasi. 
Solitary resemblances of sounds are as little proof of com- 
munication between nations as the dissimilitude of a few 
roots furnishes evidence against the affiliation of the 
G-erman from the Persian and the G-reek. It is remarkable, 
however, that the names of the sun and moon are sometimes 
found to be identical in languages, the grammatical con- 
depends. I may here mention, that the word Teo, or Teot, which in 
Aztec signifies God {Teoilj properly Teo, for // is only a termination), is 
found in the language of the Beto! of the Rio Meta. The name of the 
moon^ in this language so remarkable for the complication of its gram- 
matical structure, is Teo-ro. The name of the sun is Teo-umasoi, The 
particle ro designates a woman, umasoi a man. Among the Betof, the 
Maypures, and so many other nations of both continents, the moon is 
belieyed to be the wife of the sun. But what is this root Teo ? It appears 
to me very doubtful, that Teo-ro should signify God-wovnaUy for Memelu 
is the name of the All-powerful Being in the Betof language. 

* Has this word been introduced from a communication with Europeans? 
It is almost identical with the Mexican (Aztec) word cacava. 


Btruction of which is entirely different; I may cite as 
examples the Gruarany and th» Omagua,* languages of na- 
tions formerly very powerful. It may be conceived that, 
with the worship of the stars and of the powers of nature, 
words which have a relation to these objects might pass 
from one idiom to another. I showed the constellation of 
the Southern Cross to a Pareni Indian, who covered the 
lantern while I was taking the circum-meridian heights of 
the stars; and he called it Bahumehi, a name which the 
caribe fish, or serra salme, also bears in Pareni. He 
was ignorant of the name of the belt of Orion ; but a Poig- 
nave Indian,t who knew the constellations better, assured 
me that in his tongue the belt of Orion bore the name of 
Fuehot; he caUed the moon Zenquerot. These two words 
have a very peculiar character for words of American origin. 
As the names of the constellations may have been trans- 
mitted to immense distances from one nation to another, 
these Poignave words have fixed the attention of the learned, 
who have imagined they recognize the Phoenician and 
Moabite tongues in the word camosi of the Pareni. Fuehot 
^ and zenquerot seem to remind us of the Phoenician words 
mot (clay), a/rdod (oak-tree), ephod, &c. But what can we 
conclude from simple terminations which are most fre- 
quently foreign to the roots? In Hebrew the feminine 
Ïlurals terminate also in otTi. I noted entire phrases in 
'oignave ; but the young man whom I interrogated spoke 
so quick that I could not seize the division of the words, 
and should have mixed them confusedly together had I 
attempted to write them down.J 

* Sun and Moon, in Guarany, Quarasi and Jasi; in Omagua, Huarassi 
and Jase. I shall give, farther on, these same words in the principal 
languages of the old and new worlds. (See note at pp. 326-328.) 

+ At the Orinoco the PuignaveSf or Poignaves, are distinguished from the 
Guipuhavea (Uipunavi). The latter, on account of their language, are 
considered as belonging to the Maypure and Cabre nations ; yet water is 
called in Poignave, as well as in Maypure, oueni. 

% For a curious example of this, see the speech of Artabanes in 
Aristophanes, {Acham. act 1, scene 3,) where a Greek has attempted to 
give a Persian oration. See also Gibbon's Roman Empire, chap, liii, 
note 54, for a curious example of the way in which foreign languages 
have been disfigured when it has been attempted to represent them in a 
totally different -tongue. 



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

These natives cultivate plantains and cavassa, but no 
maize. Cassava, made into thin cakes, is the bread of the 
country. Like the greater part of the Indians of the Ori- 
noco, the inhabitants of Maypures have beverages which 
maybe considered nourishing ; one of these, much celebrated 
in that country, is furnished by a pahn-tree which grows 
wild in the vicinity of the mission on the banks of the Au- 
vana. This tree is the seje : I estimated the number of 
flowers on one cluster at forty-four thousand ; and that of 
the fruit, of which the greater part fall without ripening, 
at eight thousand. The fruit is a small fleshy drupe. It is 
immersed for a few minutes in boiling water, to separate 
the kernel from the parenchymatous part of the sarcocarp, 
which has a sweet tast«, and is pounded and bruised in a 


large vessel lillea with water. The iiifiision yields a yellow- 
ish liquor, which tastes Hkë milk of almonds. Sometimes 
papelon (unrefined sugar) is added. The missionary told us 
that the natives become visibly fiitter during the two or three 
months in which they drink this s^e, into which they dip 
their cakes of cassava. The pioches, or Indian jugglers, go 
into the forests, and sound the hotuto (the sacred trumpet) 
under the seje palm-trees, ** to force the tree," they say, " to 
yield an ample produce the following year." The people 
pay for this operation, as the Mongols, the Arabs, and 
nations still nearer to us, pay the chamcms, the marabouts, 
and other classes of priests, to drive away the white ants 
and the locusts by mystic words or prayers, or to procure 
a cessation of continued rain, and invert the order of the 

"I have a manufacture of pottery in my village," said 
Pather Zea, when accompanying us on a visit to an Indian 
family, who were occupied in baking, by a fire of brushwood, 
in the open air, large earthen vessels, two feet and a half 
high. This branch of manufacture is peculiar to the various 
tribes of the great family of Maypures, and they appear to 
have followed it from time immemorial. In every part of 
the forests, far from any human habitation, on digging the 
earth, fragments of pottery and delf are found. The taste 
for this kind of manufacture seems to have been common 
heretofore to the natives of both North and South America. 
To the north of Mexico, on the banks of the Eio G-ila, 
among the ruins of an Aztec city; in the United States, 
near the tumuli of the Miamis ; in Florida, and in every place 
where any traces of ancient civilization are found, the soil 
covers fragments of painted pottery ; and the extreme resem- 
blance of the ornaments they display is striking. Savage 
nations, and those civilized people* who are condenmed by 
their political and religious mstitutions always to imitate 
themselves, strive, as if by instinct, to perpetuate the same 
forms, to preserve a peculiar type or style, and to follow the 
methods and processes which were employed by their ances- 
tors. In North America, fragments of delf ware have been 

* The Hindoos, the Tibetians, the Chinese, the ancient Egyptians, the 
Aztecs, the Peruvians ; with whom the tendency toward civilization in a 
body has prevented the free development of the faculties of individuals. 



discovered in places where there exist lines of fortification, 
and the waDs of towns constructed by some unknown na- 
tion, now entirely extinct. The paintinp:8 on these fragments 
have a great similitude to those which are executed in our 
days on earthenware by the natives of Louisiana and [Flo- 
rida. Thus too, the Indians of Maypures often painted be- 
fore our eyes the same ornaments as those we had observed 
in the cavern of Ataruipe, on the vases containing human 
bones. They were grecques, meanders, and figures of croco- . 
diles, of monkeys, and of a large quadruped which I could not 
recognize, though it had always the same squat form. I might 
hazard the hypothesis that it belongs to another coun&y, 
aud that the type had been brought thither in the great 
migration of the American nations from the north-west to 
the south and south-east ; but I am rather inclinea to be- 
lieve that the figure is intended to represent a tapir, and 
that the deformed image of a native animal has become by 
degrees one of the types that has been preserved. 

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

Among the natives of Maypures, the making of pottery 
is an occupation principally confined to the women. They 
purify the clay by repeated washings, form it into cylinders, 
and mould the largest vases with their hands. The Ame- 
rican Indian is unacquainted with the potter's wheel, «which 
was familiar to the nations of the east in the remotest anti- 
quity. We may be surprised that the missionaries have not 
introduced this simple and useful machine among the natives 
of the Orinoco, yet we must recoIJect that three centuries 


have not sufficed to make it known among the Indians of 
the peninsula of Araya, opposite the port of Cumana. The 
colours used by the Maypures are the oxides of iron and 
manganese, and particularly the yellow and red ochres that 
are found in the hollows of sandstone. Sometimes the 
fecula of the Bignonia chica is employed, after the pottery 
has been exposed to a feeble fire. This painting is covered 
with a varnish of algarobo, which is the transparent resin of 
the Hymenaea courbaril. The large vessels in which the 
cJiiza is preserved are called ciamacu ; the smallest bear the 
name of mucra, from which word the Spaniards of the coast 
have framed murcura. Not only the Maypures, but also the 
Guaypunaves, the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and even the G-ua- 
mos, are distinguished at the Orinoco as makers of painted 
pottery, and this manufacture extended formerly towards the 
Banks of the Amazon. Orellana was struck with the painted 
ornaments on the ware of the Omaguas, who in his time were 
a populous commercial nation. 

The following facts throw some light on the history of 
American civilization. In the United States, west of the 
Alleghany mountains, particularly between the Ohio and 
the great lakes of Canada, on digging the earth, frag- 
ments of painted pottery, mingled with brass tools, are con- 
stantly found. This mixture may well surprise us in a 
country where, on the first arrival of Europeans, the natives 
were ignorant of the use of metals. In the forests of South 
America, which extend from the equator as far as the 
eighth degree of north latitude, from the foot of the Andes 
to the Atlantic, this painted pottery is discovered in the 
most desert places, but it is found accompanied by hatchets 
of jade and other hard stones, skilfully perforated. No me- 
tallic tools or ornaments have ever been discovered ; though 
in the mountains oii the shore, and at the back of the Cor- 
dilleras, the art of melting gold and copper, and of mixing 
the latter metal with tin to make cutting instruments, was 
known. How can we account for these contrasts between the 
temperate and the torrid zone? The Incas of Peru had 
pushed their conquests and their religious wars as far as the 
banks of the Napo and the Amazon, where their language 
extended over a small space of land ; but the civihzation of 
the Peruvians, of the inhabitants of Quito, and of the 


Muyscas of New G-renada, never appears to have had any 
BeD Bible influence on the moral state of the nations of 
Guiana. It must be observed fiirther, that in North, 
America, between the Ohio, Miami, and the Lakes, an un- 
known people, whom systematic authors would make the 
descendants of the Toltecs and Aztecs, constructed walls of 
earth and sometimes of stone without mortar,* from ten to 
fifteen feet high, and seven or eight thousand feet long. 
These singular circumvallations sometimes enclosed a hun- 
dred and fifty acres of ground. In the plains of the Orinoco, 
as in those of Marietta, the Miami, and the Ohio, the centre 
of an ancient civilization is found in the west on the back of 
the mountains ; but the Orinoco, and the countries lying be- 
tween that great river and the Amazon, appear never to 
have been inhabited by nations whose constructions have re- 
sisted the ravages of time. Though symbolical figures are 
found engraved on the hardest rocks, yet further south than 
eight degrees of latitude, no tumulus, no circumvallation, no 
dike of earth similar to those that exist farther north in the 
plains of Varinas and Canagua, has been found. Such is the 
contrast that may be observed between the eastern parts of 
North and South America, those parts which extend m)m the 
table-land of Cundinamarcaf ana the mountains of Cayenne 
towards the Atlantic, and those which stretch from the Andes 
of New Spaiu towards the AUeghanies. Nations advanced in 
civilization, of which we discover traces on the banks of lake 
Teguyo and in the Casas grandes of the Bio Gila, might have 
sent some tribes eastward into the open countries of the 
Missouri and the Ohio, where the climate difiers little from 
that of New Mexico ; but in South America, where the great 
flux of nations has continued from north to south, those who 
had long enjoyed the mild temperature of the back of the 
equinoctial Cordilleras no doubt dreaded a descent into 
burning plains bristled with forests, and inundated by the 
periodical swellings of rivers. It is easy to conceive how 
much the force of vegetation, and the nature of the soil and 

* Of siliceous limestone, at Pique, on the Great Miami ; of sandstone 
at Creek Point, ten leagues from Chillakothe, where the wall is fifteen 
hundred toises long. 

f This is the ancient name of the empire of the Zaques, founded by 
Bochica or Idacanzas, the high priest of Iraca, in New Grenada. 


climate, within the torrid zone, embarrassed the natives in 
regard to migration in numerous bodies, prevented settle- 
ments requiring an extensive space, and perpetuated the 
misery and barbarism of solitary hordes. 

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

A majestic tree, more than sixty feet high, which the 
planters call^^^a de hwrro^ grows in the vicinity of the 
uttle viQage of Maypures. It is a new species of the 
iinona, and has the stateliness of the Uvaria zeylanica of 
Aublet. Its branches are straight, and rise in a pyramid, 
nearly like the poplar of the Mississippi, erroneously called 
the Lombardy poplar. The tree is jelebrated for its aro- 
matic fruit, the infiision of which is a powerful febrifuge. 


The poor missionaries of the Orinoco, who are afflicte<? 
with tertian fevers during a great part of the year, sel- 
dom travel without a little bag filled with frutas de hwrro, 
I have already observed, that between the tropics, the 
use of aromatics, for instance very strong cofiee, the Croton 
cascarilla, or the pericarp of the Unona xylopioïdes, is 
generally preferred to that of the astringent bark of cin- 
chona, or of Bonplandia trifolatia, which is the Angostura 
bark. The people of America have the most inveterate 
prejudice against the employment of different kinds of 
cinchona; and in the very countries where this valuable 
remedy grows, they try (to use their own phrase) to cut 
off the fever, by infusions of Scoparia dulcis, and hot lemon- 
ade prepared with sugar and the small wild lime, the rind 
of which is equally oily and aromatic. 

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

We spent two days and a half in the little village of 
Maypiu-es, on the banks of the great Upper Cataract, and 
on the 21st April we embarked in the canoe we had ob- 
tained from the missionary of Carichana. It was much 
damaged by the shoals it had struck against, and the care- 
lessness of the Indians ; but still greater dangers awaited 
it. It was to be dragged over land, across an isthinus of 
thirty-six thousand feet; from the Rio Tuamini to the 


Eio Negro, to go up by the Cassiquiare to the Orinoco, and 
to repass the two raudales. 

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

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

* One of those trees whose milk yields caoutchouc. 


the ' Lucanian oxen/ as they called the elephants of the 
army of Pyrrhus. 

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

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

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

It is highly probable that the great salubrity of the 
Amazon is owing to this constant breeze. In the stagnant 
air of the Upper Orinoco the chemical affinities act more 
powerfully, and more deleterious miasmata are formed. 


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

In order to add a third point of comparison, I may 
mention the valley of the Eio Magdalena, which, like the 
Amazon, has one direction only, but unfortunately, instead 
of being that of the breeze, it is from south to north. 
Situated in the region of the trade-winds, the Eio Magda- 
lena has the stagnant air of the Upper Orinoco. !From the 
canal of Mahates as far as Honda, particularly south of the 
town of Mompox, we never felt the wind blow but at the 
approach of the evening storms. "When, on the contrary, 
you proceed up the river beyond Honda, you find the at- 
mosphere often agitated. The strong winds that arq in- 
gulfëd in the valley of Neiva are noted for their excessive 
heat. We may be at first surprised to perceive that the 
calm ceases as we approach tne lofty mountains in the 
upper course of the river, but this astonishment ends when 
we recollect that the dry and burning winds of the Llanos 
de Neiva are the efiect of descending currents. The 
columns of cold air rush from the top of the Nevados of 
Quindiu and of G-uanacas into the valley, driving before 
them the lower strata of the atmosphere. Everywhere the 
unequal heating of the soil, and the proximity of mountains 
covered with perpetual snow, cause partial currents within 


the tropics, as well as in the temperate zone. The violent 
winds of Neiva are not the effect of a repercussion of the 
trade- winds ; they rise where those winds cannot penetrate ; 
and if the mountains of the Upper Orinoco, the tops of which 
are generally crowned with trees, were more elevated, they 
would produce the same impetuous movements in the at- 
mosphere as we observe in the Cordilleras of Peru, of 
Abyssinia, and of Thibet. The intimate connection that 
exists between the direction of rivers, the height and dis- 
position of the adjacent mountains, the movements of the 
atmosphere, and the salubrity of the climate, are subjects 
well worthy of attention. The study of the surface and the 
inequalities of the soil would indeed, be irksome and useless 
were it not connected with more general considerations. 

At the distance of six miles from the island of Piedra 
Baton we passed, first, on the east, the mouth of the E,io 
Sipapo, called Tipapu by the Indians; and then, on the 
west, the mouth of the Rio Vichada. !Near the latter are 
some rocks covered by the water, that form a smaU cascade 
or raudalito. The Rio Sipapo, which Pather G-ili went up 
in 1757, and which he says is twice as broad as the Tiber, 
comes from a considerable chain of mountains, which in its 
southern part bears the name of the river, and joins the 
group of Calitamini and of Cunavami. Next to the Peak 
of Duida, which rises above the mission of Esmeralda, the 
Cerros of Sipapo appeared to me the most lofty of the whole 
Cordillera of Parima. They form an immense wall of rocks, 
shooting up abruptly from the plain, its craggy ridge of 
running from S.S.E. to N.N.W. I believe these crags, 
these indentations, which equally occur in the sandstone of 
Montserrat in Catalonia,* are owing to blocks of granite 
heaped together. The Cerros de Sipapo wear a different 
aspect every hour of the day. At sunrise the thick vege- 
tation with which these mountains are clothed is tinged 
with that dark green inclining to brown, which is peculiar 
to a region where trees with coriaceous leaves prevail. 
Broad and strong shadows are projected on the neigh- 
bouring plain, and form a contrast with the vivid light 

• From them the name of Montserrat is derived, Monte Serraio 
signifying a mountain ridged or jagged like a saw. 


diffused over the groimd, in the air, and on the surface of 
the waters. But towards noon, when the sun reaches its 
zenith, these strong shadows gradually disappear, and the 
whole group is veiled by an aerial vapour of a much deeper 
azure than that of the lower regions of the celestial vault. 
These vapours, circulating around the rocky ridge, soffcen 
its outline, temper the effects of the light, and give the 
landscape that aspect of calmness and repose which in 
nature, as in the works of Claude Lorraine and Poussin, 
arises from the harmony of forms and colours. 

Cruzero, the powerful chief of the Guaypunaves, long 
resided behind the mountains of Sipapo, after having 
quitted with his warlike horde the plains between the Rio 
Inirida and the Chamochiquini. The Indians told us that 
the forests which cover the Sipapo abound in the climbing 
plant called vehuco de maimwre. This species of liana is 
celebrated among the Indians, and serves for making 
baskets and weaving mats. The forests of Sipapo arb 
altogether unknown, and there the missionaries place the 
nation of the Rayas,* whose mouths are believed to be in 
their navels. An old Indian, whom we met at Carichana, 
and who boasted of having often eaten human flesh, had 
seen these acephali "with his own eyes." These absurd 
fables are spread as far as the Llanos, where you are not 
always permitted to doubt the existence of the Eaya Indians. 
In every zone intolerance accompanies credulity; and it 
might be said that the fictions of ancient geographers had 
passed from one hemisphere to the other, did we not know 
that the most fantastic productions of the imagination, like 
the works of nature, furnish everywhere a certain analogy 
of aspect and of form. 

We landed at the mouth of the Eio Vichada or Yisata to 
examine the plants of that part of the country. The scenery is 
very singular. The forest is thin, and an innumerable quantity 

• Rays, on account of the pretended analogy with the fish of this name, 
the mouth of which seems as if forced downwards helow the hody. This 
singular legend has been spread far and wide over the earth. Shakespeare 
has described Othello as recounting manrellous tales 

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


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

Amid this picturesque scene M. Bonpland was fortunate 
enough to find several specimens of Laurus cinnamomoides, 
a very aromatic species of cinnamon, known at the Orinoco 
by the names of varimacu and of canelilla* This valuable 
production is found also in the valley of the Eio Caura, as well 
as near Esmeralda, and eastward of the Great Cataracts. 
The Jesuit Francisco de Olmo appears to have been the 
first who discovered the canelilla, which he did in the 
country of the Piaroas, near the sources of the Cataniapo. 
The missionary Gili, who did not advance so far as the 
regions I am now describing, seems to confound the vari- 
macUy or ffuarimacUf with the myristica, or nutmeg-tree of 
America. These barks and aromatic fruits, the cinnamon, 
the nutmeg, the Myrtus pimenta, and the Laurus pucheri, 

* The diminutive of the Spanish word canela, which signifies cinnamon. 


would have become important objects of trade, if Europe, at 
the penod of the discovery of the New "World, haa not 
already been accustomed to the spices and aromatics of 
India. The cinnamon of the Orinoco, and that of the 
Andaquies missions, are, however, less aromatic than the 
cinnamon of Ceylon, and would still be so even if dried and 
prepared by similar processes. 

Every hemisphere produces plants of a different species ; 
and it is not by the diversity oi climates that we can attempt 
to explain why equinoctial Africa has no laurels, and the 
New W orld no heaths ; why calceolarise are found wild only 
in the southern hemisphere; why the birds of the East 
Indies glow with colours less splendid than those of the hot 
parts 01 America ; finally, why the tiger is peculiar to Asia, 
and the omithorynchus to Australia. In the vegetable as 
well as in the animal kingdom, the causes of the distribution 
of the species are among the mysteries which natural philo- 
sophy cannot solve. The attempts made to explain the dis- 
tribution of various species on the globe by the sole influence 
of climate, take their date from a period when physical geo- 
graphy was still in its infancy ; when, recurring incessantly 
to pretended contrasts between the two worlds, it was ima- 
gined that the whole of AMca and of America resembled the 
deserts of Egypt and the marshes of Cayenne. At present, 
when men judge of the state of things not from one type 
arbitrarily chosen, but from positive knowledge, it is ascer- 
tained that the two continents, in their immense extent, con- 
tain countries that are altogether analogous. There are 
regions of America as barren and burning as the interior of 
Africa. Those islands which produce the spices of India are 
scarcely remarkable for their dryness; and it is not on 
account of the humidity of the climate, as has been affirmed 
in recent works, that the New Continent is deprived of those 
fine species of laurini© and myristicsB, which are found united 
in one*ittle comer of the earth in the archipelago of India. 
For some years past cinnamon has been cultivated with 
success in several parts of the New Continent ; and a zone 
that produces the coumarouna, the vamlla, the pucheri, the 
pine-apple, the pimento, the balsam of tolu, the Myroxylon 
peruvianum, the croton, the dtroma, the pejoa, the incienso 


of the Silla of Caracas, the quereme, the pancratium, and 
BO many majestic liliaceous plants, cannot oe considered as 
destitute of aromatics. Besides, a dry air favours the deve- 
lopment of the aromatic or exciting properties, only in cer- 
tain species of plants. The most inveterate poisons are 
produced in the most humid zone of America ; and it is 
precisely imder the influence of the long rains of the tropics, 
that the American pimento, (Capsicum baccatum), the 
fruit of which is of often as caustic and fiery as In- 
dian pepper, vegetates best. From all these considerations 
it follows, 1st, that the 'New Continent possesses spices, 
aromatics, and very active vegetable poisons, peculiar to 
itself, and differing specifically from those of the Old "World ; 
2ndly, that the primitive distribution of species in the torrid 
zone cannot be explained by the influence of climate solely, 
or by the distribution of temperature, which we observe m 
the present state of our planet ; but that this difference of 
climates leads us to perceive why a given type of organization 
developes itself more vigorously in such or such local cir- 
cumstances. We can conceive that a small number of the 
families of plants, for instance the musaceae and the palms, 
cannot belong to very cold regions, on account oi their 
internal structure, and the importance of certain organs; 
but we cannot explain why no one of the family of the Me- 
lastomaceae vegetates north of the parallel of the thirtieth 
degree of latitude, or why no rose-tree belongs to the southern 
hemisphere. Analogy of climates is often found in the two 
continents, without identity of productions. 

The Eio Yichada, which has a small raudal at its conflu- 
ence with the Orinoco, appeared to me, next to the Meta 
and the Guaviare, to be the most considerable river coming 
from the west. During the last forty years no European 
has navigated the Vichada. I could learn nothing oi its 
sources ; they rise, I believe, with those of the Tomo, in the 
plains that extend to the south of Casimena. Fugitive In- 
dians of Santa Eosalia de Cabapuna, a viQage situate on the 
banks of the Meta, have arrived even recently, by the Eio 
Vichada, at the cataract of Maypures ; which sufficiently 
proves that the sources of this river are not very distant 
from the Meta. Father Gumilla has preserved the namets 


of several G-erman and Spanish Jesuits, who in 1734 fe^ 
victims to their zeal for religion, by the hands of the Caribs 
on the now desert banks of the Vichada. 

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

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

At the mouth of the Bio Zama we approach a class of 
rivers, that merits great attention. The Zama, the Mata- 
veni, the Atabapo, the Tuamini, the Tend, and the Guainia, 
are aguas negras, that is, their waters, seen in a large body, 

* The dawn : in French aube (alba, albenie cœh.) 


appear brown like coffee, or of a greenisli black. These 
waters, notwithstanding, are most beautiful, clear, and 
agreeable to the taste. I have observed above, that the 
crocodiles, and, if not the zancudos, at least the mos- 
quitos, generally shun the black waters. The people 
assert too, that these waters do not colour the rocks ; and 
that the white rivers have black borders, while the black 
rivers have white. In fact, the shores of the G-uainia, known 
to Europeans by the name of the Eio Negro, frequently 
exhibit masses of quartz issuing from granite, and of a 
dazzling whiteness. The waters of the Mataveni, when 
examined in a glass, are pretty white ; those of the Atabapo 
retain a slight tinge of yellowish-brown. When the least 
breath of wind agitates the surface of these * black rivers' 
they appear of a fine grass-green, like the lakes of Switzer- 
land. In the shade, the Zama, the Atabapo, and the 
G-uainia, are as dark as coffee-grounds. These phenomena 
are so striking, that the Indians everywhere distinguish the 
waters by the terms black and white. The former have 
often served me for an artificial horizon; they reflect the 
image of the stars with admirable clearness. 

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

Some celebrated naturalists, who have examined the purest 
waters of the glaciers, and those which flow from mountains 
covered with perpetual snow, where the earth is destitute of 
the relics of vegetation, have thought that the proper colour 
of water might be blue, or green. Nothing, in fact, proves, 
that water is by nature white; and we must always admit 
the presence of a colouring principle, when water viewed by 
reflection is coloured. In the rivers that contain a colouring 


principle, that principle is generally so little in quantity, that 
it eludes all chemical research. The tints of the ocean seem 
often to depend neither on the nature of the bottom, nor on 
the reflection of the sky on the clouds. Sir Humphrey Davy 
was of opinion that tne tints of different seas may very 
likely be owing to different proportions of iodine. 

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

"When the Indians are interrogated respecting the causes 
of these strange colorations, they answer, as questions iu 
natural philosophy or physiology are sometimes answered in 
Europe, oy repeating; the fact in other terms. If you address 
yourself to the missionaries, thev reply, as if they had the 
most convincing proofs of the fact, that " the waters are 
coloured by washing the roots of the sarsaparilla." The 
Smilaceœ no doubt abound on the banks of the Bio Negro, 
tlie Pacimony, and the Cababury ; their roots, macerated ia 

T 2 


the water, yield an extractive matter, that is brown, bitter, 
and mucilaginous ; but how many tufts of smilax have we 
seen in places, where the waters were entirely white. In 
the marsny forest which we traversed, to convey our canoe 
from the Kio Tuamini to the Cano Pimichin and the Eio 
Negro, why, in the same soil, did we ford alternately rivulets 
of black and white water? "Why did we find no river 
white near its springs, and black in the lower part of its 
course ? I know not whether the Rio Negro preserves its 
yellowish brown colour as far as its mouth, notwithstanding 
the great quantity of white water it receives from the Cassi- 
quiare and the Eio Blanco. 

Although, on account of the abundance of rain, vege- 
tation is more vigorous close to the equator than eight or 
ten degrees north or south, it cannot be affirmed, that the 
rivers with black waters rise principally in the most shady 
and thickest forests. On thé contrary, a great number of 
the agiLas negras come from the open savannahs that extend 
from the Meta beyond the Guaviare towards the Caqueta. 
In a journey which I made with Senor Montufar from the 
port of Guayaquil to theBodegas de Babaojo, at the period of 
the great inundations, I was struck by the analogy of colour 
displayed by the vast savannahs of the Invemadero del Garzal 
and of the Laga/rtero, as well as by the Rio Negro and the 
Atabapo. These savannahs, partly inundated during three 
months, are composed of paspalum, eriochloa, and several 
species of cyperaceae. We sailed on waters that were fit)m 
four to five leet deep^ their temperature was by day from 
33° 34° of the centigrade thermometer; they exhaled a 
strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, to which no doubt 
some rotten plants of arum and heliconia, that swam on the 
surface of the pools, contributed. The waters of the Lagartero 
were of a golden yeUow by transmitted, and cofiee-brown by 
reflected light. They are no doubt coloured by a carburet 
of hydrogen. An analogous phenomenon is observed in the 
dunghill-waters prepared by our gardeners, and in the 
waters that issue from bogs. May we not also admit, that 
it is a mixture of carbon and hydrogen, an extractive vege- 
table matter, that colours the black rivers, the Atabapo, the 
Zama, the Mataveni, and the Guainia? The frequency of 
of the equatorial rains cootributes no doubt to this colora- 


tion by fJtration through a thick mass of grasses. I suggest 
these ideas only in the form of a doubt. The colouring 
principle seems to be in little abundance ; for I observed 
that the waters of the Guaina or Bio Negro, when subjected 
to ebullition, do not become brown Hke other fluids charged 
with carburets of hydrogen. 

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

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

On the 24th a violent rain obliged us early to return to our 
boat. We departed at two o'clock, after having lost some 
books, which we could n,ot find in the darkness of the night, 
on the rock of Aricagua. The river runs straight from 
south to north ; its banks are low, and shaded on both sides 



by thick forests. We passed tlie mouths of the XJcata, the 
Arapa, and the Caranaveni. About four in the afternoon 
we landed at the Conucos de Siquita, the Indian plantations 
of the mission of San Fernando. The good people wished 
to detain us among them, but we continued to go up against 
the current, which ran at the rate of five feet a second, 
according to a measurement I made by observing the time 
that a floating body took to go down a given distance. We 
entered the mouth of the Guaviare on a dark night, passed 
the point where the Eio Atabapo joins the Guaviare, and 
arrived at the mission after midnight. We were lodged as 
usual at the Convent, that is, in the house of the missionary, 
who, though much surprised at our unexpected visit, never- 
theless received us with the kindest hospitality. 


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


Eastern Esquimaux 

Western Esquimaux 


Ajut, kaumat, saka- 

Tschingugak, mad- 



Anningat, kaumei, 

Igaluk, tangeik 

















Aztec or Mexican 










Zuhè (sua) 





Caribbee and Tamanac 

Veïou (hueiou) 

Nouno (nonnm) 



















Tupi (Brasil) 



Peruvian (Quichua) 



Araucan (Chili) 







Nara (naran) 

Sara (saran) 







Ossete (of Caucasus) 













Surya, aryama, 


Tschandra, tschan- 

aditya, arka, 


drama, soma^ mas» 


Chor, chorschid, 






Schemschia, zabzoba, 








Aramean or Chaldean 













The American words are written according to the Spanish orthograph]^ . 
I would not change the orthography of the Nootka word onulsztht taken 
from Cook's Voyages, to show how much Volney's idea of introducing 
an uniform notation of sounds is worthy of attention, if not applied to 
the languages of the East written without TOwelB. In onuUzth there are 
four signs for one single consonant. We have already seen that Ame- 
rican nations, speaking languages of a very different structure, call the 
sun by the same name ; that the moon is sometimes called ale^ng «tm, 
8un of nighty light of night : and that sometimes the two orbs have the 
same denomination. These examples are taken from the Guarany, the 
Omagua, Shawanese, Miami, Maco, and Ojibbeway idioms. Thus in the 
Old World, the sun and moon are denoted in Arabic by niryn, tHe 
luminaries;' thus, in Persian, the most common words, afitab and 
chorschidf are compounds. By the migration of tribes from Asia to 
America, and from America to Asia, a certain number of roots have 
passed from one language into others ; and these roots have been trans- 
ported, like the fragments of a shipwreck, far from the coast, into the 
islands. (/S^n, in New England, kone; in Tschagatai, koun; in Yakout, 
kpuini. Siar^ in Huastec, otg in Mongol, addon: in Aztec, citlalt citl; 
in Persian, aitareh. House, in Aztec, colli ; in Wogoul, kualla or kolla. 
Water, in Aztec, atel (itels, a river, in Vilela) ; in Mongol, Tscheremiss, 
and Tschouvass, atl, atelch, etel, or idel. Stone, in Caribbee, tebou ; in 
the Lesgian of Caucasus, teb; in Aztec, tepetl; in Turkish, tepe. Food, 
in Quichua, micunwin: in Malay, macannon. Boat, in Haytian, canoa ; 
in Ayno, cahani; in Greenlandish, kayak; in Turkish, kayih ; in 
Samoyiede, hayouk ; in the Germanic tongues, kahn.) But we must 
distinguish from these foreign elements what belongs fundamentally 
to the American idioms themselves. Such is the effect of time, and 
communication among nations, that the mixture with an heterogenous 
language has not only an influence upon roots, but most frequently ends 
by modifying and denaturalizing grammatical forms. " When a language 
resists a regular analysis," observes William von Humboldt, in his con- 
siderations on the Mexican, Cora, Totonac, and Tarahumar tongues, " we 
may suspect some mixture, some foreign influence ; for the faculties of 
man, which are, as we may say, reflected in the structure of languages, 
and in their grammatical formsi act constantly in a regular and uniform 


Chaptee XXII. 

San Fernando de Atabapo. — San Balthasar. — The rivers Temi and 
Tuamini. — Javita. — Portage from the Tuamini to the Rio Negro. 

Dt7bin& the night, we had left, abnost unperceived, the 
waters of the Orinoco ; and at sunrise found ourselves as if 
transported to a new country, on the banks of a river the 
name of which we had scarcely ever heard pronounced, and 
which was to conduct us, by the portage of Pimichin, to the 
Bio Negro, on the frontiers of Brazil. " You will go up," 
said the president of the missions, who resides at San 
Pemando, " first the Atabapo, then the Tend, and finally, 
the Tuamini. When the force of the current of * black* 
waters ' hiaders you from advancing, you will be conducted 
out of the bed of the river through forests, which you will 
find inundated. Two monks only are settled in those desert 
places, between the Orinoco and the Eio Negro; but at 
Javita vou will be furnished with the means of having your 
canoe drawn over land in the course of four days to Cano 
Pimichin. If it be not broken to pieces you wiH descend 
the Eio .Negro without any obstacle (from north-west to 
south-east) as far as the little fort of San Carlos ; you will 
go up the Cassiquiare (from south to north), and then 
return to San Fernando in a month, descending the Upper 
Orinoco from east to west." Such was the plan traced for 
our passage, and we carried it into efiect without danger, 
though not without some suffering, in the space of thirty- 
three days. The Orinoco runs from its source, or at least 
from Esmeralda, as far as San Fernando de Atabapo, from 
east to west ; from San Fernando, (where the junction of 
the Guaviare and the Atabapo takes place,) as far as the 
mouth of the Eio Apure, it flows from south to north, 
forming the Great Cataracts ; and from the mouth of the 
Apure as far as Angostura and the coast of the Atlantic its 
direction is from west to east. In the first part of its 
course, where the river flows from east to west, it forms that 
celebrated bifurcation so often disputed by geographers, of 
which I was the first enabled to determine the situation by 


astronomical observations. One arm of the Orinoco, (the 
Cassiquiare,) ninning from north to south, falls into the 
Guainia, or E-io Negro, which, in its turn, joins the Maranon, 
or river Amazon. The most natural way, therefore, to go 
fipom Angostura to Grand Para, would be to ascend the 
Orinoco as far as Esmeralda, and then to go down the 
Cassiquiare, the Eio Negro, and the Amazon; but, as the 
Eio Negro in the upper part of its course approaches very 
near the sources of some rivers that fall into the Orinoco 
near San Fernando de Atabapo (where the Orinoco abruptly 
changes its direction from east to west to take that from 
south to north), the passage up that part of the river between 
San Fernando and Esmeralda, in order to reach the Eao 
Negro, may be avoided. Leaving the Orinoco near the 
mission of San Fernando, the traveller proceeds up the littie 
black rivers (the Atabapo, the Temi, and the Tuamini), and 
the boats are carried across an isthmus six thousand toisea 
broad, to the banks of a stream (the Cafto Pimichin) which 
flows into the Bio Negro. This was the course which we 

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

San Fernando de Atabapo stands near the confluence of 
three great rivers; the Orinoco, the Guaviare, and the 
Atabapo. Its situation is similar to that of Saint Louis or of 
New Madrid, at the junction of the Mississippi with the 
Missouri and the Ohio. In proportion as the a<;tivity of 
commerce increases in these countries traversed by immense 
rivers, the towns situated at their confluence will necessarily 
become bustling ports, depots of merchandise, and centre 
pointa of civilization. Father Gumilla confesses, that in 


his time no person liad any knowledge of the course of the 
Orinoco above the mouth of the Gnaviarc. 

D'Anville, in the first edition of his great mnp of South 
America^ laid down the Bio Nccto as an arm of the* Orinoco, 
that branched off from the principal body of the river betwi^on 
the mouths of the Meta and the Yichada, near the ciitoract 
of Atures. That great geographer was entirely ignorant of 
the existence of the Cassiquiare and the Atabapo; and he 
makes the Orinoco or Bio Faragua, the Japura, and the 
Potumajo^ take their rise from three branchings of the 
Caqneta. The expedition of the boimdarics, commanded 
by Iturriaffa and Solano, corrected these errors. Solano, 
who was the geographical engineer of this expedition, ad- 
vanced in 1766 as far as the mouth of the Gruaviarc, afler 
having passed the Ghreat Cataracts. He found that, to 
continue to go up the Orinoco, he must direct his course 
towards the east ; and that the river received, at the point 
of its great inflection, in latitude 4° 4', the waters of 
the Gkiaviare, which two miles higher had received those of 
the Atabapo. Interested in approaching the Portuguese 
possessions as near as possible, Solano resolved to proceed 
onward to the south. At the confluence of the Atabapo 
and the Guaviore he foimd an Indian settlement of tne 
warlike nation of the Ouaypunaves. lie gained their 
&vonr by presents, and with tneir aid founded the mission of 
San Fernando, to which he g&ve the appellation of villa, or 

To make known the political importance of this Mission, 
we must recollect what was at that period ^the balance of 
power between the petty Indian tribes of Q-uiana. The 
banks of the Lower Ormoco had been long ensanguined 
by the obstinate struggle between two powerful nations, 
the Cabres and the Caribs. The latter, whose principal 
abode since the close of the seventeenth century has been 
between the sources of the Carony, the Essequibo, the 
Orinoco, and the Bio Parima, once not only held sway as 
&r as the Great Cataracts, but made incursions also into 
the Upper Orinoco, employing portages between the Pa- 
ruspa* and the Caura, the Erevato and the Ventuari, the 

* The Rio Paruspa falls into the Rio Paragna, and the latter into the 
Rio Carony^ which is one of the tributary streams of the Lower Orinoco. 


Conorichite and the Atacavi. None knew better than the 
Caribs the intertwinings of the rivers, the proximity of 
the tributary streams, and the roads by which distances 
might be diminished. The Caribs had vanquished and 
almost exterminated the Cabres. Having made them- 
selves masters of the Lower Orinoco, they met with re- 
sistance fipom the Guaypunaves, who had founded their 
dominion on the Upper Orinoco ; and who, together with 
the Cabres, the Manitivitanos, and the Parents, are the 
greatest cannibals of these countries. They originally inha- 
bited the banks of the great river Inirida, at its confluence 
with the Chamochiquini, and the hilly country of Mabicore. 
About the year 1744, their chief, or as the natives call him, 
their king (apoto), was named Macapu. He was a man no 
less distinguished hj his intelligence than his valour ; had 
led a part of the nation to the banks of the Atabapo ; and 
when the Jesuit Eoman made his memorable expedition 
from the Orinoco to the Eio Negro, Macapu suffered that 
missionary to take with him some families of the Guay- 
punaves to settle them at TJruana, and near the cataract 
of Maypures. This people are connected by their language 
with the great branch of the Maypure nations. They are 
more industrious, we might also say more civilized, than the 
other nations of the Upper Orinoco. The missionaries 
relate, that the Guaypunaves, at the time of their sway 
in those countries, were generally clothed, and had con- 
siderable villages. After the death of Macapu, the com- 
mand devolved on another warrior, Cuseru, called by the 
Spaniards El capitan Cusero. He established lines of de- 
fence on the banks of the Inirida, with a kind of little fort, 
constructed of earth and timber. The piles were more than 
sixteen feet high, and surrounded both the house of the 
apoto and a magazine of bows and arrows. These structures, 

There is also an ancient portage of the Caribs between the Paruspa and 
the Rio Chavaro, which flows into the Rio Caura above the mouth of the 
Erevato. In going up the Erevato you reach the savannahs that are 
traversed by the Rio Manipiare above the tributary streams of the 
Yentuari. The Caribs in their distant excursions sometimes passed from 
the Rio Caura to the Yentuari, thence to the Padamo, and then by the 
Upper Orinoco to the Atacavi, which, westward of Maniiteso, takes the 
name of the Atabapo. 

THE CHIEF coctnr. 338 

remarkable in a country in other respects so wild, have 
been described by Father Fomeri. 

The Marepizanas and the Manitivitanos were the pre- 
ponderant nations on the banks of the Eio Negro. The 
lormer had for its chiefs, about the year 1760, two warriors 
called Imu and Cajamu. The king of the Manitivitanos 
was Cocuy, famous for his cruelty. The chiefs of the 
Q-uaypunaves and the Manitivitanos fought with small 
bodies of two or three hundred men; but in their pro- 
tracted struggles they destroyed the missions, in some of 
which the poor monks had only fifteen or twenty Spanish 
soldiers at their disposal. When the expedition of Itur- 
riaga and Solano arrived at the Orinoco, the missions had 
no longer to fear the incursions of the Caribs. Cuseru, 
the chief of the Guaypunaves, had fixed his dwelling behind 
the granitic mountains of Sipapo. He was the mend of 
the Jesuits ; but other nations of the Upper Orinoco and 
the Rio Negro, led by Imu, Cajamu, and Cocuy, penetrated 
from time to time to the north of the Great Cataracts > 
They had other motives for fighting than that of hatred ; 
they hwnted men, as was formerly the custom of the Caribs, 
and is still the practice in Amca. Sometimes they fur- 
nished slaves (poitos) to the Dutch (in their language, 
Paranaquiri — inhabitants of the sea) ; sometimes they sold 
them to the Portuguese (laranavi — sons of musicians).* 
In America, as in Afinca, the cupidity of the Europeans 
has produced the same evils, by exciting the natives to 
make war, in order to procure slaves. Everywhere the 
contact of nations, widely different from each other in the 
scale of civilization, leads to the abuse of physical strength, 
and of intellectual preponderance. The Phœnicians and 
Carthaginians formerly sought slaves in Europe. Europe 
now presses in her turn both on the countries whence she 
gathered the first germs of science, and on those where she 
now almost involuntarily spreads them by carrying thither 
the produce of her industry. 

I have faithfully recorded what I could collect on tho 

* The savage tribes designate every commercial nation of Europe by 
surnames, the origin of which appears altogether accidental. Tho 
Spaniards were called * clothed men,' Pongheme or Uavemi, by way of 


the expedition for settling the boundaries. The Indians a* 
a little more civilized here than in the rest of the missions . 
and we found to our surprise a blacksmith of the native race. 
In the mission of San Fernando, a tree which gives a pecu- 
liar physiognomy to the landscape, is the piritu or pirijao 
Ealm. Its trunk, armed with thorns, is more than sixty feet 
igh ; its leaves are pinnated, very thin, undulated, and 
fiizzled towards the points. The fruits of this tree are very 
extraordinary; every cluster contains from fifty to eighty; 
they are yellow like apples, grow purple in proportion as they 
ripen, two or three inches thick, and generally, from abor- 
tion, without a kernel. Among the eighty or ninety species 
of palm-trees peculiar to the New Continent, which I 
have enumerated in the * Nova Genera Plantarum jEqui- 
noctialium,' there are none in which the sarcocarp is developed 
in a maimer so extraordinary. The fruit of the tmyao 
furnishes a fariuaceous substance, as yellow as the yolk oi an 
egg, slightly saccharine, and extremely nutritious. It is 
eaten like plantains or potatoes, boiled or roasted in the 
ashes, and affords a wholesome and agreeable aliment. The 
Indians and the missionaries are unwearied in their praises 
of this noble palm-tree, which might be called the peach' 
pahn. We found it cultivated in abundance at San Fer- 
nando, San Balthasar, Santa Barbara, and wherever we 
advanced towards the south or the east along the banks of 
the Atabapo and the Upper Orinoco. In those wild regions 
we are involuntarily reminded of the assertion of LinnsBUs, 
that the country of palm-trees was the first abode of our 
species, and that man is essentially palmivorous.* On 
examining the provision accumulated in the huts of the 
Indians, we perceive that their subsistence during several 
months of the year depends as much on the farinaceous fiiiit 
of the pirijaOf as on the cassava and plantain. The tree bears 
fruit but once a year, but to the amount of three clusters^ 
consequently from one hundred and fifty to two hundred 

* Homo habitat intra tropicos, vescitur palmis, lotophag^os; hospitatvr 
extra tropicos sub novercante Cerere, carnivorus. — ** Man dwells natu- 
rally mthin the tropics, and lives on the fruits of the palm-tree ; he 
exists in other parts of the world, and there makes shift to feed on com 
and flesh." {Si/st, Nat*, vol. i, p. 24.) 


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

Erised that the missionaries of the Orinoco and the Atabapo 
ttle suspect how near they live to the missionaries of 
Mocoa, Rio Fragua, and Caguan. In these desert countries, 
the real distances can be known only by observations of 
the longitude. It was in consequence of astronomical 
data, and the infoi^nation I gathered in the convents of 
Popayan and of Paste, to the west of the Cordillera of 
the Andes, that I formed an accurate idea of the respective 

VOL. II. z 


ftToid embroiling farther a nomendatiire of riTers so artn- 
trarily fixed, I will not propose new denominations. I shall 
continue, with Father Canlin and the Spanish geographera, 
to call the river Esmeralda the Orinoco, or Upper Ormoco ; 
but I must observe that if the Orinoco, from San Fernando 
de Atabapo as far as the delta which it forms opposite the 
island of Trinidad, were regarded as the continuance of 
the Rio Guaviare ; and if that part of the Upper Orinoco 
between the Esmeralda and the mission of San Fernando 
were considered a tributary stream; the Orinoco would 
preserve, from the savannahs of San Juan de los Llanos 
and the eastern declivity of the Andes to its mouth, a more 
uniform and natural direction, that from south-west to 

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

Acesines. The Satlq or Hysudrns forms, together with the Beyah or 
Hyphases, the river Gurr? ^re the beautiful regions of the 

Punjab and Douab, cdr ^e time of Alexander to the 

present day. 


reâex verdure seems to have the same vivid hue as that 
which clothes the real vegetation. The surface of the fluid 
is homogeneous, smooth, and destitute of that mixture of 
suspended sand and decomposed organic matter, which 
roughens and streaks the surface of less limpid rivers. 

On quitting the Orinoco, several small rapids must be 
passed, but without any appearance of danger. Amid these 
ratidalitos, according to the opinion of the missionaries, the 
Rio Atabapo falls into the Orinoco. I am however disposed 
to think that the Atabapo falls into the Guaviare. The Eio 
Gruaviare, which is much wider than the Atabapo, has white 
waters, and in the aspect of its banks, its fishmg-birds, its 
fish, and the great crocodiles which live in it, resembles the 
Orinoco much more than that part of the Atabapo which 
comes from the Esmeralda. When a river springs from the 
junction of two other rivers, nearly alike in size, it is difficult 
to judge which of the two confluent streams must be re- 
garded as its source. The Indians of San Fernando affirm 
that the Orinoco rises from two rivers, the G-uaviare and 
the Rio Paragua. They give this latter name to the Upper 
Orinoco, from San Fernando and Santa Barbara to beyond 
the Esmeralda, and they say that the Cassiquiare is not an 
arm of the Orinoco, but of the Rio Paragua. It matters but 
little whether or not the name of Orinoco be given to the 
Rio Paragua, provided we trace the course of these rivers 
as it is in nature, and do not separate by a chain of moun- 
tains, (as was done previously to my travels,) rivers that 
communicate together, and form one system. When we 
would give the name of a large river to one of the two 
branches by which it is formed, it should be applied to that 
branch wluch furnishes most water. Now, at the two 
seasons of the year when I saw the Guaviare and the Upper 
Orinoco or Rio Paragua (between the Esmeralda and San 
Fernando), it appeared to me that the latter was not 
so large as the Guaviare. Similar doubts have been 
entertained by geographers respecting the junction of the 
Upper Mississippi with the Missouri and the Ohio, the 
junction of the Maranon with the Guallaga and the Uca- 
yale, and the junction of the Indus with the Chunab 
(Hydaspes of (Cashmere) and the G-urra, or Sutlej.* To 

^- The Hydaspes is properly a tributary stream of the Chunab oi 

z 2 



or ten feet high ; they are concealed by a row of palms, and 
small trees with slenaer trunks, the roots of which are bathed 
by the waters. There are many crocodiles from the point 
where you quit the Orinoco to the mission of San Fernando, 
and their presence indicates that this part of the river be- 
longs to the Eio Guaviare and not to the Atabapo. In the 
real bed of the latter river, above the mission of San 
Fernando, there are no crocodiles: we find there some 
havas, a great many fresh-water dolphins, but no manatis. 
We also seek in vain on these banks for the thick- 
nosed tapir, the araguato, or great howling monkey, the 
zamuro, or Vultur aura, and the crested pheasant, known by 
the name of gtiacharaca. Enormous water-snakes, in shape 
resembling the boa, are unfortunately very common, and are 
dangerous to Indians who bathe. "We saw them almost 
from the first day we embarked, swimming by the side of 
our canoe ; they were at most twelve or fourteen feet long. 
The jaguars of the banks of the Atabapo and the Temi are 
large and well fed ; they are said, however, to be less daring 
than the jaguars of the Orinoco. 

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


dred leagues, while from the Atabapo to the mouth of the 
Orinoco is more than three hundred and twenty. 

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

On the 28th of April, it rained hard after sunset, and we 
were afraid that our collections would be damaged. The 
poor missionary had his fit of tertian fever, and besought 
us to re-embark immediately after midnight. "We passed at 
day-break the Fied/ra and the Baudalitos* of Quarinuma. 
The rock is on the east bank ; it is a shelf of granite, 
covered with psora, cladonia, and other lichens. I could have 
fancied myself transported to the north of Europe, to the 
ridge of the mountams of gneiss and granite between Prei- 
berg and Marienberg in Saxony. The cladonias appeared to 
me to be identical with the Lichen rangiferinus, the L. pixi- 
dutus, and the L. polymorphus of Linnaeus. After having 
passed the rapids of Guarinuma, the Lidians showed us in 
the middle of the forest, on our right, the ruins of the mis- 
sion of Mendaxari, which has been long abandoned. On the 
east bank of the river, near the little rock of Kemarumo, iu 
the midst of Lidian plantations, a gigantic bombaxf attracted 
our curiosity. We landed to measure it ; the height was 
nearly one hundred and twenty feet, and the diameter 
between fourteen and fifteen. This enormous specimen of 

* The rock aod little cascades. f Bombax ceiba. 


vegetation surprised us the more, as we had till then seen 
on the banks of the Atabapo only small trees with slender 
trunks, which from afar resembled young cherry-trees. The 
Indians assured that these small trees do not form a very 
extensive group. They are checked in their growth by the 
inundations of the river ; while the dry grounds near the 
Atabapo, the Temi, and the Tuamini, mmish excellent 
timber for building. These forests do not stretch indefi- 
nitely to the east and west, toward the Cassiquiare and the 
Guaviare ; they are bounded by the open savannahs of Ma- 
nuteso, and the Eio Inirida. We found it difficult in the 
evening to stem the current, and we passed the night in a 
wood a little above Mendaxari ; which is another &;ranitic rock 
traversed by a stratum of quartz. "We found ui it a group 
of fine crystals of black schorl. 

On the 29th, the air was cooler. "We had no zancudos, 
but the sky was constantly clouded, and without stars. I began 
to regret the Lower Orinoco. "We still advanced but slowly 
from the force of the current, and we stopped a great part 
of the day to seek for plants. It was night when we arrived 
at the mission of San Balthasar, or, as the monks style it, 
the mission of la divina J^astora de Balthasar de Atabapo. 
We were lodged with a Catalonian missionary, a lively and 
agreeable man, who displayed in these wild countries the 
activity that characterises his nation. He had planted a 
garden, where the fig-tree of Europe was found in company 
with the persea, and the lemon-tree with the mammee. The 
village was built with that regularity which, in the north of 
Germany, and in protestant America, we find in the hamlets 
of the Moravian brethren ; and the Indian plantations seemed 
better cultivated than elsewhere. Here we saw for the first 
time that white and fungous substance which I have made 
known by the name of dapicho and zapis,* We immediately 
perceived that it was analogous to india-rubber ; but, as the 
Indians made us understand by signs, that it was found 
underground, we were inclined to think, till we arrived at 
the mission of Javita, that the dapicho was a fossil caout- 
chouc, though different from the elastic bitumen of Derby- 
shire. A Poimisano Indian, seated by the fire in the hut of 

* These two words belong to the Poimisano and Paragini tongues. 


the missionary, was employed in reducing the dapicho into 
black caoutchouc. He nad spitted several bits on a slender 
stick, and was roasting them like meat. The dapicho black- 
ens in proportion as it grows soft, and becomes elastic. 
The resinous and aromatic smell which filled the hut, seemed 
to indicate that this coloration is the effect of the decom- 
position of a carburet of hydrogen, and that the carbon 
^pears in proportion as the hydrogen burns at a low heat. 
The Indian beat the softened and blackened mass with a 
piece of brazil-wood, formed at one end like a club ; he then 
Kneaded the dapicho into balls of three or four inches in 
diameter, and let it cool. These balls exactly resemble the 
caoutchouc of the shops, but their surface remains in general 
slightly viscous. They are used at San Balthasar in the 
Indian game of tennis, which is celebrated among the inha- 
bitants of TJruana and Encaramada ; they are also cut into 
cylinders, to be used as corks, and are fer preferable to 
those made of the bark of the cork-tree. 

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

The night of the 30th of April was sufficiently fine for 
observing the meridian heights of x of the Southern Cross, 


and the two large stars in the feet of the Centuar. I found 
the latitude of San Balthasar 3° 14' 23". Horary angles of 
the sun gave 70° 14' 21" for the longitude by the chrono- 
meter. The dip of the magnetic needle was 27*8° (cent, 
div.) "We left the mission at a late hour in the morning, 
and continued to go up the Atabapo for five miles ; then, 
instead of following that river to its source in the east, 
where it bears the name of Atacavi, we entered the Eio 
Temi. Before we reached its confluence, a granitic eminence 
on the western bank, near the mouth of the Guasacavi, fixed 
our attention : it is called JPiedra de la Ghiahiba, (Rock ot 
the Gruahiba woman), or the Fiedra de la Madre (Mother's 
Bock.) "We inquired the cause of so singular a denomina- 
tion. Father Zea could not satisfy our curiosity ; but some 
weeks after, another missionary, one of the predecessors of 
that ecclesiastic, whom we found settled at San Fernando as 
president of the missions, related to us an event which 
excited in our minds the most painful feelings. If, in these 
solitary scenes, man scarcely leaves behind him any trace of 
his existence, it is doubly humiliating for a European to see 
perpetuated by so imperishable a monument of nature as a 
rock, the remembrance of the moral degradation of our 
species, and the contrast between the virtue of a savage, and 
the barbarism of civilized man ! 

In 1797 the missionary of San Fernando had led his 
Indians to the banks of the Eio Q-uaviare, on one of those 
hostile incursions which are prohibited alike by religion 
and the Spanish laws. They found in an Indian hut a 
Guahiba women with her three children (two of whom were 
still infants), occupied in preparing the flour of cassava. 
Resistance was impossible ; the father was gone to fish, and 
the mother tried in vain to flee with her children. Scarcely 
had she reached the savannah when she was seized by the 
Indians of the mission, who liunt human beings, like the 
"Whites and the Negroes in Africa. The mother and her chil- 
dren were bound, and dragged to the bank of the river. The 
monk, seated in his boat, waited the issue of an expedition 
of which he shared not the danger. Had the mother 
made too violent a resistance the Indians would have kiUed 
her, for everything is permitted for the sake of the conquest 
of souls (la conquista espirituel), and it is particularly 


desirable to capture children, who may be treated in the 
mission as poitos, or slaves of the Christians. The prisoners 
were carried to San Fernando, in the hope that the mother 
would be unable to find her way back to her home by land. 
Separated from her other children who had accompanied their 
father on the day in which she had been carried off, the 
unhappy woman showed signs of the deepest despair. She 
attempted to take back to her home the chilHren who had 
been seized by the missionary; and she fled with them 
repeatedly from the viUage of San Fernando. But the 
Indians never failed to recapture her ; and the missionary, 
after having caused her to be mercilessly beaten, took the 
cruel resolution of separating the mother from the two 
children who had been carried off with her. She was con- 
veyed alone to the missions of the E/io Negro, going up 
the Atabapo. Slightly hound, she was seated at the bow 
of the boat, ignorant of the fate that awaited her ; but she 
judged by the direction of the sun, that she was removing 
farther and farther from her hut and her native country. 
She succeeded in breaking her bonds, threw herself into 
the water, and swam to the left bank of the Atabapo. The 
current carried her to a shelf of rock, which bears her 
name to this day. She landed and took shelter in the 
woods, but the president of the missions ordered the 
Indians to row to the shore, and follow the traces of the 
Q-uahiba. In the evening she was brought back. Stretched 
upon the rock (la Fiedra de la Mad/re) a cruel punishment 
was inflicted où her with those straps of manati leather, 
which serve for whips in that country, and with which tlie 
alcaldes are always furnished. This unhappy woman, her 
hands tied behina her back with strong stalts of rnavacure, 
was then dragged to the mission of Javita. 

She was there thrown into one of the caravanserais, 
called las Casçs del Bey, It was the rainy season, and the 
night was profoundly dark. Forests till then believed to 
be impenetrable separated the mission of Javita from that 
of San Fernando, which was twenty-five leagues distant in 
a straight line. No other route is known than that by the 
rivers; no man ever attempted to go by land from one 
village to another. But such difficidties could not deter 
a mother, separated from her children. The Quahiba was 


carelessly guarded in the caravanserai. Her arms being 
wounded, the Indians of Javita had loosened her bonds, 
unknown to the missionary and the alcaldes. Having suc- 
ceeded by the help of her teeth in breaking them entirely, 
she disappeared during the night ; and at the fourth sunrise 
was seen at the mission of San Fernando, hovering around 
the hut where her children were confined. " What that 
woman performed," added the missionary, who gave us 
this sad narrative, "the most robust Indian would not 
have ventured to undertake !" She traversed the woods at 
a season when the sky is constantly covered with clouds, 
and the sun during whole days appears but for a few 
minutes. Did the course of the waters direct her way? 
The inundations of the rivers forced her to so far from the 
banks of the main stream, through the midst of woods 
where the movement of the water is almost imperceptible. 
How often must she have been stopped by the thorny 
lianas, that form a network around the trunks they en- 
twine ! How often must she have swum across the rivulets 
that run into the Atabapo ! This unfortunate woman was 
asked how she had sustained herself during four days. She 
said that, exhausted with fatigue, she could find no other 
nourishment than those great black ants called vctchacos, 
which climb the trees in long bands, to suspend on them 
their resinous nests. We pressed the missfonaxy to teU 
us whether the Quahiba had peacefully enjoyed the hap- 
pLuess of remaining with her children ; and if any repen- 
tance had followed this excess of cruelty. He would not 
satisfy our curiosity; but at our return from the Bio 
Negro we learned that the Indian mother was again sepa- 
rated from her children, and sent to one of the missions of 
the Upper Orinoco. There she died, refusing all kind of 
nourishment, as savages frequently do in great calamities. 

Such is the remembrance annexed to this fatal rock, the 
Piedra de la Mad/re, In this relation of my travels I feel 
no desire to dwell on pictures of individual suffering — 
evils which are frequent wherever there are masters and 
slaves, civilized Europeans living with people in a state of 
barbarism, and priests exercising the plenitude of arbitrary 
power over men ignorant and without defence. In describing 
the countries through which I passed, I generally confine 


myself to pointing out what is imperfect, or fatal to huma- 
nity, in their civil or religious institutions. If I ha**e dwelt 
longer on the Bock of the Gttahiha, it was to record an 
affecting instance of maternal tenderness in a race of people 
so long calumniated ; and because I thought some benefit 
might accrue from publishing a fact, which I had from the 
monks of San Francisco, and which proves how much the 
system of the missions calls for the care of the legislator. 
. Above the mouth of the G-uasucavi we entered the Eio 
Temi, the course of which is from south to north. Had 
we continued to ascend the Atabapo, we should have turned 
to east-south-east, going farther from the banks of the 
Guainia or Eio Negro. The Temi is only eighty or ninety 
toises broad, but in any other country than Guiana it would 
be a considerable river. The country exhibits the uniform 
aspect of forests covering ground perfectly flat. The fine 
piri)ao palm, with its fruit like peaches, and a new species 
of bœke, or mauritia, its trunk bristled with thorns, rise 
amid smaller trees, the vegetation of which appears to be 
retarded by the continuance of the inundations. The 
Mauritia aculeata is called by the Indians ^wnVi or cauvaja; 
its leaves are in the form of a fan, and they bend towards 
the ground. At the centre of every leaf, no doubt from 
the effect of some disease of the parenchyma, concentric 
circles of alternate blue and yellow appear, the yellow pre- 
vailing towards the middle. "We were singularly struck by 
this appearance; the leaves, coloured like the peacock's 
tail, are supported by short and very thick trunks. The 
thorns are not slender and long like those of the corozo 
and other thorny palm-trees; but on the contrary, very 
woody, short, and broad at the base, like the thorns of the 
Hura crepitans. On the banks of the Atabapo and the 
Temi, this palm-tree is distributed in croups oi twelve or 
fifteen stems, close together, and lookmg as if they rose 
from the same root. These trees resemble in their appear^ 
ance, form, and scarcity of leaves, the fan-palms ard pal- 
mettos of the Old World. "We remarked that some plants 
of the juria were entirely destitute of fruit, and others 
exhibited a considerable quantity ; this circumstance seems 
to indicî^te a palm-tree of separate sexes. 
"Wherever the Rio Temi forms coves, the forest is inun- 


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

At five in the evening we regained with some difficulty 

* Those dolphins that enter the mouth of the Nile, did not escape the 
observation of the ancients. In a bust in syenite, preserved in the 
museum at Paris, the sculptor has represented them half concealed in Vm 
undulatory beard of the god of the river. 


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

On the 1st of May the Indians chose to depart long 
before sunrise. We were stirring before them, however, 
because I waited (though vainly) for a star ready to pass 
the meridian. In those humid regions covered with forests, 
the nights became more obscure in proportion as we drew 
nearer to the Eio Negro and the interior of Brazil. We 
remained in the bed of the river till daybreak, being afraid 
of losing ourselves among the trees. At sunrise we again 
entered the inundated forest, to avoid the force of the 
current. On reaching the junction of the Temi with an- 
other little river, the Tuamini, the waters of which are 
equally black, we proceeded along the latter to the south- 
west. This direction led us near the mission of Javita, 
which is founded on the banks of the Tuamini; and at 
this christian settlement we were to find the aid necessary 
for transporting our canoe by land to the Eio Negro. We 
did not arrive at San Antonio de Javita till near eleven in 
the morning. An accident, ununportant in itself, but 
which shows the excessive timidity of the little sagoins, 


detained us some time afc the mouth of the Tuamini. The 
noise of the blowers had frightened our monkeys, and one 
of them fell into the water. Animals of this species, per- 
haps on account of their extreme meagreness, swim badly ; 
and consequently it was saved with some difficulty. 

At Javita we had the pleasure of finding averyinteHiçent 
and obliging monk, at whose mission we were forcea to 
remain four or five days, the time required for transporting 
our boat across the portage of Pimichin. This delay enabled 
us to visit the surrounding country, as also to relieve our- 
selves from an annoyance which we had suffered for two 
days. We felt an extraordinary irritation on the joints of 
our fingers, and on the backs of our hands. The missionary 
told us it was caused by the arctdores* which get under the 
skin. We could distinguish with a lens nothing but streaks, 
or parallel and whitish furrows. It is the form of these 
furrows, that has obtained for the insect the name of * plough- 
man.' A mulatto woman was sent for, who professed to be 
thoroughly acquainted with all the little insects that burrow 
in the human skin ; the chego, the nucke, the cova, and the 
arador ; she was the cv/randera, or surgeon of the place. 
She promised to extirpate, one by one, the insects which 
caused this smarting irritation, Having heated at a lamp 
the point a little bit of hard wood, she dug with it into 
the furrows that marked the skin. After long ezaminar 
tion, she announced with the pedantic gravity peculiar to the 
mulatto race, that an arador was found. I saw a little 
round bag, which I suspected to be the egg of an acarus. I 
was to find relief when the mulatto woman had succeeded in 
taking out three or four of these aradores. Having the skin 
of both hands filled with acari, I had not the patience to wait 
the end of an operation, which had already lasted till late at 
night. The next day an Indian of Javita cured us radically, 
and with surprising promptitude. He brought us the 
branch of a shrub, called uzao, with small leaves like those 
of cassia, very coriaceous and glossy. He made a cold 
infusion of the bark of this shrub, which had a bluish colour, 
and the taste of liquorice. When beaten, it yields a great 
deal of froth. The irritation of the aradores ceased by using 
simple lotions of this uzao-water. We could not find tliis 

* Literally, * the ploughers.' 


shrub in flower, or bearing fruit; it appears to belong to the 
family of the leguminous plants, the chemical properties of 
which are singularly varied. We dreaded so much the 
sufierings to which we had been exposed, that we constantly 
kept some branches of the uzao in our boat, till we reached 
San Carlos. This shrub grows in abundance on the banks 
of the Pimichin. Why has no remedy been discovered for 
the irritation produced by the sting oi the zancudos, as well 
as for that occasioned by <he a/radores or microscopic acari ? 
In 1755, before the expedition for fixing the boundaries, 
better known by the name of the expedition of Solano, the 
whole country between the missions of Javita and San Bal- 
thasar was regarded as dependent on Brazil. The Portuguese 
had advanced from the Eio Negro, by the portage of the Cano 
Pimichin, as far as the banks of the Tenu. An Indian chief 
of the name of Javita, celebrated for his courage and his 
spirit of enterprise, was the ally of the Portuguese. He 
pushed his hostile incursions from the Kio Jupura, or 
Caqueta, one of the great tributary streams of the Amazon, 
by the rivers Uaupe and Xiè, as far as the black waters of 
the Temi and the Tuamini, a distance of more than a 
hundred leagues. He was furnished with letters patent, 
which authorised him " to bring the Indians ôt)m the forest, 
for the conquest of souls.'* He availed himself amply of 
this permission ; but his incursions had an object which was 
not altogether spiritual, that of making slaves to sell to the 
Portuguese. When Solano, the second chief of the expedi- 
tion ol the boundaries, arrived at San Fernando de Atabapo, 
he had Javita seized, in one of his incursions to the banks of 
the Temi. He treated him with gentleness, and succeeded 
in gaining him over to the interests of the Spanish govern- 
ment by promises that were not fiilfilled. The Portuguese, 
who had already formed some stable settlements in these 
countries, were driven back as far as the lower part of the 
B-io Negro ; and the mission of San Antonio, oi which the 
more usual name is Javita, so called after its Indian founder, 
was removed farther north of the sources of the Tuamini, to 
the spot where it is now estabHshed. This captain, Javita, 
was still living, at an advanced age, when we proceeded to the 
Eio Negro. He was an Indian of great vigour of mind and 
body. He spoke Spanish with facility, and preserved a certain 

VOL. II. 2 A 

354 OÀsmujLL tbibsb. 

influence over the neighbouring nations. As he attended 
us in all our herborizations, we obtained from his own 
mouth information so much the more useful, as the mis- 
sionaries have great confidence in his veracity. He assured 
us, that in his youth he had seen almost all the Indian 
tribes, that inhabit the vast regions between the Upper 
Orinoco, the Eio Negro, the Imrida, and the Jupura, eat 
human flesh. The Daricavanas, the Puchirinavis, and the 
Manitivitanos, appeared to him to be the greatest cannibals 
among them. He believes that this abominable practice is 
with them the effect of a system of vengeance; they eat 
only enemies who are made prisoners in battle. The 
instances where, by a refinement of cruelty, the Indian eats 
his nearest relations, his wife, or an unfiEdthful mistress, are 
extremely rare. The strange custom of the Scythians and 
Massagetes, the Capanaguas of the Eio TJcayale, and the 
ancient inhabitants of the "West Indian Islands, of honour- 
ing the dead by eating a part of their remains, is unknown 
on the banks of the Orinoco. In both continents this trait 
of manners belongs only to nations that hold in horror the 
flesh of a prisoner. The Indian of Hayti (Saint Domingo) 
would think himself wanting in regard to the memory of a 
relation, if he did not throw iuto his drink a small portion of 
the body of the deceased, after having dried it like one of 
the mimimies of the Guanches, and reduced it to powder. 
This gives us just occasion to repeat with an eastern poet, 
" of all animals man is the most fantastic in his manners, 
and the most disorderly in his propensities." 

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

The temperature of Javita is cooler than that of Maypures, 


but considerably hotter than that of the Quainia or Eio 
Negro. The centigrade thermometer kept up in the day to 
twenty-six or twenty-seven degrees; and in the night to 
twenty-one degrees. 

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

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

The forest between Javita and the Cafio Pimichin, contains 
an immense quantity of gigantic trees, ocoteas, and laurels, 
the Amasonia arborea,* the Eetiniphyllum secundiflorum, 
the curvana, the jacio, the iacifate, of which the wood is red 
like the braziUetto, the guamufate, with its fine leaves of 

* This is a new species of the genus taligalea of Aublet. On the same 
spot grow the Bignonia magnolisfolia, B. jasminifolia, Solanum topiro, 
Justida pectoralis, Faramea cymosa. Piper javitense, Scleria hirtella, 
Echites javitensis, Lindsea javitensis, and that curious plant of the family 
of the verbenacese, which I have dedicated to the illustrious Leopold von 
Buch, in whose early labours I pai'ticipated. 

2 ▲ 2 

350 DirncuLTiES in heebobizatiou. 

calophyllum from seven to eight inches long, the Amypa 
carana, and the mani. All these trees (with the exception 
of our new genus Retiniphyllum) were mote than one hun- 
dred or one hundred and ten feet high. As their trunks 
throw out branches only toward the summit, we had some 
trouble in procuring both leaves and flowers. The latter 
were frequently strewed upon the ground at the foot of the 
trees; but, the plants of difierent families being grouped 
together in these forests, and every tree being covered with 
lianas, we could not, with any degree of confidence, rely on 
the authority of the natives, when they assured us that a 
flower belonged to such or such a tree. Amid these riches of 
nature heborizations caused us more chagrin than satis- 
faction. What we could gather appeared to us of little 
interest, compared to what we could not reach. It rained 
unceasingly during several months, and M. Bonpland lost 
the greater part of the specimens which he had been com- 
pelled to dry by artificial heat. Our Indians distinguished 
the leaves better than the corollsB or the fruit. Occupied 
in seeking timber for canoes, they are inattentive to 
flowers. "All those great trees bear neither flowers nor 
fruits," they repeated unceasingly. Like the botanists of 
antiquity, they denied what they had not taken the 
trouble to observe. They were tired with our questions, and 
exhausted our patience in return. 

"We have already mentioned that the same chemical pro- 
perties beiQg sometimes found in the same organs of dif- 
ferent families of plants, these families supply each other's 
places in various climates. Several species oi palms* fiimish 
the inhabitants of equinoctial America and Africa with the 
oil which we derive from the olive. What the conifersB are 
to the temperate zone, the terebinthace» and the guttifersB 
are to the torrid. In the forests of those burning climates, 

""' In Africa, the elais or maba; in America the cocoa-tree. In the 
cocoa-tree it is the perisperm ; and in the elais (as in the olive, and the 
oleineœ in general) it is the sarcocarp, or the pulp of the pericarp, that 
yields oil. This difference, observed in the same family, appears to me 
very remarkable, though it is in no way contradictory to the results 
obtained by De Candolle in his ingenious researches on the chemical pro- 
perties of plants. If our Alfonsia oleifera belong to the genus Elais, (as 
Brown, with great reason believes,) it follows, that in the same genus aie 
oil is found in the sarcocarp and in the perisperm. 


(where there is neither pine, thuya, taxodium, nor even a 
podocarpus,) resins, balsams, and aromatic gums, are fur- 
nished by the maronobea, the icica, and the amyris. The 
collecting of these gummy and resinous substances is a 
trade in the village of Javita. The most celebrated resin 
bears the name of mani; and of this we saw masses of 
several hundred-weight, resembling colophony and mastic. 
The tree called mani by the Paraginis, which M. Bonpland 
believes to be the Mxjronobaea coccinea, furnishes but a 
small quantity of the substance employed in the trade with 
Angostura. The greatest part comes from the mararo or 
caragna, which is an amyris. It is remarkable enough, that 
the name mcmi, which Aublet heard among the Gtdibis* of 
Cayenne, was again heard by us at Javita, three hundred 
leagues distant from French Guiana. The moronobaea or 
symphonia of Javita yields ayeUow resin; the caragna, a 
resin strongly odoriferous, and white as snow; the latter 
beomes yeUow where it is adherent to the internal part of 
old bark. 

We went every day to see how our canoe advanced on 
the portages. Twenty-three Indians were employed in 
dragging it by land, placing branches of trees to serve 
as rollers. In this manner a small boat proceeds in a 
day or a day and a half, from the waters of the Tuamini 
to those 01 the Cano Pimichin, which flow into the 
Eio JSTegro. Our canoe being very large, and having to 
pass the cataracts a second time, it was necessary to avoid 
with particular care any friction on the bottom; conse- 
quently the passage occupied more than four days. It is only 
since 1795 that a road has been traced through the forest. 
By substituting a canal for this portage, as I proposed to 
the ministry of king Charles IV, the communication between 
the B/io Negro and Angostura, between the Spanish Orinoco 
and the Portuguese possessions on the Amazon, would be 
singularly facilitated. 

Li this forest we at length obtained precise information 

* The Galibis or CaribU (the r has been changed into /, as often 
happens) are of the great stock of the Carib nations. The products use- 
ful in commerce and in domestic life have received the same denomina- 
tion in every part of America which this warlike and commercial people 
have overrun. 


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

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

ITS roEMATioisr. 359 

say an etiolated caoutchouc. The humidity of the soil seem» 
to account for the undulating form of the edges of the 
dapicho^ and its division into layers. 

I often observed in Peru, that on pouring slowly the 
milky juice of the hevea, or the sap of the carica, into a 
large quantity of water, the coagulum forms undulating 
outlines. The dapicho is certainly not peculiar to the 
forest that extends from , Javita to ÎPimichin, although that 
is the only spot where it has hitherto been found. I have 
no doubt, that on digging in French Quiana beneath the 
roots and the old trunks of the hevea, those enormous 
masses of *corky caoutchc'ic,* which I have just described, 
would from time to time bo found. As it is observed in 
Europe, that at the fall of the leaf the sap is conveyed 
towards the root, it would be curious to examine whether, 
within the tropics, the milky juices of the urticesB, the 
euphorbiaceœ, and the apocyneœ, descend also at certain 
seasons. JSTotwithstanding a great equality of temperature, 
the trees of the torrid zone foUow a cycle of vegetation ; 
they undergo changes periodically returning. The existence 
of the diipicko is more interesting to physiology than to 
vegetable chemistry. A yellowish-white caoutchouc is now 
to be found in the shops, which may be easily distinguished 
from the dapicho, because it is neither dry Hke cork, nor 
friable, but extremely elastic, glossy, and soapy. I lately saw 
considerable quantities of it in London. This caoutchouc, 
white, and greasy to the touch, is prepared in the East 
Indies. It exhales that animal and fetid smell which I 
have attributed in another place to a mixture of caseum 
and albumen.t When we reflect on the immense variety 

* ThuSj at five or six inches depth, between the roots of the Hymenea 
courbaril, masses of the resin anime (erroneously called copal) are dis- 
covered, and are sometimes mistaken for amber in inland places. This 
phenomenon seems to throw some light on the origin of those large masses 
of amber which are picked up from time to time on the coast of Prussia. 

f The pellicles deposited by the milk of heavea, in contact with the 
'atmospheric oxygen, become brown on exposure to the sun. If the 
dapicho grow black as it is softened before the fire, it is owing to a slight 
combustion, to a change in the proportion of its elements. I am 
surprised that some chemists consider the black caout(;houc of commerce 
as being mixed with soot, blackened by the smoke to which it has been 


of plants in the equinoctial regions that are capable of 
furnishing caoutchouc, it is to be regretted that this sub- 
stance, so eminently usefiil, is not found among us at a 
lower price. Without cultivating trees with a milky sap, 
a sufficient quantity of caoutchouc might be collected m 
the missions of the Orinoco alone for the consumption of 
ci\ilized Europe.* In the kingdom of New Grenada some 
successful attempts have been made to make boots and 
shoes of this substance without a seam. Among the 
American nations, the Omaguas of the Amazon best under- 
stand how to manufacture caoutchouc. 

Four days had passed, and our canoe had not yet arrived 
at the landing-place of the Eio Pimichin. " You want îox 
nothiQg in my mission," said Father Cereso; "you have 
plantains and fish; at night you are not stung by mos- 
quitos; and the longer you stay, the better chance you 
wiU have of seeing the stars of my country. If your boat 
be destroyed in the portage, we will give you another; 
and I shall have had the satisfaction of passing some weeks 
con gente lilanca y de razony * Notwithstanding our im- 
patience, we listened with interest to the information given 
us by the worthy missionary. It confirmed aU we had 
already heard of the moral state of the natives of those 
countries. They live, distributed in hordes of forty or 
fifty, under a family government; and they recognise a 
common chief (apoto, sibierene) only at times when they 
make war against their neighbours. The mistrust of these 
hordes towards one another is increased by the circum- 
stance that those who live in the nearest neighbourhood 
speak languages altogether different. In the open plains, 
in the countries with savannahs, the tribes are fond of 
choosing their habitations from an affinity of origin, and 
a resemblance of manners and idioms. On the table-land 
of Tartary, as in North America, great families of nations 
have been seen, formed into several columns, extending their 
migrations across countries thioly-wooded, and easily tra- 

* We saw in Guiana, besides ihQjacio and the curvana, two other trees 
that 3rield caoutchouc in abundance ; on the banks of the Atabapo, the 
guamaqui with jatropha leaves, and at Maypures the cime, 

t *' With white and rational people.*' European self-love usually 
opposes the gente de razon to the gente pardot or coloured people. 


versed. Such were the journeys of the Toltec and AzU.£ 
race in the high plains of Mexico, from the sixth to the 
eleventh century of our era; such probably was also the 
movement of nations by which the petty tnbes of Canada 
were grouped together. As the immense country between 
the equator and the eighth degree of north latitude forms one 
continuous forest, the hordes were there dispersed by follow- 
ing the branchings of the rivers, and the nature of the land 
compelled them to become more or less agriculturists. 
Such is the labyrinth of these rivers, that families settled 
themselves without knowing what race of men lived nearest 
the spot. In Spanish Guiana a mountain, or a forest half a 
league broad, sometimes separates hordes who could not meet 
in less than two days by navigating rivers. In open coun- 
tries, or in a state of advanced civilization, communication 
by rivers contributes powerfully to generalize languages, 
manners, and political institutions ; but in the impenetrable 
forests of the torrid zone, as in the first rude condition 
of our species, rivers increase the dismemberment of great 
nations, favour the traAsition of dialects into languages that 
appear to us radically distinct, and keep up national hatred 
and mistrust. Between the banks of the Caura and the 
Padamo everything bears the stamp of disunion and weak- 
ness. Men avoid, because they do not understand each 
other ; they mutaUy hate, because they mutually fear. 

When we examine attentively this wild part of America, 
we fancy ourselves transported to those primitive times 
when the earth was peopled by degrees, and we seem to be 
present at the birth of human societies. In the old world 
we see that pastoral life has prepared the hunting nations 
for agriculture. In the New World we seek in vain these 
progressive developments of civilization, these intervals of 
repose, these stages in the life of nations. The luxurv of 
vegetation embarrasses the Indians in the chase; and in 
their rivers, resembling arms of the sea, the depth of the 
waters prevents fishmg during whole months. Those 
species of ruminating animals, that constitute the wealth 
of the nations of the Old World, are wanting in the New. 
The bison and the musk-ox have never been reduced to a 
domestic state; the breeding of Uamas and guanacos has 
not created the habits of pastoral life. In tho temperate 


zone, on the banks of the Missouri, as well as on the table* 
land of New Mexico, the American is a hunter; but in 
the torrid zone, in the forests of Guiana, he cultivates 
cassava, plantains, and sometimes maize. Such is the 
admirable fertility of nature, that the field of the native 
is a little spot of land, to clear which requires only setting 
fire to the brambles ; and putting a few seeds or slips into 
the ground is all the husbandry it demands. If we go 
back in thought to the most remote ages, in these thick 
forests we must always figure to ourselves nations deriving 
the greater part of their nourishment from the earth ; but, 
as this earth produces abundance in a small space, and 
almost without toil, we may also imagine these nations 
often changing their dwellings along the banks of the same 
river. Even now the native of the Orinoco travels with his 
seeds; and transports his farm (conuco) as the AraB 
transports his tent, and changes his pasturage. The num- 
ber of cultivated plants found wild amid the woods, proves 
the nomad habits of an agricultural people. Can we be 
surprised, that by these habits they lose almost all the 
advantages that result in the temperate zone from station- 
ary culture, from the growth of com, which requires exten- 
sive lands and the most assiduous labour ? 

The nations of the Upper Orinoco, the Atabapo, and the 
Inirida, like the ancient Germans and the Persians, have no 
other worship than that of the powers of nature. They call 
the good principle Cachimana ; it is the Manitou, the Great 
Spirit, that regulates the seasons, and favours the harvests. 
Along with Cachimana there is an evil principle, lolokiamo, 
less powerful, but more artftd, and in particular more 
active. The Indians of the forest, when they occasionally 
visit the missions, conceive with difficulty the idea of a 
temple or an image. "These good people," said the mis- 
sionary, " like only processions in the open air. When I 
last celebrated the lestival of San Antonio, the patron of 
my village, the Indians of Inirida were présçnt at mass. 
* Tour G-od,' said they to me, 'keeps himself shut up in a 
house, as if he were old and infirm ; ours is in the forest, in 
the fields, and on the mountains of Sipapu, whence the rains 
come.* " Among the more numerous, and on this account 
less barbarous tnbes, religious societies of a singular kind 


are formed. Some old Indians pretend to be better in- 
structed than others on points regarding divinity; and to 
them is confided the famous hotuto, of which I have spoken, 
and which is sounded under the palm-trees that they 
may bear abundance of fruit. On the banks of the Orinoco 
there exists no idol, aa among all the nations who have 
remained faithM to the first worship of nature, but the 
hotuto, the sacred trumpet, is an object of veneration. To 
be initiated into the mysteries of the hotuto, it is requisite to 
be of pure morals, and to have lived single. The initiated 
are subjected to flagellations, fastings, and other painful ex- 
ercises. There are but a small number of these sacred 
trumpets. The most anciently celebrated is that upon a 
hill near the confluence of the Tomo and the G-uainia. It 
is pretended, that it is heard at once on the banks of the 
Tuamini, and at the mission of San Miguel de Davipe, a dis- 
tance of ten leagues. Pather Cereso assured us, that the 
Indians speak of the hotuto of Tomo as an object of worship 
common to many surrounding tribes. Fruit and intoxica- 
ting liquors are placed beside the sacred trumpet. Some- 
times the Great Spirit himself makes the hotuto resound ; 
sometimes he is content to manifest his will through him to 
whom the keeping of the instrument is entrusted. These 
juggleries being very ancient (from the fathers of our fathers, 
say the Indians), we must not be surprised that some un- 
believers are already to be found; but they express their 
disbelief of the mysteries of the hotuto only in whispers. 
Women are not permitted to see this marvellous instru- 
ment ; and are excluded from all the ceremonies of this wor- 
ship. K a woman have the misfortune to see the trumpet, 
she is put to death without mercy. The missionary related 
to us, that in 1798 he was happy enough to save a yoimg 
girl, whom a jealous and vindictive lover accused of having 
followed, from a motive of curiosi^, the Indians who sounded 
the hotuto in the plantations. " They would not have mur- 
dered her publicly," said father Cesero, "but how was she to 
be protected from the fanatacism of the natives, in a country 
where it is so easy to give poison ? The young girl told me 
of her 'fears, and I sent her to one of the missions of the 
Lower Orinoco.'* K the people of Quiana had remained 


masters of that vast country ; if, without having been impe- 
ded by Christian settlements, they could follow jfreely wie 
development of their barbarous institutions; the worship 
of the hotuto would no doubt become of some political im- 
portance. That mysterious society of the initiated, those 
guardians of the sacred trumpet, would be transformed into 
a ruling caste of priests, and the oracle of Tomo would gra- 
dually form a link between the bordering nations. 

In the evening of the 4th of May we were informed, that an 
Indian, who had assisted in dragging our bark over the por- 
tage of Pimichin, had been stung by a viper. He was a tall 
strong man, and was brought to the mission in a very 
alarming state. He had dropped down senseless; and 
nausea, vertigo, and congestions m the head, had succeeded 
the fainting. The liana called vejuco de guaco^ which M. 
Mutis has rendered so celebrated, and which is the most 
certain remedy for the bite of venomous serpents, is yet un- 
known in these coimtries. A number of Lidians hastened 
to the hut of the sick man, and he was cmred by an infu- 
sion of raiz de mato. We cannot indicate with certainty 
what plant furnishes this antidote; but I am inclined to 
think, that the raiz de mato is an apocynea, perhaps the 
Cerbera thevetia, called by the inhabitants of Cumana lingua 
de mato or contra-culébra^ and which they also use against 
the bite of serpents. A genus nearly allied to the cer- 
berat is employed in India for the same purpose. It is 
common enough to find in the same family of plants vege- 
table poisons, and antidotes against the venom of reptiles. 
Many tonics and narcotics are antidotes more or less active ; 
and we find these in families very different J from each other, 
in the aristolochi», the apocyneœ, the gentianae, the polygal», 

* This is a mikania, which was confounded for some tiAae in Europe with 
the ayapana. De Candolle thinks that the guaco may be the Eupatorium 
satureisfolium of Lamarck ; but this Eupatorium differs by its lineary 
leaves^ while the Mikania guaco has triangular, oval^ and very large leaves. 

f Ophioxylon serpentinum. 

X I shall mention as examples of these nine families ; Aristolochia 
anguicida, Cerbera thevetia» Ophoiorhiza mungos, Polygala senega, 
Nicotiana tabacum, (one of the remedies most used in Spanish America), 
Mikanua guaco, Hibiscus abelmoschus (the seeds of which are venf 
active), Lanpujum ramphii^ and Kunthia montana ^Cafia de la Yibora). 


tlie solaneœ, the compositae, the malvacesB, the drymyrhize», 
and, which is still more surprising, even in the palm-trees. 

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

On the banks of the Niger, and in a great part of the in- 
terior of Africa, where salt is extremely rare, it is said of a 
rich man, "he is so fortunate as to eat salt at his meals." 
This good fortune is not too common in the interior of Gui- 
ana. The whites only, particularly the soldiers of the little 
fort of San Carlos, know how to procure pure salt, either 
from the coast of Caracas, or from Chita* by the Bio 

* North of Morocote, at the eastern declivity of the Cordilleia of New 
Grenada. The salt of the coasts, which the Indians call yuguirût costs 
two piastres the almuda at San Carlos. 


Meta. Here, as throughout America, the Indians eat little 
meat, and consume scarcely any salt. The chivi of Jayita is 
a mixture of muriate of potash and of soda, of caustic lime, 
and of several other earthy salts. The Indians dissolve a 
few particles in water, ml with this solution a leaf of 
heliconia folded in a conical form, and let drop a little, as 
from the extremity of a filter, on their food. 

On the 5th of May we set off, to foUow on foot our canoe, 
which had at length arrived, by the portage, at the Ca&o 
Pimichin. We had to ford a great number of streams ; and 
these passages require some caution on account of the vipers 
with which the marshes abound. The Indians pointed out 
to us on the moist clay the traces of the little black bears so 
common on the banks of the Temi. They differ at least in 
size from the Ursus americanus. The missionaries call them 
08S0 camicero, to distinguish them from the ossopahnero or 
tamanoir (Myrmecophaga jubata), and from the osso hor- 
migero, or anteater (tamandua). The flesh of these a.Tn'Tnf i.1ff 
is good to eat ; the first two defend themselves by rising on 
their hind feet. The tamanoir of Buffon is called uaraca by 
the Indians ; it is irascible and courageous, which is extra- 
ordinary in an animal without teeth. We found, as we ad- 
vanced, some vistas in the forest, which appeared to us the 
richer, as it became more accessible. We here gathered 
some new species of coffee (the American tribe, with flowers 
iQ panicles, forms probably a particular genus) ; the Gblega 
piscatorum, of which the Indians make use, as they do of 
jacquinia, and of a composite plant of the Eio Temi, as a kind 
of harhasco, to intoxicate fish ; and finally, the liana, known 
in those countries by the name of vejtbco de mavacv/re, which 
yields the famous curare poison. It is neither a phyllanthus, 
nor a coriaria, as M. willdenouw conjectmred, but, as M. 
Kunth's researches show, very probably a strychnos. We 
shall have occasion, farther on, to speak of this venomous 
substance, which is an important object of trade among the 

The trees of the forest of Pimichin have the gigantic 
height of from eighty to a hundred and twenty feet. In 
these burning climates the laurinesB and amyris* furnish 

• The great white and red cedars of these countries are not the Cediela 
odorata, but the Amyris altissima, which is an icicf of Aublet. 


that fine timber for building, which, on the north-west coast 
of America, on mountains where the thennometer falls in 
winter to 2(f cent, below zero, we find ta the family of the 
conifersB. Such, in every zone, and in all the families of 
American plants, is the prodigious force of vegetation, that, 
in the latitude of fifty-seven degrees north, on the same 
isothermal line with St. Petersburgh and the Orkneys, the 
Pinus canadensis displays trunks one hundred and fiity feet 
high, and six feet in diameter.* Towards night we arrived 
at a small farm, in the ptierto or landing pla^e of Pimichin. 
We were shown a cross near .the road, which marked the 
spot " where a poor capuchiu missionary had been kiUed by 
wasps." I state this on the authority of the monks of Ja- 
vita and the Indians. They talk much in these countries of 
wasps and venomous ants, but we saw neither one nor the 
other of these insects. It is weU known that in the torrid 
zone slight stiugs often cause fits of fever almost as violent 
as those that with us accompany severe organic injuries. The 
death of this poor monk was probably the effect of fatigue 
and damp, rather than of the venom contained in the stings 
of wasps, which the Indians dread extremely. We must not 
confoimd the wasps of Javita with the melipones bees, called 
by the Spaniards angelitos (little angels) which covered our 
faces and hands on the summit of the Silla de Caracas. 

The landiug place of Pimichiu is surrounded by a small 
plantation of caaco-trees ; they are very vigorous, and here, 
as on the banks of the Atabapo and the Guainia, they are 
loaded with flowers and fipuits at all seasons. They begin 
to bear from the fourth year ; on the coast of Caracas they 
do not bear till the sixth or eighth year. The soil of these 
countries is sandy, wherever it is not marshy ; but the light 
lands of the Tuamini and Pimichin are extremely produc- 
tivef. Aroimd the comicos of Pimichin grows, in its wild 

* Langsdorf informs us that the inhabitants of Norfolk Sound make 
boats of a single trunk, fifty feet long, four feet and a half broad, and 
three high at the sides. They contain thirty persons. These boats remind 
us of the canoes of the Rio Chagres in the isthmus of Panama, in the 
torrid zone. The Populus balsamifera also attains an immense height, on 
the mountains that border Norfolk Sound. 

f At Javita, an extent of fifty feet square, planted with Jatropha 
manihot (yucca) yields in two years, in the worst soil, a harvest of six 
tortus of cassava : the same extent on a middling soil yields in fourteen 


state, the igua, a tree resembling the Caryocar nucifenun, 
which is cultivated in Dutch and French Guiana, and which, 
with the almendron of Mariquita (Caryocar amygdaliferum), 
thejuvia of the Esmeralda (BerthoUetia excelsa), and the 
Geoffrcea of the Amazon, yields the finest almonds of all . 
South America. No commercial advantage is here made 
of the ifftia ; but I saw vessels arrive on the coast of Terra 
Firma, that came from Demerara laden with the fruit of the 
Caryocar tomentosum, which is the Pekea tuberculosa of 
Aublet. These trees reach a hundred feet in height, and 
present, by the beauty of their corolla, and the multitude of 
their stamens, a magnificent appearance. I should weary 
the reader by continuing the enumeration of the vegetable 
wonders which these vast forests contain. Their variety 
depends on the coexistence of such a great number of fami- 
lies in a smaU space of ground, on the stimulating power of 
light and heat, and on the perfect elaboration of the juices 
that circulate in these gigantic plants. 

AYe passed the night in a hut lately abandoned by an 
Indian family, who had left behind them their fishing- 
tackle, pottery, nets made of the petioles of palm-trees ; in 
short, dl that composes the household furniture of that 
careless race of men, little attached to property. A great 
store of mani (a mixture of the resin of the moronobœa 
and the Amyris carana) was accumulated round the house. 
This is used by the Indians here, as at Cayenne, to pitch 
their canoes, and fix the bony spines of the ray at the points 
of their arrows. We found in the same place jars fiUed with 
a vegetable milk, which serves as a varnish, ana is celebrated 
in the missions by the name of leche para pintar* (milk for 
painting). They coat with this viscous juice those articles 

months a produce of nine tortas. In an excellent soil, around clumps of 
mauritia, there is every year from fifty feet square a produce of thirteen 
or fourteen tortas. A torta weighs tlu'ee quarters of a pound, and three 
iortas cost generally in the province of Caracas one silver rial, or one- 
eighth of a piastre. These statements appear to me to be of some 
importance, when we wish to compare the nutritive matter which man 
can obtain from the same extent of soil, by coveiing it, in different 
climates, with bread-trees, plantains, jatropha, maize, potatoes, rice, and 
corn. The tardiness of the harvest of jatropha has, I believe, a beneficial 
influence on the manners of the natives, by fixing them to the soil, an<} 
compelling them to sojourn long on the same spot. 


of furniture to wliicli they wisli to give a fine wWte colour. 
It thickens by the contact of the air, without growing yel- 
low, and it appears singularly glossy. We have already 
mentioned that the caoutchouc is the oily cart, the butter 
of all vegetable milk. It is, no doubt, a particular modifica- 
tion of caoutchouc that forms this coagulum, this white and 
glossy skin, that seems as if covered with copal varnish. If 
different colours could be given to this milky varnish, a 
very expeditious method would be found of painting and 
varnishing our carriages by one process. The more we study 
vegetable chemistry in the torrid zone, the more we shall 
discover, in remote spots, and half-prepared in the organs of 
plants, products which we believe belong only to the animal 
tdngdom, or which we obtain by processes which are often 
tedious and difficult. Already we have found the wax that 
coats the palm-tree of the Andes of Quindiu, the silk 
of the palm-tree of Mocoa, the nourishing milk of the 
pah de vaca, the butter-tree of AJ&ica, and the caseous sub- 
stances obtained from the almost animalized sap of the 
Carica papaya. These discoveries will be multiplied, when, 
as the political state of the world seems now to indicate, 
European civilization shall flow in a great measure toward 
the equinoctial regions of the New Continent. 

The marshy tract between Javita and the embarcadero 
of Pimichin is infested with great numbers of vipers. 
Before we took possession of the deserted hut, the Indians 
killed two great mwpoma/re serpents.* These grow to four 
or five feet long. They appeared to me to be the same 
species as those I saw in the Magdalena. This serpent 
is a beautiful animal, but extremely venomous, white on the 
beUy, and spotted with brown and red on the back. As 
the inside of the hut was filled with grass, and we were 
lying on the ground, there being no means of suspending 
our hammocks, we were not without inquietude durme; the 
night. Ia the morning a large viper was found on lifting 
the jaguar-skin upon which one of our domestics had slept. 

* This name is g^ven in the Spanish colonies to very different spedes. 
The Coluber mapanare of the province of Caracas has one hundred and 
forty-two ventral plates, and thirty-eight double caudal scales. The 
Coluber mapanare of the Rio Magdalena has two hundred and eight 
▼entrai plates, and fcizty-four double caudal scales. 

TOL. II. 2 B 


The Indians say that these reptiles, slow in their move- 
ments when fchey are not pursued, creep near a man 
because they are fond of heat. In fact, on the banks of 
the Magdalena a serpent entered the bed of one of our 
feUow-travellers, and remained there a part of the night, 
without injuring him. Without wishing to take up the 
defence of vipers and rattlesnakes, I believe it may be 
affirmed that, if these venomous animals had such a dis- 
position for offence as is supposed, the human species 
would certainly not have withstood their numbers in some 
parts of America ; for instance, on the banks of the Orinoco 
and the humid mountains of Choco. 

We embarked on the 8th of May at sunrise, after having 
carefully examined the bottom of our canoe. It had be- 
come thinner, but had received no crack in the portage. 
We 'reckoned that it would stiU bear the voyage of three 
hundred leagues, which we had yet to perform, in. going 
down the Eio Negro, ascending the Cassiquiare, and re- 
descending the Orinoco as far as Angostura. The Pimichin, 
which is called a rivulet (cano) is tolerably broad; but 
small trees that love the water narrow the bed so much 
that there remains open a channel of only fifteen or twenty 
toises. Next to the Eio Chagres this river is one of the 
most celebrated in America for the number of its vnndings : 
it is said to have eighty-five, which greatly lengthen it. They 
often form right angles, and occur every two or three 
leagues. To determine the difference of longitude between 
the landing-place and the point where we were to enter 
the B/io Negro, I took by the compass the course of the 
Cano Pimichin, and noted the time during which we 
followed the same direction. The velocity of the current 
was only 2*4 feet in a second; but our canoe made by 
rowing 4*6 feet. The emharcadero of the Pimichin appeared 
to me to be eleven thousand toises west of its mouth, and 
0° 2' west of the mission of Javita. This Cano is navigable 
during the whole year, and has but one rattdal, which is 
somewhat difficult to go up ; its banks are low, but rocky. 
After having followed the windings of the Pimichin for fouï 
hours and a half we at length entered the Eio Negro. 

The morning was cool and beautiful. We had now been 
confined thirty-six days in a narrow boat, bo unsteady that 


it would have been overset by any person rising impru- 
dently from his seat, without warning the rowers. We 
had suffered severely from the sting of insects, but we had 
withstood the insalubrity of the climate; we had passed 
without accident the great number of .vaterfalls and bars, 
which impede the navigation of the rivers, and often render 
it more dangerous than long voyages by sea. Affcer all we 
had endured, it may be conceived that we felt no little 
satisfaction in having reached the tributary streams of the 
Amazon, having passed the isthmus that separates two great 
systems of rivers, and in being sure of having fulfilled the 
most important object of our journey, namely, to deter- 
mine astronomically the course of that arm of the Orinoco 
which falls into the Eio Negro, and of -phich the existence 
has been alternately proved and denie^^^. daring half a cen- 
tury. In proportion as we draw near to an object we have 
long had in r.ew, its interest seems to augment. The 
iminhabited banks of the Cassiquiare, covered with forests, 
without memorials of times past, then occupied my imagi- 
nation, 8.S do now the banks of the Euphrates, or the Oxus, 
celebrated in the annals of civilized nations. In that in- 
terior part of the New Continent one may almost accustom 
one self to regard men as not be^'ng essential to the order 
of nature. The earth is loaded vsrith plants, and nothing 
impedes their free development. An immense layer of 
mould manifests the uninterrupted action of organic 
powers. Crocodiles and boas are masters of the river ; the 
jaguar, the peccary, the dante, and the monkeys traverse 
the forest without fear and without danger; there they 
dwell as in an ar'»ier^t inheritance. Th\s aspect of animated 
nature, in which man is nothing, has sometlung in it strauge 
and sad. To this v^o reconcile ourselveb with difficulty 
on the ocean, and amid tiie sands of Africa; though in 
scenes where nothing recalls to mind o.*r fields, our woods, 
and our streams, we are less as^iOnished at the vast solitude 
through which we pass. Here, in a fertile country, adorned 
with eternal verdure, we seek in vain the traces of the 
power of man ; we seem to be transported into a world 
different from that which gave us birth. These impres- 
sions are the more powerml in proportion as they are 
of long duration. A soldier, who had speut his whole 

2 B 2 


life in the missions of the Upper Orinoco, slept witli us 
on the bank of the river. He was an intelligent man, who, 
during a calm and serene night, pressed me with questions 
on the magnitude of the stars, on the inhabitants of the 
moon, on a thousand subjects of which I was as ignorant 
as himself. Being unable by my answers to satisfy his 
curiosity, he said to me in a nrm tone of the most positive 
conviction : " with respect to men, I believe there are no 
more up there than you would have found if you had gone 
by land from Javita to Cassiquiare. I think I see in the 
stars, as here, a plain covered with grass, and a forest (mucho 
monte) traversed by a river." In citing these words I 
paint the impression produced by the monotonous aaspect 
of those solitary regions. May tins monotony not be found 
to extend to tne journal of our navigation, and weary the 
reader accustomed to the description of the scenes and his- 
torical memorials of the old continent ! 

Chaptbb xxm. 

The Rio Negro. — Boundaries of Brazil. — ^The Cassiquiare. — Bifurcation of 

the Orinoco. 

The Eio Negro, compared to the Amazon, the Rio de la 
Plata, or the Orinoco, is but a river of the second order. 
Its possession has been for ages of great political iipportance 
to the Spanish G-ovemment, because it is capable of furnish- 
ing a rival power, Portugal, with an easy passage into the 
missions of Guiana, and thereby disturbing the Capitania 
general of Caracas in its southern limits. Three hundred 
years have been spent iu vain territorial disputes. Accord- 
mg to the difference of times, and the degree of civilization 
among the natives, resource has been had sometimes to 
the authority of the Pope, and sometimes the support of 
astronomy ; and the disputants beiug generally more inte- 
rested in prolongiug than in terminating the struggle, the 
nautical sciences and the geography of the New Continent, 
have alone gaiued by this interminable litigation. When 
the affairs of Paraguay, and the possession of the colony 
of Del Sacramento, became of great importance to the courts 


of Madrid and Lisbon, commissioners of the boundaries 
were sent to the Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Eio Plata. 

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

The Rio Negro and the Jupuro are two tributary streams 
of the Amazon, and may be compared in length to the 
Danube. The upper parts belong to the Spaniards, while 
the lower are occupied by the Portuguese. The Christian 
settlements are very numerous from Mocoa to the mouth of 
the Caguan; while on the Lower Jupura the Portuguese 
have founded only a few villages. On the Rio Negro, 
on the contrary, the Spaniards have not been able to rival 


tlieir neighbours. Steppes and forests nearly desert sepa- 
rate, at a distance of one hundred and siil^ leagues, the 
cultivated part of the coast fit)m the four missions of Marsa, 
Tomo, Davipe, and San Carlos, which are aU that the Spanish 
Franciscans could establish along the E,io Negro. Among 
the Portuguese of Brazil the military system, that of presides 
and capitanes pohladores^ has prevailed over the government 
of the missionaries. Grand Para is no doubt far distant 
from the liiouth of the Bio Neçro : but the fÎEicility of 
navigation on the Amazon, which runs like an immense 
canal in one direction from west to east, has enabled the 
Portuguese population to extend itself rapidly along the 
river. The banks of the Lower Maranon, from Vistoza as 
far as Serpa, as well as those of the Rio Negro from Fort da 
£ara to San Jose da Maravitanos, are embellished by rich 
cultivation, and by a great number of large villages and 

These local considerations are combined with others, 
suggested by the moral position of nations. The north- 
west coast of America furnishes to this day no other stable 
settlements but Russian and Spanish colonies. Before the 
inhabitants of the United States, in their progressive move- 
ment from east to west, could reach the shore between the 
latitude 41* and 50°, which long separated the Spanish 
monks and the Siberian hunt, its,* the latter had established 
themselves south of the C\o **^J?iû River. Thus in New 
California the Franciscan missionar^^es, men estimable for 
their morals, and their agricultural activity, learnt with 
astonishment, that Greek priests had arrived m their neigh- 
bourhood; and that two nations, who inhabit the eastern 
and western extremities of Europe, were become neighbours 
on a coast of America opposite to China. In Guiana cir- 
cumstances were very different: the Spaniards found on 
their frontiers those very Portuguese, who, by tbeir 
language, and their municipal institutions, form with tbem 
one of the most noble rémains of Roman Europe; but 
whom mistrust, founded on unequal strength, and too great 

* The hunters connected with military posts, and dependent on tiie 
Russian Company, of which the principal shareholders live at Irkutsk. 
In 1804 the little fortress (krepost) at the bay of Jakutal was still tiz 
hundred leagues distant from this most northern Mexican possessions* 


proximity, has converted into an, often hostile, and îilways 
rival power. 

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

When I was in the Spanish B»io Negro, the divergent 
politics of the courts of Lisbon and Macfid had augmented 
that system of mistrust which, even in calmer times, the 
commanders of petty neighbouring forts love to encourage. 
Boats went up from Barcelos as far as the Spanish missions, 
but the communications were of rare occurrence. A com- 
mandant with sixteen or eighteen soldiers wearied *the 
garrison' by measures of safety, which were dictated * by the 
important state of affairs ;' n he were attacked, he hoped 
to ' surround the enemy.' When we spoke of the indif- • 
ference with which the Portuguese government doubtless 
regarded the four little villages founded by the monks of 
Saint Francisco, on the Upper Guainia, the inhabitants 


were hurt by the motives which we alleged with the view 
to give them confidence. A people who have preserved in 
vigour, through the revolutions of ages, a national hatred, 
like occasions of giving it vent. The mind delights in every- 
thing impassioned, in the consciousness of an energetic 
feeling, in the affections, and in rival hatreds that are 
founded on antiquated prejudices. Whatever constitutes 
the individuality of nations flows from the mother-country 
to the most remote colonies ; and national antipathies are 
not effaced where the influence of the same lan£;uages 
ceases. We know, from the interesting narrative of Kru- 
senstem* s voyage, that the hatred of two fugitive sailors, one 
a Frenchman and the other an Englishman, was the cause 
of a long war between the inhabitants of the Marquesas 
Islands. On the banks of the Amazon and the Bio Negro, 
the Indians of the neighbouring Portuguese and Spanish 
villages detest each other. These poor people speak only 
the native tongues ; they are ignorant of wnat passes * on 
the other bank of the ocean, beyond the great salt-pool;' 
but the gowns of their missionaries are of a different colour, 
and this displeases them extremely. 

I have stopped to paint the effects of national animosi- 
ties, which wise statesmen have endeavoured to cabn, but 
have been unable entirelv to set at rest. This rivalry has 
contributed to the imperfection of the geographical mow- 
ledge hitherto obtained respecting the tributary rivers of 
the Amazon. When the communications of the natives 
are impeded, and one nation is established near the mouth, 
and another in the upper part of the same river, it is 
difficult for persons who attempt to construct maps to 
acquire precise information. The periodical inundations, 
and still more the portages, by which boats are passed from 
one stream to another, the sources of which are in the same 
neighbourhood, have led to erroneous ideas of the bifur- 
cations and branchings of rivers. The Indians of the Por- 
tuguese missions, for instance, enter (as I was informed 
upon the spot) the Spanish Eio Negro on one side by the 
I&o Guainia and the Eio Tomo ; and the IJpper Orinoco 
on the other, by the partakes between the Cababuri, the 
Pacimoni, the Idapa, and the Macava, to gather the aro- 
matic seeds of the puchero laurel beyond the Esmeralda. 


The Indians, I repeat, are excellent geographers; they 
outflank the enemy, notwithstanding the limits traced upon' 
the maps, in spite of the forts and the estacamentos ; and 
when the missionaries see them arrive from such distances, 
and in different seasons, they begiu to frame hypotheses of 
supposed communications of rivers. Each party has an 
interest in concealing what it knows with certainty; and 
that love of the mysterious, so general amon^ the ignorant, 
contributes to perpetuate the doubt. It may also be 
observed that the various Indian nations, who frequent 
this labyrinth of rivers, give them names entirely different ; 
and that these names are disguised and lengthened by 
terminations that signify * water,' * great water,' and * cur- 
rent.' How often have I been perplexed by the necessity 
of settling the synonymes of rivers, when I have sent for 
the most intelligent natives, to interrogate them, through 
an interpreter, respecting the number of tributary streams, 
the sources of the rivers, and the portages. Three or four 
languages being spoken in the same mission, it is difficult 
to make the witnesses agree. Our maps are loaded with 
names arbitrarily shortened or perverted. To examine how 
far they may be accurate, we must be guided by the geo- 
graphical situation of the confluent rivers, I might almost 
say by a certain etymological tact. The Rio Uaupe, or 
Uapes of the Portuguese maps, is the G-uapue of the 
Spanish maps, and the Ucayan ot the natives. The Anava 
01 the old geographers is the Anauahu of Arrowsmith, 
and the Uanaubau or G-uanauhu of the Indians. The 
desire of leaving no void in the maps, m. order to give 
them an appearance of accuracy, has caused rivers to be 
created, to which names have been applied that have not 
been recomized as synonymous. It is only lately that 
travellers in America, in Persia, and in the Indies, have 
felt the i mpo rtance of being correct in the denomination of 
places. When we read the travels of Sir Walter Ealeigh, 
it is difficult iadeed to recognise iu the * lake of Mrecabo ' 
the laguna of Maracaybo, and iu the * Marquis Paraco' 
the name of Pizarro, the destroyer of the empire of the 

The great tributary streams of the Amazon are desig- 
nated by the missionaries by different names in their upper 


and lower course. The Iza is called, higher up, Patmnayo j 
the Jupura towards its source bears the name of Caqueta. 
The researches made in the missions of the Andaquies on 
the real origin of the Rio Negro have been the more 
fruitless because the Indian name of the river waa un- 
known. I heard it called G-uainia at Javita, Maroa, and 
San Carlos. Southey, in his history of Brazil, says ex- 
pressly that the Eio Negro, in the lower part of its course, 
18 called G-uiani, or Curana, by the natives ; in the upper 
part, IJeneya. It is the word (xueneya, instead of Guamia ; 
for the Indians of those countries say indifferently Quara- 
nacua or Ouaranacua, Guarapo or Uarapo. 

The sources of the Rio Negro have long been an object 
of contention among geograpers. The interest we feel in 
this question is not merely that which attaches to the 
origin of aU great rivers, but is connected with a crowd of 
other questions, that comprehend the supposed bifurcations 
of the Caqueta, the commiinications between the Rio Negro 
and the Orinoco, and the local fable of El Dorado, for- 
merly called Emm, or the empire of the G-rand Paytiti. 
When we study with, care the ancient maps of these 
countries, and the history of their geographical errors, we 
see how by degrees the fable of El Dorado has been trans- 

Îorted towards the west with the sources of the Orinoco, 
t was at first fixed on the eastern decHviiy of the Andes, 
to the south-west of the Rio Negro. The valiant Philip 
de TJrre sought for the great city of Manoa by traversing 
the G-uaviare. Even now the Indians of San Jose de 
Maravitanos relate that, " on sailing to the north-east for 
fifteen days, on the G-uape or Uaupe, you reach a famous 
lagtma de oro, surrounded by mountains, and so large that 
the opposite shore cannot be discerned. A ferocious nation, 
the (Juanes, do not permit the collecting of the gold of a 
sandv plain that surrounds the lake. Father Acunha places 
the lake Manoa, or Tenefiti, between the Jupura and the 
Rio Negro. Some Manoa Indians brought Father Fritz, 
in 1687, several' slips of beaten gold. This nation, the 
name of which is still known on the banks of the Urarira, 
between Lamalongo and Moreira, dwelt on the Turubesh. 
La Condamine is right in saying that this Mesopotamia, 
between the Caqueta, the Rio Negro, the Turubesh, and 


tlie Iquiare, was the first scene of El Dorado. But where 
shall we find the names of Turubesh and Iquiare, given 
by the Fathers Acunha and Eritz ? I think I recognise 
them in the rivers TJrubaxi and Iguari,* on some manu- 
script Portuguese maps which I possess. I have long and 
assiduously studied the geography of South America, north 
of the Amazon, fpojn ancient maps and unpublished mate- 
rials. Desirous that my work should preserve the character 
of a scientific performance, I ought not to hesitate about 
treating of subjects on which I flatter myself that I can 
throw some Hght ; namely, on the questions respecting the 
sources of the Eio îfegro and the Orinoco, the commu- 
nication between these rivers and the Amazon, and the 
problem of the auriferous soil, which has cost the inhabi- 
tants of the New World so much sufiering and so much 

In the distribution of the waters circulating on the sur- 
face of the globe, as well as in the structure of organic 
bodies, nature has pursued a much less complicated plan 
than has been believed by those who have suffered them- 
selves to be guided by vague conceptions and a ta,ste 
for the marvellous. We find, too, that all anomalies, 
all the exceptions to the laws of hydrography, which the 
interior of .Ajnerica displays, are merely apparent ; that the 
course of running waters fiimishes phenomena equally ex- 
traordinary iu the old world, but that these phenomena, 
from their littleness, have less struck the imagination of 
travellers. When immense rivers may be considered as com- 
posed of several parallel furrows of unequal depth; when 
these rivers are not enclosed in valleys ; and when the inte- 
rior of the great continent is as flat as the shores of the sea 
with us ; the ramifications, the bifurcations, and the inter- 
lacings in the form of net- work, must be infinitely multipied. 
Prom what we know of the equilibrium of the seas, I cannot 
thiok that the New World issued from the waters later 
than the Old, and that organic life is there younger, or 
more recent ; but without admaitting oppositions between the 

* It may be written Urubaji. The j and the x were the same as the 
German ch to Father Fritz. The Urubaxi, or Hyurubaxi (Yunibesh), 
falls into the Rio Negro near Santa Isabella ; the Ignari (Iquiare ?) nun 
into the Issana, which is also a tributary oC the Rio Negro. 


two hemispheres of the same planet, we may conceive that 
in the hemisphere most abundant in waters the different 
systems of rivers required more time to separate themselves 
éom one another, and establish their complete indepen- 
dence. The deposits of mud, which are formed wherever 
the running waters lose somewhat of their swiftness, con- 
tribute, no doubt, to raise the beds of the great confluent 
streams, and augment their inundations ; but at length 
these deposits entirely obstruct the branches of the rivers 
and the narrow channels that connect the neighbouring 
streams. The substances washed down by rain-waters form 
by their accumulation new bars, isthmuses of deposited 
earth, and points of division that did not before exist. It 
hence results that these natural channels of communication 
are by degrees divided into two tributary streams, and from 
the effect of a transverse rising, acquire two opposite slopes ; 
a part of their waters is turned back towards the principal 
recipient, and a buttress rises between the two parallel 
basins, which occasions all traces of their ancient communi- 
cation to disappear. From this period the bifurcations no 
longer connect different systems of rivers ; and, where they 
continue to take place at the time of great inundations, we 
see that the waters diverge from the principal recipient only 
to enter it again after a longer or shorter circuit. The 
limits, which at first appeared vague and uncertain, begin to 
be fixed ; and in the lapse of ages, from the action of what- 
ever is moveable on the surface of the globe, from that of 
the waters, the deposits, and the sands, the basins of rivers 
separate, as great lakes are subdivided, and as inland seas 
lose their ancient communications.* 

The certainty acquired by geographers since the sixteenth 
centurv, of the existence of several bifurcations, and the 
mutual dependence of various systems of rivers in South 
America, have led them to admit an intimate connection 

* The geological constitution of the soil seems to indicate that, not 
withstanding the actual difference of level in their waters, the Black Sea, 
the Caspian, and lake Aral, communicated with each other in an era 
anterior to historic times. The overflowing of the Aral into the Caspian 
Sea seems even to be partly of a more recent date, and independent of tha 
bifurcation of the Gihon (Oxus), on which one of the most learned geo« 
graphers of our day, M. Ritter, has thrown new light. 


between the five great tributary streams of the Orinoco and 
the Amazon ; the Guaviare, the Inirida, the Bio Negro, the 
Caqueta or Hyapura, and the Putumayo or Iza. 

The Meta, the G-uaviare, the Caqueta, and the Putumayo, 
are the only great rivers that rise immediately from the 
eastern decHvity of the Andes of Santa Fé, Popayan, and 
Pasto. The Vichada, the Zama, the Inirida, the Bio Negro, 
the IJaupe, and the Apoporis, which are marked in our maps 
as extending westward as far as the mountains, take rise at 
a great distance from them, either in the savannahs between 
the Meta and the Gruaviare, or iu the mountainous country 
which, according to the information given me by the natives, 
begins at four or five days* journey westward of the missions 
of Javita and Maroa, and extends through the Sierra Tuhuny, 
beyond the Xiè, towards the banks of the Issana. 

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

The little group of mountains with which we became ac- 



quainted at the sources of the Q-uainia, is remarkable from 
its being isolated in the plain that extends to the south-west 
of the Orinoco. Its situation ^dth regard to longitude 
might lead to the belief that it stretches into a ridge, which 
forms first the strait (angostura) of the Guaviare, and then 
the great cataracts (saltos, cachoèiras) of the Uaupe and 
the Jupura. Does this ground, composed probably of pri- 
mitive rocks, like that which I exammed more to the east, 
contain disseminated gold ? Are there any gold-washings 
more to the south, toward the TJaupe, on the Iquiare 
(Iguiari, Iguari), and on the Turubesh (Turubach, TJru- 
baxi) ? It was there that Philip von Huten first sought El 
Dorado, and with a handful of men fought the battle of 
Omaguas, so celebrated in the sixteenth century. ' In sepa- 
rating what is fabulous from the narratives of the Conquis- 
tadores, we cannot fail to recognize in the names preserved 
on the same spots a certain basis of historic truth. We 
follow the expedition of Huten beyond the Gruaviare and the 
Caqeta ; we nnd in the Guaypes, governed by the cacique of 
Macatoa, the inhabitants of the river of Uaupe, which also 
bears the name of G-uape, or Gruapue ; we call to mind, that 
Father Acunha calls the Iquiari (Quiquiare) ' a gold river' ; 
and that fifty years later Father Fritz, a missionary of great 
veracity, received, in the mission of Turimaguas, the Manaos 
(Manoas), adorned with plates of beaten gold, coming from 
the country between the Uaupe and the Caqueta, or 
Jupura. The rivers that rise on the eastern declivity of the 
Andes (for instance the Napo) carry along with them a 
great deal of gold, even when their sources are found in 
trachytic soils. Why may there not be an alluvial aurife- 
rous soil to the east of the Cordilleras, as there is to the 
west, in the Sonoro, at Choco, and at Barbacoas ? I am 
far from wishing to exaggerate the riches of this soil; 
but I do not think myself authorized to deny the exist- 
ence of precious metals in the primitive mountains of 
Ghiiana, merely because in our journey through that country 
we saw no metallic veins. It is somewhat remarkable that 
the natives of the Orinoco have a name in their languages 
for gold (caructtru in Caribbee, caricuri in Tamanac, cavitta 
in Maypure), while the word they use to denote silver, 


prata, is manifestly borrowed from the Spanish.* The 
notions ôollected by Acunha, Pather Fritz, and La Conda- 
mine, on the gold-washings south and north of the river 
IJaupe, agree with what I leamt of the auriferous soil of 
those countries. However great we may suppose the com- 
munications that took place between the nations of the 
Orinoco before the arrival of Europeans, they certainly 
did not draw their gold from the eastern declivity of the 
Cordilleras. This declivity is poor in mines, particularly in 
mines anciently worked ; it is almost entirely composed of 
volcanic rocks in the provinces of Popayan, Paste, and 
Quito. The gold of Guiana probably came from the country 
east of the Aides. In our days a lump of gold has been 
found in a ravine near the missioii of Encaramada, and 
we must not be surprised if, since Europeans settled 
in these wild spots, we hear less of the plates of gold, 
gold-dust, and amulets of jade-stone, which could heretofore 
be obtaiued from the Caribs and other wandering nations 
by barter. The precious metals, never very abundant on 
the banks of the Orinoco, the Rio Negro, and the Amazon, 
disappeared almost entirely when the system of the missions 
caused the distant communications between the natives to 

The banks of the Upper Guainia in general abound much 
less in fishing-birds than those of Cassiquiare, the Meta, 
and the Auraca, where ornithologists would find sufGl- 
cient to enrich immensely the collections of Europe. This 
scarcity of animals arises, no doubt, from the want of 
shoals and flat shores, as weU as from the quality of the 
black waters, which (on account of their very purity) ftir- 
nish less ahment to aquatic insects and fish. However, 
the Indians of these countries, during two periods of the 
year, feed on birds of passage, which repose in their long 

* The Parecas say, instead of prata^ rata. It is the Castilian word 
plata ill-pronounced. Near the Yunibesh there is another inconsiderable 
tributary stream of the Rio Negro, the Curicur-iari. It is easy to 
recognize in this name the Caribbee word carucur, gold. The Caribs 
extended their incursions from the mouth of the Orinoco south-west 
toward the Rio Negro ; and it was this restless people who carried the 
fable of £1 Dorado, by the same way, but in an opposite direction (froic 
south-west to north-east), from the Mesopotamia between the Rio Negr» 
and the Jupura to the sources of the Rio Branco. 


migrations on the waters of the Rio Negro. "When the 
Orinoco begins to swell* after the vernal equinox, an innu- 
merable quantity of ducks (patos careteros) remove from 
the eighth to the thp'd degree of north latitude, to the first and 
fourth degree of south latitude, towards the south-south-east. 
These animak then abandon the valley of the Orinoco, no 
doubt because the increasing depth of waters, and the inun- 
dations of the shores, prevent them from catching fish, in- 
sects, and aquatic worms. They are killed by thousands in 
their passage across the Rio Negro. When they go towards 
the equator they are very fat ana savoury ; but m the month 
of September, when the Orinoco decreases and returns into 
its bed, the ducks, warned either by the voices of the most 
experienced birds of passage, or by that internal feeling 
which, not knowing how to define, we call instinct, return 
from the Amazon and the Rio Branco towards the north. 
At this period they are too lean to tempt the appetite of the 
Indians of the Rio Negro, and escape pursuit more easily from 
being accompanied by a species of nerons (gavanes) which 
are excellent eating. Thus the Indians eat ducks in March, 
and herons in September. We could not learn what becomes 
of the gavanes during the swellings of the Orinoco, and why 
they do not accompany the patos ca/reteros in their migration 
from the Orinoco to the Rio Branco. These regular mi- 
grations of birds from one part of the tropics towards 
another, in a zone which is during the whole year of the 
same temperature, are very extraordinary phenomena. The 
southern coasts of the West India Islands receive also every 
year, at the period of the inundations of the great rivers of 
Terra Firma, numerous flights of the fishing-birds of the 
Orinoco, and of its tributary streams. We must presume 
that the variations of drought aud humidity in the equinoc- 
tial zone have the same influence as the great changes of 
temperature in our climates, on the habits of animals. The 
heat of summer, and the pursuit of insects, call the hum- 
ming-birds into the northern parts of the IJnited States, and 
into Canada as far as the parallels of Paris and Berlin : in 

* The swellings of the Nile take place much later than those of the 
Orinoco ; after the summer solstice, below Syene ; and at Cairo in the 
beginning of July. The Nile begins to sink near that city generally 
about the 15 th of October, and continues sinking till the 20th of May. 


tlie same manner a greater facility for fisbing draws the web- 
footed and long-legged birds from the north to the south, 
from the Orinoco towards the Amazon. Nothing is more 
marveUons, and nothing is yet known less clearly in a geo- 
graphical point of view, than the direction, extent, and term 
of the migrations of birds. 

After having entered the Rio Negro by the Pimichin, and 
passed the small cataract at the confluence of the two rivers, 
we discovered, at the distance of a quarter of a league, the 
mission of Maroa. This village, containing one hundred and 
fifty Indians, presented an appearance of ease and prosperity. 
We puTchasea some fine specimens of the toucan alive; 
a courageous bird, the intelligence of which is developed like 
that of our domestic ravens. "We passed on the right, above 
Maroa, first the mouth of the Aquio,* then that of the Tomo.f 
On the banks of the latter river dwell the Cheruvichahenas, 
some families of whom I have seen at San Francisco Solano. 
The Tomo lies near the Eio Q-uaicia (Xiè), and the mission 
of Tomo receives by that way ftigitive Indians from the 
Lower Q-uainia. We did not enter the mission, but Father 
Zea related to us with a smile, that the Indians of Tomo and 
Marea had been one day in frill insurrection, because an 
attempt was made to force them to dance the famous " dance 
of the devils." The missionary had taken a fancy to have 
the ceremonies by which the jpiaches (who are at once priests, 
physicians, and conjurors) evoke the evil spirit lolokiamo, 
represented in a burlesque manner. He thought that the 
"dance of the devils" would be an excellent means of prov- 
ing to the neophytes that lolokiamo had no longer any 
power over them. Some young Indians, confiding in the 
promises of the missionary, consented to act the devils, and 
were already decorated with black and yellow plumes, and 
jaguar-skins with long sweeping tails. The place where the 
church stands was surrounded by the soldiers who are dis- 
tributed in the missions, in order to add more efiect to the 
counsels of the monks ; and those Indians who were not 
entirely satisfied with respect to the consequences of the 
dance, and the impotency of the evil spirit, were brought ta 

* Aqui, Aaquiy Ake, of the most recent maps, 
t Tomui, Temigo, Tomoiu 

TOL. II. 55 C 


the festivity. The oldest and most timid of the Indians, 
however, imbued all the rest with a superstitious dread; 
all resolved to flee al monte, and the missionary ad- 
journed his project of turning into derision the demon of 
the natives. What extravagant ideas may sometimes 
enter the imagination of an idle monk, who passes his life 
in the forests, far from everything that can recall hu- 
man civilization to his mind. The violence with which 
the attempt was made to execute in public at Tomo the 
mysterious dance of the devils is the more strange, as 
all the books written by the missionaries relate the efforts 
they have used to prevent the ftmereal dances, the dances of 
the sabered trumpet, and that ancient dance of serpents, the 
Queti, in which these wily animals are represented as issuing 
from the forests, and coming to drink with the men in order 
to deceive them, and carry off the women. 

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

At Davipe we bought some provisions, among which were 
fowls and a pig. Tlus purchase greatly interested our In- 
dians, who had been a long while deprived of meat. They 

palm-coedjlge. 3S7 

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

A little above the mission of Davipe, the Bio Negro 
receives a branch of the Cassiquiare, the existence of which is 
a very remarkable phenomenon in the history of the branch- 
ings of rivers. This branch issues from the Cassiquiare, 
. north of Vasiva, bearing the name of the Itinivini ; and, 
after flowing for the length of twenty-five leagues through a 
flat and almost tminhabited country, it falls into the Bio 
Negro under the name of the Bio Conorichite. It appeared 
to me to be more than one hundred and twenty toises broad 
near its mouth. Although the current of the Conorochite 
is very rapid, this natural canal abridges by three days the 
passage from Davipe to Esmeralda. We cannot be sur- 
prised at a double communication between the Cassiquiare 


and the Eio Negro, when we recollect that so many of the 
rivers of America form, as it were, deltas at their con- 
fluence with other rivers. Thus the Eio Branco and the 
Eio Jupura enter by a great number of branches into the 
Eio Negro and the Amazon. At the confluence of the 
Jupura there is a much more extraordinary phenomenon. 
Before this river joins the Amazon, the latt^, which is the 

Srincipal recipient, sends off three branches called Uaranapu, 
fanhama, and Avateparana, to the Jupura, which is but a 
tributary stream. The Portuguese astronomer, Eibeiro, has 
proved this important fact. The Amazon gives waters to 
the Jupura itself, before it receives that tributary stream. 

The Kio Conorichite, or Itinivini, formerly facilitated the 
trade in slaves carried on by the Portuguese in the Spanish 
territory. The slave-traders went up by the Cassiquiare 
and the Cano Meë to Conorichite; and thence dragged 
their canoes by a portage to the rochelas of Manuteso, in 
order to enter the Atabapo. This abominable trade lasted 
till about the year 1756; when the expedition of Solano, 
and the establishment of the missions on the banks of the 
Eio Negro, put an end to it. Old laws of Charles V 
and Philip III* had forbidden under the most severe penal- 
ties (such as the being rendered incapable of civil employ- 
ment, and a fine of two thousand piastres), "the conversion 
of the natives to the faith by violent means, and sending 
armed men against them ;" but notwithstanding these wise 
and humane laws, the Eio Negro, in the middle of the last 
century, was no fiirther interesting in European politics, 
than as it facilitated the entradas, or hostile incursions, and 
favoured the purchase of slaves. The Caribs, a trading and 
warlike people, received from the Portuguese and the tfutch, 
knives, fish-hooks, small mirrors, and aU. sorts of glass 
beads. They excited the Indian chiefs to make war against 
each other, bought their prisoners, and carried off, them- 
selves, by stratagem or force, aU whom they found in their 
way. These incursions of the Caribs comprehended an im- 
mense extent of land; they went from the banks of the 
Essequibo and the Carony, by the Eupunuri and the Pa- 
raguamuzi on one side, directly south towards the Bio 
Brauco ; and on the other, to the south-west, following the 

« 26 Jan. 1523 ; and 10 Oct. 1618. 


portages between the Eio Paragua, the Caura, and the 
V entuario. The Caribs, when they arrived amid the nu- 
merous tribes of the Upper Orinoco, divided themselves into 
several bands, in order to reach, by -the Cassiquiare, the 
Cababury, the Itinivini, and the Atabapo, on a great many 
points at once, the banks of the Gf^uiainia or Bio Negro, and 
carry on the slave-trade with the Portuguese. Thus the 
unhappy natives, before they came into immediate contact 
with the Europeans, suffered from their proximi^. The 
same causes produce everywhere the same effects. The bar- 
barous trade which civilized nations have carried on, and 
still partially continue, on the coast of Africa, extends its 
fatal mfluence even to regions where the existence of white 
men is unknown. 

Having quitted the mouth of the Conorichite and the 
mission of Davipe, we reached at sunset the island of Dapa, 
lying in the middle of the river, and very picturesquely 
situated. We were astonished to find on this spot some 
cultivated ground, and on the top of a small hill an Indian 
hut. Four natives were seated round a fire of brushwood, 
and they were eating a sort of white paste with black spots, 
which much excited our curiosity. These black spots 
proved to be vachacos, large ants, the hinder parts of which 
resemble a lump of grease. They had been dried, and 
blackened by smoke. We saw several bags of them sus- 
pended above the fire. These good people paid but little 
attention to us ; yet there were more than fourteen persons 
in this confined hut, lying naked in hammocks hung one 
above another. When Father Zea arrived, he was received 
with great demonstrations of joy. The military are in 
greater numbers on the banks of the Rio Negro than on 
those of the Orinoco, owing to the necessity of guarding 
the frontiers; and wherever soldiers and monks dispute 
for power over the Indians, the latter are most attached to 
the monks. Two young women came down from their 
hammocks, to prepare for us cakes of cassava. In answer 
to some enquiries which we put to them through an inter- 
preter, they answered that cassava grew poorly on the 
island, but that it was a good land for ants, and food was 
not wanting. In fact, these vacTutcos furnish subsistence 
to the Indians of the Eio Negro and the Guainia. They 


do not eat the ants as a luxiuy, but because, accordins^ to 
the expression of the missionaries, liio fat of ants (the white 
part of the abdomen) is a very substantial food. When 
the cakes of cassava were prepared. Father Zea, whose fever 
seemed rather to sharpen than to enfeeble his appetite, 
ordered a little bag to be brought to him filled with smoked 
vachacos. He mixed these bruised insects with flour of cas- 
sava, which he pressed us to taste. It somewhat resembled 
rancid butter mixed with crumb of bread. The cassava had 
not an acid taste, but some remains of European prejudices 
prevented our joining in the praises bestowed by the good 
missionary on what he called * an excellent ant paste.' 

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

We left the island of Dapa long before daybreak; and 
notwithstanding the rapidity of the current, and the acti- 
vity of our rowers, our passage to the fort of San Carlos 
del Rio Negro occupied twelve hours. We passed, on the 
left, the mouth of the Cassiquiare, and, on the right, the 
small island of Ciunarai. The fort is believed in the 
country to be on the equatorial line ; but, according to the 
observations which I made at the rocks of Oulimacari, it 
'8 in 1° 54' 11". 

We lodged at San Carlos with the commander of the 
fort, a lieutenant of militia. From a gallery in the upper 
part of the house we enjoyed a delightful view of three 
islands of great length, and covered with thick vegetation. 
The river runs in a straight line from north to south, as 
if its bed had been dug by the hand of man. The sky- 
being constantly cloudy gives these countries a solemn and 
gloomy character. We found in the village a fewjuvia- 
trees, which fiimish the triangular nuts cdled in ïairope 


the almonds of the Amazon, or Brazil-nuts. We have made 
it known by the name of BerthoUetia excelsa. The trees 
attain after eight years' growth the height of thirty feet. 

The miHtaiy establishment of this frontier consisted of 
seventeen soldiers, ten of whom were detached for the secu- 
rity of the neighbouring missions. Owing to the extreme 
himiidity of the air there are not four muskets in a con- 
dition to be fired. The Portuguese have from twenty-five 
to thirty men, better clothed and armed, at the little fort 
of San Jose de Maravitanos. We found in the mission of 
San Carlos but one garita* a square house, constructed 
with unbaked bricks, and containing six field-pieces. The 
little fort, or, as they think proper to call it here, the 
Castillo de San Felipe, is situated opposite San Carlos, on 
the western bank of the Rio Negro. 

The banks of the Upper G-uainia wiU be more productive 
when, by the destruction of the forests, the excessive 
humidity of the air and the sou shall be diminished. In 
their present state of culture maize scarcely grows, and 
the tobacco, which is of the finest quality, and much cele- 
brated on the coast of Caracas, is weU. cultivated only on 
spots amid old rmns, remains of the huts of the pvsblo viejo 
(old town). Indigo grows wild near the villages of Maroa, 
Davipe, and Tomo. Under a difibrent system from that 
which we found existing in these countries, the Bio Negro 
will produce indigo, coffee, cacao, maize, and rice, in abun- 

The passage from the mouth of the Rio Negro to Grand 
Para occupying only twenty or twenty-five days, it would 
not have taken us much more time to have gone down the 
Amazon as far as the coast of Brazil, than to return by the 
Cassiquiare and the Orinoco to the northern coast oi Ca- 
racas. We were informed at San Carlos that, on account 
of political circumstances, it was difficult at that moment 
to pass from the Spanish to the Portuguese settlements ; 
but we did not know till after our return to Europe the 
extent of the danger to which we should have been exposed 
in proceeding as far as BarceUos. It was known at Brazil, 
possibly through the medium of the newspapers, that I was 

* This word literally signifies a sentry-box ; but it is here employed in 
the sense of store-house or arsenal. 


going to visit tlie missions of the Bio Negro, and examine 
the natural canal which unites two great systems of riyers. 
In those desert forests instruments had been seen only in the 
hands of the commissioners of the boundaries ; and at that 
time the subaltern agents of the Portuguese gOYermnent 
could not conceive how a man of sense could expose himself 
to the fatimies of a long journey, '^ to measure lands that 
did not belong to him.*' Orders had been issued to seize 
my person, my instruments, and, above all, those registers 
of astronomic^ observations, so dangerous to the safety of 
states. We were to be conducted by way of the Am^on 
to Grand Para, and thence sent back to Lisbon. But 
fortunately for me, the government at Lisbon, on being 
informed of the zeal of its subaltern agents, instantly gave 
orders that I should not be disturbed in my operations; 
but that on the contrary they should be encouraged, if I 
traversed any .part of the Portuguese possessions^ 

Li going down the Guainia, or Bio Negro, you pass on 
the right the Cafio Maliapo, and on the left the Canos 
Dariba and Eny. At five leagues distance, nearlj in 1^ 38^ 
of north latituae, is the island of San Josef. A httle below 
that island, in a spot where there are a great number of 
orange-trees now growing wild, the traveUer is shown a 
small rock, two hundred feet high, with a cavern called by 
the missionaries the Glorieta ae Cocuy. This summer- 
house (for such is the signification of the word glorieta in 
Spanish) recaUs remembrances that are not the most agree- 
able. It was here that Cocuy, the chief of the Manitivi- 
tanos,* had his harem of women, and where he devoured 
the finest and fattest. The tradition of the harem and the 
orgies of Cocuy is more current in the Lower Orinoco than 
on the banks of the Guainia. At San Carlos the very idea 
that the chief of the Manitivitanos could be guilty of 
cannibalism is indignantly rejected. 

The Portuguese government has established many settle- 
ments even in th^ remote part of BraziL Below the 
Œorieta, in the Portuguese territory, there are eleven 
villages in an extent of twenty-five leagues. I know o£ 

* At San Carlos there is still presenred an instmment of music, a 
kind of large dram, ornamented with very mde Indian paintioga, whidi 
relate to the exploits of Cocny. 


nineteen more as far as the moutli of the Rio î^egro, beside 
the six towns of Thomare, Moreira (near the Bio De^me- 
nene, or Uaraca, where dwelt anciently the Guiana Indians) 
Barcellos, San Miguel del Rio Brancc», near the river of the 
same name (so well known in the fictions of El Dorado), 
Moura, and Villa do Bio Negro. The banks of this tri- 
butary stream of the Amazon alone are consequently ten 
times more thickly peopled than all the shores of the Upper 
and Lower Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, the Atabapo, and the 
Spanish Bio Negro. 

Among the tributary streams which the Bio Negro receives 
from the north, three are particularly deserving of attention, 
because on account of their branchmgs, their portages, and 
the situation of their sources, they are connected with the 
offcen-discussed problem of the origin of the Orinoco. The 
most southern of these tributary streams are the Bio Brianco,* 
which was long believed to issue conjointly with the Orinoco 
from lake Parime, and the Bio Padaviri, which communicates 
by a portage with the Mavaca, and consequently with the 
Upper Orinoco, to the east of the mission of Esmeralda. 
"We shall have occasion to speak of the Bio Branco and the 
Padaviri, when we arrive in that mission; it suffices here to 
pause at the third tributary stream of the Bio Negro, the 
Cababury, the iaterbranchiags of which with the Cassiquiare 
are alike important in tW connesioii with hjdrogL^hj, 
and with the trade in sarsaparilla. 

The lofty mountains oi the Parime, which border the 
northern bank of the Orinoco in the upper part of its 
course above Esmeralda, send off a chain towards the south, 
of which the Cerro de TJnturan forms one of the principal 
summits. This mountainous country, of small extent but 
rich in vegetable productions, above all, in the mavacwre 
liana, employed in preparing the wowali poison, in almond- 

* The Portuguese name, Rio Branco, signifies White River, Rio 
Parime is a Caribbean name, signifying Great Water. These names 
having also been applied to different tributary streams, have caused many 
errors in geography. The great Rio Branco, or Parime, often mentioned 
in this work, is formed by the Urariquera and the Tacutu, and flows, 
between Carvoeyro and Yilla de Moura, into the Rio Negro. It is the 
Quecaene of the natives ; and forms at its confluence with the Rio Negro 
a very narrow delta, between the principal trunk and the Amayauhau, 
which is a little branch more to the west. 


trees (thejuvia, or BerthoUetia excelsa), in aromatic puehe^ 
ries, and in wild cacao-trees, forms a point of division 
between the waters that flow to the Ormoco, the Cassi- 
quiare, and the Rio Negro. The tributary streams on the 
north, or those of the Orinoco, are the Mavaca and the 
Daracapo ; those on the west, or of the Cassiquiare, are the 
Idapa and the Paciinoni ; and those on the south, or of the 
Rio Negro, are the Padaviri and the Cababuri. The latter 
is divided near its source into two branches, the western- 
most of which is known by the name of Baria. The Indians 
of the mission of San Francisco Solano gave us the most 
minute description of its course. It affords the very rare 
example of a oranch by which an inferior tributary s^am, 
instead of recei\'ing the waters of the superior stream, sends 
to it a part of its own waters in a direction opposite to that 
of the principal recipient. 

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

The chief object of these incursions is the collection of 
sarsaparilla and the aromatic seeds of the puchery-laurel 
(Laurus pichurim). The sarsaparilla of these countries is 
celebrated at Grand Para, Angostura, Cumana, Nueva Bar- 
celona, and in other parts of Terra Pirma, by the name of 
zarza del Bio Negro, It is much preferred to the zarza of 
the province of Caracas, or of the mountains of Merida ; it 
is dried with great care, and exposed purposely to smoke, in 
order that it may become blacker. This liana grows in pro- 
fusion on the humid declivities of the mountains of Unturan 
and Achivaquery. Decandolle is right in suspecting that 
different species of smilax are gathered under the name of 
sarsaparilla. We found twelve new species, among which 
the Smilax siphyHtica of the Cassiquaire, and the Smilax 
officinalis of the river Magdalena, are most esteemed on 
account of their diuretic properties. The quantity of sar- 
saparilla employed in the Spanish colonies as a domestic 


medicine ia^very considerable. We see by the works of 
Clusius, that at the beginning of the Conmiista, Europe 
obtained this salutary medicament from the Mexican coast 
of Honduras and the port of Guayaquil. The trade in zarza 
is now more active in those ports which have interior 
communications with the Orinoco, the Bio Negro, and the 

The trials^ made in several botanical gardens of Europe 
prove that the Smilax glauca of Virginia, which it is pre- 
tended is the S. sarsaparilla of Linnaeus, may be cultivated 
in the open air, wherever the mean winter temperature 
rises above six or seven degrees of the centigrade ther- 
mometer*: but those species that possess the most active 
virtues belong exclusively to the torrid zone, and require a 
much higher degree of heat. In reading the works of Clu- 
sius, it can scarcely be conceived why our writers on the 
Materia Medica persist in considering a plant of the United 
States as the most ancient type of the officinal species of the 
genus smilax. 

We found in the possession of the Indians of the Rio 
Negro some of those green stones, known by the name of 
"Amazon stones," because the natives pretena, according to 
an ancient tradition, that they come from the country " of the 
women without husbands {Ùmgnam^tamsecouvma), or women 
living alone {Aihecmbenano^),^^ We were told at San Carlos, 
and in the neighbouring villages, that the sources of the 
Orinoco, which we found east of the Esmeralda, and in the 
missions of the Carony and at Angostura, that the sources 
of the Bio Branco are the native spots of the green stones. 
These statements confirm the report of an old soldier of the 

* The winter temperature at London and Paris is 4*2^ and 3*7^; at 
Montpelier, 6*7® ; at Rome, 7*7®. In that part of Mexico, and the Terra 
Firma, where we saw the most active species of the sarsaparilla growing, 
(that whicn supplies the trade of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies) 
the temperature is from twenty to twenty-six degrees. The roots of 
another family of monocotyledons (of some cyperaceœ) possess also dia- 
phoretic and resolvent properties. The Carex arenaria, the C. hirta, &c. 
furnish the German sarsaparilla of druggists. According to Clusius, 
Europe received the first sarsaparilla from Yucatan, and the island o/ 
Puna, opposite Guayaquil. 

-f- This word is of the Tamanac language ; these women are the sole 
Donne of the Italian missionaries. 


garrison of Cayenne (mentioned by La Condamine), wlio 
affirmed that these mineral substances were obtained firom 
the " country of women," west of the rapids of the Oyapoc. 
The Indians who inhabit the fort of Topayos on the Amazon, 
five degrees east of the mouth of the Eio Negro, possessed 
formerly a great nimiber of these stones. ]B!ad they received 
them from the north, that is, fix)m the country pointed out 
by the Indians of the Kio Negro, which extends fi*om the 
mountains of Cayenne towards the sources of the Essequibo, 
the Carony, the Orinoco, the Parime, and the Eio Trom- 
betas ? or did they come from the south by the Rio Topayos, 
which descends &om the vast table-land of the Campos 
Parcels ? Superstition attaches great importance to these 
mineral substances : they are worn suspended fix)m the neck 
as amulets, because, according to popular belief, they pre- 
serve the wearer from nervous complaints, fevers, and the 
stings of venomous serpents. They nave consequently been 
for ages an article of trade among the natives, both north 
and south of the Orinoco. The Caribs, who may be con- 
sidered as the Buchanans of the New World, made them 
known along the coasts of Ghuiana; and the same stones, 
like money in circulation, passed successively from nation 
to nation in opposite directions : their quantity is perhaps 
not augmented, and the spot which produces them is pro- 
bably unknown rather than concealed. In the midst oi en- 
lightened Europe, on occasion of a warm contest respecting 
native bark, a few years ago, the green stones of the Orinoco 
were gravely proposed as a powerftd febrifuge. After this 
appeal to the credulity of Europeans, we cannot be sur- 
prised to learn that the Spanish planters share the predilec- 
tion of the Indians for these amulets, and that they are sold 
at a very considerable price. The form given to them most 
frequently is that of the Babjrlonian cyHnders,* loi^tudi- 
nalfy perforated, and loaded with inscriptions and ngures. 
But this is not the work of the Indians of our days, the na- 
tives of the Orinoco and the Amazon, whom we find in the 
last degree of barbarism. The Amazon stones, like the per- 
forated and sculptured emeralds, found in the Cordilleras of 
New Ghrenada and Quito, are vestiges of anterior civilization. 

* The price of a cylinder two inches long is from twelve to fifteen 


The present inhabitants of those countries, particularly in 
the hot region, so little comprehend the possibilily of cut- 
ting hard stones, (the emerald, jade, compact feldspar and 
rocK-crystal,) that they imagine the green stone is soft when 
taken out of the earth, and that it hardens after having been 
moulded by the hand. 

The natural soil of the Amazon-stone is not in the vàUey 
of the river Amazon. It does not derive its name from the 
river, but like the river itself, the stone has been named after 
a nation of warlike women, whom Father Acunha, and 
Oviedo, in his letter to cardinal Bembo, compare to the 
Amazons of the ancient world. What we see in our cabinets 
under the false denomination of Amazon-stone, is neither 
jade, nor compact feldspar, but a common feldspar of an 
apple-green colour, that comes from the Ural mountains 
and on lake Onega in Russia, but which I never saw in the 
granitic mountains of G-uiana. Sometimes also this very 
rare and hard Amazon-stone is confounded with the hatchet- 
nephrite (beilstein)* of Werner, which has much less tena- 
city. The substance which I obtained from the hands of 
the Indians, belongs to the saussvHte,^ to the real jade, 
which resembles compact feldspar, and which forms one of 
the constituent parts of the verde de Corsica, or gabbro. J It 
takes a fine polish, and passes from apple-green to emerald- 
green ; it is translucent at the edges, exlremely tenacious, 
and in a high degree sonorous. These Amazon stones were 
formerly cut by the natives into very thin plates, perforated 
at the centre, and suspended by a thread, and these plates 
yield an almost metallic sound if struck by another hard 
body. II This fact confirms the connection which we find, 
notwithstanding the difference of fracture and of specific 
gravity between the saussurite and the siliceous basis of the 
porpJiyrschiefer, which is the phonolite (klingstein). I have 

* Punamustein (jade axinien). The stone hatchets found in America» 
for instance in Mexico, are not of beilstein^ but of compact feldspar. 

t Jade of Saussure, according to the system of Brongniart ; tenacious 
jade, and compact tenacious feldspar of Hatty ; some varieties of the 
variolithe of Werner. 

X Euphotide of Hauy, or schillerfels of Raumer. 

(I M. Brongniart, to whom I showed these plates on my return to 
Europe, yery justly compared these jades of Parime to the sonorous 
stones employed by the Chinese in their musical instruments called king» 


already observed, that, as it is very rare to find in America 
nephrite, jade, or compact feldspar, in its native place, we 
may weU be astonished at the quantity of hatchets which 
are everywhere discovered in digging the earth, from the 
banks of the Ohio as far as Chile. "We saw in the 
mountains of Upper Orinoco, or of Parime, only granular 
granites containing a Httle hornblende, granites passing into 
gneiss, and schistoid hornblendes. Has nature repeated on 
the east of Esmeralda, between the sources of the Carony, 
the Essequibo, the Orinoco, and the Rio Branco, the tran- 
sition-formation of Tucutunemo reposing on micarschist? 
Does the Amazon-stone come from the rocks of euphotide, 
which form the last member of the series of primitive rocks? 
"We find among the inhabitants of both nemispheres, at 
the first dawn of civilization, a peculiar predilection for cer- 
tain stones ; not only those which, from their hardness, may 
be useful to man as cutting instruments, but also for mine- 
ral substances, which, on account of their colour and their 
natural form, are beHeved to bear some relation to the orga- 
nic functions, and even to the propensities of the soul. 
This ancient worship of stones, these benign virtues attri- 
buted to jade and haematite, belong to the savages of Ame- 
rica as well as to the inhabitants of the forests of Thrace. 
The himian race, when in an uncultivated state, believes itself 
to have sprung from the ground ; and feels as if it were 
enchained to the earth, and the substances contained in her 
bosom. The powers of nature, and stiU more those which 
destroy than those which preserve, are the first objects of 
its worship. It is not solely in the tempest, in the sound 
that precedes the earthquake, in the fire that feeds the vol- 
cano, that these powers are manifested ; the inanimate rock ; 
stones, by their lustre and hardness ; mountains, by their 
mass and their solitude ; act upon the imtaught mind with 
a force which, in a state of advanced civilization, can no 
longer be conceived. This worship of stones, when once 
established, is preserved amidst more modem forms of wor- 
ship ; and what was at first the object of religous homage, 
becomes a source of superstitious confidence. Divine stones 
are transformed into amulets, which are believed to preserve 
the wearer from every iU, mental and corporeal. Altnough a 
distance of five hundred leagues separates the banks of the 


Amazon and the Orinoco from tlie Mexican table-land; 
altbough history records no fact that connects the savage 
nations of Guiana with the civilized nations of Anahuac, the 
monk Bernard de Sahagun, at the beginning of the conquest, 
found preserved as reHcs at Cholula, certain green stones 
which had belonged to Quetzalcohuatl. This mysterious per- 
sonage is the Mexican Buddha ; he appeared in the time or the 
Toltecs, founded the first religious associations, and estab- 
fished a government similar to that of Meroë and of Japan. 

The history of the jade, or the green stones of Guiana, is 
intimately connected with that of the warlike women whom 
the travellers of the sixteenth century named the Amazons 
of the New World. La Condamine has produced many 
testimonies in favour of this tradition. Smce my return 
from the Orinoco and the river Amazon, I have often been 
asked, at Paris, whether I embraced the opinion of that 
learned man, or believed, like several of his contemporaries, 
that he undertook the defence of the Cov^naMaw^ec(mvma^ 
(the independent women who received men into their society 
only in the month of April), merely to fix, in a public 
sitting of the Academy, the attention of an audience some- 
what eager for novelties. I may take this opportunity of 
expressing my opinion on a tradition which has so romantic 
an appearance ; and I am farther led to do this as La Conda- 
mine asserts that the Amazons of the Eio Cayame* crossed 

* Orellana, arriving at the Maraflon by the Rio Coca and the Napo, 
fought with the Amazons, as it appears, between the mouth of the Rio 
Negro and that of the Xingu. La Condamine asserts, that in the 
seventeenth century they passed the Maraflon between Tefe and the 
mouth of the Rio Puruz, near the Caflo Cuchivara, which is a western 
branch of the Puruz. These women^ therefore came from the banks of 
the Rio Cayame, or Cayambe, consequently from the unknown country 
which extends south of the Maraflon, between ^the Ucayale and the 
Madeira. Raleigh also places them on the south of the Maraflon, but in 
the province of Topayos, and on the river of the same name. He says 
they were '* rich in golden vessels, which they had acquired in exchange 
for the famous green stones, or piedras hijadas" (Raleigh means, no 
doubt, piedras del higadOt stones that cure diseases of the liver.) It is 
remarkable enough, that, one hundred and forty-eight years after, La 
Condamine still fonnd those green stones (divine stones) f which differ 
neither in colour nor in hardness from oriental jade, in greater numbers 
among the Indians who live near the mouth of the Rio Topayos, than 
elsewhere. The Indians said that they inherited these stones, wliich cttr« 

« r^rxTTX-nv «>-rW^ »> 

400 THE "golden Knro. 

the Marafion to establisli themselves on the Bio Neffro. A 
taste for the marvellous, and a wish to invest the descrip- 
tions of the New Contin^it with some of the colouring of 
classic antiquity, no doubt contributed to give great import- 
ance to the first narratives of OreUana. In perusing the 
works of Vespucci, Fernando Columbus, G^éraldini, Oviedo, 
and Pietro Martyr, we recognize this tendency of the writers 
of the sixteenth century to find among the newly discovered 
nations all that the G-reeks have related to us of the first 
age of the world, and of the manners of the barbarous Scy- 
thians and Africans. But if Oviedo, in addressing his letters 
to cardinal Bembo, thought fit to fiatter the taste of a man 
so familiar with the study of antiquity. Sir Walter Baleigh 
had a less poetic aim. He sought to ûx the attention of 
Queen Elizabeth on the great empire of Ghuiana, the con- 
quest of which he proposed. He gave a description of the 
rising of that ailded king (el dorado),* whose chamberlains, 
furnished with long tubes, blew powdered gold every morn- 
ing over his body, after having rubbed it over with aromatic 
oils : but nothing could be better adapted to strike the ima- 
gination of queen Elizabeth, than the warlike republic of 
women without husbands, who resisted the Castilian heroes. 
Such were the motives which prompted exaggeration on the 
part of those writers who have given most reputation to the 
Amazons of America; but these motives do not, I think, 
suflBce for entirely rejecting a tradition, which is spread 
among various nations having no communications one with 

Thirty years after La Condamine visited Quito, a Portu- 
guese astronomer, Bibeiro, who has traversed the Amazon, 
and the tributary streams which run into that river on the 
northern side, has confirmed on the spot all that the learned 
Erenchman had advanced. He found the same traditions 
among the Indians; and he collected them with the greater 
impartiality as he did not himself believe that the Amazons 

the nephritic colic and epilepsy, from their fitthen, who reoelyed them 
from the women vnthout husbands,** 

* The term el dorado, which signifies the gilded, was not originallv 
the name of the country. The territory subsequently distingaished by 
that appellation was at first known as the coontiy of "el Rey Dorado*' 
{the Gilded King). 


formed a separate horde. Not knowing any of the tongues 
spoken on the Orinoco and the Eio Negro, I could learn 
nothing certain respecting the popular traditions of the 
women without husbands, or the origin of the green stones, 
which are believed to be intimately connected with them. I 
shall, however, quote a modem testimony of some weight, 
that of Father Gih. " Upon inquiring," says this well- 
informed missionary, of a Quaqua Indian, what nations 
inhabited the Bio Cuchivero, he named to me the Achiri- 
gotos, the Pajuros, and the Aikeambenanos.* Being weU 
acquainted," pursues he, "with the Tamanac tonffue, I 
instantly comprehended the sense of this last word, which is 
a compound, and signifies * women living alone.' The Indian 
confirmed my observation, and related that the Aikeambe- 
nanos were a community of womfin, who maniifecfcured blow- 
tubes,t and other weapons of war. They admit, once a 
year, the men of the neighbouring nation of Vokearos into 
their society, and send tnem back with presents. All the 
male children bom in this horde of women are killed in their 
infancy." This history seems framed on the traditions 
which circulate among the Indians of the Maranon, and 
among the Caribs; yet the Quaqua Indian, of whom Father 
G-Hi speaks, was ignorant of the Castilian language; he had 
neverliad any communication with white men; and certainly 
knew not, that south of the Orinoco there existed another 
river, called the river of the * Aikeambenanos,' or * Amazons.' 
What must we conclude from this narration of the old 
missionary of Encaramada? Not that there are Amazons on 
the banks of the Cuchivero, but that women in different 
parts of America, wearied of the state of slavery in which 
they were held by the men, united themselves together; that 
the desire of preserving their independence rendered them* 
warriors; and that they received visits from a neighbouring 
and feendly horde. This society of women may have 
acquired some power in one part of G-uiana. The Caribs of 
the continent held intercourse with those of the islands; and 
no doubt in this way the traditions of the Marafion and the 
Orinoco were propagated toward the north. Before the 

* In Italian, Acchirecoltif Pajuri, and Aicheammbenano, 
f Long tubes made from a hoUow cane, which the natives ose to pro|Ml 
their poisoned arrows. 

VOL. II. 2 D 


voyage of Orellana, Christopher Columbus imagiued he had 
found the Amazons in the Caribbee Islands. This great 
man was told, that the small island of Madanino (Mont- 
serrat) was inhabited by warlike women, who lived the 
greater part of the year separate from men. At other times 
also, the conquistadores imagined that the women, who 
defended their huts in the absence of their husbands, were 
republics of Amazons ; and, by an error less excusable, 
formed a like supposition respecting the religious congrega- 
tions, the convents of Mexican virgins, who, far from admit- 
ing men at any season of the year into their society, lived 
according to the austere rule of Quetzalcohuatl. Such was 
the disposition of men's minds, that in the long succession 
of travellers, who crowded on each other in their discoveries 
and in narrations of the marvels of the New World, every 
one readily declared he had seen what his predecessors had 

We passed three nights at San Carlos del Rio Negro. 1 
count the nights, because I watched during the greater part 
of them, in the hope of seizing the moment of the passage of 
some star over the meridian. That I might have nothing to 
reproach myself with, I kept the instnmients always ready 
for an observation. I could not even obtain double altitudes, 
to calculate the latitude by the method of Douwes. What 
a contrast between two pajrts of the same zone; between the 
sky of Cumana, where the air is constantly pure as in 
Persia and Ai'abia, and the sky of the Eio Negro, veiled like 
that of the Feroe islands, without sun, or moon, or stars! 

On the 10th of May, our canoe being ready before sun- 
rise, we embarked to go up the E,io Negro as far as the 
mouth of the Cassiquiare, and to devote ourselves to re- 
searches on the real course of that river, which unites the 
Orinoco to the Amazon. The morning was fine; but, in 
proportion as the heat augmented, the sky became obscured. 
The air is so saturated by water in these forests, that the 
vesicular vapours become visible on the least increase of 
evaporation at the surface of the earth. The breeze being 
never felt, the himud strata are not displaced and renewed 
by dryer air. We were eveiy day more grieved at the 
aspect of the cloudy sky. M. fionpland was losing by this 
excessive humidity the plants he had collected; and I, for 


my part, was afraid lest I should again find the fogs of the 
E/io Negro in the valley of the Cassiquiare. No one in 
these missions for half a century past had doubted the 
existence of communication between two great systems of 
rivers; the important point of our voyage was confined there- 
fore to fixing by astronomical observations the course of the 
Cassiquiare, and particularly the point of its entrance into 
the Rio Negro, and that oi the bifurcation of the Orinoco. 
"Without a sight of the sun and the stars this object would 
be frustrated, and we should have exposed ourselves in vain 
to long and painful privations. Our fellow travellers would 
have returned by the shortest way, that of the Pimichin and 
the small rivers; but M. Bonplaud preferred^ like me, per- 
sisting in the plan of the voyage, which we had traced for 
ourselves in passing the G-reat Cataracts. We had already 
travelled one hundred and eighty leagues in a boat from San 
Pernando de Apure to San Carlos, on the Rio Apure, the 
Orinoco, the Atabapo, the Temi, the Tuamini, and the Rio 
Negro. In again entering the Orinoco by the Cassiquiare 
we had to navigate three hundred and twenty leagues, from 
San Carlos to Angostura. By this way we had to struggle 
against the currents during ten days; the rest was to be 
performed by going down the stream of the Orinoco. It 
would have been blâmable to have sufifered ourselves to be 
discouraged by the fear of a cloudy sky, and by the mos- 
quitos of the Cassiquiare. Our Indian pilot, who had been 
recently at Mandavaca, promised us the sun, and "those 
great stars that eat the clouds," as soon as we should have 
left the hlacJc waters of the Guaviare. We therefore carried 
out our ^rst project of returning to San Eemando de Ata- 
bapo by the Cassiquiare ; and, fortunately for our researches, 
the prediction of the Indian was verified. The white waters 
brought us by degrees a more serene sky, stars, mosquitos, 
and crocodiles. 

We passed between the islands of Zaruma and Mini, or 
Mibita, covered with thick vegetation; and, after having 
ascended the rapids of the JPicdra de TJmvmane, we entered 
the Rio Cassiquiare at tlie distance of eight miles from the 
smaU fort of San Carlos. The Fiedra, or granitic rock 
which forms the little cataract, attracted our attention on 
account of the numerous veins of quartz by which it is 

2 i>2. 


traTersed. These Teins are several inches broad, and theb 
masses proved that their date and formation are yeiy 
different. I saw distinctly that, wherever they crossed each 
other, the veins containing mica and black schorl traversed 
and drove out of their direction those which contained only 
white quartz and feldspar. According to the theory of 
Werner, the black veins were consequently of a more recent 
formation than the white. Being a disciple of the school of 
Freyberg, I could not but pause with 8ati6fia.ction at the 
rock of Uinumane, to observe the same phenomena near the 
equator, which I had so often seen in the mountains of my 
own country. I confess that the theory which considers 
veins as clefts filled from above with various substances, 
pleases me somewhat less now than it did at that period ; 
but these modes of intersection and driving aside, observed 
in the stony and metallic veins, do not the less merit the 
attention of travellers as being one of the most general and 
constant of geological phenomena. On the east of Javita, 
all along the Cassiquiare, and particularly in the mountains 
of Duiift, the number of vems in the granite increases. 
These veins are full of holes and druses; and their frequency 
seems to indicate that the granite of these countries is not 
of very ancient formation. 

We found some lichens on the rock Uinumane, opposite 
the island of Chamanare, at the edge of the rapids ; and as 
the Cassiquiare near its mouth turns abruptly from east to 
south-west, we saw for the first time this majestic branch of 
the Orinoco in all its breadth. It much resembles the Bio 
Negro in the general aspect of the landscape. The trees of 
the forest, as in the basin of the latter river, advance as far 
as the beach, and there form a thick coppice ; but the Cassi- 
quiare has white waters, and more frequently changes its 
direction. Its breadth, near the rapids of Uinumane, almost 
surpasses that of the Bio Negro. I foimd it everywhere 
from two hundred and fifty to two himdred and eighty 
toises, as far as above Vasiva. Before we passed the idiand 
of G^arigave, we perceived to the north-east, almost at the 
horizon, a little hiU with a hemispheric summit ; the form 
which in every zone characterises mountains of granite. 
Continually surrounded by vast plains, the solitary rocks 
and hiUs excite the attention of the traveller. Contiguooi 


mountains are only found more to the east, towards the 
sources of the Pacimoni, Siapa, and Mavaca. Having 
arrived on the south of the Eaudal of Caravine, we per- 
ceived that the Cassiquiare, by the windings of its course, v 
again approached San Carlos. The distance from this fort 
to the mission of San Francisco Solano, where we slept, is 
only two leagues and a half by land, but it is reckoned 
seven or eight by the river. I passed a part of the night in * 
the open air, waiting vainly for stars. The air was misty, 
notwithstanding the agiios hlancas, which were to lead us 
beneath an ever-starry sky. 

The mission of San Erancisco Solano, situated on the left 
bank of the Cassiquiare, was founded, as were most of the 
Christian settlements south of the Great Cataracts of the 
Orinoco, not by monks, but by military authority. At the 
time of the expedition of the boundaries, villages were built 
in proportion as a sMeniente, or a corporal, advanced with 
his troops. Part of the natives, in order to preserve their 
independence, retired without a struggle ; otners, of whom 
the most powerful chiefs had been gained, joiued the mis- 
sions. Where there was no church, they contented them- 
selves with erecting a great cross of red wood, close to 
which they constructed a casa fuerte, or block-house, the 
walls of which were formed of large beams resting hori- 
zontally upon each other. This house had two stories ; in 
the upper story two cannon of small calibre were placed; 
and two soldiers lived on the ground-floor, and were served 
by an Turlian family. Those of the natives with whom they 
were at peace cultivated spots of land roimd the casafuerte. 
The soldiers called them together by the sound of the horn, 
or a hotuto of baked earth, whenever any hostile attack was 
dreaded. Such were the pretended nineteen Christian 
settlements founded by Don Antonio Santos in the way 
from Esmeralda to the Erevato. Military posts, which had 
no influence on the civilization of the natives, figured on the 
maps, and in the works of the missionaries, as villages 
(pueblos) and reducciones apostolicas,* The preponderance 
of the military was maintained on the banks of the Orinoco 
till 1785, when the system of the monks of San Francisco 

* Signifying apostolic conquests or conversions. 


began. The small number of missions founded, or rather 
re-established, since that period, owe their existence to the 
Fathers of the Observance ; for the soldiers now distributed 
among the missions are dependent on the missionaries, or 
at least are reputed to be so, according to the pretensions 
of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

The Indians whom we found at San !Prancisco Solano 
were of two nations; Pacimonales and Cheruvichahenas. 
The latter being descended from a considerable tribe settled 
on the Rio Tomo, near the Manivas of the Upper Guainia, I 
tried to gather from them some ideas respecting the upper 
course and the sources of the Rio Negro ; but the interpreter 
whom I employed could not make them comprehend my 
questions. Their continually-repeated answer was, that the 
sources of the Rio Negro and the Inirida were as near to 
each other as "two fingers of the hand." In one of the 
huts of the Pacimonales we purchased two fine large birds, 
a toucan (piapoco) and an ema, a species of macaw, seven- 
teen inches long, having the whole body of a purple colour. 
We had already in our canoe seven parrots, two manakins 
(pipa), a motmot, two guans, or pavas de monte, two mana- 
vu'is (cercoleptes or Yiverra caudivolvula), and eight mon- 
keys, namely, two ateles,* two titis,t one viudita,J two 
douroucoulis or nocturnal monkeys, || and a short-tailed 
cacajao. § Father Zea whispered some complaints at the 
daily augmentation of this ambulatory collection. The 
toucan resembles the raven in manners and intelligence. 
It is a courageous animal, but easily tamed. Its long and 
stout beak serves to defend it at a distance. It makes 
itself master of the house, steals whatever it can come at, 
and loves to bathe often and fish on the banks of the river. 
The toucan we had bought was very young; yet it took 
delight, during the whole voyage, in teasing the cusicusis, 
or nocturnal monkeys, which are melancholy and irritable. 
I did not observe what has been related in some works of 
natural history, that the toucan is forced, from the structure 

* Marimonda of the Great Cataracts, (Simla belzebuth, Brisson.) 

t Simla sdurea, the salmirl of Buffon. 

X Simla lugens. 

n Cuslensl, or Simla trivlrgata. 

I Simla mdanooqphala, {mono/eo,) These last three species are new. 


of its beak, to swallow its food hj throwing it up into the 
air. It raises it indeed with some difficulty from the 
ground, but, having once seized it with the point of its 
enormous beak, it has only to lift it up by throwing back 
its head, and holding it perpendicularly whilst in the act of 
swallowing. This bird makes extraordinary gestures when 
preparing to drink. The monks say that it makes the sign 
of the cross upon the water; ana this popular belief has 
obtained for the toucan, from the créoles, the singular name 
of diostede,* 

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

On the 11th of May, we left the mission of San Pran- 
cisco Solano at a late hour, to make but a short day's 
journey. The uniform stratum of vapours began to be 
divided into clouds with distinct outlines : and there was a 

* Dios te dé, God gives it thee. 


taking the altitudes of the two beautiful stars which shme 
in the feet of the Centaur. This observation made known 
to us at the same time, with sufficient precision for the 
purposes of geography, the positions of tne mouth of the 
racimoni, of the fortress of San Carlos, and of the junction 
of the Cassiquiare with the Eio Negro. The rock* of Ouli- 
macari is precisely in latitude 2° 0' 42", and probably in 
longitude 69° 33' 50". 

Satisfied with our observations, we left the rock of Culi- 
macari at half past one on the morning of the 12th. The 
torment of mosquitos, to which we were exposed, augmented 
in proportion as we withdrew from the Rio Negro. There 
are no zancudos in the valley of Cassiquiare, but the simu- 
lia, and all the other insects of the tipulary family, are the 
more numerous and venomous. Having still eight nights to 

Eass in the open air in this damp and unhealthy climate, 
efore we could reach the mission of Esmeralda, our pilot 
sought to arrange our passage in such a manner as might 
enable us to enjoy the hospitality of the missionary of 
Mandavaca, and some shelter m the village of Vasiva. "We 
went up with difficulty against the current, which was nine 
feet, and in some places (where I measured it with pre- 
cision) eleven feet eight inches in a second, that is, almost 
eight miles an hour. Our resting-place was probablv not 
farther than three leagues in a right line from the mission 
of Mandavaca ; yet, though we had no reason to complain 
of inactivity on the part of our rowers, we were fourteen 
hours in making this short passage. 

Towards sunrise we passed the mouth of the Eio Paci- 
moni, a river which I mentioned when speaking of the trade 
in sarsaparilla, and which (by means of the Baria) inter- 
twines in so remarkable a way with the Cababuri. The 
Pacimoni rises in a hiUy ground, from the confluence of 
three small rivers,* not marked on the maps of the mission- 
aries. Its waters are black, but less so than those of the 
lake of Vasiva, which also communicates with the Cassi- 
quiare. Between those two tributary streams coining from 
wie east, lies the mouth of the Rio Idapa, the waters of 
which are white. I shall not recur again to the difficulty of 

* The Rios Guajavaca, Moreje, and Cachevaynery. 


mountains?* or have these walls of rock, these turrets of 
granite, been upheaved by the elastic forces that still act in 
the interior of our planet ? We may be permitted to medi- 
tate a little on the origin of mountains, after having seen 
the position of the Mexican volcanos, and of trachyte 
summits on an elongated crevice; having found in the 
Andes of South America primitive and volcanic rocks in a 
straight line in the same chain ; and when we recollect the 
island, three miles in circumference, and of a great height, 
which in modem times issued from the depths of the ocean 
near Oonalaska. 

The banks of the Cassiquiare are adorned with the chiriva 
palm-tree with pinnate leaves, silvery on the under part. The 
rest of the forest furnishes only trees with large, coriaceous, 
glossy leaves, that have plain edges. This peculiar çhy^siog- 
nomy t of the vegetation of the Gruainia, tne Tuamim, and 
the Cassiquiare, is owiag to the preponderance of the families 
of the guttifer», the sapotse, and the laurine», in the equa- 
torial regions. The serenity of the sky promisiug us a fine 
night, we resolved, at five m the evening, to rest near the 
Pied/ra de Oulimacari, a solitary granite rock, like all those 
which I have described between the Atabapo and the Cassi- 
quiare. "We found by the bearings of the sinuosities of the 
river, that this rock is nearly in the latitude of the mission 
of San Erancisco Solano. In those desert countries, where 
man has hitherto left only fugitive traces of his existence, I 
constantly endeavoured to make my observations near the 
mouth of a river, or at the foot of a rock distinguishable by 
its form. Such points only as are immutable by their 
nature can serve for the basis of geographical maps. I 
obtained, in the night of the 10th of May, a good observa- 
tion of latitude by a of the Southern Cross ; the longitude 
was determiaed, but with less precision, by the chronometer, 

* The Sierra de la Parime, or of the Upper Orinoco, and the Sierra 
(or Campos) dos Parcels, are part of the mountains of Matto Grosso, 
and form the northern hack of the Sierra de Chiquitos. I here name 
the two chains of mountains running from east to west, and bordering the 
plains or basins of the Cassiquiare, the Bio Negro, and the Amazon, 
between 5° 30' north, and 14° south latitude. 

t This physiognomy struck us forcibly, in the vast forests of Spanish 
Guiana, oiUy between the second and third degrees of north, latitudes» 


defenceless family is surprised in the night; or an enemj, 
who is met with hv chance in the woods, is killed by a 
poisoned arrow. The body is cut to pieces, and carried as a 
trophy to the hut. It is ciyilization only, that has made 
man feel the unity of the human race ; which has revealed 
to him, as we may say, the ties of consanguinity, by which 
he is linked to beings to whose language and manners he is 
a stranger. Savages know only their own family ; and a 
tribe appears to them but a more numerous assemblage of 
relations. When those who inhabit the missions see In- 
dians of the forest, who are unknown to them, arrive, they 
make use of an expression, which has struck us by its simple 
candour ; " they are, no doubt, my relations : I understand 
them when they speak to me." But these very savages 
detest all who are not of their family, or their tribe ; and 
hunt the Indians of a neighbouring mbe, who live at war 
with their own, as we hunt game. They know the duties of 
family ties and of relationship, but not those of humanity, 
which require the feeling of a common tie with beings 
framed like ourselves. No emotion of pity prompts them 
to spare the wives or children of a hostile race ; and the 
latter are devoured in preference, at the repast given at the 
conclusion of a battle or warlike incursion. 

The hatred which savages for the most part feel for men 
\^ho speak another idiom, and appear to them to be 
of an inferior race, is sometimes rekindled in the missions, 
after having long slumbered. A short time before our 
arrival at Esmeralda, an Indian, bom in the forest* behind 
the Duida, travelled alone with another Indian, who, after 
having been made prisoner by the Spaniards on the banks 
of the Ventuario, lived peaceably in the village, or, as it is 
expressed here, "within the sound of the beU,*' (debaxo de 
la campana.) The latter could only walk slowly, because he 
was suffering from one of those fevers to which the natives 
are subject, when they arrive in the missions, and abruptly 
change their diet. Wearied by his delay, his feUow-traveller 

* En el monte. The Indians bom in the missions are distinguished 
from those bom in the woods. The word monie signifies more frequentlyj 
in the colonies, a forest (bosque) than a mountain, and this circomstanoe 
has led to great errors in our maps, on which chains of mountains (sierras) 
are figured, where there are only thick forests^ (monte espeso.) 


killed him, and hid the body behind a copse of thick trees, 
near Esmeralda. This crime, like many others among the 
Indians, would have remained unknown, if the murderer had 
not made preparations for a feast on the following day. He 
tried to induce his children, bom in the mission and become 
Christians, to go with him for some parts of the dead body. 
They had much difficulty in persuading him to desist from 
his purpose ; and the soldier who was posted at Esmeralda, 
learned from the domestic squabble caused by this event, 
what the Indians would have concealed from his knowledge. 
It is known that cannibalism and the practice of human 
sacrifices, with which it is often connected, are found to 
exist in all parts of the globe, and among people of very 
different races ;* but what strikes us more in the study of 
history is to see human sacrifices retained in a state of 
civilization somewhat advanced ; and that the nations who 
hold it a point of honour to devour their prisoners are not 
always the rudest and most ferocious. The painful fiicts 
have not escaped the observation of those missionaries who 
are sufficiently enlightened to refiect on the manners of 
the surrounding tribes. The Cabres, the G-uipunaves, and 
the Caribs, have always been more powerful and more 
civilized than the other hordes of the Orinoco; and yet 
the two former are as much addicted to anthropophagy as 
the latter are repugnant to it. We must carefully distin- 
guish the different branches into which the great family 
of the Caribbee nations is divided. These branches are as 
numerous as those of the Mongols, and the western Tartars, 
or Turcomans. The Caribs of the continent, those who 
inhabit the plains between the Lower Orinoco, the Bio 
Branco, the Essequibo, and the sources of the Oyapoc, 
hold in horror the practice of devouring their enemies. 
This barbarous custom,t at the first discovery of America, 

* Some casual instances of children carried off by the negroes in the 
island of Cuba have led to the belief, in the Spanish colonies, that there 
are tribes of cannibals in Africa, This opinion, though supported by 
some travellers, is not borne out by the researches of Mr. Barrow on the 
interior of that country. Superstitious practices may have given rise to 
imputations perhaps as unjust as those of which' Jewish families were the 
victims in the ages of intolerance and persecution. 

t See Geraldini Itinerarium, p. 186, and the eloquent tract of cardinal 
Bembo on the discoveries of Columbus. " InsuUrum partem homines 


existed only among the Caribs of the "West Indies. It is 
they who have rendered the names of cannibals, Caribbees, 
and anthropophagi, synonymous ; it was their cruelties that 
prompted the law promulgated in 1504, by which the 
Spaniards were permitted to make a slave of every indi- 
vidual of an American nation which could be proved to be 
of Caribbee origin. I believe, however, that the anthro- 
pophagy of the inhabitants of the West India Islands was 
much exaggerated by early travellers, whose stories Herrera, 
a grave and judicious historian, has not disdained to repeat 
in his Decades historicas. He has even credited that extra- 
ordinary event which led the Caribs to renounce this bar- 
barous custom. The natives of a little island devoured a 
Dominican monk whom they had carried off from the coast 
of Porto Rico ; they all fell sick, and would never again eat 
monk or layman." 

If the Caribs of the Orinoco, since the commencement 
of the sixteenth century, have differed in their manners 
from those of the West India Islands ; if they are unjustly 
accused of anthropophagy; it is difficult to attribute this 
difference to any superiority of their social state. The 
strangest contrasts are found blended in this mixture of 
nations, some of whom live only upon fish, monkeys, and 
ants; while others are more or less cultivators of the 
ground, more or less occupied in making and painting 
pottery, or weaving hammocks or cotton cloth. Severd 
of the latter tribes have preserved inhuman customs alto- 
gether unknown to the former. "You cannot imagine," 
said the old missionary of Mandavaca, " the perversity of 
this Indian race (fanmia de Indies). You receive men of 
a new tribe into the village ; they appear to be nnld, good, 

incolebaDt feri tmcesqae, qui pueromm et yiromm camibus, quos aliis 
in insulis bello aut latrociniis cepissent, vescebantor ; afeminis abstinebant: 
Canibales appellati.'* — *' Some of the islands are inhabited by a cmel and 
savage race, called cannibals, who eat the flesh of men and boys, and 
captives and slaves of the male sex, abstaining from that of females/' 
(Hist. Yenet., 1551.) The cnstom of sparing the lives of female prisoners 
confirms what I have previously said, p. 326, of the language of the 
women. Does the woitl cannibal, appUed to the Caribs of the West 
India Islands, belong to the language of this archipelago (that of Hayti)? 
or must we seek for it in an idiom of Florida, which some traditions 
indicate as the first country of the Caribs ? 


and laborious ; but suffer them to take part in an incursion 
(entrada) to bring in the natives, and you can scarcely 
prevent them from murdering all they meet, and hiding 
some portions of the dead bodies." In reflecting on the 
manners of these Indians, we are almost horrified at that 
combination of sentiments which seem to exclude each other ; 
that faculty of nations to become but partially humanized ; 
that preponderance of customs, prejucUces, and traditions, 
over aie natural affections of the neart. We had a fugitive 
Indian from the Guaisia in our canoe, who had become 
sufficiently civilized in a few weeks to be useful to us in 
placing the instruments necessary for our observations at 
night. He was no less mild than intelligent, and we had 
some desire of taking him into our service. What was our 
horror when, talking to him by means of an interpreter, 
we learned, "that the flesh of the marimonde monkeys, 
though blacker, appeared to him to have the taste of human 
flesh." He told us " that his relations (that is, the people 
of his tribe) preferred the inside of the hands in man, as 
in bears." This assertion was accompanied with gestures 
of savage gratification'. We inquired of this young man, 
so cahn and so affectionate in the little services which he 
rendered us, whether he stiU felt sometimes a desire to eat 
of a Cheruvichahena. He answered, without discomposure, 
that, living in the mission, he would only eat what he saw 
was eaten bv the Padres. Reproaches addressed to the 
natives on the abominable practice which we here discuss, 
produce no effect; it is as if a Brahmin, travelling in 
Europe, were to reproach us with the habit of feeding on 
the flesh of animals. In the eyes of the Indian of the 
Guaisia, the Cheruvichahena was a being entirely different 
from himself; and one whom he thought it was no more 
unjust to kill than the jaguars of the forest. It was merely 
from a sense of propriety that, whilst he remained in the 
mission, he would only eat the same food as the Fathers. 
The natives, if they return to their tribe (al monte), or find 
themselves pressed by hunger, soon resume their old 
habits of anthropophagy. And why should we be so much 
astonished at this inconstancy in the tribes of the Orinoco, 
when we are reminded, by terrible and weU-ascertained 
examples, of what has passed among civilized nations in 

416 nrnsLLiGEiircE of gebtatst tbibes. 

times of great scarcity ? In Egypt, in the thirteenth cen- 
tury, the habit of eating human flesh pervaded all classes 
of society ; extraordinary snares were spread for physicians 
in particular. They were called to attend persons who 
pretended to be sick, but who were only hungry; and it 
was not in order to be consulted, but devoured. An his- 
torian of great veracity, Abd-allatif, has related how a 
practice, which at first inspired dread and horror, soon occa- 
sioned not even the slightest surprise."* 

Although the Indians of the Cassiquiare readily return 
to their barbarous habits, they evince, whilst in the missions, 
intelligence, some love of laoour, and, in particular, a great 
facility in learning the Spanish language. The villages 
being, for the most part, inhabited by three or four tribes, 
who do not understand each other, a foreign idiom, which 
is at the same time that of the civil power, the language of 
the missionary, affords the advantage of more general means 
of conmiunication. I heard a Poinave Indian conversing 
in Spanish with a Guahibo, though both had come from 
their forests within three months. They uttered a phrase 
every quarter of an hour, prepared* with difl&culty, and in 
which the gerund of the verb, no doubt according to the 
grammatical turn of their own languages, was constantly 

* ** When the poor begaa to eat human flesh, the horror and astonish- 
ment caused by repasts so dreadful were such that these crimes furnished 
the never-ceasing subject of every conversation. But at length the people 
became so accustomed to it, and conceived such a taste for this detestable 
food, that people of wealth and respectability were found to use it as their 
ordinary food, to eat it by way of a treat, and even to lay in a stock of it. 
This flesh was prepared in difierent ways, and the practice being once 
introduced, spread into the provinces, so that instances of it were found 
in every part of Egypt. It then no longer caused any surprise; the 
horror it had at first inspired vanished ; and it was mentioned as an 
indifferent and ordinary thing. This mania of devouring one another 
became so common among the poor, that the greater part perished in this 
manner. These wretches employed all sorts of artifices, to seize men by 
surprise, or decoy them into their houses under false pretences. This 
happened to three physicians among those who visited me ; and a book- 
seller who sold me books, an old and very corpulent man, fell into their 
snares, and escaped with great difficulty. All the facts which we relate 
as eye-witnesses fell under our observation accidentally, for we generally 
avoided witnessing spectacles which inspired us with so much horror."— 
Account qf Egypt by Abd-allatif y physician qf Bagdad, trantlated into 
French by De Sacy, p. 360—374.