Page images

mountain's height is no less than 9000 feet. The harbour is a roadsted of the sea, protected by a mole with batteries, some of which are suspended in the heights, and others line the shore. The wall toward the sea is strong, and has a rampart with bastions, forming, in time of peace, a pleasant promenade. The rear of the town is defended by the wall of rocks, which rise almost perpendicularly, and forbid all access. There was but a small number of troops here at this time, but sufficient to be able, with the aid of the militia of the place, to defend it in case of a sudden attack, until reinforcements from the interior should arrive. The sea before the town is always more or less agitated ; in consequence of which, vessels are loaded and discharged with no little difficulty. This becomes impracticable at times; and when the wind blows hard from the north-west, it frequently happens that all the vessels lying in the road are driven ashore. This, however, happens but very seldom; the prevailing wind being the north-east, or regular trade. Canoes act as lighters to the vessels, and they receive four dollars for every freight.

The space on which the town of La Guyra is built, that part of it at least which fronts the sea, is not more than 800 or 900 feet in width, from the base of the mountain to the sea. It may be treble this in length ; after which the course of the streets winds


of the mountains for a short distance. There are two parallel streets; the upper one of which is the longest, and pursues the course I have first designated. After making an angle, it is intersected in the middle by a deep ravine, through which runs the river Guayra. Over this, some bridges are thrown, which connect the opposite sides of the street, and the part of the town already described, to another part, now chiefly in ruins. In the street just described are the remains of a church.

In the lower street is situated the plaza, or market-place. This is a half square, surrounded by shops; and to it the inhabitants throng in the morning, to purchase their daily fare. Their beef looks not as well, by any means, as it does with us; not on account of any inherent bad quality in the article, but because the butchers are ignorant of the proper manner of cutting it up .

All the fat is taken off from the meat, and leaves it, of course, but a meagre appearance. It is sold at a dollar and a half for the aroba, or twenty-five pounds. Culinary vegetables are plentifully supplied from the valleys of Caraccas.

The government house is a very plain, and ordinary building, no wise distinguished from the private houses, excepting by its magnitnde. It is the residence of the governor, and is also used as a custom-house.

The private dwelling houses are generally built after the Spanish fashion. A zagnan, or paved entry in the front, leads to an ample square, or court-yard, in the centre. Around this runs a corridor, on which the several apartments of the house open, and from which the stairs branch. Since the earthquake of 1812, few houses are more than one story high. The windows have coarse frame grates, and are neither provided with glass sashes, nor with shutters. This gives all the houses, not excepting the residence of his Excellency, the appearance of so many dungeons of confinement; and tends to throw an air of gloom over the whole town. This effect is not a little heightened by the appearance of the dilapidated buildings, and roofless walls, which meet the eye on every side, giving melancholy tokens of past destruction.

It is in vain that from these gloomy objects the stranger turns to the heights above for relief. The barren and rocky aspect of the precipices that overhang the town, and seem to threaten it with still greater ruin in some future convulsion, infuses additional horror into the scene, and he gladly flies to the sea shore to dispel, in the view of the harbor, animated with shipping, the effect of the horrid prospect he has left.

There are the remains of three churches, all of which were destroyed by the earthquake. On the ruins of one of them, a temporary building has been erected, in which holy mass is performed daily, and a sermon delivered each Sunday morning. A curate presides over the spiritual interests of La Guyra. He is held in high estimation for the faithful discharge of his parochial duties, and not the less thought of, because he is withal a bon vivant. He is a warm patriot, and thunders forth, with no little vehemence, excommunication and death, against the tyrants who would subjugate his country, and too surely put an end to his ministry.

The number of inhabitants in this town was formerly estimated to be eight or ten thousand. The destructive earthquake, the long continued wars, and the consequent frequent emigrations have nearly depopulated it, and scarcely left two thousand at the present time. Of these, a large majority is composed of coloured people. I may here take occasion to ob serve, that this class, from their number, and the necessary assistance and service they lend to the new government, will no doubt assume, as they already do, the right to participate in the public honours of the state. As an instance of their importance, it may not be irrelevant to mention, that, at a ball given by the Governor of La Guyra, the niece of one of the principal personages in the executive department of the state was compelled, through motives of policy, to accept the proffered hand of a black colonel, as a partner in the dance. The few remaining friends of the old government take no little delight in circumstances of this nature, and presume from them to augurthe most unfavourable results. Many friends, too, to the new order of things, do not hesitate to express their fears, that the preponderance of the black population may prove dangerous, and finally subvert the power of the whites. Such fears are however set aside, by arguments drawn from the naturally docile temper of these very people, and the wise regulations which it has been, and will no doubt continue to be, the policy of the administration to adopt towards them. Laws for the total emancipation of the slaves, had first been passed; and if I am not mistaken, there were already two senators of this class admitted into congress. Enjoying all the civil and political rights, to which, as men, they can be entitled, they will necessarily be disarmed of all cause of complaint, and be bound to the government, no less by attachment, than by interest.

The town of La Guyra is under the control of a political and military governor. Avendano, a young and intelligent native, joins both these offices, in his own person ; and is very much esteemed by his fellow citizens for his talents and the strong attachment he bears to the general cause.

The climate of La Guyra deserves next to be spoken of. Enclosed by the most lofty mountains, and on the verge of the ocean, and placed in the latitude of ten degrees from the equator, seldom or never enjoying the benefit of rain, it has been supposed to be the hottest place in all Spanish America. But I doubt very much if this be the case. Throughout nine months of the year, from November to July, inclusive, the trade wind seldom ceases to blow, with a freshness that proves highly grateful. Thus when I first arrived, which was in December, I was scarcely incommoded by the heat, and certainly found it not greater than at the neighbouring islands. In the remaining three months, not included above, long calms prevail, and then the inhabitants suffer most ; but éven then I question if the heat be greater than in the West Indies generally, in which the same causes exist, and consequently produce the same disagreeable effect. Bonnycastle, in his comprehensive work on South America, has indeed pronounced an opiVol. I. No. I.


nion contrary to that which I have here advanced, and contrary to the experience of the best authorities in the place ; but that this author must not be implicitly relied on, I shall now attempt to show. In the brief notice he takes of La Guyra, I find the following sentence.

“ This is the hottest place in Spanish America. . The yellow fever has prevailed for the last ten or twelve years. Some think it was imported from the United States, others that it was occasioned by an overflowing of the river Guayta, filling the cellars and deep places with water that became stagnant, and exhaled putrid effluvia."

Now I verily suspect that this author never could have visited the places he describes, when he speaks of cellars in La Guyra, in which there is not a single one to be seen. As to the opinion of yellow fevers being imported from the United States, few, excepting your ultra contagionists, but would think the idea too ridiculous to be worth repeating. Mr. Bonnycastle unfortunately adds, “ The inhabitants suffer dreadfully from yellow fever."). I presume by the term “ inhabitants," is meant the natives and residents of the place, as distinguished from strangers and transitory visiters. In attaching this meaning to the idea intended to be conveyed, I believe I am warranted by the best rule, that of usage; and I must flatly contradict my author, in the assertion he makes. The regular inhabitants are never attacked with this disease. They are, it is true, subject, after great rains, to bilious fevers, and chronic bilious affections; but as to the genuine yellow fever of Rush, the endemic causus of tropical and tropicoid climates, they know it not

themselves. Strangers only are subject to this terrible disease. The robust and plethoric and the young, are the more especial victims of it; and when large numbers of these arrive simultaneously, as bodies of troops in time of war, and sailors, they will be extensively affected, and the disease then assumes its epidemic form. There are, however, certain seasons, which, from unknown causes, are more especially favourable to the production of the yellow fever than others. At no time, however, is the disease observed to be contagious. On this subject I conversed much with our very intelligent consul, Mr. Lowry; and his testimony, strengthened by a long series of observation, goes very clearly to establish this point. I likewise enjoyed the gratification of conversing with Mr. Eckard, consul at St. Thomas, whose opportunities of information have been very extensive; and who more than twenty years ago, was singularly


instrumental in exposing the fallacious statements of one of the strongest supporters of contagion, * as respected the spread of the disease, by this imaginary cause, in his own house.

At the time I visited it, La Guyra was remarkably healthy, there being scarcely a sick person in the town, and consequently no employment for the sons of Esculapius.

The commerce of this place was formerly very extensive. In Bonnycastle's work above quoted, it is computed at 346,000l. sterling, per annum, in exportation of cacao, indigo, coffee, cotton and hides, and its importations are estimated to have amounted to 511,7001. The unsettled state of the country has made a great reduction in this respect. There are but few merchants resident in La Guyra, and even these, unless vessels constantly arrive to their consignment, spend most of their time in Caraccas. Those whose business renders their presence in La Guyra indispensable, have their dwellings in Maycatia, a village at about a mile's distance, along the shore. There they retire after the day's fatigues, and enjoy repose, and the reviving freshness of the sea breeze. There were only two American houses in La Guyra, when I visited it. Mr. Lowry is the consul of the United States for this part of the country; and from his long experience and extensive knowledge of the localities, &c. and likewise from the hospitable attention he pays to his countrymen, he justly deserves and obtains a large share of American business.

The articles of export and import, a bove referred to, are brought from the interior on mules. These animals are remarkably serviceable, being able to carry great burdens on their backs. A barrel of flour is the ordinary load with which they ascend and descend the mountain; over which lies the path from La Guyra to Caraccas, extending fifteen miles. They are preferable to horses, inasmuch as they require less food, can subsist longer without it, and are moreover surefooted and safe. Each muleteer, who wears a white cassock, has generally six or eight mules under his charge, with which he makes two trips regularly every week. The price for each load is 14 bits, or shillings.

In the eastern extremity of the town, through the ravine before mentioned, flows the river Guayra. It rushes down in a small stream, through a large cleft of the mountain, up which you

follow its devious and romantic course for miles.


* I refer medical readers to the 7th volumn of the Medical Repository, for this curious document.

« PreviousContinue »