Travels in Central America; being a Journal of nearly Three Years' Residence In the Country. Together with a Sketch of the History of the Republic, and an Account of Its Climate, Productions, Commerce, &c. By Robert Glasgow Dunlop, Esq.
Longman and co.
MANNERS AND CIIST0248,
Sketches of Ireland Sixty Years Ago Orr and Co.; AtOlasham Porray, Mary Tudor, an Historical Drama ; The Lamentation of Ireland ; and other PoemS.
By Sir Aubrey De Vere, Bart Pickering.
DUNLOP'S TRAVELS IN CENTRAL AMERICA.
THE late Robert Glasgow Dunlop was born at &afield, near Ayr, in 1815 ; and was grandson of the Mrs. Dunlop who first patronized Burns. After the usual education of a Scottish parochial school, he became a stu- dent at the London University, and made rapid progress, not only in literature and mathematics, but in chemistry, botany, and other branches of natural science; the traces of which studies are visible in his travels. When be quitted the university he entered a merchant's counting-house, and subsequently went abroad in a mercantile capacity. From incidental remarks in his volume he would seem to have visited the East Indies as well as the West. In March 1844, he embarked for Central America • where he died, on the 1st of January 1847, of a fever common to the country, "the sixth of seven brothers who rest in a foreign soil."
Before the news of Dunlop's death arrived in England, his book, which was finished at Guatemala in December last, had passed through the preps. The object of the author in writing it seems to have been less to give an account of his personal proceedings, than to "furnish the Eng- lish reader with some trustworthy information respecting Central Ame- rica " ; all the publications on the subject which Mr. Dunlop had seen having been merely notices of "hurried travels through the country, which, while abounding with palpable inaccuracies, contained no statistical or useful information of any description." The first part of the book con- gists of extracts from his journal, and contains a narrative of various journies made on different occasions throughout the length of the state, and of a residence of some months at Amatithin, a new cochineal district. His travels were not without adventure; but solid information is the dis- tinguishing feature of the volume. The physical character of the country, its natural productions, the methods of cultivation and the profit at- tached, with the state and prospects of business generally, are the mat- ters on which the author principally dwells. Even anecdotes or the inci- dents of the way appear to be selected for some indications they contain of the state of society or the character of the government, not by any formed design, but in compliance with the bent of the writer's mind.
This peculiarity gives much closeness and solidity to the Travels is Central America, and infuses into them a large quantity of useful and various information. There was nothing in Mr. Dunlop of the artistica littdrateur, or the twaddling narrator, resolved upon writing a book and making something out of nothing. When he arrives at a place, ius na- tural capabilities as a port or for raising produce are first regarded ; then its actual condition, and the business to be done, or the prospects of doing it. The social and moral state of the population next attract his attention, with the government, or no-government, as it happens to be. It is the same on his jouniies. Any natural phenomenon or any indus- trial employment is first considered ; and the difficulties of the road, the absence of accommodation, the fasts of man or the feasts of pediculi, a little civil war, an encounter with robbers, or even the sketch of a tra- velling companion, contain something beyond the mere anecdote or in- stance, and indicate or directly convey information respecting Central America. There is also a good deal of closeness in Mr. Dunlop's style ; but this closeness, with the matter-of-fact character of some of his subjects, occasionally causes a degree of dryness.
Central America extends from about the 9th to the 16th degree of North latitude ; having, with a trifling exception at either extremity of the country, a seabord both on the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the region, too, through which a water communication between both seas must if at all be made, by means of the river St. Juan and the Lakes Nicaragua and Leon (between the 11th and 13th degrees of North lati- tude). Before this can take place, however, something like a govern- ment must be established in the country: for the anarchy and civil war, which in 1839 distracted the so-called republic, when Stephens, with credentials and a diplomatic dress-coat, hunted about the country for a government without finding one, has settled down into a species of Celtic independence. Mr. Dunlop (unlike Montgomery and Stephens, who pro- ceeded from the Atlantic) landed on the Pacific coast ; and his personal observations were confined to the districts on the Western side of the Andes. Here the four provinces of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Salvador, and Guatemala, had each governments of their own. Such, too, was the case with Honduras, on the Atlantic, and apparently with the Mosquito coast, if it be a state. These governments, however, were by no means stable, but liable to be overthrown by a rival province, or an internal revolution at a moment's notice. Security for person or property there is none, unless perhaps for Englishmen. Mr. Dunlop had not long arrived at San Miguel, in the state of San Salvador, before he had a sample of the pos- ture of affairs.
"War bad just been declared against the state of Guatemala, and the govern. meat were occupied in catching men for soldiers like wild cattle here and in all parts of the state, and raising money by forced contributions, so that the fair, which was about to take place must prove an entire failure. Those who had anything to be robbed of were place, themselves off as quickly as possible, and the common people were hiding in the woods to avoid being taken for soldiers. My acquaintance, Don Chrosanto Medina, and a friend of his, a Spaniard, Don Fran- rises Gera!, wished to make all their property over to me, to prevent its being seized for Government contributions. I told them that they were welcome to de so, but that if it with seized I should not be able to claim it from the Government through her Britannic Majesty's Consul, as be would probably require me to awe: that the property was mine before making the claim. This.dAculty seemed surprise them a good deal, as a false oath is thought nothing of Ili SPumbh Amenc*
and they tried the Jesuits' argument,' that the oath would not be made for a bad purpose,' in'order to get over my scruples: but, Ending that they could not con- vince me, they were obliged to take other schemes for protecting their property. They managed so badly, that, as I afterwards learned, the Government got 10,000 dollars from them."
The troops thus raised by kidnapping do not seem to be of the highest kind either in mettle or appearance. Here are some Nicataguans, whom our author fell in with at Chinendega. "The Government of Nicaragua had for some time been urged by that of Saint Salvador to assist them against Guatemala, and had pretended to comply about twenty days previously, sending forward 1,000 men: but, instead of assisting San 'Salvador, they were conducted against Honduras, in which state the Grand Mar-
Mar- shal Foneecus, who is supreme n Nicaragua, hoped to effect a revolution. But it turned out very differently; for the invaders, being attacked by a much inferior force of Honduras troops, fled in the most disgraceful manner, the soldiers throw- ing away their arms, and the officers their new uniforms, which they had made up in bundles to put on and exhibit in the capital of Honduras. The town of Chinendega was full of the runaways—the dirtiest mob of ragged rascals I ever beheld; none had an entire shirt, and as for trousers, some had only one leg, the other being torn away. As usual in Central American wars, all the men ran away to the forest, leaving the women to take care of the houses; judging, it would appear, that as they could not be taken for soldiers, they would only be improved by a little communication with the troops. There was not one labour- ing man in Chinendega."
In our notice of Stephens's * book, we gave some account of the Indian Carrera, who in 1839, at the head of an Indian army, had taken Guate- mala, and established a naked dictatorship, as a partisan of the priests and aristocracy. " Strange to say it, this man's authority is more perma- nent than that of the Whites. His rule is, indeed, confined to the province
ef Guatemala • but there he appears to be secure ; for even when a coup trdtat had succeeded, it failed of permanent effect, from a cause rather Creditable to Carrera, although Mr. Dunlop paints him very blackly.
"tin the 2cl of February ISIS, I witnessed what is called a revolution in Gua- temala; though, as the rising produced no change in the goverunient, it should be more properly called an insurrection.
"can-era having gone to his estate in the Altos, three long days' journey dis- tant, a conspiracy was got tip by a part of the self-called nobles of Guatemala,
and other parties, whose names may probably never transpire, to change the Go- vernment. The greater part of the soldiers, in number about three hundred, were tampered with, and, at a signal early in the morning, rushed to arm, deposed
their officers' and breaking open the gaol led out all the prisoners: among these was Colonel Monte Rosas, who was imprisoned on account of an attempted revo- lution the preceding year, and who was now put at the head of the insurgents.
"Being awoke in the morning by a continued firing, I imagined it was merely Ilse celebration of the carnival, of which this was the first day, tills young man, a friend of the owner of the house where I was lodging, entered in the greatest terror, exclaiming, ' There is a revolution I' The firing soon ceased, the small part of the troops who adhered to Carrera's interest being killed and driven out of the city; and the insurgents, having taken possession of the barracks and all the arms and ammunition, remained in undisputed possession for four days. During this time, accounts arrived that Carrera's brother and some of his officers were collecting troops to attack the city: but as all the arms of the state were in possession of the insurgents, they were a good deal puzzled what to do; and Car- 'era's brother, after approaching the city, retreated in confusion before a body of
the insurgents, who sallied out to attack him. This victory was celebrated in -Guatemala by ringing all the church-bells, firing guns, letting off crackers, Ste.: but it soon appeared that the triumph was premature, for none of the respectable .oitizena joiued Roses; consklering him, it was said, to be as bad as or worse than Carrera.
"It appeared most surprising that such a set of desperadoes, as a large part of Monte Rosas's troops were, should have conducted themselves so moderately as they did: they neither plundered nor committed any violence after the first out- break was over, though, as usual, all the horses were taken for the officers. I saved those in the house where I was staying; for when the officer came with a troop to take them, I appeared to answer his summons, and told him he had better leave alone the property of British subjects: upon which he went away without touching them. As no attempts were made to barricade the streets, or take other means to defend the city, it was clear that Monte Roses despaired of auccess when be saw that no respectable persons joined him; and on the 6th he entered into a convention with the civic authorities, by which he was to receive 5,000 dollars, to divide among his troops, who were to march out of the city and deliver up their arms, not being further molested. This convention was, how- ever,. entirely disregarded by Carrera's party. His brother pursued and attacked 'the insurgents, who were dispersed and offered little resistance, killing a great many; but Monte Roses and most of the officers managed to escape to Mexico. "Rafael Carrera, on the first account of the insurrection, had become quite des-
perate, and was thrown into a high fever; during which he proposed to resign his authority and leave the state; but hearing of the suppression of the revolt, he re- turned to Guatemala on the 10th, making a pompous entry., with 2,000 unarmed
troops, or rather vagabonds whom his leaders had collected m the villages in hopes that they would be allowed to plunder Guatemala. Finding that nearly all the aelf-called nobles and most of the party who had ridged him to power had favour- ed the revolt, he prudently contented himself with minor victims. About ten were shot without any form of trial, one or two of whom were afterwards found ac- tually to have been unfavourable to the revolt; and the city was forced to collect 20,000 dollars as a gift to the vagabonds who had entered with Carrera."
In such a country, any of the appliances of civilization are not to be looked for, or at least will not be found. Roads are pretty much in a state of nature; and this is metropolitan fare.
"We entered Guatemala by the gate called Guarda Provincial, a little before sunset. After seeking about for lodgings an entire hour without success, I was forced, on the night setting in, to take up my quarters at one of the miserable pub- lic-houses, called mesones, and serving as the residences of mule-drivers and na- tive petty dealers. My dormitory was a small dirty room without a window; and its furniture comprised an old deal table, a broken chair, and a raw ox-skin stretched on a frame, to serve as a place for sleeping, here called a bed, though .possessing none of the requisites usually considered as belonging to that luxurious piece of furniture in Europe, and as hard as stone.
"In spite of being pretty tired, as might be expected after a journey of 130 odd leagues over Central American roads with a rough trotting mule, the nature of my couch, combined with the attacks of innumerable fleas and all aorta of biting insects, proved as effectual an antidote of sleep as ever did the magic rod of Mee- • At daylight I got up in a complete fever; and found the old man who passed
for my servant, (though really he had served me in nothing but to show me the road,) sleeping like a hog on the pavement outside my door, wrapped up in my poncho, which is a long figured blanket, with a hole in the middle to put the head through, and an indispensable article with all the natives of Central America. With some difficulty I roused him up; and, after a great deal of explanation, got, in about two hours time, a cup of what was called coffee, though it had no re- • Bpeetalor 1811; page TS.
semblance to that pleasant drink as prepared in other parts of the world, a plate of description of black kidney beans, called frijoles, and scraps of meat fried in ran- cid hog's lard: the two latter I sent away, and, after wasting another hour in ex- planations, succeeded at last in obtaining two boiled eggs and a relief bread. The woman who brought them was in agony at not having been allowed to daub them over with hog's lard, and could not help exclaiming, ' Que jeute Ban los Inglesear (what extraordinary people these English are!) I may mention, that the word nights' (Englishmen) is applied to all strangers except Spaniards, in Central America."
A considerable portion if not the whole of the country is volcanic, and active volcanoes are pretty numerous. Mr. Dunlop ascended several; and observed all that came in his way ; for which he was much better fitted by previous acquirements than either Stephens or Montgomery. This is his description of the volcano of Tormentos, in the district of Almaden.
The volcano of Tormentos is much the highest of the three; and its name is derived from its being nearly always covered by dark heavy clouds of black smoke, through which scattered gleams of Ere are seen at night; but its top is rarely visible, being always concealed by sulphary vapours and dense smoke. Now and then, loud reports, like broken peals of thunder, and frequent shocks of earth- quake, proceed from it.
" About eight a. ma. we reached the small village of Apaeaga, which is about two leagues distant, in a direct line from the foot of the volcano; to which we proceeded, (leaving our horses at the village,) as direct as the rugged and broken nature of the country would permit; but we did not reach it till the sun had con- siderably declined to the horizon. We commenced the ascent amidst broken and charred rocks, intermixed with cinders and broken pieces of lava. After about two hours bard toil we approached the part of the mountain which is covered with smoke; and the discordant noises we heard as we approached it became loud and terrific, while the ground shook as with one continued earthquake. Of a sudden we were enveloped amidst the smoke, and heard a loud explosion, which scattered ashes all around us. My guide exclaimed, '0, santissima Maria somas perdidos!' (Oh, most holy Mary, we are lost!) and called out to me, For God's sake, let us return if it be possible': but I felt so strong a curiosity to go on that I would not be deterred; so I answered, Go back if you like; nothing shall prevent my going forward.' Scrambling up like a cat among the cinders, which were in some places so hot as to burn toy shoes—and guiding myself by the flashes of lightning which played about the volcano, and the direction from which the loudest noises proceeded, as the smoke entirely obscured the vision—I slowly ascended among the lava and cinders; which, however, occupied a good 'deal of time; and; in my eagerness to penetrate into the strange scene before me, I did not reflect that the day must be passing. At last, a lurid glare penetrating from amongst the smoke, and the increased proximity and brilliancy of the flashes of lightning, accompanied by a noise like that of the burning of an immense furnace, showed my near approach to the grand centre of the volcano. I slowly proceeded towards it; but at last feeling exhausted by my exertions I sat down on a block of lava, and began to eat a piece of bread I carried in my Pocket: but I was roused by a tremendous explosion, louder than any thunder I ever heard; an immense lurid flame rose from the crater, the intense light of which seemed to penetrate the smoke and illuminate all the neighbouring cinintry. The ground felt as if sinking below me. I felt myself thrown with violence among the ashes, and lay for some time stunned with the noise and blinded with the light. When after a little I recovered my observation, I beard the smothered roar of the volcano,near but faint, and saw the smoke slowly rising from the crater; the rocking of the ground had ceased, and the eruption seemed to have passed over; here and there a twinkling star appeared through the vapour, and the moon was for a moment seen now and then through the smoke: the dread solemnity of the scene might make an impression on the least sentimental. " I sat still some time, as it were bewildered, looking at the red glare of the crater, which appeared like the chimney of a huge furnace. I then attempted to approach its edge; but the heat and suffocating vapours prevented my. reaching it within about twenty or thirty yards. Being aware that it would be Impossible to find my way among the precipices forming the sides of the mountain at night, I waited till the grey light penetrating through the smoke announced the ap- proach of day; and, having found a more accessible path than that by which I had ascended, emerged from the smoke just as the sun was rising cleat behind the Eastern hills, and the sky of an azure blue without the least speck or cloud. In about two hours more I reached the rugged plain below the mountain of_thun- dere, and winding my way to the village, found my guide waiting, though it ap- peared with little hope of again seeing me."
The district of Amatitlan, where Mr. Dunlop resided for some months in charge of a cochineal plantation, also abounds in hot springs and hot earth.
"The wells in the town are all of brackish water, having a mixture of alum and salt; but those in most parts of the suburbs and neighbourhood are all of hot water, free from any considerable mixture of minerals. In one, which I got opened in the Rincon, the site of most of the larger cochineal plantations, the heat became intense after ten yards had been excavated; at twenty, the ground thrown out was so hot as almost to burn my hands. Two men who had engaged to open the well abandoned it: at last Ifound a third, of a salamander nature, who, for a high reward, engaged to follow it till he found water; which he did at thirty-two yards' depth, but actually boiling. "The heat in this well was so intense that I wonder how any human being could endure it. On one occasion I descended about half-way, but found I should have fainted had I gone any lower: the ground where this well was opened was situated rather high; but in the low grounds near the lake and river, boiling water is met with everywhere at a depth of two or three yards, and in many places rises spontaneously to the surface: early in the morning before sunrise, if' the hand be placed upon the ground it feels quite hot, and the steam may be seen ascending through the pores of' the earth in all parts."
There is a good précis of the various projects that have been put for- ward to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, by improving the existing water-way and cutting a canal; with interesting accounts of the cultivation of coffee, cochineal, and other. productions. The volume also contains a sketch of' the history of Guatemala from the declaration of independence in 1821 down to last year, and an account of the country and people ; in both of which the text of the travels is often illustrated, and sometimes repeated.