Saturday, 27 February 2010

On The Trail -Issue 3

On the Trail of Verrill

Issue 3 – Dated 27 Feb 2010

I am always very reluctant to go outside my ‘comfort zone’. Gail, my wife, however loves a little challenge and in the process often pushes me outside this area. So it was again when we travelled the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico by car this year. The Story and Pictures are posted.

I have been asked if I believe that Hyatt Verrill perhaps had a drug habit that enabled the lifestyle that he led. Verrill certainly had no apparent discomfort zone; he seems at home anywhere and with anyone. He seems somehow to be in his own little world. I do not believe that Verrill consumed anything to excess; his productivity seems boundless.

Shameless Promotion… A. Hyatt Verrill wrote an autobiography, Never a Dull Moment, that I find to be fascinating. I received the manuscript a couple of years ago and produced it as my first publication. It truly is a great travel adventure story. You can obtain a copy here.

In the news today was a powerful earthquake centred on the town of Concepcion. The article Little Brothers of the Chileños was published in the April 1925 issue of Travel magazine. It features the indigenous residents of this area of Chile.

(PLEASE remember that most of the images in my blog and my newsletter are hyperlinked, that is clickable, to higher resolution imaging.)

The Library of Congress now has plans to digitize the three novels of theRadio Detectives…’ series that they own. I will try and digitize the missing novel and add it to the digital archives at Archives.Org. This juvenile series, like the Hardy Boys, should be in place starting June.

From 1915, Archive.Org has just added the complete text of The Boys’ Outdoor Vacation Book, which includes an iceboat!

The first articles from a new batch of “Travel” magazines from 1925 has been posted on the web; Those Who Worshipped the Sun; about the people of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Others include Social Contrasts in Peru’s Capital, and From the City of Kings to the Temple of the Sun.

The Library of Congress was kind enough to photocopy Verrill’s three articles that appeared in Timehri, a journal from (British Guiana) Guyana. Two of the stories were mentioned in the last newsletter but have been updated with many photos. Prehistoric Mounds and Remarkable Mound

Glimpses of the Guiana Wilderness is a 1918 tour around the country and explores the potential of the land. It reads exactly as a slideshow; Verrill was a professional photographer at one time.

While doing some research and some conversion to digital, I found two new references to books that Verrill wrote.

While tracking down his articles that appeared in the 1925 magazine ‘Travel’ there was a reference to a forthcoming book. To quote, the headline reads: “Down the West Coast of South America.” which will be published in the fall.” Perhaps the book was never published since I cannot find any reference on the web.

Then while I was checking out my facts on British Guiana, or Guyana as it is now called, I came across a bibliographic reference to another book, namely,

Among the Wild Tribes of British Guiana. By A. Hyatt Verrill. 
with many Illustrations. Demy 8vo, Cloth. About 21/- net. 
 
In "Among the Wild Tribes of Guiana" the author — the well-known traveller — gives an extraordinary interesting account of his wanderings and adventures in a little-known and dangerous country. He gives a graphic account of his journeys and the hardships he endured. Particularly interesting is his story of Indian customs and habits, their diabolical skill in poisons, and their wonderful accuracy in the use of the blowpipe, which they use as a weapon of precision. There is also a great deal of ethnographical and anthropological information, and some interesting discussion of primitive remains, curious early pottery, and strange mounds of shells many miles away from the sea. 

Little Brothers of the Chilenos



Little Brothers of the Chileños

By A. Hyatt Verrill

From Travel magazine April, 1925. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, February 2010.

Araucania and the Araucanians—Unconquered Indian Stock Among the Chilenos—The Practical Side of Sorcery

This is the third of a series of articles by Mr. Verrill on the West Coast of our sister continent. Further articles will appear in subsequent numbers of TRAVEL.Editor.

PERHAPS no living race of South American Indians has been so often mentioned in song and story, or has been so surrounded with romance, as the Araucanians. The Spanish poet, Ercilla, in his epic poem "La Araucana" was the first to immortalize their name but, with poetic license, he used a misnomer, for the term Araucanian is as misleading and as indefinite as the term Incas when applied to the tribes of Peru.

The world, however, knows the aborigines of southern Chile by no other name, and their bravery, their love of freedom and the fact that they have never been conquered or subdued have made them famous. And so, to see Chile without a visit to these people and their country would be to miss what to many would be the country's most interesting features.

To reach Araucania, which, by the way, is a term almost as vague as Araucanians, is not difficult, for the Chilean State railway runs through the heart of the district to Valdivia. And so, having made the side trip to Concepcion and Talcahuano, we traveled back over our tracks to San Rosando, and crossing the half-dry Bio-Bio. sped southward once more towards the Indian country.

A great artist once said that Nature was badly composed and had too much green, and I feel quite sure that his criticism must have been inspired by a trip through southern Chile. There were endless green fields, pastures, hills, and valleys. Green on every side, monotonous in its unvarying greenness, and broken only by equally endless and equally monotonous lines and rows and avenues of stiff poplars. Gradually this gave way to even more endless rolling prairies like petrified waves of a monotone of dull straw color and whose only denizens appeared to be the countless harrier hawks that coursed back and forth close to the earth, and occasionally dropped swiftly to seize some unwary mouse or lizard or insect. But between the rounded ridges, as the train rumbled across bridges, we saw lovely vistas of delightful little farms with their neat houses, their groves of hardwood trees, their well-cultivated fields and their gardens in splashes of gay color, each looking for all the world like an exquisite little painting in the center of a brown canvas.

At frequent intervals the train would draw up at some neat and sleepy little station with its inevitable white-clad fruit sellers, its swaggering, huge-spurred, picturesquely garbed rancheros, and its pebbled platform shaded by maple or oak trees. But the first real interest came when, at a snail's pace, the train rolled cautiously, feeling its way, upon Colli-pulli bridge, a.\ mile-long, spider web of steel spanning a wondrous valley with a tumbling river nearly four hundred feet beneath the tracks. To many of the passengers it was a most nerve-racking experience, for the cars appeared to swing and sway; there was the strange optical illusion of the bridge bending under the train's weight. When, midway across, the train came to a dead stop to allow some iron workers to step aside, several ladies screamed in terror. They were not to be too greatly blamed for their fright, for the bridge was designed for light traffic and is being constantly strengthened to carry the ever increasing loads imposed upon it. Not long ago a section gave way and a train was hurled to destruction. But the view of the valley as the train crosses the bridge is so superb that one forgets the possible dangers and the thrill.

It is as if this valley were the introduction to a new land, or the frontispiece to a book of entrancing views. No longer were we amid the endless green fields and poplars or the interminable prairies, and no artist could have complained that Nature here was either too green or badly composed; indeed, no master of the brush could have hoped to equal or even imitate the scenery. Patches of meadow land alternated with bold hills. Brooks, ponds and rivers reflected the blue sky and the drooping willows. Picturesque clumps of dark foliaged algorobo trees with gnarled and twisted trunks, stately pines, clumps of ancient cedars, maples and oaks, basswoods and chestnuts dotted the hills and valleys. White and scarlet amarvllis, flaming crimson-flowered shrubs, blackberry thickets starred with white, trees that were masses of lilac bloom, and yellow poppies splashed the fields and roadsides with color, while, like a wall against the eastern sky, rose the hazy blue Andes with their gleaming caps of snow.

Like a veritable wall these lofty, serried mountains form the boundary between Argentine and Chile, with their mightiest peaks standing like giant sentries with casques of burnished steel. Nowhere, in all of our sister continent, is there a finer, more impressive array of snow-capped, titanic peaks.

It was black night when the train pulled into Temuco, a bitterly cold night with the tang of mountain heights in the air, and as we were driven shivering through the town we had but a vague vision of endless one-storied buildings, double-decked trolley cars, a dark plaza, and roughly cobbled streets. The place seemed dead, although it was barely eight o'clock, and the three or four pedestrians still abroad were mysterious figures bundled to the eyes in heavy ponchos. But we soon found that in Temuco, "early to bed and early to rise" was an axiom carried out literally. It seemed as if I had scarcely closed my eyes when I was rudely awakened by the stentorian shouts of a man on the street, and I dashed to the window expecting to find a riot, a revolution or a conflagration taking place. But everything appeared peaceful, the faint light of dawn was dimly penetrating the gray night mist, and for a moment I felt that I must have been dreaming. Then, from the sidewalk beneath my window, once again the deep shout roared through the silent night.

"Madruga! Es madruga!" echoed from the semidarkness, and out of the deep shadows appeared the figure of a man. He was wrapped to his ears in poncho and scarf, in one hand he carried a heavy staff, in the other a flickering lantern. Slowly he crossed the street, once more shouted his wholly unnecessary information that it was dawn to an apparently oblivious world, and vanished down the next street. As his cries grew fainter and fainter I disgustedly returned to my bed wondering why on earth anyone should lake the trouble to patrol the town and disturb persons' slumbers at this unearthly hour merely to spread the news that the sun was rising. Was he, I wondered, a peculiar local variety of night watchman or Sereno; was he the village lunatic whose obsession was thus to arouse the sleeping populace, or was he merely some fellow who had been overlong with convivial companions, and, returning homeward at break of day, felt in his befuddled mind that it was high time for the rest of the world to be up and about?

Later I learned that he was none of these. No, he was the town's alarm clock, and aroused the heavy sleepers with his shouts in order that those who desired to take the early morning train might be up and ready in ample time. No doubt the fellow serves the Temucans most excellently for this purpose, and equally, no doubt, they are quite accustomed to his bellows and pay no heed to them unless they plan to be off on their travels.

Having thus been introduced to Temuco by such an unusual custom I quite naturally expected to find many another sight and custom equally peculiar. And when, with the sun shining brightly from a cloudless sky, I again looked forth, I was not disappointed. Indeed, I was actually amazed, for, gazing across the roofs of the little city I had the feeling that I was somewhere on the shores of the Bosphorus rather than in Chile. On every side, above the low buildings, were towers, spires and domes so typically Slavic that they seemed transported bodily from Russia. But one had only to glance down to realize that this effect was as superficial as it was superimposed.

On all sides were low, Spanish buildings, iron balconies, flat roofs and dull red tiles. Even without these earmarks of a Spanish-American town one would have known one's geographical position by the few human beings astir upon the street. Across the way, two girls leaned indolently over a jutting balcony and bargained in raucous, parrotlike voices with a broad-hatted, poncho-draped individual bearing huge baskets of oddly white Chilean strawberries or frutillas. Down the street a rangy horse came trotting, the two battered milk cans slung on either side of the saddle rattling and banging, and with a swarthy-skinned rider, also enveloped in the inevitable poncho, perched above the rest. Then, a clatter of unshod hoofs, and two piebald ponies dashed by, their riders typical Huasos in short, gay-colored ponchos, ornate short jackets, and with ridiculously huge spurs on their heels; and looking as though they might have materialized from some story of old California days. But as the denizens of the town rapidly increased in numbers the streets took on a new national aspect. A German butcher's two-wheel wagon rattled by. Then came a vivid green and yellow cart filled with bread, and also bearing the name of a Teutonic firm. Policemen in white spiked helmets and with sabres at sides appeared. Stiff, pompous army officers wrapped in gray cloaks strolled past, and one might well have imagined oneself in some town beside the Rhine. But the next passers-by were of a very different type and race— silent, solemn-faced fellows in ragged black and white ponchos, voluminous dark nether garments of Gaucho type, and riding sturdy Indian ponies. They were the first Araucanians, or more properly Mapuches, I had seen, members of that fine indomitable race who never bowed to Spanish rule and held their own against sundry and all that the power of Spain or Chile could send against them. And as the day wore on and I strolled about town I saw more and more of the Mapuches, for Temuco is in Araucania and everywhere, beyond the confines of the town, are the Mapuche homes and villages. There were more men, both astride their ponies and afoot; women and girls, more picturesque in their dark skirts, maroon or purple shawls, gay kerchiefs about their heads, and necks and breasts loaded with heavy silver ornaments. Indeed, they were the most striking features of the place, an integral part of Temuco's life, and a most important factor in its business, its trade and its existence.

They squatted, like the Quichuas of Lima, at corners and in doorways with their fruits and produce spread before them; they chattered and bargained in the shops; they drove creaking, low-slung, solid-wheeled oxcarts piled high with grain or corn to the dealers' warehouses, and with whoops and cracking whips they herded their wild-eyed cattle or their bleating sheep to the stockyard corrals. And yet they seemed out of place in the city, aliens in the very land that was once all their own.

Temuco itself has no especially interesting or picturesque features, but it is a neat, clean, orderly little spot, attractive in its Old World atmosphere; quite alive and bustling, and up to date as evidenced by the number of radio antennae that stand sharply forth against the sky wherever one looks. The plaza, too, is attractive, with its odd juxtaposition of palms and pines, cacti and roses, and shaded by the familiar tulip trees we know so well in the States. A friendly sort of little plaza where the local military band plays once or twice a week, where people loaf and gossip and parade, where ragged urchins squabble for the chance to polish one's boots, where the photo-as-you-wait men have their cameras and paraphernalia, and which, as is invariably the case in South America, is surrounded by an arcade, a hotel, the municipal buildings and a huge church.

I lost little time in making arrangements to visit the Rucos or houses of the Indians. To be sure, I was greatly discouraged by the people I met in Temuco, for I was assured that the Mapuches were surly, aloof and had no desire to have strangers visit them. Also, I was told, the Mapuches were lazy, shiftless, inveterate drunkards and dishonest, not to mention the fact that they were all civilized and retained nothing of their original habits and arts. But I took such information with a grain of salt, for throughout Latin America I have found that the supposedly white population looks down upon the aborigine—though oftener than not there is more than a drop of Indian blood mingled with the Caucasian—and credits the red man with all the worst vices and traits of the whites. And, also, I have found that in nine times out of ten the Indian is the better man, as far as honesty, hospitality and earning his daily bread is concerned, while his dirt and his sins and his objectionable ways have been taught him by his alleged betters. And I was soon convinced that the Temucans were no exception to this rule of vilifying the Indians. A prominent merchant—an unprejudiced foreigner— had a very different story. "Yes, they're a bit dirty and unsanitary," he admitted, "but they're a good lot. Any time a Mapuche comes to me and wants an advance and says he has a certain number of hectares in grain, or a certain number of sheep or cattle, I'll make the loan on his say-so and I've never lost. But if a Chileno comes with the same story I want to see the wheat or livestock, and I want it in black and white, and even then I often lose out."

I heard much the same tale from the proprietor of the largest of Temuco's numerous pawnshops. His shelves were loaded with Mapuche blankets, ponchos, rugs and saddlery.

"Most of these have been sold or traded in," he informed me. "but a few have been pawned and not redeemed—bad crops, drought, the owner dying or some other reason. But as a rule an Indian who pawns anything expects to get it back. Just step this way."

He led the way to a heavy door, unlocked the padlock and swung back the portal. I was speechless. Everywhere, covering the walls, piled on shelves, filling boxes, were countless collars, immense earrings, huge pins, belts, breastplates, necklaces; enormous spurs, bridles and stirrups; head bands and reins, even saddles of silver, a fortune of the heavy, barbaric, but beautifully wrought silverwork of the Indians.

"About twenty thousand dollars' worth of silver," my friend informed me. "Every piece pawned and some of it here for two years. But there's mighty little of it that won't be redeemed in time. Yes, sir, the Mapuches are my best customers and they're honest. Of course they get drunk now and then, who doesn't? And the Chileans fill them up with rotten rum to get the best of them in a bargain and then damn them. The trouble is they're jealous of the Indians' land and cattle. But you'll see for yourself and you'll find the Mapuches all right."

For my means of transportation I secured a battered automobile, and I must admit that long before I reached the Indian district my respect for the much maligned product of Señor Ford had risen by leaps and bounds. And we literally traveled by leaps and bounds as well. Never have I attempted to travel by motor car over such roads as those that meandered across hill and vale about Temuco. Evidently the road builders—we must say roads for the sake of clarity though they are unworthy of the name—had merely followed cattle tracks in laying out the so-called highways. Or, more probably, there never were road makers. No, I truly believe that each and every Chilean peasant and Indian rode his pony or drove his cart by any route that seemed the worst, and, in time, wore the fearful tracks that now pass for roads. In no place, as far as I could see, was there the least attempt at grading, draining or crowning. Even on the level plains the tracks wound aimlessly about, as if quite uncertain of their ultimate objective; they ascended hills with such steep ascents that only by zigzagging was it possible for the panting little car to surmount them; they dropped precipitously to river beds; they ran through dense jungles of wild blackberry and bamboo; they rose and fell like the petrified billows of a storm-lashed sea; crevasses yawned across them as though the earth had been cracked by an earthquake, and they were alternately composed of deep ruts and high ridges, holes like pitfalls and great boulders, steep-banked gulleys and ankle-deep dust. But the country about, as we caught fleeting glimpses at intervals between bumps and jolts and sickening rolling, was delightful. Far below us the river wound in great curves between green banks. Like seas of green and gold the wheat stretched for miles into the distance. Hardwood trees, in clumps and singly, dotted the landscape. In level pastures herds of sleek cattle and clean-limbed pinto ponies grazed, and the hillsides were white with flocks of sheep watched over by tiny Mapuche shepherds and shepherdesses. Here and there the Mapuche houses could be seen, those near town roughly built of boards and steeply roofed with grass thatch; those more remote from civilization beehive-shaped mounds of gray thatch and bamboo. Often, too, we passed a lumbering oxcart piled high with produce, its solemn-faced Indian owner stalking before the tugging oxen, his wife and family clinging to the load or perched upon its top. And in every cultivated field Mapuches were busily tilling the soil, the men in soiled, somewhat dilapidated garments of conventional cut, and looking in no way different from any dark-skinned farm hands of Italian or Spanish bloods; the women always picturesque, and forming bright spots of color in their native costumes and silver decorations.

Every mile that we progressed the huts became more numerous, the fields better cultivated, the herds of cattle, horses and sheep larger, the Indians more in evidence and the clusters of houses more like villages. Presently, leaving the so-called road and bouncing across an open pasture, our chariot came to a rattling halt before the heavy wooden bars of a fence enclosing half a dozen Mapuche homes. A wrinkled old hag peered rather curiously at us from the doorway of a hut and promptly vanished, slamming the slab door shut. Half a score of mangy, yelping curs came snarling and growling towards us, and from another portal a tall, dignified man emerged. From shoulders to knees he was covered with a magnificent poncho of soft fawn-colored wool striped with black and white; his limbs were swathed in blue woolen Gaucho trousers; his feet were encased in moccasinlike slippers of cowhide with the hair on, and a battered felt hat topped a mass of coarse black bobbed hair. But his face was the most striking feature of all. Amid any other environment no one would have dreamed he was an Indian. His skin was no darker than a well-tanned Caucasian, his eyes, deep set, were large, intelligent and soft; his features were clear cut and wore an expression of gravity and dignity, and a heavy mustache and pointed beard covered his lips and chin. In passable Spanish he welcomed us, informed me he was the village Cacique, and having ascertained the reasons for my visit, invited me to enter his house. I had expected to find the Mapuches civilized, at least outwardly, but I found that in their home life, in their customs and among themselves they were almost as primitive as though civilization had never touched them. There were the same smoke-blackened rafters and thatch and the pungent smell made so familiar to me by countless days and nights in the homes of untamed red men.

In the center of the beaten earth floor smouldered the same fire with its steaming earthen pot of stew. Depending from posts and rafters were the crude wooden hooks bearing baskets, mesh bags and rawhide sacks of household belongings. Bright-hued bits of cloth and glittering silver gleamed in the semidarkness. There were carved wooden stools and a primitive loom bearing a half-finished poncho at which a gray-haired, witchlike old woman was working with bony but deft fingers. Shy, frightened, naked youngsters peeked timidly from hiding places, and, hanging on a peg, there was even a dance mask of wood, grotesque in its decorations of paint and horsehair. But there were many objects which could be seen in the homes of no tribe other than the Mapuches. One of these marvels was a kind of odd pot of stiff, dried hide made from a cow's udder with the teats serving for legs. Still stranger hide pouches formed from the skin of calves' or colts' heads and still retaining their original forms. Rawhide saddles and bridles heavy with silver; bolas which serve these Indians in place of lassos, piles of the beautifully woven rugs or chupinas, ponchos, and blankets rivalling those of the Navajos, covering cowhide beds; immense, traylike flour baskets so finely woven that they will hold water; twenty-foot bamboo-hafted long-bladed lances, the Mapuches' traditional weapons, and, propped against the walls or suspended from hooks like so many inanimate bundles, tiny, solemn-faced infants strapped fast to their wooden papoose carriers or chiffuas.

It goes without saying that the Mapuches are a superior race of Indians and are extremely intelligent, else they could not have existed in any numbers until today. Moreover they are far in advance of their Chilean neighbors as regards stock raising and farming. Nowhere in Chile did I see better tilled fields, more healthy and extensive herds and flocks, or more carefully cultivated farms, than those of the .Mapuches. Indeed, the only i tractors I saw in use by farmers in southern Chile were owned by Indians. As I have mentioned in a previous chapter, the Chilean farmer takes life very easily, and, once his crops are planted and well under way, he leaves Nature pretty much to itself until harvest time. But I noticed that the Mapuche farmers were constantly at work hoeing, weeding and cultivating, and I do not remember seeing a single patch of cultivated Mapuche land wherein there were not men or women, or both, at work.

And though, as I have said, the Mapuches' civilization is purely superficial, yet they are keenly alive to the advantages of many of the products and inventions of civilization, and in one or two houses I was amazed to find the Indians owning and using radio receiving sets. I did not, however, meet a Mapuche who owned a motor car, not even a Ford, for the Mapuche most wisely realizes that Araucania is far better suited to travel by horseback than by automobile. But let good or even passable roads be built through the Indian country, and Mapuches by the hundred will be using cars. On one occasion we met a stout, good-natured looking Mapuche driving a flock of sheep, and halted to make inquiries regarding the location of a village.

Evidently we had asked the right man, for he proved to be the Cacique of the place we sought and offered to accompany us. When I invited him to enter the rattle-trap of a Ford, he was as delighted as a boy, and grinning from ear to ear, he crowded his corpulent person into the front seat.

Never, he declared, had he ridden in a car before, and as the machine began rocking and rolling over the prairie he shouted and whooped and roared with glee, stamping his feet, urging the car on in shrill Mapuche and lashing the sides and mud guards with his rawhide whip.

In one spot a good-sized log lay across the trail, and the driver brought the car to a stop. This didn't suit our Mapuche passenger at all.

"It is not as good as a horse." he exclaimed disgustedly, "for even a colt would jump that tree."

Our Chilean chauffeur was not to be dared by any Mapuche. With a muttered. "Caramba pues!" he drove the little car full tilt at the log, and with a jar and a jolt that threatened completely to disrupt the integrity of the machine, we hurdled the barrier much to the uproarious delight of our Indian.

"Now, I suppose you will have a car of your own," I suggested to the Cacique as, having reached the village, he slowly and reluctantly disembarked. He shook his leonine head as he carefully and minutely examined the tires and peered under the chassis.

"No, Señor," he replied with something very like a sigh. "These things are good for the white men, but they are not for the Mapuches. Look you, if a horse dies or breaks its leg, always is there a colt to take its place, but this thing breeds not colts. Also, Señor, the horse eats grass and the world is wide and grass is for the taking, but this thing eats the gasolene and." with a humorous twinkle in his keen eyes, "even the white men have not learned how to plant the seed of the gasolene and reap the crop."

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Mexico 2010 -Doug and Gail on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico

Mexico 2010

http://picasaweb.google.ca/frizzledr/20100221Mexico# is the location of all our photos. Try the slideshow button on the upper left.

Mexico 2010

[Doug here] It was supposed to be my ‘beach and beer’ year; the year that I get to go South, to an all inclusive where I can just relax, get bored and have a few drinks. But I let Gail plan the trip, though she had no time left with the café opening, and her work. But plan she did, with three hotels stops, sweatlodge, ecotour and Mayan massage; oh, and we needed a car!

By the time we got to our first hotel, I had to make a protest —I took up smoking again! But even that did not slow Gail down. By the end of our 14 days we had over 1500 km on the rental Chevy! So much for ‘beach and beer’.

[Gail here] Excuse me but Doug had been smoking long before Mexico. He just could not bum cigarettes from anyone he knew so he had to buy them for himself! And the days of ‘All Inclusive’ may be over. Also take a look at the pictures lots of beach and I assure you he had lots of beer!

Brian was kind enough to take us to the airport for departure at an ungodly time in the premorning. Our flight was 2008 kilometres; the flight video told us, and we covered it in four and a half hours sitting in the tiny seats of our charter. Arriving, we found EZ car rental’s representative, and were whisked a few kilometres from Cancun where the car was waiting. After a half an hour we were on the road heading due south, for 4 ½ hours we looked out for speed bumps and signposts, just stopping in Tulum for pesos at Scotiabank and a poor meal. The roads are incredibly straight and level. (The highest lookout in Yucatan is 42 metres, the top of the ruins in Coban.) Only one speedbump, did we fail to recognize in time; these speedbumps (Topes) can be fatal for your car!

Just about dark we arrived at the Balumku Inn on the Beach in Mahahual. Jezz was I tired after that 4 ½ hour drive where nothing was familiar. We were greeted by Alan, who with partner, Carol, who was in TO, owned the hotel. Alan happened to have beer and cigarettes, so I was okay soon enough. Gail and I agree this was the best hotel, and most interesting location of our itinerary. Supper was at the Travel Inn.

I was up at dawn, it was warm and the beach was deserted except for the birds, just beautiful. When Gail got up of course she wanted to walk all the way back to Cancun just for the beach and the exercise. Every morning the staff at Balumku prepared a great breakfast made to order; it was also a social occasion where the visitors all compared notes and weighed options for their day. It was interesting that just back of the beachfront road, all of the trees and plants had died back, presumably because of the hurricanes. Just off the main wharf in town, a modern sailboat was sunken; Alan said it had been just in front of his place.

[Gail again] I do have to confess; it was a ten kilometre walk. You can walk a long way on these beaches.

For lunch we located a cozy pub along the maelstrom and had delicious shrimp ceviché with a few beer before nap. Just after, one couple from Hungary showed us a conch that he had found while snorkeling, Alan said that live ones are very rare. The diver did swim out and replace the shell after the photo op. Mahahual was a fine small town still with lots of Mexican flavour, fine restaurants and enterprising locals. Another feature of Mahahual was that there was one section constructed exclusively for cruise ships. When they were in port, this section was suddenly open for business; otherwise it was abandoned although they were the newest and finest buildings in the area.

After only one day of beach and beer, Gail ushered us off to Lake Bakalar and the town of Chetumal. It’s very hard to find any good maps of anything in Yucatan. We got totally lost many times in our trips and we were not great at getting directions either, but that is part of the fun. Gail swam in the Cenote Azul. The Museo in Chetumal was closed, on Monday when we found it!

[Gail here] The weather was lousy, overcast and windy; a good day for a road trip.

The second night, the residence next door was abandoned except for their two dogs, one of which barked all night long! This behaviour continued every night they were absent but I found our ear plugs after the first night and we were fine. Due to some medication I imbibed, I never did experience much problem sleeping anywhere. The dogs next door were very beautiful and friendly in the day —we think one dog was fearful in the night when left alone. Apparently the owner would leave the dogs on their own for weeks at a time.

One restaurant became our favourite night place, 100% Agave serves Mexican food has four young waiters, and the owner greets and hosts everyone. The food was cheap, very good and authentic.

The new camera worked great everywhere though there was a learning curve and sometimes the batteries failed at the worst of times. We met many of the guests and Gail, of course became a travel agent. One section of beach about 5 kilometres south of hotel was particularly attractive, secluded and with no beach grass, it became a favourite hangout for us on beach before beer days. I should mention that you will see a lot of plastic and rubber items in the deserted beach photos —remember that everything that washes away eventually is deposited along the deserted shores and there is no one cleaning up these beaches. We are recommending that Sperry invest in some land there!

After another, one, beach day, Gail decided it was time for a drive and snorkeling —this time half an hour south is Xcalak. We took a boat ride with two trainees and a driver. Belize was just an arms length away as we travelled through the mangroves finding a ‘train’, canals, poison trees, abandoned ferry crossings and a military base on our way to snorkeling. Of course, I took so many photos and video on the way to our swim that my battery died just as I entered the water! Beer followed!

It became a minor lust to take pictures of the cruise ships, their passenger occupation of Mahahual and their false paradise with Starbucks, etc. One ship even had a waterslide starting up in the topmost funnel. In the real town, iguana, termites, ants and sand craps were a constant hunt. Dogs slept anywhere —most commonly in the roadways. They could never be run over; they had all day to move since you had to travel at 20 km because you had to navigate through all the potholes in the roadways. One little girl even challenged me to be a matador as she drove her bike at me repeatedly bringing ovations from an adjacent building crew.

Every day we did encounter the police, military, civil, traffic and tourist police were encountered anywhere. One scam was speed traps, where solitary, paved, straight roads could have posted 20 km speed limit (Grant Line, our street, is 50 Km/hour). We got a speed warning on one road when we were looking for a place to turn around!

Tulum town is not on the waterfront, but the hotel we stayed at was much cheaper than the hotel string along 10 Km of sandy beach leading from the Ruins at Tulum to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to the south. The town had some character and some good restaurant choices. Our hosts were great at mapping out the good stops near Tulum. Featured restaurants had Asian, Mexican, Mexican Fusion, Argentinean and Californian Mexican foods. After a week I hungered for a good burger at the Buenos Aires; it was perfect with a couple of beer and Gail had great Argentinean wine with her meal.

There is no doubting that Tulum beaches are wonderful but at this time of this year the hotels were crying for action to pick up. One night we did go salsa dancing down on the beach; that drew a crowd!

Our trip to the Biosphere was terrific although we were late because we got lost getting there. Here is a website featuring many of the possible finds. Our kayaking guide in the lagoon was Antonio, a passionate northern Mexican. This was his first day returning to work —just back from three weeks of nature studies himself. Our trip lasted for six hours and concluded with a terrific meal of chicken at the biosphere’s restaurant. For us the osprey nest and the pink flamingoes highlighted the voyage (after Antonio); though we did enjoy the exercise and the smell and feel of the silvery mud underfoot. After the meal we were free to enjoy the beach and a swim.

Our room, this time had a fridge, a coffee maker and a television; most of the free time Gail read drank wine while I imbibed my medicine. (Actually I read three books as well.) Gail found a recipe for Mango Margaritas and promptly had to test at each inn in Mexico. One early evening Gail went to a sweatlodge on the waterfront. The Asian Mezzanine had good food but it was badly spoiled by first a table of 20 with the loudest woman laugher in the world. When this table adjourned their meal, the remaining patrons applauded their retreat! Then we immediately found that the table behind Gail included one young couple, the girl spent a steady hour berating the young man she was with. One day we spent just walking the streets of Tulum with a short trip to Akumal Beach. By the time we arrived at the bay, it was near four; the beach was crowded, nobody was obeying the snorkeling rules. I was very skeptical but we rented gear anyways. After swimming for ten minutes we saw lots of turtles (200 lbs+), fish and coral out further. It was amazing, after forty minutes we had to return the gear but we got lots of underwater shots.

Gail did too much shopping in Tulum but we did manage a side trip to the ruins of Coba (we had seen the ruins in Tulum on a previous trip). They should always have maps of the ruins available to tourists; eventually I dug one up at the canteen by the main pyramid. We enjoyed the five kilometers of walking adding on a forest road walk just for birds and exploration on yet another wonderful warm day. Gail hiked up to the top of the main pyramid. One has to be humbled by the works of the indigenous pre Columbian peoples of America. Their works are so staggering and we know so little about them.

On the return trip, I think we stopped at the majority of souvenir shops, acquiring a good haul of trophies, everything but the bathroom sink. We eventually concluded that the best value in Tulum was the Taco shop (Salsalito). In Canada and the USA, tacos are often ‘hard shell’ creating a mess everywhere. In Mexico they are made with corn based tortillas, these are soft and the filling is wrapped inside so there is no mess when we handle and eat them, how clever!

[Gail here]I really love the Mexican sinks but they are hard to transport.

At this point I should mention that I did consume a few beverages while away. My personal favourite was Leon, but there was also Superior, Modelo, Double X or Dos Equos, Sol and Corona. Sol and Corona are flavoured for the addition of lime, but lime usually topped all beers. Gail, in the meantime made it her mission to sample all of the margaritas along our route —all kinds of wonderful plain and fruit concoctions. Her favourite was the mango margarita —hmm, that goes with her work, doesn’t it?

The further you are from Cancun, the less enterprises made use of Visa and such cards. Even the state owned gas stations required cash. Most places required cash payments but ATMs were fairly common in most towns. Interestingly, Scotiabank was the least easy to use of the ‘bank’ machines. I never had to resort to a non-bank (white label) ATM.

Puerto Plata was our third and final stop. Gail chose a beachfront hotel in this quaint village; it is about 20 km from Cancun airport. Janice and Tim Ainsworth and us had stayed in this wonderful location years ago and it had not lost anything over the years. When we were last here the streets, buildings and beach showed the wrath that Hurricane Dean. Many new hotels, condos and homes had been added along the shorefront to the north however. During the three days we spent here, we refreshed at lots of the old haunts from years ago and walked most of the old and new town. The bookstore ‘Canadians’ updated us on the history of why this restaurant went downhill and that one is new, so we felt like home again. Gail tried a Mayan massage, back and beyond the highway, claimed it was a best ever.

[Gail here] I tried to talk Doug into a massage with no luck. It was the best full body massage yet, with the masseuse walking on my back, too!

That concludes this tour; maybe next year will be that ‘beach and beer’ year. As always the people were wonderful, the culture was challenging and it humbles us that the world is so large and with such a rich history. A little adventure adds to our life experience.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Social Contrasts in Peru’s Capital


Social Contrasts in Peru’s Capital

By A. Hyatt Verrill

Travel magazine, March, 1925. Digitized by Doug Frizzle February 2010.

The Fine Art of Amiability in Lima—Business Methods of the Middle Ages—The Childish Heart of Latin Peru—The Fine Feathers of Lima's First Families—The Saving Undercurrent of Indian Blood

LIMA in summer is very different from Lima in winter, and fortunately for visitors, the Peruvian summer is in full sway at the time when fugitives from our own bleak and slushy winter weather voyage southward to the shores of Latin America. When I returned to Peru's capital a wonderful transformation had taken place. Gone were the dull-gray lowering skies; gone the everlasting drizzle, the muddy streets and the depressing, dreary, chilly air. From a cloudless sky the sun blazed down upon the ancient city and its environs; the air was as balmy and mild as June in the north, and Lima was like a butterfly just emerged from a dull-gray chrysalis. The endless mud walls were flecked with light and shade; the buildings of soft cream, pink, lavender or blue, fairly glowed; the bare, austere brown mountainsides were softly golden in the rays of sunlight or deepest mauve in the deep ravines, and even the people seemed to have thrown off their hopeless, listless expressions and appeared gay, happy and light-hearted. Personally I had come to like the Peruvians, although many Americans I met could not say enough harsh and unpleasant things against them. To be sure, their ways are not our ways, and no doubt there are many things that may be criticised and might be improved. But if all races were alike, if in all lands we found North American methods of business and life, the world would be a dull and uninteresting place for travelers. And no doubt, also, the Peruvians' ways and methods are quite as satisfactory to themselves as are ours to ourselves. Moreover, the people of Inca Land have adapted themselves to no little extent to the ways of other lands and races. And, finding that they must depend largely upon foreigners and foreign capital—and more especially upon North Americans and Yankee capital—for the exploitation and development of their wonderful land, they are becoming more and more imbued with North American ways and habits. But the Peruvian—nor any Latin American—can ever be wholly North American or vice versa, thank God.

Compared to the Latin Americans of the more tropical republics, the Peruvians are, however, a very superior and more admirable race. Perhaps they are a bit behind the Chileans in some ways, but in others they are, in my opinion, preferable.

Compared to their more aggressive southern neighbors they are docile, law abiding, peaceful and democratic, which is exactly what might be expected from their blood and ancestry. The mass of the people are of Indian or mixed Indian blood and whereas the tribes ruled by the Incas were docile, timid and peaceful people, the aborigines of Chile were a haughty, nomadic, warlike race never really conquered by the Spaniards. And these characteristics still among the Peruvian and the Chilean people are still their outstanding features. Moreover, in more recent times considerable European blood has been added to the Indian and Spanish of the natives. In Peru this has mainly been Italian, British, French and North American, whereas in Chile, it has been largely Slavic and Teutonic and, as a result, we find the Peruvians more reserved, more polite and more hospitable than the Chileans with their brusque, suspicious and obtrusive manners. It has been said that one way of distinguishing a Peruvian from a Chilean is to slap his face. If he apologizes he is a Peruvian and if he promptly returns the slap with a blow he is a Chilean.

But I do not advise any one experimentally inclined to try this test. The Peruvian may be quiet and peaceful, but he is no cringing timid man to be insulted with impunity. Much, too, has been said regarding the inferior quality of Peru's fighting men—her army and navy—as compared to those of Chile. But this is problematical. Even though Chile had the best of it in the last unpleasantness between the two countries, I question if it was due so much to the superiority of her forces as men, as to their training. The Peruvian soldiery is under French officers, whereas the Chileans look to Germany for army training, and if the numbers of contestants were equal I imagine the outcome of a land battle between the two would not warrant odds being laid in favor of Chile. As far as the navies are concerned, Chile has the best of it by far. In number of vessels, armament, size of ships and number of men she far outranks Peru, and even though the latter's navy is now under North American naval officers she would stand little chance in a naval battle with Chile. Her police, who, to show the impartial character of the government, are under Spanish supervision, are excellent. They are always neat, snappy, and in their red and blue uniforms add color and picturesqueness to the surroundings, and they are ever polite, courteous and obliging, especially to foreigners.

To be sure, their duties cannot be onerous, for crimes, especially of a serious nature, are not frequent in Peru, which by the way is in striking contrast to Chile where the most revolting and fearful crimes, especially against small children, are common. Most of Lima's police force appears to be engaged in conducting traffic. I say conducting, but that is far from the right word, for Lima's traffic could not be properly conducted even by the entire traffic squad of New York City unless the laws and regulations, if such there be, are completely altered or new ones made. Normally, for example, vehicles are supposed to keep to the right and to pass other approaching vehicles on the right, but on certain streets, where there are trolley tracks, this rule of the road is reversed and vehicles keep to the left and pass approaching vehicles on the left. Cars are allowed to park on either side of the street. Many of the streets are very narrow and congested, and yet there are practically no one-way streets, and while circular traffic is supposed to be in force at the Plaza de Armas one sees vehicles cutting corners and running in the opposite direction to the circular flow of traffic. Indeed, the exceptions to the rule in their traffic are as numerous and as difficult to master as the exceptions to Spanish verbs, and all credit is due Lima's traffic cops for succeeding as well as they do. Why or how any autos escape annihilation, or how passengers survive, is a mystery, for Peruvian chauffeurs are perhaps the most reckless in the world. Accidents nevertheless are few, and serious ones still fewer, and during all my residence in Lima I have never heard the clang of an ambulance gong as the vehicle was rushed to the aid of the victims of an auto mishap. Even easier than the duties of the police are those of the fire department. Fires are not infrequent, but adobe is not an inflammable material, and serious conflagrations are almost impossible in mud-built Lima. As workmen and laborers the Peruvians are not to be despised, and after a long experience in Panama, with its worthless, incompetent, so-called native labor, it did my heart good to watch the toilers in Lima's streets and fields. Not having employed Peruvian labor to great extent I cannot pass upon the endurance or steadiness of the unskilled workman, but from personal observation I can affirm that when the Peruvian works he works with a will and with a strength and energy, as well as with an amount of intelligence totally unknown to the laborer of the more northern South American or the Central American republics. He is also a far more robust, healthy and superior man, and with little training can handle a machine tool, an air drill, concrete mixer, engine or even electrical tools to good advantage and without immediately wrecking them. Possibly, even probably, judging by my own observations and the experiences of others, the laboring class of Peru is superior in its way to the business class. To earn his few soles a day the laborer works like a Trojan during working hours, or if on piece work, as are the adobe brick makers, he works steadily and industriously from dawn to dark, and often on holidays and Sundays as well, in order to increase his income. On the other hand, the business man has short hours, he closes his place of business on the slightest provocation and on every possible holiday, and he never seems to care whether he does business or not. Never have I seen a place where the tradesmen appear to care so little about making a sale. Indeed, the average shopkeeper acts as if it were a great condecension to wait on a customer, and often informs one that he has not the desired article rather than take the trouble to hunt it up or even take it from a shelf. Also, the Peruvian idea of doing business is rather remarkable.

To clean out an old stock at a cut price would be almost heresy, according to Peruvian ideas, and if the stock is limited the shopkeeper takes the point of view that it is better and less trouble to sell a few articles at an exorbitant price than a number at a reasonable price. That the terrific price asked discourages purchasers does not trouble the seller in the least. Rather he prefers it, for in that case he does not need to replenish his stock and he has less work to do waiting on customers. As a result, prices of practically everything are almost prohibitive in Peru, for in order to maintain themselves at all the merchants are forced to make a profit of several hundred per cent.

In addition to all this, the Peruvian has little or no conception of the meaning of a contract, verbal or written. He will, with few exceptions, always try to get more or do less than agreed, though he will usually back down and make the best of things when he finds his bluff is called. Of course this does not apply to the large houses, the established firms of good standing and reputation which conduct their business along very similar lines to our own, as they have been forced to do through their dealings with the outside world of finance and business. In private life the Peruvians have advanced far beyond most of the Latin Americans. Although the old Spanish custom of keeping the women more or less secluded still prevails to some extent, the majority of the women have almost as much freedom as in any European country or the United States. Very many have been educated abroad and have imbibed North American or British ideas, and they mingle freely with friends and acquaintances of the other sex in public and drive about or go shopping unattended and unchaperoned. In dress they follow Paris more than London or New York and the display of sheer hosiery and the contents thereof on Lima's streets would be shocking were it not so altogether admirable. There is no denying that the Limeñas, even of fairly mature years, believe thoroughly that the public should know that they possess legs, but as they are usually most shapely extremities, and as the Peruvian women are as a whole really beautiful creatures, no one should object. It is to be regretted that so many of the handsome girls have adopted henna-dyed hair, rouged and powdered faces, mascara-touched eyes, and carmined lips. Seldom do Peruvian women's eyes need added black, their lips are naturally vivid enough and their complexions are usually flawless. Au naturel a Peruvian girl of the upper class is a sight to make one take more than a second glance, but with dyed hair, powder and rouge, she becomes a mere painted doll, indistinguishable from the demi-mondaine in appearance. But apparently neither the female nor the male of the species cares how ridiculous she or he may appear, provided they are exact counterparts of the impossible beings depicted on the pages of Parisian fashion magazines. The woman, in paint, powder, a skirt skin tight above the knees, and preposterously high-heeled shoes, is no more of a monstrosity than her male relative in belted, short-waisted coat, tight trousers, lavender spats and yellow gloves, with a monocle glued in one eye and a malacca stick that would serve as a baseball bat in one hand. Dress, to the average Peruvian of the middle class, is paramount. He judges the station, family, salary and intelligence of his fellows by their clothes, and he knows he will be judged in the same manner. Of course he or she knows that friends or acquaintances are not hoodwinked in this way, any more than he or she will be fooled by the friend's or acquaintance's raiment, but there is always the hope that strangers will be impressed. A poorly paid clerk will array himself like a stage millionaire prince and will stroll up and down Calle Union, or sip chocolate and smoke high-priced cigarettes in the Palais Concierge, and be absolutely, supremely happy. Likewise, his feminine compeers will parade the street and pause before the windows of the most exclusive shops feeling that they are the observed of all observers, and desiring nothing more.

Indeed, it is doubtful if, by a sort of self-hypnosis, they do not actually believe for the time being that they are what they seem. For the same reason, whenever a steamship arrives or departs, or a train halts at a station, people will flock aboard, crowd aisles or decks and fairly beam with delight, not that they have any intention of going on a journey but merely for the thrill of pretending to be passengers and to make others think they are travelers. But after all it is a most innocent and harmless sort of amusement, and if the Peruvians obtain any satisfaction from it why should any one object?

Childishness, in fact, is rather typical of Latin American people and it is no more marked among Peruvians than among their neighbors. In many ways it is a really delightful and admirable trait. We of the north are ever prone to take life and other matters far too seriously, to grow old—mentally if not physically—too early in life, and to frown upon spontaneity and a juvenile excess of enthusiasm or spirits. But the Latins, though they mature at an early age and appear old at what we would consider the prime of life, remain merely grownup boys and girls in many ways. A man may be a statesman, a merchant, a captain of industry, a jurist or a general; a leader in his line; a man of the soundest and most profound judgment and serious thought, but he will take delight and find joy in incidents and matters which would scarcely amuse a North American or British boy in his teens. One often sees a group of Peruvians talking together, gesticulating excitedly, emphasizing their words; almost shouting one moment, lowering their tones to hoarse whispers the next, until one feels sure they are plotting a revolution or are about to break into open hostilities. But the chances are that they are merely discussing the merits of certain cigars, the proper manner of cooking some national dish, or the features of a movie comedy. They will devote an inordinate amount of time and a vast quantity of breath to discussing some trivial and utterly frivolous matter which, nine times out of ten, can never be settled. Once, when waiting for a friend who was tinkering with his car in a garage on a holiday, I overheard two of the employees talking. They were apparently having a heated argument over some most vital matter and I listened attentively and to my amazement discovered that they were merely discussing my friend.

"Why should he work on a holiday?" demanded one.

"Quien sabe? Perhaps he has to," replied the other.

"But perhaps he doesn't. Pues, it may be he wants to."

"Perhaps he has a wife to support."

"Or children."

"And perhaps he has not and is in debt."

"No, amigo, but I think he has a mamá."

"But it may be he has not."

"At any rate he is a Gringo."

"Maybe he is a Chileño."

"No, he is a German."

"Or perhaps English."

"No, I think him a North American."

'Well, a Gringo at any rate."

"And they are all mad."

This seemed to settle it, and shrugging shoulders expressively, as though to indicate that the ways of Gringos were past understanding, the two began a new argument over an equally trivial matter.

Perhaps it would be well for us to pattern our lives more after the Peruvians, in so far as their temperament is concerned. And then again, it might be a great mistake, for seldom will Latin character and Anglo-Saxon methods go hand in hand. Indeed, it is very largely this very combination that is the trouble with the Peruvians, or rather, I might say, that causes strangers to criticise them and find fault with Peruvian ways. They have tried to follow us in progress and development and business and have failed to qualify in many ways because they are mentally different. With open arms they have welcomed North American capital, have seen North Americans and British develop their resources and build up their cities, construct their roads, increase their prosperity, make fortunes out of industries and business. They have admired, envied, tried to follow in the Gringo's footsteps.

"We have a wonderful country," they say to themselves. "A great city, a chance of big business. The Gringos are making money in our own country, let us do as they do and we too will be rich and up to date."

And so they erect fine buildings, open shops with every modern idea from plate-glass windows to electric signs and alluring display; put up residences and apartments, and invest in mines, farms, factories and other lines of endeavor. But they have overlooked the one great factor in Anglo Saxon progress and success. They do not, cannot, realize that the Gringo mind goes with Gringo energy and inventiveness and progress; that our methods and minds and point of view have developed along with the development of other things; that our brains, our ideas, are as quickly and readily altered by requirements as the models of our motor cars or the designs of our machines. The Gringo's brain is adaptable; he thinks in terms of today—or even tomorrow—while the Peruvian thinks in the manner of yesterday or of generations ago. In a thousand ways he is adaptable. He may alter his houses, his buildings, his army and navy, his transportation, his clothing and customs, even his home life, to meet modern conditions, but he cannot alter his line of thought; his mental processes or his psychology. Though he dwells in a home equipped with American sanitary plumbing and electric lights. Though he drives the latest of motor cars. Though he dresses and eats and lives as much like a Gringo as possible. Though his business is as much with foreigners as with natives, and even though he speaks English fluently and may have visited Europe and the United States, still he thinks like a Peruvian and his mind is fettered by tradition, age-old customs and conventions. It is not his fault. He can no more alter these ingrown ideas than he can alter his stature or the color of his eyes. In short, the mentality, or perhaps better, the mental attitude of Peruvians has not kept pace with the country's material progress and development and while, under foreign capital and supervision, his land has raced onward to keep pace with the twentieth century, he has been left far behind, floundering mentally in the dust of a century ago. Few Peruvian merchants can be made to see the advantage of large sales and small profits as compared with small sales and large profits. Few can understand the principles of keeping stock in trade moving and money in circulation. Few can see the losses entailed by high overhead expenses, a rapidly deteriorating stock unsold, losses of interest on money invested in stock, or the losses of customers by failing to keep goods in demand in stock or overcharging for standard goods. Neither can the average Peruvian, —even of the most intelligent class — realize that the most important member of the community is the husbandman; that a country's true prosperity and place in the world are measured by the status and condition, the thrift and per capita wealth of the farmer and the laborer. Ninety per cent of the farmers and laborers in Peru are Indians, and the comparatively few Peruvians of Spanish blood—pure or mixed— despise the Indian and look down upon him. They disparagingly refer to him as a Cholo—and loudly and assertively deny a taint of Cholo blood, even though features and skin speak eloquently of the Indian strain. It is a point of view inherited from the old Dons, from the men who maltreated, despoiled, massacred, looted and enslaved the aborigines. And yet, today, scarcely a wheel would turn in Peru, not a crop be raised, not a ton of ore mined; hardly a train, trolley car or motor bus be operated; a street cleaned, a pavement laid, a building erected, a burden carried, a store or office swept, were the Indians to refuse to work. Even more, were the Cholos to strike en masse; were they to be suddenly wiped out, there would be scarcely a servant left in the homes, hardly a meal cooked, and the inhabitants would starve for lack of food raised, brought to market, sold and prepared by the Cholos.

Even the personnel of the police, army and navy is mainly Indian, and if Peru is to keep pace with the rest of the world, if her prosperity and progress are to be lasting, and if the Peruvians are not looking for future troubles and calamities, it behooves them to alter their attitude towards the Indian population and place their laborers, their farmers and their artisans on a better footing. Fortunately for the country and the people, the Cholo is a most docile and long suffering individual. He is easily satisfied and asks little, and I doubt if the most eloquent and inimical agitator could organize labor unions or foment a strike among them. From what I have seen of Indians of many tribes and in many places, I am far from being in favor of educating or civilizing them more than is absolutely essential. But in most respects the great majority of Peruvian Indians are already civilized. Many can read and write, most of them are, nominally at least, Christians, and all they need is to be taught cleanliness, sanitation and practical things. There should be manual and agricultural instruction, enforced sanitation in their villages and their quarters in the towns, medical inspection and treatment, and means of entertainment provided. I have been told by many Peruvians and by an equal number of foreign residents in Peru, that it is impossible to better the Indians. That they prefer their filthy, squalid huts and dreary lives to clean houses and good times. That they resent kindness and a helping hand and that it is a waste of time and money to try to do anything for their betterment.

I don't believe this in the least. Wherever I have observed conditions among the Indians in Peru I have noticed that they are only too willing to better themselves. Whenever they are in a position to do so they have built better houses, have adopted doors and windows, have installed cheap but serviceable furnishings and have improved. Where they are employed in the homes of foreigners they soon abandon their filthy ways, take pride in neat, clean clothing and improve in every way. Of course the Indian of Peru cannot be driven or forced to change his ways. No Indian can be driven. We have proved that with our own North American redmen, and Panama discovered the fact at the cost of numerous lives. But the Indian is imitative, he is always anxious to outdo his neighbor, or at least not to be outdone by him, and all that is required is to excite interest, get a few Indians started on the right road and the others will follow.

In Peru, unlike most Latin American countries, politics are not a hampering factor in the country's progress and development. Nominally, Peru is a republic, but practically it is, under the present administration, a dictatorship. To us, the idea of a dictator may seem repugnant, and a republic wherein the elections are a farce, where might is right and the people have little or nothing to say in the matter, is to North Americans all wrong and unthinkable. But we have forever been making grave and costly mistakes by judging Latin Americans by ourselves and sticking our official fingers into Latin American political pies, and it is very doubtful if a dictatorship is not the best form of government for many if not most of our South and Central American neighbors. Of course a great deal depends upon the dictator. If he is a rascal, a grafter, a despot or a narrow-minded bigot or fanatic he most assuredly will play the devil with his country and his people, and no one can blame anyone who dares to put his career to an abrupt and final end. But if, on the other hand, he is a patriotic man, a just, fair-minded, honest fellow who has his country's and his people's good at heart, he may and usually will do far more for his country than half a dozen duly elected presidents who are swayed first one way and then another by politics, who are in office for what they can make, and who feel that whatever they do— aside from their own personal benefit —will be undone by the next man in the presidential chair. At any rate, wherever a really big and strong man had become a dictator of a Latin American country, that country has had more peace, prosperity and progress under his rule than under that of any preceding or succeeding presidents. Mexico was never better off than under Diaz. Guatemala prospered amazingly under Cabrera. Venezuela has been far more peaceful under Gomez than under many a president, and Peru is doing very well, thank you. Of course it takes an exceptional man to be a dictator, and a still more exceptional man to be a good dictator. But Señor Leguia is beyond doubt a most exceptional man. Though undersized physically, he is a giant in intellect, energy and personal magnetism. As one American put it, "he has more pep, horse sense and business ability than all the other Peruvians together." This, of course, is an exaggeration, for no doubt there are others of his countrymen as capable as himself. But there is no doubt that Senor Leguia is the one man in a thousand, in hundreds of thousands, who could have overcome the obstacles he met, could have arisen triumphant from defeat and could have become dictator of Peru and remained alive and respected.

At carnivals, at public functions, at horse races and track games he is always present, but no one has yet attempted his life. Perhaps it is his very bravery that has protected him, for the Latin admires courage, or it may be his personal magnetism, or again it may be that even his political enemies feel that he is doing as well by Peru as anyone could. Of course he has enemies. Not only political opponents, but men who have personal grudges against him, men, and women too, who have suffered at his hands, or at the hands of his underlings. And there is no doubt that there has been much suffering, many injustices and inhumanities and disgraceful acts committed in his name. Countless persons, men of the highest standing, of wealth and attainments, have been arrested without warning, judged without trial, torn from their homes and families in the middle of the night, and exiled to San Lorenzo island to be summarily deported. Of course in every case the charge has been that they were conspiring against the government. But in many cases that have been thoroughly investigated there was not the slightest evidence against them, and one such case happened during my stay in Peru.

And whatever else he may be, whatever he may or may not do, he assuredly has the good of his country uppermost in his mind and is using every effort and every available cent to do all he can for Peru while he has the power. Under his dictatorship, wonderful changes and improvements are taking place in Lima and throughout the country. Buildings are going up, the cobbled city streets are being replaced with concrete, magnificent avenues have been laid out and completed, and a perfect automobile highway has been built from Callao to Lima and from Lima to Miraflores. Even in the interior he has done much. Roads have been improved, lighting systems installed, and an enormous amount of work is under way. At Callao, modern docks are being constructed, shipping facilities increased and the port improved. No one can find fault with the way in which the dictator is expending the public funds and inducing outside capital to come into the country. As long as the bulk of the people are wholly unfit to govern or to choose who is to govern them, and neither know or care, and as long as the presence of a dictator in the palace insures peace and prosperity to the land, then, say I, by all means let Peru remain a republic in name only.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.