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Narrative of a Journey in South America, ports of strangers. Within this is an open space before reaching the town, which we entered about six o'clock. After passing the first rows of houses, I was struck with the neatness and regularity of most of the streets, which were well paved, and far superior to any thing I had yet seen in the West Indies. In the principal Posada, or inn, kept by a Genoese, I found every accommodation that could be here reasonably expected; and indeed, for some days, the constant sensation of refreshing coolness in the mornings and evenings, as well as throughout the night, was of itself a luxury which seemed to have all the charms of'novelty, and left no room for pelly complaints.
Santiago de Leon de Caracas, the capital of the whole captain generalship of Caracas, is situated in long. 66° 46' west, and lat. 10° 30' north, at an elevation of nearly 2000 feet above the level of the sea. The valley to wards the head of which it is placed extends nearly east and west more than twenty miles, and varies in breadth from four to six or seven It narrows towards the west, where it is almost entirely shut in by bills, which along the south side of the valley rise by gradations above each other.
Those on the north side, on the contrary, form one bold and continued range, separating the valley from the coast, and rising at one point, called the Peak of La Silla, or the Saddle, to a height of more than eight thousand four bundred English feet above the level of the sea. It is close at the foot of this northern side that the town is placed. The ground on which it stands slopes regularly down to the Guayra, a small river which bounds it on the south, and with which three other streams afterwards unite and run through the whole valley in one channel. Although called a river, it would, in North America, be considered as no more than a brook, being every where fordable near the lown, except after heavy rains, when it runs with great rapidity, but subsides almost as suddenly as it rises. Of the three streams which join the Guayra, the Catucho is the most useful to the inhabitants, as from it they derive the principal supply of waler for the public fountains, of which there are several; as also for private houses, many of which are furnished with pipes and reservoirs. Besides its inclination to the south, the ground slopes also to the east, and is consequently, upon the whole, extremely well calculated for contributing to the health and convenience of a large town. After a heavy shower of rain every street pours a muddy torrent into the Guayra, or the Anau.o; but in a few minutes all is again dry, and we find the whole town suddenly rendered cleaner than could be effected by the ulmost ja hour in any other not similarly situated. The streets are in general about a hundred yards agait, and as they intersect each other at right angles, the whole town is by this means divided into square portions, called quadras. When one of these is lefi unoccupied by houses, there remains of course a plaza, or open square, occupying the same space as the quadra. This construction is abundantly simple, and is perhaps the best that can be adopted for a large lown, where the nature of the ground admits of it. It is upon a similar plan that Philadelphia is built; but the want of open
Narrative of a Journey in South America. squares renders that otherwise beautiful city somewhat loo dull and uniform.
There are several squares in Caracas; but none of them worthy of notice, except the Plaza Mayor, or great square, where the market for fruits, vegetables, fish, and other smaller articles, is held. The east side is principally occupied by the cathedral, the south by the college, and the west by by the public prison. Williin these is, as it were, another square, formed principaily by sanges of low shops, which, however convenien in a commercial point of view, entirely disfigure the whole. The principal fountain discharges itself in the middle of the north side. In this square may be seen the fruits which we have been accustomed to consider as peculiar to very different climates all brought from the distance of a few leagues. The banana, the pine apple, and the sapadillo, are mingled with the apple, the pear, and the chesnut. The potatoe and the plantain, fresh provisions which seem to belong to the temperate zones, and those kinds of fish which are peculiar to tropical seas, are here offered for sale on the same spot.
The cathedral of Caracas is heavily built, and the interior construction is badly planned; as, during the celebration of mass, a great proportion of the number of people which the church is capable of holding cannot see the priest ; a most essential point where the ceremony constitutes so essena tial a part of the devotion. The length of the cathedral is about ninety yards, by twentù-seven in breadth. It is supported by twenty-four pillars, without beauty or proportion; but its brick steeple contains the only public clock in the town, and may thus compensate by its utility for what it wants in elegance.
Next in point of importance, and superior in the richness of its oraments, is the parochial church of Alia Gracia, which was built chiefly at the expence of people of colour, and to which they seem to have contributed through emulation. It is by far the most splendid church in Caracası and does some honour to the zeal of the contributors, if not to the taste of the architects, or of those who had the direction of its ornamenting.
The church of La Candelaria gives name to the quarter of the town in which it stands, and was built by the settlers from the Canaries, called here Islenos, or Islanders. Besides these, there are (wo other parish churches, St. Rosolia and St. Paul, three monasteries for friars, two nunneries, and three hospitals, of which one is for lepers alone.
The population of Caracas is upwards of forty thousand, of which about one third are whites. Among the remainder are a very few Indians; but the mixture of Indian blood is general. Almost all the handicrafts are carsied on by freed-men of colour, who are in general ingenious, but indolent and indifferent to the highest degree. They promise, without the smallest intention of performing, and appear perfectly unmoved when reproached with their falsehood. But indifference on this score is not peculiar to this class alone.
Narrative of a Journey in South America The College is the only public institution for education; and hither all the youth of Caracas of the better classes are sent for that purpose. The routine of education is such, as it may be supposed to have been in Spain, two hundred years ago : a few common Latin authors, catechisms, and the Lives of Saints, being the chief studies. A free mode of thinking is, howe ever, rapidly spreading among the young men, and may hereafter produce the most important effects.
The barracks which stand above the town to the north-west, are large and commodious. They are of a square form, capable of holding two thousand men with ease ; and, from their situation, might completely command the town, were they not overlooked by neighbouring heights. The view from them is extensive, over a great part of the valley, and a delightful promenade might be formed in front of them, with very little trouble and expence.
The elevated situation of the valley of Caracas, and the purity and lightness of the air, have a material effect upon the physical and moral character of the inhabitants, and distinguish them advantageously from the natives of the coast. As the original Indians here were celebrated among the surround. ing tribes, the same may be affirmed of the present race of Caracas, tbat they are superior in quickness of perception, in activity, and intelligence, to the inhabitants of most of the other towns in the province.
The women of Caracas are handsome, sprightly, and pleasing: To their natural charms they know how to add the attractions of dress, and of graceful moʻions. They are uniformly kind and affable in their manners; and whatever faults an Englishman may frequently observe in their domestic conduci, these are not more than may be traced in the manners of Old Spain.
There is a tolerably large theatre in Caracas, but it is poorly ornamented, and seldom well filled. The actors are taken from the lower ranks, who pursue their several occupations through the day, and in the evening tread the stage. ` Considering this circumstance, their performance is entitled to be treated with lenity, and, in general, the audience are not difficalt to please. Patriotic songs are occasionally brought forward, and the singer is frequently not only applauded, but rewarded with pieces of money cast upon the stage. This circumstance is sometimes attended with inconvenience; and I have seen a hero obliged to stoop to avoid a friendly dollar thrown at his head.
About the 15th of January 1811, we left Caracas, and set off before day-break for Victoria, having a fine moonlight we look our course to the westward. A kind of hoar frost covered the ground, and the air was so cold that, until the sun rose, our feet and hands were benumbed, and our Mulatio trembled all over. Three or four miles from Caracas we see a small village, lying on the other side of the Guayra, pleasantly situated in a Narrative of a Journey in South America. recess among the hills, and distinguishable by the white tower of its church, like that of Macuta, on the coast. This was originally an Indian village, and it still retains the name of one, although very few, if any, original families are now remaining. It stands upon a small height, at the foot of which extends a large and fertile flat, capable at all times of being irrigated, and which is generally covered with Otaheitan sugar-canes. About two leagues from Caracas we pass through a straggling village, with its church on a small eminence, capable of being converted into a good military post for the defence of the road. The valley of Caracas now narrows rapidly, and the space between the hills seldom consists of more than the flat through which the river flows, evincing by its level surface, that afier heavy rains it is frequently covered with water. After some time we leave the small heights, and descend upon the Guayra, which we cross and recross several times, until, having passed a little stream which falls into it, we approach Las Aguntas, a few houses at the foot of the mountains which we now prepare to ascend. This post is belween three and four leagues from Caracas, and a good Pulperia affords the traveller the means of rest and refreshment. Pulperia is the name given in this country to establishments which are at the same time shops, farms, and ions, such as they may be, adapted to the state of society in the province..
As the heat of the sun had not yet become oppressive, we determined to proceed without stopping at Las Aguntas. The road soon became sleep and rocky; but, as we ascended, we were amply repaid by the grandeur of the prospects which every step opened to our view. We continued to ascend for upwards of four mile:, when we reached the summit of the first hills, which shut in the head of the valley of Caracas, from which we soon after looked back for the last time on the town, presenting, at the distance of twenty miles, a singularly interesting appearance, at the foot of lofty mountains. The spot from which this farewell view, or, if we are approaching from Valencia, this first glimpse, of Caracas is obtained, is called Bova Vista, and is marked by a single miserable Venta. The road from thence leads over the high grounds, and we find ourselves in the midst of a mouatainous country, the valleys of which are deep, dark, and solitary, without rivers, and the sides in general but partially covered with trees. To the south-west, the ridges gradually ascend, and terminate in á lofty peak, the summit of which appeared like a black spot far above the clouds. By degrees our road led us through a wood composed of lofiy trees, such as are common in the West Indian islands; having goi clear of which, we at length began to descend about ten o'clock into a valley, near the bottom of which is scattered the miserable hamlet of San Pedro, composed of fifteen or twenty houses, with an unfinished church; which, however, serves the country for many miles around. A clear stream, nearly the size of the Guayra, runs through the bottom, near which was fought the great battle with the Indian Chief, Guaycaipuro, which cleared the way for the Spaniards to the Narrative of a Journey in South America. valley of Caracas. Having now completed upwards of seven leagues of our journey, we stopped to rest our horses, and repaired to a Pulperia close to the stream. Here we procured some boiled meat, cakes of maize, and eggs; and for our drink, water, or guarapo, a liquor made by mixing coarse sugar with water.
About mid-day I followed the course of the stream, till I found a se questered spot, shade with trees, where I bathed. The day being cloudy, I was astonished to find the water exceedingly cold at this hour, and between the tropics; not reflecting that San Pedro is at a still greater elevation than Caracas. Being farther refreshed by two hours sleep upon the ground, towards three o'clock we again set off, accompanied by the owner of a coffee plantation, who joined us al the Pulperia. After ascending from San Pedro, which we begin to do immediately from the banks of the river, and riding about two leagues, we begin to have a view of the country on the other side of the chain of hills we are passing, and soon afterwards the descent commences. We first, however, turned off from our road into a deep valley, where lay the coffee estate of our companion, and which we found to be but newly commenced ; and surrounded on every side by woods. The young coffee plants were all shaded by low frames, covered with a species of fern, which effectually excluded the heat of the sun, and is always necessary, we are told, for the first year. The house commanded a view over all the valley, where there was not ano. ther human habita'ion to be seen; the land, with little cultivation, yielded every vegetable necessary for subsisterce; and the neighbouring woods abounded with deer, which occasionally, as we rode along, burst through the thicket.
Having at length reached the summits of this great chain of hills, and preparing to descend on the opposite side, we enjoy most beautiful views of the green cultivated valleys at a great distance beneath us. and rapid descent is reckoned to be nearly four leagues from the summit of the hills 10 the Coucuisas. Night, however, surprised us, before we were half down the mountain, and we stopped at a small house, where we thought ourselves happy in procuring green maize for our horses and mules. The whole plant is cut down and given to them, nor is there any green food which appears to yield them so much sustenance. For ourselves, two fowls were speedily killed and cooked, and cakes of maize made warm ; but the whole house afforded only one small table, and neither chair nor stool of any kind. We therefore followed the fashion of the country; and when supper was brought in, hung our hammocks sufficiently low to serve for seals, and placed the table between us. Our seats were likewise our beds. These kind of houses bere are almost wholly devoid of furniture. The lower classes sleep on mats, spread on the earthen floor, and the better sort have hammocks. Every traveller is supposed to carry his hani. mock with him; and for his accommodation, nails or hooks are fastened