JOURNAL OF A RESIDENCE IN CHILE
by MARIA GRAHAM née DUNDAS
Overview of the town—Author's cottage—Local vegetation—Neighbour's house—Female dress—Vegetable and flower gardens—Laundry arrangements—Wagons and carts—Types of house construction—Clothing manufacture—Male dress—Horse gear—Wines, cider and spirits—Wild birds—Shops and their goods—Tradesmen—Markets: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and poultry—General stores—Water supply—Apothecary—Pottery manufacture—Weaver—Cemetery—Religious feast day—Mate ceremony
9th of May, 1822. — I took possession of my cottage at Valparaiso; and felt indescribable relief in being quiet and alone. By going backwards and forwards twice between Mr. Campbell's and my own house, I have seen all that is to be seen of the exterior of the town of Valparaiso. It is a long straggling place, built at the foot of steep rocks which overhang the sea, and advance so close to it in some places as barely to leave room for a narrow street, and open in others, so as to admit of two middling squares, one of which is the market-place, and has on one side the governor's house, which is backed by a little fort crowning a low hill. The other square is dignified by the Iglesia Matriz, which, as there is no bishop here, stands in place of a cathedral. From these squares several ravines or quebradas branch off; these are filled with houses, and contain, I should imagine, the bulk of the population, which I am told amounts to 15,000 souls; further on there is the arsenal, where there are a few slips for building boats, and conveniences for repairing vessels; but all appearing poor; and still farther is the outer fort, which terminates the port on that side. To the east of the governor's house, the town extends half a quarter of a mile or a little more, and then joins its suburb the Almendral, situated on a flat, sandy, but fertile plain, which the receding hills leave between them and the sea. The Almendral extends to three miles in length, but is very narrow; the houses, like most of those in the town, are of one storey. They are all built of unburnt bricks, whitewashed and covered with red tiles; there are two churches, one of the Merced, rather handsome, and two convents, besides the hospital, which is a religious foundation. The Almendral is full of olive groves, and of almond gardens, whence it has its name; but, though far the pleasantest part of the town, it is not believed to be safe to live in it, lest one should be robbed or murdered, so that my taking a cottage at the very end of it is rather wondered at than approved. But I feel very safe, because I believe no one robs or kills without temptation or provocation; and as I have nothing to tempt thieves, so I am determined not to provoke murderers.
My house is one of the better kind of really Chilean cottages. It consists of a little entrance-hall, and a large sitting-room 16 feet square, at one end of which a door opens into a little dark bedroom, and a door in the hall opens into another a little less. This is the body of the house, in front of which, looking to the south-west, there is a broad veranda. Adjoining, there is a servants' room, and at a little distance the kitchen. My landlord, who deals in horses, has stables for them and his oxen, and several small cottages for his peons and their families, besides storehouses all around. There is a garden in front of the house, which slopes down towards the little river that divides me from the Almendral, stored with apples, pears, almonds, peaches, grapes, oranges, olives, and quinces, besides pumpkins, melons, cabbages, potatoes, French beans, and maize, and a few flowers; and behind the house the barest reddest hill in the neighbourhood rises pretty abruptly. It affords earth for numerous beautiful shrubs, and is worn in places by the constant tread of the mules, who bring firewood, charcoal, and vegetables, to the Valparaiso market. The interior of the house is clean, the walls are whitewashed, and the roof is planked, for stucco ceilings would not stand the frequent earthquakes, of which we had one pretty smart shock to-night. No Valparaiso native house of the middling class boasts more than one window, and that is not glazed, but generally secured by carved wooden or iron lattice-work; this is, of course, in the public sitting-room; so that the bedrooms are perfectly dark: I am considered fortunate in having doors to mine, but there is none between the hall and sitting-room, so I have made bold to hang up a curtain, to the wonder of my landlady, who cannot understand my finding no amusement in watching the motions of the servants or visitors who may be in the outer room.
May 10th. — Thanks to my friends both ashore and in the frigate, I am now pretty comfortably settled in my little home. Everybody has been kind; one neighbour lends me a horse, another such furniture as I require: nation and habits make no difference. I arrived here in need of kindness, and I have received it from all.
I have great comfort in strolling on the hill behind my house; it commands a lovely view of the port and neighbouring hills. It is totally uncultivated, and in the best season can afford but poor browsing for mules or horses. Now most of the shrubs are leafless, and it is totally without grass. But the milky tribe of trees and shrubs are still green enough to please the eye. A few of them, as the lobelia, retain here and there an orange or a crimson flower; and there are several sorts of parasitic plants, whose exquisitely beautiful blossoms adorn the naked branches of the deciduous shrubs, and whose bright green leaves, and vivid red and yellow blossoms shame the sober grey of the neighbouring olives, whose fruit is now ripening. The red soil of my hill is crossed here and there by great ridges of white half marble, half sparry [containing bright crystals, Ed.] stone; and all its sides bear deep marks of winter torrents; in the beds of these I have found pieces of green stone of a soft soapy appearance, and lumps of quartz and coarse granite. One of these watercourses was once worked for gold, but the quantity found was so inconsiderable, that the proprietor was glad to quit the precarious adventure, and to cultivate the chacra or garden-ground which joins to mine, and whose produce has been much more beneficial to his family.
I went to walk in that garden, and found there, besides the fruits common to my own, figs, lemons, and pomegranates, and the hedges full of white cluster roses. The mistress of the house is a near relation of my landlady, and takes in washing, but that by no means implies that either her rank or her pretensions are as low as those of an European washerwoman. Her mother was possessed of no less than eight chacras; but as she is ninety years old, that must have been a hundred years ago, when Valparaiso was by no means so large a place, and consequently chacras were less valuable. However, she was a great proprietor of land; but, as is usual here, most of it went to portion off a large family of daughters, and some I am afraid to pay the expenses of the gold found on the estate.
The old lady, seeing me in the garden, courteously invited me to walk in. The veranda in front of the house is like my own, paved with bricks nine inches square, and supported by rude wooden pillars, which the Chileno architects fancy they have carved handsomely; I found under it two of the most beautiful boys I ever saw, and a very pretty young woman the grandchildren of the old lady. They all got up from the bench eager to receive me, and show me kindness. One of the boys ran to fetch his mother, the other went to gather a bunch of roses for me, and the daughter Joanita, taking me into the house gave me some beautiful carnations. From the garden we entered immediately into the common sitting-room, where, according to custom, one low latticed window afforded but a scanty light By the window, a long bench covered with a sort of coarse Turkey carpet made here, runs nearly the length of the room, and before this a wooden platform, called the estrada, raised about six inches from the ground, and about five feet broad, is covered with the same sort of carpet, the rest of the floor being bare brick. A row of high-backed chairs occupies the opposite side of the room. On a table in a corner, under a glass case, I saw a little religious baby work, — a waxen Jesus an inch long, sprawls on a waxen Virgin's knee, surrounded by Joseph, the oxen and asses, all of the same goodly material, decorated with moss and sea shells. Near this I observed a pot of beautiful flowers, and two pretty-shaped silver utensils, which I at first took for implements of worship, and then for inkstands, but I discovered that one was a little censer for burning pastile, with which the young women perfume their handkerchiefs and mantos, and the other the vase for holding the infusion of the herb of Paraguay, commonly called mate, so universally drank or rather sucked here. The herb appears like dried senna; a small quantity of it is put into the little vase with a proportion of sugar, and sometimes a bit of lemon peel, the water is poured boiling on it, and it is instantly sucked up through a tube about six inches long. This is the great luxury of the Chilenos, both male and female. The first thing in the morning is a mate, and the first thing after the afternoon siesta is a mate. I have not yet tasted of it, and do not much relish the idea of using the same tube with a dozen other people.
I was much struck with the appearance of my venerable neighbour; although bent with age she has no other sign of infirmity; her walk is quick and light, and her grey eyes sparkle with intelligence. She wears her silver hair, according to the custom of the country, uncovered, and hanging down behind in one large braid; her linen shift is gathered up pretty high on her bosom, and its sleeves are visible near the wrist: she has a petticoat of white woollen stuff, and her gown of coloured woollen is like a close jacket, with a full-plaited petticoat attached to it, and fastened with double buttons in front. A rosary hangs round her neck, and she always wears the manto or shawl, which others only put on when they go out of doors, or in cold weather. The dress of the granddaughter is not very different from that of a French woman, excepting that the manto supersedes all hats, caps, capotes, and turbans. The young people, whether they fasten up their tresses with combs, or let them hang down, are fond of decorating them with natural flowers, and it is not uncommon to see a rose or a jonquil stuck behind the ear or through the earring.
Having sat some time in the house, I accepted Joanita's proposal to walk in the garden; part of it was already planted with potatoes, and part was ploughing for barley, to be cut as green meat for the cattle. The plough is a very rude implement, such as the Spaniards brought it hither three hundred years ago; a piece of knee timber, shod at one end with a flat plate of iron, is the plough, into which a long pole is fixed by means of wedges; the pole is made fast to the yoke of the oxen, who drag it over the ground so as to do little more than scratch the surface. As to a harrow, I have not seen or heard of one. The usual substitute for it being a bundle of fresh branches, which is dragged by a horse or ox, and if not heavy enough, stones, or the weight of a man or two, is added. The pumpkins, lettuces, and cabbages, are attended with more care: ridges being formed for them either with the original wooden spades of the country, or long-handled iron shovels upon the same plan. The greatest labour, however, is bestowed on irrigating the gardens which is rendered indispensable by the eight months of dry weather in the summer. A multitude of little canals cross every field, and the hours for letting the water into them are regulated with reference to the convenience of the neighbours, through whose grounds the common stream passes. One part of every chacra is an arboleda, or orchard, however small, and few are without their little flower plot, where most of the common garden flowers of England are cultivated. The lupine both perennial and annual is native here. The native bulbous roots surpass most of ours in beauty, yet the strangers are treated with unjust preference. Roses, sweet peas, carnations, and jasmine are deservedly prized; mignonette and sweetbriar are scarce, and honeysuckle is not to be procured. The scabious is called here the widow's flower, and the children gathered their hands full of it for me.
From the flower-garden we went to the washing-ground, where I found a charcoal fire lighted on the brink of a pretty rivulet. On the fire was a huge copper vessel full of boiling water, and swimming in it there was a leaf of the prickly pear (Cactus ficus Indicus), here called tuna; this plant is said to possess the property of cleansing and softening the water. Close by there stood a large earthen vessel, which appeared to me to be full of soap-suds, but I found that no common soap was among it. The tree called Quillai, which is common in this part of Chile, furnishes a thick rough bark, which is so full of soapy matter, that a small piece of it wrapped in wool, moistened, and then beaten between two stones, makes a lather like the finest soap, and possesses a superior cleansing quality. All woollen garments are washed with it, and coloured woollen or silk acquires a freshness of tint equal to new by the use of it. I begged a piece of the dry bark; the inside is speckled with very minute crystals, and the taste is harsh like that of soda.
In my walk home from the washing-ground, I had occasion to see specimens both of the wagons and carriages of Chile. The wheels, axletree, carriage, all are fastened together without a single nail or piece of iron. The wheels have a double wooden felly, placed so as that the joints in the one are covered by the entire parts of the other, and these are fastened together by strong wooden pins; the rest is all of strong wooden framework bound with hide, which being put on green, contracts and hardens as it dries, and makes the most secure of all bands. The flooring of both cart and coach consists of hide; the cart is tilted with canes and straw neatly wattled; the coach is commonly of painted canvass, nailed over a slight frame with seats on the sides, and the entrance behind. The coach is commonly drawn by a mule, though oxen are often used for the purpose; and always for the carts, yoked as for the plough. Oxen will travel hence to Santiago, upwards of ninety miles, with a loaded wagon in three days. These animals are as fine here, as I ever saw them in any part of the world; and the mules particularly good. It is needless to say anything of the horses, whose beauty, temper, and spirit, are unrivalled, notwithstanding their small size.
11th May. — This morning, tempted by the exceeding fineness of the weather, and the sweet feeling of the air, I set out to follow the little water-course that irrigates my garden, towards its source. After skirting the hill for about a furlong, always looking down on a fertile valley, and now and then gaining a peep at the bay and shipping between the fruit trees, I heard the sound of falling water, and on turning sharp round the corner of a rock, I found myself in a quebrada, or ravine, full of great blocks of granite, from which a bright plentiful stream had washed the red clay as it leaped down from ledge to ledge, and fell into a little bed of sand glistening with particles of mica that looked like fairy gold. Just at this spot, where myrtle bushes nearly choked the approach, a wooden trough detained part of the rivulet in its fall, and led it to the course cut in the hill for the benefit of the cultivated lands on this side; the rest of the stream runs to the Santiago road, where meeting several smaller rills, it waters the opposite side of the valley, and finds its way to the shore, where it oozes through a sand-bank to the sea, close to a little cove filled with fishermen's houses. On ascending the ravine a little farther, I found at the top of the waterfall, a bed of white marble lying along on the sober grey rock; and beyond it, half concealed by the shrubs, the water formed a thousand little falls.
But this valley, like all those in the immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso, wants trees. The shrubs, however, are beautiful, and mixed here and there with the Chilean aloe (Pourretia Coarctata), and the great torch thistle, which rises to an extraordinary height. Among the humble flowers I remarked varieties of our common garden herbs, caraway, fennel, sage, thyme, mint, rue, wild carrot, and several sorts of sorrel. But it is not yet the season of flowers; here and there only, a solitary fuchsia or andromeda was to be found; — but I did not want flowers, — the very feel of the open air, the verdure, the sunshine, were enough; and I doubly enjoyed this my first rural walk after being so long at sea.
Friday, May 17th. — Three days of half fog, half rain, have given notice of the breaking up of the dry season, and my landlord has accordingly sent people to prepare the roof for the coming wet weather. This has given me an opportunity of being initiated in all the mysteries of Chileno masonry, or architecture, or whatever title we may give to the manner of building here. The poorest peasants live in what I conceive to be the original hut of every country, a little less carefully constructed here, where the climate is so fine and the temperature so equal, that, provided the roof is sufficient during the rains, the walls are of little consequence. These huts are made of stakes stuck in the ground, and fastened together with transverse pieces of wood, either with soga or twine, made from the hemp of the country, with the bark of a water tree not unlike the poplar, or with thongs. Some have only a thick wattled wall of myrtle, or broom; others have the chinks in the wattling filled in with clay, and whitewashed either with lime, — which the natives knew how to prepare from beds of shells found in the country before the invasion of the Spaniards, — or with a kind of white ochre, which is very fine, and is found in pretty large beds in different parts of the country. The roofs are more solidly constructed, having usually over the supporting rafters a layer of branches plastered with mud, and covered with the leaves of the Palma Tejera, or thatch palm, which abounds in the valleys of Chile. Broom, reeds, and a long fine grass, are also used for roofs. However poor the house, there is always a separate hut for cooking at a little distance.
The better houses, mine for instance, have very solid walls, often four feet thick, of unburnt bricks of about sixteen inches long, ten wide, and four thick. These, like the mortar in which they are bedded, are formed of the common earth, which is all fit for the purpose in this neighbourhood. When a man wishes to build, he digs down a portion of the nearest hill, and waters the loose earth till it acquires the consistence of mortar; a number of peons, or countrymen, then tread it to a proper smoothness and consistency; after which a quantity of chopped straw is added, which is again trodden till it is equally distributed through the mass, which is of course more solid for the bricks. These bricks are formed in a wooden frame, and then placed in the shade to dry, after which they are exposed to the sun to harden. After the walls are built they are generally allowed to stand a short time to settle before the rafters are laid on, and indeed the roof is a formidable weight. A very thick layer of green boughs, leaves and all, is first fastened with twine upon the rafters, whose interstices are pretty closely filled up with canes; a layer of mortar, or rather mud, of at least four inches thick, is spread above that; and in that mud are bedded round tiles, whose ridge rows are cemented with lime-mortar, a thin coat of which is spread over the coarser plaster, both without and within the houses.
The brick buildings, and such huts as are plastered within and without over the wattled work, and tiled, are called houses; the others are called, generally, ranchos. The word rancho is, however, also applied to the whole group of buildings that form the farm steading of a Chilean peasant. Every thing here is so far back with regard to the conveniences and improvements of civilised life, that if we did not recollect the state of the Highlands of Scotland seventy years ago, it would be scarcely credible that the country could have been occupied for three centuries by so polished and enlightened a people as the Spaniards undoubtedly were in the sixteenth century, when they first took possession of Chile.
The only articles of dress publicly sold are shoes, or rather slippers, and hats. I do not, of course, mean that no stuffs from Europe or dresses for the higher classes are to be bought; because, since the opening of the port, retail shops for all sorts of European goods are nearly as common at Valparaiso as in any town of the same size in England. But the people of the country are still in the habit of spinning, weaving, dying, and making every article for themselves in their own houses, except hats and shoes. The distaff and spindle, the reel, the loom, particularly the latter, are all of the simplest and grossest construction; and the same loom, made of a few cross sticks, serves to weave the linen shirt or drawers, the woollen jacket and manteau, as well as the alfombra, or carpet, which is spread either on the estrada, or the bed, or the saddle, or carried to church as the Mussulman carries his mat to the mosque to kneel and pray on. The herbs and roots of the country furnish abundance and variety of dyes; and few, if any, families are without one female knowing in the properties of plants, whether for dying or for medicine. The bark of the Quillai is constantly used to clear and bring out the colours.
The dress of the Chilean men resembles that of the peasants of the south of Europe; linen shirts and drawers, cloth waistcoats, jackets, and breeches with a coloured listing at the seams; left unbuttoned at the knee, and displaying the drawers. In the neighbourhood of Valparaiso trousers are fast superseding the short breeches, however. White woollen or cotton stockings, and black leather shoes, are worn by the decent class of men: the very lowest seldom wear stockings; and in lieu of shoes they have either wooden clogs or ojotas, made of a square piece of hide bent to the foot, and tied in shape while green; the latter are sometimes put over shoes in riding through the woods: the hair is usually braided in one large braid hanging down behind, and a coloured handkerchief is tied over the head, above which a straw hat is fastened with black cord. In some districts black felt hats are used; in others, high caps. When the Chileno rides, which he does on every possible occasion, he uses as a cloak, the poncho, which is the native South American garb: it is a piece of square cloth, with a slit in the centre, just large enough to admit the head, and is peculiarly convenient for riding, as it leaves the arms quite free, while it protects the body completely. A pair of coarse cloth gaiters very loose, drawn far up over the knee, and tied with coloured listing, defend the legs; and a huge pair of spurs, with rowels often three inches in diameter, complete the equipment of an equestrian. These spurs are sometimes of copper, but the true pride of a Chileno is to have the stirrups, and the ornaments of his bridle, of silver. The bridles are usually made of plaited thongs, very neatly wrought; the reins terminate in a bunch of cords also of plaited thongs, which serves as a whip. The bit is simple, but very severe. The saddle is a wooden frame placed over eight or nine folds of cloth, carpet, or sheepskin; and over that frame are thrown other skins, dressed and dyed either blue, brown, or black; above all, the better sort use a well-dressed soft leather saddle-cloth, and the whole is fastened on with a stamped leather band, laced with thongs instead of a buckle. Some go to great expense in their saddle-cloths, carpets, skins, &c.; but the material is in all nearly the same, and a saddled horse looks as if he had a burden of carpets on his back. To the saddle is usually fastened the lazo or cord of plaited hide, which the Spanish American colonists on both sides of the Andes throw so dexterously either to catch cattle, or to make prisoners in war. The stirrups appended to these singular-looking saddles are either plain silver stirrups, having silver loops, &c. on the stirrup leathers; or in case of riding through woods on long journeys, a kind of carved box very heavy, and spreading considerably, so as to defend the foot from thorns and branches. Returning from a short walk to-day, I had a good opportunity of seeing a group of horsemen, young and old, who had come from the neighbourhood of Rancagua, a town near the foot of the Andes, to the southward of Santiago, with a cargo of wine and brandy. The liquor is contained in skins, and brought from the interior on mules. It is not uncommon to see a hundred and fifty of these under the guidance of ten or a dozen peons, with the huaso or farmer at their head, encamping in some open spot near a farm-house in the neighbourhood of the town. Many of these houses keep spare buildings, in which their itinerant friends secure their liquor while they go to the farms around, or even into town, to seek customers, not choosing to pay the heavy toll for going into the port, unless certain of sale for the wine. I bought a quantity for common use: it is a rich, strong, and sweetish white wine, capable, with good management, of great improvement, and infinitely preferable to any of the Cape wines, excepting Constantia, that I ever drank. I gave six dollars for two arrobas of it, so that it comes to about 3½d. per bottle. The brandy might be good, but it is ill distilled, and generally spoiled by the infusion of aniseed. The liquor commonly drank by the lower classes is chicha, the regular descendant of that intoxicating chicha which the Spaniards found the South American savages possessed of the art of making, by chewing various berries and grains, spitting them into a large vessel, and allowing them to ferment. Rut the great and increasing demand for chicha has introduced a cleanlier way of making it; and it is now in fact little other than harsh cider, the greater part being produced from apples, and flavoured with the various berries which formerly supplied the whole of the Indian chicha.
18th. — One of my young friends from the "Doris", some of whom have been with me daily, has brought me some excellent partridges of his own shooting. They are somewhat larger than the partridges in England, but I think quite as good, when properly dressed, or rather plucked; but the cooks here have a habit of scalding the feathers off, which hurts the flavour of the bird. There are several kinds of birds here good to eat, but neither quail nor pheasant. They have plenty of enemies: from the condor, through every variety of the eagle, vulture, hawk, and owl, down to the ugly, dull, green parrot of Chile, which never looks tolerably well, except on the wing, and then the under part, of purple and yellow, is handsome. The face is peculiarly ugly: his parrot's beak being set in so close as to be to other parrots what the pug dog is to a greyhound. They are great foes to the little singing birds, whose notes as well as plumage resemble those of the linnet, and which abound in this neighbourhood. We have also a kind of blackbird with a soft, sweet, but very low note; a saucy thing that repeats two notes only, not unlike the mockbird, and that never moves out of the way; swallows and humming-birds are plenty; and the boys tell me they have seen marvellous storks and cranes in the marshes, which I shall take occasion to visit after the rains. I know not if we are to believe that the aboriginal Chilenos possessed the domestic fowl. At present they are abundant and excellent, as well as ducks, both native and foreign, and geese. Pigeons are not very common; but they thrive well, and are made pets of: — in short, this delightful climate seems favourable to the production of all that is necessary for the use and sustenance of man.
23d. — To-day, for the first time since I came home, I rode to the port; and had leisure to observe the shops, markets, and wharf, if one may give that name to the platform before the custom-house.
The native shops, though very small, appear to me generally cleaner than those of Portuguese America. The silks of China, France, and Italy; the printed cottons of Britain; rosaries, and amulets, and glass from Germany; — generally furnish them. The stuffs of the country are very seldom to be purchased in a shop, because few are made but for domestic consumption. If a family has any to spare, it goes to the public market, like any other domestic produce. The French shops contain a richer variety of the same sort of goods; and there is a very tolerable French milliner, whose manners and smiles, so very artificial compared to the simple grace of the Chileno girls who employ her, would make no bad companion to Hogarth's French dancing-master leading out the Antinous to dance. The English shops are more numerous than any. Hardware, pottery, and cotton and woollen cloths, form of course the staple articles. It is amusing to observe the ingenuity with which the Birmingham artists have accommodated themselves to the coarse transatlantic tastes. The framed saints, the tinsel snuff-boxes, the gaudy furniture, make one smile when contrasted with the decent and elegant simplicity of these things in Europe. The Germans furnish most of the glass in common use: it is of bad quality to be sure; but it, as well as the little German mirrors, which are chiefly brought to hang up as votive offerings in the chapels, answers all the purposes of Chileno consumption. Toys, beads, combs, and coarse perfumes, are likewise found in the German shops. Some few German artificers are also established here, and particularly a most ingenious blacksmith and farrier, one Frey, whose beautifully neat house and workshop, and his garden, render him an excellent model for the rising Chilenos.
English tailors, shoemakers, saddlers, and innkeepers, hang out their signs in every street; and the preponderance of the English language over every other spoken in the chief streets, would make one fancy Valparaiso a coast town in Britain. The North Americans greatly assist in this, however. Their goods, consisting of common furniture, flour, biscuit, and naval stores, necessarily keep them busier out of doors than any other set of people. The more elegant Parisian or London furniture is generally despatched unopened to Santiago, where the demand for articles of mere luxury is of course greater. The number of pianofortes brought from England is astonishing. There is scarcely a house without one, as the fondness for music is excessive; and many of the young ladies play with skill and taste, though few take the trouble to learn the gamut, but trust entirely to the ear.
As to the market, meat is not often exposed in it, the shambles being out of town in the Almendral, and the carcases are brought into the butchers' houses on horseback or in carts. The beef, mutton, and pork, are all excellent; but the clumsy method of cutting it up spoils it to the English eye and taste. A few Englishmen, however, have set up butcheries, where they also corn meat; and one of them has lately made mould candles as fine as any made in England, which is a real benefit to the country. The common candles, with thick wicks and unrefined and unbleached tallow, are, indeed, disgusting and wasteful.
The fish-market is indifferently supplied, I think chiefly from indolence, for the fish is both excellent and abundant. One of the most delicate is a kind of smelt; another, called the congrio, is as good as the best salmon trout, which it resembles in taste; but the flesh is white, the fish itself long, very flat towards the tail, and covered with a beautiful red-and-white marbled skin. There are excellent mullet, which the natives dry as the Devonshire fishers do the whiting to make buckhorn; besides a number of others whose names, either English or native, I know not. There is one which, if eaten quite fresh, is as good as the john doree, to which it bears great external resemblance, but which is not eatable in a very few hours. The shellfish are various and good: clams, limpets, particularly a very large kind called loco, and most admirable crabs quite round in shape, are abundant. A large kind of mussel is frequently brought from the southern provinces; and the rocks of Quintero furnish the pico, a gigantic kind of barnacle, the most delicate shellfish, without exception, I ever tasted.
With regard to the vegetables and fruit of the Valparaiso market, they are excellent in their way; but then the backward state of horticulture, as of every thing else, renders them much worse than they might be. Here fruit will grow in spite of neglect; and, though this is not the season for green or fresh fruits, the apples, pears, and grapes, the dried peaches, cherries and figs, and the abundance of oranges and limes, as well as quinces, prove that culture alone is wanting to bring almost every fruit to perfection. As to the kitchen vegetables, the first and best are the potatoes, natives of the soil, of the very first quality. Cabbages of every kind; lettuces, inferior only to those of Lambeth; a few turnips and carrots, just beginning to be cultivated here; every kind of pumpkin and melon; onions in perfection, with their family of chive, garlic, and shallot; and I am promised in the season cauliflower, green peas, French beans, celery, and asparagus; the latter grows wild on the hills. The French beans are, of course, the very best; as the ripened seed is the frijole here, the faggioli of Italy, the haricot of France, and the caravansa of all seafaring nations.
As to the poultry, it is good in itself; but a London poulterer would be not a little shocked at the state in which it makes its appearance at market. All these things are brought on mules or on horseback to town. The fruit in square trunks made of hide, ingeniously plaited and woven; and the vegetables in a kind of net made also of hide, which, indeed, serves for almost every purpose here: buckets, baskets, bags, doors, flooring, hods to carry mortar in, hand-barrows, every thing, in short, is occasionally made of it.
Besides these articles of ordinary consumption, ponchos, hats, shoes, coarse stuffs, coarse earthenware, and sometimes jars of fine clay from Melipilla, or even Penco, and small cups of the same for the purpose of taking mate, are exposed for sale by the country people; who crowd round the stalls with an air of the greatest importance, smoking, and occasionally retiring to a line in the background, where the savoury smell and the crackling of the boiling fat inform the passengers, that fritters both sweet and savoury are to be procured; nor are the cups of wine or aguardiente wanting to improve the repast. But the greatest comfort to the market people is a fountain of excellent water which falls from a hideous lion's mouth in the wall of the government house, or rather of the little fort which the governor inhabits, into a rude granite basin. There is no want of water about Valparaiso; but it is clumsily managed, as far as relates to domestic comfort and to watering the shipping in the harbour. The most convenient watering-place is supplied by a pretty abundant stream that is led close to the beach; but it passes by and through the hospital, and there is consequently a prejudice against it. Besides, I have heard that the water of this stream does not keep. There is another which has not that defect, where a small sum is paid for every vessel filled, whether large or small; and I believe the English ships of war usually fill their tanks there.
Returning from my shopping, I stopped at the apothecary's (for there is but one), to buy some powder-blue, which, to my surprise, I found could only be procured there. I fancy it must resemble an apothecary's of the fourteenth century, for it is even more antique looking than those I have seen in Italy or France.
Friday, May 31st.— To-day I indulged myself with a walk which I had been wishing to take for some days, to an obscure portion of the Almendral, called the Rincona, or nook, I suppose because it is in a little corner formed by two projecting hills. My object in going thither was to see the manufactory of coarse pottery, which I supposed to be established there, because I was told that the ollas, or jars, for cooking and carrying water, the earthen lamps, and the earthen braziers, were all made there. On quitting the straight street of the Almendral, a little beyond the rivulet that divides it from my hill, I turned into a lane, the middle of which is channeled by a little stream which falls from the hills behind the Rincona, and after being subdivided and led through many a garden and field, finds its way much diminished to the sand of the Almendral where it is lost. Following the direction, though not adhering to the course of the rill, I found the Rincona beyond some ruined but thick walls, which stretch from the foot of the hills to the sea, and which were once intended as a defence to the port on that side: they are nothing now. I looked round in vain for any thing large enough either to be a manufactory, or even to contain the necessary furnaces for baking the pottery; nevertheless I passed many huts, at the doors of which I saw jars and dishes set out for sale, and concluded that these were the huts of the inferior workmen. However on advancing a little farther I found that I must look for no regular manufactory, no division of labour, no machinery, not even the potter's wheel, none of the aids to industry which I had conceived almost indispensable to a trade so artificial as that of making earthenware. At the door of one of the poorest huts, formed merely of branches and covered with long grass, having a hide for a door, sat a family of manufacturers. They were seated on sheepskins spread under the shade of a little penthouse formed of green boughs, at their work. A mass of clay ready-tempered lay before them, and each person according to age and ability was forming jars, plates, or dishes. The work-people were all women, and I believe that no man condescends to employ himself in this way, that is, in making the small ware: the large wine jars, &c. of Melipilla are made by men. As the shortest way of learning is to mix at once with those we wish to learn from, I seated myself on the sheepskin and began to work too, imitating as I could a little girl who was making a simple saucer. The old woman who seemed the chief directress, looked at me very gravely, and then took my work and showed me how to begin it anew, and work its shape aright. All this, to be sure, I might have guessed at; but the secret I wanted to learn, was the art of polishing the clay, for it is not rendered shining by any of the glazing processes I have seen; therefore I waited patiently and worked at my dish till it was ready. Then the old woman put her hand into a leathern pocket which she wore in front, and drew out a smooth shell, with which she first formed the edges and borders anew; and then rubbed it, first gently, and, as the clay hardened, with greater force, dipping the shell occasionally in water, all over the surface, until a perfect polish was produced, and the vessel was set to dry in the shade.
Sometimes the earthenware so prepared is baked in large ovens constructed on purpose; but as often, the holes in the side of the hill, whence the clay has been dug, or rather scraped with the hands, serve for this purpose. The wood chiefly used for these simple furnaces is the espinella or small thorn, not at all the same as the espina or common firewood of the country, which is the mimosa, whose flowers are highly aromatic. The espinella has more the appearance of a thorny coronilla. It is said to make the most ardent fire of any of the native woods. The pottery here is only for the most ordinary utensils; but I have seen some jars from Melipilla and Penco which in shape and workmanship might pass for Etruscan. These are sometimes sold for as high prices as fifty dollars, and are used for holding water. They are ornamented with streaks, and various patterns, in white and red clay, where the ground is black; and where it is red or brown, with black and white. Some of the red jars have these ornaments of a shining substance that looks like gold dust, which is, I believe, clay having pyrites of iron; and many have grotesque heads, with imitations of human arms for handles, and ornaments indented on them; but, excepting in the forming of the heads and arms, I do not recollect any Chileno vase with raised decorations.
It is impossible to conceive a greater degree of apparent poverty than is exhibited in the potters' cottages of the Rincona. Most, however, had a decent bed; a few stakes driven into the ground, and laced across with thongs, form the bedstead; a mattress of wool, and, where the women are industrious, sheets of coarse homespun cotton and thick woollen coverlets form no contemptible resting-place for the man and wife, or rather for the wife, for I believe the men pass the greater part of every night, according to the custom of the country, sleeping, wrapped up in their ponchos, in the open air. The infants are hung in little hammocks of sheepskin to the poles of the roof; and the other children or relations sleep as they can on skins, wrapped in their ponchos, on the ground. In one of the huts there was no bed; the whole furniture consisted of two skin trunks; and there were eleven inhabitants, including two infants, twins, there being neither father nor man of any kind to own or protect them. The natural gentleness and goodness of nature of the people of Chile preserve even the vicious, at least among the women, from that effrontery which such a family as I here visited would, and must, have exhibited in Europe. My instructress had a husband, and her house was more decent: it had a bed; it had a raised bench formed of clay; and there were the implements of female industry, a distaff and spindle, and knitting needles formed of the spines of the great torch-thistle from Coquimbo, which grow to nine inches long. But the hamlet of the Rincona is the most wretched I have yet seen. Its natives, however, pointed out to me their beautiful view, which is indeed magnificent, across the ocean to the snow-capped Andes, and boasted of the pleasure of walking on their hills on a holiday evening: then they showed me their sweet and wholesome stream of water, and their ancient fig-trees, inviting me to go back "when the figs should be ripe, and the flowers looking at themselves in the stream." I was ashamed of some of the expressions of pity that had escaped me. — If I cannot better their condition, why awaken them to a sense of its miseries ?
Leaving the Rincona, instead of going directly to the Almendral, I skirted the hill by the hamlet called the Pocura, where I found huts of a better description, most of them having a little garden with cherry and plum trees, and a few cabbages and flowers. In the veranda of one of them a woman was weaving coarse blue cloth. The operation is tedious, for the fixed loom and the shuttle are unknown; and next to the weaving of the Arab hair-cloths, I should conceive that in no part of the world can this most useful operation be performed so clumsily or inconveniently. At the further part of the Pocura an English butcher has built a house that looks like a palace here, to the great admiration of the natives. Immediately above, on a plain which may be from 80 to 100 feet above the village, is the new burying ground or pantheon, the government having wisely taken measures to prevent the continuance of burying in or near the town. The prejudice, however, naturally attached to an ancient place of sepulture prevents this from being occupied according to the intention of the projectors. Separated from this only by a wall, is the place at length assigned by Roman Catholic superstition to the heretics as a burial ground; or rather, which the heretics have been permitted to purchase. Hitherto, such as had not permission to bury in the forts where they could be guarded, preferred being carried out to sea, and sunk; — many instances having occurred of the exhumation of heretics, buried on shore, by the bigoted natives, and the exposure of their bodies to the birds and beasts of prey.
The situation of this resting-place is beautiful; surrounded by mountains, yet elevated above the plain, it looks out upon the ocean over gardens and olive groves; and if the spirit hovers over its mortal remains, here at least it is surrounded with "shapes and sights delightful."
June 6th. — To-day the feast of the Corpus Domini was celebrated; and I went to the Iglesia Matriz with my friend Mrs. Campbell to hear her brother Don Mariano de Escalada preach. We went at 9 o'clock: she had put off her French or English dress, and adopted the Spanish costume; I did so also, so far as to wear a mantilla instead of a bonnet, such being the custom on going to church. A boy followed us with missals, and a carpet to kneel on. The church, like all other buildings here, appears mean from without; but within it is large and decently decorated: to be sure the Virgin was in white satin, with a hoop and silver fringes, surrounded with looking-glasses, and supported on either hand by St. Peter and St. Paul; the former in a lace cassock, and the latter in a robe formed of the same block which composes his own gracious personage. As there was to be a procession, and as the governor was to be a principal person in the ceremonies preceding it, we waited his arrival for the beginning of the service until 11 o'clock; so that I had plenty of time to look at the church, the saints, and the ladies, who were, generally speaking, very pretty, and becomingly dressed with their mantillas and braided hair. At length the great man arrived, and it was whispered that he had been transacting business with the admiral, and transmitting to him, and the captains, and other officers, the thanks of the government for their services. But the whispers died away, and the young preacher began. The sermon was of course occasional; it spoke in good language of the moral freedom conferred by the Christian dispensation, and thence the step was not far to political freedom: but the argument was so decorously managed, that it could offend none; and yet so strongly urged that it might persuade many. I was highly pleased with it, and sorry to see it succeeded by the ceremony of kissing the reliquary, which seemed as little to the taste of Zenteno as might be, by the look of ineffable disdain he bestowed on the poor priest who presented it. The procession was now arranged; and my friend and I, to escape joining it, hurried out of church, and took a stand to see it at some distance.
There was a pretty part of the show, however, on the water: about 150 little boats and canoes, dressed with the national colours, and firing rockets every now and then, rowed round the bay, and stopped at every church, and before every fishing cove, to sing a hymn, or chant.
8th. — I went to pay a visit to the wife of my landlord, who had often entreated me to go and take mate with her; but my dread of using the bombilla, or tube which passes round to every body for the purpose of sucking it up, had hitherto deterred me. However, I resolved to get over my prejudice, and accordingly walked to her house this evening. It is built, I should think, something on the plan of the semi-Moorish houses which the Spaniards introduced into this country. Passing under a gateway, on each side of which are shops, occupied by various owners, looking towards the streets, I entered a spacious courtyard; one side of which is occupied by the gate, and into which the windows of the house look out. A second side of the quadrangle appeared to be store-houses; the other two, by their jalousied windows, showed that the dwelling apartments were situated there. In the entrance-hall the servants were sitting, or standing loitering, for the working time of day was over; and they were looking into the family apartment, where the women were lolling on the estrada, or raised platform covered with carpet (alfombra), supported by cushions, on one side of the room; and the men, with their hats on, were sitting on high chairs, smoking and spitting, on the other. Along the wall by the estrada, a covered bench runs the whole length of the room; and there I was invited to sit, and the mate was called for.
A relation of the lady then went to the lower end of the estrada, and sat on the edge of it, before a large chafing-dish of lighted charcoal, on which was a copper-pot full of boiling water. The mate cups were then handed to the mate maker, who, after putting in the proper ingredients, poured the boiling water over them, applied the bombilla to her lips, and then handed it to me; but it was long ere I could venture to taste the boiling liquor, which is harsher than tea, but still very pleasant. As soon as I had finished my cup, it was instantly replenished and handed to another person, and so on till all were served; two cups and tubes having gone round the whole circle. Soon after the mate, sugar-biscuits were handed round, and then cold water, which concluded the visit. The people I went to see were of the better class of shopkeepers, dignified by the name of merchants; and holding a small landed estate under one of the mayorazgos near the chacra where I reside. Their manners are decent; and there is a grace and kindliness in the women that might adorn the most polished drawing-rooms, and which prevents the want of education from being so disgusting as in our own country, where it is generally accompanied by vulgarity. Here the want of cultivation sends women back to their natural means of persuasion, gentleness and caresses; and if a little cunning mingles with them, it is the protection nature has given the weak against the strong. In England a pretty ignorant woman is nine times in ten a vixen, and rules or tries to rule accordingly. Here the simplicity of nature approaches to the highest refinements of education; and a well-born and well-bred English gentlewoman is not very different in external manners from a Chilena girl.
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