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Impressions of the young republic, penned by nine visitors (1813–1863)

Valparaiso Bay
Valparaiso Bay (from Colton)

1813: David Porter — 1820: Basil Hall — 1822: Maria Graham — 1846: Walter Colton — 1847: Ida Pfeiffer — 1849: Isaac Strain — 1854: Loretta Merwin — 1855: Arthur Pilleau — 1863: M. A. Brewin


1813: David Porter




On the morning of the 15th [March 1813], we succeeded in getting off the point of Angels, which I ranged at two cables' length from a few scattering rocks which lay at the distance of about a cable's length from the shore. We had been running in with a good breeze, but it died away calm off the point, when we furled all sails, and put our drags into operation to get into the harbour; but in the mean time despatched lieutenant Downes to inform the governor that we were an American frigate greatly in need of supplies of every kind, that our wants were greatly augmented by the loss of our store-ship off Cape Horn; and that we threw ourselves on his hospitality. I was induced to use this little artifice from a knowledge of the unaccommodating disposition of the Spaniards, and their jealousies respecting foreign vessels that enter the ports of their American possessions. From the stand the United States had taken against the aggressions of Great Britain, as well as their conduct with respect to the Floridas, I had not reason to expect from them much amity; and only hoped to extort from them, under the plea of distress, permission to take in a few provisions, and to fill our water; and indeed it was not without many restrictions that I hoped to obtain even this indulgence. Before I had got to an anchor, however, the captain of the port, accompanied by another officer, and lieutenant Downes, came on board in the governor's barge, with an offer of every civility, assistance, and accommodation that Valparaiso could afford. To my astonishment I was informed that they had shaken off their allegiance to Spain; that the ports of Chile were open to all nations; that they looked up to the United States of America for example and protection; that our arrival would be considered the most joyful event, as their commerce had been much harassed by corsairs from Peru, sent out by the viceroy of that province, to capture and send in for adjudication all American vessels destined for Chile; and that five of them had disappeared from before the port only a few days before my arrival, after having captured several American whalers, and sent them for Lima. This unexpected state of affairs, as may naturally be supposed, (considering our existing wants) was calculated to afford me the utmost pleasure, as it promised us a speedy departure from Valparaiso.

The affair of the salute was arranged; and, after anchoring, I saluted the town with twenty-one guns, which were punctually returned. Immediately after this I waited on the governor, don Francisco Lastre, who gave me the most friendly, and at the same time unceremonious reception. On my passing the American armed brig "Colt", she fired a salute of nine guns, which was returned by the "Essex" with seven. I had not been long with the governor, before I discovered that I had, happily for my purpose, got among staunch republicans, men filled with revolutionary principles, and apparently desirous of establishing a form of government founded on liberty. But it could not be concealed that some of the leaven of the old Spanish regime was still among them; and that, however desirous they might appear of establishing liberty and equal rights, the chief aim of a few leading characters and designing men among them, was despotic power. The governor was himself one of those who owed his rise entirely to the revolution; his grade was that of a lieutenant in the navy; but he was created governor on shaking off his allegiance to Ferdinand. It could, however, be perceived, that his Excellency was rather lukewarm and cautious in his expressions, and was still desirous of preserving appearances, in the event of the province returning again to its former masters. The captain of the port, whose name I do not recollect, was a sterling honest patriot, and spoke his sentiments boldly; he evidently felt as those should feel who are determined to be free; appeared sensible they had yet much to do; and I am sure was resolved to do the utmost to emancipate his country.

A courier was immediately despatched by the American deputy vice-consul, to Santiago, the capital of Chile, to inform Mr. Poinsett, the American consul-general, of our arrival in the port of Valparaiso; and arrangements were made for getting our wood, water, and provisions on board. The latter article I found could be procured in the greatest abundance, of an excellent quality, and at a more moderate price than in any port of the United States. I also directed a daily supply of fresh beef and vegetables, fruit and fresh bread, for the crew, and, by the time I completed these arrangements, was informed that the governor intended returning my visit. I consequently went on board to receive him, and on his arrival, with a numerous suite of officers, saluted him with eleven guns. It appears that many of them had never before seen a frigate, all of them being native Chileans, and this being the first, since their recollection, that had entered the port. The "Standard", a British ship of the line, had touched there four months since for refreshments, on her way to Lima; but some misunderstanding having taken place between them and her officers, there was but little intercourse between them. The visit lasted about two hours, during which time they viewed every part of the ship; and although she appeared under great disadvantage, from having been so long at sea, and from the tempestuous passage around Cape Horn, still they were much pleased and astonished that Anglo-Americans, as they styled us, could build, equip, and manage ships of so large a size.

The governor, before he left the ship, invited myself and officers to a party for the next evening, and expressed great regrets that we had not arrived sooner, as they had had the evening before great rejoicings, in consequence of a victory gained by their troops over those of Peru. It seems that a small, unimportant fortress, belonging to the latter, had fallen into the hands of the Chileans.

Our purchases of provisions went on as well as I could desire, but our watering proceeded but slowly, as the only place from whence we could procure it, was a small well near the landing-place by the custom-house, which would only admit of four or five casks being filled before it gave out. We were then compelled to wait some time for the water to run in, before we could fill any more; but as it afforded a supply of from one thousand to fifteen hundred gallons per day, I concluded to fix the period of our departure on the 22d, allowing one week to get all our supplies.

When we first arrived, a few boats came off with fruit, and, as was the case at St. Catharine's, the most exorbitant prices were demanded for the most trifling article. However, as they continued to increase in numbers, I soon saw that the evil would be speedily removed; and permission being given them to establish their market on board, our supply was in a few hours as abundant, and at as low prices, as in the market on shore. Nothing could exceed the excellence and abundance of the apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, melons, onions, potatoes, and vegetables of every description. The potatoes are superior in size and quality to those of any other country, and are indigenous. Tons of the foregoing articles were sold to our people, which were laid by as a sea stock, as well as hogs and poultry in great numbers, and of the best qualities. The fowls are of the largest size, and of that kind called the China fowl, which were sold at the moderate price of two and a half dollars per dozen; indeed, I soon perceived that, unless I placed some restrictions, my ship would be much encumbered with the stock on board her. I therefore, before my departure, gave directions that all the hogs belonging to the crew should be killed, except one for each mess: and this arrangement left upwards of one hundred hogs on board, counting those belonging to the officers. No part of the world could have afforded us a more ample supply of every kind of provision required. The flour and bread were of a very superior quality, and could be procured in any quantities without difficulty. We could not, however, without considerable delay, procure salt provisions, except jerked beef: this was to be had in large quantities, and put up in a superior manner for exportation, in a network formed of strips of hide, containing one hundred weight. All the dry provisions were put up in hides; the flour was better secured in them, and more closely packed, than it could possibly be in barrels; and, although much heavier, we found them more manageable. The use they make of hides is astonishing; the most of the furniture for their mules and horses, and their houses, and, on some parts of the coast, even their boats, or (as they are called) balsas are made of this article. It is used for every purpose to which it is possible to apply it, either whole, cut in pieces, or in long strips. When used for balsas, two hides, each cut something in the form of a canoe, with the seam upwards, are blown up by means of a reed, and stopped together; a piece of board is then laid across to sit on, and on this frail machine they venture a considerable distance to sea. The lasso for the use of which the Chileans are so famous, is formed of a very long strip of hide, with a running noose; and their dexterity in using it, in catching animals at full speed, is surprising. Every pack-horseman and driver of a jackass is furnished with one of these; and so much do they delight in them, or in showing their dexterity, that when they wish to catch any one of their drove, either to load, or unload, or for any other purpose, they take their distance, deliberately coil up their lasso and never fail of throwing it over the neck of the animal wanted.

On the 17th, captain Munson, of the American brig in port, arrived from Santiago, bringing me a letter from the consul-general, inviting myself and officers, in the name of the government of Chile, to visit the capital, and informing us that horses and every officer convenience were provided for us on the road. Captain Munson was also desired by the consul to inform me, that the president and junta, with a large military escort, would meet us at a considerable distance from the city; and that, in a political view, they considered our arrival as the most happy event. Captain Munson stated, that the bells had been rung the whole day, and illuminations had taken place the evening after our arrival was announced; and that it was generally believed that I had brought from my country nothing less than proposals for a friendly alliance with Chile, and assurances of assistance in their struggle for independence. This idea I felt no disposition to do away with; and as I had not, since my arrival, given any hints of my object in this sea, I found it not too late to encourage a belief that suited my views and accorded with their wishes. I had prepared my officers and crew to secrecy before my arrival, and had now no objection that the good people of this place should put the most favourable construction on our arrival among them, provided it did not traverse my only object, the getting a supply of provisions, a circumstance which their solicitude to oblige gave me no cause whatever to apprehend.

When we were about to embark our provisions, it was signified to me by the deputy vice-consul, that the officer or the customs did not feel himself authorized to permit their embarkation free from duty, without orders from superior authority, unless we would enter into bonds to pay the duty, if it should be exacted by the junta; the governor also had felt a delicacy on the subject, and had written to Santiago for instructions. Knowing the favourable disposition of the superior government toward us, and learning that the officer of the customs was averse to the present form of government, and suspected of monarchical principles, I spurned the idea of entering into bonds, and refused to take any thing on board until I had full authority from the president and junta, which I was sure of getting without any material loss of time, as a courier was about being despatched with my letter, in reply to that of Mr. Poinsett, in which I took the opportunity of mentioning the circumstance. The governor, however, received orders the next day to permit us to take on board whatever we pleased, free from every embarrassment of custom-house or other regulations, and was directed to afford myself and officers every facility and civility in his power, calculated to forward our views, and render our stay among them agreeable. This order the governor brought himself on board to show me, and at my request furnished me a copy.

Agreeably to the governor's invitation, we attended his party, where we found a much larger and more brilliant assemblage of ladies than we could have expected in Valparaiso. We found much fancy and considerable taste displayed in their dress, and many of them, with the exception of teeth, very handsome, both in person and in face; their complexion remarkably fine, and their manners modest and attractive. This was our first impression on entering a room containing perhaps two hundred ladies, to whom we were perfect strangers. Minuets were introduced; country-dances followed; and the ladies had the complaisance and patience to attempt with my officers, what they had never before seen in the country, a cotillion. The intricacies of their country-dance were too great for us to attempt; they were greatly delighted in by those who knew them, and admitted a display of much grace. With their grace, their beauty of person and complexion, and with their modesty, we were delighted, and could almost fancy we had gotten amongst our own fair country-women; but in one moment the illusion vanished. The bailes de [la] tierra, as they are called, commenced: they consisted of the most graceless, and at the same time fatiguing movements of the body and limbs, accompanied by the most indelicate and lascivious motions, gradually increasing in energy and violence, until the fair one, apparently overcome with passion, and evidently exhausted with fatigue, was compelled to retire to her seat.

They disfigure themselves most lavishly with paint; but their features are agreeable; and their large dark eyes are remarkably brilliant and expressive. Were it not for their bad teeth, occasioned by the too liberal use of the mate, they would, notwithstanding the Chilean tinge, be thought handsome, particularly by those who had been so long as we out of the way of seeing any women.

The mate is a decoction of the herb of Paraguay, sweetened with sugar, and sucked hot through a long silver tube. To the use of this beverage the Chileans are perfect slaves. The taste is agreeable, but it occasions terrible havoc among the teeth. We returned on board our ship pleased with the novelties of a Chilean ball, and much gratified by the solicitude shown by every one to make our stay amongst them agreeable. Invitations had been given by them to visit at their houses; but time was too precious to us to be spent in amusements. All were busily engaged until the 20th in getting on board our supplies, and on the meridian of that day we had completed our water, and, with the exception of a few small articles, had as much provisions on board as the day we left the United States. Those we calculated on taking on board while our accounts were in a train for settlement; and as the next day was Sunday, and we all required some relaxation from our fatigues, I determined to devote it to pleasure, and invited the ladies and gentlemen of Valparaiso to spend the afternoon on board the ship, all, as well as ourselves, being previously engaged for the evening at a ball, at the house of Mr. Blanco, the vice-consul. The Spaniards, and particularly Catholics, do not, like the people of protestant countries, spend their Sabbath in penance and prayers, but in feasting and dancing; and although a good catholic would consider himself lost if he neglected confession, or tasted meat during Lent, yet he is above the vulgar protestant prejudice of devoting one whole day in each week to the worship of the Almighty, when he has it in his power to spend it so much more agreeably in amusement. The consul-general had arrived from Santiago, accompanied by don Lewis [Luis] Carrera, the brother of the president, by the consul, a Mr. Heywell, and another American gentleman. They all dined on board my ship on Saturday, and were saluted with eleven guns. On Sunday, about 3 o'clock, myself and officers were on shore with our boats to take the ladies on board the ship, she having been previously prepared for their entertainment; and we had all laid aside our national and religious prejudices, and devoted ourselves entirely to the pleasures of the day, when, at the moment we were on the point of embarking with them, an officer came from the ship to inform me that a large frigate had appeared in the offing, and on perceiving us had hauled in for the harbour. We all immediately left our fair Chileans, and without any ceremony jumped in our boats and repaired on board, where I found every thing prepared for getting under way. I soon perceived that the strange ship was a thirty-two gun frigate, gave orders to cut the cables, and in an instant the "Essex" was under a cloud of canvas; but as the breeze, which had until this moment blown, now failed, we got all our boats ahead, and towed out of the harbour, and in the course of an hour we were along side the stranger, who proved to be a Portuguese, that had been sent round by the government at Rio Janeiro, for the purpose of getting a supply of flour for Lisbon. As there was every expectation of an engagement, the consul-general, and several Americans and Spaniards, and don Lewis Carrera, came on board to share with us the dangers; the latter appeared to us a spirited youth, (about twenty-two years of age,) and as he had never been in any engagement of importance, was evidently anxious to partake of one. His constant request of me was to board the stranger, and his disappointment was great when he discovered the Portuguese flag. We could perceive the hills crowded with men, women, and children, all equally, and perhaps more anxious than don Lewis, to see the fight. Among them, as it afterwards proved, were our fair guests, who did not hesitate to declare their disappointment; and frankly acknowledged that a sight of a sea engagement would have had more charms for them than all the entertainment we could have afforded them on board the ship.

The wind continued light; and, the day being far advanced, I gave up all thoughts of returning to port that night, and stood off to sea, endeavouring to get to windward. Don Lewis, as well as his servants who accompanied him, soon became excessively sick; and however warlike he might have felt when he first came on board, he was now as helpless as an infant. We succeeded, by the help of our drags, in getting to our anchors early next mornings and were more fortunate in finding the buoys we had put to our cables than I had expected. We, immediately on securing our ship, took on board the remainder of our supplies. An invitation was brought for us to dine and spend the evening with the governor, who, we could perceive by the flags about the battery in front of his house, had made great preparations for the occasion; and we were informed that the entertainment was given us by the order and at the expense of the superior government of Chile. The company was seated in an extensive tent, handsomely and fancifully decorated with the flags of different nations, and the ground covered with rich carpets; the dinner was served up in silver plate, and, with the exception of the blades of the knives alone, no other metal or substance whatever was used for any part of the table equipage. The dinner consisted of at least twenty changes; and by the time the third course had been removed, we had cause to regret that we had not reserved our appetites for some of the delicacies which we perceived were likely to succeed the substantial food of the first course, which we had begun upon with keen appetites, and were soon cloyed. The officers of the Portuguese ship, and some English merchants, were also at table; but when the wine began to circulate, and the Chilean officers to feel the ardour of their patriotism, such flaming toasts were given, as to make them think it prudent to retire.

As the ball was to succeed the dinner in the tent, we walked round with the governor to look at the fortifications, which were in tolerable order; and on our return found the ladies assembled, dressed in all their splendour, and unusually disfigured with paint. The night was spent with much hilarity, and at one o'clock in the morning we repaired on board. Having now little to detain us, I intended sailing early; but these ladies seemed determined not to be cheated out of a visit to the ship, for the governor, his wife, with a boat-load of other ladies, came on board about nine o'clock, and remained until twelve. On their leaving us, I saluted them with eleven guns.

From my extreme occupation with my duty, and the rapidity of the events which took place during the week I remained at Valparaiso, it could scarcely be supposed that I could have an opportunity of making many observations on the place, the manners and customs of the people, or the political state of the country. Perhaps no week of my life was ever more actively employed, both in labour and in pleasure; and had not a strong desire of serving our country to the utmost overcome every other consideration, we should have left Valparaiso with much regret.

The town of Valparaiso is pleasantly situated at the bottom of the bay, and is a place of considerable commerce. The anchorage is in front, and from two to five cables length from the shore, where vessels lie secure, and are sheltered from all except the north winds, which blow directly into the harbour, and occasion a considerable sea. There have been instances of vessels being driven on shore by them, and all hands perishing. On the eastern, limits of the town, towards the village of Almendral, and near some rocks, is erected a cross, as a monument of the loss of a Spanish ship that was driven on shore here, and all her crew lost.

The bay is entirely free from danger, and the only advice necessary for running into the harbour, is to stand in for the middle of the town, choosing your anchorage in from twenty-five to seven fathoms water. The bottom is every where clean, and the holding ground good. As the port has been so accurately and minutely described by Vancouver and others, any further directions would be superfluous.

The customs of the inhabitants of this place differ so materially from our own, (and perhaps from those of every other people,) that I cannot help noticing a few particulars that struck me as the most singular.

At all their dinner entertainments, the principal guest is placed at the head of the table, the host on one side of him, and the hostess on the other; and their principal business appears to be to make him eat as much as possible. This duty they are apt to perform most effectually, if he happens, like me, to be a stranger, and not aware of the variety of changes that is to be brought on, each one more and more inviting in its appearance and taste.

There is another practice at their balls, or evening parties, which at first gave me some embarrassment. A very large silver dish, filled with sweet jelly, was presented me by a servant, as well as a silver plate and fork. Believing that the whole dish could not be intended for me, I attempted to take the plate; this the servant objected to, I then attempted to take the dish; but to this she objected. I felt certain, however, that it was intended for me to eat in some way or other, and was determined to do it in that way which appeared the most natural and convenient; I therefore took from her the plate and fork, and helped myself to as much as I thought I should want. The eyes of all the company, however, were on me, and I perceived that I had made some mistake, which I was soon convinced of; for the servant brought another plate with a fork, which was handed with the sweetmeats around to the company, and each one made use of the same fork to take a mouthful, holding his head carefully over the dish in order that nothing might fall from his mouth to the floor; the fork was then laid on the plate, and passed to the next. The mate is taken with as little regard to delicacy or cleanliness. When the cup containing it is brought in, one of the company blows into it, through the silver tube, until a high froth is produced; it is then considered property prepared. The same mate and tube is then passed around the room, and each one takes in turn a draught of it, with much apparent relish and delight. It is also a practice for one glass of water, one spoon, or one cigar, to be served to the whole company. A Chilean lady would consider it a high indecorum to be seen walking arm in arm with a gentleman; and their refinement is so great, that it is thought indelicate even to accept his hand in any way, except in dancing, when, to be sure, every thing like delicacy is laid aside. They are, however, extremely hospitable and attentive to strangers; and if they have their peculiar customs which seem strange to us, we no doubt have our own equally deserving their animadversion.

The whole power and force of the kingdom of Chile is now concentrated in one family, who have taken advantage of the state of anarchy into which it fell for want of rulers, and placed themselves at the head of government. This family is the Carreras. The eldest brother has created himself commander of the infantry; the second brother is president of the junta, and commander of the cavalry; the third, don Lewis, is commander of the artillery; and they are altogether capable of bringing into the field fifteen thousand men, but they have not arms for more than six thousand. They are in alliance with the Buenos Ayreans, and have furnished them with five hundred men, properly equipped, to assist them in carrying on their war against the Montevideans. The rest of their force, except a few men on the frontiers of Peru, remains unemployed; and indeed they all appear too much engaged in the pursuit of pleasure, and the gratification of their appetites, to be capable of making any great military exertions.

There is a strong and secret party opposed to the present administration, and favourable to the cause of Ferdinand VII: they are styled Saracens; the party in power are denominated Patriots; the former are dangerous, and are not a little dreaded, from the concealed manner in which they carry on their hostilities. Several of their emissaries have already been convicted of attempts to assassinate the officers of the present government; some have been sentenced to be hung, others to be banished to the island of Juan Fernandez. The patriots are known by a tri-coloured cockade, blue, yellow, and white; and the ladies of that party are distinguished by wearing their hair gracefully brushed over on the left side of the face. They seem to have entered into the spirit of the revolution, and perhaps not without cause, as most of the patriots are young, dashing, native Chileans, and the adverse party are invariably crusty, old, formal Castilians. The patriots have not yet openly declared themselves independent, nor has any declaration of war taken place between them and the Peruvians. Yet they have done what nearly amounts to the same thing; they have formed for themselves a constitution, one article of which punishes with death any person, residing in Chile, who shall keep up any secret intelligence with, or execute any order from, any power not resident within the state.

After the governor's party had broken up, Mr. Poinsett and don Lewis took their leave of me to proceed to Santiago. From thence they were to accompany the president to Conception, with a view of fortifying and making the place more secure against foreign invasion.

Before my departure, I wrote a letter to commodore Bainbridge, enclosed it to the minister at Rio Janeiro, and sent them to Mr. Poinsett to be forwarded.

I shall now take my leave of Valparaiso, and continue my cruise.


1820: Basil Hall




First sight of the town unpromising—Christmas festivities—Bull-fights—Ramadas: music, song and dance, gambling—Agreeable weather—Chinganas: female disguise—Quebradas—Ranchos and their inhabitants—Mate ceremony—Good manners widespread

His Majesty's ship "Conway", under my command, sailed from England on the 10th of August 1820, and having touched at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, and the River Plate, received orders to proceed to Valparaiso, the principal seaport on the coast of Chile.

On the 19th of December we anchored in the Bay of Valparaiso, the principal port on the coast of Chile, having occupied thirty-eight days in the passage from the River Plate.

After a perilous and protracted voyage seamen are ready to consider any coast delightful, and it was probably from such a cause that the early Spanish adventurers named this place the Vale of Paradise, a designation which its present appearance, at least, by no means justifies. The Bay is of a semicircular form, surrounded by steep hills, rising nearly to the height of two thousand feet, sparingly covered with stunted shrubs, and thinly strewed grass. The town is built along a narrow strip of land, between the cliffs and the sea; but as this space is limited in extent, the buildings have straggled up the sides and bottoms of the numerous ravines which intersect the hills. A suburb called the Almendral, or Almond Grove, larger than the town itself, spreads over a low sandy plain about half a mile broad, at the upper or eastern side of the Bay. In the summer months, from November till March, Valparaiso is a safe and pleasant anchorage; but during winter, especially in June and July, is subject to hard storms, blowing from the north, in which direction it is open.

We were fortunate in having reached Valparaiso at a moment when the Christmas festivities were at their height, and multitudes of people had been attracted from the country to witness the bullfights and other shows. On the evening of Christmas day, which corresponds nearly with our midsummer, everybody seemed to be abroad enjoying the cool air in the moonlight. Groups of merry dancers were to be seen on every hand — and crowds of people listening to singers bawling out their old romances to the sound of a guitar; gay parties sauntered along, laughing and talking at the full stretch of their voices; wild-looking horsemen pranced about in all quarters, mixing amongst the people on foot, drinking and talking with them, but never dismounting. From one extremity of the town to the other, along the base of the cliffs, and all round the beach of the Almendral, was one uninterrupted scene of noise and revelry.

The bull-fights, which took place about four o'clock in the day, resembled anything rather than fights; but they made the people laugh, which was the principal object; and by bringing a crowd together in a merry mood, contributed quite as much to the general happiness as if they had been exhibited in the usual sanguinary manner.

The area in which the bulls were baited, for they were not killed, was a square enclosure, formed by a temporary building about fifty yards across, rudely constructed of posts driven into the ground, wattled with green boughs, and roofed with planks. Over two sides of the square was erected a second story, divided into compartments by flags, and left open at top, and in front; these were crowded with ladies and children, all in their gayest attire, and seated with much formality and decorum to witness the show. The scene in the ground-floor, which was divided into booths called Ramadas, was of a very different description — here was dancing, singing, drinking, and all kinds of noise and bustle. Previous to the commencement of the bull-fight, the area was filled with people, some lounging about smoking their cigars, and admiring the ladies' dresses, and some risking their money at Rouge et Noir, for which there were many tables brought from the booths into the open air. But the chief interest lay within the Ramadas, in each of which was to be found a band of musicians and dancers hired to attract company. Their instruments were invariably a harp, a guitar, and a sort of drum. The harp is held in a different manner from ours; for, instead of standing erect, it is kept in a horizontal position, the top of the instrument resting on the lap of the player, who sits on a low stool. The drum is made of a piece of wood hollowed out, and covered at one end with rawhide. This stands on the ground, and is patted with the fingers, while the wrist rests upon the rim. At times the end of the harp, or the empty guitar box, is used as a substitute, or any thing, indeed, which gives a clear hollow sound. The players in general are also singers, and the voice mingles more or less, at all times, with the instrumental music. They sing mostly in a high shrill tone, disagreeable at first to a stranger, but in the course of a little time it recommends itself to his ear, in a manner which his judgment scarcely allows to be just. Occasionally they sing in a lower tone, when the notes are very sweet and pleasing; but we had reason to suspect, that this was due to the accidental good taste of the singer, rising superior to the general practice of the country.

The bull-fights were very boyish exhibitions, and deserve no particular description. The animals, in fact, were never killed, but merely teased by horsemen, who goaded them with blunt spears, or distracted by men on foot who waved flags in their faces, and, when the bulls were irritated, escaped over the railings into the Ramadas.

The chief interest, to us at least, lay in the people, whose various dresses we were never tired of looking at, while the interpretation of their strange language gave us ample occupation; for although they all professed to speak Spanish, their dialect was strongly marked with a local idiom and pronunciation. But although every thing was new to us, and partook more or less of a characteristic air, it is not easy to describe, chiefly from its want of resemblance to anything we have before witnessed.

I met at the Ramadas, one evening, a family to whose attentions I am much indebted, especially for their assistance in explaining the native customs. We visited together many of the booths, and had an opportunity of seeing more of the dancing than on the first night. One of their favourite figures begins in a manner not unlike our minuet, with slow and apparently unpremeditated movements; the parties approaching and receding from each other, occasionally joining hands, swinging themselves round, and sometimes stooping so as to pass under each other's arms. These figures admit the display of much ease and grace, but inevitably betray any awkwardness of manner. The slow movements last a minute or two, after which the measure suddenly changes from a dull monotonous tune to a quick and varied air, loudly accompanied by the drum and all the voices. At this instant the dancers commence a sort of shuffling step, during which the feet do not slide along the ground, but make, with great rapidity, a number of short stampings. At the moment of this change in time, the dancers dart forward towards each other, waving their handkerchiefs affectedly before them. They do not actually meet, but, when almost touching, pass, and continue to revolve round each other, in circles larger or smaller, according to the space allowed, accompanying these rotary motions by various gesticulations, especially that of waving their handkerchiefs over their partner's head. There was a striking difference between the manner in which these dances were performed by the town's people and by the huasos or countrymen, the latter having always the advantage both in skill and in elegance.

These amusements lasted throughout the night, and, although the people are naturally temperate, it was evident, that towards morning the dances were apt to acquire a more savage character, and the songs to become licentious. But there were very few instances of intoxication or riotous behaviour. No women, except those professionally attached to the band of music, ever dance; but as the men of all classes join occasionally, the floor is seldom long unoccupied, no more than one couple ever standing up at the same time. Each figure lasts about three or four minutes, after which the music stops for a few seconds, and is then resumed, this being always repeated three times. The fondness of the populace for this amusement is so remarkable, that I have often returned to one of the Ramadas after an interval of several hours, and found the same people still looking on at the same dance with undiminished pleasure.

The climate, during these festivities, was generally agreeable; in the day-time the thermometer ranged from 62° to 64°; and at night, from 59° to 62°; between half past ten and three in the day it was sometimes unpleasantly hot. Whenever the morning broke with a perfectly clear sky, and the sun rose unconcealed by haze, and the horizon in the offing was broken into a tremulous line, a very hard southerly wind might be expected to set in about one o'clock, and blowing directly over the high ridge of hills encircling the town, was forced into eddies and whirlwinds, which bore the sand in pyramids along the streets, forced it into the houses, and sometimes even reached the ships, covering everything with dust. About sunset these troublesome winds gradually died away, and left a calm, which lasted during the night. From sunrise till the hour when these gales commenced, there never was a breath of wind, or if the surface of the bay was in the least ruffled, it was only here and there by little transient puffs, which seamen distinguish by the name of cats-paws.

When the morning broke with clouds and haze, a breeze generally followed during the day, sometimes from one quarter, sometimes from another; but on such occasions we were spared the annoyance of the southerly gales.

These varieties take place only in summer. During the winter months, that is, when the sun is to the northward of the Equator, the weather is very unsettled. Hard northerly gales blow for days together, accompanied by heavy rains, and a high swell, which, rolling in from the ocean, renders the anchorage unsafe for shipping, and, by raising a vast surf on the beach, cuts off all communication between the shore and the vessels at anchor. At that season the air is cold and damp, so that the inhabitants are glad to have fires in their houses. Charcoal is used generally, in large polished braziers placed in the middle of the floor, round which the family range themselves, with their feet resting on the edge. In the houses of the English, and other foreign residents, fireplaces have been substituted for the braziers, and coal fires are used. Of this material there is an abundant supply from Conception, a port situated about 200 miles to the southward of Valparaiso. At present it is taken from a thick seam which crops out at the surface, and, as the quality is good, it will probably, at some future period, be turned to great account.

30th Dec.—As there was much to be learnt of the habits of the people at the night assemblies in the Ramadas, I made a practice of going there every evening. It was particularly amusing to watch, unobserved, the groups round the gambling tables in the middle of the area. A single candle, placed on the table, threw a light on the picturesque dresses and countenances of the players, which exhibited, in a striking manner, the variety of expression peculiarly belonging to such scenes. A party of these gamblers detected me upon one occasion, and insisted good humouredly that I should try my fortune. By accident the ball rested several times successively on the same square, which raised the odds on my casts to a considerable amount; and, in the end, I won a handful of silver, principally from the people who had been most active in persuading me to play. Their companions joined me in laughing at them a little; but I thought it better, all things considered, to insist upon returning the money.

A Chilean gentleman of my acquaintance lived close to the bullring, and parties used frequently to be made up at his house to go to the Chinganas, the name given to the scenes described above. After chatting together for some time one evening, the gentlemen of the party went off to the bullring, while the ladies excused themselves for not accompanying us. But within a quarter of an hour afterwards, while we were lounging about in one of the most noisy of the Ramadas, it was intimated to me privately, by a gentleman in the secret, that three of the ladies we had left were actually in our company, but so completely metamorphosed, that, even when pointed out, they were with difficulty recognised. Thus made party to the joke, I found they came as spies upon the proceedings of the master of the house, the husband of one of these Tapadas, as they called themselves. There had been a feud, it seemed, between these ladies and some others of their acquaintance, and the object of this escapo, or frolic, was to watch how the gentleman would deport himself towards their foes. They had, accordingly, the satisfaction, or the mortification, to detect him in treacherous flirtation with the enemy, and then allowing themselves to be discovered, to the confusion of the unsuspecting parties, they immediately disappeared. The next day we learnt that the ladies had returned in about ten minutes, differently disguised, and had amused themselves in watching the motions of such of us as had been formerly admitted to their confidence, and who were still chuckling over the success of the first exploit. I attempted, next evening, to pass a similar jest upon them, and disguised myself with great care, but their practised eyes were not to be deceived, and they saw through it all at the first glance.

The merchants and other principal inhabitants reside in the houses built along the base of the cliffs in Valparaiso, and along the streets of the Almendral. But the poorer people live chiefly in the Quebradas, or ravines. This class of society had been the least affected by the changes in the political state of the country, and retained, as we were informed, the same manners and habits as before; a circumstance which gave them a higher interest to us, and we frequently roved about, in the cool hours of evening, amongst their ranchos, or cottages, and were everywhere received with the utmost frankness, and, as far as the simple means of the inhabitants went, with hospitality. They were chiefly brickmakers, day labourers, and washerwomen, who were always gratified by the interest we took in their affairs, replying readily and cheerfully to our inquiries. Their first anxiety was that we should be seated, in order, to use their phrase, that we might feel ourselves in our own house; their next wish was, that we should taste something, no matter how little; some offered us spirits, or milk and bread; others, who could afford nothing else, presented a cup of water. Yet, however wretched the cottage, or poor the fare, the deficiency was never made more apparent by apologies. With untaught politeness, the best they had was placed before us, graced with a hearty welcome.

These ranchos, as well as the houses in the town, are built of large flat bricks dried in the sun, and thatched with broad palm leaves, the ends of which, by overhanging the walls, afford shade, as well as shelter from the rain. Each cottage is divided into two rooms; one for the beds, the other as a dining-room, a portion of the mud floor of which is always raised seven or eight inches above the level of the other parts, and being covered with mats, serves as a couch for the siesta sleepers after dinner.

In one cottage we found a young woman grinding corn in a very primitive mill, consisting of two stones, one a large grooved block placed on the ground, the other a polished piece about twice the size of her hand. The unground corn appeared to be baked till it would crumble into powder between the finger and thumb, and the coarse flour, when mixed with water, made an agreeable drink called Ulpo.

In some of the Quebradas, we occasionally discovered houses of a better class, generally occupied by elderly ladies of slender incomes, who had relinquished the fashionable and expensive parts of the town, for more remote, though not less comfortable dwellings. Nothing could exceed the neatness and regularity which reigned in these houses, where we were often received by the inmates with a politeness of manners, indicating that they had known better days. These good ladies generally entertained us with the celebrated Paraguay tea, called Mate, a beverage of which the inhabitants are passionately fond. Before infusion the Yerba, as it is called, has a yellow colour, and appears partly ground, and partly chopped; the flavour resembles that of fine tea, to which, indeed, many people prefer it. The mate is made in an oval-shaped metal pot, about twice as large as an egg, placed nearly full of water, on the hot embers of the brazier, which stands at all seasons of the year in the middle of the parlour; when the water begins to boil, a lump of sugar burnt on the outside is added. The pot is next removed to a filigree silver stand, on which it is handed to the guest, who draws the mate into his mouth through a silver pipe seven or eight inches in length, furnished, at the lower extremity, with a bulb pierced with small holes. The natives drink it almost boiling hot, and it costs a stranger many a tear before he can imitate them in this respect. There is one custom in these mate drinkings, to which, though not easily reconcilable to our habits, a stranger must not venture to object. However numerous the company may be, or however often the mate pot be replenished, the tube is never changed; and to decline taking mate, because the tube had been previously used, would be thought the height of rudeness. A gentleman of my acquaintance, becoming very fond of this beverage, bought a tube for himself, and carried it constantly in his pocket;— but this gave so much offence that he was eventually obliged to relinquish it.

The people in general, and particularly the peasantry, and the lower orders in the outskirts of the town, appeared to us much better bred than the correspondent ranks in other countries. In their domestic circles, they were at all times remarkably polite to one another, the children being respectful and attentive, and the parents considerate and indulgent. But this was conspicuous only at home; for, when abroad, the men were very negligent of good manners, and, although actual rudeness was contrary to their nature, they were, in general, careless of the wishes of the women, and never sought opportunities of obliging them, nor seemed to take any pleasure in being useful on trivial occasions. This habitual inattention on the part of the young men rendered the women, in some degree, distrustful of the civility with which strangers, as a matter of course, treated them; and, at first, we often observed a look of embarrassment when we paid them ordinary attention.

The state of education at Valparaiso was very low, and in this respect the men had the advantage. The refinement, however, was all with the other sex; in knowledge of the world, in sound judgment, and in everything relative to manners, they were clearly superior to the men.

For some time after arriving at Valparaiso, our attention had been so much engrossed by the scenes at the bull-fights, that we became well acquainted with the habits and opinions of the lower classes; for as there seemed little probability of such an opportunity occurring again, all of us who took an interest in such inquiries mixed with the natives every evening. This was the more agreeable, as there was nothing coarse or vulgar in their manners; on the contrary, a bold and rather graceful address characterised all their deportment. To us they were uniformly respectful, and always willing to communicate or receive information.




1822: Maria Graham


Extracts from

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.



1846: Walter Colton



Extracts from CHAPTER VI.



Saturday, March 7. Valparaiso, at a first glance, instead of justifying the name it bears — the vale of Paradise — might rather be called some outpost of purgatory. Its wild crags, its scorched hills, and dark glens might well be supposed to lead to that intermediate abode of condemned spirits. You are puzzled to know why a city should be there. Without encroaching on the sea, there is hardly room enough, between the base of the steep acclivities and the surge, to set up a fisherman’s hut. The harbor is but little better than an open roadstead. A Norther is an admonition to all vessels to slip their cables.

Yet Valparaiso is a city, and one which, having once seen, you will never forget. It will stand alone in your after-dreams like Jacob’s ladder. Like the rounds in that airy vision, its buildings ascend, roof over roof, till they seem to topple in the sky. One violent shake of an earthquake would precipitate the whole into the sea. And yet these terrible visitations are constantly throwing out their premonitions. There is not a building whose walls have not vibrated to their force. There is not a rock on which they rest, but is of volcanic origin. The soaring peaks of the Cordilleras, which overhang them, rest on craters that may at any moment throw them heaven-high. And yet who does not sleep sound in Valparaiso ? Such is peril, when it has become an old familiar acquaintance.


We landed from our boat on the jetty, which has been thrown out from the beach to prevent the necessity of debarking in the surf. The quay was alive with boatmen, cracking their jokes over their water-melons and coarse bread. A fat friar was seen straying among them, willing to shrive the most wayward for a large melon. One fellow, who looked as if he had obliquities enough to justify some effacing process, made light of the proffered shrift. He thought a green melon would pay.

Near by sat a Chileno on a stone, which swelled up from the pavement, tantalizing the strings of a guitar, while a little cloud of tobacco-smoke curled up around the high cone of his felt hat. The only accompaniment was the sharp creak of a file, with which a muleteer was sharpening the rowel of his spurs, which resembled a circular saw, except that the teeth were much longer.

Here a beggar, who had lost a leg, hobbled up to us, wearing around his neck a label, showing that he had the permission of the police to solicit alms on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Poor fellow! if his limb was lost in a good cause, he ought to be allowed to solicit charity when he can get it. And if it was lost even in a scuffle, it would not be in my heart to deny him a penny. What a world is this in which we dwell ! How is it filled with paupers, spurs, tobacco, guitars, water-melons, and absolving monks ; all jangling and jargoning along together to dusty death ! What an incongruous mass the grave covers !


Monday, March 9. I encountered, in my rambles to-day, a specimen of Chilean horsemanship. The costume of the rider was in wild harmony with his occupation. His hat rose in a high cone, like that of a whirling dervish in Turkey. His poncho, resembling a large shawl, fell in careless folds around his person. His gaiters rose to the knee ; his heels were armed with a huge pair of silver-mounted spurs, while a brace of pistols peered from the holster of his saddle-bow. He was mounted on a powerful animal, impatient of the bit, and sure of foot as the mountain roe. The strong muscles betrayed their swelling lines in his limbs; the dilating nostril was full of panting force, while his arching neck seemed clothed with thunder. He was such a steed as you would choose for that last decisive charge, in which a Waterloo is to be won or lost.

His rider knew him well and gave him the rein ; on he dashed, over hill and vale, with the speed of the wind. Now shaking the toppling crags with his iron hoof, now plunging down the steep ravine, now leaping, with frightful force, the sudden chasm ; never missing his foothold, never throwing his rider. Both were safe where the neck of neither seemed worth a farthing. I have seen the Tartar ride at Constantinople, and witnessed, with silent admiration, the Grand Sultan’s horsemanship, but he is outdone by the Chileno.

A company of circus-riders, from Europe, came here a few years since to astonish the Chileans. But they soon found they had brought their ware to a wrong market. The Chilenos took the business out of their hands ; and so far outdid them that they suddenly disappeared, and have not been heard of in these parts since. It was like a buffalo entering a herd of deer to astonish them with his fleetness, or like a bull attempting a race with one of Baldwin’s locomotives.


The Chilean women betray their Spanish blood. It is seen in their stately forms, their firm elastic step, their nut-brown complexion, their large black eyes, and their earnestness of manner, which is full of silent, significant force. They wear their hair in two plaits, which are sometimes coiled into a turban and interlaced with flowers, and at others flows from a slight fillet, quite down to the heel. They use no stays ; the tide of nature ebbs and flows without constraint. The rich shawl which covers the neck and shoulders, neglects at times its occupation, and the silk stocking forgets now and then that it has taken the veil.

They are fond of attentions, and will much sooner excuse a liberty, which flows from admiration, than a neglect, which results from indifference ; still they are not considered as very exacting. What they want is the homage of the heart. Civility that has no soul in it, they consider a mockery. Love is consequently with them a passion. As daughters, they are wild and thoughtless ; as mothers, fond of their children and attached to their homes. The most sober flower will often blossom from the bud that has danced the most lightly in the sunbeam.

Tuesday, March 10. I encountered to-day in the environs of Valparaiso, a long string of donkeys, laden with vegetables and fruit from Quillota, some forty miles distant. The little hardy fellows were plodding along in single file, covered up under their huge panniers, and turning this way or that to the cry of their driver, who brought up the rear. I never could encounter one of these creatures without a sentiment of pity and even respect. He seems as one doomed to drudgery, merely because nature has wronged him in making him up. And then his patience — it is a model. He has long ears it is true, but then he never, like those who consider themselves his betters, tries to conceal them. He is an honest ass !

The markets of Valparaiso are supplied from valleys in the interior. The grounds in the immediate neighborhood are, for many months in the year, parched up with drouth. Large tracts of land, well suited to the harrow, are herbless from want of means to irrigate them. Springs have been hunted, and rocks bored almost half-way to the earth’s centre, but in vain. Even the monks have tried their miraculous charms, but nature’s great Nile obeys no such incantations. Their fleece, unlike that of Gideon, remained dry. No snow falls on these valleys, and no rain, except in the three winter months. The earth becomes baked and broken into deep fissures. When the winds are abroad the dust is driven over it in clouds thick enough to bury a Gipsy encampment.


The huts of the native peasantry are built of reeds, plastered with mud and thatched with straw. They have seldom more than one room, and are generally without a floor. Here the inmates sit, sleep, and work in wigwam-life. They seldom look beyond their present wants. Their industry ebbs or flows as plenty or penury prevail. Out of these murky cabins beauty sometimes emerges in a combination of charms that might stir the chisel of a Praxiteles.

The females are generally pictures of health and animation. Their diet is coarse bread and fruit. They know nothing of the luxuries of the table, and seem to care as little. They are fond of music and dancing, and throw an energy into their motions which would astonish even a Shaker. The quadrille has not sufficient action in it. They prefer the fandango. The old are grouped around the broad circle in which the young couple spring to the vibrations of the guitar or violin. The short dress of the female, and the prurient motions of both, are at war with all our sentiments of propriety.

Wednesday, March 11. The features of Valparaiso, which strike the stranger with the greatest force, are perhaps the elegant articles of ornament which are presented in the fancy shops. They seem as much out of place here as a jewel in a swine’s snout. And yet they are not out of place, for higher forms of fashionable life are seldom encountered. Those little cottages, which gleam from the toppling crags, are garnished with furniture on which the Parisian artist has exhausted his skill. From the balcony rolls out upon the wind the most exquisite music of harp and voice. Such strains from amid such a savage scene ! It is like Proserpine, crossing the gloomy Styx, crowned with the flowers of paradise.


The English and Americans here are singularly free from those rivalries and jealousies, which are the besetting sin of foreign residents. They flow together with a congeniality of spirit, which is the source of a thousand pleasures to them as well as the stranger. Their society is the all-redeeming charm of Valparaiso. Their hospitality is open as the day, and warm as their soft clime. You forget in their company the rude rocks and barren hills around you. The earth without may be covered with brambles, but you feel for the time in a sort of Eden whose flowers have escaped the primal malediction. I do not wonder that this is the favorite port with the officers of the Pacific squadron. They always leave it with regret, and cherish for it the most affectionate remembrance.


Thursday, March 12. I accompanied last evening several of my wardroom companions to a Chilean tertulia. A broad flight of stairs took us to a large and brilliantly lighted saloon, where we were met by the lady of the mansion who gave us her hand, and welcomed us to Valparaiso. It would have been a little embarrassing to encounter the flash of so many eyes, but for the ease and tact of our accomplished hostess. Instead of taking us around the saloon and introducing us, amid a general suspension of conversation, to the company, which would have embarrassed all parties, she went to talking with us, and in a few minutes managed to introduce us to several ladies, as unceremoniously as if there had been no design in it. This artless tact continued till we were introduced to every lady and gentleman present.

All were at ease and full of talk, though some of us had but a limited range of Spanish at our command. But a great deal of conversation may be made out of a few words, when the heart is glad. The ladies never corrected the wrong word, and affected to understand it just as well as if it had been the right one. Some of them attempted English with the amiable purpose, no doubt, of relieving our blunders by making as many of their own.

The costume of the ladies differed but little from what you meet with at evening parties in the United States. The hair, which betrayed great care in its arrangement, was ornamented with natural flowers. The dress, generally of a light airy material, had short sleeves, rather low in the neck, with a short, full skirt. The reason assigned for this is, that the wearer may be less embarrassed in dancing, but, perhaps, the pride of a well-turned ankle is an additional motive. The gentlemen were more sedate than the ladies, but their conversation had not half the versatility. At twelve o’clock the tertulia broke up. The lady of the house gave us her hand at parting with a buena noche.


Friday, March 13. Went on shore to-day to take a ride. This has to be done either on the saddle, or in a vehicle resembling our chaise, but of much ruder construction. The latter is preferred for long distances. One horse trots within the shafts, another at his left, on which the postillion is mounted, while half a dozen others accompany the vehicle to act as relays. If these give out, the lasso is resorted to, and some half-wild horse, who a few moments before snuffed the wind in freedom, is within the traces. The postillion seldom troubles himself with the question whether the animal has ever been thoroughly broken to the harness. The wilder, the more speed, and therefore all the better for his purpose. He is master of his business, and seemingly, of every thing in nature that can conduce to its success. His driving is like that of Jehu. You expect every moment the old quill-wheel, in which you are embarked, will fly into a thousand pieces. But like the hurdle of the doomed, it still holds together, hurrying you, if not to the gallows, to the grave.

If you take to the saddle you will probably find your stirrups of wood, resembling in shape and size the large beetle with which a New-England farmer splits his rails. Their weight is seemingly relieved by grotesque carving ; in the side is a sharp excavation, sufficiently deep to admit one-third of the foot. The saddle is made of raw hide, and a frame which an Indian’s hatchet might have shaped. It rises up before and behind like a well-horned half-moon. The bridle has one recommendation, a tremendous bit. But with all this you are on a horse, wild as he may be, that is sure of foot. You can no more get a stumble out of him, were you so disposed, than Lucifer could a defection from duty out of Abdiel, or a Whig a bank- vote out of a Democrat.


The police of Valparaiso, which once seldom protected the innocent, or punished the guilty, is now unrivalled in efficiency. Its vigilance reaches your person and property through every hour of the day and night. You are safe even in spite of your own negligence. If, for instance, you leave your shop with the window unbolted, you will find the next morning a padlock on it, and one which you cannot remove without paying a fine of three dollars. If you dine out, tarry late at the wine, get tipsy, and can’t find your way home, a watchman picks you up, puts you into a chaise, finds out by some means where you live, takes you to your door, and delivers you to your waiting wife, with the good-humored remark that you are a little indisposed. What a capital arrangement for those who have more wine than wit in them !

If you wake up in the night, find one of your family sick, and want a physician, you have only to hand his name to the watchman near your door, who passes it to another, and he to another still, till it reaches its destination, and you soon have the physician at your side. His prescription must perhaps be taken to an apothecary ; it is handed to the watch, passed on, and in a few minutes back comes the medicament required. What bachelor might not venture to get married in Valparaiso?


I visited this afternoon the Protestant burial-ground, which occupies a portion of one of the hills which overlook our anchorage. The situation has been selected with good judgment, and the ground evinces taste and propriety in the arrangement. Here rest many sailors far away from their native shores. A humble slab, erected by their messmates, gives you their names and that of the ship to which they were attached ; and sometimes a nautical epitaph, like the following :

“ Here lies the rigging, spars, and hull
Of sailing-master David Mull”

This to a landsman seems trifling with our poor mortality ; not so to the sailor. His technicalities have with him a meaning and a force which, in his judgment, more than sanction their use on the most grave and melancholy occasions. He would pray in this dialect even were life’s taper flickering in the socket, or his soul trembling on the verge of despair.

In the Catholic burial-ground, which adjoins the Protestant, stands the beautiful monument of Portales. The genius of History is recording his glorious deeds, Grief lamenting his early doom, and Hope pointing to a fruition in the skies. Near this monument I encountered a youthful mother in weeds, leading her little orphan boy. She carried a bunch of flowers in her hand, and as she came near a new- made grave, kneeled down at its head, and planted them there. Her child kissed them, but when she attempted it her silent tears fell fast on their tender leaves. A bird lit on the tree, which cast its shadows on the grave, and poured a wild sweet strain as if to wean the mourner from her grief; but she heeded it not. Her child turned and listened ; her eye fell on his ; she heard the bird. Nature triumphs over bereavements through those we love and who still survive.


Tuesday, March 17. The Indian mother still adheres to the primitive method of carrying her child. Instead of supporting it in her arms, with the unhealthful inclination of person which a burden there will always induce, she tosses it on her back, into the bunt of her shawl, and walks off erect as the Indian’s tree, which stood up so straight it leaned backward.

When hunger overtakes it she will feel a slight pull on one of the long braids in which her hair falls over its form ; and when she takes it out of this travelling cradle to nurse it, there is something new and fresh in its first look : true, it has not been out of her sight for more than an hour, but this with a mother is a long time. But her heart is now running over with happiness,


Sweet Valparaiso — fare thee well !
Thy steep romantic shore,
And toppling crags, where wildly dwell
The echoes, which thy billows pour
As o’er the rocks their anthems swell —
Shall greet my pilgrim steps no more.
When they whose tread is on thy steep,
Have down to death’s dim chambers gone,
Where harp and lute in silence sleep,
Thy sweet sea-dirge will still roll on.



1847: Ida Pfeiffer



Extracts from CHAPTER VI.



The appearance of Valparaiso is dull and monotonous. The town is laid out in two long streets at the foot of dreary hills, which look like gigantic masses of sand, but which really consist of large rocks covered with thin layers of earth and sand. On some of these hills are houses, and on one of them is the churchyard, which, combined with the wooden church towers, built in the Spanish style, relieves, in a slight degree, the wearisome uniformity of the prospect. Not less astounding than the deserted look of the port, was the miserably wretched landing-place, which is composed of a high wooden quay, about 100 feet long, stretching out into the sea, with narrow steps, like ladders, against the side. It was a most pitiable sight to see a lady attempting to go up or down ; all persons who were in the least weak or awkward, had to be let down with ropes.

The two principal streets are tolerably broad, and very much frequented, especially by horsemen. Every Chilean is born a horseman ; and some of their horses are such fine animals that you involuntarily stop to admire their proud action, their noble bearing, and the nice symmetry of their limbs.

The stirrups are curiously formed, consisting of long, heavy pieces of wood, hollowed out, and into which the rider places the tips of his feet. The spurs are remarkably large, and are often about four inches in diameter.

The houses are constructed completely in the European style, with flat Italian roofs. The more ancient buildings have only a ground floor, and are small and ugly, while most of the modem ones have a spacious and handsome first floor. The interior too, of the latter is generally very tasty. Large steps conduct into a lofty well- ventilated entrance-hall on the first floor, from which the visitor passes, through large glass doors, into the drawing-room and other apartments. The drawing-room is the pride, not only of every European who has settled in the country, but also of the Chileans, who often spend very large sums in the decorations. Heavy carpets cover all the floor; rich tapestry hangs against the walls; furniture and mirrors of the most costly description are procured from Europe ; and on the tables are strewed magnificent albums, adorned with the most artistic engravings. The elegant fire-places, however, convinced me that the winters here are not as mild as the inhabitants would fain have had me believe.


Of all the public buildings, the Theatre and the Exchange are the finest. The interior of the former is very neat, and contains a roomy pit and two galleries, portioned off as boxes. The inhabitants of the town patronise the theatre a great deal, but not so much on account of the Italian operas played there, as for the sake of possessing a common place of meeting. The ladies always come in full dress, and mutual visits are made in the boxes, all of which are very spacious, and beautifully furnished with mirrors, carpets, sofas, and chairs.

The second fine building, the Exchange, comprises a good-sized, cheerful hall, with convenient rooms adjoining. From the hall there is a pleasant view over the town and sea. The building belonging to the "German Club" contains some fine apartments, with reading and card rooms.

The only thing that pleased me about the churches were the towers, which consist of two or three octagons, placed one above the other, and each one supported by eight columns. They are composed of wood, the altars and pillars of the nave being of the same material. The nave itself presents rather a poor and naked appearance, occasioned in a great degree by the absence of sittings. The men stand, and the women bring with them little carpets, which they spread before them, and on which they either kneel or sit. Ladies in easy circumstances have their carpets brought by their maids. The cathedral is called La Matriz.

The public promenades of Valparaiso are not very pleasant, as most of the side-walks and roads are covered almost a foot deep with sand and dust, which the slightest breath of wind is sufficient to raise in thick clouds. After 10 o'clock in the morning, when the sea-breeze begins blowing, the whole town is very often enveloped by it. A great many persons are said to die here from diseases of the chest and lungs. The most frequented places of resort are Polanco and the lighthouse. Near the latter, especially, the prospect is very beautiful, extending, as it does, on a clear day, as far as some of the majestic snow-covered spurs of the Andes.

The streets, as I have already mentioned, are tolerably lively : peculiar omnibuses and cabriolets traverse them frequently. The fare from one end of the town to the other is one real (2½d.) There are also a great number of asses, mostly employed in carrying water and provisions.


The lower classes are remarkably ugly. The Chileans have a yellowish brown complexion, thick black hair, most unpleasant features, and such a peculiarly repulsive cast of countenance, that any physiognomist would straightway pronounce them to be robbers or pickpockets at the least. Captain Bell had told me a great deal of the extraordinary honesty of these people ; and, in his usual exaggerated manner, assured us that a person might leave a purse of gold lying in the street, with the certainty of finding it the next day on the same spot ; but, in spite of this, I must frankly confess, that for my own part, I should be rather fearful of meeting these honest creatures even by day, in a lonely spot, with the money in my pocket.

I had subsequently opportunities of convincing myself of the fallaciousness of the captain's opinion, for I often met with convicts, chained together, and employed in the public buildings and cleaning the roads. The windows and doors, too, are secured with bolts and bars in a manner almost unknown in any town of Europe. At night, in all the streets, and on all the hills which are inhabited, are parties of police, who call out to one another in exactly the same manner that the advanced posts do during a campaign. Mounted patrols also traverse the town in every direction, and persons returning alone from the theatre or from a party, often engage their services to conduct them home. Burglariously [interesting neologism, Ed.] entering a house is punished with death. All these precautions do not, most decidedly, argue much for the honesty of the people.

I will take this opportunity of mentioning a scene, of which I was myself an eye-witness, as it happened before my window. A little boy was carrying a number of plates and dishes on a board, when the latter unluckily slipped from his grasp, and all the crockery lay in fragments at his feet.  At first, the poor fellow was so frightened that he stood like a column, gazing with a fixed look at the pieces, and then began to cry most bitterly. The passers-by stopped, it is true, to look at the unfortunate child, but did not evince the least compassion ; they laughed, and went on. In any other place, they would have raised a little subscription, or at least pitied and consoled him, but certainly would not have seen anything to laugh at. The circumstance is of itself a mere trifle, but it is exactly by such trifles that we are often enabled to form a true estimate of people's real characters.

Another adventure, also, but of quite a different and most horrible kind, happened during my stay in Valparaiso.

As I have already remarked, it is the custom here, as well as in many countries of Europe, to sentence criminals to hard labour on public works. One of the convicts endeavoured to bribe his gaoler to let him escape, and so far succeeded that the latter promised on his paying an ounce (17 Spanish dollars — £3 8s.) to give him an opportunity for flight. The prisoners are allowed every morning and afternoon to receive the visits of their friends and relations, and likewise to accept provisions from them. The wife of the convict in question profited by this regulation to bring her husband the necessary money ; and on receiving this, the gaoler arranged matters so that on the next morning the convict was not fastened to the same chain with a fellow-criminal, as is usually the case, but could walk alone, and thus easily get clear off, more especially as the spot in which they worked was a very lonely one.

The whole affair was very cunningly arranged, but either the gaoler changed his mind, or, perhaps, from the beginning had intended to act as he did — he fired at the fugitive, and shot him dead.

It is very seldom that any pure descendants of the original inhabitants are to be seen; we met with only two. They struck me as very similar to the Puris of Brazil, except that they have not such small ugly-shaped eyes. In this country there are no slaves.

The dress of the Chileans is quite in the European taste, especially as regards the women. The only difference with the men is that, instead of a coat, they frequently wear the Poncho, which is composed of two pieces of cloth or merino, each about one ell broad and two ells long. The two pieces are sewn together, with the exception of an opening in the middle for the head to pass through ; the whole garment reaches down to the hips, and resembles a square cape. The Poncho is worn of all colours, green, blue, bright red, &c., and looks very handsome, especially when embroidered all round with coloured silk, which is the case when the wearer is opulent. In the streets, the women invariably wear large scarfs, which they draw over their heads in church.

My intention, on coming to Chile, was to stop for a few weeks in order to have time for an excursion to the capital, Santiago, and after that to proceed to China, as I had been told in Rio Janeiro that there was a ship from Valparaiso to China every month. Unfortunately this was not the case. I found that vessels bound to that country were very seldom to be met with, but that there happened to be one at that moment, which would sail in five or six days. I was generally advised not to lose the opportunity, but rather to abandon my design of visiting Santiago. I reflected for a little, and agreed to do so, although with a heavy heart ; and in order to avoid all disappointment, immediately went to the captain, who offered to take me for 200 Spanish dollars (£40). I agreed, and had five days left, which I determined to spend in carefully examining Valparaiso and its environs. I should have had plenty of time to pay Santiago a flying visit, since it is only 130 miles from Valparaiso, but the expenses would have been very heavy, as there is no public conveyance, and consequently I should have been obliged to hire a carriage for myself. Besides this, I should have derived but little satisfaction from the mere superficial impressions which would have been all I could have obtained of either town.

I contented myself, therefore, with Valparaiso alone. I toiled industriously up the surrounding hills and mountains, visited the huts of the lower classes, witnessed their national dances, &c., determined that here at least I would become acquainted with everything.

On some of the hills, especially on the Cerro Alegre, there are the most lovely country-houses, with elegant gardens, and a most beautiful view over the sea. The prospect inland is not so fine, as chains of tall, naked, ugly mountains rise up behind the hills, and completely shut in the scene.

The huts of the poor people are miserably bad, being mostly built of clay and wood, and threatening to fall down every moment. I hardly ventured to enter them, thinking that the interior was of a piece with the exterior, and was consequently astonished at seeing not only good beds, chairs, and tables, but very often elegant little altars adorned with flowers. The inmates, too, were far from being badly dressed, and the linen hung out before many of these hovels struck me as superior to much that I had seen at the windows of some of the most elegant houses situated in the principal streets of the towns of Sicily.


A very good idea of the manners and customs of the people may be easily obtained by strolling, on Sundays and fête days, near Polanco, and visiting the eating-houses.

I will introduce my reader to one of these places. In one corner, on the ground, burns a fierce fire, surrounded by innumerable pots and pans, between which are wooden spits with beef and pork, simmering and roasting in the most enticing manner. An ungainly wooden framework, with a long broad plank on it, occupies the middle of the room, and is covered with a cloth whose original colour it would be an impossibility to determine. This is the table at which the guests sit. During the dinner itself the old patriarchal customs are observed, with this difference, that not only do all the guests eat out of one dish, but that all the eatables are served up in one, and one only. Beans and rice, potatoes and roast beef, Paradise apples and onions, &c., &c., lie quietly side by side, and are devoured in the deepest silence. At the end of the repast, a goblet, filled with wine, or sometimes merely water, is passed from hand to hand, and after this had gone round, the company begin to talk. In the evening dancing is vigorously pursued to the music of a guitar ; unfortunately, it was Lent during my visit, when all public amusements are prohibited. The people themselves, however, were not so particular, and were only too ready, for a few reaux [plural of real (coinage), Ed.], to go through the Zamacueca and Refalosa — the national dances of the country. I had soon seen sufficient ; the gestures and movements of the dancers were beyond all description unbecoming, and I could but pity the children, whose natural modesty cannot fail to be nipped in the bud by witnessing the performance of these dances.


I was equally displeased with a remarkable custom prevalent here, in accordance with which the death of a little child is celebrated by its parents as a grand festival. They name the deceased child an angelito, (little angel), and adorn it in every possible way. Its eyes are not closed, but, on the contrary, opened as wide as possible, and its cheeks are painted red ; it is then dressed out in the finest clothes, crowned with flowers, and placed in a little chair in a kind of niche, which also is ornamented with flowers. The relations and neighbours then come and wish the parents joy at possessing such an angel ; and, during the first night, the parents, relations, and friends execute the wildest dances, and feast in the most joyous fashion before the angelito. I heard that in the country it was not unusual for the parents to carry the little coffin to the churchyard themselves, followed by the relations with the brandy bottle in their hands, and giving vent to their joy in the most outrageous manner.

A merchant told me that one of his friends, who holds a judicial appointment, had, a short time previous, been called to decide a curious case. A grave-digger was carrying one of these deceased angels to the churchyard, when he stepped into a tavern to take a dram. The landlord inquired what he had got under his poncho, and on learning that it was an angelito, offered him two reaux for it. The gravedigger consented ; the landlord quickly arranged a niche with flowers in the drinking-room, and then hastened to inform the whole neighbourhood what a treasure he had got. They all came, admired the little angel, and drank and feasted in its honour. But the parents also soon heard of it, hurried down to the tavern, took away their child, and had the landlord brought before the magistrate. On hearing  the case, the latter could scarcely restrain from laughing, but arranged the matter amicably, as such a crime was not mentioned in the statute book.

The manner in which patients are conveyed to the hospital here is very remarkable. They are placed upon a simple wooden armchair, with one band fastened in front of them to prevent their falling off, and another beneath for them to place their feet on — a most horrible sight when the sick person is so weak that he can no longer hold himself in an upright posture.


I was not a little astonished on hearing that, in this country, where there is yet no post, or, indeed, any regular means of conveyance from one place to another, a railroad was about being constructed from here to Santiago. The work has been undertaken by an English company, and the necessary measurements already begun. As the localities are very mountainous, the railroad will have to make considerable windings, in order to profit by the level tracts, and this will occasion an enormous outlay, quite out of proportion to the present state of trade or the amount of passenger traffic. At present, there are not more than two or three vehicles a-day from one place to the other, and if by chance ten or fifteen passengers come from Santiago to Valparaiso, the thing is talked of over the whole town. This has given rise to the belief that the construction of a railroad has merely been seized on as an excuse, in order to enable those concerned to search about the country undisturbed for gold and silver.

As Valparaiso is situated to the south of the Equator, and, as is well known, the seasons of the southern hemisphere are exactly the contrary of those of the northern, it was now autumn. I saw (34° South latitude) almost the same kinds of fruits and vegetables as those we have in Germany, especially grapes and melons. The apples and pears were not so good nor so abundant as with us.



1849: Isaac Strain



Extract from CHAPTER II

Absence of prominent buildings—Modern theatre: resident company, audience, masked ball—California gold rush—Sama Cueca—Military officers—Police force

The public buildings in Valparaiso are remarkable neither for size nor architecture. This is especially the case as regards churches, in which it contrasts unfavourably with Lima, a city of nearly the same size, and marks the distinction between those cities which grew up during colonial times, and those which have been constructed since the establishment of the Republic.

Within the last few years, a very pretty theatre has been built, about equal size, though superior in decoration, to the old Park, in New York. Upon the occasion of two former visits in 1846 and '48, I found a very respectable Italian opera troupe, which makes its head-quarters at this place, performing occasionally at Santiago, Copiapó, and even at times extending its operations up the coast as far as Lima. Upon the occasion of this visit, as the opera troupe was at Copiapó, its place was supplied by a good dramatic company and "corps de ballet," the latter, I think, superior to any stock company which I have seen elsewhere.

Among the plays represented, which were generally of Chilean origin, and quite recent, numerous allusions were made to California, which invariably produced plaudits from the audience, and illustrated the enthusiasm which has caused so many natives and strangers in this, and other parts of the Republic, to emigrate to that desirable region— an emigration, which, during my stay in the country, amounted to two hundred and fifty in a single day, and by one vessel. This theatre has all the arrangements of a European opera house, and an invariably well-dressed and well-behaved audience.

In the boxes and lobbies, I met with many Chilean officers, both of the army and navy, and was struck, as I have been before, by the contrast in their personal appearance to all South Americans that I have seen hitherto. Their complexions are as fair as the English, while they possess the same healthy colour and rotundity of figure. In uniform, which they wear invariably, that of the army appears to have been copied after the French, while that of the navy closely resembles the English. So closely, indeed, that taken in connection with their personal appearance, I have often found myself at a loss to decide to which navy they belonged until close enough to recognise the button. If there was a difference obvious to the superficial observer, it was that the Chileans were better dressed and more polite in their deportment, and less frequently under the influence of strong drink than those they have adopted as their prototypes.

To gratify the public fondness for dancing, the theatre is frequently fitted as a ballroom, by extending the stage over the orchestra and parquette, and upon these occasions the scene is gay and novel to one unaccustomed to the Spanish masked balls. I attended one while in Valparaiso, there, in common with some hundreds of others, and cannot but commend the order and good behaviour of all present. The women were generally very well dressed, and they, as the men also, in opera or ball costume. The music was excellent, and the dancing of course good, as all Spaniards and their descendants dance well and gracefully. I can scarcely enumerate the dances, waltzes, and gallops, which I witnessed, but what I enjoyed the most was the national dance, "Sama Cueca'' which has been so frequently described by travellers and voyagers.

There appears, by the way, to be an erroneous impression existing among many who have alluded to this dance, that it is indecent, — an impression arising from the fact of their having seen it only at the fandango and among the lowest class of people. There, it, as well as most other dances, is certainly far from modest, but when the " Sama Cueca'' is danced, as I have frequently seen it, among the most respectable people in Chile and the other side of the Cordilleras, it is as pleasing and more expressive than any other dance I have seen, and tenfold more so than either the waltz or the sensual polka, which has attained so high a degree of popularity in Europe and both Americas. The masked males at these balls, which occur almost weekly, comprise many of the most respectable persons in Valparaiso; for the masked females I cannot say so much, and from what I saw and heard, am afraid that the majority were of that class which so much abound in frequented seaports, and "not so good as they ought to be."

The better class of women, however, do not deprive themselves of the amusements of the evening, being perfectly safe from annoyance owing to the efficient police; and although they do not mask, or join in the dances, are found seated in the boxes, where they enjoy the gay scene which is passing around them, which is more amusing, as every individual, upon adopting a costume, makes the same effort to support the character as if upon the stage performing for an audience. This fact, upon the occasion of the ball which I attended, narrowly escaped being the cause of a serious difficulty, as one of my friends, who was masked, was once or twice partially tripped, while waltzing, by an active young lad, who personified the juggler, and being indignant thereat, took his partner to her seat, and watched for his tormentor. It was not long before he saw him in the act of throwing himself at length upon the stage to trip a pair who were waltzing. My friend had him by the collar in an instant, and gave him a shaking which was likely to drive all juggling tricks from his mind for a season, at the same time explaining his offence to the bystanders in the most fluent but not the most classical Spanish. Fearful of a scene, the terminus of which my imagination suggested would be the watch-house at least, if not the town jail, I interposed, and after some explanation, the whole matter was settled as a mistake, the harlequin kindly overlooking the shaking to which his tricks had subjected him. It had, however, a good effect upon him, as he attempted no more pranks with the waltzers. Though he knew his countrymen would submit to it, as an immemorial custom, he did not feel certain, that as all the dancers were masked, he might not rouse another foreigner who might treat him even more roughly than the first.

The police of Valparaiso has deservedly received the encomiums of all recent travellers. Its organization assimilates to the military, and its members are armed and distinguished by uniform, though entirely independent of the army, and under the control of the municipal authorities. The uniform and arms have given offence to some over sensitive writers, who mistake the shadow of liberty for the substance; but for my own part, should I wish to exercise my prerogative as a free and independent citizen by making a row in the streets, I should infinitely prefer a collision with a police force armed with swords, which are never used except in cases of emergency, than with the batons, maces, persuaders, etc., of our own country, which are used unsparingly and unnecessarily. The effective force, independent of the staff, at the period of my visit, was thirty-four foot and twenty-eight horsemen.



1854: Loretta Merwin





There is a pleasure-garden in the eastern part of the city, much resorted to by all classes — not because the place has many attractions, but because there is no other means of varying the monotony of existence within this semi-circle of hills, where you cannot drive in more than one direction without climbing some acclivity. I always enjoyed my after-dinner rides to the Polanco (as the garden is called), from the novel life I was sure to encounter on the way.

Descending the steep rocky gorge, by which, from our residence, we reach the streets, we beckon to a passing birlochero, in whose vehicle we seat ourselves with the direction, "Vaya al Polanco," and away we go over the badly paved road at a full gallop. You are jolted against your neighbor, you knock your bonnet against the side, you bound against the top ; but you are riding for pleasure, and so grasping a strap, and bracing your feet, you endeavor to enjoy the exercise, consoling yourself with the reflection that it will help you to digest your dinner.

The first person we notice is an old huaso, mounted on a fine horse, with his wife behind him. He wears a bright poncho and straw hat. Her dress is a gay calico, a shawl, and a Panama hat. The horse's bridle is finely plated, with a continuation of the reins fringed at the end — which serves the double purpose of whipping the horse, or lashing any unlucky cur within reach. The bridle-bit is powerful enough to break the horse's jaw ; and on the saddle are five or six shaggy pillones, or woolen cloths, which almost cover his thighs. The rowels of the huaso's spurs are as large as tea-plates ; his stirrups are made of a block of carved wood six or eight inches in diameter — forming a complete protection for the feet in passing through rocky gorges and mountain defiles.


On one side of the saddle hangs a coiled lasso, made fast to the saddle. The lasso is made of twisted hide about as thick as one's thumb, and some fifty or sixty feet in length, with a slip-noose at the end ; the mounted huaso is never without it. The skill and precision with which it is thrown is surprising. When the huaso desires to catch an animal while running, he takes the coil of the lasso in his right hand, puts his horse at full speed, and whirling his lasso to give it momentum, hurls its loop around the neck, horns, or leg of the animal, with as much certainty as a skilful ball-player sends his ball. The horse is trained, so that the instant the lasso leaves his riders' hand, he stops and braces himself, to bear the strain of the captured animal. The men are bred to this exercise from infancy ; and there is not a ragamuffin boy old enough to walk, but is forever practicing his art on poultry, dogs, goats, and sheep, or any small animal that comes in his way. One day, while walking on the Playa Ancha, we saw one of these little wretches throw his lasso over the head of a passing water-carrier, whom he dragged, half choked, from his donkey. The urchin dropped his lasso and ran for life, while the aguatero relieved his feelings with all the expletives in the language.

Hurrying onward to the Polanco, we meet and pass other birlochos, gentlemen in gay ponchos, mounted on prancing horses ; drunken sailors galloping the street at a breakneck pace, knowing little of horsemanship and caring less ; and huasos on mules and donkeys with panniers of fruit and vegetables.


Here is a peon, with a long pole over his shoulder, from which hang bunches of tallow candles, velas de sebo ; and there another with a bundle of country brooms, made of broom-corn tied about the end of a rough stick. On our left, we have just passed an hombre, with a number of gay feather dusters made from the plumage of the South American ostrich ; just before us is a man carrying two elegant robes of guanaco skins — a soft, fine fur, buff and white, brought from the Straits of Magellan, and used here in winter to rest the feet on ; coming toward us is another with a robe of ostrich skins, with gray and white feathers some four inches in length. These are also from the Straits, and are used for the same purposes as the guanaco skins.

At the corners, organ-grinders with monkeys, discourse music to the delighted populace — more fortunate than the troubadours of the north, for instead of being continually routed by the police, they are here absolutely paid by the authorities. We pass men seated on the ground, with broad shallow baskets containing cakes and dulces for sale. By and by, as it grows dark, they will light small lanterns, and doze over their wares till bedtime.


Near the garden we cross a bridge that spans a wide deep sewer, now nearly dry, but which, in the rainy season, is a raging torrent. On one side of the estero stands a row of mean houses, pulperias, where they sell the liquors of the country ; and despachos, where all sorts of meat, vegetables and fruits may be had. The sidewalks are unpaved, and the doors stand wide open, discovering the filthy earthen floors of the interior, always a little lower than the street — where unwashed, uncombed buyers and sellers are chaffing together, half-naked, squalid children are playing, and fat, greasy women are seated on the ground twanging guitars.

We returned to the city just as a detachment of the police in the Plaza del Orden were being detailed to their different beats for the night. The policemen are divided into two forces, the Vigilantes, who preserve order during the day, and the Serenos, who watch by night. They are uniformed in coarse blue cloth ; a part of each watch is mounted, and are all armed with sabres. The vigilantes go to their beats at daylight, and are authorized to arrest everyone violating the peace or public decency, and to keep the streets clean and orderly. One is usually placed at the intersection of every two streets.


At twilight the serenos are marched to the relief of the vigilantes. The sereno is never allowed to leave his beat, on any account, until a comrade has responded to his whistle. A householder may send him to call a priest or physician, but if either of these reside outside of his district, he must pass the message through his comrades. The sereno examines the street-doors of the houses, and if they are not properly secured, he notifies the residents.

After ten o'clock, he cries the hour, describing the weather in a prolonged sing-song tone ; and the presence of belated persons is announced by whistles, sounding from sereno to sereno, to put all on the alert.

The number and efficiency of the police afford comparative security ; and, on the whole, I think life and property are safer in the midnight streets of Valparaiso than in many cities of the United States. In street encounters with the disorderly and drunken, the police use their sabres without mercy. In regard to their qualities as censors of cleanliness and decency, they are not so efficient, being ignorant of what cleanliness and decency are, exactly.


Dogs are one of the pests of the city. They are of all kinds and colors, from the tiny white Lucia poodle (the pet of the parlor, washed, combed and flea-d every morning), down to the mongrel cur of mangy constitution and unsightly aspect. They roam about the streets and lie in the doorways ; and hundreds that have no masters, live wild on the hills, and gather their food by night from the offal thrown on the beach. One day, to our great horror, a donkey fell dead near our door; but the hungry dogs pounced upon him, and in less than twelve hours no vestige of the deceased remained. Of course, the greater part of these dogs belong to the very poor ; and every hillside hovel harbors two or three great half-starved brutes, the terror of every passer-by.



1855: Arthur Pilleau



From the diary of a voyage in the "Crouch Brothers," from Melbourne to Valparaiso and back to Portland (Victoria, Australia) (1855) ; by A. Pilleau Esq., J. P. Extracted from 5 newspaper articles published in the "Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser" during December 1855.

Valparaiso Bay—Winter storms—Layout of town—Architecture—Bolsa—Foreign Clubs—Arcade—Bank—Theatre—Principal hotels—Cafés—Birlochos—Female dress—Cemetery—Horse racing—Military parade ground—Panoramic coastal walk—Loss of barque Hansburgh—explosion and fatalities of transport ship Indefatigable—Winter storm:shipping losses—Earthquakes—Electric telegraph—Railroad—Praise of climate

By a recent Custom house regulation, no boat is allowed to communicate with a ship even to speaking, previous to the Port Captain's visit; we therefore had to await the arrival of that functionary, for about a couple of hours, during which time we were visited with a dense fog that, disregarding the Customs regulation, boarded us, nolens volens [like it or not, Ed.].

The Bay of Valparaiso is about two miles and a half wide by about one mile and a half deep at the anchorage with a depth of water from twenty five to forty fathoms. On Angeles Point to the West, stands a Lighthouse three hundred and eleven feet above the sea, and whose light may be seen ten miles off in a clear night. The harbour lies very much exposed to the northerly winds which during the winter season blow at times with great violence sending in a heavy sea. Up to the present time none of any consequence have blown this year, but last year during a severe "Norther" thirteen vessels were driven ashore and became total wrecks; three of them were driven one upon another until they broke up. The chief danger in fact arises from the coasting vessels being badly found, parting their cables and drifting on to the Foreign ships. Two black balls are hoisted at the flagstaff, to warn vessels of an approaching Norther and steamers are compelled by the Port regulations to get up their steam ready to proceed to sea. The harbour is generally much crowded with ships and will contain about three hundred sail.

Valparaiso lies under the disadvantage of possessing but a very limited amount of ground for building purposes, a range of very steep hills from one thousand to eighteen hundred feet high completely encircling the Bay. There are but two principal streets running round the harbour, where the principal houses and shops are to be found, but at the Eastern end where there is more space the Town extends out to a considerable extent. The sides of the hills facing the sea have frequently to be cut away and blasted in order to continue the streets and find building room, and frequently the backs of the houses actually touch the face of the hill. The summits of the range and slopes of the ravines are all covered with houses wherever a terrace can be cut to place a hut on, and it appears as if the first Earthquake would topple them on to the Town below. It contains sixty thousand inhabitants, every house containing a large average of members. The total population of Chile is estimated at one million and a half. A very fine, handsome range of Custom house stores, part of which are furnished and in use and more still in progress, faces the harbour on the West side. They are built of kiln burnt bricks about twenty inches long, by twelve wide and two and a half thick; all the walls, even to the partition walls, are full three feet thick, to withstand the earthquakes, all the tie beams and joists being of a very massive character. They are painted outside with patent paint. The merchants' counting houses are long roomy substantial buildings, having balconies to the upper stories, and generally the young men of the house live in them whilst the most wealthy English residents live in substantial houses on the summits of the hills overlooking the harbour.

The huts of the lower orders are built of adobes or sun-burnt bricks or wattled and dabbled with mud and straw, and little or no lime appears to be used with the mortar.

The religion of Chile being that of Rome there are several large chapels which are highly decorated though not equalling those at Santiago. They are much thronged every morning, especially by the women before going to market and who usually carry with them a handsomely worked woollen rug to kneel on. There is an unpretending English chapel on the English hill and also an American meeting house.

The Bolsa overlooking the harbour is well supplied with English, American, and Australian newspapers, and has besides the advantage of direct steam communication with England and the United States twice a month. The mail for England, via Panama, leaves Valparaiso on the fifteenth and thirtieth of each month and arrives on the seventh and twentieth, calling at the intermediate ports. The passage money from Valparaiso to Panama is two hundred and four dollars, from Panama across the Isthmus by rail to Aspinwall twenty five dollars, and from Aspinwall to Southampton three hundred and thirty dollars more; this amount is exclusive of wines.

In addition to the Bolsa, there is an English and a German Club, both of which are well supplied with periodicals.

In the Calle del Cabo stands the Arcade, a handsome pile of buildings built by the enterprising and wealthy house of Cousiño, Garland and Company, and occupied by many handsome and well furnished shops. The same firm have nearly completed a substantial chain suspension pier, extending ? from Cruz de Reyes point from three to four hundred feet into the sea, fastened at the bottom with screw piles and to be furnished with screw moorings off the pier capable of holding ships of one thousand tons. Opposite the Arcade, these gentlemen are also building a large bank, which will no doubt be of immense benefit to the merchants of the city. Valparaiso hitherto has had no bank, all money transactions being conducted in hard cash, every merchant having to keep his money in his strong chest, and it is common to see advertised in the newspapers that Mr "So and So" is about to commence business having a capital of so many thousands of dollars in his iron chest.

In the Plaza Victoria on the north side stands the Theatre, a plain looking but commodious building capable of holding two thousand people. All the boxes in the dress circle and second tier are purchased by the wealthy classes who frequently give as high as two thousand dollars for a box which then becomes private property, but a further payment of a dollar a head for each using the box is also exacted. The pit contains five hundred seats, each seat being numbered and partitioned off, and as the body of the pit is ? divided by a gangway every man can at once walk up to his own seat according to the number of his ticket. The theatre is at present occupied by a very excellent French Opera Company, all the Opera's being arranged in that language, Prima Donna Mademoiselle Lassenne was enchanting all lovers of song, as much by the sweetness of her voice and brilliant acting, as by the beauty and grace of her person and amiable character. The theatre is open three nights a week and, as in all Catholic countries, Sunday evening is the principal night of the week. Having [been to] the entire behind the scenes and to all the rehearsals which mostly take place on the intervening evenings, I had the opportunity of witnessing all the mysteries of the Green room and saw some highly amusing scenes. The company one and all were very desirous of visiting the Australian Colonies.

o - O - o

The hotels in Valparaiso are anything but first rate, the principal are L'Union, Hotel Aubrey and Hotel de Chile, these three are generally so crowded that it is difficult to procure a room, but notwithstanding the patronage the cuisine is very indifferent. Breakfast is served at any hour between eight o'clock and noon, and dinner at five; no other meals are served, and there is no public coffee room or even a billiard room. You must spend your spare time either in your own room or lounging about the Corridors. The Spaniards all eat their dinner with incredible rapidity even outstripping the proverbial railroad speed of Yankees, and the instant a man finishes eating he commences smoking, Men of all countries are found at table, and Spanish, French, German, English, and Yankee drawl, are dinned into your ears on all sides. The charge per day for bedroom breakfast and dinner is two dollars.

The Cafés of which the two best are the Café Maillard near the Bolsa and the Café Victoria near the theatre, are pretty well thronged day and night, billiards and dominoes being played incessantly, and although no public gaming houses are allowed by the Government, a great amount of private gambling is transacted at the Cafés. I was pointed out a man who at one single game was a winner of eighty thousand dollars. All the lower orders and boys are inveterate gamblers.

There are many amusing sights to be seen in the streets and markets which will repay the observant stranger for an hour or two's lounge of a morning. Long things[strings?] of mules and donkeys line the streets, laden with every conceivable kind of merchandize, bags of flour, bricks, stores, tables, chairs, nothing comes amiss to these useful and accommodating animals. Horses are also both plentiful and good and generally very reasonable in price; a very first rate horse can be purchased for sixty dollars. Chileans ride with a most enormous saddle, and not satisfied with using large cloths under the saddle, use very thick pillows made of tanned sheep and goat skins the wool dyed different colours; these with the Poncho, invariably worn by the Peons, the enormous South American spur, the rowel of which is sometimes four inches long and extraordinary looking, old fashioned wooden stirrup attract the notice of the strangers.

The Birlochos are queer misshapen machines, built quite independent of any idea of balance, and will accommodate two or four people. They are drawn by one shaft horse, the Birlochero riding another on the near side, a piece of bullock hide with a hook on each end, hitches on, one end to the shaft and the other to his saddle so that descending a hill, the shaft horse has all the work himself; however they rattle along at a great pace and you may drive from one end of Valparaiso to the other for a real piece, sixpence English. The Chilean women many of whom are very beautiful with their dark olive complexions, black eyes and long silky black hair, wear no bonnets when abroad; they have a very picturesque appearance, enveloped in the black mantilla thrown gracefully over the left shoulder and followed by their servants: but it is to be regretted that the sombre colour of their dress should so universally prevail; this I believe is owing to the great influence the priests have over them who force them to wear black whilst their natural taste would lead them to indulge in all the colours of the rainbow. When, attending chapel of a morning they all wear black.

On the precipitous point of the mountain range overlooking the town, about the centre, stands the cemetery which is very tastefully laid out in walks, and planted with cypresses, Australian and cape wattles, shrubs and flowers the yellow flowering mimosa appearing to be a favourite tree here probably from its flowers resembling the everlasting flower with which in Roman Catholic countries they weave their funeral chaplets. There are several very beautiful marble monuments which probably have been imported from Europe. A portion of the Cemetery is divided off for the Protestant burying ground.

At the Western end of the range approaching the Light house is a large open and sufficiently level space of ground called "the Playa Ancha" used as a Race Course and parade ground. There, every Sunday afternoon are to be seen the dandies of Chile both town and country, mounted upon their gallant steeds, wearing their gayest coloured Poncho, immense silver spurs costing forty or fifty dollars, racing with each other over the ground and thinking themselves the very perfection of dandyism; here too are plenty of refreshment booths and shops where "se vende vino y aguardiente y licores de todas clases" and where they are dancing fandangos and zamacuecas to the music of guitar, and here also is to be seen the brave army of Chile, Artillery and Cavalry, Infantry of the Regulars and Militia regiments having a regular field day, and firing their salvos with infinite self satisfaction. The Chilean troops are however a fine body of men, well disciplined and bearing a very soldierly appearance. All their dress is produced from France and looks very well and good, and the officers both of the army and navy appear to be gentlemanly and well educated men.

From the Playa Ancha to the Signal hill which stands 1070 feet high distant about two miles from the Lighthouse, you have a magnificent walk and which well repays the fatigue. Right under your feet stands the town and harbour of Valparaiso every portion of which can be taken in by the eye whilst beyond lies the placid waters of the Pacific to the Northward and which are again seen stretching away to the Westward over Angeles Point. Turning to the Eastward you behold the magnificent panorama of the Andes stretching away at a distance of two hundred miles, rising tier upon tier, the summits of them clad in their eternal snows. Conspicuous amongst the whole range, in the direction of Quillota, stands out in bold relief "Aconcagua" rearing his gigantic head 23,200 feet above the level of the sea. The Range of the Andes runs down the entire Western coast of South America at a distance of about two hundred miles from the sea, extending as far as Patagonia.

On Sunday morning July 29th about 10 A.M., the barque Hansburgh belonging to Messrs Brocklebank of Liverpool laden with copper ore, was coming in under double reefed topsails in a heavy swell when the wind falling calm she struck on a ledge of sunken rocks outside the Lighthouse. Captain Crouch and two other persons went off in a boat to render assistance but their boat shipping a sea which nearly swamped them, had to return. The barque after striking rapidly filled and was run ashore amongst the rocks and became a total wreck, all hands saved. This occurrence seemed to be the commencement of a series of disasters both at Valparaiso and all down the coast.

On the 3rd of August about 11 A.M. the town was alarmed by a tremendous explosion in the harbour. On looking at the shipping, nothing but a dense mass of smoke could be seen; by degrees flames were seen bursting through the smoke and pieces of timber floating on the water, It was soon ascertained they proceeded from the Chilean government transport Indefatigable, whose powder magazine from some unexplained cause had exploded, blowing her upper deck and stern into the air, and killing and wounding many of the crew. It appears the Captain and some of the officers were just sitting down to breakfast when the Captain ordered one of the lieutenants to descend to the powder magazine and see if everything was safe, as the carpenter was at the time doing some repairs there. The moment the unfortunate young man entered the explosion took place, and of course both he and the carpenter perished. The Captain was blown through the deck and hurled many yards into the air, and Captain Crouch who with his boat was immediately on the spot was fortunate enough to pick him up, not materially hurt. The ship was lying at anchor off the Custom house at the time but no attempt was made to tow her away. She burnt for about forty minutes, then filled forward and sunk at her moorings. I witnessed seven or eight mangled bodies brought ashore but the total loss was never ascertained.

o - O - o

About this time some strong northerly winds set in accompanied by several days of heavy rain, quite equalling the winter rains of Australia, and people were predicting disasters among the shipping at the ports to the Southward, as it was known that many vessels were loading on the coasts with flour and wheat. When the mail arrived these fears were but too fully realised. At Talcahuano, the damage was immense, occasioned as much by the winds and sea as by the river freshet. The mole and one or two mills were destroyed and several vessels lost. At the Rio Maule a heavy freshet drove ashore and swamped all the launches and all the shipping above the bar and at San Antonio a fine Australian ship the "William Cole" became a total wreck. In all nearly forty vessels were driven ashore, fourteen or fifteen lives lost, and an immense amount of flour and wheat destroyed. The price of flour rose at Valparaiso on the receipt of this intelligence, to sixteen dollars per bag of 200 lbs., a price hitherto unknown in this part of the world.

On the 11th August the inhabitants of Valparaiso were alarmed by a smart shock of an earthquake which took place about 6 A. M. and caused much consternation amongst the uninitiated in these matters. Animals were bellowing, and chandelier glasses rattling in many of the houses, and it was sensibly felt amongst the shipping the harbour. I did not hear of any material damage being sustained, and about a fortnight afterwards another shock was felt. I could not help thinking the corridor where my bedroom was situated at the hotel Aubrey was in very dangerous proximity to the hills that seemed ready to topple upon us at the first rumble.

Valparaiso and Santiago have been for some months connected together by the greatest of modern blessings, the electric telegraph, the distance between the two cities being about ninety miles. A railroad also in progress to connect them together. It is commenced at Valparaiso and finished for about eighteen miles but, so far, at an immense expense: ? for some miles along the sea coast the cuttings were through solid rock. The road will pass near "Quillota" a town about forty miles from Valparaiso, a little to the northward of the direct route to Santiago and standing at the foot of "Aconcagua", the highest peak of the whole range of the Andes.

I must not conclude my account of my visit to Chile without a few words of praise of its climate. Nothing can exceed[?] the beauty of the climate of Valparaiso and Santiago in the winter season. The first week I was there, we certainly had some very heavy rains similar to Australia, for rain only falls in the months of May, June, July, and August; but after ? one week, we had no more the whole month? I was there, but the most brilliant […] and exquisitely pure soft atmosphere you can possibly imagine. It had such a deliciously exhilarating effect upon the ? it was impossible to be out ? The fruit trees were all bursting out in blossom, magnificent Camelia ? flowering in the open air and attaining a size superior to any to be seen in England …



1863: M. A. Brewin



[Transcript of a letter to the Editor of "The New York Clipper", published 25 April 1863]


U. S. Flag Ship "Lancaster",
Bay of Valparaiso, Chile, S. A.,
March 11, 1863.

FRANK QUEEN—Dear Sir: As a few lines from this part of the world may not be uninteresting to many of the numerous readers of your Journal, I shall attempt to give a short account of sporting matters, amusements, etc., as they exist at present in the city of Valparaiso. Immediately after our arrival, general liberty was given to the crew; and a certain number, in their turn receiving a sufficient sum of money, and the best wishes of their ship-mates, departed for a cruise on terra firma. As soon as jolly Jack Tar or fighting Johnny Marine arrives here, he seems to think that the "higher" he gets, the better; and therefore shapes his course for the Fore, Main, and Mizzen tops, which are three large and spacious ball-rooms, or dance houses, each situated upon a hill, a short distance apart, and looking down on each other with all the envy and malice that jealousy and opposition can inspire. Here you meet the beautiful Señorita, who greets you with a "Sea, Beno Americano," and at the same time some Creole maiden will prove her affection towards the Yankee sailor by exclaiming, "Americano mucho Bueno, English mucho malo." Certainly the person thus addressed by such convincing proof of their adoration and liking, must have felt for a moment that he was "a pretty boy with a glass eye."

On passing along the streets and alleys, glaring English signs meet your gaze, such as the "Two Jolly Tars," "Paddy's Goose," "Scouse [reference to Liverpool, England, Ed.] Kettle," "CLIPPER Shades," "Sportsman's Hall," etc. The latter house is a fine establishment, with a spacious barroom, an elegant bowling alley, a first-class sparring room, and rat-pit, with several sets of gloves, dumb-bells, single sticks, etc., always on hand. The proprietor, Ned Rogers, is a jovial fellow, but is considered rather too sharp to retain the confidence or good will of his patrons; his knowledge of the manly art is below par, and although he sports a moustache, still he "can't keep a hotel." I have often thought, both on this and my former visit to Valparaiso, that if one of the many first-class lightweights in the city of New York who are doing nothing, would come here and start a crib, he would meet with decided success.

… I am requested to state in behalf of the crew, as our mails have been detained and we have not received any information from the United States for two months, that if you have a knapsack or a duff-bag full of old letters, you will please forward them to me, and I will guarantee a ready sale, no matter how they are written or what the subject may be; each one will fetch a ten cent postage stamp. The crew present their compliments, through the columns of your journal, to the honorable gentleman who introduced the bill for the abolition of the spirit ration in the navy.

I remain with respect, etc.,

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