TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT
AND EDITED BY
IN THREE VOLUMES
GEORGE BELL & SONS.
LONDON: PORTUGAL STREET, LINCOLN'S INN.
CAMBRIDGE: DEIGHTON, BELL AND CO.
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO.
BOMBAY: A.H. WHEELER AND CO.
The longitudes mentioned in the text refer always to the meridian of
the Observatory of Paris.
The real is about 6 1/2 English pence.
The agrarian measure, called caballeria, is eighteen cordels, (each
cordel includes twenty-four varas) or 432 square varas; consequently,
as 1 vara = 0.835m., according to Rodriguez, a caballeria is 186,624
square varas, or 130,118 square metres, or thirty-two and two-tenths
20 leagues to a degree.
5000 varas = 4150 metres.
3403 square toises = 1.29 hectare.
An acre = 4044 square metres.
Five hundred acres = fifteen and a half caballerias.
Sugar-houses are thought to be very considerable that yield 2000 cases
annually, or 32,000 arrobas (nearly 368,000 kilogrammes.)
An arroba of 25 Spanish pounds = 11.49 kilogrammes.
A quintal = 45.97 kilogrammes.
A tarea of wood = one hundred and sixty cubic feet.
SPANISH GUIANA. - ANGOSTURA. - PALM-INHABITING TRIBES. - MISSIONS OF THE
CAPUCHINS. - THE LAGUNA PARIME. - EL DORADO. - LEGENDARY TALES OF THE
THE LLANOS DEL PAO, OR EASTERN PART OF THE PLAINS OF
VENEZUELA. - MISSIONS OF THE CARIBS. - LAST VISIT TO THE COAST OF NUEVA
BARCELONA, CUMANA, AND ARAYA.
POLITICAL STATE OF THE PROVINCES OF VENEZUELA. - EXTENT OF
TERRITORY. - POPULATION. - NATURAL PRODUCTIONS. - EXTERNAL
TRADE. - COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT PROVINCES COMPRISING THE
REPUBLIC OF COLUMBIA.
PASSAGE FROM THE COAST OF VENEZUELA TO THE HAVANA. - GENERAL VIEW OF
THE POPULATION OF THE WEST INDIA ISLANDS, COMPARED WITH THE POPULATION
OF THE NEW CONTINENT, WITH RESPECT TO DIVERSITY OF RACES, PERSONAL
LIBERTY, LANGUAGE, AND WORSHIP.
POLITICAL ESSAY ON THE ISLAND OF CUBA. - THE HAVANNAH. - HILLS OF
GUANAVACOA, CONSIDERED IN THEIR GEOLOGICAL RELATIONS. - VALLEY OF LOS
GUINES, BATABANO, AND PORT OF TRINIDAD. - THE KING AND QUEEN'S GARDENS.
PASSAGE FROM TRINIDAD DE CUBA TO RIO SINU. - CARTHAGENA. - AIR VOLCANOES
OF TURBACO. - CANAL OF MAHATES.
CUBA AND THE SLAVE TRADE.
GEOGNOSTIC DESCRIPTION OF SOUTH AMERICA, NORTH OF THE RIVER AMAZON,
AND EAST OF THE MERIDIAN OF THE SIERRA NEVADA DE MERIDA.
PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A JOURNEY TO THE EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS OF THE NEW
MISSIONS OF THE CAPUCHINS.
THE LAGUNA PARIME.
LEGENDARY TALES OF THE EARLY VOYAGERS.
I shall commence this chapter by a description of Spanish Guiana
(Provincia de la Guyana), which is a part of the ancient Capitania
general of Caracas. Since the end of the sixteenth century three towns
have successively borne the name of St. Thomas of Guiana. The first
was situated opposite to the island of Faxardo, at the confluence of
the Carony and the Orinoco, and was destroyed* by the Dutch, under the
command of Captain Adrian Janson, in 1579. (* The first of the voyages
undertaken at Raleigh's expense was in 1595; the second, that of
Laurence Keymis, in 1596; the third, described by Thomas Masham, in
1597; and the fourth, in 1617. The first and last only were performed
by Raleigh in person. This celebrated man was beheaded on October the
29th, 1618. It is therefore the second town of Santo Tomas, now called
Vieja Guyana, which existed in the time of Raleigh.) The second,
founded by Antonio de Berrio in 1591, near twelve leagues east of the
mouth of the Carony, made a courageous resistance to Sir Walter
Raleigh, whom the Spanish writers of the conquest know only by the
name of the pirate Reali. The third town, now the capital of the
province, is fifty leagues west of the confluence of the Carony. It
was begun in 1764, under the Governor Don Joacquin Moreno de Mendoza,
and is distinguished in the public documents from the second town,
vulgarly called the fortress (el castillo, las fortalezas), or Old
Guayana (Vieja Guayana), by the name of Santo Thome de la Nueva
Guayana. This name being very long, that of Angostura* (the strait)
has been commonly substituted for it. (* Europe has learnt the
existence of the town of Angostura by the trade carried on by the
Catalonians in the Carony bark, which is the beneficial bark of the
Bonplanda trifoliata. This bark, coming from Nueva Guiana, was called
corteza or cascarilla del Angostura (Cortex Angosturae). Botanists so
little guessed the origin of this geographical denomination that they
began by writing Augustura, and then Augusta.)
Angostura, the longitude and latitude of which I have already
indicated from astronomical observations, stands at the foot of a hill
of amphibolic schist* bare of vegetation. (* Hornblendschiefer.) The
streets are regular, and for the most part parallel with the course of
the river. Several of the houses are built on the bare rock; and here,
as at Carichana, and in many other parts of the missions, the action
of black and strong strata, when strongly heated by the rays of the
sun upon the atmosphere, is considered injurious to health. I think
the small pools of stagnant water (lagunas y anegadizos), which extend
behind the town in the direction of south-east, are more to be feared.
The houses of Angostura are lofty and convenient; they are for the
most part built of stone; which proves that the inhabitants have but
little dread of earthquakes. But unhappily this security is not
founded on induction from any precise data. It is true that the shore
of Nueva Andalusia sometimes undergoes very violent shocks, without
the commotion being propagated across the Llanos. The fatal
catastrophe of Cumana, on the 4th of February, 1797, was not felt at
Angostura; but in the great earthquake of 1766, which destroyed the
same city, the granitic soil of the two banks of the Orinoco was
agitated as far as the Raudales of Atures and Maypures.