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curing his patients, and with the latter the remuneration that was due him. He had therefore, to use his own term, “ retired from business," and lived several miles from the town, husbanding his estate, which consisted of an estancia, as above described, and his demands upon the government and soldiers.
Under his escort they arrived at the pueblo, consisting of a few rows of mud and brick huts, scattered without any regularity over a sandy declivity by the side of the river.
On the opposite slope was the fort, an enclosure of some extent, in which were seen the house of the governor and the barracks. A presentation to the Governor-General, Juan Jose Hernandez, now took place. He, on being informed of our character, and the object of our visit, received our officers in a most courteous and friendly manner. He is a native of Buenos Ayres, of dignified manners, polite and courteous, and invested with great authority. The officers were invited to dine with him, and received his hospitality.
The doctor now undertook to show them the “lions" of the place, and carried them to the part of the town nearest the river, in which were the only two houses built of red brick. There they were introduced to an old Portuguese, who kept the only mercantile establishment in the place. It was a small store, said to have a very promiscuous assortment of goods, though the stock had become somewhat reduced; as an evidence of which, a few of the inhabitants applied to be furnished with pairs of pantaloons from on board ship, for their own were worn out, and the only articles of dry-goods at present in the store, were three or four yards of calico.
An American by the name of Adams, who was absent at the time of our visit, has engrossed all the trade and business of this place, and no other vessels but those in which he is interested had traded with it for the last two years, with the exception of two whale-ships, in 1837 and 1838; on them a duty of twelve and a half cents per ton was levied, although their sole object was to obtain fresh provisions. This, together with the difficult and changing bar, will always prevent their resorting to this port.
The inducements for a merchant vessel to visit this port are few; for it would be difficult to dispose of even the most necessary articles. in consequence of the poverty of the place; and there is no possibility of obtaining any thing in return, except salt. Of this there are several cargoes in stack along the banks of the river, which it is said could be delivered on board for twenty cents per bushel. It is obtained from the salt lakes, or salinas, on the Campos, and is transported to
the river in ox-carts. I regretted extremely that I had not time to spare to send a party to explore them, in order to have ascertained the extent of the staple commodity of this port.
These salt lakes are known to be numerous throughout the Pampas, and within a few leagues of the town of El Carmen there are four, from two to three leagues in circumference, from which salt has been taken, besides many others of smaller dimensions. From the largest of these, the salt that is exported from the Rio Negro is mostly obtained. In dry weather it is said to form very rapidly, so much so that it may at times be gathered daily, and that it attains the thickness of two inches in twenty-four hours. How far this is true, I will not pretend to vouch. Still more wonderful stories are told of the larger lakes in the interior; of their being ten leagues in circumference; and they are described as being covered with a crust of dazzling whiteness, so strong that a horse and rider may pass over it without leaving an impression. In heavy rains these lakes are converted into morasses of black mud, which, as the water evaporates, becomes encrusted with salt. The salt is beautifully white and finely crystallized, and requires no purification before carrying it to market. The specimens were thought to equal in purity those from our own springs. The general belief relative to these salt lakes is, that the salt is disseminated through the soil, no salt in a solid state having yet been found in any part of the country. No satisfactory information could be obtained relative to their having become weaker, as the only person who was able to give this information was Mr. Adams, who, as I mentioned before, was absent.
It appears that the policy of the present government of Buenos Ayres has been to discourage the raising of cattle and the exportation of hides from this place, in order, it is said, to concentrate the trade at Buenos Ayres. The large herds that were formerly kept in this country are now reduced to comparatively few.
None of the government officers have received any salaries for the last eighteen months.
There are about two thousand inhabitants within a circuit of eighty miles, exclusive of a few roving Indians. The population of Carmen is about five hundred. There are five Americans residing here, who state that they enjoy all the protection that the government can give, and that they are well treated.
The Rio Negro is navigable for boats to the village of Chichula, two hundred miles from its mouth.
The distance across the country to Buenos Ayres is but five hundred miles, yet it requires fifteen days to communicate with it; the
governor had received no advices or information for the last two months from that place. The route is very uncertain, owing to the hordes of hostile Indians.
Grain, fruit, and vegetables thrive well, and with proper industry might be produced in abundance.
The climate is delightful, and cold weather is seldom felt, although ice has occasionally been seen a quarter of an inch in thickness.
Bullocks and horses are the principal articles of trade; indeed they constitute the legal tender of the country. The former are worth from five to ten dollars, according to age; wild horses, two or three dollars, and if broken to the saddle, ten or fifteen.
The tariff of duties is the same as at Buenos Ayres, but the late reduction of thirty-three per cent. during the blockade did not extend to this place.
The Indians that are accustomed to visit this place (Carmen) for the purpose of war or trade are of four different tribes, viz., Pampas, Ancases, Tehuiliches or Teheulehes, and Chilenos. The two former occupy the territory to the north of the Rio Negro as far as the Rio Colorado. The Tehuiliches are from the mountains to the south, and the Chilenos from the southwest.
During the infancy of the settlement, and until of late years, these Indians were extremely troublesome, making descents upon the place, and ravaging the outposts, waylaying all who were not on their guard, killing them, and retreating rapidly on their wild steeds, with their booty, to the pampas and mountains. The Spaniards frequently retaliated, and by the superiority of their arms and discipline, inflicted summary punishment on them. The last attack of the Indians was made in 1832, when they met with such an overwhelming defeat, that they have not ventured to make another; yet the garrison is always kept in anxiety for fear of attacks.
The weapons usual in their warfare are a long lance and the ballos, such as is used in taking the ostrich and throwing cattle, which they use with great dexterity. This consists of a thong of hide, four feet in length, with a leaden ball at each end, which the horseman grasps in the middle, and gives the balls a rotary motion by whirling them above his head, then dashing on to the attack, he throws it when within range with unerring aim, and seldom fails to disable his enemy. The Indians who are most feared are the Chilenos. The Tehuiliches, notwithstanding their immense size, are considered little better than cowards.
All the information gained here tended to confirm the general impression that the Tehuiliches or Patagonians are above the ordinary
height of men, generally above six feet; and the minister asserted that he had often seen them above seven English feet. We had not any personal opportunity to verify this statement, the Indians being only in the habit of visiting this post once a year, to obtain supplies, viz., in the month of March, at which time a vessel usually visits the place.
The few Indians who inhabit the huts or toldos on the opposite side of the river, are converted, and are termed Indios Mansos; they are a mixture of all the tribes, and so much changed in habits and dress from their former condition and mode of life, that an accurate idea could not be formed of their natural character. They were none of them above the middle height; their limbs were usually full and well formed; their complexion a brownish copper, with coarse straight black hair, growing very low on the forehead: this is suffered to grow long, and hangs down on both sides of the face, adding much to the wildness of their appearance.
Their foreheads are low and narrow towards the top, their eyes small, black, and deep set. Some were observed with their eyes set Chinese-like. The resemblance was somewhat increased by the width of the face, which was a particular characteristic. The nose is usually a little flattened at the root, and wide at the nostrils, the lips full, and the chin not prominent. The expressions of their countenance betoken neither intellect nor vivacity. The men were generally decked out in tawdry finery, partly after the Spanish fashion; the women had only the chilipa to cover their nakedness.
Of the Ancases very little appears to be known; they live towards the north, speak a peculiar language, and are inferior to the rest in stature.
The Chilenos are derived from the western side of the continent, and are predatory bands of the great Araucanian nation.
The Peulches, including the Pampas and Tehuiliches, Falkner, in his account of this country, describes as inhabiting the portion south of the Rio de la Plata, and to the east of the Cordilleras; they are scattered over the vast plains of the interior. Those to the north of the Rio Colorado are generally known under the name of the Pampas Indians; they call themselves Chechehets. Those to the south of that river are termed Tehuiliches; they inhabit the table-land between the Cordilleras, and the desert plains of the coast.
These people are represented as of gigantic stature, and it is said by the residents, that those from the south are generally taller than those from any other part, and Indians are said to have been met with who are distinguished for their gigantic height and well-formed limbs; but this rests on vague authority.
Our philologist related an anecdote of a young Indian, who had learned the Spanish tongue, whom he had been questioning relative to his language, in order to obtain a certain class of phrases. After having written down a word, in repeating it, he connected it with some adjunct, as my father, his house, this knife. The Indian mistook his meaning, and immediately took fire at the supposed insult, thinking that the correctness of what he had said was doubted, and that the object was to entrap him in a falsehood. It was with some difficulty that he was pacified.
The Guachos and Indians are of course good horsemen, being trained to it from their infancy. Indeed they may be said to live on horseback, and it is very seldom that they are seen to walk any distance, however short.
Their dress, although uncouth and ill-arranged, is comfortable, and picturesque when they are on horseback, particularly when at full speed in search of a bullock to lasso. The ease and nonchalance with which a Guacho mounts his steed, arranges himself in the saddle, quietly trotting off, lasso in hand, to select his victim, and detach it from the herd; then the eager chase, the furious speed of the horse, the flying dress of the Guacho, with upraised arm whirling his lasso, the terror of the animal, the throw of the lasso, and instantaneous overthrow of the bullock, all the work of an instant, excited both our admiration and astonishment. Nothing can exceed the animation of both horse and rider on these occasions.
Mr. Waldron, our purser, made an endeavour to purchase some vegetables for the crews, from an estancia on the river-side, of which an old Spaniard was the owner, thus affording him an opportunity of