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who, before the arrival of the Spaniards, carved symbolic figures on the rocks of the mountains and placed gold ornaments in their graves. In former times they were, without doubt, more civilized; but modern progress has destroyed their industries, as they now provide themselves with arms, tools, utensils, clothes, etc., from their neighbors, which formerly they made themselves."
A custom of these Indians was to bury with a prominent warrior his ornaments, cooking utensils, weapons, wives,
and slaves, and to this custom is due the presGold images ervation until this day of many of the ornaand Pottery ments and utensils, known commonly as the of Chiriqui. gold figures and pottery of Chiriqui. The
grave was built with a large space in which the corpse and its attendants and utensils were placed; over this was laid a slab of stone, and this in turn was covered with rock. The burials were made in definite sections, and the method of detecting a grave today is to go over one of these sections prodding into the ground until the iron rod, with which one explores, strikes a stone slab. Excavation at this spot usually reveals an old grave with its pottery utensils, and frequently with gold ornaments. The pottery is unglazed, but some pieces are decorated and curiously molded in crude imitation of familiar animals. A good collection of this pottery is in possession of Mr. Paul S. Wilson of Ancon, while John Ehrman, the Panama banker, owns the best collection of gold images.
The public-school system has been improved every year since the formation of the Republic, and it is a distinct
credit to Panamans in general that no govSchools. ernment could maintain itself in power if
it did not continue in this course of improving and expanding the system of public education. At present the schools are in two classes, primary schools maintained in all the villages, and secondary schools in the chief city of each province. The census of 1911 shows that out of 240,609 persons (uncivilized Indians not included) over six years of age in the Republic, 68,019 know how to read and write, 170,792 are illiterate, and the balance know how to read but not to write. If the present interest in education keeps up the figures quoted will be reversed within ten years.
The number of children of school age (7 to 15 years) in 1911 was 60,491 and the school statistics were as follows:
A normal school in which girls are prepared for teaching had 116 students in 1911 over 14 years of age. A national institute erected in Panama City in 1911 has been opened. It has seven large buildings providing for dormitories, eating-rooms, class-rooms, and laboratories. It is proposed to make this the head of the national system, the idea being that any pupil in the Republic who qualifies for the higher courses may have four years of instruction here at the expense of the Government. A faculty is being assembled under the direction of an American of university training. At present the best schools are private institutions in the cities of Panama and Colon, two Catholic secondary schools, one Methodist, and two for the children of wealthy parents.
A Government trades school, where in a 3 years course boys are taught the elements of machinist's, carpenter's, and other trades, is conducted in the city of Panama with over 100 pupils.
As part of the system of public education there is maintain ed a good school of music in the city of Panama, a national band in the same city, and a National Theater, likewise, in Panama, where good plays and operas are staged by professional players, and public meetings of a nonpolitical nature are held.
There is nothing more tragic in the history of Panama than the part the church has played, because it has done
so much good and yet by an unnecessary The Church. mixing in finance and politics has cut itself
off from doing as much as it is capable of. In the beginning, the Spaniards sent to America thousands of soldiers of fortune, gold hunters, criminals, broken-down courtiers-everything but honest working men; but the church sent its best. Las Casas-idealist, dialectician, politician, kindly man, was only one of a class of strong, noble missionaries who came to America to convert the heathen, neither asking for nor receiving money reward. (Most of these men were of the regular clergy who are not allowed to hold property). From the beginning they were the friends of the Indians, worked hard to have the laws against slavery of Indians enforced, and even yielded to the expedient of introducing negro slaves for the purpose of saving the Indians. In a lawless, ungodly, uncultured community, the church stood for order, respect for authority, and the obligation of those in authority, and for whatever refinement there was. The Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans were all teachers, and for three centuries their schools were the only ones. To be sure, the church had a monopoly of education; but, on the other hand, it alone seemed to care for the monopoly.
Titles were never secure in the colonial days, nor have they been since, for that matter; but the church property was never forfeit, nor could it escheat. So the church as a property-holder became irresistibly strong. By the end of the period of the Royal Audience in Panama, the church owned most of what was worth holding. It paid no taxes yet it levied taxes for all the ministrations without which Roman Catholics can not live or die. As a property-holder it naturally identified itself with the established order, and therefore became identified with conservatism. When the revolutionary movement came, the church as a holder of property and a conservative force was one of the principal objects of attack. Between 1821 and the present time, over half of the church property in Panama has been confiscated. It is a comment on the futility of the system of changing title from one private person to another, that the church property has fallen into the hands of people who are holding it for exorbitant prices, not even improving it, for the lack of a land tax in Panama permits this.
Notwithstanding that it has compromised with property, the church must be credited with having been the seedbed for education and culture in Panama. It maintains churches in all the large villages, has missionaries among the Indians, conducts schools for boys and girls, and runs the orphan asylums. It has failed of realizing the best that is in it, but it has come far from absolute failure. See also page 164.
Resources of Panama.
Panama holds out bright prospects of large returns for intelligent investors. It would appear, however, that there are very few of this species coming to the Isthmus, because most of the people who talk of development expect to get fifty per cent returns in a few years. Of course such ideas are wild. For men who are willing to invest their capital in conservative enterprises, however, and wait for good returns for several years there is an attractive field.
The first obstacle to be overcome is the perfecting of title. Government grants are always good, but the best
lands are held by private persons, whose title Land Titles, in turn is usually clouded. The method emTransporta- ployed by a local business man in a recent tion, Labor, purchase of a large tract was to buy the property Banks. from the supposed owner, then to go over the
land and buy up from the squatters upon it their rights. In this way he has a title that is good against anyone but the Government. Having procured the land to be developed one must find means of making it accessible. Trails must be built, and this work is expensive in a country where the heavy rains wash out the roads and the rank vegetation rapidly closes trails. Land near water is always desirable, but in Panama it is necessary because there are no railways into the interior and the main highways are usually poor, in general they are merely pack trails. Fortunately navigable bayous penetrate the Isthmus on both sides. The labor market, which was very high during the height of construction on the Canal, is becoming normal again, and it will soon be possible to employ West Indian negroes at rates only a little in advance of those paid in the West Indies. Native labor is no good for steady work, except in clearing. The natives are good bushmen, but they will not pin themselves down to farming; and even if they were willing their number is exceedingly limited. For development on a large scale imported labor is necessary. There are good banks in Panama capable of handling any class or amount of business.
The greatest single industry in Panama at present is the banana growing on the plantation of the United Fruit
Company at Bocas del Toro on Almirante Bay. Over four million bunches of bananas were exported from this plantation in 1911,
35,000 acres of land are under cultivation, and the Company maintains a narrow gage railway system, docks, stores, and steamships in its Bocas del Toro business. Prior to the war of 1898-1903 bananas were grown quite extensively at points along the Panama railway, and throughout the interior, but the fighting took the men from the fields, the weeds grew up, and when peace came again the Canal work drew upon the country people for latcr. Bananas can be grown in any part of Panama. There have been projects within the past few years for opening banana plantations for the purpose of supplying the Pacific coast markets, where the United Fruit and other large fruit companies have not made much effort; but they all appear to have lacked backing. It requires a lot of money to develop banana growing to such a point as to justify the maintenance of ships for handling the product. Besides the United Fruit Company the only other banana enterprise under way just now is that of the Boston-Panama Company on its big plantation on Montijo Bay.
Panama coconuts are the best on the market, that is, they command the most ready sale, bring the best prices,
and are highest in oil content. Most of those Coconuts.
exported at the present time come from the
San Blas coast where they are raised by the Indians, although a few are exported from the shores of Chiriqui Lagoon. Panama is fortunate in being outside the hurricane belt so that trees once come to maturity are in no danger of blowing down, as those in the West Indies and along the coast of Central America are. The development of this industry is under way in a number of localities, among them Nombre de Dios, where a Colon merchant is setting out fifty thousand trees; Almirante Bay, where a grove of a hundred thousand trees is being planted; Venado on Panama Bay, where a grove of fifty thousand trees is being set out; Montijo Bay where a grove is being planted, and at Remedios where trees are growing. There is much available coconut land along both coasts, but one must buy it, there is no Government land worth while within sight of the water, and coconuts need the salt breezes. A coconut grove will come into bearing five years after the sprouts are planted, and after that each tree should be good for a clear profit of one dollar a year. The cost of planting a grove of ten thousand trees and bringing it into bearing is estimated at about three dollars a tree.