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We had not finished our discussion of the railways when it was time for almuerzo ; and we went to the hotel, where, besides a good meal and the largest plantains (thirteen inches long) I ever saw, there were a number of captive animals, — the most attractive being a bright little monkey who was very eager to open my watch.
and our comida was welcome at five o'clock.
In the evening we strolled to the church, an ancient building, — and found all the inside in confusion; the altar was hidden from profane eyes by a cotton curtain, while preparations were being made for the fiesta of December 8, — the Immaculate Conception. One of the attendants showed us with great pride a huge doll, representing the Virgin Mary, standing on a blue globe studded with silver stars. Beneath her feet was a culebra grande ; and on twisting his tail the serpent's tongue was thrust out, — to the intense delight of the Indian devotees. The priest — if such were his dignity — wished us to examine the lace robes of the “ Queen of Heaven,” and to note particularly the decorations. As we returned to the hotel we heard a marimba, and soon met a religious procession, consisting mostly of women. In a small plaza we saw, covering a figure of the Virgin, a booth decorated with flowers and fruits, — especially long strings of manzanillas. Before this image men and women (of respectable rank, we were assured) were dancing, disguised in horrible masks representing devils and animals.
1 These little apples - about the size of crab-apples — are tasteless uncooked, but make an excellent dulce ; the señoras know how to use them for a sweet pickle.
Escuintla is the favorite watering-place of the capital, and its baths are certainly attractive, — especially to the Guatemalans, whose city is supplied with miserable water. The citizens, some five thousand in number, are occupied in commerce and agriculture. In the near future Escuintla seems destined to become the railroad centre of the republic, as the lines from Puerto Barrios and from Ocós will meet there.
Early in the morning of the third day of our stay at this place we started out for one of the best bathingplaces, on the way taking several photographs. At a bath-house we passed, the men bathing in the tank came out frequently through the wide-open door to talk with the women who were washing clothes in the brook outside. As these men were wholly naked, I wished to photograph this “custom” of the country; but when they saw the camera they modestly retired within and shut the door.
Our own bath, an open pool some fifty by a hundred feet, was of a depth increasing from three to eight feet. A high brick wall bounded one side, and we were told that beyond this was a bath for women. A shed in which to undress, and a tile platform on which to dry one's self, was all the apparatus ; but the water was cool and of a wonderful clearness, and we prolonged our swim. The fee was only a medio (five cents). In the season, which extends from December to March, doubtless the crowd is disagreeable ; but we had the pool entirely to ourselves.
After almuerzo we started for Amatitlan; and a weary, dusty road it was, although the main road to the capital from the port. Frank's mare seemed as though sunstruck,
and sank down powerless by the road. Fortunately we were near a brook. We poured cool water on her head, and she soon recovered. We met great herds of cattle on their way from the dry uplands to the juicy pastures of the lowlands, and also stages full of miserable people, shaken and dusty, and with the look one might fancy a soul in purgatory would assume, always supposing it had a face.
The Falls of the Michatoya by the roadside relieved the monotony of the way, but were not so beautiful as I had expected from Stephens's account. We found the rails of the ferro-carril laid as far as Palin ;and it was graded beyond Amatitlan, on its way to Guatemala City, which it has since (1886) reached. Basaltic rock was abundant along the road, and so were beehives, — generally made from a hollow log and hung horizontally under the eaves of the houses. Honey, costing us a medio a quart, was very good; wax, however, is a more valuable product, as it plays a very important part in the service of religion, masses costing so many pounds of wax candles. The bees seem to be quite inoffensive, and the hives often hung close to the house-doors. Sugar estates were common in this district, the water-power being generally furnished by the Michatoya river. The chimneys of the ingenios did not indicate severe or frequent earthquakes here. Oranges, not of the finest quality, sold at three cents a dozen. Late in the afternoon we passed some cochineal plantations in a rather neglected state, and soon after
1 Palin is the market-garden and orchard of the metropolis, and the fruit is good, but not cultivated with any care ; nor is there here or elsewhere in Guatemala any attempt to procure new and choice varieties of either fruits or vegetables.
entered Amatitlan, where we found a pretty little posada. Our mozos, who were fine fellows, were not far behind us. The barometer told us that we were 3,650 feet above San José.
In the morning, finding sacate very dear, we made up our bestias' breakfast with maiz, and started betimes. We rode to the Lago de Amatitlan, which is very shallow, but clear near the shore. In the depths of this lake were thrown, according to tradition, immense treasures ; and every now and then some ancient idol or bit of pottery is dragged up. On the banks were willows of considerable size; altogether, the whole scene was very
different from anything we had found in the republic. The fishermen's boats were of a peculiar shape, projecting below the water-line, so
that a cross-section amidships would be like the diagram. In trying a short cut back to the main road, we were lost in a cafétal, and had to ask the people in charge to open a locked gate and let us out upon our road. We ascended seven hundred feet and found a good path. In various places there were deposits of fine pumice, much of which had been excavated, leaving caverns large enough to shelter many people from the weather. We entered the capital about noon, meeting Santiago on the outskirts, who conducted us to the Hotel del Globo. At this hotel, which was kept by a wretched German, we found our mozos, and the
Section of Boat at Amatitlan.