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ABSENCE OF PATRIOTISM.
were raised, but I believe there were not a score of men killed on the field of battle during the whole time; the town of Juigalpa was taken and retaken without any one receiving a scratch. The usual course pursued was for the two armies to mancuvre about until one thought it was weaker than the other, when it immediately took to flight. Battles were decided without a shot being fired, excepting after one side had run away.
Of patriotism I never saw a symptom in Central America, nothing but selfish partisanship, willing at any moment to set the country in a state of war if there was only a prospect of a little spoil. The states of Central America are republics in name only; in reality, they are tyrannical oligarchies. They have excellent constitutions and laws on paper, but both their statesmen and their judges are corrupt; with some honourable exceptions, I must admit, but not enough to stem the current of abuse. Of real liberty there is none. The party in power is able to control the elections, and to put their partisans into all the municipal and other offices. Some of the Presidents have not hesitated to throw their political opponents into prison at the time of an election, and I heard of one well-authenticated instance where an elector was placed, uncovered, in the middle of one of the plazas, with his arms stretched out to their full extent and each thumb thrust down into the barrel of an upright musket, and kept a few hours in the blazing sun until he agreed to vote according to the wish of the party in power. A change of rulers can only be effected by a so-called revolution; with all the machinery of a republic, the will of the people can only be known by the issue of a civil war.
With high-sounding phrases of the equality of man, the lower orders are kept in a state almost approaching to serfdom. The poor Indians toil and spin, and cultivate the ground, being almost the only producers. Yet, in the revolutionary outbreaks, they are driven about like cattle, and forced into the armies that are raised. Central America declared its independence of Spain in 1823, and constituted itself a republic, under the name of the United States of Central America. The confederacy, which consisted of Guatemala, San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, was broken up in 1840, when each of the States became an independent republic. Ever since, revolutionary outbreaks have been periodical, and the States, with the exception of Costa Rica, have steadily decreased in wealth and produce.
It would be ungenerous of me, in this condemnation of the political parties of Central America, not to state that there are many individuals who view with alarm and shame the decadence of their country. Such, however, is the state of public opinion, that their voices are unheard, or listened to with indifference. There seems to be some radical incapacity in the Latin races to comprehend what we consider true political economy. The will of the majority is not the law of the land, but the will of the strongest in arms. They cannot understand that a republic has no more divine right than a monarchy; that a country having an hereditary sovereign at its head, if it is governed in consonance with the wishes of the greatest number of its inhabitants, is freer than a republic where a minority rules by force of arms. They make a principle out of what is a mere detail of government—whether the chief of the state be elective or
Ch. XIX.] :
hereditary—but the fundamental principle of good government, namely, that the will of the majority shall be the law of the land, is trampled under foot and treated as the dream of an enthusiast.
The environs of Granada are very pretty; it is situated only a mile from the lake, and a few miles lower down the sleeping volcano of Mombacho juts boldly out, rising to a beight of nearly 5000 feet, and clothed to the very summit with dark perennial verdure. The cacao of Granada and Rivas is said to be amongst the finest grown, and there are many large plantations of it. The wild cacao grows in the forests of the Atlantic slope, and when cultivated it still requires shade to thrive luxuriantly. This is provided at first by plantain trees, afterwards by the coral tree, a species of Erythrina, called by the natives Cacao madre, or the Cacao's mother, on account of the fostering shade it affords the cacao tree. The coral tree rises to a height of about forty feet, and when in flower, at the beginning of April, is one mass of bright crimson flowers, fairly dazzling the eyes of the beholder when the sun is shining on it.
One of the principal courts of law is held at Granada, and whilst we were there a priest was being tried for having seduced his own niece. He was afterwards convicted, and, to show the moral torpidity of the people, I may mention that his only punishment was banishment to Greytown, where he appeared to mix in Nicaraguan society as if he had not a spot on his character.
Having finished our business in Granada, we started for Masaya, where I wished to consult a lawyer, Senhor Rafael Blandino, who most deservedly bears a very high character in Nicaragua for probity and ability. We had a difficulty in obtaining horses, and did not get away until noon. The road was a good one, having been made by the late President, Señor Fernando Guzman, who seems to have done what little lay in his power to develop the resources of the country. The soil was entirely composed of volcanic tufas, and was covered with fine grass; but there were no springs or brooks, all the moisture sinking into the porous ground. Lizards were numerous, and on damp spots on the road there were many fine butterflies, most of them of different species from those of Chontales.
At four o'clock we entered Masaya, and passed down a long road bordered with Indian huts and gardens. The town is said to contain about 15,000 inhabitants, nine-tenths of whom are Indians. It covers a great space of ground, as the Indian houses are each surrounded by a garden or orchard ; they stand back from the road, and are almost hidden amongst the trees. There was no water when I visited Masaya, excepting what was brought up from the lake, which lies more than 300 feet below the town, surrounded, excepting on the western side, by precipitous cliffs, down which three or four rocky paths have been cut. Up these, all day long, and most of the night, women and girls are carrying water in Indian earthenware gourd-shaped jars, which they balance on cushions on their heads, or sling in nets on their backs. No men, or boys above ten years of age, carry water, and the women seemed to have all the labour to do. I believe it would have been impossible to find ten men at work in Masaya at any one time.
LAKE OF MASAYA.
I spent the next day exploring around Masaya, as I was greatly interested with the geological structure of the country. One of the paths down to the lake has been made passable for animals taken down to drink. I rode my horse down, but in the steepest part he slipped on to his side, and I was content to lead him the rest of the way. The scene was one which is only possible in a half-civilised tropical land. Women, with the scantiest of clothing, or less, were washing linen, standing up to their waists in the water amongst the rocks, on which they thumped the clothes to be cleansed; laughing and chatting to each other incessantly. Men with mules and horses were bathing themselves and their animals at a small sandy beach, and girls were carrying off great jars of water, which they obtained further down, where the water was less tainted with the ablutions. Great rocks, that had fallen from the cliffs above, lined the shore; and amongst these grew many shrubs and plants new to me. The cliffs themselves were, in some parts, green with lovely maiden-hair ferns, belonging to three different species.
On the opposite shore rises the cone of the volcano of Masaya, and the streams of lava that have flowed down to the lake and covered the old precipitous cliffs on that side are plainly visible. The cliff encircles the whole lake, excepting where concealed by the recent lava overflow. At the time of the conquest of Nicaragua, in 1522, the volcano of Masaya was in a state of activity. The credulous Spaniards believed the fiery, molten mass at the bottom of the crater to be liquid gold, and through great danger, amongst the smoke and fumes, were lowered down it until, with an iron chain and