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Ch. IX.] DEFACEMENT OF ANCIENT STATUES. . 167

were any more cairns, he was standing within thirty feet of one hidden by the thicket, which boreevident marks of having been recently disturbed. It was the cairn of big stones. One of these had beenoverturned, and somefresh-cut poles, that had been used as levers, were lying alongside, with the green bark broken and bruised. A hole had been dug underneath it, and filled up with stones again. Our lounging friend had been doing a little exploring on his own account. Many of the natives believe that treasure is buried under these heaps of stones; and the interest that foreigners take in them they ascribe to their wish to obtain these treasures. Our guide, wishing to get these himself, had taken us to the single grave on the top of the hill, which he had already ransacked, and professed ignorance of the others. I only hope that he did not compound with his conscience for the lies he had told us by coming back after we left, and trying to break off

another nose of an idol, as the natives call the images. They think they show their zeal for Christianity by defacing them. This is why scarcely any of the noses of the images are left. They were the most salient points for attack. And that the images have not been utterly destroyed by the ill-usage they have had for three hundred years is due to the hard, tough rock of which they are made. It is probable that the statues at El Salto were brought out from the cairns into the plain, and publicly thrown down, defaced, and broken, when the Spaniards first took possession of the Juigalpa district, and forced Christianity upon the Indians; for the conquerors everywhere overthrew and mutilated the “idols” of the Indians, set up the cross and their own images, and forced the poor people to be baptised. The change was not a great one. Already the cross was an emblem amongst them, and baptism a rite; and the images they were called upon to adore did not differ so greatly from those they had worshipped before. They easily conformed to the new faith. D'Avila is said to have overthrown the idols at Rivas, and to have baptised nine thousand Indians. Then the Spaniards, having Christianised the Indians, made slaves of them, and ground them to the dust with merciless cruelties and overwork, which quickly depopulated whole towns and districts. The presence of the cross in central America greatly astonished the Spanish discoverers. In Yucatan it was the emblem of the “god of rain.” There has been much speculation by various authors respecting its origin, as a religious emblem, in Mexico and central America; and it has even been supposed that some of the early Icelandic Christians of the ninth century may have reached the coast of Mexico, and introduced some knowledge of the Christian religion. But the cross was a religious emblem of the greatest antiquity, both in Syria and Egypt, and baptism was a pre-Christian rite; and these and other observances, such as auricular confession and monastic institutions, were so mixed up with the worship of a great number of gods, at the head of which was the worship of the sun, and were associated with such horrid human sacrifices and pagan ceremonials, that it is more likely that they acquired the cross, with other pagan traditions handed down to them from a remote antiquity, from the common stock from whence both the inhabitants of the Eastern and Western hemispheres were descended. There is good evidence for supposing that young children were offered up in sacrifice to Thaloc,

Ch. IX.] GRAVES OF CHIEFS. 169

the god of rain, the very god whose emblem was the cross—a contrast too great to the “Suffer little children to come unto me” of the loving Saviour, not to make the mind revolt against the idea that the cross of the god of rain had been derived from the cross of the Christian. I see no reason for supposing that the images of El Salto had been idols, as they were supposed to be by the early Spaniards, and are still by the degenerate halfbreeds. They are more likely portrait-statues of famous chieftains who led the tribe to many a victory; and when they died, a loving people, with wailings and lamentations, celebrated their funeral obsequies. The funeral pyre was built, the body burnt, and the ashes carefully gathered together, and placed in the finely-wrought urn and painted cinerary, and this in one larger and coarser. These were buried with the stone maize-grinder, and sometimes weapons and earthen dishes and, perhaps, food; and over the grave a pile of stones was raised, and skilful artificers were set to work on the hardest and toughest stone they could find to make a statue of the chief whose memory they reverenced. It must have taken months, if not years, to have fashioned the statue I have figured, out of the trachyte, without tools of iron; and it strikes one with wonder to think of the patience and perseverance with which the details were worked out. No time-servers were these Indians; before and behind they bestowed equal pains and labour on their work, undeterred by the hardness of the materials or the rudeness of their tools. When we turn from these works and remains of a great and united tribe to the miserable huts of the present

natives, we feel how great a curse the Spanish invasion has been to Central America. The half-breed, wrapped up in himself, lives from year to year in his thatched hut, looking after a few cows, and making cheese from their milk. He perhaps plants a small patch of maize once a year, and grows a few plantains, content to live on the plainest fare, and in the rudest style, so that he may indulge in indolence and sloth; and so he vegetates and drops into his grave; and in a year or two no mark or sign tells where he was laid. The graves of the old Indians are still to be found; but no mounds mark the spots where the inhabitants of the valley since the conquest have been laid to rest. They have passed away as they lived, without a record or memorial. The builders of these cairns and the fashioners of these statues were a different and a better race. They stood by each other, and reverenced and obeyed their chiefs. They tilled the ground and lived on the fruits of it. From the accounts of all the historians of the Spanish conquest, the Pacific side of Nicaragua was so densely populated when the Spaniards first arrived, that the greater part of it must have been cultivated like a garden; and it is probable that the population was ten times greater than it is now. Another point that strikes the observer is, that not only the descendants of the Spaniards and the Mestizos are sunk far below the level of the old Indians, but that the nearly pure Indians, of whom there are many large communities, have so degenerated that it is hard to believe that they are the very same people that, four hundred years ago, had advanced so far in their peculiar civilisation. They are not so sunk in sloth as the half-breeds. They still till the ground, grow maize,

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Ch. IX.] DEGENERATION OF THE INDIANS. 171

cacao, and many fruits; they still make the earthenware dishes of the country, though far inferior to those of their ancestors; but they have lost their tribal instinct; they do not support each other; they acknowledge no chiefs; each one is absorbed in his own affairs, and they are only a little less slothful than the half-breeds. Will these Indians ever again attain to that pitch of civilisation at which they had arrived before the conquest ? I fear not. The whip that kept them to the mark in the old days was the continual warfare between the different tribes, and this has ceased for ever. War is not always a curse. “There is some soul of goodness in things evil.” Before the Spanish conquest no small isolated communities could exist. Those in which the tribal instinct was stronger, who stood shoulder to shoulder with their fellows, reverenced and obeyed their chiefs, and excelled in feats of strength and agility, would annihilate the weaker and less warlike races. It was this constant struggle between the different tribes that weeded out the weak and indolent, and preserved the strong and enterprising; just as amongst many of the lower animals the stronger kill off the weaker, and the result is the improvement of the race, or at any rate the maintenance of the point of excellence at which it had arrived in former times. Since the Spanish conquest there has been no such process of selection in operation amongst the Indians. The most indolent can obtain enough food, whilst the climate makes clothing almost a superfluity. The idle and improvident live their natural terms of years, and increase their kind even faster than the provident and industrious. The tribal feeling is destroyed; the Selfish

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