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talkative, vivacious, vain, and sensual; the Indian taciturn, stolid, dignified, and moderate. As freemen, regularly though poorly paid and kindly treated, the Indians work well and laboriously in the mines; but the
- Negro seldom engages either in that or any other settled
employment, unless compelled as a slave, in which condition he is happy and thoughtless. I do not defend slavery, but I believe it to be a greater curse to the masters than to the slaves, more deteriorating to the former than to the latter. The Spaniards at first enslaved the Indians, but they died away so rapidly that in a very short time the indigenes of the whole of the oncepopulous islands of the West Indies were exterminated, and large numbers of Indians were carried off from the mainland to supply their places, but died with equal rapidity; so that the Spaniards found it more profitable to bring negroes from Africa, who thrived and multiplied in captivity as quickly as the enslaved Indians pined away and died. In Central America there never were many black slaves; since the States threw off the yoke of Spain there have been none; and this comparative scarcity of the Negro element makes these countries much more pleasant and safer to dwell in than the West Indies, where it is much larger. The Indian seldom or never molests the whites, excepting in retaliation for some great injury; whilst amongst the free Negroes, robbery, violence, and murder need no other incentives than their own evil passions and lust. The women at Santo Domingo are much the same as those found at all the small provincial towns of Central America. Morality is at a low ebb, and most of them
live as mistresses, not as wives, for which they do not
Ch. W.] - MY RESIDENCE. 65
seem to suffer in the estimation of their neighbours. This is greatly due in Nicaragua, as it is throughout Central and South America, to the profligate lives led by the priests, who, with few rare exceptions, live in concubinage more or less open and unconcealed. The women have children at an early age, and make kind and indulgent mothers. The village is bounded to the eastward by the mines and hacienda of the Chontales Mining Company, whose houses, workshops, and machinery are on rising ground on each side of the valley, with the brook running down between. About fifty acres of the forest have been cut down, and a great deal of this is fenced in and covered with grass. Going up the valley from the village, on the right-hand side, about fifty yards from the road, on a grass-covered slope, stand the houses of the commissioner and cashier, in the latter of which the medical officer also lives. The former, a large, whitewashed, Square, two-storied, wooden house, with verandahs round three sides of it, and communicating by a covered passage with a detached kitchen behind, had been built by one of my predecessors, Captain Hill, R.N., who did not live to inhabit it. It was a roomy, comfortable house, commanding a view of the machinery, workshops, and part of the mines on the other side of the valley, and formed my residence for upwards of four years. The slope in front of the house, down to the river, was covered with weedy bushes when I arrived; but I had these cleared away, and a fine greensward of grass took their place. On this I planted young orange, lime, and citron trees; and I had the pleasure, before I left, to see them beginning to bear their fine fruit. To the west of
Ch. W.] BANANA NOT INDIGENOU.S. 67
vegetable, and resembles vegetable marrow. At Santo Domingo, it continues to bear a succession of fruits during eight months of the year. Next to maize, plantains and bananas form the principal sustenance of the natives. The banana tree shoots up its succulent stem, and unfolds its immense entire leaves with great rapidity; and a group of them waving their silky leaves in the Sun, or shining ghostly white in the moonlight, forms one of those beautiful sights that can only be seen to perfection in the tropics. There are a great many varieties of them, and they are cooked in many ways—boiled, baked, made into pastry, or eaten as a fruit. The varieties differ not only in their fruits, but in the colour of their leaves and stems; the natives can distinguish them without seeing the fruit, and have names for each, by which they are known throughout all Central America, Mexico, and Peru. These names are of Spanish origin; and this fact, together with the absence of any native, Mexican, or Peruvian name for the fruit, incline me to adopt the opinion of Clavigero, who contends, in opposition to other writers, that the plantain and banana were not known in these countries before the Spanish conquest, but were first brought from the Canaries to Hayti in 1516, and from thence taken to the mainland. Neither the sugar-cane” nor the plantain is given in the list of the indigenous productions of Mexico by the careful and accurate Hernandez. The natives made Sugar from the green stems of the maize. Humboldt
* The sugar-cane is said never to bear seed in the West Indies, Malaga, India, Cochin China, or the Malay Archipelago. —Darwin's “Animals and Plants under Domestication,” vol. ii. p. 169. .
thinks that some species of plantain were indigenous to America; but it seems incredible that such an important fruit could have been overlooked by the early historians. In the old world the cultivation of the banana dates from the earliest times of which tradition makes mention. One of the Sanscrit names was bhanu-fruit from which probably the name “banana” was derived.* Both the plantain and the banana are always propagated from shoots or suckers that spring from the base of the plants; and it is to be remarked that the pineapple and the bread-fruit, that are also universally grown from cuttings or shoots, and have been cultivated from remote antiquity, have in a great measure lost the faculty of producing mature seed. Such varieties could not arise in a state of nature, but are due to selection by early races of mankind, who would naturally propagate the best varieties; and, to do this, seed was not required. As the finest kinds of bananas, pineapples, and breadfruit are seedless, it is probable that the nutriment that would have been required for the formation of the seeds has been expended in producing larger and more succulent fruits. We find some varieties of oranges, which also have been cultivated from very early ages, producing fruits without seeds; but as these trees are propagated from seeds, these varieties could not become so sterile as those just mentioned. There can be no doubt that the seedless varieties of bananas, bread-fruits, and pineapples have been propagated for hundreds of years; and this fact ought to modify the opinions generally entertained by horticulturists that the life of plants and trees propagated from shoots or cuttings cannot be indefinitely .* Humboldt's “Aspects of Nature,” vol. ii. p. 141.