Our South American Neighbors - G. Southworth


[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth

Once upon a time, in the first half of the sixteenth century, a Spaniard named Francisco Pizarro set out from a Panama settlement to discover a country rich in gold. He had been told that such a land was to be found on the western coast of the southland, and so he made his way into Peru.

There he found the Incas, a very rich and powerful nation of Indians, with a mighty Emperor, or chief, ruling over a mighty territory.

The Incas were marvelous builders and in their land Pizarro found magnificent. temples to their great Sun God—for the Incas were sun worshippers. The palaces of the. Emperor, too, were built of huge stones so cunningly cut and fitted together that the builders of to-day cannot do the like. Neither can they duplicate certain of the Incas' tools because these were made from copper tempered to the hardness of steel by some method which no one now understands.

The wealth of the mighty Incas was fabulous. Their temples, with their heavy gold and silver ornaments and lavish decorations of precious stones, were resplendent treasure houses. The sight of all these riches so aroused the greed of Pizarro and his followers that they set to work to conquer the Indians. Asked to visit Pizarro's camp, the Inca Emperor was treacherously held a prisoner until an enormous ransom of gold should be paid. Believing that with the ransom paid their Emperor would be free, the gold was promptly brought by the loyal subjects, and heaped high in a great room of Pizarro's castle. Then Pizarro and his followers broke their part of the agreement and dishonorably killed the great Indian chief.

Without their mighty leader, the Incas fast lost their land and were soon scattered, their power broken. In some cases, the Indians were held by their conquerors and forced to work as slaves, a hard downfall for the proud Incas.

It is said that their Spanish conquerors took out of one of their temples as much gold as forty-two horses could haul at one time, and about twice as much silver.

Impressed by the wealth of the land he had conquered, Pizarro gave his chief city a name which means "The City of the Kings." Though Pizarro's "City of the Kings" long ago lost its poetical name and was renamed Lima, it remained a Spanish seat of government for nearly three hundred years.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Then, in 1824, Peru became independent. In form, the present government of Peru is much the same as that of the United States. The Peru of to-day, while only a part of the ancient Inca empire, is about three times as large as our state, Texas. Yet there are fewer people in the entire country than there are in New York City. At least three-fourths of these people are of Indian descent. The population of the Peruvian capital, Lima, numbers about 176,500, the city being practically the size of the city of Syracuse in our Empire State.

Here are to be found descendants of much of the best blood of Spain, although the fine old aristocratic capital is fast becoming a very cosmopolitan city. A long-time resident of Lima, upon returning to his native city after an absence of about ten years writes: "This suburb is a Chinatown; this corner of the market is entirely negro; this store is manned and managed by Turks. Here are poncho-wearing Indians, dark-skinned Peruvian priests, French Sisters, American engineers, English, German and Italian merchants, Belgian school teachers, and representatives of almost every country on earth."

Peruvian women of the middle class do not generally wear hats. Instead they have fine black cloths, quite like the Chilean woman's manto, draped about their heads and pinned fast at the back with only the face showing.

As the unusual things are always the most interesting, the milk-women of Lima attract particular attention. Indian and half-breed women, not men, deliver the milk in the Peruvian capital. And they carry their various milk cans not in carts, but right on the pony or horse with themselves. They are clever horse women or they could never manage the cans and the bottles and the horse and themselves all at the same time.

The various hucksters and peddlers deliver their goods in much the same way. Fastening their baskets of vegetables or ware to the backs of patient little donkeys, they either ride or lead them through the streets. All this horse-back riding is because the streets in Lima are extremely narrow, too narrow for any unnecessary carts or large wagons.

For the most part the streets are well paved, and contrary to what one would expect, their narrowness is a particular advantage on hot days. Being more like passageways than streets, they create a natural draft like a tunnel. Moreover, the buildings, which are set close together and almost upon the pavement, furnish a welcome shade.

Shade is essential to comfort, for the climate of Lima is very warm. The city is only eight hundred miles from the Equator. However, its altitude, five hundred feet above sea level, improves the temperature immensely, and the southwest wind modifies the heat from the sun's almost direct rays.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Due to the climate, the business hours and habits of Lima are somewhat different from ours. The stores are open from seven to eleven in the morning, and from one to six in the afternoon. The people generally rest in cool, dark rooms from eleven to one, those hours when the sun is the brightest. This daily rest, or siesta as it is called, is a Spanish custom borrowed from far away Madrid.

The stores in Lima are numerous and prosperous. Some have no windows, but the doors are so made that the entire fronts can be opened, which makes the stores seem like the open booths at a fair. In many of the small shops all kinds of attractive and fine goods are piled upon the wooden floors.

In the markets are found all sorts of good things to eat—excellent meats, a great variety of vegetables, and luscious fruits. There are fruits, resembling enormous string beans, which are actually almost as long as your arm, and all kinds of potatoes, the famous yellow potatoes of Peru as well as many varieties of sweet potatoes. On the fruit stands are melons, oranges, lemons, alligator pears, pomegranates, pineapples, bananas, peaches, pears and grapes.

It is the Rimac river, on which Lima is situated, that makes possible all these products. In fact, it is the Rimac river that makes the very city itself possible, for without it all would be a desert. Its waters supply, either naturally or by artificial irrigation, the large plantations of sugar and cotton, and the rich vegetable and fruit crops which extend for miles about Lima, and occupy the sheltered irrigated "pockets" in the foothills of the Andes.

Then, too, the high falls of the river furnish the capital with abundant power for electric railroads and manufacturing plants. The streets and houses of Lima are well-lighted by electricity, the current being furnished very cheaply.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


At the point on the coast where the Rimac flows into the sea is Callao, the seaport of the capital, and the chief port of Peru. Although the entire town disappeared during an earthquake some years ago, it has been rebuilt and has one of the best harbors on the Pacific coast.

Besides the Rimac river connection, an electric line runs between Callao and Lima, a distance of six miles. And, in addition to these connections, there is a very famous

the great Peru Central or Oroya railroad, which begins at Callao and runs through Lima and on, right up the magnificent Andes to Cerro de Pasco, the highest town in the world. This railroad has been called the Eighth Wonder ,

railroad man who has ever seen it, says that it is indeed the most wonderful railroad that has ever been built. It is a triumph of modern engineering and has cost many millions of dollars and many hundreds of lives. The road goes up some of the steepest mountains of the globe, and much of its bed has been cut or blasted out of solid rock.

From Lima the journey up this amazing railroad cannot be surpassed in strangeness and grandeur anywhere in the world. A traveler in writes: "As the engine climbs upward, the Andes tower everywhere, gaunt, treeless, mighty, awesome. From the train one looks down into the depths that turn the head dizzy and bring, the heart up into the throat. Mountain walls spring upward, seamed, scarred, swart. Alpine flowers cling here and there to the rocks, though one seems in a world where the very bones of the earth are broken and piled up in indescribable and appalling masses."

Arriving at Cerro de Pasco, a traveler is often attacked with severe mountain-sickness, for the air here above the clouds, on "the roof of South America," is very thin. However, after the head and stomach have become accustomed to the greatly changed climate, one can thoroughly enjoy the pure air and strange sights. It is rightfully said that only a poet can describe the scenery of the wonderful cloud-realm of this region.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


At Cerro de Pasco are famous silver and copper mines, for the Andes give to Peru a great share of their mineral wealth, wealth which also extends south into both Bolivia and Chile.

In the case of Peru, this mineral wealth is one of the country's greatest resources. In addition to great copper and silver mines, there are rich deposits of gold, iron, coal, petroleum, salt and borax. Minerals, therefore, head the list of Peru's exports.

Another product of importance is sugar. It seems strange to have great quantities of both minerals and sugar in one country. But we must remember that Peru, lying on both sides of the Andes, presents great contrasts of climate, and likewise has great contrasts of products.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Peru may indeed be divided into three distinct sections: first, the mountain region with its rich mines; second, the great plantations made fertile by means of irrigation; third, the narrow plain along the coast, which is little more than a dry desert.

About two-thirds of the mountain regions are covered with dense forests. These forests are watered by the melting snows of the Andes and their trees produce cocoa, vanilla and various dyewoods as well as rubber, still another of the country's exports.

Besides sugar much cotton is raised on the great plantations in the irrigated valleys. Because of a woolly character which fits it for mixing with wool, this cotton is known in the markets as "rough Peruvian." It is mixed with wool by the manufacturers of stockings, underclothing and such washable goods, as it makes the articles less liable to shrink.

Even the desert coast yields something for Peru to export. This product is guano, a deposit left by enormous flocks of birds, and is widely exported as a valuable fertilizer.

Another export of this republic is straw hats. These so-called "Panama" hats are woven and exported in large numbers, not from Panama, as one would suppose, but from Peru. The seaport, Paita, on the northern coast, is the greatest Panama hat market in Peru.

Now we come to Peru's wool, interesting because of the animals which furnish it. One naturally thinks of sheep in connection with wool, but in Peru other far more unique animals supply this useful article. These are llamas and alpacas from the highlands. Have you ever seen either in a zoo or circus?

The llamas are the most important animals of all Peru, in fact, they are indispensable in many different ways. And these interesting little beasts seem to realize how indispensable they are. Their long wool is used for clothing, their skin for leather, their flesh for food and they are the beasts of burden where no other animals can live on Peru's bare, breathless heights. The llamas, with their warm, shaggy coats, ask no shelter. They ask no food for they can live on the stiff grass of the mountain sides. They require no shoes nor harness.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Is it any wonder that the indispensable llamas make their own rules of conduct and demand exact consideration of them? Usually gentle and docile, if annoyed they are disagreeable, revengeful and useless. Punishment they return in a way that one never forgets. They do not bite, they do not kick, they merely spit. And this spit has the most offensive and penetrating odor which one could imagine.

Another thing, these independent little creatures will carry just one hundred pounds and no more. You wonder how they manage the "no more." They simply lie, or rather kneel down like camels, and down they stay until the load is made light. As to appearance, picture a severe, haughty little beast, somewhat larger than a sheep, with a long neck, a small head like a camel's, and slender legs and feet like a deer's. Llamas walk very daintily and gracefully, skillfully picking their way over the mountains. Some are snow white, some are seal brown, and some are black with large white markings.

The alpacas are also domestic animals in Peru, and are very similar to the llamas. They are valued for their long, silky wool, which is straighter, finer and stronger than sheep's wool. Alpaca wool is used for shawls, fine clothes and umbrellas, much of it being sent from Peru to our country.

There is one conspicuous species of bird in this highland region of Peru. This is the Peruvian eagle, the mighty condor, a magnificent bird which can kill an ox with its powerful beak. These majestic birds sail along in the highest air, sweeping down upon their prey with a whir of wings that is deafening. "Loneliness is the condor's only friend. The wind howls through his broadened wings."

The creatures of the Peruvian lowlands are fully as unusual and interesting as those of the highlands. In the swampy sections are myriads of venomous snakes, gliding, writhing, crawling in and out, snakes of every description, from minute snakes to the great, deadly boa constrictor of the stagnant pools.

On the dry plains is the antiquated looking ant-eater, a strange. animal which hunches along on his stiff, curved claws. Stopping now and then to rake out a crowded ant-hill, he cleans out the crawling inmates with one slash of his long spiral tongue.

In this region is also found the armadillo, a four-legged animal with a small head like a pig's and a complete coat of mail. The armadillo trundles to and fro, burrowing out well-flavored roots. The flesh of these animals, white, quite tender and rather delicious, is eaten in great quantities, particularly in Argentina, where also they are very numerous.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Another weird creature of Peru is the awkward sloth, a lazy, mournful object, which spends most of its time hanging upside down in a tree like a bundle of rags on a nail. Its hair is like dried grass, stiff and coarse, and, as one might imagine, grows the wrong way. The sloth's most active move is to tumble out of its tree and crawl to the next one, eating whatever stray insects it finds on the way.

Now to return to the country's commerce. In the list of Peru's imports are found food supplies, iron and steel manufactures, tools, machines and vehicles, cotton and woolen goods, and timber and lumber.

The majority of this trade is handled through Lima, for in addition to being the capital, Lima is the first commercial city of the republic. Its position fits it for being not only the great receiving center of the country, but also the great distributing center.

The capital of Peru appeals to us as it is a busier and more active city than some of the other South American capitals, which seem rather the residential cities of wealthy citizens. Lima, indeed, has several important industries, her chief manufactures being furniture, iron and copper articles, pottery and dyestuffs.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Yet Lima is not without her fine residences. These are Spanish in character, and are built with the open court in the center much like the large, wealthy homes in Santiago. The majority of homes in Lima are extremely low, being for the most part of one story.

The houses of the middle class are commonly made of cane and reeds, plastered with mud. It is amusingly said that in Lima 'a burglar needs nothing more than a bowl of water and a sponge to soften the mud plaster in order to make an entrance through the wall. As Lima is growing, the new buildings are being constructed of steel and concrete, a type of building which is the most satisfactory, for slight earthquake shocks are common in this part of Peru.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


Among the public buildings of Lima, the cathedral is the most important. This is older than any church in our country, and although it is made of sun-dried brick, a characteristic building material in Peru, it has cost millions of dollars. Indeed, more time was spent in its construction than in building St. Peter's church in Rome. Within is a mummified body which tradition declares to be that of the unscrupulous Pizarro. This is preserved in a coffin of glass, mounted on a rich pedestal.

Across the square from the cathedral is an old government building called the National Palace, where, according to tradition, Pizarro was assassinated. The President has his offices in this building. One of the most interesting buildings in Lima is the old University of San Marcos, the oldest in America.

Lima's central square is called the Plaza de Mayor. There is much dignity in its ample space, much beauty in its fine proportions, in its central fountain, its palms, flowering trees and statues. Besides all this, the Plaza de Mayor has a wealth of historic association, dating back to the time of Pizarro.

[Illustration] from Our South American Neighbors by G. Southworth


It is expected that the Panama Canal will prove a very great benefit to Peru by bringing the republic's products much nearer to the great markets of the world. The canal also opens up Peru more fully as a market for the products of the United States. Thus we of the United States extend our hands in greeting to our now closer neighbors, Lima, and her wonderfully productive country, Peru.

Questions for Review and Study

  1. Tell the story of Pizarro and the Incas.
  2. What city is the capital of Peru?
  3. Describe its people.
  4. Describe the streets of Lima. and tell why their width is an advantage.
  5. What climate has Lima and how does it affect the habits and customs of the people?
  6. For what is Lima indebted to the Rimac river?
  7. Describe a trip over the Peru Central railroad.
  8. Name Peru's mineral products.
  9. Into what three sections may Peru be divided?
  10. Give the products of each section.
  11. Describe a llama and tell why the llamas are important to Peru.
  12. Name the other animals found in Peru.
  13. Give the leading industries of Lima.