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PERSONAL NARRATIVE

OF A

JOURNEY

TO THE

EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS

OF

THE NEW CONTINENT.

CHAPTER XXV.

Spanish Guiana.-Angostura.-Palm-inhabiting tribes.-Missions of the Capuchins.-The Laguna Parime.-El Dorado.-Legendary tales of the early voyagers.

I SHALL commence this chapter by a description of Spanish Guiana (Provincia de la Guyana), which is a part of the ancient Capitania general of Caracas. Since the end of the sixteenth century three towns have successively borne the name of St. Thomas of Guiana. The first was situated opposite to the island of Faxardo, at the confluence of the Carony and the Orinoco, and was destroyed* by the

*The first of the voyages undertaken at Raleigh's expense was in 1595; the second, that of Laurence Keymis, in 1596; the third, described by Thomas Masham, in 1597; and the fourth, in 1617. The first and last only were performed by Raleigh in person. This celebrated man was beheaded October the 29th, 1618. It is therefore the second town of Santo Tomas, now called Vieja Guyana, which existed in the time of Raleigh.

YOL. III.

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Dutch, under the command of Captain Adrian Janson, in 1579. The second, founded by Antonio de Berrio in 1591, near twelve leagues east of the mouth of the Carony, made a courageous resistance to Sir Walter Raleigh, whom the Spanish writers of the conquest know only by the name of the pirate Reali. The third town, now the capital of the province, is fifty leagues west of the confluence of the Carony. It was begun in 1764, under the Governor Don Joacquin Moreno de Mendoza, and is distinguished in the public documents from the second town, vulgarly called the fortress (el castillo, las fortalezas), or Old Guayana (Vieja Guayana), by the name of Santo Thomé de la Nueva Guayana. This name being very long, that of Angostura* (the strait) has been commonly substituted for it.

Angostura, the longitude and latitude of which I have already indicated from astronomical observations, stands at the foot of a hill of amphibolic schist bare of vegetation. The streets are regular, and for the most part parallel with the course of the river. Several of the houses are built on the bare rock; and here, as at Carichana, and in many other parts of the missions, the action of black and strong strata, when strongly heated by the rays of the sun upon the atmosphere, is considered injurious to health. I think the small pools of stagnant water (lagunas y anegadizos), which extend behind the town in the direction of south-east, are more to be feared. The houses of Angostura are lofty and convenient; they are for the most part built of stone; which proves that the inhabitants have but little dread of earthquakes. But unhappily this security is not founded on induction from any precise data. It is true, that the shore of Nueva Andalusia sometimes undergoes very violent shocks, without the commotion being propagated across the Llanos. The fatal catastrophe of Cumana, on the 4th of February, 1797, was not felt at Angostura; but in the great earthquake of 1766, which destroyed the same city, the

Europe has learnt the existence of the town of Angostura by the trade carried on by the Catalonians in the Carony bark, which is the beneficial bark of the Bonplanda trifoliata. This bark, coming from Nueva Guiana, was called corteza or cascarilla del Angostura (Cortex Angostura). Botanists so little guessed the origin of this geographical denomination that they began by writing Augustura, and then Augusta. † Hornblendschiefer.

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granitic soil of the two banks of the Orinoco was agitated as far as the Raudales of Atures and Maypures. South of these Raudales shocks are sometimes felt, which are confined to the basin of the Upper Orinoco and the Rio Negro. They appear to depend on a volcanic focus distant from that of the Caribbee Islands. We were told by the missionaries at Javita and San Fernando de Atabapo, that in 1798 violent earthquakes took place between the Guaviare and the Rio Negro, which were not propagated on the north towards Maypures. We cannot be sufficiently attentive to whatever relates to the simultaneity of the oscillations, and to the independence of the movements in contiguous ground. Everything seems to prove that the propagation of the commotion is not superficial, but depends on very deep crevices, that terminate in different centres of action.

The scenery around the town of Angostura is little varied; but the view of the river, which forms a vast canal, stretching from south-west to north-east, is singularly majestic.

When the waters are high, the river inundates the quays; and it sometimes happens that, even in the town, imprudent persons become the prey of crocodiles. I shall transcribe from my journal a fact that took place during M. Bonpland's illness. A Guaykeri Indian, from the island of La Margareta, was anchoring his canoe in a cove where there were not three feet of water. A very fierce crocodile, which habitually haunted that spot, seized him by the leg, and withdrew from the shore, remaining on the surface of the water. The cries of the Indian drew together a crowd of spectators. This unfortunate man was first seen seeking, with astonishing presence of mind, for a knife which he had in his pocket. Not being able to find it, he seized the head of the crocodile and thrust his fingers into its eyes. No man in the hot regions of America is ignorant that this carnivorous reptile, covered with a buckler of hard and dry scales, is extremely sensitive in the only parts of his body which are soft and unprotected, such as the eyes, the hollow underneath the shoulders, the nostrils, and beneath the lower jaw, where there are two glands of musk. The Guaykeri Indian was less fortunate than the negro of Mungo Park, and the girl of Uritucu, whom I mentioned in a former part of this work, for the crocodile did not open its jaws and lose hold

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