Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

straggled about the city, which, heard moving at a distance and not answering the challenge, were fired upon without ceremony.

There was but one paper in Guatimala, and that a weekly, and a mere chronicler of decrees and political movements. City news passed by word of mouth. Every morning everybody asked his neighbour what was the news. One day it was that an old deaf woman, who could not hear the sentinel's challenge, had been shot; another, that Asturias, a rich old citizen, had been stabbed; and another morning the report circulated that thirty-three nuns in the convent of Santa Teresa had been poisoned. This was a subject of excitement for several days, when the nuns all recovered, and it was ascertained that they had suffered from the unsentimental circumstance of eating food that did not agree with them.

On Friday, in company with my fair countrywoman, I visited the convent of La Concepcion for the purpose of embracing a nun, or rather the nun, who had taken the black veil. The room adjoining the parlatoria of the convent was crowded, and she was standing in the doorway with the crown on her head and a doll in her hand. It was the last time her friends could see her face; but this puerile exhibition of the doll detracted from the sentiment. It was an occasion that addressed itself particularly to ladies; some wondered that one so young should abandon a world to them beaming with bright and beautiful prospects; others, with whom the dreams of life had passed, looked upon her retirement as the part of wisdom. They embraced her, and retired to make room for others. Before our turn came there was an irruption of those objects of my detestation, the eternal soldiers, who, leaving their

[ocr errors]

muskets at the door, forced their way through the crowd, and presenting themselves, though respectfully, for an embrace, retired. By her side was a black nun, with a veil so thick that not a lineament of her face could be seen, whom my countrywoman had known during her seclusion in the convent, and described as young, of exceeding beauty and loveliness, and around whom she threw a charm which almost awakened a spirit of romance. I would have made some sacrifice for one glimpse of her face. At length our turn came ; my fair companion embraced her, and, after many farewell words, recommended me as her countryman. I never had much practice in embracing nuns; in fact, it was the first time I ever attempted such a thing; but it came as natural as if I had been brought up to it. My right arm encircled her neck, her right arm mine; I rested my head upon her shoulder, and she hers upon mine; but a friend's grandmother never received a more respectful embrace. “Stolen joys are always dearest;” there were too many looking on. The grating closed, and the face of the nun will never be seen again. That afternoon Carrera returned to the city. I was extremely desirous to know him, and made an arrangement with Mr. Pavon to call upon him the next day. At ten o’clock the next morning Mr. Pavon called for me. I was advised that this formidable chief was taken by external show, and put on the diplomatic coat, with a great profusion of buttons, which had produced such an effect at Copan, and which, by-the-way, owing to the abominable state of the country, I never had an opportunity of wearing afterward, and the cost of which was a dead loss. Carrera was living in a small house in a retired street. Sentinels were at the door, and eight or ten soldiers basking in the sun outside, part of a body-guard, who had been fitted out with red bombazet jackets and tartan plaid caps, and made a much better appearance than any of his soldiers I had before seen. Along the corridor was a row of muskets, bright and in good order. We entered a small room adjoining the sala, and saw Carrera sitting at a table counting money.

Ever since my arrival in the country this name of terror had been ringing in my ears. Mr. Montgomery, to whom I have before referred, and who arrived in Central America about a year before me, says, " An insurrection, I was told, had taken place among the Indians, who, under the directions of a man called Carrera, were ravaging the country and committing all kinds of excesses. Along the coast, and in some of the departments, tranquillity had not been disturbed; but in the interior there was no safety for the traveller, and every avenue to the capital was beset by parties of brigands, who showed no mercy to their victims, especially if they were foreigners ;" and in referring to the posture of affairs at his departure he adds, " It is probable, however, that while this is being written, the active measures of General Morazan for putting down the insurrection have been successful, and that the career of this rebel hero has been brought to a close." But the career of the " rebel hero" was not brought to a close; the " man called Carrera" was now absolute master of Guatimala; and, if I am not deceived, he is destined to become more conspicuous than any other leader who has yet risen in the convulsions of Spanish America.

He is a native of one of the wards of Guatimala. His friends, in compliment, call him a mulatto; I, for the same reason, call him an Indian, considering that

[ocr errors]

the better blood of the two. In 1829 he was a drummer-boy in Colonel Aycinema's regiment. When the Liberal or Democratic party prevailed, and General Morazan entered the city, Carrera broke his drum and retired to the village of Matasquintla. Here he entered into business as a pig-driver, and for several years continued in this respectable occupation, probably as free as one of his own pigs from any dreams of future greatness. The excesses of political parties, severe exactions for the support of government, encroachments upon the property of the Church, and innovations, particularly the introduction of the Livingston Code, establishing trial by jury, and making marriage a civil contract, created discontent throughout the country. The last gave great offence to the clergy, who exercised an unbounded influence over the minds of the Indians. In 1837 the cholera, which, in its destructive march over the habitable world, had hitherto spared this portion of the American continent, made its terrible appearance, and, besides strewing it with dead, proved the immediate cause of political convulsions. The priests persuaded the Indians that the foreigners had poisoned the waters. Galvez, who was at that time the chief of the state, sent medicines into all the villages, which, being ignorantly administered, sometimes produced fatal consequences; and the priests, always opposed to the Liberal party, persuaded the Indians that the government was endeavouring to poison and destroy their race. The Indians became excited all over the country; and in Matasquintla they rose in mass, with Carrera at their head, crying “Viva la Religion, y muerte a los Etrangeros " The first blow was struck by murdering the judges appointed under the Livingston Code. Galvez sent a commission, with detachVol. I–F F

ments of cavalry and a white flag, to hear their complaints; but while conferring with the insurgents they were surrounded, and almost all of them cut to pieces. The number of the disaffected increased to more than a thousand, and Galvez sent against them six hundred troops, who routed them, plundered and burned their villages, and, among other excesses, the last outrage was perpetrated upon Carrera's wife. Roused to fury by this personal wrong, he joined with several chiefs of villages, vowing never to lay down his arms while an officer of Morazan remained in the state. "With a few infuriated followers he went from village to village, killing the judges and government officers, when pursued escaping to the mountains, begging tortillas at the haciendas for his men, and sparing and protecting all who assisted him. At this time he could neither read nor write; but, urged on and assisted by some priests, particularly one Padre Lobo, a notorious profligate, he issued a proclamation, having his name stamped at the foot of it, against strangers and the government, for attempting to poison the Indians, demanding the destruction of all foreigners excepting the Spaniards, the abolition of the Livingston Code, a recall of the archbishop and friars, the expulsion of heretics, and a restoration of the privileges of the Church and old usages and customs. His fame spread as a highwayman and murderer; the roads about Guatimala were unsafe; all travelling was broken up; the merchants were thrown into consternation by intelligence that the whole of the goods sent to the fair at Esquipulas had fallen into his hands (which, however, proved untrue); and very soon he became so strong that he attacked villages and even towns.

The reader will bear in mind that this was in the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »