Extract of a letter from an Englishman, dated Lima, Septemper 10, 1821
“Lima is what an Englishman would call a dirty colonial town; 6000 inhabitants is the outside of its population; the whites are about 1200 Europeans, and not as many born in the country; the rest are blacks and mulattoes. Of the mulattoes there are eight various shades. I never saw such a wretched herd as Lima incloses; more poverty and misery than in any town of the size in the world.– There are some few splendid houses, but the rest so disgustingly filthy that you cannot go into them without being covered with dust and vermin. The streets, as in all American towns, run at right angles; a powerful stream of water in each; the town is capable of great improvement. The climate must be bad, for the whole population look as if turned out of the hospitals for a day’s air; a half-born race–melancholy in their faces. On the whole coast of Peru we made the same observation; the ague very general, with fever–their habits and manner of living increase the evil; thin clothing and vegetable diet–nights very cold –I sleep under a heavy blanket, and could bear another; a thick fog prevents the sun from coming out in winter; the heat however is not excessive during summer; on the whole not an oppressive climate, if the people had any idea of living in a rational way. Very few families cook at home℃they buy their greasy messes boiled in the streets, in pulperias, and in the squares; not six families in Lima that have wine on their tables; they drink brandy at all hours, and excuse themselves for not having any thing that is expensive by saying it gives the ague; the same person who denies himself a glass of wine will lay twenty doubloons on a card in the evening. Their money goes in gambling, debauchery, and dress; every woman, high and low, has her price; a lady takes no offence at her frailty being exposed; she tells you she is quite at good as her neighbours, and needs be no better. The Spanish nation and Government are the cause of all the degradation of South America; every Viceroy, from Pizarro to Pezuela, was a plunderer, a teacher of immorality in words and deeds. The miserable state of this people seems incredible–one must see to believe it; scarcely a young lady can read or write, or use a needle; few houses that the Devil has not appeared in; and a devout lady is accompanied in her carriage by the Virgin Mary. Thus is ignorance imposed upon by knaves; as to priestcraft, it reigns here in all its glory; a third part of Lima is covered with churches, some of them very splendid. The whole trade of this part of Peru depends on the single mine of the mountain of Pasco for returns; if this is worked to advantage, it will produce six millions of dollars; but if the country is disturbed by war, not a dollar will they have. The exports of Peru, in ordinary times, were five millions of dollars in pecie, and one million in produce. Mininng may be carried to any extent, it is true; but this requires tranquillity and good government. People in Europe have the most erroneous ideas or Peru; every traveller and historian who has written or talked about it ought to be made to stand in the pillory for a liar.”
“Arica, the second port of Peru, and the great outlet to Upper Peru, is a wretched village of hovels covered with mud–about 400 Mulattoes and Indians–placed on a sand bank–the people all in the ague–not a boat or ship of any sort. The harbour-master came off on bulsa, (two bladders lashed together,) paddled by an Indian. We could not get a basket of fruit or vegetablse for money. Their cultuvation was three leagues off, but they were too lazy to fetch any thing, though a seventy-four and a frigate lay-to twnety hours, offering them any price for their tropical fruits.
“I hire a small room for 12 dollars a month, and sleep on the ground; borrowed a chair, and bought some crockery. No such thing as a tavern; never was. Letters of no use; no one asks me to his house. I go to bed at eight o’clock to kill time. A play twice a week; the most fashionable ladies stand up in the front boxes, and light a segar by the chandelier; the house filled with smoke.
“There are 82 titled families, mostly idiots–all reduced to poverty by the emancipation of their slaves. If the war be continued a year, Peru will be the most wretched country on the globe; indeed the Indians will regain their empire, and exterminate all other colours. the number of blacks in the viceroyalty is estimated at seventy thousand– 25,000 in Lima and adjacent village, the total population of Peru about three millions–three-fourths Indians.
“About the town there are many fine gardens with pretty country houses. Provisions of all sorts excellent, and in the greatest variety; fruits of all climates in the marketplace, the produce of the sea-shore and the Cordillera.– Beef and mutton excellent–the chief supplies come from Janja and other vallies in the Cordillera. The sea-shore produce is continued to little vallies badly cultivated; those about the town would disgrace the free negroes of Carolina. Most valuable land a league from the town, half cultivated and half abandoned; every thing left to starved slaves; such famished objects I never beheld; no other hands to cultivate. When emancipation becomes general, they will not work, and famine must ensue.”
Citation: Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, United Kingdom), 28 January 1822, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/367.