THE PLAN BOOK SERIES
A LITTLE JOURNEY TO PUERTO RICO for intermediate and upper grades
BY MARIAN M. GEORGE
A LITTLE JOURNEY TO PUERTO RICO
Do you know what people mean when they speak of "Our New Possessions"? What are they? Where are they? Why are men, in the streets, in the shops, everywhere, talking about them? Why are the newspapers full of articles in regard to them? Why are our lawmakers at the capital devoting so much time and attention to them? Can you tell?
Some of these things you can easily ascertain for yourselves. Others we will speak of here.
The new territory which has lately come into the possession of the United States, consists of the islands of Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines. Cuba is not included in this list; it is soon to be an independent country.
Since Puerto Rico and these other islands have come to be parts of the United States, everyone is anxious to learn something more of them.
The best way to learn the geography of a country and the customs of the people is to visit the country and see with your own eyes.
That would be a difficult thing for most of us. The next best way is to make the journey in imagination, and that all of us can do.
The island nearest us is Puerto Rico, the most eastern island of the Greater Antilles. Let us visit that first and the other islands later on.
We must find out something of the climate, however, before we start on this journey. This may not be the right season of the year to go. We must know, too, what kind of clothing to take with us.
In order to plan our route wisely, we must know something of the geography of the island. We should also know the past history of Puerto Rico, in order to understand the customs of the people and the conditions that exist there.
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LOCATION, SIZE, SURFACE.
If you will find a map of the West Indies in your atlas or geography, you will also find Puerto Rico. It is one of the four Greater Antilles Islands, and lies east of Haiti and farthest out in the Atlantic Ocean.
It is over four hundred miles from the east coast of Cuba, one thousand miles from Havana, and about one thousand four hundred and fifty miles from New York.
In size it is the smallest of the group. Its area is about three thousand five hundred and fifty square miles. Its average length is about ninety-five miles; its average breadth about thirty-five miles.
In shape it resembles the State of Connecticut, though it is only three-fourths the size of that State.
Puerto Rico, in English, means Rich Harbor. But Puerto Rico is not rich in harbors. There are not more than six good harbors, but it has less than three hundred and fifty miles of coast line.
The surface of Puerto Rico is mountainous. A range of hills traverses the island from east to west. The hills are low and their sides are covered with vegetation. The hills are not rocky and barren, but are cultivated to their very tops.
The lower valleys are rich pasture lands or cultivated plantations. The knolls have orchards of cocoanuts and other trees. Coffee, protected by the shade of other trees, grows to the summits of the green hills. The ground is covered everywhere with a thick carpeting of grass.
The soil is remarkably fertile. This is due partly to the fine climate, partly to abundant moisture. The island has many fast flowing rivers. There are over twelve hundred of these. In the mountains are numerous springs and water falls, but these are hidden by the overhanging giant ferns and plants.
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BRIEF HISTORY OF PUERTO RICO.
Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus November 17, 1493. He made a landing at a bay, where he found springs of pure water, which was much needed on his ships. This place he named Aguadilla, which means "the watering place."
In 1508 Ponce de Leon, a Spanish navigator, visited the island, and was much pleased with its beautiful scenery and with the hospitality of the natives. A year or two later he returned, and founded the town of Caparra. In 1509 he founded the city of San Juan on the island that guards the entrance on the east.
When Ponce de Leon came to the island, he found it inhabited by a happy, harmless people who received him with delight. They brought gifts to him, and showed him and his soldiers gold, which was found in the river beds.
The kindness of the natives was rewarded by cruelty on the part of the Spaniards. They were ruthlessly murdered or reduced to slavery, and compelled to work in the mines. A revolution followed in which the greater number of the natives were killed.
The severe work required of those remaining so shortened their lives that very soon all had disappeared. Not a descendant of this race is now living, but many curious and interesting relics, left by them, may be found.
One of these is a stone collar, shaped like a horse collar, and skillfully carved. This was placed upon the breast of the native after his death, and was supposed to keep him from harm.
Ponce de Leon built for himself a castle on the point of land above the mouth of the harbor of San Juan, and here he lived until he sailed on the voyage which resulted in the discovery of Florida.
After his departure, Puerto Rico was left alone for a long time. After some years, Spain sent peasants to colonize the island, and slaves were introduced to cultivate the plantations.
In 1870 the island was made a province of Spain, instead of a colony. In 1873 slavery was abolished.
Puerto Rico came into the possession of the United States as the result of the recent war with Spain. It was ceded to the United States Sept. 6, 1898.
Gen. George R. Davis is now Military Governor of the island. The form of government for Puerto Rico has not yet been decided upon. It is one of the problems that Congress is now working out.
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Puerto Rico is a very beautiful island. Its climate and scenery attract many visitors, and erelong it will be a popular winter resort for people from many countries.
It has been called the land of perpetual June. Flowers bloom and plants and trees yield fruit the year round. There is no winter; but during the season which is our winter, their skies are beautifully clear and blue.
The air is neither dry nor moist, but perfect. The nights are always cool, and the trade winds keep the hottest days from being unpleasant. The average temperature is only 80 deg.. It is the coolest and the healthiest place in the West Indies.
There are two seasons, the rainy and the dry. The rainy season lasts from July to December; the dry, from January to June. From November to June the climate is more than usually delightful and healthful. In the summer months it is somewhat warm, and the heat and dampness are oppressive in August and September.
In September and October the rain comes in torrents, but it rains in the mountains almost every day in the year. The daily showers of the rainy season usually come late in the afternoon, but the sky clears up with the setting sun.
The people pay little attention to drainage or to securing a supply of good water. As a result, fevers are common during the summer months among the people who live in crowded quarters in the city or in the marshes.
Hurricanes occasionally occur between the months of July and October. These are sometimes accompanied by earthquake shocks. People may be injured or killed and their homes destroyed during these violent storms. Puerto Rico, however, is freer from them than other islands of the West Indies.
It is easy to tell when a hurricane is approaching. The wind dies away and a deathly stillness falls over everything. Not a breath of air moves. The leaves droop on the trees and the heat almost smothers one.
The sky becomes copper-colored, and tints everything with a ghastly hue. The cattle and other animals seem to know that danger is near, and rush about in a terrified way.
Far out in the ocean the water is calm and smooth; but near the shore the waves rush furiously upon the beach with a mighty roar.
By and by the wind begins to rise, just a little; first from one direction, and then from another. This is a sign that the storm is near at hand. Very soon a fearful roar is heard, and all at once the hurricane descends upon the island.
The work of destruction begins. Trees are uprooted, growing crops are laid waste, and houses are torn down and scattered in every direction. Sometimes whole villages are destroyed and many people killed or wounded.
When the barometer tells of the approach of a storm, the people prepare for it. They hunt some hole, cave, or cellar into which to crawl. They take with them, when there is time to do so, a supply of cane juice and food, to last until the storm subsides.
"The people guard as much as possible from the hurricanes by building their houses of stone with massive walls. They provide strong bars for doors and windows. When the barometer gives notice of the approach of a storm, these bars are brought out, and everything is at once made fast.
"Doors and window-shutters are closed, barred, and double locked, and the town looks as if it were deserted by all human beings. The state of suspense, while the hurricane lasts, is dreadful, for no one knows when the house may fall and bury all beneath its ruins.
"Add to this the howling of the blasts, the crash of falling trees, the piercing cries for help from the wounded and dying, and one may faintly picture the terrible scene. To venture out is almost certain death, the air is so filled with flying missiles, such as boards, bricks, tiles, stones, and branches of trees."
It is indeed fortunate that the people of Puerto Rico are largely free from these desolating storms. Some idea of their power for destruction may be gathered from the pictures in our papers of Galveston, Texas, after the recent hurricane there.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE TRIP.
The best time for us to visit Puerto Rico, then, is after the hurricane season, in the winter. January, February, and March are the favorite months of travelers.
But if we wish to celebrate the four hundred and seventh anniversary of the discovery of the island, we must go in November. It was the 17th day of this month that Columbus first visited Puerto Rico.
We will need to take our thinnest clothing for use on the island, but we should have light wraps for the cool evenings.
We should also go well provided with umbrellas, rubber overshoes, and rain coats, if we do not wish to spend many afternoons indoors.
Now the best way to reach Puerto Rico is not, as many people think, from Cuba. San Juan, the capital, is nearly as far from Havana as from New York.
We will take the steamer from New York that goes directly to San Juan. If the weather is good, we may expect to make the voyage in four days.
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What a busy crowd it is through which we pass to the New York wharf! Dozens of large ships and hundreds of small vessels and sailboats crowd the harbor.
There is a large steamer just going out. It is loaded with hardware, kerosene, pine lumber, and codfish, and is probably bound for South America.
Crowds of people are going on deck with departing friends. Many of the friends have brought or sent flowers and steamer-letters, to be enjoyed by the travelers, during the voyage.
Now the bell sounds a warning to our visitors to say good-by. They leave the boat, and soon we are off. As we leave the harbor we listen to the band playing "America" and the "Star Spangled Banner," and take the last glimpse of our native land which we shall have for a month.
It is not far from the dinner hour, so we now visit the dining-room for the purpose of securing our place at the table from the head steward.
We next secure a steamer chair, and have the deck steward place it in a comfortable, sheltered place on deck. It is well, before long, to visit our staterooms, and put our clothes and other belongings in order for the trip.
By the time this is done dinner is announced. Somehow we do not feel very hungry. The vessel rolls about so that we begin to feel dizzy. We think we would rather go to bed, and we try to do so, but find it rather difficult.
The stewardess comes in just then, and asks if she may help us. With her assistance we climb into our berths. Rock, rock, rock! If the boat would only be quiet one moment! We are very seasick by this time, and feel as if we never wish to eat another meal. The motion of the boat lulls us to sleep by and by, and the next thing we know it is morning.
The air in our stateroom seems close and "stuffy," so we gladly leave it and go on deck, where we remain for the rest of the day. The steward serves our meals to us here, and we spend the time in our steamer chairs, watching the white-capped waves, the sea gulls over us, and the porpoises following the boat for food.
After the first day out we sail into smoother seas and warmer weather. We throw aside our wraps and put on lighter clothing. We also don broad shade-hats to protect our eyes from the glare of the light upon the water.
A favorable wind bears us southward to the tropical sea, which many people consider among the most beautiful things in the world.
The water of the Bahama sea is wonderful because of its clearness and its deep purple color. A cloud shadow changes the purple into emerald.
Looking down into the clear depths, we see the dolphins as distinctly as the birds overhead. Shoals of flying fish dart out of the water, their fins serving as sails for an instant; then they drop back again.
Many other new and interesting objects and scenes add to the pleasure of our voyage from the great northern metropolis to the capital of the island in the southern seas. These we can not tell about now.
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While we are learning of the plant and animal life about and beneath us, the good ship bears us swiftly on, and all too soon we are at our journey's end.
We seem hardly to have left the shadow of Liberty's towering torch in New York harbor, before the gray walls of Morro Castle appear above the horizon. Far out at sea, this massive stone fort with its beacon light attracts our attention.
Across the harbor entrance the white-capped waves rush furiously over each other in a mad race toward the shore. Passing through this narrow channel, the ship glides into the harbor under the guns of the two picturesque old forts which guard it, and we get our first glimpse of San Juan.
Our first view of this beautiful old city fills us with anticipations of pleasure. We find that the ground upon which the city lies slopes upward from the calm, broad harbor to the forts that guard its heights.
Here and there a tall palm-tree rears its graceful head above the tops of the gayly colored buildings that glisten in the sunlight.
Our guide tells us that San Juan is one of the most perfectly fortified cities in the world. It is easy to believe this when, from the ocean and from the bay, we see the massive walls and battlements of the forts that guard the north and east.
We learn that they are cut from the solid rock which crowns the crest of the narrow peninsula. The steep walls of the vast castle of San Cristobal overshadow the whole city.
The city is built on an island, connected with the mainland by a bridge.
It is surrounded by a high, thick stone wall: that is, it was once upon a time; but the city is now extended far beyond the walls. Inside is the city proper, or old San Juan. Outside are the more modern buildings and the suburbs.
San Juan is not only the seat of government, but it is considered the first city of Puerto Rico in interest and in importance. Ponce, however, disputes this claim. It has the best harbor, and the best public buildings, churches and schools on the island.
The palace of the governor-general and the headquarters of the American administration we find located in San Juan.
Over thirty thousand people make their homes in this city, and a goodly number of them we find at the shore to meet our vessel. They do not wait for us to land. They come out to meet us.
Dusky natives in landing boats are soon alongside, and we learn to our surprise that our ship does not go to the dock. We are to go ashore in these small awning-covered boats. This is a new experience for us, but it is an old Spanish custom.
The steward of the ship tells us that we may retain our rooms and use the ship as a hotel during the stay in port, going ashore for sight-seeing when we like.
We have heard that the hotels in San Juan are very poor; but of course we wish to see for ourselves what they are like, and so we decide to give them a trial.
We are in no hurry to seek the hotels, however. The streets of San Juan present so many novel sights to our wandering eyes that we wish to look about first.
We have been told that we could walk all over the town in an hour, and we resolve to try it.
The streets are narrow and dark, but well paved and clean. They ought to be clean, for they are swept by hand every day. The sidewalks are so narrow that only two of us can walk abreast, so we take to the road. This is used as a highway for people as well as vehicles.
Naked little children of all ages and colors play about the streets and on the sidewalks. Colored men and women, smoking black cigars, saunter idly about. Street venders carrying their stores upon their heads or backs, or in large panniers upon tiny ponies, fill the air with cries announcing their wares.
Judging from the number of the venders of drinks we see on the streets, every one in San Juan is thirsty. We are, at any rate, and very delicious we find their ices and sherbets, their iced orange, lemon and strawberry waters, iced cherries, milk, coffee and chocolate.
Fruit sellers under the arcades and in stalls tempt us with their attractive wares; but the fruits are new and strange to us, and we hesitate about buying.
The hack drivers are asleep on closed carriages at the hack stand. Long lines of clumsy carts, with high wheels, rumble over the cobblestone pavements with a dreadful clatter.
In the open doorways of shops we see men and women manufacturing articles for sale. Some are making chairs, some shoes, some jewelry, some boxes, and, in one place, we see a number of workmen making coffins.
We are interested in observing that flags of different colors are used as signs, and that the walls are painted with brilliant pictures. In the quarter near the sea, the brandy stores, built of reeds, have round them swarms of beggars of every degree.
The laundry shop we find just outside the city, beside a large creek. A laundry not built by hands! Here women stand knee-deep in the stream, with the hot sun beating down upon their heads. They are doing their laundry work. The clothes are cleaned by soaking them in water and pounding them with stones. We wonder if there are any buttons left on the clothes after this treatment, and resolve not to trust our clothes to this laundry.
We note outside the city wall a broad concrete walk; along this walk seats, trees, and rude statues; and between the walk and the wall an ornamental garden.
Having now taken a general stroll, we will rest up preparatory to our visit to the points of special interest.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN SAN JUAN.
We are now ready to visit the places of unusual interest about the capital city. The most noted buildings are the governor's palace, the cathedral, the city hall, the arsenal, the buildings used as quarters for the troops, the forts, the castles of Morro and San Cristobal, the house which Ponce de Leon built, the palace of the bishop, the theater, the hospital, the orphan asylum, the poorhouse, the jail, the library, and the colleges.
In the heart of the town, facing the City Hall, the guide shows us a public plaza; and under the frowning walls of San Cristobal, on the outskirts of the city, he points out another. These plazas are flat, open spaces, paved with cement and surrounded by rows of shade trees.
In the plaza of Columbus, on the outskirts of the city, is a handsome statue of Columbus. Facing this plaza is the grand theater.
In the cool of the evening, the people gather in these plazas, and listen to the music of the band.
One of the most interesting buildings in the, city to us is the "White House of Ponce de Leon." It is still standing where it looked northward over the sea so long ago.
On the side toward the bay is an old wall, and beyond this is a beautiful garden and rows of palm trees. From the windows we get a fine view of the bay.
The people of San Juan have honored its founder with a statue, which stands in the center of one of its plazas.
His remains are preserved in a leaden box in the church of Santo Domingo.
We find the famous Morro Castle to be a small military town in itself, with houses, chapel, barracks, dungeons, water tanks, warehouses, and also a light tower, a signal station, and a light-saving station.
This ancient fort is the beginning of the wall which surrounds the city.
THE MARKET PLACE.
Look at these people coming in from the country! Our guide says they are going to the market place. Let us follow them and see what a Puerto Rican market place is.
Here it is, situated near the ocean. The court is formed with stones, and it contains booths for fruits, vegetables, and produce of all kinds.
Dear me! what a busy, noisy place! People from every race and nation seem to be gathered here. Big people, little people, babies, roosters, dogs, donkeys, horses! What talking, shouting, laughing, crying, crowing, barking, and braying!
Men are smoking, lounging about, and bragging about their game-cocks; women are making small purchases and gossiping with neighbors; babies are tumbling about on the ground, devouring bits of fruit that come in their way: but all are good-natured.
Each market man or woman has a place assigned, and within this space or in a booth are piled high heaps of fruits and vegetables. And such fruits and vegetables we never in our lives beheld or even dreamed of!
Heaps and heaps of golden, luscious oranges are offered us by the thousand, or two for a penny. Bananas are sold five for a cent, or a bunch of a hundred bananas for twenty-five cents. Think of it! In New York it would cost us three to five dollars.
There are ever and ever so many kinds of fruits of which we do not even know the name. But we make a list of those whose names we do know, and here they are: oranges, bananas, plantains, limes, lemons, cocoanuts, bread-fruit, bread nuts, pomegranates, dates, figs, pawpaws, the tamarind, sugar apple, grosella, mammee, guava, granadilla, naseberry, alligator pears, shaddocks, and Indian plums.
Could you find so many in a New York, New Orleans, Chicago, or San Francisco market, do you think?
Then here are the vegetables. They would make even a longer list, but we note a few of those with whose names and forms we are acquainted: yams, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, carrots, turnips, celery, beets, egg plant, radishes, peas, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelons, squashes, peppers, cassava, yantias, and okra.
The people in the market, seeing that we are Americans, try to charge us many times what each article is worth. If we travel very far, we will find that this is a custom of the people in many countries. They think all Americans are rich.
Now this is a great mistake, and so we decline very firmly to buy anything at all. This offends the market people. They wish us to make them an offer.
They offer us their fruits for half the first price. Again we refuse. A fourth of the original price. We shake our heads.
Our guide now offers to make our purchases for us, and does so for a very small sum. And the market people and venders are quite satisfied. It is all they expected.
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HOMES AND HOME LIFE.
A narrow, shaded street tempts us to leave the noisy, business part of the town and the throng that crowds these streets and plazas, and stray into the suburbs.
No matter which way we turn, some new picture meets our eyes.
Wandering along, we peep into doorways, courtyards and pleasant patios. Some of the houses have crosses upon their summits, to show the devotion of the inmates to their religion.
Others have a palm branch twined among the iron bars of their balconies, or placed aloft, to protect the house from evil. This branch was one of those blessed at the cathedral the last Palm Sunday.
A piece of white paper floating from the iron railing of a balcony tells us that the house is to let. Here buildings can be rented by the day or week, as well as by the month or year.
The dwellings and other buildings are of gray stone or brick, stuccoed over and tinted blue, yellow, drab or any other color but pink.
About half the houses are two stories in height, the others one story; but all are flat-roofed and without chimneys. The main or upper story has iron balconies which project over the narrow streets and darken them. The houses have no windows of glass, but the window openings are provided with heavy shutters. We enter these houses through interior courts or patios.
Many of the rich Puerto Ricans have fountains, trees, and flowers in these open central courts; a few have roof gardens. Here the family sits in the evening to catch the cool sea breezes. Others sit on their balconies along the outside of the house, or along the inner court or patio.
The patio is the coolest place about the house during the heated hours of the day. Here the women bring their sewing or embroidery, and chat. It is also the favorite playground of the children, and in its shade the men of the household take their afternoon nap.
There are no yards or gardens attached to these houses. The only green spots to be found are the inner courts, the public squares or plazas, and the garden of the Governor-General's palace.
There is no portion of the city set aside for the rich or the poor. People of means, of education, and of refinement live in the upper stories. The poor live in crowded rooms and patios, and in basements or in dirty alleys.
Many of the wealthy, fashionable people live in the pretty suburban towns. Others, who are engaged in business in the cities, live over their stores, on the second floor.
The lower floors are occupied by servants, or poor people. To reach the upper stories of these buildings, we must pass through a crowd of children, dogs, and poultry in the courtyard below.
Upstairs the rooms are large and the ceilings lofty. The windows reach to the floor, and the shutters are kept open to admit the air.
The homes of even the wealthy seem to us plainly furnished. There is no upholstered furniture. It is too warm for this, they tell us. But wood furniture, wickerwork, and willow ware are used.
The floors in the best houses are tiled or are made of hard wood.
Carpets are never used, but rugs are seen occasionally in the center of a room.
The bedrooms are small and not well ventilated. The beds are canopied and trimmed with fine handmade lace.
The walls are usually bare; but here and there a fine painting may be seen. Giant ferns and broad-spreading palm leaves are used to festoon the walls and arched doorways. These are cut fresh and renewed from day to day, and they make the dark, cool rooms attractive and inviting. Within and without the house, potted tropical plants are found.
Peeping into the bath room of one of these homes we see, not a bath tub, but a swimming pool large enough to accommodate a young whale.
We think this an improvement on our bath tubs at home, and of the joy it would give the average United States boy to add such a feature to his own home.
FOOD AND DRINK.
For water the people have, until quite recently, been dependent upon cisterns, in which the rain that falls upon the flat roofs is collected. These cisterns are in the patio, or courtyard, and an open drain runs through the same place.
Much of the cooking is done here by the poorer people.
It seems to us that cooking in houses without chimneys would be rather difficult, but then these people do not use stoves or coal. They cook over a small pot, or brazier, or furnace of charcoal.
They cook less food, too, than people who live in the North. They live largely on fruits and vegetables and have little meat.
Ice is used only by the families of the wealthy, and it is impossible to keep milk or fresh meat for any length of time. In place of ice-water the people store water in porous jars, and in this way it is kept cool.
They prepare many refreshing drinks to be used in place of water by using oranges, lemons, limes, cocoanuts, and the milk of almonds.
They also indulge very often in little ices, which the venders bring to the doors many times a day.
The poorer people, who can not afford to indulge in such expensive drinks and ices, use barley water, or water with toasted corn and sugar in it.
The people have coffee or chocolate and biscuits for the first or early breakfast. The second breakfast is eaten between eleven and twelve o'clock, and corresponds to our lunch. Dinner is eaten at six or seven o'clock in the evening.
Many of the business men take the morning meal with their clerks at a long table on a veranda, or in a room of the establishment. From three to four o'clock in the afternoon everyone indulges in a siesta or nap.
Along the wharves and in the outskirts of the city, the houses are but one story high, and many of them are built of wood. These houses have but one window and are dark and poorly ventilated; yet they are crowded with poor people.
Some of them have patches of garden separated by rows or hedges of cactus. Here we see brown mothers sitting in the sun mending fish nets. Their naked little children are at play near them.
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THE PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO.
The people of Puerto Rico, on a casual glance, appear to us to come from every nation on earth. The first person you meet will be black, the next brown, the third yellow, and the fourth white.
After a time we are able to divide them into five classes: the upper class of white Puerto Ricans; the lower class of whites, or peasants; the negroes; the mixed people of negro and Indian or other blood; and the foreigners.
Among these last are Germans, Swedes, Danes, Russians, Frenchmen, descendants of Moorish Jews and of natives of the Canary Islands.
All of these people speak Spanish, however, and have the Spanish customs, manners, and religion.
Of the 850,000 people, less than one half are colored or of mixed blood.
The upper class of white Puerto Ricans is descended from Spanish stock, and in this class are found the wealthy planters and stock raisers, the merchants, and the professional men.
They are a happy, good-looking, hospitable, polite, and prosperous people. Many of them are fairly well educated.
In appearance these people resemble the Cubans, having regular features and dark hair and eyes.
The men are not large, but are well built, erect and graceful.
The women have clear complexions, delicate features, and small hands and feet.
Heavy clothing is not worn. The men dress in white (light linen or cotton), and the women in cotton or other thin material.
The ladies of the family are secluded very closely. They spend much of their time in the patios or on the balconies of their homes, embroidering, making lace, and gossiping. They care little for reading or for study.
The Puerto Rican is generous and hospitable. He tells you, as does the Cuban, that his house and all it contains, his servants, his horses, his possessions, are yours to use and to have.
But of course he does not mean that you shall accept these gifts. He means that he expects you to use them freely so long as you are a guest in his house.
By these well-to-do people, any sort of labor is regarded as degrading and altogether out of the question; so they keep many servants. Some are paid and some receive only their board and clothes. But all are content.
The working people are of one color, a light brown, with black eyes and straight hair. They are rather small and thin; and many of those living in the cities are ill-fed and diseased.
They are ignorant and somewhat indolent, but are gentle, quick of wit, and teachable. Though cruel to their animals, they are kind to their children.
There are many beautiful girls in the lower classes as well as in the upper, and these we see on the streets and in the market places.
Many of them use long scarlet shawls and wear black satin slippers on their bare, pretty little feet. They are as proud of their little feet as of their hands. Some of the girls in the market have hair three-quarters the length of their body; but while it is so black and abundant, it is extremely coarse. The laboring men cut their hair short in the neck, and wear a thick bang on the forehead.
In many parts of the island beggars appeal to us with outstretched hand. Even the little children are taught to add their mite to the family income by begging.
In Ponce these beggars secure a special license to pursue this profession and have a regular system. In certain houses, on certain days, a little table is placed in the doorway and a row of copper cents or coins upon it.
The beggars who are privileged to come to these homes, come at the right time, take their pennies, and with a "Thank you!" shamble off.
Formerly lessons never bothered the small Puerto Rican, or indeed any other Puerto Rican child. He played "hookey" all day long, and no truant officer disturbed him, or dragged him off to school.
He never saw a schoolhouse or the inside of a schoolroom. He never saw a book. But, for that matter, neither did his father or mother. They can neither read nor write; nor can many of their neighbors.
The Puerto Rican city child often lives in a crowded basement, with many brothers and sisters. The child of poor parents in the cities is not usually very clean; but then he has very few opportunities for bathing, and his only playground is the courtyard and the streets.
His little country cousins, who live where pools and streams are found, spend much of their time in the water. They find it pleasanter to paddle in cool streams, beneath overhanging tree ferns and banana trees, than to roll in the dirt.
They object, however, to wearing clothes, and are allowed to go without any until they are ten or twelve years of age. Even at this age they shed briny tears when compelled to put on one cotton garment.
These little country children learn to be helpful at a very early age. They fish and catch crabs; weed the garden; dig potatoes; gather fruit, vegetables and coffee; and do errands.
But they have one bugaboo, and that is the wild dog. This animal is very fierce. It sometimes leaves its hiding place in the forest, with a pack of companions, and carries off sheep, pigs, and calves.
If very hungry, it may attack a child; and so the children keep a sharp lookout for it.
Children in Puerto Rico sleep on the floor or in a hammock, and they eat whenever or wherever they can find fruit or vegetables within their reach. Sometimes they smoke, too.
They have no toys, no books, no pictures, no fine clothes or homes; yet, for all that, they are cheerful and contented. They have little, but they seem to want little.
The children of the wealthy and well-to-do dress and look very much like the children in our Southern States; though the babies and very young children sometimes wear no clothes.
These children are sent to school, or are taught by a governess or tutor at home, until they are old enough to be sent away to school.
Then they are sent to Spain, France, or the United States, to complete their education.
The girls study and read very little. It is not considered necessary for them to be well educated. They are not allowed to walk about the streets alone, but must have a servant, nurse, or attendant from the time they leave their cradles until they are married.
EDUCATION IN PUERTO RICO.
Not more than one seventh of the 850,000 people in Puerto Rico can read or write. Only one child in twelve, between the ages of six and sixteen, attends school. (In 1897, of 125,000 children of school age, only about 28,000 attended school—about 19,000 boys and 9,000 girls.)
The buildings used for school purposes are seldom anything more than thatched huts. Sometimes two or three rooms are given to the school in the house where the teacher lives.
Many of the country districts are without schools, and no school privileges are provided for three fourths of the people.
The schools are of the old-fashioned, ungraded, district-school type, and are for pupils from seven to thirteen years of age.
Pupils are supposed to study arithmetic, geography, grammar, the history of Spain, and religion. There are few schoolbooks used. The pupils write down what the teacher dictates, or copy what the teacher has written. The one book they use is the one from which they learn to read.
Arithmetic problems are often worked out on the floor with bits of clay.
There are from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five pupils in each room, and two or three teachers. The pupils sit on long benches or on the floor. The boys and girls have separate schools; but the white and the colored pupils attend the same school.
The pupils are bright and quick to learn, but there is no discipline in the schoolroom. They come and go as they please. They stay at home if they wish, and no truant officer disturbs them.
Many remain away from school because of a lack of clothing. Others remain away because they prefer to play in the streets. Their parents are careless and indifferent to the advantages of an education, and make no effort to induce their children to attend school, or to study.
This unfavorable state of things is soon to disappear. The United States is now rapidly introducing schools and capable teachers into every part of the island. The people seem very glad to take advantage of the better order of things.
The established church of the country is the Roman Catholic; but other religions are tolerated, and a few Protestant churches are to be found scattered over the island.
The people seem to be little interested in religion or in their churches, and Sunday with them is only a fete day or a holiday.
HOW THE PEOPLE AMUSE THEMSELVES.
The people of Puerto Rico have two hundred holidays or feast days in their calendar. They are always ready to welcome new ones, however, and have within the past year added Washington's birthday and the Fourth of July to the list.
Last year they celebrated the Fourth for the first time. In all the cities there were speeches in the daytime and fireworks at night. In the country there were races and processions in honor of the new "feast day," or holiday.
The people show their patriotism and loyalty to the flag of the United States in many ways. They are eager and quick to adopt American manners and customs.
Just before sunset, the band comes into the Plaza at Ponce and plays the "Star Spangled Banner" in front of headquarters as the American flag is drawn down for the night.
The Puerto Ricans noticed that the American men took off their hats and stood with uncovered heads while the flag made its descent; and now they, too, show their loyalty by doffing their hats when the flag comes down.
The people of Puerto Rico are extremely fond of music. Strolling bands of guitar and mandolin players are numerous; and at evening time the air is filled with music.
Each peasant makes his own guitar. It is a very curious instrument. This guitar music is usually accompanied by music from another instrument called a guida. This is made from the great curve-necked gourd. The music or sound is made by passing a piece of umbrella wire up and down a series of notches cut from end to end on the outside curve of the gourd.
The sound produced is much like that made by rubbing together two pieces of sandpaper. We would not call it music at all, but the natives seem to like it. No orchestra is complete without it, and one can hear the scratching of this instrument almost any time, at any home in Puerto Rico.
Sunday is a day not of rest, but of merry making. During the early morning hours the Puerto Ricans go to church. After church, they hurry away to the cockpit or to the bull ring in the suburbs of the town.
Very early in the morning we see numbers of roosters staked out by short strings to pegs driven in the sidewalks. These are the game-cocks which furnish to the Puerto Rican his favorite amusement and opportunity for gambling.
They seem to realize their importance and keep up a great crowing, sending challenges of defiance back and forth to each other. Their owners take good care of them and endeavor to keep them in good condition for fighting.
In the market places we see these fowls in wicker coops. Many venders of food and other articles have game-cocks tied by strings to their stools and stations.
When their owners have nothing else to do, they devote themselves to training these birds; or they try to find some one willing to match them in a contest.
The buildings where these fights take place are to be found in every town and village. They are considered next in importance to the cathedral and the town hall, and more important than the schools.
The cock fights are usually held on Sundays and holidays, and last the greater part of the day. On the day set for these fights, the birds are taken to the arena, descriptions given and amounts wagered. One fight follows another, and large sums of money are lost and won.
If a country is without good roads, it must employ human burden-carriers; and many of these we see in Puerto Rico. Men and women walk long distances through the country bearing heavy burdens upon their heads, shoulders or backs.
The banana and plantain men carry their fruit fastened to poles. They move along quite easily with two hundred pounds or more of fruit. On the street and in the market place we hear the singsong notes of the vegetable man telling us of the excellence of his wares. These he carries on his head on an immense board, sometimes five feet long.
The dulce seller, too, carries his tray of cocoanut dulces, guava jelly and other sweets on his woolly pate; as do also the sellers of fruits, bread, cakes, bottled cocoanut milk and trinkets.
The hat weaver and the broom maker carry their wares on a shoulder pole, with a load fastened to each end so as to balance it.
The milkman carries an open-mouthed ten-gallon milk can on his head. From this dangle the ladles and measures he uses.
But he does not always deliver milk in this way. Sometimes he rides up in front of the door astride his horse, and shouts "milk" at the top of his voice.
On each side of his horse are fastened milk cans, and from these cans he ladles without dismounting.
Sometimes he drives his cows before him and milks them at his customer's door. This is the favorite method, because the milk is then sure to be sweet.
This is not always the case if the milk is carried some distance in the hot sun, in uncovered tin cans.
The milkman always comes very early in the morning, and so does the baker. If the baker is not on time, we must wait for our breakfast; for bread is not baked in the house. It is always bought.
We can hear him long before he reaches our door, for he keeps up a plaintive cry in order to attract our attention.
Sometimes our human bread wagon carries a great board or basket on his head, and in this are as many as fifty loaves. (See illustration, page 26).
The butcher, on horseback, brings meat hanging from hooks in frames. Much of the poultry is brought to town in great odd wicker coops strung across the backs of ponies. Here is a poultry vender at the street corner, with his inverted and excited merchandise suspended by strings from his shoulder. (See page 22).
HOW THE PEOPLE TRAVEL.
Puerto Rico is a very delightful place to visit, but we do not care to go there to live until there are better roads.
There is but one good road on the island, the one leading from San Juan to Ponce. There is only one line of street cars (in the city of Mayaguez); and there are only one hundred and forty-seven miles of railroad in the whole island.
The best roads run along the coast from town to town. There is one exception. This is the wonderful military road which connects Ponce, on the south shore, with San Juan on the north shore. (See map, page 4).
Parts of the country away from the coasts are reached by bridle paths; but the roads outside the cities and towns are impassable during the rainy season. Sometimes there is only a bridle path or trail overgrown with tangled vegetation, and crossed by streams without bridges.
The means of transportation employed by the people are the pony carriage or surrey, the saddle horse, the ox-cart and the foot. The beast of burden is either the donkey or the pony. These animals are employed to carry goods in packs over the trails, in place of using the wagon.
The ponies are usually small, half-starved, badly treated animals. They carry great burdens, that look heavy enough to crush them to the ground.
Their food consists of green corn and grass. One of the commonest sights on the road, street, or marketplace is the pony with his load of green fodder.
This is usually so large that it covers the animal entirely, but the master is always in plain view, sitting astride the moving corn-stack.
The planters and farmers have an odd-looking saddle, which they use on these ponies. It is a leather pad to which are attached wicker baskets.
The well-to-do farmers who own ponies carry fruit and vegetables in these baskets. Sometimes two hogs are brought to market in the baskets, with all four feet tied together.
When the farmer takes his family to market, he and his wife ride the pony, and the children ride in the baskets.
The ponies also carry bales of grass, trunks, and all kinds of household goods, and furniture.
The principal draught animals are oxen. The heavy two-wheeled ox cart is used to convey great loads of sugar, coffee, and tobacco or fruit, over the good roads.
Great, strong, patient beasts they are. They are yoked by a bar of heavy wood fastened to their horns.
They are driven, not with words or whip, but with a goad. The driver or teamster walks in front of his team and waves his arms and goad the way he wishes them to go.
If they do not follow fast enough to please him, he urges them along by prodding them. The end of the goad is shod with a sharp spike of steel, three inches or more long. Often we see these oxen dripping with blood, and seamed and scarred with wounds.
Besides the pain of this constant goading, they suffer from flies upon their face, nose and eyes. Since their heads are bound, they can not shake the flies off.
All day they stand or travel in the hot sun without water or food.
Even when they stop or rest, no one thinks of putting them in the shade.
Almost all the people are cruel to their animals, yet they seem not to realize that they are doing wrong. It is a custom, that is all.
It makes us wish we might organize a society for the prevention of cruelty. It is, perhaps, the only thing that could change this custom.
* * * * *
THE FARMER AND HIS HOME.
Puerto Rico is a country of farmers. Nearly five-sixths of the people live in the country. Their homes are scattered along the valleys, on the hills, and even on the mountain tops; for the land is fertile everywhere.
We have seen the homes and home life of the people in the city. Now let us take a jaunt out into the country to see how the farmers and the plantation laborers live.
Here is a farmer now, coming down the street. He is on his way to the market. His horse is a thin, mean-looking little beast. His produce is carried in baskets, and his machete is sticking out of one of these.
This machete he always carries with him. He could not get along without it. It is a large, long, clumsy knife, something like a corn-cutter. Sometimes he uses it to cut a way for himself and pony through the forest, or on the bridle paths overgrown with plants and vines after the rainy season.
When he has sold his load of vegetables and fruit, we will ride out with him to his home and visit some of the plantations.
We saw many peasant farmers and laborers in the market place, and found them polite, shrewd, bright in conversation, but very ignorant and somewhat indolent.
They are quite content with their way of living, and take no thought for the future. A Puerto Rican farmer thinks himself rich and fortunate if he owns a horse, a cow, some game-cocks, a gun and an acre of land.
He is simple in his tastes and buys little in the market. His rice flour, corn meal and coffee he has prepared at home, by pounding in wooden mortars or grinding between stones.
His patch of land he plants with corn, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. Bananas, plantains and other fruits grow wild and may be had for the picking.
His vegetables, fruit and poultry he takes to the market and sells, but only when compelled to do so by necessity.
This money is spent for clothing or other articles, or perhaps lost in gambling.
Only the lightest kind of clothing is necessary; for the coldest days are not so cold as our mild autumn days.
The dress of the farmer consists of a cotton jacket, white shirt and check pantaloons. His head is protected from the hot rays of the sun by a large broad-brimmed hat. This is made from the grass which grows around his doorway. No shoes are needed.
The dress of his wife is a simple white cotton gown, and his children wear no clothes at all.
The houses or homes of the peasant farmers are nearly all alike. They are built in a few days, from poles and royal palm bark. They are thatched with leaves of the palm or with grass. These huts are usually divided into two rooms.
There are no chimneys, often no windows, and but one door. A very poor house, you think; but then it is only intended for a shelter. It shields them from the damp and cool winds of night and the daily rains of the rainy season. At other times they live outside.
There is no stove, and of cooking utensils there are few. The cooking is done for the most part outside the house, when the weather is dry, on a sheet of iron or in an iron kettle. The food is served in gourd dishes and eaten with gourd spoons.
During the rainy season the people live in great discomfort. The cooking must be done inside the hut at this time. As there is no chimney, the room is soon filled with smoke, which can only escape through the openings under the eaves.
Would you like to see the furniture of one of these poor cabins? It consists of a few calabash shells used for eating vessels; some rude earthen pots; a tin cup, perhaps; two or three hammocks made of the bark of the palm tree, and a machete.
Bunches of dried herbs and gourds dangle on the walls, but there are no pictures, curtains, or ornaments of any kind.
At night the people sleep on the floor, or in hammocks. They spend much of the day also in swinging to and fro in their hammocks, smoking, and playing on their guitars and other native musical instruments.
By the door the family dog and the naked babies tumble in the dirt. Perhaps there is a pig and some poultry; but there is sure to be a game-cock or two.
Near the house is the garden. In this are raised sweet potatoes, beans, squashes, muskmelons, peppers, gourds, calabashes, bananas and plantains.
The farmers we see at work have their oxen harnessed to rude plows by the horns. The ground is so rich it is not necessary to plow it very deep.
An acre of good land here will produce more vegetables and fruit than in most other countries.
Riding through the country we see plantations of coffee, sugar cane or tobacco, and also stock farms. Puerto Rico is fertile from the mountain tops to the sea. It is rich in pasture lands, shaded with groves of palm trees, and watered by hundreds of streams.
Here and there herds of horses and cattle and flocks of sheep graze on the plains. When we approach the flocks of sheep, we discover a very curious thing. The wool on these sheep is not at all like the wool on the sheep raised in our own country. It is more like the hair of the goat.
Cattle are highly valued by the people, not only for dairy and food purposes, but as beasts of burden and draft.
Outside of the large plantations, crops are raised on a small scale; and modern implements and machinery are almost unknown.
Most of the land is divided up into very small farms or garden patches, or is taken up by groves.
In the interior of the country are many little villages, shut out from the rest of the world. We reach them by the narrow horse-trails that wind in and out among the mountains.
THE LABORER'S HILLSIDE HOME.
Perched on the hilltops and sides, shaded by banana trees, are the picturesque little huts of the laborers. Most of them pay no rent. Land owners give them small patches of ground on the hillsides, which they themselves do not care to till, in order to have the laborers near or on the plantations to assist in cultivating or harvesting the sugar cane, tobacco and coffee crops.
Here the peasant laborers build their cabins; and, when there is no work for them on the plantations, they tend their gardens in a haphazard way. By working a little each day they manage to make a scant living.
Five months of the year they labor for their landlords, receiving about fifty cents a day.
The laborer is often paid in plantains. Fifty plantains are a day's pay. On this he feeds his family, for the plantain is the Puerto Rican peasant's bread.
The plantains left are taken to market and sold. One day a week is lost in this way, for the market is often twenty miles away.
Near a stream on the mountain side we see a group of women. Some of them are sitting on stones by the bank; others are standing in the hot sun in midstream, and all are washing.
It is wash day, and they have brought their clothes here to wash them. They have no tubs, wash-boards, clothes-pins, or clothes-lines. Sometimes they have no soap. In place of this, they use the seed or roots of the soapberry tree.
The soap-seed tree bears several months in the year. The seed is inclosed in a yellow skin, and is black, and about the size of a marble. The leaf of a vine, called the soap vine is also used for the purpose of washing clothes.
The clothes are first soaked in the stream or pond, and then spread upon a broad, smooth stone; after which they are pounded with clubs or stones. When they are clean, they are spread out upon the bushes to dry and bleach.
Then the tired women rest under the trees, and chat, and perhaps smoke until evening. When the hot sun has gone down in the west, they make their damp and dry clothes up into huge bundles, lift them to their heads, and plod homeward.
Let us follow them to their homes up on the mountain side. Some of the huts are built closely together. Others are scattered about on lonely ledges. Shall we go inside one of these huts? The woman who has just returned has thrown her burden into a corner.
The fire has been carefully smoldered, and this she now blows into a flame and then proceeds to prepare the evening meal.
About the other cottages are women squatting on their heels, gossiping with one another. In the ditch near by little children paddle about. Their voices are soft and pleasant, and their play merry and good-natured. We hear no quarreling.
Now their mother calls them to bring in some sticks for the fire. When these are added to the flame, the firelight shines out in the darkness and guides the father on his homeward way.
He has been working on the coffee plantation near, and is now climbing the narrow, winding path up the hill with his load of plantains. Perhaps the wife will cook some for supper.
The children satisfy their hunger, and then creep into their corner or hammock and are soon fast asleep.
Out in the darkness we hear the tinkle of a homemade guitar. Now another, and then another, takes up the Spanish or Indian air. Perhaps the beater of a drum is added to the little band of musicians which has gathered in an open space near the small village.
The natives compose much of their own music, and wild, strange melody it is. It seems to inspire one with a wish to dance. The Puerto Ricans are very fond of this amusement, and when they hear the music of the band, they gather around for a frolic.
Once a week, at least, they gather for a dance; and this, with their cock-fighting and gambling, is almost their only form of amusement.
Few of these people can write or read. They have no books and can not afford to buy even a newspaper.
The life of the peasant in Puerto Rico, you see, is not an easy or pleasant one; but he does not suffer from cold or hunger, as do the poor in northern countries.
* * * * *
GLIMPSES OF OTHER CITIES.
We have now a very good idea of San Juan and of rural life in districts near it.
So let us travel about the island a bit, for glimpses of other parts of the country, and of the other important cities.
The most comfortable way to do this would be to make the voyage around the island on board the ship, going ashore for sight-seeing when the ship makes port for freight.
But this would give us no opportunity to see the interior of the island; so we make up our minds to endure poor roads in order to enjoy the mild adventures that fall to our lot (as all good travelers should do).
We decide to celebrate the seventeenth of November, the anniversary of the discovery of the island, at the place where the ship of Columbus first touched land over four hundred years ago.
We find no Pullman cars on the railroad which leaves San Juan for Aguadilla; but the novelty of the ride takes the place of the luxuries to which we are accustomed at home.
The train goes leisurely along at the rate of sixteen miles an hour. We are glad that it goes no faster, for it gives us an opportunity to see the beautiful country through which we are passing.
The line follows the coast most of the way. Upon one side are frequent views of the ocean, and upon the other a constant panorama of wonderful scenery.
A ride of four or five hours brings us to Arecibo, a town of 7,000 people, on the north coast. It is the headquarters of the sugar industry, and the chief town of one of the most fruitful regions on the island.
The harbor is very poor, being little more than an open roadstead. Into this harbor empties a small stream called the Arecibo. Goods are transported on this river, to and from the town, in flat-bottomed boats, with the aid of long poles and by much patient pushing.
Along the river are valuable plantations of sugar and coffee, as also fine pastures.
Arecibo boasts one of the most handsome and artistic plazas on the island. These plazas are usually paved with stone and devoid of vegetation; but this one has a small park in its center, surrounding a beautiful fountain.
The cathedral, which faces the plaza, is larger than usual, and more modern than most of the church buildings in the West Indies.
After a night spent in Arecibo we wish to hasten on to Aguadilla, but the railroad, we find, will not carry us so far. It ends at Camuy, a few miles west of Arecibo. Here we take a carriage for the remainder of the journey.
The old-fashioned coaches are drawn by small ponies, and these brave little animals carry us up hill and down hill, through deep mud holes, over rocks, into and out of ruts, at a terrific pace.
We wonder that the carriage does not break and spill us out. The driver lashes the poor beasts until it seems as if his arms must be lame, but our protests have no effect on him.
Aguadilla, a quiet, peaceful little city of 5,000, lies on the western coast. Here Columbus landed in search of water when he made his second voyage.
He found a clear, rippling spring, with the water filled his casks, and continued on his way. On the shore stands a cross marking the spot where his boat's keel touched the sand.
The town has beautiful trees, and is surrounded by choice grazing-lands. It is noted for its fish, sugar-cane, sweet oranges, and lemons.
The cultivation of sugar-cane, coffee, tobacco and cocoanuts furnishes the industries of the neighborhood. We find the three establishments for the preparation of coffee for market very interesting places to visit.
Leaving Aguadilla for Mayaguez, we take the tramway which connects the two towns. It is the only one on the island, and the people are very proud of it. But oh, what a ridiculous little road!
It is a narrow gauge, not more than forty-seven inches wide. The cars are quite diminutive, and do not carry more than ten or twelve people. We can ride the length of the road, about two miles, for five cents.
We see long lines of patient oxen plodding their way to the city, pulling clumsy carts piled high with oranges. Mayaguez is the market to which the best oranges in Puerto Rico come.
Large, sweet, and luscious we find this fruit, the principal food of many of the people.
It grows wild by the roadside, in the valleys, everywhere except on the hillsides. Such quantities of oranges! It seems as if enough of the fruit is grown in Puerto Rico to supply the whole of the United States. Yet very few oranges are sent away from the island. They can not be shipped profitably until good roads are built.
The city of Mayaguez claims a population of 20,000 people. It has, probably, 12,000 to 15,000. It is the great western shipping port, is the third largest city, and the prettiest and most attractive city in Puerto Rico.
Mayaguez is very different in appearance and customs from the other cities. We can scarcely realize that we are on the same island.
The streets are macadamized, wide, shaded by trees, and lined with handsome shops and residences. The sidewalks are narrow,—only two can walk abreast on them.
The town is well provided with public buildings. It has also three hospitals, a home for the destitute, a public library, good waterworks, is lighted by electricity, and possesses the only street-car line on the island. The principal plaza is a park of grand old shade trees. It contains a majestic statue of Columbus.
The citizens are, many of them, coffee planters who have estates near the city. Each family of the better class dwells in a home of its own, instead of living in second stories.
The poor people of the town are not so poor, or unclean, or shiftless, as the poorer classes at the capital.
To reach Ponce, the next city we wish to visit, we must use carriages as well as railways. It is on the southern side of the island.
Ponce is the largest city in Puerto Rico, having a population of over thirty-seven thousand people. The main part is built on a plain about three miles from the seashore.
A fine road connects it with Playa, the port, where are found a good harbor, large wharves and the more important government offices.
Ponce has wide, clean streets, handsome buildings, and attractive homes. Many quaint and picturesque old buildings line its avenues; but in the newer parts of the town and in the suburbs the buildings are modern.
It has a military hospital and barracks, two other hospitals, a home for the old and poor, gas works, and an ice machine. There are also establishments for hulling coffee, drying coffee, distilling rum, manufacturing carriages, and grinding sugar. (See illustrations on pages 54 and 69).
The large central plaza has pretty gardens and a cathedral.
There are three manufactories of chocolate for the use of the people in the surrounding country. Sugar, coffee, oranges, pineapples and cocoanuts are brought here to be shipped to the United States and other countries.
Near the city are white-gypsum quarries; also medicinal baths, to which many invalids and travelers go.
The only Protestant church in the West Indies is the Episcopal church here.
On the outskirts of Ponce is an old cemetery, in which many famous Puerto Ricans of an early day were buried. It is quite different from our idea of a cemetery. It is one solid mass of masonry built into the side of a hill. In this are narrow vaults, one above the other.
The openings of these vaults look much like bakers' ovens. The bottom vaults are used first, and when a body is laid in one of them it is sealed up and the name of the deceased graven on the outside. The next member of the family who dies is placed in the vault above; and so on, each family having a tier of vaults.
As carriages and hearses are rare objects in Ponce, the coffin is sometimes carried on the shoulders of men. The procession is often composed of those attracted by curiosity, rather than the friends and relatives of the deceased.
The people of Ponce are wide-awake, progressive and anxious to better their condition. They are also more hospitable and friendly than in other towns.
It was here that the American army under General Miles proceeded in 1898, after landing at Guanica. The troops received a hearty welcome from the inhabitants.
The people were glad to be relieved from Spanish rule, and wished to have their land annexed to the United States.
A proclamation of welcome was issued to the soldiers, feasts were spread, and the stars and stripes floated from many house tops.
THE MILITARY ROAD.
Now we are ready to return to San Juan, going northward over the great military road, one of the finest highways in the world.
It is macadamized, is fifty feet wide, ninety-seven miles in length, and smooth and even as a boulevard. It crosses mountains which reach a height of almost four thousand feet. It winds in and out among the coffee-covered hills, giving us a fine view of the green mountains and the deep valleys below.
Looking down we see patches of sugar cane and tobacco; groves of bananas, cocoanut, and palm trees; hedges of strange growth; unknown plants and vines, and fern-covered rocks.
Here and there is a rude cabin surrounded by bread-fruit and banana trees. We pass picturesque little towns with blue and yellow houses and quaint churches, their spires towering upward. In fifteen hours we would reach San Juan, but we delay our journey in order to obtain a closer view of the scenery and of the homes of the people.
Many happy hours we spend on the plantations in the country.
During these country rides and visits we get our knowledge of the animal and plant life of the island.
Let us stop, then, for a few days, at a country home by the seashore.
A COUNTRY HOME.
The residence of this home we find to be of good size and divided into rooms by partitions that reach only half way up to the roof. This is to give a free circulation of air. The house is thatched with palm leaves, and has a wide veranda running around it.
Mosquito curtains are used to keep out the swarms of sand flies and mosquitoes that make the night uncomfortable.
All doors and windows are closed before sunset and not opened until the moon is well up. Then large fires are lighted around the house to drive the mosquitoes away. This is for our benefit, for the natives do not mind these insects as much as we do. But we have other midnight visitors.
Large fireflies fly in at the open windows and light up the room with their fairy lamps. And such wonderful fireflies, over an inch long!
The people, the children especially, are very fond of these fireflies and frequently keep little cages of them for pets. They feed them on sugar-cane juice and bathe them as if they were birds.
Little crabs rattle gaily over the floor and sometimes crawl into our shoes, where we find them in the morning; friendly but ugly lizards croak from the walls and roof, where they pass the night hours in catching insects.
These lizards are found in and about most of the houses and are harmless, useful little fellows. They are six or seven inches long, of a pale, yellowish color, mottled with brown.
Instead of taking a morning bath in our rooms, we take a dip in the warm sea water. We find it hot, even very early in the morning; and as we walk to the shore in our bathing suits, we make a large palm leaf do duty as a sunshade.
When we dress for breakfast we examine our clothes very closely, for the centipedes have a disagreeable way of taking strolls over one's clothing and the bedding.
Our breakfast consists of turtle eggs, bread fruit, plantain and cocoanut milk. Our meals are served on the veranda, and there we spend the most of the day. Hammocks are swung from the beams, and, lying in them, we drink in the cool sea air and feast our eyes upon the beautiful surroundings.
In the shallow water near the shore we find great pink conch shells. The fish in them we have made into soup for our dinner, and very good soup we find it.
Sometimes we go out in the mountains with our host hunting for game, or for mountain cabbage for our dinner. Perhaps others would like to know what this mountain cabbage is, and we will tell them. It is the bud of a palm tree, a part of the trunk of which, when young, is edible. When cooked, it looks like very white cabbage; but the flavor is finer and more delicate. It is sometimes eaten raw, as a salad.
The meat for our dinner consists of fish, and the flesh of the armadillo, the agouti and the iguana.
These animals are queer looking creatures. As we wish to see them in their haunts in the woods and fields, we will accompany our host on some long walks and drives, in order to find out more about them.
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When Columbus visited the West Indies, he was delighted by the beauty in and about them. "I know not," he said, "where first to go; nor are my eyes ever weary with gazing on the wonderful verdure. The singing of the birds is such as to make one wish never to depart."
The wonderful beauty of the country of which he spoke is unchanged; but we listen and look in vain for the singing birds. The hunter's gun has caused the disappearance of large numbers of the birds. Those remaining are found only in the forests.
Columbus spoke also of the flocks of parrots "whose bright wings obscured the sun"; but we seldom see the brilliant plumage of these birds on our excursions.
There are said to be about one hundred and fifty kinds of birds on the island of Puerto Rico. Among these are the mocking bird, the wild canary, the sugar bird, the thrush, the humming bird, the owl, the hawk, the dove, the cuckoo, the oriole, the nightingale, and the Guinea bird. During the migrating season, many other birds fly over from other islands.
Flamingoes and other water birds are numerous on the coast.
There is a parrot market in every port, however, and this is a popular place of resort. Here are cool trees and drinking stands, or booths, where cocoanut milk and cool drinks are sold.
The birds are not usually confined to cages, but are left to climb about the booths. The natives love these birds and make great pets of them. The birds are tame and quite accomplished in the art of begging. When the passer-by extends his hand, they walk into it for the sake of the gifts which they know will come.
But the bird which is oftenest seen is the fighting or game-cock. The streets and market places are full of these. They are the pets and often the most valued possessions of their owners.
OTHER ANIMAL LIFE.
The scorpions, centipedes, wasps, sand flies, fleas and mosquitoes manage to make things lively for us much of the time.
One enterprising and annoying insect, the chigoe, or "jigger," is able to bore a hole through the sole of a shoe and attack the foot.
There are no poisonous serpents or dangerous wild animals in the country; so we travel about through field and forest without fear.
The boa, which is occasionally seen, is huge and alarming in appearance; but it is looked upon as a friend rather than an enemy. It is of great service to the farmer in clearing his place of rats.
The largest native animals we find to be the armadillo, the agouti, and the iguana.
The agouti is a little animal resembling a rabbit. It lives on vegetable food, and finds a home in the rocky hillsides and on the borders of the woods. As game is not plentiful, it is sometimes used for food.
The armadillo and iguana are preferred for food, however. It is not an easy matter to catch an armadillo. It has a shell on its back, and into this it promptly retreats at the first sign of danger. It has a long, pointed snout and strong, sharp claws. It can dig a hole in the ground almost as fast as a man can dig with a pick and spade; so, when an enemy appears, it digs a hole and buries itself from sight. It is not a troublesome animal. It lives chiefly upon beetles, grubs and worms, which it hunts by night.
The iguana is a lizard which feeds on fruits and vegetables. It grows to three or four feet in length, and is an ugly looking creature. It will not fight unless you compel it to do so. It does not live in the water, but in trees, bushes, and in the cracks and fissures of rocks. Sometimes hunters build fires at the entrance of their hiding places and smoke them out. The flesh, when cooked, resembles chicken or veal, and is a popular dish with the natives.
But the most delicious meat of all comes from the land crabs and the crayfish. These are caught in great numbers when the crabs migrate from the mountains to the coast. Once a year they make this journey, for the purpose of depositing their eggs in the sand.
The sea fisheries are important to the people of Puerto Rico. The coast waters and fresh water streams swarm with fishes of strange shapes and gaudy colors.
Among these are the shad, sardines, Spanish mackerel, dolphins, flying fish, sting rays and sharks. The sponge, the manatee and the whale are also found near the island.
Suppose some one were to ask you to what kingdom the sponge belonged. Could you tell? Many years ago people believed that it belonged to the vegetable kingdom; but it is now known to belong to the animal kingdom.
The animals attach themselves to rocks, shells and other hard substances below water.
Mussels, clams and sponges are cultivated to some extent. Mollusks are useful in many other ways than as food. Their shells are used for making buttons, parasol handles and shirt studs. Sometimes they are used for making roads. Many shiploads of these shells are brought to New York from Puerto Rico and other parts of the West Indies every year.
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Puerto Rico seems to us to be one big flower garden. All kinds of fruit grow wild and most wild plants blossom and bear fruit several times a year.
Cultivated fruits, flowers and vegetables are planted several times a year in order that a fresh supply may always be at hand. Flowers bloom every month of the year, but are most plentiful in June. Ferns, in some instances, grow to spreading trees, with graceful drooping fronds. Many plants have colored leaves which are as brilliant as the flowers themselves.
Everywhere grow trees and shrubs valuable for their fruit or for their medicinal qualities.
The leading crops are sugar cane, coffee and tobacco. Over one-half of the exports consists of coffee, and a little less than one-fourth, of sugar. Cacao and fruits make a large part of the remainder.
Rice forms the chief food of the laboring classes, and this grows, not on the wet lowlands, as in our country, but on the mountain sides.
Bananas and plantains are two of the important food products. Next to these, the yam and the sweet potato form the diet of the natives.
Among the fruit trees we find cocoanut palms, tamarinds, prickly pears, guavas, mangoes, bananas, oranges, limes, cacao (or cocao) trees and lemons.
Among the spices found here are the pimento, or allspice, nutmeg, clove, pepper, mace, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla.
The hills are covered with forests, which, yield valuable timber and dye woods. Among these are mahogany, cedar, ebony, and lignum-vitae trees. Logwood and other dye materials are common.
Many varieties of the palm flourish here,—the cocoanut palm producing fruit in greater abundance than in any other country of the West Indies.
THE COCOA PALM.
The most abundant cocoanut groves in the world are said to be found on Puerto Rico and the other islands of the Antilles. This tree usually grows near the coast, for it loves the salt water; but it is sometimes found on the hill slopes a short distance inland.
"The tree grows to a height of from sixty to eighty feet, lives a hundred years, bears a hundred nuts each year, and is said to have a hundred uses for man."
The trees bear such heavy burdens of fruit that it seems impossible that so slender a trunk could hold such a weight of fruit in the air. The fruit is expensive when it comes to us, because of the difficulty in climbing the trees, gathering the nuts, and removing from them the heavy fibrous husks.
Here is a negro gathering cocoanuts. Let us watch him. He climbs the tall tree, dragging a rope after him. About his waist is a belt in which is thrust a machete.
He hacks off a bunch of the nuts and attaches it to the end of the rope. It is then lowered to another negro or to the ground. The nuts are in bunches of a dozen or two, and are covered with a green, smooth, shining covering.
After the bunches of nuts are all removed from the tree, the climber throws down the rope and comes down hand over hand.
These nuts are so large that a single one often yields two glasses of milk.
We found that the natives made boats and furniture, as well as houses, from the trunk of this palm tree. They extract from its roots a remedy for fever. The foot stalks of the leaves are made into combs. The leaves are used for thatching huts and in making baskets, mats and hats.
The fibrous material at the base of the foot stalks is used for sieves, and woven into clothing. A medicine is made from the flowers, and from the flower-stalks palm wine is made. From the juice is made sugar and vinegar. From the fruit or nut, water, jelly and meat are obtained. Oil is extracted from the kernel; and the refuse is used for food for fowls and cattle, as well as for manure.
From the husks ropes, brooms, brushes, and bedding are made. The shells are used as lamps, cups, spoons, and scoops.
It has been called the poor man's tree because it gives him food, drink, medicine and material with which to build his home.
The tropics could not do without the palm. It is more to that region than the pine is to the north.
THE CALABASH TREE.
Another very useful tree to the natives is the calabash, or gourd tree. It provides him with many household utensils. In height and size it resembles an apple tree. Its leaves are wedge-shaped and its flowers are large, whitish and fleshy.
The fruit is something like a gourd and often a foot in diameter. The shell of the fruit is so hard that it is not easily broken by rough usage or burnt by exposure to fire. It is used instead of bottles, cups, basins, dishes, pots and kettles, and to make musical instruments.
Sometimes the calabashes are polished, carved, dyed or otherwise ornamented. The pulp of the fruit is used as a medicine.
THE TRAVELER'S TREE.
One of the most curious and beautiful trees on the island is the traveler's tree. It is so named because it contains in its leaves and at their bases a large quantity of pure water.
By piercing the leaves with a spear or pike the water is drawn out, and found cool and refreshing. It often relieves the thirst of the traveler in this warm country.
Among the fruit products used in large quantities are the bread-fruit and bread-nuts. These trees grow very large and have wide-spreading branches about fifty feet from the ground.
The leaves are, very broad, and the fruit looks something like an ovoid osage orange as large as one's head.
The fruit is best when picked green, and baked in an oven or in the ashes, after paring away the outer skin or rind. When done it resembles a browned loaf of bread. It is very good and, wholesome, too; but it tastes more like baked plantain than bread.
The bread-nuts look on the outside like the bread-fruit, but the inside contains a great mass of closely packed nuts like large chestnuts. These are not good raw, but are fine when baked or boiled.
We have often heard people speak of butter and cheese being colored, but did not know that the dairyman was obliged to send to the West Indies for his dye. The bush which provides it is called the annotto or annatto. It grows to the size of the quince tree. The leaves are heart-shaped; and the rosy flowers are followed by fuzzy red-and-yellow pods, something like chestnut burs.
These small burs are filled with a crimson pulp containing many seeds. This pulp is immersed in water a few weeks, strained and boiled to a paste. The paste is made into cakes and dried in the sun. Then it comes to our country and appears upon our tables in butter or cheese.
Can you tell me where bay rum comes from? We have often wondered, and find here an answer to the question. It is furnished by the bay tree, which grows here. The leaves are distilled and the oil extracted from them to furnish this perfume for the bath.
Spices, in some form, are served every day upon our table; yet few of us know where they come from, or where, how, or upon what they grow.
We have heard of the Spice Islands, perhaps, and we just take it for granted that they all grow there. We are very much surprised, then, to find many of the spices in Puerto Rico.
ALLSPICE, OR PIMENTO.
The pimento spice is native to this soil. The groves of these trees are beautiful. The trees grow to a height of thirty feet, their stems are smooth and clean, and their leaves glossy.
The trees bear fruit when about seven years old. The berries are gathered green and dried in the sun. The branches to which the berries are attached are broken off by boys and thrown to girls and women, who pick off the berries, and take them to the drying places. One tree sometimes bears a hundred pounds.
The tree likes the hills and mountains along the sea, a hot climate and a dry atmosphere.
THE NUTMEG TREE.
The nutmeg tree grows to a height of thirty to fifty feet. The ripe fruit looks somewhat like the apricot on the outside. It bursts in two and shows the dark nut covered with mace, a bright scarlet. This is stripped off and pressed flat. The shells are broken open when perfectly dry, and the nuts powdered with lime to prevent the attacks of worms.
The tree bears the sixth or seventh year,—the nuts becoming ripe six months after the flower appears. Twenty thousand nuts are sometimes gathered from one tree.
Other important growths we find to be pepper, which begins to bear when five years old and may bear for thirty years; the vanilla bean, which proves to be very profitable when properly cared for; and cacao, which requires eight years to come to full fruitage, but is an invaluable plant.
Puerto Rico has no mines or minerals of any consequence, except a little iron. Foundries for magnetic iron have been established at Ponce, San Juan and Mayaguez.
Gold, silver, copper and coal are known to exist in small quantities beneath the surface, but not in sufficient amount to be mined.
The island is well supplied with limestone, which makes an excellent building material. Marble, also, is easily obtained. Along the coast are occasional marshes where salt is prepared for market.
OUR JOURNEY'S END.
Our month in Puerto Rico is drawing to a close, and the good ship which is to bear us homeward is waiting in the harbor.
We make a last farewell tour of the shops in San Juan, and buy a few gifts for the friends at home: a green parrot to please sister; a tortoise-shell comb for mother; a cane for father, a native hat for brother, and a calabash drinking bowl for the school museum.
It is with reluctant steps that we make our way to the ship. The clear sky, the perfect climate, the constant verdure, the wonderful plants and trees, and the beautiful mountain scenery make Puerto Rico one of the most attractive lands to be found anywhere.
Although the roads are in a deplorable condition, a new system has been planned, and will probably be soon completed.
Though the country may lack school buildings, the cities and towns are better provided with other public buildings than most places of the same size in the United States. And the eagerness with which the people seize upon the statements that their children are to be given the same opportunity for an education as children in the United States have, indicates that the schoolhouses will soon dot the island.
The streets of the smallest villages are paved, and all contain some place of recreation and attempts at ornamentation. Each village has one or more public squares laid out with trees, walks, flowers, seats, and usually with a band stand in the center.
We do not find these improvements in all our own small towns. But the people need better schools, more nourishing food, and improved methods of farming. Sanitary measures need to be introduced into the homes and communities. Harbors need to be dredged, that ships may come closer to land. The water power of many rushing streams needs to be chained and made to generate electricity, to grind corn, to hull coffee, to cook food, to pull cars, and to light cities.
There should also be fountains, baths, and sewers; the land in certain sections should be irrigated, and the streams should be bridged, that means for travel and transportation may be afforded.
Perhaps all this will be done, ere we visit this island again. At any rate, we sincerely hope that this may be the beginning of a new and better day for Puerto Rico.
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"Our New Possessions," by Trumbull White. Cloth, 676 pp........$2.00 "Puerto Rico and Its Resources," by Frederick A. Ober.......... 1.50 "The West Indies," by A. K. Fisk. 414 pp....................... 1.50 "Porto Rico," Hall............................................. 1.00 "Porto Rico," Rector........................................... 1.25 "Porto Rico," Dinwiddie........................................ 2.50 "Porto Rico," Robinson......................................... 1.50 "The West Indies and the Main"................................. 1.75 "At Last" and "A Christmas in the West Indies," Kingsley....... "Three Cruises of the Blake," Alexander Agassiz. 2 vol......... 8.00 "Down the Islands," Palon...................................... 2.50 "The West Indies," Fiske....................................... 1.50 "In the Wake of Columbus," Ober................................ 2.00 "Due South," Ballou............................................ 1.50 "The Foreign Commerce of Our Possessions," etc., Treasury Department, Washington..................................... "Porto Rico," National Geographic Magazine, '99, 25 cts. a number; per year......................................... 2.00