Glimpses Of Montevideo
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Great river steamers ply between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. One leaves at eight in the evening and arrives at six in the morning. Usually the steamers afe crowded with people. Montevideo is on the river, but at its very mouth, so one side of the city fronts the sea. One approaches through a big and sheltered harbor basin of hundreds of acres, protected by a gigantic seawall. One beholds rising ground, hills and rocks, evidences that one is in a new land, has left behind the eternal spaces of low, flat plain. Montevideo was founded, however, long after Buenos Aires, yet it is an ancient city, from a North American point of view, dating from the year 1717. It is solid, stone-built, substantial and picturesque in parts.
I found myself in Montevideo in an environment quite unlike that of Buenos Aires. For one thing, Montevideo is a little city of about 310,000 people, while Buenos Aires has nearly a million more. Uruguay, however, is a little country, with only about the area of Ohio and Indiana combined. There are long lines of granitic cliffs, many small streams of perennial water, and the trees, grasses and vegetation are distinctive. And well as I liked the people of Argentina, I liked those of Uruguay better. They are not usually so rich ; they seem more friendly and more interested in one. I had. received great kindness in Argentina, but the Uruguayans made special effort to be good to me and through me to show courtesies to our Government.
I spent some time in Montevideo, because at the season of my visit I could meet many more estancieros in town than I could by going to their estancias. They would come to the city with their wives to shop. and go to the theatre and enjoy the change of life and scene for a time. In Montevideo I en-gaged apartments in a sort of marble palace, the owners of which were temporarily reduced to the necessity of accepting lodgers. I was assured that my room had sun every day. That was, I think, true ; the sun came in from 11:15 in the morning to 11:30, then it forsook me, and it was not convenient for me to be in my room during that time. The sea winds swept in cold and chill; there was usually a hard frost every night, yet in that marvelous climate semi-tropical. plants, palms and flowers persisted in the parks, biding their time. I quote from my journal:
" `Hark from the tomb.' It has been a fine enough day outside, but no ray of warmth has penetrated these marble halls. I do not need an over-coat outdoors, but when I come in to write, I must put one on. I have been very hard at work, securing data from great estancieros, among them Alejandro Gallinal. He gave me an account of one of his places where the land alone is worth more than a million dollars and the animals on it more than a hundred thousand. These are Uruguayan dollars, too, worth $1.03 in our money. Señor Gallinal interested me because of his extreme thoroughness; his book-keeping is so good that he knows the cost of every detail of the work of his estancias and even what it costs per day for food for the men. He values his land at $32 per acre.
"Dr. Daniel Garcia Acevado went with me to call on Señor Gallinal. The doctor is worth description. He is an `abogado' or lawyer and has his office in his dwelling opposite my house. He is a small, dark man, rather intense, exceptionally intelligent, and very kind and courteous to me. In some way he is connected with the Government and has taken it upon himself to help me with my work.
On our way home this evening, we dropped in at a warehouse belonging to a native woolen mill, and saw there good stuffs and truly splendid blankets, thick, soft and warm. I never saw better woolens of the coarser, more useful sorts than they make here, but they tell me that they send the wool to Germany to be scoured and perhaps spun into yarn for the weavers. The Government is imposing all sorts of protective tariffs in order to encourage the building here of manufacturing industries. Unhappily, they have neither coal nor water power, so it will not be so easy as it was with us; nor have they the great market that we enjoy.
"Just now two of Dr. Garcia's boys, one ten, the other twelve, I think, came to call on me. They are a revelation to me; so courteous, so self-possessed, modest and withal intelligent, interesting and interested. The custom here is to treat the boy at home as though he were a little gentleman and to teach him to be a little gentleman.. I must say that the doctor has succeeded beyond what I thought possible. At school these lads have had English, so we read together, they correcting my Spanish and I helping them with English pronunciation.
"I took a run out to the zoological garden with these boys. This we did at my invitation and certainly I assumed that I was host, entertaining the boys. Judge then of my astonishment and amusement, when the older lad gravely insisted on paying the fares on the street cars, and tried hard to pay admission at the gates. I was the stranger, the guest; they were the hosts.
"June 16: I have secured an interpreter, Samuel Aguirre, a half-Indian lad, merry-hearted and laughing, with nothing on his mind but his hair, which is thick, black and long. I like the boy and together we shall presently enjoy exploring the inviting estancias.
"June 20: Cold, cold, cold. How one hates to get up in the morning, fireless, bathe in cold water and dress. The curious part is that it seems to agree with me. I gain in weight and no one seems to have a cold in this country, or a cough, but many have chilblains on their hands. There is, however, a cozy English club to which I have access and where I go to sit by a cheery coal fire in the evenings. It has been a happy day.
THE URUGUAYAN AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE
"With Señor Eugenio Z. O'Neill, secretary of the Association Rural of Uruguay, we went to the agricultural college. It was a lovely ride through tree-embowered and flower-decked suburbs. The road was fine ! it was made of crushed granite, and there were along the way little fields and orchards. There were fuschia trees and camellias in their waxy bloom; orange trees, yellow with fruit, and all manner of interesting things. It is strange when the nights are so chilly to find that frost has done no harm to the vegetable world. Oats seem to be much sown in the little fields, for pasture and for forage. Appearances would indicate very good yields.
"We found the agricultural college equipped with rather fine buildings and interesting professors, all Germans, but they speak English and Spanish. I was much impressed with some of these men. They have many plot experiments and all they lack is students, of whom they have not many as yet. Two of these professors, who are brothers, walked here from Eucador, taking four years to do it, and studying the world as they came over it. I can hardly imagine our people doing such a thing. These men are inseparables; they go together to study and observe their plots and experiments. I am delighted with the little agricultural college. Truly Uruguay may well be proud of it and some day, let us hope, it will have a thousand students as it deserves.
"I went another day with Dr. D. E. Salmon, long chief of our Bureau of Animal Industry, now chief of the veterinary department of the Government of Uruguay, to see his new and splendid buildings, where will be housed the great veterinary college that the doctor is establishing here. The new buildings were being erected in what had been an old English garden, so that I roamed delightedly about looking at trees, shrubs and flowers, some new to me and some old friends. I lodged in the same house with the worthy doctor, by the way, and often shared with him the heat of his kerosene oil stove, or sharpened for him his razor, and together we used often to dine at night at the Uruguay club. There we discussed many agricultural problems.
BY RAIL TO MONTEVIDEO
"On train, June 24: We left Montevideo by train soon after daybreak. The roofs of the rail-way carriages were white with frost. I am very happy to get afield again, and I think that Samuel (my interpreter), is still happier, for he has not been out of the city into the real camp for seven years. Samuel's father was a Spanish priest, who got hold of some pamphlet that converted him to Methodism. Then he came to Argentina and in Entre Rios married a woman who must have been largely of Indian blood. Samuel is the fruit of that marriage, and the mother has had him in Montevideo receiving an education from a Methodist school. Just now, he is a Government stenographer; hence he is detailed to act as my interpreter. He is overjoyed to get to the camp again, after so long an absence from it, for he was country born and reared. I like the lad and enjoy his company. It is an inspiration to "chum" with a lad.
"All the world is green along the way, excepting the new-plowed fields, but it is a wintry sort of greenness. The sun shines feebly, and there are many tiny flowers in the grass, though what they mean by coming at this time of year is a mystery to me. We are passing through a region of small farms and gardens, with orchards and lines of ucalypts, some of them very fine. The farm homes, however, are distinctly of the peasant type. There are men afield with oxen plowing, but the poor oxen are thin and look weary; there have been four years of bad harvests because of drouth and locusts. The land rolls like parts of Nebraska, ana the soil is black and must be naturally good. We go north-ward. It will get warmer as we climb over the curve of the earth toward the more direct rays of the sun. My fellow-passengers are all wrapped well in cloaks or ponchos and some have wrapped immense scarfs around their necks."
We left the train at Durazno. The name signifies "peach," but it is hardly a peach of a village. There we took a stagecoach for Trinidad, perhaps thirty miles away. We made one change of horses. I was happy to sit up in front with the driver, wrapped in one of Uncle Samuel's army blankets, which, next to my fur-lined coat, was my most prized possession in South America. We had four passengers, a young lieutenant of the army, gorgeously appareled in red and gold ; a schoolboy going on a vacation to his father's estancia, and a few men wrapped in their great ponchos, ordinary citizens of the country. We passed guard houses along the way with soldiers in them who came out to inspect us, possibly looking for some one. The country along the way was rather bare and undeveloped looking, with rock outcropping along the tops of the ridges and thin grass eaten close by hungry cattle and sheep. There was a new railway, done by North Americans. There were not many trees excepting where eucalypts had been planted. The homes were poor and primitive.
REVOLUTIONS IN URUGUAY
As we drove along I reflected on the strange fact of Uruguayan wars and revolutions. We in North America are accustomed to laugh at these conflicts, as though they were not serious. We mistake greatly there. The Uruguayan is a brave man and a hard fighter. The wars are dreadful enough. There are many killed and the manner of their killing is sometimes unspeakable, because it is not usually convenient for the revolutionists to take and care for prisoners. Men told me that on each side it had been a custom to put prisoners to death by cutting their throats. There remains a dreadful hatred in Uruguay between the rival parties—the Côlorados, in power and having the government, and the Blancos, out of power and forever seeking by revolution to get in. Samuel told me that he was a Blanco and that no matter how many times they may be put down they would surely rise again; that there would be no rest until the hated Colorados were conquered and their government overthrown. As the majority of the people are Colorados, it is evident that a victory on the part of the Blancos would only re-grill in a short cessation of war, when it would be 'resumed with greater fierceness than ever.
The revolutions do not seem to have for their object any intelligible reform of government. In fact the Colorados seem to give a fairly intelligent and progressive government; it is more a revolt against being governed by a class that is hated. The reason for that hatred is simply that every Blanco has had a grandfather or uncle or a brother or some other relative who has perished at the hands of the Colorados ; and the other thing is as true that the Blancos have inflicted dreadful damage. upon the Colorados. It is a Kentucky fued carried to be a national issue. There is one hope, however; some of the more intelligent and patriotic men like Dr. Garcia Acevada have formed a third party, pledged for peace and reform, and inviting adherents of both belligerent parties to join them. Not much has yet been accomplished by this movement, however.
We could see the effects of the revolutions in the small numbers of horses in the land. At the out-break of a revolution the Blancos capture as many horses as they can and the government confiscates and removes all the rest, restoring them, when peace is again established. When revolutions shall have ceased in Uruguay that little country will, I think, take a leading place in South America. It has the men of intelligence, education and ambition to place it there, and resources to back them. The land can support ten times its present population.