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size is out of all proportion to the population; for one naturally wonders what practical use such an enormous auditorium can be in a city of less than 100,000 inhabitants. And yet it is occupied regularly three and four nights each week during the three winter months, by the very best opera troupes of Europe; and on such occasions there is seldom an empty box or seat.
Even the third gallery and the lobbies are usually crowded. The Caraquenians are a music-loving people, and all classes and conditions manage somehow to attend the opera. It is a very common thing to hear shoemakers and carpenters, stone masons and plasterers, stableboys and street-car drivers humming some classic air which they have caught up at the opera during the week.
In Caracas there are a great many church edifices, some of which are large and handsome. But one somehow gets the impression that they are not up to the standard of taste and excellence displayed in the structure of the other public buildings of the city. Moreover, one can hardly fail to observe that the daily attendance at mass is smaller, in proportion to population, than in either of the other capitals of the five Bolivian republics. Perhaps the reason is that the men of the educated classes are, as a rule, either secretly or openly hostile to the Church. Some of them are avowed agnostics, others are sceptical, many more are merely indifferent. There is no Protestant element, nor apparently any room for any; no spirit of theological inquiry; no disposition to discuss religious creeds; no formulated issues with the old Church; no open rupture: only a sort of secret dislike to all forms of ecclesiasticism and priestly intervention in the affairs of life.
This indifference, however, is confined almost exclusively to the educated classes. The common people are devoted to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church. They may appear less reverent, and certainly less fanatical and intolerant, than those of Bogotá and Quito; but when you come to know them intimately, you will discover that they are not less disposed to accept without doubt or question the doctrines and teachings of the Church. They generally believe whatever the parish priest tells them. Their wonder may be excited, but their credulity is never staggered by any story, however extravagant, provided only that it is miraculous or supernatural. Their simple, child-like faith, so far from exciting derision, appeals to sympathy, and can hardly fail to excite admiration. We may not be able to fully enter into their feelings; our conceptions of man's relations to God and to the spiritual world may be on a higher and more philosophical plane of thought, yet we can hardly fail to remember that forms of religion, like forms of government, are good or bad only as they are well or ill adapted to the present condition and wants of the masses.
WHERE IS VENEZUELA?”
N December, 1892, a Western member of the United
asked, “Where is Venezuela anyhow?” This was pending a proposition to consolidate the missions to Venezuela and Guatemala, the impression being that the two republics were adjacent countries! Another member, equally well up in geography, and equally enthusiastic in his advocacy of " economy," wanted to consolidate the missions to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. It was during the same year that a St. Louis merchant wrote to our minister at Caracas to find out the most available Venezuelan seaport on the Pacific.” A cattle-dealer in Colorado had just written to inquire “whether, in order to visit Maracaybo, it would be necessary to sail via Europe." And, soon afterwards, a tobacconist in Virginia wrote to ask “whether it would be advisable to ship samples via the isthmus of Panama!”
All these were actual occurrences, incredible as the statement may now seem; and they are cited here only for the purpose of illustrating how little was generally known of that country prior to the intervention of the United States in the Anglo-Venezuelan boundary dispute in 1895-96. There had been complaints about the bulk of the South American trade going to Europe; but even some of our Congressmen, it seems, knew not whether Venezuela was north or south of the equator, or whether the capital of the Republic was on the Atlantic or Pacific seaboard. It was not till after the agitation of the Guayana boundary question that the mass of American readers discovered that Venezuela is our nearest neighbor but one; that Caracas is less than eight days' travel from Washington; that its principal seaport towns are only about six days' sail froin New York, and less than four from Savannah and Charleston; and that the capitals of Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru are practically as far from Caracas as is Rome from St. Petersburg.
A glance at any good map of the South American continent will show that Venezuela occupies its northermost extremity; and that La Guayra and Cumuná are further north than the isthmian cities of Colon and Panama. The Republic is bounded on the west and southwest by Colombia, east and southeast by British Guiana, south by Brazil and Colombia, and north by the Atlantic ocean and the Caribbean sea. And if we care to make the calculation, we shall discover that "the little Republic” comprises an area of territory greater than that of either France or Germany, and greater than that of Italy and Spain combined.
The peculiar topographical conformation of the country affords almost every variety of climate within the compass of a few miles, and every species and variety of vegetal product common to the three zones of the earth. It is traversed by some of the largest rivers of the world, and abounds with great inland lakes of fresh water, often at altitudes which afford a temperate and equable climate. If we could take a bird's-eye view of the country, we should see dizzy ridges of snowcapped mountains, deep tropical valleys, rolling steppes, vast treeless plains, dense forests yet unexplored by civilized man, swamps and jungles inhabited only by reptiles and wild beasts, millions of domestic cattle grazing upon vast prairies, great coffee estates side by side with sugar and tobacco plantations, and auriferous districts richer in gold and silver and precious stones than those of California or Australia.
Many of the large rivers are navigable by heavy steamers all the year round, and some of them traverse the entire Republic from side to side. Nearly a hundred of them flow, in circuitous courses, to the Caribbean Sea; as many more flow into the Gulf of Paria; more than fifty disembogue into Lake Maracaybo; and some half dozen others flow into the beautiful inland lake of Valencia. Few countries are so well watered; few have so many fine harbors and navigable caños; and perhaps none have such alternations of rich alluvial soil, upland forests, and mountains of mineral wealth. It is indeed strange that, in this material age, the possibilities of such a country should be a matter of such indifference to the industrial and commercial world.
The chief river is the great Orinoco, which, with its two hundred tributaries and its twelve thousand square miles of delta, is the key to nearly a quarter of the South American continent. The river is to Venezuela what the great Yangstze is to China, what the Amazon is to Brazil, what the Magdalena is to Colombia, what the Mississippi is to the United States. One of the affluents of the Orinoco is connected by a natural channel with an affluent of the Amazon; another, starting from the eastern spur of the Imataca mountains, and flowing eastward through the coast region, connects the great Delta with the Moroco; another, with its sources in the Chema mountains on the borders of Colombia, flows eastward through the heart of Venezuela and disembogues 400 miles above the head of the Delta, —