« ZurückWeiter »
twenty-five pounds each, so as to be transportable by pack mules. This is the salt of commerce. The common people seldom use it in this form, but buy it in the crude state as it is taken from the mines.
At the time of the Spanish conquest, this great plateau, as also the entire territory of what is now known as the department of Cundinamarca, was inhabited by the Chibcha Indians, — probably the most civilized of all the native races of America, if we except those of Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. They were a bright coppercolored people, short in stature, but broad-chested, with large, well-shaped heads, straight black hair, dark brown eyes, small, straight noses, and somewhat delicate and well-shaped hands and feet. Docile and peace-loving, they were devoted to agriculture and the small arts; and their form of government bore some analogies to the present civil government of China. It was essentially patriarchal in form, and although despotic, very sensitive to public opinion. It consisted of an Emperor, whose office, however, was not necessarily hereditary; and he might be peaceably deposed for violations of traditional precepts, or for incapacity to govern wisely. There were a number of subordinate princes, or caciques, corresponding to the provincial governorsgeneral or viceroys of the Chinese Empire; and these, with the elders or “head men” of the districts and townships, constituted a sort of advisory board corresponding to the great Council at Pekin.
Their religion also presented some analogies to that of the Chinese Buddhists. It inculcated the belief in the transmigration of souls, the ultimate goal being a state of perfect passivity or rest; and among the sacred
1 The average yield from these salt mines is about 22,000 tons annually, worth about $850,000, which pays a net profit to the government of about 65 per cent.
images exhumed from their ancient burial-grounds is one that is the exact counterpart of the Chinese-Buddhist god of silence or
wisdom.” In form and artistic design the two images are almost identical; the only real difference being that the Chibcha image was made of burnt clay, while that of the Chinaman is usually made of wood, or stone, or brass. It is not improbable that both conveyed the same meaning to the votaries on opposite sides of the earth, although the two peoples were not aware of each other's existence. In the Chibcha mythology, too, the traditional Spirit of Evil was represented by a character corresponding to the Greek Ducalaine, the Hebrew Satan, and to a similar character in the ancient Chinese mythology. Their "god of the fields" or of agriculture was almost identical in general attributes with the Chinese "god of the harvests"; and
' their Chibchacum, or divine prophet and mediator, bears a most striking analogy to the mythical Foh-he of the ancient Chinese.
It was a tradition among the Chibchas that this entire plateau was once a vast lake of fresh water; and to this has been attributed the origin of their flood myth. It is very well known, however, that other aboriginal tribes in different parts of the continent had their flood myths. Indeed it seems to have been common to all of them; and similar myths prevail the world over.
The fact, therefore, that geologists who have studied the peculiar conformation and environments of the great savannah of Bogotá, believe it to have been the bottom of a great lake at sometime in the remote past, will hardly account for the origin of the Chibchan flood myth.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
\HE manners and customs of a proud and sensitive people constitute a very delicate subject to
touch upon, especially when one has enjoyed their hospitality and spent many happy days among them; and for this reason, the present chapter, as also some portions of others, might have been omitted had the writer been less conscious of a genuine sympathy and friendship for the Colombian people, or if he had had less confidence in their good sense. For he flatters himself that they know him too well, and have had too many evidences of his friendship to believe him capable of depreciating them, or of intentionally wounding their delicate sensibilities.
Oftener than otherwise, when peoples of diverse origin and language are not close friends, it is only because they do not really know each other; in which case all secret aversions, should there be any, readily disappear when they become better acquainted. The mere difference in language is a barrier to close and confidential friendships, especially between rural peoples of limited education, since their habits of thought and life are apt to be mutually misunderstood.
And this, I regret to say, has been too often the case between our Trans-Caribbean neighbors and ourselves. The average Anglo-American, knowing little or nothing of the idiom of his Latin neighbor, and judging only by