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Friday, November 23
Yesterday and the dayous previna mostly on shore, leaving after breakfast and returning again before supper, paying from one to two rials for conveyance in boats to the landing. A rial is 12 1/2 cents.
There are from 70 to 80 vessels now lying in port waiting their turn for water, and at least one half of them are American bound for California. Three or four vessels are arriving and departing almost every day. We find hundreds of Americans here on their way to California from various parts of the States, but as yet I have not seen a familiar face.
Valparaiso is built on almost barren hills, here and there studded with wild cactus and low bushes and some other wild plants, all differing in their appearance from the plants found in the States. The city is of a mean appearance, being for the greater part small mud-plastered huts or ranches of one story, covered with hay, or tiles and mud, and having no floors. The streets are very winding and narrow and the houses built one above the other, presenting the appearance of a hill covered with tiles and straw, as we gaze upon them from the top, and so steep that a man must go on all fours to climb to them. There are a few pretty decent houses of two or three stories, belonging to the better class, the windows of which are almost invariably crossed by bars of iron as our prisons are. These are beautifully furnished and the bed is often in the front parlor. Nearly all have pretty little gardens in the rear in which oranges, peaches and fragrant roses flourish most abundantly.
I visited one Spanish and one English cemetery and in them found some of the most beautiful sculpture I ever saw. They are beautifully laid and planted with shade trees and rosebushes.
I visited the springs up the mountains in deep ravines where the town is supplied with water, and there the women carry their clothes to wash. They first lay them in the pool and soap them, and then push them into a heap against the rock and beat them with a paddle. They charge one dollar per dozen, but it wears them out very fast.
I also went to see the fort or armory. There are about a dozen cannon around it which command the harbor, and a great many soldiers who are paid nine dollars per month. There are numerous police, all mounted on mustangs and armed, traversing the streets day and night. The laws are very strict, especially to foreigners. For striking one of the police, you pay a penalty of twenty-five dollars or three months' imprisonment in the calaboose. Prisoners for crimes are chained together and work in the streets guarded by the soldiers. They are connected by a chain about 12 feet long locked around the ankle.
The inhabitants are of a dark, tawny complexion, with beautiful black hair and eyes. They speak Spanish, but here and there we find one who can speak a little English. They all drink and keep liquors for sale. They are fond of the fandango and only require a request or an invitation to begin it. The men wear a blanket with a slit cut in the middle, through which they slip their heads and cover their shoulders. The women are generally very slovenly dressed and I have seen but few whom I would pronounce beautiful or even good-looking. Today we were visited by a Chilian señora only sixteen years of age, married to a young New Yorker who keeps a hotel where some of us have stopped. She was dressed like our own ladies and looked quite pretty.
You cannot get a drink of any kind for less than a rial and at the hotel they set out your brandy, or whatever else you may call for, in a bottle, and also a small bottle of water, the latter of which must supply a party of half a dozen. The loaf sugar is broken into lumps, and instead of a masher you take a spoon to dissolve it.
There are a great many foreigners who appear to transact a good part of the business. The market is well supplied with an abundance of fruits of a splendid quality, which are cheap, oranges four inches in diameter and delicious strawberries as large as a guinea egg. Prices of almost everything else are two or three times as high as in the States.
There is one English weekly newspaper here, quite small and miserably conducted, published by the Spaniards, at an ounce ($17) per year. I was in the office where it was printed, but could find no one who could speak English. They had five or six presses and about thirty workmen. I have since understood that journeymen printers receive $10 per week. I paid two rials for a copy of the paper.
- Ship Europe
- Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
One man's gold; the letters & journal of a forty-niner, Enos Christman