The cocoa-nut walk needs hardly any care. When ripe the nuts fall of themselves, and all that is necessary is to pick them up. The husking of cocoa-nuts is the most tiresome work on a plantation, but the native inhabitants are very skillful at it, and they charge very little for their services.|
After being husked the nuts are piled up, and when the first steamer arrives are loaded into dories and paddled to the ship. As they are passed up the sides they are counted, and a check given immediately to the planter, who, on going to the Captain or purser, receives his money in Mexican dollars or Hondurian money.
The whole business is conducted on a cash basis. There are plenty of small islands which can be bought cheap for cash on which there are now sufficient trees to pay for the money invested in a short time, as well as to support the planter while waiting for his new trees to grow.
The cocoa-nut industry is increasing every year, while the demand for the nuts in New-York and New-Orleans is always equal to the supply. The ususal method of a planter who comes into this country to start a new plantation is to begin with the banana.
Nine months after the banana sucker is planted a yield is obtained. The young shoots are planted 18 or 20 feet apart, and between them a cocoa-nut tree is placed. The heavy growth of the banana shades the young plant until it is well-rooted, when it shoots up ahead.
The soil is so rich that banana and cocoa-nut will soon interfere. Then the banana suckers are cut down and the trees kept clean. Thus, while the planter lives upon and makes a profit from his bananas, the future fortune in cocoa-nuts is rapidly nearing its consummation.
There is little trouble in making plantations in this country. Land costs nothing, and large concessions may be obtained from the Hondurian Government. The new ground must be burned over once. Then the banana shoot is planted anywhere in a little clear spot. It will grow, no matter what the obstacles may be, the soil is so rich. Even if burned over a second time it will make no difference; the banana sucker will shoot up just the same.
Corn is also planted among the bananas. All that is necessary is to drop the kernels and scratch a little soil over them with a stick and they will spring up quickly. The corn crop will pay for the labor employed in burning over the land. In two or three years your plantation will be a garden, as the heavy wood rots quickly after being felled.
Just now the banana planters are making lots of money, as prices are high, owing to the oppostion lines of steamers running to the Hondurian ports. The fruit does not average quite so well as that taken to New-York City from the West Indies and the Aspinwall region, but the market in New-Orleans is very large and can make use of all that comes in. Bananas are also shipped to the West and North-west in large quantities, and car-loads have even been taken from New-Orleans to San Francisco. In fact, the fruit trade has become one of the largest items in the New-Orleans business, and it is increasing rapidly.
Its effect here has been to open the Hondurian country, which has lain for years in a half-civilized state. The resources of the country are large, and a little Northern enterprise is all that is needed to develop them.
Lately there has been a considerable mining boom, and several parties have gone into the interior. After working a while they usually come back. Most of them admit that there is gold in plenty in the mountains, but that it is hard to find. The natives pick up considerable gold-dust from the rivers and bring it down the coast to trade for cloths. Yet the chief revenue, for a time at least, must come from the fruit.
Eight years ago there was not a steamer along the coast, and what little trade there was was entirely carried on by schooners. Now a day does not pass when a steamer does not lie along the coast loading up with nothing but fruit.
Each steamer will take into New-Orleans from 12,000 to 20,000 bunches of bananas, thousands of plantains and cocoa-nuts, and lesser quantities of limes, oranges, pine-apples, and other fruits. As yet the shipment of fruit to New-York from this section has been small, but several well-known fruit men are turning their attention this way. Fast steamers can reach New-York in six or seven days, and bring the fruit in good condition, and it will not be long before there will be a regular line of fruiters between the Hondurian ports and New-York City. An import trade would also amount to something here, and will increase rapidly. Now it all comes from New-Orleans and Belize in British Honduras.
The Cotton Exposition, in New-Orleans, to be held this Winter, will afford an opportunity for the Central American republics to show what their products are and the value of their trade. Considerable interest is being taken in Honduras concerning the exposition, and its managers are showing much enterprise in soliciting exhibits from these countries, and certainly every opportunity will be afforded to the Central American merchants to show what they can do.
The island which was called "Bonacca" in the 1800's is now called Guanaja, and only a small, overpopulated key just southeast of Guanaja is called Bonacca. Guanaja & Bonacca are almost due north of Trujillo, Honduras.
The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1884 was equivalent to $22.79 in 2007 dollars.
The New York Times, February 17, 1889, p.2:|
THE PEOPLE OF TRUJILLO.HONDURAS WOMEN, THEIR DRESS AND MANNERS.
A TOWN THAT CORTEZ BUILDED AND THAT LIVES TO-DAY LARGELY ON THE MEMORY OF PAST GLORY.
OLANCHO, Jan. 30.--It is but a few hours' sail from the island of Raotan to Cape Honduras, where Columbus first sat foot on the American Continent, and situated on a beautiful harbor, sheltered by the long sand spit of the Cape, is the old city of Trujillo.
There is no other point on the north coast that, in commerce, can compete with this city, which Cortez founded and built up at the end of his long overland march from Tehuantepec. From here, in olden times, the gold and silver bullion were shipped to Spain, and when that country's power and influence in the New World was on the decline it was in front of Trujillo that the buccaneers laid in wait to pick up the Spanish treasure ships.
Our small schooner was able to pass the bar which which every river flowing north in Central America seems to be dammed, and a German merchant and I, the only passengers, were landed at the small wharf in the dory.
The city contains about 5,000 inhabitants, four-fifths of whom are as dark-skinned natives as one meets on the mountain trails of Guatemala, though a yellowish tinge of color runs through them all, betraying their Carib origin.
The arrival of the monthly schooner is an event in the life of a Trujillian as important as that of Christmas to the small boy of the United States, and a hundred men, women, and children, offering fruit for sale, greeted us as we stepped ashore.
The only hotel was a one-story adobe, whose rooms opened on an interior "patio," which served as stable, pigsty, cowyard, and general dumping ground for the whole house; but as dirty as we found the courtyard, the rooms and beds were scrupulously clean.
Nothing but the seashore immediately under the equator could be more tropical. Palms and banana trees lined every street, and through every door opening into the houses one sees the most luxuriant vegetation and flowers that bloom the year round.
A remembrance of former prosperity induces nearly every class of its inhabitants to dress better than people do at other coast towns; and here, as elsewhere, I found a decided and growing preference for American goods.
The pure Carib wears little but the coarse, common cottons of native weaving; the women of a higher grade affect ginghams and gaudy calicoes, but the dress of the "lady," par excellence, is a different affair, and those whom I had the pleasure of seeing were quite up to the foreigner's idea of the "dark, languid-eyed" Señorita. To be dressed as they are in Havana is all that the belle of Trujillo desires, and as the climates differ but little, texture, weight, and fashion may be accurately copied. Light, gauzy materials seem to be the rule the year round, and, among the wealthy, every fold necessarily held together is pinned with a diamond clasp.
Fortunately I was invited to the New Year's ball, and had some illusions dispelled which I had formed of Central American beauty. With very few exceptions the young ladies were tall, graceful, and of beautiful figure, though their dress rather distracted from their appearance; and I could not help thinking how much more to advantage they would have shown themselves if they could only have passed through the hands of a New-York modiste. The delicate paleness associated with tropical beauty and the raven hair type predominated. Pretty hands and feet are common, though a decent shoe is very rare. The hair is usually "banged" and worn plaited behind, though the beauty of the coil is always lessened by running a bright-colored ribbon in with the hair.
I do not remember seeing a hat worn by any lady along the coast. They are never worn while making calls, and in the street the mantilla is always used. The soft climate does not cause neuralgia, and I thoroughly enjoyed the absence of females with their faces tied up in handkerchiefs, which one sees so much in the streets of Guatemala.
There is a general lack of education among women; to play the piano a little and to waltz is about all that is required outside of mere reading and writing.
Many writers and travelers mention the women of Honduras as graceful and fearless horsewomen. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen very many in the saddle, and I have never seen one who showed as much courage as the average American girl who mounts a horse the first time... Very few know what a riding habit is, and when taking short rides their ordinary dress is not changed, which makes the passing equestrienne an object of much interest to the Caballeros.
The place to see the Central American belle is not on horseback. But with none of the advantages offered by more enlightened countries she never fails to interest the traveler by a peculiar gentleness and sweetness of manner which placer her far above the pert, forward "Miss" of San Francisco and on a level with the best-bred girls of New-York.
A considerable portion of the trade of Trujillo is in medicinal plants, more of which grow in the Department of Olancho than in any other portion of Central America. The sasparilla vine grows wild, and one has only to walk a few steps beyond the town limits to run against its thorns. It is a climbing vine, and clings as close to bushes, trees, and rocks as the common ivy.
Natives make trips into the woods at regular intervals, gathering its reddish-brown root in small quantities, which always commands a ready sale to the seaport merchants, who separate it into two qualities, governed by the diameter of the root and its color and richness of juice. The pieces are cut in one-foot lenghts and shipped to foreign countries in 25-pound bales...
The thick forests immmediately back of the town are inhabited by hundreds of families of monkeys, and one frequently has a sense of fellow feeling when in some solitary and secluded spot he sees an old and wrinkled patriarch, perched high up in some tree, scrutinizing one's appearance with that ridiculous solemnity which only a monkey can affect.
I have heard tales of travelers and boundary surveyors in which monkeys in cocoa palms make themselves disagreeable by throwing cocoanuts at one's head with malicious intention, but it has never been my experience to find the monkey any more dangerous than the prarie dog of our western plains.
I secured some very fine black, long-haired monkey skins, such as are made into forty-dollar muffs and ladies capes, for 50 cents apiece in silver.
In the many small Indian villages through which the mahogany roads passed, I experienced nothing but kindness and hospitality for a very small price, 25 cents being one night's bill for the outfit, including four animals, two Indian servants, and myself. Many of the men were away from home, in the mahogany outings, and most of the women, while keeping their vegetable gardens and corn fields in good condition, found time to manufacture rope, hammocks, saddle bags, horse gear, and hats from the pita, of fibre of a variety of cactus which covers the low lands in the greatest profusion.
The cactus leaf is cut and rolled and pressed between flat stones, to squeeze out all pulpy matter. The mass of fibre is then dried in the sun and separated into threads, to be twisted and fashioned as desired.
I saw some very fine hammocks of a flexibility never seen among those sent to foreign countries, which sell on the spot for $25. They are nearly as fine as lacework, and so skillfully are the different colors braided in that they look like embroidery a few feet distant.