The New York Times, March 9, 1888, p.2:|
LA GUAYRA, THE SEA PORTMAKING A LANDING THERE AND OBSERVING FREIGHT.
WHERE FOREIGN GOODS COME FROM--
RAILS NOT FROM PITTSBURG--THE ROAD TO CARACAS.
CARACAS, Venezuela, Feb. 9.--The little city of La Guayra [La Guaira], the seaport of Caracas, nestles close to the feet of magnificent mountains that rise abruptly and boldly from the Caribbean Sea to a height of nearly 8,000 feet. There is barely room between the line of glistening breakers that tumble all along the shore in grand confusion and the wooded steps to give space for more than two or three narrow streets running parallel to the strand, and so the houses at the eastern edge of town crowd themselves up into the boca (mouth) of a grand cañon, down which, in the rainy season, rushes a tumultuous flood leaping from the mountain side, carrying with it tons of gravel, quantities of stones, and even great boulders into the engulfing sea.
High up this cañon, almost beyond the outermost houses, stands the parish church with its square tower, white and shining, as neat and smooth as stucco and whitewash can make it, and above the church, looking down upon it from a bold promontory at the entrance to the valley, the circus or bull-ring shows more conspicuously than any other building in La Guayra.
On the top of a high hill, a spur of the main chain, projecting seaward from the lofty ridge of the mountains, is La Vigie, a watch tower commanding a far-ranging view over the great sea; there is a signal station whence by various-colored flags the approach and departure of many vessels are daily reported.
La Guayra is about 1,850 miles from New-York. It is the principal portion of the Venezuelan coast in the province of Caracas, a territory with a coast line of 165 miles, which extends from the River Unare on the east to Aroa Point, its western landmark. La Guayra has no harbor, vessels anchor in an open roadstead, at times rendered dangerous by reason of northeasterly gales, which send in a heavy swell. The holding ground is, however, very good, for a vessel dragging her anchor must needs draw it up the steep slope of the sea bottom. For most of the year the gentle trade winds prevail, and it is not often that passengers may not be landed from or conveyed to ships in entire safety and comfort.
From La Guayra there is a railroad, or rather, and English railway, 23 miles in length, to Caracas. There is also a wagon road (built in 1843) about 24 miles in length, and the old Spanish mule trail, 9 miles long, crosses the crest of the mountains at an elevation of 5,500 feet. By this latter route bold riders may find their way amid most picturesque and magnificent scenery to the capital city of Venezuela.
Caracas is, however, but six miles from La Guayra, through the hills, and about 50 years ago an English company offered to excavate a tunnel between the two cities, provided the Government of Venezuela would grant to them forever the right to all minerals that might be found during the progress of the work. The offer was not accepted, however, and only lately, it is said, a concession has been granted to an American company which proposes to bore the grand subway, with the intent to operate a railway through it by means of the "cable system," now in such successful operation on street railways in America.
Whether this plan is feasible I leave it for engineers to decide. When it is remembered that Caracas is 3,000 feet above the sea, (which fact would render a grade of 500 feet to the mile necessary,) only those who have seen the "cable cars" climb up Nob Hill in San Francisco can believe that it will be possible to run a train from La Guayra to Caracas by means of stationary engines and "cable grips."
It was on a bright and sunny, not to say hot, morning in the month of February of this year of grace that the steamship Caracas of the Red D Line cast anchor in the roadstead of La Guayra. The Caracas, a real American-built steamer, with a genuine American Captain--as good a seaman who ever graduated from the Maine coast, (that school of sailors,) a master of shipcraft who did not find his way to the quarterdeck by climing in at the cabin windows--an American ship with American officers and engineers, and engines of good American steel, with a Yankee boatswain, and as much of a Yankee crew as can be picked up along shore in these degenerate days when so many Yankee sailors have turned land lubbers, (and all because of the aggravating and absurd shipping acts of 1798.) This American ship, with "old glory" flying in the place of honor over her stern, came to anchor three-quarters of a mile from shore in front of La Guayra, on a decidedly warm but pleasant day in the middle of February.
In a short time her passengers were set on shore, after an exhilarating ride over the rollers in the ships jolly-boat, and a final dash through the surf, all of which was accomplished without shipping so much salt water as would give one a taste of the brine.
I have traveled much by sea, have visited many ports... I had only twice before in all my voyages made a deep-sea voyage under the American flag. I have sailed under other flags, a stranger in strange ships, but on the Caracas I was at home, under the protection of my own Government, and the difference in feeling and comfort was as between living at home in my own house and lodging in a foreign hotel...
Having some time to wait on the wharf before our baggage was transported on the heads of sweating, labor-worn darkies to the Custom House, where little or no trouble was given us, (thanks to the assistance rendered by the purser of our steamer, who did the needful in the way of speaking Spanish and in many ways aiding us,) I looked about me to learn what kind and sorts of cargoes were brought to La Guayra and what shipped thence.
The list of exports is soon made out, viz., sugar, in old-fashioned sugar loaves, the Venezuelans call it papelon, coffee in great quantities, cocoa, hides, and soem dye woods. The catalogue of imports is large and very miscellaneous, as witness the memoranda copied from my note book, in which I jotted them down, while waiting for the Custom House permit as before related.
Piled in confusion all over the iron-roofed dock, which is protected from the breakers, that almost ceaselessly roll in upon the shore obliquely from the northeast, by an elbow of broken stones and and cribwork, were heaps of merchandise of all kinds and descriptions--cases of wine and brandy, olive oil, preserved fruits, meats, &c., from Bordeaux, preserved butter from Hamburg, (why not oleomargarine from the States?) salted bellies of codfish from Water-street, New-York, boxes of printing paper in sheets from Belgium, (have they no rotary printing presses in Venezuela?) Fairbanks's scales, flour from Minneapolis, bacon from Chicago, barrels of ham from New-York, resin, wood-working machinery, a piano, two carriages, rolls of wire fence, bales of cotton ducks, and drills, all from the Estados Unidos del Norte, as the Venezuelans call our Republic.
There were iron barrels of soda ash from Liverpool, artificial patent coal from Cardiff; barrels of nails, iron railway sleepers, not from Pittsburg, (protected art of foreign markets,) but from free trade England; innumerable barrels of cement from Hamburg for use in the great breakwater now building at La Guayra. There were cases of preserved meats and fish from Copenhagen, hogsheads and crates of glass and chinaware, evidently French, by their neatness and the compact way they were packed and marked.
In direct competition for the favor of Venezuelan beer drinkers, there were barrels of Bass's ale and XXX London porter, real Bavarian beer and its St. Louis imitation; original and genuine "Milwaukee" now imitated, and not badly imitated by the way, in the land of Gambrinus--ober Rhine.
Dundee and Belfast sent their exhibits to this commercial exposition, held on the wharf at La Guayra, in the shape of solid canvas-covered bales of linens and lute cloths, used for sacking coffee, cocoa, and the curious old-fashioned conical loaves of papelon.
An English company is now engaged in building a breakwater at La Guayra, which, when completed, will extend 2,000 feet into the sea, terminating in 50 feet of water. The engineers had made good progress with the work, having extended the wall about 150 feet, when, in last December, during a severe gale, the entire structure then completed was swept utterly away by the battering of the waves. The company immediately began to rebuild, and are now making good progress with their work.
All in due time, having run the gauntlet of the Custom House, we were free to "do" the town, and we availed, ourselves fully of the opportunity, as the patient reader will learn.
The first thing that attracts the attention of the curious visitor to La Guayra on landing, or rather upon walking from the wharf upon terra firma, is a little public square situated midway between the two ends of the town, on the water front, close to the sea, with only the track of the La Guayra and Caracas Railway between it and the shore wall, against which the breakers dash themselves into spray. In the centre of this square, surrounded by almendra trees and the great, knotted and gnarled matopalos--the bearded trees--the presence of which in Barbadoes prompted the Portuguese discoverers of that island to call it Barbada, (the bearded,) is a statue--one of the many erected in all parts of Venezuela--to Gen. Antonio Guzman Blanco--El Illustre Americano, El Regenerador, El Reivindicador of Venezuela, as he has been created by different acts of the Venezuelan Congress. In all the principal towns of his country his admirers have set up statues in his honor.
Blanco ci Blanco la, indeed, he is as conspicuously omnipresent as he apparently is omnipotent. Blanco has, no one can deny, done much for this South American republic. That he is a man of great ability and force of character is equally undeniable. Of course, he has enemies; and apropos of all these monuments a member of Blanco's own family made a "mot" that, it is said, led to his being invited to leave Venezuela by the object of his ridicule.
The wit suggested that the numerous statues of Blanco should be made with heads that could be screwed on or off so that after the next revolution new heads might be readily fitted to the old bodies, thus saving much time and expense in supplying the demand for statues of the leaders of the new order of things.
The inscription on the pedastal of the particular statue under notice is: Venezuela agradecide al Supremo Director de la Reivindicacion. Gral Antonio Guzman Blanco. 1880. That is to say, Venezuela pays her respects to the old-time President of her republic.
In the little square under the shade of the trees we sat down to rest during the heat of the morning, and to while away part of the time between our landing and the hour of breakfast--almuerzo, as we had learned to call it, almost the first Spanish word we tried our tongues to. We could look from where we sat out on the wharf on which we had landed, from which there issued a long single file of negroes, bearing on their heads and shoulders all kinds of packages--the cargoes of many ships--to deposit them in warehouses across the street beyond the square...
It was a busy scene all along the strand, and we were much entertained by observation of it; but finally the men knocked off work, and we were reminded that it was time to seek the Hotel Neptuno, there to repair the waste of tissue, in other words, that the time for almuerzo... had arrived. Accordingly for the Hotel Neptuno we set out, and chancing to pass by numerous fruit stands we bought each of us, for the price of THE NEW-YORK TIMES, as many oranges as we could hold in our hands.
We proceeded up the middle of one street and down the shady side of another peeling and eating our oranges, and so came to the door of the hostelry of which we were in search. Here, in the cool seclusion of the partia, the shaded courtyard, we lingered long discussing a most excellent menu, which, being unable to read, (it being in Spanish,) we translated ab ovo usque ad poma by tasting and trying one dish after another. This delightful and gratifying employment led us to the discovery that we were rapidly acquiring a knowedge of Spanish table talk.
At the Hotel Neptuno we remained, therefore, until it was time to take the train for Caracas; but how we proceeded to that capital must of necessity, and because of the extreme length of this screed, be told hereafter.
The New York Times, May 20, 1888, p. 10:|
...The coffee, as was to be expected in Venezuela, was delicious. Its odor pervaded the room like a gentle gale from "Araby the blessed," and although it was black and rich in essence it was, nevertheless, pure and unclouded--not the thick and gritty brews of Mocha served, according to the accounts of Orientalists, in the indefinite country known as the Far East.
Its purity, the delicacy of its flavor, the satisfying quality of its odor all inspired me with a desire to know how it was brewed, extracted, or distilled, and a visit to the kitchen of the Hotel American gave me the opportunity of discovering this fact, that as in all other arts the art of making coffee is simple matter-of-fact observance of the easiest learned rules.
What I saw of the process of making coffee requires no elaborate, carefully-considered description. The following plain and unstilted cook book, English, will suffice to initiate the careful, painstaking housewife in the mystery of how to make a cup of coffee.
Get your Venezuelan coffee--the fattest, roundest, heaviest beans--roast enough of them to serve for the making of as many cupsful as there are to be drinkers. Roast the beans brown, do not burn blacken them; bray them while hot in a mortar with a pestle; do not grind them in any kind of a patented or unpatented labor-saving and coffee-spoiling machine whatsoever. Crushing does not, and grinding does, cause the coffee to part with some of its aroma.
Tie the grains, thus crushed to about the size of flaxseed, in a bag of thick, white flannel, so thick that no dirt or dust, if any there be in the coffee, may escape through the interstices of the cloth. Take a plain earthen pot, fill it with water, and set it on the fire till it is hot, very hot, and the water has been boiling a minute or two. Throw out the water, put in the bag, let the coffee steam a few minutes, the lid of the pot closely fitting, and allowing no escape of aroma. Carefully lift the cover, pour in boiling water enough to make one-third of a cup of coffee for each prospective drinker and one-third of a cup for the pot. Let the bag of coffee boil three minutes, the lid of the pot still on, letting the steam escape as little as possible.
In three minutes--the time it takes to boil an egg--the coffee is ready. Pour out this one-third of black, strong, hair-lifting essence, dilute it with twice the quantity of boiled milk--milk of the Andalusian cow; sweeten it with papelon, natural Venezuelan sugar crystals, and you will be prepared to enjoy the delights that excited me to two cups and a half that morning...
Everybody, as we were afterward to learn, smokes cigarettes in Venezuela... The waiters in the hotel smoked while setting the tables; the proprietor sat at his desk in his own personal well-flavored cloud; the major-domo and janitor, the little boy who ran of errands, the cocheros on their hacks, the drivers and conductors of the horse cars, the padros sitting in the public squares, the policemen on duty, the soldiers mounting guard before the barracks, the clerks in the shops while waiting for customers, the expectant boot-black, the guests at the hotel... all the white and colored men, and nearly all the colored girls and women...
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The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is located at the northern end of South America, bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the southwest and west. The capital of Venezuela is Caracas. The area of Venezuela is 352,144 square miles (912,050 square km). The estimated population of Venezuela for July, 2007 is 26,023,528. The official language is Spanish.
After over 300 years as a colony of Spain, Venezuela was the first Spanish territory in the Americas to seek independence. In 1808 the armies of French emperor Napoleon I overran Spain and Portugal and deposed Ferdinand VII of Spain. This led to a junta in Venezuela issuing a formal declaration of independence on July 5, 1811.
In July 1812 Spanish troops began reconquering the colony. Revolutionary commander Francisco de Miranda was taken to Spain, where he died in prison. One of his lieutenants, Simón Bolívar, then led the fight against the Spanish. In 1819 a congress convened by Bolivar proclaimed a union of New Granada (now Colombia and Panama), Venezuela, and Ecuador under the name of the Republic of Colombia with Bolívar as president. On June 24, 1821, the Spanish were decisively defeated at the Battle of Carabobo, and independence was won. Venezuela seceded from the union in 1829.
For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms.
Democratically elected governments have held sway since 1959. Hugo CHAVEZ, president since 1999, has promoted a controversial policy of "democratic socialism," which purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking globalization and undermining regional stability. Current concerns include: a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.
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