Sunday 4th March 2012 (Letter 24th July 1879)

GREAT GRANDFATHER GEORGE BUYS A “CHARGER”!

I add the next of my great grandfather entomologist George Charles Champion’s letters to his mother, dated July 24th, 1879. I can well imagine him travelling the mountainous road from Antigua to the capital on his newly-purchased mule – what took him six hours now takes less than 45 minutes.

The Cathedral, Guatemala City, Muybridge, 1875

The Cathedral, Guatemala City, 2011

GRAN HOTEL,
GUATEMALA,
CENTRAL AMERICA.
July 24th 1879

My dear Mother,

I am writing direct to Mr.Godman, so have written a short letter to enclose with it; am now once more in the capital and located for a short time at the Gran Hotel, once again I hear the everlasting ringing of the church bells; this time I am not so “dull” as being a stranger in the place and now having many acquaintances to talk to. This place now wears a very different aspect; everything is green and fresh, whereas in March the vegetation was all burnt up with the heat of the sun and want of rain.

I left Dueñas on July 21st for Antigua, spent a day and a night here with Mr. Wyld, and started almost before daylight next morning per mule for Guatemala; was lucky enough to travel back in company with Don Juan Rodriguez, starting about 6 a.m. It took us nearly 6 hours to travel the nine leagues of road, between Antigua and Guatemala, the views from the high mountains we had to cross were magnificent early in the morning, later the clouds came lower and obscured the higher ground; we travelled the whole distance without stopping on the road, the mud however delayed us a good deal. Mr. Wyld was very kind to me and did not want me to leave so soon, but I was there long enough, nearly a month, had plenty of English newspapers etc from him to read while at Dueñas.

Have been fortunate to make the acquaintance of an Englishman, Mr. Morgans, who is manager of a large estate in Guatemala. He has kindly invited me to go and stop with him there, which I shall be only too glad to do. This estate, San Geronimo, is very large, and I believe belongs to an English Company, it is two days’ journey from here, shall perhaps start hence in less than a week in company with Mr. Morgans; oddly enough, San Geronimo is one of the places Mr. Salvin directed me to go to. Mr Morgans is a very agreeable man, very fond of natural history, and about my own age, and I was very pleased to meet him through the introduction of the English Consul.

Have at last bought a charger! A mule, Mr. Wyld thought a mule better for long journeys and also that it would sell better when I left the country; had to pay a very high price for a good animal, but I think it is worth the money, it is very tame and does not give us the least trouble. It was not the least fatigued when we arrived yesterday, though it had not rested at all, or eaten on the road; mules are very sure footed, they rarely slip even if the road is very bad. On my return to Guatemala, had to pay 34/- for the letters received during my absence and forwarded on to me to Antigua, for one letter containing about 1/- worth of card, had to pay no less than 4 dollars (16), 8/- had been previously paid for the stamps, so it made the card rather expensive. Other things are equally dear. I am told you cannot get a decent pair of boots under at least 30/- and so on.

The shop-keepers seem to make a very good thing of it indeed. They are mostly French or Swiss, not many Germans. Nearly all are Europeans, but few Americans, and still fewer Guatemalans.
Very few live on the premises, but have houses elsewhere in the town, for which they have to pay very high rents, perhaps higher than in London.

Must bring this to a close, have very many things to attend to just now, so with best love to all,
Believe me etc.

City of Guatemala from Cerro del Carmen, Muybridge, 1875

The same view in 2012, from Cerrito del Carmen

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