Tuesday 5th June 2012 (Letter 4th January 1881)

GCC spends a lonely Christmas, but then goes to the opera in the Capital

January 4th 1881

My dear Mother,

On my return to the capital on the 2nd, I found yours of Nov. 15th awaiting me. Another Christmas has come and gone, I must say I spent mine rather dismally, was rather unwell and was with Spanish speaking, unsociable, people, and what with the heat was glad to rest in a hammock the greater part of the day, and read. Christmas is not thought much of by people here; Good Friday, and some other days they observe much more, but except in the towns, weekdays and Sundays are much the same. Mr. Morgans is back again but he does not return to San Gerónimo; there is great trouble again in the management, I left just in time.

Left Las Nubes finally on December 14th for San Agustín, a coffee estate on the slope of the Volcano Atitlán – a very hot, dry place, remained till Boxing Day, then went up into the mountains to a cooler place and spent about a week at San Lucas and Panajachel (Indian villages) and in Godines (7000 feet); magnificent scenery here – the Lake of Atitlán, surrounded by lofty mountains (including the volcanoes), very hot in the day, and equally cold in the night – but all too dry and dusty for my work. The lake seen at sunrise and sunset was well worth a long journey to see; had occasion to cross in an Indian canoe, starting long before daylight, and the sun rose while I was crossing; in daytime in dry season, the mountains look too brown and colourness, they are best seen at sunrise or sunset.

Lake Atitlan in the dawn, as GCC would have seen it

On January 1st, I started for the capital (having various business matters to attend to there) 22 leagues distant, left Godines early in the morning and arrived at Guatemala in afternoon of the 2nd, travelling through high mountainous country all the way and passing many towns and villages – Patzún, Patzitzía, Chimaltenango, Zumpango, Santiago etc. The crops of maize and wheat are now nearly all in and the country looked very barren, very windy and dusty all the second day, arrived very tired on the Sunday afternoon, so after dinner to finish up the day I went to see ‘Il Trovatore’ at the Theatre. Shall be here a few days and then go on once more to the Pacific coast region. I have given my headman, Leopoldo, six days’ holiday, so he has started off today to San Gerónimo to see his friends. It is now a year since I was in Guatemala, only come now from necessity, the place has but little attraction for me. I find many new things and shops (including several Swiss watchmakers) but most people grumbling about trade.

Public Market, Guatemala, Muybridge 1875

I think the prices of almost everything would astonish you if you were to come here, how the middle class live, I scarcely know. There is a German barber here many years in Kennington in business; here, however, he gets 2/- for hair cutting and shaving instead of about 4d or 6d as in Kennington. This is the best time for fruit and flowers – the beginning of summer, the rains are all over now till May. Mr Salvin still sends very satisfactory letters; he is by himself for a time, Mr Godman having gone to India for a few months returning in April, am expecting now daily to hear more from him about the Chiriquí business.

I seem to know now almost all the foreigners here, so do not find Guatemala so dull as before, I suppose I return once more to settle up manners finally. The Gran Hotel was full, so am located this time in the Globo.

I am writing to Walker direct to Valparaiso. Splendid weather now, almost cloudless sky, but rather too dry and dusty for me.

I enclose the photo taken by Mr Boy while I was in Las Mercedes, it is better than nothing. It was taken while I was in the rough, travelling with scarcely any clothes to my back.

Steamer came without making connection at Panama, so am obliged to leave without letters from Mr. Salvin; it is very unfortunate, as he may direct me to go to some other place, and time in Guatemala is short; address care of Weams as before.

Believe me,

Lake Atitlan seen from near Godines

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