Monday 12th March 2012 (Letter 6th August 1879)

G C Champion still delayed in Guatemala City

Today’s entry contains the next of my great grandfather’s letters from Guatemala. He is still detained in the capital, and clearly the frustration is building. Mr Morgans, to whom he refers several times, is the manager of the sugar cane/aguardiente liquor factory in San Gerónimo, in the province of Baja Vera Paz.

August 6th 1879

My dear Mother,

I am still detained in the capital, but hope to get away tomorrow or next day. Shall have to go without Mr Morgans after all – his business is not yet finished, have been expecting to leave almost every day for the past week. I hope to have the company of a young Canadian (a Mr. Hutchison, of Montreal) on the journey to San Gerónimo, Mr Morgans will follow in a few days. It is very expensive living here in the hotel especially when you have an animal to feed also, and the idle life does not suit me at all, so shall be only too glad to get away. Have been driven nearly crazy with neuralgia, for the last two or three weeks, and unable to sleep at night, but am a little better now, went yesterday to see a dentist, and he told me that I ought to have three wisdom teeth extracted but I don’t care to have this done unless absolutely necessary.

Have made many acquaintances in Guatemala, so generally have someone to talk to. Mr Morgans, though he only came out two months before me, seems to know everybody in the place. I went with him and others to the theatre on Monday evening, to see “La fille de Madame Angot”; it was very good indeed. The performers were all Mexicans and some of them sang very well, the theatre was crowded.

We are still having a great deal of rain, every day more or less, and the roads are in consequence in very bad order; in fact, the road to the port of San José is said to be almost impassable and the diligences have stopped running; what they will be like in another month I don’t know, for there is a lot more rain to come yet. This season is said to be the wettest for many years past.

Last Sunday there were processions in the streets, men carrying images, candles, etc, and, with a lot of priests and others, they held short services in the streets, finishing up by letting off a lot of fireworks, rockets, crackers, squibs, etc and in broad daylight! They would then go to another street and repeat the process, many of the houses were draped with red cloth for the occasion. The people are very bigoted indeed, though the President has put down many of these processions. Every day we see soldiers marching about the town, the place is full of them, and I think they make all the display they can to prevent revolution. There are several watchmakers here (Swiss, and Germans). I see a good deal of the managers of the principal shop here, kept by a Swiss named Widmer (who is now away in Europe), he tells me trade is very bad; we must not grumble much about high rents, they pay 50 dollars a month or £120 a year for the shop only, the upper part of the house is part of the Gran Hotel, they have a good stock, but all inside on the counter and at the back, nothing whatever in the window, very little English work, mostly French, Swiss or American, they charge an enormous price for everything, as do all the other shops here. The import duties are very high, then everything has to be brought up by road (90 miles) from the port; this of course makes a good deal of difference in the costs; luckily I am not obliged just yet to buy much in the way of clothing, and though have had to purchase a few things, many necessaries supplied by Mr Godman I cannot use because they are so heavy, and every pound extra in weight is of great consideration when travelling in this country.

Mr Morgans came out by way of Belize, he tells me that the country is much finer on the Atlantic side, than on the Pacific, where I have been all along so I hope to get on better bye and bye. San Gerónimo is about midway between.

The European mail came in on Sunday evening. I went to see if there were any letters for me, but there were none, have only received one newspaper as yet, I believe you have sent more.

There is a great deal of talk about the Panama canal project in Guatemala, many think it will end in failure.

I get on better now with the food in the hotel, but am obliged to avoid their green peas, beans, cabbage, and all of which they serve up mixed with evil smelling, oily liquids, which do not agree with me. There are plenty of different sorts of fruit about now, such as pineapple, mangos, oranges, limes, bananas, apples, cactus fruits and very many other sorts, some of which are very good but no better than our English strawberries, cherries, pears, and I often walk into the market when I have nothing else better to do; it is well worth visiting.

It astonishes me how people can afford to drink, gamble and enjoy themselves as they do, they must make plenty of money somehow or other; all those who can afford it keep horses, and very many go out riding on horseback in the evening; very few carriages or vehicles of any sort are to be seen in the streets, almost everything from a piano downwards is carried either by mules, or Indians.

There is a sort of park in the town, it is very gay just now with dahlias and other flowers, there are a lot of palms also. The band plays occasionally in the evening.

Must now close this, cannot think of anything more to tell you, with best love to all and hoping you are all well.

Believe me dear Mother,
Yours affectionately,
George C. Champion.

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