Tuesday 21st February 2012 (Letter 12th April 1879)

Here is the next of my great grandfather’s letters from Guatemala to his mother. I was unable to locate Aceituno during my recent stay in the country, but Capetillo featured prominently as one of the few places that I did manage to locate, and yet was unsuccessful in my attempts to visit. I shall explain in the following diary post.

April 12th, 1879

My dear Mother,

I am still detained here in the Hotel, but hope to get away next week into the country; after a second bilious attack, I have been very well here, and am now getting used a little to the diet of the country; can now eat frijoles and bananas and many other things I could not touch at first. We only have two meals a day, breakfast at 9, and dinner at 2, coffee at 6.30 and at 8 p.m., if we like. If I am not in at 9 a.m., which often happens when I go out in the morning, I lose my breakfast. It is very hot, dry and dusty here in the middle of the day and cold at night. If I go out for a walk, I generally start about 7, and get back to dinner.

Señor Vizcaino, who came up from the coast with me, left this morning on his way back to Mexico. I shall miss him very much as he shared my room here with me and spoke very good English. I went with him last week to Ciudad Vieja (about 10 miles off) and remained two days there, stopping on a coffee estate in the country, and a very nice place too, just at the foot of the volcanoes. I hope to be ?? again before long, with Señor Arzú (a Guatemalan). He made me very welcome. While at Ciudad Vieja, I went over to Dueñas to see an Englishman, with whom I was to remain some time, but he cannot find room for me at present, as his house has been shaken to pieces by earthquakes, and is not yet rebuilt. He looks in excellent health; the country suits him well enough apparently.

I have also been on a short visit to Aceituno, a very fine estate a few miles from the city. The owner, Señor Carlos Rodriguez (a Guatemalan) made me welcome. I rode over with him on a mule to the estate, returning in the evening. When he goes back to reside there (he is living in the city now), I hope to go and remain with him some time; he is very fond of natural history, also of flowers etc. He has a beautiful garden, orchards of orange trees, bananas etc. This is a sugar estate, and a fine lot of cane he has too, with a great deal of machinery. While at Aceituno on the 9th, it rained for a short time: the first rain since my arrival nearly a month ago.

I hope next week to get away from here to an estate about 40 miles away called San Cayetano, from there I may go to Capetillo so may be away a month altogether, must come back here then to arrange various matters; shall leave a great deal of my heavy luggage here. Everything is very dear here and my hotel expenses are of course heavy, still I hope they will (inclusive of all other expenses) not exceed half my salary; of course while away in the country, my expenses will be light enough. It has been very quiet here for the last two days. Good Friday and the day before, the churches are all lit up with candles and filled with gilt ornaments etc. I went to look at the cathedral out of curiosity. People must not travel on horseback, or carry on business while this festival lasts; as for Sunday, except that the shops are closed, it is noisier than any other day; two performances in the circus etc. They have bullfights also, but not while I was here. There are a lot of Germans, also Americans, French, but very few English in the town. I have come across a French botanist, M. Blancaneaux, collecting for Veitch people in Holland, I have been out with him, was with him yesterday and we saw a few Humming Birds, some lovely orchids in flower (Odontoglossum grande) so I have not been dull, have had plenty, indeed too much, to do. Not knowing Spanish, it is hard work for me.

People are very polite and friendly in the towns. The Indians are not very prepossessing in appearance, but they work. They will walk 30 miles and carry a heavy load for about 2 reals, 1/-. The only time they are to be avoided is when they are drunk, which is pretty often. Breakfast and dinner last about an hour – so many courses; meat is poor, if you were to see it in the shop, I think it would spoil your appetite for a long time and as for fruit, I don’t like any of it except pineapples and oranges.

In going to Ciudad Vieja the other day, we passed over mountains about 6000 feet and it was really cold at this elevation. The roads are awful, you seldom travel more than five miles an hour on the average. I don’t know which is worst, riding in a diligence or on a mule. I expect I shall soon have to buy a mule. They cost about 320. On my return from Capetillo, I may perhaps go to Ocotopeque to stay at the Silver mine with the owner, a German who is now in the city. He is going to stay there a month and has asked me to go with him. It is about 100 miles or 3 days journey from here.

Tea is a ruinous price and many other things also. Living for a European is at least double here to what it costs at home. I did quite right in bringing plenty of clothes; people of the better class dress in the height of fashion, top hats, black cloth etc.

I find it utterly impossible at present to write many letters, am too much worried with other things. It is like being out of the world here, the difficuly of travelling, getting lettings etc.
Must now say goodbye with best love to all

I remain etc.,

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