Wednesday 9th May 2012 (Letter 25th July 1880)

GCC reports about an eruption of the Volcan de Fuego, and the first train runs in Guatemala
July 25th, 1880

My dear Mother,

I have about finished with Vera Paz and have to make fresh headquarters in another part whether I like it or not; have letters of introduction to English and American people in the Costa Cuca and Costa Grande about a day’s journey from the capital of the cold country, Quetzaltenango. Am afraid Mr. Jansen frightened you a little about these countries; you may be sure I shall not stay to the detriment of health; it is rather odd though I was ill when I received this last letter with a return of fever but it only lasted a day. I go now to a cold country for a time; elevation 6000-8000 then afterwards to warmer places on the Pacific slope of the Cordillera. I believe Mr. Jansen did not live a very steady life in Nicaragua, that may have been something to do with it. There is an Englishman living in the mountains here over 80 years of age and has been upwards of 30 years in Guatemala. I lose a little in weight and feel languid at times, but beyond this do not feel much the worse; most people get a touch of fever sooner or later, I wonder I have not done so before.

Mr and Mrs Pollin gave a ‘soirée’ the other evening to the military chief of Baja Vera Paz and others, it ended as usual in this country with a number of people getting drunk (the chief included). You would be astonished I think if you saw the ladies, they drink and smoke just the same as the men.

The Volcano Fuego has recently broken out again, after smoking quietly for several years, and caused a little consternation in Guatemala and Antigua; it threw out enough ashes in one night to cover everything to a depth of 18 inches. We were too far off to see it here, but had I been at El Zapote I should have seen rather more than I wanted I expect, for Zapote is right below the crater; the eruption of July 4th was said to have been a grand sight.

Steffi's fabulous picture of Fuego in action

I don’t like leaving without receiving news of Mr. Godman but shall have to do so; it is some time since I heard from them but have been here a month and must start; in this country letters are generally taken by relays of Indians on foot, and this of course occupies a lot of time. The first railway was opened recently from the Pacific port of San José to Escuintla (half way to the capital) and a small steamer has just started from the Atlantic side from Lívingston to Panzós; they are beginning to wake up at last in Guatemala and it is quite time they did so I think.

A map of the first railway in Guatemala, from Puerto San Jose to Escuintla

Mr. Morgans has arrived in Bristol, I heard he was taken ill at New Orleans on his way and delayed very much on the road, he is expected back again before very long. This is Sunday, a quiet day in this place; while in San Gerónimo, seldom go out on this day.

Must now bring this to a close, goodness knows from where shall direct my next.

Guisela Nanne de Skaggs, great grand-daughter of William Nanne, chief engineer of the railway

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