The Cornish in Latin America

Aztec art

Home > The Cornish in Latin America > Letters and Diaries > Letter of Captain Thomas Garby Jnr.

Guanaxuato, 18th Sept. 1824.
We arrived here, the head quarters of our future operations, on the 13 ult. All our party being in good health. You may suppose that after a residence of upwards of a month I should be prepared to give you some description of the place, with an idea of our future prospects: but it would baffle a much brighter genius than mine to give you an adequate description of it.  I can only say that in a landscape it is more romantic than I, or I believe few Englishmen, could imagine. It is a large, irregular, ill built town, situated in a number of deep ravines, and the mountains, close to the back doors of the houses, are inaccessible. Many of them are two, three, or even four hundred feet high, and so abrupt is their declivity, that even a goat cannot stand against their sides to feed. The air and climate is fine and salubrious. In the deep ravines the heat of the day is great; but leave the town and ascend the hills, you have the finest and most refreshing breezes you can desire, and the air is scented by a profusion of the sweetest perfuming plants that can possibly be imagined. The soil, where there is any thing like able land or plain, is rich and luxuriant; many of the most valuable fruits and vegetables grow spontaneously; and though the land for culture in this mountainous spot is so contracted, it is abundantly prolific in every thing that is necessary for the sustenance of the human species, and all remarkable cheap. Beef is 3lbs. the rial (sic) (5d English) and a side of mutton by the hand may frequently be had for 3 rials (sic) (1s 6d English); pork of the best description 4d per pound, and bread equally cheap, but the latter is very inferior though made of very good flour: it is fermented by leaven, and is invariably sour. Vegetables are scarce and dear, for want of method in the culture: the only kind roots and vegetables that are tolerable out of the many kinds we have in Europe, are onions and cabbages; they are very good, but might be much improved. Pumpkins are extremely fine: we have carrots, turnips and parsley, but not good for want of proper management; but there are no potatoes except sweet ones, which to us Europeans are very insipid. This mining district is like a province of itself; several of the mines having considerable towns attached to them, with large churches -----  In the year 1810 this town with the mining district, which is always considered as attached to it, contained a population of 80,000 inhabitants; but the many revolutions and interruptions concomitant thereon in mining pursuits, have reduced their number to within 20,000, and those generally of the most wretched description; so miserably poor and disgustingly ugly in their persons, that not one in five hundred would in England be called tolerable.
These people are ignorant, superstitious, bigotted (sic) and treacherous; the lower orders make a merit of thieving, and the better sorts (few excepted) cannot blush if detected and exposed in the most knavish transactions. --- Even the Priesthood, who hold them in the most degrading thraldom, are no better in their morals, and but too frequently share with the culprits the fruits of their knavery; so that I despair of ever seeing civilization and liberality of principles make progress, while such a horde of unprincipled bigots hold the consciences of the people at their pleasure. This country would be a Paradise if inhabited by Englishmen; the liberal and enlightened Spaniards see and feel their degraded state, and repine at it.         Hitherto we have been treated very civilly and politely; but it has been hinted to us by some of the better sort, the Governor of the Province, the Captain Commandant, &c. that it will be adviseable (sic) for us to call ourselves Catholics and go to mass for the sake of appearances with the priesthood, who in case of non-compliance may become troublesome and probably impede our future operations. This at least is an obliging hint, a mark of the interest they take in our welfare, and an expression of their desire that we would not for a shade of difference in a religious creed, hazard the displeasure of their priests, but as far as we can make it agreeable conform to the religious customs of the country. ---

The remainder of the latter was not published, being devoted to private affairs.

Back to Top