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IN THE JUNGLE
The land lying between Peru and Brazil is a mystery "although the bounds be known of all sides.... Some say it is a drowned land, full of lakes and watery places; others affirm there are great and flourishing kingdoms,... where they say are wonderful things."
A LAND OF ADVENTURE
WHAT a "hereditary spell" the jungle has had upon men! How smilingly its beauty allures — and how graciously it repels! Yet its beauty is not merely beauty. It flashes suggestions of wondrous lands beyond, bringing to the imagination a pleasure in its own vision like the joy of nature in her own loveliness. The jungle is a region which men have always peopled with strange forms pleasing to their fancies, yet a region of dread, beyond human loneliness. It has sheltered in turn the desideratum of each age, while surrounding it with fearful mysteries. But though men have looked upon the jungle with awe, magic possibilities were still within and beyond. A chacun son infini.
Both Inca Rocca and Yupanqui attempted to conquer the jungle. Between Paucartampu and the Madre de Dios are vestiges of an Inca road. But downpours and floods made roads give way to watercourses. The Incas called them "doorways " to the woods, which mountain rapids had opened by irresistible force; but no one could pass through. Even the executive Incas were obliged to turn back with only a fringe of jungle conquest, great campaigns resulting only in loss of life then as now. They retreated, submissive before nature's impregnable stronghold. There are tribes of strange, shy little people still showing traces of contact with the Incas. Although so long ago, they made a profounder impression than all subsequent invaders. Even if the conquered savages remained in the jungle after submitting to the Incas, they were obliged to pay tribute to them, observing the habits of their conquerors when they emerged. Those Incas, also, who withdrew into the woods to escape Spanish persecution, carried their customs with them. No matter how their influence was perpetuated, tribes still show the "footprints of Incas" in the surface of rocks, and even as far as the Mishagua are found legends of Incas' hidden treasure. With them in mind, the "big ears" of some of the savages assume a strange significance.
Where the Madera and the Amazon meet there is a great island, a river island hundreds of miles in extent. Its name is Tumpinambaranas, and upon it are remains of gigantic buildings. Was this the fabulous country, Paytiti of mystery, powerful in riches, a legendary home of Manco Ccapac? Georg M. von Hassel is now investigating this hazy subject. The people of Tumpinambaranas had legends of a race, the Mutayces, who lived toward the south, "whose feet grew backwards so that any one who attempted to follow them by their track, would, if he were ignorant of this malformation, go farther from them."
Columbus breathed the sweet air which blew across from the forests near the mouth of the Orinoco and faithfully imagined it one of the four great rivers flowing from paradise. Had he only dared, he said, he would have liked to push forward to where he might hope to find the celestial boundaries of the world, and a little farther, to have bathed his eyes with profound humility in the light of the flaming swords which were wielded by two seraphim before the gate of Eden.
The cavaliers in search of gold believed that El Dorado lived within the mysterious jungle. Their expeditions were imbued with awe. Adolph F. Bandelier has transcribed the source of the legend. It is the ceremonial of choosing the uzaque of Guatavitá:
"In front walked wailing men, nude, their bodies painted with red ochre, the sign of deep mourning.... Groups followed of men richly decorated with gold and emeralds, their heads adorned with feathers, and braves clothed in jaguars' skins. The greater number of them went uttering joyful shouts, others blew on horns, pipes and conchs.... The rear of the procession was composed of the nobles and the chief priests, bearing the newly elected chieftain upon a barrow hung with discs of gold. His naked body was anointed with resinous gums and covered all over with gold dust. This was the gilded man, el hombre dorado, whose fame had reached the sea coast. Arrived at the shore, the gilded chief and his companions stepped upon a balsa and proceeded upon it to the middle of the lake. There the chief plunged into the water and washed off his metallic covering, while the assembled company, with shouts and the sound of instruments, threw in the gold and the jewels they had brought with them."
Treasures have been found in this lake, among others a group of golden figures. The chronicler Don Rafael Zerda says: "Undoubtedly this piece represents the... cacique of Guatavitá surrounded by Indian priests on the raft, which was taken on the day of the ceremony to the middle of the lake" for sacrifice to its goddess.
"Humboldt saw the staircase down which the gilded man and his train in jaguars' skins descended to the waters of the lake of Guatavitá. He also found the remains of the tunnels by which the Spaniards had tried to drain the lake."
A joint stock company in 1903 did drain the lake of Guatavitá. But its mud turned to cement before they could dig in it.
The "vision of the Dorado appeared like a mirage, enticing, deceiving, leading men to destruction." It became the name of a mythical country, where rivers ran over sands of gold, and palaces stood on golden pillars shining with emeralds. Infamous adventurers, brave as the knights of the Round Table, confronted and stormed the great jungle.
Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro tried to find the glittering capital of Manoa, which El Dorado had gradually become. For these buccaneers who set out with an arrogant army to conquer the Cinnamon Country, nature became the supreme fact of existence. Famine, perpetual rain, fevers, strange insects, and reptiles attacked them. Their expeditions could but end in the murder of each other. They followed the example of all life in the jungle.
Doctor Middendorf says that the Amazon was named for the Coniapuyara, a race of big women leaders, whom the Spaniards found. Condamine assures us that light-skinned Amazons lived there. Raleigh, while searching for Manoa, is said to have first reported them, though he found them by going up the Orinoco. The distinguished scientist Ulloa, who went to South America in 1758, says it is "an undoubted truth that there had been formerly several communities of women who formed a kind of republic, without admitting any men into the government." Well, at least there is nothing either to prove or disprove it. A recent report of the Geographical Society of Lima gives a far less picturesque explanation of the naming of the Amazon, to the effect that "the tribe of the Nahumedes were thought to be Amazons on account of their long hair and the cushma, a long, sleeveless garment which they wore."
Close upon the adventurers came the Jesuit missionaries, who burned to save from hell-fire the strange human beings they might find lurking in the forest depths. One Jesuit father, Fritz, spent fifty years (1680-1730) on the Amazon, trying to connect the aborigines by the introduction of a common language. These missionaries left no ruins like those in Paraguay, the Jesuit State, but their teachings are visible in savage traditions. They transformed Bible stories to fit jungle needs.
"A Murato was fishing in a lake of Pastasa, when a little lizard swallowed his hook. The fisherman killed it, the mother of the lizards was much angered and with her tail slashed the water in such a way that it overflowed the entire vicinity. All were drowned except one, who climbed into a small pivai palm, and hung there several days under a perpetual darkness. From time to time a fruit of the pivai palm fell, but always upon the water, until one day he heard the plump of the fruit upon dry ground. He got down from the tree, made a house and farm, and with a little piece of his flesh, which he planted in the earth, made for himself a wife, by whom he had many children."
The commercial age is now having its fling. It is attempting to subdue the jungle. The rubber hunters are not seeking paradise. They are not looking for legendary kingdoms, nor are they wishing to save the souls of beings of whose existence they are not even persuaded. Rubber is a valuable product. So are other things concealed in jungle depths. Dark crimes can also be hidden in the half-light, covered close under the thick veil which shrouds the land of mystery.
This Peru, approachable from the Atlantic, the "monstrous thicke wood" of the early travelers, still remains undisturbed. Illimitable it is as you gaze down upon it, stretching away one unbroken forest to the faint blue horizon, without a single natural approach except the waterways. Lying close below the austere mountain-tops is a luxuriant world of vegetation; wide stretches of unpreëmpted soil, sparseness characteristic of polar regions hangs just above a tropical phantasmagoria of growth. Shifting cloud-shadows and wandering rainbows flit and interchange over the jungle like the play of colors on a peacock's neck.
Though we know that there are no mighty civilizations of human making, there are no streets of gold with ruby walls, yet within the imperturbable recesses are strange races and wonders of plant and animal life which may interpret whole domains of knowledge. Nature's secrets are still locked up in this prolific laboratory. Though we know that no great race of kings holds sway, yet it is certain that here is a chance to study in the wild tribes the growth of human language — beginning with the poor Inje-inje, who has not more than a bird's speech, and whose needs are no greater than his speech would suggest.