Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The Dog Market

The City of the Kings, Part 3

Lima has always been noted, and justly so, for her beautiful women. They are very partial to oranges, which are known to have a beneficial effect on the complexion. I brought this fact to the notice of a lovely Englishwoman, and was rather tickled to note when I lunched with her on several subsequent occasions, that she invariably finished up with a couple of oranges. This charming lady had a most delightful complexion, which she retained till the day of her death. Whether she owed it all to the diet of oranges, I do not know. The fact remains that the ladies of Lima swear by this delicious fruit, and their facial beauty is remarkable.

To an Englishman there are few more interesting objects than the Dog Market. Many Chinese—chiefly small shopkeepers—have made Lima their home. As is well known, they are very partial to dog-meat. Some of these people have determined never to return to their native land, and they can be easily recognized by their cropped hair. For a Chinaman would never dream of going back to China minus his pigtail. There is a hairless dog, about the size of a poodle, and coloured blue-grey, or slate, which is not allowed to touch meat or bones. Chinamen love the flesh of this little animal. It is fed on yams, sweet potatoes, milk, boiled plantains, etc. Plantains, a species of banana, are treated by the natives of all tropical countries as vegetables, and not as fruit. Boiled with rice, or stewed with mutton, they are very appetising. Fried with butter they are not to be despised. I visited the Dog Market with my old friend, McNeil, Permanent Secretary of the American Legation, and saw quite a lot of little carcasses hanging up, looking for all the world like tiny porkers. They were scraped white like pork. Some birds were also on show, but no other kind of meat. The market where pork, beef, mutton, etc., are sold, is some distance from the Dog Market.

The Peruvian authorities are very particular, and rule these markets very strictly. Many of our colonies might take a tip from them—Trinidad and the West Indies, for instance. All meat exposed for sale, whether in the markets, or in the butchers’ shops, must be hung in rooms lined with marble slabs, to keep everything cool. To ensure an ample supply of fresh air, one side is quite open, but screened off with wire mosquito netting.

Every morning at 7 a.m., Don Pablo, the official Chief Veterinary Surgeon, used to go the round of the markets and shops. I sometimes accompanied him, when my horses were not doing fast work. Don Pablo examined every joint and carcass thoroughly. If he noticed any detriment, such as congealed blood, or a bruise, the whole portion of meat was condemned. “Give it to my soldiers,” he used to say, referring to the scavenger vultures, highly valued, and rightly so, by the authorities, because they keep the beautiful city of Lima free from disease, by clearing away all the garbage and rubbish. For Lima, although bang in the Tropics—she is, in fact, on the 10 line—is acknowledged to be one of the most healthy tropical cities in the whole wide world. And so she has been ever since Manco Capac’s time.

The vultures are very tame and plump. Often, when I have been out riding with my racers, a couple would spring up from the ground, seeming to come almost from under the horses’ feet. They appeared to know they were perfectly safe. No one ever dreams of killing them, for the simple reason that they are protected by the wise Government of Peru. In this matter especially the Peruvian statesmen are shrewd, far-seeing men; for they have decreed that a fine of 10 sols shall be imposed on any man, woman, or child, who wilfully kills one of the scavenger birds. As a natural consequence they are a familiar sight in and around Lima, sitting about upon the housetops, or hovering over the place where the condemned meat is thrown.

The Fish Market is regulated in the same thorough manner. No fish is allowed to be taken in after 9.30 a.m., and none sold after 3 p.m. All fish then left on hand is deposited on the dump-heap. Hence one can always depend on getting nothing but what is fresh and healthy. There is no such thing as fish being caught and put on ice, and held over till the next day, as often occurs elsewhere in the Tropics.

Neither does the Government permit traders to take advantage of the poor. A Market Master regulates the price of everything; he allows the salesmen and butchers to sell at a living profit, and no more.

Bubonic plague is one of the terrors of the Tropics. The enlightened Government of Peru fights it in a most intelligent manner. It is caused by filth, and is conveyed from place to place by fleas that live on sewer rats. It stands to reason that if you can get rid of the rats, you’ll check bubonic. To cope with any disease one must first eliminate the cause. In large cities, at least, the Peruvian laws of sanitation are very strict; and their method of dealing with the rat menace is excellent. For every female rat they offer 2½ cents (gold), and for each buck rat, 5 cents. In this way bubonic is kept at arm’s length. Other South American Governments have adopted these measures with good results. They were certainly in vogue at Buenos Ayres when I was there.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The Bull Ring

The City of the Kings, Part 2

Another great sight is the Bull Ring. Here some of the most famous Spanish matadors and toreadors are engaged six months of every year. I knew the principal matador very well. Although an old man—he told me he was seventy-two—his skill was marvellous. He always despatched his bull with one thrust, and not with two or three like some of the less skilled matadors. When the great beast made his rush, old Mariano didn’t run about all over the ring as some do; no, he just turned elegantly on his heel, and then got in his stroke as the bull plunged past him. He made the killing of the animal look a very simple matter, and one of the softest jobs imaginable. Really it is a very difficult operation, and attended with great danger.

The bull-fight at Lima. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

Some of the best pacing horses in Peru participate in the Lima bull-fights. The ritual observed at these functions is as follows: When the toreadors, matadors, and horsemen enter the ring, the master of the ceremonies—always magnificently horsed—rides up to the President’s box, and makes a profound obeisance. The bull-fighters all follow suit, the President having previously taken his place, heralded by a flourish of trumpets. Two trumpeters, stationed at the entrance, now sound a blast, the big door of the enclosure beneath the boxes is flung open, and out rushes a fierce beast into the arena. It is an Andalusian bull, one of a breed originally imported from Spain, and is credited with being one of the fiercest creatures on earth. If one shows any lack of courage, he is hooted out of the ring. A bull, in 1900, cost 700 sols, i.e. £75. It is doubtful whether its value has increased since then in the same proportion as a sheep at Lambourn, Berkshire, England, where a local butcher tells me he now has to pay £7 10s. for what used to cost him 37s. 6d.

Bull-fights are often condemned as dangerous, but in most of the rings in South America the fighters are so adept that although they ride close up to the bull, and excite him to fury by flaunting a red cloth, it is seldom that they, or their steeds, sustain any hurt. The only ones who get into the wars are the new, or raw hands.

In my opinion Mariano was the prince of all the matadors. He was a great lover of pacing horses and Cleveland bays. He used to ride a fine pacer, and was often to be seen driving a pair of Clevelands that he had bought at Milton’s yard in London. He told me that he had retired from the ring ten years before I saw him in 1900; but was obliged to return to the scenes of his former triumphs, because he found it so difficult to teach would-be matadors how to act. They wouldn’t study hard enough to suit him; and when in the ring were inclined to rush matters. Mariano, on the contrary, took things very coolly. Nothing seemed to ruffle him. He was indeed a champion. Every year a big silver shield is presented to the owner of what is considered the best pacing stallion that has participated in the fights. I was present on this gala day, one July, when the awards were made. The principal prize, on this occasion, went to a beautiful chestnut horse that had one white leg, and one white foot, and also a white star on his forehead. The present very popular President of Peru, A. B. Leguia, then Minister of Hacienda, sent him as a gift to George Lockett, one of the principals of the British Sugar Company, a man noted for his fine four-in-hand of greys.

The tickets of admission to the bull ring are 4 and 5 sols, i.e. 5s. and 10s., for seats on the shady side of the arena. For those on the other side (which are exposed to the blazing sun) 2 sols or 2½ sols, i.e. 4s. or 5s., is the charge. Boxes are £2 or £4 each, and orchestra seats, 10s. (There are no boxes on the sunny side.) I rather favoured the latter, but frequently was honoured with a seat in the President’s box.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The City of the Kings

Part 1

Peru is one of the most interesting countries in the world. The climate is ideal. The sun shines all day long and the weather is always fine. Yet there is no lack of water, for the rivers are fed by the snow which dissolves on the Andes, the mighty range of mountains that runs parallel with the coast from end to end of this delightful country. All kinds of fruit grow to perfection on the slopes of the Cordilleras—fruits of every clime, and the ordinary necessaries of life can be obtained for next to nothing. Perpetual Spring prevails in the valleys.

Up to 1824, what is now called Bolivia was included in Peru. In consequence of Sucre’s victory over the Spaniards on the plains of Ayacucho, December 9, 1824, the country gained her independence, and was divided into two separate Republics, viz. Upper Peru, or Bolivia, and Lower Peru, now considered Peru proper.

The mention of Peru makes one’s thoughts naturally turn to Lima, accounted the most fascinating city of South America, next to Mexico, and well named the City of Kings. I became acquainted with it, in the first instance, when I brought some horses over from Chile for Zervallo, C. Watson, and A. B. Leguia. To visit Lima had been to me a long-cherished wish.

Among the many interesting objects that attract attention is the beautiful cathedral, built by Pizarro, so it is said, after he had conquered the Incas. Queen Isabella of Spain sent him a fine statue of Santa Rosa, the patron saint of Lima, to place therein. Adjacent to it were a barrow of silver, worth 1000 marks, thirteen arrows, equalling 1002 marks, and twelve lamps, valued at 732 marks. The altar front was of silver, worth 297 marks, and 411 marks’ worth of the same precious metal was used to make the Virgin’s throne. Santa Rosa is rather more than life-size, and is reputed to be made of pure gold. 39,500 ounces of silver were distributed over this wonderful figure, in addition to 1406 diamonds, 624 rubies, 1179 emeralds, and a bewildering galaxy of amethysts, pearls, and topazes. Many of these gems have disappeared, filched from their resting place. Pizarro fenced the statue round with pure silver, taken from the Incas at the time of Atahualpa’s murder, the space thus set apart being about 20 ft. square.

Pizarro’s remains are preserved in a glass case in the cathedral, the door of which is mahogany. The conqueror of the Incas is shown dressed in full uniform, the head being secured to the body with silver wire.

No visitor should miss Zervallo’s fine picture gallery, which was bequeathed to him by his father, a grandee who had to leave Spain, because his political views clashed with those of the Government then in power. In his will the old nobleman stipulated that his son should never part with the collection for a less sum than £100,000. He was not to sell one picture, or two, or three; it must be the whole lot, or none, the sum thus realized to be invested, and held in trust for the Zervallo family. The collection is housed in a large building. Some of the most interesting pictures refer to incidents in the conquest of Peru by Pizarro. One, fresh in my memory, represents Atahualpa being carried on a litter to Caxamarca. It is a matter of history, that his great ancestor, Huayna Capac, built a wonderful road from Cuzco to Caxamarca, a distance of 1500 miles, levelling mountains and filling up valleys to do so. In places it was 40 ft. wide, and is to this day regarded as affording incontrovertible proof of the astounding engineering skill of the Incas.

An American once offered Zervallo £600 if he would give him the first refusal of the paintings, and close the picture gallery six months, in order that he, in the meantime, might try to induce his people in New York to purchase the contents. Zervallo complied with the request, but, much to the American’s regret, the deal never matured.

The captain of the Ingomar, a vessel I frequently travel upon, told me that, however often he called at Callao, he never failed to visit the Zoo at Lima for the purpose of seeing what he deemed the most magnificent lion he had ever cast eyes on. I quite agree with him. I have seen many lions in various public and private collections—including those in the Zoological Gardens, London—and in their native state in South Africa, but none to compare with the Lima specimen. Doubtless the lovely climate has a lot to do with it, for it suits him down to the ground. This majestic creature has a most imposing head and mane. His skin is sleek as silk, and, although he must be very old, he exhibits not the slightest trace of mange. I have known him twenty-two years, and more.